Archive for the CHRISTMAS Category

‘Forget hanging your stocking up – wear em on your feet!’

Posted in CHRISTMAS, LIVING IN THE PAST: NOSTALGIA with tags , , , on December 24, 2009 by echostains

stockings that are a bit tooooooo nice to use

Just had to venture out to do some more shopping.  After being more or less snowed in yesterday, there was a lot to do.  Lots of people are in hospital with broken limbs, due to the hazardous weather conditions.  It’s quite frightening really, walking on sheets of ice.

schuh shoes - the higher the better (once)

When we were young we never worried about such things.  We wore high heels come wind or rain.  Christmas or New Years eve, dressed up to the nines off we’d trot, (well, perhaps trot is the wrong word…) out on the town to have a good time.  One trick we used to do was put a pair of woollen socks over our shoes.  Don’t ask me why this worked, but it just did, it gave more of a grip.  Of course. as soon as you got to the venue, you whipped them off and put them in a plastic bag.   You either threw em away or put the soggy things back on to go home in.  Usually we threw em.  Somehow, we never fell over on the ice going home without these trusty socks  – I don’t know why though, probably more confidence induced by the alcohol!

early American native indian snowshoes

The native American Indians used to wear these snowshoes, made of wood, metal and yarn.  Mountaineers wear these sort of snowshoes (below) they can climb mountains in them, go anywhere there is snow without falling over.  But you don’t have to use them just for snow, you can use them for all sorts of recreational activities, like golf or just keeping fit.  What’s really interesting about these is that the length of the snowshoe depends on the weight of the person and what they will be carrying.  Don’t know how this works if you are carrying another person though.  Fancy a pair? HERE

serious snowshoes

Crackers about Crackers? They Must Be!

Posted in CHRISTMAS, DESIGN, LIVING IN THE PAST: NOSTALGIA with tags , , , , , on December 23, 2009 by echostains

Tom Smith crackers

Christmas crackers are very traditional, the Christmas table doesn’t look decorated without them.  I love the Tom Smith Christmas crackers, which are very traditional and are still being made today.  Invented in 1847, almost by accident and  inspired by the crackling of a log fire – the charming story of Smith’s invention can be read about here.   Some think the Mexican Pinata has links with the cracker, though it takes two people to share in the pulling of it.  Here’s how to make a pinata.


There is always a paper hat and a motto in each Christmas cracker, a strip that creates the bang, and a toy of some kind.  The rule of thumb is, the more expensive the cracker, the better quality the gift.  Usual gifts though are usually, paper fortune-telling fish.  This curls in your hand according to your body heat.  The type of curl relates to your fortune….


Other toys include plastic mirrors, moustaches, teeth.  The jokes contained are usually in the form of a riddle or motto.   Alternatively you can make your own crackers, it’s not that hard, plus you can choose your own hats, mottos and novelties to insert.  Of course, if you can’t be bothered and have money to burn……

Very Gold Luxury-6-Christmas-Cracker from Harrods

There are some very posh crackers being sold.  The novelties of course are more luxuriant.  For example Fortnum and Mason ‘Cardinal Chorus’ are worth £1000 whilst Harrods ‘Very Gold ‘crackers contain more expensive gifts as well as glittered gold feathers and Christmas trees.  They sell for £600 or $1000 for six!.  I am gobsmacked, (as they say around here).  My tip? be a cheapskate: stick to the toilet or kitchen roll tubes and make your own….


Happy Un PC, Health Hazardous Christmas’s I have Enjoyed

Posted in CHRISTMAS, DESIGN, LIVING IN THE PAST: NOSTALGIA with tags , , , on December 22, 2009 by echostains

chocolate cigarettes

When you are young, Christmas is magical – well it seem’s magical.  OK it is magical, only because you can’t see the strings.  Some of the stocking fillers of the past wouldn’t be allowed in the shops these days, yet some of them aresurprisingly  still around.  We took them for granted – the same way we do a selection box for example.  Most young children used to get chocolate ‘Smoking’ sets.  Yes, lighters, cigarettes, cigars, pipe and other smoking paraphernalia – all made out of chocolate!  Horrible chocolate, I may add.  I have tried in vain to get a pic of these sets, but there doesn’t seem to be any to be found on the internet.


1962 baking set, I got one every year

Presents were dolls and baking sets, toy ironing boards and stoves for the girls. Nothing like a good education is there? practise for your future career….   Weapons of some sort, and cars for the boys.  The stereotyping had begun.  As well as the smoking set we also got a tin of Bluebird toffees from Woolworth’s, which usually had a picture of a kitten on the front.  Now, they were lovely creamy toffees.  Unfortunately though, I could only find an image with a dog on (thanks to here)

I usually got one with kittens on

Chocolate cigarettes with that sort of paper you can eat always went down well.  It was commonplace to see young children with these in their mouths.  I’m sure that  advertising a certain cigarette as ‘cool as a mountain stream’ contributed to enhancing smoking’s image as being a ‘harmless relaxing passtime’ .  The chocolate cigarettes are still available from eBay HERE or from HERE.  The others (real ones) are still available (NOT HERE) lol!

consulate – cool as a mountain stream

Toy guns that fired caps were very popular.  You could buy small round cardboard boxes with coils of caps in.  Boys would put them underfoot and stamp.  They were made of gunpowder!  Imagine that – kids playing with gunpowder!!!  They still make them too, (here) though they’ve probably been modified.  Penknives were also popular then and were generally used by scouts in a responsible way.  Not so now, according to this article.  Exciting, yet innocent days eh

He’s Jack and He’s back with a Vengeance

Posted in CHRISTMAS, HOME, POETRY, WATCHED with tags , , , , , , on December 20, 2009 by echostains


It’s obvious that Jack Frost has been to work these past couple of days, not only has it been snowing, it’s also dangerously icy.  I think he’s also been at work on my PC which seems to have ceased up – it’s gone very slow indeed.  But who exactly is Jack Frost?  We know what he feels like, but what does he look like? 

jack frost

I’ve always imagined him to have sharp features and long bony fingers, ideal for nipping at your extremities.   Wherever he goes he leaves a trail of ice crystals behind him.  Perhaps a cross between the above image and the Judder man off the Metz Schnapps advert

‘Jack Frost and the Hooded Crow’ by Tull is great Christmas song and I love it!  But I think the last word about Jack must come from this poem which I found here

Jack Frost

Look out! Look out!
Jack Frost is about!
He’s after our fingers and toes;
And all through the night,
The gay little sprite
Is working where nobody knows.

He’ll climb each tree,
So nimble is he.
His silvery powder he’ll shake;
To windows he’ll creep,
And while we’re asleep,
Such wonderful pictures he’ll make.

Across the grass
He’ll merrily pass,
And change all its greenness to white.
Then home he will go;
And laugh, “Ho! Ho! Ho!
What fun I have had in the night!”

Christmas is Coming, Ready or Not

Posted in CHRISTMAS, DESIGN, HOME, POETRY with tags , , on December 14, 2009 by echostains

the original Victorian Christmas

Christmas is very nearly here and I’ve still not contributed anything towards it.  I must like the last-minute panicking or something, or perhaps its just inertia.  When I think of some of the great exciting (to me) Christmas’s I’ve put on (like a pantomime), now it seems just a farce.  I can’t seem to get the enthusiasm for it any more.

making pomanders, they last ages too

In the past I would think of a theme, and plan for it.  One year it was Medieval Christmas.  We had spiced beef in wine, with cloves spiked in it.  I made pomanders out of oranges with cloves and ribbon, sprinkling them with orris root, wrapping them, then unwrapping in a few weeks when the oranges and the fruit had shrunk and re tieing the ribbons.  We’ve had Victorian Christmas with a massive real tree smothered with decorations.  I’ve made crazy patchwork stockings with ribbons and velvet to hang near the fire.  I’ve made tiny dough fruit and glazed it, wired cones and smothered a bower for the fireplace with trinkets, until it resembled Beecher’s Brook in the Grand National.

making pomanders, they last ages too

And now, well I suppose it will be the usual, a few lights on the bottom of the front windowsill, lights round the kitchen door, so we can do our ‘Tonight Mathew – I am going to be…..very drunk indeed).  We’ll have an open fire and burn all the wrappings.  Beyond that, I can’t really think…but I still believe in Father Christmas so anything can happen, so you never know!


Goodbye Christmas: Hello New Year!

Posted in ART, CHRISTMAS with tags , , , , , on December 28, 2008 by echostains

compatriots1 acrylics on board colour study




compatriots1 acrylics on board colour study

The Post Christmas lull has set in.  I will start the New Year with some more work on my altered book.  Until then, I am still getting over Christmas.  It will be good to get back to ‘normal’ eating (and less booze).  I KNOW I will feel better for it!

compatriots-2 acrylics on board. colour study

compatriots-2 acrylics on board. colour study

I’ve been looking through some back up discs lately.  I found loads of older art work, essays and projects as well as holiday photos: all sort of bits and pieces I’d forgotten about.  They brought back a lot of memories.

Boxing Day – lucky for some: unlucky for wrens

Posted in CHRISTMAS with tags , , , , , , on December 26, 2008 by echostains
Tom Smith cracker

Tom Smith cracker


I never knew there were so many traditions associated with Boxing day.  From giving gifts to the lower classes of people to the stoning of wrens!   Apparently this to relates to the stoning of St Stephen (whose birthday it also is).  There are some interesting facts about Boxing Day on these sites: –

Tom Smith

Happy Christmas one and all!

Posted in CHRISTMAS, HOME with tags , , , on December 25, 2008 by echostains

Thought I’d just write a quick Happy Christmas to anyone who may be reading, hope you are all having a happy day like me!

stained glass nativity scene

stained glass nativity scene