25 December 2011

Happy Christmas to all, especially all the fine 'beans and Cats in Lee County Clowder:)

Yes, Paul AND Scotland celebrate Christmas, some years more than others. For Paul, this is the most Christmas he's had in years. Decades, really. I'm bringing him along slowly-next year it is my goal to have stockings hung. With our names on them. And things in them Christmas morning.

Last year we had a string of electric fairy lights and one (seriously) bauble on the lovely huge Sitka Spruce we hauled home from the Focus D-I-Y; this year we have several little handmade decorations on the very lovely little (20" if that) live dwarf Alberta Spruce we intend to pot up slightly after 12th Night (AKA The Feast of the Epiphany, 6 Jan) and keep for next year:

We also have designed window decorations (see below), a door spray (that gale force winds have blown the live greenery from:

and the entry hall is bedecked:

(Next year, bathroom and kitchen will be as well)

It's half ten here (10:30 GMT) and we've been up since six. The children next door have been also, I feel for the mum, I really do! Shrieks of joy caroled out into the general back garden area as they found new bicycles under the tree:) I was standing out there having an early morning smoke so I got to enjoy the Christmas cacophony-it brought back memories.

Paul and I outdid each other in the gifts department by buying a careful mix of new and charity shop items. I got him a nearly new pair of Levis at the British Red Cross yesterday, that was a bonus! LOL, I went in there because it was on my way to the grocery and I was so stunned at the luck of finding a pair of Levis in his size in that condition that I almost forgot to pop round to the grocery.

Gifts wise, it's been a rather lovely Christmas-he gave me a nice sum of money when he realised on the 23rd that he couldn't figure out what to give me, and I promptly turned that money into a top rated electric hand mixer, a string mop and bucket with built in twister. My Christmas cup runneth over:)

We are having a traditional Christmas lunch, which means I need to get into the kitchen and get the beef joint into the oven! I'm cheating this year with frozen Yorkshire puddings that I'll drizzle some beef drippings onto when they come out of the oven, and yes, we are also cheating by having a store bought Christmas pudding. At least the whisky drizzle on that is authentic, lol, Aberlour, distilled up near his home county of Moray.

We watched the Alastair Sim Scrooge last night, that was lovely too:)

We went for a walk to see who had Christmas lights up, that wasn't as lovely since very few people have them up this year. I'm thinking about organising a caroling choir so that maybe people around here will get a bit more Christmas spirit.

I can understand the lack of interest but Christmas time is not really mandated to cost a lot of money-the general excuse this year for the lack of Spirit in this town! By the evening of 15th I ran a battery operated tea light in each of the two front windows (to light the Christ Child's way), and wired together some fake holly, a twig star wand and some greens from our garden to make a door spray. The next day the rest of the people on our street had something up too, nothing fancy but at least something on the doors and front windows. And then we got a Christmas card through the door from one of the neighbours thanking us for putting up the decorations:)

So I'm thinking a caroling choir made up of the neighbours might go over well. It certainly might get us a bit more Christmassy-I have been greeting people all this past week with a hearty Happy Christmas and the shock on their faces to hear the greeting is sad to see, frankly. Perhaps if they are busy practising for Christmas Caroling all year it will prompt them to plan ahead for other Christmassy things as well. I've got my year planned chock full of gathering gifts, making stockings and decorations-I'll natter on during choir practices and maybe, just maybe...

So here I am, Christmas Mid-Morning 2011, with a word,doc open because I am planning Christmas 2012. I made all my goals last years (except the quitting smoking thing, blast it all, but hope floats for New Years Day)-we had plenty of homemade Christmas Tree ornaments, the entry hall had a lovely bit of holiday bedecking (found 50 metres of red Christmas bead garland in a charity shop. I combined that with some artfully scattered larch pine cones and some vintage looking glittered gift tags on the hall mantle), the front door had something like a wreath, and the windows had a designed decoration in the Christ Child candles (which come down today to be replaced with a strand each of multi coloured fairly lights until 12th Night).

I had Christmas gifts for my husband, although the stinker sussed the big one-a framed print of a Tuscany farmhouse he's been eyeing up in a charity shop for months. I was going to pick it up Christmas Eve so the woman took it off the display and had it behind the counter when my husband decided it would be a swell idea to go visit the print he wouldn't buy for himself, and saw it gone, then saw it behind the counter (with my name on it). Sigh. Well, he got his Big Gift early (the afternoon of the 23rd) and lucky me, I didn't have to carry it home myself. Sigh.

I Believe.

I believe in Father Christmas, and the Spirit of Christmas, and to keep it in my heart all the year. It's time to spread that to my fellows on the other streets of my newly adopted hometown.

07 December 2011

Houston, we've got Winter.

It's been snowing off and on the past few days leaving behind snow dust, sharp cold, and ice. The ice melted off just enough to cause worse icing now that it is late afternoon here and the temp is dropping. I love Scotland in the Winter-sunrise at 0830, and sundown by 4pm, pitch dark by 4:30pm and by 9pm I feel interested in falling asleep. We have a TV license now, and I find myself falling asleep during the best parts of programmes. Of course.

Here in our little corner of Scotland in that the ice hasn't blocked anyone in or caused any terrible car wrecks but there have been a few very bad collisions resulting in death elsewhere in Scotland. More wintery weather is on the way, and from the sewing room window I can see a good bit of snow on the Cairngorms-I think it is officially Winter.

This afternoon we took delivery of two more builder bags of wood-I think we have enough now to get us through until around March. Paul has been building the nicest log stores with the pallets last winter logs were delivered on:

The above is the first one he built, we have another one now, too. Each holds a builder bag of wood. I'm not really sure what that is in 'cord' wood, though, but eyeballing it, I'd say a builder bag holds a little less than a half cord of wood. He has enough of the pallet wood left to build a few more log stores, too. I'm really proud of his work, he used almost all salvage material, and the cover for the second and subsequent ones will be at the whopping cost of 50pence, lol, thanks to a going-out-of-business sale locally.

We are using seasoned wood this year having found a reliable source; last year we were not able to find a reliable source (a very polite way of saying we were taken advantage of by the seller who had NOT properly seasoned that wood) and had to find a reputable source for kiln dried wood in a real hurry or risk freezing. We had the gas turned off to the house and the boiler pulled to make room for a walk-in pantry in September 2010, and while my husband was not pleased to hear me say "Hey, most of this wood is green" last year, he was even more unhappy when I was proved right as he tried to light what I'd just ID'd as greenwood.

Brrr, off we went out to the garage where the wood had been neatly stacked by him after the woodsmen dumped it in our forecourt-I'd offered to help and if I had I would have known immediately that we had a problem. But I was busy inside, and he was busy 'being the man' and so I didn't get a chance to heft the firewood until it was about to go into the stove.

Uh oh.

We re-stacked the wood, Paul learning very quickly to tell the difference between 'tink' and 'tunk' as an identifier of seasoned and unseasoned wood. Naturally the stack of green wood was a lot taller and wider and deeper than the tiny little pile of wood that we could reasonably expect to burn...

I got on the 'Net and found a company we could do business with and a couple of days later we were running both stoves wide open because we took delivery of several pallets of kiln dried wood (and a couple of pallets of pressed chip logs-oh my those do burn nicely!) just in time-The Big Freeze 2010-2011 had hit and the UK was near paralysed with the cold. We however, stayed toasty with our kiln dried wood. And we seasoned the greenwood over the rest of the winter 2010-2011, and spring-summer-fall 2011; it all worked out, the green wood is now seasoned and burning along merrily.

But when we looked at the cost we were disappointed at our savings (in electric and gas from not having the boiler doing the central heating). Luckily this year when we had the TV antenna installed we found a reliable (as in money back, etc) source for seasoned wood at a great price, and we've got the last of it stacked in the garage. The antenna installer has a cousin, you see, and they sell firewood...

So we bought four bags early, back in September, to give them a try and thinking well, if this doesn't work out we can always season it for next year. But every single piece in the delivery 'tinked' instead of 'tunked' and we just finished stacking another delivery of two more of those 'tinking' bags-not a 'tunk' in the lot. To make it even better, the driver told Paul that if they look as though they are getting down to the last few bags of seasoned wood, he would call us.

Now, between deliveries we had a chance to check out their business base, and are pleased to have found they season the wood in huge log stores with dating tags attached. So we are comfortable with this company, happy with the wood, and feeling pretty good about our warmth factor for Winter 2011-2012.

Just in time, I'm crocheting like mad to finish off the Dr Who length scarves for son and grandson Christmas:)