23 December

Fridge work

Today’s the last delivery day for the year, so leave the postie’s Small Present in the letterbox. (Clearly labelled – you don’t want them to assume it’s to you rather than from you.)

Jam packed (and not just with jam).

Now you really need to get the fridge ready. Toss everything that you don’t need,[1] carefully consider what you’ll be storing and how you can fit it in and plan where everything will fit on Christmas Day. (I’m making extra room for a pre-cooked rolled pork loin and a supermarket quiche because I no longer have time to cook everything from scratch!)

Also fine-tune your Christmas Day food safety plan:

  • How will you cover food? Will you serve it in containers that have lids? Will you use plastic wrap and foil? (Put them on your shopping list for Christmas Eve if you don’t have enough.) Do you have your ham bag ready?
  • Remember to get all that food back into the fridge pronto and out of the danger zone.

You can cook frozen desserts and cheesecake today. Personally, I’m getting stuck into an ice cream plum pudding because there won’t be enough actual pudding to go around and no-one’s going to feel like waiting two months until something I whip up today has matured properly!

Wendy rang from Tullamarine and she said that they flew with a nice family who had also abandoned ship and don’t know what to do for Christmas because they were expecting to be on a cruise and now they’ve come home to an empty larder and an undecorated house so she invited them to my place, knowing that I always have plenty of everything!

So that’s twenty-five people for Christmas dinner! I’m going to have to buy some extra crackers and more wine and find some extra presents!

“Wendy,” I said, “do you think Gertruda would have time to cook a really big batch of sauerkraut pierogi for Christmas dinner?”

“I’m sure she’d love to,” she replied. “I’ll let her know straight away.”

“And something for dessert too?”

“Count on it,” she replied.

Then Gemma rang, checking if there was anything she could bring.

“Well,” I said cautiously, “how are you off for china?”

“We got a big dinner set for a wedding present that we hardly ever use!” she gushed. “I’ll bring it around!”

And she did. She’s got my sixteen-place white and gold plates and has added her twelve-place white and silver service and she’s currently bustling around, working out how to mix them together in a stylish way. She says she’ll bring glasses and cutlery tomorrow and now she’s talking about serviettes and centrepieces.

“I was going to do conifers and baubles,” I mentioned, “and I have big gold bowls for nuts and lollies.” (Note to self: will need more nuts and lollies.)

Gemma looked at me with my apron and oven mitts and said, “Please can I do it? I love this kind of thing and it was feeling so wrong to be sitting around on Christmas Eve Eve with nothing to do. I can do conifers and baubles and I’ll wrangle punch cups and serving spoons too. I promise it will look lovely.”

And that’s an offer too good to refuse.

By the time Hannah rang, I went to speaker phone straight away so that I could keep stirring.

“You need twenty-one crackers?” she asked.

“It’s twenty-five now,” I said. “Probably thirty tomorrow, the way things are going. And if you ask again on Christmas morning, I expect it will be a hundred.”

“How many crackers have you got?” she asked.

“Fourteen,” I replied.

“Pixie and Poppet are bouncing off the ceiling so we’ll sit down and make crackers together this afternoon and that might calm them down a bit. I’ll drop into the shops on my way over and get eleven trinkets. They won’t be up to your usual standard but I’ll find something.”

“Could you make the crackers silver?” I suggested, thinking of Gemma’s table décor. “And do you think we could have the girls in charge of the punch on the Day?”

“They’ll love it,” she assured me. “Should we start on the punch ice today?”

“Yes, please,” I replied.

[1] Like the leftover pasta from yesterday you thought you’d eat today but actually won’t because you’ll be too full of mince pies.

21 November

It’s a date

Way back in January, you sketched out your Christmas schedule but you probably had to guess most of it. Now it’s time to tighten it up. Big bashes (office parties, Girl Guide break-ups) have probably set their dates so, if you haven’t heard, ask.[1] Small events (catching up with neighbours, visiting old friends) quite possibly haven’t been organised yet, so take the wheel and get the date negotiations under way.[2] Flexible events (like dropping a cake off for your aunt in her nursing home)[3] can then be scheduled around those other events.

As you put each date into your calendar, schedule the appropriate work too: if you need to take a plate to the school break-up, block out the evening before to cook;[4] if the neighbours will be meeting at your house for Christmas drinks, allow time for a clean-up (before and after!).[5]

21 nov 2016.jpg

Christmas Day 1970: We tent-dwellers were allowed to stay up past our bedtimes on Christmas night but I think this was intended as a treat for our parents rather than for us: it meant that they didn’t have to deal with the arguments and protestations.

When we finally trundled off to bed, Nanna called out, “Sleep well – you’ll need all your strength tomorrow!”

“Why?” asked Peter, thinking excitedly of lake picnics or tree-house building.

“We’ll be making jam, and I need you to pick the apricots.”

There would be buckets of them, the sun would be hot and the adults would be relentless but we were too tired to give it any thought. Christmas was too special to waste any time thinking of the morrow.

[1] I got an email from my ex-colleague Donna today (the one who couldn’t organise a stationery cupboard). She wanted to know how far ahead you have to book office Christmas parties, which venues I recommend, what kind of package she should be looking for and if she would have to organise extras like tinsel and crackers. I managed to resist the urge to give her misinformation but I did spend a few pleasant minutes contemplating what I could have said to her.

[2] The early bird catches the worm, and the well-organised party planner gets the best dates (and dates are better than worms any day).

[3] Not that I need to do that for Auntie Helen any more.

[4] Or to drop into the supermarket to get chocolate biscuits or cheese crunchies.

[5] My cousin Russell’s party planning includes borrowing an extra recycling bin for bottles and cans. He does this by inviting his neighbour to the party and he also invites a colleague who shares the neighbour’s interest in toy trains because they have such a good time together that the neighbour goes home too late to complain about the noise.