Tag Archives: christmas

Three Things Wot I’ve Been Doing Lately


Thing Number 1 – Struggling to Travel on the Train

Every few weeks I need to take the train somewhere for my job. Lately I’ve had issues…

  • A couple of months ago I threw my train ticket away in a bin outside St. Pancras station. As soon as I threw it I remembered that I still needed it for the final leg of my journey. Unfortunately it had dropped down through the rubbish, so I had to stand outside the station picking my way through the rubbish bin to retrieve my ticket. Not my finest moment.
  • A couple of weeks ago, at Paddington station, I was just about to go through the ticket barriers to catch a train to Bath when I realised that I couldn’t find my ticket. I retraced my steps and found it in the Costa Coffee shop, on the floor, slid under the stand where you get milk, with just a tiny corner sticking out. If it had slid another inch under I’d have never found it – how lucky was that!
  • Last week, at Holloway Road tube station, I got stuck in these ticket barriers:

Tube station ticket barrier

It turns out you can’t just follow the person in front right through without waiting for the barrier to close and reopen again. I don’t want to talk about it.

Thing Number 2 – NaNoWriMo

Yes, in November I did NaNoWriMo – I think everyone knows what that is, but just in case, it’s National Novel Writing Month, where you aim to write a 50,000 word novel in the month of November. I did it once before. This time I didn’t quite reach the 50K words, I did around 42K, but I was really happy with what I achieved. I needed to do quite a bit of reading research for this which I should really have completed before November, but didn’t, so the majority of my November NaNo time was spent reading rather than writing. Within the 42K words, I have the framework for the whole thing, I got to the end of the story, and there are lots of places throughout where it says things like “Write this bit here”, “Expand this bit”, “Write about that here”. So the bones of it are all there, and I’m happy with that.

Thing Number 3 – Getting Crafty

A while back, a work colleague announced that she was organising a Christmas craft fair for early December, and asked if anyone would like a stall. Well of course I jumped at the chance, what a great opportunity to show off my crafts! Something was niggling at me though and I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, and then it dawned on me – I don’t actually do any crafts (incidentally, I’m also really excited about the opportunity I have coming up to show off my motorcycle stunt skills…wait…oh crap).

So I bought a selection of cheap unfinished plain little wooden and card boxes, and some wooden hanging leaves, and decorated them with paint, pressed flowers, and beer bottle caps. Here was my finished stall from last Saturday:

craft stall

Did I make my fortune? No. Did I have fun? Absolutely – I really enjoyed decorating the boxes, this was mostly done over November, which you’ll remember was also the month I was trying to write a novel. I really don’t have any artistic/crafty type talent, but I was pleased I managed to do SOMETHING to put on the stall.

EDIT: Neil just reminded me of the other bit to the craft stall story, not sure how I forgot this bit – soon after I had set it up all lovely (as above), and the craft fair was well underway, I decided to quickly nip over to another stall, in doing so I tripped over the tablecloth on my stall and dragged it, along with ALL the boxes, onto the floor, and I fell amongst it all. There was a big crash. I don’t want to talk about it.

What about you? Do you ever volunteer to do something and then realise it was a mistake? Do you save beer bottle caps in case they come in handy some day? Do you ever get stuck in ticket barriers?



Christmas Countdown Sundries

Vanessa with advent calendar

Photo Credit: Vanessa-Jane Chapman 2014

Let me start by asking you the question on everyone’s lips at this time of year – where do you stand on Brussels sprouts? And I don’t mean literally, like when you accidentally stand on a cooked one on the kitchen floor and it squishes on to the bottom of your foot creating a dangerously slippery surface on your slipper-sole. No, I am of course enquiring as to whether you love ’em or hate ’em? There is a genetic reason why some people hate them (Google it), and the Brussels sprouts hating gene is apparently present in about 50% of people, so that explains why this festive veg divides opinions as it does. Let’s see if the 50% split applies here (I’m in the love ’em half myself) –

Now that you’ve done that, you might like to read a funny post about Brussels sprouts from the ever-entertaining Mike Allegra.

Now that we’ve covered sprouts, let’s cover this poor man with a hot warm towel!

Polar bear plunge

Polar bear plunge Calgary 2013. Photo credit: Sue Slaght

Fancy doing this icy plunge yourself? Beautiful as it looks, I think I’ll leave it to my amazing blogging friend Sue Slaght from Travel Tales of Life. On New Year’s Day, she and her husband Dave are doing a polar plunge into the icy water pictured above. They are taking part in the 6th annual Calgary Ice Breaker Polar Dip  to help raise money for the SA (Servants Anonymous) Foundation  who work to stop human trafficking. Sue explains more here  and her fundraising page is here.  Good luck Sue and Dave!

Right, so I’ve given a shout-out to Mike, and to Sue, now who was the other person I wanted to give a shout-out to? It’s on the tip of my tongue…think, think, think….oh yes! It’s me! Those of you who don’t follow my Sugarness recipe blog, won’t have seen the recipe for these Baileys chocolates I posted a few days ago –

Baileys chocolates

Photo credit: Vanessa-Jane Chapman 2014

I was rather pleased with how they came out, and with the gift boxes I found to pack them up in. There’s still time for you to make them as last-minute gifts, oh yes there is! Click here for recipe. No, no, absolutely no need to thank me, just send cash.

And finally another question – how come you never hear anything about the tenth reindeer ‘Olive’? You know, “Olive the other reindeer, used to laugh and call him names.”

(I know, groan!).

Well, festive wishes to those who want them, and see you in 2015!

Five good things I have discovered this Christmas

Christmas tree

Discovery number 1: A super-duper, handy-dandy, egg timer! Maybe other people knew about these, but I didn’t (and if you did, why didn’t you tell me about them?!). You place it in a pan of cold water with the eggs, and as things heat up, a ring comes across telling you where your eggs are in the cooking process, and by golly it works! I like soft boiled eggs but can never get the timing right, so this is a miracle in the world of egg-boiling…

Christmas egg timer before useEgg timer post use

Discovery number 2: I am turning into my grandmother. Yes, every gift that is given to me or my kids is now viewed by me as a potential donator of wrapping materials that can be reused. So while the kids are ripping open presents, I can be found crawling around the floor collecting bows and smoothing out gift bags. Well hey, it’s not only frugal but good for the environment, so it’s nothing to be ashamed of right?

Discovery number 3: A great Christmas party food recipe. I’m not the greatest cook in the world, I’m not terrible, but it’s all a bit hit or miss. I therefore find entertaining to be quite stressful, so I’m always delighted to find recipes that are foolproof but still impressive. This one is rather decadent – 12 large pitted prunes, soaked overnight in 100ml brandy, stuffed with 100g stilton cheese, wrapped snugly in 12 slices of parma ham (prosciutto), baked for 10 mins, then served warm. The parma ham could be substituted with another very thinly sliced dry-cured aged ham, but it does need to be one with that type of strong flavour, it really wouldn’t be the same with regular ham. Also, keep in mind that with only a few minutes baking, it retains a pretty high alcohol content so don’t be dishing them out to the kids! I took a photo before putting it in the oven, I meant to take an after photo too but forgot. Obviously, it’s all in the presentation when you serve them!

Christmas party food dish

Discovery number 4: Taking a walk on Boxing Day in the rain and cold and mud can be fun if you’re with lovely people and dogs. Here we are; well not me because I’m taking the photo, and not the dogs because they were running off somewhere, but the other lovely people! (You can tell how lovely they are even from the back view can’t you) –

Christmas walk

Discovery number 5: That sometimes the best gifts can be the most spontaneous ones. A friend at a Christmas gathering loved a jacket I was wearing and so I just took it off and gave it to her – She was absolutely delighted, and it truly looked much better on her than it did on me. Just to clarify, I don’t make a habit of discarding and handing over items of clothing I am complimented on, but it just felt right on this occasion and it made me and her happy.

I know a lot of you are probably not doing your usual blog reading at the moment, but if you are, did you make any good discoveries this Christmas?

Oh, and just a quick reminder, you still have until 11pm (GMT) tomorrow to enter the giveaway in my last post if you haven’t done that yet – Author chat and a chance to win an Amazon gift card, oh yes!

More than just a tree

Child's drawing of a Christmas tree

Whilst my children and I were putting up our Christmas tree yesterday and unpacking the motley assortment of decorations we have collected and made over the years, I felt a tinge of sadness as I thought about how much of parenting is about looking backwards and looking forwards rather than enjoying the current moment. It starts almost from when they are born and continues throughout childhood. We look forwards to the future and talk about how much easier things will be once they start sleeping through the night, and eating proper food, and using the toilet, and walking, and talking. Then once they reach all those stages, we look backwards and think about how much easier it was when you could just put them down somewhere and they would stay there, and they didn’t answer you back, and you didn’t have to worry about what you would feed them, and you didn’t have to have a mad panicky search for the nearest bathroom when they suddenly need to go at the most inopportune moment. The truth is that nothing about parenting is easy. As they grow and develop we are faced with new and unexpected challenges, but also new joys and it is the joys that we should focus on because all too soon they are passed. We scarcely notice it, but every time they grow up a bit more, they become like new people and when we look back at old photographs of them and memorabilia we realise how much we miss all those people they were along the way.

Yesterday, as I looked at the slightly disheveled angel with the crooked smile and foil dress that my daughter had made when she was six, and the pom pom Santa with the missing foot that my son had made at nursery school, I thought about how much our Christmas tree was a catalyst for these poignant memories. The ‘Baby’s first Christmas’ bauble, the Disney character ornaments, the millennium tinsel decoration; every piece brings back a memory of a different time in my children’s lives, a time that I fear I didn’t properly appreciate until it was gone. Woven into all this are also the memories of my own happy childhood Christmases and the longing to feel again that almost unbearable anticipation and magical excitement about Christmas which has now been replaced by grumbling about the cost and work involved in putting a Christmas together.

But hark at me! Looking backwards sadly rather than enjoying the present. Even whilst we were decorating the tree I was thinking about whether we should buy some new lights next year and wondering about how many more years it would be before the children stopped getting excited about decorating the tree. I shall make it my resolution for the rest of December to think about the wonderful memories we are creating this year, rather than those from the past and those that are yet to come. And if you hear me complaining about the mess my children have made in the house, please remind me that in years to come when they have grown up and fled the nest, I shall pine for these days of cleaning mud off the stair carpet, and finding orange peel and dirty socks behind the sofa.

Have yourselves a very Merry Christmas everyone!