Calm Traditions, Pomander-Making & Cinnamon Nuts

Yesterday, I took the girls to the Ulster Folk Museum. I wanted to do something quiet that was removed from all the shops and traffic and we went early in the day, so the peace I was looking for was achievable 🙂 When we arrived, we were given a map and a trail. You could complete the Christmas trail and win a prize at the end, but we forgot to/I never seem to have a pen in my bag – which is ironic considering I spend most of my life writing 🙂 We got a list of the events that were on too and I loved how simple they all were 🙂 We started in the “poor Christmas” part of the town. Houses were decorated with handmade wreaths and bunches of holly set in windowsills. I love when the fires are lit in the houses. It makes me wish we had an open fire 🙂 There is something stripped back about that kind of Christmas decor that I find calming to look at, and I came home wanting to make paper chains 🙂 The shop windows were decorated with Christmas items. I love the retro posters with unrealistically happy families gathered around Christmas trees 🙂

The girls found a nativity scene set up in a barn. They stood for a long time looking at the figures. It really reminded me of the nativity scenes in France. They seem to be much more popular there and they remind me of my year in Paris 🙂 I had to stop to take a photo of the Christmas lights and the sunrise cutting through the trees. It looked a bit like a Christmas star 🙂

We found another barn with donkeys in it and it had backlighting that made it look like a Biblical stable (or how I imagine one in my head anyway.) The donkeys were very friendly and one tried to eat my daughter’s hat 🙂 We got some mulled punch and enjoyed it with some red velvet shortbread I brought with us that we got in a lovely hamper from my parents 🙂 There was a Santa with a harmonica and he was playing Jingle Bells while carollers sang along. He stopped to chat to the girls and ask them what they’d like for Christmas.

Afterwards, we had a look around the “rich Christmas” houses. I think the firelight makes the place seem Christmassy on its own. There were some fancy crackers laid out on the table and a Christmas tree in the corner of the room. It was interesting to see the contrast between a simple and expensive Christmas at that time. In the kitchen, the range was on and there were jars and bottles of chutneys and drinks prepared. If I had to choose a house to live in there, I would have chosen that one 🙂

We stopped at the bank building where a craft table was set up. We were given a bag to take home with a “make your own pomander” kit in it. There were some craft pages with ideas of other things to make at home too. I might attempt to make some Christmas crackers later when the girls are in bed 🙂 There was a man cooking chestnuts on a fire outside, so we stopped to try some. Unsurprisingly, the girls announced they didn’t like them. There’s something soothing about opening the shells though. It takes a long time and some patience and reminded me of how instant everything is expected to be now. I loved the homemade wreaths on the doors too. I might make one next year. I think it’s a little late to start one now, but I like to collect ideas for later too 🙂

Last night, I felt like baking alone, so I made some gingerbread men for the girls to decorate this morning. I joined them in the icing and they were making fun of my snowman I made out of a piece of leftover gingerbread that wasn’t big enough for the cookie cutter 🙂 We watched half of White Christmas. I find that dancing and music keep the girls sitting for longer movies, but if they’re over two hours, they still have to be broken up sometimes 🙂

We used the pomander kit too. You just tie some ribbon around an orange and press cloves into it. The lady we spoke to about it yesterday told us that the example one she had was twenty years old and if you want it to last you have to keep it on the radiator for four months to dry out. She said the cloves preserve it, but I don’t know if you have to cover the entire thing to achieve that or if you can just do any pattern 🙂 I did a partially-covered one, so I guess we’ll find out 🙂

I took the girls to the park on their bikes to get some fresh air. It was cold, but calm – there were no other kids in the park. When I got home, I made some of my Christmas hamper tea in my new cup from my lovely friend, I lit a gingerbread candle from my advent calendar and read a bit of A Christmas Carol. I reread it every year right before Christmas.

Then, I tried a new recipe for Christmas roasted nuts. I found a cinnamon sugar one I decided upon. They were so easy to make and taste better than the shop ones. I remember spending about a fiver on a small tin of them in a shop once and this recipe makes about five times the amount and is enjoyable to make 🙂

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