Christmas marked three months since we moved into our rented house in SE London, and five months since we left Luxembourg. It already feels like an age, and yet I feel like a complete newbie here too. Christmas Day is also Kaya’s half birthday (we planned that well!) so I now have an 18 month old. Also entirely surreal.
Since we got married, we’ve been kinda strict about the one-Christmas-one-country rule. Because trying to do both our home countries in one season seemed a little crazy-making, not to mention expensive. But the move in the summer meant I hadn’t actually been to Denmark since my brother-in-law’s wedding back in April, and with the baby coming am unlikely to for a while. So this year we broke our own rule and spent Christmas with my family in Oxfordshire, and New Year with Rasmus’ family on his home island of Bornholm.
So it’s been busy but good, and the bonus of holidays with extended family is lots of people to play with Kaya so that I can lie myself and my ever-growing belly (six weeks to go – theoretically!) down on the sofa and read or nap. Bliss!
So this month I’ve been mostly…
I finished Big Magic by Liz Gilbert at the end of November, which was inspiring in many ways (five of which I blogged about here). I’m still working my way through Nadia Bolz Weber’s Accidental Saints. It’s good, but I think she comes across better when speaking than through writing. Maybe I should just get the audiobook. I also found a copy of Anne Lamott’s Traveling Mercies in the library (yey libraries!), and since I’ve never read anything by her, I started that one too. So far so good. Not gripping, but an easy read right before bed when I don’t have brain power for much else. And continuing the spiritual memoir theme, I read Maggie Dawn’s book The Accidental Pilgrim, which was an easy and interesting read from someone I’ve followed online for a while.
Holidays mean time to actually get into some fiction. Last month I agreed to do an interview as part of a research program on mental health services for pregnant women. They gave me a £15 gift voucher for my time, and considering the emotional hangover I had afterwards I felt quite happy spending it entirely on myself. So I bought Marilynne Robinson’s Lila, because her book Gilead is in my all time top ten best ever ever books. Lila did not disappoint. It is stunningly beautifully written and I was in love with Lila’s complicated character from page 1.
I also read The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton, set in Puritan Amsterdam, about a young woman who arrives from the countryside to her new husband’s home, to discover things are not at all what they seem. It is fast moving and heartbreaking and kept me reading way later into the night than a seven months pregnant woman should. Not the best writing ever, and I’d have loved more of the story of the Miniaturist herself, but definitely enjoyable.
Have you seen comedian Michael MacIntyre’s routine where he talks about the difference between couples without kids and couples with them – the former driving past a new restaurant and deciding to try it out soon, the husband of the latter turning to his wife and saying dramatically “we shall never go there”. (about 4min in to the video above).
I feel like that about films right now. I have missed nearly everything in the cinema for the past 18 months. So I had to laugh when this month Rasmus and I sat down to watch the next Hunger Games movie… the one that was released LAST year. Maybe next Christmas we’ll watch the one that is in the cinemas now. (I liked it the same way I liked the books – loved the first, liked the second, disappointed with the third).
I also watched The Way, a film from a few years ago starring Martin Sheen, about a man whose son dies while walking the Camino de Santiago and who ends up making the pilgrimage himself. I’m fascinated and inspired by the idea of pilgrimage and this film had been on my to-watch list for a long time. It’s beautifully written and shot, exploring so many of the different reasons people have for making this pilgrimage, and the truth finally discovered that it’s as much about the internal pilgrimage made as the external one. Definitely recommended.
I’m out of practice listening to podcasts but I do usually put one on while Kaya and I are eating lunch together (less chat happening then – she loves eating!). Highlights recently included the On Being interview with Martin Sheen, most famous for being President Bartlett in the West Wing. He’s a devout Catholic and has also been arrested dozens of times for protesting and activism, often against war. It was such an inspiring listen, to hear him speak to easily and yet so passionately about his faith and the way it propels him.
Boxing Day this year found Rasmus and I in my parent’s kitchen cooking up a feast for the family plus five extras. We roasted two ducks (or rather, Rasmus did), and served them up with hasselback potatoes (a Scandi classic), red cabbage with orange and walnuts, and a kind of sausage-butternut-brussel sprout stuffing inspired by this recipe. It turned out remarkably well, was relatively on time, and my Grandpa went back for seconds so that’s a definite win.
Kaya and I baked ginger cardamon cookies together which tasted delicious but spread so much in the oven you couldn’t tell which ones were originally Christmas trees and which were bells. Oh well.
For our New Year’s Eve meal in Denmark, I made Lemon Meringue Pie, one of my all time favourite desserts, and always surprisingly easy for something that looks that impressive and tastes that good. I use Angela Nilsen’s recipe from the BBC Good Food website.
- If you have wee ones and find yourself in the Highbury area, there’s a great cafe with a small soft play area (for babies and toddlers) at the back, called Full of Beans.
- I also made the trip to the brand new YURT cafe at the St Katherine’s Precinct at Limehouse. My friend and I turned up with our tinies when it was pouring with rain to find the wood stove was lit, the Christmas tree sparkling, and it was just the perfect place for a cup of coffee and a good chat. (and you’re in a YURT. So cool).
- We’re exploring local places for Sunday lunch. So far The Old Nun’s Head (great pub!) and the East Dulwich Tavern (not bad either!). Recommendations very welcome!
- The weekend before Christmas, we took the train in to London Bridge and walked along the South Bank, taking in Borough Market (my favourite place in London), Southwark Cathedral, Shakespeare’s Globe, the view across to St Paul’s Cathedral, the Tate Modern, and finally crossing the river and heading up to see the Christmas lights on Regents Street. Such a good walk on a sunny day, to see London at its best. (Also we had a UK celebrity sighting – Ronan Keating recording a video for a new song!)
on the blog.
- When a Practice Stops Working For You – about not having a one word this year.
- The Midwife – my December post for She Loves, about the person who’s never mentioned but who I’m almost certain was there at the birth of Jesus.
- When You Stop Trying to Unravel it All – inspired by my two days at the Belong Conference with Michael Gungor and Science Mike, this is about the place I am in with my faith right now.
- Approaching the Table of Radical Grace – my November post for She Loves, thinking about American Thanksgiving and what hospitality really looks like.
- Big Magic – 5 themes that stood out to me from Liz Gilbert’s book.
- The Exhilarating Slippery Slope – my post for the synchroblog celebrating the release of Sarah Bessey’s wonderful book Out of Sorts.
I’m linking up, as usual, with Leigh’s monthly What I’m Into post. Always some great recommendations found there!!