Tag Archive | Christmas

Ho! Ho! Ho!

I can’t believe that I spent most of my week’s holiday putting together an Advent Calendar, but that’s exactly what I have done and have now put the finishing touches to my efforts.

At least the hot temperatures we’ve had recently helped everything dry quickly!

The calendar is produced by Kaisercraft as part of their “Beyond the Page” range and already I’ve had several people asking me to do one for them but I think that it is much nicer if you order the basic pack and do it yourself!


Advent-lighting the candles

When I was young I used to love the tradition of lighting the candles one-by-one on each Sunday in Advent during the run up to Christmas. Today I lit my first candle and it’s glowing happily in the corner. With the temperature plunging to 2 degrees in the last couple of hours it’s a welcome and warming sight.

Little fast, little feast

I have been looking back to see what I was writing about this time last year, and surprise surprise, Advent and Christmas were the topics of the day. Again, it’s hard to believe that it is exactly a year since I wrote the post whilst we were in the midst of the big freeze. I remember driving to the station one morning when it was -10 degrees. Today it is +10 degrees. 

In Iran 1 December marks the beginning if the “Little Fast” followed by some Christians during the 25 days leading up to Christmas Day known as “Little Feast”.   Although Iran is predominantly an Islamic nation, there are also some Moslems who celebrate Christmas as a non-religious festival. Christmas trees and decorations are bought, turkeys ordered and sometimes gifts are exchanged in the same way as we do here in the UK.

During the 25 day “Little Fast” which is meant to purify body and mind, Orthodox Christians follow a diet free of meat and dairy products only breaking their fast when Communion is received early on Christmas morning. To break their fast, the traditional dish of Harissa is eaten and here is a recipe for the chicken and barley stew.


Armenian Harissa
  • 1 whole chicken
  • 8 cups water
  • 2 cups whole wheat kernels, rinsed and drained
  • 2 tsp. salt, or to taste
  • cumin
  • paprika
  • butter
How to cook it
Rinse chicken and place in large pot with 8 cups water and salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium. Cook for about 45 minutes to 1 hour, with the pot partially covered until chicken is cooked.
Remove chicken from liquid; place on platter and allow to cool enough to handle. Discard skin, bones and fat. Shred chicken; cut into smaller pieces, if necessary.
Strain broth. Measure broth, and add enough water to make a total of 8 cups
Place broth in large pot. Add wheat, shredded chicken, and salt if necessary. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to low. Remove any foam which rises to the surface.
Simmer on a very low heat, without stirring, covered, for about 4 hours
Beat vigorously with a sturdy, long-handled, wooden spoon, mashing the wheat and chicken until they resemble thick oatmeal. Adjust salt, if needed.
To serve: place in bowls. Add a pat of butter, if desired. Sprinkle with a dash of cumin or paprika to taste.

Time flies

I can’t believe that it has been almost two weeks since I last posted. I have done so much but achieved so little and it is beginning to dawn on me that today being the start of Advent, Christmas will soon be here.

The late November temperatures are higher than average, my geraniums and fuchias are blooming merrily and yet I have a holly tree bursting with red berries. It looks rather incongruous to say the least but I’m not complaining.

So the great Christmas countdown begins in earnest and I need to get my act together soon if I’m to post my cards in good time. I’m not a fan of the commerciality, hassle and hub-bub of Christmas at the best of times but this year I have much more exciting things to do than go racing round the shops.

In the meantime, Will has a football match and I need to get to the craft shop if I’m to finish my pages today. Christmas cards and garlands have to wait.





Edgar Harlow remembered

Today, Remembrance Day, I will be adding my great-uncle Edgar to the list of those I know of personally who have made and still make great sacrifices defending our freedom from aggressors. 

I only found out about Edgar Harlow this summer thanks to my cousin and my aunt who have very kindly been helping me put together some family history for my son Will’s scrapbook. What a tragic but amazing story this is and although Edgar lost his life in 1942 during WWII, I’m so glad that I have this story to pass on to future generations in the hope that it makes the act of Remembrance all the more real and closer to home. 

We should not forget.

 In October 1942, Edgar Harlow set out on his way home for Christmas, travelling from Africa, where we believe he was serving in the Royal Corps of Signals (Gambia Area). 

At approximately 9.30pm on 30 October 1942, the troop ship “President Doumer”  with Edgar onboard was torpedoed 150 miles north of Madeira. Chaos ensued but a Norwegian Steam Merchant ship SS Alaska managed to rescue many survivors from the Doumer. The rescued survivors included Edgar Harlow. 

Sadly however, SS Alaska was itself torpedoed just after midnight, and it was in this second attack that Edgar died. SS Alaska limped into Gibraltar before returning to the UK.  

Such was the chaos and confusion around who perished in the first attack, who was rescued and subsequently killed that Edgar’s family did not receive the telegram informing them of his death until 11.00am on Christmas morning 1942.  

Such a sad story, but one which needs to be remembered. 

Lest we forget.

The President Doumer

SS Alaska

So long December, welcome 2011

It doesn’t seem five minutes since I was writing ” So long November, hello December” promising to make this last month of 2010 a more sedate and calm affair. What a laugh. Despite my best intentions, it seems like I have been busier than ever, but then that’s what New Year’s Resolutions are for.

December was dominated by the weather. Snow, ice, blizzards and sub-zero temperatures like I’ve never experienced (since I was born in February 1963) all combined to wreak havoc with my travel plans  making my final 2010 visit to my colleagues in Scotland impractical. Christmas was white, albeit that no snow actually fell near home that day, but we still managed to keep to our original plan of having a Barbecue instead of the traditional roast. The snow did melt in time for our annual Lubenham village walk which led to copious amounts of sludge being brought back to the pub for well-deserved stew and dumplings. It’s not nice being hosed down in December in the car park !

My fund-raising Santa Run scheduled for 5th December in Greenwich Park was cancelled due to the dangerous conditions, but I did fulfil my part of the bargain by completing the run on my treadmill resplendent in Santa costume. Another first and I raised a total of £1,500.00 for the Depression Alliance.

I am still enjoying writing my Blog and I am never short of things to say, just the time to write. In the New Year I will be spending more time trying to keep fit so I may not be so prolific with my posts in 2011…we’ll see.

Yet more lovely new friends this month; Andrew may be regretting his Facebook friend request which he fired off early in December. I’m not sure he fully realised what he was letting himself in for being a fellow (very depressed ) Aston Villa fan of 40 years standing and having so much in common. Andrew I apologise now for being so verbal and opinionated but you seem to be coping admirably! I also welcome Carole, fellow depressioneer as well as Will Gibson from Reading University hoping to climb Scarfell Pike on New Year’s Day to raise funds for MIND. What an inspiration this guy is.

Will’s Fundraising page

As well as welcoming new friends, I had to say “Goodbye” to two friends at work, both of who have fantastic new opportunities awaiting them in the New Year and thoroughly deserved too. Whilst I will miss Nicky and Emma when visiting Birmingham, I wish them all the best in their new roles and know that we will keep in touch regardless. “Good Luck Girls-Kick Ass”.

Dream Alliance won’t have the chance to defend his Welsh National crown this year, the race is postponed until January 8th. I will still be cheering him on and will no doubt have a few pennies on his back (but can’t watch) hoping that he repeats his remarkable feat of last Christmas-a real Dream come true.

All in all not a bad month and Christmas was far less stressful than usual. Perhaps that was because I ignored it as far as possible but now feel very guilty for not sending my son a Christmas card. Next year, I may feel more festive and do the job properly. Or I might be able to persuade the family to decamp to Iran. Now that would be a really cool Yule.

More balls than most….

This Christmas learn to juggle. I’m not talking about working “smart” or about the energy sapping lifestyle  juggling of work, shopping, children etc that can bring us all to our knees. I am talking about REAL juggling. The fun stuff.

Whether you are on your own or with family and friends juggling is a fun but very worthwhile skill to learn and what’s more it has been proven to alleviate the symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression. I learnt to juggle almost twenty years ago now and it never fails to amuse me and my friends on occasions, and like riding a bike, once mastered you never forget how to juggle.

Before you discount this as being rather frivolous and not suitable for you “because I am so uncoordinated”, believe me I have never come across a person who hasn’t mastered the basic three-ball cascade with a bit of determination and perseverance. I do admit that it can be frustrating whilst learning, but it’s a fun frustration and a great way of immersing yourself in learning a new skill giving your mind some well-deserved time out. It can even be hilarious at times and there is nothing like a good laugh to make you feel better. So, what are the benefits?

Juggling is a fun way to improve your mental, emotional and  physical health. It works to balance both left and right hemispheres of the brain  to improve motor-skill functions, reading, writing, creativity, self-esteem, self-confidence, self-motivation, concentration and multi-tasking. It can help combat and prevent the development of depression, anxiety, Alzheimer’s, and a host of other mental and emotional diseases.

You will learn how to break big problems into smaller ones and use smaller steps to reach your ultimate goal. This is particularly useful when coping with depression and anxiety as you tend to get overwhelmed by the “bigger picture”.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) or the “winter blues” effects many people when they find themselves stuck inside over the winter months. No more so than this year with all the snow and ice we have had and more on the way. Juggling is a fantastic way to keep occupied whilst indoors or when on your own.

So what are you waiting for? Go and get yourself some beanbags, juggling balls or even oranges and have a go. You’ll be hooked within minutes!

On-line juggling tutorial

Juggling supplies-Amazon

Have fun!