Our first Christmas at the beach is just around the corner! So is my birthday, which I'm very happy about - not because of the presents but because I'm actually a year younger than I thought I was! I thought I was already 38 until the boys reminded me I was still 37! I'm not sure if I should be rejoicing or concerned for my sanity!
Either way, Christmas this year is going to be different in so many ways. For starters, I've never been so organised before! I finished my Christmas shopping two weeks ago and did almost all of it online. No mad late-night present wrapping on Christmas Eve this year; all the gifts are already wrapped and under the tree or safely in hiding. It's a nice feeling I can tell you! And because I did most of my shopping online over time, the parcels were all delivered in dribs and drabs so I could see exactly who had what and when enough was enough.
This week I'm going to finalise my Christmas menu. This could have been expensive because we're actually hosting two Christmases this year. Noel's parents are coming this weekend for an early Christmas as they won't be with us on the 25th and then of course we have the real thing the week after. At first when I heard my in-laws were coming I thought 'Eek! I need to roast something! I need to cook 50 different vegetables! I need enough nibbles to sink a battleship! Because that's what we've always eaten for Christmas. Until three things put me firmly back on the planet:
1. This month's newsletter. In particular 'Secrets to a Truly Beautiful Christmas', where Fiona said "Eating delicious food makes us feel good. But it doesn't have to be expensive. It just has to be yummy!" So true, and this point was backed up further thanks to number two.
2. My friend Cate. Over the years we've been so busy working and raising our families that we have hardly seen each other in the last ten years but since we have moved we are catching up regularly and it's great, just like the old days! We were having a leisurely drink at the weekend and she mentioned they had just held their early Christmas dinner with family members. I was expecting Cate to be a real stickler for tradition; after all it was she who introduced me to making Christmas pomanders years ago as mentioned in the 'Smells' paragraph of the very article I mentioned above. So I was very surprised when she said blas as anything 'Oh heck no! Mum and I just go through the Donna Hay magazines, choose what looks nice and cook that for Christmas dinner!' Which sounded absolutely delicious to me and perfectly acceptable! And then to top it all off there was number three.
3. Noel. More precisely the part where he said 'Don't be so bloody daft. People are coming to us. It's our Christmas, we can eat what we like!'
And so we will. I'm not sure exactly what yet (hmm, I thought I said I was organised!) but I know I'm not going to go mad buying boxes of chocolates to adorn the tables. I'm going to whip up a batch of my favourite truffles, which are so easy and decadent and I can make them gluten free for Liam too by using gluten free biscuits. Apologies if I have shared this recipe before, but just in case I haven't, here it is!
Penny's Truffles (pinched from Lynne, who got it off the Philadelphia packet I think!)
Crush or process a cheap packet of chocolate biscuits until they resemble crumbs. Combine the crumbs with a 250g tub of cream cheese. Chill until firm enough to handle, then shape into balls. To finish, dip in melted dark chocolate and leave to cool. That's all there is to it and they're soooo yum!
It's been lovely catching up with old friends and I'm really looking forward to seeing who pops in over the festive season. One dear friend I'm now in contact with is Tara, who is actually the newest member of the SS team! Tara and I both grew up in England and have known each other since we were nine years old. Who would have thought that one day we would be working together on the opposite side of the world!
Anyway, Tara and I were having a good old chinwag and she was telling me about her family Christmas. Coming from a large extended family they decided several years ago that instead of crippling everyone's bank balances trying to buy gifts for everyone, they put everyone's names in a hat and each person pulls out one name, so they have just one person to buy for. A tried and true concept which really works - but this family adds a hilarious twist! The focus is not so much on the presents, but in the presenting. When presenting their gift, each person has to try to get the recipient to guess what their gift is in a visual extravaganza which takes up to four hours on Christmas Day!
For example, when Tara had to buy a gift for her mother-in-law she first tricked her into thinking she had bought her a voucher for a bungee jump off Auckland Harbour Bridge by dressing her up in a harness. Once the recipient was suitably horrified, Tara confessed that wasn't the real gift and proceeded to wrap her mother in law up in a sheet and drape her seductively over a couch while the rest of the family collapsed in hysterics, all the while trying to guess what the actual gift was. It turned out to be exactly what her mum-in-law had always wanted; a glamour photo sitting at a studio!
As for Tara's hubby, his sister presented him with a selection of typically NZ gifts. Nothing unusual - apart from the fact that she had dressed herself in traditional full Maori dress which she made herself entirely from scratch, to present her gift to him! It has become an annual tradition which everyone looks forward to and throws themselves into wholeheartedly. I think it's a wonderful idea and one which really emphasizes what Fiona says about laughter being a big part of a beautiful Christmas!
Whilst I'm all set for a cruisey Christmas, I'm not making things so easy for my family. I can't think of anything I want for my birthday OR Christmas this year - now that is unusual! I think it's because I'm just so happy and content with my life, how could I possibly want anything more?