Wednesday, 28 December 2016

From Kirstie Allsop to a Frozen Food Christmas

 Last year, I endeavoured to create the perfect Christmas.
 I made Christmas tree decorations from scratch and foraged for natural materials whilst enduring off-the-beaten-path kinda walks with our mental dog. I dried fruits and hung them from beautiful threads of rustic twine with bows and ribbon and created jars of beautiful natural foliage freshly picked from one of my stressful dog walks, dressed with sparkling lights and scents of cinnamon. Every aspect of our Christmas dinner was handmade with stress and ridiculously high standards and guests were treated to a buffet breakfast and a buffet in the evening.
Sounds lovely, but it wasn't, it was bloody stressful. I never made it to the sofa during the entire day  and only managed to relax when my head hit the pillow in the evening, which was at around 9pm! Kirstie Allsop may have been proud, but my Christmas overall had even too stressful and pretty pants to be honest.

This year has been all about doing things simply.
Luckily, I still had many of the handmade decorations from last year to decorate the tree with, giving it the same rustic charm of the previous year. Many of my dried fruit decorations had gone mouldy in the box, so I unfortunately had to chuck those out and make do with fairy lights around the window sills, I also used battery operated lights in my jars this year, tarted up with a few oranges decorated with cloves from the spice cupboard. No stressful dog walks for fresh foliage involved.

I filled the freezer with as much easy to cook crap as possible and even made sure that our Christmas dinner involved as little prep as I could get away with. I didn't chop a single vegetable on Christmas day. Everything was boxed, oven-ready and microwave-able, the only thing I needed to do was to unbox and press the button... Ta-da!

Presents were mainly limited to vouchers: meal vouchers, shopping vouchers, wine tasting experiences, with the odd box of Christmas biscuits, wrapped nicely with ribbon as opposed to the heap of beautifully wrapped "bits" that people usually get. Gift bags were a God-send and my own child got what she wanted or needed for Christmas and not much else... easy! Hers were wrapped roughly and I didn't bother with tags... it's not like she can read them!

We have thrown 2 Christmas parties and buffet food has been plentiful, but unimaginative. On Christmas Day, the last guests left the house at 12.30 pm, leaving us almost an entire day of super relaxing family time; our toddler even remained in her pyjamas for the entire day!

I can honestly say that this year, I have thoroughly enjoyed my Christmas. I've hardly seen the kitchen really and although I've missed my usual baking bonanzas, I've not missed the stress of trying to fit everything in. It's been one of the Christmases I can remember as a kid: the usual buffet of frozen finger food, playing with toys in my pyjamas all day and lots of time spent with other family members. Christmas is about people not perfection.

In the run up to the big day, I worried needlessly that I wasn't making enough effort, that I didn't seem to be busy enough to be able to pull it all off. But I did, maybe not in style, but I certainly pulled it off. I saw photographs of other families in the run up to Christmas, particularly on Christmas Eve on Social Media, sharing snaps of their "Christmas PJs" and "Christmas Eve boxes," which left me questioning my own efforts. Then I had to remind myself that we all have enough pairs of pyjamas, we didn't need Christmas ones and that I don't believe in Christmas Eve boxes anyway, we get enough presents on Christmas Day for heaven sake, why do we need presents for Christmas Eve? Then there were the elaborate advent calendars, we made do with milky bar ones that cost me £1 from the corner shop.
But it was enough. Enough is enough.

The last few months have been testing for us and we haven't had much time to invest in creating the Perfect Christmas, but it's actually been great. It's reminded me about what Christmas is all about.
Family time.
Next year, I'd like to think that I'll have a little more time to use my creativity to indulge myself in a few handmade/homemade touches, but I certainly won't be busting my gut over it.
Life is too short to spend fussing over making things perfect, there's no fun in that!

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, 18 December 2016

The naughtiest kid in the room

You know that feeling? When you look around at everyone else's child and realise that your kid is by far the naughtiest in the whole room? I often feel like my boyfriend and I should be excelling in the behaviour stakes, we are teachers after all, we're pros at this, aren't we?

Turns out- No, no we're not.

Yesterday, from start to finish, the leaving-the-house-for-a-party preparations began at 4pm and the party didn't start until 7.30! This involved the larger than average snack to begin with at 4pm, to tide my toddler over until the buffet, bathing myself, bathing my toddler, 2 lots of hair to dry and style, a toddler to dress and me to dress and a toddler to entertain all in one go. Boyfriend is currently on an indulgent stag do abroad, so naturally, I despise him right now.

We got to the party in one piece, just about, after my toddler slipped over in her new shoes and banged her head, ripped my tights and had 14 meltdowns during the preparations to leave the house. I was happy to arrive at the party, plenty of family around to help me keep my daughter occupied and a chance to sit down, at last! But from the moment we walked in, it became apparent that my stress levels were really about to be put to the test.

I watched other toddlers, dancing on the dance floor close to their parents and checking in with them every few minutes or so, whilst my daughter stole their toys, poked and grabbed their faces and kept running off out of my sight with a cocky confidence (she would have gladly gone off with a complete stranger). 1 hour in and I hadn't touched my drink, my family dipped in and out, but gave up chasing my toddler after 10 minutes (I don't blame them) and I felt sweaty, red and breathless. On sitting down at last, I decided to just let my Daughter run off, I'd just stand up to see where she'd got to every few minutes and not indulge her in her chasing games.

It was the first time I stood up to check on her that I spotted her leaving. Out of the door and out to the car park. I dashed from my seat,almost knocking over unsuspecting children and found her wedged between 2 heavy double doors between the carpark and the venue screaming her head off. At this point I scooped her up in my arms and carried her, screaming to the front of the venue where I packed up our belongings in psychotic fashion as she tried to push me away from her as people watched, grateful that it wasn't their kid.

"We'll look after her from now on, just stay a little while longer" came  pleas from family members, happily slurping away at glasses of wine and G&Ts.
"You don't know what you're letting yourself in for!" was my snappy reply. I was right. They didn't.

Bunging my naughty toddler into the car was the best decision I could have made. As I pulled into the driveway at home, I looked back at her snoozing away peacefully in her car seat, still wearing her sparkly anters which she'd nabbed off some poor child at the party. I quietly and carefully dressed her in pyjamas as she cooed sleepily and laid her in her cot, kissed her, told her I loved her and felt guilty for cursing her in my head.

I tell myself that it will be some other kid next time, that mine will be well behaved and I'll be glad it's not me. Or this is what I hope will happen...!