Wow, three whole days since I posted, and here's what I've been up to...
We had a marvellous time with my family. My parents arrived on Friday and stayed until Sunday early evening.
On Friday I made mince pies and boiled a ham in Coca-cola - if you've never done this, I can heartily recommend it. Not only is the ham beautifully tender and delicious, but it makes the most fantastic stock - I used some for the gravy on Saturday, and will use the rest to make some soup later in the week. I also made a cheese and onion pie for Friday's supper - one of my father's favourite things.
I was up early on Saturday to start cooking - we started with parma ham and melon, then we had roast goose with two types of stuffing, bread sauce, cranberry sauce, ham, roast potatoes, roast parsnips, sprouts, carrots and peas, and a gravy that was about 80% Coke from the ham and 20% port. For pudding we had a choice of Christmas pudding with cream or brandy butter, trifle or mince pies. Then there was a cheese board. My mother had made the trifle and brandy butter and brought them with her, and I did everything else.
My parents, younger brother and his wife, sister and her husband and three children, DH and I sat down to the meal, and my other sister and her partner popped in briefly and took goose sandwiches away with them.
Nieces #1 and #2 had their own little table (actually our coffee table) and behaved beautifully, eating every scrap of food they were given and staying in their seats throughout the first three courses, until I cleared their table and put on a video for them while we had our cheese. I gave them their drinks in the dolls' teaset again, which was a popular move. #3 was also very happy to stay in her highchair as long as I kept plying her with parsnips and sprouts.
We had musical Christmas crackers, each containing a tooter that played a different note, and #1 'conducted' as we played several tunes on the tooters.
Our family tradition is that on Christmas Day we have our Christmas lunch and then watch the Queen's speech before my father dishes out the presents one by one. I had recorded the Queen's speech, so after we finished eating and persuaded #1 that we'd played enough songs, we watched the Queen and then exchanged our presents.
Then we went out for a short walk (or waddle, after having that much to eat). It felt so much like Christmas that we were amazed to see other people going about their business, coming out of shops and acting like it was just another ordinary day.
We set off more Chinese flying lanterns - one for each household. DH and I made our wish together as ours floated off into the heavens, and my parents, brother and sister did the same for theirs. #1 and #2 danced about excitedly watching them fly away, and #1 ran up the hill with my father to follow each one for as long as she could, while #3 looked on with an expression of total bemusement.
On Sunday I set the breadmaker going just before we left for Mass, so when we got home we were able to have freshly made bread with cold meat and cheese for lunch. We then lit the fire and had a cosy afternoon chatting, reading the papers and watching the cricket. The cricket was a real treat for my father, as it's only shown on satellite TV and he doesn't have that at home.
My parents left shortly before teatime to go and spend a couple of days with my sister, and after they'd gone DH and I toasted teacakes on the fire for our tea.
Yesterday morning we were back to getting up at 6:15 for the 7:10 train into London for work, and the day really dragged. Today I'm working from home - at the moment I'm just waiting for my study to warm up, as we turned the heater off in there over the weekend to use it as an extra fridge for all the party food.
All in all, it was a weekend to remember - a marvellous day on Saturday, and then I was pleased to be able to give my parents a real and much-needed rest on Sunday.