LOVE CHRISTMAS? ME?… Maybe this year

Every Tuesday a lovely, chatty man who loves to laugh calls to my door with a delivery of eggs.  We shoot the breeze for a couple of minutes and we always end up with a laugh.  Last week the poor man had the misfortune to ask me if I was looking forward to Christmas.  “Looking forward to Christmas” I roared at him… “looking forward to Christmas.  No I bloody well am not.  Christmas is just a whole heap of hard work.”  By now his expression of slight bemusement had morphed into something approaching terror, as if he has awoken some sleeping beast or had suddenly realised he was on a rapidly accelerating runaway train.  He started to edge back out the door.  But I was only getting going.  “Along with the stress of weeks of present buying in stuffy over crowded shops I then have the prospect of peeling a mountain of spuds on Christmas Eve, followed by carrots and sprouts… that no one likes but we have to have them because they are traditional.. and God forbid we move away from tradition.  Not to mention trifle, puddings and Christmas cake.  Now who the hell in the right mind would look forward to Christmas?  It’s too much bloody hard work” I roar.  The poor man was at the front gate by now, muttering “right so, see you next week.” 
As I closed the door I realised that I seemed to actually resent Christmas even more than I had thought.  I felt sorry for the egg man who would clearly arrive home to his wife saying “jaysus Barbara went off on a right one today”.  Although maybe he wouldn’t say anything to his wife for fear he might awaken the sleeping beast with her too.
But seriously, Christmas is a huge amount of hard work and yeah I do have offers of help but maybe I like playing the martyr or maybe I am a bit of a control freak but I generally do the lion’s share of the donkey work myself. 
Now back when the kids were smaller and I was relishing the surprising joy of being a ‘housewife’ (hate that term) I was a wee bit terrified at the thought of providing Christmas Dinner for extended family.  It’s not that making roast turkey with all the trimmings is that complicated but the trick was and still is getting everything to be ready at the same time.  My Achilles heel is usually getting the roast potatoes sufficiently crispy without the vegetables going soft. 
Actually I have two Achilles heels.  The other is that every year I make two puddings – because I LOVE Christmas pudding but also, because, until last year, I always burn the arse off the first one.  Then someone gave me the secret of placing a saucer under the pudding bowl – who knew?  No more horrible smell of melted plastic in the kitchen followed by hours trying to scrape said stuff off my best heavy bottomed saucepan.
Anyway,  by the time I actually get to eat my pudding I am red faced, in a sweat and completely exhausted and only slightly inebriated.  Everyone else is merrily pulling crackers, well pissed and completely oblivious to my pain. 
But I hate that I am beginning to be known as a Christmas Grinch.  “Oh Barbara, she hates Christmas” people say about me.  But it’s really only the Christmas dinner shenanigans I hate.  I love Christmas carols, I love cold crispy weather, I love the smell of a Christmas tree and the twinkle of the lights. 
So this year I am going to attempt to make life a bit easier for myself.  I am going to buy as much pre prepared stuff as I can.  There is a voice in my head that says “ah but that’s cheating and not very traditional” but feck that.  I want to sit down without a red face and with enough energy to pull crackers with everyone else.
And the good news is that all the supermarkets are full of great ready prepared vegetables and prepared meats to make our lives easier.  The good people at Centra let me have a look at what they have in store to help a tired housewife like me enjoy Christmas more.  It looks like heaven.
From boned and rolled turkey (who needs turkey wings anyway), and ham joints to potato gratin and spouts with bacon.  They also have desserts and party food and cheese boards.   All the hard work done.  Oh joy of joys.
I no longer need to prove I can cook a Christmas dinner for ten.  Been there and done that too many times.  No this year I am taking it easier and letting Centra do the heavy lifting. 

I can’t wait to tell the egg man!!!  Now, where’s that recipe for Mistletoe Mojitos?

SEND A CHRISTMAS CARD.. but do it right!

On a shelf, in the corner of my living room are this year’s supplies, neatly arranged in three piles with two of my favourite pens lined up alongside. I am now waiting for the right moment.  Preferably a cold, frosty night when I can light the fire, turn off the TV, pour a glass of wine.  I have to be in the right frame of mind.  This is not a job to be tackled when tired or grumpy.  My heart must be open and my mood should be good.  Then, placing a large book on my lap to function as a table, I can begin. 
The writing of the Christmas Cards should never be rushed.  It is something to do carefully and with thought.  If you have a variety of card designs it is important to match the right card with the right recipient.  Before you have written one word, your choice of card already says something for you.  In my case I usually buy cards from an animal charity which will go to friends who I know have pets.  It’s probably not a great idea to send a cute kitty card to someone who hates cats!   I also usually buy cards with the message ‘as Gaeilge’ and well as ‘as Bearla’ and a lot of these cards will go overseas. 
There is no excuse not to buy a charity card.  Most charities sell them so there is a huge variety.  And remember to buy direct from the charity rather than give a department store a cut of the price also.  When I receive cards it is always interesting to see what charities friends are supporting.  A non charity is card is bad form. 
The writing of the card is where many people really let themselves down.  Merely scribbling your signature on the bottom is really not on – I would prefer no card than to receive such an impersonal non effort.  If you are sending cards – do it right.
A good pen is important.  But no matter how brilliant the pen is, it still can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.  So take your time and ‘do your best writing’.  And begin by always addressing those to whom you are sending the card.  So your card should start with a ‘Dear’ or ‘To’…..
Then please – write an actual message. This is the whole point of sending a card and it’s worth putting in a bit of thought into.  Usually I find that my Christmas Card recipients fall into a few distinct categories.  There are those who you see regularly and to whom a nice wish for the festive season and perhaps the coming year is appropriate.  Then there are those people you no longer see regularly and so an extra line or two hoping all is well with them is a nice touch.  Finally there are those with whom you only correspond at Christmas.  I love this category because to me this group encapsulate the real meaning of the festive season.  These are old friends or family who you still hold dear and so it’s nice perhaps to write a short paragraph giving them a quick update on your affairs. 
To me this is what Christmas should be about – connecting with people.  It’s a once a year opportunity to tell those family and friends that you value them and to send them your best wishes.  I love to receive a chatty, newsy card.
So to finish…. are you a ‘love from’ or a ‘best wishes’ person?  Either are OK but do write all the names from whom this card comes.  In other words don’t be attempted to do initials.  It’s OK to shorten the entire family to ‘and family’ or similar and this particularly can be handy when you have lost track of the recipients children.
Finally – addressing the envelope.  I have only one thing to say about this!  Women are people too.  They are not extensions of their husband.  If I get a card addressing me as Mrs Paul Sherwood it’s going in the bin.  I think that’s clear enough.
But do send cards.  And if I haven’t convinced you, then please don’t bother including me for one of those awful virtual cards via Facebook or Email.  You know the ones that play dire music and have cutesy animation.  THEY ARE NOT CARDS. 

Cards are written by hand and are delivered by the postman.  But best of all they can be displayed in your home suffusing your living space with their good wishes and festive cheer.  So do send a card…. but do it right.

A Year’s End

Christmas always begins with the children’s concerts and nativity plays. Roisin ”I don’t do singing’ is a member of the school choir below and Mia (above) was cast as an Angel this year!

Christmas Eve Mass was made all the better by Cumann Naomh Brid Traditional Musicians who played. Mia is on tin whistle on the far right!
My dear old dad used to always say that ‘kids knock more fun out of the box that the toy that came in it’… you were dead right Dad!


We finally got our wished for snow on New Years Eve, making it magical! The next day Simba ventured out and got pelted with a snow ball. His face says it all!!!!

You need snow in the garden to make a Christmas Tree complete!

And so the sun sets at the end of the first day of a brand new year and new decade.

HAPPY NEW YEAR TO EVERYONE….. May 2010 be as magical and perfect as its first few hours!

FEELIN’ THE LOVE AT CHRISTMAS

By Dylan Da Dog

Now I can explain this picture and I would immediately draw your attention to the expression on Simba’s face. He is positively blissful! I think I was keeping him warm, although to be honest that was not my intention.

Over the Christmas, Simba had taken to sleeping on MY rocking chair (well Barbara thinks its hers – but it is actually mine). For a couple of days I tried sitting on the floor staring up at him to make him move. But that didn’t work and so I decided to take more direct action and climb up and sit on him. That kindof backfired though, as he seemed to like it! So it is now a race to see who gets the rocking chair first!

I did get some walks in over Christmas and boy was it very cold. There was nothing like coming home to find the fire lit and the glow of some candles and I could snuggle up on the sofa with my other pal, Pasqua!

Hope your Christmas was as good as mine!
Barbara will be back soon,……. apparently!
Lots of love from
Dylan