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Christmas Daze

Today has been a quiet day of rest and recovery following three busy and enjoyable Christmassy days.

Sunday was mostly about preparation: food shopping, baking, doing laundry and putting up a few more decorations in the aftenoon, then games in the evening.

Monday I was expecting Chivers and Rich over around teatime for decorating the tree and putting up tinsel. This meant largely organizing tea in advance, so I didn't have to spend time in the kitchen later. I made butternut squash and pearl barley pot: I cooked the pearl barley and veg in the afternoon, then combined in a roasting tin and grated cheese over, to reheat in the oven when we wanted to eat. I'd made a marmalade tart on my pie plate (using Jenny's home-made marmalade) on Sunday. However, the base of the tart bubbled up in the middle and some marmalade spilled out and caramalized round the edge, so it was a bit of a mess. I whipped cream, broke the good bits of the tart into small chunks and mixed them into the cream, and squirted decent quality chocolate sauce on top. My Chocolate Jaffa Cream Crunch was quite a success and I was pleased at finding a way of salvaging the disaster.
  The Xmas decorating went well too. Evie kept getting distracted by books and stuff around the room, and wanted to play with the cats, who were understandably a little shaken by the noisy invasion and preferred to retreat to the games room. Krissy spent her time wrangling Toby, who managed to stroke Tycho nicely before Tycho decided to leave. Ed did a stalwart job of climbing the ladder to pin tinsel and decorations to the high beam again. The tree lights wouldn't light and I eventually found that the fuse bulb had blown. I sustituted a regular bulb, which fixed things temporarily (found the replacement fuse bulb Tuesday). Rich and I strung the lights, then he and Ed (and Evie, when not distracted) helped put many, many decorations on the tree. Rich did the lower beam and was generally very helpful.
  It was a lovely get-together - a welcome tradition - and really feels like the start to Xmas. Mind you, I was glad to lie back in the recliner afterwards, with a cup of coffee to enjoy some peace and quiet.

Tues I had a bit of a lie-in, but had to get ready for hosting a Christmas meal for the Parkins and Fieldens. I usually do this the week before Xmas, around the 18th. However, this year, Iain and Vikki (the Fieldens) are going to Iain's family in Wiltshire on the 19th, and Vikki is busy with folk events and choir concerts in the two weeks before Christmas, so the 10th was the best date available. I finished putting up a few more odds and ends of deorations. I simply didn't have the time and energy to do absolutely everything, so had to made some decisions, and then get the boxes packed away. I had to wash up crockery and cutlery used the day before, to use again. This is something that carers usually do for me, as my back hurt very quickly when stood at the sink. so I did it in two batches, with rests inbetween.
   I'd invited them for "7 for 7:30". It had got to 10 to 6 and I still had to wrap 8 or so presents, prepare and cook the main course, get myself ready, fetch two dining chairs from other rooms and set the table. And I was already a bit limp from Monday's efforts. Wrapping presents took 20 mins, then I put the oven on and started dinner. I wanted to do chicken beasts with veg in one dish, as I wanted something that would take care of iteself. I wasn't following a recipe; it was more 'put everything in and cross fingers'. I used toasted seseme oil in the roasting tin, and rolled the chicken fillets in it. Then chopped the rest of the butternut quash from Monday, a sweet potato and a red onion and added to the tin. I dissolved one of those little stock pots in hot water, adding some regular Bisto granules to thicken it into a sauce and a dash of Henderson's, and poured this over the meat and veg. I added some dried sage and onion stuffing mix to the dish and shoved it into the oven, setting the timer for 30 mins. I'd made dessert - lemon and lime ginger crunch pie - on Sunday, so didn't have to worry about that.
  I changed my jumper and earrings and started on the table. I'd got the chairs set out, big blue tablecloth, white cutwork tablecloth and red runner laid, and a napkin and cracker at each place when the guests arrived. Fortunately, my guests are friends, and were not at all scandalized by the table not being ready. I brought stuff through from the kitchen and Vikki laid out place mats, glasses and cutlery. The meal went very well - the chicken was very tasty, served with savoy cabbage, and the dessert came out of its tin with the biscuit casing intact, somewhat to my surprise. There were five of us, but the chicken was sold in packs of two, so I cooked all six and kept the extra, along with some of the veg, sauce and added them to some leftover from Monday to make tonight's tea.
   After the meal, we exchanged presents. These are usually taken home and opened on Xmas day, but Vikki remarked that she liked opening presents while the other person was there, so we all just got stuck in and started opening. It was lovely to share the experience, and see what everyone else had given and received. With the tree and the decorations and the mass of paper, sharing and friendship, it really felt like Xmas. It was lovely and well worth all the effort.

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