Monday, 22 November 2010



In a few days citizens of the United States of America will be celebrating Thanksgiving both at home and wherever they are all around the world. In less than five weeks Christmas will be celebrated all around the world followed shortly after by New Year. Down Under we are also celebrating the beginning of Summer Holidays and lots of beach time.


I've been reading a lot of posts by people who are concerned about managing their food intake and stress levels around the holidays. It's a time of elaborate decorations, traditional foods, feasting, and family gatherings. With 71 Christmas Seasons under my belly I've learned a little wisdom and have some amazing memories, some hard and some beautiful.


About, God help me I must be growing old, 30 years ago I wanted to give my family a perfect Christmas.

The background to this decision lay in my busy-ness. Our children were aged about 15, 13, 9 and the son in this photo was 4 years old.

December was one of our busiest months. So much planting, so much harvesting and strawberries to pick and pack. Christmas Eve was beyond belief. We never had enough strawberries and worked hard to pick and pack in time for people to collect orders plus the shop was extra busy with people buying their fresh fruit and veggies for the holiday feasting. I remember getting the last strawberry order out by 7 pm one Christmas Eve and I still hadn't done any shopping so I rushed into town, thankful the shops stayed open until midnight.

The year I'm writing about I did some advance planning. TWJ's father was joining us. His wife had died a couple of years previous and he had come to live near us. I wanted to have a special family time, the best Christmas possible. Achieving this was going to be a challenge because there were huge pressures on our time.

I decided that to get everything done to my satisfaction I would work on the final preparation through the night. Now I cannot remember what food I served, but what hadn't already been made, like the rich Christmas pudding and fruit cake, I did that night, ready to cook in the morning. Our feast is traditionally middle of the day so once over and the dishes done an afternoon of lazing around is possible. There is always more than enough food for the evening meal without any further preparation.

There was housework. I wanted the house to be pristine and with our busy life it would take a little time to vacuum, dust and tidy. Knowing me, I probably had laundry to fold and put away as well. Decorations needed to be completed and presents wrapped, veggies and stuffing to make, turkey to stuff and truss, cream to whip, pavlova to make, strawberries to wash, non-alcoholic fruit punch to chill and more. I wanted to give TWJ and our children a special breakfast with a pretty table to get this day of celebration off to a good start.

I achieved all that I planned. I finished my night-time preparation about 4.30 am but didn't go to bed because 1 hour of sleep would have left me feeling worse than ever. I filled in the time until the children woke with a quiet hour or so finishing the small touches that make things special.

The day was going well. Everything looked lovely. Everyone was happy. I was tired but that was OK. I'd achieved what I set out to do.

We all sat down to a lovely feast and conversation was general. Until ...... TWJ's Dad said something that I thought was totally wrong and I responded. Whoops! You can tell where this is going. In the finish I called him a stubborn old man. Which incidentally he was. But of course he took umbrage. Wouldn't you? He left the table and walked out of our house and never forgave me. Mind you I didn't apologise. On my own worst judgement I followed TWJ's advise and said nothing. We did talk a little after that but whatever relationship had been building was forever harmed and he died a few years later never knowing how sorry I was.

All our children remember of that perfect Christmas Day is that there was some kind of argument that estranged them from their Grandfather for a time.

In the Book of Wisdom, called Proverbs, chapter 21, verse 9, King Solomon writes:-

Better to live alone in a tumbledown shack
than share a mansion with a nagging spouse.

You could add to that, Better to eat dry crusts than share a magnificent feast.



Older and wiser, although you are welcome to question that statement, I like to have the simplest of meals with just small touches of elegance to celebrate the wonderfulness of Christmas.


In this house we will put up a couple of strings of pretty lights and an angel that glows. I'll possibly decorate a tree but it will only be for TWJ and I so maybe not. If I do I can choose between fresh pine and the artificial one and I won't be buying any new decorations. I have a wall hanging with the story of Christmas. That's it.


My preferred luncheon consists of freshly cooked ham, boiled baby potatoes, and a salad of all kinds of fresh veggies with crisp lettuce. Maybe pavlova but strawberries and fresh whipped cream always taste pretty special at this time of year. I might have a miniature steamed Christmas pudding rich with dried fruit but that depends on whether I get my act together and make them in the next week. I think this year we are meeting with some extended family in the afternoon. Cold drinks will be more important than food by then. We can expect a sunny day with a temperature around 25'C/80'F. Some of us will swim in the sea. Or it might be cold and wet or even warm and wet. Who knows this far out.

We shall have our usual breakfast. TWJ makes porridge with rolled oats in the microwave and I will have a protein, berry smoothie. If we want an evening meal TWJ will make a ham sandwich and I will have salad. The focus will be simplicity of menu and being with whatever family is here. I think we will be going to Mum's for lunch and there will only be the four of us. All three of my sons will be in the South Island. Later we will all come back to Matarangi and join our niece and her family. It's very different now with family grown up and scattered.


Chris H said...

WE too have simplified our Christmas Day Feast! BBQ, everyone brings a plate, no fuss or bother. No getting me tits in a knot over anything!
I hope you have a nice 'simple' Christmas Day too.

Anne said...

Our Christmas dinner will also be simple, nice but simple and of course many thoughts about those that aren't with us on the day.

Cammy said...

Your holiday sounds lovely! I'm all for simpler and fortunately, my family agrees it's the best way to go.

Merikay said...

I am facing the tension of the upcoming Thanksgiving. My doughtier, her husband, the two grandsons and their live in baby sitter will be coming for several days.

Their home is perfect. She has a housekeeper, the baby sitter has chores, and her husband cleans the kitchen every evening and does many other house cleaning tasks.

If something breaks, it gets fixed right away.

My husband does nothing. For him intending to fix or replace is the same as doing it.

I have a hard time cleaning a house that I do not love.

ladyofthehouse said...

There's a wonderful website called Allabouthim that deals with planning for Christmas months in advance by taking baby steps each week so that come the rush of the holidays you can just enjoy without the stress. I try to follow their suggestions, but always fall behind. That being said, I too have simplified quite a bit. It's so important to keep the focus where it belongs and enjoy the time with your family.
Great post :)

Phyllis said...

Living in a fifthwheel leaves little room for decorations nor elaborate cooking. My younger daughter always overdoes it and then is exhausted afterward. She says she is a Type A personality. I would have to agree.

As your story illustrates, it's the people that count, not the frills.