So now Christmas has been and gone, it’s time to talk about what the festive season has been like for me this year. It seems that Christmas really did creep up on me this year, and despite buying and making present lists far in advance, I still found myself rushing around to get everything done.
The itinerary for the Christmas period was fairly light, with a Christmas dinner for my housemates on the 12th, a 5 day trip to Paris with Heli, Christmas Eve with Heli & her family, Christmas day with Heli’s family, Boxing Day finishing my shopping (oops), and tomorrow a Christmas with my mum, sister and her kids. Then at some point Fahad and I will have a Christmas thing by ourselves, once our January money comes in!
Doing Christmas dinner for the house was a good exercise in budgeting this year, as I do tend to go a little overboard, but with the limited capacity of a student house and loan, it’s nearly impossible to do anything too luxurious. This year, I made a massaman-style roast chicken, roast potatoes (which, if I do say so myself, are unbeatable), spiced red cabbage, carrots, broccoli, asparagus, green beans, yorkshire puddings, honey-roasted parsnips, roasted sweet potatoes, mushroom stuffing and onion gravy. For our vegetarian friend I made a stuffed roasted pepper, as well. I forgot to take photos while I was cooking, and the lighting in our living room is pretty awful, but I promise it was nicer than it looks! This was the end result (apologies for the bad photo):
For me, a great Christmas dinner is reliant on the side dishes, and involves a make-or-break situation with roast potatoes. If you have disappointing potatoes, the meal just can’t be elevated. Luckily this year, my potatoes were great. I’ll be sure to post a recipe for them next time they’re on the menu! Side dishes, as I mentioned before, are incredibly important, as they provide the added flavours and textures that make Christmas dinner more than just a mere (and potentially bland) roast, and I would love to have made some more – maybe in the years to come, eh?
Two days after our house Christmas dinner, Heli and I spent 10 hours travelling to Paris by car and coach. The journey was less bad than expected, as we spent a lot of it sleeping, but I’d rather take a plane any day! Because we were staying with a friend who has two babies and not a lot of time, we had quite a chilled out week, spending our time making jewellery, listening to The Strokes, doing a tiny bit of shopping, making Christmassy drinks (mulled wine for me and Baileys hot chocolate for Heli) and eating lots of French food! One evening was spent having a proper French Christmas dinner, with so many different courses that I lost count of them all – but foie gras with a white balsamic reduction was one of the two starters and slow-roasted guinea fowl with different pureed vegetables was the main course. All of it was delicious, and we spent the drive home with very full tummies and a little drunk.
The main event of our trip to Paris, however, was a ‘surprise’ trip to Disneyland! Heli knew about the surprise, and I managed to guess correctly, so when it came to it, the surprise effect didn’t really take hold, but it was a wonderful day all the same. I think we must have visited it at the perfect time, because the park was virtually empty and the queues for the rides were minimal, but the Christmas decorations were everywhere and so beautiful and magical. It made me feel a kind of childlike pleasure that I haven’t felt since I was about 8, and that was probably the best part of the whole thing. Too much stuff happened for me to really document in detail, but we had the best time and really enjoyed having a slice of Disney christmas.
Back in England, the festive atmosphere was kind of lost. I think perhaps we often build Christmas Day up to be this magical moment, but when it comes to it, everything is kind of disappointing. For the past three years now, I have spent Christmas with people I regard as family, but also incredibly close friends, and the atmosphere and experience of having a lovely day all together is irreplaceable. I love spending Christmas with Heli’s family, because it’s a great time to eat, drink and be merry with people I love.
Tomorrow, Fahad and I will be going to my mum’s to have dinner there (not a roast thankfully, I’m sick of them) with my sister, her partner and their children. It’s going to be a tight squeeze, but it’s always a pleasure to see my niblings and sister, now that we’re older and the age gap between us seems to have closed quite considerably.
All in all, Christmastime 2014 wasn’t so bad, and more than anything, I’m just content with the fact that all the people I care about are alive, well & happy. Now it’s time to bring on the new year!