I write to you from my sickbed, which is an awful lot nicer than it sounds. My bedroom is one of my favourite rooms in the house, and so it’s not been a punishment to be confined here since my positive test last week. Covid has not been easy on me, though – I’ve had downs, ups, unexpected downs again, and at last my sense of taste is starting to come back (which was very sadly missed!). The biggest symptom for me to overcome, though, has got to be the tiredness. It’s very lucky I am confined to a bed, because I’ve needed to conk out quickly on more than one occasion this week. It struck me this morning that the busiest time of the year for cooking, planning, wrapping, writing, and baking is coming up – not to mention organising myself and my work for a school holidays break. So I will need to make some pretty robust preparations for dealing with that sneaky tiredness that’s bound to creep up even faster at this chaotic time. I need to plan for a post-Covid Christmas.
Christmas – while also being one of my most favourite seasons – is also a time of stress, and I’ll be honest, I’ve brought most of it on myself. No one actually asks for mounds of baking, mountains of Christmas cards, or homemade fudge. No one has ever asked me for a Christmas Eve box, handmade decorations or any of the other little whims I’ve had over the years that will make a “perfect Christmas”. It’s all me, and it’s time to let go. It’s interesting to reflect that it’s taken a bout of Covid to give myself permission to lay down some of the Christmas burdens I’ve loaded my shoulders with over the years. Perhaps I should have done this years ago, without needing an excuse.
The season goes so quickly when there’s so much to do, that I’ve never minded it starting early – that was my way of enjoying it longer (see previous post on that one: Christmas magic please – the sooner the better) – and perhaps this way, I will be able to savour more of it while it’s happening. So with that in mind, here are the strategies I’m going to employ for Christmas prep which will reduce the size of the task – and hopefully the stress too.
I’m still going to wrap presents, of course, but I won’t be leaving it to last minute on Christmas Eve – I’m going to start next week, and eke it out across the three thereafter. I’ve kept a note of who has what, and they are separated into different piles – and different hiding places – so I can begin taking a pile out each week, working on them and re-hiding. The one risk to this is that I will probably forget what they were when it comes to the big day – but hey, that way it’s a surprise for everyone!
A TOP tip I can pass on here, which makes the whole process much less of a strain on the back, and which I got from one of the Gogglebox ladies last year: use an ironing board to do all your wrapping on. It’s absolute genius. Set it up at the most convenient height for you in front of your seat on the sofa, and you’re all set, especially if you’ve got a Christmas film lined up and something warming at your elbow. If you’ve only got a small pile to do each session, and with this convenient and ergonomic set up that won’t break your back, the whole present wrapping business becomes a regular, manageable pleasure – and not a big chore. It’s also much less likely you’ll lose the scissors.
Sorry Nigella, but this year it’s not happening. Last year I did so much baking that I barely saw the family in the week before Christmas – which is ridiculous, as if there isn’t enough to do. I usually manage several batches of mince pies, millionaire shortbread, fudge, sausage rolls, and this year I was even planning to try Christmas Morning Muffins from the Domestic Goddess cookbook – but the whole notion just fills me with dread, and frankly it’s exhausting. I know they’d be happy with ready-to-cook sausage rolls from the freezer, so that’s what it will be, and I’ll even hand the mince pie baton over to the 10 year old – he’s more than old enough to handle some ready-roll pastry and a jar of mincemeat, and has Bake Off aspirations – and everyone can have sausage rolls and chocolate for breakfast on Christmas morning instead. I’ve noticed that Mr Sainsbury also has an excellent selection of festive treats, so that’s what will be filling the Christmas tins this year too.
The Christmas Dinner
This meal is bad enough to co-ordinate in a normal year, so in a post-Covid Christmas, there is plenty of room for effort efficiencies.
Whatever I can buy to sling in the oven or microwave, I will. Frozen veg that can go in the steamer, pigs already in their little blankets, stuffing that’s ready made, parsnips prepped and ready-bathed in honey, gravy that’s all ready to heat, bread sauce that’s all set for the oven – it’s all coming home from the supermarket. I don’t intend to peel a single vegetable. I’ve also invested in a hot plate for keeping things warm on the day, so I’m not stressing about what goes in when – it will all be cooked when it can fit in the oven at the right temperature, and we’ll eat when it’s all done.
This is the most important one. When I don’t do something that I would normally do for Christmas because I’ve always thought I *should*, I need to remember why I’m dropping it. It’s so the boys and Mr RLC get to enjoy Christmas with me, and I with them, awake and excited and happy – not exhausted, marytred and ready for bed in the corner. Because honestly, quality time together is the only thing they have ever really asked for from me at Christmas.
Plus it might also mean I don’t fall asleep for two hours on Christmas Day afternoon – now that is an excellent post-Covid Christmas strategy alone!