December reading diary 📚

December ended up a busy month in general and so a quieter reading one than I expected, which, with lockdown fully back on now, it was lovely just to embrace while we could. I did manage to do some reading though, with our book club book, John Lanchester’s The Wall, in the first few days of the month; a couple of lovely Christmas books, Jostein Gaarder’s The Christmas Mystery and the one and only A Christmas Carol read slowly over the lead-up to Christmas, and finishing in the last few days of the year reading Laura Markham’s Calm Parents, Happy Kids which I’d been reading for a few weeks.

📖 The Wall ~ John Lanchester 📖 Really enjoyed reading and having our monthly book club virtual catch-up on John Lanchester’s dystopian portrayal of the UK after an event referred to only as The Change. A short and fast-paced but thought-provoking and certainly topical book, I found the unsettling world of the Wall and Kavanagh’s story within it hauntingly relevant and so gripping. Really enjoyed reading this and discussing it too, lovely to have a chance to gather even from afar and talk books.

📖 A Christmas Carol ~ Charles Dickens 📖 Every year as Christmas creeps closer I look forward to re-reading A Christmas Carol, and it’s part of my little tradition to read it from my old uni Longman Anthology of British Literature too, on the tall thin pages I first discovered it on, tucked between other works of its era but so very special. I always wait to read it when it won’t be rushed and it really feels like Christmas when I do finally pull it from the shelf and begin again. This year as always I loved returning to the grey streets of Victorian London, and to the warmth, spirit and challenge to us all of this inimitable, wonderful story ❤️❤️

📖 The Christmas Mystery ~ Jostein Gaarder 📖 This is a book I have had on my shelf since childhood and had read before but could barely remember it until I picked it up again this year to read in daily instalments in December.

Divided into 24 chapters, one for each day of advent, it tells the story of Joachim, a small boy in Norway in 1992, who is given a handmade advent calendar with a small folded excerpt from a story tucked behind each door, this going on to form the second strand of the novel.

In the calendar’s tale, a young girl called Elisabet is shopping in a department store in 1948 when she runs after a toy lamb come to life, following him on what turns out to be a pilgrimage through time and place back to Bethlehem at the time of Jesus’s birth. They are accompanied every day by a growing number of angels, shepherds, sheep, kings and other players in the Christmas story. The travellers cover many countries and many eras as they journey on and the complexity of the historical and geographical changes are meticulously detailed as they do so. Joachim’s family follow along with the story in atlases and books and a reader easily could too.

I enjoyed the two stories being revealed chapter by chapter and having a different twist on the Christmas story to dip into every day – the biblical characters brought to life with vibrancy and splashes of humour – but this was an unusual story in many ways and did make me feel uncomfortable at times.

Without giving away any spoilers, there was an unexpectedly dark twist for a children’s book towards the end and an accompanying shift of focus away from the twin themes of the nativity story and Joachim’s family’s warming preparations for their own Christmas which had been so central throughout, the pivot adding a more modern, political and unsettling dimension and holding this back slightly from being the cosy Christmas story it might otherwise have been. I did really so enjoy though having a few moments every day leading up to Christmas with an advent calendar of my own in book form.

📖 Calm Parents, Happy Kids ~ Dr Laura Markham 📖 I came to the end of Calm Parents, Happy Kids (originally Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids in the US) on the second-last morning of the year on a slow start to the day, after having read it over the past few weeks on my Kindle or phone in little chapters here and there – and overall I really enjoyed it. I’ve been following parenting blogs and reading books centred around gentle parenting more and more over the past few years and had heard this book crop up a few times – most recently in a conversation on Giovanna Fletcher’s Happy Mum, Happy Baby podcast – so had been keen to read it for a while.

I wouldn’t say I’d be convinced on absolutely everything in here, and I felt more than some other books of its type the tone could be a bit uncompromising in some respects (I can see from a wee browse of Goodreads I’m in the majority in finding reading it sometimes came with a side of guilt at any times the parenting ideal has been fallen short of!), but what I found so very valuable about it was the focus on connection between parent and child and the many ideas for how best to foster that in the various stages of childhood from babyhood right through towards the end of primary school, with lots of practical tips. The book is broken down into three parts: regulating ourselves as parents, connecting with our children and coaching rather than controlling them at each stage. It was really interesting to have this all laid out from a clinical psychologist’s perspective but in a way that was still very accessible, and there was lots I know I’ll remember and continue to try to put into use as our girls grow.

This will definitely join my very well-read Sarah Ockwell-Smith books, Izzy Judd’s lovely Mindfulness for Mums and SJ Strum’s catalogue of videos, as inspiring and valuable learning I will keep close and dip back into on and off as we navigate the twists and turns of the rollercoaster that is parenting!

Overall I really enjoyed some cosy December reading and have already settled into a January of life at home that will see more of the same. Hope you are all having a good week. X

Happy Advent ♥️❄️✨🕯

December has arrived at last, tumbled towards through the beauty and transition of autumn and early winter; and is now fully settled in, bringing with it all its usual cosiness and warmth.

I love the first morning of advent so much, calendars being opened and the countdown to Christmas truly beginning. Jasper and Jet got stuck in to opening their first door this morning, and were delighted with the dandelion treats they found inside!

I look forward every day to my early-morning routine of breakfast treats and a few minutes with them while the kettle boils, getting ready for the day to begin; but it was lovelier than ever today letting them explore the very beginnings of their first Christmas.

At the farm, too, I love to bring a bit of festivity early to Charmer’s stable with the same, and during the breakfast-and-muck-out routine we’ve hit the ground running with this week, the old boy was happy enough to take the first of his extra treats and do his best to help with the opening…

Arrived to the loveliest extra surprise too from our yard owners of an advent calendar for every horse outside our stable doors – we have in the past discovered stockings of treats for them at Christmas, or chocolate eggs and urns of coffee out on a table for us all on Easter morning, and it’s just such a nice reminder of the kindness and camaraderie of the livery yard, and of what a blessing it really is – especially when it can be such a big responsibility and such a challenge to find – to have a place for the pony to live that suits him and me so perfectly.

This has been the first week of my maternity leave, and, with work finished up now for a while, I have had some extra time for organising and pottering inside the house and out, getting the last things ready both for our new arrival and for Christmas time (our two new seasons ahead!) so have started on some gift-wrapping and preparing a little earlier than usual. Still, this morning, with the arrival of Advent itself, I feel the usual excitement I do every year at the idea of the preparations picking up pace, darkness falling earlier and earlier each day while lights begin to twinkle more and more in the homes around us as we head towards Christmas time.

At night, the togetherness and cosiness of this time of year really comes in to its own, and I love to get in to the warmth for the evening and light our advent candle for the first time, starting a month-long tradition that will count us down to Christmas morning and bring a peaceful and lovely hour to our every evening while we wait.

A very happy Advent / winter to all, wishing you all the loveliest December. ❄️✨ x

Happy Advent ✨🕯

It has been a lovely first day of December in our little home, starting with opening an advent calendar for the wee ones first thing (Harvey can’t believe his eyes, below!!). Thought I’d be doling out yoghurt drops to the other three at every morning’s door-opening (in a vain attempt to keep everybody happy at once!), but was pleasantly surprised to find the dandelion-treats chocolate replacements are already happily divided into quarters – just perfect for our four!

At the stables, the cosied-up pony was very glad to enjoy an advent treat while his breakfast was made, licking his lips on the meander out to the field.. 

Plenty of time with both the house pets and the horse was a wonderful start to the day, love winter mornings allowing for that. By far my favourite part of a December day though is the evening, without a doubt. Door bolted shut against the wind, candles lit, advent candle taking up centre stage; it’s such a simple and cosy time. My old faithful advent calendar is one with a distinctly pet theme too – a lovely card one my mum brought to me years ago in one of my university flats with a painting of a dog and cat watching and waiting for home-comers in a festive doorway, as was always the way when I was growing up.

Had all four of our boys out this evening for a lovely long play – when they could tear themselves away from their game of the moment, burying themselves in packing paper in a Christmas shopping box, they were happily watching the candles flicker – especially Reuben and Perry, with this being their very first Christmas when it comes. 

Wishing a peaceful Advent/December to all. X