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I'm making a list, and I'm checking it twice, spuds five ways should surely suffice ....

December 4th, 2023 1:30 PM

By Emma Connolly

Emma bought two Santa hats for her dogs which they’re not happy about wearing. (Photo: Shutterstock)

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The countdown to the festive season is well and truly underway for our columnist as she gets cracking on some chores. She’s thought of everything, from counting the spuds to buying spare gifts, but she still can’t avoid a pre-Christmas panic!

’TWAS the month or so (I’ve sort of lost track) before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring ... just myself, because to be honest everyone I live with is under the impression that it just magically ‘happens’ all by itself. A proper Christmas miracle. So this week I’m going to do a bit of a festive brain dump mainly to make myself feel like I’ve things vaguely under control. Right, here goes:

• Let’s start with basics: who is going where for ‘The Dinner?’ To be honest we’ve usually this sorted by now, that’s how disorganised we are. But we’re all keeping our poker faces strong and hedging our bets. I’ll put us out of our misery next week as to be fair it’s our turn to host. I’ll just let everyone stew a bit longer for the craic. Now, it’s probably a bit early to start figuring out what mass we’ll go to, but that’s another big deal. I like to be home early on Christmas Eve in case you might bump into Santa, and if it’s Christmas day mass, there’s ‘The Dinner’ to manage and the annual swim to factor in. We might need a spreadsheet to list the pros and cons of each. We’ll come back to it.

• Speaking of the dinner, and probably the biggest conundrum of all: how many types of potatoes do we need? This is a big bone of contention between myself and my husband and he regularly despairs over my spud compulsions. If he’s doing Sunday lunch I try to sneakily peel a few more potatoes and pop them into the pot for fear we won’t have enough ... could it be traced back to the Famine or something? On Christmas day it goes off the scales. Obviously, I’m going to want to serve roasties and gratin; then there’s the retro croquettes, and sure what about a bit of mash while I’m at it? They can always be used for potato cakes afterwards. The only thing is that one carb too many for mains can tip the balance in the wrong direction for dessert, and as I’ll have the usual nine options I’m going to need people to horse into them with gusto. So, probably no to the mash. For now.

• Backtracking a bit, what about throwing a Christmas Eve drinks soiree? I love the idea of this. It seems so civilised and grown up, inviting friends and neighbours over for an Eggnog (even if I’ve no idea what it is) and some cranberry and brie canapés (and maybe fondue?). Everyone would be all merry and bright, Wham! would be playing in the background, and there could even be a bit of harmless flirting? The thing is that my only neighbour is my mum, and she pops in for a night cap most nights anyway! And now that I think about it, all my pals will probably be at various levels of demented- ness like myself on Christmas Eve ... too stressed and sweaty, up to their elbows in vegetable peelings to even contemplate sequins. That’s probably something we’ll do when we’re older, right?

• Next, to the exchange of gifts. I had a bit of a September surge and got a few bits and pieces, but they’ve been tucked away so safely that I’ve actually no idea where I put them. I also need to locate the rolls of wrapping paper and cards that were left over from last year that I know are some place. Typically, they tend to stay undiscovered until I’ve bought a fresh supply so if anyone is running short, don’t be shy. Oh, I tell a lie, I did buy something the other day: two little Santa hats for the dogs ... which they’re flat out refusing to wear. We’ve still time.

• The next generation on my side do a Secret Santa, except instead of exchanging gifts, they must all do some sort of performance for each other, a poem, song, anything of their choice. So that’s something else that needs to be sorted. I usually start out with grandiose plans for my smallie to perform something elaborate (a three-act play, or perhaps a sonnet), that will have people on their feet in rapturous applause (not easy after all the spuds) but it’ll more likely be a Limerick like always, scribbled out on a serviette at the last minute. ‘There once was a young boy called X ...’ is always a good start, or there’s always the option of a blast of Jingle Bells on the tin whistle (wearing one of the tiny Santa hats). It would wake people up from the food coma anyway.

• What about stockpiling some ‘spare’ gifts? You know, something to have on standby in case someone surprises you with an act of unexpected kindness (flipping hate that!) and you’re caught out. I think it’s always wise to have a few bits put away, just not things that scream ‘spare’ like candles or chocolates. Although they’d do grand, wouldn’t they? I’m just wondering though how many spares I need? What happens if I give away one spare, should I have another waiting in the wings? I’m overthinking, right? Send help. I’m going spare.

• A few parting things to consider: is it too late to arrange a visit to Lapland this year; should we give the two fingers to traditional turkey and go with beef; do I need a colour theme for the decorations; what about a family portrait for personalised Christmas cards (once the dogs get used to the hats); scrap that: I’ve just remembered the cost of a postal stamp. Should the serviettes be folded in a bow or tree shape (I’ve seen YouTube tutorials on both); would a live crib on the lawn be vulgar? Oh my giddy aunt. I think I’ll lie down and watch Love Actually and have another look at it all next week. Nothing like a deadline to help focus the mind. I reckon I will do mash, though. Better to be safe than sorry.

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