Christmas Fun.

I’ve been trawling the net looking for fun things to do with Christmas… Here’s a few!

Fancy checking out how close Father Christmas is to you at the moment? Try the Santa Tracker over at Norad! http://www.noradsanta.org/en/track3d.html

Want to say “Happy Christmas” in a different way? http://www.santas.net/howmerrychristmasissaid.htm will help you with that!

And here’s a traditional Christmas song… in the UK anyway!

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Need to send out a last minute Christmas card? Well emailing is your only hope… http://www.123greetings.com/events/christmas/merry_christmas/ do some brilliant free ones!

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Here’s a wonderful Christmas story for you to enjoy…

WINTERLESSON
Terry Kroenung

“Is he going to be all right?” the wan woman asked, biting her lower lip.

Joshua Paxon shrugged and kept working on his patient’s bleeding
head. “I don’t know,” he sighed. With a hand cracked from cold and hard
work he pulled the blanket up to the sleeping stranger’s bearded chin.

His wife’s brow furrowed. “Are you still going out?”

“Have to.” Paxon started pulling on his insulated boots. “Did you find any
ID on him?”

She still held the old man’s scorched parka. “No. Not a thing in
his pockets except a piece of a cookie. Oatmeal raisin.” Shuffling her
nervous feet, she returned to her earlier plea. “Listen, why don’t you
wait until morning? It’s Christmas Eve, for heaven’s sake.”

“I’m sorry, hon’. But if that was a plane crash we heard, there may be
more people hurt. Maybe some who couldn’t crawl away like he did.”

Mrs. Paxon touched her husband’s worn face and smiled a little. “You’re
right,” she whispered. “Let’s go.”

He looked up, less surprised than she probably expected. “Riding
shotgun, hmm? Who’ll watch our patient?”

Squirming into her blaze-orange jumpsuit, Mary told him, “He’ll be out for
hours. Others may freeze to death by then. Besides, those big
fumble-fingers of yours won’t be much good if we have to do some
serious first aid.”

Josh stood and gave her a peck on her thin warm lips. “If this turns out
to be nothing, I’ll bring you back here and show you who has
fumble-fingers.”

A corner of her mouth turned up. “Oh, so we’re playing doctor either way,
huh?”

They were bundled up now. Josh had their big medical kit in one hand
and a Maglite in the other. His wife grabbed blankets and an Army
surplus five-gallon water can.

“Well, here we go,” Paxon announced, heading for the cabin door.

“Wait, Joshua. You must take me with you.”

Paxon turned back to ask Mary what she was talking about. Then it
struck him that it hadn’t been her voice he’d heard.

Wobbly but upright, the pudgy old man struggled into the burnt and
torn parka. At the same time he pushed wide feet into what remained
of his old black boots. Despite the head injury, his blue eyes glittered
with a clear fire. When he moved, tiny pale flames seemed to crawl
through his white hair and beard.

“Mister,” cried the alarmed Paxon,” you really shouldn’t be out of bed.”

The benign stranger stared back at him. “No, we must hurry to the
crash site,” he insisted, pleasant but firm. His voice sounded like
dozens of crystal bells set to ancient music.

Josh’s will melted and flowed out of him like spring snow from a roof.
He found himself following the odd little fellow outside as if he were
being led on an invisible leash. Mary appeared at his elbow, a bemused
smile on her face usually seen on small children at magic shows. A
moment later they sledded north through the Alaskan night behind
the couple’s eight yelping dogs.

Paxon kept trying to ask the stranger questions, such as how he’d
known his name when he’d been unconscious ever since they’d found
him. But every time the opened his mouth, the desire to know
left him, as if the question itself were being gently nudged
from his mind. Mary, tucked into the sled behind their visitor, merely kept
gazing at him as if she were seeing a shooting star.

Twenty minutes of peaceful sledding ended as cruel lights and a harsh command to
identify themselves ripped apart the darkness. The dogs snarled and snapped at a pair of huge helmeted figures, which blocked their way, brandishing assault weapons. Both soldiers seemed very young and clearly scared. Beyond the men Paxon could make out some sort of commotion of men and metal.

From under the rugs in the sled came that marvelous sound of
melodious bells. “We’re friends, son. We have business here. Stand
aside, please.”

Astonishingly, both sentries moved away and waved them forward.
Paxon urged the dogs along again. No one challenged them again as
they glided into a substantial clearing surrounded by burnt and
broken trees. Stopping the rig at an improvised rope barrier, Paxon
and Mary stared in horrified amazement.

Several olive-green trucks squatted at the edge of the open space,
banks of lights in their beds pouring harsh illumination into the
cordoned-off area. Behind them sat half a dozen helicopters-mostly
Blackhawks, but also a pair of fully-armed Apaches. At least a hundred
shivering infantrymen, their breaths clouding the icy air, crowded against
the ropes. They murmured, shook their heads, and pointed at the clearing. Inside the barrier a clump of dazed officers gathered around a piece of still-steaming wreckage. Although it was shattered, and scarred by fire, Paxon could still recognize it. He felt
Mary’s sharp intake of breath beside him as she also recognized it.

A large red sleigh.

Scattered all around it were countless toys: dump trucks, dolls,
chemistry sets, football helmets, books…all the trappings of childhood
dreams. It saddened Joshua, of course, to see so much potential
happiness lying in ruins. But they were merely things. Replaceable
things. Their loss wasn’t what horrified him about the awful scene.

No, it was the eight dead reindeer that made his flesh crawl.

They lay in twisted, broken lumps, silver antlers shattered from when
they had ploughed into the frozen ground. The once-glittering golden
harness now dulled by snow and mud… and blood. No glee rang
from the grim silent bells now. Paxon shook his head in disbelief. He
blinked as he tried to absorb the scene. While Mary’s trembling arm slid
into his and gripped him tightly, he tried to remember the names of the
reindeer. When he’d got as far as ‘Cupid’ he dared to look over at
the old man he’d rescued.

Tears were frozen on both their cheeks.

Stepping across the ropes, the stranger limped toward the corpse of the
sleigh. No one moved to stop him. He halted near one of the dead deer
and stroked its cold, still flank. Now he looked very old, indeed–as
ancient as all fear and grief. With a sigh he stooped, stiff and sore, to thrust his
hand at what looked like a bloodstain in the snow. When he brought his
trembling hand back up, Josh felt Mary clutch him with a tiny gasp.

A red velvet cap, trimmed in ermine.

A wail of frustrated rage rose from the clearing, a keening cry that drove
Paxon to his knees in empathy. Mary fell with him. The American
soldiers seemed to be frozen to the ground where they stood,
powerless to do anything but watch. Their leaders turned toward the
tortured sound but made no other move.

To Joshua they all looked ashamed…the same feeling that choked him.
Slowly the snow-haired man turned a complete circle, meeting the eyes
of every one of them…at least, those who weren’t staring at their boots.
No sound could be heard but the crumping of his boots in the snow.

He glared at the officers now, the wound on his head livid. It seemed
as if he dared them to try to explain away their crime. No one
seemed up to the challenge. The bulk of the huddle eventually turned
their eyes to gaze toward one man in particular. The one with the black
stars on his helmet.

“We…We thought it was…an incoming missile.” His whisper felt weak,
sounding like a dead leaf brushing ahead of a breeze.
“That was its radar signature.” The general managed to meet the old
man’s cold stare for a quivering instant. “We had to shoot it down.” Then
his eyes fell to the bloody snow.

A snort of contempt greeted this. The frozen tears shattered from his
cheeks as the stranger cried, “When will you learn?!” He received only
ashamed silence in answer. “Tell me! Is this going to go on forever, this
madness?” His voice broke a little. “Have you learned nothing from me
at all?”

Shaking his head, he turned away from them with a growl of disgust. He
held his hands out. All the trembling that had been there before had gone.
Crystalline magic leapt from them and swirled round the clearing in a
blue-white rush. Paxon and Mary squinted at the overwhelming lovely
light. The sound felt like a billion children smiling. Josh
smelled brownies baking. He turned away from the agonizing goodness
to look at his wife. Mary still stared at their former patient. In her
wide eyes he saw an enchanted three year-old. It had his face.

With a sound of sadness leaving a sickroom the magic returned to the
old man. Paxon turned back toward him, blinking. He caught his breath.
The lights in the trucks had been blown out, but he could still see
everything in the clearing as if it were noon. The sleigh stood whole and
full of toys once more, proud lively reindeer dancing, impatient in their
glittering harness. Antlers caught the moonlight like gemstones in
a chandelier. Their master’s broad forehead shined, clear and
unwounded. His parka was a shining new crimson and his boots
gleamed as if waxed. He hopped nimbly onto the sleigh and grabbed
the reins.

“I don’t bring you toys, my children,” he said in a clear young voice. “I
bring you love.” He smiled, but with sad eyes. “May you someday learn to accept the
gift.”

The sleigh rose slowly and silently from the ground. Mary’s hand slid
into Joshua’s. She held a warm oatmeal raisin cookie out to him. Her
husband raised an eyebrow, but she just smiled and shrugged.
Nickolas winked at them, then let out a laugh that they felt, oven-warm,
on their chilled faces. The reindeer shook their heads and pulled him
aloft. Long after they were out of sight, Joshua and Mary could still feel
those harness bells laughing.

* * *

Christmas is for the children really, and I’ve discovered that it’s only by acting like a child (no, I don’t mean being selfish and having temper tantrums)  when you are an adult that you regain the fun of Christmas.

I’ve concentrated on making this christmas fun for my kids – we’ve watched Christmas Movies like Muppets Christmas Carol and The Grinch, we’ve been to Carol Concerts and Pantomimes… The EAS Elves that FC sends out to check on the houses on the 23rd Dec left them some chocolate coins for being good and we’re currently tracking  Mr. FC across the world using the NORAD Santa Tracker.

Suddenly I’m enjoying Christmas again and smiling, feeling happy about the season – a few days ago I was very depressed about it and didn’t want the holiday to happen – now, I’m happy.

*smiles*

PT is frankly bouncing off the walls in her excitement. NOS is trying to look all grown up about it, but you can see the little boy inside that is trying to get out! TOH is avoiding Christmas – I know he tries hard to not let his Mother’s absence affect him, but he never does a good job of it at Christmas Time.  He’ll brighten up tomorrow – especially when the kids are opening their presents!

I hope everyone has a wonderful Christmas with their Friends and Family!

Christmas Traditions

Midwinter is upon us once more. Longest day, Darkest night – the Oak King battles the Holly King to ensure the sun will come up tomorrow morning…

The birth of the Son at the darkest hour of the year to ensure the continuation of light and hope.

Funny how things all seem to link together.

But then again the first myth was around long before the second one and humans like to link things together when something changes – just so no one feels left out. I don’t know if this is survival instinct or just a thing that humans do, but in some ways it means that our midwinter holiday traditions are constantly changing.

So how have your family’s midwinter traditions changed?

When I was a kid, it was all carols and church. Then I went to uni and it became chocolate and alcohol. When my children arrived, it became all about them and their enjoyment. When TOH’s grandfather died, midwinter became about keeping the older generation happy. Who knows what it will become in the future?

We will be visiting Bristol again this year, staying over night with GIL and visiting SIL. What that means in practice is that our family Christmas (the one that revolves around the children) is moved from the 25th to the 27th. Oh, we’ll open the presents on the morning of the 25th, but we won’t get to relax until the 27th.

I know the kids are looking forward to the weekend – it prolongs the fun for them, I suppose – but for TOH and I it means having to deal with a lot of stress and unhappiness. Which is why I don’t like christmas at the moment.

I think we need to morph the traditions again…

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My friends are also thinking about the midwinter traditions as well, take a look!

Ritual wars

The Christmas Conundrum ~ what is the spirit of the season?

The Evolution of Christmas in Anglo-Saxon Times

Deep Peace in the Silence

The Wolves are Running

>Christmas is coming…

Warning: Gentlemen this is an article aimed at the Ladies. You may get bored…

It’s the fifteenth today. There are officially ten days left until Christmas Day!

From what I can see of other people (hey, I like watching people – it’s one of my favourite hobbies) this is about the time when everyone starts to panic. Have I got all the presents? I haven’t sent my cards yet. Oh, my word, I forgot to get a beef joint for the Christmas Eve Dinner Party… You know, things like that.

It’s also the start of the Office Christmas Party Season. So people start worrying about their outfits and hair / makeup. It’s this that I was thinking about as I walked home from dropping the kids off at school this morning.

I can understand wanting to look your best, but why buy a new dress unless you need to? I thought. (Maria K, stop shaking your head at me – you can tell me off later) I understand the need for new makeup; after all it does have a shelf life and can cause skin problems if you use out of date makeup (been there done that). I can understand getting your hair done; I never feel right when my hair is terrible, in fact you can pretty much gauge my mood by the state of my hair.

Freshly washed = Happy
Messy = Content
Greasy = Stay as far away from me as possible.

Nails are things that get in my way, so I don’t understand them or bother with them. Shoes – well, they are a weakness with me; if I like the shoes, I will buy the shoes: it doesn’t matter if I have an occasion to wear them to or not…

But all this fuss over a dress for an office party? And it’s not fussing over the material or the design (that’s what I look for in clothes) or even the comfort. Everyone is obsessed with what size they are! They go on crash diets which make them cranky and unfriendly, just so they can get into a size 12 when they know that straight after the party they’ll be a 14 again!

So, here are my tips for dress shopping. Please bear in mind that I know nothing about fashion – go see my friend Maria Kuroshchepova if you want fashion advice – but I do know a couple of things you might want to take into account:

1) Make sure you are wearing the right size bra.

Get yourself measured (wearing the right size will make your clothes hang properly) and buy new underwear to go with the dress. Why? Because if you are going to get drunk and dance on the tables, you do not want your boss or the CEO seeing your comfy, grey, granny pants as you fall off and your skirt flies over your head. It will also make you feel better about yourself.

2) For Goddess’ sake, don’t worry about the size of the dress!

Sizes are defunct. Many manufacturers are still using the same sizes that they used in the 50’s and haven’t changed them. There are a few more factors that you need to take into account than just size:

  • Shape – if the dress is the wrong shape for your body it will not look right and you will not feel right.
  • Colour – Some colours will suit your skin, eyes and hair colouration. Some won’t do not pick a colour that doesn’t suit you. Get a second opinion if you need to. I cannot wear colours that are too light, but jewel colours suit me down to the ground. Black doesn’t always suit everyone, white, when used in the wrong way can make you feel fat.
  • Material – certain material drape better over bulges. If you have sexy curves (like me) then you need to go for a material that drapes over them rather than clings.
  • Comfort – If the dress is too tight, go for a bigger size. Cut the label out if you have to, but being comfortable in what you are wearing makes you confident. Confidence is empowering.

 3) Make sure when you look in the mirror before you go shopping you tell yourself. “I am Beautiful. I am Sexy. I am Confident”.

Stay that three times. Say it out loud at home and whenever you look into a mirror in the changing room, repeat it in your head. Make yourself believe it. Especially when you find a dress you like and your shopping partner (mine is TOH, yours might be your BFF) says something inadvertently nasty like “Your bum looks huge in that.”

4)  Don’t believe everything you are told – even by your shopping partner!

I bought the most gorgeous summer dress last summer, swingy and sexy and just the right colours. I bought it because TOH said I looked great in it. When we went through my wardrobe in the autumn, I tried it on again and we realised it was the wrong shape for me. It’s empire line and I need a bodice that hits the edge of my ribs before it flares out in a summer dress. I still have it though – I’m going find a decent seamstress and get it re-tailored to suit me.

5) ABOVE ALL – When you wear the dress it must make you feel good!


Feeling good in what you are wearing makes you confident, feeling confident makes you stand tall. Self Confidence + Good Posture = Looking Good in the Mirror which makes you look and feel damn Sexy!

What is important when you are in a stressful situation like an Office Party, isn’t how much wine you can drink, but how in control and confident you can be. If you feel sexy inside, you’ll be able to network that much better and possibly even impress the boss! So that third glass of wine before you eat or before you even go to the party probably isn’t a good idea…

I hope that has gone some small way to helping you choose this year’s Party Dress. I haven’t got any parties to go to, so I will stick with wearing what I am comfortable in… *grins*