Today I was talking to my mum about cutting out all of the Christmas chaos. There are so many Christmas events you could be signing up and paying out for, and parental guilt struck me when I realised I hadn’t booked anything for the girls over Christmas. Then I arrived at the conclusion that there are few of them I have actually enjoyed. Unless it is off the beaten track and not overly populated, most Christmas events are overwhelming, so I might stick to making salt dough at home and going for Wintery walks in the countryside instead.
I’ve been trying to walk my kids to school every morning. It’s about a mile from our house and it just feels calmer than fighting our way through traffic to struggle to find a parking space. Along the way, you notice more than you would in a car, like the cheerful lollipop man, the window displays, the fruit shop hanging out wreaths and mistletoe and the Christmas lights. There is a house my kids love to stop at every day because they have a festive display along with lots of toys in the front yard. They call it “our favourite garden.” I noticed a holly tree while we were walking and I think the icy air clears your head before you start your day too. I actually talk to my kids properly on the walk too, which rarely happens when I’m stressed behind the wheel.
Today, I decided to bypass my writing and coffee date with myself and stay in instead. I turned the Christmas lights on along with the National Lampoons and made some costa coffee at home with mini mince pies. (I had to have two because they were small :)) I tackled some of the present wrapping I had left to do and enjoyed it with the absence of demands and interruptions while my kids were at school.
When my younger daughter got home, we made some chocolate fudge with crushed candy canes in it. I’m hoping it sets properly because fudge always confuses my brain, but my daughter enjoyed making it. She had the job of bashing the candy canes with a rolling pin and she’s an expert on tray greasing 🙂
Tonight, once my kids were in their pyjamas, I surprised them with our drive to see the Christmas lights. They brought milk and gingerbread men in the car, listened to Christmas songs and enjoyed driving all over the city and looking for the most over-the-top light displays 🙂 If I knew how to climb ladders and hang lights properly, ours would probably look like a Christmas grotto too 🙂 I always loved multicoloured fairy lights and tacky Santa’s and some things don’t change with age 🙂
I’ve been saving money for a trip we are going on early next year, so I’ve been trying to take advantage of every free activity we can find. Sometimes it’s easy to fill days with costly activities with kids, especially if it’s cold or the rain puts limits on the what you can do. I try to regularly check local papers, NI for kids and Facebook for upcoming events. If you plan them out and think about ways around extra costs, it’s easy to avoid unnecessary spending. Here are a few examples of what we have been doing recently.
I took my kids to a lantern workshop, where they made lanterns in a local cinema for a nearby parade. Correction: I made two lanterns while they ran wild and climbed on other kids. The idea was nicer than the execution of it but I still found it strangely therapeutic sticking tissue paper to willow. We had to book it in advance, but it didn’t cost anything and the girls will enjoy walking with their lanterns and seeing the fireworks.
I’ve started taking the girls to the busiest park in the area. Now the temperature is dropping, it seems that people are put off doing outdoor activities with their kids. But if you get wrapped up, sometimes I think the cool air is more refreshing and the wind wipes your worries away. I brought a flask of hot chocolate with us to keep everyone warm and kept walking so I didn’t notice the cold 🙂
I took the girls to a twilight market at a farm. It was hard to find, but the tents that were set up in the dark helped to awaken my Christmas spirit. It was deathly cold, but the exhibitors prices were great and it’s hard to feel unhappy when you’re looking at coloured, twinkling lights. The girls found some unusual crocheted hats for ten pounds and less and I picked up a couple of handmade Christmas presents. I also bought a head sculpture from an artist called Chronic Crafts. They are really unique and cute and I want to own the whole collection. I like small scale events like that too because they feel more personal and you get talking to people you wouldn’t have the chance to interact with at busier markets. There was a stall with light up fairies in jars and fairy houses that made the place look cheerful and festive. My kids are like magpies and love a bargain as much as I do, so they enjoyed the lucky dip and picked out a couple of small items each.
On Saturdays, we have started going to the minors’ club at a local cinema. They have a free screening on Saturdays for kids and an optional workshop for an extra three pounds. We saw 101 Dalmatians and Homeward Bound recently. The films are a good length for kids, with no trailers and the snacks are inexpensive/you can bring your own. I think having a quiet coffee in the cinema is my new favourite thing to do on what would typically have been a frantic Saturday.
I’m going to keep looking out for local events that we can enjoy without paying extortionate prices. I think Christmas can be extra costly now because it has become such a commercial event, but if you’re creative and look out for smaller events that aren’t as well advertised, it is easy to find things to do that don’t eat up your whole Christmas budget.
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Lists are always something we make in a hurried manner, with a feeling of obligation as we write them. Usually they are reserved for to-do lists of things we don’t want to do: grocery shopping, bills to pay, appointments, reminders of things we resent doing; they just number our responsibilities.
I think they should be transformed into something we do for therapy. There is something soothing about scrawling on paper in a measured way, rather than in a final frenzy to get out the door.
Here is a list of lists you can make just for fun:
- Your favourite moments in the last month.
- Kind things that you have seen people do recently.
- Small things that make you happy.
- Your favourite quotes (look up things that inspire you and make a list to refer back to in a low moment.)
- Ideas of gifts for upcoming birthdays/things you could make for people you know.
- Specific things you want to buy for your home.
- Look up a genre of music you like, write down every band you haven’t heard of and then find out if you like them.
- Your favourite things about each season, eg, marbled autumn leaves, cuttingly-cool Christmas air.
- Things you have done that you are proud of.
- Qualities you admire in people you have met.
- The best ways you have spent a day.
- Movies you want to see by a director you like.
- Things you want to research for fun/skills you want to acquire.
- Good things that have come from the mistakes you have made.
- Records you want to buy.
- Mini goals for the next month (only fun things are allowed.)
- Places nearby that you haven’t visited yet, eg, a bookshop, a nature reserve, a restaurant.
- Search for free local events and make a list of the ones you want to attend.
- The seemingly insignificant moments of your week (eg, a kind word from someone, hearing a good song somewhere, the taste of buttercream, the sound of rain.)
- Your favourite items that you have ever owned.
- Things you could easily live without.
- Ways to simplify your life.
- Things you want to add to your day.
- The most memorable gifts you have received.
- Your favourite scents, sights, etc.
- Your favourite words in the English language.
- Your favourite writers.
- The best books you have read since you were a kid.
- Things to do that don’t involve technology.
- Your favourite places to go for a walk, eg, a stretch of a city street, a pebbled beach.
- The funniest things that have happened to you to date.
- Things you want to save for that you will cherish.
List-making can be really cathartic and emptying your mind on a piece of paper needn’t be done only by necessity. Enjoy listing for relaxation 🙂