Oh yes, this Christmas thing...

I have intermittently been watching Phil and Kirstie's Perfect Christmas programme in an aimless, talking wallpaper sort of a way, not because I am likely to do any of it but more because I like both of them and love the enthusiasm with which Kirstie embraces homemade things and the whole idea of making an effort rather than waving a credit card.  It did however occur to me last night that this Christmas thing was not theoretical but really was going to happen and in fact is approaching at a rate of knots.  Somehow in the last couple of months of hospital visiting and the last week or so of preparation for my FIL (now safely installed just before the snow came) I have not been making home crafted Christmas presents and individual paper snowflake decorations.  So I thought I had better take my head out of the sand and do a quick stock take on where we are for Christmas.

Let's start with the most important thing in our house: food.

The Christmas cake is made, made in early November as a therapeutic exercise one long day.  It hasn't been fed as often as usual with brandy but it should still be a good one.  There is still the marzipan to be made and the icing to do.  I used to think that I didn't like marzipan but I discover that I love home made marzipan with its tang of lemon and making marzipan is really easy to do.  So that needs to go on the list.

I haven't made a Christmas pudding this year, for the first time in ages, so that is another thing to buy.

The turkey is sorted.  My friend who first helped me when I started keeping hens always raises a few turkeys for Christmas.  Usually they are all spoken for by October but this year, joy of joys,  there is one with my name on it.  You couldn't get a better provenance.  I know these turkeys have been lovingly raised, have roamed free range amongst her fruit trees and have been fed organically.  I even know that there were a real pain to put away at night.  Instead of trooping off into their house at night the way hens do, the turkeys were keen to roost in a tree or at a pich in a row across the top of the house and every night, with much muttering of "Get in there, you stupid things.  Have you never heard of foxes?",  had to be herded into their house.  I suspect this turkey might be bigger than we would normally buy but I couldn't turn down the chance.  What do you think you would pay for a bird with that provenance in London?

My order for other meat is all sorted too, left on the counter at our local butcher yesterday.  So that will produce the sausagemeat for stuffing, the pigs in blankets, a leg of lamb for Christmas Eve and some local cheeses.  By Monday I need to order the vegetables that we have not produced ourselves  from the village shop.

Presents: most of it done on the internet. There is one parcel which has not yet arrived.  I hate this: check the website, supposedly dispatched, not here, sitting somewhere in warehouse I suppose.  At what point do I give up and go out and buy all over again?  Wrapping too is one of my least favourite things, partly because I am not good at it.  This year I am trying a new approach of wrapping a few at a time.  Normally I leave all the wrapping to Christmas Eve and spend a couple of hours, glass in hand, producing more and more randomly shaped dog's breakfasts.  I have very mixed feelings about beautifully wrapped parcels.  Part of me admires the time and thought which has gone into a fabulous parcel as well as the beauty of the result.  The other part of me can't quite be bothered with something so ephemeral that will be torn off and in the bin in minutes!  It's also hard to be green about wrapping without reusing last year's crumpled stuff and looking like a miser.

The house remains resolutely undecorated.  That is not something with its roots in what has been happening  this year.  We are not big on decorating the house and don't usually bring the tree in until Christmas Eve.  This year we have a tiny Christmas tree which is growing in our field which will be put in a pot and will take its place by the fire for a few days before going back out again.  I am really pleased about this.  I love a real tree but I hate the waste of all those trees being chopped down and going outside again, brown and needleless, before going off to the tip.  This way, tiny though it will be, it will a living tree which will carry on living, all being well!  On Christmas Eve I will also bring in some holly and ivy to hang above the pictures and mirrors, and that will be that.  There are candles.  There is wine.  There will be visits from children and from older grandson on Boxing Day.  FIL needs quite a bit of help but is settling in, finding his way around, both literally and figuratively finding his feet and looking forward to seeing his grandchildren and great grandchildren.

Yes, I think we can say we are almost ready for Christmas.


  1. Loads better than us! We come to Wales again on 22nd (snow stopped us this weekend) - so only two days to sort the lot other than presents - oh well, it will be fun regardless.

    Mark's latest post is:


  2. Sounds to me that YOU could actually teach Phil and Kirsty a thing or two.

    Luckily France has yet to produce a Bernard Mathews, so all our turkeys are of a sensible size and excellent.

  3. I am glad to hear that FIL arrived safely before the snow and is settling in

    Christmas feels very weird here as for the first time in many decades I am not doing Christmas - so I wonder around worrying that I am not "doing things for christmas"

    I am with you on the christmas decorations though - and how lovely to have your very own home grown Christmas tree

  4. I wish I'd known as much about my husband as you know about your turkey:)

  5. I want to try and express the way reading this post made me feel. On the face of it, I love hearing about your life. But there's a deeper level of enjoyment.

    I don't know if folks living in the UK have anything resembling this feeling. I'm a New York girl whose grandmother was born in Surrey, England. I have a cousin who's a pediatrician in Doncaster. One of my favorite ex-boyfriends is a Cockney singer.

    When I read your posts, it totally warms the cockles of my heart because of the myriad British phrases you use. I smile because I know what they mean, when none of my friends would. I smile because it's like a piece of my history, a life I might have led if my grandmother had not sailed across the sea on the sister of the Titanic.

    Just a few of the phrases I'm talking about:

    "dog's breakfasts"
    "Christmas pudding"
    "off to the tip"
    "Boxing Day"

    So, for me, reading your posts is like eating a delicious cookie that also has a dark raspberry filling inside. The story of your life connects us, and the way you tell the story brings me closer to my own roots.

    Thank you, and Happy Christmas!

  6. Elizabeth you sound so organised. The food will be out of this world. So glad to hear FIL is settling in. Hope you are coping with the snow! Have a blessed, peaceful Christmas, Molly x

  7. You sound pretty sorted, I think, and it's good to hear that your FIL is settling so well. A nice time of year to be welcomed in.

    I tackle card-writing the same way as you do wrapping; such a chore, and also a bit shaming to see my handwriting deteriorate by the year as typing takes over.

    I hope you have a really delightful Christmas, all of you!

  8. With a 7 year old it's hard to forget Christmas is approaching. Every morning the wake up countdown reminds me that for him, anticipation is both pleasure and pain! In years past we've hidden the pressies until the big day, my husband's family tradition, but this year I busted out and made a small pile under the tree. #1 son shakes, rattles and rolls them all, quizzes me on the first letter of the contents, which ones did I buy, what did we ask Santa for again? It's a lot of fun. We are a tiny family with no relatives nearby so it's a bit odd, going to any lengths for an event that's basically over before breakfast, but I love the decorations, candles, cold weather, roasted veggies, and I love wrapping presents. I've been sewing and embroidering felt birds and ornaments, molding paper clay trinkets to be painted. For crafty folk it's the best time of year. I'm happy to hear your FIL is settling in. May you have a joyful holiday!

  9. It will be a good Christmas, with that little tree, the delicious bird and the pudding and cakes, the children and the snow - yes, we've read about your snow!
    My tree still stands, lit but devoid of other decoration, but the grands are here and we are in the thick of it, ready or not. To use an overworked phrase 'it is what it is' and it will good and it will be memorable.

  10. You actually sound remarkably organised. I managed to post the cards and our traditional annual newsletter (still have to deliver to those within the village), have sorted gifts, though daughter only rang me today with what she would like, haven't made cake or pudding,but plan to do mince pies, toffee crisp and flapjack this week. Suddenly realised I haven't planned anything for the two of us, because the family are coming in 27th and I'm all geared up for that, but with the state of the weather forecast I fear they may not be able to come.

  11. I think we are just about ready. Like you, I have gifts to wrap and, also like you, I am not very good at it. I think it will be a job for tomorrow. Apart from that and some last minute food shopping, I think we're almost there.

  12. E, it sounds like you are perfectly prepared for Christmas with all your priorities in the right place. I empathised with much of it - especially wrapping parcels on Christmas Eve with a glass in my hand! (though it's actually usually about 2.30am on Christmas morning, truth to tell...).

    Have a wonderful Christmas and happy, peaceful New Year.

  13. What a lovely Christmassy blog, you actually sound very organised, even if it feels chaotic. Have a lovely Christmas, I do hope things are improving for you all after such a tough time. I too love watching Kirstie and Phil, they come across as such down to earth people.
    Posie x

  14. That all sounds rather wonderful! I'm with you on the present wrapping. I'm hopelessly inept. And who can argue with growing your own Christmas tree! I gave our Christmas cake another glug of Brandy this morning, hoping to squeeze another in before the wrapping in marzipan and ineptly smoothed icing. So glad your FIL is safely settled in. Have a wonderful Christmas!

  15. Love the simplicity of your celebrating.

  16. I'm impressed at everything you've done even with all the concerns about your Fil. My preparations? Nothing at all done except vouchers bought after snowy walk to nearest supermarket. Not very festive here, but at least my mother's on the mend.

  17. Ah, it's a lovely feeling when everything is done. And you sound such an authority on Christmas.

    I also LOVE Kirsty and Phil and have busy crafting my little hands off.

    I wish you and yours a very Happy Christmas and look forward to meeting up again in 2011.


  18. You sound well on the way with preparations Elizabeth and It will all knit together in the end. We do not normally have turkey but a few years ago himself won a free range turkey, reared by a colleague and raffled for charity. It was the tastiest and moistest turkey I have ever eaten ~ simply unbeatable, so much so that we have never gone for turkey since :)
    I hope that you enjoy Christmas with your family and wish you happy gardening in 2011 xxx

  19. Rushing around, it's the season. Just popped in to wish you a wonderful Christmas. Warm wishes from Maine


  20. And I hope your Christmas is wonderful!

    I expect I'd be counted as a miser when it comes to wrapping paper. We use ours over and over and it comes out like an old friend. Each year the pieces get smaller because of the way the parcels have been wrapped and labelled. The other day, I used one of these pieces on a present for the post. It was a bit of a wrench. It was like saying good-bye to an old friend!


  21. Mark - hope you can get to Wales! travel a bit perilous in the south I think!
    Cro - well obviously I am a complete craft genius (if daughters were here there would be much laughter in background). The turkey has been home fed so should not be a Bernard matthews type but somehow my friend's always end up good size!
    Karen - I think I might quite like not doing Christmas, even though I quite like doing it! Not going to happen for a bit yet I suspect. It is just so bitter out there I just changed my mind about looking for holly and rushed back into the warm!
    English Rider - Now you have filled my mind with questions as to what exactly it is your husband does? Does he want to sleep in a tree or refuse to come in at night? x
    Marcheline - what a lovely long and fascinating comment! I think you should aim to come over here and have a look. Would be great to see you.

  22. Molly - the food is likely to be good as we are so greedy! more snow falling outside...
    Rachel - thank you for your Christmas wishes and the same to you! Hope Lovely son gets home.
    Frith - I love the sound of the effort you are making for your Christmas! Definitely worth it for your little family. Hope you have a good one.
    Pondside - I like your phrase "we are in the thick of it, ready or not". I suspect that is just around the corner here too!
    Anne - I do hope your family get there. I also hope I get down to Devon next week for a visit to my parents for a couple of days. Sounds like road is better than rail or air!

  23. p.s. I find Kirsty a right pain, whereas Phil seems like a nice guy!

  24. Merry Christmas and all good wishes for the New Year, Elizabeth. Your kind of celebration sounds just right to me - do enjoy yourselves and let us know about it afterwards!

  25. Nice blog - I miss Wales. We don't get Phil in the US but we get Kirstie; that's all that matters, really.

  26. Be careful what you wish for - I've been known to hop on planes with a lot less provocation! 8-)

    Wishing you the veriest of merriest!

  27. It all sounds perfect .
    And you have a turkey !! Not traditionally eaten here , they're almost impossible to find .
    Though I did see Special Offer Turkey Fillets somewhere yesterday . Miniscule and schnitzel-like ,unfortunately , but perhaps I've time to cobble a few together into a roughly birdy-ish roast?
    Have a lovely holiday all of you !

  28. I must be in a right blizz. I read all the way down to the second to last paragraph before realising I'd read this post before!

    Hope everything went well.



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