Not Really A Christmas Post

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That title sounds kind of grumpy, doesn’t it? “Not a Christmas post.” I might as well add “Bah Humbug.” Which is weird because I love Christmas. I always have. So I guess this IS a Christmas post, in a way.

I mean, I love so many things about Christmas. I love getting the tree. And trimming the tree. Old family ornaments, family traditions, and funny family Christmas stories. Like the one where we had a tree that Lloyd stored in the barn and it froze so the ends of the branches curled up like arthritic fingers. And Mum named the tree Arthur. As in arthur-itis… get it? I love the traditions Hubby and I have made since we’ve been together. Some of which we borrowed from home, like naming our tree.

I love the food and the crackling fires. I love Christmas music. Most of it. And Christmas shopping downtown. Not in a mall, but on a street where you have to go outside to move from one store to the other, and get properly cold doing it. And there are community decorations strung along the streets, and a Salvation Army person with their red kettle on the corner. I always sing “Silver Bells” in my head when I’m Christmas shopping downtown. You know the song…”on every street corner you hear…silver bells…silver bells. It’s Christmas time in the city.”

My really, really old Santa.

I love all the sappy Christmas movies. Okay, not all of them. Mostly the old ones. Certainly not the newest ones that have been relentlessly advertised on television. You know the movies I mean. The ones with bad writing, bad acting, cliché storylines, and the female actors all done up in maximum lipgloss, and cute furry boots. All about that special guy finding that special girl, right at Christmas. I hate those ones. Except for Love, Actually. And Affair to Remember. And Miracle on 34th Street. Which come to think about it, among other things, are all about finding love, right at Christmas. And considering that Hubby and I had our first date on December 20, I guess I don’t know what I mean. Ha.

So I think we’ve established that I love Christmas. Mostly.

But I don’t love all the pressure to buy, buy, buy. To find the perfect gift. Make the perfect meal. Set the perfect table. I am tired of all the gift guide posts, blogs and Instagram posts and YouTube videos with gift ideas. I’ve even unsubscribed from a couple of YouTube channels because of the plethora of gift guide videos and advice for six different festive outfits for Christmas at home. One person posed in a festive dressed-down-stay-at-home outfit with a coordinating purse. Now who carries a purse in their own house except for the Queen?

Of course I don’t hate the vlogs and posts that say “this is what I’m actually wearing this Christmas.” But this year, of all years, I wish people would try to keep it real. One vlogger endeared herself to me because she actually went on a bit of a rant about too much Christmas everywhere. And how she struggled with Christmas, and knew that others probably did too.

I am sick of all the perfect Christmas decor photos. Except the ones in old English country houses, with big hearths, real fir boughs and holly, and shabby chic interiors. Perfectly themed, matchy-matchy Christmas decorating in this year’s popular colour is an anathema to me. My favorite shot of a Christmas tree so far this year is one my friend Jeannie posted on Facebook of her daughter’s Christmas tree, complete with unbreakable ornaments, and the cat peeking out from the boughs at the back. Hence the unbreakable ornaments. Ha.

Anyway, enough ranting. Bah humbug to all that Christmas hysteria, and the push to be perfect in every way. I’m too old for that perfection thing.

Mum and I had an extended Christmas cake phone consultation today.

So to that end I decided that this year would be the year that I stopped being intimidated by the idea of making Mum’s famous Christmas cake. I think I’ve mentioned before that my mum is a wonderful cook. And she excelled at Christmas baking, was in fact famous for it in our family and in the wider neighbourhood. Particularly for her fruitcake.

She sent me the baking pan I would need and her recipe years ago, but I never made the darned cake. I guess I couldn’t imagine making a Christmas cake that was as perfectly moist, and rich, and delicious as Mum’s. And so I never tried. Until today.

Today I was not to be deterred by fear of failure. Besides, if it turns out terrible, Hubby will eat anything. And like Mum said on the phone when I called for a mid-mixing consultation today, if it turns out dry or not that pretty, just warm it up, drown it in sauce and pretend it’s Christmas pudding.

So I guess we’ve established that I love Christmas. Mostly. Not the saccharine, teeth-grindingly cliché Christmas often seen on television and in social media. But a down-home, perfectly imperfect Christmas. With a turkey that may be a tad overcooked, a house that will never be featured in House Beautiful, but which has colour, a few old but well-loved decorations that suit us, and a small tree named Arthur or Lucy or Boris. We haven’t decided on the tree name yet.

Oh, and a lopsided Christmas cake that looks a bit funny, but tastes great. I know this because after dinner Hubby and I cut a tiny corner of the cooling cake… just to test it, of course. Mmmmm. And then we had a tiny piece of the other three corners. Just to even them up.

I guess I should have said that this is not a Christmas post, as much as it is a Christmas cake post.

P.S. More on the Christmas cake baking adventure and my consultation with Mum in my December vlog.

P.P.S. Have a great rest of the week, my friends. And don’t let the Christmas hysteria find you. Hide under the bed if you have to. Or disappear into your book.

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61 thoughts on “Not Really A Christmas Post”

  1. Maggie is feeling pretty low as her city has announced another complete Covid-19 lockdown, again. I know your comment about her Christmas tree will make her laugh and feel much better. ❤️🎄🎅

  2. I’m so glad you and your mom finally made that cake together (if aided by technology ;-). . . Now if only I could invite myself over to have a slice. Merry no-fuss Christmas! and Happy All The Holiday Movies!

  3. I so agree . Childhood Christmas was magical despite the lack of everything in our post war Britain ( especially central heating 🥶 ) Perhaps the meagre treats available in those days made Christmas so much more special . Then along came the commercialised , plastic Christmas beginning in autumn . I learnt to pick my way carefully through Christmas ignoring the bits that annoyed me . I’ll never like the traditional English food & still sympathise with the poor turkeys . At least this year I won’t have to sit looking at one ! Then there’s dried fruit , my other food hate . So although I very much admire your cake I wouldn’t eat it . There’s still plenty to like though – even some new traditions . Carols from Kings College, Cambridge on Christmas Eve is a must & I love that people decorate the outside of their houses . Brits are generally not the most extrovert of people but we are taking Christmas lights to our hearts , especially this year . Ours are small , soft , twinkly white lights climbing the creeper on the front of the house & dotted about on trees & bushes but I love all the mad , multicolored ones too . We walked round the village last night to admire everyone efforts & I feel quite Christmassy now . Some things are very different this year . No shops . The poor dog is worn out barking at all the delivery men trudging up the drive . Sadder though is no family meet ups ( we can but we won’t ) but there are Christmas Zoom quizzes with extra points for Christmas outfits – I shall be wearing a string of lights around my shoulders . The best gift this year for me this year is going to be this vaccine . Who’d have thought it ?
    PS Max & I had our first date at Christmas too though I had been stalking him for some time .

    1. Ha. I can’t see you stalking someone, Wendy. We haven’t done the outside lights since we live at the end of the road and no one would see them. Except for our tree lights which I assume the houses across the river can see.

  4. I’m with you. I love the decorations, the food, the music (well, most of it. “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and “Carol of the Bells” are my favorites…both in minor keys and neither religious…hmmm). A few years ago, revolted by the precise orders by in-laws, I decided to revolt and told my husband to deal with bought gifts for his family while my kid and I went about making things–boxes of cookies, bath bombs, recycling bottles as vinegar vessels, tree decorations and all manner of things found on Pinterest. (I forgive the online photos of perfection because half-baked projects aren’t very inspiring, are they?) It was fun, all done with Christmas music playing and us singing along. The in-laws were confused that we would spend time making things.
    I don’t look at any of the “buy this” guides. They really annoy me. This year, we are alone, which is fine. I would have wanted to attend midnight Mass, for the music–one Christmas Eve a few decades ago I wandered into Notre Dame, and the service was very nice. But the only music we’ll get this year is via Spotify.

  5. Well, quite. I avoid all gift guides, cannot abide people posing in special Christmas clothes (this bemused me when I was a teenager too because I didn’t do special dressing for Christmas and certainly not for when I was meeting my boyfriend, who didn’t exist and which seemed to be about lipgloss and a pair of zany gloves), and loathe beyond measure women’s magazines promoting ridiculous levels of cookery. Perfection is terrible, especially at Christmas. I am sure the cake is wonderful but if not, birds will love it.

  6. i really miss the cold christmases of my scottish childhood. i know many people envy australians eating prawns in the sunshine on christmas day but it just doesnt feel like christmas. i do make all the traditional food and just turn the air conditioning on! one year i even put the airconditioning on high and turned the gas log fire on too. i then got the environmental guilts and havent done it again … it was lovely to see a flickering fire on christmas day though.. interior design is one of my loves but i totally agree with you about disliking ‘designer’ colour coordinated christmas trees. mine are a mixed bunch of travel souvenirs and hand made ones i have made or been given and when we get the out its like greeting old friends. we always watch Love Actually while we decorate the tree. its the only modern christmas movie i like too

  7. Deborah A Robinson

    Hi Sue, I haven’t been reading your blog very long, but I have to tell you that after reading today’s edition , I LIKE YOU! You are my kind of friend! Keep up the good work and Merry Christmas.
    Debbie Robinson

  8. Well my Christmases (is that a word?) were quite different growing up. I was a young Jewish girl who celebrated Chanukah around the same time as Xmas. We always celebrated with others who celebrated Christmas – specifically my Mum’s best friend who was Greek Orthodox. I remember every Boxing Day we would go over to “Aunty Nelly” and exchange gifts. She was a baker so I enjoyed traditional Greek Christmas baking goodies. It was amazing!! I always enjoyed Christmas music and always played the Osmonds Christmas album. One of my favourite songs was/is Silver Bells 🙂 I also love Holy Night. So for me, I found myself lucky to celebrate Chanukah and Christmas. It was about family and friends getting together.
    Sue, I bet your Christmas cake was awesome. If this is your last post before Christmas, I want to wish you and Stu a happy and healthy Christmas.

    1. Hope you have a lovely holiday(s) too Arlene. Thinking of the day of our Christmas potluck at work when you tried to duck out early to get your flight (or train?) and Glenn came in the prep room unexpectedly. Ha.

  9. I have the fondest memories of Xmas when I grew up, at the same time they’d become bittersweet as I miss those loved ones who made it so magical. It wasn’t the gifts, it was the love, the kitchen mess, the meal, the chatter at the dining room table, the dishes…hot sudsy water with my grandmother. But I’m turning those thoughts around this year to gratitude…another overused word…Ha!
    I’m so with you on this…being a fashionista during the Christmas season. Not my style …only pure comfort! To sit on the floor, to make dinner and to walk outdoors. The more I see on IG…the perfect outfit, the perfect house, perfect dinner, gifts, pets… the more I push back.
    It’s a wonderful feeling when your make something and it turns out yummy. Hubby and I purchased a small Xmas cake with the icing and I already devoured it!
    Note “I” ! Lol
    Warmest wishes to your Mom! xx

  10. I think we all tire of “Insta-Christmas-perfection”. Our family trees are horrible cedars which eat your fingers alive while decorating, and are covered with wonky ornaments, each with a story and drenched in decades of memories. Those movies you describe are shown here on the Hallmark channel, and I can’t STAND them. Give me White Christmas, It’s a Wonderful Life, and Love Actually, please. I know many adore The Holiday, but Jack Black ruined that for me…
    Your posts are like letters from an old friend rather trying to sell me something. I know your Christmas cake will be wonderful!

  11. My best way to spend the evenings lately is to snuggle into a chair in my den right beside the lit Christmas tree with a tea and a book to read by the tree lights only. I have stopped following a couple of blogs as well due to the constant ‘buy this, wear this, perfect dinner’ etc.. My house will never be perfect, and I realized this year that it does not matter if we enjoy it, after all who else is coming. I have been too intimidated to try the Christmas cake all along because I loved my mom’s and her pudding was amazing. Well if not now, when. Fingers crossed. The original Miracle on 34th street is one of my all time favorites and yes, Love, Actually is up there as well. O Holy Night and Little Drummer Boy bring back wonderful memories of my youth and I still love these, lots of others as well. Thanks for the chance to stroll down memory lane again and “chat” with you this chilly morning.

  12. I agree with everything you say about Christmas, except Love Actually. I must be the only person on the planet who found it an almighty bore .. me, who loves Hugh Grant! But I love the idea of naming the tree. I will never again meet someone called Arthur without thinking of your ma. Happy Christmas to her, and of course you and Hubby.

  13. You just make me LOL, which is the best gift ever. My hubby and I tried to watch one of those Christmas romcoms (the ones that dominate a particular channel at this time of year) just to see what all the fuss is about (we have a SIL who is addicted). Fifteen minutes into the first, we switched to another. Twelve minutes into that one we wanted to throw ourselves into traffic. Love Actually is quite another story, and we can’t pass that up regardless the time of year we happen upon it. ❤

  14. For anyone else who knows Gipp Forster’s ‘It Feels Like Christmas’ messages that is what Christmas is to me…magic and memories! Please look him up if you have not heard of Gipp and while he passed away years ago he is the voice of Christmas. Perfection is out the window in home decorations and outfits…I revel in the love of family and friends, well-loved decorations on a tall evergreen, favourite foods like mince tarts, Christmas pudding and shortbread, Christmas music (especially O Holy Night and my theme song I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas sung by Bing Crosby), a cozy fireplace and yes the snow! Despite it being a challenging Christmas with a strict lockdown I will enjoy and relish the customs that we can do…Merry Christmas to you all!

  15. I make my late mother’s recipe every year. It’s about 100 years old (she got it from a friend’s aunt) and the ingredients include vague ingredients like “one jar of red cherries, one jar of green cherries”. It’s a dark cake and is divine with a cup of strong tea. It’s traditionally made the first week of November each year when my Dad used to go deer hunting (I know . . . something we agree to disagree on). We’re sure going to miss the “getting together” this year but we’re healthy and still here so that’s worth celebrating.

  16. One of my most successful auditions was one which called for a Christmas carol with a “different take.” I did “Silver Bells” as a mad scene. The director almost wet herself. I got the part.

    The song I really loathe is “Mary, did you know?” Of COURSE she knew. DUH.

    We had a studio holiday karaoke (on Zoom) last night and it was a lot of fun. Some of my students sang songs I’d never heard of – one of my adult students sang, “Dominick the Donkey” and her husband did the “hee-haws.” It was great.

  17. Oh, I so agree! Though I hate the idea of not being able to be with family this Christmas, I’m actually enjoying the quietness of the season compared to those of the recent past. It’s actually kind of refreshing. I leave the making of my mother’s Christmas cake to my sister. Hubby doesn’t like fruitcake and I would only eat a bit, so my sis always gives us a small piece of hers. I do make Mom’s shortbread though. It wouldn’t be Christmas without it.

  18. I was so surprised when I saw your tattered Santa in his sleigh! I have the exact Santa and sleigh, plus many little houses, churches and trees. My parents were married in 1956 and purchased them for their first Christmas. They added to the set over the years. It was magical. I begged mom for it 35 years ago and proudly set it up each year. In my house we call it “ Little Village “ in a James Brown voice. It is promised someday to my daughter.

  19. This makes me want to start baking! Classic for us are alfajores, a traditional South American cookie. No tree this year…our elderly cat has pica and eats anything and everything, so best to be safe. No family visits–everyone is over 2000 miles away and COVID rules apply (we are limited to the amount of people, anyway, as are many areas in the US). No shopping, even online, as we really don’t need anything, neither do our children, and the grandchildren get gift cards, anyway. No holiday parties. But, somehow the season makes the concept of hygge very comforting and I’m decorating and cooking with that in mind. Enjoying the view we have of the mountains, which is peaceful and calming even with the rainy winter weather. Watching silly holiday movies. And playing classical holiday music. And…I like the idea of finding spiritual comfort and moments of peace and quiet in the holidays. Maybe this will start a holiday “revolution” of sorts for a lot of people. I know the economy may suffer, but…A peaceful and blessed holiday season to all.

  20. Oh, Christmas memories. I remember the year while helping my mother get the turkey ready for the stuffing to be placed/shoved into the bird, we finally noticed that a important part was missing. My family called it the parsons nose, not sure what other people called it. This missing section is quite important to keep the stuffing/dressing intact. My mother took a tea towel and cut a piece off, and got a darning needle and basically sewed a diaper on the turkey. I’m laughing while typing this, this has got to be almost fifty years ago. I can still see her standing there, and saying, that should work.
    Ali

  21. An excellent post! I share your feelings regarding Christmas excess and the desire to duplicate Mom’s expertise in the kitchen. May you and Stu have a lovely holiday.

  22. I had a young millennial friend tell me she didn’t like any red on her packages or tree. Just neutrals only-At Christmas!!?? No offense to anyone but I am so over gray/white/neutral color schemes. If this year has taught me anything, it’s that home should be cozy and welcoming and color makes me happy. I so enjoy your blog, it helped me this year when I felt discouraged and isolated. Hope your holidays are happy!

    1. Totally agree! My mother passed away unexpectedly (COVID related) a couple of weeks ago, 2000 miles away from me, but she saw pictures of our new home a few days beforehand and it made her so happy to see that we have so much COLOR instead of the neutral scheme I had used for so long. (we decorate for the holidays early). Cosy and color just go together…maybe it is age, but trends just don’t do it anymore, for the holidays or any time of year. There is so much color in nature. It is soothing to the soul to follow suit.

      1. So sorry to hear that about your mum, Janice. And with you so far away. I can identify. My stepfather died in New Brunswick when we were in Australia. I found it really hard.

  23. Reading the last comment here I have to agree, all those grey homes-brrrrr ! I like cosy, no blue Christmas trees either.
    I’ve always loved this time of year, growing up in a small English village I remember as magical. Now very far away, but surrounded by pine forested mountains and with cold winters I can still get in the mood.
    Our children’s birthdays fall in December and January so when they were young ,what with that and Christmas, my default setting was frazzled, and I don’t think I ever left it, I still find myself running around like a headless chicken. But who needs perfection, and anyway, nobody’s going to see it this year ! Merry Christmas to all !

    1. Gad, you must have been exhausted by February when your kids were young. I dream of spending Christmas in cosy English village… but with snow. Forested mountains are pretty darned cool too. 🙂

  24. I love stories about Artur and your Mum’s cake and barn and….all the rest. Guess your cake is yummy,too. Don’t eat all till Christmas!
    Christmasses were lately so hysterical and commercialized-I miss only people this year. To be at home in a very small bauble,to have some traditions but only a few,to do as we please (as long as it is at home and in a family bauble🙂) ….
    My favourite Christmas film of all times is The Bishop’s Wife with Cary Grant as an angel,and I’m in love with Love Actually
    Merry Christmas! Perfect,Imperfect or Something in Between!
    Dottoressa

  25. Tonight is our second Christmas supper (covid-19 and all that, 2 households max). As usual, I was worrying (too much apples in the crumble, not enough lentils, the cotecchino will be too dry, , is that a smudge on the glass, etc. etc. ), but I’ve read your post and now I’m ready too enjoy the night: we’re lucky, we can see our family (5 persons at a time, so what, it will be a long holiday season). May I have some of your Christmas cake? 🙂
    Thank you!

  26. Kathleen P Doherty

    A very wise friend of mine once said “Christmas is not about good taste.” Put up the ugly ornaments the kids made, ice, then enjoy, the gingerbread men even though they look a little drunk. Have fun and remember with love those no longer with us.

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