Friday, December 31, 2010

Furkid Friday: Sneaky Santa Paws

Hi humans, it's Kero here.

Sorry I'm late posting today, but my Mami has been really sick, so I have to stay beside her to watch over her. Especially this morrning when my Dadi had to go to town to get more medicine. She'll come and post on your blogs and answer your comments when she's better. But, for today, i just want to keep a promise Gwydion made to you in last week's post about our attempts at catching Santa Paws in the act of filling the stockings. Well... Santa Paws snuck past me again this year - even with Gwydion watching for him too - and managed to fill up the stockings without being spotted. When we went to bed the stockings were empty (I stuck my nose in mine and checked before I went to bed), but when we woke up the stockings all had presents in them. I have no idea how that happened without me seeing him, again. How does this Santa Paws person keep getting past me every single year?

OK, I have to get back to Mami, so I will tell you about all my presents another time.

Licks and sniffs,

Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Unnamed

By Joshua Ferris

"Tim Farnsworth is a handsome, healthy man, ageing with the grace of a matinee idol. He loves his work. He loves his family. He loves his kitchen. And then one day he stands up and walks out on all of it. He cannot stop walking. And, as his body propels him relentlessly forward, deep into the unfamiliar outer reaches of the city, he begins to realise he is moving further and further from his old self, seemingly unable to turn back and retrieve what he has lost. In his extraordinary novel Joshua Ferris delineates with great tenderness and a rare and inimitable wit the devastating story of a life taken for granted and what happens when that life is torn away without explanation or warning. The Unnamed is no less than a shimmering reflection of our times, of the lives we aspire to and the terrifying realisation of what is beyond our control."

(Above taken from this page).

I did enjoy the book, but I don't know what to say about it. Since I agree with a quote from the link above, however, I will say that, "although sad and slightly disturbing this is a brilliant and moving novel about relationships and the everyday pressures of life."

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Fire That Would Not Burn (FD)

~Author Unknown~

There was great trouble in the white castle that stood at the top of the hill. The huge fire that had burned in the castle kitchen for years had suddenly gone out, and no one seemed to be able to light it again.

It was deep winter outside. The hill was white with snow, and the fountains in the castle garden looked like tall ladies dressed in white cloaks. From all the castle turrets there hung long icicles, and inside the castle, where the walls and the floor were made all of stone, it was so cold that every one was blowing on his fingers and saying that something must be done at once about starting the fire in the kitchen.

It had been the warmest and the most useful fire in the castle, always bright and glowing and cheerful. It made the big kettle sing, and it cooked the food, and painted pictures in the fireplace for the little Prince, who always sat in front of it before he went to bed. Some said that the fire needed a special kind of fuel to keep it burning, and others said that it had gone out because it was such a hard, cold winter. Still others said that the castle folk were quarreling so over matters of state that they made the castle too cold for any fire to burn. The King blew the bellows, and the Queen wrapped up the little Prince in a fur coat, and the Cook piled on more logs, but still the fire would not burn.

"Go down the hill road," the King at last commanded the Court Messenger, "and wherever you see a bright fire burning in one of the houses, go inside and ask for some coals to bring back to the castle. It may be that we can light our fire in this way."

So the Messenger, with a great iron lantern for holding the coals, started out in the bitter cold.

"A light for the castle fire!" he called as he went. "Who will give me some coals with which to light the castle fire?"

As the Messenger went on his way, a great many people heard him and they all wanted to have a share in lighting the fire at the castle. Some thought that to do this would bring them riches.

"Here are glowing coals for you," said Gerald, whose father kept the forest; "and tell the King that we want as many gold pieces as there are lumps of coal in return, and some extra ones if he will add them."

So the Messenger put Gerald's red coals with the tongs inside his lantern, and he started back to the castle. He had gone only a few steps, though, when he saw that the coals had turned cold and gray, so he had to throw them beside the road and search farther.

A bright light shone from the fire in Gilda's house. Gilda's father was one of the King's guards and when she heard the Messenger's call, "A light for the castle fire!" she opened the door and asked him to come in.

"Fill your lantern with our coals," Gilda said, "and they will surely light the fire in the castle. Tell the King, though, that in return for the coals he must make my father Captain of the guards."

The Messenger took the coals and started back to the castle. He had gone but a little way, though, when he saw that the coals from Gilda's fire were no longer burning but had turned to gray ashes. So he emptied them out in the snow and went on down the hill. But his search was a hard one. So few of the coals that he was given would burn, and so few people wanted to give them freely.

At last he came to a tiny house on a bleak side of the hill. The wind blew down through the old chimney, and the frost had crept in through the cracks in the wall. The door opened at once when he knocked, though, and inside he found a little girl, stirring porridge over a small fire.

"A light for the castle fire?" she repeated when the Messenger had told her what he wanted. "You may have as many coals as you like, although we have few large ones. I am my father's housewife and I tend this small fire so that the kitchen may be comfortable for him when he comes home from work. I am cooking his supper, too," she said. "But do you sit down and warm yourself, and have a bowl of warm supper before you start out in the cold again. Then you may have half of our fire if the King needs it."

The Messenger did as the little girl bade him, and then he lifted one small, bright coal from the fire, and put it in his lantern.

"It will never burn all the way back to the castle," he said to himself, but with each step the coal grew brighter. It cast pink shadows on the snow as if the spring were sending wild roses up through the ground. It made the dark road in front of the Messenger as bright as if the sun were shining, and it warmed him like the summer time. When he came to the castle, the coal still burned and glowed. As soon as he touched it to the gray logs in the fireplace they burst into flames, and the castle fire was kindled again.

They wondered why the new fire made the kettle sing so much more sweetly than it had ever sung before, and warmed the hearts of the castle folk so that they forgot to quarrel. At last, when they talked it over with the Messenger, they decided that it was because love had come from the cottage with the coal, and was kindled and burning now in the castle fire.

(Above taken from this page).

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

An Accidental Christmas

"Vicki and Jason, a separated husband and wife, are set up by their children to spend Christmas vacation at the beach together. Complications ensue when both Vicki's boss and Jason's assistant show up, but in the end both realize that they are meant to be together and that the marriage is far from over and that love will bring their family back together."

(Above taken from this page).

This wasn't too bad of a movie, but not one I'd be wanting to rush out and see again really.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Advent calender contents (FD)

It's always fun finding out what chocolate shapes will be hidden behind the door of your advent calender each day. Will it be a Christmas tree? A candle? A bell? An angel? A rocking horse? Perhaps a snowflake? You don't know until you find your little door, get it open, and pull out the little chocolate shape. For some reason I always wonder about listing what I have in my advent calender as I'm counting down to Christmas. Well, this year I actually made that list, so, just for the fun of it, here's the list of what chocolate shapes my advent calender contained - in order - this year:

Christmas tree
Toy Soldier
Bird (Robin?)
Rocking Horse

Candy cane
Santa hat
Walrus wearing Christmasy scarf type thing (at least, that's what it looked like to us)
Christmas stocking
Christmas reef
Teddy bear
Father Christmas
Christmas present
Gingerbread man
Moon and stars
The Christmas Star
Holly with berries

I was lucky enough to get an advent calender that included Christmas day this year (not all of them do include Christmas day. Some do, but many don't... Some even go until New Year's day, but very few do that). I'm pointing this out for the benifit of anyone who may have counted the number of items in the list and noticed there were 25 chocolate shapes in the above list rather than the 24 there would have been with most advent calenders.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Cratchits' Christmas Dinner (LBE and FD)

I'm sure you're all familiar with the whole of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" but since I like it so much, I decided I wanted to share one of my favourite parts with you, and since I found it as a short story while looking for a nice Christmas story to share, then it makes it that much easier to post it on here and share it with you. So, here it is:

The Cratchits' Christmas Dinner
by Charles Dickens

Scrooge and the Ghost of Christmas Present stood in the city streets on Christmas morning, where (for the weather was severe) the people made a rough but brisk and not unpleasant kind of music, in scraping the snow from the pavement in front of their dwellings, and from the tops of their houses, whence it was mad delight to the boys to see it come plumping down into the road below, and splitting into artificial little snowstorms.

The house fronts looked black enough, and the windows blacker, contrasting with the smooth white sheet of snow upon the roofs, and with the dirtier snow upon the ground, which last deposit had been ploughed up in deep furrows by the heavy wheels of carts and wagons; furrows that crossed and recrossed each other hundreds of times where the great streets branched off, and made intricate channels, hard to trace, in the thick yellow mud and icy water. The sky was gloomy, and the shortest streets were choked up with a dingy mist, half thawed, halF frozen, whose heavier particles descended in a shower of sooty atoms, as if all the chimneys in Great Britain had, by one consent, caught fire, and were blazing away to their dear heart's content. There was nothing very cheerful in the climate or the town, and yet was there an air of cheerfulness abroad that the dearest summer air and brightest summer sun might have endeavoured to diffuse in vain.

For the people who were shovelling away on the housetops were jovial and full of glee, calling out to one another from the parapets, and now and then exchanging a facetious snowball--better-natured missile far than many a wordy jest--laughing heartily if it went right, and not less heartily if it went wrong. The poulterers' shops were still half open, and the fruiterers' were radiant in their glory. There were great, round, potbellied baskets of chestnuts, shaped like the waistcoats of jolly old gentlemen, lolling at the doors, and tumbling out into the street in their apoplectic opulence.

There were ruddy, brown-faced, broad-girthed Spanish onions, shining in the fatness of their growth like Spanish friars, and winking, from their shelves, in wanton slyness at the girls as they went by, and glanced demurely at the hung-up mistletoe. There were pears and apples, clustering high in blooming pyramids; there were bunches of grapes, made, in the shop-keeper's benevolence, to dangle from conspicuous hooks, that people's mouths might water gratis as they passed; there were piles of filberts, mossy and brown, recalling, in their fragrance, ancient walks among the woods, and pleasant shufflings ankle deep through withered leaves; there were Norfolk biffins, squab and swarthy, setting off the yellow of the oranges and lemons, and, in the great compactness of their juicy persons, urgently entreating and beseeching to be carried home in paper bags and eaten after dinner. The very gold and silver fish, set forth among these choice fruits in a bowl, though members of a dull and stagnant-blooded race, appeared to know that there was something going on; and, to a fish, went gasping round and round their little world in slow and passionless excitement.

The grocers'! oh, the grocers'! nearly closed, with perhaps two shutters down, or one; but through those gaps such glimpses! It was not alone that the scales descending on the counter made a merry sound, or that the twine and roller parted company so briskly, or that the canisters were rattled up and down like juggling tricks, or even that the blended scents of tea and coffee were so grateful to the nose, or even that the raisins were so plentiful and rare, the almonds so extremely white, the sticks of cinnamon so long and straight, the other spices so delicious, the candied fruits so caked and spotted with molten sugar as to make the coldest lookers-on feel faint, and subsequently bilious. Nor was it that the figs were moist and pulpy, or that the French plums blushed in modest tartness from their highly decorated boxes, or that everything was good to eat and in its Christmas dress; but the customers were all so hurried and so eager in the hopeful promise of the day that they tumbled up against each other at the door, crashing their wicker baskets wildly, and left their purchases upon the counter, and came running back to fetch them, and committed hundreds of the like mistakes, in the best humour possible; while the grocer and his people were so frank and fresh that the polished hearts with which they fastened their aprons behind might have been their own, worn outside for general inspection, and for Christmas daws to peck at, if they chose.

But soon the steeples called good people all to church and chapel, and away they came, flocking through the streets in their best clothes, and with their gayest faces. And at the same time there emerged from scores of by-streets, lanes, and nameless turnings, innumerable people, carrying their dinners to the bakers' shops. The sight of these poor revellers appeared to interest the Spirit very much, for he stood, with Scrooge beside him, in a baker's doorway, and, taking off the covers as their bearers passed, sprinkled incense on their dinners from his torch. And it was a very uncommon kind of torch, for once or twice when there were angry words between some dinner-carriers who had jostled each other, he shed a few drops of water on them from it, and their good-humour was restored directly. For they said it was a shame to quarrel upon Christmas Day. And so it was! God love it, so it was!

In time the bells ceased, and the bakers were shut up; and yet there was a genial shadowing forth of all these dinners, and the progress of their cooking, in the thawed blotch of wet above each baker's oven, where the pavement smoked as if its stones were cooking too.

"Is there a peculiar flavour in what you sprinkle from your torch?" asked Scrooge.

"There is. My own."

"Would it apply to any kind of dinner on this day?" asked Scrooge.

"To any kindly given. To a poor one most."

"Why to a poor one most?" asked Scrooge.

"Because it needs it most."

They went on, invisible, as they had been before, into the suburbs of the town. It was a remarkable quality of the Ghost (which Scrooge had observed at the baker's) that, notwithstanding his gigantic size, he could accommodate himself to any place with ease; and that he stood beneath a low roof quite as gracefully, and like a supernatural creature, as it was possible he could have done in any lofty hall.

And perhaps it was the pleasure the good Spirit had in showing off this power of his, or else it was his own kind, generous, hearty nature, and his sympathy with all poor men, that led him straight to Scrooge's clerk's; for there he went, and took Scrooge with him, holding to his robe; and on the threshold of the door the Spirit smiled, and stopped to bless Bob Cratchit's dwelling with the sprinklings of his torch. Think of that! Bob had but fifteen "bob" a week himself; he pocketed on Saturdays but fifteen copies of his Christian name; and yet the Ghost of Christmas Present blessed his four-roomed house!

Then up rose Mrs. Cratchit, Cratchit's wife, dressed out but poorly in a twice-turned gown, but brave in ribbons, which are cheap and make a goodly show for sixpence; and she laid the cloth, assisted by Belinda Cratchit, second of her daughters, also brave in ribbons; while Master Peter Cratchit plunged a fork into the saucepan of potatoes, and getting the corners of his monstrous shirt-collar (Bob's private property, conferred upon his son and heir in honour of the day) into his mouth, rejoiced to find himself so gallantly attired, and yearned to show his linen in the fashionable parks. And now two smaller Cratchits, boy and girl, came tearing in, screaming that outside the baker's they had smelt the goose, and known it for their own, and, basking in luxurious thoughts of sage and onion, these young Cratchits danced about the table, and exalted Master Peter Cratchit to the skies, while he (not proud, although his collar nearly choked him) blew the fire, until the slow potatoes, bubbling up, knocked loudly at the saucepan lid to be let out and peeled.

"What has ever got your precious father, then?" said Mrs. Cratchit. "And your brother, Tiny Tim? And Martha warn't as late last Christmas Day by half an hour!"

"Here's Martha, mother!" said a girl, appearing as she spoke.

"Here's Martha, mother!" cried the two young Cratchits. "Hurrah! There's such a goose, Martha!"

"Why, bless your heart alive, my dear, how late you are!" said Mrs. Cratchit, kissing her a dozen times, and taking off her shawl and bonnet for her with officious zeal.

"We'd a deal of work to finish up last night," replied the girl, "and had to clear away this morning, mother!"

"Well, never mind so long as you are come," said Mrs. Cratchit. "Sit ye down before the fire, my dear, and have a warm, Lord bless ye!"

"No, no! There's father coming!" cried the two young Cratchits, who were everywhere at once.

"Hide, Martha, hide!"

So Martha hid herself, and in came little Bob, the father, with at least three feet of comforter, exclusive of the fringe, hanging down before him, and his threadbare clothes darned up and brushed, to look seasonable; and Tiny Tim upon his shoulder. Alas for Tiny Tim, he bore a little crutch, and had his limbs supported by an iron frame!

"Why, where's our Martha?" cried Bob Cratchit, looking around.

"Not coming," said Mrs. Cratchit.

"Not coming?" said Bob, with a sudden declension in his high spirits; for he had been Tim's blood horse all the way from the church, and had come home rampant. "Not coming upon Christmas Day?"

Martha didn't like to see him disappointed, if it were only in joke; so she came out prematurely from behind the closet door, and ran into his arms, while the two young Cratchits hustled Tiny Tim, and bore him off into the wash-house, that he might hear the pudding singing in the copper.

"And how did little Tim behave?" asked Mrs. Cratchit, when she had rallied Bob on his credulity, and Bob had hugged his daughter to his heart's content.

"As good as gold," said Bob, "and better. Somehow he gets thoughtful, sitting by himself so much, and thinks the strangest things you ever heard. He told me, coming home, that he hoped the people saw him in the church, because he was a cripple, and it might be pleasant to them to remember, upon Christmas Day, who made lame beggars walk, and blind men see."

Bob's voice was tremulous when he told them this, and trembled more when he said that Tiny Tim was growing strong and hearty.

His active little crutch was heard upon the floor, and back came Tiny Tim before another word was spoken, escorted by his brother and sister to his stool beside the fire; and while Bob, turning up his cuffs--as if, poor fellow, they were capable of being made more shabby--compounded some hot mixture in a jug with gin and lemons, and stirred it round and round, and put it on the hob to simmer, Master Peter and the two ubiquitous young Cratchits went to fetch the goose, with which they soon returned in high procession.

Such a bustle ensued that you might have thought a goose the rarest of all birds--a feathered phenomenon, to which a black swan was a matter of course--and in truth it was something very like it in that house. Mrs. Cratchit made the gravy (ready beforehand in a little saucepan) hissing hot; Master Peter mashed the potatoes with incredible vigour; Miss Belinda sweetened up the apple-sauce; Martha dusted the hot plates; Bob took Tiny Tim beside him in a tiny corner at the table; the two young Cratchits set chairs for everybody, not forgetting themselves, and, mounting guard upon their posts, crammed spoons into their mouths, lest they should shriek for goose before their turn came to be helped. At last the dishes were set on. and grace was said. It was succeeded by a breathless pause, as Mrs. Cratchit, looking slowly all along the carving knife, prepared to plunge it into the breast; but when she did, and when the long expected gush of stuffing issued forth, one murmur of delight arose all round the board, and even Tiny Tim, excited by the two young Cratchits, beat on the table with the handle of his knife, and feebly cried, "Hurrah!"

There never was such a goose. Bob said he didn't believe there ever was such a goose cooked. Its tenderness and flavour, size and cheapness, were the themes of universal admiration. Eked out by apple-sauce and mashed potatoes, it was a sufficient dinner for the whole family; indeed, as Mrs. Cratchit said with great delight (surveying one small atom of a bone upon the dish), they hadn't ate it all at last! Yet every one had had enough, and the youngest Cratchits in particular were steeped in sage and onion to the eyebrows! But now, the plates being changed by Miss Belinda, Mrs. Cratchit left the room alone--too nervous to bear witnesses--to take the pudding up, and bring it in.

Suppose it should not be done enough? Suppose it should break in turning out? Suppose somebody should have got over the wall of the backyard and stolen it, while they were merry with the goose--a supposition at which the two young Cratchits became livid! All sorts of horrors were supposed.

Hallo! A great deal of steam! The pudding was out of the copper. A smell like a washing-day! That was the cloth. A smell like an eating house and a pastry-cook's next door to each other, with a laundress's next door to that! That was the pudding! In half a minute Mrs. Cratchit entered--flushed, but smiling proudly--with the pudding, like a speckled cannon-ball, so hard and firm, blazing in half of half-a-quartern of ignited brandy, and bedight with Christmas holly stuck into the top.

Oh, a wonderful pudding! Bob Cratchit said, and calmly, too, that he regarded it as the greatest success achieved by Mrs. Cratchit since their marriage. Mrs. Cratchit said that, now the weight was off her mind, she would confess she had her doubts about the quantity of flour. Everybody had something to say about it, but nobody thought or said it was at all a small pudding for a large family. It would have been flat heresy to do so. Any Cratchit would have blushed to hint at such a thing.

At last the dinner was all done, the cloth was cleared, the hearth swept, and the fire made up. The compound in the jug being tasted, and considered perfect, tipples and oranges were put upon the table, and a shovelful of chestnuts on the fire. Then all the Cratchit family drew round the hearth in what Bob Cratchit called a circle, meaning half a one; and at Bob Cratchit's elbow stood the family display of glass--two tumblers and a custard-cup without a handle.

These held the hot stuff from the jug, however, as well as golden goblets would have done; and Bob served it out with beaming looks, while the chestnuts on the fire sputtered and cracked noisily. Then Bob proposed:

"A Merry Christmas to us all, my dears. God bless us!"

Which all the family reechoed.

"God bless us every one!" said Tiny Tim, the last of all.

(Above taken from this page).

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas 2010

Merry Christmas to all my friends out there in the bloggy world!
I hope you are having a fantastic day!

From Tori, Kero and Gwydion

Christmas (LBE and FD)

Christmas is marked on the 25 December (7 January for Orthodox Christians).

Christmas is a Christian holy day that marks the birth of Jesus, the son of God.

The story of Christmas
Jesus' birth, known as the nativity, is described in the New Testament of the Bible.

The Gospels of Matthew and Luke give different accounts. It is from them that the nativity story is pieced together.

Both accounts tell us that Jesus was born to a woman called Mary who was engaged to Joseph, a carpenter. The Gospels state that Mary was a virgin when she became pregnant.

In Luke's account Mary was visited by an angel who brought the message that she would give birth to God's son. According to Matthew's account, Joseph was visited by an angel who persuaded him to marry Mary rather than send her away or expose her pregnancy.

Matthew tells us about some wise men who followed a star that led them to Jesus' birthplace and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Luke tells how shepherds were led to Bethlehem by an angel.

According to tradition, Joseph and Mary travelled to Bethlehem shortly before Jesus' birth. Joseph had been ordered to take part in a census in his home town of Bethlehem.

All Jewish people had to be counted so the Roman Emperor could determine how much money to collect from them in tax. Those who had moved away from their family homes, like Joseph, had to return to have their names entered in the Roman records.

Joseph and Mary set off on the long, arduous 90-mile journey from Nazareth along the valley of the River Jordan, past Jerusalem to Bethlehem. Mary travelled on a donkey to conserve her energy for the birth.

But when they arrived in Bethlehem the local inn was already full with people returning for the census. The innkeeper let them stay in the rock cave below his house which was used as a stable for his animals.

It was here, next to the noise and filth of the animals, that Mary gave birth to her son and laid him in a manger.

Date of Christmas and precursors
The first Christmas
Candles and fires have been lit at mid-winter celebrations for thousands of years

The Gospels do not mention the date of Jesus' birth. It was not until the 4th century AD that Pope Julius I set 25th December as the date for Christmas. This was an attempt to Christianise the Pagan celebrations that already took place at this time of year. By 529, 25th December had become a civil holiday and by 567 the twelve days from 25th December to the Epiphany were public holidays.

Christmas is not only a Christian festival. The celebration has roots in the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah, the festivals of the ancient Greeks, the beliefs of the Druids and the folk customs of Europe.

Midwinter celebrations
Christmas comes just after the middle of winter. The sun is strengthening and the days are beginning to grow longer. For people throughout history this has been a time of feasting and celebration.

Ancient people were hunters and spent most of their time outdoors. The seasons and weather played a very important part in their lives and because of this they had a great reverence for, and even worshipped, the sun. The Norsemen of Northern Europe saw the sun as a wheel that changed the seasons. It was from the word for this wheel, houl, that the word yule (another name for Christmas) is thought to have come. At Winter Solstice the Norsemen lit bonfires, told stories and drank sweet ale.

The Romans also held a festival to mark the Winter Solstice. Saturnalia (from the God Saturn) ran for seven days from 17th December. It was a time when the ordinary rules were turned upside down. Men dressed as women and masters dressed as servants. The festival also involved processions, decorating houses with greenery, lighting candles and giving presents.

Holly is one of the symbols most associated with Christmas. Its religious significance pre-dates Christianity. It was previously associated with the Sun God and was important in Pagan customs. Some ancient religions used holly for protection. They decorated doors and windows with it in the belief it would ward off evil spirits.

Before Christianity came to the British Isles the Winter Solstice was held on the shortest day of the year (21st December). The Druids (Celtic priests) would cut the mistletoe that grew on the oak tree and give it as a blessing. Oaks were seen as sacred and the winter fruit of the mistletoe was a symbol of life in the dark winter months.

Judaism was the main religion of Israel at the time of Jesus' birth. The Jewish midwinter festival of Hanukkah marks an important part of Jewish history. It is eight days long and on each day a candle is lit. It is a time of remembrance, celebration of light, a time to give gifts and have fun.

Historical celebration
Christmas carols have existed since medieval times.

Christmas has always been a strange combination of Christian, Pagan and folk traditions. As far back as 389 AD, St Gregory Nazianzen (one of the Four Fathers of the Greek Church) warned against 'feasting in excess, dancing and crowning the doors'. The Church was already finding it hard to bury the Pagan remnants of the midwinter festival.

During the medieval period (c.400AD - c.1400AD) Christmas was a time for feasting and merrymaking. It was a predominantly secular festival but contained some religious elements.

Medieval Christmas lasted 12 days from Christmas Eve on 24th December, until the Epiphany (Twelfth Night) on 6th January. Epiphany comes from a Greek word that means 'to show', meaning the time when Jesus was revealed to the world. Even up until the 1800s the Epiphany was at least as big a celebration as Christmas day.

Many Pagan traditions had been brought to Britain by the invading Roman soldiers. These included covering houses in greenery and bawdy partying that had its roots in the unruly festival of Saturnalia.

The Church attempted to curb Pagan practices and popular customs were given Christian meaning. Carols that had started as Pagan songs for celebrations such as midsummer and harvest were taken up by the Church. By the late medieval period the singing of Christmas carols had become a tradition.

The Church also injected Christian meaning into the use of holly, making it a symbol for Jesus' crown of thorns. According to one legend, the holly's branches were woven into a painful crown and placed on Christ's head by Roman soldiers who mocked him, chanting: "Hail King of the Jews." Holly berries used to be white but Christ's blood left them with a permanent crimson stain.

Another legend is about a little orphan boy who was living with shepherds when the angels came to announce Jesus' birth. The child wove a crown of holly for the newborn baby's head. But when he presented it, he became ashamed of his gift and started to cry. Miraculously the baby Jesus reached out and touched the crown. It began to sparkle and the orphan's tears turned into beautiful scarlet berries.

Ban on Christmas
From the middle of the 17th century until the early 18th century the Christian Puritans suppressed Christmas celebrations in Europe and America.

The Puritan movement began during the reign of Queen Elizabeth in England (1558-1603). They believed in strict moral codes, plenty of prayer and close following of New Testament scripture.

As the date of Christ's birth is not in the Gospels the Puritans thought that Christmas was too strongly linked to the Pagan Roman festival and were opposed to all celebration of it, particularly the lively, boozy celebrations inherited from Saturnalia. In 1644 all Christmas activities were banned in England. This included decorating houses with evergreens and eating mince pies.

The crib and the nativity play
The telling of the Christmas story has been an important part of the Christianisation of Christmas. One way that the Christmas story has been maintained is through the crib, a model of the manger that Jesus was born in.

The tradition of crib making dates back to at least 400 AD when Pope Sixtus III had one built in Rome. In many parts of Europe in the 18th century crib making was an important craft form. This was not the case in England until much later, suggesting that British Christmases were less Christian than those in other parts of Europe.

The tradition of Nativity plays began in churches where they were used to illustrate the Christmas story as told in the Bible.

Victorian Christmas
After a lull in Christmas celebrations the festival returned with a bang in the Victorian Era (1837-1901). The Victorian Christmas was based on nostalgia for Christmases past. Dickens' A Christmas Carol (1843) inspired ideals of what Christmas should be, capturing the imagination of the British and American middle classes. This group had money to spend and made Christmas a special time for the family.

The Victorians gave us the kind of Christmas we know today, reviving the tradition of carol singing, borrowing the practice of card giving from St. Valentine's day and popularising the Christmas tree.

Although the Victorians attempted to revive the Christmas of medieval Britain, many of the new traditions were Anglo-American inventions. From the 1950s, carol singing was revived by ministers, particularly in America, who incorporated them into Christmas celebrations in the Church. Christmas cards were first sent by the British but the Americans, many of whom were on the move and away from their families, picked up the practice because of a cheap postal service and because it was a good way of keeping in contact with people at home.

Christmas trees were a German tradition, brought to Britain and popularised by the royal family. Prince Albert first introduced the Christmas tree into the royal household in Britain in 1834. He was given a tree as a gift by the Queen of Norway which was displayed in Trafalgar Square.

Modern celebration
Advent is the period of preparation for the celebration of the birth of Jesus and begins on Sunday nearest to 30th November. The word Advent comes from the Latin adventus meaning coming. Traditionally it is a penitential season but is no longer kept with the strictness of Lent and Christians are no longer required to fast.

Advent wreaths are popular especially in churches. They are made with fir branches and four candles. A candle is lit each Sunday during Advent.

Christmas Day is the Christian festival most celebrated by non-churchgoers, and churches are often completely full for the service late on Christmas Eve.

Father Christmas
An important part of today's Christmas is the myth of Father Christmas (called Santa Claus in America). His origins are in Christian and European tradition. But the visual image of Father Christmas that we have today is the one popularised by American card-makers in the Victorian era.

Traditionally, Father Christmas visits houses at midnight on Christmas Eve, coming down the chimney to leave presents. Children hang up stockings - nowadays usually large socks with Christmas patterns knitted into them - for Father Christmas to fill with little toys and presents ('stocking fillers').

Some traditions surrounding Father Christmas pre-date Christianity. His sleigh, pulled by reindeer, is left over from Scandinavian mythology. The practice of leaving mince pies and a glass of milk or brandy for him on Christmas Eve may be a remnant of Pagan sacrifices made to mark the end of winter and the coming of spring.

The USA has the figure of Santa Claus, whose name comes from Saint Nicholas via the Dutch Sinterklaas. Saint Nicholas of Myra (a location in modern-day Turkey) is, among other things, the patron saint of sailors. A famous story has him anonymously delivering bags of gold coins to a man who could not afford dowry for his daughters to get married. Some versions of this story even have Saint Nick dropping the bags down the chimney.

In modern times the figures of Father Christmas and Santa Claus are indistinguishable.
Christmas today

Today, only around 60 percent of people in the UK are Christian but Christmas remains the biggest holiday in the calendar. It is a largely secular holiday, with the main element the exchange of gifts on Christmas day.

In previous centuries the Church worried about Pagan influence on the Christian festival, but today ethical considerations are focused on the over-commercialism of the holiday, with the average person in the UK spending hundreds of pounds on Christmas-related purchases (an average of £384 in 2007, according to a Halifax report).

Protests against consumerism have been made by Christians and non-Christians such as 'Buy Nothing Christmas', encouraging people to spend time with their families instead of spending money on them.

With carol concerts, Christmas trees, office parties, midnight mass, and television programmes, today's festival has elements of the Pagan, Christian and folk traditions.

Christmas remains a time to forget about the long dark days and celebrate with friends and family.

(Above taken from this page

Friday, December 24, 2010

Furkid Friday: Christmasy photo shoot

Hi humans, it's Gwydion again.

Recently, the humans decided it was time for them to do our Christmasy photo shoot. So, they had Kero pose in front of the Christmas tree, and took this photo of him:

Then they had him pose in front of a really big Christmas present, and took this photo:

After that they realized that I was missing from the photos, so they came to get me from my cage, and I posed in front of the big present for them to take this photo of me:

And, finally, Kero and I agreed to pose together for them to take this photo:

Aren't we just so super cute?

Anyway, that Santa Paws person is meant to come tonight. I still don't get who he is, nor why he's coming, but apparently he's coming and Kero's excited about it, so I guess it must be exciting. Kero and I are both going to try and sleep with one eye open so as to spot Santa Paws coming, but I don't hold out much hope, since Kero's been doing this every year and still hasn't spotted him. Apparently one year there were 2 cats, 3 dogs, 3 hamsters and a rabbit on watch, and not one of them spotted him. That Santa Paws must be really, really sneaky to get past all those furkids without being spotted! We're still going to try and spot him though. Kero will let you know next Friday if we have any luck spotting Santa Paws, or if he manages to sneak in yet again to fill the stockings.

I am living inside at the moment, because it got so cold here that my dinner kept freezing, and the humans were worried I would become as frozen as my dinner, or that I would starve from not being able to eat. So I am currently living in my cage in the guest room.

The final thing I want to say is that Kero says to say "Yappy holidays" from him. I'm still not sure what this "Christmas" thing is all about, but I'm going to say that I hope you have a great time with whatever it is you're doing, and that I hope Santa Paws comes to your home and brings you nice stuff like Mami and Kero seem sure he'll do for us.

Squeak soon,

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Blogs, boilers and Christmas

Sorry I've not been around the blogs properly lately, but I've had a few things going on, and also kept getting distracted by Christmas movies. I even found a couple I hadn't seen, which I'll post reviews for in the next few weeks. Well, I also watched a few of the Christmas movies from my DVD collection... "One Magic Christmas" and "Santa Claus - The Movie" followed by "The Grinch" and "Miracle On 34th Street"... Which I wont be reviewing since I'm sure I have reviewed them in the past since they are ones I watch regularly at Christmas. And I'm sure people can figure out that I like them, since I own them. Anyway, I'll get to your blogs when I get the time. Sorry if I don't get to them this side of Christmas. It's nothing personal, honest!

Anyway, I said I'd tell you about the boiler today, so...

The new boiler was fitted in early August (or was it the very end of July? One or the other). They then sent someone out in September to do the usual anual checks of the heating system that are done by the council to check all is working well before Winter comes. We were told it was in complete working order, and didn't question it since it was brand new and all that. Anywayy, for a couple of days the boiler had been slow to start up, but we weren't worried... Maybe it was cold too? Then, Saturday evening we discovered that not only was it not working, but water was coming out of the bottom of it. We turned the mains switch to it off, put towels under it to soak up the water, and called the emergency line (because it was out of hours). They said someone would come in the morning, because they didn't consider it enough of an emergancy to have someone out late at night. So, the temperatures are way below freezing, it's the middle of Winter, we have no heating or hot water with the boiler not working, but no, it's not important that people come out quickly... Of course it isn't! *Shaking head* Anyway, we said, OK, figuring it was just one night, so not a huge deal. About mid morning on Sunday someone came out and told us what had happened was that the pipe that leads outside (the one that water goes out of after it goes around the pipes in the house, I assume) had frozen, giving the water no escape and causing it to flow the only way it could... Back in to the boiler. This had then shorted out the fan that powers it, while at the same time the water - with nowhere to go - had found some way of leaking out of the bottom of the boiler. Of course, the guy had no spare fans, so said he would get one and be with us the following morning. So, Monday morning - after another night with no heat and no hot water - we waited, and waited, and... Eventually there was no morning left and it was lunch time. So, I called them. They said he'd picked up the new fan and would be with us any minute now. This was at noon, and he arrived around 1:15 pm. But he was here, and he had the fan. Unfortunately what he didn't have was instructions or knowledge about the new boiler. Luckily we'd been given a set of instructions for it, so we fetched them for him. First he had to defrost the pipe, which took him ages, then he replaced the fan. But it still wouldn't work. To cut a long story short, after having him here from around 1:15 pm until a couple of minutes before 4:00 pm, it was discovered that the reason for the slowness of the boiler starting up recently was that the ignition for it was damaged, and the part that filters the gas in to it to power it was also damaged. I'd have wondered if he was pulling a fast one if it wasn't for the fact that: 1. Kelly was shown the damaged parts and could see they were damaged. 2. we know he was genuinely struggling to get it to work again. And, 3. since we live in council property he couldn't have been after money from us... The council pay for maintanence on their properties, and things like boiler repair come in to that. Something I'm extremely pleased about due to the replacement of three items and the close to 3 hours he spent here working on fixing it. So, we spent almost 48 hours with no heating and no hot water. Man were we pleased to have that boiler fixed again! I'm sure the boys were pleased to have heat too! They have to come back though... They didn't put a new pipe on outside after removing the frozen pipe (which, if I'm not mistaken, got damaged while being defrosted).

I thought we also had a broken washing machine, only it turned out I'd caught one of the other buttons on it, and it wouldn't work because of that. Because whatever I'd done had made all the lights start flashing at us we weren't sure what was going on. Mam and Dad were both on standby for laundry pick up. Only I decided if it was flashing it was probably trying to tell us something, and if I was wrong and it was broken then surely pressing stuff wouldn't make any difference... Right? So I decided to press the buttons on it and hope for the best. I spent over 24 hours randomly pressing buttons at random intervals, then - yesterday - it started working and has worked fine since. That's why I'm thinking I caught a wrong button, because it had to be me who did it, since I had washed a load just before it appeared to have died, and nobody else had touched it since then. We only have so much washing to do because of all the towels from trying to stop the leaky boiler flooding the kitchen or I wouldn't have even touched it after grabbing the clothes out of it from that first load. I am glad it was just a button being pressed and not the washing machine breaking though. I mean, things like washing machines being fixed or replaced come out of our pocket after all. ;)


Christmas is just two days away! Are you ready? Or are you one of those people who leaves preporations and any shopping til the last minute? I did go with Mam while she got some last minute bits today, but we managed to finish our shopping on Tuesday (once the roads were clear enough for cabs to be running again, so Kelly didn't have to walk home with several bags of stuff). We have all our Christmas dinner food, the stuff for Boxing Day when my family are here for a buffet and present exchanging, the present we were missing for Kero, and a whole bunch of stuff we didn't need, but we like, and... Well, it is Christmas, and everyone has a few more treats than normal at Christmas... Right? ;)

Looks like I'm getting a white Christmas this year! YAY! The only way I'm not is if there's a sudden heat wave that causes all the snow to suddenly melt within the next couple of days, since there's still a lot of snow on the ground, and it snowed a little again today (only for a few minutes, and no more than maybe half an inch - if that - but still). But the forecast is for more snow in these next couple of days. So a white Christmas for me this year! YAY! Of course, I'm one of very few people pleased about this (and most of the rest of the people pleased are under 10 years old, I think) but I'm not bothered. The roads are clear enough that people can get places if they drive carefully - which they should be doing anyway - but I still get snow. Everyone wins! LOL! ;)

OK, well, I think this will do for today. Except for one final message... To all of you who are spending Christmas with a loved one missing from your lives for one reason or another, please know that you are in my thoughts this Christmas! All my friends will be in my thoughts, but some of you need the little extra reminder this year, I think!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Winter wonderland in Wales (LBE)

As I mentioned in the early hours of Friday, I woke up to find that it was snowing. So, naturally, I grabbed my camera and got a couple of photos. And, here they are:

Within a few hours, our garden looked like this:

And Kero and I were ready to venture outside to play in the snow.

Of course, first Kelly needed to shovel some of the snow so we could get to check on Gwydion.

While Kero supervised.

Then - secure in the knowledge that Gwydion was OK - I threw some snowballs for Kero to catch.

Now tired of attacking snowballs, Kero decided it was time to have a roll in the snow.

Stopping from time to time to shake the snow from his fur.

I guess at some point during his snow rolling game he found something interesting buried under the snow, because he decided to dig it up.

And play with it a bit.

"Right," says Kero. "Now, how do I get on to the rest of the garden?"

"This path is blocked by snow," says Kero. "So I guess I'm not going this way after all!"

After a while Kero's paws started to get cold...

... So he decided he wanted to go in. I figured it would be a great opertunity to make the big snowman I wanted to make. Except that when Kero noticed I wasn't indoors he started whining at the door to come back out. We then ended up playing the in and out game that furkids play so well (and I hear human kids are good at too). Kero would want in because he was cold, then he'd want out because I didn't go in. Then he'd want back in because he was cold. Then he would want back out. Then - just to mix it up a bit - he decided to try and get to a new part of the garden, only to end up climbing over a large snowdrift and getting himself stuck the other side of it so that I had to find where he was and rescue him. The result was that I gave up on the large snowman and made a snowdog pal for Kero instead. Of course, I had to get a photo of Kero with the snowdog. Kero wasn't interested in having his photo taken with the snowdog though.

But, eventually, I was able to persuade him to pose with the snowdog for me.

There was about six inches or so on the ground at this point, but it started snowing again after we were done playing, and we soon had a few more inches. By Friday evening we had almost a foot of snow, and still more fell on Saturday. I think it got up to about 19 or 20 inches by Sunday morning. Probably not much to most of you, but normally we only get a couple of inches, then it melts, then we might - if we're lucky - get a few more inches so that we end up with a couple of foot eventually, but never have more than about 4 inches on the ground at any given time. So, I'm sure you can imagine how excited I was about having so much snow on the ground at one time. The local kids were probably really pleased too, but I think the kids and I were the only ones around here pleased to have all the snow. Kero was pleased at first, but his enthusiasm waned when the level of snow got above a foot. I'm not surprised since Kero's only a foot high at the shoulder, so I guess once he was up to his neck in the snow it lost its appeal. Probably due to the difficulty in moving about in it, and the fact that each time he so much as went out for a pee I had to remove the snow that had packed itself around his paws from his attempts at finding a route to his favourite spots in the garden. My excitement about the snow still holds fast though. Despite the complications with getting hold of the rest of the food items needed for over Christmas, and even despite what happened with the boiler (which I'll tell you about tomorrow').

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Yule 2010

Yule blessings to one and all!

From Tori, Kero and Gwydion

Winter Solstice

The Pagan celebration of Winter Solstice (also known as Yule) is one of the oldest winter celebrations in the world.

Ancient people were hunters and spent most of their time outdoors. The seasons and weather played a very important part in their lives. Because of this many ancient people had a great reverence for, and even worshipped the sun. The Norsemen of Northern Europe saw the sun as a wheel that changed the seasons. It was from the word for this wheel, houl, that the word yule is thought to have come. At mid-winter the Norsemen lit bonfires, told stories and drank sweet ale.

The ancient Romans also held a festival to celebrate the rebirth of the year. Saturnalia ran for seven days from the 17th of December. It was a time when the ordinary rules were turned upside down. Men dressed as women and masters dressed as servants. The festival also involved decorating houses with greenery, lighting candles, holding processions and giving presents.

The Winter Solstice falls on the shortest day of the year (21st December) and was celebrated in Britain long before the arrival of Christianity. The Druids (Celtic priests) would cut the mistletoe that grew on the oak tree and give it as a blessing. Oaks were seen as sacred and the winter fruit of the mistletoe was a symbol of life in the dark winter months.

It was also the Druids who began the tradition of the yule log. The Celts thought that the sun stood still for twelve days in the middle of winter and during this time a log was lit to conquer the darkness, banish evil spirits and bring luck for the coming year.

Many of these customs are still followed today. They have been incorporated into the Christian and secular celebrations of Christmas.

(Above taken from this page).

Monday, December 20, 2010

Celebrating The Winter Solstice

Most of the customs, lore, symbols, and rituals associated with "Christmas" actually are linked to Winter Solstice celebrations of ancient Pagan cultures. While Christian mythology is interwoven with contemporary observances of this holiday time, its Pagan nature is still strong and apparent. Pagans today can readily re-Paganize Christmastime and the secular New Year by giving a Pagan spiritual focus to existing holiday customs and by creating new traditions that draw on ancient ways. Here are some ways to do this: Celebrate Yule with a series of rituals, feasts, and other activities.

In most ancient cultures, the celebration lasted more than a day. The ancient Roman Saturnalia festival sometimes went on for a week. Have Winter Solstice Eve and Day be the central focus for your household, and conceptualize other holiday festivities, including New Year's office parties and Christmas visits with Christian relatives, as part of your Solstice celebration. By adopting this perspective, Pagan parents can help their children develop an understanding of the multicultural and interfaith aspects of this holiday time and view "Christmas" as just another form of Solstice. Have gift exchanges and feasts over the course of several days and nights as was done of old. Party hearty on New Year's Eve not just to welcome in the new calendar year, but also to welcome the new solar year.

Adorn the home with sacred herbs and colors. Decorate your home in Druidic holiday colors red, green, and white. Place holly, ivy, evergreen boughs, and pine cones around your home, especially in areas where socializing takes place.

Hang a sprig of mistletoe above a major threshold and leave it there until next Yule as a charm for good luck throughout the year. Have family/household members join together to make or purchase an evergreen wreath. Include holiday herbs in it and then place it on your front door to symbolize the continuity of life and the wheel of the year. If you choose to have a living or a harvested evergreen tree as part of your holiday decorations, call it a Solstice tree and decorate it with Pagan symbols.

Convey love to family, friends, and associates. At the heart of Saturnalia was the custom of family and friends feasting together and exchanging presents. Continue this custom by visiting, entertaining, giving gifts, and sending greetings by mail and/or phone. Consider those who are and/or have been important in your life and share appreciation.

Reclaim Santa Claus as a Pagan Godform. Today's Santa is a folk figure with multicultural roots. He embodies characteristics of Saturn (Roman agricultural god), Cronos (Greek god, also known as Father Time), the Holly King (Celtic god of the dying year), Father Ice/Grandfather Frost (Russian winter god), Thor (Norse sky god who rides the sky in a chariot drawn by goats), Odin/Wotan (Scandinavian/Teutonic All-Father who rides the sky on an eight-legged horse), Frey (Norse fertility god), and the Tomte (a Norse Land Spirit known for giving gifts to children at this time of year). Santa's reindeer can be viewed as forms of Herne, the Celtic Horned God. Decorate your home with Santa images that reflect His Pagan heritage.

Honor the Goddess as Great Mother. Place Pagan Mother Goddess images around your home. You may also want to include one with a Sun child, such as Isis with Horus. Pagan Goddess forms traditionally linked with this time of year include Tonantzin (Native Mexican corn mother), Holda (Teutonic earth goddess of good fortune), Bona Dea (Roman women's goddess of abundance and prophecy), Ops (Roman goddess of plenty), Au Set/Isis (Egyptian/multicultural All Goddess whose worship continued in Christian times under the name Mary), Lucina/St. Lucy(Roman/Swedish goddess/saint of light), and Befana (Italian Witch who gives gifts to children at this season).

Honor the new solar year with light. Do a Solstice Eve ritual in which you meditate in darkness and then welcome the birth of the sun by lighting candles and singing chants and Pagan carols. If you have a indoor fireplace or an outdoor fire circle, burn an oak log as a Yule log and save a bit to start next year's fire. Decorate the inside and/or outside of your home with electric colored lights. Because of the popularity of five pointed stars as holiday symbols, this is a good time to display a pentagram of blue or white lights.

Contribute to the manifestation of more wellness on Planet Earth. Donate food and clothing to poor in your area. Volunteer time at a social service agency. Put up bird feeders and keep them filled throughout the winter to supplement the diets of wild birds. Donate funds and items to non-profit groups, such as Pagan/Wiccan churches and environmental organizations. Meditate for world peace. Work magic for a healthier planet. Make a pledge to do some form of good works in the new solar year.

by Selena Fox
Posted on Gypsy Magic as part of the Celebrating The Winter Solstice post.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Happy 50th birthday, Mam

Today - December 19th 2010 - is my Mam's 50th birthday.

I didn't ask her about posting her age, but she makes no secret of it, so I see no reason why not to mention it. I mean, it's not like she's one of those people who still insist they're 30 even though the fact they have children of around that age means there's no way that's possible. Besides, 50 is one of those numbers a lot of people make a big deal about. Mam, for example, had a big party last night to celebrate. Parties aren't my thing, but she enjoys them, and hopefully the party took her mind off everything else going on right now... Even if it was only for a very short time.

Anyway, happy 50th birthday, Mam!

The Babies' Blankets

~Author Unknown~

"Such a cold day," sighed Mother Nature, "and no blankets to keep my babies warm! Little Jack Frost came over the hill last night, and what mischief the boy is planning to do now, it is hard to tell. He is such a happy little fellow, but is always up to some prank. If Father Winter does not send me some blankets soon, I fear Jack will pinch my babies' toes, and pull their ears, and make them shiver till they am ready to freeze. I have put them to bed and told them to keep quiet, and perhaps Jack will not see them."

"Ha! ha! ha!" laughed a tinkling voice right at the dear old lady's elbow. "Some of your children did not mind you. Early this morning I found one of them whispering to a sunbeam, and under the hedge found a tiny blue aster. I shook her till she was so cold she was glad to go back to bed again. Ha! ha! ha!" and Jack gave Mother Nature such a hug that she shivered, and murmured: "Poor babies! I must write a letter to Father Winter."

This is what the letter said:

Earthdom, November 1, 2005.

Dear Father Winter:
Have you any warm blankets for my babies? The season is coming when they should take a long, long nap, and Jack is up to his tricks again. Please send me some blankets soon.

From your old friend,
Mother Nature.

This letter she directed to:

King Winter
The Polar Regions

Then she called her messenger, Autumn Wind, and sent him northward with her message. King Winter was seated on his throne at the back of the North Wind, planning his coming work in Earthdom, when Autumn Wind arrived with the letter.

"Deary me! deary me!" said the king, "has Jack Frost gone to bother Mother Nature? I meant he should wait for me this year. But something must be done. Ho! Snowflake, come here, and bring your sisters and brothers with you."

In a few moments a troop of dainty beings clothed in white came dancing along. "What do you wish, Father Winter?" they asked.

"Mother Nature has need of you, my helpers," replied the king. "You must, stop the next passing cloud, and go down to Earthdom, and cover up the babies. Jack is there, and they are freezing."

Just then a golden-edged cloud floated by, and the snowflakes huddled together on it and were soon travelling earthward. The sun was setting as they passed the western gate of the city, and the cloud was tinged with red and gold. By and by it began to grow dark, and the little cloud grew larger and larger, and before long the night came. In the morning the little children of Earthdom were surprised to see a white covering over the land.

"See the snow, the beautiful. snow" they cried; and the sleds were brought out, and such a merry time as they had playing in the white drifts! But I wonder if any of them knew what the snow really came for, and how glad dear Mother Nature was because her babies were sleeping safe and warm under the downy snowflake blankets.

(Above taken from here).

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Christmas decorations 2010

Christmas day is only a week away, so to get anyone not yet in a Christmasy mood in to a Christmasy mood, here are some photos of the few Christmas decorations we put up this year.

This wind chime I've had for a few years, but it doesn't usually make it in to photos properly. This year though it's on our front door (since we don't have a reef this year):

We've had the same Christmas tree for three years now, with the same bulb in it, I think the photo from when we brought it is on my blog from the year in question (in fact, I'd be surprised if it isn't). Anyway, here's our Christmas tree all lit up:

I don't know if you can see the ball near the bottom of the tree, but it plays Christmas tunes when shaken or moved in some other way (vibrations from dog barking set it off too). I put it there in hopes it would go off sometimes, but not too often. My plan works, as long as not too many people give reasons for Kero to bark and set it off. :)

And - as you'll know if you read Kero's post - our tree has presents under and around it now:

These are just some bits we put up:

They're just bits and pieces I've collected over the years. The angel in the red dress was on our tree when I was young, then my Mam gave it to me when I moved out, because they had something else for their tree, and I really like her. The Santa with the candle I brought my first Christmas on my own. I spotted it at the post office when I went to send cards and such, and I liked it, so I brought it. The reindeer I got about two years ago because it plays, "Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer," and I thought that was cool, so I wanted it. The little tree and the small angel beside it are wooden ornaments I got two years ago because they have the greetings in braille as well as in print. And the tiny little stocking was removed from a card a special friend had made for me for Christmas last year. I don't keep old cards (I used to, but I kept running out of places to put them) but I thought the stocking made a cute ornament, so I carefully removed it from the card and put it safely with the Christmas ornaments before putting the card itself in for recycling with the rest of the Christmas cards.

And these are our lights:

I don't think you can tell in the photos, but they're shaped like snowman heads with hats on them, which is why I brought them a couple of years ago. Fun to look at for people who can see them, but fun shapes for me to enjoy them too! :)

There is one other decoration we put up, but I forgot to get a photo of it. It's a raised plastic scene of Santa Claus being climbed all over by some puppies. I've had it for years and years... It's a bit battered looking these days, but I still put it up each year. This year it's in our bedroom window. Since I forgot to take a new photo of it, but I knew there was a photo in my previous year's Christmas decoration posts, I found a link to a photo of it for you. So, if you want to see it, just click right here.

I hope that you all enjoyed seeing my Christmas decoration photos. And, thank you very much Iggy for sorting these photos for me! :)

Friday, December 17, 2010

Furkid Friday: Santa Paws and snow

Hi humans, it's Kero here.

I'm really excited and waggy tailed... Santa Paws is coming really soon... Mami says next week! There are presents under the tree, and some of them smell like they might be doggy presents! You know what that means? That means that soon Santa Paws will come to fill up the stockings, and after he does that we will be allowed to see what's in all those interesting smelling, brightly coloured packages under the tree! And, guess what else? Dadi got a ham the other day, and Mami and Dadi say that after we have the presents it will get cooked, and then I will get to have some of it for my Christmas dinner! Isn't that great? Gwydion still doesn't get what the excitement is all about, but I'm sure I smell guinea pig treats among the presents, so maybe he'll be a bit more excited when he discovers he has lots of treats? I'm not bothered though... I'm excited enough for the two of us!

You should see all the snow that's in our garden now! When we got up in the night there was only a couple of inches, but now there's at least a foot of it, and it's still coming down. If it gets any deeper I'm going to have trouble going out in the garden. That doesn't stop me going out there to roll in the snow though! Oh, and if you're wondering, Mami says it's fine if there's all this snow when Santa Paws is due to come, because apparently where he lives there's loads more than this, plus she said something about flying reindeer... Whatever they are!

Excited licks and sniffs,

Snow's back!

Guess what? Guess what? There's about 2 inches of snow on the ground, and it's still falling! I don't think much more will fall, but 2 inches is 2 inches! All I care about is... My snow is back! :)

I tried to grab a couple of photos, but I know it's dark out there, so I'm not sure how well they worked. I'll try to remember to try again when I know it's light out, then those of you who can't get enough snow - so, basically, Rita, lol - can see them when I can get them sorted to post.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Basically Christmasy chit-chat (FD)

Tomorrow we will be exactly a week away from Christmas eve. Can you believe it? Are you ready for it? We've got all our Christmas shopping done, I'm just waiting for one thing to arrive, which should come any day now. And we have to write the cards for the family yet, but they'll get done either later or tomorrow, because I need to have them ready for Saturday. Carl and Rachel are visiting for the weekend because Mam's birthday is Sunday and we're having a big party for her Saturday, so I need the family cards ready to be given out Saturday while Carl and Rachel are here to have theirs. The other cards are written, and the ones that needed to be posted were posted last Friday along with any presents that had to be posted. In theory any parcels, packages and cards that haven't yet reached their destinations should do so in the next few days, so should be with people by Christmas. The only other thing we need to do for the holidays is to get the bits we're sorting for the family buffet we're having Boxing Day - which is when we'll be exchanging gifts with my parents, Nan and Wayne - but Kelly's sorting that stuff on Monday. Mam's getting the rest of the buffet stuff and bringing it with her on Boxing Day when she comes. We have our Christmas dinners sorted out though. It was more difficult sorting mine than Kelly's. I don't mean figuring mine out, I mean finding it. There's a nut roast - basically mixed nuts, butternut sqquash, pumpkin, and I think just a few herbs - that Mam found last year, and I liked it a lot. Anyway, since I needed a vegetarian Christmas dinner it was the first thing I thought of. Only we couldn't find it. Mam was sure it came from either Iceland or Tescos, but after searching the vegetarian sections of both shops we had no luck in finding anything other than the usual stuff they have all year round. The only other option was Asda, but we don't have a local one, so I went online to have a look. Sure enough, there it was... One of the first things listed in their "frozen vegetarian and meat free" section on their website. So, I decided to do an online shop with them so as to grab some. I also got some sage and onion stuffing balls, since - when you're having the stuffing as part of a vegetarian meal - it's easier to be able to just grab a couple of stuffing balls rather than making up a batch of stuffing mix just for a couple of spoonfuls of it. So, I'm having my nut roast, some stuffing balls, cranberry sauce, parsnips, roast potatoes, sprouts, carrots, broccoli and peas. The broccoli and peas are added because they need to be done for Kelly. He's having a ham for his dinner (hence a stuffing mix not being made up) and he doesn't like parsnips and sprouts, so without the broccoli and peas - which are vegetables he will actually eat - he'd just have ham, roast potatoes and carrots. Since we're making him the broccoli and peas, and since I have issues with my iron level, it was decided that I'd have the broccoli and peas added to my dinner too. Even the boys get special dinners. Gwydion will have his own fresh carrot, plus his usual vegetable peelings, and Kero will have some of the hamwith a roast potato or two (I never give him more than that, because he doesn't always eat potato) and I'll add some gravy soaked dog biscuits to it to bulk it up a bit for him. So... Are you hungry yet? LOL!

It's still cold here. I woke up today to hear the wind howling outside like a pack of wolves. I had to go out there though, because I had to check on Gwydion, and Kero had to pee. There's no more snow though. *Looks sad* But there's still time for more to come in time for Christmas. It would be awesome if it snowed from Christmas eve evening and then over night so we could wake up to a white Christmas. It doesn't have to be a lot of snow... Just enough so we can say it was a white Christmas this year. Knowing how our weather works though we probably wont have much snow around Christmas, but will have loads from probably about mid to late January in to maybe March or something.

I went to order my tablets yesterday, only to discover that the chemist had decided to no longer accept orders for refills of prescriptions over the phone. Yeah, nice of them to give people a heads up, you think? They wanted me to come and fill out a form to give them permission to refill the prescription for me when it needs doing and bring it to me. When I told them that would be difficult for me to do they got nasty. Well, until I mentioned the reason it would be difficult. All of a sudden it was fine to do it over the phone this one time, but Kelly has to fetch the prescription and fill out the form on my behalf while he's fetching it on Monday. Yeah, it wont be ready until Monday. Well, actually, it will be ready just before closing time Friday, "probably," (the "probably" was their word) but since they could only guarantee Monday - they're closed on the weekend due to being part of the doctors' surgery, which is only open Monday to Friday - and since Kelly also needs time to sort the form thing, I figured I wouldn't make him go there until Monday. Besides, I have enough of my tablets to last until the end of next week, I'm just in the habit of ordering them earlier than needed so as to make sure I actually have them when I need them. Also, most things are closed around Christmas, so I wouldn't like to be attempting to get a refill sorted on top of Christmas. Yes, I know Monday is hardly ages away from Christmas, but you know what I mean.

I can't think of anything else to say. So, I'll just say that the message of yesterday's post still applies, and you are still in my thoughts. Stay safe, and stay warm!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Thinking, remembering and contemplating

At this time of year it's natural for people to reflect on past years, contemplate what's in store for the coming year(s), and start thinking about any changes they may want to make in their lives. I know I personally spend a lot of time between the Celtic New Year (November 1st) and the official New Year thinking about things in my past, present and future. I suppose having my birthday during that time probably contributes to the fact I feel reflections, contemplations and thoughts of the future are necessary this time of year. With the events of this past year - in particular those of the past few months - still clearly felt in my family, this year especially has been one where I have spent a lot of time just thinking. I have especially found myself dwelling on past holidays. It's OK though, I don't plan on taking trips down memory lane in this post. Apart from anything else, that would take way too long and make this post longer than my longest "essay" style posts from the past, and I'm sure right now most people don't have the time to read those really long and rambling posts. Anyway, amid my musings I all but ignored the blogs, deciding instead to sit and think in between watching Christmas movies and eating sweet mince pies. I sorted out a few things in my head that I needed to sort out, made a few plans I needed to make, blah, blah, blah. So, basically what I'm trying to say here is... Sorry I've not been around the blogs properly lately, but I've been wrapped up with some things I've needed to think about, and watching Christmas movies. Oh, and from time to time I've managed to get some sleep too, but only in short naps. That's the trouble with thinking. It makes switching down to go to sleep impossible, so contributes to making an already irregular sleeping pattern even worse than it was before you started thinking.

I know that some people find this time of year difficult, and that others who might not have before hand may have had something happen recently to change that. Those people have been - and will remain - in my thoughts. I'm not really the praying kind, or they would also be in my prayers. But I want you all to know that I'm thinking of you and your family at this time, and that - for those of you in need of it - I am sending you hugs. I would do more if I could, but all I can do is offer thoughts and hugs. If the holidays are hard for you, then please know that there is someone out there who is thinking about you, especially if you are going through a tough time at the moment.

Also, if it's as cold with you as it is here, then please try to keep warm!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

About Christmas movies

See what I mean about all the Christmas movies I've been watching lately? Bearing in mind, I didn't bother to include the ones I know I mentioned on here before, like "The Muppet's Christmas Carol" because I didn't see the point in reviewing movies I've already reviewed... Even if it was a couple of years ago I reviewed them. Hmm... I need to get out more, maybe? LOL! Well, can I help it if I absolutely love watching Christmas movies? LOL! Anyway, I don't know if there will be any more Christmas movie reviews this year... It depends if I find any new Christmas movies to watch. I've got to be running out of ones I haven't reviewed on here though. I know I've reviewed the ones in my collection, which I will be watching in the days leading up to Christmas. I don't think I need to say that I enjoy those ones though, because if I didn't then I wouldn't have them on DVD, would I? So, if you're wondering which ones I enjoy enough to have in my DVD collection, then they are... In no particular order (though the first two are my most favourite movies, which I've watched every year since I was really young and used to have on VHS until I literally wore the tapes out and had to replace them):

One Magic Christmas
Santa Claus - The Movie
The Polar Express
The Hogfather
The Nightmare Before Christmas
Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer
The Grinch (movie version)
How The Grinch Stole Christmas (the short animated version)

The Family Holiday

"A selfish con-man must show that he can be a family man to inherit his uncle's estate. As he tries to set up his scam family, he realizes that he really wants to have a family."

"At Christmas Time, a guy named Donald Doc Holiday (played by Full House Dave Coulier) is a con man, cheating people out of money so he can live on the streets. He then comes across two orphan kids, brother and sister who is ready to be separated to different foster homes. The kids plan to stay together no matter what. The kids and Donald pretends that they are a family so Donald can get money from his dead relative. Donald and the kids gets a Nanny who thinks they are real family and doesn't know the truth. The foster home man is on the kids tail and the kids give him a hard way to go which will make you laugh. The truth will come out and Donald Holiday will learn the true meaning of Christmas. If you love good family Christmas movies. You will love The Family Holiday. I really enjoyed it, and you will too."

(Above taken from this page).

This was a really good movie, with a very nice ending!