Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Father Christmas (Part 4, just seemed excessive!)

We found a lovely farm to visit just a few days before Christmas and there were so many activities for the kids to enjoy.  First, the kids took part in the Nativity Play.  We've never seen anything like this before and we loved it!!  The kids got to choose which part they wanted to play and the boys all opted to be shepherds.  Kate decided she'd prefer Daddy to hold her.  The little guys got matching costumes and they were so cute!  They even had little lambs to carry.  There were lots of real animals around too, which made it even more special!

Everything was going well as the narrator read the Christmas story from the animals point of view.  See Emerson pointing so happily?  Then ....

The talking cow appeared on the scene and things went downhill.  The littlest shepherd is not so fond of the talking cow.  He started crying and was frozen in his spot, so I had to go rescue him.

Then Jackson started crying too and a sweet lady shepherd that worked there took him to sit by her.  After a few kind words he was ready to go back with the shepherds.  Emerson thought he was too, but then that big, bad cow kept showing up!  Mathis did his best to console the littlest shepherd.

The kind lady shepherd trying to comfort him.  When I spoke to her afterwards she said she knew they'd be so much happier if they could participate so she really worked with them instead of sending them to sit with us.  I thought that was so sweet.

The whole cast ...  luckily, the cow was in the background!

Next, there was a craft barn where the kids got to choose different projects to make.  Kate's was a snowman, the boys chose stars, and Mathis made an angel.  There was a lot of glitter involved.  Here there are just outside the barn, ... you tell trouble is brewing, just look at Emerson's face and Jackson's legs ...

 And they're off ... sweet Kate, still holding her sparkly snowman. 

 They were barns full of animals, lots of baby pigs, bouncy castles, big foam slides, and those big pits filled with balls that always made me very claustrophobic when I was little.  Well, actually, the first time I remember playing in one, I was a teenager on the way to teen camp.  But I was still claustrophobic ... they just suck you in.  And there's creepy stuff at the bottom.  Anyway, the kids loved them!  When you first arrive you get assigned a time to see Santa, which is so nice because there is no waiting in line!

So our time arrived and we were off to see Santa (or Father Christmas as he is most commonly called here) and his grotto.  I was pretty certain I knew what the word grotto meant, but decided to look it up because I was having a hard time putting the two together.  So ... for your reading pleasure, a grotto is "any type of natural or artificial cave that is associated with modern, historic or prehistoric use by humans."  Hmm, why is Santa, excuse me, Father Christmas in a cave?  

He had two lovely elves that escorted us to see Santa.  It was very cave like, dark tunnels hung with burlap and lit with Christmas lights.  There was a nativity scene constructed of fake humans and real animals to entertain us on the way.  And then we arrived to find Santa in his sleigh.  There were plush reindeer for the kids to hold, which they loved.  Here Santa (aka FC) is telling them about his bell.

Our last stop was the child sized tractors ... fun for everybody!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Christmas Happenings, Part 3

A few days before Christmas we stayed the night with some sweet friends from church.  They treated us like royalty including leaving chocolate on our pillows.  Of course, I didn't want the kids to have too much sugar so I went around and ate them all :)

We started the morning with a candlelight English breakfast by the fire ... sausage, bacon, eggs, toast, mushrooms, baked beans, oh my, so good!!  I can't say that English food has really much exciting going on, but their breakfast we could eat every day!!

After breakfast we drove into Birmingham with plans to head to the Frankfurt Christmas Market, the largest outdoor Christmas Market in the country.  It was a brisk day (or crispy as the English say :).

We stopped for a few minutes at the Hall of Memory in honor of those who died in the World Wars.  We've noticed that in the center of nearly every town, no matter how large, or how tiny, there is a memorial to those who died during the wars.  Even our tiny village has one with a few names inscribed.  The Birmingham Memorial was indoors and very moving.  

That's a lot of names!

Poppy wreaths from Remembrance Day in November.

This card was very sobering, if you click on it you can probably read the message. 


Emerson wasn't exactly impressed with the Christmas Market ... especially since it was nap time!  I didn't get very many pictures, but just imagine hundreds of wooden stalls filled with foods of every kind, handmade items from around the world, and lots and lots of people.  Unbeknownst to us, the shopping area in Birmingham has been referred to as the Bullring since the Middle Ages when the market was first held there.  In the center of it all is a large bull that you must get your picture taken in front of ... or so we were told.  Hey, when in Rome ...

Isn't he scary?  For the Christmas season he is wearing a special sweater (or jumper, as they say here).

And here we are, Emerson is asleep and I think Jackson is keeping his eye on the ginormous bull. Now that we've had our picture take here, I feel like we really experienced Birmingham ;)

Next on the agenda, our wonderful hosts took us to Krispy Kreme ... oh, my! It was the kids first experience and they enjoyed it quite thoroughly.  Hats for everyone!  They're a little subdued in these pictures because they hadn't eaten a doughnut yet!


Doesn't this picture just epitomize your feelings when you bite into a warm KK doughnut?

Yep, she liked 'em!

What?  I only get one??

On our walk back through the Market, Bard treated the kids to this crazy ride.  It's a genius idea to include steering wheels at every seat!

We got everyone settled in, buckled in, and the ride started.  Then the craziness began! As the ride sped up and the music started, the kids turned into wild hooligans.  I'm sure the doughnuts had nothing to do with it!

As the ride continued, they started standing up and hanging out the windows!  Ahhhhh!!  I was a little stressed out by the thought of one of them falling out.

I was obviously affected by the doughnuts and the craziness as well, because somehow I ended up with a picture of this unknown child.  Hmmm.

This is certainly no way to treat a friend, is it?  But it was just too funny.  She is expecting, and you know how the appetite grows :)  These German Bratwursts were so, so, yummy!

To keep up with the excitement already generated, Bard took the kids on this super fast carousel.  It was almost comical to watch how fast it went.  I was definitely not up for the adventure, especially after eating dinner.

All the horses had names, and the kids thought it was hilarious that Mathis' horse was named Kate.
Whew, I think I need to take a nap after this post!  We definitely had a great time and oddly enough ended up running into three other families from church, which with the size of the crowd there, was amazing.  I don't think we could have planned that if we had tried.  In fact, one of them was waiting to meet her husband at the appointed place (the bull, of course) and he was nowhere to be seen.

On our way back to the car, we met some firemen and Emerson jumped right up into the truck and made fast friends.  The other kids were a little hesitant, but Emerson had a hundred questions.  He asked to talk on their radio and they got one of the other firemen to talk back as if he was Father Christmas.  It was a great way to end a really fun day :)

We arrived back home a little after 7:00 in the evening and we all went straight to bed!

Speaking, of Father Christmas, there's another post on the way, and then one more and I think we can wrap up 2011.  I'm ready!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Christmas Carol Service

We did have a lovely Christmas Carol Service at our church, but the one in this post was put on by Mathis and Kate (and they were very serious about it!).  Above you can see the decorations, including last years craft project and the pine branch that Mathis found somewhere and brought home.  It is still "living" in a jar of water on his windowsill.

Kate, so prim and properly, dressed up for church with her baby ever so quietly resting beside her!

 Mathis preparing for the sermon.

Making bulletins for everyone :)

 My hymnal, but you knew that didn't you??

 Oh dear, baby is stirring ... (see her Mama "shhhing")

By the looks of Mama's face, things aren't going well!

 Mid-sermon ...

A stern look from pastor to misbehaving toddler (can you tell I had a blast watching all this going on??)

Immersed in the song service.

This is the way most of our days go ...lost of dress up, lots of reenacting anything that's happened lately, lots of  serious play .... the work of childhood :) 

Christmas Happenings, Part 2

Part 2?  Yes, I'd say it's about time.  Thanks to the gentle prodding of some friends, I've set aside meal planning for the week to post another update.  We really need to get past these Christmas posts!  If you make it past the Christmas market, there are house pictures at the end!!

Christmas Market in Cirencester 
Seems that many English towns hosts these lovely markets at Christmas time.  They are usually made up of wooden stalls where homemade items are sold, from food to furniture.  We chose Cirencester because it was small and not too far from home so we could tackle it on a Saturday morning.  It was super cold, but once we got out and got walking (and I stopped complaining!) it felt pretty good.  There were several musical groups playing but our favorite was definitely the Salvation Army Brass Band.   I wish you could see the detailed engraving on this instrument, it was so beautiful!

Frosty Faces

It's easy to get distracted by whatever is going on, only to look up and see a building like this!  Wow, pretty amazing architecture and history looming above us as we stroll among handmade gifts and vegetables.

I've learned that you can put a stalk of brussel sprouts in a pot of water, set it outside and pick of the sprouts when you need them.  They'll keep for about three weeks ... cool!  Most of the crops we'd think of as being spring/fall crops are in season throughout the winter. 

Hot pizza was a perfect lunch for a very cold day!  Oh, and it was so good!

Cooked right there in that little stove, by that very man, complete with (seemingly) authentic Italian accent :)

Waiting ...

Yum!  (I think I'll add pizza to the menu for tonight's dinner!)

And, finally, here it is ... the outside, at least.

It's a bit challenging to get good pictures of the outside because the road in front of our house is pretty narrow and on the other side is the stone wall that separates us commoners from the "Manor."

Our address is simply 31 and the name of our village ... no street names :)  Isn't our wreath lovely?  Bard bought it for me at the Christmas Market. 

This is about as far back as I could get without climbing up on the wall.  I really don't think that would be acceptable, do you ;)

There is one more gable to the left before the other cottage starts ... we're attached to them.  The date inscribed over the window is mid-1800's, I can't remember the year exactly ;)

There is a lovely gate at the end of the driveway, which you can see here, but we usually leave it open as it doesn't keep the two village dogs from coming to our back door every morning begging for food.  There is nice sized garden (yard, to us Americans) in the back which was a definite must for our little brood of kids.  There is also a garage (where all of our unpacked boxes are living) and a stone patio off the kitchen.  Pictures to come ... one day!