Tag: Christmas

Christmas at Blenheim Palace

2 weeks ago we went to “Christmas at Blenheim Palace“.

Yes, I’m still talking about Christmas! Today is perhaps the last official day of Christmas, before it turns into New Year, so I need to get this post in!

Now I didn’t even know Christmas at Blenheim Palace was a “thing”. But my Mother in Law has been to something similar at Chatsworth House, and wanted to take me for my birthday. The husband found the Blenheim Palace event, and a plan was made.

From late November til early January the gardens of Blenheim Palace are turned into a Winter Wonderland light trail. There are thousands of fairy lights and light displays that run through the gardens, creating a magical walk around the outside of the palace and beyond. Unfortunately the tickets for that were already sold out (at least those available at suitable weekend times, taking into account the drive back to Birmingham from Oxford), so we just went along in the daytime to see the Palace decorations.

We arrived fairly early, before the huge crowds, so had a little wander round and perused the Christmas Market stalls.

Entrance to the exhibition is timed, with timeslots every 20 minutes. We were booked in for 12pm, but went in at about 11.45.

This year’s theme was Cinderella. The main entrance hall was decorated with a grand dining table; opulent with candlesticks, fancy dinnerware and Christmas trees everywhere!

Poor Cinderella’s table was tucked around the back, away from the grandeur.

From there we wandered through rooms and rooms of beautiful decorations, trees and garlands, while the Cinderella story was told along the way.

The ugly sister’s room

Beautifully bedecked in jewelled pink, blue and purple. Clothes were strewn on every surface as they planned their outfit for the ball.

Cinderella’s room

In contrast, poor Cinders’ room was much more sparse and plain (as plain as it can be, when hosted in a palace!) There was an original Singer sewing machine, with fabrics and cottons for Cinderella to make her own outfits.

The Prince’s room

Spot the invitations to the ball spilling off the table, along with his velvet cloak ready for the ball.

Cinderella’s carriage

Absolutely beautiful; covered in fairy lights and surrounded by pumpkins!

Midnight room

Full of clocks, and a clock decorated Christmas tree – a reminder to Cinderella that she must leave the ball before the clock strikes 12!

The ballroom

Breathtaking in white and silver, with flower and crystal decorated tables and roaring log fires.

Topped off, of course, by Cinderella’s glass slipper!

Everything was beautifully done, with so much effort and detail. Our only gripe was that the rest of the palace was closed off for the duration of the Christmas event, so we didn’t get to see any of the rooms other than those that were part of the exhibition. At £28 per ticket it was quite expensive for what took no more than 30 minutes to walk around (and we weren’t rushing either).

Afterwards we went for a wander around the grounds, following the path for the Winter Wonderland trail I mentioned earlier. Due to the huge amount of rain and the poor pathways it was a soggy mushy mess underfoot. It actually made us glad we hadn’t been able to get tickets, as it wouldn’t have been a pleasant walk, and would probably have ended up with one or more of us on our ass in the dark!

We had a lovely lovely time, but I do think the organisers should consider value for money a little more next year. And definitely sort those paths out!

Christmas at Blenheim Palace runs until 6th January 2019, although the Christmas Market ended on 16th December.

Have you ever been to a stately home at Christmas? Do you still have your decorations up in your own home? (We do!)

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

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5 ways to deal with disappointment

Person holding picture in front of their face showing a drawing of a sad face. Text: dealing with disappointment

Disappointment. It’s a fact of life. Not a nice fact of life, but one most of us have to deal with, nonetheless.

Special occasions can be a huge source of disappointment. The anticipation in the build up to the event, the high expectation to enjoy yourself and have a great time – there’s a lot of pressure. This is further exacerbated when the world around you seems to be having the best time; the most amazing birthday, fantastic holiday or cosiest Christmas.

That’s not to say all events go badly. Of course they don’t! But, if anything, that makes it even more upsetting when things don’t go to plan.

Take Christmas, as an example. Our insta feed is full of the biggest trees, the prettiest gifts, the fancy meals and family get togethers. Christmas is a pinnacle in many people’s annual calendars; we use it as a measure of how far along we are in the year, how ready we are during December (how many people have asked you if you were ready for Christmas this month?), how we feel during December (hands up if you’ve uttered the immortal “I just don’t feel Christmassy” line this year!) Of course we want it to the be the best one ever. And, if it isn’t, our heart rightly breaks a little.

The same goes for other occasions. Disappointing holidays – when we’ve spent time and effort and hard earned cash to getaway – leave us feeling crap. Disappointing gigs; maybe the band is late, or the sound is poor, or the crowd are obnoxious and spoil things (talking from experience seeing the Foo Fighters at Wembley this summer – the crowd were bloody awful) – we feel crushed.

How do we deal with it then? What can we do to ease the inevitable disappointment?

Allow ourselves time to wallow a little

It’s ok to feel angry, upset and hurt. I certainly find it helpful. Glossing over your feelings can often lead to resentment. Acknowledge the disappointment, feel it deeply, and then move on.

Direct your disappointment at the source of the cause

I’ve been guilty of taking my feelings out on the wrong people; either by being vocally upset with them or withdrawing and being sullen. That’s not fair on anyone. Make sure you’re not dragging other people into your disappointment and associated feelings.

Keep a sense of perspective

In most cases, the event we’re disappointed in or at is not a one time only opportunity. Christmas comes around once a year. So do birthdays. There will be other gigs and holidays (hopefully). Try to remember that you can always improve things next time around. If it’s a special occasion that has been spoilt, try to take the attitude that it’s “just a day”.

Try to look for a silver lining on that cloud

After the Foo Fighters gig our group of friends spent the following day together and had an absolute hoot. We drank in the sunshine, laughed at ourselves and each other, and had a great time. Despite a 2 day rainy start to our holiday in Italy, we saw the most amazing stormy skies and sunsets. It’s rare that there’s absolutely nothing good you can take from a situation.

Try to “make up for things” by arranging an alternative good time

Perhaps it’s a nice meal to cheer yourself up, or visiting friends, or just something you didn’t plan to do but know it will raise your spirits. Erase bad memories by making better ones.

Most of all, as so many people have said and will continue to say, don’t compare your bad time with the wonderful lives of friends and followers on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Especially Instagram! It may just leave you feeling worse, when that person’s truth may be a bigger disappointment than your own. Concern yourself with the things you can control, and try to move past the negativity and back to a shiny happy place.

(in case you were wondering, part of my Christmas was pretty crap thanks to the rotten behaviour of some people, hence the words of “wisdom”. Trying to take my own advice by making the rest of the holiday enjoyable, and memorable for the right reasons).

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

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The additional need for charity at Christmas

Three young children sitting on some steps. Text reads "charity at Christmas"

Like many people, I think I become more aware of the need for charity at Christmas time.

I support charities year round. Don’t get me wrong, I think the very fact that charity has to even exist is abhorrent. Avoidable disasters like Grenfell; disasters the government should be paying for – people run the London marathon for charity. Illnesses like cancer (which I believe there is a cure for…whole other post) – people running around local parks in a pink tutu raising cash for “research”.

I’ve posted my opinions on charity before. The government wastes thousands on crap like Brexit (also posted about this before) but expects the public to pick up the tab for REALLY IMPORTANT SCHIZZLE.

Anyway, this wasn’t a post to promote previous posts! Or to lambast the government (OK, maybe a little bit). It was to talk about charity at Christmas.

Back to the first paragraph

I am a regular charity supporter. It makes me feel good about myself (sorry, not sorry), and I hope the money goes where it should. But something about Christmas makes me extra generous. Especially to those in society who don’t enjoy Christmas in the same way as me. Last year I did a reverse advent calendar and donated food stuffs to charity. I’ve done the same this year (not the advent calendar, but a supermarket basket full of food in the local food bank collection).

One of my new colleagues (still bleating about having a new job, whatcha gonna do?) came to the office with some present tags from charity KidsOut. Her son goes to a local day nursery and they were supporting the charity. There are a mix of tags. Some show just an age and gender, some show an age and gift request, and others show a name and preferred present. KidsOut is a charity supporting children affected by domestic violence; many of whom will have escaped a violent home with a parent and have no presents to open.

My tag was for an 11 year old boy who requested a diablo. What with me being old, I thought this was a technological present I had never heard of. Imagine my surprise when I googled it (don’t judge me) to find it’s an old school toy made of wood and string!

I couldn’t resist bringing it into the 21st century (and to make that boy the envy of his friends!) so I bought a light up one that changes colour as you spin. He deserves something a little bit special, don’t you think?

Christmas happens for everyone

Back to the point of my post. Christmas happens for everyone – in varying degrees. There are people like me and the husband who have enough money to buy gifts for each other and donate to charities to help other people. There are people like the homeless who I saw on the streets where I live and gave money to yesterday. And there are children who, through no fault of their own, will wake up on Christmas morning not only without presents; but without a bed, a bedroom, clothes or their favourite teddy bear.

The other point of my post is that charity and goodwill isn’t just for Christmas. It’s lovely to try and help people have a slightly better time, in line with our own Christmas. But shit like this happens every month of the year. The UK police recorded a 23% increase in reports of domestic violence crime in the year up to March 2018. Many of those cases will involve children.

This isn’t a guilt trip post. Far from it. It’s not even an awareness raising post. We all do our own thing.

But do think of others. Not only at Christmas but year round.

Thanks, as always, for reading!

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Friday Feeling [24] – gotta love Nans!

This should probably be renamed to Friday Funny, as I dare you not to giggle when you read this story!

Twitter user Alex’s 74 year old Nan bought some lovely new purple Christmas baubles to adorn her tree. Alex, on helping her Nan by decorating her tree, realised that the baubles could be opened, and each one contained a glittery purple g-string!

Friday Feeling Christmas

Bless Alex’s Nan for not realising!

Or, perhaps she did realise, and is looking forward to shaking her purple ass in 2018!

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

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Reverse advent calendar – for people less fortunate

I recently saw this idea posted by someone on Facebook and thought it would be a really nice way to do something to help others this Christmas.

Advent calendar

The premise is that you get a box, and every day you put in an item of non perishable food – tinned goods, pasta, teabags; that kind of thing – and then you donate it to a food bank so it can be distributed to people who need it.

There’s a couple of impracticalities – the first being that donating it on Christmas Eve doesn’t leave enough time for it to be donated to people to eat over Christmas, and the second that a lot of people don’t go to the shops everyday to buy or put an item in the box. So I’m going to bastardise the idea a little bit, with the same result. I’m going to put together a box of items over the lead up to Christmas, and then donate it the week before so it can reach needy folk ready for the big day.

I’ve also made an early New Years resolution that I’m going to put together a box every month in 2018; helping people not just at Christmas but the whole year through. It’s a travesty that food banks need to exist, and worse that even more people are relying on them, and not just people you may expect, like those who are unemployed or unable to work. There have been news stories about nurses needing to use them to supplement their families, and that’s a shocking state of affairs. The husband and I are lucky to be in a fortunate position, and a few pounds on our shopping bill isn’t going to change our lives, but it could help someone else.

If you’re interested in doing this, I suggest looking into local causes and finding out what they need (food stuffs, personal items, etc). They’ll sometimes offer a collection service, or local supermarkets may have a donation point too. Homeless charities will be grateful for warm clothes and bedding donations, and again are often able to collect.

This is also a great idea for people with children I think, to teach kids the importance of giving, as well as receiving.

Have you ever done anything like this? Let me know your thoughts!

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

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The Big 4-0: Where to Go?

I’ll be 40 in December. 5 months today, in fact.

40 mug

I’ll spare you all the “how did that happen” bollocks, all the “I still feel like I’m in my 20s” bollocks and all the “if I could do it all over again” bollocks, because a) it’s bollocks, b) it’s dull and c) it’s pretty obvious! It happened, because life. I don’t know how old I feel, really, because I don’t know how 40 is supposed to feel, but I certainly don’t act how I think 40 year old grown ups acted when I was a kid. And I wouldn’t do it all over again, thanks. I’m very happy and settled in my life, with myself, with my relationship and with my home, compared to school years and early 20s which were a troubled cocktail of confusion at times!

The biggest issue I have with turning 40 at the moment (and I reserve the right to change this to sheer panic as the date gets closer!) is how to celebrate. More specifically where to celebrate. I’m not a party type person. Not to say I don’t like parties, or social occasions, or fun (I do, and I excel at them, at least in my own head!) but the thought of having a party for me just ticks no boxes at all. If anyone were to organise a surprise party for me I would be livid. It would also be pretty impossible anyway, because my birthday is on 20th December and people tend to be so caught up in Christmas parties/works parties/shopping/visiting family/spending money on presents that there isn’t necessarily room for ickle old me in their plans (this is not a pity statement in anyway, I’m cool with it, I’ve had 39 years to be ok with it and the people that matter always make a fuss regardless).

So, back to the impending 40th. I know it’s just another day, and another year older, and nothing will change, but somehow it feels like I should do something a bit special. And I have always thought/expected that something special would involve a trip. A holiday. And I always wanted the destination to be Goa or New York.

Now the time has come to make plans though, neither of those are really feasible. There’s the proximity to Christmas, obvs. I don’t want to be away over Christmas, because that’s family time, which therefore means travelling before Christmas and having a really long Christmas holiday which neither my bank balance or waistline would thank me for. Also, with moving house this year, annual leave is at a premium i.e I don’t have enough left to take time off for a long haul trip (that’s Goa out of the question). And New York would be incredibly cold (although pretty) and what if we got snowed in and couldn’t get home for Christmas Day? Too risky.

I suppose I could plan the trip for January, but it’s not my birthday then, so…

This leaves me the option of Europe. And while there are heaps of places I want to go in Europe, most of them lend themselves to summer. Lisbon? Summer. Seville? Summer. Dubrovnik? Summer. I’ve been to Prague, and I’ve been to Budapest (for my 30th). Flight timetables tend to be less regular as Christmas gets closer and the limited annual leave I have left gives only a couple of days window of opportunity to fly.

My first thought was Amsterdam. I do want to go there, but don’t really link it with any particular season in my head, so it seemed like a decent idea. It’s a short flight from the UK and there are lots of airlines serving Schipol airport. But the husband said he thinks of it as more of a warm days/light nights destination for wandering the streets and sitting outside street cafes, so the idea was shelved.

So far the frontrunner is now Rome. It has enough epicness to be worthy of a 40th birthday (History? Check! Architecture? Check! Food & wine? Check, check, check!) It’s close enough to fly to for just a few days; the last few years have been surprisingly mild in December, and it will probably be less busy than high season which means shorter queues for attractions, more choice of hotels and less crowded restaurants. I like the idea of hunkering down eating steaming bowls of pasta and sipping red wine in cosy cafes in between marvelling at the Coliseum, St Peters Basilica and the Spanish Steps. There’s an early morning flight from Manchester on the day of my birthday, which would be a pretty exciting start to the celebrations, and the flight home leaves us enough time for last minute preparations before Christmas Day.

Part of me thinks I’m being selfish wanting to be away so close to Christmas, when we’ll already have lots of stuff to do. But then the spoilt brat in me thinks it’s not my fault I was born so close to Christmas (thanks, Mom!) and that if my birthday was any other time of year there’s be no issue in going on a trip. I’m already kinda compromising… (told you, spoilt brat!)

What do you guys think? Should I plough on regardless? Wait til January? Is Rome a good idea or do you have any other suggestions? Help an aging girl out…!!

Thanks, as always, for reading x

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Something Christmassy

Following Tuesday’s self indulgent misery-fest I thought it was time to bring a bit of festiveness to the blog, as it’s been distinctly absent in recent posts (few and far between as I have posted).

So I thought I’d post some pictures of my Christmas tree and decorations!

(in case you’re interested, my birthday improved considerably when I got home – flowers outside the front door, everything I need to make cocktails including mixing set, martini glasses, recipe book and booze, a future weekend way in a gothic guesthouse in Whitby and a delicious meal with my husband. Lucky wife).

Tree by day and by night

Close ups of my decorations – all purple, white and silver, with glitter, mirror balls, pine cones, jungle bells, beads and snowflakes

These glass angels are my absolute favourite – so delicate.

glass-angel

I’ve got a snowy white wreath on the inside of my front door (this is entwined with tiny fairy lights which I couldn’t capture on a photograph)

I’ve Christmassed up my tall twigs (an Ikea staple!) They’re usually in the lounge but we have to move them into the hall to accommodate the tree)

festive-twigs

How cute is this sparkly wooden sign? I picked it up in Poundland last week for – you guessed it – £1!

winter-welcome

And, to further Christmas the crap out of this post, here’s a fabulous new (to me) festive ditty from Kelly Clarkson that is sure to have you tapping your foot and ready to crack open the Baileys. It’s a new entry into my top 5! (I’m not actually sure what my top 5 is, but this would definitely be in it).

Are you all ready for Christmas? I’d love to see your trees and decorations- send me your links!

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

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My very first guest post – Christmas Traditions!

I was asked by the blue haired beauty Estelle to write a guest post for her blog – what an honour! estellosaurus

The topic was Christmas Traditions, and I really enjoyed writing about all the lovely stuff that makes Christmas what it is for me.

Want to find out the things that always happen in my festive season, every year? Pop on over to her blog and have a read!

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A change of Christmas heart

I’ve struggled with the idea of Christmas this year. It was quite obvious, even from this time last year, that my Dad wouldn’t here for Christmas 2016. And although Christmas isn’t a time I associate with my Dad (he thought it was a commercial waste of time!) it’s still tough when there’s a massive gap in your life at a special time of year.

I’ve also been finding Christmas more and more stressful as years have progressed. I have always absolutely loved the festive time of year, but in recent times I find it more difficult to buy presents for people (everyone just already has everything) and the lead up just becomes one big self induced hassle with me still wrapping presents and swearing at midnight on Christmas Eve.

So, this year, I have been quite vociferous in my disdain for the impending season, poo-pooing the idea of wasting time and money on Christmas presents and generally being a bit of a grouch. I’ve been actively encouraging people not to bother buying me anything, and suggesting we spend our money on holidays or meals out or anything that doesn’t require me racking my brains on what to buy whilst simultaneously wishing everything Christmassy would go away. That’s not to say I don’t intend to celebrate. Food, drink and time off work, what’s not to like? I just don’t feel actively engaged (baring in mind I’m usually buying presents as early as September).

Then, last week, I had a tiny inkling of festive spirit in a work trip to Llandudno (I know, all the glamour). The festive lights were sparkling and the decorations were up in the pub and I felt a little flutter of excitement, which I quickly tried to stifle.

peeking-santa-claus-christmas-is-coming

But the following day, my Dad’s wife (who was of a similar opinion to me) told me that she’d bought some new Christmas decorations, and had decided that we couldn’t and shouldn’t ignore it because, although my Dad didn’t love Christmas, he knew that we both did and he wouldn’t want us to not celebrate or be miserable. And it made a lot of sense. Not only that, if she can be brave and decorate her home and face her first Christmas alone, then I should bloody well do it too! When the husband and I first got together he was a Christmas Grinch because his Dad had gotten ill at Christmas and he associated it with bad times. And I cajoled him and encouraged him and sweet talked him out of that and into a state of Christmas happiness, so I can’t take that away from him, especially when I worked so hard!

The upshot is that I have gone into present buying overdrive (which, strangely, I’m finding much easier than expected and even enjoying!) I smile at Christmas songs on the radio and I’ve established a date for putting our decorations up at home. Because, as the saying goes, life goes on. And I know my Dad would want that too.

Ooh, and I’ve been asked to write a guest post for Estellosaurus, which is all about my Christmas traditions, so it’s a good job I’ve had a change of heart as otherwise I would have had to say no, which is pretty rude when someone has made a kind offer (I’ve never been asked to do a guest post before). Have a pop on over to her blog and sigh with wonderment at her amazing blue hair! You can also follow her on instagram and Twitter.

How are you feeling about Christmas? Do you like it/love it/loathe it? Let me know!

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

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My first…part 3

Wowsers, another first of the month. Where is the year going?!

Continuing my series, and as I’m currently in Lyon, I thought I would talk about my first city break abroad.

I’ve been holidaying overseas since I was a little kid, and the excitement of those 2 weeks a year in a big hotel in the sun was always immense. But as I got older travel started to become more accessible, with low cost airlines and the internet opening up all sorts of possibilities that would previously have been much more expensive and complicated.

The first city break I ever went on (by which my definition is not a holiday with the purpose of sunbathing!) was to Prague. It was also the first holiday that the husband and I ever went on where it was just the two of us. We travelled at the end of November on a cheap as chips flight. I remember vividly when the flight landed, at around 8pm, that there was a light dusting of snow on the ground, which I was so excited by!

We stayed in an apartment on the top floor of a stunningly ornate old building which had an aged charm and an eccentric owner. The small terrace was too cold to sit out on, but you could see the beautiful roofs and domes of the city, all glistening in the cold frosty air.

After dropping our bags we went straight out to have a look around and get some food. Our apartment was 5 minutes walk from Old Square which was buzzing with people, despite the cold. Restaurants had outdoor seating with patio heaters, and people were eating and drinking al fresco bathed in the lights of the square and the bars.

We fell in love with it instantly.

Over the next 4 days we wandered around the city, visited cathedrals, crossed Charles Bridge many many times, drank cheap beer, went on the funicular railway, cried at the Jewish war museum and cemetery, marvelled at synagogues, did a bit of shopping, ate hearty winter food, drank absinthe in an underground bar and went to a sex museum!

Prague

But, best of all, was on our last day. I was really upset to see that the Christmas market was being set up in old square but wasn’t yet open. As a firm Christmas fan, I was bereft that we hadn’t planned better.

And then, on our last night, the Christmas tree was lit and the market opened! I was beside myself (and very vocal!) It was the best end to a stunning break I could have asked for.

It was bloody freezing (as you’d expect) but we’d planned accordingly and wrapped up in multiple layers, hats, gloves and scarves. I’ve always thought of Prague as a winter city anyway so wearing chunky boots and a furry russian hat epitomised what I had anticipated in my mind.

Prague is an absolutely amazing city and I would love to go back, perhaps at a different time of year. I’d avoid summer due to the unfortunate proliferation of stag parties looking for cheap booze but I think springtime would be very beautiful.

I can honestly say that trip opened my eyes in terms of short breaks and seeing a different side of the world, and we haven’t looked back since.

Have you been to Prague? Do you love city breaks? Let me know!

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

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