Jan 25 2015

Life In January

Published by under Life

Layla

It’s funny, but the love-and-parenting essay that most resonated with me last year was written by someone named Kayden Kross. If you know who she is, you probably wouldn’t admit it to me, but that’s OK. Her essay was about how she landed in her profession, and this got to me:

Growing up, I was constantly aware of my mother’s penny-pinching anxiety: the quiet calculations as she added up the cost of our school supplies, the flashes of anger each time we outgrew clothes.

She also gave an interview that I read, where she said this:

There are other things—like, I was lucky enough to get in, do porn, do it right, put money aside, and I have set up a nice future for this child. There’s not going to be some point where I have to choose between buying her a Christmas present and buying her lunch. You know? I always knew that I wanted one [child], and I always knew that when I had one it would be at a time when I could afford to, forever.

In the third quarter of last year, Alf and I sat down and talked, and he decided to return to school as a full-timer in 2015. He doesn’t teach, which is good because he still hates it. What he does is to fill in as a sub, and handle discipline and other matters that will free up teachers to do what’s important. It sounds like a dream deal, especially to other teachers, but I know he’s sacrificing his time and freedom–as well as his career as a real estate agent–for us, and I don’t want to downplay that.

As for me, I am the mom who sometimes chooses between lunch and a present, and I think I could do much better for my kids. For the first time since I’ve been home, I’ve set myself a financial target to help Alf clear his outstanding debts and for us to start saving aggressively, for travel, for education, for rainy days. A potential work-from-home arrangement with a regular paycheck didn’t pan out, but I’m already in the midst of new opportunities: Being part of a local rock music exhibition for SG50, and a new and unexpected regular assignment where I get to do for a fee what I’m already doing for fun–reading and sharing parenting-related articles. So far so good!

While I’m waiting to firm up other work arrangements, I’ve decided to put some things in place. Z and I take almost daily walks now, with him in the stroller because the walk is really for me to get some exercise in my day, minimal as it is. The timing still needs tweaking; I’d like to start the walk at 7am for that perfect morning chill, but I’ve been over-snoozing and we head out closer to 9 sometimes.

And because I discovered late last year through a health check that my cholesterol levels are borderline high, I’ve made some new food rules for myself this year. Breakfast is a must now, and it’s lucky I’ve developed a taste for plain oatmeal because it’s quick, cheap, easy, and also great for the heart. If I need a treat, it’s soya beancurd; I’ve found that it helps so much with digestion and acid reflux. I drain off most of the sugar syrup so I’m not worried about the sweetness factor.

The first half of January was also about adjusting to Layla’s P3 schedule, where gym training was bumped up to 12 hours a week, from 6 last year. I heard that national gymnasts train for over 20 hours a week, but 12 hours is already threatening to consume us. Time is scarce for Layla now–training ends at 6PM sometimes, we don’t live near the school, and there was a day last week where it rained and we got home at nearly 8PM (her bedtime). The timer has become our indispensable parenting tool; with so little time to waste, every minute is precious and I’ve had to step in and help Layla get organised by telling her she has 15 minutes to shower, 5 minutes to pack her schoolbag, that she shouldn’t spend more than 20 minutes on this piece of work, and so on.

And yes, about Layla. Yesterday, she said to me, “I didn’t like it when you told Aunty S that about me.” It was something tiny and innocent, or so I thought. But I suppose in some way, it was the sign I’d been waiting for, the indication that her stories aren’t mine to broadcast anymore.

And so I won’t.

My blogging agent asked me a few days ago what I’ll be writing about this year. No plans yet! It’s a question I’ve been asking myself too. In the meantime, these life updates will have to do.

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Jan 07 2015

New Year Thoughts

Published by under Life

Love, 2015!

Is it too late to say Happy New Year? I hope not! We spent the last day of 2014 at our cousins’ home, where they fed us for almost 10 hours and we caught up on all the stories that we’d missed, because we don’t meet our cousins that often. There was so much laughter and it was the best way to end the year.

I don’t really have any deep feelings for 2014. Nothing horrible happened, and nothing mind-blowing either. The one thing that stood out for me was time with friends, and realising that there are a lot of people around us that care about us–not necessarily because we deserve it, but because we’re fortunate to have made connections with some of the nicest souls around.

If I had to pick some noteworthy moments off the blog, these would be it:

The post I feel most strongly about: A Lovely Weekend, And A Few Words On Love

Favourite photo post: Wormhole

Most personal post: World Cup memories

The most fun to write: Laylapalooza, Getting Everything We Wanted For A Year, The Blogging Process

Most sensible post: 9 Years, 16 Years aka my husband’s words of advice

Most popular, locally: Searching For A Good Ballet School

And finally, a few words on blog sponsors. I worked on fewer blog-related paid posts in 2014 as compared to 2013, but my agent set us up with respectable brands and I’m happy to have been involved in her projects. In the case of Drypers, I continued to buy the diapers after the project was over, and am still buying them now. It’s partly convenience–a nearby provision store stocks the brand. But I do think the diapers are of good quality. Z has had very few leaky diaper incidents, and I’ve tried one other brand of pull-ups where the diaper was impossible to rip apart during changing.

As for sponsorships in kind, it was our lucky year with sponsors for Layla’s party, our first staycation, and quality products that I’m using now like this pretty Rainshower Flower and my current daily use bag from Lassig. And unlike in previous years, in 2014 I had a chance to meet some of the blog’s sponsors in person, like the lovely designer mom Chantal, who’s behind the clothing line Chandamama. I’d also like to take this chance to mention Sharn, a mom who’s started a new snack box delivery service called The Snacksmith. She wrote me the warmest email and showed up at my door to bring me a box of imported snacks that were as healthy as snacks could be, and I’d like to say that I shared my stash, but unfortunately, no, I was pretty much responsible for emptying out the box within a week. You can find out more about The Snacksmith here.

Still on sponsorships: Compared to previous years, there were more opportunities for Layla to take classes or try something new (e.g. here and here), although I declined most of them–along with family-oriented invites–due to timing, distance, or lack of relevance to our needs. We don’t have much spare time and I’m clear on my priorities. During the school term, weekdays are out, Layla has a church class on most Saturday afternoons and we’d like to catch up with friends, and Sundays are reserved for my parents and brother. We’ve skipped out on many potentially fun events, but that’s OK by me.

I haven’t decided on a blog direction in 2015, but if the blog’s not updated, my FB page will be. Here’s to new dreams, plans, and adventures in the new year!

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Dec 26 2014

Merry, Merry

Published by under Life

Christmas 2015

Christmas 2015

Christmas 2015

Christmas 2015

How was your Christmas Day? We watched Paddington, yet another surprisingly good kids’ movie. It reminded me of Amelie with its vibrant colours and whimsy. And with our 10AM tickets, we almost had the whole cinema to ourselves. Later, we headed into town for teppanyaki and a sweet treat. It wasn’t horribly crowded; I guess all the festivities are done and over with on Christmas Eve. I’d thought of visiting this newly famous decorated patio (at Blk 3 Toa Payoh Lorong 7) and saying “hello” to the owner, but I guess we’ll be filing that under next year’s to-do list!

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Dec 25 2014

Three Goals For Christmas

Published by under Life

Christmas 2015

For two Christmases in a row, I’ve listened to sermons by a Korean-American pastor named Peter Chin. I discovered him quite by accident, over Facebook, and I’m not always diligent about listening to the sermons, but when I do, they’ve brought me much comfort and joy.

The latest Christmas sermon of his is adapted from one that he gave last year, which I wrote about here. He talks about how the Christmas story that church believers know is an “upside-down story,” where every single thing that happened wasn’t in accordance with the norms of the world. I’m glad I listened to the new sermon, because although I took notes last year, hearing everything again in a slightly different format helped remind me of certain important points, as well as provide new insights.

I’m not going to preach here; I’m not qualified. All I’d like to say is that I was moved by the call to reorient ourselves and our lives this Christmas, in these three ways:

#1 The Christmas story tells us that in order to be truly great, we have to humble ourselves by reaching for the bottom instead of the top. One way to do this is by valuing those that the world considers unworthy, because it was the world’s “riff raff” that Jesus ended up picking as his disciples. We can reverse the order of the world by giving attention, respect, and care to the people that nobody pays any attention to, and not just to the beautiful, successful, talented ones. (That is something I’m very guilty of!)

#2 Christmas is also about loving imperfect people, all of the time. This applies to the people in our lives, as well as the people in society that are so hard to love. (I confess, every single day I seem to get further from that goal of making my kids, particularly Layla, feel that they are loved unconditionally. I have also often fantasised about killing sex offenders, or at least breaking all the major bones and stomping on their faces repeatedly with a clunky heel as a finishing move.)

#3 And finally, Christmas is a reminder to live by faith, and not by sight. I recently heard a phrase that I love, where someone said she “nursed doubt.” I nurse doubt about everything, about events, about people, and definitely about religion. It’s easy to tear down religion, and articles like this one do it very well:

Why, then, do some highly educated people believe religious claims? First, smart persons are good at defending ideas that they originally believed for non-smart reasons. They want to believe something, say for emotional reasons, and they then become adept at defending those beliefs. No rational person would say there is more evidence for creation science than biological evolution, but the former satisfies some psychological need for many that the latter does not. How else to explain the hubris of the philosopher or theologian who knows little of biology or physics yet denies the findings of those sciences? It is arrogant of those with no scientific credentials and no experience in the field or laboratory, to reject the hard-earned knowledge of the science. Still they do it. (I knew a professional philosopher who doubted both evolution and climate science but believed he could prove that the Christian God must take a Trinitarian form! Surely something emotional had short-circuited his rational faculties.)

To completely trust in something that we can’t prove, see, or measure–I think that’s the hardest thing for anyone to do, especially in our times. It’s something that I’ll have to figure out on my own.

p.s. Merry Christmas, by the way.

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Dec 21 2014

Hello, Christmas!

Published by under Life

Happy Christmas 2014!

Happy Christmas 2014!

Happy Christmas 2014!

We hosted a pre-Christmas potluck lunch party today, where Alf cooked for company for the first time, and survived! He relied on his current favourite quick-and-easy dish, pesto pasta. (He makes the sauce by following the recipe here.)

I hadn’t invited many people. For one, we’re still apprehensive when it comes to feeding others with food made in our kitchen. We kept it to Grandma Agnes and two of her guests, my favourite ex-neighbour Gayathri, and some friends who live nearby. The final turnout was smaller than expected but cozy suits us too.

My preparations for this party were minimal. I picked up budget gifts from Daiso and The Paper Stone, and printed Ed Emberley Christmas drawing pages for the kids.

Happy Christmas 2014!

But the night before the party, I decided it’d be fun if I pretended to be Gone Girl’s Amy Dunne for an hour, by coming up with these clues for a mini treasure hunt:

Happy Christmas 2014!

The next clue was hidden in one of Layla’s Heelys.

Happy Christmas 2014!

This led to our book corner.

Happy Christmas 2014!

The final clue was stuck under our coffee table.

Happy Christmas 2014!

Because some of Layla’s friends hadn’t shown up due to confusion over our party’s timing, Layla ended up doing the hunt on her own, accompanied by one of my friends. They found the treasure–hidden in a bowl of pinecones–in less than 10 minutes! I’ll have to up the mystery factor next time.

Happy Christmas 2014!

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Dec 12 2014

Snowy Christmas At Universal Studios Singapore

Snowy Christmas Celebrations at Universal Studio Singapore

We were fairly adventurous when Layla was little; we brought her everywhere with us and it wasn’t unusual to see us in some cafe or coffeeshop well after midnight. Layla would nap in our arms or the carrier and we’d give her a bath when we got home at crazy times like 2 in the morning. Somewhere along the way we turned boring and started to impose an early bedtime for Layla, and for Z as well. More than that, we’ve been leaving Z at home whenever we can and he’s hardly been anywhere except to parks and playgrounds.

Yesterday was an exception, because I received tickets for us to check out Universal Studio’s Christmas programme and I thought well, this is as good a time as any to start including Z in our special outings. We were out from 11 in the morning till almost 9, and we saw the weather flip from hot to wet. We were snowed on too, so it was a lot for Z to take in. I think he did well.

Snowy Christmas Celebrations at Universal Studio Singapore

All fresh and ready to go!

Snowy Christmas Celebrations at Universal Studio Singapore

When it comes to character meet-and-greets, I’m too lazy to queue for a photo opportunity and none of us are particularly eager to pose with the characters. My trick is to stand nearby so I can snap a good picture when the coast is clear! Santa knew what I was up to and he was nice enough to give us a smile and a wave.

Snowy Christmas Celebrations at Universal Studio Singapore

At the Sesame Street Stage Show. The weather was still good at this point. Actually the weather people hadn’t predicted rain for the Sentosa area and I was hoping they were right, but it wasn’t to be. After watching this, we took Z for his first ever ride–the Sesame Street Spaghetti Space Chase–and he cried his heart out. Then we crossed over to the Far Far Away section for the Shrek 4-D Adventure and he spent it tucked under Layla’s arm with his eyes squeezed shut. It was raining heavily when we got out; we waited a while and bought ponchos, and that’s when the rain stopped.

Snowy Christmas Celebrations at Universal Studio Singapore

Snowy Christmas Celebrations at Universal Studio Singapore

Snowy Christmas Celebrations at Universal Studio Singapore

“Let It Snow.” This happens at the start of every hour in the Hollywood/New York section, from 12PM till closing time.

Snowy Christmas Celebrations at Universal Studio Singapore

Snowy Christmas Celebrations at Universal Studio Singapore

Coffee break. I told Alf and Layla to sneak away and check some rides off the list, and to avoid a meltdown, I had to use the “oh, they went to the bathroom” excuse whenever Z asked about them. Alf and Layla were supposed to conquer the Mummy but Layla changed her mind and they sat in a teacup instead. When they returned, we decided to try something easy, the Madagascar Crate Adventure. Layla’s got a great memory because she kept yelling at Alf to cover Z’s ears right at the end, and true enough, there was a loud hissing noise! Z owes her big time.

Snowy Christmas Celebrations at Universal Studio Singapore

“Sesame Street Saves Christmas.” This show runs four times daily, and it’s won an award that’s equivalent to the theme park Oscars.

Snowy Christmas Celebrations at Universal Studio Singapore

Snowy Christmas Celebrations at Universal Studio Singapore

Snowy Christmas Celebrations at Universal Studio Singapore

Snowy Christmas Celebrations at Universal Studio Singapore

After an early dinner, Alf had to leave to settle some work matters. The kids and I stayed on to catch the Christmas light show and the toy soldiers’ “Changing Of The Guard” performance, which ends with a snowfall. We didn’t get to see the fireworks display as that only happens on weekends, but that worked out for us because it probably would’ve been too loud for Z.

Snowy Christmas Celebrations at Universal Studio Singapore

Candy Cane giving Elf the side eye.

Snowy Christmas Celebrations at Universal Studio Singapore

Snowy Christmas Celebrations at Universal Studio Singapore

Stealing a few minutes for bubble fun before we called it a night. Theme parks are hard to say goodbye to!

We received complimentary tickets to Universal Studios Singapore; I was not compensated for this post. Universal Studio Singapore’s Snowy Christmas Celebration runs from now till January 4, 2015. Click here for programme details.

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Dec 11 2014

Review: Lazada Singapore

Published by under Reviews

Merry Xmas Grandma!

When Lazada Singapore offered me store credit to review their online shopping site, I thought, how timely! I’d been thinking of surprising my mum-in-law with an air fryer this Christmas–it’s something she’s been wanting for a few years but we didn’t get her one because we’ve always thought cash gifts were more useful.

Sadly, I couldn’t pull off the surprise. Just as I was about to get on Lazada and pick an air fryer, I heard my mum-in-law talking about going out to buy one! I had to stop her and let her in on what was happening, but well, she was still excited and that’s what matters.

***

I took my time to pick my purchases. After reading reviews, comparing prices, and deciding what we needed most, I bought a Mayer air fryer for my mum-in-law and a Morries 26L oven for us. This came up to S$159.90 in total, which I think is a steal! I’ll talk more about why I chose those products later, but first, here’s a recap of my Lazada shopping experience:

Price: This is naturally the #1 consideration for me, and there are good deals on Lazada Singapore. For every item that I was thinking of buying, as well as those featured in my Top 10 list below, I checked the price against another popular online shopping site that is well known for its bargains. I found several products where Lazada had the better price, or at least a similarly attractive price. This isn’t the case for every product, so look around and compare prices before buying.

Ease Of Use: The site’s easy to figure out but I did click on the “Buy Now” button by mistake twice when I was trying to view product details instead. To me, having a “Buy Now” button on product thumbnails is an unnecessary feature–yes it could help some buyers save time, but it could also get in the way of buyers like me.

Reviews: Lazada Singapore is fairly new and their product reviews section is understandably sparse, which meant I had to do my research elsewhere. I suppose it’s up to customers like me to help remedy this.

Product Information: Most of the information I needed was available on the site, but there were a few instances where I had to look elsewhere for details. Like for the portable oven I ordered, the product write-up was long but there was no mention of the oven’s dimensions. It didn’t bother me since I was pretty sure we had the space, but I appreciated that another site had those details. Also, when I was looking at blenders, I had to refer to an external source to see if the models I was considering could crush ice. That said, it’s a small issue and it’s easily fixed if they listen to feedback.

Delivery: I placed my orders on a Tuesday. My air fryer was delivered on Thursday (of the same week), and my oven arrived on Saturday. My mum-in-law’s brought her air fryer home and I haven’t checked on her since, but we’re happily getting to know our new oven. I also received notifications via email and SMS, and I liked that I was able to check on the status of my products through a link provided in the email, without having to log in. That said, delivery has less to do with Lazada and more to do with the reliability of the individual merchants and their chosen courier service, so I’m glad everything went well.

To sum it up, this was a smooth-sailing shopping experience for me. I’ve also spotted some of my favourite products at prices that I can’t say no to, like my beloved Paul Mitchell tea tree oil shampoo and Macadamia hair oil, and I’ll be back on Lazada soon enough. For now, I’ll leave you with a Top 10 list of household appliances to check out on Lazada Singapore. The images below are clickable, except for #7:

Lazada: 10 Best Buys

1. CORNELL Hello Kitty Pop Up Toaster, S$36.90: Love the colours, and it’s going at S$39.90 elsewhere.

2. CORNELL multi-function cooker, S$64.80: I would’ve appreciated something like this if I were still renting! Spotted at S$68 elsewhere.

3. Taiyo electric kettle, S$19.71: Again, this is priced lower than at the other site I was checking.

4. Kenwood Blender, S$49.90: I almost bought this so I could make my favourite Starbucks rip-off drink, but Alf was eager to start baking.

5. Morries 3-in-1 breakfast maker, S$44.90: This would’ve been great in my rental apartment! Spotted elsewhere at a higher price.

6. Electrolux dry iron, S$11.90.

7. Philips Air Fryer, S$199: This is a good deal but it doesn’t show up all the time on Lazada. If you’re looking to buy a Philips air fryer, be patient and look out for this deal on Lazada’s air fryer section.

8. Takahi crock pot, S$29: If you’re wondering about the brand, there’s a review here.

9. Morries 26L oven, S$60: This is the oven I bought. I spotted it at S$88 elsewhere so I figured it was a good deal, also, the reviews were decent. Portable ovens have their quirks and we’ll have to familiarise ourselves with our oven’s behaviour, but a friend has loaned me an oven thermometer so we won’t have to play temperature guessing games.

10. Mayer Air Fryer, S$99.90: I deliberated between this and the Philips air fryer, and in the end price won out. People who’ve bought this seem to be happy with it, and a friend even told me that she’d heard it was just as good as the Philips. Fingers crossed that my mum-in-law is enjoying her present!

I received store credit to shop on Lazada Singapore; I was not compensated for this post. Photos are courtesy of Lazada Singapore.

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Dec 05 2014

December Days

Published by under Life

December Days

We haven’t needed a plan for the school holidays because Layla’s gymnastics training has been stepped up and my head is swimming with dates, times, and venues to remember. If training’s in the morning, Layla’s happy to rest and relax at home in the afternoon. If training’s in the afternoon, we can’t stray too far from home in the morning. Even though it’s the holidays, we still prefer for the kids to have an early dinner and sleep by 9 at the latest; that’s limited our range of activities to the park and playground variety, which we’re fine with anyway. Thankfully the gym coaches will take a break mid-month and we can get back to our old routine of chilling out by ourselves or with friends.

Is this healthy for Layla? Yes I think so. The signs were there that she wanted to feel “special” in some way and her gym training is giving her a sense of accomplishment while promoting good values, i.e. train hard and you’ll see obvious improvements in your flexibility and technique. She can do a decent split now–she couldn’t after four years of ballet. Not to blame the ballet school of course, because that was a 1 to 2-hour per week affair whereas she’s currently training for up to 14 hours per week.

The other interesting thing to me is that I’ve been watching Layla when she’s around her classmates and when she’s around her gym mates. Layla’s more subdued around her classmates and she’s content to let her best friend take the lead. She doesn’t necessarily say much but she’s comfortable. I saw a very different Layla when I took her out to play with her gym mates earlier this week; she was as loud and assertive as the others and it was surprising to see this version of her emerge. These girls don’t get to talk much during training, but perhaps just being side by side and occasionally suffering together helps to foster closeness more than being in a classroom situation.

Well that’s our holiday so far. Besides gym, we’ve managed to work in two birthday parties, a movie (Big Hero 6, better than I’d expected), and a few dates with old and new friends. We’re also heading to Universal Studios next week to check out their Christmas programme. All in all, it’s not been too shabby!

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Dec 04 2014

Fuss-Free 40

Published by under Life,Party

40!

40!

40!

A few of Alf’s friends turned 40 this year to great fanfare, but it wasn’t something my husband wanted for himself on his 40th birthday. He made sure to remind me of that several times before his birthday came around! And so when the big day arrived, it was as simple as it could be. I made a straw bunting banner in 10 minutes and recycled his birthday postcards from three years ago, thinking that they wouldn’t be inappropriate for Christmas either.

Alf’s only birthday request was for us to take a walk on one of the MacRitchie trails but I’m afraid that didn’t go very well, although we had a great time doing the same thing a week ago. This time the ground was muddier and Z stepped into a puddle almost as soon as we entered the trail, which killed his mood as well as his ability to walk. Layla’s more of a trooper but this isn’t her favourite thing to do–too many scary things lurking about in the green. And as it turned out, we hadn’t even entered by the right entrance for our intended boardwalk trail, which is what happens when I leave the planning to someone who hates to plan. After much nagging from me (no breaks even on birthdays!), we exited the trail early and promptly ran into a band of monkeys that snuffed out whatever celebratory spirit we had left in us. There was yelling (the grown-ups) and crying (the kids), before we escaped in a cab to Botanic Gardens and hid out at Food For Thought.

“I don’t think Daddy’s having a good birthday,” said my daughter to no one in particular.

“Well, that’s really up to him.”

That’s exactly what my husband would’ve said, if someone else were having a less-than-perfect day.

The second portion of the celebration went much better. I’d asked my talented baker friend Shakila (of Zafiel’s Cakes) to create something special for Alf, and we were totally impressed with the fondant topper! (The cake tasted great too; I’d chosen a light lemon flavour because Alf doesn’t like anything too heavy or sweet.)

I first met Shakila back at ballet school when our girls were in the same class, and to be honest, some of the best mom conversations I’ve had were with the ballet mommies, mostly because we had an uninterrupted hour to listen to one another’s stories. I’m still in touch with several of them today.

Shakila brought our cake to us in the afternoon, just in time for tea, and we instructed Alf to keep his eyes shut so that there would still be a tiny element of surprise for his birthday. But even that wasn’t to be, because Z saw the cake and had to tell the world what it was.

40!

40!

“If it’s too loud, you’re too old” is an old insider joke between me and Alf. It’s from a t-shirt I used to own during my baggy t-shirt phase. I offloaded it on Alf while we were both still in our 20s and he put it on one day without bothering to read the slogan. He only caught sight of it when he passed a mirror while he was out, and he was mortified! But we’ve always remembered the slogan fondly, and yeah, that’s our barometer for “OLD” so we’re not there yet. Not for a long time, I hope.

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Nov 22 2014

Preparing For Christmas

Published by under Make

DIY Collage Christmas Tree

We bought a real Christmas tree last year and it was exciting for about five minutes. I had to vacuum pine needles daily and the tree quickly became something we had to get rid of; I think only Alf was sad to see it go. We’re keeping it very simple for Christmas this year so we’re back to fashioning an alternative tree, and we’re taking inspiration from Tree #25 on this list. I’d be the first to say that it’s more of a meaningful tree rather than a pretty one, but I think that’s in line with our priorities as we shape up for the new year ahead. The tree’s not finished yet, but that’s intentional. We’re throwing a small pre-Christmas get-together for past and present neighbours, where Alf will cook for company for the first time. I plan to get the kids at the party to help us complete our tree.

DIY Collage Christmas Tree

It wasn’t hard to fill the tree, in fact it became addictive quite quickly. Right now, it’s got anything that vaguely reminds me of the Christmas spirit–godliness, love, peace, creativity, generosity–and is suitably small. The Merry Christmas postcard is from a batch of homemade cards from last year; I used Norfolk pine needles for the wreath and Alf stamped the cards. There was one left over so he decided to write me a quick note with a privately funny-sexy sign off. If that card falls off while we have company, he might have some explaining to do!

The camel craft was made by Layla several years ago when I attended a free bible study course with a group called CBSI. I stayed with the group for about a year but eventually left as I felt a disconnect with my study group mates, many of whom were older women from privileged families. Some of the lectures were really good though; I remember paying attention and taking notes, just as I do now for the online sermons that I regularly listen to. CBSI also has a drop-off class for kids as a service to the moms attending the sessions; the teachers were terribly sweet to a very shy Layla back then, and the crafts she came home with were so pretty that I saved most of them.

DIY Collage Christmas Tree

Alf made the blue card for Layla, maybe two years ago. When she saw it again, all she said was, “There’s a mistake in the card. Daddy should’ve cancelled “A” as well.”

DIY Collage Christmas Tree

DIY Collage Christmas Tree

I found that red note in Alf’s collection and it brought back memories of a last-minute project when Alf suddenly decided he wanted to give his students a homemade graduation gift. We put it together in a day and the quote’s not my favourite, but we needed something safe that wouldn’t be misconstrued by the kids or by parents.

Well that’s a preview of our tree! If you’re doing a DIY tree as well, I’d love to hear about it.

Update: Our tree’s almost complete! Click here to see what it looks like now.

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