Category Archives: Special occasions

Happy Advent

Christmascard2013_4 Ah Christmas time, always my favorite time of year. My ex-officemate Claire was at a work lunch many moons ago, when she mentioned my name. “Hmmmmm” said a guy I have never met “Is that the girl who is crazy about Christmas?”. Yup. That’s me.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Basically I love the baking, the decorating, the crafts, the lights, the tackiness. The crazy excitement, the movies. I love it all. I wouldn’t have it any other way. But at Ecclesia (our beloved church home) 2 weeks ago, I saw this video which moved me deeply:

(It actually moved me to tears, but I seem to have a broken my tear switch when pregnant and never quite mended it).

Look, I am not going to stop sending cards, stop getting presents, or do anything drastic. Yet. But this video was the first time that I really sat and thought about what Christmas should be to a Christian. The celebration of the birth of Christ. To me, that used to be about going to church throughout advent, going to Midnight Mass, and remembering why we have this festival (unless you are Wiccan or Pagan… totally different reasons then).

Loved coordinating this nativity in 2008

Slowly (and I can be slow) I am realising that it is about more than that. It is about celebrating the birth of Christ. Which surely can mean nothing less than enacting what he stood for: love, charity, selfless giving, equality. I am not ready, nor willing, to make drastic changes to my celebrations (which I suspect I should do), but I have promised that this advent there will be some small changes:

No debt. No debt at all. We celebrate Christmas within our means. No excuses.

Charity work. Active serving of others. Active giving to others. Enough serving of and giving to others that it is inconvenient to me. That it is at my expense.

Christmas celebrations must not get in the way of more important things: serving others, friends, family. That means: no stress! I will build Christmas traditions that enhance my family. Other Christmas traditions: shopping / baking / whatever, happen with my son, or with my friends. Most of them should only happen if they are actively enhancing my family and friendships and bringing love, positivity and peace to them. At the very least, none of them may occur at the expense of them (so no: “Wes, can you take Sam, I have to do such-and-such”).

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I am looking forward to this season! I think this is what Christmas has to be about. Unless you are not a Christian: when you get to enjoy it without these thoughts, just for the party. Awesome 🙂

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Silly things I am loving about Sam right now…

His baby babbles:

His selfies:

baby selfie

baby selfie

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(and how pleased he is with them)

That he loves riding in cars:

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And if a car is not nearby he will make one:

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How he climbs into his chair to have his nighttime baba:

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(our little monkey)

and then asks to go in his crib where he plays with Mr Wolf:photo 2 (2)

That he brushes my hair, and his own:

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(maybe not that he brushes the cats’:)

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His hide n seek games when he wakes:

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(I can still see you Sam)

And this love of giving kisses:

But most of all…. that he is my buddy always:

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Very much to be thankful for this year. Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Birthday Sam!

1st birthday

Happy 1st Birthday Little Guy! Dwarficus is 1!

Celebrating Sam’s first birthday was much fun. I prepared as much as I could the night before, but THANK GOD that my friend Tracey offered to show up an hour and half before to help. When I received the original offer of help from Tracey, I was not sure I needed it, but thought it would be nice to see Tracey anyway. When Tracey turned up with the blessed, blessed sugary caffeine (Starbucks’ new holiday lattes), just an hour and fifteen minutes before kick-off, I was still in my PJs with no sandwiches made, and 24 cupcakes to ice. Ouch.

With Tracey dispatched onto sandwich making duty, and fueled by coffee, I decorated Sam’s big birthday cake:

Kit kat cake, first birthday cake, M&M cake, easy birthday cake

Decorated his ‘smash cake’*, made a whole tower of cupcakes:

cup cake tower

and laid out the little spread:

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(I also managed to dress myself, although not wonderfully well).

We were so touched that so many people came to celebrate Sam’s special day. Sam was especially pleased to see his buddy Jake:

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and his friend Drew, who has given Sam lots of his favorite toys:

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and Drew’s sisters:

How cute are these guys?

How cute are these guys?

After food and play, Sam got to open presents:

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Including some sent over from Britain especially by very dear friends:

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And then was the smash cake, which Sam refused to smash, but ate rather daintily (why won’t he do that at home?!?)

Babies and fire, a winning combination

Babies and fire, a winning combination

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A super cute, super fun time. Thank you so much to everyone who did anything to help make it special

His friends

His friends

A little young to truly appreciate the festivities

A little young to truly appreciate the festivities

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*Smash cake: An American tradition of giving a little birthday cake to the birthday girl / boy on their first birthday, for them to smash up and make a mess with!

3 years ago today….

Anniversary card I made for Wes

Anniversary card I made for Wes

Wes & I went on our first date! We met online on January 28th, 2010. We were both members of Plentyoffish.com (yes really). Wes made first contact, but I was being picky about who I responded to after receiving over 30 new emails a day. So, although he had a cute pic:

Wes' POF profile pic

Wes’ POF profile pic

Lekki's profile pic

Lekki’s profile pic

he also mentioned that he was ex-infantry. While I thought that was admirable, I wasn’t sure I would have anything on common with a soldier; I was sure he would be tired with the fact that I can be a touch, er… dramatic… cring hysterically every time a spider comes near me, and a touch er… superficial, with a very long running hair obsession  However, Wes had taken the time to actually write something thoughtful, rather than just the usual “Hi, how are you?” initial contact.

Wes' first email

Wes’ first email

I remember him commenting that the change from London to Alabama must have been huge, and asking me how that was. It was sweet, and thoughtful. I felt that if someone had taken the time to write something personal and well thought out, the least I could do was respond.

We traded many emails, often running to 3 or 4 pages, and after 3 days decided to talk by Skype, to, as Wes put it, make sure he wasn’t a ‘bald troll’. We had a lot of fun emailing and Skyping; Wes was laid back and made me laugh; we quickly fell into in-jokes.

How Wes' Skype chats used to make me feel.

How Wes’ Skype chats used to make me feel.

I didn’t anticipate meeting Wes for several weeks, but he said he would like to take me out for Valentines Day. However, as Valentines Day is somewhat pressured, we agreed to go for a date first, a hike at Oak Mountain with his dog the day before: February 13th.

Wes traveled the 10-hour drive from North Carolina, and I sent him a mix-CD, some homemade brownies, and some roasted rosemary and sea salt almonds I made for the journey. On the day Wes texted me and said he was here and could be meet up an hour early? I refused! I was still painting my nails and styling my hair and had a thick face mask on. I think it annoyed him, but come on. Girls: You can’t show up an hour early for a first date, right? We’re all still trying to lose 10 lbs in that time!

So, we met at the right time, outside my apartment. It was a really cold, snowy day. I saw Wes pull up and somehow lost my footing and fell over. I stood up… but fell over again. And again. Wes tried to catch up and kept asking if I was OK. Sure I was, I just fall over a lot I explained. Looking somewhat confused and alarmed Wes handed over some cuttings he had potted for me and I trotted them upstairs.

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Wes also bought me an Alabama football baseball cap. A very exclusive and hard to find Alabama baseball cap. Which I looked at and enthusiastically, but blankly said “Wow! Cool!”. Wes said “It is for Alabama!”
“The State?”
“No! The football team!”
“Oh. I see. I like it anyway.”

Cue Wes trying to explain how hard these were to get, without making a big deal out of it.

Patience. He had the patience of a Saint.

Me and the hat. I still have the hat. I actually love the hat.

Me and the hat. I still have the hat. I actually love the hat.

We drove to Oak Mountain, picking up salad boxes at V Richards (a local health foods store) on the way. I got my neuroses out in the open immediately and explained I was super picky about eating and didn’t eat many carbohydrates. Or much fat. I watched in horror and Wes’ version of ‘salad’ seemed to be constructed of 90% mayonnaise and was placed on a lot of fried bread 🙂

We had a great hike at Oak Mountain. Yes, I continued to fall over several times, including headlong down a hill – arms outstretched in front of me. We chatted for several hours, had a lot of fun, and had our first kiss 🙂

Wes snapped the first kiss. Cheeky, no?

Wes snapped the first kiss. Cheeky, no?

Afterwards we picked up BBQ and ‘Old School’ on DVD and went back to mine. We chatted and chatted, and when it was time for Wes to leave (2 am I think), we realised we had forgotten to watch the DVD. It was a good sign 🙂

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And that was it. He went home, and returned with 13 beautiful red roses the next day, taking me out to Silvertron Cafe. He returned to North Carolina on the 15th, and I wouldn’t see him for 10 more weeks.

Did I know Wes was ‘the one’ then? Not at all! I know when I did know that – while I was on a 6-day wilderness hike at Isle Royale in Michigan. But, I had no idea after our first date. Wes says he did, but not me.

13th February 2010 and 2013

13th February 2010 and 2013

I remember that Wes was funny, good at making conversation and seemed to have many interests, or at least, the capacity to be interested in many things. I have a very low boredom threshold, like to get into a lot of things, and am happier when I can share those things with someone special; Wes seemed interested in whatever I had to share.

Spot the Samuel-eye-bags now :)

Spot the Samuel-eye-bags now 🙂

More than that, what I saw and knew then, was Wes’ good heart. He was extraordinarily gentle in his approach. He was faithful, and loved God. He had a good heart, he knew what honesty was and pursued it. He respected family as something important, and when push came to shove, would put family first, before his own needs. I saw in his a carer, a people pleaser, a good father. I knew he was someone who would protect those close to him.

People often wonder how Wes & I ended up together; we are certainly very different on the surface. And I won’t say that we have not faced severe challenges in the past 3 years! But, on the very deepest level, we share a lot. We believe in God, we love God, and we both want to put our lives in His hands. We both value family, and protect those we love above all else. But while I am flighty and temperamental, Wes is very steady. He finds it hard – and sometimes tiring – to keep up with my endless activities and emotions, I know. But he tries. And he my rock. He is my safe base from which I can be myself, and from which I can take risks and explore everything I love. He is the one who reminds me, from time to time, of my priorities, what is important and what I mustn’t lose sight of in the endless pursuit of novelty and excitement.

We’re a good pair. An unusual, but a good pair. We actively work at our relationship, and have worked through some really tough times. But, I know that that helps me grow and develop. And, everytime we overcome a challenge, it really does make us stronger. I believe the foundations that we are laying now take work because they are very deep and will indeed, last our lifetimes.

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I look around; at our house, our dogs, our cats, our beautiful baby boy. If we can do that in 3 years, I say: bring on the next 30!!

Christmas 2012

In the style of last year’s post, here is the blow-by-slow account of the Frazier-Wood Christmas day!

The day started when Sam woke at 1 am for his feed. Wes offered to go and ‘rock him back to sleep’, and although I was fairly sure this would be ineffective, I did not want to be overbearing, so I watched Wes go. At 1,38 Sam was bought back into our room as Wes realized he was hungry. Wes confessed that he really wanted to wake up with the 2 of us, and so suggested Sam slept in our bed. This was a treat and Christmas Day had begun!

In a very poor-parenting maneuver, Sam can basically feed himself if I lie on my side in bed and position him in a certain way. I usually do this from about 6 am to buy myself some extra shut eye, but must have done it when he came in, as the next thing I knew it was 8.30 am, and Sam and I were waking up. A 7 hours sleep = a Christmas miracle I was happy to take! I went down and put part of the breakfast on (Peaches and Cream French toast I had made the night before):

Peaches and Cream French toast

Peaches and Cream French toast

Luckily Santa has been (I think he was still around 😉 ):

Itlian Greyhound Father Christmas costume

Walter Claus

And we opened our stockings while the french toast cooked:

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Wes got tools, belts, boy stuff, and I got hair bands, craft paint and nail polish: girl stuff 😉 Sam was pretty instrumental in helping me open mine:

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The we poured mimosas and made the rest of breakfast. I whipped up my first ever, from scratch, biscuits and some bacon. Wes made eggs:

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I chatted to my parents on Skype and we slowly opened presents throughout the day (last one was at 5 pm). I loved my sewing machine, baby food cook book and craft stuff, and a kindle and some earring from my parents.

Then I gaily went to prep the turkey before realizing…. I had zero idea how to prep a turkey. What was one to do? I took the wrapping off and called Wes to ask what the heck was this big red thing sticking out of the turkey. He removed the ‘nose’ (giggle giggle) and I declared the turkey ‘ready’. In response to Wes’ doubtful face I threw some butter in the cavity, and some salt in the cavity and on the skin and added pepper, garlic powder and poultry seasoning. I covered it in tin foil and popped it in the oven, poured myself another mimosa and we watched National Lampoon’s Christmas vacation. After 2 hours I went to put the potatoes in to cook, and realized that in spectacular fashion, the oven was not on (!) But the oven light was. Whoops. So, I actually put the oven on, started to actually cook the turkey and hurredly made a lunch out of breakfast leftovers. Oh well, this gave us time to open more presents! What I wanted to do was open Sam’s presents, but he spend most of the day like this:

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and I am big fan of the adage ‘never wake a sleeping a baby’ (the advice to wake him after 3 hours of sleep never quite seemed advisable to me, and luckily not to my pediatrician either). So, Wes and I opened our presents without little Sam.

Then I prepared lunch; given that the last 7 weeks had been a little hectic, and that I had clearly never made Christmas lunch before, and had a newborn to care for, we kept it simple. Turkey, sage and onion stuffing, roast potatoes and orange glazed carrots followed by apple streusal pie and red velvet cake.

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It was all surprisingly delicious and seeing as we did not eat until 6 pm (I also read the chart wrong and mistimes the turkey by about 2 hours, so that took longer…) Sam joined us:

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Then we got to open his presents (woo!… video to follow).

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For only the second time in his little life, Sam was not down at 7 and for the first time, he was not down at 9. In fact, he chose the grand old time of 11 pm to go to sleep, although he didn’t cry or whine, just sat up and cooed and played, and periodically looked very sleepy:

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As can happen with a baby, the day flew by and not as much got done as I would have thought. Nevertheless, it was a perfect Christmas 🙂

Reindeer cupcakes

reindeer cupcakes

Merry Christmas… just 5 more days to go. While I am super excited, I must confess, my Christmas crafts did not go as plentifully as planned. I blame two things:

(1) Sam.

Cute, but time consuming

Cute, but time consuming

(2) Liars in Kroger who tell my husband that you can’t get superfine sugar in the US (wtf? Superfine is the US term! In the UK we call is caster sugar…) nor can you get ground almonds (again: wtf? The country of paleo eating and the birth place of Atkins does indeed have ground almonds / almond meal / almond flour). Eegits have put a halt to my Christmas baking.

So… since I last blogged about my tree and wreath, all I have really managed is some paper chains around the banisters:

paper chains Christmas decoration

The stockings being hung (not even on a mantelpiece… oh dearie me):

Can you guess which one is Sam's?

Can you guess which one is Sam’s?

A party involving mulled wine and mince pies,

And some reindeer cupcakes.

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The decorations were cobbled together from several ideas on the internet, but I basically put chocolate frosting (icing) on some cupcakes and added:

Muzzle: vanilla wafer
Nose: mini chocolate chip / mini morsel
Eyes: Sugar eyes from Target
Antlers: mini pretzels snapped in half.

Easy peasy and very festive.

Oh, and don’t forget to ask your husband to buy an ENORMOUS bag of mini M&M’s so you can extract just one red one for:

Don't forget Rudolph

Don’t forget Rudolph

LOVE Christmas baking. These went to our OB’s office. I may do some more this weekend to give to Texas Children’s Hospital 🙂

Happy Advent! The First Christmas Craft of the Season

Happy Advent

Happy Advent

Happy Advent 🙂 OK, this is more than a little belated, but now I have wrangled young Samuel into a routine (<—- I owe you a post on this) that involves proper naps during the day, and thus also happy awake times, I actually have some time to blog (at least until grant writing makes me crazy again). I still have to put up the Thanksgiving pictures. Oh well.

This year I have actually got my butt into gear and done Christmas properly. I am not sure why this year I managed it… perhaps ‘missing’ three Christmases by letting advent go un-noticed finally tipped me. Or maybe it is because now I have a house I love and am proud of. Or because there is so much going on juggling work and a newborn and a marriage that I have started to become a ‘planner’. Who knows? Anyone else find this? Hyper organized when a little one came along?

Anyway, We got a tree nice and early which Sam got to help decorate:

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Every year, Wes I buy each other an ornament.

Wes to me 2011:

'Our first Christmas 2011' ornament

‘Our first Christmas 2011’ ornament

Me to Wes 2011:

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And me to Wes 2012:

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And this year I got brave and made a bauble:

Handmade by Lekki

Handmade by Lekki

See? My crafting isn’t always just gluing bits of pre-cut wood together 😉

Then all the Christmas decorations came out:

Advent calendar

Advent calendar

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Including the all-time favourite (from many moons ago)

Old friends

Old friends

 

I got organised and actually wrote Christmas cards (We tried to make a family Christmas card… but failed [attempts at the top and bottom of this card], so people got a photo of Sam in the hospital instead [better luck next year…])

But I did a Christmas wreath using:

  • A Styrofoam wreath form
  • Felt
  • Small cardboard boxes
  • Spray paint
  • Hot glue
  • ribbon
  • baubles
  • Foam
  • Scissors

Step 1: Cover the wreath form in felt squares

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Step 2: Spray paint your cardboard boxes:

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Step 3: Decorate your painted boxes:

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Step 4: Glue decorated boxes to the felt, and fill in the gaps using baubles and stars cut free-hand from the foam

Homemade Christmas wreath

Voila. A cute decoration, and easy for kids to do too.

Happy Advent y’all:

Sam's Thanksgiving / Christmas outfit.

Sam’s Thanksgiving / Christmas outfit.