15 December 2014

Every time a bell rings…

I am, unashamedly, a Tinselphile. I see an angel, and I believe in a bell ringing. From as long as I can remember, Christmas had me completely enchanted. Maybe it is the literature student in me, but I loved the integral concept of trust and belief in this particular holiday.

When I was younger, I would write to Santa in summer - now that is one cool pen pal. I also made an Elf house because, as I pointed out to my dad, "why do they not get anything when they do so much work?" This cardboard creation featured doll house furniture, gifts, and a grape on a platter for their fruitarian Christmas feast. The letter "Badger McDuff" (The Elf Chief) left me was enough to say they most appreciated this gesture.  

The commercialisation of Christmas does drive me slightly crazy at times - snow-topped merchandise in September?

...even then, it is still a bit premature to buy your witch-wig. We are at risk of burning out the christmas candle, before the day itself! 

However, I all-too-happily acknowledge that my heart melts at the sight of Monty the penguin, while the magic of Bing Crosby's crooning never gets old… More than that, ultimately it has so many good qualities. It brings people together, it brings you back to the things that matter. The little simplicities. 

Driving Home for Christmas takes on a whole new meaning when you are a student. I spent a good fortnight, prior to the end of first term, waiting in anticipation for the journey back to my beloved Bath (the place, not the tub - that being said christmas bath bombs are rather amazing). 

Mostly, though, it was coming back to my family and truly embracing the sparkle this season brings. My parents had already provided me with a snapshot preview of Christmas 2014, sending me a "the snowman" chocolate advent, along with this photo of my very own snow dog… The resemblance to Max from The Grinch is uncanny, and Millie likewise seems to have rejected the red nose. 

At uni, we managed a few festive activities, namely my purchase of M&S Mulled Rose that certainly fulfilled the Magic and Sparkle brief! If you have no tried this, I promise you it is worth it. On that sparkling note, I will also vouch for their "chestnuts about christmas sandwich" - I am a diehard "sandwiches = meat" girl, so this is saying something. You will not be disappointed.

I am not the biggest fan of normal mulled wine; it is one of those things that I will myself to like, but always find it simply too rich. Mulled rose is the ingenious solution to this, and shot glasses were perfect for samples!

Heated in the microwave for 30 seconds in a mug, all my flat tried and concurred it was heavenly. It is quite sweet, but when you heat it the taste mellows and is the perfect nightcap/essay saviour… both during and after! Although I do advocate moderation, in the case of the former. 

Christmas Markets

Another gem of this season. I am lucky to live in two places that have gorgeous markets. Exeter's is lovely, but quite underrated; the number of trips within the University, to go and see the one in Bath, amazed me! With the cathedral as a backdrop, it is really quite enchanting. Last year I went as far as to claim it was better than the infamous Bath one. You have your roasted nuts, knitwear, mulled wine and craft items, what more could you want?

However, this year I am definitely reevaluating that, after visiting Bath's on its closing day. I had seen it briefly on a trip back home the previous Saturday, and was thoroughly underwhelmed; you, quite literally, couldn't see the wood from the trees. Instead, a thousand and one branching arms practically threw you to the ground. I do think that the idealistic view of seeing it at night, can override the pragmatism of visiting in the less swamped daylight. When we did this on Sunday, I was reminded just how wonderful it is!

They sold MULLED tea!
Quotes and drink coasters = Sophie in a square

After taking the lead of "Babushka" in our alternative Year 2 Nativity, I have a bit of a love affair with Russian Dolls. As for the dog bakery… my whole family went barking mad with excitement.

Sorry Monica, Cinnamon almonds are the real "little drops of heaven"

My eternal love for "pretty things" (and newfound Etsy obsession), combined with my festive fanaticism, makes Christmas Markets hallowed ground for me. On my bucket list is to visit Europe and see some of the truly traditional markets, such as Germany, Austria and Strasbourg. A girl can dream! 

The Tree 

Possibly the most imminent source of Christmas excitement, upon returning home this year, was getting the tree! Long gone are our Homebase days… 2014 saw us pay a visit to a farm only a few minutes from our house, in the village of Newton St. Loe. 

The baby animals were so cute - it's Wilbur! They *almost* gave Millie a run for her money. Going to farms always makes me feel a bit like Sophie from the Dick King Smith books. If you've never read them, she is essentially Luna Lovegood, fused with Merry and Pippin from Lord of the Rings… 

A farm shop lunch was then in order, featuring an eclectic teaser that I wanted to smuggle back home… along with a baby pig. 

After this lovely interlude, it was back to business. Now Tree Decorating… there's different views, isn't there? Do you go for style, sentimentality, or try to strike a balance between both? In our family, we go for the latter.

Merry Christmas from Messrs Mickey, Minnie and Millie mouse.

We may have a subtle Disney theme going on…

I am the one in our family who champions personality over a pristine finish. What is Christmas without those cute animal decorations? However, mum and sister do have their moments…

My sister got this particular bauble during her year abroad in Mississippi, while the angel has belonged to my mum since she was small. She gets a fair few jokes at her expense, namely the slightly Damien eyes, but it wouldn't be Christmas without her.

The angels that surround her on the tree, including my favourite bell-ringing one, were all bought at Bath Christmas Market a few years ago now, but are perfect for the top of the tree.

I'll go with rustic. My mum and dad did say it was the "best" tree we've ever had, which might just be a sympathetic statement. No doubt my sister would have given it a more artistic finish! But I like it. Along with the stuffed toys that line our staircase, and the giant Rudolph sitting on the sofa, for me it has a thousand times more magic and sparkle than any 'designer' tree, however beautiful.

It has a story, and you are never too old for stories.


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