New Year’s Day

It’s a funny old habit – this making resolutions to change or be good or whatever – heavens we could make huge changes starting ‘Because it’s a Thursday afternoon or a Saturday morning…’ but we rarely do! Diets start on a Monday (don’t they?) and resolutions happen on New Year’s Day… Hmmmm.

I think the important thing is taking the concept making New Year resolutions and then using it to consider your life, your health and your happiness. Sometimes, pondering a subject and trying to see it from another angle can do you so much good.

It can never be a bad thing to improve your health – as you age, nothing gets healthier without a bit of thought or effort, and health is sometimes all that stands between you and happiness. So, by all means have a think about what changes you could make, but don’t threaten yourself with some massive difference to be made on the stroke of midnight and then, when you fail a day or a week later, beat yourself up about it. Keep thinking what small things you can do to make yourself healthier and constantly review it – falling at a hurdle just means getting back up and carrying on the course.

New ideas and activities you want to do – make a list  and if you keep it somewhere handy. Who knows, you might find something you could start at the end of January or the beginning of June.

But one thing I would suggest that everyone could have on their list would be to communicate just a bit more with their family, friends and neighbours. Communication is precious and the key to so much – talk more, love more and help more – all so positive for the world at large!

Happy 2016 everyone.

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Happy Christmas!

Joanna, right, with her sister Kate, left with Father Christmas.Can I wish each and every one of you the happiest of Christmas Days – happy times around the festive period and just plain happy times!

Memories are precious jewels to be collected and treasured. Then they can be brought out to look at and remember fondly when you need them most. I have had a tough year with all my family, and I’ve no doubt they would agree that the family has been tested in 2015. However the upside of this is that my brothers and sister and I are closer than we were a year ago, and that is something to celebrate.

It’s hard when sad times overwrite the happy memories of the past, and I think it’s really important to try and get past the sad memories and hang on to all the happiness that has been around you over the years.

I am planning a super happy day today with my much loved daughters and little two year old Grace who has a collection of Play-doh coming her way and a cuddly Winnie-the-Pooh so maybe we can make some Play-doh food for the bear – who knows. That’s the fun of being two – anything can happen and her innocence and naiveté sum up what matters about the Christmas message. Love, happiness and trust in the future.

Happy Christmas everyone!

Christmas past…

I was having a pleasant wallow on social media and came across… annuals! Do you know, I had completely forgotten about them and yet they used to be such an important part of my Christmas, right up there alongside the advent calendar and what was hidden in the toe of my Christmas stocking.

I used to be so excited at the prospect of receiving a ‘Bunty’ annual every Christmas. In my childhood, these were big, hardback books with comic-strip stories, none of the trendy ‘photo strips’ that came later. Bunty was full of hearty girls who played hockey or were generally just ‘jolly good sorts’ – so innocent! I had to really work hard to ration myself to only reading one story at a time and not race through the entire annual in one sitting.

Another very popular present for me was ‘The Guinness Book of Records’. I used to pore over it, fascinated by the more extreme records and would even go and dig out the previous year’s to check what had changed. Ah, the simple pleasures of life pre-internet, when we actually had to look things up in books.

Something else we have lost is the big Christmas TV attraction. I can remember when Morecambe and Wise used to get 24 million viewers for their Christmas special, yet last year no TV shown on Christmas day got more than 10 million viewers. Oh, I did love Morecambe and Wise, in fact the re-runs still make me laugh now! It was strange, but when so many people had seen the same programme it created a wonderful sort of camaraderie and I can remember overhearing people discussing sketches that had particularly amused them, or what they’d thought of Shirley Bassey’s dress or Penelope Keith’s dance routine, such fun!

So what else did we have in Christmas past and no longer have, or rarely see, today?

Angel Hair
That dreadful white spun stuff that we used to drape over the Christmas tree and get fibre glass splinters everywhere – who ever came up with that idea? And why?

Paper chains
Do people still make paper chains? I haven’t seen any for ages, but I clearly remember making yards of them at school and thinking my tongue would be permanently stuck to the roof of my mouth!

Christmas drinks
Oh, how I used to aspire to a Babycham! I loved the adverts with the sweet little deer… but I remember it being something of a disappointment when I finally tried it, rather sweet and sickly! And who remembers a Snowball? Advocaat and lemonade, usually with a cherry on the top, the height of sophistication in the 1960s.

Woolworths
Goodness, many a last minute present was bought in Woolies! I can remember clutching a few old pennies in my mittened hands and trying to find something suitable for an aunt, cousin or school friend.

January sales
Cheating really as they were after Christmas – but in my youth, the January sales began in January (not Boxing Day as now) and it was a huge source of excitement! I can remember as a teenager, fighting my way past a huge crowd to grab a green polo neck angora jumper that they had been advertising in the window for the week before the sale –  £20.00 down to £2 – I loved that jumper for years!

So, what are your memories of Christmas past? What do you miss? Or what do you enjoy now that makes it so much better? Do share!

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The traditions of Christmas, or not…!

I was thinking about Christmas stockings for my family and started wondering about how this slightly strange practice came to be, and then I thought – aha, perhaps that’s an idea for a blog. I checked back and saw that I wrote about some of the origins of what we think of as ‘traditional’ Christmas practices THREE years ago! My goodness, I’ve written a lot of blogs and articles since then! Anyway, here are some interesting facts that I didn’t cover last time…

Christmas Stockings

As with so many of these traditions, I have come across various explanations as to how the practice of stocking-stuffing came about and it owes more to myth than fact. We know, thanks to the poem ‘T’was the Night Before Christmas’, that hanging stockings by the chimney with care dates back at least to the poem’s 1823 publication. But the story of how stockings came to be hung by the fire is a hazy one. Legend says the original Saint Nicholas, who travelled around bringing gifts and cheer to the poor, came upon a small village one year and heard of a family in need. An impoverished widower could not afford to provide a dowry for his three daughters. St. Nick knew the man was too proud to accept money, so he simply dropped some gold coins down the chimney, which landed in the girl’s stockings, hung by the fireplace to dry, so the tale goes. And so, the modern tradition was born.

Gift giving

Christmas’s gift-giving tradition has its roots in the Three Kings’ offerings to the infant Jesus. Romans traded gifts during Saturnalia, and 13th century French nuns distributed presents to the poor on St. Nicholas’ Eve. However, gift-giving did not become the central Christmas tradition it is today until our friends the Victorians got to grips with it! Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, who also gave us the Christmas tree, also popularised the whole present giving ritual.

The X in Xmas

I know a lot of people don’t like to see Christmas abbreviated to Xmas, seeing it as rather disrespectful, but the true origins have a strong basis in Christianity. In the abbreviation, the X stands for the Greek letter Chi, the first letter of the Greek word for Christ. I was amazed to discover that the term X-mas has been used since the 16th century, and became widely used in the 18th and 19th centuries. In the modern world, X has been taken to be used as an abbreviation for any word with the “krys” sound in it. Chrysanthemum, for example, is sometime shortened to “xant” on florist’s signs, and crystal has sometimes been abbreviated as “xtal”. Hmmm…

I’ve got a few more thoughts on our Christmas traditions that I’ll share with you later in the month…

 

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Banana chocolate chip muffins

Muffins, or little fairy cakes, call them what you will, are a good tea time standby for visitors, as well as much loved family fare.

These are pretty straight forward.

Ingredients:

  • 225g self raising flour
  • 125g butter
  • 125g soft light brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 200ml milk
  • 75g chocolate chips
  • 2 chopped bananas

Preheat your oven to 180ºc or Gas 4. Then either grease a muffin tin or line with little cake cases.

Cream the butter and sugar together, then beat in the egg. Add the flour, baking powder and milk. Then gently stir until all the ingredients are combined – don’t over do it. Gently add in the banana pieces.

Spoon into the prepared tin and bake for 15-20 minutes and cool on a wire rack.

Easy peasy!

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