To what did work though, and I'm quite proud of these, because it has to do with food. Presents, are secondary in the line of importance, as you really want to feed your guests food they will remember at Christmas. Not stuff which will leave a bad taste in their mouth, and a belly ache.
I wrote about the gingerbread men and summer holiday loaf already. But here is where they worked in particular for us. The gingerbread men were the first gluten free ones I've made, in the past eight Christmases, we've had here. I only missed one year of making them. Being gluten free now, however, meant I could enjoy a treat with everyone else, without suffering. This was important, because making gingerbread men has become a tradition - something I really didn't want to be saying "no" to eating, when everyone else could say "yes".
Pull apart loaves, ready to bake
While I couldn't eat the gluten filled bread, everyone else enjoyed it. Plus it used the excess tomatoes and basil, we went to the trouble of planting in winter/spring. Which brings me to another deed which worked this Christmas. Planting food in the garden, to be eaten at Christmas.
I cannot tell you the relief of not having to buy a stack of "fresh" fruit and vegetables. Especially things like tomatoes, which often lack taste and come to you hard. Mine just sat in the garden, getting more tasty, until I needed them.
Not only did we use cherry tomatoes and basil in the bread, but we also used regular sliced tomatoes for our steak burgers. We also found a way to use our excess zucchini, believe it or not! We made vegetable skewers on the barbeque, using our own zucchini, mixed with other bought vegetables (including peaches). If you've never tasted barbequed mushrooms with peaches, you don't know what you're missing!
So making skewers really worked on the barbeque. We made prawn skewers and vegetable ones. We would have made chicken ones too, only another family member offered to bring cold roast chicken, instead. Just add sausages and steak, some salads, and you've got a Christmas feast. One that tastes good, and shouldn't sit in your guests stomachs for hours!
Healthy fridge - 5 days, post Christmas
Which brings me to our final thing which worked this Christmas - reducing our food offerings. We deliberately wanted to cater small, because we wanted to avoid food waste. It also ensured our guests weren't bamboozled with too many selections, and risked over eating.
This year was the first year, we didn't have oodles of food to eat as leftovers, after Christmas. It covered Boxing Day, lunch and dinner only, then it was gone! Well, mostly. Which brings me to where we went wrong this year.
Still left over from Christmas
We purchased too many convenience desserts. We should have just stuck with the pavalova. We didn't need two Christmas puddings (one gluten free) and also a gluten free Christmas cake. We didn't need two litres of convenience custard to go along with them either. Not to mention the waffers and mince pies, which mostly got eaten by my crew. There was way too much and it was completely unnecessary. We would have been better saving the money in the bank, instead of saving it to our waistlines.
After all, it adds no further enjoyment to Christmas, once you've had your fill.
Gluten free fruit cake
Also on this point, I want to declare not to purchase gluten free desserts again. The Christmas cake was dry and tasteless. It will be thrown away because it was so horrible. That's $22 down the drain. There are certain tricks to gluten free baking, which if not done properly, lead to dry bricks. I'd rather have spent the money on our own ingredients, and baked something edible myself.
The reason I haven't attempted to bake our own gluten free, Christmas cake before is, to be honest, I'm not a big fan of them. I'd much rather eat a fresh pavlova, with whipped cream, fruit salad and Dutch chocolate-sprinkles.
Muesli takes a walk on our nearly finished wall
Another thing which went wrong was organising an involved project, too close to Christmas. Deciding to start such a hefty project at the end of October, meant we were scrambling right into December (up to the last week before Christmas) to get it done. Something I suspected would happen.
Everything else had to be crammed in around this project, and it felt like we were constantly running a race with the clock. I'm such a plodder by nature, and get less enjoyment from having to race. But as we had something big happening in early January, David took the opportunity to start the wall project, late 2015 instead.
New retaining wall
In hindsight, if you don't want to be scrambling like a mad chook at Christmas, leave those large projects until the new year - or whenever you can fit them in next year. Because it's stressful to stretch yourself between fixing up your house/yard, which you pull apart to complete the project - while also preparing your house/yard for receiving guests at Christmas too. Both are important tasks. Both require time and forethought to complete. Doing them at the same time, means one (often both) are compromised on.
Problem is, I'm a perfectionist and won't compromise on details. So inevitably, I'll burn the wick at both ends to get things done to my satisfaction. Exhaustion isn't exactly a fun place to start celebrating from. We managed to pull it off this year (and have fun too) but I don't fancy doing this particular balancing act, as a Christmas tradition.
So this is what I wish to aspire towards, for Christmas 2016:
- Gluten free gingerbread men
- Our own gluten free desserts
- Reduced dessert selections on the whole
- Fresh bread, using offerings from the garden
- Limited food range for lunch, with quality food
- Growing more fresh produce in the garden
- Don't start large house/yard projects, past September
I didn't write in depth about these, but also want to note them:
- Look for gifts throughout the year, especially from local businesses
- Make our own gift tags, from old Christmas cards, instead of buying them
- Start cleaning the house and yard in December, not the last week!
- Note storage issues throughout the year and address them. Don't put it off until Christmas, to sort all the storage issues!!
- To this end, start de-cluttering in Spring, to find new homes for items no longer used.
A lot of the work we had to deal with at Christmas, was stuff we put off throughout the year. So if we keep on top of it early, we should avoid the bottleneck, by the end of the year.
Do you have anything you did well or wish you didn't do, this Christmas?