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Christmas time…


Chestnuts roasting on an open fire, Jack Frost nipping at your nose, Yuletide  carols being sung by a choir, and folks dressed up like Eskimos… this is my vision of Christmas, growing up I loved to listen to Nat King Cole sing this song on our record player… we always had Christmas with family ate a huge roast turkey dinner, with Brussels sprouts (which I hated by the way… what was I thinking), drank snowballs, a treat as it contained a little alcohol… shhh don’t tell anyone, and opened presents all day long, or at least that is what it felt like back then.

 Now I’m an adult I love the tradition of Christmas but I also love to be different, a few years ago we took our family to Florida and California for Christmas, oh how magical it was… there is nothing like Christmas Day in Disneyland, Christmas music blasting out everywhere you go, decorations like you can only imagine and children running around in pure delight… I haven’t mentioned the torrential rain, the sea of ponchos and the crowds, because I didn’t see any of that… it was pure magic in my eyes and I would do it again in a heartbeat.  Boxing Day was much slower, sunshine, swimming and drinking cocktails in an adirondack chair in Downtown Disney with Silver Bells being sang away in the distance… my brother could never quite see the vision of a Christmas not spent at home, but to me Christmas is exactly what you make it whether at home or away… I’m hoping his Christmas cruise this year will let him see my vision of A magical Christmas no matter where you are.


Santa Monica Pier, CA … Christmas 2005


Disneyland, Anaheim CA… Christmas Day 2005

This year was much more traditional for us… a few years ago we decided that we would put names of all the older members of our family in a jar, this included Paul and I, my Mum and Dad too this year… each person only bought for the name that came out of the jar, and we set a budget to spend too, this didn’t include Blu, Mabel and of course Florrie and Tate, they still got presents from everyone.  It gets harder and harder each year to think of presents for everyone, we all buy everything we need all year, life is so much more different from when I was growing up, we all have phones, laptops, clothes, toys that we just buy all year, so how do we make it special for that person we are buying gifts for… well the name in the jar gives you the opportunity to really think about that person, I must admit I was not very good this year but Jordan who pulled ‘Mom’ out of the jar really thought about what I might like, we had a little Antique shopping afternoon, he walked silently with me and just observed all the things I touched and loved… I was so delighted with his gifts he really put thought into each one… Kit Kats and mini Twix bars, because he knows they are my favorite, natural face wipes and Lush complexion soap, all natural just the way I like it, then my favorite and Florries too an old typewriter, taking me straight back to my childhood… he then gave me a card with money in it, just in case I didn’t like anything… well guess what Jord, your gift was so thoughtful, I love it… thank you ❤️

I am not usually a fan of going to the shops on Christmas Day, those poor people that have to work instead of being home with their families, but I was naughty this year, I’ve been running around so much organizing the day an hour in Starbucks with just my Mum seemed the perfect way to wind down before the festivities began, so that is exactly what we did…

Of course I can’t be too traditional, so I added a spin on the food… with our Thanksgiving feast just a few weeks ago I decided to change things up for Christmas… an Aussie style BBQ for breakfast, eggs, sauasages and warm bread, of course there was some smoked salmon too, then later in the day we had a gigantic charcuterie board, baked ham and fresh cooked dill butter salmon, cheesecake, mince pies and lots of chocolate… all of my favorite things… and as it turned out everyone else’s too!


After presents were opened, food was eaten we drank the best mulled wine I have ever had, made by Jord courtesy of Jamie Oliver and everything was cleared away, we opened the game Dom had bought us all… there is nothing like a good game of Cranium to inspire the creativity in you, or not in my case… we drew, acted, thought a little and drank more alcohol, ate more chocolate but mostly we just spent time with each other… peace, love ❤️ and happiness.

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‘Joy to the World…’

I always feel that this time of year is chaotic, the shops are full of crazy people filling their carts with anything and everything they can find, they spend as much money as they can on their loved ones… well my friends that used to be me, but not this year, I’m simplifying my life, I have set a limit for each child, all year they get things they need, I do not need to break my bank account to prove I love them with gifts and possessions, there are more important things in life like experiences, family time and love.


I want to teach my children about giving, not just about receiving, I want them to learn that this season is not just about what they want or need.  I don’t think anyone of my children actually need anything, they are loved, we live in a nice house that has running water, heat and a new kitchen (wink, wink), each one of them has a closet filled with clothes and we eat good healthy meals, most of the time, anyway.  In addition to all of the basics of life we have phones, iPads, computers and a lot of the luxuries in life many people just dream of… so I ask myself what can I really buy each of them that they don’t already have in one form or another…


What we do need from time to time is a vacation, not just a trip away but a vacation from just our day to day life, a day trip to the zoo, an hour in a coffee shop sipping a hot drink and just talking to each other, or even a longer stay in a new place, somewhere to rewind, relax and recharge… and all these things are really what Christmas should be about, not who spent the most money.


My plan this year is not to get stressed, my two younger children have been told Santa can only give five presents to each child, big or small, so Florrie wants a Baby Alive doll, Baby Alive diapers, a kitten… and then she struggles to think of anything else, Tate wants a Tonka cement truck, that is all… so really five gifts each is more than enough.  My teenage daughter’s list is the most difficult and the longest, trying to make her understand has proved the hardest, her list of four makeup products is $200 in itself, that’s without the rest of the list, usually I would stress myself out getting every item on her list but this year she has had to prioritize the things she wants most, and Blu is easy, computer games, a couple of items of clothes, even an IOU for future games that are coming out next year and he’s done.


As for my older children, well a few years ago we all decided to put names in a hat and just buy one larger gift for the name you pulled out, at first I was opposed to this but as time has gone on it has simplified my Christmas a little so I just have to think about Lewis this year, of course he is the most difficult to buy for, I just need a few hints… now if I can ignore everyone else asking me for ideas for their person it will be truly easier for me to concentrate on my one present I have to buy.

We will also be donating a gift this year at our local library, I feel we are truly blessed and there are so many people out there who are not as fortunate as our family… whatever your plans this Christmas, just remember the most important part of this festive time of year is spending time with your loved ones, not money, and if you can’t get that most wanted gift it really doesn’t matter, it will all be forgotten this time next year and they will want something else… just have FUN 🎄🎄🎄

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Can you believe 2015 has been and gone.

DSC_5627Like many people at this time of year I am not only reflective but also hopeful for a simple new year with lots of love and happiness around me.  As we enter 2016 I am thinking about how to improve my life, my list is as always, be more organized, spend lots more time with my family and friends and learn to move on, I always linger in the past wishing for simpler days, when really I should, look to simplifying my days going forward.

2015 bought many good memories along with some not so good ones, fortunately last year the good out weighed the bad, so I consider myself very lucky.  The year started with struggles in life in general, but there was hope that things might improve,  I am a firm believer in what hurts us only makes us stronger, and this is so true in my life, as I get older I definitely learn by the mistakes of the past.

The beginning of last year was brutally cold, our sad propane heating struggles to heat our house at the best of times, but last winter it failed miserably, but looking at the positives, meant it gave me determination to resolve the situation with a beautiful wood burning stove that heats our house perfectly now.IMG_0639

March bought about two special Birthdays and a new job in our house, my little Tate had his first Birthday  and two days later Paul turned 50 with a bang, a few days after that and after 29 years in his previous job, he very bravely started his new job, which so far seems to working out.IMG_0962

Our Easter tradition seemed to have started with our second Easter Saturday at the shore in April, it was very windy and chilly but it didn’t stop my Florrie from getting on the sand with her Dad.  May is always a busy month in our house with two Birthdays, an anniversary and of course American Mothers Day, but last year we added to our busy month with two graduations resulting in new degrees and then eventually two new jobs later in the year.  Florrie had her fourth Birthday, it seems hard to believe that this year she will be five, has it really been five years since that little ray of sunshine entered our lives.IMG_0751

Mabel graduated from Middle school at the end of June and we enjoyed a beautiful summer before she became a High School student, although I considered not letting her go, she is growing up so fast.  Summer flew by in a blink of an eye, but this year we managed to get away for a week to Cape Cod, a much needed break for Paul and myself.  We finally managed a trip into New York City to meet up with an old friend and his son,and we finally walked along the High Line, a trip we had been planning for a couple of years. August was filled with High School Soccer, heat week training, early morning practices and the start of the freshman and JV games for us, busy, busy, busy.IMG_1189

I have mixed feelings about Fall, on the one hand I love all things pumpkin, the beautiful Fall colors, warm soups and casseroles and apple cider donuts, but on the other hand, Fall means that we will be entering my least favorite season, Winter very soon, this year we have been very lucky though the weather has been mild and beautiful on many days leading up to Christmas, we even managed a day at the beach in December then sat outside a small coffee shop sipping coffee into the evening.  Fall brings along the pumpkin patches, corn mazes and lots of fun for Florrie and Tate, I love this season for all of those reasons and this year has been no different for me.DSC_3034

I consider myself a vey lucky ex-pat, I get to spend almost 3 months at a time with my parents, I love the time I spend with my Mum, but when she leaves it is the hardest part of living here.  Just before Thanksgiving, both of my parents arrived to spend a lot of this winter with us, Christmas day was in my opinion one of the best we have had for a few years, the day was so mild, my Mum and I drove to Starbucks for a quiet while after a very busy few weeks, we drove home to have a champagne brunch, opened presents, cooked and ate more food, my children all played board games, we then played Yankee Swap and then some more board games… just perfect.IMG_1431

We are very lucky to have some very kind friends both here in New Jersey and far away, this year we got to celebrate New Year in style with our very kind friends who live a 45 minute drive away from us… we love their family and their friends, it was so much fun to see them… thank you, you know who you are.

Life has its ups and downs for all of us and of course the past year was no different for us as a family, one of my children was diagnosed with an illness that can only be managed, and although as a mother I struggled and still do with the thought that I can not change this, I am learning to deal with it day by day and I think he is learning everyday too.  This year also saw the loss of a friendship for me over something so silly, if anyone knows me well they will know I do not give up on any of my friendships easily and this one was no different, but unfortunately she did not feel the same so I have had to move on, it makes me sad that this friendship came to an end, I miss her and her family a lot, but I have had to learn you really should not stay up until 5am drinking with friends, because some things that are said can never be taken back, even 2 years later.

I have no resolutions this year, I find I never stick to them so I just have hopes and goals… my one hope is that we all stay healthy and then the rest will hopefully fall into place… Happy 2016 to everyone, lets hope it is a good year filled with lots of laughter for all of us.

 

 

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Happy, Happy Holidays to one and all!

Christmas grocery planning and shopping is always a favorite pastime of mine… NOT, but I’m getting there, which is always a good start, the planning is done, now onto the shopping… Luckily Paul is off tomorrow and is coming with me to get the food, always a mammoth task with so many hungry mouths to feed in our house!

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Having a large family makes planning my menu especially for the holidays an essential, it’s a mammoth task that takes time and precision, especially when you are a home cooking person, not using convenience foods as much as possible! I’ve started my week today with some ingredients I already have in, I like to include baked goods in my menu too, and this week I’m going to be experimenting with using some gluten free flours to add to my dairy free change outs I now use in some recipes, it’s taken my brain a while to adjust to thinking dairy free where I can, but I’m slowly getting there!

Brownies are becoming a hot favorite in my house, I’ve discovered that melting some butter in a large cast iron skillet for baking then making the batter in the pot I melt the sticks of butter in makes brownies not only a success but it’s oh so easy with little to clean up… Easy quick and delicious, but this week I’m planning on trying to use the recipe and make it gluten free… I love experimenting with recipes to make my life easier! We have a new store opened near us, their selection on flours is fantastic and cheap too, so I’m heading in there to see what they have and what I can save on!

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We are not great traditionalists in our house, I like to mix it up for Christmas now and then, my absolute favorite thing to do for the holidays is go on vacation, I love being away and just doing something completely different, a few years ago we spent our Christmas and New Year in Florida then California… Best Christmas ever, but when times are tough you have to vacation at home for Christmas and make some traditions for your family! One of our new traditions is making our own mince pies, I prepare the mincemeat in advance and then Paul and Mabel make the pastry and bake the pies on Christmas Eve, I of course supervise with a glass of wine from the sofa! Mincemeat is one of those things I always bought in a jar until a friend told me how easy it was to make your own fresh and delicious, so now each year I whip up a batch ready for Christmas Eve baking!

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Another tradition we have steered away from in recent years is the traditional turkey dinner, oh no I hear many of you say, but after cooking Thanksgiving dinner just a few short weeks before, my need to repeat the process is not there! This year though we having a little bit of tradition with a baked ham, but apart from that I’m going for easy to prepare and little to do on the day itself!

We still call the day after Christmas, Boxing Day, always a true Brit, no matter where we live, our Black Friday left over sandwiches will be transformed into a Boxing Day treat this year too! Of course whatever the celebration there has to be a cheeseboard, a new favorite a large bucket of Trader Joes popcorn and lots of chocolate this and that… Oh I forgot something we’ve always had at this time of year is satsumas, mandarins or clementines… Vitamin C to ward off those dreaded Christmas bugs… That’s about it, our Traditions in a nutshell!

Now for my menu for the next week…

Thursday…
Tortilla soup and cornbread
Friday…
Chicken and fennel soup… Focaccia bread
Saturday…
Pumpkin pasta bake
Sunday…
Chicken pot pie and baked potatoes
Monday…
Sausage tortellini soup and a Mac and cheese
Tuesday…
Rotisserie chicken warm chicken salad

Christmas Eve
Pizza night with a huge cheese board
Mince pies

Christmas Day
Breakfast… Muffins and bacon rolls
Ham, stuffing, mashed potatoes, Cesar salad, pumpkin lasagne
Chocolate Victoria and strawberry cake
Apple crumble and whipped cream

Boxing Day
Leftover sandwiches
Brownies

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This year of course is Tate’s first Christmas, I’ve hardly had time to decorate the house with this little bombshell in my life, at 9 months old he is into everything and anything, so Paul put the tree up and that’s as far as we have got… It is what it is, it’s far more important to enjoy my time with him before he grows up and that is happening so fast already!

Whatever you have planned for the Holiday season… take a deep breath, breathe and remember the most important thing of this season is family and loved ones, not the chaos that is in the shops right now!

Happy Holidays!

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Tate's milestones

Crawling into 9 months…

Christmas is coming and the goose is getting fat… And unbelievably Tate is 9 months old today, I keep saying it, but the quickest 9 months EVER!

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This past month has seen the biggest changes in Tate’s development, he is now very mobile and in the last week has developed his crawling technique completely.he sits up with ease from his crawling position and just loves to head in the direction of the tv DVR when he spots it, I think I may have another Dom on my hands!

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He is not the best sleeper or eater, he is now 99% of the time in our bed, just so I can get some sleep… I don’t believe in letting them cry, it breaks my heart to listen to him crying, so I guess I’m an attachment parent, but that’s ok, I can live with the cuddles! Solid foods are definitely not something he enjoys, in fact it is hard to get anything into his mouth, I’ve tried puréed foods and finger foods and neither of them appear to appeal to him, I’m not worried, it seems to be the thing with our children, I’m sure one day things will change, so for now breast is best, and he’s definitely not a skinny baby!

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Tate can be very vocal, he likes to be part of any conversation, he shouts very loudly a a a, then waves his hands, he can clap both hands together now and will wave goodbye to everyone! He loves to play with Florence and he is most definitely a Mommy’s boy, more so than any of the others have been! I have been studying his fine motor skills, his hand co-ordination is improving daily, he can manipulate an item in his hands, he can swap it from hand to hand, pick it up and put it back down again. Another milestone I have noticed in this past week is his love for music, if a song starts to play he begins to rock back and forth in whatever position he is in, he will stop what he is doing and just rock, it is so funny to watch and it is just the cutest!

Things have changed a lot in the last 9 months, they have been the fastest months ever, our lives are just crazy right now, but having Florence and Tate make our days merry and bright… Happy Holidays!

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Happy New Year!

This day every year brings reflections of a year gone by… I have not viewed 2013 as a very good one until yesterday when I made a short video of a the year of our lives, as I browsed through the many, many photos taken in the last year I realized that although at times in the year things were hard and sometimes sad, there have been many days in between that more than outweighed the bad days, the days we smiled, laughed and just had a great day, the sunshine, the birthdays and the first day we had a little window into the new life growing within me… So my New Years resolution for 2014 is going to be focussing on the good things I have in my life and not dwelling on the not so good, along with my usual trying to be more organized and being better with spending money!

Christmas was a quiet affair this year, well as quiet as it can be in my house, lots of food and presents, but most of all I got the much needed rest I was craving, a few days in watching movies and catching up on a messy filing system on my computer of photos!

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So on this last day of 2013, I want to thank everyone for reading these crazy ramblings of this soon to be mother of 8 children, but most of all I want to wish each and every one a very Happy and Healthy New Year in 2014… And just remember that for every bad day there are many more good days to come in between!

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This is my 28 week ultrasound photo of a new little man in our lives… Now that Christmas is over it’s time to concentrate on his arrival into our already crazy family… I wouldn’t change a thing, maybe just a tweak here and there!

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Festive mumblings…

Christmas organization…
Where to begin… That is the question, my head cannot or will not function to get a list of food and other items needed for the festivities of the next week, so I thought rather than ramble on about this and that I would write down my thoughts right here and try to make sense of the jumble that is my brain right now…

I finally managed to get the last item on Mabel’s list yesterday, a cardigan from Abercrombie, I refuse to pay full price when you just know it is going to be discounted sooner rather than later, and that was last night, it was not quite the 40% off, but 30% was good for me and now I can check off all presents bought… Finally!

The other thing on my check list yesterday was gifts to England… yesterday I placed my Amazon orders, ok they will not be there for Christmas Day but they will arrive next week and in my book that is still the Christmas season to me… So done and checked!

Last thing I needed to do was my Christmas cards… I know they are going to be extremely late, but I have a resolution for this… They are now Happy New Year cards, and now they won’t be late… I uploaded the photo, chose the card, ordered the cards… Done, or so I thought until I got a phone call from Costco… I had not cropped the photo properly, so now first job of today… Redo my cards!

The last thing on my Christmas check list… FOOD, the dreaded grocery shop is looming… This is where my head is confused and muddled, so here goes…

Menu plan for the Christmas week

Tonight – mulligatawny soup with fluffy rice and chicken

Saturday – broccoli pasta, chopped garden salad and sausages

Sunday – green risotto with bacon

Monday – beef kofta curry, rice, beans and peas

Christmas Day – bacon sandwiches
lasagne… A family favorite and a ham, another family favorite
Sausage rolls
Minced pies

Boxing Day – spending the day with friends

Things to make… Mincemeat for mince/jam pies, cookies, bread, sausage rolls

On a last note… I was speaking to a friend in England yesterday, she recently sent me a photo of home made mincemeat for her mince pies, she was telling me how easy it was to make, and that she will never buy jarred mincemeat again… So here goes, this morning I will attempt to make some mincemeat too!
Mary Berry mincemeat recipe using butter… so good for vegetarians!

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