Monthly Archives: December 2014

Signing out for Christmas


The Christmas spirit has definitely been been hotting up in our house this week. After a gorgeous winter wedding in Ireland last weekend, I’ve come back to a whirlwind of last-minute card writing and continued present making and general festive preparations.

We made it to see Santa on Wednesday, having been invited to the opening of the incredible grotto at The Edge in Brixham. Arthur is beginning to be aware of this mysterious man who he refers to as ‘Christmas time’, and knows that he has something to do with reindeer and presents. But he was very sceptical when I explained over our early dinner that we would be going to meet the man himself.

The Edge was a warm and welcoming bustle of mince pies and mulled wine when we arrived, and when it was our turn to go through we were all a little serious about what we would find. I don’t want to give too much away to those of you who are planning a visit (and if you’re anywhere near Brixham, I very much recommend you do), but the grotto involved trains, hardworking elves and a very impressive Christmas tree – and that was even before being taken through to Santa’s inner chamber.

Though Arthur had been excited, his nerves overcame him when he actually saw that red coat and white beard. He tried to scramble out of the door at one point, but managed to settle enough to come and cosy up on Santa’s sleigh and get his present. And though he didn’t say a word whilst we were in there, it was all he could talk about from the moment he left until he finally gave into sleep.

We’re going to have a very special family Christmas this year I think, and not just because Arthur is so much more conscious this year that something special is happening.

Leigh’s family are coming to stay with my parents in Devon next week, as well as my youngest brother and his fiancee who are over from New York and our Grampa, visiting from Wales. Then over new year my other two brothers are coming to stay with their partners. And in between of course we have Arthur’s second birthday.

There is still an awful lot to be done, but it is going to be so lovely to see everyone and to get to spend time with Leigh as well: he’s finally finished the toughest term yet in his medical school adventure, so whilst he still has a bit of work to do before January he will mainly be enjoying a well-earned break.

And I think I need a bit of a break from the blog too. This time last year it was nothing more than a twinkle in my eye. Now, 250 posts later, it has become a wonderful outlet for ideas and creativity, and a precious record of Arthur as he grows. It has at times been a little all-consuming too, so downing tools over the Christmas period seems like a very sensible idea.

Besides, I have a new novel to work on. The ideas are all there, but I could do with a bit of headspace to formulate them into something a bit more cohesive so I can make a start on the first draft in January.

I’ll be back on the blog then too, with festive tales and crafting delights to share. In the meantime I have no doubt I’ll still be popping in to twitter and instagram from time to time. But for now, have a wonderful Christmas and a very happy new year. See you in 2015!


My word of the week is ‘Christmas’ and I am also liking up with Sara at Mum turned Mom for her prompt of the same.


The Reading Residence


A shimmery, sparkly winter wedding

We travelled to Dublin this weekend for the wedding of my cousin Tom and his beautiful bride Ciana, and what a shimmering, sparkling wedding it was.

It was about ten degrees colder when we arrived in Ireland than it had been here in Devon, and when we awoke on Saturday morning in our hotel about an hour South of Dublin it was to the most perfect winter day you could imagine. The sky was blue, and the frost had covered the entire landscape in sparkles: there was nothing for it but to wrap up warm and go for a walk.


Arthur was fascinated by the crispy grass underfoot, and transfixed by the long, drawn out shadows cast by the winter sun. He was so focused on the immediate sensory overload at first that I’m not sure he even noticed the spectacular scenery around him. I did though, and it took my breath away – especially with this little boy in red running through it.


It was the first time Arthur had really been aware of winter ‘on the ground’. He was still a couple of months off walking this time last year, so it was Spring before he was ready for outdoor exploration.

He was, as always, he drawn to the puddles: but these ones were frozen!


He discovered how cold – and how slippery – this stuff called ice was, and took tremendous delight in stamping on it as it cracked beneath him.


It was one of those walks where the pace was slowed right down so Arthur could take everything in, but it was most definitely worth it for the joy his new discoveries gave him.


A little chilly but but very much invigorated, we headed in to get ready. I am very glad that Arthur loves dressing up, and he was particularly proud of his sparkly boots – which handily matched my own silver shoes perfectly. Very important to coordinate with your toddler after all!


From there we went to the ceremony, which was nothing short of magical. The space was lit by nets of fairy lights and candles, shimmering off the pure white walls and filling the air with anticipation.


They had chosen a humanist ceremony, as Leigh and I had for our wedding, and I found myself welling up with nostalgia and love. After his morning walk in the cold Arthur slept in the sling for pretty much the entire ceremony, giving me the chance to focus on the words. I love how individual and personal a humanist ceremony can be, how different the details are as they adapt to the uniqueness of each couple, but also how the common threads running through are so empowering and all-enveloping, so fundamental – without any of the complications that I find religion can bring.

From the ceremony we headed outside into the chill then back in to the reception. The venue was full of Christmas trees, bringing another layer of magic and sparkle that Arthur just couldn’t resist.


This continued as day turned into evening, with the most spectacular dance floor I have ever seen taking centre stage.


It was the perfect spot for little people to run around on, and in fact the chatter and laughter of children that threaded through the fabric of the day was one of the loveliest things about it I reckon.

For Arthur, though, the band was definitely the highlight. I couldn’t drag him away as they were setting up and he started to realise what was about to happen.


When they did begin to play he was in his element. He watched the first dance, entranced but impatient, and as soon as he could he was up at the front, mirroring the guitarist’s fingers with his own and getting swept up in the music.



It was a lovely, lovely day, shimmering and sparkling from start to finish. Between the ice and the trees and the twinkly lights it was wonderfully, magically romantic. And now that we’re back home, with Christmas fast approaching, we are well and truly imbued with the festive spirit.

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

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Word of the week: create

You may have noticed things have been a little quiet around here this week, and that’s because every spare second has been taken up with creating! After warming up with some golden animal pendants before our trip to London, present-making began in earnest last weekend.


I’d actually been keeping myself awake at night worrying that there was no way I was going to find the time to put all my ideas into practice, so it was a bit of a relief to finally get the sewing machine up and running. You’ll have to wait to see the results of most of my efforts, but I’m pretty sure Arthur doesn’t read the blog so here’s a sneak preview of one of his gifts – a mini mei tai for the doll I’m planning on creating for him this week! It’s actually one of my favourite things I’ve made ever. Tutorial to follow…


It’s not all been about sewing. In fact I’ve been getting crafty with pretty much whatever I can get my hands on… The sewing’s been especially fun though – getting to grips with the machine I was given last Christmas, lots of problem solving and trial and error, and fortunately a reasonable degree of success!

Arthur’s been getting in on the crafting vibe too, enjoying getting glitter everywhere whilst I put the finishing touches to his cards.



Then there were the sticks we collected on our woodland walk to put to good use. I was keen to make something wreath-like for the front door, and came up with this:


Whilst Arthur and Daddy turned these antler-like sticks into our very own red-nosed reindeer.



There’s still lots to do, but we’re taking a bit of a break this weekend at my cousin’s wedding just outside Dublin. The whirlwind of creativity will continue next week I’m sure, and hopefully I’ll manage to get everything completed in time for Christmas!


The Reading Residence


Weaving a world


Slowly but surely the world of my next novel is beginning to take shape…

I’ve had two really interesting research meetings so far with local people who responded to my request for information about Brixham in the 1970s. Last week I finally made it into our local museum to see some artefacts from the past. And as I walk through the streets of my town its history is beginning to become more and more apparent.

I’ve learnt about the changing face of the harbour, with working shipyards once occupying the sites of luxury flats. About the Seaman’s Boys Home which is now a flourishing outdoor education centre. About the holiday camps which saw people flocking to Brixham, enjoying diving platforms off Breakwater Beach and pedalos at St Mary’s Bay that are now long gone. My imagination was piqued today by talk of an untamed Berry Head, and of the hippies who used to attract admiring glances to their paintings by day and raise eyebrows with their skinny dipping by night.

I found interesting too the description of the local community as incredibly friendly and welcoming on one hand, and yet closed off to outsiders on the other. I can recognise that to some extent. However much I’m coming to love this place, I know I’ll never truly be able to call myself a local.

But I’m beginning to see where my two main characters might fit in here, forty years ago. Where their grandparents might have lived, where and how they might have spent their days, where they might have socialised, and where they would have escaped to when they needed some privacy. There’s still more work to be done – the local library’s my next port of call (always takes someone else to point out the bleeding obvious), and I’m going to try to fit in a visit there this week.

And then I think I’ll call it a day, for now at least. I believe there’s a fine line between not enough research and too much, and I want to get this story flowing whilst it still has space to breathe. The people I’ve spoken to so far have very kindly offered to do some fact-checking once I have a first draft to show them, and I’m sure our conversations will be able to be much more specific once I actually have a story to share.

I have to say I’ve really enjoyed my face-to-face research so far. I was nervous at first – I’m naturally quite shy, and feel much more confident seeking out information from the comfort and security of a keyboard. But there is most definitely much to be gained from talking to people, especially when the world you’re seeking access to is in the past.

I just hope I can mange to do their memories justice – and I’m very much looking forward to trying.


Muddled Manuscript


Searching for sticks

We’ve had one of those gorgeous December days today – cold and crisp and bright and way too lovely to stay indoors for. So putting the to-do list to one side we wrapped out warm and headed out to see what we could see.

Specifically, we were hunting for sticks. I thought it might be nice to have a mission, and one that we might be able to turn into something crafty when we got home. And Arthur has a bit of a thing for sticks at the moment. Mainly, I think, because of Room on the Broom – he keeps trying them out just in case one might actually fly.

He was delighted to be out of the house, and once we’d got past the little bit of road we had to navigate he was off ahead, taking the steps up to the woodland in his stride.


He was quick to find some good sticks, too – pausing of course for a bit of drumming before we continued on our way.



He wasn’t terribly keen on sticking to the path, almost getting stuck in some brambles at one point but making it through to assess whether he could manage to scavenge the sticks attached to this (still living) tree. We decided against it.



His attention got waylaid after a while though, pretty much at the point when he realised the ground beneath his feet was covered in leaves! He announced first that he wanted to lie down for a little sleep…


And then giggled as he smooshed his fingers into the muddy leaves before picking up handfuls of them and watching them fly.



He did fortunately decide it wasn’t actually the best place to have a nap, and after a little persuasion was happy to follow me back towards home. There was a moment when I thought he might try to drag this fallen tree home to add to our stash, but it turned out to be a bit too big.


And even without it we ended up with a pretty good selection of sticks. Now we just need to decide what to do with them! I’m thinking maybe combining them with some trimmings from our Christmas tree to make some sort of wreath. We shall see…


Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall