Traditionally Christmassy Yours


Deliciously moist apple & mincemeat, encrusted with lovely crisp pastry!
Deliciously moist apple & mincemeat, encrusted with lovely crisp pastry!

You may have noticed that it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas! Even those with the most Hum bug and Scrooge like tendencies can’t have failed to see the twinkly lights, the jollity in the air and there’s even been snow in some parts of the country (sadly not in my neck of the woods just yet, but all appendages are crossed for some soon!) And with this comes the roll out of I’m sad to say cringe worthy, sickly sweet, predictably asinine drivel that come under the genre of the Christmas Film Season.  I’ve just watched two in a row, and I find myself craving  something slightly darker & possibly confrontational with a little violence thrown in like Fawlty Towers Christmas Special or The Nightmare before Christmas…  It’s a miracle I can even think for myself now! Don’t ask me why I didn’t change channels, I can’t answer that other than despite the inevitable dross, they are addictive viewing!  I am so ashamed…  But it is the tradition of the Season I suppose – there that’s my excuse!!! (Lame and insipid but sadly true.)

So it makes me wonder about the Traditions we set ourselves, despite the vague possibility that we don’t actually enjoy them, particularly need them, can’t remember the initial reasons for them beginning, due to this being lost in the annuls of time.  Of course there are those Christmas Traditions that are purposeful and very necessary and Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without them.  For us and many people who live in the wonderful town of Macclesfield, it’s driving up to the Forest and buying your tree.  It’s a joyous time!  I admit we are fairly new to this tradition but I’ll never change it now, it’s part of our Christmas! Many a time we’re been up there and we see friends doing exactly the same thing.  It’s wonderful – there’s a dialogue, a script to why we go there too, a sense of responsibility, of local love as the trees all come from the surrounding forest, as nature intended which can mean some raggedy affairs if you leave your tree buying a little too late!  It gives me a warm glow knowing our tree comes from our local forest and has been cut down to help maintain the ancient woodland, fuel costs are also at a minimum!  There’s even the tradition of how we dispose of it afterward, it’s collected along with a donation (and always some biscuits or cakes), to be mulched (the tree – not the cakes!) to be used again and the money raised goes to our local East Cheshire Hospice.  It’s a win win tradition if ever the was one.  Simple, purposeful and beneficial I think.

Another fabulous tradition is that my lovely Mum & Dad always buy a chocolate advent calendar for each of us – adults & children alike! It’s so exciting and it’s really does form part of the festivities! Each one tailored to our personalities – sometimes it’s the little things!

This year we’ve decided controversially, to look at changing a few traditions.  Massively!! Some people will possibly relate to our proposal, others will be shock – nay horrified!! We’re thinking of doing away with Christmas Dinner… (GASP!!!)  I know!! Ok, I must admit not entirely, just moving it from Christmas Day is all. Now hear me out, there’s good sound reasons for it, even though I know it goes against convention.  Christmas Day is a busy affair, present unwrapping, playing with all the fab new toys, looking and reading all the new books, watching the decent(ish) Christmas tele. It’s something of a feat just to change out of your pyjamas!  So on top of that, to cook lets face a HUGE meal that takes ages to sort out & by the time it’s ready, you’re so stuffed from eating chocolate, Quality Street, peanuts, pancakes, Chocolate Orange, bacon butties, mince pies and all the other assortments of Christmas fare that is freely available, that to eat a HUGE amount of traditional Christmas Dinner is sometimes a little over-facing… So what about having that on Boxing Day, for some the damp squib day of Christmas when you’re not quite sure what to do with yourself, due to the high-octane excitement of the day before.  Less pressure, more time to spend relaxing, less family politics (a well trod situation, when in-laws are concerned…) I’m quite looking forward to it if I’m honest!  In actual fact it could be created on any day between Boxing Day and New Year’s Eve Eve for me.  It’s going to be quite interesting viewing the reaction of folk when we’re asked if we had a nice dinner and we reply ‘Don’t know – not had it yet!’.

I say all this knowing full well that it’s all under the auspicious label of ‘Subject to Change’.  And if I’m honest in-built flexibility suits me fine at the end of the day.  I can think of nothing worse than having my entire Christmas mapped out minute by minute, I think I’d rather eat frog spawn!  And anyway, it’s Traditional!  (To be flexible, not to eat frog spawn – that would just be weird don’t you think..?…)

So to conclude, it is my humble opinion that whilst for the most of us there’s rhyme & reason for our collection of Christmas Traditions, there’s also a fundamental rhyme & reason to discard the outdated, the redundant & sometimes collective thinking type of Traditions.  Give them a thorough shake down and embrace the new with inbuilt flexibility to cope with the fast pace world we live in.  And eat chocolate & cake for breakfast of course! #Christmas Is Coming

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Current Climate Shopping… and I don’t mean the weather


A small selection of the lovely Fairy Cakes on offer at the Treacle Market Macclesfield – last Sunday of the month – on the CocoaNokos Stall!

Shopping!  There’s not many people in our society that doesn’t love a bit of shopping!  Doesn’t have to be clothes, could be food or cars or even pots & pans; I think most people have a shopping weakness! Mine is most definitely house related things & food!  My weakness is sparkly, twinkly glass cake plates, especially pre-owned ones. I have strict limit on how much I will spend (well I say strict, this is obviously negotiable dependant on how wonderful it is!) I love nothing better than rooting (carefully!) through the pots & pans shelves in the local charity shops; it got to the point where one shop would save them for me!  I think I’ve got enough now… Yeah right, who am I trying to kid, you can never have enough, says the reckless, want it all side of my brain, whilst the other sensible, austerity aware, right all along side says, enough is enough.  It’s currently winning…

I’m finding this side of me kicking in more and more these days.  When shopping for food I’m asking ‘Do we really NEED this?, ‘Can we do without it this week?’.  I shop in Aldi, when I remember (habit is such a terrible thing, when you’re trying to change your shopping habits) and Sainsbury’s for pretty much everything else.  Then there are the wholesalers I get my bulk ingredients from but sometimes they’re more expensive than the supermarkets.  I try to buy my fruit & veg seasonally, to buy British and for it to have the lowest air miles.  To add to this I try very hard to avoid Tesco’s, I find their philosophy  jars with my own.

So lots to think about when just food shopping, it’s enough to make both sides of my brain to frazzle.  But that’s just me.  These things help me make my shopping decisions, if I think I know where the food I buy comes from, how it’s (roughly) made, it eases my conscience a little.

On top of all this, we now have ‘localism’.  Buying local, from local independent sources.  Keeps your well-earned pennies in your community,  investing right back at the source, underpinning the local economy, making your local high street stronger, making your community stronger, financially more secure, more diverse & more likely to survive the future.  Which is grand…  But can we, the consumer sustain and embrace that choice?  Especially when the supermarkets make many of their best sellers, loss leaders?  Tricky decisions to make… but only if these things matter to you in the first place.

Which brings me neatly to the question of what governs our shopping habits?  Is it cheap prices, or value for money or even social status, do we buy brands because they’re brands for example?   Or is it time…  The most precious commodity of all.

I think there is no right or wrong to this conundrum.  It would be grand if everyone had the time to buy from local growers for their fruit & veg, but have you the time to find where to buy from when the supermarket has it all there, would you buy all your staple groceries from the local independent shop, given they’re more expensive than the supermarkets due to buying power, especially for a weekly shop.  Surely there must be a compromise.  I think I know of one…

In our little town of Macclesfield, there’s been a bit of rebellion going on for some time, in the background for the main, but more and more in the limelight these days with the likes of our wonderful monthly Treacle Market, our Food for Macc and Wake Up Macc.  They’re giving the shopping habits we’ve fallen in to a good shake, literally from the ground up.  Giving the opportunity and access for those who might not think there’s any questions regarding our shopping habits, to actually question their own shopping habits; to think about where the pennies go when we shop, to wonder where our food comes from. They’re doing a grand job! Wouldn’t it also be grand if we could teach our children this, have it as part of the curriculum, although that maybe a wish to far in the current climate, but the thought is a start…

I’m not asking you to think like me necessarily, that’s a step too far for anyone to cope with, but I ask you to think about how you shop, to maybe wonder what happens to your well-earned pennies when you spend them in the supermarket, where do they go, does it benefit you directly, where does your food really come from & why.  Are you getting good value for money with your purchases, do you really need  to buy it all?  And I can highly recommend thinking about ‘localism’, where & when you can of course, a balance, to buy from the independent retailer; from the butcher who knows exactly which field his meat comes from, from the veg shop or stall owner who knows their spuds from their parsnips and know that your informed choice will look after the pennies, your community, your high street, not just for you but for the next generation too.  Makes it all taste nicer in my opinion!

Christmas – has it arrived too early this year?


SO Christmas is here… already… And has been for at least a week in Sainsbury’s give or take a few days. Lakeland have launched their Christmas range for 2012, getting in there at the beginning before all the rest I imagine and who can resist a Lakeland Christmas! Then there’s the seamless appearance of all the Christmas cards in those wonderful Charity shops but I can’t help thinking that it’s all a wee bit early this year…

It’s a weird thing to say from my point of view – I ADORE Christmas! I drive my entire family nuts and a fair few of my friends with my August playing of cheesy Christmas songs, planning and plotting the festive frivolities; I’ve often wondered what Christmas would be like all the year round! I gleefully welcome the onslaught of the Season of Good Cheer but this year I think it’s all just a little bit early, a little bit heartless, a whole lot commercial and just a little bit lost…

There are those who feel Christmas should stay in December and only December, but I just think that’s just a bit late by then, but I can see their point. In merchandising terms, it used to be that Christmas kicked off on Bonfire Night, that was the deadline for shops and stores to be ready – which is over a month away from now! These days we’re drip fed Christmas from late August, to the point that when stores do jazz up their shop windows, hang up their decorations to dazzle us we’re all a little bit indifferent, a little bit worn down and a little bit fatigued by the season of good will. We’ve already bought our festive short breads and After Eight mints way back in late summer when they were on offer, and possibly again in October because we were feeling a bit peckish one night and there wasn’t anything else…

So it seems to be me that no matter how traditional our Christmas’s appear, no matter how personal we make it, we’re governed by commercialism, by marketing stratagems and forecasts, by clever psychological shopping tricks that actually entice us to shop early, to shop for 2, 3 or even 4 Christmas’s in one year. More to the point are we actually happy, have our spirits been lifted, have we shown good will to all men (whilst fighting over the last turkey crown in Sainsbury’s because you always forget something!) The answer is probably no…

So this Christmas, the one in December, the only one in this year of Glorious 2012, have a little think about whose in charge of your Christmas. Yes the shops may have festive biscuits on their shelves, those cards may be sparkling at you at eye height but you don’t have to buy them just yet, you don’t have to buy anything at all, in fact you could instead, just for a change buy from a quirky, nothing is too much trouble, local independent shop or you could always, even more special & worthwhile, make it yourself…