Here we go again.

Christmas again and how am I doing? It has galloped towards me over the last few days. I like a balance between being prepared (so as not to be too frantic) and having things to do (so as to have what frances calls "a bit of Tizz"). This year there has been too much work and procrastination and not enough preparation so I am skating towards it in a slithery out of control rush, consoling myself that on Christmas Day it is just the two of us this year so I can save the major planning for a houseful at New Year. But here is the list of things to do:

Cake - made but not iced although this morning I doused it once again with brandy. The kitchen smells intensely alcoholic. I have also been faffing around today trying to find my favourite recipe for marzipan. For years I thought I hated marzipan but eventually discovered that what I hate is shop bought, over sweet for me marzipan. The home made stuff I adore. So that is another job, but one well worth doing.

Puddings - made, wrapped in foil, sitting in the pantry on the cold slab.

Cards - halfway there. Writing cards is one of my least favourite jobs but getting cards with no message in is always such a disappointment. The answer is to give myself enough time to write a few sentences to the people I don't see very often rather than leave it so late that the whole job has to be done in one resentful rush. I had a couple of years when I was by myself when I sent no cards at all but over the last few years I have come back round to sending them again. This is helped by the fact that Ian is one of those rare men who writes his own.

Tree - well, yes, not yet.

Decorating the house - ditto. We live in such a beautiful place that it is impossible to make the inside look more lovely than the outside although I sometimes dream of being the sort of person who crafts swags of ivy and holly and loops them from the beams. We do have cyclamen on the windowsills and a little lime tree brought in from the greenhouse, laden with limes (the best G&T ever has your own lime in it!).

Presents - I have bought some in a glorious bout of internet shopping and have the usual tricky people still to buy for. This year, extraordinarily, the list of tricky people does not include my father. I think this is the first time I have been able to say this in all my adult life. Even more extraordinarily, the reason he is not on the list is because he asked for the Philip Pullman trilogy, having apparently heard something about it on Radio 4. My dad has become a keen reader in his seventies which I still find surprising after a lifetime of doing not contemplating. You could have given me seventy guesses as to a book he might like and I would not have come up with the Philip Pullman but I loved them and I hope he will too. Tomorrow I will go into Chester which is a lovely city with many small shops crammed into the medieval buildings, as well as all the usual chains. I shall try really hard to support the small shops and to resist my usual urge to supplement everything I have already bought in a last minute sense that it all looks a bit mean.

I can't say I feel Christmassy at all yet. I am more excited by the yards and yards of bare rooted plants that have arrived to make more native hedging in the field: hawthorn and blacktorn, hazel and briar rose. It is all leaning against the stone wall of the utility under the yew tree for shelter just waiting to go into the trenches in the field.

What will make me feel like Christmas is the planning and buying of food which excites me every time. You can probably tell from the list in this blog that the things I have done are to do with food and the things that I haven't are not! Roll on stuffings!


  1. Hi Elizabeth. Good to read your blog again. I was interested in your list of things to do - looks very similar to mine. I always have friends to stay the weekend before Vhristmas and it doesn't half make me get a move on, so that the house is decorated for their arrival.
    I do so agree - get a lot of it done but don't do so much that you don't get the Christmassy feeling.

  2. Groooaaaannn, you've made your puddings, you are SOO ahead of the game!

    Christmas is just far too close for my liking.

  3. You sound as though you are doing very well. I still have lots of last minute things to attend to.School breaks up Friday. Wahey!

  4. Pudding: bought, but don't tell my poor dead Granny.

    Cake: for the first year ever, is not making an appearance since the only cake-lover in our family is going to be celebrating Christmas in New York. Instead we are going to have a yummy Stollen.

    Cards: tick, and I too am lucky enough to have a self-addressing husband.

    Tree: up, decorated, and smelling BEAUTIFUL...

    Presents: waiting to be wrapped, a job that always takes longer and makes me grumpier than I expect.

    House: undecorated and looking sombre apart from the tree. The abandoned, derelict garden I used to rely on for holly and greenery has been massacred and turned into a car park :-(

    Me: sore throat, cough, eyes on stalks, looking forward to my evening snifter of Baileys...

    Good luck with it all everyone!

  5. I am not especially organised this year either, before I got ill we had embarked on a major redecorate of the downstairs; we finished that last weekend! New Carpets have been going down in stages, final one tomorrow; then we can put all the furniture back where it belongs! Hope to get the Christmas Tree up at the weekend, poor thing has been sat in the garden the past fornight trussed like a Turkey. Tomorrow I also hope to hang the curtains n the Study and start to put away my gizillions of books currently strewn far and wide. I have decided this year that I just want to be with my iGit and the kids, and they return from Uni this weekend too. I have an Xmas Pudding I made last year, but I didnt get around to making a cake, or mincepies:( I doubt I shall. Marks and Spencer makes a good substitute. I have been shopping little and often, and have managed to post most those, to their intended recipients this week too, as I am unlikely to see much family over the holidays. I am looking forward to the New year and the Spring to be truthful, and putting what has been a truly horrible year behind me.

    Like you, apart from a tree and putting the cards up in ribbon garlands on the chimney breast I dont do decorations, just a few fstive flowers, some candles, and the smell of mulled wine on the range help set the mood for me.

    Hope you have a very Happy Christmas Elizabeth.

    Zoë x

  6. You seem to have things pretty much under control.
    Luckily in the US no cake or Xmas pudding required.
    However turkey, stuffing etc etc.
    I agree your countryside is too glorious to need too many additions.
    Have just sent off many card and the house is a wash with left- over glitter.
    R. say glitter is tacky (ie bad taste) I say the more the better.

  7. The tree is up, the house is decorated, most presents are purchased, a few are wrapped, and I haven't written one card. All in all, I'm feeling quite on top of things. I spent today baking and making candy for little boxes my husband will give to his employees. I made a mess, cleaned it up, and I'm feeling quite proud of myself for the moment. Until I think about those cards . . .

  8. I wanted you to know that I really enjoy your blog.
    I live in Trelawnyd, and have done for three years....I too have hens, ducks and a wonderfull stag turkey called Boris oh and an allotment.....all of which are fairly new to me..being a city boy from Sheffield.......

  9. Loved reading of your Christmas preparations... helped put me in the holiday spirit a bit more!

  10. Tree's up tonight and twinkling away. The Young Farmers have been and sung a couple of self conscious carols - the lads being seriously bass and the girls sweetly gigglesome.

    It's beginning to feel a bit like Chritsmas....

  11. I shall try really hard to support the small shops and to resist my usual urge to supplement everything I have already bought in a last minute sense that it all looks a bit mean.

    You and I, we sing the same song.

  12. Oh - you are so ahead of me - if I had known you were going to Chester I would have e-mailed you may shopping list.
    Again a lovely post Elizabeth, if only because it has spurred me on - tomorrow I will buy Christmas cards

  13. Deep breath. In and out.
    It really sounds to me as though you have things under control. As I said in my post - Christmas will be here no matter what and it will be what it will be. Yours will be lovely, I know. How could it be otherwise when there's to be homemade marzipan icing on the cake and then puddings too?!

  14. Well today is my birthday and we always have to 'HAVE' the Birthday before we can 'DO' Christmas, so tree etc will start on Sunday. Presents done more or less, agreed to top up the younger genrations in the NY but they have something for under the tree. The same with Jethro.
    Cards a complete failure this year, but hey ho I will just have to use the phone to one or two special people.

  15. Well this makes me feel a whole lot better - there are loads of you out there in about the same state as I am!
    Zoe, I think it is extraordinary after your year if you have done anything at all! Karen would have happily done your shopping too - someone else's is always easier than your own. Off to Chester now for what is looking likely to be a major book buying day.

  16. I'm now really sliding down a slippery slope into tizziness. Going along blissfully unawares that time has no thought or heart...and suddenly IT'S CHRISTMAS NEXT WEEK! We have a house full as well as the French contingent arriving on Boxing Day; also Will (3rd son) would really love me to visit London for a mini celebration before his girlfriend visits her family in Sweden, the farm and animals still need farming and care, I’m needed at work...scarily it feels like nothing’s ready! But it’ll all happen, come what may, and we’ll love it! The best of thoughts and Merry Christmas!

  17. You're getting there Elizabeth. How civilised to have just the two of you for Christmas. Hope it's lovely and peaceful and relaxing. Enjoy,

  18. Pass me a G&T please, with home-grown lime in it, sounds gorgeous (even at 8.25am!). I am doing that mad supplementary present buying thing now, as I realise Sam's heap of presents is taller than Harry's and there's something wrong about that!

  19. Yet again, you have written my thoughts in your blog Elizabeth. I loathed marzipan and only fell in love with it when I tasted the magic of homemade. So lovely in all its almondyness and wonderful to make too.
    Why do I always panic about the presents looking mean when it is quality not quantity surely?
    The cards NEVER get done and lie all ready to be posted yet never making it as far as the post box.
    Puddings done, tree up, but loads more not even started!

    We'll get there in the end won't we? xx

  20. Forgot to say that G7T with home grown lemons is lovely but would prefer the limes as they are my favourite too. I really think I need to come and live with you Elizabeth!!! x

  21. Wow - a serious list of goodness there Elizabeth - very organized indeed!I think you're doing brilliantly - much better than me - after a bout of fluey horridness I'm in disarray!

  22. You sound as though you have the whole thing well under control. Have never tried home-made marzipan - imagine it involves lots of ground almonds? - but like you, I really don't like the shop-bought stuff.

    Have a lovely Christmas, if we don't "speak" before...


  23. We are home alone for Christmas too! HURRAY!!!!!! Enjoy! Cx

  24. Beautiful garden, beautiful spot on earth!
    Your Christmas ambition is most impressive as well! I hope your holidays are fabulous- your blog is!


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