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?