Christmas Dinner

Yesterdays blog got me thinking about the whole Christmas dinner “thing”. If I added up the amount of Sunday roasts that I have cooked for my family over the years it would be hundreds. Its simple, on Sunday I whack a bit of meat in the oven, peel some vedge, shove them in, make some yorkies, bit of gravy and voila it’s done. Now and again I might even make a pudding,it’s something I do without thinking. It is after all just cooking.

Stick the twenty fifth of December into the mix and for some reason something that I do every day of the week becomes akin to neurosurgery. People start talking about the size “of your bird” in hushed tones, will I be wrapping it in bacon, putting lemon infused butter under the skin, stuffing the neck, stuffing the cavity (that btw is a total no no nowadays apparently) rubbing it in cider, bathing it in brine three weeks before the actual event, cooking it on its breast, cooking it right side up, the list is endless. To cover it in foil or not to cover it in foil, that is another question. Then its the how long does it need cooking for conundrum. If my mother in laws anything to go by about eight weeks, but people are obsessed (and I’m not saying this lightly here) with putting your “bird” in the oven overnight. “WHY” I want to scream, when is the last time you have ever cooked anything over night and kept it cooking till two the following afternoon? Then manage to get upset when your told the birds “a little dry this year” I mean after that long in an oven your lucky it hasn’t shrunk to the size of a poussin. Dry ,the things been cremated! So much for soaking it, singing to it and massaging it with truffle oil, whats the point when you cook it so it’s inedible.

Once its cooked, (be it overnight or not) you have to go through the whole “are the juices running clear” routine. At any other time of the year I can safely tell when my joint of meat is done, I’m very proud of the fact that I have never poisoned anyone who has sat at my table, so why do I suddenly need at least five people to tell me that the “bird” is “safe to eat”. I’ve been tempted to draft in random passers by “excuse me would you say there’s a streak of red in that otherwise clear juice, should I put it back do you think?” Honestly it’s like mastermind for turkey juices.All logical thinking goes out the window, you see streaks of red in everything.

Once the bacon laden, butter infused, foil covered, brine rinsed “bird” has been deemed ready for human consumption it’s the “how long do you rest it for?” debate. This is crucial to the taste, according to any celebrity chef. It’s (hopefully) clear juices need to flow freely round the meat for maximum flavour, (or something along those lines.) If you have cooked your turkey for less than twenty four hours then hopefully you will still have some juices to see, any longer and I wouldn’t bother with the resting palava, you should probably get the eating experience over as soon as possible! Once it’s been rested, (and you have to hope that this turkey was treated with as much care when it was alive) it’s the moment of truth, as the designated “carver” is handed the Knife and carving fork ready to serve the fruits of your labour. Even that’s on another level, do you want the light meat or dark meat? I have no idea exactly what people are on about when they ask me this but, it’s a fact apparently this one specimen has various shades of meat about its person, that’s without the whole “would you like a breast or leg” scenario!Once you have gone through the whole calving rigmarole the meat can finally hit the plates (which are warmed obviously).

Blimey as if that isn’t exhausting enough just because its Christmas we need to add around forty different kinds of vedge, stuffing, bread sauce, cranberry sauce (that you have to make yourself) and sausages wrapped in bacon. Now the old sausage as a side order thing really makes me wonder “What were they thinking when they invented that”. Whens the last time you went out for a meal and said “Oooh steak and chips please , plus a couple of sausages on the side,  and while your at it could you wrap them in bacon too?, just in case they aren’t meaty enough on their own”. We have meat with a side order of sausage only on this one day. If I go against this bonkers tradition I face mutiny in the ranks, my children live for those little sausages, and if the husband doesn’t get his stuffing balls (more porky meaty stuff) we may as well cancel the whole festivities.

I’m almost sure you don’t serve a nut roast with extra nuts and a side order of more nuts do you? What is it with all these meaty extras, it’s a bit like a bird in a bird in a bird roast, but that’s another story.

For some reason you are compelled to prepare more potatoes than you thought possible, sprouts like they are going out of fashion and, feel the urge to coat your parsnips in honey, then and add chestnuts and BACON (see the pork theme here) to your sprouts. Red cabbage suddenly becomes appealing as does a bit of cauliflower cheese, forget five a day at Christmas time, you get your whole years supply of vitamins in the time it takes you to eat. No wonder it takes about three hours to dish up. Christmas dinner is twelve meals rolled into one.

If your not really feeling the festive cooking lurve there are also those people who say “I just don’t want to do all that work I’m buying the whole thing pre prepared this year.” At any other time of year that’s known as a “ready meal” folks. Come Christmas and it’s “pre prepared”. The rule book is certainly thrown out the window over the yuletide season. Cooking suddenly becomes a chore, a huge job, like something we really only do annually. Sticking something in the oven now seems akin with climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. I don’t get it. I’ts just a big roast. Yes I understand that the turkey is enourmous and the vedge selection can seem intimidating but, at the end of the day it’s a giant chicken with a few condiments. I suppose it doesn’t sound that impressive when you put it like that. Christmas dinner is steeped in some sort of folk lore, which seems to ensure that for one day only cooking a roast is the hardest and most exhausting task that you will ever do in your life.

Everything with Christmas dinner needs to be that bit more complicated it seems. The pudding for example needs steaming for hours, then it’s all the flavored creams, plus brandy butter. As if that wasn’t enough your supposed to set fire to the pudding, not forgetting to stick random pieces of money inside it for the “lucky” guest to find. The whole pudding experience I’m sure you can see is fraught with danger. If you avoid going up in smoke there’s still a chance you could choke to death on a coin or at best loose a filling! Honestly, and we are supposed to enjoy this…….

Lastly the clear up operation is mamouth, is it surprising I ask you, for some reason you manage to use every pot that you own. The kitchen resembles something like the morning after the night before. It baffles me it really does. At no other time of year does a roast create so much work, effort or debate. The lengths that we go to in order to ensure that the whole thing is perfect are unbelievable, yet no matter how hard you try I can guarantee that someone round the table will say “how long did you cook this for?,any chance of more gravy”!

Mrs W

 

Tis the season!

Its nearly upon us, in exactly two weeks (it will be boxing day)all the presents will have been unwrapped, the turkey will be destined for sandwiches and a dry fricassee that nobody ever eats, the quality streets will have been devoured, the port drunk and you will be thinking about new year resolutions.

Its the build up to Christmas that gets me, now please don’t think that I am not a fan of the festive season. I LOVE Christmas, the whole idea makes me go warm and fuzzy inside. In my head our house will look like the one from “Home alone” (only we aren’t going away, and hopefully won’t loose any kids). The turkey will be as good as Nigellas, the pudding rivaling anything that Mary Berry could create and mistletoe adorning every door frame where the husband and I will have the time and energy to rekindle a bit of romance that sometimes disappears after twenty six years of marriage. We will have a roaring fire (remember this is in my head, I know we don’t have an actual fireplace) roast chestnuts and watch movies while wearing festive knits and sipping eggnog (the eggnog is crucial in my dream, even though I’ve never had it).

The build up allows you to buy into my fantasy, Christmas music playing in all the shops, lights adorning everything, baubles dangling and sleigh bells jingling. Whats not to love? I actually found myself hankering after a knitted elf dress(complete with pompoms and flashing sleeves) the other day. Team it with stripey tights and….. O.K a step too far I know, fear not,I didn’t buy it. You actually believe your family will all get on, it will be peace and goodwill to all men (humor me the carol doesn’t say women). I also want you to admit it, a part of  you expects a knock on the door where a couple of small people dressed in blue and brown hessian sacks with tea towels on their heads (and a donkey) are  asking for shelter and if you have a spare manger. Yup its merry alright.

However, and without turning into the Grinch, the reason this is a fantasy is because and I hate to admit this, life isn’t a Hollywood movie, in my experience its more of an Eastenders “I’m your mum, get out my pub” kind of time. Lets be honest even Nigella has had her fair share of problems and she’s perfect. I put it down to the pressure to be happy, have fun, play board games, cook enough food to feed the five thousand and spend at least four days solid with your family while doing all of the above. Something has to give. Not only that then add presents into the mix throw in stockings, and that’s a whole extra layer of stress. I like to think I am quite organised when it comes to the pressie buying, however its not how to buy its what to buy. Hands up who wanders round the isles looking at rows and rows of festive gifts thinking “Oh yes that’s great I shall buy six of those” when at any other time of the year you would think, “A giant sherry glass filled with chocolates in the shape of pugs, how ridiculous, who would want one of those?”. They are the kind of things you give to people your not that keen on normally, not your sister. We suddenly get obsessed with slippers, pajamas and socks. Even electric toothbrushes, (did you know that there are more electric toothbrushes sold at Christmas than any other time of the year?). What is it with us in December, it’s as though subliminally we realise its so bloody cold we will need cozy nightwear,we  will eat copious amount of chocolate, drink tons of sherry out of giant glasses, then need to brush our teeth extra carefully to compensate for the sugar hit, while lounging around in our socks and slippers! Who says it doesn’t pay to be practical!  It’s also the Christmas list, who invented that idea? The shops is the answer, Santa doesn’t need a list that’s the point of him, hes magic, he knows if your naughty or nice, he watches you all year round according to Chrimbo folk lore. If he’s that bloody good what does he need a list for?. I blame commercialism.talking lists, one of my kids wanted an £180.00 pair of trainers while the other wanted a skipping rope,try evening that out, perhaps I could buy him two!

Its not only the presents, it’s the food.I live in North London, Tesco is a 2 minute walk from our house, Waitrose 5,we have a corner shop and it takes 20 minutes on the bus to get to the West End. Yet when it comes to the Festive food shop I buy as though I will never see a shop or get near a computer again. Come to ours in December and we have a greater selection of cheese than la Fromagerie, our cold cuts of meats rival the meat counter at any deli, we have enough chocolate to open up a choclatiere, enough vedge to give Greg Wallace a run for his money and enough drink to open up a new branch of unwins (remember them). That’s not mentioning the nuts, dried fruit, crackers (for all that cheese) and the pate’s the( flavors of which you would never dream of trying in a normal month.) The normal  me know’s Christmas is technically one day, the normal me understand’s that its just a roast with sausages (again when do you ever serve a sausage on the side at any other time of year?) and a bit of cranberry sauce yet it doesn’t stop the festive me from buying food as though rationing is going to start in the next week and I need to stock up for the next twenty five years. What happens to me? Why do I suddenly need six different liquors, eight different wines and advocaat (just in case you fancy a snowball). I even bought babycham once “just in case” I heard myself say. Now I  think in case of what? At what point in your life have you ever needed babycham in an emergency? If you have I would love to know why! Similarly if the whole family are round for a roast I manage with two chickens, come the twenty fifth of December and the turkey has to be of epic proportions. I have no idea why, it just does and, if it takes nine weeks to cook in the bottom of the oven of the aga then that’s even better. Why do we think we need to cook something for so long just cos it’s the yule tide season?See its a funny old time Christmas.For example when did you last buy tinned chestnut puree? Christmas I hear you say. All rules go out the window at this time of year, we buy random things and lots of them all in the name of “eat, drink and be merry”. It does it to us all, I hope so anyway cos if its just me perhaps I need professional help.

I haven’t even touched on the variety of condiments, the different breads or the tree that is way to big for the house, let alone the inevitable family arguments, fresh cranberries and dried figs. But I feel I have rambled for long enough, plus I’ve just remembered I’ve forgotten to order the goose, the pork loin and the rib of beef (just in case). Maybe Mary and Joseph will pop buy after all, you have to be prepared for all eventualities and I have no idea what they would eat. I also need to go and buy a flashing brandy glass that sings simply the best when you pour anything into it (from the kids) I’m sure the husband will love it after all it’s christmas.

 

Mrs W

The Divorce

In my opinion there is nothing that tests your marriage more than having children. I don’t agree with the more you have the more the marriage is tested, ones all it takes.Both me and the husband love our kids and started very early into our married life so pre children is a very hard memory to conjure up we have sort of always had them. I have no idea whether its better to have them quickly, be together for ages then pop one out or start early and keep going. There is no secret formula, and if there was I wouldn’t be writing it here, I would sell it at great expense. One thing is kids equal arguments.

It doesn’t need to be a full blown Eastender’s “get out my pub” slanging match, just quiet disagreement is enough. Feeling their lack of support about the way you deal with a tantrum or the way you do the bed time routine. The having to ask them to do things, who asks you?. The fact that when they do stuff people are in awe of the fact that you have a” great husband”. Hang on a cotton picking minute here, he has got a good wife, after all as we have just ascertained if I hadn’t of asked, it wouldn’t have got done.

Its hard when you both have different parenting styles, one of you parents more than the other and neither of you can agree on a happy medium. Both of you think what you do is best, you both secretly hope that the kids love you more (In my case they definitely love their dad best,not even worth arguing they do) and when they get a first at Oxford it’s obviously thanks to your quiet encouragement rather than your other halves. I find I’m much stricter, the husbands much calmer, more tolerant and (I’m gritting my teeth when I write this) more fun. He plays games, hes a monster, he runs round the house like a five year old, jumps on the bed, becomes a knight, lets them stay up for “five more minutes” gives them milk and cookies. I don’t. While he’s being Sir Galahad I’m being Cruella De Vil, cleaning, cooking or thinking about the home work they should be doing. I know, I’m not exactly selling myself, but I am the one who’s more practical, a planner and much more anal about cleaning. In my defense this house goes from tidy to looks like it hasn’t been touched for at least a month in approximately six minutes.

We must work a bit, after all we have been together for twenty six years, and have managed to get our eldest to the age of twenty five, without killing her or each other. It has never been plain sailing though. I feel he doesn’t back me up enough. He has this annoying habit of going totally silent when one of them decides to kick off spectacularly, Its like he needs a prompt shouting from the wings “YOUR WIFE IS WAITING FOR YOU TO SAY SOMETHING NOW”!!! Yes I get you need to pick your battles, but when I’ve picked one I wouldn’t mind a bit of back up from the troops. The amount of times I’ve started an argument/discussion (after the kids have gone to bed) with “I thought we are supposed to be a team…..” He thinks I worry about the little things when the bigger things matter, he hates my obsession with time, (we can never be late) The husbands much more relaxed, doesn’t say “hurry up” as much as I do, yet annoyingly always gets the kids where they should be on time, then makes a point of phoning me up to tell me!

He listens to them more, but I read to them better, he sings stupid songs with them, I talk about their hopes and dreams. I’m more realistic at what we can afford to buy them whereas he would give them the world on a plate if he could. He thinks his way of bringing up The Wilkinsons is better than mine and I think that on the whole he’s right. I feel I’m better at being strict and if I left the building he would face a revolution. I do not have the answer to a happy marriage or how to stop those feelings of life being better as a one man band sometimes. I have no clue how to prevent an argument when your both exhausted the children have driven you to distraction, monies tight, the house is messy and one of you still needs to hang out tomorrows school uniform. That fizzing resentment you feel for one another and all because you don’t always sing from the same page where the children are concerned.

What I do know is that on the whole (and I am speaking from my own experience here) you wouild never be without your kids and if you feel like a divorce on average every twenty eight days then your doing good in my book. Opposites attract, I guess that sometimes I wish we weren’t quite so opposite but when the merde hits the fan, whenever I’ve really needed him and  over the past twenty six years, The husband has been pretty cool all in all. I think the key is I could never imagine my life without him and even though he has a couple of faults (and I’m being generous) I’m not perfect myself. Twenty six years is a long time to be with someone and the sparkle might be a little tarnished, some days more challenging than others and divorce lawyers for you programmed into my phone just in case………… I actually love him. Maybe that’s the key, who knows.

 

Mrs W

 

Who’s house is this?

Before I start my ramblings of today, I would like to point out that all in all my children aren’t that bad. Those of you already lucky enough to be experiencing the teenage years will know what I mean, while those waiting in the wings will see what I mean when their time comes. Teens are meant to drive you to distraction, its part of  parenting law, and to be honest if they were “step-ford teens” what on earth would I write about? The husbands still recovering from the catsuit blog, no way I can tell you about the basque (with tassels) yet!

I sometimes wonder who’s house I live in. I’m sure that me and the husband are the owners, we pay the bills, deal with the upkeep, cook, clean, run and manage the place yet at times I feel like the hired help, an inconvenience to be put up with, like an annoying lodger, tolerated (just). Why I hear you ask! The answer my children. Not the little’s, (the ones from about eleven down) no,they are still in the cute stage, want to tell you about their day, they enjoy chatting to you, they like being with you, still laugh at your jokes. Its the kids from thirteen up that make you question your place in the household. They the ones that look at you as though you have just crawled out from under a stone naked, the ones that can just about bring themselves to make eye contact and only talk to you if the can’t help it. The ones whose favorite line is “Your so annoying” probably because I asked if they would mind moving their own shoes from the front door, or pick up their bag, or even the fact that I might be a bit chipper. Even me breathing can set them off on a bad day.

Its sad how your children change before your eyes, like a butterfly in reverse. There is a reason we have kept having children, and its not because we’ve got a sadistic streak. It’s because we love “little people”, they are totally fabulous, mini blank canvases, the world their oyster. Sadly this phase doesn’t last forever and the inveitable happens. Overnight they go from cute to something quite different, however I can;t find a word for the opposite of cute, I’m sure you get my drift though. The thing that makes me laugh most is how they actually do manage to make you feel uncomfortable in your own home. Every day is like sitting a special exam where your set up to fail from the moment you open your eyes.

You go to the bathroom but have chosen the wrong time, its far more important that the twenty one year old has a shower at six, after all she starts work at twelve, I’m clearly missing the logic. You go to the kitchen, suddenly the nineteen year old walks in “Oh your in here” they say with a look of disdain. “How else is the cooking going to get done?” I think to myself, after all most families use their kitchens to cook in, I don’t think I’ve started a groundbreaking revolution here people. KITCHENS ARE FOR COOKING IN. I go to my bedroom, where the thirteen year old is sprawled across my bed watching a film, the look I get when I ask her if she minds if I actually use my room (its where I work) is not even printable. The loo (we have 2) is too cold to sit in at this time of year and the sitting room is out of bounds at certain times of the day. After all my teens/twenties either work or are at college or school, this is awfully hard for them and they need down time. Obviously I am totally unreasonable, I do nothing in comparison to them so why should I want to sit on my own sofa?

The dining room is connected to the sitting room so if I sit at the table no talking is allowed( in case I ruin their T.V watching.) Their rooms are totally out of bounds (unless I’m collecting dirty clothes, plates, cups etc) which leaves me with the hallway, the staircase (where again no talking is permitted as they can hear me) or the garden. Not the back garden either, now and again they like to  sit there under the gazebo talking to their friends on the phone. I cannot be in the garden when that is happening, so it’s best to stay out of it altogether. That’s another thing, they can talk to friends, watch tele, have a lazy day, have a bath, blow dry their hair whenever they like. I on the other hand manage to upset everyone weather I’m talking to a friend, going to the loo or having a bath, its always the wrong time. Even bloody two in the morning, honestly my life is not my own.

I have come to the conclusion that the front garden is possibly the best place for me, next to the bins. I could come in for cooking and cleaning purposes then leave silently when my services are no longer required, a bit like Downton Abbey. I might buy a cap so I can doff it.

Nobody tells you that when your children celebrate the birthday that gives them the key to the door, you get the virtual removal van for you. Welcome to the parent scrap yard. I have one other solution, they could move out! I’m working on that one. Before you know it the whole Wilkinson clan will be in the front garden in tents…. There’s a thought.

 

Mrs W

Screen Time

Since I had my first baby twenty five years ago, to my smallest who is one, things have obviously changed hugely. Technology has come on in leaps and bounds, my children actually just about know what a phone box is and, have no concept of life before Netflix, or the fact that back in the day Google didn’t exist. Even I wonder how I coped without that.

When my eldest were little we used to have to go to draughty church halls and play with one eyed naked dolls, prams with a wheel missing and sticklebricks (remember them) that still contained the spit from the child that sucked them the week before. Us parents (mainly mums tbh) sat round on rickety chairs nursing bad instant coffee (pre Starbucks) in mugs that were probably used by the WI during the second world war, nibbling on a stale tasting digestive. We couldn’t look at our phones as most of us didn’t have them. Texting hadn’t taken off yet and as for Facebook, Instagram or twitter forget it. Those were the days we had to use good old fashioned conversation. We talked to each other, played with our children and didn’t worry that we weren’t documenting every second of our lives from the moment we woke up to the minute we went to bed. No missed calls to stress about we had an answerphone………………

Don’t get me wrong, I do not miss having to use a phone box that was filled with wee, and I love a tweet as much as the next person, I’m not harking back to the good old days, I love my phone and my kids love theirs. Its also lots easier to punish a rather cocky child nowadays, too much cheek and wip away their mobile, its the worst thing that can happen to them. Honestly life without social media for a young person from twelve on wards is like the world without the sun, unimaginable. They tidy their bedroom pretty sharpish I can tell you with the threat of no mobile looming. For that alone you have to be grateful for the march of technology. Hearing my children ask Alexa what the weathers like, or what the time is, is normal to me now. Its also reassuring when they go out, you feel safer in the knowledge that they can ring you if there’s a problem, you can also get hold of them. This works in theory until the time their battery dies, you ring, it goes straight to voicemail and then your imagination goes bananas. So I guess every up side has its flip side. But on the whole I can’t complain.

There is nothing we can do about technology, I have embraced it and to be honest its saved me from many an awkward situation, if your in a room full of crowded people that you don’t know that well, look at your phone. You can pretend to be busy, talking, emailing, blogging it stops you from looking lonely. Church halls have never held the same fear for me, I love the toddler group now, if there’s nobody I fancy talking too I ring a friend, watts app pictures of the kids having fun to the husband. Even catch up on work,its suits me fine. Plus I am not the only person doing it, we all are. I suppose it does make us anti social but it keeps boring people at bay too.

One of the downsides to our never ending connection to cyberspace is “screen time” and the guilt that we feel about it. How long we let our children stare at the laptop watching anything from Peppa Pig to somebody playing with toys (they actually love that, who would have thought, plus these  vloggers all have really weird hypnotic voices which adds a whole new level of weirdness) is akin to how much sugar we give them. The truth is the screens keep them happy, keep them quiet, keep them amused while you manage to get all your jobs done. I have to say I have got lots more relaxed over the years, if they watch too much Peppa so be it. The three year old has an amazing knowledge of dinosaurs thanks to one channel and, the one year old roars like a lion on demand thanks to seeing the old “lets play with playmobil” animals bloke. We as parents finally find something that works, keeps them happy and makes life easy, then we go and ruin it by overthinking everything and limiting the hours. Its such a fine balance, and I am more rubbish than most as I’m sure you can see by my attitude, but trust me you tube do a much better version of incy wincy spider than I do. We try so many things, screen after six, none before breakfast only two hours over the whole weekend. Its an internet nightmare all created to make us feel like we are getting something else wrong. To think I used to worry about a sucked sticklebrick. I have decided to stop worrying and as long as I talk to my children once a day and they are not going cross eyed, then internet here we come!

I actually met someone the other day who has never let her child watch T.V let alone use a lap top. When I asked if her daughter liked Peppa pig she looked at me as though I suggested she feed her crack cocaine. Its a personnel decision I totally understand that, and none of us will ever get it right bu,t this woman was pretty smug. Then her child had the biggest tantrum I have ever witnessed in my life culminating in her kicking her mothers turmeric, almond milk latte(in a biodegradable cup) right out of her hand spilling it all over the floor of the church hall (see some things never change).I actually felt sorry for her, I refrained from mentioning anything remotely pig related and passed her a sticklebrick instead, complete with drool. Had she been on a lap top……. who knows, the latte may have survived. Peppa pig anyone.

 

Mrs W