It’s the Little Things That Count

 

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Some people call this part of the year the ‘silly season’, and I am sure I am not the only one amongst us who is guilty of thinking that they can be Superwoman (or Superman!) and do absolutely everything. I know I’ve burnt the candle at both ends many a night, running around making sure that everything is perfect. But the truth is, sometimes everything can still be a little fraught….

I would love to be writing that all is incredibly calm, and that we’re relaxing by the fire with nothing to do but enjoy each other’s company and the Christmas atmosphere. But actually the truth is far removed from such an imagined idyl. This year, unusually, the children are still in school this week; they don’t break up until Friday afternoon and so our time-table is still all about early mornings, homework, sports and everything else associated with term-time.

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One night last week I lay in bed with a thousand things whirling around in my head; I was thinking of all the things I still had to do, and wondering how I was going to achieve even half of it. And then I wondered if perhaps I’m the only one that actually notices if everything isn’t all perfect, and if I’m the only one that even gives it a second thought. A moment later came the thought that what matters far far more, involves laughter, fun and conviviality. I distinctly remember thinking this was a positive thought and I closed my eyes and fell asleep with the mantra “What gets done, gets done and what doesn’t wont hurt anyone!” running through my brain.

So this year, whilst everyone around is losing their heads, I have decided I will keep mine safely to hand. I’m going to take the relaxed approach – which means remaining resolutely calm and taking a few minutes to focus on the little details. It also means letting the big things unfold as they always do, but enjoying all the small things – one of which is a good walk. Excellent for the soul and recharging those batteries, not to mention burning a few of those excess Christmas calories!

Walking involves the dogs of course, and how can we resist these faces?  Mention the word ‘walk’ and they immediately stand to attention, staring at me with pleading eyes.

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Gather up their leads and they burst with barely controllable excitement.img_3744

At this time of year we’ll often return home after dark, but it means we get to enjoy all the festive lights and somehow everywhere has the most calming of influences; our local decorations are stylishly simple.

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But behind closed doors the eager anticipation is mounting, certainly with the younger members of our family. A favourite pastime is sitting under the tree and taking stock of every new present that has been added during the day or night. “Honestly, I wasn’t really feeling the shape and trying to guess what it is; it was her!”

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Every evening we light lots of candles, they are very much a part of our simple decoration scheme this year.

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We’ve been baking yet more batches of mince pies, because they never seem to last more than a couple of days. Roddy is already muttering about New Year resolutions….

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and we’ve been perfecting our fresh fruit tartlets. I add a sprinkle of icing sugar just before serving and they are fabulous. I took the recipe for the Crème Anglaise from one of Mary Berry’s television shows and I will post it on the Our French Lifestyle website tonight.

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The champagne is on ice ready for overseas family to arriveP7330742

and we’ve been stocking up with vegetables and wine at the local market. It’s going to be a few days of feasting in the simplest of ways – cooking together, sharing, chatting and eating, with good company and good conversation – all the things that happen at the end of a long year when family and friends get together.img_3207P7330712

And just to make sure that the days get off to a good start our hens have been good girls and despite the cold weather they are still laying relatively well. Hopefully next time you see an ‘egg photo’ here there will be a couple of blue ones to look out for!

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Breakfast has always been my favourite meal of the day and with a full house it’s best to be prepared; having a few essentials can make all the difference. And while some people like eggs, be they baked, poached, scrambled, in an omelette or a frittata….

….I personally prefer fresh fruit and yoghurt with those little glass pots of French yoghurt found in all our supermarkets. I think they look delightful on any table; simplicity could not get any simpler!

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And of course there are always some fresh croissants and pain au chocolat to hand, either eaten plain with a delicious big mug of café au lait or dipped in bowls of steaming hot chocolate; they will always be a big hit!

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And then when everyone is just too tired to do anything much at all, everything reverts back to the  Christmas road, when for once lying around doing nothing really does make perfect sense.

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And the best way to end the day is around the fireP7330839

With a good glass of wine and perhaps a bowl of nuts (especially if you have children because they always love to crack them and will never tire of the job, ensuring everyone has more than their fill!), feeling warm and extremely cosy.

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It’s one of my favourite parts of Christmas and I find just staring into the flames sparks all sorts of discussions, and a wee while in front of an open fire at this time of year always leads me down memory lane; I can remember my father and I doing just this when I was a child, just sitting, watching the flickering fire as the flames curled around the logs, licking at the wood. We would talk away in an easy unhurried fashion for hours, just watching, sometimes not saying anything at all. For him as a farmer, Christmas day still began and ended with animals to care for, but time gleaned in between the farm hours always seemed so precious. I can smell my mother’s turkey in the kitchen still, see the presents under our tree, and somehow snow makes an appearance too. The flames, though, they never change. They are always part of the memory.

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But those were Christmases then, and today we have Christmases now – it would be foolish to compare, for times have moved on and things are very different. Even the past 20 years have brought so many changes – faces have grown and changed, while some have tearfully disappeared, but hopefully there will at some stage be new, small faces. It’s a time of year when while it is good to reminisce and pay homage to old memories, it’s important to acknowledge the present, and fun to imagine what future Christmases might bring.

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I write this today as our planet, out in space and deep in the farthest point of its solar cycle, revolves and starts its long slow journey back to the warmth of summer. Christmas is therefore really always in the part of the year that looks forward, and we should do the same, for it is the start of a new solar year.  I hope the flames burn warm for you all this holiday and hope all your wishes come true. XXX

 

 

126 thoughts on “It’s the Little Things That Count

  • Lovely post, as always. Christmas for me has always been about feasting, and family. I wanted you to know that I received a package from your Etsy shop yesterday and everything arrived intact. I am always so hesitant to order pottery from past experiences of unsettling rattles when the box finally arrives. But, everything was beautifully, securely packaged! I am very pleased with my purchases. Merry Christmas to you and your family.

    • Thank you so much Bonnie, I am so pleased that everything has arrived safe and sound, that makes me very happy. I so agree with you, Christmas is all about feasting with our family, aren’t we so lucky for these simple pleasures. Wishing you a very Merry Christmas xx

  • A very timely reminder to us all to just slow down, the streets and shops have gone crazy here, everyone is rushed, rude and in a state of near panic. I fear the real meaning of Christmas has long since disappeared for many to be replaced by the increasingly ugly face of commercialism and a ‘must have’ society. Enjoy your little things and your walks, your children are the lucky ones to grow up in such a beautiful household. Christmas blessings to you all xoxo

    • I do sometimes worry that the very meaning of Christmas has indeed been forgotten by a great many people. But so long as we remember and pass the real meaning onto our children then there is always hope. Wishing you a very Merry Christmas xx

  • I fear the UK is one of those places where the spirit of Christmas has been lost on the High Street. What is it like in France, the same or less so? I cannot believe your children are still in school, do they go back very late in January this year as a result?

    • It is rather manic here also, only yesterday afternoon, I was in Rochefort with two of the girls, we literally could not move for people, there were traffic jams where roads normally run smoothly, it is the crazy season for sure. Our children don’t go back to school until the 9th January, it’s because Christmas falls on a Monday, they finish so late. Wishing you a very Happy Christmas to you and all your family xx

    • Thanks so much, you are right, we want everything to be at its very best, which is quite normal, but then it all comes together and it all seems so wonderful, I just love this time of year. xx

  • Thank you for sharing your life on this blog. I dream of France and hope to someday make the trip…Until then, here is a lovely video by Andrew Julian, recently discovered. https://vimeo.com/62959319 The Quiet City: Winter in Paris. He did another of Big Sur, California which, although quite a bit north of me, it’s still my beautiful state of California that beguiles as well. We are both lucky to live in our parts of the world. Merry Christmas!

    • Thanks so much for the video Holly, I will watch it this weekend when I have some free time and everything is done!! I really hope you make the trip to France one day, I am sure you will. Until then, yes aren’t we so lucky to live in peaceful happy places. Wishing you a very Happy Christmas xx

    • HOlly, thank you for this link – a beautiful video. How come that I who live now for nearly 10 years in the very close proximity of this City of Lights NEVER find Paris so tranquil, peaceful, silent and drawn back???? 😉
      Blessed Christmas Days to you and thanks for sharing – I greatly recommend Vimeo, beautiful and wonderful stuff and I like hitting the big HEART button which then takes over the whole video for a little moment 🙂

      • Merry Christmas Kiki and HH. You truly are one of the joys of Susan’s lovely posts! 🎄🎁❤️🎅🏻🦌❄️🎄

        • You see me blushing heavily, Stuffie6us…. 🙂
          We all express ourselves the way we can. I must have a way with words that pleases some and I thank you so much. May I use dear Susan’s blog to address to you also my very best Christmas wishes?! Bisous Kiki

  • Wishing you & your family a wonderful Christmas Susan, your tree & decorations are beautiful. I also fear the true meaning has been lost, people are just so angry & stressed at this time of year, & it seems to be all about shopping & spending, it’s so sad. I much prefer the more low key celebrations in France. Have a lovely time. xxx

    • Hi Janet, I am afraid I tend to agree, but I don’t want to be a killjoy! It is a fine balancing act with the children, of course they love the presents under the tree and all the excitement, but on the other hand I refuse to let it become nothing but a stressed out commercial holiday, so I always say to them that the presents are small, thought about with much love and care, but not huge. I see some people running up vast amounts on credit to buy the latest phone, etc etc., I am afraid ours are very small, very low key, but hopefully lovely for everyone and hopefully the real meaning of Christmas is still alive. We stick with our family tradition of only opening the presents after lunch as we did when I was a child. Wishing you a very Happy Christmas xxx

  • Susan, it’s funny: This very morning I checked out if ANYTHING at all from OFO had arrived undetected and/or slipped through the nets – and here you are! I also thought: Surely you don’t expect S to write NOW, a few days before Christmas, when everybody is frantic with pre-Xmas-hassle….. ?! And yet, here you are, regular like clockwork, with a last post before the festivities start in earnest.
    Wish I had a fireplace (well, I have two but non-working ones, a very large one in the basement…. which surely was once the source of heat for the whole house!). And I ask Santa eve3ry year for a dog but he just won’t listen…. 😉
    All the rest is just fine, lots of candles at all hours, a beautiful tree with its lights on all day, a warm cosy place called home, we are SO incredibly blessed and spoiled.
    Wishing you the bestest Christmas ever, being together with family and friends, sharing meals and stories, take it SLOWLY for a few days, let things be….. just like you I am a ‘Gango’ in Swiss German (Gang go …. go-getter), always running to do things, to help, to offer, to cook, clean (not so much), to do stuff – and I’ve slowly learned to overlook the latest dirt, to have a less than perfect meal-combination (I’m not a restaurant!!!) etc. LIfe is good….
    I virtually hug you all, pets included (sans spiders…. là je tire la ligne) and send a bouquet of kisses & well-wishes across France to you. Kiki & Hero Husband

    • Kiki, Just wanted to wish you a very Merry Christmas from Washington, DC. I have enjoyed your comments and look forward to more side conversations with you as we revel in Susan’s wonderful posts!

      • Thank you Anne (HH actually is MY abbreviation for Hero Husband… 😉 – so can you call yourself HH?!) for your wwell wishes – I always find that Susan has the bestest blog-friends and all her faithful commentators are such great people! All the best wishes to you and your family too from France (and presently Switzerland) – may Christmas be what it was intended to be – a joyful season of peace, sharing, being together, singing, reading, sitting and talking…. All this to you and a Happy New Year. Kiki

    • I lay in bed this morning for all of five minutes before I had to get up and thought just that, ‘aren’t we so very lucky’ and yes we are, we have food, warmth, presents under the tree and the whole family here. Last night and today I had a last frantic clean of the entire house from head to toe, it will last for about an hour, but I did it and I am happy and now I plan to enjoy these few special days. Wishing you the bestest and happiest of Christmas’s and a big virtual hug too and I love the idea of a bouquet of kisses. I cherish your friendship on the blog, thank you from the bottom of my heart, from all of us xxx

  • Wishing you and the whole family a very Merry Christmas, Susan! Like Kiki above, I was so pleased and surprised that you found the time to post this week in the midst of your preparations. It always feels like a gift has been given to me when I see a new post from you! Thank you for that and always know how appreciated and delighted your readers are by the beauty and calm and fun that you share with us (and the calamities, too!). We are, by necessity, having a very stripped down Christmas this year. We lost my beloved father-in-law at 94 last Saturday, completely out of the blue. We had all been together for a baby shower for my daughter-in-law…his first great grandchild! He and my mother-in-law were their usual lively, happy selves. We couldn’t have seen it coming since he was indefatigable..bike riding, weather proofing the decks at our beach house, planting and harvesting their big garden. So, we are heartbroken and need to bear witness to my mother-in-law’s grief. There really is no time for shopping for presents with all of the details that demand to be done following a death. (But, I can sit here this morning with my mother-in-law reading beside me for just a moment to post this) Our children are adults and very loving so I am trusting that we will all be okay with this very different Christmas but you know how, as a mother, you worry. Still, we will be together and give each other comfort in our loss and find the true meaning of Christmas in a shared and loving experience rather than the giving and receiving of gifts. xo

    • Oh Anne, I am so so sorry, I can quite imagine how you are all totally heartbroken, what an enormous shock to you all, I hope there is some comfort in knowing that at least he did not suffer. I think the family being together with your Mother in law will be your presents this year. I do know, we all worry, about so many things, family is so important and just having one another is surely far more important than any gifts. Sending you a very big hug from across the pond and wishing you a peaceful Christmas where I hope you can all find comfort with one another. xxx

    • Oh Anne, I just read on – didn’t read ANY comments as I had a fall the night before we left for Switzerlad and I really can’t use my arm much right now – therefore reading blog posts and comments isn’t high on my priorities list – BUT I have to write to you. We took leave from my one’s sister-in-law’s father a short time ago and of course a death as unexpected as this really changes the parameters of Season’s Festivities dramatically. I give you and yours a big virtual hug and send a wave of warm comforting thoughts and prayers to you. Xoxoxoxo

  • Here in Spain, the schools don’t break up until tomorrow (Friday) although Alejandra has a slightly earlier finish at 8.30pm and they go back after the three kings – 8th January. Saturday we will be off on our winter holiday in the Natural Park of the Sierras de Cazorla, Segura y Las Villas among the wildlife (deer, silver foxes, lynx, vultures, etc.) The mountains there are a little higher than those that surround our village so the chances of snow are greater (it is forecast for the 28th!)

    We rent a centrally heated apartment so no need to haul up logs from the store, two floors below to keep the log burner going. The apt. only has a two burner stovetop so we will take our halogen oven and slow cooker which will enable us to cook our Christmas meal in full. The Christmas pudding will have been slowly cooking (its second) for several hours in the slow cooker, ready for dessert.

    this year, in addition to our family dogs we will have Jack, a puppy, just seven weeks old that we rescued from a chilly grave in a rubbish bin – what a start to life! We were too late to save his brother!

    • What a wonderful Christmas gift, a little puppy that you truly saved and what a lucky puppy he is. Your Christmas sounds as if it is going to be wonderful and the Christmas meal sounds so well prepared, it is amazing what we can all manage in reduced cooking circumstances, I am sure it will be delicious! I hope you get your snow on the 28th, there is none forecast at all here, we are just warmer than we have been for a few weeks, which in turn means drizzle and fog. I think I would prefer the cold!! I hope you see lots of fabulous wildlife, I would love to be there to spend a few days in the mountains surrounded by nature. Wishing you the happiest of Christmas’s. xx

  • Here too we are enjoying the short days as we pass through that special time of the winter solstice. It’s 15:35 and the sun is down and the darkness comes. But, tomorrow we get to look forward to every day getting longer. The best of the Holidays to you guys down there..

    • You are right, now the days start to get longer, we have turned the corner. 15.35 is early, it reminds me of the UK and 4pm darkness! It’s not so bad here at around 17.50 each evening. Wishing you the very best Christmas, I have a feeling it must be utterly magical in sweden, but maybe my head is filled with too much that I have read and not enough reality!! xx

      • Yesterday (that was Friday 22nd) when we drove towards CH, I said the same thing. At 4.45pm it was still day and at 5.02 it was night…. I took some pics through the (dirty, what else?) car window and sent them via WhatsApp to some friends – a special time with special meaning!

        • Darkness seems to fall so quickly at the moment. Around 5.45pm here, but the nights will slowly start drawing out again now, we have turned the corner. I am so sorry to hear you had a fall, I do hope you are ok. I am so glad you are back in CH for Christmas and I hope you have the most wonderful time with family and friends and enjoy and relax and take things slowly. I still owe you an email, over the holidays I will catch up with a few I hope. We are in Western Paris for a couple of days on the 30th of December, yes New Year’s Eve included. Are you close to that area and are you back from CH then or still away? Once again wishing you a very very Happy Christmas xxx

          • Oh sweetheart, we will be returning on the 30th, or maybe even on the 29th – you MUST phone me …. We are in the SW of Paris, so if there is the SLIGHTEST possibility that we could see you at our place, that would be heaven! You do have my numbers I’m sure, you must know that my French number is only working in F – in CH I have a different card. But leave a message on our répondeur at home and the minute we return I’ll call you back. On the 1st we will be away from 07.30-16h but maybe we could fix a quick mo ‘en route’ as we will be on the A10 Orléans-Paris – most of all I’d like to show you our place, albeit not in its best and cleanest shape due to various circumstances!

          • Hi Kiki, I will send you an email, it would be amazing to meet, but I am not sure what our schedule is yet, it’s all sport related. Hope you have a fabulous Christmas. xxxx

          • Back in France but don’t see any chance to meet, not really. Tomorrow ‘en route’ between Paris and Orléans… But DO phone me, let’s have a natter, at least! Bisous doux, K

  • Thank you, Susan, for taking the time to share your family Christmas with everyone. You are a great inspiration. At our advanced ages, we have lots of memories to see us through this rather bleak year. However, I take comfort in knowing that we are still relatively healthy and have a New year to look forward to. Sincerest best wishes to you and your family.

    • It has been a bleak year in so many ways, I agree, but there is always so much to be grateful for too, this past couple of days I have been reminded of this by immense kindness from strangers completely out of the blue, it has really made me stop and think how much good there is in the World. Wishing you a very peaceful and happy Christmas xx

  • Thank you for the gift of this beautiful post – both the words and the photos. I especially love the photo of the doggies and kitty all cuddled up. You blog is always a treat. Happy Christmas to all your family.

  • I have been thinking of you. We will have a white Christmas this year and I have mixed feelings about that. The car will be at the bottom of the driveway for a few more days and that does make life a bit simpler. One really thinks about what is necessary to be carried uphill through the snow. It’s not really a lot of snow, but a steep driveway. So Christmas this year will be spent living in a Christmas Card.
    Merry Christmas to the entire Hays Gang…furry and feathered included….from our small island to your small village…

    Ali XXx

    • Oh enjoy your white Christmas and please send me some photos, just to make me totally jealous!! It sounds as if it makes life difficult but is also magical. Just walk carefully and don’t slip and slide too much on the steep driveway. Wishing both of you a very Happy Christmas and lots of love from us all xxx

  • Lovely calm and thoughtful post at what can be for some a difficult time of the year… for many reasons. I thank you for giving me the pleasure of sharing, albeit vicariously a little of your family life and wish all of you in your French Oasis a very happy Christmas and prosperous New Year.

    • It can be a very difficult time for many people in so many different ways. I also think it is very much a time of year for reflection, when we just have to look around to realise how incredibly lucky we are. Wishing you a very Happy Christmas xxx

  • A very Merry Christmas to you all. What an absolute treat to see you in my inbox today, as others have said I never thought or expected a post from you this week, I am sure with such a big family you must be quite frantic and yet somehow you ah e found the time for other people as always, thank you, I know your words mean so much to so many.

    • Thank you so much Jane, to be really honest I actually very much enjoy posting each week and it would have felt most strange not to! I am just slow with replying to the comments as there is a lot going on and busy times! Wishing you a very happy Christmas xx

  • I am sure I speak for every person who follows this blog when I say Thank you, just reading the comments above I know how much a post today, of all days is appreciated. Wishing you and our family a very peaceful and jolly Christmas.

  • This post made me feel Christmas! (And hungry too).
    Just a beautiful post, as usual. The merriest of Christmases to you and yours, across the miles from my home to yours.
    Blessings!

    • I totally agree, we have had Christmas in hot climates before, but there is something that just seems to special about a cosy warm fire, perhaps because we were brought up with Christmas in a cold country! Either way, family is what makes it all so special. Wishing you a very Happy Christmas xx

  • I so enjoyed your message today. I too have found myself looking back to when I was a child anticipating Christmas morning. Except for my sister, those who played such an important part in my life are gone. Our children are grown and we now look forward to seeing the anticipation of our grandchildren. Time marches on(sometimes to fast) I made the mince pies and they were a hit! Happy Holidays to you and your family. Kathy

    • I know what you mean Kathy, people who have shared so much of our past Christmas enjoyment are no longer here, but as you say, we have to look forward and now Christmas is about the children and for you your grandchildren too. I am so happy that you enjoyed the mince pies, we are on our third batch now! Wishing you a very Happy Christmas with all your family xx

  • I will admit to getting a little misty reading todays blog. It’s a sentimental time of year, and being far away from loved ones is sometimes hard. And sometimes “being far away” means long ago… Times have changed and we continue into the future. How wonderful.

    • I do know what you mean, travel is so easy and the world has opened up in so many ways, but it does mean that nearest and dearest are scattered far and wide and it’s no longer a case of the whole family all coming together, as you say times have changed, it is at times like this that I think thank goodness for social media and video calling, it makes it so much better. Wishing you the most lovely Christmas xx

  • *huge smile* Two pups and a kittie-cat asleep – what better Yule picture than any amount of holly and bling . . . have a ‘good one’ !!!

    • They look so peaceful and happy don’t they, and they are, in front of the fire, the very best place to be, fast asleep, and of course there is someone asleep on the sofa next to them, any guesses who that might be!!! Wishing you the best of holidays xx

  • Thank you for your posting. You highlight the important parts of Christmas, to my family at least…..warmth, light, good food and conversation, the unconditional love of family and our pets, who are family too….these are the best gifts one could receive! Merry Christmas!

    • These really are the most important things aren’t they, family and friends, good food and great conversation and good company, aren’t we so very lucky. Wishing you a wonderful Christmas xx

    • Times do indeed change and we all have to move forward, there is plenty of good though too. As you say it is time to enjoy the season because we are so lucky. Hope you have a wonderful holidays xx

  • Dear Susan,
    Thankyou so much for your lovely message … it is always such a delight to hear from you and for the glimpses you share with us of your French life, of which many of us dream !!!
    It is the summer solstice here with a Christmas Day forecast of 29’C so a pleasant day but we are still entrenched in British traditions in our family so we will enjoy a roasted turkey, baked glazed leg of ham, a plethora of roasted vegetables and for dessert, plum pudding with brandy sauce. Mince pies, Christmas cake too! Many Australians now have seafood and “pop a prawn on the barbie”, which we will gladly do on Boxing Day but I just love the traditions of Christmas and all the preparations and excitement associated with the day. The only thing missing is the roaring log fire …. roll on winter when we will host a magical winter mid year Christmas celebration too!
    I wish you and your family a wondrous Christmas and a happy and healthy new year filled with love, laughter and beautiful times with family and friends. I am so looking forward to us meeting sometime and will keep in touch,
    With love and warmest wishes,
    Susie

    • I can just picture you Christmas Susie in the heat! and of course it is now Christmas day with you. When we were in New Zealand we did just the same, the full Christmas lunch with roast turkey, the works outside and and then a swim to cool down!! But it was great fun. It is actually mild here at the moment, but mild in winter often means grey and cloudy too, but the fire is gently burning in the background and it is a wonderful family time of year. So look forward to seeing you hopefully in 2018. Very Best wishes for a wonderful Christmas and boxing day barbie, sounds like a perfect plan. xxx

  • I loved this post. I hadn’t thought about the bowl of nuts my grandparents always seemed to have around and how my grandfather showed me how to use the nutcracker. Thank you for restoring this memory.

    • The nuts are something of a Christmas tradition in our family, the children love cracking them. This year we were given a huge bag of walnuts by a friend which was fabulous so we have really been eating our fill. Plus I read that walnuts are the healthiest of nuts with the highest amount of omega-3 of any nut, so we are enjoying them all the more! Wishing you a very Merry Christmas xx

  • Your last paragraph immediately brought ‘The Clangers’ to mind … this is high praise – it remains my favourite TV programme of all time. Canard Duchene brings out my irreverent streak as I go instantly to le Canard Enchaîné and your raspberry tartelettes take me back to my very early twenties when I visited Provence with my mother and asked the cuisinière in the kitchen for her recipe for Crème pâtissière. In French. Long ago and far away but I somehow knew even then that I would need good French in my life. Happy Christmas to you and the family, Susan. May it be relaxed-perfect and may YOU really enjoy it!! Xx

    • The Clangers, they were my absolute favourite too, it’s funny I have found clips of programmes and showed them to the children but they cannot see why I loved them so much, maybe because they are spoilt with their kids tv, whereas we had the Clangers, Watch with Mother and The Magic Roundabout! The raspberry tartlets are so easy and so delicious, especially when there is a small person to help the endless stirring involved, it’s like having an electric spoon that just keeps on turning without me having to do anything!! Wish you had come over this side for Christmas but then we just have grey and drizzle and I think your white stuff would be far more preferable! Wishing you a very very Happy Christmas too, drink some champagne and let’s all celebrate because we really are all so lucky. xx

      • My girls are the same – they tell me our programmes were ‘lame’ but they were certainly not. They do humour me though, and I have a set of knitted Clangers and a felt soup dragon which they bought me when they were aged 8-16 by pooling their pocket money. If you electric spoon ever wants a change of scene 😉 I would have loved to take up your invitation but IOU an email which explains the why. I will lift my glass to you all on Christmas Day … one of many glasses of the sparkles I don’t doubt and many toasts. Because, yes, we are all so fortunate. And it is best we don’t lose sight of that simple fact. Xx

        • I know, ours do the same, but our programmes were fabulous! Oh I am so sorry that we didn’t manage to pull off the Christmas with you here, I know time runs away, I am so behind on emails, replying to comments etc., I just sit and grab five minutes at the computer here and there. The electric spoons are very useful though, plus they talk and smile, and speed up or slow down on voice command, all blue tooth of course, quite incredible!!! It is indeed best that we all remember how incredibly lucky we are, because we are, I just look around and I think we have everything we could ever want. We will certainly raise a toast and wish everyone less fortunate a new start and a happy 2018 and a huge Christmas kiss to you xxx

          • Thank you Susan ….. I’m also horribly behind and with not such tangible excuses. Maybe it’s because The Bean is such a hopeless electric spoon … doesn’t follow instructions just dives in nose first and woofs up whatever she is supposed to be mixing 😉 Humungous kiss from here too. Enjoy. Enjoy. Enjoy!! Xxx

          • I think time just moves so much faster these days!! But it has been fun to slow down a little over the holidays and really not do that much at all. I have your fabulous email and I will now reply! I can imagine your Christmas Eve was truly incredible. Good for you. xxx

          • Oh I totally agree, such a fabulous thing to do and really I cannot think of a more fulfilling thing to do, at any time of the year, but especially at Christmas. Good for you xx

        • Clangers are a little race of creatures who live on the moon, Kiki. Much beloved by British people of my age, for certain. You’ll have to put ‘Clangers’ into the Youtube search bar and then you’ll understand. I warn you though, you may never quite whistle the same again in your kitchen 🙂

          • Phil; they strongly resemble mice w/o a tail and their speaking is quite ‘mousy’ too 🙂
            So cute and utterly charming…. but after having watched the intro and the 1st episode on YT, I now also know that the term SOUND CLOUD was stolen from the Cangers!!!! This must stop!
            Merry Christmas to you xoxo

        • The Clangers were the most wonderful television program for children that I watched as a child. They lived on a small moon-like planet and never spoke, they just made noises all the time, it was very clever and very addictive and we grew up loving The Clangers! xxx

          • Susan, I can well imagine! I just followed Phil’s advice and learned about those little knitted characters. Very charming, old-worldly, polite and harmless mouse-inspired creatures. Seems like something from a 100 years ago – blissful times. Now, when I think at what the kids nowadays grow up with…. I truly lived a charmed life and I’m glad I realise that from time to time (especially when I think I might have been done by harshly!)
            Mustn’t forget (me!) that grew up without TV and I never owned one except for the time I ived in Canada… When ppl ask me nowadays about this I always admit that I’m not missing it – my days are full to the brim with ‘stuff’, I read tons, am always occupied, I write, I work, and thanks to my access to DVDs, cinemas, and YT, Vimeo & others, I never felt left out. Reading the newspapers etc leaves me with little doubt that I’d be better off had I tv too. Then come along those little special treasures and I think, oh zut alors, that would have been great to have known about.
            Thanks for the educational as well as the fictional & real foodbites you share with us, bless you!!!

          • I actually think people are turning more and more away from regular television these days. I don’t know any University students in the UK who have tv, they all use Netflix etc., but mainstream television never. Our eldest who is now living and working is exactly the same, she says she has no need for regular television, the computer is perfect for the news and Netflix is excellent for shows! She has a point. xx

        • And merry Christmas to you too, Kiki – thank you for your conversations this year with Susan. You’re invariably amusing and articulate, wonderful!

  • As someone who makes lists and then lists from lifts breaking down the tasks on list one, I looked at those delicious tarts and wondered how far in advance you made them. It’s always a trick figuring out how much you can do ahead and still have it be fresh etc. I’ll set the table two days before but there’s only so much as I can do ahead of time!

    • Hi Jacqueline, I am sorry I have been so remiss in not posting the recipe on the website. I am going to do it this afternoon, I absolutely promise, time has just been running away with me and I find myself snatching a few minutes here and there at the computer. But to answer you question yes they can certainly be made a day in advance, and they will keep for two or three days quite happily in the fridge. I would add the raspberries at the last minute just before you serve them so they don’t go soggy. But that is a two second job anyway! Wishing you a very Happy Holidays. xxx

  • Ah, those little doggies!! they look so cute, like butter wouldn’t melt! How do you keep them so clean, they always seem so white!! And the photo of the cat with them – delightful! Mary Berry – my guru! My husband has just had her Complete Cookbook delivered to me by Amazon!! A lovely surprise. I have several of her books and always turn to her recipes because they use simple ingredients, always turn out well and I like that her ‘ethic’ is also family and friends and she also likes to ‘cheat’, using frozen pastry sometimes!! Have you watched her latest series Mary’s Country House Secrets? I loved it. Always good to have a nose inside those splendid houses and castles and Mary is always herself with the owners and of course cooks up some tasty meals as well. By the way, your starry mince pies are looking very more-ish!!! Seeing your lovely fresh eggs (we’re getting one every other day from Boo at the moment!) reminds me that I have my son and partner coming on 29th for brunch, so I need to get thinking of something yummy to give them. We’re having that and then going into Bath for afternoon tea in the afternoon (strangely!), so looking forward to that. It’s our mutual Christmas gift to each other! Have a wonderful Christmas Susan, with your delightful family and I look forward to reading all your stories during 2018.

    • Good question, I have no idea how they stay so white, they just do and they really don’t get washed very often at all, only when one rolls in something very undesirable!! What a fabulous husband you have, that must have been a great surprise, she does have some very good down to earth recipes and I do think she is incredible for her age. The raspberry tartlets she made at Highclere, it was from the program that I got the recipe for the creme anglaise. Making another batch of mince pies today, they never seem to last very long! Our hens are laying hardly at all at the moment, it is the depths of winter after all so I will forgive them, they were doing well up until a few days ago, I think they are taking a well earned Christmas break! Afternoon tea sounds like the perfect treat, hope you all have the most wonderful few days and a very Happy Christmas to you and your family xxx

  • Susan,
    I am completely awe struck not only by your wonderful post but the heartfelt comments left by your readers. Each thought…Each prose….reminds me that “Good” still prevails; particularly this Holiday Season when the World seems so lopsided in their dreams and desires…
    Christmas is so wonderfully magical that my wish is for All of us (no matter how young or old) find a minute or two to enjoy a trip Down memory lane and be forever grateful for those cherished and inspired memories/moments of Christmas pasts!
    Have a Blessed and Lovely Christmas…🎅🏻🎄🦌🎁

    • Stephanie, I am completely awestruck all the time by all of my wonderful readers, I love how everyone takes the time to comment and how people share so much of themselves in the comments, it really is like a very honest, very heartfelt room amongst old friends where we all sit around chatting, isn’t that just incredible, the internet has much we should be very grateful for. The world has indeed gone crazy, but there is so much good as well and so many terribly kind, generous people too. Christmas is for me a time to remember and to look forward at the same time. Wishing you the most wonderful of holidays and a very Happy Christmas with your family xxx

  • Hello wonderful family! What a gorgeous post this is. It was great reading your words. I just want to wish you all A Very Merry Christmas with lots of cheers, families and friends. Enjoy yourselves!

  • Susan, Roddy and everyone – thank you so much for the entertainment, the serenity and the wisdom this year. Mrs C and I have thoroughly enjoyed it all and hope next year will bring much of the same, and perhaps some silverware for the little tennis machine, Gigi! Wonderful photos, wonderful prose, and wonderful vibes. Have a great Christmas!

    • Thanks so much Phil, we have all so enjoyed sharing this past year with you all too. Wishing you and Mrs C the most wonderful, happy and peaceful Christmas. I hope you have time to spend a few quiet moments on the shingle enjoying the calm without getting to cold! xx

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