Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories 2015 – Santa Claus


The 6th window in the Advent Calendar of Memories is Santa Claus.

I cherish this battered little tree decoration because he was given to me by Mum and has adorned every Christmas tree I’ve ever had.

As children we did all the usual things. We wrote letters to Santa, visited him at parties and of course we used to leave sherry and mince pies out for him on Christmas Eve along with a bunch of the juiciest carrots for the reindeer.  My brother and I were so excited that we stayed up until the wee small hours and were up at the crack of dawn.  We raced downstairs and just for  a minute we stared in wonder at  gifts he had left in perfectly arranged piles – one for me and one for my brother – before playing with each and every one.  When it was time to go  back to school, like thousands of other children, we had to write our holiday news.  One thing that always baffled me when we did this was that the other children in the class talked about unwrapping presents – the ones with less self control ripped them open.  I didn’t understand this at all because the presents that Santa left at our house were never wrapped up – ever.  So why did he wrap everybody else’s presents and not ours?  A mystery I didn’t solve for many years!

Here are some of my very favourite Santas.

“The Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories (ACCM) allows you to share your family’s holiday history twenty-four different ways during December! Learn more at”



Christmas Music Memories

I came across this Advent Calendar and have enjoyed looking behind some of the doors.


My strongest memories of music at Christmas, as a little girl, are of traditional Christmas carols.  I love them all. The two I enjoyed the most were Away in a Manger and, because we lived in Belgium, Il est né le divin enfant  Still firm favourites that transport me straight back to childhood.

“The Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories (ACCM) allows you to share your family’s holiday history twenty-four different ways during December! Learn more at”


A penny for your thoughts

The post that I had in mind when I started The Syllabus Sea was about Hallowe’en, so for Assignment 3 I decided to write about Easter.

Happy Easter

As a child Easter meant purple to me – Cadbury’s chocolate and church decorations.  We used to decorate twigs with special decorations that mum had collected when we’d lived in Germany.  We boiled up hens eggs with coloured dye and spent hours adding painted patterns.  Then on Easter Sunday we searched the garden for hidden chocolate eggs before being trooped off to church. I passed these traditions on to my children.

Easter also reminds me of a shopping trip with my mum .  We went to one of her favourite shopping outlets but she didn’t remember where anything was, wanted to buy bizarre things and she kept wandering off.  It was like shopping with a  child. Not long afterwards she was diagnosed with a form of vascular dementia.  We never went shopping again.

Looking over both posts I think what I had in mind was to preserve family memories for myself and my children because one day I might not be able to remember them myself.



This week’s WP Photo Challenge is Monument.


A monument to the Pharaohs but also to history and family ties.  This photo is my Grandfather’s photo, taken when he was stationed in Egypt in the inter war years.  Although I never met him, his love of photography has passed to me.


This is my version of his photo, tinted in Photoshop.  If he were with us today I think he would  love the possibilities of tinkering with his images in Photoshop.






This weeks challenge is Fresh – one of the definitions suggested was  “it’s a state (new, recent, previously unknown)”.  I took this photo yesterday at my Darling Daughter’s graduation – freshly qualified and on the threshold of what I’m sure will be a highly successful career. I am so proud of her. We had a lovely day, first the excitement of the ceremony then a celebratory lunch followed by a spot of impromptu shopping.


Say your name

I don’t usually take part in the Daily Prompts, but Tuesday’s ‘Say Your Name’ prompt caught my attention – perhaps because today is my birthday.


Mamie and Charlie’s wedding 1934

I was named Marie, after my maternal grandma who was called Mary but known as  Mamie to everyone.  My Dad trained as a French teacher, and lived in France for a time after he graduated so I was given the French version of the name. When I was growing up I was very grateful for that little twist because to our ears (my friends and myself) Mary was both old-fashioned and holy, and very unfashionable even in an all girls convent school.  I secretly preferred  Maria, it sounded much more beautiful and glamorous to me, but for some reason it never entered my head to change it.  I guess my grandma felt the same about the name Mary  because she did change hers.

I’m proud to have been named after Mamie. She was born in 1904 and started work in the local thread mills around the time the First World War began. She got married when she was 30 which was considered late in those days, presumably because so many young men had been killed in the war. Her three sisters never married. In the run up to the Second World War she had two beautiful daughters. During the war she ended up working in a munitions factory whilst my Grandpa Charlie was in the ARP. Three years after the war ended she was widowed. She struggled to cope with her loss but had to ‘pull herself together for the sake of the girls’, taking three jobs to make ends meet. When her mother died she took on the mantel of matriarch.  That is how I remember her, as the focal point of the family, her house was constantly full of people. To me she always seemed to be laughing and had an endless supply of treats for my brother and me. Sadly, she died when I was only six,  a legacy of her war work in the munitions factory.


My Fennel and Tomato Risotto


St Andrew’s night already!  When I was at  school, in Bonnie Scotland, we used to look forward to a St Andrew’s night school dance.  Scottish country dances only – we’d be practising our “pah-d’-bahs” for weeks. Still, a welcome break from the monotony of boarding school life and even more exciting the upper and lower sixth had a dance with boys from the school up the road. Boys on the premises  – a very rare occurrence in that school!  Now I’m all grown up and living in England St Andrew’s night isn’t even on my radar until I write the date on my board.

The last week or so has been very frugal in our house after I went mad with my early Christmas preparations and overspent November’s budget. I still struggle with managing my money in my new down-sized life, but then it never was a strong point.  I am, believe it or not, improving! This time I did notice before much financial damage was done and stopped spending.  This has meant I’ve been cooking from my store cupboard and freezer.  This  variation of a Riverford risotto  was a great success.   A very  tasty and filling  way to  use up  some vegetables.


My Fennel & Tomato Risotto

(makes 2 generous portions)

Knob of butter

Splash of olive oil

½ a medium bulb of fennel

bunch on cherry tomatoes – 14 or 15 – deseeded

about 150g of Arborio rice (I think)

1 chicken stock cube

Grated cheddar (all I had left in the fridge.)

  1.  Heat the butter and oil in a heavy plan. Gently cook the fennel until it is soft and  turning golden.
  2. Add the risotto rice and stir for 2-3 minutes. Add the tomatoes then gradually stir in  the stock a little at a time, until the risotto is tender (about 20-25 minutes).
  3. Add  cheese and stir.



Marie reduced

Quick Salmon Pasta

leaveswebMy garden was full of these beautiful colours this morning.  The day has flown by and now Halloween  is nearly over for another year.  It started earlier here than I was expecting when a small group of  little witches and vampires arrived at my door last night.  Poor things looked  very disappointed with bags of yoghurt covered fruit pieces.  How were they to know I’m a last minute Halloween shopper.   As I write the stream of trick or treaters has trickled  away to nothing,  all fast asleep in bed by now,  dreaming of their hidden treasures.

I have lots of happy memories of Halloween probably because I don’t scare myself out of my skin with films and books, unlike My Little Darling who can’t resist a good horror film.  My memories are of Halloween parties, yes, they did involve apple bobbing, and toffee apples and fancy dress competitions.  When I was about 5 I won the competition, dressed in a home-made sari, which my Mum managed to put together courtesy of step by step instructions on Blue Peter.   The following year Halloween was very different. We’d moved abroad and were living in a big American community who introduced us the joys of trick or treating and pumpkin pie. My mother, a feisty Scot insisted on her Scottish traditions too.  So any trick or treaters who came to our door had to perform something – a poem or a song – before they received any treats. Mum claimed that this was the tradition in Scotland. Whether it is or not I still don’t know.  All the ghosts and goblins, young and not so young performed their ‘party pieces’ with looks of disbelief on their faces before they got their treats.  I watched in embarrassment knowing that I would have to face them all  at school the next day.

Every time I opened the door tonight I could feel my mum with me, telling me I should be getting them to do their party pieces first.  Somehow it seems right that her spirit should be with me tonight. After all, our Halloween has its roots in Samhain, when people believed that the souls of our ancestors revisited their homes.

Quick supper tonight using store cupboard ingredients to make the most of some reduced salmon I picked up yesterday.

Quick Salmon Pasta

(serves 3)


2 Salmon fillets

150g  pasta

1 lemon

1 onion

1 vegetable stock cube

Knob of butter or oil

Cream/creme fraiche/yoghurt

Parmesan/cheddar  cheese

  1. Cook pasta.
  2. Heat butter/oil in pan and sauté onion.
  3. Add stock and lemon juice, boil to reduce.
  4. Add salmon.
  5. Stir in cream.
  6. Stir in cooked pasta.
  7. Sprinkle with Parmesan to serve.

Tasted delicious.