Carly Sharples

Hello.

Welcome to my blog. I document my adventures in travel, style, and food. Happy reading!

Christmas Traditions

Christmas Traditions

Chatsworth House

Christmas traditions are a funny old thing, aren't they? Some are passed down through families, from generation to generation, and some just naturally evolve without you even realising.

When I was growing up in Germany, St. Nicholas Day on December 6th was a bigggg deal as we would receive sweets in our shoes for being good {unless we had been naughty and Knecht Ruprecht left 'alternative' gifts!}. I don't recall mince pies featuring heavily in my childhood festive memories, but the mere waft of Stollen, Lebkuchen or Pfeffernüsse gives me alllll the nostalgic feels still to this day. 

I do remember visiting Santa at his grotto at Fraser's in Glasgow, going out for Christmas dinner and getting dressed up to go to the pantomime on Boxing Day. I've not introduced any of these traditions to my own children, although we do still open one gift on Christmas Eve - a nod to my teutonic upbringing, perhaps. I can still conjure up vivid memories of being allowed to choose one gift from under the tree on Christmas Eve. Naturally, as a small child I went straight for the largest. One year my Dad called my bluff and wrapped a pencil case inside a microwave box, knowing full well that it would have an allure like catnip to me. I've since used this cunning ploy on my own children; recycling an oversized Amazon box to put a single piece of A4 paper inside which was, in fact, tickets to a concert {sidenote: seriously, what is it with Amazon sending miniscule items in the MOST ENORMOUS BOX EVER, anyway?!}.

Hands up - I've never taken my children to meet 'Father Christmas'. It has always creeped me out to ask them to sit on a random, wrinkly old guy's knee. I'm aware that says more about me than anything else - but still! Shudder. Nevertheless, as the years have gone on we have naturally developed our own family traditions that I hope will bring fond memories to each of them when they are all grown up {I'm totally going to be like that mama in Love You Forever by Robert Munsch! If you have no idea what I'm talking about then read this, then buy the book and read it when nobody is about and you have the Kleenex to hand. Trust me, you'll need it!).

Anyway, I digress. Current traditions include homemade reindeer food, trips to the Lincoln Christmas Market, choosing a new bauble for the tree, amongst others... and who knows what is yet to come as the children grow up. Every Christmas Eve, without fail, Reuben always hangs his stocking at the end of his big sister's bed and the two of them excitedly go to bed early and have a sleepover together, in eager anticipation. No doubt Sophia will join them this year, now she is that bit older. I can't see them still doing that in ten years' time, but you never know!

This cheeky little monkey! 

This cheeky little monkey! 

Children Chatsworth

One of my favourite little family traditions we have is to visit Chatsworth House in Derbyshire to commemorate the beginning of Advent.

James and I visited the first Christmas we spent together and we've tried to go every December since, taking our cherubs as they've been born along the way.

My favourite year was when they decorated the house in the style of a fellow bipolar creative, Jan Pienkowski, bedecked with intricate red and white paper cuttings. Very traditional and strikingly beautiful.

This year the theme was "Oh Dickens! It's Christmas" illustrating both the splendour and squalor of Victorian London. We always like to tour the house itself at the end of the day, as the sun is setting and the lights and ambience become even more enchanting and magical.

It's an extravagant day out, for sure. Upon arrival it is £10 to park, plus then you pay £60.90 as a family of 5 for entry to the house, gardens and adventure playground. Add in all the food, treats (*cough* coffee) and random souvenirs and it seems extremely decadent. Especially when you consider that we've got a National Trust membership which offers entry into countless stately homes and gardens the length and breadth of the country, but I would still say it is worth a visit. Plus you get a 'half price return within six months' voucher and I'm thinking that visiting in spring would be equally as beautiful.

You could easily spend an entire day aimlessly wandering the Capability Brown landscaped gardens if it weren't so cold at this time of year. It's a great place for children to run wild and explore {make sure you pack spare clothes!} and the traditional, wooden-hutted Christmas Market was in full force the day we went which was an added bonus, really.

The lesser spotted husband...

The lesser spotted husband...

Strike a pose, Reuben!

Strike a pose, Reuben!

No idea what we are looking at here, but it is very rare that there is a photo of us both so it's staying ;)

No idea what we are looking at here, but it is very rare that there is a photo of us both so it's staying ;)

As I said in this post, usually my favourite part of the trip is seeing the majestic house adorned with shiny baubles, twinkly lights and following the story of whichever theme that has been set out that particular year. On this occasion, however, the highlight for me was watching my tribe just running around having carefree fun. They scrambled up hills, stumbled through cascading water, played hide and seek in bushes and just generally had a whale of a time. It's the simple things, eh?

It is the first year that we've not had a child in a pushchair and all three were able to chase each other and play. In some ways, that is bittersweet. We have completed our family now and there will be no more babes in arms to carry around Chatsworth in future years at Christmas. Give it a few years and perhaps the children might not want to come with us for the experience anymore, and a few more years after that it will be back to just James and I again! We will have come full circle. But I think I've made my peace with that and am instead cherishing the moments like today where we didn't have a care in the world and the focus was purely on being together, as a family. Just the five of us.

Triumphant at escaping the labyrinth

Triumphant at escaping the labyrinth

Freya... taking a photo of me... taking a photo of her... it's a classic

Freya... taking a photo of me... taking a photo of her... it's a classic

Still beautifully verdant in December

Still beautifully verdant in December

There's something so restorative about being out in the fresh air at this time of year too, isn't there? I mean, I'm all for a bit of hygge at home but it is sooo good to get out - even if we were all wrapped up like Nanook of the North! 

We opted to go into the house itself at 16.30 in order to maximise our time outdoors and split the time between the gardens and the adventure playground. We'd never been to the playground before but I've got to say - it was pretty cool! Perfect for all three of our children which is a rarity (there is 8 years between Freya and Sophia, with Reuben wedged in the middle). Sophia loved the farmyard animals, especially the pigs and horses, and while she looked at these with us the older two disappeared up a tunnel to the park. The park reminded me of something you'd see in Germany - there's something similar in Berlin Zoo - big wooden frames and apparatus set in forest woodland. Freya and Reuben took full advantage of the zip wire and huge slides and Sophia was happy scooping sand and pumping water from the stream. Mummy and Daddy were full of joy as they got to observe all of this play whilst sipping a hot chocolate ;)

I couldn't quite work out how many bodies are in this metalwork - any ideas?

I couldn't quite work out how many bodies are in this metalwork - any ideas?

Sculptures and late afternoon winter light

Sculptures and late afternoon winter light

I have all the heart eyes for this pic!

I have all the heart eyes for this pic!

Up to mischief - if only there was a way to capture the shrieks of joy that echoed around as I took this photo...

Up to mischief - if only there was a way to capture the shrieks of joy that echoed around as I took this photo...

The house itself was dazzling. They had opened up different rooms this year than the usual offer so we (I) really appreciated seeing even more of the magnificent state rooms and there was a game to play for the younger ones to see how many dogs they could spot along the trail. Going up and down the grand, sweeping staircases always makes me feel like I'm in a period drama {delusions of grandeur, anybody?!} There were roaring fireplaces abound to warm the cockles after a day outdoors and as always, my favourite part was the chapel. As we were in the last tranche of entries for that day, it was fairly quiet by the time we were exploring which meant no maddening crowds and the ability to just stop and look rather than being swept away in a milling throng.

Afterwards, the Christmas market was still in full swing so we took the opportunity to grab some dinner before heading home. Hog roast for the boys (delicious) and the girls opted for fish and chips (which was pretty rank, to be fair. We are spoilt at home with freshly caught fish from Grimsby at Burton Road Chippy, if that tickles our fancy!).

Nevertheless, it is always a treat to escape cooking dinner and we headed home with full bellies, happy hearts and cold feet. 

I think I'm still defrosting even now!

Sophia takes art very seriously, you know.

Sophia takes art very seriously, you know.

The chapel inside Chatsworth House

The chapel inside Chatsworth House

Festive AF

Festive AF

So that is it until next year and we now move on to our other family Christmas traditions: feeding and icing the cake, failing at gingerbread house construction, making cranberry sauce and playing hide and seek with that bloody elf on the shelf {a curse sent from Satan himself}.

This year has really shot by with the blink of an eye and I think I'm in denial at how fast Christmas has come around again. I feel woefully underprepared, guys! Fortunately, I'm blessed (?!) with a tween child that would give Buddy the Elf a run for his money, so full is she with Christmas spirit!

I'm sure it will all come together in the end - Freya will make sure it does!

 

Merry Christmas, Ya Filthy Animal.

Merry Christmas, Ya Filthy Animal.

All the gear, no idea

All the gear, no idea