This sorry little lot above is what’s leftover from our Christmas food binge…before you think ‘that’s not too bad’ let me tell you we have been clearing up and finishing off since the start of 2011, first the fresh goods in the fridge, then we moved on to the freezer and now I’m left with cupboard goods, a lot of them of various chocolate products – all of which are not helpful to my 2011 diet which should be kicking in any day now with a bit of luck and willpower.

I also have a lot of cheese, different cheeses like Shropshire Blue, smelly, crumbly but utterly delicious, Cheddar with port and an Oak Smoked Cheddar to name a few all bought at the Taste of Christmas fair at Excel in early December so this afternoon these will see the end of their life cycle in the way of a Tarte au fromage, or cheese tart to you and me and that will do for my lunches for the next week or so.

It’s challenging isn’t it? Thinking what to do with a  ton of brussels, how many more ways can you present turkey and secretly polishing off Pringles and dips on the sly when no one’s looking. But with the new Super Me in mind, the one that loses half a stone, tightens up her jelly belly and strolls onto an exotic beach this summer looking like Ursula Andress in the famous Bond film. I must find homes for all this chocolate, some were gifts and shall be regifted out – so if you have a birthday soon, watch out :) Some are half eaten, like the Quality Street box, we’re left with the ones we don’t like so I shall pop them in Paul’s work bag and he and his colleagues can munch on them. The rest, well, if it’s not used by the sell-by date it may have to be binned.

Whilst on the subject of Christmas, hopefully for the last time for a fair long while. I forgot to write about my Secret Santa I received back in December. I know, there is no excuse acceptable in fact I don’t know why I enter these circles as I already know I’m stretched for time and finances but hey, the joy of receiving a gift is just too much for my childish mind and bang goes my name down again on another list. Note To Self – Stop it!

Anyway, I received in the manic rush up to Christmas a Lovely Dove gift set including Visible Effects body lotion, hand cream and a body brush all kept in a really nice gold wash bag which will come in very handy for keeping all my manicure bits together in one place. the creams are lovely and the hand cream especially nutritious for hands like mine – housework hands! I’m not sure who to thank yet because as per usual, I’m doing this all the wrong way round…but whilst we’re on the subject, I thought I’d check up on Worldstores to see when my gift was finally sent. December was snow time remember and I decided to have a look online and order to have it delivered direct. Easy right?

No! Due to my lack of promptness I didn’t order till the 9th (lazy, I know!) and then on the 16th I received an email saying, ‘They’re back in stock and will be shipped out this week.’ So I stopped worrying, I knew the post was bad but so did my receiver in Wednesbury, if it arrived shortly after Crimbo surely she’d understand.

Well, Gordon Bennet, I’ve just ‘tracked online’ and they haven’t even sent it yet!!! I phoned them immediately and got an automated voice telling me to email as they are receiving higher than normal calls…I bet you bloody are. So I have sent them a stinker of an email and hope to get my Mystic Ball whizzed over to Emma asap. I apologise to her in front of the whole blogosphere for my dreadful organisation skills and Worldstores even worse parcel delivery service!!! How could they do this to me? I’m mortified.

Have you had any similar experiences from ordering online? Is traditional High Street shopping the best and only way to make sure your gifts get there on time?

For us Brits the use of the words Please and Thank you are fundamental to our existence. It’s something we teach our children from the tiniest age, on handing a toy we say ‘ta’ or ‘thank you’ and when our little ones ask for a drink or a biscuit we always take the time to teach them to tag on the word please to their sentence. We expect these two words to be used in every day circumstances. I’d say we’re all pretty strict about it.

As a child I was expected to write thank you notes to all members of family who had kindly remembered me with a card and gift and as a child it was one of those dreaded, takes-for-ages tasks to complete. My first note started off with beautiful handwriting and well thought out sentences but by the time I was on the 5th or 6th they were barely scribbled and copied from the first one, omitting words even sentences to get the task completed A.S.A.P.

I must admit my favourite Thank you notes I receive are from Billy my nephew, aged 8 who has a fantastic imagination and in his letter you can feel he’s dying to get the task over and done with but still committed enough to make the note interesting. I even tried to dig one out to show you (I’ve kept them just in case they come in handy at his 18th) but after the house move last year Heaven only knows where I’ve stashed them. Oh and obviously I haven’t received this year’s yet – Billy?

Rosie, aged 10, my niece writes a lovely note too, hers are more heartfelt and very neat and tidy and recently we’ve been receiving notes from Samuel, our lovely three-year old nephew, written by mummy with the addition of his own signature, very impressive.

My mother has always been a stickler for Thank you notes and many a groan could be heard on the days off school after Christmas when mum would shout out,

‘What do you mean you’re bored with all those new toys you have upstairs? Have you written your Thank You’s yet, well if you’re bored go and do them!’ That told us!

All credit due to her, by the first day back at school in January they were all written and she saw to it they were posted off to the various recipients, all of whom would really appreciate our scribbled thoughts – albeit begrudgingly. When I say begrudgingly, it wasn’t the Thank you we didn’t like doing, it was the writing.

In fact in today’s age of computer games and heaps of homework children aren’t being gently reminded to write their notes any more which I can fully understand. Many of their lives are so more hectic than mine, what with Beavers, Football Practice, swimming, tennis, judo and so many other After School Activities, they haven’t got the time.

But the trouble is ,to a grandparent that note goes a hell of a long way, their hearts sing with joy at the receipt of a badly written note..’Thank you for my Toy Story Potato head, I really love it, love Billy xxx’ the note will be displayed proudly on the mantlepiece where any visitor can remark what a lovely child he is, how thoughtful. We know it was all down to his mum’s gentle art of persuasion but they are happy none the less. Also shouldn’t we be encouraging our children to appreciate gifts? To understand that thought and time and of course money was spent thinking of him/her and that should be recognised with a Thank You?

I have completed our Thank You’s for this year against Paul’s ‘I don’t know why you bother, just phone ’em up’ cries and posted with second class stamps as we’re on a tight budget from now till our lottery win and I think the recipients will be over the moon that we took the time for them…tell you what…can’t wait for the girl’s to be able to write them for me though :)

What do you think about thank you notes, a tradition of the past or something that we should encourage to continue?

iced duck pond

I would like to introduce my sponsor for Cybermummy 2011 – Loud Karaoke from California. I am absolutely blessed that they chose me and I hope to do them justice. Maybe I shall break into song during the conference, sign up to audition for the X Factor ( a secret dream that will never be realised but that I like to practise in the shower) or be ‘discovered’ by a major recording label and become the next SuBo? You never know.

As I write I am ‘almost there’ most of the presents wrapped, major shop done just teabags and bananas to get, Cards all posted – I think? I hope! Now I must just wait for it NOT to snow so I can make my brother’s home for a delicious meal (my 1st year in six that I won’t be in the kitchen!) and a fun day.

Christmas Eve, we have the family coming to us for a traditional fish and chips supper, from our local take away who produce a sterling job, we shall tuck in excitedly as we wait for Father Christmas to drive around the estate, passing just in front of our new house (handy that!) In fact here is a photo of the chap himself, we took the girls to their first trip to meet Santa last Monday, Alice cried all the way through and Bessie watched from the safe comfort of my arms, she even laughed in places! I think you’ll agree that is a massively impressive beard he has there.

santa in grotto

Boxing Day we’re at Paul’s family for a slap up meal and a lot of fun and then on the two days following we’re at home, no plans just enjoying our family. I can’t wait to play with the girls’ doll’s house and Paul has managed to get a train set on the girls Christmas list so that should keep him amused for a while.

One last thing I must mention is RED UNDERWEAR. Whilst living in Italy I learnt that an important New Year’s Eve tradition is to wear Red Underwear to bring good luck upon oneself for the coming year. How can I refuse? Red is not a colour I wear that often underneath so this provides me with a wonderful excuse, after all we all need a little extra good fate don’t we? So I’m telling you in good time, hunt through your drawers for that piece you haven’t worn in ages, order online or nip out to the shops (rather you than me) but make sure as 2011 breaks over the horizon YOU and yours are suitably attired to reap in bags of good fortune for 2011.

1st christmas tree decNow we are well into December we are ‘allowed’ to talk about Christmas, in fact everyone is! People are busy crossing things off their To Do Lists and to be quite honest with you, I’m actually sitting back and enjoying the run up this year. No massively long list for me this year as my brother is hosting The Big Day and we’re over to Paul’s brother and wife’s on Boxing Day where our contribution is mash which isn’t particularly complicated now is it?

Yesterday I put the tree up for the girls and they love it! exclamations of ‘Ohh mummy, I love it!’ lots of touching the lights and naming the colours ‘Red!’ ‘Er no that one’s yellow.’ and touching and feeling all the ornaments too. Of course being the clever one I am the ceramics are placed out of reach and I ‘allowed’ them to place the pretty small gift wrapped cubes on themselves, peals of laughter and lots of taking them off and putting them back on. In fact, when I disappeared into the kitchen to get tea ready for them, they unwrapped the lot!

A&B 2010

Many workers are looking forward to their staff Christmas party, an annual knees up which encourages excess drinking and eating the max at the companies expenses, how I miss those parties! However, I am extremely lucky enough to be going to a party of my own – a meet up for Bloggers from the British Mummy Bloggers forum and I’m really excited! I can take the girls with me, just as well because I don’t have any babysitters and wouldn’t be able to go if not, I shan’t be drinking as it is in London and I shall drive there and park at my brothers flat and I will have the opportunity to visit my ex colleagues from the Italian Tourist Board too.

christmas tree 2010

As the party is to be held in St Martin’s in the Field, I’ll also be able to take the girls to see our infamous Trafalgar Square Christmas Tree, every year donated by Norway as a means of remembering our assistance during the second world war. What a beautiful gift, thank you Norway! I shall take them for a stroll up Carnaby Street to see their decorations as personally I think they’re the best in London. So all in all a brilliant day out for me, just what I need right now.

Every now and then I get a brilliant idea, so good I wonder on Earth if it was really mine or not. I mean did that morsel of genius just come out of my light box for real? Some people are lucky and brainstorm good ideas constantly but that must be so boring and sooo busy, right?

So how about acting on the good ideas? Well maybe this is the part where I have been known to be lazy, or maybe just so pleased with myself with coming up with something so humungously great I bask in my own delight and get sidetracked from the real issue. Get On with It!

Mum always said I lived with my head in the clouds and seems it’s a trait I struggle to lose. But I have had some more brilliant ideas recently and some I am going to share with you. I mean I can’t give them all away otherwise there would be nothing to look forward to would there?

Icklebabe.com

So here goes, Good Idea number 1

A Santa Snack plate! It brings back every single Christmas Eve I have spent waiting for the man to come by. An excitement so massive I can’t sit down all evening. Every fibre in my body is in movement and my smile is the biggest it’s been all year. A huge tradition in our house has always been preparing something for Santa to eat and drink on his stop (no wonder the guy has such a belly on him – every home in the world does the same!) and of course we never ever forget Rudolph and his fellow reindeer waiting patiently on the roof. Usually a mince pie and a shot of whisky for the Big Man and some carrots for Rudolph and his mates would be ceremoniously placed under the tree in great awe of the magic about to happen. In This House.

 I have to have one of those plates! Not for me silly but for my girls, it’s a special plate that can be used every year and allow me to recapture the child in me that is still ever so excited every year. Yes, you’re right. I do know it’s not strictly My Idea as it’s Helen’s from Icklebabe.com but it is my idea to buy it! So that counts :)

Another good idea, this time is really mine is to do with the Rowse Manuka Honey I have been sent to consume review. I’m very pleased to have some as both girls are poorly today with high temperatures and runny noses and honey is one of the oldest cures in the book which covers in part the medicinal properties but as for the rest well that’s a secret till further notice. So keep your eyes peeled.

And the last idea that I really must share with you as I need a massive boot up where the sun don’t shine. I bought my own domain over two months ago now and atrociously I have done nothing since. I am blocked with fear. So only by making it public and naming and shaming myself may I be motivated to overcome my fear of making a right mess and get on with it.

Because that is half the problem sometimes don’t you think, the fear of getting it wrong so maybe it’s better not to try? Well not this time lady. This time you are going to go into your Namesco account and start to see if you will ever fathom out HTML, see if you can make your dream of Mari’s World come true and at the same time anyone reading this be motivated to get on and Go for it whatever their plan maybe.

This post is my G (no I didn’t choose spot, far too obvious) for Alphabe Thursday held over at Jenny Matlock’s fabulous blog. I’m dying to see what all the other participants come up with, come on over and have a look!