Archive for the 'Christmas' Category

A BIG Family Christmas

With a family as big as mine, Christmas remains a far cry away from a quiet little retreat in the country. And on the years when we don’t all manage to fly our carbon fueled feet half way around the globe to meet up, it all feels a bit too quiet.  For one thing, when there are twenty-one family members- including three teenage boys (plus another six men who eat as if they still were), there’s a impressive amount of time, planning and stamina that goes into feeding them throughout the week of Christmas. With several birthdays to celebrate, big family Christmas’s always resemble my first week at University, complete with freshers flu at the end.

I grumbled in a recent posting that the obligation of Christmas present buying was tedium incarnate and whilst this Christmas proved no different to any other, bigger appetites meant there was an increased focus on the need for food. And lots of it. Don and I usually make decisions about what to eat when we’re hungry but here- it was no use deciding what to eat for lunch at lunchtime, menus for mealtimes were devised over lengthy group emails back in October and duties were divided up around the family.  And yet, for some reason, by some stroke of serious luck I managed to slip through the sieve, so to speak, and got off rather lightly. Although there was something rather unnerving about how much I enjoyed not being the one wiping away sweat beads dashing  between stove and dining room table. The price for such a luxury as actually having a holiday when on holiday was to make pavlovas for dessert one night.  Easy.  Or so one would assume.

If I’m ever asked to make a pavlova in somebody else’s kitchen again there will be a few pointers that will need clarifying before I agree to it:

1/  Will there be a bowl big enough to whisk eight egg whites in?

2/ Will there be a baking tin big enough to cook my pavlova on?

3/ Will there be an electric whisk?

To say that I got an arm workout that day would be grossly underselling my efforts. My appreciation for electric kitchen tools has never been more defined- and neither have my biceps for that matter.

Happy New Year!

Shopping blues

Christmas is only just a week away and I still have not figured out what presents to buy my nearest and dearest and my nearest and dearest dearest’s as they continue gloat unforgivingly that they finished their shopping in July.  I can’t work out whether this is to make me feel bad that my thoughts were on ice cream and barbeques in July and not on what meaningful gifts to buy them, or just that they’re rubbing in the fact that they won’t have to fight the winter crowds in New York. Every year I mean to be get prepared early, but with moving country, then apartment, finding and starting a new job, a blog and getting engaged all in one year, there has been very little time for anyone other than, well, me. And no, that’s not a very festive place to let you thoughts reside but I’m the one who’s now paying for such neglect by being forced to face the dreaded city crowds.

 It is on this note that I am now a firm believer that Thanksgiving is a better holiday than Christmas. Thanksgiving being of course all about the food and family and Christmas involving months (or at least days) of thought, endless card writing (or intended card writing), shopping, increased line of credit and then of course afterwards you have to write more cards to say thank you for outfit you were bought that was fashionable last summer!  So much pressure for one day! My favouritism towards Thanksgiving will of course be in disagreement with the younger generation of my relatives who A/ being British have never celebrated Thanksgiving and B/ still get a visit from Father Christmas.  As for myself, after 24 years of reliable service Father Christmas himself has forewarned me that from henceforth he will not be filling stocking for my siblings and I- again a reason why Thanksgiving rates higher than Christmas.

 Until Thanksgiving this year, Christmas was always the big family day- in fact the only day that my family spent together as a whole unit every year and thus my favourite holiday.  It goes without saying that this is also the only guaranteed holiday I get off work other than New Years Day, which is spent in the recovery position and so does not count. This year, will be the first year that one member of the family, my brother, will not be joining us- what is it with Americans companies and their aversion to reasonable amounts of time off?  And so last weekend we had my immediate family Christmas at home. It was on “Christmas day” last weekend that the day before we all sat down to open presents that the reason why I hate buying presents so much came to a head. My brother said he didn’t want what I had wrapped up and was due to give him the following day, my sister had just bought what I was about to give her and Don had declared that he didn’t think he could trust himself with the prezzie I had so generously purchased for him. Okay, so I lied, I have done some Christmas shopping but you can see how unsuccessful they were! I mean you don’t after all hear many people rejecting turkey at Thanksgiving!

 As ever I have found salvation/escape in my cookery books and it is for this reason that I will be making vast quantities of fudge over the following week to give to my doormen, supervisor, handyman, colleagues and postman for Christmas.  If only my family would be happy with fudge!

A RECIPE: Chocolate yule log


Last weekend was the first weekend that my family has been together in nearly a year and what better a way to spend quality family than positioning myself firmly in my mothers kitchen for a full day of cake making and decorating. Rarely do I get to take advantage of such a large, albeit a hopelessly ill-equiped kitchen and so when I go home I enjoy nothing more than spreading out my recipes on the large island, weighing out my ingredients into separate bowls and knowing all along that my mother will clean up after me! It’s not as antisocial as it sounds- on the other side of the counter lined up on barstools sit family members and other halves chatting away and eagerly asking when it will be done.

Making a Yule Log or Buche de Noel- was rather a selfish choice on my part because I wasn’t in the mood to make marzipan to decorate my mothers Christmas cake and my families choice of dessert usually extends no further berries and ice cream. But I have never made a Yule log and being that it was my mothers birthday, it seemed to kill two birds with one stone- cake and festive dessert in one. Or rather four birds really because I got to have fun playing in the kitchen all day and a blog entry out of it. The list of ingredients and directions may seem a tad daunting, but this is actually rather a simply decorated Yule Log, being that my decorating skills are limited and self-taught.   But you should be relieved to know that you can make this even in the most ill-equiped kitchens.

Continue reading ‘A RECIPE: Chocolate yule log’

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