Last year, you may remember, I spent two days at the Artisan Bakery School in Devon. They taught, we baked, we ate. And I left armed with the more confidence in the yeast and leaven department. Soon after this, I volunteered to look after a friend’s sourdough starter (which goes by ‘Alfonzo’, naturally) while they were holidaying for three weeks. I took this responsibility seriously; listened earnestly while my friend told me about Alfonzo’s needs (starter-organic flour-water in ratios of 1:1:1) and habits (awake in the evening if fed in the morning). And, if I’m honest, I felt the pressure. This was something that he had nurtured from nothing, and I could, with neglect, kill it.
I’ve done it. Finally. I wrote a while ago about my desire to make my own advent calendar – something that was unique to our family, and reusable for years to come. I came up with a plan that I was satisfied – but not thrilled – with. I embroidered 25 numbers. I started assembly. And by mid-December recognised that this was not the year I was going to finish my advent calendar. Maybe next festive season though. That was four years ago.
I wrote a while back about how we were swapping out short-lived sponges and cloths for ten durable cloths that we would wash and reuse. These cloths served us well, but a few years, and one house move (and therefore epic clean) later, and we needed a few replacements. I thought about hopping back on Ethical Superstore to buy some more, but then remembered a crochet pattern for washable cotton wool pads that I had stumbled across a few years ago. Rather than introducing new resources to our home, this would use up ones we already had to hand. I eyed up my knitting basket, and hatched a plan.
I wrote last year about how I prefer to set down ‘aspirations’ compared to ‘resolutions’ at the turn of the new year. In 2016, these aspirations were not a rod for my back (as resolutions can be) but a focal point to return to throughout the year. They focused the mind without disheartening it. By now most resolutions will have fallen by the wayside but, with life’s recent changes, I’m still dreaming for the year ahead.
I realised that I needed new sunglasses when wearing my existing pair didn’t actually enable me able to see the world any better. True, they blocked out the glare, but they were so scratched that in dappled light they rendered me virtually blind. This seemed not ideal.
Mindful about where to source a new (to me) purchase from, I took a £2.99 risk and ordered a pair from Oxfam’s online shop. I’ve had previous successes from there and I’m pleased to report the sunglasses have not ruined my track record. They fit perfectly, are in great condition, and fulfil that all important role of protecting my eyes and sight on sunny days.
This was supposed to be a ‘how to’ before Christmas but illness interfered with writing plans. Enjoy this retrospective instead; not only what we did but what we learned from it for everyday life.
Last November I caught the end of a Radio 4 programme about advent, in particular emphasising that it is the only Christian festival that looks to the future, instead of remembering the past. I’d never thought about advent this way before; it had instead been laden with childhood notions of chocolate and counting down to presents. At the time I was lamenting our lack of advent calendar* and was struck by the opportunity to capture something of that anticipation for the kind of future we’re trying to intentionally build in an advent calendar. Something that would help us spend time during December acting on our desire to be more kind to people and the environment, more creative and yet, perhaps paradoxically, do this all at a slower pace of life and with more breathing space.
The ’25 Dos of Christmas’ were born.
The rules: Continue reading
When catching up on the Downton Abbey Christmas special, the post-festive season adverts told me it was time to start getting fit, redecorating the house and booking holidays. These themes did arise in our New Year’s Eve reflections on the year past and the days ahead, but they weren’t the only features of our discussion. We are content with the framework we have established for our lives, prioritising sustainable living, fostering community, exploring creativity and honouring God. In 2016 we hope to continue on this trajectory, which means making more incremental steps to thread these throughout the fabric of our lives.