Planning For Christmas

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It is a little over 7 weeks until Christmas so it is time I at least gave some thought to plans for the festive season.

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This year we will be at home for Christmas and most of the family will be joining us with some coming from interstate and overseas.  It is a few years since we have been at home for Christmas Day as the last 3 years have included 2 Christmases in Melbourne and another at the beach.  I am looking forward to the opportunity to be together and share a meal on Christmas Day.  That is the essence of Christmas for me.  I expect there will be fun times and other meals to share during the extended break at that time.

I will most likely be catering for 9 adults and 3 children (9, 7 and 6).  There are food allergies/preferences to consider so there will be no gluten, seafood, nuts, roast pork or kiwifruit.  I will have to put my thinking cap on as I like to come up with some new things to try as well as tried and true favourites.

We tend to keep the gift-giving modest and low-key as most of us do not really need more ‘stuff’ in our lives.  I try to include experience gifts for our grandchildren as they will remember those far more readily than another pile of toys.

What do your Christmas preparations include?

 

More Holiday Shopping

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We have been home from our holiday for 3 days now and it is over a week since my last post.

I hope you all had a relaxed and happy Christmas, wherever you were and whatever you did.  We had a delightful day which we shared with our daughters and some festive food but did not over-indulge.

The other shopping I did on my holiday was a little more planned than the random collection from my last post.  I went to my favourite shop in Melbourne, Rivette & Blair, where I replenished my supply of tops.

The are all simple styles and basic colours that will mix and match with existing pieces in my wardrobe.

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A simple v-neck black and white tee.

The same style in plain red.

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3/4 sleeve red with scoop neck for cooler days.

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Both of the red ones are waiting to be ironed.

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Plain black linen with pleats at neckline.  This is the same style as 2 spotted tops I already had.

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Finally, a loose navy v-neck top in very fine polyester.  It is super light and cool.

I look forward to sharing the different ways I wear these as I mix and match with shorts, trousers and skirts.

Christmas Cheer

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Unlike some other years I have written very little about Christmas this year.

We decided not to put up the tree this year as we will be away for Christmas.

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Yesterday we had a small Christmas celebration with my immediate family as we will not see them on Christmas Day.  We went out for a casual lunch, then went to the local playground so that our 2 granddaughters could use up some excess energy.  Finally, we adjourned to my brother’s place were we shared some sweet nibbles and drinks while we opened our gifts.  It was a low-key but perfect day.

The only thing that I had not done was send cards/letter/emails.  This afternoon I sat done and wrote a generic letter, added a couple of relevant photographs and sent it off to various corners of Australia and overseas with a couple of clicks.  I still have a small number of cards to post and I will do that tomorrow and hopefully they will still arrive in time for Christmas.

I am not sure how many blog posts will happen over the next week so I will take this opportunity to wish you all a very merry Christmas and a safe and peaceful New Year.

 

Christmas – Traditions & Expectations

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It is less than 3 weeks until Christmas and there is no doubt that it is one of the most stressful times of the year.  This is partly due to the pressure we put on ourselves as a response to the media and advertising hype that invades our lives.

The images and expectations are thrown at us every day but reach a crescendo at this time of the year.  Perfect gifts, on-trend decorating, mountains of food and joyous relationships are portrayed in all types of media.  We have been exposed to these expectations for our whole lives so we continue to burden ourselves with our quest for the ‘perfect’ Christmas.

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Then there are traditions.  The definition of this innocuous little word is:  “the transmission of customs or beliefs from generation to generation, or the fact of being passed on in this way”  Many families have traditions around Christmas and this can be a lovely touchpoint, especially for children.  It could be putting out reindeer food on Christmas Eve, hanging stockings on the end of your bed, going to Midnight Mass, viewing Christmas lights in your suburb or putting up the Christmas tree on a certain date.  All of these and many other little things are what can make Christmas special for your family.

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The problem with traditions is that they can actually be a cover for a guilt trip.  You know the scenario – “but we always have hot turkey lunch” – when you would really rather be playing cricket at the beach and eating a burger from the deli across the road.  That might be a bit extreme but it is an example of the sort of situations that arise every year in many families.

Expectations need to be modified as children grow and families take on different forms.  What is a fun activity for a 5 and 8 year old might be utterly tiresome for those same children 10 years later.  Trying to force them to conform to ‘traditions’ that you set up will only drive them away.

The addition of partners adds a whole new dimension as they have their own family and that needs to be respected, too.  In time there will be grandchildren and the whole cycle begins again.

The end result of striving for the perfect Christmas is generally less than perfect and can be downright horrible so perhaps it is time to reassess.  Set realistic goals, enjoy the moment and don’t set yourself responsible for the behaviour and happiness of others – that is their responsibility.

What is your experience?  Do you have traditions?  Are you prepared to let things go as circumstances change?

Done and Dusted

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Christmas is over, or in the words of Uncle D, “Well, that’s Christmas buggered for another year!”

I must confess that I was anything but organised this year but I am safe in the knowledge that I will have an opportunity to improve in 2015.  I did not even send cards/emails this year but I am planning to do make that a job for the coming week as I am at home and there will be time to make it meaningful correspondence.

We spent time at Caloundra with the family and had a most enjoyable short break.

2014-12-27 01Decorating the tree which we took with us.

2014-12-27 02Gifts under the tree and ready to go.

2014-12-27 03Trying on new hat and sunglasses.

2014-12-27 04Dressed and ready to go out for lunch.

2014-12-27 05Everyone is now back at their respective homes in 2 different states.  The Duke and I have unpacked and things will gradually return to normal.  As always, I am keen make the New Year a great one but more on that another day.

Best wishes to you and yours for Christmas and the New Year.

Christmas is Coming

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I know that the year is rolling by and before we know it Christmas will be upon us.  In fact I read this comment on a discussion forum a couple of days ago,

“Everyone is so busy and it will get even busier as it gets closer to Xmas… which I haven’t planned anything….”

This got me thinking as to why everything has to be busy in the lead-up to Christmas.  I love Christmas for the joy of being able to share the day with my family, especially the grandchildren.  I do not enjoy the commercialism of it nor the endless round of parties, celebrations and gift-giving.  The associated stress and pressure is simply not worth it.

Christmas Shopping

I try to switch off to most advertising at any time but I find it particularly insidious at this time of the year.  Every conceivable type of business is exhorting us to buy their goods so that they can be delivered by Christmas.  Worse still, are the offers of no repayments until the New Year etc, etc.  Just remember that everything has to be paid for at sometime and do you really want to be paying for Christmas at this time next year?

Like many other aspects of our life, we have managed to eliminate a lot of unnecessary Christmas festivities and focus on what is important to us.

This year we will be keeping it simple.

Neither The Duke nor I attend any work functions.
The Duke and I will go to a local festive gathering.  It is an opportunity to socialise with our neighbours and is hosted by a different family each year.  Everybody brings their own drinks and a plate of food to share.
We will take our grand-daughters to see the Christmas lights in our area. I want to take them to a carol service at the local church.
We will spend 5 days at the beach with family.
Christmas lunch will be at my sister’s place with extended family.
Gift giving for the family will focus on experiences and/or consumable gifts.

Over the next 6 weeks I will share some of the things you can do and make in the lead-up to Christmas which are memorable but relatively easy on the budget.  Please share any special ideas from your family.

In the meantime, here is a photo I took yesterday when I went to Caloundra to meet some friends for lunch.  I am hoping for some similarly spectacular weather when we spend some time there at Christmas.

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The Christmas Menu

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As you know we are staying in a holiday apartment so Christmas this year is a little different.  I do have access to some basic oils and condiments, however, the full range of pantry ‘essentials’ that I take for granted at home are not all here.

On Sunday evening I finally made some effort to plan our Christmas Day menu but it was still really flexible when we went shopping at the Queen Victoria Markets yesterday.  The plan evolved as I found various items.  Today I went to the local shops to pick up the last few things I would need and I have started the preparation.

Here is the menu.

NIBBLES

Cracker biscuits and vegie sticks with dips – beetroot, pumpkin, carrot & coriander and 1 other which I can’t remember.

ENTREE

Grilled prosciutto-wrapped haloumi and grilled asparagus with roasted capsicum salsa

MAINS

Chicken roll with spinach and pinenut stuffing
Seared Atlantic salmon with lime and cucumberPotato salad with herbed mayonnaise dressing
Roasted balsamic pumpkin, red onion and feta salad
Rocket, avocado, tomato and capsicum salad

DESSERT

Berry meringue smash

It is designed to be a simple yet special meal which I can prepare in an unfamiliar kitchen with minimal extra ingredients.  I have made the pumpkin salad, cooked the potatoes, wrapped the haloumi in prosciutto, roasted the capsicum and made the salsa.

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Tomorrow I will assemble the other salads, roast the chicken and make the dessert.  The Duke will cook the asparagus, haloumi and salmon on the BBQ.

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I am looking forward to sharing a relaxing day with my family.

 

 

A Quiet Christmas

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You may or may not have noticed the lack of posts about getting organised for Christmas.  That was because I really have done very little.  We are going to be travelling interstate so it will be somewhat different to most years.

Things I have done:

Made a cake
Organised gifts for our children and granchildren
Attended the annual Christmas drinks with neighbours from our road
Sent a small number of cards and emails
Had a BBQ with my mother and siblings before we all head in different directions for Christmas

Things I have not done:

Put up a tree
Rushed around buying gifts for lots of people
Attended work Christmas functions
Planned a huge feast

2013-12-17 01This evening we called in to visit our daughter and family and give them their Christmas presents.  The highlight was explaining to Miss O and Izz that we will be going to Sydney on New Year’s Day to see “The Lion KIng” for their Christmas gift from us.

The Duke and I will not be exchanging particular gifts but instead we are saving towards our planned trip to the UK later next year.

We will be spending Christmas Day with my mother and our younger daughter in Melbourne.  We are staying in rented accommodation so I will decide on a menu based on the weather and also availability of kitchen equipment/utensils.  We will have access to an excellent of fresh food from the market and we will enjoy creating a special meal without over-indulging.  A laptop and the internet means that I will be able to use virtually any recipe I could possibly want.

I will spend some time reflecting on the year that was.  2013 has had some challenges which we have survived and I am looking forward to a fresh slate – 2014!

What are your plans?

A Year in Review

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Here we are, almost at the end of another year and as usual I try to take time to think about what I have done and my plans for the new year.

I was looking back at some of my posts from around 12 moths ago and although I have achieved a lot this year, some of my lofty ideals did not come to fruition.  You can check out my goals here.  The photo project was an epic failure but everything else (and much besides was done).

The organising for Christmas also fell by the wayside but it was all achieved before 25th December.  My goal is to do better in 2013.

The important thing when you find that the achievement did not measure up to the goal you set is to simply pick yourself up, dust off and try again.  That is what I love about a new year – it is a clean slate.

I have my 2013 diary and have resolved to use it properly this year instead of cluttering my brain with 1001 things I have to remember.  An Excel spreadsheet is set up to record our spending so that we can see where the money goes.  The emails are sorted/deleted/archived/actioned/unsubscribed as required and I will keep this up-to-date each week.

Our holiday in March is planned and booked.

How was your 2012?  What do you plan to achieve or do differently next year?

How Green Was My Christmas?

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Well, Christmas is over for another year and I hope it was a good one for you and your families.

One of my goals was to reduce our overall environmental impact from the festivities so it is probably time to review what I did and whether it made a difference.

Cards – I only sent 11 Christmas cards by post this year.  This is a significant reduction over the years.  There was a time when I posted between 50 and 60 cards each year.  I sent ecards and emails with our family newsletter.  These are generally well-received, save time and money for me, reduce clutter for the recipient.  I will continue to do this.

Gift-wrapping – this year I made fabric gift bags to use which seems to have been successful in making a significant reduction in the amount of wrapping paper which ended up in the recycling bin.  There was still some from gifts we received but that may change in time, who knows?  Perhaps I will make some for Belle to use next year as well.

Gifts – I made a few hand-made gifts and also a couple of experience gifts and some Oxfam Unwrapped gifts which seemed to please the recipients.  I need to plan my handmade items a bit further in advance next year.  I received a couple of practical and requested gifts so I was very happy.  A bathmat, colander, air mattress, gluten-free sauce and dressing and a Kathmandu voucher as well as a promise of dinner when we are next in Melbourne.  We do not want to be overwhelmed by ‘stuff’ and my family understand that. Yay!!

Food – we made a conscious effort not to over-cater and were mostly successful.  I have fruit cake leftover as well as a little smoked salmon and some cold, grilled chicken.  All of this will be stored appropriately and used to avoid any waste.  We had a special meal with close family but did not over-indulge.  Next year I would like to try to be more organised with my garden and be able to use more home-grown produce.

I am pretty happy with our achievements and will continue to  work on improving each year.

I would love to hear about your celebrations – what worked and what didn’t?