I am a maker of lists*. Or rather, of list. I work from a Moleskine diary that is a week to view and divide the facing work sheet page roughly in four. Down the left side are all the things I need to do for work, right is all personal. The lower one third of the page lists campari&sofa posts that need writing on one side, all things house and home on the other.
Each week I prioritise the most urgent tasks, and allot a day. Then I make asterisks alongside the next most pressing, for incase there is time. At the top of the left hand page – the actual dates – I note the week’s Headline tasks. What I am left with is a clear plan (to me at least) of what must be achieved. The system works fine in theory. Life, though, has other ideas and so there is lots of shifting around and reassigning. And I have a code for that – but I won’t bore you with it.
I have my lists for the holiday too* – they encompass everything from what I need to take from CT to McG (servers, duvets, sheets etc), what I need to buy (umbrella, collapsible clothes rail, solar lights), what I need to do before I go (list for cleaner/gardener/sofabrother, give Jack Flea meds, washing) and finally – what we’re going to eat for the first few days. The shops in the village are very basic, and the mouths on legs will be there with their father, demanding three squares and snacks every day … so having enough and knowing what that enough needs to be is crucial. Jasper and I worked out most of the menu in Woolies yesterday: lasagna on the first night, tuna pasta the second, chicken sausage rolls the third etc. He is a man who likes to know what his meals will be, and is always happy to oblige with suggestions.
So it’s all coming together nicely.
One of the other lists is our Christmas lunch. I have gone for simple this year – it gets so hot in McGregor that the usual huge Christmas roast scenario doesn’t make sense. This year we are havingg for a cold roast glazed ham, warm roast chicken and mediterranean influenced side dishes – an exotic bulgar wheat salad being one of them. All of which I can prepare quickly and mostly in advance. Drinks are a festive gin cocktail, sparking wine and a crisp white for the tipplers and diet ginger beer for my mother. Dessert is still somewhat up in the air – but I am thinking a grapefruit/campari granita. Or perhaps a decadent rockyroad, or maybe I will just take the real easy route and buy a few packets of Magnum minis – everyone loves an ice-cream.
One thing we didn’t have on the list is chocolate. Wildish Christmases have always been accompanied by a huge tub of Quality Street. In the olden days the bounty used to come in a big fancy tin – nowadays, sadly, its more likely to be a crackly plastic bag… but the contents have stayed unchanged for over 50 years. We all have our favourites … dark choc and orange for me, wafers and toffees for the kids and sofamother usually bags the coconut ones. There are always fights and squabbles about who took all the purple wrapped ones with the toffee and nut in it. And in March I found one secreted between the sofa cushions – squashed but still recognisable. I gave it to Jack – he thought it was perfect.
My tastes have changed over the years and I now find Quality Street too sweet. So I decided to create my own. My initial idea was to make a set of dark caramel truffles – deliciously premiered by camparigirl when she visited a few years ago: but the recipe looked daunting … so I hunted around and came up with this one from Sweet Paul. They’re essentially incredibly rich ganache rolled into truffles. Probably not ideal for kids, but our small things won’t be with us for Xmas., so I think we can get away with it. (By the way – if you don’t know it – Sweet Paul is a great online mag. Started by a Norwegian guy as a blog – evolved into a lifestyle. Check it out here.)
I’m heading to McGregor tomorrow and with that the year will have come full circle – McG is where we were for Xmas last year. It was where I had a dread rush of cold fear when I realised something was not right with my darling Dad. It’s where he had his brain aneurysm. And its where I had to leave from in a hurry to get to Cape Town before his brain surgery. He will be there again this year – hale and hearty and well recovered. And I cannot begin to tell you how happy that makes me. Our friend Maureen will be there, too – without her Ian, lost to a bleeding lung one night a few months ago. As will long time family pal Jenny, sofamom and brother Mark. Our neighbours will join us for lunch, with their dogs. And we will be a sweet family of old farts who will sit around a table, pull some crackers and remind each other why living our simple lives together is so good.
I was thinking about all of this as I made these chocolates last night. And in the spirit of the book “Like Water for Chocolate”, I sent my thoughts and wishes into the mix. So here’s one last list – my wishes for the year ahead and the people I love.
That we might have fun and freedom, health and happiness, love and laughs. And, always, plenty of chocolate. Happy Festive Season Everyone.
1 cup/225ml whipping cream
1lb/450g good quality dark chocolate ( I used half each of plain and orange flavoured, and poured half of the cream over each)
peppermint candy – finally crushed
toasted almonds finely crushed
- Put cream in a saucepan and slowly bring to the boil
2 Break chocolate into pieces and place in a bowl (if you fancy you can add a tablespoon of your favourite liqueur to the mix)
- Pour the warm cream over the chocolate pieces and stir gently to melt
- Leave to cool (I put mine in the fridge … which helped in rolling the balls)
- When the mixture is set, use a spoon to scrape teaspoon sized lumps. Use your hands to roll them into balls – messy, but fun. Wash your hands when they get too sticky and cool them down by rubbing ice between them.
- Roll in cocoa powder, peppermint or almonds (pistachios also look great)
Store in a cool place … serve with liqueurs and coffee.
- As sofamother is reading this I can hear her chuckling: ‘Like mother, like daughter’.