Christmas Countdown

Friday 23 December 2016

Last Friday started a run of a very busy few days, packed full of Christmas events.

It started off on Friday morning with the very lovely Gaelic Christmas service at Greyfriar's Kirk in Edinburgh. The service is held every year for all the pupils at the Gaelic school, all the Gaelic pupils in the High School, their families, and other Gaelic speakers who want to attend. It's so nice having all ages of the Gaelic school community together, from Primary 1 to S6.

Friday afternoon was spent in the kitchen, preparing for the Sunday School party the following day, and making my mum's birthday cake for that evening.

My mum and dad were down visiting for a few days and so we all got together at my brother's house on Friday evening to celebrate her birthday. Here she is with all of her Grandchildren.

I covered her cake in white icing and then Calum suggested that we use some of our metallic food spray because Granny likes a bit of sparkle and bling. So we covered it in gold spray and then finished it off with a few simple white snowflakes. I was finding a subtle gold shimmer on things near where I had made it in my kitchen for a couple of days afterwards!

Inside it I had aimed to make a checker-board effect.

On Saturday the morning was spent preparing cakes and games for the afternoon party, including these little holly cupcakes.

Then it was onto the excitement of the party and lots of shouting out instructions while organising the games.

The party ended with a visit from Santa!

Another tick on my to-do list that busy Saturday morning was to put the icing on my Christmas cake. I don't put marzipan on ours so that James, who has a nut allergy, can eat some.

On Sunday we enjoyed a little break in the busy-ness.

Although, it wasn't as bliss-fully quiet as it looks in this photo!

On Monday morning Ally (7) was singing some Gaelic Christmas Carols with his class at a shopping centre near the school, so Fraser and I went along to watch them and cheer them on.

I used my school run train time on Monday to put the finishing touches to this little guy.

He's called Jingles and Ally and Fraser are delighted with him. Maybe next year I'll make another one so that they can have one each.

On Tuesday morning we had out church Toddler Group party.

Then on Tuesday evening we all, including Granny & Shen and other Granny, went to watch the high school Christmas concert in the Usher Hall in Edinburgh.

Before the concert I took the younger three boys for a well needed haircut, and Fraser was delighted when the barber put some gel on his hair just like the big boys.

After the haircuts, and still before the show, we went out for some dinner with Granny & Shen.

We don't eat out for dinner as a family very often as it's so hard to do so with all the boys' allergies. They often end up with just a bowl of chips, or some plain baked potatoes. We wanted to go to the Beer Kitchen on Lothian Road, Edinburgh as it is so near the Usher hall and so had emailed them in advance about the allergies. 

I saw on their online menu that they served Macsween's Haggis, which the boys can eat and love to do so, and so asked if it would be possible to serve it with mash that had no butter in it. The restaurant replied that as it's Christmas they have a different menu and so didn't currently have haggis on it, but that they always have it in stock and so would be happy to cook some for the boys along with some butter free mash.

Not only were they really helpful about the allergies, but the restaurant was lovely and the rest of the food was also delicious.

The concert was amazing, as it is every year. It was only the younger two boys sitting with us as James & Calum were both playing in the wind band, and David was taking part in the assembled choir made up of all the P7s from the feeder Primary schools. 

Yesterday school finished at lunchtime for the holidays, and while Fraser and I waited for them to come home he suddenly noticed that someone had put Kevin the Carrot at the top of the tree, which he found hilarious!

In the afternoon yesterday we had some heavy snow showers, which got Fraser really excited as he is convinced that it has to snow for it to be Christmas, so when he saw the snow coming down he began jumping up and down shouting that it was Christmas at last!

It was far too wet for the snow to lie though, and he was fine with that too.

Then last night, while Storm Barbara started outside, we all watched a Christmas Movie we haven't seen before -Elf - to kick off the school holidays. I don't know how we have never got round to watching it before but we all found it really funny and it might just join Home Alone as one of our must watch movies of Christmas.

Today we braved the shops, and the storm, and finished off the food shopping so now it really feels like we can finally slow down, relax and enjoy the season.
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Tuesday 13 December 2016

December is well established and it feels a little like the calm before the storm here. These next few days are the last days of 'normality' before the real busyness of the Christmas season really hits us. 

There are extra band rehearsals, choir rehearsals, carol singing trips, school parties, Sunday School parties, toddler group parties, a Gaelic community Christmas service and a big high school Christmas concert in the Usher hall, as well as a visit from Granny and Shen, all taking place between the end of this week and the end of the school term on the 23rd. 

December began with Fraser (3) helping me to fill the free from Advent calendar.

Rather than pay the extortionate price for a dairy free chocolate calendar, we make up our own chocolate shapes using dairy free chocolate and a selection of chocolate and ice cube moulds. Then we fill the pouches in the calendar above with the shapes. Two in each pouch, one for Fraser and one for Ally (7).

There isn't really space for more than two chocolates in each pouch so Calum (14) chose a new one for himself this year, a bargain from Aldis. He isn't so keen on chocolate and so his is filled with his favourites - Percy Pigs, Skittles and Foxes Glacier Mints.  

Even I have an Advent calendar this year, filled with a different Christmassy smelling wax melt every day. Although I keep forgetting to open mine!

I had planned to bake my Christmas cake in November, but the week I had pencilled in for doing it was the week that my oven broke and then with other things going on after it was fixed, it was the beginning of December when I finally got it baked. 

Every December, as well as our Advent calendars we have Advent activities. I started this a few years ago and the younger boys always look forward to finding out what the activity is. December is a busy enough month and so the activities are all fairly short and simple things, and many are things that we would be doing in December anyway, like putting up the tree. The first one we did was to colour in and make some Advent candles out of toilet roll tubes!

Another early activity was to write to Santa. We found out that if you post your letter at Dobbies, then if you go back a week later you will be able to pick up a reply from Santa!

The day we went to post our letters they also had free samples of Winter Punch so Ally looks very festive indeed in his photo.

The same weekend that we posted our letters was also the weekend that the Round Table were bringing Santa and his sleigh around our neighbourhood. We were out when they passed our house but this year there was also the option of going along to the Village Hall later on in the evening to see Santa when he had finished his round. This turned out to be a much more fun option as the boys were able to have a proper chat with him!

And we've been back to Dobbies to pick up our letters from him, I just don't have a photo of us doing that!

We've also painted some new baubles for the tree...

...and of course everyone helped with putting the tree up.

It might not be as picture perfect as the ones you see in the magazines or on Pinterest, but I love it and all the memories it contains so much and enjoy nothing more than enjoying a quiet moment snuggled up in it's cosy glow.

December also means mince pies. I'm not really a fan of shop bought ones, but I think it's hard to beat a freshly baked one warm from the oven. They are at their best for the first day or two but we don't really have a problem with them lasting more than that in our house anyway.

Ally began to learn how to play the piano about 6 weeks ago and there is absolutely no stopping him now. He has picked it up so quickly and has learned just about every Christmas Carol in this beginners Carol book already. He can't walk past the piano without sitting down and having a play. Once he has learned one Carol then he just starts working out the next one until he needs a little help from me, although sometimes he doesn't even need to ask. I have no idea why he was wearing his bobble hat while practising in this photo, but it pretty much sums him up.

Oh, and see my blanket in the foreground? More about that at the end.

December also means Peppermint Bark. I managed to get my hands on some dairy free white chocolate so that the free from boys could enjoy some too.

One of our most recent Advent activities was to make a Christmas tree out of different sized gingerbread stars. I bought the set of star cutters last year but we didn't get around to making it last year so we were really keen to try and get it done this year. 

We did get a little carried away with the silver spray at the end.

We have a new Christmas decoration appeared on the bottom of our fireplace in the last couple of days - a tiny little Elf door. The elf has left a sign saying that he has gone to visit Santa just now but hopefully I can get the chance to finish making him soon and he can come and visit!

And finally, the blanket.

So I said before that I had started making it last year. In August of last year actually. I remember I was working on my first square, the Santa, when my mum phoned to let me know that my Granny had died, so that square will always make me think about my granny.

The squares are really quite time consuming and I only manged to get 6 made before last December. Rather than stress about getting the last 3 done in time, I put it aside and planned to finish it off this autumn. 

My aim was to finish it by the time out tree went up and amazingly I was able to do so! I kept the border really simple as I didn't want to take away anything from any of the characters.

It's so cheerful and festive, and I'm glad I persevered with it. 

When I put it on the floor to take some photos of it, Fraser immediately ran over to lie under it and made himself comfortable to watch a little bit of TV. He wouldn't come out at all! But he knows it was made for Christmas snuggling anyway, and it has already kept us cosy while watching our first two Christmas movies - Home Alone and The Santa Clause - although we didn't watch them both on the same night!

How about a few closer shots of the characters? I can't decide which is my favourite.

One tiny thing that still needs done to finish it off is to add some buttons for the eyes of the gingerbread man. I thought it would be a nice central point to have buttons as eyes rather than crocheted ones. I wonder if I'll get around to doing that before next Christmas though?

And that's a few highlights of our December so far. Does anyone else have any traditions they like to do every year? I think it's always fun to hear about what other families do too!

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