Tag Archives: Christmas

On how our Christmas starts

Christmas has officially started!

It always starts the same way for me – I have a massive tidy up and sorting session, during which I siphon off unloved toys. In secret of course – I’ve been caught doing this before and from the wailing and gnashing of teeth you would have thought I was actually chopping up and eating the cat rather than simply taking something which hadn’t been played with for about three years to the local charity shop.  Anyway, I took a day off work today to do it while they are in school/nursery and managed to get the everything done AND slip in a cheeky afternoon nap! Result!

So, the house is tidy, the piles of junk toys have diminished in size and been put into their respective toy boxes, and we are all ready to put up the tree tomorrow night*. The kids always get to be in charge of this bit, much to my sister-in-law’s horror. While her tree is a perfectly planned and exquisitely decorated example of good taste, ours – hmmm. Hand made decorations brought home from nursery /school over the  years  vie with tinsel of all the (clashing) colours of the rainbow, and it all ends half way up because that’s as high as they can reach. But you know what? I like it like that. Plenty of time for perfect trees when they’ve all grown up.

Hot on the heels of the house-tidy and Christmas tree chaos comes the arrival of our friends and their kids  for the Brecon Mountain Railway Santa Special. We only get to see these friends twice a year so it’s always so lovely to spend time with them, and because we’ve been doing the same thing for so many years now it’s always such an easy weekend with everything falling into place. The routine never varies – a late Friday night arrival, followed by a manic early start on Saturday when the kids all wake up realising their friends have arrived and are in sleeping bags on the floor next to them. One of the adults throws cereal and the remote control in their general direction while the grownups catch up over tea and toast, until the excitement reaches fever pitch, whereupon the Mothers among us share a nod and a wink and a ‘just nipping to the Co-op for some, er, supplies’ before buggering off for a lovely long coffee and catch up somewhere where there is no mobile phone signal.  Ooops.

By the time we get back, the Dads will usually have sorted lunch and some more friends and kids will be arriving ready for the convoy up the A470 to Pant station and the trip to see Santa. It’s a much more peaceful journey on the way to see the old bugger than it is on the way back, due to the fact that those LOVELY people at the railway always see fit to put something like a mouth organ in the goody bags – have you ever been on a packed steam train full of hyperactive mouth organ blowing kids? No? Really? You should try it. It’s great.

But it’s all ok because once we get back home, the kids are pyjama’d up, the DVDs and sweeties come out, and they are bribed ummm persuaded, yes persuaded, to take up residence around the TV so the grownups can stuff their faces with curry, catch up on old and new gossip, and generally squeeze the last six months into one evening, before collapsing into bed safe in the knowledge that our respective offspring will be up and demanding food and entertainment at some ridiculous hour of the morning. Whereupon brunch will be cooked and eaten, we’ll wave our friends off until we see them in the Summer, and our Christmas will be well and truly under way. Hurrah!

This is how our Christmas starts. What about yours?

*and here’s the tree!



On cash at Christmas

**’On cash at Christmas’ first appeared in Canton and Pontcanna Matters**

I don’t know about you but this time of year is when I start to panic a bit (ok, a lot) about how our finances will cope over the festive season. It’s particularly hard in these middle years of their childhood – too old to be fobbed off with large cardboard boxes containing not very much at all, too young to be sent out to earn a living to pay for their keep. (Note to self – eldest is 8 so can’t be too far away. Get in touch with the jobcentre to get him pre-registered).

So here’s a few tips to help you save money for the season of expensiveness:

  1. Save a little bit every month, from January. I’m actually cringing a bit as I write this because I never, ever manage to do it. I do start, but then there’s a holiday, or a birthday, or some other unforeseen event. But I swear 2014 will be the year!
  2. Start picking up stocking fillers as soon as the kids go back to school in September. It’s amazing how much all the little bits add up if you are getting them in one go, but a couple of items a week for a three months feels much less painful on the pocket. (There are somethings you’re best not to get in September. For instance satsumas. They go green. And chocolates. They just, er, go.)
  3. Sneak non-presents onto the present quota. Stuff like pencil cases which they need anyway, or pyjamas and slippers. The younger they are, the more of this devious behaviour you can get away with!
  4. Gumtree and eBay are your friends. Last year my daughter really wanted a pink desk (don’t judge me, I don’t do pink myself, but I seem to have spawned a girly girl.) All we could find in the shops was plastic, tacky and dressing table-like. But Gum Tree came to our rescue with a really good quality little desk, for next to nothing.
  5. Reconditioned electronic goods are much cheaper, but as far as the kids are concerned are brand new. My older kids are in iPod/DS territory this year – which is manageable if they’re reconditioned but crippling otherwise. It also makes the inevitable losing/breaking/spilling squash over them slightly more bearable when it happens – and you know it will…
  6. Food…it is so easy to get sucked into buying all sorts of delicious goodies on your way round the supermarket. And there’s nothing wrong with that – if you don’t end up throwing them away! Sure, it’s lovely to have eight different types of cheese in the house, but if your kids only eat common or garden cheddar, there’s a reasonable chance you wont get through it all. Plan your menus, work out your list, and stick to it!
  7. Food again…We are really lucky in Canton and Pontcanna with a wide range if indie shops. Buy your Christmas veggies from a greengrocer, and get your turkey from a butcher. Not only will you be supporting independent traders in our community, but you’ll save a shedload.
  8. if you are really strapped, check out Cardiff and Vale Credit Union’s current loan deal – borrow £500 for Christmas, make 12 monthly payments of £56, total repayable £550.38 AND you will have £120 in savings for next Christmas. More details at www.cardiffcu.com.

So there you go, the LearnerMother guide to surviving Christmas. You’re welcome!


On Silly Kings at Cardiff Castle


One of the things that I am loving about this stage of our life is that that there are so many things opening up to us that we can enjoy all together. Now the littlest is nearly 4, we are way past the nappies and pushchairs, and mostly past the tantrums too, so that things that were out of our reach a year ago, are opening up as possibilities.

I am really, really excited this year about our first theatre trip as a family. We’ve been to a fair few shows with the kids over the years, but because of their ages it’s always been one of us taking one or two of them while the other one entertains whoever is left. But this year I have found a show that I reckon will be a hit for all of us – even the Husband who doesn’t know he is going yet and will probably mutter a bit about it when he finds out, until I pacify him with the fact that we are practically going to see Monty Python.

Well, sort of. I am not sure my kids are quite ready for dead parrots, the Spanish Inquisition and Mr Creosote. But the National Theatre Wales production of Silly Kings – adapted from Fairy Tales by Terry Jones (yes, that Terry Jones) looks all kinds of ace for all kinds of ages, even grumpy 45 year olds. Not that I know any of those of course. *innocent face*

The show is based around the story of Herbert XII, a wise old King who is unfortunately becoming somewhat silly as he grows older. And we’re talking clothes-off-sitting-in-the-fountain-and-shouting-RADISHES!-silly…but despite this, his subjects throughout the kingdom love him so much that they pretend to him that he is still the wise and competent king that he was. This leads to all sorts of shenanigans acted out by ‘extraordinary characters and madcap musicians telling tall tales from a Kingdom East of the moon and West of the sun’. Sounds a lot of fun, and dare I say it, a refreshing change from the panto….

Silly Kings is on at Cardiff Castle – surely the perfect place for magical tales – but don’t worry, you won’t freeze – the production takes place in a Spiegeltent – which promises to be warm and cosy, with practicalities like buggy/wheelchair access, baby change, toilets etc. And there is also mention of festive food and drink on sale. That’s got to mean a bar, right? Excited as I am about our first theatre trip I am realistic enough to know that herding 3 kids around during the peak pre-Christmas excitement phase may have its stressful moments, so a wee glass of mulled wine will certainly be welcome!

Silly Kings is on 19th December – 4th January, – you can watch the trailer here and you can find more details on the National Theatre Wales website.

**Disclaimer – we’ve been kindly invited to Silly Kings by the National Theatre Wales**