Some people call this part of the year the ‘silly season’, and I am sure I am not the only one amongst us who is guilty of thinking that they can be Superwoman (or Superman!) and do absolutely everything. I know I’ve burnt the candle at both ends many a night, running around making sure that everything is perfect. But the truth is, sometimes everything can still be a little fraught….
I would love to be writing that all is incredibly calm, and that we’re relaxing by the fire with nothing to do but enjoy each other’s company and the Christmas atmosphere. But actually the truth is far removed from such an imagined idyl. This year, unusually, the children are still in school this week; they don’t break up until Friday afternoon and so our time-table is still all about early mornings, homework, sports and everything else associated with term-time.
One night last week I lay in bed with a thousand things whirling around in my head; I was thinking of all the things I still had to do, and wondering how I was going to achieve even half of it. And then I wondered if perhaps I’m the only one that actually notices if everything isn’t all perfect, and if I’m the only one that even gives it a second thought. A moment later came the thought that what matters far far more, involves laughter, fun and conviviality. I distinctly remember thinking this was a positive thought and I closed my eyes and fell asleep with the mantra “What gets done, gets done and what doesn’t wont hurt anyone!” running through my brain.
So this year, whilst everyone around is losing their heads, I have decided I will keep mine safely to hand. I’m going to take the relaxed approach – which means remaining resolutely calm and taking a few minutes to focus on the little details. It also means letting the big things unfold as they always do, but enjoying all the small things – one of which is a good walk. Excellent for the soul and recharging those batteries, not to mention burning a few of those excess Christmas calories!
Walking involves the dogs of course, and how can we resist these faces? Mention the word ‘walk’ and they immediately stand to attention, staring at me with pleading eyes.
Gather up their leads and they burst with barely controllable excitement.
At this time of year we’ll often return home after dark, but it means we get to enjoy all the festive lights and somehow everywhere has the most calming of influences; our local decorations are stylishly simple.
But behind closed doors the eager anticipation is mounting, certainly with the younger members of our family. A favourite pastime is sitting under the tree and taking stock of every new present that has been added during the day or night. “Honestly, I wasn’t really feeling the shape and trying to guess what it is; it was her!”
Every evening we light lots of candles, they are very much a part of our simple decoration scheme this year.
We’ve been baking yet more batches of mince pies, because they never seem to last more than a couple of days. Roddy is already muttering about New Year resolutions….
and we’ve been perfecting our fresh fruit tartlets. I add a sprinkle of icing sugar just before serving and they are fabulous. I took the recipe for the Crème Anglaise from one of Mary Berry’s television shows and I will post it on the Our French Lifestyle website tonight.
The champagne is on ice ready for overseas family to arrive
and we’ve been stocking up with vegetables and wine at the local market. It’s going to be a few days of feasting in the simplest of ways – cooking together, sharing, chatting and eating, with good company and good conversation – all the things that happen at the end of a long year when family and friends get together.
And just to make sure that the days get off to a good start our hens have been good girls and despite the cold weather they are still laying relatively well. Hopefully next time you see an ‘egg photo’ here there will be a couple of blue ones to look out for!
Breakfast has always been my favourite meal of the day and with a full house it’s best to be prepared; having a few essentials can make all the difference. And while some people like eggs, be they baked, poached, scrambled, in an omelette or a frittata….
….I personally prefer fresh fruit and yoghurt with those little glass pots of French yoghurt found in all our supermarkets. I think they look delightful on any table; simplicity could not get any simpler!
And of course there are always some fresh croissants and pain au chocolat to hand, either eaten plain with a delicious big mug of café au lait or dipped in bowls of steaming hot chocolate; they will always be a big hit!
And then when everyone is just too tired to do anything much at all, everything reverts back to the Christmas road, when for once lying around doing nothing really does make perfect sense.
And the best way to end the day is around the fire
With a good glass of wine and perhaps a bowl of nuts (especially if you have children because they always love to crack them and will never tire of the job, ensuring everyone has more than their fill!), feeling warm and extremely cosy.
It’s one of my favourite parts of Christmas and I find just staring into the flames sparks all sorts of discussions, and a wee while in front of an open fire at this time of year always leads me down memory lane; I can remember my father and I doing just this when I was a child, just sitting, watching the flickering fire as the flames curled around the logs, licking at the wood. We would talk away in an easy unhurried fashion for hours, just watching, sometimes not saying anything at all. For him as a farmer, Christmas day still began and ended with animals to care for, but time gleaned in between the farm hours always seemed so precious. I can smell my mother’s turkey in the kitchen still, see the presents under our tree, and somehow snow makes an appearance too. The flames, though, they never change. They are always part of the memory.
But those were Christmases then, and today we have Christmases now – it would be foolish to compare, for times have moved on and things are very different. Even the past 20 years have brought so many changes – faces have grown and changed, while some have tearfully disappeared, but hopefully there will at some stage be new, small faces. It’s a time of year when while it is good to reminisce and pay homage to old memories, it’s important to acknowledge the present, and fun to imagine what future Christmases might bring.
I write this today as our planet, out in space and deep in the farthest point of its solar cycle, revolves and starts its long slow journey back to the warmth of summer. Christmas is therefore really always in the part of the year that looks forward, and we should do the same, for it is the start of a new solar year. I hope the flames burn warm for you all this holiday and hope all your wishes come true. XXX