Sweetbriar Dreams

So where shall we go on our journey today?

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

... and so it begins!

I have my own little tradition in our house, the last weekend of November is the tree weekend!  Stop groaning, it has to be done.  The closer it is to the big day, the more stressful the jobs become, so this little tradition eases me in gently and helps me enjoy the month's preparations ahead.

I like to open up the boxes and bags full of last year's decorations and think back to what frame of mind I was in when I put them away in January ...

 obviously I wasn't in a good place!

 Oh yes, I remember now, full of painkillers and unable to stand... yes I remember that time well (post double bunion removal, arthritis removal and both toes broken and pinned in three places... oh yes, yes, I remember it only too well!!).

I love unwrapping the ornaments that have been with me since pre-children days...

Along with those ornaments that were my mild threat to my little darlings "this is special santa who is here to watch and make sure you have been good!".  This little santa had such amazing powers as soon as he was put on a shelf!

The main tree has to be decorated a certain way otherwise I am met with "Mum, it doesn't feel right!".  Dried oranges, apples and cinnamon sticks fill vessels and jars around the house, filling the house with a Christmas fragrance that gladdens the nostrils.

One year I changed the tree to a thinner version to be told when I took it down on New Year's Day, that they didn't like to say at the time, but Christmas was just not Christmas without the shorter fat one (they meant the normal tree!! Don't be rude!).  So the  tall thin tree has now been banished to the hall.  Another new tradition!

The next thing is the obligatory Christmas lists.  The food list, the present list, the Christmas card list, the social calendar list.  Yes, I'm a Virgo, in control, calm in a crisis, organised and methodical (well that's the theory).

The main items on the Christmas food list... Baileys, Ham, Turkey, Maple Syrup, Chipolatas, Sweet Chilli Sauce.  Why?  Turkey obviously (even though I prefer not to eat it) ready for the Nigella recipe (here), Maple Syrup for the Christmas parsnips, Chipolatas and Sweet Chilli Sauce for the sticky sausages I make for the Boxing Day buffet (usually half have disappeared before I've got to the table!  Seriously good and I've found an online recipe here for you) and ham for my boxing day ham.   Yes, my best friend on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day is Nigella!!

 Without these elements and the smells that the recipes give the house, Christmas Eve 'doesn't feel or smell right' according to my darling Teens!  Oh, and the Baileys?  Well, Christmas morning as I prepare to stuff, flavour, and wrap acres of tin foil around my nemesis (the turkey), I take the occasional snifter of Baileys to get me through it.  The Baileys will be strategically placed in the kitchen with a crystal glass and will be the first thing I see when I come down bleary eyed at the crack of dawn.

A newer tradition, to save me my sanity on the big day, is the big breakfast!  Now that the Teens are grown up and not up with me at the crack of dawn, I cook a full English, complete with black pudding!! (don't knock it until you've tried it).  I make sure the aromas waft upstairs and before long I hear the stirring on the landing and down they come.  This new tradition keeps us full until 4 in the afternoon, when the turkey has finally finished its roasting, the potatoes are crisp, the Yorkshire puddings have raised, the parsnips have started to caramelize with the maple syrup, the Brussels sprouts have been mixed with crispy bacon and chestnuts, the carrots have taken on the dill they have been paired with,  the stuffing is just starting to harden on the outside but gooey in the middle, the pigs in blankets are beginning to snore, the bread sauce has been prepared (and mostly eaten already by Miss Teen), the beef is cooked to perfection and the cauliflower cheese is bubbling and taken on a satisfying tan.  Yes, my Christmas dinner is notorious as a girdle buster and no one in the family will have it any other way, but we skip lunch for this feast by candlelight and it allows me to cook in peace (and finish the Baileys!!).

The lead up to the big day is one that I do love getting on the conveyor belt for.  I love planning and the satisfaction of giving everyone a wonderful Christmas.  The Christmas Eve presents under the tree which are usually a new pair of pyjamas for everyone and slippers so that we can then have our baths and showers and slip into these with the last takeaway meal for the year and snuggle down in front of the TV until everyone goes to bed.  Then, my last look around the house while it is quiet and I have some time alone, taking out those last little surprise presents and putting them around the tree.  A little stocking of goodies for Tia (another new tradition)... times like these I am grateful for a deaf furry friend!  Some text messages to those who are dear to me wishing them a great day ahead and then off to bed making sure the alarm is set for 6am and the start of a hectic day for me but a relaxing one for everyone else.

And so, as no doubt all of you are, it's time for the business and planning to be put into effect!  I have no real trips planned until just before the big day when my birthday surprise to Miss Teen is to see a West End show in London with Miss B.  While they are in the theatre, I will be no doubt walking down to Trafalgar Square to see the Christmas tree and take in this beautiful city on its last office working day.  No doubt there will be much merriment and plenty of Christmas Jumpers and Santa's Hats!!

... and so it begins... time to start climbing that mountain!


  1. Sounds like you're all planned and ready, Chel. I wish I was ... but I'll get there. I always do! :oD

  2. I love the traditions, too. I think that is the best part of the Christmas preparations. I am well on my way to being 'ready' and it looks like you are, too. xo Diana

  3. I enjoy traditions too. My boys remind me that they do too. ;-)
    Merry December,

  4. Some lovely descriptions - I can almost smell your christmas from here!

  5. I hope you have a wonderful Christmas season!

  6. Chel,

    Your post is so lovely and you have made me want to start decorating pronto. It's your spirit! Okay, and your wonderful and festive traditions!

    Hope your pain is just a memory but if not, I've been there and you will feel better with each day.

    Love and hugs,

    Jane x

  7. Sounds amazing, I love all the wonderful family traditions.

  8. Oo, I want to come to your house! Yum...and Baileys...why haven't I thought of that before? I think I need a new bottle. Love all your traditions! Ours are changing with the kids out of the house and one engaged. But the coffee cake on Christmas morning? It's not going anywhere! It's a must even if it's just me and the hubby.
    I'd love to see London at Christmas!

  9. Lovely shots - it's time to start decorating soon...

  10. Oh how I have missed reading your delightful posts! And admiring your lovely photos as well. I'm sure this Christmas will be more enjoyable with the foot all healed up! I am afraid I may end up with a similar surgery in the future. Arthritis is no fun at all. I do hope you enjoy every moment of this Christmas season. Hugs to you!


  11. Well I take my Christmas hat off to you, you are already streets ahead of me. Love the idea of the Christmas smells around the house. Enjoy your preparations for the big day.

  12. Your Christmas sounds so great and Joyous, your decorations, speaking of ancient times, make me feel such a lovely, cozy atmosphere, thank you, darling Chel !

    Hope you're having the best of weeks,
    I'm sending hugs and ever much love on your weekend ahead

    Xx Dany

  13. Family traditions are important. Now our childrem carry out ours and their own for their small children. We get to sit back, relax, reminisce, and enjoy! Your Christmas preparatons sound and look magical. I'm getting hungry just reading your post! Is that a new photo of you in the sidebar? I like it!

  14. It seems you're doing a lot for Christmas! My very own tradition is not as fun... It consists in watching the weather forecast anxiously as I have to cross nearly all France to visit my grandmother on Christmas day. I know it's stupid because they can't tell so far in advance, but the trip always has me so worried!


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