Running Ragged

I always seem to get stressed out on the run up to Christmas and this year is no exception, in fact Christmas seems to be catching up on me even quicker than usual. I have been so busy lately I have hardly made a start on the preparations.

What I intended to write about today has gone out of the window. I got very little sleep last night for some reason and I have spent most of today trying to do some Christmas shopping. Not without some success of course, I have managed to buy a fair few of the gifts that need to be posted but there are still some outstanding and I haven’t started on the ones for the family members that I will see over the Christmas period, nor all the little extras – stocking fillers, tree presents etc. – that go towards the fun of the day.

Apart from that I have not even thought about decorating the house and setting up the Christmas tree yet and I shall need to give the house a thorough clean first of course. I have not written any Christmas cards, I haven’t made even my first batch of mince pies this year and I have not yet made my Christmas cake. In a weak moment while shopping this morning I did contemplate buying the cake (I have done on a few occasions in the past) but I do prefer home-made and I have already bought the ingredients so it would be a bit of a waste if I just buy one. The recipe I am using requires some of the ingredients to soak overnight so my plan now is to do that preparation this evening and then I will have to make the cake tomorrow afternoon when I get home from my Spanish class.

Talking of which, this week it is my turn to provide the activities and refreshments for the group (we take it in turns) and the preparation for this occupied my weekend. I have an article for them to read and translate about Spanish Christmas customs and then we shall have a fun game about Christmas Carols and songs – at least I hope it will be fun. Each member of the group will draw a piece of paper from a Christmas stocking and must describe in Spanish the carol or song written on the paper without giving the title away and the others must try to guess what it is.

Other intrusions into my Christmas preparation time include a visit to the dentist this week and then, much more enjoyably two Christmas parties – one for the Spanish group and one for my poetry group. Then it is the final run up to the big day and at last a chance to relax as my son and his family are hosting at their house. Then they all come to us to do it all again on Boxing Day, but by then I should be ready.

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Twelve Days

Candles and hollyMy friends who follow me on Facebook will already be familiar with this rant but I want to share it here too. To whit, the Twelve Days of Christmas.

Christmas celebrations seem to begin earlier every year and from at least the beginning of December you can expect to see Christmas decorations and hear Christmas ‘musac’ everywhere. People decorate their homes and gardens earlier and earlier as if trying to score points by being the first, with the result that by the time Christmas actually arrives they are already fed up with them and longing to take them down. Some even do this on Boxing Day, if they can take time off spending yet more money in the ‘Sales’ that they might even have queued up for over night! Others do at least last out until New Year, but as far as many people are concerned Christmas is over, they are back at work and the children will be back at school in a day or two if not already.

On 2nd January this year my husband and I visited our local tip with some junk cleared from our barn. There were people there throwing away their Christmas trees. It saddens me. There are twelve days of Christmas – the first being Christmas Day itself, so twelfth night is the night of 5th January and traditionally decorations stay up until then, not being taken day until 6th January. This is also, in Christian tradition, when the three wise men arrived at the stable – Epiphany. Even in pre-Christian times the celebrations at this time of year lasted for many days welcoming the return of the light with feasting and firelight.

I believe in tradition and I think it is good to honour the old traditions, it is the way I was brought up. When I was little, yes decorations were seen in the shops from around mid-December and yes, we probably visited Santa in his grotto to tell him what we wanted for Christmas, or we wrote our letter and posted it up the chimney (who has those these days – well actually we do, but many don’t) but decorations were not put up in our house until after my older sister and I had gone to bed on Christmas Eve. That way, when we came down on Christmas morning it was wonderfully exciting, it had wow factor.

As we got older we were allowed to help with the decorations and eventually do it all ourselves, but still not until Christmas Eve (i.e. the day before the first day of Christmas). When I had my own home I carried on this tradition although, with so much to do at that time it gradually got slightly earlier, to maybe the weekend before Christmas. As my youngest son’s birthday is 20th December we usually got the decorations up by then, in time for his party and often ‘Santa’ dropped by to give the children their goody bags, but even so they never came down before 6th January, we had our full twelve days of Christmas.

This year I have had a slight problem in that we have been away this weekend in order to attend a family gathering hosted by my brother-in-law and his wife on 6th January, which was great, but I can’t be in two places at once. What was I to do about the decorations? For the first time ever I have taken some down before twelfth night. I took down the outside tree lights (no-one was going to turn them on when it got dark anyway) and those in the porch and hallway, I have also removed the odd piece of tinsel but the bulk have stayed in place, including the indoor tree, and they will have to wait until we get home tomorrow before being packed away for next Christmas – a compromise of sorts!

Meanwhile maybe I will start a campaign to bring back the full twelve days of Christmas – and it starts here!

Happy New Year

Happy New Year

I’m back again, but other than to wish you all a very Happy New Year I haven’t really planned anything to write about so this is on the fly!

I do hope you have all had a wonderful festive season though I confess I have found it hard this year to get into the festive spirit and somehow it seems even more depressing when you know it is a time of jollity and celebration but you are just not in the mood. This has not been helped by my husband’s recent angina diagnosis and the return of the sciatica I suffered last winter which this time seems even more painful, and then on Christmas morning the sad news that my daughter and partner’s lovely border collie Rufus had to be put to sleep on Christmas Eve to relieve his suffering from cancer!  Despite that I did have a wonderful time and everything fell into place just as it usually does, with most of the family around me.

Now is the time, they tell us, for making New Year resolutions. I confess I’m not really into this – if I make any I usually forget what they were within a few days and as for keeping them…. that’s another issue altogether! Perhaps I ought to write them down so that I can refer to them from time to time, but this seems a little too organised for me. One resolution I will make though is to try to look out for all the good news during 2018 and not let myself get bogged down in all the bad news that the media seems to prefer to report in the most dramatically depressing way possible.

One thing I will try to take on board this year is to not plan to use an untried recipe for a special occasion. I had planned to make a raspberry swirl cheesecake when the family all came to us for Boxing Day, having spent Christmas Day at my eldest son’s. This was as an alternative to the Christmas Pudding I was doing for dinner, knowing that not everyone likes Christmas Pud. I had found a recipe that seemed very quick and easy to whip up. Fortunately before I made it my youngest son informed me that his girlfriend, who was joining us, didn’t want to come empty-handed so was bringing a cheesecake as an offering for the meal. I say fortunately advisedly!

I had bought in all the necessary ingredients so I thought, OK I’ll make it later in the week. I made it yesterday when only my husband, my youngest son and I would be present for dinner. Yes, it was relatively quick and easy to prepare but as I was making it, having checked the ingredients several times, it seemed to me that there was rather a lot of liquid and it wasn’t thickening up. I thought perhaps it would thicken once put into the fridge to chill so I poured it onto the biscuit base anyway, and indeed it did seem to set in the fridge – until I went to get it out for the meal. Then I discovered that all the raspberry juice had leaked out of the bottom of the loose-bottomed flan dish and was all over the shelf in the fridge! Needless to say I couldn’t risk taking it off the flan base as it had an exceedingly soggy biscuit bottom. One the plus side, it did actually taste delicious but if I make that recipe again I shall cut back on the liquid. I’m glad I didn’t make it for Christmas after-all, though I guess we would probably have had a good laugh about it. Now I have the problem that there is rather a lot of it for just three people and it is going to take several days for us to eat it up – we’ll probably be sick  of cheesecake by then. Ah well, worse things happen at sea, as my mother used to say.

As a footnote I must say that my gluten-free Christmas Cake was a success and that recipe is definitely one to use again (see previous post here). I hope all your culinary experiments were successful and that all your dreams come true in 2018.

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