Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Over half way through December...

The weather was still pretty warm right up to the end of November, and even the first few days of December. It simply didn't feel as if Christmas was coming, despite decorations, of varying degrees of gaudiness, appearing in our neighbourhood and downtown.

The writers' group had our now traditional Christmas get-together followed by bring-and-share lunch on December 2nd, and one of our members was efficient enough to have printed newsletters and written Christmas cards to hand out.

I was not that member.

Still, I had sorted out almost all our family Christmas gifts at the end of October before our trip to the UK. I felt quite pleased about it, despite feeling that it was somehow too early. I made our Christmas cake at the start of November... and since we are not into partying, or wild decorations, it didn't seem as if there was much to do.

And yet, I have this uncomfortable memory of spending the last few days before previous Christmases desperately trying to bake, and getting stressed, and thinking of all the things I really wished I had got around to earlier...

So when my friend Sheila started telling me about her family's Advent 'calendar' idea, I wondered whether I could find ONE thing to do every day in December, in order to prepare for Christmas. Which, after all, is part of the point of Advent. I was slightly stymied by it being already December 5th before I heard about this, but I reckoned that I could write off the first four days since I had already bought AND wrapped the presents, and made the cake.

So I did a bit of brainstorming and came up with about twenty things I wanted to do. Some were very quick (like 'feed the cake' or 'order the turkey') and some slower ('write the newsletter'). One or two were not precisely related to Christmas (such as 'clean all the windows').

One of them was to buy a poinsettia, something we forgot to do last year. But then a friend visited and brought us a lovely specimen:

So that was very easy.

On December 5th I made our Christmas puddings, which steamed all day and are now in the fridge.

On December 6th I made our mincemeat:

Then the weather took a very cold turn. Cold enough that it was actually a degree or two warmer in the UK than in Cyprus. Richard serviced our central heating and the gas man came last Monday.. but the radiators did not come on. And in a house with big rooms, high ceilings and tiled floors, it was COLD. We piled on layers of clothes, and actually went out to buy a couple of electric heaters, but they had limited effectiveness.

Then a wonderful, wonderful man came and fixed the heating. And we started to feel as if our bones were beginning to thaw out.

I spent the next couple of days writing a family newsletter; never an easy task, but some people appreciate it, so we keep up the tradition. It was a particularly difficult one this year and I played around with several possible formats.

Then I had to wait for a day or two as we needed a new cartridge for the colour printer. So by that stage already I had lost the impetus of doing one thing each day, and never regained it. I did manage to write all the cards - two days later than planned - and post them the following morning, although I'm not certain if they will arrive in time.

Six cards have arrived for us, so - as has now become a tradition in our home - I found last year's cards, most of which arrived late December or early January, and hung those up instead.

Last weekend I made our first batch of mince pies:

And then, because we all like it, and often used to make it at Christmas, I made some gingerbread.

Unfortunately I forgot to take a photo until after I had cut it into several parts and frozen most of it, but here's a picture of a small slab that I kept out:

The thing I jotted down for today - and actually DID today - was to put up our Christmas tree.

Or rather, I delegated it to my enthusiastic small friends, one of whom had asked me about a week ago if she could help put it up again. Sheila is much better than I am at putting things together anyway so I sat and took a few photos, happy to have delegated this task once again:

The two older girls had fun decorating the tree with as many ornaments as they could pile on, but Elisabeth, who is now three-and-a-half, was more interested in setting candles out on a bookshelf, and playing with the Nativity set. Here she is, with the finished tree in the background:

I thought I might make a chocolate yule log, something I haven't done before.. but am still pondering that one. Tomorrow we're going to go out and order our turkey (something I had intended doing a few days ago), and I'll also make the marzipan and do that layer of the cake tomorrow. If I get around to it, anyway. At some point I'll put the newsletter online and link to it, and of course I still have to ice the cake. I might make some fudge, although I think Tim will probably do that. And I will ice the cake on top of the marzipan early next week.

But it really does seem as if quite a bit has been done.

1 comment:

Anvilcloud said...

You had a good idea with the advent chores. We're having an early winter. It's unseasonably cold and snowy.