It has been a few days since I’ve been able to post, dear friends. Things have been pretty hectic here and blogging has had to take a back seat.
As you may know already, my father in law had a stroke recently and he’s struggling with a few things. We’re not sure if it’s as a consequence of the stroke or whether it’s something else, but he gets really confused at the slightest thing and we are stepping in to take the slack where we can.
Ethan and Kevin finished school and work on Friday and as it was the first day of the Christmas holidays what better way to spend them then by going to do The Big Shop on Friday night?! It wasn’t actually as bad as I was expecting it to be and we were in and out within a couple of hours. Perhaps more people were taking advantage of internet shopping or something? I don’t know. All I know is that Asda was pretty quiet, had full shelves of everything we needed, and had a few “extras” that we hadn’t thought about but decided to treat ourselves to.
Saturday was epic. We had a lot of errands to do, including picking up a buffet from the caterers for a function Sunday morning, setting up the church hall with tables and chairs for the function and retrieving a long table to bring home for Christmas Day. Our little table only seats 6 and I’m expecting at least 9 people tomorrow so we needed to borrow back one of the long tables that we gave to the hall last year.
Sunday, oh boy Sunday. The morning service at church was partly dedicated to the last Sunday in Advent and partly for our new curate Helen, who was licensed to practice in our parish. The Bishop of Middleton, Mark Davies, came to licence her so there was an added element to the service yesterday. I was on music duty yesterday and I was under pressure to make sure I didn’t mess it up in front of the Bishop. Fortunately everything went well, and the buffet was a huge success. Unfortunately, I woke up yesterday feeling a little under the weather and my annoying tickly cough became an embarrassingly aggressive tickly cough during the Bishop’s sermon. Oops!! I started to feel really rough during the afternoon and by the evening felt downright awful.
There was still work to do however, so there’s no giving in to the dreaded germ for me! I had baking to do and so I set to with gusto (after a lie down to watch Cool Runnings) to get creative in the kitchen. I had planned on doing some mince pies, some gingerbread men, a fruit cake and some shortbread. I actually made three dozen mince pies but the first tray was a total disaster and I couldn’t get them out of the pan. I ended up digging them all out and throwing the whole lot on a plate (photo below). I was really upset because I love mince pies and I was disappointed that they had come out all wrong. I had beefed up the mincemeat with some rum and Jack Daniels, some grated apple and some extra glace cherries so I was all set for them to be dream mince pies. Alas, this is what they looked like.
I can, however, confirm that they tasted WONDERFUL. The four of us set to and polished off the plateful before the next lot were out of the oven. Thankfully they turned out better than the first lot!
I also tried a new recipe for shortbread that seemed like it wasn’t ever going to work. It said to roll out the dough and cut biscuit shapes out of it and bake gently for 15 minutes, but my dough was so dry that I couldn’t bring it together into any sort of dough at all. All I could manage was to compress a pile of dry crumbs into a round shape on the baking tray and hope for the best. That turned out REALLY well, surprisingly. I think the added dredging of caster sugar when I took it out of the oven was just the touch it needed. Tasted lovely though so shouldn’t complain! Trouble is, by the time I got all that lot finished in between my coughing fits, I didn’t have time to do the cake or the gingerbread men. They might have to wait til Boxing Day…
We had planned on the children at Sunday School making the figures in the crib for the display in church this year, and so we’ve been working with them for the past couple of sessions in making them. There was a bit to finish off though – why is it that kids all want to do the angels and nobody wants to do the shepherds??! So, Kevin and I sat at the table last night armed with scrap bits of cloth and half-covered toilet rolls to finish of what the kids had 90% made, and we made the three wise men from scratch whilst catching up with the last two episodes of Last Tango In Halifax (brilliant series) and drinking a couple of glasses of sherry.
And so to today.
I had a difficult night last night. Why is it that Christmas always manages to magnify every single negative thing you’ve ever felt, experienced, done wrong, felt guilty about and everything and everyone you’ve ever missed? Even in the midst of the creativity and camaraderie I was sharing with Kevin and the nativity figures last night, it was like a huge wet cloud hanging over me. The people who aren’t here any more, those people I’ll not see for a long while yet, those people I wish I could have been nicer to the last time I saw them. I’m sure there’ll be people like that you feel about too so you’ll know what I mean. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with the way things are now, it’s just that with it being Christmas, things feel different don’t they?
Anyway, on the back of going to bed in a bit of a funny/odd/strange frame of mind, I woke up this morning the germ had grown somewhat and I felt like I had a bus parked on my chest. The tickly cough had turned into a raging bark and my voice had dropped about four octaves. My eyes were hurting too, and I was worried that it was going to stop me with what I had to do today.
I managed it though….just about crawling over the finishing line tonight!! We visited some sick and elderly people in the parish this afternoon. Four of us playing our instruments, four singers and Eddie the vicar taking communion with them. It was magical! We were stood in the pouring rain for most of it, but to see the faces at the windows as we played and sung carols was so worth it. We then had a service this afternoon for the children where we told the Christmas story to them and laid the figures (with glue nicely dried now!) in the crib. My voice just about held up for the storytelling and my cough behaved itself long enough to get through the service. Thank God for small blessings!!
We have had a visit this evening from Kevin’s sister and her husband but I think I scared them off with a huge sneeze that nearly blew the candles out. Hey ho!! Hope the germ behaves itself overnight and leaves me in peace tomorrow. I’ve still got a church service to play at in the morning before I can finally call my time my own.
It’s now 11pm and Santa is on his way so I’m going to sign off and bid you all a very Merry Christmas. I pray you all find the peace and love of the Christ-child in your hearts and homes this Christmastime.
Best wishes to you and yours.