Monday, December 30, 2013

2013 in review

This review is becoming something of a yearly tradition....you can find the reviews for 2007200820092010 , 2011 and 2012 by clicking through. It's always nice to take stock at the end of a year and see what's happened over the last 12 months.

What a year it has been.

1. What did you do in 2013 that you'd never done before?

Got engaged.

2. Did you keep your New Years' resolutions and will you make more for next year?

I gave up on resolutions this year....and it was brilliant!  Now I tend to have a focus area or a word or two to ponder on.  Much easier and less worrisome - I feel I'm a bit too old for lists of resolutions now (YMMV, of course, but I'm out of patience for them now!).

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

Many, many people.  Including my lovely sister-in-law-to-be, Elly!


4. Did anyone close to you die?

No, thankfully.

5. What countries did you visit?

England, Scotland, Spain.

6. What would you like to have in 2014 that you lacked in 2013?


More sleep!  Apart from that I am very much enjoying the trajectory!

7. What date from 2013 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

13th April.  Where I got to say 'Really?', swiftly followed by 'Yes, please!' to Matthew's proposal!

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Probably getting through the whole Geffen episode - tiring, wearing and at points pretty ouchey, but I'm so glad to be facing 2014 in a healthier place, and am ready to get back to embracing the good habits that drifted somewhat while I was under the weather.

9. What was your biggest failure?

Looking after myself, honestly.  Taking the time to eat healthily, rest properly, exercise, go to the doctors...  I need to improve in this area and stop running myself into the ground.  I think I've finally grasped that I'm not much use to anyone if I am rundown, tired and ill!

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

Geffen, the uberlump.  It was sore and tiring, but blessedly benign.  I'm hoping when I have my final scan in February I'll get the all clear.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

Anything that made someone smile.

12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?

As ever, my loved ones.  They are superb.

13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?

No-one's behaviour would garner that level of ire, but occasional rudeness and nastiness has bubbled up hither and thither.  Such is the world, but generally I try to rise above it and let it pass me by.  And if and when I'm rude or nasty, I try to reflect on it and to make amends as best I can.

14. Where did most of your money go?

Savings towards the house, savings towards the wedding, and visiting folk, attending weddings and socialising.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

Weddings, cats, and girldates.

16. What song will always remind you of 2013?

Royals, by Lorde.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you: Happier or sadder? Thinner or fatter? Richer or poorer?

Happier.  Fatter.  Richerish.  An overall win, but I can't wait to get back to exercising properly in the new year, now that Geffen is gone!

18. What do you wish you'd done more of?

Reading, napping, letter writing.

19. What do you wish you'd done less of?

Worrying about what 'they' might think about this or that.

20. How did you spend Christmas?

Cosily at home with Matthew and the cats.


21. Did you meet/date anyone special in 2013?

Some lovely JLL girls!

No 22 or 23...hmmm!

24. What was your favourite TV program?

Nashville - I am so excited for it's return!  And Scandal.

25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?

I don’t believe in hate.

26. What was the best book you read?

I enjoyed Wild, Lean In, Burial Rites, Quiverfull, Crazy Rich Asians and Hyperbole and a Half.  

27. What was your greatest musical discovery?

Whatever awesomeness Christy was sharing!  She's my musical muse.


28. What did you want and get?

Love, friendship and laughter.

29. What did you want and not get?

Hair that makes sense.

30. What was your favourite film of this year?

For the sheer visceral effect it had on Naomi and I when we went to see it, I'm tempted to say Les Miserables!  Not really sure though, I haven't really been blown away by any films this year.

31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I turned 33.  The eve of my birthday I spent having steak with Matthew, and on the night of the day itself went for Christmas drinks with friends.

32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?


I honestly can't think of a thing I'd change.  It's all part of the journey.

33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2013?

Blue, comfortable, machine washable (hey, I work with kids!).

34. What kept you sane?

Matthew, friends, family, kittens.

35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

George Clooney, David Tennant, and Dave Grohl.

(no change again!)

36. What political issue stirred you the most?

Poverty.

37. I have only just noticed that there is no 37....hmmmm....

38. Who was the best new person you met?

Our niecelet.

39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2013.


Be kind.

I learn this a little more every year.

40. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

"Life is great without a care, We aren't caught up in your love affair."

Because Lorde is improbably wise for one so young.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Cosy Christmas

Happy Boxing Day!  Oh thank heavens for a bank holiday the day after Christmas to continue the lazing and relaxing.  I hope your Christmas was lovely - ours was relaxed and cat-tacular, with lots of food and bubbles and gifts and napping.  Herewith, some pictures from our cosy celebrations.  Yay for Christmas!*

 The gameplan for cooking Christmas dinner.  I love to put on a good spread and timing is key!

 Leela is loving having both Matthew and I around so much.

 Patiently waiting to open presents.

 Poppet has learned that she can jump up on the shelves and sideboards in the dining room and look down on us.  She's vehemently pro this, and here reimagines the nativity....

 So. Much. Food!  I made turkey, yorkshire puddings, pigs-in-blankets, stuffing, roasties, sweet potatoes topped with marshmallows, mashed potatoes, sprouts, peas, sweetcorn and gravy.  Yum.

 The kitty gifts from Adam and Ems contained catnip.  Very popular with our trio!

 Our Christmas table.

 I made turkey and vegetable soup with our leftovers - it smelled amazing!  If it tastes even half as good we are in for a Boxing Day treat.

 Christmas Day breakfast - bacon baps and Bucks Fizz.

 Kitmas dinner!

 So many gifts - thank you everyone for your generosity and thoughtfulness.

 Matthew's 'stocking'.

 Christmas Eve bubbles.

 My little mancat.

 Poppet, post-dinner (she and I struck similar poses!).

Kaz and I went for our second annual Christmas Eve breakfast near Oxford Circus - aren't these lights pretty as the city moves from dawn to day!

Well, I shall post this now and get on with *something* today - pyjamas, football and leftovers surely on the agenda.  Love to all.




*364 days to go!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

One More Sleep...

....wishing you all a happy and blessed Christmas Eve.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas Meme

I found this floating around on my blog from a few years back and felt like sharing, because it is the season...a fun Christmas meme.

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? 

I love wrapping gifts with all the possible ribbons and bows, but am also a sucker for a nifty gift bag!

2. Real tree or Artificial? 

We are a fake tree household - Dave and Davina rock our socks.  I do love the smell of a real tree, and in a later season of life we'll no doubt do a 'real' tree at least once.

3. When do you put up the tree? 

November 25th, put up to a soundtrack of Christmas songs, drinking mulled wine and eating mince pies.

4. When do you take the tree down? 

On January 6th (sometimes the day before) as tradition dictates.

5. Do you like eggnog? 


I have never tried it!

6. Favorite (or most memorable) gift received as a child? 


My Raleigh Bluebird bike!

7. Hardest person to buy for? 


Matthew's lovely mum.

8. Easiest person/s to buy for? 

Matthew, the niecelet, and my best girls.  Such fun!

9. Do you have a nativity scene


Yes - I love it, and remembering what all this hoopla is really about.

10. Mail or email Christmas cards

Mail if at all possible & I also try to check in by email too, it's a lovely time of year to catch up with folk!

11. Worst Christmas gift you ever received? 

Surely it's a little churlish to complain about gifts?  Anything sincerely given is a treat!

12. Favorite Christmas Movie? 

So many to choose from! The Muppet Christmas Carol, Elf, It's A Wonderful Life, Love Actually, Die Hard, Home Alone...

13. When do you start shopping for Christmas


If I see nice things earlier in the year I'll pick them up, other than that it's probably from October, giftwise. Food happens mid-December.

14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? 


Not in a regift way, although I have passed on things I can't or don't use to friends or siblings (par example things I don't eat or drink, earrings I can't wear (ears not pierced), or books and suchlike which are duplicates).

15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? 


Turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce sandwiches. Nom nom nom!

16. What do you want for Christmas? 

Sweet, sweet nourishing sleep.  And some perfume.

17. Favorite Christmas song

O Holy Night, Once In Royal David's City, Christmas Wrapping, Fairytale of New York, O Little Town of Bethlehem, and many others...

18. Travel at Christmas or stay home? 


We do Christmas in London each year - this will be our fifth!  We always endeavour to go and see family too though - we went to Scotland last weekend and are just back from the north-east yesterday.

19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeer's? 


Dasher, Donner, Blitzen, Prancer, Comet, Cupid, Dancer, Vixen, Rudolph. Yeah!

20. Angel on the tree top or a star? 


Star on Dave, bow on Davina.

21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning? 

Christmas morning is stockings as we eat bacon rolls and drink bucks fizz.  Once the dinner is on and we are showered and dressed we hit the presents from others.

22. Most annoying thing about this time of the year? 


You are asking the wrong person!

23. Favorite ornament, theme, or color? 


Red/green/gold, with a splash of silver or white. I'm a traditional kind of girl.

24. Favorite for Christmas Dinner? 


Turkey and all the trimmings, please.

25. What do you want to do for Christmas this year? 


Please see question 16.

Two sleeps, people!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Our House at Christmas (a.k.a. Look, Mum!)

I love Christmas (who'd have thunk it?), and decorating the house is a real treat.  I thought I'd share a few pictures of how the house looks right now - partly becuse I love it, and also so my mummy and anyone else who's interested but far away can enjoy the sparkles.  Enjoy!

As the cats can get a little destructo, we decorate a few rooms - the dining room (higher up where kittehs can't reach as easily), the sitting room and the bedroom.  Here's a brief tour!

 Pretty flowers and sweet treats in the dining room.

 Hula Santa watching over some cards.

 Dave, our main tree.

 Bobbity Badger likes to get in the Christmas spirit too :)

 As do the fish!

 Cosy Christmas cushions and blankets - perfect for movie fests.

 So many exciting packages.  We are lucky badgers!

 In the dining room/kitteh room there are just a few touches - the vases, mini tree, cookies and sign just nod to the season a little.  I bought the sign at a market this month - isn't it sweet?

Please forgive my glamorous hoodie - I had been volunteering all afternoon before taking this shot!

 Our giant 'expedit' units in the sitting room act as a mantle - so lovely to have somewhere to display all our cards and trinkets.

 Davina tree.  No word of a lie - all those presents are for Matthew!

 Ha!  The guests at our Christmas drinks giggled to discover there were even baubles in the bathroom!  You have to, right?  Plus Christmas scented air freshener, ha!

 Our jolly wreath.

 And our even jollier snowman!  As I post this it's just THREE sleeps till Christmas - eeeeeeeeeeee!

 More pretties in the sitting room.

 Yep, still more.

 Our nativity, complete with a mini Poppet smash!  She really likes toppling the shepherd.

 Pretty lights in front of the TV.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Our Christmas

Here in London, we're heading towards Christmas at pace.  In the whirl of parties, volunteering, shopping, wrapping, queueing and visiting, there's always plenty to do....so much so that I must confess to be looking forward to a few days of calm in the Christmas week proper.  Matthew and I are doing Christmas in London once again, as is our wont, and I'm so looking forward to enjoying all the little traditions we follow.  This will be our fifth Christmas together (and the first and only we'll share as an engaged couple!), so by now we have our own little things which we do.

On Christmas Eve Matthew will go to work for the mnorning while I do any last minute jobs and errands.  I'll also, for the second year, grab brunch with Kaz - always a treat!  Then at lunchtime we'll pop to the pub with Matthew's colleagues for a couple of drinks before heading off to catch a movie.  This year's choice?  Is Anchorman 2.  We are big fans of the first movie, so here's hoping the sequel doesn't disappoint.  I love lamp.  After that we'll come home for steak and champagne, and then probably curl up in front of the IT Crowd special before settling in for a long winter's nap.

Christmas Day is chilled as can be - bacon rolls and stockings, then phone calls home to the parents and the siblings.  I hope we can Skype with the niecelet at some point too, it's her first Christmas!  So exciting!  The the rest of the day is a pile of good food, wine, relaxing, cats, gifts, TV and reading.  Gorgeous.

Boxing Day we'll probably go for a bit of a walk, just to clear the cobwebs.  Then Matthew will settle down to lots of football and darts, which I'll half-watch while dipping in and out of a book or too.  Boxing Day super is always fairly light compared to the meat fest of the days proceeding - roasted vegetables with tagliatelle and chilli pesto this year.

I really do love our little Christmas.  Small but perfectly formed.  How do you celebrate?  I love hearing about the traditions and plans others have for this, my favourite time of year!

Friday, December 13, 2013

The Quiet of Advent

Adventide is such a busy time of year.

But between school and friends and family and volunteering and the rush of December, I always treasure the moments of peace I have.  Time to read, to listen (I *love* Classic FM at this time of year), to think, to pray, to ponder.  As mad as the Christmas rush can be, it's lovely to take a moment in this Advent season to sit and wait and think, to remember the waiting for the gift, the pause before the triumph.  Like Lent before Easter, I find Advent one of the gentler, quieter Christian seasons, but I love it all the more because of the moments of calm.  The chance to remember those dear to us & those who need our remembrance is a precious gift indeed, and I'm always glad to plan opportunitites to pray and ponder.

As well as these moments of stillness, there is an awful lot of busy-ness right now.  I loathe the myth of busy, where we are all go-go-go, all the time...but in December I think we actually are pretty busy.  With so many lovely things to enjoy, however, it's hard to be churlish, ha!  This week has been full to the brim with good things - on Monday Matthew took me out for steak and cocktails to celebrate my birthday; Tuesday was the carol service at school (ah, the charm of little boy voices piping through the familiar melodies in a big, beautiful church!), cake and laughter with my class on my birthday proper and drinks with friends in town;  Wednesday was the last day of school, a funfilled lunch and lots of socialising with colleagues before a pleasant evening at home with Matthew; yesterday was volunteering in west London and Junior League drinks in the evening.

And today?  Well, today has been incredibly lazy - writing cards, wrapping gifts, watching TV, fussing cats....just what the doctor ordered!  And now we're getting ready for all the fun ahead - visitors and gift giving and baking and time with the families and getting the house in order and fun and games.  Such a treat to celebrate this time together.  More on everything soon, no doubt.  In the meantime, I hope your December is going well so far.  Blessings and love to all.

A few photos from our month so far....
















Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Christmas books for children

I made this post for my class over on our class blog last year, sharing some of my favourite Christmas books for children.  If you are looking for a lovely read for your little ones this season, here are a few of my faves...



All of the books are available at bookstores around town, and on Amazon, too! I've linked below, should you wish to research further:

Grumpy Badger's Christmas
How the Grinch Stole Christmas!: Yellow Back Book (Dr Seuss - Yellow Back Book)
On This Special Night
One Winter's Night
The Puffin Book of Christmas Stories
Letters from Father Christmas
The Best Christmas Present in the World


Note: Associate links used.

Hi, I'm Claire...

Hi, I'm Claire...

About Me

I believe in 80s pop, 90s teen movies, and proper thank you notes. I just like smiling...smiling's my favourite.

I write here about London, food, books & travel, and a lot more besides. I'm never happier than when having adventures, cooking for friends, or lost in a good book.

If you'd like to work together, or if you'd just like to say hello, my email is: countrymouseclaire@gmail.com

Please note that on occasion affiliate links may be used in this blog. All items received for review or paid posts will always be disclosed.

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