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Welcome to Paul and Tracy's main blog. Here you can keep track of what we've been up to, and join us on our adventures.

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Tuesday, December 30, 2008


Merry Christmas!!

Ok, so it's a bit late for us to be wishing you a Merry Christmas, but we've been a tad busy over the festive period, making up for the disappointment of last year, when Christmas was postponed until Easter...

No such drama this year, as we launched ourselves headlong into a series of family-themed gatherings. I reported last week on the trip to see my relatives at Nikki's house, so this week I'll start with Christmas Eve...

"twas the night before Christmas..."

Ok, it was really the day before Christmas and not a bit like the traditional Christmas tale. Firstly, Tracy got busy in the kitchen making sausage rolls and mince pies ready for Boxing Day. To see her rolling out pastry in the kitchen, looking for all the world like a younger, more attractive, Delia Smith, was quite a sight. She doesn't like this photo, but I think she looks great...

Tracy making sausage rolls on Christmas Eve

As soon as she'd finished in the kitchen it was my turn, as I needed to make some Thai Spicy Sausage to take to Tracy's folks' house at the weekend, and some spring rolls and "gold bags" for Boxing Day. These are traditional Thai snacks and always go down well whenever we have people round. That kept me out of mischeif for a good few hours, and by the time we'd finished we were both knackered and in need of a relaxing evening. Only with it being Christmas Eve, we had to cook the now traditional "steak and chips" dinner - and with Katie and Brian joining us there was a fair amount of potato peeling to be done. Tracy and I have got the cooking of this particular meal down to a fine art now, as I cook the chips and Tracy does the steak, and with the meat coming from our local butcher - the same one that kept our turkey in his freezer for 3 months last year - it was a real treat. Suitably satiated we finally collapsed onto the couches in the front room and watched mindless drivel on the telly until it was time to play Santa. As we no longer have any children (by the literal definition, not as in "child-like", obviously) at home, this was a more muted affair than in the past, but we laid out the sacks and filled them with the "stocking filler" presents, leaving the main presents under the tree for after Christmas Dinner, and then retired to bed.

Christmas Day started with a very non-traditional lie-in. Up until Laura left home, Christmas Day always started about 3 hours earlier than it should. Now she's gone, we finally get up around 8am. Didn't stop Laura phoning me at about 8.15 to wish us Merry Christmas, though! Before breakfast we opened our stocking presents and then it was on with the chores of preparing Christmas Dinner. This is one meal that I insist on cooking, not because I think I can do it best, but because I enjoy cooking a big meal. I'm sure Tracy would like to have cooked it too, but I got my bid in first and so I was responsible for getting the turkey in the oven and peeling and cooking all the veg - roast and mashed potatoes, carrots and brussel sprouts served with panceta and roast chestnuts. Tracy still did the stuffing and the gravy, though, as she wouldn't let me loose on them (quite rightly, her versions are delicious!). With Christmas Dinner prepared and ready for the final cooking, Katie and Brian came round again so we could give them their presents. Now Tracy has been working on making scrapbooks for Katie and Carlie in secret for the past few months - not the scrapbooks I used to make as a kid, but beautiful artistic scrapbooks that will serve as long-term reminders of their childhood. Each page painstakingly designed and constructed into real works of art. She had been fretting greatly about how these would be received - she'd put so much effort into them - and whilst they had been great therapy (both physically and mentally) if they were not fully appreciated she'd be very upset... Needless to say that both Katie and Carlie were chuffed to bits when they opened them...

Katie and Carlie open the scrapbooks Tracy made for them

After Katie and Brian left to go to his family's for Christmas Dinner, we got on with cooking and eating ours. Naturally the first thing was to open a bottle of Champagne to celebrate - and we had the last of the good stuff we'd bought for our wedding. One of the things I've mentioned before was that Tracy had the goal of toasting Christmas with a glass of champagne held in her right hand, and here's the photo to prove she's achieved that goal - not just holding the champers, but drinking it!

Tracy toasing Christmas with her right hand!

The rest of Christmas Day was spent giving and receiving presents - and I think we all got some excellent things (I got some great stuff for my trip, and Tracy got a new camera ready for hers!).

Boxing Day is traditionally the day when the Beattie children go to visit their grandparents. I used to go visit my Nana & Grandad when I was little, then my kids went to see my Mum and Dad, and now my grandchildren come and see me. This year we also wanted to make it extra special, so we not only had made some food treats, but we'd also planned a bit of extra fun. When everyone had arrived we had a house full. There was Katy with her 3 offspring - Harry, George & Elizabeth, Laura and Chris, Danielle and Phil and their 2 offspring (the 3rd won't be here until May...) - Olivia and Alfie, Katie and Brian (with their dog, Bella) and Carlie. Oh, and Tracy and me, of course! Once we'd got past the chaos of giving out the presents, and cleared up the mass of wrapping paper, we prepared and served the buffet lunch. After lunch had settled we got out the 2 surprise "Gingerbread Kits" that we'd bought and engaged the 2 eldest - Olivia and Harry - in helping us make up a Gingerbread house and a Gingerbread Christmas Tree. The remaining grandchildren didn't seem interested in this, preferring to run about and play with their toys. It wasn't long before Laura, Katy, Tracy and I were also up to our elbows in icing, trying to get bits of Gingerbread to resemble the artistic pictures on the boxes (but failing miserably). One problem was that the tree had a piece of gingerbread that was broken into two - and Harry thought that the others should look the same, so he broke them too. This gave the tree a rather "interesting" lean, that eventually became its downfall... But the children loved it and particularly enjoyed the bit where they got to stick the sweets onto the gingerbread - or into their mouths, whichever they preferred! The end results were quite impressive, I'm sure you'll agree...

The gingerbread Christmas Tree - any more decorations would have brought it crashing down!

Olivia proudly shows off her gingerbread house

Just before the children left we played the game that had become something of a tradition when my kids were little. This involves the adults hiding a large quantity of chocolate coins around the house and a rather frantic "Treasure Hunt". Now when this was played at my mum's, my brother used to place the coins in the most ridiculous places (a particular favourite being inside light fittings... the coins would be 'discovered' some months later when the light stopped working due to melted chocolate...). As my grandchildren are still quite young, Tracy ensured the coins were placed within easy reach, but that didn't stop their enthusiastic parents, remembering how the game used to be played when they were little, from running about the house ahead of their offspring trying desperately to outdo each other...

When they'd all gone home the house seemed eerily quiet... and I have to say that it was one of the best Boxing Days I've every had...

But that wasn't the end of the festivities, as on Saturday we headed South to stay at Tracy's mum & dad's for the weekend. Saturday was similar to Boxing Day, in that the house was full of people - Tracy's sister Kerry and daughther Stephanie (her husband Mark arrived later when he'd finished work), her brother Craig, wife Caz and their 2 kids Shannon and Aidan (and their dog Harvey), Katie & Brian (and Bella), Carlie, Tracy and me and of course Tracy's mum & dad (and their dog Bracken). But this time we weren't the hosts, which meant we got to relax, enjoy the great spread laid on and drink large quantities of beer (well, I had to be sociable, and Craig seemed to be in the mood too!). The entertainment this time was provided by the resident singer... Aidan on his new karaoke microphone!

Aidan belts out another song...

After another excellent day we finally turned in exhausted around 11pm, before heading back home the following day...

What a superb Christmas!

And now we're preparing for New Years Eve, when we have a little something different planned...

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