Wednesday, December 30, 2015

2015 Christmas reveiw

There is such anarchy that comes with every Christmas. I keep telling myself not do so much, and to plan better. To be honest, I don't actually write this stuff down though. So I've decided to start documenting on my blog, what worked and more importantly, what didn't, this Christmas.

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.

 Fresh tomatoes

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?


  1. oh, your Christmas ideas to improve sound like ours! LOL! Though we were given various Christmas cakes and puddings from church groups in hampers which was lovely as a "pick me up" from the bush fires. They delivered one to everyone in town.

    And the handmade gifts, I always work to give the boys gifts that are a little different, or handmade, and either do it ourselves, or support some one else, or buy from a family owned store. But this year I didn't simply due to the pressure of everything that had been going on. I just wanted to get it done. I don't recommend moving/renovating/bushfires/surgery for x2 kids a few months before Christmas. Really I don't!

    But the result was the gift giving to me felt hollow, I didn't enjoy it the way I usually do. I did give a few handmade gifts, but not as many as usual, and its something Im back in shape for, for up coming birthdays.


    1. Its true that we have to honour the traditions we make, or it doesn't feel as genuine. Though in some cases (like yours) the over-commitments cannot be helped. It was a lovely thing to provide hampers for those in the bush fires. Something similar happened in the 2011 floods, to us.

      I cannot remember who they were affiliated with, a charity of some variety, but they came to our house with a bag of toiletries (soap, shampoo, conditioners, combs, toothpaste, toothbrushes, toilet paper and even ladies sanitary items). They were such simple, every day items, but when your world is turned on its head, you forget how important they are.

      So I imagine it would have been lovely to have someone turn up to remind you, that Christmas is still there and the community remembers. Our excess puddings were just poor planning (at best) and plain gluttony (at worst), lol. ;)

      I'm glad you will be settling into your creativity groove again, and doing the things you love to do.

  2. Over here, there isn't a lot of garden/yard work to do in winter so we can dedicate a lot of time to cooking and baking for the holidays. My thing this year was my daughters graduation-I took on a quilt that I couldn't finish and haven't had tiime to get back to. So for me, its large craft projects instead of walls that make things harder.
    One year, I took water color paper that I had done an excercise on from this tutorial:
    I then hand ripped the paper and used those as gift tags. They were a big hit. Other art might work-doodles and other things you may decide to toss out. Thats how we approach gift tags-as I see them as a waste of money and paper pretty much.
    Keeping things as simple as possible this year however. I have very basic resolutions. Like to eat carrots and keep breathing:)

  3. We have spent money on gift tags in the past, because we didn't think we could make them ourselves - it didn't even enter our heads TO make them. But I've been saving our cards for years now, so I went looking for how to recycle them recently. Some great ideas online, but the gift tags struck me as something I've never contemplated before.

    Here I was spending money on gift tags and contemplating throwing the Christmas cards away? Crazy! But I like your idea about using art too. I liked that link. I'd never think to use gesso with watercolour. Lovely. :)

    I second your resolutions, though make mine a juice! ;)


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