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Getting Ready for Christmas

Plans were changed somewhat today.  I was going to sort out our wardrobes, taking all the clothes out, putting some to one side for the charity shop, cleaning the wardobe inside, removing some items which can go into the spare drawers in the guest bedroom, and putting everything tidily away.  This is a job which hasn’t been done for a long time and certainly needs attention.

But then the sun put in an appearance and as I’m going to the hairdresser tomorrow I realized that the weekend would soon be upon us and we didn’t want to go on the Great Christmas Tree Hunt when the world and his wife and their dog were also in search of the perfect tree.

And so this morning saw us driving to Plants Galore, a very large plants supermarket about 12 to 15 miles from our home.  Our elder son had bought a Christmas tree there at the weekend and said that the quality and the prices were good.  So it was a toss up of whether to buy locally and pay more or drive 15 miles there and back for a cheaper tree. We chose the latter.

The trees looked excellent, all fit and healthy like they’d had a good workout and were eating the right food.  We saw one we liked immediately – no argument this time between husband and myself as to which one to have – a lovely 5ft bushy tree and it’s now in our garage, having had the end of the trunk sawn off and having a good drink in a bucket of water.

I said I liked holly wreaths for the front door, but really I meant real foliage/holly wreaths, not faux wreaths, regardless of how pretty some of those are.  And so we bought a wreath although it’s not holly, but made from the  off cuts of the trees, with additional bits and pieces – dried orange slices, fir cones, ribbon – to embellish it.

What surprised us when we arrived at Plants Galore was a whole row of olive trees, complete with olives.

So if you want an olive tree, here’s where can get one. They are around £700 each.  On some of the non-pruned trees we could see olives growing.

Inside, there were miles of plants, including ornamental cabbages …

And, below, some rather elegant box balls …

I would also say that the staff here were helpful and friendly. That, as well as quality of goods and competitive prices, is very important in my book.

We then began to return home but decided, en route, to pop into the golf club for lunch.  I expected to see the place packed out as Tuesday is Ladies Day on the course, but it was almost empty (the club house and the course) and so we were served quickly.  Then we called at The Range on the way home.  It isn’t my favourite place. Nothing at all wrong with it, but as they say, horses for courses.  It’s just not my natural habitat.  But they sell dishwasher tabs and I bought two large packets.  I also saw some nice quality colouring pencils, so bought a pack of those for our little grandson. I don’t believe in buying cheap pencils for him just because he’s a child.  Such things are disappointing as they rarely sharpen well, so I’ve bought decent-quality ones.  I’d better start collecting other things for Christmas for him soon – Lego, Playmobile, books, clothes – but it doesn’t take a month of Sundays to buy Christmas presents, it will be all done within the next week or so.

Since returning home I’ve contacted Amazon regarding my Sony camera, bought last July, the 2nd one which has developed a fault.  I managed to speak to someone in Technical Services and he emailed a return label and the camera, packed up, will be collected by Hermes and about a week later I will receive a full refund.

The problem is that the camera’s focusing isn’t working.  When I open the camera the image that I point at looks blurry and I have to close the camera again and re-open it for it to clear. This has been  happening for several weeks now and was really annoying.  So it’s going back.

Once I’ve had a full refund I will buy another camera, not sure whether I will go for the same one as I actually like it and when working properly it gave good results, or buy a different kind.  My budget for this is around £150 (once I’ve received the refund) so I must be able to find something that works well, is easy to use, and gives good results in low light without having to use the flash. (I do have two large, quite expensive DSLR Nikons but they are too heavy to cart around day to day; I am no longer needing to take photos for magazines, so seldom use these.)

Husband has now hung the wreath on the front door …

Now for a cup of tea, it’s already getting dark and it’s only three twenty in the afternoon.

Until next time.


About Margaret Powling

Margaret Powling
Margaret’s main interests are her husband and family, her friends, her home, her garden, writing, literature, architecture, décor, social history, photography, historic houses and gardens, and towns, villages and the countryside. She writes about the things she enjoys: flowers, scent, fine soap, monthly style magazines, and other such small indulgences, such as afternoon tea or simply enjoying her summerhouse with a book. She invites you to enjoy this virtual visit to South Devon, England.

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  1. I love the wreath Margaret. It is classic and lovely. Pretty door too. Do you have a storm door as well? People have tried to convince me to buy one but I love the look of my door without it and it is very similar to yours. I think storm doors are very functional and do what they are supposed to do but I think they can be unsightly. The proponents tell me how marvelous it is to open the front door in the winter and let the sun stream through the glass on the storm door. If you have one, do you do that? You are becoming an authority on good taste as far as I’m concerned! LOL!

    • Margaret Powling

      Thank you, Donna, for your kind comments re the wreath and our front door. No we don’t have a ‘storm’ door, as you put it. Here in the UK we don’t tend to refer to an extra door thus, but some houses in the UK do have enclosed porches. But there isn’t space for such a porch here, and so our door opens directly to the outside world.
      I think also, unlike in America and Canada and other large continents, in the UK we do tend to have what used to be referred to as a ‘temperate’ climate, with no harsh extremes, so houses have been built without ‘storm’ doors. This, possibly because of global warming, is changing and we now experience very cold winters and very hot summers, with storms, too. Maybe your storm door is attached to the front door? In this case, no we don’t have these in the UK either.
      My goodness, an authority on good taste – that will be a first for me, but it’s very them could be persuaded to concentrate on getting them to not only be suitable for their function but also to look good as well? Maybe they are doing this, I have no idea, because I’ve not had any experience of one, but from what you say here, Donna, they don’t sound exactly chic, even if they ‘work’ at keeping ‘weather’ of any kind, hot or cold, wind or rain, out of the house.

  2. Your Christmas wreath looks lovely. I’m happy to hear that Amazon is refunding your money for the camera. Maybe you can research and see what camera is best for you. Enjoy your evening, Pat ❄️⛄❄️

    • Margaret Powling

      Yes, I didn’t have any problem with Amazon although of course, I will have to wait and see whether this all goes through as smoothly as I hope it will. I do like this little Sony camera but two faults (each a different fault) with two cameras of the same kind are telling me I ought to consider another make/style entirely.
      I will be reading and also watching a new TV drama (part two of four) this evening, called Mrs Wilson. If this comes to your screens in the USA, then I do recommend it.

  3. The garden centre plants looked good Margaret, nice and healthy. I think you chose the right wreath. I’m afraid I’ve opted for an artificial one, it looks nearly real! I used to make them myself but can’t be bothered now. But we do have real Mistletoe! We had to wait for several years for a female plant to appear complete with berries, so now we have lots of male mistletoe and just one female, all growing on our apple trees. This was originally started by pressing a few berry seeds into cracks in the trees. The neighbours have now got some too, hope they don’t mind but it’s a strange plant!

    We bought rooted a Christmas tree last year and it has survived the hot summer, don’t think we’ve kept one going before. So that will come inside nearer the 25th.

    Hope you can find a camera you like, I use a small Canon and it’s been very good.

    • Margaret Powling

      I have never made a wreath, Heather, but I have put some holly and greenery together and put a ribbon around it and hung it like a spray on the door, and that has looked nice in the past but, like you, I just can’t be bothered to make a wreath. I’m afraid I’m not into makey-makey things, I’m no crafts’ person at all! But how lovely to have your own mistletoe! They had some at the garden centre for about £2 a piece, but I didn’t buy any. Yes, it’s a very strange plant – is it a plant, though? I’m not really sure what it is. Perhaps someone will tell me? Or I might just Google it!
      Is your small Canon camera good in low-light, Heather? I don’t like using flash, as it looks unnatural and also leaches out colour.

  4. I’m so glad you wrote about Amazon, I had forgotten I should have had a refund and checked my bank account and it wasn’t there. I’ve contacted them now on live chat and they are issuing the refund (which should have been done automatically) so hopefully it will appear in due course. I must try to remember to check this time.

    Your wreath looks lovely, I’ve often thought I’d like one on the front door but my husband doesn’t want me to put anything on there. He’s convinced someone will steal it. Well, they might of course, but we’d never do anything if we always thought like that. He’s not very trusting! I always say that if I said it was Monday he’d check the calendar….

    I have an artificial tree but I haven’t put it up yet, maybe next week. One day I’ll wake up and feel like doing it – hopefully. I don’t feel Bah Humbug about Christmas particularly, I’m just not in the right mood yet. I have done my shopping and wrapped the presents and written the cards though.

    • Margaret Powling

      The camera hasn’t yet been collected but hopefully it will be today or tomorrow. It’s a shame there was a fault as, overall, I like this little camera. I need a small camera as I don’t have a smart phone, my mobile is very, very old!
      Husband never wanted to have a wreath on the door, he said it would be stolen, just as your husband has said. I do think men are more suspicious than we women. He won’t have any pretty pots in the front garden, either, in case they are stolen (not that there’s any room for them anyway!) Artificial trees can look very pretty, there’s no denying that they’ve improved in the last decade, but it’s the very essence for me to have a real tree – even when they shed needles, that’s all part of the reality. I have bought some Christmas cards today to add to some I bought few weeks ago, so at least I’ve made a start! We received our first card today, a little early in my opinion – it’s not as if it’s had a great distance to travel, only from the next town three miles away.

      • I think it’s a certain kind of man thing – thinking things are going to be stolen from the front of the house. My husband is the same! But my two boys were never that way – they always said “Dad is paranoid”. Haha! My husband has given up on the paranoia about the front of the house as I just keep putting things out there! Pots of flowers in the summer, pillows on the front bench, etc. He finally gave up on being concerned. Nothing has ever been stolen.

        • Margaret Powling

          Yes, perhaps this is a man thing – like being unable to see things they want in the fridge until they are pointed out to them! – that they think things are going to be stolen. It’s to do with protection, I think; they are the cavemen, protecting their caves. And you have demonstrated that he worried needlessly. And let’s face it, if a couple of pots were stolen, it wouldn’t be the end of the world, would it? Not pleasant, but not life-changing. My husband always puts the wooden loungers away from the garden at the end of the day in summer and really, they are now at least ten years old – who on earth would want them?
          Here again is another word used differently: we use the word “pillows” only for those on the bed, the ones we put our heads on. Otherwise, they are “cushions” including those that are on the bed for decoration. Do you not use the word “cushion” at all? The two words define use and also, to a certain extent, shape, as pillows are usually oblong (unless the large French-style square pillow) and cushions tend to be smaller and square or round, or a squab cushions for a seat (these are those you find on garden chairs and benches.)

          • We had a garden bench given to us by our children for our ruby wedding anniversary and of course I want to look after it and have it last a long time, but my husband wants it to be covered up in case it rains (it is varnished) and in the winter the cover has to be tied on with string too. Consequently I rarely bother to uncover it and just use the old bench because I don’t sit outside for long periods. Of course, it’s me who has to do the uncovering and covering.

            I think nice things should be used. When we’re gone most of it will end up in a skip anyway!!

          • Margaret Powling

            What a shame your husband covers the seat. He sounds like my husband, the garden furniture is all now baled up in tarpaulin for the winter. A garden bench is meant to be used, and also, as time wears off the varnish, the patina of age actually looks nice in a garden, the wood weathering and becoming paler. He sounds like my husband, wanting it all looking varnished and pristine. Yes, I totally agree. Nice things should be used (of course, making efforts to look after them, too; we don’t put delicate china that we use into the dishwasher but the new Burleigh stuff goes in, that is replaceable.)

          • You sit on cushions in my world! Pillows you sleep on, plus there are throw pillows which may be on the bed, the couch, in a chair, outside on the bench. They’re all pillows. Cushions go on the seat of the chair or are part of the couch – like the sitting part of most couches and some couches have cushions where your back goes (if that all makes sense).

          • Margaret Powling

            More differences, Jeannine. Yes, the part of the sofa you sit on is a cushion, but also the small ones that you scatter about, but the pillows are what you put your head on, on the bed. Everything else is a cushion, the only pillows are those for your head. There are only small differences here, I think. But we wouldn’t call the small items you put behind your back or on a lounger a pillow, that would also be a cushion.
            We’ve had overnight rain here, but it’s a fine morning now although very windy. I think it might be housekeeping today, but I need to go Christmas shopping before too long. Indeed, I need to make a List before I go, not even done that yet. But it will all be done eventually.

  5. Your wreath is very pretty. I bought a few new Christmas decorations as the prices were reduced immediately after Christmas 2017 and I happened to be in the right place at the right time. I don’t go overboard – I’d call it more a modest collection of bits and pieces I’ve collected over the years – but it feels ‘christmasy’ enough for me 🙂

    Those ornamental cabbages are very eye-catching. I imagine you would need to have several of them in a row or cluster to create the effect at home.

    • Margaret Powling

      I have also bought four new tree decorations, Lara, and while I was walking past a charity shop in Totnes this morning I saw some I quite likes, but it was tipping down with rain and I really couldn’t be bothered to go into the shop, take down my umbrella, remove my now-soaking leather gloves, fish out my glasses from my bag … well you know how all this can be annoying! So I walked on past! But really, we do not need any further decorations, I just rather liked the ones I saw and that isn’t really a good enough reason to buy them (which contradicts my having bought a sapphire ring recently … I had no need of that, either, but I liked it!)
      I think ornamental cabbages have their place in a garden that is sufficiently large enough to accommodate them – they would look very strange in our little garden!

  6. I have the same Sony camera as you Margaret, and have never had a moments problem with it (touch wood). I bought mine from John Lewis, which shouldn’t make any difference, but I sometimes wonder whether Amazon warehouses are the safest place for ‘delicate’ items to reside before they’re sent out to customers.
    I’m a huge Amazon fan, and buy something from them at least once or twice a week (I’m a Prime member, so no worries about postage costs), but tend to stick to the more robust items, or at least not electronic/glass/fragile things.
    Those Box plants look lovely and healthy, but the smell of Box turns my stomach, it makes me feel really ill, so there’ll never be any in our garden. Our tree is ordered, we go to the forest, choose the tree we want, which then has a ‘sold’ label attached, linking it to us and it gets delivered on a day to suit us. I’ve booked delivery for 15th Dec, which is more than early enough for us. I’ll make our door wreath, as I do every year, holly from the garden, ‘tarted up’ with ribbons and bows! By the time I get the outdoor baubles and battery operated white lights on the trees in the back garden, it will look suitably festive!

    • Margaret Powling

      I think, once I’ve had my refund Collete, I won’t be buying a camera online but going to PC World or a dept store and buying a small camera. Like you, I’m also a Prime member, so no worries re the cost of postage and I also buy regularly from Amazon, especially books (four arrived this morning, three for me and one for our younger son – he gave me a list and he said he’d like any on the list but being a good mum I have ordered them all, he will be surprised!)
      I don’t think I’ve smelt ‘box’. I must make a point of having a good sniff whenever we are near that kind of shrub again! The same could be said of the leaves of the choysia (is that the spelling?) – the flowers are lovely with an orange blossom scent, but the leaves are waxy and smell of oil. Well, they do to me.
      We don’t decorate the outside of our house, but your decorations for out of doors sound just perfect to me. I love white lights on a tree. We used to buy our tree from the local Christmas Tree farm, but they are now frightfully expensive and so we went to another place this year simply for economy.

  7. Plants Galore looks to be a lovely place. Those trees really are amazing. Your wreath looks great!

    • Margaret Powling

      Thank you, Jeannine. Plants Galore is like a huge plant warehouse, we actually prefer a smaller garden centre but the plants are quite good at Plants Galore and the prices are competitive. I love it best at Otter Garden Centre where they have the singing reindeer! They were there last year and they have them again this year. The certainly bring a smile to customers’ faces, believe me!

  8. What a lovely wreath. Very festive and evocative.

    • Margaret Powling

      Thank you, Joy. It’s the only festive item in the house thus far, but the Christmas tree is in the garage, a few inches sawn off the bottom and then plunged into a bucket of water for a good long drink. I said to it, “You’re coming home with us” as it was bundled into the back of the car, “You’re going to a good home!” I tell you, I’m losing the plot! But I often act a bit like Fotherington Thomas in The Curse of St Custards (you must’ve read this, being a teacher, Joy?) “Hello, clouds, hello sky!” and so forth!

  9. Those really are handsome trees. We had real trees for years and it was always a family outing to go and choose one, but when the children grew up I decided on an artificial one. For the past couple of years I’ve put it on the porch and I have a pre-lit white twig tree with crystal droppers indoors.
    The wreath us lovely. I prefer ones made from off cuts of tree rather than holly ones, though I do like some holly sprigs in a vase.

    • Margaret Powling

      I rather like the sound of a pre-lit white twig tree, Eloise; a decoration which doesn’t pretend to be a real tree. If you’re going ‘faux’ then make it look as ‘faux’ as possible, I say, otherwise you might just as well have real unless you are allergic to pine trees. I love all kinds of greenery in the house at Christmas. We used to go on the holly hunt at Christmas when the boys were little but of course that would be frowned upon today, and rightly so, taking holly from trees. But it was great fun nonetheless. One thing I did do in those dim and far off days, was to request some dried hydrangea heads from a friend (we didn’t have any in our garden) and I’d spray them gold, and they looked lovely in a vase.

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