What Christmas means to me?

This year, Christmas was not so much of a celebration but a finish line to aim for. 2013 probably clocks up as one of the suckiest years out of the last three decades. I found myself not really getting into the whole Christmas spirit because I can’t remember a time when I felt less excited about Christmas. There were lots of reasons for that. Firstly, I was really tired. Secondly, it was my first Christmas without a car – which meant that I knew I wouldn’t be able to see or do everything I usually do and that made me sad. Thirdly, I’ve found my faith and beliefs really challenged again this year. Fourthly, I realised I didn’t want to be around church. Finally, the last two Christmasses were very sad and distressing times and I didn’t want to “infect” all the happy people this year.

Being a Christian makes Christmas a confusing time. Churches these days put a lot of pressure on people to what you should do to celebrate Christmas. There are nativity plays. Guilt trips about how much money to spend on people. People getting all holier than thou. There are a squillion extra church activities. Oh and the ‘Jesus is the reason for the season’ chat.

Some of the stuff I love. I don’t have a problem with nativity plays which makes the kids included in Christian celebrations and telling the story of Jesus’ birth. There are some great Christmas carols. There are also some really dodgy ones. Like Away in a Manger. The line “the little Lord Jesus no crying He makes” really gets on my nerves.

 

But I do get annoyed when people make me feel bad for buying my family gifts instead of ‘giving it to charity’ instead. And I really get irritated by the suggestion that people “stole” Christmas from the Christians. Sorry folks – but it was the other way around. And if you don’t agree with taking traditions from other places, what’s that Christmas tree in your church for?

So here is how I try to celebrate in a way that ties in with my own values and beliefs…

1. My Big Knit Tree

big knit 2013

I suffer from SAD, and as a Northern Hemisphere dweller, Christmas time hits in the middle of winter. Winter Solstice (the darkest day of the year) is usually a few days before Christmas Day. The colourful hats and the fairy lights just bring some cheerfulness and brightness which helps.

The fact that it’s just a small way to support a charity that is more important than ever during the Winter Months (Age UK) is a bonus.

2. Christmas Cards

Yes, these days sending cards costs money. How easier it would be to just e-mail. But I want to show my friends and family that I’ve been thinking of them and think they are worth taking the time to write and mail a card to. Plus I know  a lot of people who have benefitted from a job with the Royal Mail over the festive period.

Extra bonus is that many charities can raise funds through Christmas card sales. And for a group of us online, we’ve used the last two years to run a thing called ‘A Very Airmail Christmas’ to honour people who have died prematurely in the last year.

3. Buying Gifts

I’ll say now that I’m not at all happy when I see or hear of people getting into debt buying gifts at Christmas. I’m not chuffed when I see kids getting so much spent on them in one go which I don’t think does anything to teach them the value of money. And since I was a little girl, I’ve never seen the point in getting gifts of stuff you’ll never use and have been bought for the sake of buying something.

But yes, I do buy close friends and family gifts at Christmas. Usually I save up during the year and I also save up points through loyalty card schemes which I use to buy gifts. I also like to try and find stuff in local businesses to support their trade at Christmas time where possible. My family and I try to do lists for each other – I know some believe that’s not the point, but I do prefer it as I know I’ll be giving them something they want or need so it will be used and isn’t something that is just going to collect dust.

I do think that buying a goat for someone in Africa is a great idea in theory, but not actually a great way of telling someone that you card for them. What a goat voucher says to someone is “I think this person deserves a gift more than you” or could even be misinterpreted as a judgment on how the voucher receiver chooses to spend their own money.

I do think a great alternative is to perhaps give something like a Stewardship gift voucher, where you give a sort of gift voucher to a person and they get to choose a charitable cause to give it to. And if someone wants to give to a charity they know I support in my honour then great. But it’s a bit insulting if they choose the one they like instead!

4. Santa

Yes, I do get into the whole Santa thing. It’s fun, and it’s based on a story about giving being worth more than receiving. It allows kids and adults to use their imaginations and that should be encouraged in my mind.

I’ve also used plenty of stories based on ‘Santa’ to talk about the things that Jesus did. I remember last year talking to my friend’s daugther explaining something we’d been reading in the bible that Jesus taught using  the animated film Arthur Christmas as an example to help her make sense of it.

Equally there are things we have to be careful with some Santa traditions and allow children to have the choice. It could be confusing to teach on stranger danger then force them to sit on a man’s lap they don’t know while they are screaming blue murder in protest.

5. Spending time relaxing and spending time with family & friends

Something I’m continually having to encourage is ignoring the pressure to do EVERYTHING. We pick and choose now so that Christmas can be a time for rest as well as all the crazy festivities. Let’s face it spending time with family can be STRESSFUL. But it’s important to try and get some unity in families, and Christmas is a time where we have a go at it! :) It’s lovely to be able to heat up soup, nibble on cheeses and crackers or leftover turkey and not be so concerned with cooking three times a day after Christmas Day is over!

And since Jesus was born on December 25th, who cares if things end up a little out of order and you don’t celebrate Christmas on Christmas Day due to illness or people having to work or weather…?

For me, Christmas is constantly evolving, and in the last few years I’ve become intrigued at rituals people have to celebrate different aspects of their religious and cultural history- Hanukkah, Diwali, Sinterklaas, feast of the Epiphany, Thanksgiving and so on.

What are your festive traditions, and for what reason have you created or followed them?

December has arrived…

I submitted my final assignment of the year on Friday morning. The weight of relief to have that DONE is more than I can describe. This whole studying business has been more stressful than I ever anticipated it to be (and I didn’t anticipate it being a picnic!). Every time we start a course, I start searching for books on our reading list only to find that barely any of them can be found in our university library. I’ve now twice requested books from other libraries, but it takes a while to get them and that’s frustrating. Once again, books I wanted weeks ago have finally turned up AFTER the assignment is handed in.

Just another thing we’ll be giving in as feedback to the long list we have to challenge the university with.

:)

Anyway, the weekend didn’t stop as I got an emergency call from work only about 6 hours after I’d gotten to bed. We had our fundraiser on Saturday (St Andrew’s Day). And of course there was the terrible tragedy of the helicopter crash at The Clutha bar in Glasgow on Friday night too. :(

Today has been the first day of restfulness, where I’ve been able to sleep in, take my time, start to sift through the mess and carnage the last three months has created (you literally couldn’t see the carpet in my room). I visited my friends as Miss Sweetroot celebrated her birthday. Her Auntie had made these AMAZING minion cupcakes…
minion cupcake
I felt bad eating a cute minion, but he tasted oh so good and chocolatey!

And of course once I got home, as it was December 1st I had to make sure to put up my Christmas Tree covered in hats collected from supporting The Big Knit. Last year I had so many I gave some to a friend, and a few I sent back to Innocent so they could reuse them. This year I have some set aside for my sister since she can’t collect them in Cameroon.

big knit 2013

 

Tomorrow night we will be awarding two of our ‘graduated’ Guides with the Baden-Powell Award – the highest award that can be achieved in Guides. Both girls are now members of the Senior Section I run, and I’m sure they’re going to continue achieving great things… tomorrow is going to be about celebrating what they’ve already done.

So yes, today I’m taking pause. I’m grateful for this month ‘off’, and looking forward to having a couple of weeks off work at Christmas and Hogmanay too to rest, relax and read fun books, and do some writing and scrapbooking.

For now, life is going down a gear from mental busy to normal busy. And the snow is falling on my blog…

Very Airmail Christmas is back…

…and this time it is in honour of another very special person.

Last year, my friend Rebecca asked a few online friends to help her with a very special project that became known as ‘A Very Airmail Christmas‘. Over the space of a month about 30 people from all over the world signed up, and on December 1st cards began to get sent by snailmail all around the world. The idea came from one of Rebecca’s patients who we named ‘Robin’. Robin’s wish as she was dying from cancer was that everyone in the world would send a stranger a Christmas card to remember the true meaning of Christmas and spread good will. We know that Robin’s husband saw the Airmail Christmas gallery, and it meant a lot to Robin’s family to see people making this wish come true. This year, Rebecca is doing it again, this time in honour of Doria’s Mama MonkeyButt who died of cancer just before Christmas last year.

If you’d like to join in this year, do e-mail your name and address to:  forrobin_christmas AT hotmail DOT com by November 30th! It will only be shared with the person sending you the Christmas card. Below is a wee gallery as some of the people involved last year sent us pictures of sending/receiving their cards. Sadly we discovered some of the far travelling cards didn’t make it to their destinations, but that doesn’t stop us making the effort to give people ‘in real life’ post. It was so easy to do, and lots of fun to be a part of.

A Very Airmail Christmas Gallery

IMGP0500

Card which travelled from England to Scotland
Tim sendingA card ready to be posted across the world from England to Australia!

MB card

A card ready to travel from Georgia to Illinois.

tim card

A card that travelled from the USA to England
rebecca cardCreator of Airmail Christmas with a card that travelled from Scotland to England

la's card

A card which travelled from New Zealand to Scotland (with a kiwi!)
GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERAA card that travelled from Nevada to Tennessee

Join us in the Airmail Christmas fun! You know you want to… :)

Christmas

It’s hard to believe that Christmas is only a couple of days away. Somehow it seems to have snuck up on me this year. Thankfully I had my shopping sorted pretty early on. For once I remembered to send my sponsored children Christmas cards back in October so they’ll hopefully get there in time for Christmas. There’s only a couple of cards I’ve forgotten to actually post. Oh, and my wages. I still need to deposit them so they clear in time for 2013…!

At this time of year, I’ll read lots of posts about why I should not give presents to my friends and give to charity instead or fights about ‘Merry Christmas’ vs ‘Happy Holidays’ in the USA. The usual stuff about the commercialisation of a religious celebration.

Last year, I had a lot of my online friends take part in a “Christmas Blog Party”, and Hannah’s post on why she doesn’t celebrate Christmas got a lot of reads and caused a wee bit of controversy and discussion! I was also really interested to read another online friend, Sarah’s post on how they don’t do ‘Santa’ but they do ‘Saint Nicholas’. And I remember reading Rebecca’s guest post last year and being so angry that someone would tell her she couldn’t join in with Christmas if she wasn’t a Christian.

I didn’t grow up in a religious family. So a lot of the cultures that I’ve found in churches – some of their values and beliefs I have found strange, weird, appalling, interesting or eye-opening. I’ve been a Christian for almost 11 years now, and I’m still discovering new facets to these cultures. At times I get exasperated by the people that grew up on ‘Planet Christian’ that don’t really understand what it’s like to come into their alien culture. Especially in this new contemporary Christian culture that has grown. All about being ‘in love’ with Jesus and being ‘missional’.

Sometimes I end up avoiding church this time of year because it’s all too much guilt tripping and so many activities it makes you run down and burned out.

I guess I like to keep it simple. I like to avoid the shops once they’re busy. I like to just chill out. I like to remember the coming of Jesus as a wee baby in the candlelight of singing traditional carols as Midnight closes in. I get reminded of the reality of what Mary & Joseph must have gone through as I answer calls at work. I hate wrapping them, but I love giving presents to my friends that are always blessing me throughout the year. It’s something that when you don’t have a lot of money you really love being able to do once a year (and I never go beyond my means – I don’t have any credit cards). I love making warm mulled juices and baking treats for people to enjoy and feel Christmassy. And I’m not going to lie – I have so much fun with the whole Santa thing (let’s be honest, at 28 years old I was playing with My Little Pony in the backset of my friends car with their daughter a few weeks ago – my imagination is still intact thank you very much!) My favourite Christmas movie still remains ‘Santa Claus: the movie’ – maybe because there is a little bit more of that ‘Saint Nicholas’ story feeling to it. Over Christmas, I like to have time on my own to reflect and just ‘be’. Come Hogmanay, I’ll go back to my extravert self and want to be with lots of people again. :)

The truth is that Christmas is such a mixture of things. Lights and decorations brighten the darkest time of year in the Northern hemisphere. Santa brings the child back in so many grown ups. Saint Nicholas brings the fun of gift giving. Nativities give children the power to tell a story of a child that was going to grow up and save the world despite all the obstacles in his way.

I hope that if you are celebrating Christmas in some way this year, you enjoy it. I hope you know that even if you’ve never been to church before you are so welcome to go there and join in with how they are celebrating and remembering (if they don’t make you feel welcome, God’s gonna be more mad at them than you). And I hope you know there is no ‘one way’ to celebrate, and it doesn’t have to  be complicated.

Have a very merry Christmas! :)

A memorable week of guiding…

The Christmas Wheel

The Christmas Wheel

The end of term has arrived. The last few weeks have been long and tough. Winter is never easy, with all the bugs that fly around, and people in the western world running themselves into the ground with a million social activities, shopping and working. I was off work for almost two weeks in the end, having to do what I could from home because I wasn’t sleeping and literally couldn’t speak! My Mum has also been off work…and having everyone at home developing cabin fever has NOT been fun!

The worst part about being off was that I was still not well enough last week for Guides, our Senior Section promise night, visit to Christmas Market with friends from MBC and a Christmas gathering with the lovely Weatherfolk.

Weeks ago, the Senior Section girls asked if Jenny & I would come and see them in their Christmas Concert. We got tickets. In the end, Jenny got ill so couldn’t come. My Mum and I went along and cheered them on. They did a fabulous job, and it was great to see them perform.

And then Wednesday night came…our rescheduled promise night.

I checked the weather in the morning and BBC weather forecast told me it would be some light cloud, but remain dry.

BBC weather either can’t predict weather very well OR they are big fat liars.

Because by 6 p.m. it was properly chucking it down with rain. And when we went down to the Cash machine vestibule it was still pouring from the heavens.

5 soggy senior section members and 2 leaders got on a bus and into town. They had said they wanted to do their promise on the Christmas Ferris Wheel, and darn it, we were gonna. No germs or rain was gonna stop us this week!

We got there, bought our tickets and climbed into 2 carriages.

And the ferris wheel guys spun our carriage – you know the carriage we’d chosen to go into without the ones that wanted to spin!! :( We somehow ended up hanging at the top too, while others got on and at that point as we swayed in the breeze one of the senior section members took my hand and said ‘It’s gonna be ok‘ I think I’d have been more comforted had she not shouted it.

I braced myself to suck it up, and said ‘Ok…we’re up the top – who wants to do their promise first?‘ as I tried to take pictures of them.

At that point the wheel started moving round and then they all (including me) were screaming.

And so what happened was something like this

I PROMISE I WILL DO MY BEEEEEST…um…TO LOVE MY GOD…..ARRRRGGGHHHHH!…..TO SERVE THE QUEEN AND MY COUNTRY… TOHELPOTHERPEOPLE!!…and…TO KEEP THE GUIDE LAW AND SERVETHE COMMUNITY…ARRRGGGGH!!!

In fact, I’m not sure they each got it in order but I was trying so hard not to laugh as they basically screamed their promises at me mingled with the overwhelming need to want to scream for them to let me off NOW.

As they shakily got off taking deep breaths combined with laughing, I did point out that this was their idea, to which one of them said ‘I hope I never have an idea again’.

We were sad that our night was mingled with the disappointment that they had closed the markets at 8 p.m., and not a single coffee shop in town remained open as I’d hoped to treat everyone to a hot chocolate. We’ll know for next year to factor that in!

For sure though, it’s not going to be a ‘Guiding moment’ that I’ll forget in a hurry. :)

It’s all about giving…

During December, the Compassion bloggers have been asked to talk about giving and what it means to us.

A couple of weeks ago, my Dad was in town for the day doing some networking and asked me to join him and some friends/colleagues in the evening. They were all a little bit tipsy, and at the end of the night, my Dad, his colleague and myself walked down to Waverley station and past the building of the Edinburgh Christmas markets. I don’t know how we got on the subject but somehow we got on the topic of Christmas 2005, which I found out that my Dad and his colleague had talked about the week before as I started reminiscing about the story. “Oh, your Dad was telling me about that just a few days ago because he said that was the best Christmas he ever had, because he got to spend it with all his children

You see, from age 5 I never spent Christmas Day with my Dad. Even after he and my mother separated, he was always invited to see us on Christmas Day but he chose not to when I turned 5.

Christmas and birthdays were always done twice. Once on the day with my Mum, and once another day with my Dad. Boxing Day was always my Christmas with him – Santa always knew to leave some of my presents there. Clever Santa.

In the summer of 2005,  I ended up living at my Dad’s home, and it was a brilliant summer. My sister and I (and I hope our brother too) have great memories from that summer. Koalas arrived at Edinburgh Zoo that year, and my family thought all the signs ‘to me’ were hilarious. It was the first summer I had Cassie the Corsa, my best friend was getting married at the end of it, we threw a surprise birthday for our Dad who turned 50, we had so many trips to the cinema, the zoo, to watch football games, we shopped, I only worked part-time. And it was at the end of the summer when I had to go back to university that my sister and stepmother started pestering me to spend Christmas Day with them. I said No at first. And then my stepmother and I decided we would surprise them.

It meant at least a month (if not more) of taking A LOT of slack and guilt trips from my sister and my Dad, while I was acting like I wasn’t coming.

On Christmas Eve, I kept the tradition of going to church with my Mum at Midnight, and afterward I drove to my Dad’s house, arriving past 1 a.m. when my sister and brother were asleep. My Dad had drunk a couple of glasses of champagne that night and was in a state of shock when I walked through the front door. After some hugs, I went to bed, ready for my younger siblings to discover me the next morning.

That’s when we discovered how unobservant they are.

They did not wake up for ages. Eventually I went to the bathroom on purpose knowing my en suite bathroom shares a wall with my sister’s bedroom, thinking she’d for sure hearing the toilet flushing.

She didn’t get the hint.

Eventually my brother was ordered to take my stocking and put it on my bed. He wouldn’t do it at first because he was still pouting that I wasn’t going to spend Christmas Day ‘so what was the point?’ (huff, puff, sigh) and when he finally did, he ran in, dumped the stocking on the bed and failed to notice I was in it. I know I’m not that big, but seriously?

As a last resort, my step mum started yelling ‘Look, look it’s been snowing‘.

Uh…no it hasn’t‘ replied the giraffe and monkey who were focused on wanting to empty their stockings.

No seriously…go and look out the Giraffe’s window‘ (ie the window with the best view of my car)

What are you talking about?‘ they yelled.

Do you not see anything in the driveway?

Insert more loud exasperated huffing, puffing and sighing from the Giraffe & Monkey…

It was then that I think the Monkey finally clocked my car. ‘CASSIE!!!!!!’ (yes, all my family refer to my car as ‘Cassie’ not ‘Laura Anne’s car’) and it was then that they both shouted ‘Is Laura HERE?‘ and decided finally to take a better look in my room.

At this point I decided to hide under the duvet to make a very obvious lump in the middle of the bed and got jumped on by my sister and brother with shouts of ‘KOALA!!!!’ and after the hugs were over I admonished them for their total lack of observation. And we all laughed about it.

That Christmas was tough for me, because as much fun as it was to surprise them, I also know that my Mum was very hurt that I wasn’t spending Christmas with her. It was the only time I’ve not in 28 Christmases I’ve spent on this earth.

But I really had no idea until the other week just how much it had meant to my Dad – that he looks on that as the best Christmas ever.

And that’s when I realised that out of all the gifts I have given, the best one I apparently gave wasn’t one that cost me money…it cost me my time and my presence. 

Maybe it’s something we want to think about as we enter this season of feeling obligated to give material things, is there a way of giving that would mean much more to people that just simply buying something for them?

It’s December 1st so that means…

…Christmas decorations go up!

I know for my American friends, you’ll be thinking. Yeah – you’re actually a wee bit late. But trust me – in the UK this is EARLY.

But I don’t care.

I have a rule that Christmas decorations can’t go up before Dec 1st or start of advent (because well, my advent calendar is going to look very lonely and sad otherwise). The year I moved into my flat in Aberdeen and became a homeowner (oo-er) I bought a really little cheap tree. The decorations were cheap and nasty. I was a student so I couldn’t afford fancy decorations. The next year, I discovered the Supergran campaign (now known as The Big Knit) and I started collecting the little woollens hats purchased on bottles of smoothie supporting Help the Aged (now Age UK). I put them on my tree as decoration. And  a tradition was started. So every year I have a tree not covered in baubles, but teeny hats. My higgledy piggledy tree makes me smile (and other people laugh and shake their head at me). And that helps after a tough day at work (this is one of our toughest times of year).

Hats 7 & 8 of 2012...ready to go from smoothie to  tree!

Hats 7 & 8 of 2012…ready to go from smoothie to tree!

Big Knit 2012 tree!

Big Knit 2012 tree!

Yesterday, I felt so bad for choosing the other reindeer over the one I’d seen in the other store for weeks. I went to do my shopping while my Mum was at a physio appointment at the hospital nearby…and it was on sale so I used the rest of my nectar points up…and now I have both reindeer.

The reindeer guard my Gymnastics World Cup tickets!

The reindeer guard my Gymnastics World Cup tickets!

And these decorations have also been around for a while. I loved Winnie the Pooh when I was in my late teens (just ask my younger brother & sister) and so for years people would give me limited edition Pooh bear beanies each Christmas. Sadly some of them I lost when all the Dad drama went down in 2008. But these guys are still around! :) I also love Christmas Spice candles.

Christmas Candles, Santa Pooh, Winter Tigger & Rudolph Pooh

Christmas Candles, Santa Pooh, Winter Tigger & Rudolph Pooh

Have you got your decorations up yet?

The Wednesday HodgePodge – Round 10

With less than a month til Christmas, Joyce is inspired and it of course influences this weeks round of HodgePodge questions!

1. With that being said I think I need to dive right in to some Christmas related questions, don’t you? Which do you prefer-pretty gift wrap with a bow or a pretty gift bag with/without a bow? What percentage of your holiday gifts are currently (as in right this very minute) wrapped in some form or fashion?

I love both – I love unwrapping presents (though the voice of my Mum – don’t ruin the paper I can save it and use it again echoes in my head frustrating those who like to rip open presents like packs of wolves ;) ) and I love gift bags because then I can reuse them. They are also super handy on birthdays so you can carry presents home with ease. Why do I love having a stack of gift bags to reuse? Because I’m not remotely crafty – this extends to not being able to knit, sew, cut in straight lines, arrange flowers AND wrap presents. I’m a truly awful gift wrapper. I hate it with a passion. And so you know that not one of my gifts is wrapped yet.

2. What is one item on your Christmas list this year?

I love getting gifts, but I don’t have anything particular in mind. I mean I could do with a new car to do what was once Cassie the Corsa’s job, but since none of my friends or family have won the lottery jackpot I think it’s unlikely I will get one for Christmas. I’m beginning to realise though, that an iPod dock would be super helpful for work and use at Guides. I keep having to borrow other people’s! This was on my list last year, and ended up being stolen out the post. In the end, the refund my mother got was put  towards me getting an iPod. I have an Amazon ‘wishlist’ that I keep updating all year round. Sometimes if I have a spare bit of money one month I’ll get a DVD or book off of my wishlist. My Mum usually buys me things from it on Christmas and my birthday. :)

3. What makes a home?

For me it’s a safe, warm place with fleecey blankets, cushions and a DVD player – along with the things that have sentimental value to make me smile. My inspiration wall, photos of people I love and all the weird and wacky things that seem mad to others but totally ‘normal’ to me. I know that a lot of people will say a home is people, and don’t get me wrong, I love being around the people I love (I am an extravert and thrive on being around people I’m confortable with). Home for me is not about who is there, but having a few key comforts to make it a sanctuary. I think with giving out at work, in Girlguiding, maybe in church…I depend on that sanctuary of being able to come home, wrap myself in a fleece blanket, Elmo and President Wensleydale sitting in random places and switching off and watching a favourite episode of ‘How I Met Your Mother‘ on DVD. Ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-bah…(the theme tune always makes me happy even when I’m miserable!!)

4. Motown founder Berry Gordy celebrates his birthday on Hodgepodge Day-November 28th. Are you a fan of the Motown sound? If so, who’s your favorite Motown artist and/or song? Here’s a list in case you’re stuck.

I think Marvin Gaye is probably my favourite Motown artist. I love the sound of the Motown, and have many memories of listening to Lionel Richie and Marvin Gaye on mixtapes my Mum had in our drives to and from Aberdeen or Liverpool when I was a kid. I also loved to make up dances to songs by Diana Ross and The Supremes, and love, love,love all the Motown covers turned gospel tunes in Sister Act. There’s quite a few shout-outs to the Motown era in White Collar, and I love that opening scene in the Pilot with Matt Bomer driving into New York City with Hold on I’m Comin’ by Same & Dave as the soundtrack.

5. Red or green-which one is more prevalent in your closet?

You’d be hard pushed to find either colour on my clothes rail or drawers (I’m don’t have a closet – I live in a converted attic!). I dislike green almost as much as I dislike pink, and my Scottish peely-wally skin does not look good if I’m wearing red.

6. True or false-bacon makes it better? If you answered true, what’s your favorite dish made with bacon?

False. Chocolate and cake can make it better. Bacon just makes me ill.

7. Share a favourite holiday memory.

It’s weird to think of holidays at this time of year, because I’ve only ever been on holidays in the summer. Rebecca said on facebook she got to hug a koala yesterday which reminds me of one of my favourite Australia memories: ANZAC day in Australia. I met a girl in a cafe and together we went to a koala sanctuary and got to hug koalas. I don’t know if Rebecca went to the same place as me or not – I’ll find out when she returns to the UK!

8. Insert your own random thought here.

As it’s St Andrew’s Day this week, we had planned to use that as a theme for this week’s Guide meeting. Only we forgot to plan what we were going to do. And then a Guider got sent to another country for work. And then the other Guider (and 2 of her kids) came down with a stomach bug. Which left me. And 20 Guides. I survived, and the Guides impressed me by leaving the kitchen in a clean and tidy state. I ended up buying a different reindeer to join my Christmas/Winter decorations from the one I had seen in a different branch of Sainsbury’s last week with my Nectar Card points.

I couldn’t resist the tartan scarf, when it’s St Andrew’s Day!

And finally… the deadline for Airmail Christmas is TODAY. Please please e-mail your address if you want to join in!

Hello Holiday!

I am now officially off work (well off one of my jobs) for 7 days. My last holiday was spent commentating on gymnastics during the Olympics for the people who didn’t have access to watch it live. It’s tough to get time off outside of the school holidays because there’s usually a lot going on. The last few months have been crazy busy and I had really started to feel it. So I’m super thankful for this break.

Especially as my week has already filled up – it’s good that I’m going to have my days free!

The first thing is the Tollcross Christmas Market. My friends are involved in organising it and I promised to make some of my White Christmas Slice. That has been my afternoon. Due to the invalid mother it didn’t quite follow my schedule (my usual time in the supermarket lengthened considerably). Now I’m waiting for it to set so I can cut it up and put into bags with ribbon before my friends come to pick it up. (Come on fridge – do yer thang!)

Tomorrow, I plan to go with my Mum to the Christmas Market. And depending on what I find there, I may have to go to Sainsbury’s again this weekend to buy this squashy reindeer decoration. A bit like the Penguin Christmas tree I found last year, he’s been giving me ‘I need a nice home with someone who’ll be kind to me‘ look every time I walk past him in the aisle.

Sunday, I’m headed to church as an honourary member of the Allen clan. Miss Sweetroot has had extra ballet practices, I’ve had some guiding stuff on so it’s been a few weeks since we Sunday serviced it together! I am super excited to be beginning another smallgroup with them though. That’s another story…

And then we’re into a week of Guiding! I didn’t realise as dates came to me that I’d ended up with Guiding for 4 evenings in a row because of a training course and this term’s Division meeting extras hitting all in the same week. The fact I’ll not be rushing home from work 4 nights in a row is a blessing. Plus we really need to get planning for next year. Help!

I go back to work on the evening of St Andrew’s Day.

And then…it’s December already. EEK!

Already my baking frenzy has begun. Something about it being dark and cold makes me go into baking overdrive. And over the last few years I’ve created a few BrunetteKoala traditions that I now use as a tactic for coping with SAD. This time of year you’ll find me making Chocolate Cranberry cupcakes (I worked out how to be able to use fresh cranberries last week as my friend is allergic to sunflower oil which they seem to use in all the dried cranberries), chocolate fudge icing to pour over Pandoro, Berry Cream Panettone, Honey & Spice cake and soup. My Mum helped me pick 4 new hatted smoothies today, which I’ll be adding to my collection and already I’m keeping my eye out for Christmas Spice candles, Poinsettas and gift ideas (Elastaboy & Mr Teapot’s gifts were purchased today). I have purchased ingredients (minus the oranges) for making Koala friendly mulled wine. I have dug out my Christmas tree and box of decorations (basically…Santa Pooh, Rudolph Pooh, Tigger & lots of smoothie hats!!) and next weekend my tree will be going up.

Smoothie hats 2-6 of 2012. Another £1 for Age UK – I love the Big Knit.

In all honesty, I don’t believe decorating has anything to do with Christmas, but when it’s so dark and dreary the sight of cuteness and brightness just cheers me up considerably. That’s why I do it! I can’t wait for the lights to be turned on in Edinburgh on Thursday night, which will make the journeys from work much more cheerful.

So if you see me getting hyper about something way overpriced that I’m only going to use for 1 month of the year – just smile and humour me. Trust me, having it will make the world look a little bit of a brighter place while we’re all deprived of some good ol’ Vitamin D. ;)