Sunday, December 28, 2008

A good Christmas. There were just the five of us on Christmas Day – the Husband, Stepdaughter, Stepson, Father-in-Law and myself. It’s extraordinary how much shopping, cooking and general Christmas preparation there was in the days running up to The Day for such a small number of people.

I suspect that part of the thing is the expectations put on everyone by the media for THAT Meal. I lost count of the number of articles in magazines and newspapers on the run up to Christmas on how to cook That Dinner. In addition for the two weeks before Christmas the tv channels had lots of programmes by all the famous chefs on how to cook the meal – I wouldn’t mind but all of them had different ways of cooking it and on what accompaniments to include and how to make them: Nigella Lawson soaked the turkey in water overnight, Jamie Oliver forced flavoured butter between the skin and flesh of the turkey, etc, etc. Those who are not confident on how to cook the meal would find it easy to get confused over what to do. It is, of course, a basic roast meal, only with several additional dishes and shouldn’t worry anyone if you take it a step at a time. Certainly our Christmas dinner turned out very well indeed.

Anyway, the Father-in-Law has returned home in time to spend the afternoon and evening of Boxing Day with his daughter and her family. We are now having a good time relaxing and working through the Christmas leftovers. But what do we do with all that leftover cream? We always buy too much cream, both plain and flavoured, and never learn to buy less.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Christmas seems to have come very quickly this year, not helped by the fact that the media have been forcing it down our throats ever since Bonfire night.

For our family Christmas started yesterday when the Husband and Stepson went to their church for the annual carol ceremony. Today the Stepson comes to stay with us for a few days. Tomorrow the Husband and I drive over to Whitstable to pick up the Father-in-Law and drive him back here. The following day, Christmas Eve, we’ll have a family day with the Stepdaughter arriving after work presumably in the evening. Christmas Day we are all together until after lunch, when the Stepson goes back to his mother’s house. And Boxing Day we take the Father-in-Law back home to Whitstable where he will spend some time with his daughter and her family.

Listed like that it doesn’t seem a very pressured time. But I’m finding myself getting all tense at the thought of all that Christmas involves: including all the food shopping, cooking etc. Such pressures are put on ourselves this time of year, mainly by ourselves, to make everything perfect. And it doesn’t have to be perfect; it’s just the family enjoying ourselves by being together.

Don’t have a perfect, stressful Christmas. Instead have a relaxed and enjoyable Christmas, everyone.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Wonderful News

Shortly after 8.00 am this morning the Husband and I received a phone call from the Stepdaughter. She had heard that she had passed her last set of exams and is now entitled to have the letters CII (Chartered Insurance Institute) after her name. This is exceptionally good when you realise that she did all her studying and work for her exams in addition to holding down a full time job in the insurance industry.

Well done. We are proud of you.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Christmas shopping

Does anyone else have difficulty buying presents, whether Christmas or birthdays, especially for men? I know I do, especially as I refuse to go the boring route of socks. I think the thing with our family is that we are all strong minded individuals with our own personal interests and passions. So we decided some years ago that the only thing to do was to issue a “wishlist” of things you would like, so that other members of the family can decide what to buy you that they know you would like.

The one who is especially difficult to buy for is the Stepson. He has, like the rest of us, very individual likes and dislikes. He has, of course, a passion for history and is currently working for his Ph.D at Cambridge University. He has interests and loves outside this too. I well remember trekking the shops looking for a port decanter and cheeseboard for his 19th Christmas on this earth, for him to use at parties in his rooms at college. His wishlists then can be quite something. When they eventually arrive.

So last year he did not produce his list until it was too late to buy anything online (our family works on the principle that the only way to buy Christmas gifts is on the internet when you get the best prices and don’t have the stress of battling through crowds in shops). This year all three of us – his sister, the Husband and I – all have been making the point (i.e. nagging) to him for some time that we need his list before it is too late this year. So yesterday, he sent out a rather exasperated e-mail. It says:

Right here is my wishlist: Beauty and the Beast; Little Mermaid; I
Claudius; Drop the Dead Donkey 1-3; Frasier 1 & 2. Right, back to

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Catching Up

Several things have happened since I last posted here and up to now I haven’t written about them. The first one that happened, because I just wanted to process it in my mind before I wrote about it. Subsequent things happened once I had thought about the first. Then, once everything had more or less settled down, the Husband took over the computer. He’s out tonight so I can use it – I strongly suspect that tomorrow he’ll be on it again.

The first thing happened on the Friday after I last posted here. I received a phone call from my brother to say that my mother had been taken into hospital after another heart attack, her heart already badly damaged from other attacks, and that I should get to the hospital as soon as possible as it could be the end. So the Husband and I threw a few things in an overnight bag and set off for Wales. The journey should take about 3.5 hours - it took us 5.5 hours, with several extensive traffic jams and torrential rain. When we finally got to Cardiff we went straight to the hospital where she was clearly very ill indeed, and also in massive pain. We stayed late into the evening and then onto my brother's, who put us up for the night. 08.10 the following morning we got a call to go straight in as her health was deteriorating. When we got there though she had rallied a bit. She continued to do so enough for the hospital to send her back to her nursing home (it employs trained nurses, experts in chronic care) as they needed her bed for another patient. She remains very, very weak and can hardly stay awake for more than a few minutes at a time. We came home eventually and tried to settle down. She is no better though and I doubt will ever be. I've been told that she could have another heart attack at any time and that the next one will probably kill her - this could be tomorrow or months ahead - and that I should keep my mobile phone on and with me at all times. Needless to say I've felt devastated about this and it has taken a while to feel human again. Every time I speak to her on the phone her voice is so weak and she can only stay awake for a couple of minutes. I now wince and worry every time either the main phone or my mobile rings.

Life continues though and with something really good. Saturday 29th November was the Stepson's graduation ceremony when in addition to having the Bachelor of Arts (BA) he now also is a Master of Philosophy (M.Phil. Cantab). The Husband and I went, of course, and met up with the Stepson’s mother. The ceremony was very similar to the one we went to the summer of 2007, although each college was presenting just a few graduands at the Senate House rather than masses of BA’s and beforehand lunch was in one of the rooms of Pembroke College, rather than a marquee. After the actual ceremony the Stepson was busy for an hour and so we went into the Fitzwilliam museum and saw and excellent exhibition. Then when he was able to join us we all went off and had lunch in a local restaurant. It was a wonderful day and going made you feel better just concentrating on life, youthful energy and the future. We expect two further graduation ceremonies: in two years time the Stepson's current B.A. will be converted to an M.A and then in three years time hyis Ph. D. We can hardly wait.

The day before we went to Cambridge I broke a tooth and have spent the time since trying to get it sorted out. I’ve had a great deal of pain, three appointments with the dentist and another one tomorrow. If I can get near the computer afterwards I’ll write more on the saga and the wonders of Cerec.

I haven’t been able to get near our p.c. much the last couple of days because, at this time of the year the Husband likes to take it over almost completely. He goes to two evening classes each week, one on music appreciation and the other to learn how to sing. He is doing great guns on both and is especially bucked at the complementary things his singing teacher has said about his voice. Anyway, each Christmas he likes to put together a playlist of Christmas music on iTunes. This can take a while because he’s rather slow at the computer and he always complains that Apple’s constant upgrades of the iTunes software make the system less easy to use. I have a very strong suspicion he plans to take over the computer tomorrow as well, to finish what he is doing.