24 December – Christmas Eve

Eve

Get up, open the last door on the Advent calendar, wolf down some toast and head off to the greengrocer! Be early to avoid the crowds (and to find the best cherries) and bear in mind that there are two attitudes you can take to this:

  • you can be grumpy that the shops are crowded and you can’t find the sugar snap peas and you’ve still got so much to do
  • you can enjoy the excitement in the kids and the tingle of anticipation in the adults around you and you can think of this preparation as a fun part of the feast.

You probably have quite a few things to cook today but you have good running sheets so, again, enjoy the preparation – and the flavours and the aromas. (My house smells like red wine and spices right now, because I’ve just been mulling the fruit for breakfast tomorrow.)

24 dec 2016
Throw open all the doors!

Matthew and Don and Jack came over early with the trailer and have been pushing tables around on the deck. They tried one long rectangle but it didn’t fit so now they’re toying with a U-shape, which they don’t have enough tablecloths for, and I’ve just heard Jack mention white sheets (!) and he said he’ll get some from home if Don will take the trailer back to pick up his magic apparatus. And you know what? I think they’re thoroughly enjoying themselves. (I hope it’s not me that ends up sitting on one of those folding picnic chairs though.)

Jeremy and Danni volunteered for the last-minute present shopping so I sent them off to the mall with my purse[1] and they came home with fancy candles! But I’ve never even met the boat people and for all I know they might like candles. Now the love birds are wrapping the gift wax in the lounge room – in birthday paper because I used up the last of the Christmas paper on Caitlin’s present. (I hope the boat people like dinosaurs in party hats because that’s the wrapping they’re getting.)

Then Ben and Cassidy came around with some of the stuff Wendy has cooked for tomorrow (I do not know why she thought it would fit in my fridge!) and, after Cassidy astonished me by telling me that she was looking forward to a slice of Wendy’s lemon meringue pie,[2] they decided to decorate the deck (which has plenty of fairy lights on it but they won’t be any good at midday). They used all the decorations I excluded from my decoration plan (mostly because I don’t like them – like the ceramic elf with the evil squint) and are now making paper chains from Christmas catalogues. Some would say the result is looking very gaudy but I’m willing to go with “festive”.

Auntie Gwen and Susan, who arrived at ten and are staying tonight and tomorrow night, are peeling potatoes for the potato salad (I was planning a German potato salad but Auntie Gwen is doing her own thing and I have no idea what it will be except that I think she said something about anchovies), and Gemma is folding napkins (they’re paper but I admit they’re looking very good) and has her husband Paul polishing glasses and cutlery ready for tomorrow.

Everyone’s getting in each other’s way but they don’t seem to mind. In fact, I absolutely think the word for today is “merry”.

[1] “We usually do our Christmas shopping in the Boxing Day sales,” said Danni. “There are a lot of advantages to being Serbian.”

[2] “Moderation is important,” she said earnestly. “Really?” I replied, trying very hard not to be sarcastic. “Oh yes. I’ve learned that a little bit of sugar can be a good thing.”

“I’ll bear that in mind,” I said.

11 December

Wrap party

If children are crafting your wrapping paper, they’re likely to make a mess, so dress them in aprons or sacrificial clothes,[1] spread newspapers out to billy-oh[2] and don’t let the kids out of the space until they’re scrubbed clean. (You don’t want scarlet handprints on the walls and glitter footprints in the carpet. Not even at Christmas.)

Start at least a few days before you plan to wrap the presents because if you’re using glue or paint, you’ll need time for it to dry.[3] You’ll also need a drying space: the clothesline will be fine if the weather is fine, otherwise you may need to set up clothes horses on the veranda or in the garage.[4]

2016-12-11
Sticky, but not tacky.

Although it’s Sunday, the party cubs and Gemma and I were in the office by 10am and we pulled down all the holly and the ivy and the pine boughs and gathered up all the punch cups and pickled onion jars and gradually turned a bacchanalian forest back into a conference room. When our colleagues come in on Monday, it will be as if the party never happened. (And from the amount of wassail consumed, it’s fair to bet it won’t even be a fond memory for some of them.)

[1] Old T-shirts that you’re happy to throw out if the paint won’t wash out, for example.

[2] Aren’t we going to miss the actual paper of newspapers when they’re finally all digital?

[3] You could argue that putting parcels with wet paint under your tree is a way to ensure that the carpet harmonises with the colour scheme of your wrapping, but it’s not a good way.

[4] But not in the kids’ rooms, even if you’re short of space. My friend Jill’s busy son William escaped from his cot one naptime and rolled in wet paintings until he looked like fairy bread and then cuddled up to every soft toy he had and gave them all multi-coloured measles.

10 December

The chop

If your Christmas tree is a lopped pine, you can buy it this weekend and it should still be fine for at least a few days beyond the 25th. They do best away from the heat so don’t put them too close to sunny windows.[1]

My council offers a free tree pick up service in January and yours may too but you might need to register beforehand.[2]

2016-12-10
Make a trunk call.

We had planned to undecorate the conference room today but first Adam and then Jessica and then Laura texted me to say that they were sick and wouldn’t be able to make it so I texted them all back and said that we’d reschedule to tomorrow. (Being hungover is a self-inflicted injury and I don’t think it should get you out of cleaning up.)

This left me with plenty of time to meet up with my book club friend Sharon to exchange presents. Hers was wrapped in paper covered with her own whimsical cat sketches and she said that a local craft shop had persuaded her to design some gift wrap. It had turned out very well but she was agonising about whether doing a series of greeting cards would be too commercial.

I don’t see why it’s considered unartistic to make art that appeals to the masses but perhaps that’s why I’m an office worker rather than an artist.

[1] And my niece Emma told her mother that you also shouldn’t take your eyes off the baby when she’s close to the tree: she knew little Mia would enjoy crawling under the piney splendour but she didn’t know that Mia could actually reach up to the lower branches until she found a golden star in her mouth. (Both the baby and the bauble survived the experience.)

[2] My colleague Murray mulches his tree each year and spreads it on his flowerbeds – where you can occasionally see a shard of glittery plastic from a decoration he missed.

 

22 November

On a roll

Are you buying wrapping paper? This is a good time to do it because stocks will be high and queues will be low. And why not start with the cheap shops? Sometimes they have a few very stylish rolls and if you’re an early shopper, you get to snap up the bargain.

My rule of thumb used to be that if it was under a dollar a metre, it was a good deal[1] but, as always, you have to take into account what you actually need: if you only need two metres of wrapping paper, then twenty metres is a waste of money, paper and storage space, even at $5 a roll.

2016-11-22
All cheap. Not all nasty.

I had to send Suresh from HR around to Jessica from the social club to talk her out of mistletoe for the Christmas party. He said he had to work very hard but he won out in the end. I think he earned his salary today.

[1] Although Matthew once gave me a (joke) present in orange paper with nasty pink weasels printed on it and it was an insult at any price.