And at Christmas You Tell the Truth…

I’m not entirely open with you here.IMG_0601

It simply wouldn’t do to spill all the beans.IMG_0607

Sultanabun is my brave, confident (read foolhardy) and competent alter ego who doesn’t worry too much about what people think. Sultanabun doesn’t burn the arse out of her best saucepan by allowing herself to be distracted by Instagram. Sultanabun doesn’t have weird pink scum around her bathroom taps. Of course she doesn’t and she doesn’t find herself sitting, alone, in a coffee shop window with uninvited tears falling down her cheeks. That simply wouldn’t do.

No. There are levels of honesty. IMG_0613

There are always good and bad things about this time of year. That’s sort of the whole point of it, really, when you think about it. Christmas is the light in the darkness, the thing that gets you through. I read an interview with Richard Curtis about writing Four Weddings and a Funeral. He re-wrote his story about four weddings a dozen times but couldn’t get it right. It was too happy, saccherin sweet, until a friend suggested he add in a funeral. It worked. Light and shade, chiaroscuro, that’s life. It’s better because it’s sometimes bad.

It doesn’t do, I think, to pretend that it’s perfect but today I’m choosing to write, honestly, about the things that are good about this time of year.

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Music.

Is there ever so much music about as at Christmas? I love that we belt out Jingle Bells in the car on the way to school, that I can hum Santa Claus is Coming to Town at mid volume while pushing my shopping trolley without anybody even suspecting that I’m mad, and I love that George Michael is going to make it to Number One for Christmas, I love that.

I particularly love the school carol service and nativity play. The Small Girl was, as it turned out, the only homemade donkey at the birth of Jesus which didn’t seem to bother her, or Jesus, one bit. She sang her song, and performed her actions with gusto, shedding only a very small amount of her lustrous mane in the process. As I write she is practicing her party piece.IMG_0703

Creativity (aka Cutting and Sticking).

I love that Christmas grants us all permission to dolly up our homes in whichever daft fashion out hearts desire. The madder the better, if you ask me. It’s all so wonderfully liberating. Once you get past the notion of carting a whole tree inside the house, you can’t really criticise anyone’s style, can you? This from the woman with gold tinsel and multi-coloured lights draped around her sofa.

Every year I get a dose of the bah-humbugs and swear that I can’t be arsed making a real wreath for the front door, every single year.

And then I do.

I thought it would be the work of mere moments to recreate a very simple ring of hazel twigs I saw at a craft fair. It seems I will never learn the lesson that things at craft fairs which seem very simple, invariably, are not.

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Several hours, two glasses of wine, some cursing and forty-two Christmas songs later…IMG_0749

I don’t, in general, have any objection to bells, ribbons or jangly bits on Christmas wreaths. I have previously made a wreath entirely from the wrappers of Cadbury’s Roses so I am reliably unsophisticated in my efforts. This year, however, I had a notion that my wreath would be made exclusively from what my garden (and, being honest, my mother-in-law’s garden) had to offer. I may be still a pheasant feather shy of sophistication but I do like this wreath, a lot.IMG_0753

Kindness.

Have you noticed it? People in cars let you out at junctions with a wave, maybe even a smile if they happen to be belting out Jingle Bells with their kids. People in shops offer to gift-wrap your presents, or double bag your turkey. Strangers tell you stories about their Christmas party, or how they cook their sprouts, or who belonging to them is flying home on Friday. Christmas cards come in the post and surprise me, again, that someone I haven’t spoken to in years still thinks of me. A friend, who I hardly realised knew me so well, turned up on my doorstep with a gift so perfect, so unbelievably thoughtful, it left me breathless.

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Darkness.

Yes, with emotions more contrary than I can explain, I do like it. I like the sound of rain battering the windows. I like the heavy, leaden skies that take striking a match and touching it to a candle from the realm of unnecessary luxury to vital  force. I like the insulating blanketness of it, the closeness of it, the weight of it. And I like that I know, in my heart of hearts, that it will end soon enough. I like the bottoming out of it, the sense of an ending.

If you go all the way down, you get a bounce that brings you clear into Spring.

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And you, my friends who live behind this screen, have shown me real kindness. You have, somehow, endured my litany of complaint. You have encouraged my efforts and applauded my small achievements. I have lovely, lovely followers – you are nice people. Thank you.

I wish you a Happy Solstice Day, clean and bright and with a fine bounce to it, and I wish you a Christmas with just the right balance of light and shade. Nollaig Shona daoibh.IMG_0775 (2)

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Middle-Aged Couple Collapse In Front Of Pilates DVD.

Alright, in fairness to Amit (the remarkably bendy and unreasonably cheerful man in the photo below), we collapsed in peels of laughter. The tears, mind you, were of genuine pain.img_3464-2

Husband posed in front of the camera and pleaded with me to show you his best attempt at this pose but…ah, no…I feel he might regret it and you have imagination enough to fill the gap. Suffice to say, we are making efforts to get bendier in 2017.

Christmas was brilliant. I believe we may claim to have kept it well. My favourite moment of Christmas is always the lighting of the candle on Christmas Eve. As a child I was told that the candle was to light the way for the Holy Family. More recently, President Mary Robinson revived and enriched the tradition as a beacon for the Irish Diaspora.  In our house it is a moment of quiet nostalgia, a lull in the mayhem, a deep peaceful breath.

Christmas candle. Irish tradition.

And then…Christmas morning mayhem

You know it’s a good Christmas when you eat Baked Alaska…baked alaska, Nigella's recipe.

…TWICE!Baked Alaska no.2

That sloe (left) and damson (right) gin were SO worth making! There’s little to choose between them really. The pure sloe version has a bit more zing to it but both are delicious and make fantastic G&Ts. Sloe gin (left) and Damson gin (right).

All that gin meant that only the least taxing of crochet projects could be attempted so I whiled away a couple of movies making little cotton facecloths. I never quite understood why people bothered crocheting facecloths but it was a most relaxing and oddly satisfying occupation. It gave me that feeling that I could survive as a pioneer in the wilderness. Just give me a hook and some yarn and I might cobble together a whole home.crocheted cotton dk facecloth.

Of course, there were many lovely and thoughtful gifts.

My Small Girl made this flower for me and wrapped it up herself in a massive wad of sellotape which significantly delayed the Christmas breakfast.  sunflower

Middle Girl had this stunning bookmark made for me. Always bookmark. In memory of Alan Rickman, aka Snape.Yes, I cried.

Teenage Daughter created our family, including the dog (!), as Lego people! We are all even wearing our favourite outfits! Husband’s Nasa t-shirt is perfect! Are you flabbergasted? I was. Our family, in Lego.

Teenage Son is one of the few people I can rely on to buy me a book. Naturally, he bought a book which he was eager to read himself. He was literally breathing down my neck as I finished the last page and took it from my hands before I closed the cover. The Girl who Saved the King of Sweden by Jonas Jonasson is just as quirky and daft as The Hundred Year Old Man.

The girl who saved the king of Sweden. Jonas Jonasson

Santa may also have been guilty of delivering books which he was eager to read for himself. Mistletoe and Murder by Robin Stevens was in Middle Girl’s stocking and we both enjoyed it very much. It’s sort of a British Nancy Drew; very retro and sweet.

Mistletoe and Murder. Robin Stevens.

Oh, this one… A Boy Called Christmas by Matt Haig…deep contented sigh. It’s a perfect book and one I’m certain will become a Christmas classic. A Boy Called Christmas. Matt Haig. Instant classic

Stuffed full of Baked Alaska, we eventually left the house and walked off a gin or two.The beach always seems to be the perfect antidote to the massive lethargy that builds over Christmas.The Dock . Kinsale, Ireland

I thought, before Christmas, that I had run out of energy. I felt that I was spinning too many plates and not getting anything done properly. I was disappointed with my efforts.

I have taken a good, long rest. I have devoted the last couple of weeks to being a Mammy.

I am itching to write again but…

but, but, but… I have run out of gumption. I’ve known all along that if I stopped writing, even for a short while, I would be overtaken by nerves. I’m afeared (spellcheck doesn’t like that word but I do) that I’m making a holy show of myself and afeared that I am exposing myself and my family to ridicule. I’m filled with collywobblish trepidation and, at the same time, filled with the urge to carry on. The only cure, I suppose, is to fake it and see what happens. I should breathe deeply. Those were Amit’s last words just before I keeled over sideways.

Onwards, to a very bendy New Year!

Jamesfort, Kinsale, Ireland.

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And so it begins…

trifle bowl snow scene

I’ve been doing my level best to hold back on an all out, no elves barred, Christmas post but I can restrain my reindeer no longer. It is December 1st my friends; let the insanity begin!

I know that I’m not the only Corkonian(e) to lose the run of herself  in the brand new Sostrene Grene shop that opened three doors down from Waterstones and twenty yards or so from my favourite coffee-and-a-bun shop (Ali’s Kitchen). Let’s just say that you won’t require any fancy triangulation technology to discover my location over the next few Saturday mornings.

From the dizzying array of prettiness I chose just two  bottle-brush Christmas trees. I’ve been searching for these for five years so that I could recreate a cute idea I saw on Pinterest (famous last words, eh?). Nary a plastic tree could I find and then, like the proverbial buses, three come along at the same time. I found a teeny weeny tree in the Ballymaloe shop and then, lo and behold, Sostrene Grene have them in various sizes and degrees of snowiness.

All that I needed to do was hijack a dinky truck from Teenage Son’s vintage collection and wash the dust out of the trifle bowl…

trifle bowl snow scene

Look, that trifle bowl is making me 40 shades of happy so no laughing!

trifle bowl snow scene.

Of course, that scene will need to be dismantled on Christmas Eve to make room for some actual trifle.

In further Christmassy creative endeavor, I thought it would be a hoot to make my own Christmas crackers. I was wise enough to check the availability of cracker-snaps on the internet before committing to the project. By committing I mean telling the Small Girl. I failed to notice in the small print, however, that it is not permissible to send explosives, however miniscule, through the post from the UK to Ireland.

Worry not, once committed there was no backing out so the snaps were found locally (thanks to Cork Art Supplies) and the crackers were created. The gifts inside them would have been far cuter had Sostrene Grene opened a week earlier! You can read more about that here but prepare yourself in advance for some truly dire cracker jokes.

homemade diy christmas crackers.

We are off to the Panto tonight so the madness has well and truly started.
Oh No It Hasn’t.
OH YES IT HAS!

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A Christmas Scene.

Half of me loves this tradition of ours.IMG_8210

The other half needs tranquilising medication to get through it.IMG_8235

Teenage Son set up two amplifiers at either end of the kitchen so that we could have Wham’s Last Christmas in perfect stereo while we worked.IMG_8231

That was calming. It was!IMG_8236

No really, it was!IMG_8240

Small Girl waltzed around, waving her paint-loaded brush willy-nilly, dispensing custard creams to the needy.IMG_8239

I poured a myself a large glass of red.IMG_8241

Like all the best Christmas activities,

this one ended in tears, recriminations,IMG_8262

and me on my knees with a cleaning rag.IMG_8254

It was worth it.