One of the best things about The Learning Zone is our annual cookie exchange, organised by one of our members. This year we had a whole afternoon of festive fun. The English and drama group put on an amusing play with magically growing hamsters – yes seriously. Then we exchanged cookies – some of which had the most amazing wrapping this year. Then we sang a mix of sea shanties and carols rather raucously which was great!

Here are a few cookie pics to make you which you had joined in!

Our basket of rather cheaply and simplistically packaged cookies, we made chewy chocolate-chip cookies, German lebkuchen and Dutch pepernoten :

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But got these amazing cookies in return:

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And just look at this house – I think some people were just showing off!

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We loved these boxes too:

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and there were so many other lovely and delicious cookies from so many other generous people, we feel really blessed to be part of such a great group.

 

Between Christmas and new tear we met up with both the Gibson and Anderson sides of the family.

Boxing day saw the traditional Boxing day visit of the Gibson family.

We had the usual walks, games, food and fun.

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Telestrations – the new game Iain gave us for Christmas was so funny I could hardly play as all the hilarity was making me cough!

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We had a gap in the family celebration while Martin went and played on the Saturday night with his Boy Band at The Hideaway in Shanklin

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Then Sunday saw a departure from our usual Christmas traditions with a meet up with the Anderson side of the family at a restaurant in the New Forest. The ferry was packed but we squeezed in around a table and while 3 of us played our usual ferry card game of Yaniv 2 of us were swottily attached to textbooks!

 

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This was my first experience of eating at a Michelin starred restaurant and it was a really interesting and delicious experience for me. It was so yummy I forgot to take photos of the food until we got to the pudding – which was definitely the best bit!

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We managed to meet up with some friends and found the teenagers thrashed us at Demons – did you know the Archbishop of Canterbury also plays.

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And then we saw out the old year and in the new at my favourite place on the island with some of my favourite people, eating curry and chocolate, drinking some sloe vodka, playing games and generally being silly – a great way to end and begin a year!

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Christmas eve sees the start of our Christmas traditions watching The Muppet’s Christmas Carol together.

We start Christmas morning in our big bed to do stockings together with various levels of enthusiasm!

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An easy but yummy breakfast follows, croissants and yoghurt and fruit – in this case our rather lovely home-grown raspberries soaked in vodka.

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A trip to church – where for the first year since we have been having a Christmas service I wasn’t able to lead the singing which was very disappointing to me – but the rest of the family did a great job. Church-On-The-Roundabout were in full joyful and rather raucous mood which was just what was wanted for Christmas celebrations.

Back home and Ruth and Martin went for a quick driving lesson!

Then our standard bucks fizz and starter of dips and veggie sticks and Pringles.

A bit of present opening – including the gorgeous old Fortnum and Mason hamper from our lovely friends – the girls already have picnic plans for the hamper in the summer.

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Main course follows and we opt for easy to cook and wash up as well as tasty, so no traditional roast for us but instead garlic chicken, chips, cauliflower cheese and peas – yummy but easy.

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We were too stuffed to want the chocolate cheese cake Ruth had made.

Then we wait to watch Doctor Who on the iplayer and that is pretty much our day done.

This year things have not gone the way I like them to. I like to try and keep Advent quiet of extra things so we can focus on preparing for Christmas. This year I have been ill and had lots of extra training to do for a new job. Many of the things I like to do, including not being rushed, have not happened.

Some of the good things though have been:

Going to a folk festival with great friends, I loved The Young Uns and Edwina Hayes (we heard her on the Introducing Stage and she was great). We were also brave enough to sing at the sing around – first time we’ve done that at anything other than one of the local little folk nights here on the Island at The Hideaway, we opted for our attempt at Beth Rowleys’s Nobody’s Fault But Mine

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 After the folk festival I had a week of training for a new, and only very p/t, job. This meant lots of trips to the mainland, dashing too and from the Red Jet, being in a not quite as warm as I would like swimming pool and this was not good for my cough, so I went downhill rapidly the week after and had to cancel loads of things I was planning to do – most notable the Learning Zone Christingle. However I was just well enough to manage to do the advent meditation i had planned for church and it was lovely I was really pleased I managed to get this done it was probably the highlight of the advent period for me.

However I was well enough to contribute to the cookie exchange and one of the joys of having older kids is that they can make their own cookies without help too and Jonathan took them to the meet up and distributed them and came back with a mountain of yummies from other home ed families.

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I was too ill to sing carols with any gusto which I felt very sad about but did manage to get out for a cocktail with some friends and we managed to:

decorate gingerbread houses

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Get the Christmas tree put up – the girls did it the Monday before Christmas when Rebekah came home from uni.

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Get my driftwood tree up and the potato advent wreath made

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make a very plainly decorated Christmas cake

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Jonathan managed a large star for the window

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and we played some games

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Our Christmas Days tend to follow a standard pattern each year.

1. Stockings – in our bed.

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we all had to make something home-made and i was really pleased that the minion wrisites I had made went down well!

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2. Then it’s off to church, relatively early as we usually do the music and open up the church on Christmas Morning – great time, everyone was in good voice so the singing went well.

3. Back home and a starter of dips, veggie sticks and crisps and a glass of bucks fizz.

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4. Time to open presents.

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5. Time to prepare the dinner and play a game while it cooks.

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6. Dinnertime – not a traditional turkey roast but toad-in-the-hole with cauliflower cheese and roast potatoes!

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7. More games – Rebekah was delighted and some what surprised to win a game of Blokus and think we all won a various games of Articulate.

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8. then some cheese and crackers and settling down to watch Doctor Who on the iplayer

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Christmas Eve didn’t start too well for us – we had storms the night before and this was the view over our garden:

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Four fence panels broken, but I know we are lucky compared to some of our friends who have flooding.

The view inside was much more attractive:

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We had a relaxed morning, then spent the afternoon listening to Carols From King’s preparing the vegetables for Christmas dinner and even managing to persuade Rebekah to do a little bit of crafting.

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A quick dinner and then one of our most important Christmas traditions watching, the best version of A Christmas Carol, The Muppets.

Martin, Jonathan and I then went to a friend’s party for nibbles and cocktails, then back home so everyone can get in bed before Santa comes to visit. This year we gave Santa a hand and did a secret Santa of stockings, but he was coming round to check we had done everything properly so we left out something to eat and drink for him and the reindeer!

We’ve just had our family Christmas with Susan’s half of the family. We watched the Wizard Of Oz together yesterday. Today we had allocated to spend:

exchanging presents.

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eating Christmas dinner expertly and deliciously cooked for us by Jonathan and Jane, a full turkey dinner and lovely pudding too!

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and playing Pitt (we’d borrowed it ages ago and it seemed like a sensible time to have an excuse to shout at each other lots!) and generally having a good time together.

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Even once everyone had gone we were still having a lovely time listening to Christmas radio programs and chilling out – what a lovely weekend!

I’ve had a great day.

I went on a walk with Martin to work and instead of just rushing back I went down to the sea and just stood and watched for a while, peaceful and beautiful.

Then we got the pre-Christmas cleaning up done – all the children joined in and so did Caleb who, unfortunately for him, was around to help out!

We had a bit of time to spend making a few decorations and some gingerbread trees and snowmen followed by a quick spot of lunch.

Then we had friends over to decorate gingerbread houses. Jonathan made a gingerbread camp site complete with a fire and an abominable snowman. Val was quite sure we had made a brilliant gingerbread city. There were a lot more sweets at the start than managed to end up on the houses!

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I also got some mulled apple juice going , non-alcoholic but with a little kick from some Rochester dark ginger drink  and while the icing was setting (we used Mary Berry’s royal icing method and it was brilliant) we made some decorative stars.

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This scene could have taken place over 10 years ago now and I love the fact that in some respects nothing has progressed and nothing has changed!

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We have a nicer house now than 10 years ago, Caleb is taller, Rebekah is less bossy, but Caleb is probably her oldest IoW friend and it’s lovely that they are still sitting on the floor making paper-chains.

Today we went to the Learning Zone nativity. It was lovely, like any traditional nativity with small kids. There was some not very quiet whispering, some prompting needed, some very cute lines and a gorgeous outfit very clearly completely made from a stripy sheet. It was exactly what you want.

But none of my kids were in it – they are just too big. Jonathan is nearly 12 and not interested and the girls were too busy even to be involved in helping out. While the rehearsals were going on I was very aware that there was this whole set of meetings that I would have at one time been very involved in that I had no reason to be at. I was even moderately tempted to go along without the children bit that seemed to be a bit too sad! So we seem to have progressed a stage now as a family we really are (and to be honest haven’t been for a while) not a family with anything resembling small children any more. Time to move on in my thinking as Ruth considers college next year and is already out a lot with an internship type thing at WightStars, and Rebekah has just been given a very slightly conditional offer on the course she wants to do at uni next year. 

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