Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Christmas is for big kids too.

I bloody love Christmas! I'm the biggest child going at this time of year and always run the risk of peaking too soon. Take the presents: The real kids in the house know not to leave mummy's presents lying around as I will hunt them down and find them. I cannot be trusted. It's not the present(s) per se, but I get overexcited and cannot bear knowing a surprise is coming. When they were little I used to prise out of them what they'd seen FH buy. (Prise? Who am I kidding, it was like taking candy canes from a baby.)  The FH used to use techniques not unlike the SAS to keep them away from me, even resorting to storing them in the garden shed one year. Rookie mistake. He finally took to hiding them at his parents' house, only for me to realise if I wanted to know what I had to look forward to I just needed to find the receipts in his wallet... Yes, I know. I am very bad. So now they are wise to it, my children think it's hilarious to give me false clues. D1 "Sssh, don't tell mum about the orange plastic apron we got her... Oh, hi mum, didn't see you there".

Of course, I LOVE the whole festive thing for the girls too. When I was a kid my brother, sister and I used to drag mum and dad out of bed at 5am to check out the bootie under the tree. When my two were younger, I used to be lying there wide awake waiting for them to get up . One year, it got to 7am and I was beside myself with excitement. I started crashing around on the landing, turning the light on and exclaiming in a loud voice "ooh, I wonder if Santa has been yet?". Eventually they woke up but I can't say I wasn't a bit disappointed that I had raised such Christmas amateurs.

This week we've had D2's school Christmas Fayre and Carol Concert. I sang my not insubstantial lungs out to everything, peaking with the 'Gloria's'. D1 was mortified but I didn't let that stop me. It was a lovely service and I still felt uplifted by it when I woke up. In the shower, I gave an encore of all of the previous nights ditties, and a smattering of my personal favourites. When I turned the shower off, I heard D1 and D2 singing too - they'd been accompanying me all along.

But I must admit I had been a tiny bit worried that my yuletide enthusiasm had left me after the disaster that was last Christmas. It was, without a doubt, the worst I've ever had. In the run up I had a major upset, I was facing the hardest and final part of some huge life changing challenges and to compound it all I ended up with flu. I spent most of Christmas week wading through boxes of tissues and alternating between Beechams and Quality Street (generally whilst lying on the new Wii Fit mat. Glad to see it was good for something.). So I was more than a little relieved when I could feel the familiar excitement welling this year. I'd not lost it.

And as for the presents, I genuinely don't care what I have or haven't got. No, I mean it. I've not even tried to find out from the girls. (Well, just once, but that was more for their benefit than mine.) Because after everything we've been through this year, I realise that  I already have everything I need.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Making a meal of it

I think it's fair to say that I'm not the world's most talented cook. I learnt to make a mean spag bol at Poly, testing the spaghetti the student way - by chucking it at the ceiling. (I can't remember if it's done when it sticks, or vice versa.) And then there were the 15 vegetarian years, when Linda McCartney was my best friend. Lentil bake? Yum. The unfortunate residual effect of my years as a veggie mean that any meat I now cook isn't allowed out of the oven until we start singing 'Jerusalem'. As proof that my talents lie elsewhere, I even have a fridge magnet which declares "I kiss better than I cook" which is probably a bit more information than is necessary here...

But what tiny amount of skill I had in the kitchen has had the heart and soul ripped out of it by the two gorgeous creatures who share my house, to the point where I now absolutely dread mealtimes. D2 has always been a fussy little horror. She will not touch anything with a sauce (which rules out said spag bol, lasagne, chilli, curry, pie of the shepherd or fish variety, meatballs, pasta bake.... the list goes on).  D1, who used to eat everything on the planet except broccoli, has now declared that she's "never liked" all the things she ate as a small child, even jacket potatoes. I mean, who doesn't like jacket potatoes?

It gets worse. With chips as the only exception to the rule, everything that one daughter likes the other professes to hate. Whilst D2 is a tiny carnivore who demolishes any meat put in front of her with the fervour of a sabre tooth tiger regardless of how incinerated her mother makes it (and broccoli), D1 is a wannabe veggie, if she would only give up KFC, bacon and pepperoni pizza.

So my repertoire of meals they will both eat with no or minor variation extends to just four:
 - Risotto
- Toad in the hole
- Chicken wrapped in bacon with pesto (omit pesto for D2)
 - Roast (D1 has the meat soaked in gravy, D2 - bone dry)

Most nights I cook two options to keep everyone happy. And I rarely experiment. What's the point? I could spend an hour pottering about at the stove, a bit of this, a bit of that, and only have a 50% chance of one of them eating it. To keep my sanity, I've just introduced one night of the week where we have 'freezer surprise'.  They choose, I 'cook'. You've got to love Captain Birds Eye.

If you are reading this and thinking "well, she should have been stricter when they were little" I don't blame you, I would say the same. Except I was! They ate a huge variety of foods. D2 doesn't believe me when I tell her she used to eat such outrageous things as butternut squash and sweet potato puree. They both point blank refuse to believe they ate, and liked, marmite. I've always been in the 'love it' camp, so it was only natural they should eat it too. Besides, watching your baby's face contort with a "what the **** was that???" when they try it for the first time is sweet payback for the sleepless nights. Pretty much whatever I used to spoon into their open mouths they'd love. I just wish I knew when it all changed.

But for now I have to sit back and envy friends who decide what they want to cook and prepare just one meal for the whole family. Or perhaps I should just experiment with the one area of my cooking which is always a success and guaranteed to put a smile on their faces, leaving them wanting more. Broccoli and marmite cupcakes anyone?

Footnote: D1 read this and said "I keep meaning to say, I've gone right off that bacon and chicken pesto thing".