The here and now and a bit of way back then

I relived my journey to 40 and found there's so much more to say

Christmas dinner is best served cold

I’ve had more cold Christmas dinners than hot. This is mostly due to the fact that after several hours in a hot sweaty kitchen, by the time all the spoils of my labour are laid bare on the table, I’m suddenly no longer hungry. It is also because I (and this year the Butcher) overestimate just how much Christmas dinner #1, 2 and 3 can and will eat. 

Out of the following food items on this year’s Christmas menu:

  • Roast turkey breast (expecting one small size but get 3kg worth of breast)
  • Roast beef (supposedly small piece for 3/4 persons but in get 1.5kg)
  • Roast potatoes and parsnips
  • Brussel Sprouts and chestnuts
  • Carrots, brocolli and corn (one vegetable of choice for each of #1, 2 and 3)
  • Yorkshire puddings
  • Stuffing 
  • Bread sauce
  • Cranberry sauce
  • Gravy
  • Ketchup

#1, 2 and 3 between them ate a combination of five of the above food items between them. With two of them going off menu and requesting rice. You can tell these children have been brought up in Asia. So with the Butcher grossly overestimating how much of a carnivore a family of three adults and three young children, barely a dent was made in today’s fayre. 

On the plus side, I can now estimate how much food is required to feed 6/7 people. And we now don’t need to cook for at least the next four days. And I really don’t want to cook. But nothing beats preparing all the trimmings. I like Brussel sprouts, I really do. Mini cabbages. Who doesn’t love mini food.

I don’t know what constitutes as a successful  Christmas. With or without small children, Christmas is a day of celebration. With small children though, there are hidden gems to the day. Whilst I was busy preparing a meal that they were barely interested in, I tried to keep an ear on what was going on beyond the kitchen. Opening presents in itself is full of excitement, let alone for small children who have thought carefully what this very special gift should be. Usually Father Christmas delivers the one BIG GIFT but this year, he very generously dropped off two. Not because behaviour has been exemplary this year, though #1 thinks it’s probably because he so generously helped #2 and 3 win carnival prizes the other day.

But still, the joy in his voice as he came out into the living room to find not one but two gifts from Father Christmas this year. Plus the fact that Father Christmas had polished off three of the almond tarts he made and all eight reindeers got their fair share of carrots. 

Gratitude and appreciation is on my mind this festive season. As I’m sure many of us are feeling the need to reflect upon this year. But how does one create that same level of awareness in small people. I don’t know. But I do know that whilst there are gifts and lots of good things to eat, I cannot have #1, 2 and 3 plough through everything without even taking a good look at what they just unwrapped. Anticipation is always the most fun part of almost everything and stretching out the wait is no bad thing I feel. 

Given all other days, there is always something that I deny #1, 2 and 3, today we have a complete Yes day. Well about 98% Yes. “What would you like for breakfast?” I asked #1, 2 and 3, “You can have anything you would like.” “Anything!” they answered. Anything indeed. So #1 had a squeezy fruit yoghurt, chocolate and apple juice. #2 had a Babybel and KitKat. #3 had whatever #1 got her which involved chocolate. On any other day, the choice of having whatever you would like for breakfast falls within the range of regular breakfast items. But anything at all? Well that is something else completely. These are the memories I will carry with me, the picture of all three sat at the dining table with their luxury breakfasts.

The other memory I will carry from today is #3 opening a $5 stocking filler and the awe in her voice as she unwrapped it. #2 finally getting the glow in the dark pyjamas she once saw a picture of over a year ago. And #1, sharing with me just how great his new Lego set is and would I like to build. However, that may not be completely altrustic as I think he has his eye on building my new Lego Tie Striker.

As we wrap up another Christmas, I am already promising myself that I will not spend next year’s sleep deprived having spent the early hours still wrapping and sorting everything out. The day, like the rest of the year goes by so quickly but there’s still tomorrow yet to come and I’m looking forward to spending a more relaxed day with my family.

I wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas. 

Advertisements
Leave a comment »

All I want for Christmas

I hope your Christmas preparations have gone to plan this year. That you’re sitting nice and snug with a glass or two of red wine.

Without a pile of presents yet to be wrapped. An hour before Father Christmas is about to come visit your sleeping household.
 
The fact that I’m only just watching Elf sums up how far behind I have been with Christmas preparations this year. Elf opens the Christmas season you see. But who needs sleep, after all Father Christmas and the Elves will be up all night delivering those presents!


I am ready for Christmas though! I love the warmth and goodwill this season brings and we all need a bit of extra sparkle this year I think. But it seems that whilst the shops have been indiscreetly nudging us towards planning and prepping for the festive season since September, somehow, I find myself speed shopping for all the groceries and even some important gifts this afternoon. Not just stocking fillers. But THE gifts. 

For weeks #2 was adamant that she didn’t want to receive a gift from Father Christmas. #1 never really has such concerns but he threw a curveball right at the last minute requesting not all things Star Wars. #3 asked for ‘lots and lots of elephants. And magic powers.” Quite. Which then set off #2 asking for magic powers…Definitely both are child of mine as I have always wanted to be able to orb, freeze stuff and swipe things to one side with the flick of a wrist. Too much watching Charmed I think.
 


But then several days ago, #2 realised she did have magic powers. She is strong, kind, clever. All excellent magic powers anyone could wish for.

So already in possession of magic powers, #2 then decides perhaps this is a good opportunity to ask Father Christmas for all the things that Husband and I have recently said No to. The list was quite long. 

This is my ninth Christmas in the tropics and it’s still not the same without the cold and long dark nights. Though Singapore does do Christmas very well. Beautiful lights. Amazing Christmas trees. Gift options galore. But there’s just something not quite the same without a winter woolly hat, scarf and gloves. 

But it seems that Singapore has also got this covered. Christmas Wonderland in the Tropics. A tent with the aircon blasting full on and what can only be decribed as an ice pit. With sand toys. All true. It has been a very busy December with Nana Moon staying for a week (and a sneaky jaunt to Indonesia which I’ll tell you about another time) and Gainful Employment never stops of course. Facebook has been reminding me of all the Christmas activities we would have already done before now. But we’ve done the important job of a visit to see Father Christmas before the big day and none of them were disappointed after sweating it out for an hour.  


I wondered whether my lack of Christmas preparations would make them believe any less. It seems not and I am thankful for that. This morning #1 helped me bake the annual almond tarts we leave out for Father Christmas, choosing the best ones for him to enjoy. As well as making sure that the carrots are equally cut into eights pieces so each of the reindeer got their fair share. The Santa Stop Here sign is in it’s place and all three are sleeping peacefully after a very busy couple of days. 

Whilst Elf is playing in the background and the Christmas port is sitting in front of me, I feel ready for Christmas Day. There is food and there are presents. But most of all, Husband and I get to spend time with #1, 2 and 3. That’s all I want for Christmas.
   

Leave a comment »

Where are Mochi and Fred?

How do we find ourselves back to this day so soon?

I barely managed to locate the Star Wars Lego advent calendar I had squirrelled away some months ago far, far away from the all seeing eyes of #1! And then I just about in time dusted down the regular advent calendar to be filled with not yet finished Halloween sweets. And then, five minutes after I should have been in bed asleep, I realised I couldn’t find Fred and Mochi!  

As you know, I am not a fan of the Elf on the Shelf but last year in sheer desperation to elicit good behaviour (as if) from #1, 2 and 3, we adopted Mochi and Fred. Fred and Mochi are creations by Grandma sent from Father Christmas to help out at this particularly busy time of year. Hi tech surveillance all the way back to the North Pole. 
Mochi and Fred will bring peace and goodwill to #1, 2 and 3 and hence all will be calm and all will be bright. They will be fun and innovative this year. Not just sitting in one place. Or even for several days in the one place. They will be getting up to all kinds of mischief making bringing joy to all as we chortle over what funny comedians they are.

Well they would be. If only I could remember where they scarpered off to last Christmas Eve. Like where? If only they had sent me a postcard letting me know where they would be. They are obviously in such a safe place so that no one will ever find them until they are needed. Except I can’t remember where that could be. I need to spend the next hour before bedtime locating Fred and Mochi before the suspicions of #1, 2 and 3 are alerted. 

The countdown to Christmas has arrived once more and I feel woefully unprepared. Again. How can this be when the Christmas lights have been up and running since the day after Halloween and I have all the Christmas paraphernalia we could ever need. Lights, baubles, tinsel. Christmas smelling sticks even. No tree though but I must attend to that this week just before Nana Moon arrives. (Yay!) We have already discussed that she can once again supervise the decorating of Christmas tree. Except this time I will remember to separate the tree decorations to the everywhere else decorations. Else we shall find the Christmas tree looking like a cat has vomited an entire Christmas shop all over it.

This year, I have decided I am going to unashamedly fill it with Christmas sparkle. There will be Christmas films, Christmas songs, Christmas arts and crafts and festive cheer in the form of Christmas port and beer. 

The year is coming to a close fast but it is a year that has been full of unexpected happenings that has unsettled many a person. At times, it has felt like the world has lost some shine and laughter in recent months. Too much reality is not good for the soul. I want to step out of it for a short while and look at the world through the eyes of #1, 2 and 3. There’s an article I read today in the Telegraph that says perhaps we shouldn’t be perpetuating the idea of make believe and magic. Telling the biggest lie which will come undone before long. Fuck that. If anything, why shouldn’t you create a bit of magic because when the world becomes this big scary endless maze of truth and facts, what keeps you grounded? The ability to find curved edges among all the sharp corners. Parenting for me is mostly a series of getting through tasks 1 to 10 each day. This time of Advent lets you get through tasks 1 to 10 with a bit of glitter on top. I am allowed that.  

So it is time to recreate a bit of magic. We shall begin with fairy lights. Fairy lights are always good. And I am fully embracing  being welcomed home by gently twinkling lights on the trees outdoors. Who can fail to be mesmerised by the soft warm glow of a fairy light. I would keep fairy lights up all year round if Husband did not vehemently object to this. Pah.

So anyways it’s time to relax into this month of December. Enjoy this season of good will, we totally deserve it. 

And now I must go find Mochi and Fred.

Leave a comment »

Pass me the Elf

The thing about refusing to get overexcited about Christmas in November is that suddenly December descends and I feel woefully ill prepared for Christmas which is in just THREE WEEKS AND THREE DAYS!

Perhaps it’s time to write my Christmas list too.

  1. Sort out Christmas tree and decorations.
  2. Find Christmas decorations after moving.
  3. Fill Advent Calendar with stuff. Pass on organised idea of filling with mix of treats, Christmas related activities and Christmas related days out.
  4. Make Christmas cards, write them and post (and hope some arrive in time.)
  5. Clear space for Christmas tree.
  6. Drink Christmas Port.
  7. Secure the Special Gift from Father Christmas.
  8. Secure the Special Gift from Husband and myself for #1, 2 and 3 (when the truth is out then need only one Special Gift.)
  9. Order Christmas turkey and Boxing Day ham and copious amounts of cranberries to make sauce nobody really eats.
  10. Watch Elf, Arthur Christmas, The Grinch, Miracle on 34th Street.
  11. Find Christmas music DVDs.
  12. Sing Jingle Bells every day, ten times a day with #1, 2 and 3.
  13. Buy and successfully hide Special Gift from Father Christmas wrapping paper.
  14. Dig out recipe for Mother in Law’s Almond Tarts that are only to be made at Christmas time though can really be eaten all year round.
  15. Make a note to start Christmas preparations earlier next year.

 

Yes indeed. There appears to be a lot to do in the next THREE WEEKS AND THREE DAYS!

 

So not much has changed from last year. Or the year before.

 

There’s another thing that hasn’t changed.

 

Those Elves have reappeared.

    
   

Not just on shelves though. They get up to all sorts of shenanigans. Knocking over cereal boxes. Messing up the toys. Abseiling down the staircase. Hiding behind photographs.

 

I’m very glad they do things like that to entertain themselves. It’s awfully tough sitting still without moving. Just watching. With that fixed happy grin they have. Until the children fall asleep. Then they fly off to Father Christmas and report back the events of the day.

 

It’s a lot of waiting around. Most of the day children are still at school. So what do the Elves do then? I mean you’d think they could make themselves useful and do a few jobs around the house. You know, like mend shoes and stuff. Maybes I should pass them my list of Things To Do in the next THREE WEEKS AND THREE DAYS.

 

The Elf on the Shelf is not for this household as I have said many times before. It creeps me out more so than #1, 2 and 3.

 

But as it’s the season to be jolly, I’d rather be just that. Jolly. Rather than the parent that is reprimanding #1, 2 and 3 for the regular behaviour of small people of that age. It’s the season of goodwill and I would like a bit of that too.

 

So you know, as I truly believe in Father Christmas then on occasion I’d quite like him to do something to keep that belief alive. Like just call me when my phone happens to be on silent but his picture flashes up because he’s just heard about something #1, 2 and 3 have done that he thinks could constitute as behaviour for the naughty list. I just have to take the call you see and discuss the consequences with him.

   

And whilst I’m not in favour of the Elves on anything but shelves, I have welcomed new additions to our family this year.

 

Meet Mochi and Fred. They are friends of the Elves and they will be staying with us until Christmas Eve. Father Christmas has diversified his workforce this year and roped in Grandma to knit him some new staff.

 

They will be hanging around keeping check of everything. Especially in the mornings whilst getting ready for school. They’ve managed to shave off 10 minutes of time wasting already as well as settle disputes amicably.

 

If only they could stay all year round and not just for Christmas.

 

     

Leave a comment »

The days after Christmas

I’m enjoying this lull after Christmas.

 

When the cupboards and fridge are no longer creaking with the amount of stuff stored inside them and we have just about worked our way through all the Christmas food. Ooh, except the pannetone. I forgot about that. I do love pannetone except I always feel cheated when you open up the box and it’s actually a tiny sized pannetone for one inside.

 

The days after Christmas when you can just relax and enjoy time spent thinking about other things than Christmas presents, Christmas food, Christmas posting dates (missed them again this year.) Rushing to the shops when you have a spare moment or just leaving everything to Christmas Eve……..Ahem.

 

But I do love Christmas. The twinkling lights on the tree. The smell of pine throughout the house. The excitement of all the small people (some who are quite the grown ups now) that I’ve spent each Christmas with. Now with #1, 2 and 3 who all FULLY BELIEVE and anticipate the annual ritual of preparing for the arrival of Father Christmas, I guess you could say that I am reliving a part of my childhood too.

  

 
I love how #1, 2 and 3 left the carrots and a bowl of water for the reindeers and immediately went to investigate the ‘mess’ they had left behind with #1 almost folding his arms in shock. #2 was pleased that Father Christmas had drunk his apple juice as well as the whisky and of course the almond tarts would go down well.

 

 

#1 took a while to settle down to sleep, such was the excitement and almost caught Husband still wrapping a few last minute gifts. On Christmas morning #1 and 2 were first up (after 7am thankfully) and wasted no time investigating whether anything new was going on in the living room. That first morning call of ‘He’s been!’ is one that will never tire.

 

 

A bleary eyed #3 soon joined the fray and all clamber  into our bed with their stockings. Shaking out the contents to see what’s inside. As always, the suspense of unveiling what Father Christmas has brought them has to wait until after breakfast. The air rings with persistent calls of ‘Can we open it yet? Can we open it yet?’

  

 

Then they finally do and it’s pure joy to watch them shriek in delight at what they find. #3 as you may recall asked for a dog. If not a dog then a cat. What she unwrapped was a singing karaoke Elsa that she was still enthralled with. Of course she wasn’t going to get a dog just because she had asked Father Christmas for one, he’s much more considerate and practical than that. But there are always ways around it. I have never known a child to be so in love with animals than #3. Right from when she first set eyes on a dog or cat she would be straight over wanting to befriend it. I myself, have a fear of all things animal but #3 has made me overcome that fear somewhat.

 

Our neighbours have a lovely young dog R, and they are more than happy  for us to look after him for a short while but #1 and 2 have been less keen. However seeing as it’s Christmas, we decided that for #3 she could have him over and whilst it may have seemed unfair on #1 and 2 to have them shrieking in their bedrooms on Christmas morning, we thought it’s about time they started to really think about making others happy. It didn’t happen that first day but the next day when R came by there was a little less shrieking and a little less fear. On the third day, a Christmas miracle happened with #2, who is the most shriekiest of them all, actually wanting to take R for a walk. Yesterday, they were all letting him run amok at home. Their attention taken away from all the toys and television to wanting to be near him. I think it was almost a relief for R when he could go home! But I think he will soon become a regular around ours.

 

     

This year I could see a change in #1. I think he’s starting to get that Christmas Day isn’t just about the presents (though a big part still is) and he’s becoming aware of the fact it’s special in other ways like preparing a special kind of lunch and setting the table with a real table cloth instead of the wipe clean vinyl. In previous years, the traditional turkey and all the trimmings was more for our benefit than #1, 2 and 3 would could equally be happy (happier) with traditional chicken rice. This year though #1, whilst not yet venturing onto his first Brussel sprout, showed an appreciation for some items of ‘trimmings’. In contrast to #3 who definitely would have been happier with traditional chicken rice.

 

 

#3 is still the feral one. Ploughing through the unwrapping of her stocking at a rate of 3 to every 1 that #1 and 2 opened. Then having the audacity to complain that she had no presents to open when #1 and 2 were playing catch up but try explaining the concept of ‘you’ve already opened your presents!’ to a 3 year old. Cue enter cute dog from next door  to distract her. In fact actually, R has become quite the discipinary tool for #3 if she shows signs of becoming Stubborn Wolf.

 

 

What better way to round off Christmas Day than to spend it with other friends. In the absence of family around us, we are thankful to have friends who open up their homes on this day to welcome us over for drinks, more food and merriment for the kids.

 

The same goes for sharing Boxing Day ham with friends that we’ve made here too. Almost every year, we’ve invited different friends over to share in this much more relaxed day of celebration and continuation of over indulgence.

 

Christmas is about spending time with each other most of all. The people who make you laugh and feel good. It’s about hanging out with Husband and #1, 2 and 3 without rushing here and there. 
It’s about enjoying this lull after Christmas. I hope you are too.

  

Leave a comment »

Dear Santa……May the Force be with you.

Right now it is difficult to ascertain whether the high levels of excitement in our household is due to the impending arrival of Christmas or the next generation of Jedi masters.

Both seem to be hotly anticipated and spoken about with equal reverence. I am pretty amazed at how quickly #1, 2 and 3 can switch conversation between Father Christmas, Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader. The Good Guys and the Bad Guys. The ones who are on the good list and those who aren’t. And who Father Christmas will be visiting this year.

 

The build up to Christmas is always eventful in Singapore. I love how in this tropical weather there’s still that feeling of hope that it could snow. I just realised I haven’t seen snow since 2008. OMG indeed. Of course I miss it and of course those who have seen snow on a regular basis since 2008 will say that it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. I sort of remember that too. But it’s all part of the Christmas build up.

  

 Like drinking sherry whilst cooking every meal throughout December  (Mrs Steamer) and finishing off with port and a jar of stilton (I miss that too). Or using Christmas as a reason, if you needed one, for celebrating with a few drinks. Buying several varieties of mince pie with a big tub of double cream (mince pie has to be gently warmed in the oven first.) Buying up every Christmas food item in the supermarket whether you like it or not. Buying food items that are available all year round but only seem to appear in your household this one time of year (cranberries, sprouts, nuts in shells.)

 

And over the years, with #1, 2 and 3 in tow, other Christmas traditions take shape. Like going to pick out the Christmas Tree. What constitutes a good one #1? It has to have a tree shape. Good point. It has to have room underneath to put our presents. Of course. It has to fit into the car. Most important of all. I 

I haven’t had the joy of decorating our Christmas Tree for some years now. Ever since Nana Moon showed #1, 2 and 3 that the way to do it is to put ALL the decorations on the tree. Every year, #1, 2 and 3 get to choose one new ornament each. #3’s choice was a bag of Christmas toadstools, precariously balanced on each branch. It does look like someone has just vomited decorations all over it but it’s all their own work. And I haven’t even redistributed one single bauble. Well done me.

 

In the midst of all the Christmas planning and activities that I usually like to do (like watching Elf – Smiling’s my favourite. Every year I watch this film, something new I hadn’t noticed before can crack me up!), there’s the small matter of the new STAR WARS film out this week. 
In an already very busy pre-Christmas schedule, I’ve been going off on a tangent to do Star Wars things. #1 has known for time my love of Star Wars. Mrs Cake Pops on the other hand did not and our friendship hangs in the balance. Can you imagine what life must currently be like for those people who do not believe in Christmas and the Force? Double OMG indeed.

 

#1, 2 and 3 truly believe. Why wouldn’t they. And I love seeing the look of astonishment and excitement when they see this belief come to life.

 

This year they’ve seen Father Christmas three times and told him what they would like for Christmas. #1 would like the Lego X Wing. #2 would like a pedal bike. #3 would like a cat. When told that Father Christmas can’t bring a real cat she asked for a dog. We went to see the ‘Dear Santa’ show at the weekend and the Santa calls out ‘Boy and Girls, I’m sure you’ve written your letters to me by now.’ To which #3 says out loud ‘I cannot Santa. I cannot because I don’t know how to write the words.’ I smile every time I think of this.

  

 The first time #1 asked me whether Star Wars was real, I was actually quite surprised. It had never occurred to me that he would think space ships, aliens, Wookies and light sabres were real. I mean, how outrageous is the idea? About as outrageous as a man who lives for Christmas Eve in a red and white outfit, even in tropical heat, with a bunch of Elves and flying reindeers.

 

I actually heard myself say out loud, ‘Well, it happened a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…..’ What else could I say? So I asked #1 what would make Star Wars real. He said if he saw someone chop someone else in half with a light sabre. Ok, let’s not share that with too many people. Not quite what I had in mind. I was more thinking about the life size X Wing fighter jet on display at Singapore Changi Airport.

  

 I love Changi Airport for this. It’s amazing! Even if all the Stormtroopers are about my own height. I somehow expected them to be taller and more menacing. Like Nana moon says she doesn’t think the Emperor will take too kindly if he knew his Stormtroopers were waving at civilians in such a friendly manner. But #1 had a great time. And as a parent that’s the most important thing. To see them having a great time.

  

 There’s just 10 days to go! I’m a bit more prepared than I was 12 days ago. At least I’ve ordered the Christmas Day beef and the Boxing Day ham. Father Christmas has been briefed on what he’s dropping off at our house and if there’s been any miscommunication then I’ll just use the Force on #1, 2 and 3 and say ‘These are the presents you have been looking for……’

 

But in between then, I’ve booked our tickets for Star Wars and so to add to my list of Things to Do before Christmas, I need to watch all six films before then.

 

This is by far the most fun pre-Christmas build up ever!

Leave a comment »

Long may they forever believe……..

So, he wasn’t quite the Father Christmas beloved by all in Miracle on 34th Street but he’s Father Christmas all the same. Or Nick as he introduced himself to #1, 2 and 3. How times have changed.

Meeting Father Christmas at the Big School Christmas Fair today

 

As it is still November and quite the norm not to be thinking of Christmas and Christmas related festivities for another good week or so, my brain was unprepared for #1 asking to queue up to see Father Christmas. #1 will only queue up uncomplainingly for something he is really keen to do. Otherwise every 10 seconds or less there will be declarations of boredom. But not so today as he waited patiently in line with all the other believers at the Christmas Fair held at Big School today.

 

In fact in previous years when I have suggested such a rendez-vous with FC to set in stone The Gift from FC so that there is no sudden change of mind two days before Christmas, #1 has always been a bit reluctant. A bit fearful of FC to be honest, as you would be. Great big looming man suspiciously the only person in the tropics wearing entirely inappropriate clothing for the weather. #2 has never been so sure either and #3 outright refused to go anywhere near him last year. She was much better this year as you can see but when asked for a group hug, she high tailed it out of the Grotto. Quite rightly so and adhering to the Stranger Danger laws impressed upon them.

 

Where do you sit in the debate over whether we should perpetuate the myth of such whimsical characters like Father Christmas, the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny?

 

Are we creating magical childhood memories or are we setting them up for bitter disappointment and breaking their trust in us, their parents, who they should trust the most. The ones who tell them not to tell untruths because Father Christmas and his Elves are listening.

 

I never believed in any of them because I was never led to believe in any of them. My Mum would have found the idea completely preposterous. Yet ask her about the Goddess Chang E who flew to the moon and lives there with the White Rabbit and that’s all ok. Actually someone should tell John Lewis that the man in their latest Christmas ad has a neighbour he needs to meet and there is really no need for him to feel so lonely.

 

Yet I hold all these characters from both cultures I cross with warmth and value. I haven’t picked a side and so we celebrate EVERYTHING. Living in Singapore #1, 2 and 3 celebrate the cultural festivals of several religions. Christianity, Muslim, Hindu. And they are all the more richer for it.

 

It was a very natural decision to welcome Father Christmas into our home, along with the Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny, Chang E and lately Messrs Solo, Skywalker and Darth Vader. Because they are children and children should have something magical and fun before they realise that the world is not always magical and fun as we know ourselves.

 

Husband and I love being able to create some great times for them. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. And I have to admit it’s also good for us to do. Creating little traditions of our own and giving #1, 2 and 3 fun times and hopefully happy memories.

 

The reason why I’m writing about this today is because all of a sudden it occurred to me that it won’t always be like this. I’m not sure how many years there will be left where all three will Truly Believe like they do today. And I will miss that when one of them doesn’t. 
Perhaps it won’t make much difference. Perhaps it’s the Christmas traditions we create ourselves that will be the most remembered and time we spend together. I still love Christmas and Chinese New Year and Easter and Mid-Autumn festival all the same.

 

But of course it will be the first time they realise the world is not all that it appears to be. Though I really hope that our efforts to make it a wonderful place is enough for them to keep on loving it and all that it has to offer just as much as they do now. To keep an open mind about everything they come across and see the value in a bit of magic. Otherwise what dull lives we would all lead. 

 

 

 

Leave a comment »

So that’s how you cook a turkey!

So the 3kg turkey, which incidentally weighed the same as #1, 2 and 3 at birth, wasn’t that difficult to cook after all! It was a bit of a disappointment really after hearing all these years about how people have to get up in the middle of the night to start cooking the turkey but apparently Mrs Cake Pops says that’s only if the turkey is double the size of the one we had. No wonder Christmas dinner is a stressful event if you’re cooking for that many people because that’s a lot of turkey going on there. Plus all the trimmings. You need another kitchen really.

Husband says our turkey was rather like a large chicken, except with huge wings, but I thought I better make more of an effort with it than just bunging it into the oven. Out of the twenty odd Christmas food magazines I’ve accumulated over the years illustrating the various ways you can cook Christmas dinner, I opted for the rub the turkey all over with butter and then decorate with rashers of streaky bacon option as advised by the Butcher. It was a bit weird rubbing the butter all over the turkey, I’m not sure I’d do that too often.

The real challenge though was how do you cook all the other things as well? Like the potatoes and parsnips that need roasting, the sausage meat stuffing and had there been room in the oven, the Yorkshire puddings which categorically should not be reserved solely for roast beef. Husband and Sister in Law like a spare Yorkshire pudding with golden syrup. Try it. Husband also likes a slice of Christmas cake with cheddar cheese on it. Try it too. These all require significantly higher temperatures than the 170 degrees the turkey needs to cook at. So suffice to say that Christmas lunch almost became Christmas afternoon tea by the time that everything was ready.

20141229-234810.jpg

Not that #1, 2 and 3 were concerned as they barely touched a morsel. So wrapped up were they in the visit of Father Christmas that had happened earlier that day.

Barely had I finished writing my last post and climbed into bed when a commotion erupted as #1 and 2 came charging into our room informing us very excitedly that Father Christmas HAD ALREADY BEEN!

Erm, that wasn’t the plan we had agreed on. #1 and 2 you were meant to sleep in until 7.30am.

NOT BE UP AT 3AM!

Then not only be up at 3am but #2 decides now is a good time to start freaking out at the fact she’s scared of Father Christmas. After he’s delivered the presents. She then insists that one of us has to sleep in their room in case he comes back. ‘But he’s not coming back #2’. ‘How do you know Mummy?’.

Quite so. How do I know?

#1 was beyond excited and kept getting out of bed several times before it was even dawn and then having to wait another hour before #2 and 3 were up. The anticipation was almost painful for him but he did really well.

And then everyone was up. Marvelling at the mess the reindeers had made on the balcony after eating the carrots and how Father Christmas had eaten all the snacks and drunk the whiskey and milk.

Now in each family, we all have our traditions and in ours the gift from Father Christmas can be opened after we’ve had breakfast. It worked well in previous years but as #1 and 2 join forces together and show no regard for patience it wasn’t really happening as before.

#2: ‘When can I open my Snow White dress from Santa, Mummy?’
Me: ‘How do you know that’s your gift?’
#2: ‘Because I asked him for it and he’s been now’

I can’t really argue with that can I. Where’s the surprise and amazing coincidence that Father Christmas delivers what you ask him for so long as you’ve been (mostly) good all year?

To #2 it was just fact. But joyful all the same as they excitedly opened their special present and it’s exactly what they’ve been coveting for some months.

I know it’s hard to tear yourself away from something you’ve been waiting for but I like a Christmas Day walk. Even if it’s just for an hour and we definitely had an hour to spare whilst the turkey cooked. #1 was a bit disgruntled at having to leave his new toys but in the end I think he enjoyed it. Along the way we passed by a temple that offers people who need it, a hot meal everyday of the year funded by the generosity of the public. It was a timely reminder.

20141229-235216.jpg

In the absence of family in Singapore, we do have good friends, great friends in fact, to spend a time of year usually reserved for close family. We ended Christmas Day with friends who opened their home to welcome so many of us who are a long way from Parents and Grandparents and plied us with lots of fizzy alcoholic pop.

Then on Boxing Day, which is fast becoming one of my favourite days too, we celebrated with a Boxing Day ham fest with Mrs Cake Pops and her family. Boxing Day ham is by far a much more relaxed affair. Just do the ham accompanied with left over cranberry and bread sauce, freshly sliced bread and copious amounts of cheese. What more could you ask for.

So the turkey is all done without a turkey curry to be had but a mashed potato topped turkey pie with shortcrust pastry grated on it before baking to a golden crunch. Absolute genius idea Mrs Imperturbable!

Christmas Day is over for this year and I hope you all enjoyed a wonderful one.

It’s time to prepare for the New Year and everything that it brings.

20141229-235036.jpg

Leave a comment »

So how do you cook a turkey?

No, seriously. How do you cook a turkey?

20141225-014614.jpg

Husband and I have never cooked a turkey before, except for a turkey crown. Partly due to him having been a vegetarian for the early part of our relationship. Then his principles left him. Or according to my family they thought it was for religious purposes so they probably think religion left him.

Anyways, we have never cooked a whole sized turkey. And we’ve seen them before. They’re big.

Really big.

And people talk about having to cook them overnight and getting up before dawn to baste it and all sorts. It sounds quite daunting.

20141225-004042.jpg

So tentatively I went to order the overpriced turkey from our local butchers last week. Naturally they couldn’t tell me the exact size it would but take your pick from small, medium or large.

Small please, considering it will be just for Husband and I as #1, 2 and 3 will most likely eat just the crispy bits of the roast potatoes and nothing else. So makes you wonder why we’re going to spend all morning in the kitchen for the full works.

Tradition of course. And because everyone in the UK will be doing the same (albeit some eight hours later and not in a hot, sweaty kitchen the size of a pea shell).

So I picked up the turkey this afternoon and asked the butcher to weigh it for me. It’s just over 3kg. Not as big as we were fearing thankfully. Then he showed me the Boxing Day ham I also ordered which we’re going to share with Mrs Cake Pops and family. That is also 3kg. With no bones or anything. Just 3kg of ham. That is a lot of ham.

20141225-003956.jpg

So, every year, Husband is adamant that we will not be spending Christmas Eve wrapping the presents of #1, 2 and 3 until the early hours.

It’s never going to happen because in the words of Mrs Imperturbable, ‘this year I am very disorganised’. And yet we were out having drinks together last night over looking Marina Bay Sands. We should have been wrapping presents instead but how could you pass up a view like this?

20141225-011223.jpg

So why am I disorganised this year? Well because I usually just am. Mitigating circumstances being the whole excitement of my almost seven week trip back to the UK used up all my excitement reserves that were left over from Embracing 40 this year. Plus the fog of jet lag took me almost into December so it feels like there has been no proper build up.

Until this last week or so when I’ve indulged in a flurry of Christmas outings.

The main shopping street in Singapore, Orchard Road, has a slew of shopping malls all with their own unique style of Christmas decor ranging from the tasteful to the tacky. But all when lit up at night look beautiful. There’s something quite magical about fairy lights twinkling in the dark.

20141225-014458.jpg

We took #1, 2 and 3 to the Winter Wonderland at Gardens by the Bay which was absolutely lovely. It really cheered me up to be there and I felt completely in the festive mood. We also took #1, 2 and 3 to see Father Christmas. Slightly less successful with #3 clinging onto me so fast that she could hold herself up with me hands free. Serves me right for laughing at the poor unfortunate families before us who had children who freaked out at having to be near the sleepy looking man with the fake beard and belly who clearly looks like he’s going to expire in his full on furry outfit.

20141225-010513.jpg

Today has been a whirlwind of last minute shopping, grocery shopping with #1, 2 and 3 that attracted a few dirty looks from other frantic shoppers, it wasn’t my most greatest Christmas experiences admittedly. We’ve watch Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Miracle on 34th Street and Harry Potter and Philosopher’s Stone whilst we’ve been wrapping.

We adopted quite a high risk strategy wrapping presents in the living room when #1 and 2 could have walked in at any time. But they didn’t fall asleep until gone 10pm because along with the excitement and anticipation, there was also a modicum of fear too.

20141225-014324.jpg

#3 has flatly refused to entertain the idea of Father Christmas coming at all. Not even the lure of presents will change her mind. ‘No Santa, No Santa. Ok Mummy. No Santa’.

I really enjoyed a massive bedtime hug from #1 tonight. A real big hug filled with happiness. I asked him how did he feel. He said excited and nervous at the same time. He really is so looking forward to Christmas Day.

I wish I could tell you all of them have behaved impeccably to merit a visit from Father Christmas but either way, he’ll be paying them a visit.

And tomorrow I can’t wait to hear their excited cries in the morning. I hope not too early as it really is the early hours now.

20141225-013033.jpg

One other thing is that those Elves can come down from those shelves for another year. As you know, I am not a fan but I follow my friend’s efforts closely and she is a creative genius. Here’s a round up of her fabulous creations this year.

20141225-013838.jpg

So, the advent windows are all open. The whiskey is out on the table together with the mince pie, almond tarts and gingerbread. The carrots and water are on the balcony. The presents are wrapped under the tree.

And yet we still haven’t got a clue how to cook the turkey!

Merry Christmas to you all. May you have a wonderful day with all the people you want to be with.

20141225-014052.jpg

4 Comments »

The Great Christmas Tree Bun-fight!

There was a bit of a Christmas tree buying frenzy at the weekend in Singapore.

It didn’t bode well when we went to buy ours the weekend before and they were all SOLD OUT. In November at that. You know my views on Christmas trees up before December.

I’m all for Christmas build up but you have got to time it right so you can keep the momentum going at just the right level of enthusiasm.

This is our seventh tropical Christmas and we have been going back to the same garden centre each year to get our tree without experiencing any scarcity issues before. The excitement of there being no trees last weekend meant an early outing to the garden centre on Saturday morning. You can’t be complacent about these things.

So, despite the sudden tropical rain storm that caused drains to overflow a mere 10 minutes beforehand, there was already a queue of cars lined up outside the garden centres. There’s a whole row of them along one stretch. I’m still feeling quietly confident at this point though, especially when I’d already prepaid for one.

The garden centre staff are looking harassed and doing lots of deep sighing. What for? Where’s your Christmas spirit whilst we’re trying to choose our tree!

Considering the shipment only arrived the day before, there are surprisingly few trees around. I’m obviously not the only one who thinks this as more and more people start streaming into the garden centre carrying their stands from the Christmas before.

They have come prepared.

They know the drill.

They are not leaving without a tree attached to that stand.

Couples start pacing up and down the rows of trees, inspecting the potential of a Merry Christmas that tree will bring to their home. Another couple bypasses them, which causes a slight rise in tension of the first couple perusing the tree in front of them. You can tell they are thinking, ‘this tree is good but what if there’s a better tree up ahead that these late contenders might take before us?’ So they quickly abandon the first tree, but the gap between the rows of trees is not wide enough for any overtaking. They’ve missed their chance.

But wait, what happens if we back track the way we came and inspect the trees from the other side? Good idea and so the first couple do an abrupt u-turn causing a juddering in the line of Christmas tree hunter gatherers, who telepathically cotton on to their idea and steal it from the first couple.

Ah, the Christmas tension crackled in the air!

20141209-002743.jpg

I think I’m on the outskirts of all this activity, I’m barely paying much attention to the other Christmas tree hunter gatherers. As I stop in front of one, I turn to Husband and #1 and ask them what they think of this tree. Obscured from the other side I suddenly hear a disembodied voice coming from the lower depths of the tree, ‘I was interested in this tree first’.

Excuse me?

Where’s the tag with your invoice number that gives you the right to lay such a claim to this particular tree? No invoice, no baggsying the tree.

Husband can obviously see this thought process drifting across my face and doesn’t want #1 to witness a terrible scene of Mummy helping the lovely lady take a closer look at the trees. So, he quickly ushers me on before I can say anything. A few minutes later, we find the same tree unceremoniously dumped, so fickle some people. And of course I wasn’t going to take it now that she has dumped it, even though I couldn’t see anything wrong with it.

Actually the truth is, we opted for a tree that had a slightly less wide bushy bottom.

So you see the perils of Christmas already?

I love a beautifully decorated Christmas tree. One that has been put together with thought and style to add an elegant ambience to your living room. I once had such a tree. I aspired to having one again this year but found myself over-ruled by four small people who raided the decorations box and were industriously and happily placing all the Christmas decorations we own on the tree. Everything seems to be concentrated around the mid level/small people height. It looks like someone has vomited baubles and decorations onto it.

I did consider re-distributing and even removing some of the decorations entirely to balance it out a bit but then I figured, this is their Christmas too and they had worked so hard on the tree and were so proud of it and each other. If I could get them to tidy up after themselves in much the same way I’d be such a happy parent. So for this year, an elegant and sophisticated look will have to pass us by.

20141209-003018.jpg

Another potential area for awkward discussion with #1 and 2 is that not all cultures and so not all children celebrate Christmas. So Father Christmas will not be visiting all homes this Christmas Eve (technically Christmas morning) which is what they believe. Do you know, I think I’ve just solved the time travel continuum theory of how Father Christmas does it. How can he possibly get around all the children’s homes in one night. Quite simply, he doesn’t have to. Well done me.

For them to find out now that Father Christmas will not becoming to your home even though you haven’t been bad is just too complicated to explain. But why not? Have you been naughty? So what happens instead?

Well, perhaps more of a focus on the religious and true meaning of Christmas? You know, sweet baby Jesus and all.

But anyway, that will come in time. For now, it’s enough to get my head around that Father Christmas will not be visiting the Nederlands. I did not know this until an education in the tradition of Sinterklaas by Mrs Pancakes for Dinner (another Dutch tradition). I previously assumed that Sinterklaas, or Saint Nicolaus, gave the Dutch children a gift at the start of December as a warm up to the main event some weeks later.

Saint Nicolaus is a very real and much loved Dutch figure who lived in medieval times and was honourable and kind to children. Sinterklaas arrived in Singapore on Sunday, 16 November just by Marina Bay Sands. Children laid out snacks and treats for him and his horses and good behaviour whilst he’s around is imperative to whether or not you receive a present from him on the evening of 5 December. Mrs Pancakes for Dinner said they would be celebrating with a special dinner, which involves no turkeys, and without warning, Sinterklaas and his helper will leave a present for the children wherever he chooses. Apparently through the open back door. It seems a lot more fluid and relaxed the Dutch way than the where will Father Christmas park his sleigh and how will he get in and where will he leave the presents. How great, you don’t even have to try and get to sleep as you do on Christmas Eve despite the high levels of excitement.

So, we had all gone round to see Mrs Pancakes for Dinner the day before Sinterklaas was to hopefully pay a visit to their new home and naturally I wished the children a wonderful and happy time for the next day. #1 overhears this exchange and wants to know what’s happening that is so special, clearly concerned about what he’s missing out on.

20141209-002505.jpg

This year, it’s still easy to provide a diversion to avoid giving an answer to questions I have no idea how to answer but it’s not going to last long. And whilst not really culturally diverse of me, I just don’t want the children to find out just yet that not all children truly believe in Father Christmas and the magic of Christmas.

Perhaps it’s really more for my benefit though to keep this belief alive.

Leave a comment »

%d bloggers like this: