Festive Food Treats with Tesco.

The (uneaten!) portions of our lovely gift of spending Finest food hamper from  .

A couple of weeks ago I got the most fantastic (and unexpected!) hamper of gifts through the post from Tesco Food. Since budget really don’t leave much money for foodie treats, I think it is safe to say we were all pretty thrilled. The kids did a quick audit to make sure Max and I didn’t snaffle anything without them knowing, and I cheerfully tucked into the chocolate liqueur drink, which arrived at an extremely opportune moment ;)

Such things as Salted Caramel Truffles, extremely posh chocolates and Pig in Blanket crisps were particularly fabulous as Max and I fought our way through one of the toughest work Xmas seasons in a good few years. We really loved having something to just cheekily nibble on without budget guilt. A long time ago a relative used to send us a hamper each year; more recently suppliers did but austerity has stopped all that so this was a splendid treat!

Last week I visited the Peterborough Serpentine Green branch to partake of their #TescoChristmasTasting event. Armed with Maddy for assistance and my new camera on my new phone, off we trotted to see what festive nosh is all about. We are an alarmingly bad family for Xmas food. Running a toy shop means we are all always too tired to think about it all and tend to flop and eat ordinary food. We had bacon and eggs for Xmas lunch a couple of years ago!

This year, it might well be different.

Teeny weenie all butter mince pies. Small enough to not feel guilty about. Unless you eat 4.

From the opening gambit of impossibly yummy all butter mini mince pies (3 is not enough!)

I honestly didn't realise they sold so much yummy stuff

To ready decorated cakes that could pretty much pass as wedding cakes too.

So I was told tonight this chap is the most passionate baker in the whole of Tesco. About his bread, of course.

Bakers (the top Tesco baker in the country, no less!) who seem to live and breathe the products they make. This chap got seriously passionate about making Panettone, which they are creating fresh every day for the princely sum of £2 a loaf. (It’s worth it, trust me).

As for their bread selection… there must have been 20 varieties of them all sitting there for us to try. It was gorgeous and they are so proud of what they make.

Honestly, suddenly I have an urge to do a huge Xmas food shop. We never do that. In fact, 2 years ago we had bacon and eggs for Xmas lunch!

The sweeties and puddings are all very delicious, whether made in store and sold fresh or prepackaged (there was the MOST divine salted caramel sauce for pancakes and croissants on offer) but Maddy and I fell most in love with the savouries.

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Gorgeous olives… oh how I love olives. I could probably eat nothing but for the rest of my life.15863614909_787c113a9f_z

The Mexicana cheese was incredible; seriously spicy and totally delicious. And don’t start me on the Dolcelatte. Max and I met working on a deli-counter… did you know that?16048858932_a729df4cae_z

Marvellous meats. Really, really marvellous meats.

I think we’ve all had our grumbles with Tesco over the years; I know I have. I think it is important to remember that these places (and having worked as a manager on a deli counter I have some understanding) is that whatever a corporation is going through, they are made to work by people. People who care and are passionate about their jobs and who have lives to live and a living to make. What really shone through at this tasting evening was how much they cared. They had worked so hard and were really nervous about how we would feel and if we would like it. All the departments had knowledgeable staff on hand, many of them greeting well known customers by name as they circulated. They knew about their foods and the fresh food service they were providing and they wanted us to enjoy what they could do with it. They smiled, they joked and they showed off some great festive treats and an even greater in store community spirit.

Well done Peterborough Tesco. You nailed it. And you know what, I’ve scraped together a little spare money to pop by next week and pick up a few tasty treats too. You got me ;)

Making Christmas.

Positively festive.

I don’t really want Christmas this year. Not in the same way that the last 4 Christmases have been their own tiny version of hell (I can’t believe this is our 5th Christmas without Freddie any more than I can believe it 3rd Christmas with Bene) but in a glum way, a dissatisfied with what it means way.

I hate the religious side of this festival and I’ve worked very hard at bringing season and renewal and thoughtfulness and gratefulness into it in the last few years. I don’t want the Christian layer, I prefer the light and dark and hunkering down to focus on family, on our core.

And it is very hard to get that when there is so much rushing. Since my grumpy post I’ve been trying very hard to find some joy. I’ve tried very hard to ignore Christmas until the last minute these last few years, sidle up to it, get through it, get on and past.

This year the present piles will be lean and unimaginative. The big girls have few wants or needs and the little girl no time to do things with anything she gets. And I can see that the frenzy of unwrapping and oh and ah will be paltry.

We need to make it family. We need to find our core again. We need to find the joy.

It must be Christmas.

Today we played a board game all together, with carols in the background and sweet smelling candles and naughty treats and laughing and decorations creeping in to the edges of the room.

I didn’t think I would ever be able to do this again.

The first decorations have come out if the garage.

Samwise like, I am sitting and thinking of him in my joyful moments. I won’t pretend it is easy, but I am getting there. I am beginning to make it. I read Circus Queen and her tree post today and realised I needed to stop trying to be perfect – or totally happy – and just fake it till I make it. And so I am trying to do so.

I haven’t decided whether to start on the happy pills again yet. I’m trying to make time to heal myself a little first and see if I can swing it back. maybe I can. I’m not being very kind to myself at the moment and I need to do better.

Maybe I’ll make it.

I am making significant festive effort this year.

 

Part of it is letting go enough to be amused by works of art in my normally grown up living room. I love this santa.

Dragon on the wagon

I’ve even been managing to make myself giggle at times.

It’s all progress.

Fake it till you make it. Then make sure you mean it.

I think perhaps Christmas will be okay this year. Fingers crossed.

Christmas Craft #1: Family Fun Wish Labels

advent activity with our   box

I’m optimistically going to try and do at least 20 crafts for Christmas over the next month. Quite how, I have no idea, but I think I need a goal to make myself work at.

All of us are feeling like our family time has gone horribly wrong over the last few months and we are aching to do some things together that make us feel like a unit again, so I came up with this, which is a twist on the advent calender we hang up every year, made with items from our Bostik Family Craft Blogger box.

There are 24 old fashioned luggage labels, in festive colours, in the basket, each one decorated with an assortment of pretties, mostly stuck on with our Bostik Glue Dots. The backs are blank and each day of advent someone will fill in some simple family activity that they would like us to do together during our precious 2 weeks of family time together. (No panto! Yay! I put my foot down this year.) It can be anything we can actually achieve (not ‘go to Lapland’) and everyone has to think of 6 different things to write (so we don’t end up with more than 6 films to watch).

Josie decorated our paper bag with pretties and through December our bag should fill up with lovely things to do together during our holiday. It’s something to look forward to.

advent activity with our   box

Here are some other ideas for advent calendars.

Box Calendar - simple and beautiful

Advent Gingerbread House – I don’t reckon it would last the month!

Baby Socks Stocking Calendar – gorgeous and much easier than crocheting them!

Pretty decorated canvas bags – gorgeous!

My own crochet advent calendar from last year.
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And a rather fabulous set of toilet roll holders!

My Christmas craft Pinterest board is as popular as ever:-

Follow Merrily Me’s board Christmas Crafts on Pinterest.

And I have extra ideas on Simple Crafts and on this site.

We are part of the Bostik Craft Bloggers network and the link to buy glue dots is an affiliate link.

Peaceful Afternoon: Make with Mother Challenge.

Everyone is full of cold and off school. Maddy is busy writing a story & Josie and Bene are indulging in review playdoh and megablocks . Do you see my nice curtains

I can’t really believe it is 10 days since I blogged (Yeah, I started this a few days ago). Silence is always a worry, huh? We are mired under in Christmas at work, busy, stressed children and tired, ill, grumpy everything. There is lots I should write and record. And lots I just feel I can’t. (And now I have.)

Yesterday, with 2 girls off poorly and Bene on a home day, I decided to just sit and observe. I pulled out a pack of review products that arrived from House of Fraser and let Josie and Bene loose on them. I was hoping I’d get an hour or so of them both being a little happier than they’ve been recently.

 

The silence was golden. The sun was shining and the new red curtains were giving me a happy feeling. Despite the heavy colds and child refusing to go to school and the normally noisy toddler, peace reigned. And for one of the first times, Bene and Josie engaged in something together, playing alongside each other, rather than a rampaging toddler and a frustrated tween.

We chose a couple of PlayDoh kits from House of Fraser; because I’m mean I tend not to buy shop dough, because I always feel I can make it myself. There are, of course, a million places to find out how to make sensory versions of it and all singing and dancing versions – but you just can’t beat the real thing.

Totally absorbed

We chose a game, where you fire pressed balls of dough into a mad monster thing, which caused an enormous amount of hilarity even without the added battery that was actually required! The game also has lots of press shapes built into the frame of the game, which worked perfectly with our other choice, which was the Double Desserts set. With a tinging pudding over, a heap of moulds and plates and a dough prep area, Josie just loved it and dived right in to making up recipes for the day.

As you can see, they were engrossed. It was the calmest, happiest day for weeks.

Review halloo!

Last up on our set of activities is a simply MAMMOTH loom band thing called a Link-a-Loom, with 9 rows. It’s really chunky and impressive but we’ve yet to achieve anything meaningful with it! I’ll get back to you. Amelie and I are still working on it.

Thanks to House of Fraser who sent us our kits for a Make with Mother crafty afternoon. It really cheered us up and meant my kids got to play with stuff I don’t normally buy.

 

 

Countdown to Christmas.

Advent Yankee Candles

This week I have realised with horror that all my Christmas sparkle has totally disappeared. I have no idea what to buy my children, I have nothing I want, there is nothing we need (except more time and money and you can’t buy either of those!) and Christmas is sneaking up so fast that I can’t even begin to imagine what I’m going to do to either find the sparkle or find the time, money or energy to magic the perfect Christmas either.

This rather mournful thought has been bothering me hugely over the last few days. It’s not that Christmas is all about the giving, by any means because it most certainly isn’t. None of my children can tell me a single thing they ‘need’ or even ‘want’ this year apart from Maddy who desperately wants a new guitar of the other variety to the one she already has. (See, I’m not doing well. It’s either Spanish or Classical. I better ask). But it is about the feel of the day, the magic and the joy – it’s about getting hyped up about the idea of a day together and a sense of specialness and having no desire to do anything except enjoy the company of family at the end of a long and busy few months. And a little tingle of excitement and anticipation is all to the good. Apart from anything else, however jaded and wistful it makes me and however much my big girls no longer need a heap of presents and surprises, I still have a 10 year old and a not quite 3 year old – and they do have the right to the same memories as I made for the big girls.

It was while I was thinking about these doleful facts that a couple of products arrived that reminded me of what was always so nice about Christmas when the girls were little and what I miss most.

The anticipation.

The filling the house with Christmas.

The together time.

The little rituals.

The knowing that hunker down family time is coming.

The dim lights and the tastes treats and spice and sweeties.

The decorations.

The nostalgia.

The smell.

It’s all of these things that our current frantic, overwhelmed life is threatening. Not the present pile not even the day. It’s the creation of an event that we relish. I know the day will be fine. I know we won’t fight or squawk and there won’t be spoilt brat grumps that this year we really can’t afford many gifts. I know we’ll eat our normal understated lunch and the early morning tumble will be daft stocking presents and giggling and a quiet weep from me somewhere in the middle.

It’s the build up I miss and while I’m not religious at all, I suddenly remembered that what starts our Christmas each year is the fabric pocket advent calender and the daily sweetie for each child in it. I suddenly saw that what I need this year is to make some magic about the season so that this Christmas, which will be one of Fran’s last ones at home as a child and the first where most gifts will be things they need not fun surprises, will be memorable and treasured.

Advent Yankee Candles

The two gorgeous candle advent calendars we were sent by Yankee Candle made me think about all of this and start to make some plans. 24 doors, all opening to reveal a beautifully scented candle to burn on the day seems the perfect thing for me to get into the Christmas spirit; a lovely ritual, some sensory smells to make me feel the love and no calories either! Perfect. Each one has a range of smells from cookie, to cinnamon to sugar and cranberry and Christmas garland and the house finishes off with a votive candle on Christmas Eve. The design of both boxes is divine and the house made me think in particular of a house my mummy made me when I was little, with a gift on a string for each of us.

Times are difficult right now. We barely make it to family meals together, we rarely sit down and talk, we scurry about servicing the needs of 5 kids and a business and the joy has been rather sucked out of everything. I keep looking at my blog and wishing I was blogging more but the truth is I can’t find words for something that isn’t happening. I’m not writing creatively because most of what I do now is private or safeguarded or simply deeply dull.

And I miss it. I do.

So I’m setting myself a challenge, on the back of 2 boxes of candles that reminded me so much that I love being with my kids and making and doing and laughing with them. I’m going to finds some ways to make December special, like it used to be when the girls were little and we stopped home ed ‘work on November 30th and spent the run up to the big day doing ‘fun stuff’. Last year I watched blogger friends enviously as they made those days happen. I want smells and fun and mess and giggling and silly half arty, well meant crafts decorating the house.

This year I don’t want my Christmas run up to be all on Pinterest. I’m going to find the joy, starting with coming up with something precious and memorable to run through advent that my girls will love. If you’ve written any posts of things you’ve done, please leave me a link below.

And make me do it. I’m all lost and needing encouragement.

Follow Merrily Me’s board Christmas Crafts on Pinterest.