Category Archives: Christmas

Kindness, the greatest gift…

I hope you and yours have enjoyed a very happy, healthy, and safe festive period. It’s been another season with restrictions and cancelled/curtailed events, but I hope you managed to find some good times and reasons to celebrate even with the limitations placed on us right now.

For my December post I usually like to choose a favourite Christmas Ad shown here on British TV. As Kit said in her recent blog, the pickings have been light this year, but I did find one that spoke to me on an emotional level. I hope you enjoy it. It seems an appropriate way to round off my 2021 posts here at the Fence. Here it is:

Wishing you the happiest, healthiest, and most prosperous New Year. Let’s hope 2022 is a good one all round.

www.fayeavalon.com

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December 2021

The older I get the faster the years roll by. It hardly seems possible I am posting my last blog for the year.  And, today is the Winter Solstice. I am always ready for this day because tonight is the longest … Continue reading

Best Laid Plans

Sometimes the best-laid plans go awry, as mine did this very day. I had planned to spend it writing: first my post for OTBF, then the remainder of the day working on my novel. The morning started out well until the phone rang. It was my doctor’s surgery calling to rearrange my regular blood check. As here in the UK we are plunged into a booster jab panic I was fully expecting this call informing me the scheduled appointment for this Friday coming, was cancelled. Instead, it was moved to today. This morning. In an hour’s time. Fine. The test had to be done, so be it. As my day was now disrupted, I decided to afterwards drive to a different supermarket, hoping to find a few things needed that our usual shop had been out of stock of for some weeks, and thus write my blog post this afternoon.

Walking swiftly around the supermarket, glasses steaming up because of my mask, I literally bumped into a work colleague I hadn’t seen for what proved to be 25 years! We had a lot to catch up on, so we agreed to go for a coffee in a nearby coffee shop. Coffee turned into lunch, and I didn’t arrive back home until 3.30 this afternoon (you know how it goes!). After sinking a cup of tea made by Dave upon my return, I confess I fell asleep in the armchair. So here I am now, at 7pm writing this in a sprint session. But what to write?

Other than today, it has been a quiet four weeks, with little going on here, no gardening to do, art group closed for the holiday until 7th January. I have managed to complete the painting I had started at the group. It turned out well, I think. Called “L’Etang Bleu”, I hope you like it, it’s the last I shall be painting this year.

“L’Etang Bleu”

Talking of Christmas… for the past 22 years, since my father passed away, my mother has always joined us for a week over the Christmas periods. She’s always enjoyed it with us as we don’t make a fuss for the simple reason neither Mum nor my husband enjoy the festivities and it is always quiet and calm here. This year and in future she will not be coming as although she’s okay and quite independent for 96 years old, she can no longer manage our stairs and we have no downstairs bathroom. Last year was difficult for her, so this year it will be just Dave and I.

As it will be only the two of us, last Friday we agreed we wouldn’t bother getting the tree out of the loft. The next morning a gift arrived for us by post. We had no idea whom it was from as the included card simply said “Love from Santa”. It was a real tree, complete with baubles, decorations and lights. I had an idea it was from our daughter who, a few days later confirmed it was, bless her. A lovely, thoughtful choice. After the holiday, we will pot it up in the garden for next Christmas.

This season, sad to say I have found the Christmas adverts on TV rather poor, most are boring and unimaginative, with the majority repeats from last year. There has been only one we’ve liked, an amusing one from Aldi supermarkets. It’s a play on Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Here’s the link.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OW-PhgjyNSs&ab

This weekend, I am driving to Reading to spend a girlie weekend with Mum and my two sisters. These get-togethers are always enjoyable and it will be good to see them. Some of the shopping today was for supplies for this including the wine and cheese.

And because it’s Christmas, we must have a carol. Someone asked me the other day what my favourite one was. My two all-time favourites I’m sure you already know: Silent Night (sung in German) and an old German carol I’ve posted in previous years. There is another one I love, Little Drummer Boy, though I’m not sure whether it is classed a Christmas carol or purely a Christmas song. I do love it and always feel a little blubbery whenever I hear it.

https://youtu.be/Jotjc_U4rwY

My next post will be in the New Year. Let us all hope 2022 will be so much better than the last two and we can all get back to real normality. Whatever you are doing over the holiday season, enjoy, have fun, and most of all, stay safe.

Merry Christmas from Kit.

Kit Domino’s website and blogs

Tree Topper- A Cherished Keepsake

Jillian here. Happy December. I thought I’d share about my tree topper today since I don’t have much else to say exciting — been having some stress at the day job and it’s time to put that aside and talk about something less legally intense. 🙂

In the fall of 1986, I was twenty-five and pregnant with my first child and had been a lawyer for a bit over two years. Back then, salaries weren’t that great. A beginning lawyer made from $18,000-$20,000 a year (which translates to around $43,000- 47,000.00 now with inflation). I had just started a new job with a firm (had previously done overflow work from another lawyer and did okay with that financially, but since I was pregnant, I wanted a more steady salary and benefits). I was making $24,000.00 a year there (about $58,000.00 in today’s money. I’m telling you all this to say that $35.00 for a tree topper was a lot of money in that time ($88.00 with inflation). 🙂

There was a cute shop down the street from the law firm where I worked that sold a variety of items. It’s now a lamp and lighting showroom, but back then, they carried lots of knick-knacks, household furnishings, soft goods and, at the holiday season, it was a wonderland of goodies.

In the first years of our marriage, we had an el-cheapo topper that was a circle with lights and shiny greenery around them. It flashed on and off and was a fun thing on our tree. There was absolutely nothing wrong with it. 🙂

One day, on my lunch hour, I walked around this store and found this lovely Father Christmas who absolutely spoke to me. He looked nothing like our traditional Coca-Cola Santa Claus here in the USA, but he was beautiful and absolutely stole my heart. He’s wearing a silk coat with fur attached and his face, beard, and hands are beautiful porcelain. The toys in his pack are lovely, too–even a little Christmas tree peeking out. I fell in love at first sight. But he was $35.00. It seemed like too much to pay at the time, so I left.

But he was still speaking to me. He was calling my name down the highway and into my office… he was relentless…. so, there was nothing I could do. I had to go back the next day to buy him. He was happy, I was happy, and even the baby I was carrying seemed to approve. 🙂

Now, 35 years later, I still relish getting him out of the Christmas box every year and getting him on the tree. He still makes my heart happy–and at $1.00 per year net cost (so far), he’s been a great investment, right?

Holiday Food

Ham or turkey? Which one do you like better? This question seems to come up for me every US Thanksgiving. I’ve always been a turkey person and not big on ham. This year, instead of cooking a traditional Thanksgiving dinner here, we went to our son’s where he cooked a smoked ham from the local meat shop. Boy, that just about changed my mind and moved ham to the top of the list.

The very next night, we went to friends’ house where she cooked a spiral ham with a drool-worthy glaze on it. Wow. Ham got nudged just a little bit further up on that list. But the day after that, I finally got my turkey. Sorry, ham, you got beat out again. 🙂 And, in the aftermath, I’ve had too many of my favorite treat: turkey and mayonnaise on a homemade roll. (wiping the drool from my face.)

Now, with that holiday in the past, it’s time to turn our heads toward the remaining holidays. In fact, Hanukkah ends today.  Then there’s Christmas, and Kwanzaa, and Boxing Day, and more than I can go over in a blog. Here’s a link if you want some of the history behind these celebrations.

More holidays means more food. More baking, more carbs, more of everything. It’s the time of year when I have to be the most careful about my weight and I’ve failed already. So I’m on a mission to find lower fat ways to enjoy December. I love the Taste of Home website and have gotten a few recipes off it. Here’s their healthy Christmas collection link. I hope you find something useful in the article.

Have a wonderful, peace-filled season, and a safe and happy entry into 2022.

For more information about Laurie Ryan:

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Dilemma

Jillian here.. I was in a dilemma about what to post this month. While I don’t want to ignore what’s happening here in the USA, I don’t want to make this post a political one. Suffice it to say, I am sad and disappointed about the way things have been going here. I am also sad about how my UK friends have gone back into lockdown. It’s just a weird time to be alive. Praying for us all world-wide.

I thought I’d share a couple of photos from Christmas. I don’t like pics of myself so I’m posing my sister, my mom, my dad, and my son. All with the grandson. I am also posting pics of my December 28th big day. 🙂 Some of the photos are taken at my parents’ house on Christmas and some at my house where we celebrated my big one! The one with Benjamin and his dad (my son) was taken at the park.

Hope everyone has a blessed January. Stay warm. It’s supposed to be in the 20s here tonight- that’s minus 4 for you in Celsius land. 🙂 BRRR!

The strange ‘in-between’

Firstly, I hope everyone managed to have a good Christmas, despite the less than ideal circumstances we all find ourselves in. We had a lovely time, but it was hard not meeting up with family and friends. All I can say is, thank heaven for Zoom!

This year, the ‘in-between’ week from Christmas to New Year is a strange one. The normal things that happen during this period aren’t taking place. Here in the UK we are basically in lockdown. So there has been no trips to the post-Christmas sales; no outings to the cinema; no festive evenings with friends… There’s a kind of stillness in the air, a flatness in the the lead up to New Year. It’s as if the world is holding its breath in the hope that better things are coming.

This week always finds me in a reflective mood (I suppose it’s the same for most of us). I think about the year that’s rapidly coming to an end and take time to look back on the good things… what went well, what goals I managed to achieve, etc. Also, the things that didn’t go so well, the goals I didn’t achieve, and the things that didn’t get done. I tend not to dwell too much on the later, except to resolve to do better in the future.

While I’m extremely grateful that my loved ones have come through the year and have remained virus-free, there has been one major family health challenge that came out of the blue and has left me reflecting on the fragility of life. It has certainly put things back into perspective, making me realise that my distinct lack of writing focus in 2020 (caused by major procrastination issues – no excuse) is really, in the bigger scheme of things, not that important. I failed big-time in meeting the goals I set, but there’s always next year.

But regardless of meeting goals or not, it’s always a good idea to set them. It is our goals that can help keep us rooted when life is especially challenging. They push us forward into the great unknown where all kinds of possibilities exist. I’m reminded of the wonderful Desiderata with its instruction to “keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.”

As the New Year approaches, I wish you everything that you wish for yourself. Stay safe, my friends. We’re getting there!

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Cranberry Chutney Recipe

Our granddaughter made this dish for Thanksgiving. Not only was it a new recipe she embellished it. The original called for brown sugar but after a taste test we all knew it didn’t need it. I can see Cranberry Chutney … Continue reading

‘Tis The Season To Be Jolly

And suddenly Christmas is almost upon us once more. Despite the difficulties of the past year, it has crept up seemingly faster than ever. I should have been more prepared, after all the shops were playing seasonal music since November, cards and decorations and seasonal food on sale back in September and the Christmas movies on TV since the summer! Not that I have much to prepare. As it has been for the past 20 years, ours will be a quiet time, just Dave and me and my mother, who finally decided yesterday she did indeed want to come to us again. No presents, no fuss, no crackers, just enjoyable food and a little drink or two and even more enjoyable company with the Christmas tree twinkling in the corner, and hopefully a good movie or two to watch on TV.

Talking of TV, the Christmas advertisements haven’t been up to their usual standard this year, in our opinion, although there is one that has moved me to tears. No silly song, indeed, no dialogue whatsoever but the sentiment is so strong it brings a lump to my throat every time I watch it.

https://youtu.be/yg4Mq5EAEzw

With my mother being German, we were bought up with many of the German Christmas traditions, from the Christmas tree never being put up until Christmas Eve, when us children were in bed so it became an extra special magical Christmas morning, to the Advent Calendars, sent from Germany by our grandmother (Oma), years before they became available or popular in the UK. They were simple affairs, a little religious scene behind every dated window or door, and lots of glitter. No chocolates or treats or perfume or even bottles of gin that are so popular nowadays – the ones for adults, that is. These came each year in a large parcel sent from Germany at the end of November, along with a homemade Stollen, Lebkucken, iced gingerbread hearts, packets of Dr Oekter vanilla sugar (because Mum couldn’t get any in the UK), special coffee beans, our presents from Oma, along with other items for Mum and Dad. I will never forget the aroma that filled the house those days when the parcel arrived and opened. Now Stollen and Lebkucken and other German treats are readily available here, much to my family’s delight although nothing yet beats Oma’s baking.

Lovely memories of childhood Christmases fill me each year, and for many a year I have been on a quest to find a recipe my mother would make just after the festivities were over. Years ago you couldn’t buy beer in the supermarkets like you can now. If you wanted to drink beer at home, especially for parties, you bought glass flagons of it from the off-licence section in the pub. When you needed more supplies, someone had to take the empty bottles to the off-licence to be refilled. Of course, the beer went flat very quickly if not drunk and, rather than waste it, my mother would use some of it in beef stews and casseroles and as a special treat, make beer soup! I can taste it now, in my mind. But I have never been able to find the recipe for it. Mother cannot remember the recipe now, nor can she find her German cookery book in which it was written. All I can remember is she used to put custard powder in it.

I have spent many years trawling recipe books and the internet to no avail. Yes, there are recipes out there, but they all include cheese and made with lager, all claiming to be the original German beer soup, but cheese nor lager was ever used in ours or in that Oma made. Try as I might to recreate it adjusting from those recipes, I failed every time. However, a few days ago I came across a site that had many old German recipes from a cookery book dated 1897 and low and behold, there was one for beer soup that sounds very much like the one I know.

Beer Soup
1 cup dark beer
1 cup water
1/2 cup light brown sugar
Pinch salt
1 egg yolk
1 heaping tablespoon flour
Place egg and flour in a heat safe bowl; set aside. Heat beer, water, sugar, and salt until just before boiling. Pour beer slowly over egg and flour, constantly whisking.  Return to pan. Serve hot.

I haven’t tried making it yet, but I intend to.

Of course, Christmas isn’t Christmas without a carol or two, so here is one of my favourites “Oh Holy Night” sung by four gorgeous hunks to sign off with. But before I go, I want to thank you all for your friendship and support during this difficult year and wish each and every one of you a Happy, Safe, Merry and Enjoyable Christmas, no matter how you are celebrating yours. See you in the New Year.

https://youtu.be/a5j_XuATgRU

Kit Domino’s website and blogs

Christmas – In Song

Jillian here. I promise I had my idea for this post before I saw Lavada’s Elvis song. 🙂 I thought I’d share some links to some of my favorite Christmas songs.

My all time favorite is Do you Hear What I Hear by Bing Crosby

Michael Crawford (the original Phantom of the Opera) has a fab Christmas album. My two favs on there are Mary Did You Know and Strange Way to Save the World. The second one always makes me tear up.

Harry Belafonte’s Mary’s Boy Child is another one I love.

A bouncier song is Vince Vance and the Valiants All I Want for Christmas is You – It is def not the Mariah version and I like it much better.

I adore the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Their song, Dream Child is one I listen to over and over. I could only find a live version of it, so I am linking to the words as they are so beautiful.

Seth McFarlane can be vulgar in his comedy, but he does have a wonderful Christmas album. His gift for voices shines in the album songs.

What about you? What are some of your Favorites? And let me know if I screwed up any of the links! Happy December!