For years I'd heard how amazing this house was and finally we got to see....
Some gently busy days have been enjoyed around here lately. My sister came and created a new yearly tradition - Gingerbread house making. We learnt a lot.....about wall thicknesses, importance of even cooking for even strength.....different strengths of different house designs and how many lollies a two year old can inhale from a bowl if you look away for two minutes! So much fun and such lovely time with a special aunty.
Those stockings were completed and a little trip to the post office saw them on their way to their new home. I must say it was a little hard to let them go. However, when a call came through the next evening from an ecstatic friend, it all felt worth while. When you spend a long time lovingly stitching something it can be hard to give it away but when you then hear pure joy in the voice of the receiver you remember what Christmas is all about. To be told that these stockings would surely be a special part of two children's Christmases for many years to come has been one of the loveliest experiences of this festive season.
With this as our centrepiece......
And a Little Pickle ever willing to help......
We've been enjoying lots of shared meals like this.
My Christmas baking aspirations were lofty. Some elements were curtailed but some new things and some old favourites were achieved. My first ever shortbread turned out quite well and was made to my MIL's (mother-in-law) recipe on request from Mr Pickle.
The biscotti from last year had to be repeated after the first batch disappeared in two days and before any gifting. Leftover gingerbread dough from the houses became biscuits.
I then also went in for a bit of confectionary making. For several years I have admiringly and longingly looked at the Peppermint Bark made here and successfully tried it - delicious!!
I also spotted a simple Fruit and Nut Chocolate square recipe and knew that would be popular on the Christmas table at mum's.......if it doesn't get gobbled up before then.
There was one late night Christmas baking session but I did manage to realise that rolling out pastry to start making mince pies at 9:45pm was a bit silly. There's no reason why we can't have New Year mince pies and the mince will certainly be tasty after an extra week in the fridge melding its flavours.
I have filed away the knowledge that Christmas plans and preparations need to start much earlier next year if I really do want to maintain a peaceful, calm lead up throughout the whole of Advent whilst also having all the nice elements I envisage. So, having not done that this year, it has been a valuable exercise in carefully assessing which were the things that i wanted to keep:
- making some handmade decorations
- doing some Christmas baking for gifts to friends, teachers, neighbours etc
- leaving room for some sewing for others that could generate a little bit of Christmas revenue
- taking time......with each other....for myself......with Mr Pickle
- moments to just let the Pickles run, play and be unencumbered by adult plans and rushing
- staying away from all busy Christmas shopping places
Despite not getting all the decorations I had hoped to create made, we acquired several lovely ones through kind friends and two lovely ones made by Oli's preschool teacher and given to each of them. Little Pickle in particular was so proud to hang his paper bird on the tree, the teacher is a very special person in his life and it will be so nice for him to rejoin the preschool next year.
Last night Big Pickle and I set off on an exciting adventure. Every year I have looked forward to going on an outing to enjoy some Christmas lights but as the Pickles go to bed quite early it hasn't been possible before. Daylight savings means it doesn't get dark until well after their usual bedtime and though I'd hoped to take Little Pickle along too he was yawning and begging for bed by 8pm.
There were a couple of houses nearby that I knew would have nice lights but really there was just one house I wanted to take him too. In a nearby suburb, an Italian gentleman called Mario fills his whole front yard with lights. An tunnelled archway dripping in fairylights, trees bedecked in multi colours, stars and sleighs all lit up. That is all but a backdrop to his true masterpiece. Mario fills his garage with an absolutely amazing miniature world. Beautiful little figures all busily doing their work in the village, women sewing, men hammering steel beside glowing fires, pizzas going into stone ovens. There are streams and pools with water running, a scene of pre-Chris Pompeii with a glowing volcano looming over it...... so much wonder in one space.
Standing by as we marvelled at it all was Mario, beaming at the joy on the faces of his visitors. This wonderful man, who made the whole scene himself, has been erecting it here in his garage for over 10 years. He adds new pieces each year after his trips home to Naples or family there send him things if he can't make the trip. This will definitely be an annual pilgrimage for our family now.
My sister and her family have been coming since before he had the village back when he had the amazing array of lights in the yard. They arrived while we were there and Mario greeted each of the children and marvelled at their growth and change since the last visit. His wife quietly circulated with a silver tray of lollies and his daughter and grandson watched on from chairs on the verandah.