As someone who has been currently signed off work for two and a half weeks with stress, I have been thinking about all the ways I have to change to make my life easier. And it starts with attitude.
1: Remember your life is not a movie
Christmas will NOT go perfectly….unless you have been hosting Christmas for nigh on 50 years and you have a routine that beggars belief, because Christmas is NOT going to be like the movies. As the child of divorced parents, who has married another child of divorced parents, we are used to not having any sort of routine for Christmas as we would often be at different house in different parts of the country. Now we are married, and with nervy pooch in tow who really travels badly, I have put my foot down about going anywhere, and for the second year running we have people coming to us for Christmas dinner. Due to me being off work and being all stressfilled, Mama Pigeon asked if they should refrain from coming for lunch…I told them not to be stupid….even if I am cooking for 10. If I am still in my jammies when I carve the turkey and pudding consists of a tin of Roses, Christmas isn’t about the perfect dinner, the perfect setting, the perfect ANYTHING…it’s about having your family (whatever faction) around you and having a good time.
2: Make a cooking chart
Now this may sound ridiculous, but I thank my brother-in-law for his military style precision on this one. Using a spreadsheet (or a good old fashioned bit of pen and paper) working backwards from when you want to sit down and eat, work out when everything needs prepping and popping in the oven. I use a coloured bar scheme…here is a picture of mine for this year to explain what I mean!
3: Be Prepared
If you can, get stuff ready BEFORE Christmas Day…or even before Christmas Eve.
Potatoes can be peeled and cut the night before and left overnight in the fridge in a bowl, covered with water. Just discard that water and pop them in new water to parboil later.
Parsnips can be cut and frozen WEEKS before, getting them out the night before to defrost, then to parboil and roast. As can carrots.
Sprouts – you do realise the little crosses just have to go in the big ones right? It is just to make sure they cook the same speed as the little ones. Don’t give yourself a mammoth job for no reason.
I have even heard of people pre-making their gravy and just adding the meat juices at the last minute….something I may try this year…
Baking should be done WAY before Christmas Day. Cakes freeze really well if you have been super organised.
Pile up your serving ware. If you are using special crockery etc, have it ready and to hand. I will be elastic banding cutlery together to hand out to another brother to help set the table.
Make sure your dishwasher is EMPTY at the start of the morning (so perhaps unload it the night before if you can – especially if you have little ones and lots of presents to open first thing) and ready to be reloaded and put on. Also designate an area for dirty dishes, maybe with a sign if you have lots of guests. In the same breath, empty that nearly full kitchen bin…. you do not want to be doing it during the day.
And if all else fails…..have a bag of sausage rolls in the freezer ready to whack in the oven.
This is where my list-making does me proud. The eternal question “can I do anything?” – YES THEY CAN. Look at your list and give those helpful souls a job that A; you don’t want to do and B; you can trust them to do. Mine will be setting up the dining area. I am lucky I don’t care how it looks as long as there are enough seats for everyone. My youngest brother, who is 12 adores cooking so he is going to be my talking alarm clock to make sure everything is going to schedule.
5: Have a glass of something
Now normally I don’t advocate alcohol as a coping method, but cooking this big meal shouldn’t feel like a chore…it’s an event! Slap some Buble on, pour a tipple and dance as you cook! It’s all about attitude. It doesn’t matter if you burn the parsnips (cough cough Papa Pigeon…EVERY TIME!) or if you eat half hour later than planned…..as long as you are together.
Hope you have a wonderful day!