Happy Holidays

Dear Sam,

 

Mmm, the roast chestnuts  you were telling me about sound very tempting – I will add them to my Christmas shopping list!  Your post started me thinking about all the delicious aromas that we associate with Christmas and it’s also one of the themes of a book I’ve been reading lately, Nigel Slater’s The Christmas Chronicles.  As I mentioned on Instagram , I first read about it on Nikki Garnett’s blog, midlifechic and then ordered it from my local library.  It offers an inspiring view of winter as a season to be savoured and enjoyed rather than endured and, to help with this, it suggests filling the house with the scents of the season.

Evergreens, bay and hyacinths

christmas evergreens
Evergreens fill the house with the scent of the outdoors at Christmas

As well as the Christmas tree and evergreen garlands, Nigel Slater suggests using bay leaves, bay oil or candles and, my particular favourite, hyacinths.  If you haven’t planned ahead and planted your own to flower at Christmas, they aren’t expensive to buy, ready potted and in bud, and they’ll add colour and scent to the house for several weeks. I think they always seem like a promise of spring, which I can always do with at this dark time of the year.

As this is our last post in 2018, I’d like to wish you and everyone who reads our blog a wonderful Christmas and all the very best for the new year.  I will see you here again on January 18th. Until then,

Much love,

Claire

 

 

A postcard from Florence

Car on road among trees in Italy

Dear Sam,

 

Ciao from Florence!

We’re here for a few days to explore and enjoy some sunshine, good food and gelato.  I’ll take your advice and avoid plastic by choosing a cornet in place of a tub!

When I go on holiday, I like to take a book that suits the destination, so before we left home I downloaded the audiobook of E. M. Forster’s A Room with a View from Librivox and it’s proving to be the perfect soundtrack to our trip.

Florence, Italy skyline
A view of the river Arno in Florence, as requested in ‘A Room with a View’.

A presto!

Much love,

Claire

 

 

Top ten ideas for gifts that do good

Dear Sam,

Happy Thanksgiving for yesterday!

I was thinking of you and how grateful I am that we can connect through our blog, too. I was delighted to hear that being kind is so good for us – that’s definitely a win-win situation.

Talking about being kind, the season of goodwill is approaching and I’ve been pondering the gifts I need to buy. This year, in the spirit of Staircase 9 17, I’ve looked for presents  which help people as well as (hopefully) making the recipient happy. I thought I’d share my Top Ten ideas with you today:

1. Buying seasonal supplies is a great way to support charities and this year I’ve ordered some cards from Book Aid and my wrapping paper from Alzheimer’s Society.

2. As well as buying online, it’s fun to keep a look out for presents at the craft fairs and fetes that are held before Christmas in support of causes close to home.

coffee Christmas

3. Gifts of food always go down well with my friends and family, so I’m planning to get some Manumit coffee, which supports victims of modern slavery. Lots of our local shops sell Fairtrade goods, too, and I might add in some biscuits, a couple of mugs and a pretty tea towel to complete the present.

4. As well as buying from charities I try to support local ventures, which help to make the area we live in more vibrant and interesting.  We have a couple of art colleges nearby and some of the students sell their work directly, so you can find a unique gift and help someone out at the start of their career.

5. I often give books as gifts and I noticed that there is a range of paperbacks for sale which support Cancer Research UK.  I also have my eye on Stressed, Unstressed, the poetry anthology produced by the ReLit Bibliotherapy Foundation.

6. Beautiful accessories are a favourite option for my friends and I like the purses, jewellery rolls and bags made by Lua, who work with craftspeople in Vietnam.

sebon

7. I love to give and receive lotions and potions and I found some lovely soaps produced by Arthouse Meath, which is a collective of artists living with disabilities.

8. We all have people on our present list who already have everything and the ‘virtual’ charity gifts like ‘give a goat to Granny’ have been popular for some time.  I like the idea of matching the gift to the person’s interests. One year I paid for stethoscopes for use in the developing world on behalf of my doctor parents and this year an option caught my eye for booklovers: to support the work of Chawton House Library (which is at the ‘Great House’ near Jane Austen’s home in Hampshire, UK) you can adopt a book  on someone’s behalf.

9. Another idea for those who seemingly have it all is tickets for an evening out. An ideal choice is a charity concert or film screening; you can find out what’s on by searching online or contacting a charity close to your heart to ask about forthcoming events.

 

coupon

10. And finally, why not offer a ‘voucher’ for some help? It can be anything you know the recipient would appreciate, from time to help sort through a collection of photos to babysitting for new parents. It’s easy to print a bespoke voucher and you can pair it with a suitable small gift like a lovely album for the pictures or a  bottle of wine for a pre-dinner drink.

Have you made a start on your seasonal shopping? I’d love to hear how your preparations are going.

Much love,

Claire

 

 

 

 

A word in your ear

Dear Sam,

I’m really pleased to hear you had a good time in Italy – so did we! We’re just back from Sicily and I enjoyed playing Free Rice to pass the time while we were travelling. I think it’s a great idea to combine a game with such a good cause, so thank you for letting me know about it.

While we were away I also enjoyed having a bit more time for reading. For the flight, I took something absorbing but light, one of  Georgette Heyer’s Regency novels, Black Sheep. Being in Sicily, I also packed one of Andrea Camilleri’s Inspector Montalbano mysteries, The Patience of the Spider, and it was fun to see some of the places we’d visited appearing as part of the plot!

When I’m on holiday I usually take an audio book with me, too. Recently, I’ve listened to several, including the wonderful Barchester Towers , on  Librivox – have you come across it? It’s a great source of free recordings read by volunteers, either chapter by chapter or as whole works. And, if you feel inspired to join in, you can become involved as a volunteer reader if you choose.

What’s on your reading – or listening – list for the autumn? Or, the fall, I should say!

Much love,

Claire