So I’m sitting in my kitchen on the very last day of the year. I’m enjoying a few days of calm and quiet after the manic build up,to Christmas. I love the anti-climax of these funny few days between Christmas and New Year. I’ve only had to work a couple of days this week and the bakery is now closed until the first Saturday of the new year. It’s such a nice feeling to have time off and not worry about the girls on my team having to work extra to cover me because we are all off at the same time. It’s also great to start the year feeling fresh and well rested after such a busy month.
Here in Bath we the festive season starts quite early and is marked by the arrival of hundreds of little sheds during the last week of November. By the start of December the whole city is taken over by the Christmas Market, with its hundreds of stalls, thousands of visitors and millions of twinkling lights. As with most residents of this city, I have mixed feelings towards the market. On the one hand it is beautifully festive and the boost in visitors to the city is beneficial for so many local businesses. But on the other hand it is busy as hell and makes going about your daily business somewhat difficult! I do love to spend an evening or two mooching about the market, mulled wine in one hand and sausage in the other. It’s not great for shopping as it’s just too busy to get near to any of the stalls and the goods on sale tend to be quite pricey, but it is a great way to get yourself into a festive mood.
For most of this month my time has been taken up with buying and making gifts. I have quite a big family and a lot of friends so buying gifts for each one is not really financially viable for me. I’m very fortunate to have a talent for baking and making confectionary so I make gifts for my loved ones. It means I can give someone something I’ve put a lot of effort into, something they can’t get anywhere else and it’s better than a bottle of plonk or box of celebrations. This year I made macarons, truffles, marmalade, gingerbread and I even blended my own loose leaf chai.
By the time we finally make it to Christmas I start to feel like I’ve had enough and I look forward to it all being over. Husband took a job with a pop-up cinema which meant that we have barely seen one another this month, aside from the brief moments when he drops Stink off with me at work, or I happen to be awake still when he gets home at night. It’s tough, especially as we have both chosen careers which are not particularly family-friendly, but we both love what we do and I wouldn’t change it for anything.
As a family we have forged our own traditions for Christmas. Every year we go out and choose new pyjamas which I then wrap up so that we can open them together on Christmas Eve. It’s silly but it’s something we started doing a long time ago and carried on doing.
Another new Christmas tradition is to spend Christmas Eve with my parents in their Swedish Barbecue Hut. Yes, that’s correct. Swedish Barbecue Hut. It’s essentially a wooden hut, referred to as the hobbit hut, which has benches around the sides and a large fire in the centre. It’s great for hosting barbecues in the soggy British summer but it’s also a brilliant place to be on Christmas Eve. So we spend our evening decorating a gingerbread house which I always bake for Stink and my little sister to do. My mum makes Christmas crackers with personal gifts in them and my step dad makes burgers from scratch. We sit around the fire together, my brothers, my sister, my husband, my parents, my daughter and this year a grandmother too, and we drink nice wine and play silly games and laugh. It’s perfect.
Christmas Day for us is best spent at home. It’s one of the few days of the year that we three can relax at home, safe in the knowledge that nobody has a deadline or anywhere to dash off to. Nobody had to get up at the crack of dawn and nobody has to work until silly o clock at night. We like to watch Stink open her stocking and we lay about in our pyjamas lingering over coffee and croissants. This year, as with most years, we were joined by our best friends (who happen to be married to each other). They’re more like family really though; the kind of people who don’t bother knocking at the front door anymore, who are there at every Birthday and celebration and who you call when the shit hits the fan.
Normally when it comes to cooking Christmas dinner I’m flying solo. This year was a little different though as husband decided he wanted to do the meat in the smoker. I think this will be another one of family traditions because he did a fantastic job. We enjoyed an 8 hour smoked silverside of beef, studded with garlic and coated with thyme and rosemary. I nestled shallots under the beef which absorbed all of the smoky meat flavour and I used them to make the gravy. We didn’t eat until nearly 8pm but there was no rush and I served pigs in blankets as a canapé and a baked Camembert as a starter earlier in the evening. I served the beef with sprouts sautéed in smoky bacon, confit carrots with marmalade, roasted parsnips, red cabbage braised in mulled wine, Yorkshire puddings and chorizo stuffing balls. Unsurprisingly after all of that, nobody had space for dessert or cheese.
Boxing Day is always spent at my grandmas house with the whole family. There’s normally about 20 people there including aunties, uncles and cousins, as well as several dogs. It’s like Christmas Day take two. Everyone turns up with a pudding or a plate of food and the dining table is laden with cold cuts, salads and a quiche or two. Everyone eats too much and gets a little merry on Grandmas special Christmas cocktail of sloe gin in prosecco and Stink has the best day ever rolling around on the floor with the dogs. Husband’s family aren’t really big on gatherings but my Grandma is the original hostess with the mostess and my love of parties and entertaining comes from her I’m sure. Husband had never seen so many desserts in one place until his first Sunday lunch with my family.
My time this past week has been largely spent trying to deal with the aftermath of Christmas. The laundry has stacked up, the bins haven’t been collected and Stink has no more space in her room for all of her lovely new things. I’ve also managed to catch up on all of my blog posts as of right now and I spent yesterday morning sitting around the breakfast table with two of the most wonderful people I know, drinking coffee and chatting and eating waffles. And really, I couldn’t ask for much more. It’s been a long and fraught month. I’m glad it’s over but I’m thankful for all of the love, light and laughter we’ve had. It’s very easy to focus on how little we have and life can feel crappy quite a lot of the time, but when I take a moment to reflect on all the wonderful people in my life I realise how fortunate I am. I hope that, like me you are thinking about all of the great things in your life as the year draws to a close. Choose to focus on the joy you’ve experienced this year and leave the shitty times you’ve had in the past where they belong.
Happy New Year dear readers. We made it! Thank you all from my toes to my nose for sticking with me. I hope you enjoy my rambling as much as I enjoy writing them. I wish you all as much love, light and laughter as you can handle.