Oh Billey Nollick!*

*Billey Nollick = Christmas Tree in Manx.

Over the last six Christmases that Andrew and I have celebrated together, we have built up quite a lovely collection of Christmas decorations. I've never been a fan of "department store" trees, with their strict colour co-ordinated decorations, instead I prefer a mismatch of decorations - a more homely-looking tree.

For me, I want the decorations on our tree to tell people something about us - places we've been, things we've done, things we like, or simply unusual trinkets that have caught our eye.
Back in November I blogged about our annual pilgrimage to see the Harrods Christmas windows and the Christmas Shop, where each year we buy a new decoration. Below are a selection of some that we have collected over the years. My favourites are the long-legged Santa & the skiing Paddington Bear - isn't he wonderful?!
There are decorations from our travels, spanning where we have come from to where we've been. There are several Isle of Man decorations on our tree - it is almost a mini homage to our homeland. Alongside these are items we have collected from other countries. My favourite is the one we bought in Washington, D.C back in March: a mini Santa sitting on the lap of the Abraham Lincoln Memorial.
At the top of our tree sit the words "Nollick Ghennal", which is Manx for Happy Christmas.

One other collection we have, though this one is more for myself, are Winnie the Pooh decorations. I have a life long love for this silly old bear, and my Mum was kind enough to let me take some decorations for our own tree. The thing I love most out of these though has to be our Pooh Fairy. Andrew is determined to replace him but for now I say - Long Live The Pooh Fairy!
(I tried to limit the number of decorations I included in this post but there are just so many it's hard to restrict it!)

Below is a small selection of some other favourites from our tree: there's the Grenadier Guard and Corgi decorations that I bought to commemorate my time working at Buckingham Palace one Summer, the two penguin decorations that were bought by Andrew during his visit to New York earlier this month (the wooden one is from MOMA), the gold one in the middle is from the Beyond El Dorado Exhibition currently on at the British Museum and finally, the Grinch decoration is a gift from my Sister from her recent visit to Florida. She hadn't realised that she'd accidentally picked up a Veronica one until she got back to the UK...
A Poinsettia from one of my Brownies as an end of term thank you present :-)
Every year we add a few more decorations to our growing collection, hopefully one year we'll have a real tree to put them on - that would be perfect!

Do you have any special Christmas decorations in your collection?

Skoob Books & The British Museum

One of my favourite ways to spend a (relatively) quiet Saturday in London is to venture up to Bloomsbury for a day of wandering around The British Museum, followed by a trip to Skoob Books - one of the best second-hand bookshops!
Skoob is an Aladdin's Cave of literature - it is filled to the brim with books! Walls have vanished behind them and floor space has been lost to the over flow.
When it comes to books I have a bit of a problem... I can't resist them! To me, a second-hand bookshop is like heaven - shelves of pre-loved books, some older than myself, and that strangely comforting, slightly musty smell that they have.
I can while away hours browsing in bookshops, searching for interesting titles, being drawn in by beautiful tatty spines and eye-catching covers. The Penguin Classics section is always my favourite place to start, as so many treasures are to be found there.
On my recent visit to Skoobs I picked up some truly lovely books, some that I went in their looking for, some that were simply pleasant surprises.
The design on this John Updike cover is amazing! If you look really closely you can see the outlines of lots of naked women making up the man's face - even his nose is a bum!
I've bought a few old John Updike books in the past, but this cover is definitely my favourite so far. I also love the title of this book - a very good find indeed!
The above book of My Fair Lady is full of beautiful photos of a young Julie Andrews playing Eliza Doolittle in the original Broadway production of the musical that opened in 1956. The pages are also covered in notes, something else I love about old books - the thoughts/messages of previous owners. I have a small collection of old books with messages scribbled in them, many are decades old... but I'll save those for a future post.
I first discovered Daphne du Maurier's work after buying a book that grabbed my attention in a second-hand bookshop. That book was The Birds & Other Stories, and since then I have read Jamaica Inn too - both great books! So I was excited to find a 1st Edition of her book The King's General, first published in 1946.

I'm very happy with my finds from this visit, my pile was originally twice as high but sadly, after a stern word from my financial advisor (Andrew), I had to make a brutal cut. No worries though, there'll be other visits...
Now who can resist a visit to The British Museum?! The building itself is worth the trip, with it's incredible Greek Revival façade. There are 44 columns in total and over the main entrance there is a pediment depicting The Progress of Civilisation (pictured below).
The above picture is of The Queen Elizabeth II Great Court in the centre of the museum - the roof is made up of 1,656 uniquely shaped panes of glass!

On this visit we went to see the Beyond El Dorado: power and gold in ancient Colombia exhibition, which is on until March 23rd 2014 and definitely worth a look, especially if you have magpie tendencies...there is a lot of gold in there!

Do you have a favourite second-hand bookshop?

Reasons to be cheerful - November

  • IKEA meatballs – one big reason to venture all the way to IKEA
  • My first (and relatively successful) attempt at Pumpkin pie
  • MORE PUPPIES! (I’ll never tire of the puppies. EVER!)
  • Andrew’s baking: brown butter & apple doughnuts and a tea cake
  • Cinnamon rolls at the Nordic Bakery
  • Andrew’s birthday (and the gorgeous baby pictures I like to repost every year…)
  • Brunch at Le Pain Quotidien – a birthday tradition!
  • Seeing Ruarri Joseph again at The Miller – he is one of our favourites
  • An Earl Grey Crème brûlée at Harts in Surbiton
  • A visit to Skoob Books (heaven) & leaving with a mound of beautiful second-hand books
  • A day at the British Museum
  • London becoming all Christmassy
  • Our annual pilgrimage to Harrods to see the new Christmas window displays

Watched/Read/Listened to/Visited:
  • Hocus Pocus – my favourite Halloween film
  • The Shining – one of the best thriller films there is
  • Ghostbusters – who doesn’t love Ghostbusters?!
  • Gravity – an incredible (butt-clenching) film
  • The Beyond El Dorado: power and gold in ancient Colombia exhibition at The British Museum – lots of shiny gold…
  • Reading Daphne du Maurier’s Jamaica Inn – I adore her writing and this one is a real page turner!
  • Re-starting Gossip Girl from the beginning - because a girl can never have too much Chuck Bass on her screen. Not to mention it feeds my yearning for NYC...

To look forward to in December:
  • Christmas!!! (obviously)
  • Family time & a reunion with my Poppy dog
  • Being back on the Isle of Man
  • Christmas day with Andrew & his family – I hear it’s quite the operation!
  • Seeing my friend and her babies again
  • Nine Lessons & Carols for Godless People at the Bloomsbury Theatre again
  • Giving everyone their Christmas gifts
  • Christmas food
  • Lots & lots of Christmas food
  • A surprise for Andrew at New Year's
  • Putting up our tree
  • Watching The Muppets Christmas Carol – the best festive film!

To do in December:
  • Prepare for Christmas!
  • Finish the stockings before Christmas is over…
  • Do the next letter in my The Alphabetical Prop Project
  • Decorate Mummy P's Christmas present
  • Make plans for 2014 - it's gonna be a good'un! I can tell...