Sunday, 29 December 2013

Family Christmas Traditions

I think that everyone has their family Christmas traditions, even if they think that don't.  I sometimes think that we don't really have a lot that we always do, but Christmas is the one time of the year that we do do set things together.  It is a little different though, being in New Zealand, being summer, it's a totally different feeling.

How we do Christmas

The one thing that I always remember from being little though, is that it was Dad's job to go down stairs and check that Santa had been, and that was one of the family Christmas traditions that I really wanted to continue with my own children.  It's not downstairs here though, but still the kids came into our room, Daddy went to check if 'he' had been, and I got my cup of tea.  I should have taken lots of pictures of the ensuing chaos when the presents were opened, but I was a bit slack on that score.

Mahe did decide to use my phone to take a picture of one of his favourite presents though, I'm sure that you can't guess what it is (hint, I've mentioned something similar before) so I'll share that, it's actually one of six that he got.

Road closed ahead sign

In our house, Santa brings just a few small presents for everyone, and then we get the rest of the presents.  I know that this varies between families, as does the whole unwrapping of gifts. At our house we always had our own little pile of gifts to work through, rather than having the lot under the tree.  It's another of those family Christmas traditions I suppose.

A wet Christmas

One of the great things about this Christmas has been the weather, no, seriously.  Last year was a stinking hot day, and I don't think I can honestly remember a worse Christmas, it really wasn't fun.  This year it rained not full on rain as we've been having before and since, but enough to make the skys dark and a day inside on the cards.  We even had the fire on a few times over the last few days, and combined with the twinkle of the Christmas tree lights, it's actually felt like it's really Christmas, a traditional Christmas.  Sadly the bad weather has continued since then, and yesterday was the first bit of sunshine I've seen in days.

Wow, at last sunshine

It hasn't lasted though, and today we're back to more of the wet.  Still, I'm not really complaining, we still have the tree up and a little bit left of the twelve days of Christmas, so I think I'll just eat drink and be merry....

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

It's not Christmas until you hear the Fairytale of New York

I've been trying really hard to get into the Christmas spirit for the last few weeks, I struggle in the warmth, not that it's been that warm lately.  Today has been fantastic though, cold enough for the fire and dark enough for the Christmas lights to be on. I only put the tree up yesterday though, but finally, we're ready for Christmas.

Part of my get into the Christmas spirit plan, has been to play lots of Christmas songs, my all time favourite is the Fairytale of New York, it always makes me feel like Christmas. I thought, being as it's Christmas Eve I'd give you my top five Christmas songs:


Happy Christmas,war is over.  

I love this track, it seems an odd choice for a Christmas song. I remember a friend complaining a few years back that she couldn't go anywhere without hearing it one Christmas, but at least I always know that it's just around the corner when I start to hear it played.


Stop the cavalry

As Christmas songs go, this isn't the most lively or jolly of tunes, but there's something that I just like about this.  It's possibly due to being able to relate to the idea of wishing I was home for Christmas, all be it for very different reasons.


Peace on Earth/Little drummer boy

This is a beautiful song, it's one that I've decided that I love recently.  the two vocals together are just lovely though.


I believe in Father Christmas

This song reminds me of being little, I remember Dad playing it on the record player at Christmas.  It's so magical and again another beautiful track, perfect for this time of year.


Fairytale of New York

And here it is, my number one Christmas song, the fairytale of New York.  I've loved this for years, and as I said before, this always makes me feel like Christmas and gets me into the festive mood.   

So there we have it, my top five songs, and seeing as I've now heard the fairytale of New York, it must be Christmas, so I hope that you all have a good one.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Over indulging at Christmas

Of course, when it comes to over indulging, then Christmas is the time for it. I wasn't really thinking in terms of food and drink though (although, there'll be plenty of that soon) more the way that Christmas itself seems to come more and more full on all the time.

So far the kids have been to two Christmas parties and met Santa, there would have been a third, but it looks as though that one isn't happening now.  Of course it's all very exciting, and the really Christmas seems to be all about the children, but sometimes I think maybe it's a bit much for them.

More presents from Santa

After our first Christmas party, Mahe said to me, I really like the present that Santa gave me, but I wanted some road signs for Christmas.  I laughed and explained that, although we'd seen Santa, that wasn't actually Christmas, just a pre-Christmas party.  A few days later, after the second party, Lena asked why there were still Christmas decorations up.  Again I explained that it wasn't Christmas just yet, that was still to come.

Mahe unwraps his santa gift

I was thinking about it later, when rushing madly around the shops, getting the last of the Christmas shopping done, that really if I'd have said that yes that was it, that was Christmas, both Mahe and Lena would have probably been quite happy.  Every year we spend ages getting just the right gifts, spending a (relative) fortune on the big day, and making sure that it's all perfect and magical for them.  Of course, Christmas isn't really about that, and it can still be totally magical for children and adults alike, without blowing the budget.

No over indulging at Christmas here, Anja would rather have a balloon.

I've never been into the idea of not buying for the adults, as lots of people seem to do.  The kids have plenty of toys, and they get heaps of presents from everyone anyway.  I'd rather spend a tiny bit less on the whole Christmas 'event' and have a little left for some small gifts for all the important people in the family, and make Christmas a special day for everyone.  Of course, I'll be also over indulging at Christmas in the usual way, with plenty of food and drink.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

School holidays are here

It's the first day of the summer holidays (how mad does that sound in December?) and already I'm finding myself having conversations like this:
Me - "Your sister won't go down for a nap, so I'm going to stay with her until she falls asleep.  Don't come in"
Kai - "What if something bad happens?"
Me - "Like what?"
Kai - "Like Mahe hits me or something?"
Me - "That you deal with, if there's blood, or an arm or leg comes off, or we have an earthquake, then you can disturb me, otherwise stay out, I'll only be a few minutes....."

Of course seconds after I went in Mahe appeared at the bedroom door, dealing with a shoe emergency that couldn't wait. Sigh.  Eventually I got her down for a nap, having two big brothers off school is just far too exciting though.

I could have left her to cry, but there are two small problems with that.  Firstly I don't do leaving them to cry or controlled crying, or any of those sleep training techniques that involve tears (hers or mine). The second problem would be that she can now climb out of her cot, this shouldn't come as a surprise seeing as she climbs everything else, but she's never bothered before. The fact that she doesn't very often sleep in it might have something to do with that though. I may have to come up with a new nap time plan for the next six weeks or so.............

Friday, 13 December 2013

Mutant mince pies

Last night was our Playcentre Christmas party, and as we had to take in a plate each, I thought I'd go with the British Christmas staple, Mince pies.  I've done them before, they're not particularly complicated, and I am vaguely northern  after all, and we're supposed to be good at pies and the like.

When I say I've made them before, it's nots something I've done once or twice, I've done them quite a bit, and pies in general I've made more times than I could count, so it should have been straight forward, should.  My first error was leaving them until the last minute, which meant that there was no time to substitute for something different (better) if they went wrong.  Last minute baking also meant that buying pastry seemed easier than making it.  Making pastry isn't hard, particularly rough puff, which is what I prefer for pies, but being short of time (and lazy) it just seemed easier to buy a packet. Mistake, big mistake.  What I didn't consider, is that my puff pastry, is slightly less technical, it has that night puffiness that stops it from being too dry or stodgy, but it doesn't puff as much as bought puff pastry.........
My second mistake was that I couldn't find a proper pastry cutter, so I used a couple of glasses, the smaller of which, might have just been a bit too small, so I didn't get a decent seal around the top of the pies.  Added to this Fruit Mince (not mince meat over here by the way, more on that later) is a bit wetter in texture than I'm used to.

Mutant mince pies

The mutant mince pies have exploded

Not exactly the neat little mince pies that I'd planned, they didn't look too bad when covered in a little icing sugar, although quite a bit of the filling had fallen out. Sadly some of it fell onto my foot, which wouldn't have been an issue if I hadn't been bare foot at the time, it being summer over here, molten mince meat on bare skin hurts. A lot.  I mentioned before, that it's not mince meat over here, and it isn't really, the only kind that I could find doesn't have suet in it, which is probably why it's a little runnier.  They're not mince pies either (mutant or otherwise) as that is what minced beef pies are called.  Usually they're known as Christmas mince pies, or minced fruit pies or something.  When we first moved over here, there was a new Crisp (sorry, chip) flavour out called mince pie and tomato sauce, I remember being horrified at the idea of having a mince pie flavoured crisps, and them having tomato sauce added to the mix, until I realised.

The kids had a great time at the party though, and meeting Santa, although Anja wasn't too keen to get very close, and who can blame her, strange man, dressed in a furry red suit.  The older kids were thrilled though.

Monday, 9 December 2013

Draw your own conclusions.....

Yesterday afternoon, in an attempt to contain the madness that is four young children at the end of term and just before Christmas, I sat them all down at the table and got them doing some Christmas drawings.  I was also feeling rather tired, having been out the night before, not even particularly late (and I only had one drink) but by the time we were home and in bed, it was late for me (these days at least) so I needed a bit of a break.

They were all quite happily colouring in, with only a few squabbles, (Kai's got my orange pen, Lena's drawn on my paper, Anja's ripped it again) just the normal par for the course thing.  Lena was busy doing her drawing and humming thing, not sure if it's a concentration thing, or just a Lena-ism.  'I've drawn me and you' she suddenly announced 'we're happy'

I asked her why we were happy, and she replied 'Because we're going out, just you and me.  Kai and Mahe have got to stay at home with Grandma, and Anja'
'Where are we going?' I asked
'To go shopping and get some lollies'
There was another picture of Daddy holding Mahe in his house:
I'm not quite sure what that one tells me, but it did amuse me that she drew a picture of us being happy because the others weren't with us.  I suppose it could be seen as a cry that we don't spend enough time together, but as it is we get a good couple of days a week without the boys with us, and often it's just the two of us, as Anja sleeps.  She's also a child of contradictions, while she might draw a picture of us without the boys, she's been deeply concerned all week that Mahe and Kai can come to the playcentre Christmas party, and meet Santa too.  

It never hurts to remember though, that as much as I love (most of the time) the craziness that is all four of them at home at once, that they all crave a bit of one on one 'me' time from us too.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Big pants

Back in the day, I used to have a pretty good figure, but four children, one c-section and far far too much chocolate later and it's not what it was.  The main offender is my tummy, I've got a bit of a jelly belly going on, and now that Anja is 18 months old, I can't really claim that it's just post baby weight.  So, in an effort to do something about it, and improve my silhouette slightly, last week I invested in some big pants.
Now, I know that really what I should be saying is that I've started eating a bit healthier, and doing more exercise, and long term I will, really.  The thing is though, I have four kids, so no energy for proper exercise, and for the same reason, I feel that I really need the chocolate......

On Saturday we have a Christmas/end of year type do to attend, and not wanting to sound like a total stereo type, I have nothing to wear.  So, yesterday, after a bit of wardrobe raiding, I found an oldish dress, and tried it on with my new big pants.  My offending jelly belly was soon pulled into shape, and looked great, there were a couple of small problems that I hadn't anticipated though.  The heavily elasticated bit at the top of the big pants, started to roll down, just in the time I was trying the dress on, over the course of the evening it would only get worse, and no doubt by the end I'd have my jelly belly back and a big roll of pant showing.  The other problem was that because the pants are so tight, at the top, on the sides, I suddenly had two lumps sticking out.  I'm not particularly in need of pulling in there, but because I'd been pulled in just below, it made me look really odd.  Back to the drawing board.

I suppose that really there's nothing for it, I'm going to have to actually try and get a bit fitter and more toned. My main fear is that because of the c-section I'll never get rid of all of the 'sag' but it would be easier with a little less to work with. That's not going to happen by this weekend though, so I'm not sure what I'll do there.  Anyone know where I can find something flattering and not too expensive in the next two days? No? Me either.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Little copy cat

As I write this, Anja is following Lena around the room, copying what she does.  She follows her every move, and tries to be exactly the same, little copy cat.  Sometimes it's just the little things; Lena has a bag, Anja needs a bag.  Lena dresses up, Anja dresses up, but other times she tries to copy her completely.

My little copy cat, dressed up like her sister

Just the other day Lena was walking around with a doll under one arm, a bag on the other, and her Princess dress on. Anja followed close behind with a Princess dress on, her doll and her bag.  It's quite funny to watch, but being a little copy cat isn't all about fun.  It's also a really important way to learn.  

Every morning and night Anja has to stand and brush her teeth, just like her big brothers and sisters do.  Both Mahe and Lena were toilet trained by the time that they were two, not through anything that I did, but just because they wanted to be like their older siblings.  Learning from older children can be very handy.

Anja shows she's not always a little copy cat

Of course there is a downside, (isn't there always?) to being a little copy cat.  And that's because while being little is about learning what to do from watching what goes on around you, it's also about learning who you are.  Developing your own character, ideas and likes.  Fortunately for us, our little copy cat has bags of character, so I doubt that will be a problem.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Who stole November?

A couple of days ago, or so it seems, I was just thinking about how I could get all my Christmas shopping done nice and early, it was nearly Bonfire night and remembrance Sunday was just around the corner..... Then I woke up this morning and it's already 1st December, and if I'm honest, I've done nothing towards Christmas.  I'd really quite like to know where November went, who stole it?

Part of the problem is that the weather over here just doesn't help me feel Christmassy, although today, if I'm honest, isn't particularly warm or sunny, and there was a day last week that was so cold that I could have felt very festive, but as a rule the weather over here at this time of year just isn't Christmas.

Last Christmas was hot, far far too hot, and I'm really hoping that this year won't be.  It doesn't have to be cold, I'm not going to be mean and wish that on the people of New Zealand (although, if it were down to me, Christmas = winter) but at least cool enough that I still feel like eating far too much and doing very little else.

There's a reason that a lot of the traditional Christmas food is warm, filling and stodgy, and also, for the same reason, it doesn't really work over here.  There is another disadvantage with a warm Christmas, you haven't then got six months or so to work off your over indulging before having to venture out in summer clothes that show the weight you've gained more clearly.

Right now though, that doesn't really matter, I've just got to get on and get ready for Christmas, because if December moves at the same rate that November did, before I know it I will have still done no Christmas shopping and it will already be 2014.