Merry & Bright

Hope you had a wonderful Christmas. Can’t believe it’s come and gone already. So quick!

For us, the past few days have been a fabulous whirlwind of family and festivities. It all kicked off on Christmas Eve as Peter’s brothers arrived with their families and just ended yesterday when we said goodbye to our last guests. During that time, we enjoyed up a big pot of chili for Christmas Eve dinner while playing cards, gathered eleven people strong for our Christmas meal and present opening, played with two babies under the age of one, went for a walk in the woods with the family, and got to know our Australian family members even better than before.

There were laughs, tears (from tired babies), and lots of post-food naps on the couch. I love that about big families! Everyone just piles in, pitches together, and has fun. So sad to see the family time come to an end yesterday but it is also really nice to look back on the time together and know that this is another great Christmas for the books.

We hardly had time to stop and document the days but here are a few snaps from our Christmas, including my finished Christmas pudding!

London All Dolled Up

One of the best things about England is how cheery everything is at Christmas. Almost every city, town, village, and hamlet gets into the season with Christmas lights along the main street. As you might imagine, London is exceptional when it comes to decorating the streets and imbuing them with a sense of coziness and festive cheer. Here are the lights on Shaftesbury Avenue near Covent Garden and the enormous Christmas tree in Trafalgar Square.

There are Christmas-y scenes across London but by far my favorite is Oxford Street and Regent Street. Every year, I try to make it out to see what they’ve done there. In the past, there have been Christmas lights strung above the streets in the shapes of stars and a 12 days of Christmas theme that extended all the way down Regent Street.

To get my fix this year, Peter and I headed out on the top floor of a double decker bus on Friday night. The bus dropped us off right at the intersection of Oxford Street and Regent Street so we got to see both!

Oxford Street has a snowball/snowflake look to it this year with hundreds of different sized globes of Christmas lights suspended over the street – so pretty!

On Regent Street, the lights are even more spectacular with garlands spanning the width of the street that extend all the way down to Piccadilly Circus. The only slight disappointment this year was that the ovals inside the lights were promoting a Ben Stiller movie. How annoying to have that instead of something more festive. Regardless, I still love the look!

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Only 4 more sleeps until Christmas!!

It’s Beginning to…

…look a lot like Christmas around here!

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We’re hosting Christmas this year which means we get to have a little fun and get a real Christmas tree. Two years ago, I convinced Peter to have a go at cutting down own tree. Maybe it’s because he’s older and wiser now or maybe because he realized a pregnant woman can only help so much, but cutting down a tree wasn’t even an option he was willing to entertain this year!

Instead, we shuffled off to our local garden center, Garsons, and selected a pre-cut tree from the lot. Although we weren’t cutting down the tree, one thing that made the experience special was that Garsons had real reindeer on site that you could feed. Yes, it was definitely there for the kids, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying it nonetheless.

Back at home we put on Christmas music, made some mugs of hot cocoa, and set about making the house cheery and bright. Can’t wait for Christmas now – it’s just around the corner!

Stir up Sunday

I’m back trying my hand at “British” things again. This time I embraced the tradition of ‘Stir up Sunday’, making traditional Christmas pudding on the last Sunday before Advent. I was a little late so technically my stir up happened on Stir up Sunday + 2 weeks, but in every other way I strove for authenticity!

First, we had to go grocery shopping for all the ingredients. Having never made a Christmas pudding before or even seen anyone make it, everything seemed a bit foreign to me. Candied peel, suet – what are these things? Peter and I spent a good 5 minutes looking for vegetable suet in the grocery store before finally asking someone. In the end, she led us back to the exact same aisle we’d been before! Turns out suet comes in a box, not a jar. Who would have guessed?

All ingredients assembled, I headed for the kitchen and started stirring up this concoction with a special added element: charms.

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When I moved to the UK, my aunt gave me some silver Christmas pudding charms that she’d purchased in England years ago. They are meant to be stirred into the pudding and whoever finds the charm gets good luck.

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So we have six charms in the pudding which gives plenty of change for good luck. Also, stirring the pudding is meant to bring good luck so I made tons of wishes and stirred, stirred, stirred!

Cooking the pudding was an interesting adventure too. It needs to be steamed for 6 hours and then soaked in brandy. I’d never heard of that technique but it seemed to work. This is the finished product, all topped off with brandy and ready to be heated up again on Christmas Day.

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Fingers crossed it’s edible!

Defying Gravity

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On Thursday, Peter and I had a semi-impromptu date night to go see Wicked at the Apollo Victoria Theatre in London. Even though I’ve been wanting to see it for a while, we only bought the tickets a few days in advance on one of those last minute ticket websites. We’ve had luck buying tickets in the least expensive band before so we opted to do the same again this time.

Little did we know how lucky we would be. When we arrived at the theater to collect the tickets, the woman behind the counter spotted by “Baby on Board” pin and moved us to better seats. Instead of being in the very back, we were close to the front of the balcony section – what an amazing stroke of luck!

Before the show started, we admired the gorgeous Apollo Victoria theater. So many of London’s theaters have interesting and historic interiors and this one is no exception. The Apollo Victoria was built in 1930 and has a very unique ceiling. Here are a few pictures we snapped before the show started.

Once the musical got started, we thoroughly enjoyed it. Knowing little about the show beforehand, one of the best parts for me was the storyline and the way it played with our perceptions of the well-known classic Wizard of Oz. And of course, the signature song “Defying Gravity” was another fantastic highlight! Such a great tune!