Sunday, 14 December 2008

Christmas list-making

Christmas has arrived in the Potty household.

The tree is up, and the cards are being blu-tacked to the book shelves in the time-honoured way I learnt from my parents. That is, with just enough blu-tac to stay up when you install them, but not quite enough to make it through the night. Then, when you walk into the sitting room in the morning, they are lying like 'ex-cards' - cards that have had enough and simply can't take being forced to co-exist next to all my rubbish chick-lit novels any longer - all over the floor...

The advent calendar previously referred to here is in full swing, and amazingly we are still on track to install the Infant Jesus in his manger on 24th December. So far Boy #2 has resisted velcro temptation and left the little characters where they should be - on the calendar, trekking their way each day closer to the stable. Heaven help me if the Boys realise that each of them (palm trees included) have loops on the back to allow them to be used as finger puppets. We would have shows like 'The Three Kings go on a Train' and 'T-Rex and the Shepherds' to sit through every night...

Did I mention the Tree is up? I did? It's just that this fact astounds me. Growing up, my mother was - and still is - adamant that Christmas Trees go up on Christmas Eve. Not before. Never before. An early Christmas tree was tantamount to admitting that you don't make your own mince pies, as far as she was concerned (well, she probably wasn't, but that's how it seemed to me). 'Not Us', if you know what I mean. So for years, after I left home, that's when the tree went up. 24th December, not a minute earlier.

Children change all that though, don't they? The levels of excitement about Christmas have been building here for some time now, and what with the majority of Husband's family arriving for lunch yesterday and a Boy who couldn't quite understand why everyone else got their tree so much earlier than us, I caved and agreed we would put it up before the guests got here. Which was when, scenting an easy kill, Boy #1 started to make 'additional demands'...

1. Father Christmas doesn't only have a mince pie when he does his rounds. He has cookies. Where are our cookies to give to him? (Note to self: make nut-free cookies).

2. Trees look lovely all decorated, don't they mama? Especially when they've got cookies on them. We are going to have cookies on ours, aren't we? Mama? Because at school we talked about Christmas trees, and everyone said that they always had cookies. And I said we did too. Because we did, last year, didn't we? (Blast. He remembers the cookies. Note to self: Make cookies tonight).

3. And they have to be decorated cookies, don't they? Otherwise they just look boooooring.... Last year our cookies looked beautiful, mama! (Who was that woman in charge last year? She clearly had too much time on her hands. Note to self: Make and ice cookes tonight).

It was at this point in the proceedings on Friday afternoon that I made the mistake of asking Husband, who was in charge of catering arrangements for the next day when his family visited for lunch, what he had planned for pudding. Nothing, it transpired. Not because he had thought about it and decided that after the Indonesian Rijstaffel (trans: Indonesian feast) he was making no-one would have any room. No, more because - well, he just hadn't thought about it.

This was Not On. One of his family is famed throughout the land for her desserts. I may not be particularly concerned about appearances but the thought of the 'what a lovely lunch, and no I really didn't need any pudding' comments that would follow if we simply turfed them off the table once the rice ran out were too much for me.

With plenty of eggs in the fridge and the chance of an early-bird trip to Sainsbury to pick up some strawberries and cream, Eton Mess was the sweet of choice. Though of course, meringues need to be made the night before, so...

4. Note to self; make meringues after the cookies have been baked and iced... Easy, right? What could go wrong? (As it turned out, getting the wrong type of cream, that's what - but barefaced cheek and a little nerve will get you through most situations and we had liquid Eton Mess instead - and no-one was any the wiser. Or, if they were, they were too polite to mention it...)

That same evening I fielded a call from my mother-in-law, demanding Christmas lists with menaces.

5. Note to self: make Christmas list...

So in between baking the cookies, making the meringues, icing the cookies and panicking because I couldn't find the decorations (what fool put them out of sight on top of a cupboard in Boy #2's bedroom? In the same place they always go? Aaah yes. That would be me.) , I wrote one. It makes for sobering reading - not because it's practical, or sensible, but in fact because it's neither of those things. So far it consists of 4 cd's (Katy Perry, Razorlight, Lily Allen - even though I know that's not out yet - and The Kaiser Chiefs), anything sparkly, pretty, and over £50 from Melissa McArthur on the Kings Road, and - oh, here is a sensible one actually, somebody pass me the Big Slipper - a 'One Touch' can opener.

It's not exactly... inspiring, is it?

I'm almost 42 years old. There are a whole load of things that should be on that list that aren't. Like... a pa to organise paying the bills on time and before the final demand drops onto the door mat. Like... a course in how to prepare and cook fish properly (now that's what I call grown up). Like an alarm not just to tell me when to get up in the morning, but when to go to bed the night before. New tea-towels. Place mats. Perhaps an unchipped glass vase or two. A safe to put our important 'stuff' into in case of break-ins or fire. Important 'stuff' to put into a safe, for that matter. New boobs. A tummy tuck. The universally-desired extra hour in the day (or, in my case, extra hour at night - for sleeping).

6. Note to self: Make lists. Get organised. Grow up.


  1. When I was at home, our Christmas decorations always went up the weekend before Christmas and not before. If mum had her way they'd be down again on Boxing Day but that's a whole other story.

  2. A jar key. You forgot to put a jar key on the list. When you get to our age, a jar key becomes indispensable. Arthritic fingers are a killer.

    Congrats on the tree, you failed to give detail on the decorations - apart from the cookies that is. So, is it kitsch and fluffy? All boa feathers and disco balls? Sober, serious, red and green? Covered with kid tat? A tree's decorations says SOOOO much about a person. We use diamond pendants, they are classic and as the song says, forever. It takes all the worry out of Christmas having diamonds on the tree.


  3. ... the only thing I could think of recently that I wanted ... a butter dish.

    This is not because I don't need anything. I need hundreds of things - but if I write that list I'll be here for weeks, and I don't have enough time left in my schedule to actually think.

    What is my life coming to?!

    I am 30 years old and my only request is ... a butter dish.

  4. You write full of humor about all the things you need to do to make everybody happy. I guess life is that way when you are in the middle of raising children and you also have other family members to consider.

    Enjoy these years though while you can, you'll also have the most fun that you'll ever have at Christmastime. I always thought it was great to experience the holidays through the eyes of my children when they were little and be full of awe like they were.

    I'm glad you put up the tree. It can be such a magical thing to a child. I remember adoring our tree and being mesmerized by it. I'm sure your little guys feel the same way.

    You're great for baking cookies with icing on them. That is such a nice tradition to have started. How long do they last on the tree?

  5. Come to think of it, my ideal list would be very similar to yours. Especially the alarm to go to bed bit! Ooh... and a husband who can cook..but sounds like you already have one, I'm sooo jealous!

  6. I just asked my Mum to send me a new double-ended oven mitt - how tragic is that?! Admittedly it was because she was talking about going to one of my favourite kitchen places and did I need anything, but an oven mitt . . . I'm claiming early senility.

    My tree goes up on 24th December too. In my childminding days we had the wonderful 'children's tree' with all the handmade lovelies and cheap tat beautifully arranged by said children from 1st December onwards (usually on a daily basis) but, once my boys were older, on the 24th off 'it' went and 'our' tree came out along with all its shimmering glass ornaments and little metal bells. No more children's tree now but the my tree still waits until the 24th. Ooh and every year I have to buy a few new ornaments, usually Czech glass ones. Last year I 'had' to buy a bigger tree as well because it was getting a bit crowded on the old one...

  7. If you are almost 42, do all that, and don't think you are grown up already? Then I'm hopeless. I'll never get there.

    Seriously...I'm not making a thing for Christmas. I don't do that. Ever. My sister-in-law plans to make some fantastic breakfast, I'm leaving dinner to my mother and I'm just bringing me, my hubby and my 2-year old to inhale it all. You are steps and steps and steps above most.

    I am indeed impressed and embarrassed! (at myself of course...embarrassed I mean. The impressed is at you, of course!)

  8. Blimey Potty, all that and it's not EVEN Christmas yet! Take it easy or you will be exhausted for the big day!

    How about asking for a lovely massage for the new year to recover from it all?

    BM x

  9. My star present last year was a garlic crusher. Not quite rock and roll!

    Oh - and I caved and popped into Marilyn Moore on the King's Rd on Saturday. Do go. Great for pressies (for you of course) - virtually all cashmere is £49 down from £160. So tempting!!

  10. In my usual spirit of gratuitous over-sharing let me say that my tummy tuck was the best thing EVER. In the world. But it hurt like hell. God, I love my new tummy, even if they couldn't do anything much for the stretchmarks.

    Now. Do you do Nigella's Christmas decoration cookies? Every year I do them and every year it precipitates a weeping nervous breakdown with icing sugar and silver balls down my bra. And they all get eaten within two days and all I find are little piles of ribbon loops. Why? It's all a bit Sysyphean, but I can't help myself.

  11. i think you sound remarkably organised and grown up frankly. x

  12. Well, as I mentioned, I've been e-mailing "ideas" with links, to the Ball & Chain for a few weeks now. He wrapped five presents at the weekend so I'm hoping he got me at least one thing I hinted at. Really though, don't we all just need a wife for Xmas?

  13. NH Mum - what whole other story? WHAT?

    Pig, good point, a jar key is now added to the list... As for the tree, nothing fancy I'm afraid; mainly gold, red, some silver a few biscuits (growing less by the minute), some blue and gold and - oh, it's a mish-mash, who am I kidding? But white lights. Always white... Diamond pendants are a good idea though - also noted!

    Laura, I'm sure I had something other on my list than a butter dish when I was still a CHILD of 30... But then I was pre-kids, so as you know, things change when they turn up.

    Irene - thankyou, and you see straight to the heart of the matter on the cookies, as ever. How long do they last? Well, it depends how high up on the tree they are. Funnily enough those at the top last a lot longer than those at the bottom. I wonder why?

    AM, having a husband who CAN cook doesn't necessarily = one who WILL... (Though yes, it's very useful that he has that skill!)

    Sharon - it's Lakeland, right? Tell me I'm right. My sis (aka Footballer's Knees) recently fell foul of a trip to their store in the Lake District. £100+ she finally fell out of the store, bruised, battered, but unbowed...

    J's Mommy - do not for a moment imagine I'm cooking Christmas lunch myself. No way, no how. Which is why we too are going to MY mother's. (So don't be that impressed)

    BM, what a good plan. Or a facial? Can I have that instead?

    Mud, why did you have to tell me that? WHY?????

    Jaywalker, you have a tummy tuck? Really? I salute you. It's on my wish list but I'm much too sissy to actually go through with it... And as for the cookies, I'm much more white trash than that. The recipe is from an old Sainsbury mag, though I do use silver balls. And as for their lasting? Chance would be a fine thing...

    RM, wonderful how blogs are such an accurate reflection of real life, isn't it...?

    EPM, good point. But she better not be high maintenance. I've got a husband for that already.

  14. yup. sweet torture but worth it!

  15. My husband hails from the same school of Christmas as your mum, influenced by his own parents. He is still coming to terms with the fact that most people put their trees up much earlier than the 24th. He did put ours up on Saturday, but I could have sworn there were mutterings of it being too early....Plus, he is also most reluctant to buy, rather than make, mince pies. Although we tried Duchy Originals last year and he had to admit they were pretty good.

  16. Yeah, well, good luck on that list.It sounds more like a New Year's Resolution list than a one day To Do List. You're either exhausted today or dead. I'm not sure which.

    And I have to ask - what is Eton Mess?

  17. Jaywalker, you are a brave - and no-doubt flat-stomached - soul.

    NVG; of course, you could always buy the Duchy Originals, throw some flour around, 'distress' them in an Alison Pearson style with a rolling pin, and he'll never know you didn't do it yourself!

    RC, oh you have a treat in store. Check this out:,1395,RC.html
    But also know it does work - though not as well - with shop-bought meringues. And whilst it might seem a pain to sieve the strawberry pips out of the puree, it's really worth it.


  18. Did we know each other at any time when I was in the UK? Yes it IS Lakeland. I still have Mum bringing things over when she visits. Don't know what I'd do without the occasional fix ;-) she's 82 now, it's a bit of a worry, but is planning another visit next year bless her!

  19. as a first time mum with Google Baby about to celebrate his first christmas, the tree was upand decorated on 30th November. I have bought quite a few presents for him too, but none have made it under the tree due to maternal excitement so they've all been opened and used. Everything else Christmas related is on a lon and ever growing list. Good to hear someone else has a long list too!

    Incidentally - there are two free hot stone massage being given away by in their Christmas hampers. Could be just what we need?!

  20. Oh I ove Razorlight and Kaiser Chiefs. And you do not look 41 Potty. More like 31. No fair.

    Eaton Mess sounds very nice, and we have no cookies on our tree. Tsk. Do you have a recipe that is, erm, easy??

  21. Jo, I will scan it in and send it on tomorrow. There shall be no escape from your inner domestic goddess... (to borrow your favourite phrase; mwah hah ahah haa....)


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