Happy Holidays from England!

After a fall in Morocco and Turkey, I’ve made my way to England. My brother just moved here with his girlfriend for the next few years; he’s been transferred with work, and she’s pursuing a masters at the University of Birmingham. Though I often do complain about the cold (they can attest to this), I could think of no better way to spend the holidays since he wasn’t returning home.  It’s the first year we’re both away from Canada and our parents (both sets of them) are having some empty nest issues with the quiet holiday season, but are somewhat mollified that we are, at least, spending them together in the UK.

My weeks in the United Kingdom have been a change from the long days of walking in Turkey and eating through Morocco. It has been lovely to see the life that my brother is building here, and get to meet his friends. Many of my own have moved across the pond as well, and I’ve loved afternoons of catching up in person (for a change!), with an espresso and many memories. My time here thus far has included side trips to London, a New Year’s eve planned for Edinburgh (which looks to be totally insane) and a slower pace from the frenzy of early fall.

Christmas in the Cotswolds with Family

christmas in the cotswolds
English countryside on the train to London
Cale and Button
My brother and his lovely girlfriend Sarah, striking a Serious Pose.
Coffee makes the world better.
Coffee makes the world better.
SantaCon in London 2011
2011 SantaCon in London
Lunar eclipse rising over London
Lunar eclipse rising over London, next to the Gherkin
London Eye
London Eye from the water’s edge.

Holiday season in Ettenbergia is full of music and decorations and tradition, but we’re not the most … craftily-inclined family. We don’t bake very much, we don’t create elaborate snowflakes out of old posters, and we’re certainly unable to sew stockings out of material from an old bridesmaid’s dress. However, my brother’s girlfriend Sarah has done all those things and more, making the flat in England a fun and festive place for all of us.

My brother decided to have an orphan’s Christmas, enlisting Micah (a friend of his from home now living in Cambridge) and his new friends Tanya and Jarvis (from Newfoundland, also living nearby) to join. Sarah invited her cousins from Newfoundland who have also relocated to London and we all contributed to what was one of the more impromptu but hilarious holiday seasons I’ve had.

Cookies were baked (gingerbread ninjas and penguins, and shortbread stars, mushrooms and hearts):

Shortbread for Christmas
Shortbread and gingerbread cookies, pre-decoration

And then decorated:

Cookies decorated
Post cookie-decorating extravaganza
Pile of gingerbread ninjas
Pile of gingerbread ninjas

And eaten in a variety of creative ways:

Penguin shortbread
Penguin shortbread missing a little something…

A 14-pound turkey, promptly named Hester, was stuffed, baked and carved at dinner. (Yes, those are wreath earrings that also happen to flash when turned on. Subtlety is clearly my aim during the holiday season.)

Carving the turkey for Christmas
Carving Hester the Turkey for our Christmas dinner

Side dishes were made with style: honey and mustard braised ham, roasted brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes and more.

Christmas Dinner
Christmas Dinner of Champions

And no holiday is complete without special ear-warmers, knitted for the festive season.What, you don’t do this in your homes? (Ok, knitted caps were for Ferrero Rocher chocolates but my ears were cold and it caught on. People at the pub on Bourton-on-the-Water were less enthused.)

Knitted Christmas pudding hats on our ears
Knitted Christmas pudding hats on our ears.

Holiday season in the Cotswolds involves a lot of fun restaurant choices like this old church, converted into a restaurant:

Church restaurant
Old church building provides the perfect backdrop for Italian food

Some beautiful sunsets (sadly at 4pm, but that’s what you get for spending the winter solstice in England!)

Sunset in the Cotswolds
Sunset in the Cotswolds

And a lot of napping.

napping at Christmas
Cale napping (with bonus fancy snowflake in the background)

Overall a wonderful week with family and newfound friends, though without my parents and the snow it just wasn’t as perfect as it could have been. I hope everyone had a terrific weekend themselves, and as we say in my family…. Happy Christmakwanzmakkah!


26 thoughts on “Happy Holidays from England!”

  1. The gingerbread ninjas may be the best Christmas cookie I’ve ever seen. THAT is a tradition that needs to make it’s way back over the Atlantic.

  2. OMG, Jodi, you’re going to Scotland for Hogmanay and you’re not in bed? You seriously need to store up on lots and lots and LOTS of sleep to be able to really appreciate it! And I don’t know if you share this song in Scotland, but it would be a good idea if you knew the words to Auld Lang Syne Enjoy! It will be memorable!

    1. Thanks Linda! Yes, I will definitely need to rest up – it should be a very rowdy few days. We’ll be 8 people so I’m sure we’ll have plenty of interesting stories to go around. Hope you and your family have a healthy, happy holiday season and all the best in 2012!

  3. That would have been, of course, “share this song in Canada!”

    And parents adjust to the empty nest thing – it’s a rite of passage – and when the family does all get together again (as mine did last year for the first time in 9 years) it’s super great!

  4. I would LOVE to spend Christmas there! I am embarrassed to admit this but I love the movie “The Holiday” which takes place in the English countryside. What an idyllic place to spend Christmas!

    Two more observations/comments/questions – 1) Man your hair grows quickly! 2) You name your turkey??

    1. It was fun, most definitely! Hair does grow like a weed (which is why I no longer keep it short) and yes, we name our turkeys. We name them when we pick them up, and before they go in the oven. We also name our cars and our computers, and just about everything else ;) Happy holidays Jeremy! Thanks for all the comments and support this year.

  5. Beautiful photos! I love SantaCon. I was sad I missed it in Portland, OR this year but I’m happy to learn it apparently takes place all over the world… I’ve still got a chance!

  6. Most excellent news that you’re going to be in Edinburgh for Hogmanay! I’ve only heard how wild a time it is–can’t wait to read your take on it. Enjoy!

  7. Glad to see you’ve had a great Christmas (or as great as it can be when away from home).
    I’m VERY impressed by the ninja cookies … will search for the shape while i’m in the US !
    As for ear warmers, it reminds me my grandma and her knitting club made close to a hundred of the for a charity : a brand of juice would put the hat on the bottles and then give back part of the benefit from each bottle to a charity. A very cute idea, because they were all handmade and unique!

  8. Hey Jodi, it’s always nice to connect with family over the holidays and having a chance to meet your brother in a unique situation must have been really great. BTW, those gingerbread ninjas look awfully tasty.

  9. I just heard about you on the Coach Radio podcast and love, love, love your story! It sounds so much like what I want to do. In a way, it’s like you’ve given me permission to live my dreams :)

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  12. hi Jodi: thanks for another great blog. my friend lives in the Cotswolds and next time i visit him i want to also visit this neat old gothic church turned restaurant. where is it?
    thanks so much and keep on traveling!

  13. The Cotswolds are really lovely. Your striking picture of the church converted into a restaurant reminded me of a similar converted church round the corner from me in Chichester, Sussex which is now a pub / restaurant. The trouble is it’s really cold in winter and must cost a fortune to keep warm.

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