The "big news" (which nearly everybody already knows now!) is that Sion and I are now engaged. We don't yet have a date set for the wedding, probably not too soon as there's so much to decide. (Where? how? when? how much? *how* much??? who? etc.)
I booked a clear 2 weeks of holiday for Christmas, because I knew I desperately needed the break from work. When it got to my last full week in work, I realised that I couldn't even face working all the way through till the end of that Friday, so I decided to use up my last day of holiday (which I was going to carry over to next year) to shorten the week. I'm really glad I did -- for a start, it meant that I didn't have to get up too early the morning after our martial arts school's Christmas do. Although as it happened, this wasn't a particularly late or excessive affair -- a two-and-a-half hour training session followed by dinner at "Yippee", the Japanese restaurant on King Street (doesn't appear to have a website otherwise I'd link to the menu). The training session would have been good, but I really just couldn't get into the right frame of mind for it -- I felt like I was detached from the whole thing, and (this may not make much sense, but it's the best way I can express it) I couldn't wholeheartedly commit to it enough to do well at it. The dinner was good, though -- I'd definitely recommend the restaurant.
Anyway. Went home to my parents for Christmas on 22nd December, although we didn't manage to leave Cambridge until late in the afternoon -- I spent all morning and half of the afternoon making Christmas cards and wrapping presents, and then we had to go and deliver presents and cards to people in Cambridge, and post stuff for people elsewhere. Next year I hope I'll manage to get Christmas cards/presents in the post before the last posting date...
I spent just over a week with my parents (Sion went to stay with his parents for a couple of days, but came back to mine for Christmas), and I spent the vast majority of that time clearing out STUFF from my old room. I'm afraid I must have bored Sion absolutely witless, sorting through piles and piles of books, clothes, junk, letters, cards, and so on; I like to think that if the positions had been reversed I'd have appreciated seeing these snapshots of his past, but I suspect if I'd had to put up with it for quite as long as he did I'd have been bored too. Still, the sorting-out was extremely productive; I managed to clear out several bags of clothes (all of which went to the Cancer Research UK shop in Loughborough) and several boxes of books, which went to the LOROS charity bookshop. I hate having to cull books, but it was long overdue; and I do think books ought to be read, so if I wasn't going to read them then I'd rather somebody else got a chance to read them, or at least a good cause made some money out of them.
On Christmas Eve, Sylvia (my bestest friend from back home) came to visit in the morning -- first time I'd seen her for over a year, as she'd been out of the country for a while and we've both been horribly busy. It was lovely to see her again, and she's now engaged as well. Her fiancé is an actor, and she and her family were going to see him in panto (as the genie in "Aladdin") later that evening.
In the evening, Jenny, Victoria and Rhiannon (all good friends from school -- I see Victoria occasionally as she's often in Cambridge, but hadn't seen Jenny for nearly a year and hadn't seen Rhi since leaving school) came round for drinks and snacks and a lot of nostalgia and catching-up. It was lovely (if rather strange) to see them all again. Mind you, they've all got Proper Careers now (Jenny's a teacher, Victoria's a patents lawyer, and Rhiannon's an army doctor) and I must confess I felt a bit mopey and left out at times when they were all talking about their high-flying jobs. ("So what do you do, Janet?" "Well, I, er, work in an office.")
Christmas itself was lovely, but then I appear to be rather weird in that I like family Christmasses. For one thing, they're not huge nightmareish half-the-family-doesn't-speak-to-each-ot
Lorna (my sister) wakes me up, usually a little earlier than I'd like, but hey, it's only once a year. We go and collect our Christmas stockings from where they've been hung up, and open the presents in our stockings together. When we're done with that, we go and wake our parents up. Once everybody's up, we go and open the presents under the tree. This takes a while... by the time we're done, it's usually about lunchtime. We have the Big Christmas Meal(tm) in the evening, so lunch is a relatively light affair -- usually some nice bread, crudités, hummous, dips, pâté, stuff like that. (To be honest I really like it this way round -- if we had a huge meal at lunchtime, I'd just fall asleep straight after lunch.) In the afternoon we generally watch TV (if there's something good on), or play games, or read the books we've just got as presents (I've been known to read all the books I got for Christmas on Christmas afternoon...). At some point my dad goes and starts preparing the big Christmas meal. When it's ready, we all sit down to big family meal, with pretty tablecloth, crackers, etc., and much food is eaten (and much wine is drunk). Usually play games or something after dinner if we're not all too tired.
This time was slightly different; for one thing, Sion was there with us, and that meant it was the first time I'd spent Christmas day with anybody other than (or rather in addition to) immediate family. Fortunately "Santa" knew that Sion was staying there, so there was a stocking ready for him too. Bless. :-) This year I decided to do stockings for my parents, too, which came as a nice surprise to them!
The other major difference this year was that I finally managed to persuade the family as a whole that it was ridiculous to keep on doing turkey for Christmas dinner when my dad's vegetarian, Lorna doesn't like much meat, and I'm not over-keen on turkey. So this year I suggested doing a big special veggie meal instead -- chestnut, spinach and mushroom filo-pastry pie with a tomato and ginger coulis. Plus the nearly-obligatory brussels sprouts (hey, I like sprouts), roast potatoes and parsnips. This year I'd also decided that I was going to make a Christmas pudding from scratch -- we usually have a bought one. To be honest it wasn't difficult to make, just time-consuming because of the 8 hours or so steaming-time required.
Things I got for Christmas:
- money (can't complain!)
- clothes & accessories, including:
- gorgeous black and silver velvet and silk evening scarf from Sion's parents
- cool dieselsweeties t-shirt from Ellie (it's Indie Rock Pete's "I liked you better before you sold out" one)
- pretty shiny earrings from daneel_olivaw
- stylish black floaty top from Mémé and Pépé (my grandparents)
- very elegant pewter cat-shaped earrings from Santa (parents)
- a lovely purple feather-and-fluff boa from simonb
- books, including:
- the last in Tamora Pierce's Protector of the Small quartet
- the first three of Tamora Pierce's The Circle Opens quartet -- I'm lucky, my parents support my teenfic habit :-)
- a book on how to rule the world, from ewx -- will be discussing my plans for an Evil Badger Empire on LJ later...
- Nigella Lawson's How to Eat, again from parents
- CDs, including:
- Suzanne Vega, "Songs in Red and Grey"
- Thea Gilmore, "Songs from the Gutter"
- "Tipping the Velvet" (tie-in CD from the TV drama series)
(all CDs from parents)
- random cool stuff, including:
- two lovely SHINY cushions (one red velvety embroidered, one blue beaded), from Ellie
- a breadmaking machine, from my parents
- a SHINY SHINY cleaver-type kitchen knife (and sharpener), from Sion
- Bagpuss fridge magnets, from Lorna
- sparkly lipgloss and stuff, also from Lorna
- a nutcracker (like the one in the ballet), from Victoria
- chocolates (always welcome!) from various people
(Phew. I'm sure I've omitted to mention some stuff, apologies to anybody who feels slighted by the omission!)
Right. Enough about Christmas. Now for New Year...
It took us hours to load up Sion's car with all the stuff we were taking back with us -- not only the Christmas presents (including big things like my breadmaker and Sion's Black&Decker workmate) but all the books, clothes, and other stuff that I was relocating from my parents' house to Cambridge. My mum was still suggesting stuff that we could take ("Do you want the rest of the Christmas pudding?") as we were driving away, and I honestly don't think we could have crammed another thing into the car! I was hoping to be able to do some (or even all) of the drive back to Cambridge myself, for practice, but there was no way I was going to try to drive a still-relatively-unfamiliar car with that weight of stuff in the back, not to mention a fairly restricted rear view.
(On getting back to Cambridge it took us another age to unload the car, in the rain. And we still haven't found a place for everything that we came back with...)
On the evening that we got back, we went round to Richard and Ellie's for dinner -- lovely to see them again, and nice not to have to cook on the first day back! Though I do feel more and more guilty about not cooking for them anywhere near as much as they cook for us.
A few days of faffing ensued, followed by THE NEW YEAR PARTY. Ellie and I spent nearly all of New Year's Eve cooking in preparation for the party, which was great fun, although I do wish I'd planned it all out a bit more -- I ended up in a situation where all the things I wanted to make required the oven, and wanted different temperatures, which was awfully frustrating. Still, between us we managed to produce phenomenal quantities of food, covering the whole of the dining room table and half of the kitchen table -- I wish I'd taken a photo of the whole spread, actually, it looked fantastic if I do say so myself! I'll do a summary of the food (with recipes) if there's enough demand... might take me a while to get round to it though.
Anyway. The party itself was great -- 40 people (by our count afterwards) turned up, people brought even more food and drink than we'd already provided, much was eaten and drunk, and many people were drunk (but to the best of my knowledge nobody was eaten!).
The real highlight of the party, though, came just after midnight. (You know what's coming.) See, Sion and I had a bit of a jokey tradition that I'd ask him to marry me, every New Year, because it's sort of our "anniversary" (of getting together, at least for some values of 'getting together', for the first time). And I've done this for the last two years, and he's said "Maybe", or "One day", or words to that effect. Anyway, this year I'd said that I might stop asking, since he obviously wasn't going to say "yes" any time soon. He caught me just after midnight and said "So, are you going to propose to me?" I said, "No! Because you always just say 'maybe'." At which point he dragged me to a quieter area of the party, produced a ring, and asked me instead. :-)
I told my other partners first, and they both seemed happy about it... lots of hugs all round. Then I decided I had to announce it to everybody really. Shortest announcement ever -- I stood on a chair, shouted "We have an announcement to make", and held up my hand and pointed at the ring finger. :-) Everybody cheered, and somebody passed me the remainder of a bottle of champagne. I think I drank some of it, but I was too wibbly to really be concentrating on what I was doing at all...
Other cool things about the New Year party:
- meeting violetsrose
- seeing daneel_olivaw in Nice Boots(tm) ;-)
- cake! (lots of it)
- cool Christmas present (oops, should have mentioned it in the list above) from davefish
- seeing emperor (and others!) in a corset
- b33r, thanks to Milton Brewery, who made us a special one-off beer which was a mix of Babylon and Mammon with added vanilla (and which was christened Vanilla Baboon by Steve and me)
- everybody shouting "BONG!" 12 times just after midnight, after Radio 4 failed to broadcast the chimes
- Huw's garlic bread
All in all, jolly good fun; thanks to everybody who came.
In my next journal entry I might actually get started on 2003...