Christmas In London


It's been busy, it's been fun, it's felt a little different, and we've packed in as much as we possibly could in the short time we've been here! Christmas in London has been a whirlwind, and as we prepare to head back to France tomorrow here's just some of what we've been up to since touching down in the UK. After a quick trip to Manchester to see family (and Santa!) we first settled down in South London to celebrate Christmas Day with Andrew's family.


The kids spent a day at Chessington to see Santa (again!) the animals at the zoo, and for a Gruffalo show. I was treated to the most delicious lunch with family and friends at The Waterside Inn in Bray, and whilst staying at my parents house took myself round all the lovely gift shops full of Christmas at this time of year. Dad and I saw Interstellar at Westfield and I was shocked to see shops open till 11pm!! (Yes, I have become that country!) Reuben had his first trip to the cinema to see Paddington which is a lovely family film. It was funny and showed some of my favourite bits of London, like Portobello Road, which sadly I just didn't get to this time round.



After Christmas we headed up North London to stay with my parents and we spent time down at the Southbank, one of our favourite places. Mum took the boys on the London Eye and the little Southbank Centre Express train along the river. Andrew had his first taste of the ballet as we had a night out to see the Nutcracker with my parents, and we managed a day to ourselves where we browsed around and had lunch in Covent Garden before heading back to the Southbank to see Timber, a fun family friendly show of lumberjack circus performers from Quebec.



We've been on all forms of transport after a year and a half travelling only by car. The boys have had fun with their cousins and reacquainted themselves with local playgrounds. We've shopped in the sales, oohed and aahed at the sparkly Christmas lights that all of London has to offer, and seen more Christmas trees than we would ever have seen in France. After all that we're exhausted and more than ready to return to quiet village life! It's been great seeing family and friends again, sorry to all of you we didn't get round to seeing. We're starting to think about the year ahead and we're planning a fun filled 2015. Thank you to all of you who read this blog, follow on social media, and take the time to comment. I look forward to sharing life with you next year!



Don't forget to follow on Facebook where soon I will be posting more pictures from our time in London!
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Christmas In Manchester

We had only just touched down in London but the next day with suitcases repacked we were on a train heading up North to Manchester. Andrew has a lot of family up there and we went to visit them for a few days before settling in London. We made the effort to get out and about, despite the fact that it did not stop raining the whole time we were there!


I've had never actually been into the centre of Manchester before so the first day we took the boys in to do a bit of Christmas shopping and to see the Christmas market. I had to keep reminding myself that we were shopping for others, especially in Waterstones where I kept spying books I wanted to flick through and take home with me. Temptation was all around for the boys who are not used to seeing so many shops in one place and things on display. I had to keep reminding Reuben that Christmas was only a few days away and if there was anything he wanted to add it to his wish list.


We whizzed around the Christmas market which was a shame but by that time we were soaked through. There were some lovely things from pottery to locally produced food, fab Christmas jumpers and Bailey's hot chocolate alongside the traditional mulled wine. We saw a giant lit up Santa which the boys loved as they thought he was sat on top of a giant present.



Our next outing was to take the boys to see Santa. We headed to a local garden centre where they had a little train that took you to Santa's grotto. Again it was a shame it was raining as the train was uncovered and we got a little wet as we weaved our way along the track. The kids bought and waved their Thomas flags and queued patiently to see Santa. Both my boys were a little shy going in and Jacob wanted his big brother to go first. Reuben wasn't too eager to have his picture taken with him but they were both quite happy choosing their presents!

Before we knew it we were back on the train to London and at this point Jacob was welcoming everyone onto Virgin trains! It was a flying visit but the boys got to see their family and a bit of Manchester.

This will be my last post until after Christmas so to all my readers I hope you have a very Happy Christmas wherever you are in the world!

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Crochet Clutch Bag

Why I decided to sell at a Christmas market the day before we left for London I have no idea. I had visions of being fully packed, food shopping for when we returned done, Christmas presents wrapped, and a spotless house. Ha! We were anything but ready. This particular Christmas market held in Verfeil was one of the better ones. There were a good range of stalls, with handcrafted goods to local producers selling food, and it was well attended by the villagers. Selling at these markets can be tough. My head is still in London when I think about craft markets and I forget that the local french markets are very different. The few kids that came liked my candy cane mice, badges, and bracelets with snowflakes and Christmas trees. But the majority of the older French villagers weren't interested in felt stockings and garlands so for me it was a little disappointing.




The item I was most proud of on my stall was my lined crochet clutch (the large one you can see in the picture above.) I'm quite glad it didn't sell as I actually want it for myself! It was the first time I had tried sewing a lining into a crocheted item and it wasn't as difficult as I thought it might be. I used this pattern and lovely colour changing yarn from a local haberdashery shop in Villefranche. I'll be making more and am starting to think about selling online next year. 2015 will be my year to master crocheting as my crochet wish list is growing daily!

What do you think of my Christmas stand?!

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Thoughts On Going Back 'Home'

As our trip to celebrate Christmas in London rapidly approaches I'm starting to think about what life in London will be like. What will be the same? What will be different? How will we feel being back in the place that I at least still call 'home'? We've been in France now for a year and a half and this is the first time that we are making the journey back. I'm sure we'll have that feeling you get when you return home after a long holiday away. You know the one where you realise life goes on in pretty much the same way even when you're not there.


The kids will have to be watched like hawks. Jacob has little concept of pavements and roads as most of the places we visit and walk around are pedestrianised. On our trip to Albi Reuben thought it was noisy and that there were too many cars, so who knows what he'll think of the constant hum of the city and all the Christmas traffic! We'll be tourists, visiting all the places that tourists like to go at this time of year, and I'm slightly dreading the cost of everything. One of the reasons we moved from London is because we couldn't afford to live there, particularly when only one of us was working full time.


Being 'tourists' in London is something I want us to get used to though, as long term I want us to get to a point where we are back visiting at least once a year. I want the boys to grow up knowing London, obviously not in the same way that I do as I know that's not possible. But I want them to be familiar with the city as one day they may choose to call it their home. And that's what I'm looking forward to most...being back in a city that I am familiar with, where for a short period I understand everything that is being said around me, where I can show the boys some of my favourite places at this time of year and to remind them that there is a big world outside of our little French village.

Are you an expat abroad? How did you feel the first time you went back to your home country? This post is linking up Seychellesmama as part of her 'My Expat Family' series.


Seychelles Mama
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Christmas Crafting With Kids

As a family we don't need an excuse to get crafty! Throughout Autumn/Fall we have had a go at leaf mobiles, owl print pictures and diva candles, which all now form part of our Christmas display. This year, because we'll be spending Christmas in London and not in France, we haven't got a tree. This time last year our tree was up and decorated and sat glittering in the corner of our living room until the New Year. This week I dragged the Christmas box down from the loft and made a little Christmas display for Reuben and Jacob to mark the start of December. I wrapped their advent calendars, hung up some tinsel, and draped everything in fairy lights in the hope that it might make our little corner of rural France feel a bit more Christmassy. 

One thing we do every year as a family is add to our Christmas box with homemade decorations. Have a look here to see what we made last year and below is what we had a go at this week!


Painted Tree Christmas Cards
Supplies: card, paper, paint, glue, glitter
Paint your paper with an array of colours and leave to dry, then use the paper to cut out some Christmas shapes. We chose to do a Christmas tree. Stick onto your card and then decorate how you like! Being Christmas we decided on glitter and Reuben wrote 'Happy Christmas' along the bottom of the cards. We'll be sending them out in the post soon!

Snowflake Candles
Supplies: Christmas paper punch, decorative paper, small glass jars, glitter, glue
Reuben had fun punching out paper snowflakes for this one which we then stuck onto the glass jars. The best bit was probably covering the rim with glitter and then lighting candles inside and watching them sparkle. We like to find ways of bringing light into our home at this time of year but we'll be able to use these all year round as a table decoration.


Christmas Photo Frame
Supplies: photo, frame, glue, glitter and shiny bits to decorate the frame
When Reuben was in nursery in London, every year at Christmas he would come home with a decorated photo frame with a picture of him looking Christmassy. Every family has their own Christmas traditions and I know there are many out there who take a seasonal family picture. I can honestly only think of one picture that we have with the boys, and Andrew and I, altogether. I am going to make it my mission to get a photo of all of us this Winter which we can add to our Christmas box.

Getting crafty at Christmas is a great way of bringing families together and creating traditions that can be repeated year after year. What crafty creations have you been making recently?



Follow all that we get up to at Christmas on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter!

This post has been written as part of the Multicultural Kid Blogs 'Christmas In Different Lands' series. Each day of December up until the 25th a different blogger around the world will share a part of their family Christmas. Check back each day for seasonal inspiration, from crafts to recipes, family traditions and more!


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Christmas In London

This year we will be spending Christmas in London. We're all pretty excited at the thought of going, particularly as it will be our first trip back home since moving out to France a year and a half ago. There is so much we want to do in so little time and here is just a glimpse of some of the things we'll be trying to fit it!


The Southbank
This is one of the places we really miss as we used to hang out there quite a bit when we lived in London. We'll be heading down to the Christmas market and taking a ride on the Southbank Centre Express. I have booked tickets for Andrew and I to go and see Timber, and it would be great to catch some free music, or perhaps the family might be up for some Tango dancing on Boxing Day?!


Nutcracker at the ENO
With tickets booked I'm quite excited about this. I can't remember the last time I went to a ballet performance and for Andrew it will be a first. It will be one of our more grown up evenings out!


Ice Skating
We'll be heading to the Natural History Museum to skate this year where I'm hoping Reuben might be brave enough to have his very first try at ice skating. There are so many great skating sites around London and this one seems to be quite kid friendly. Plus there will be the added bonus of popping into the museum when we're done!


Christmas Tree
We're not getting a Christmas tree in France this year so we'll be heading out with the boys to find some of the biggest ones we can find in London. Let us know if there's one near you!

Eating Out
You can't beat shopping for fresh produce in local French markets, but too often we're finding the restaurants can be a little disappointing, with similar menus and lack of creativity. I'm looking forward to trying out some new restaurants, tasting all the foods we have missed, and am hoping to take Andrew here when we have our day out without the kids.


Shopping
No, not Christmas shopping, that's already done! The kind of shopping we just can't get here in rural France. As well as browsing down Portobello Road and in Covent Garden there are three main shops I just have to go to. Being a music teacher without a good local music shop I'm currently buying all my music online. I'll be heading to the Yamaha Music Shop to choose new books for my students and find some musical inspiration for the New Year. I cannot tell you how much I miss the haberdashery shops in London. The Village Haberdashery, Ray Stitch and Loop will be on my radar almost as soon as I step off the plane. Bookshops! I can spend hours in a bookshop. The kids need new books and I'm after any family cookbooks and crafting books that I don't get off my Christmas wish list!

Family & Friends
This goes without saying really. It's been a while since we've seen some family and friends and although Christmas is a busy time for everyone we're hoping to see as many people as we can. Book us in now as dates are disappearing fast!

What's on your list to do this Christmas? Where do you like to go as a family? Do you have any outings booked?



 Pictures taken from here: train, nutcracker, ice skating, tree, wool
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