All that expectation and excitement and it's all over for another year. Although it was our first Christmas living at the hut, we actually headed up on Saturday morning to Launceston to spend Christmas with Rob's family.
I find the juggling of two families Christmas traditions a little stressful. I actually avoid discussing Christmas arrangements due to people getting miffed. This year Rob's daughter joined us, which is lovely for us, her grandparents and all her cousins. But unfortunately my mother was upset that we wouldn't be seeing them on Christmas day. We do see them all year round though, and were there last year. But I'm afraid as rational as that sounds, it's never enough. I'm not a terribly confrontational person, and I tend to skirt around things that upset me or others. But I have to say that on Thursday things were said about how I live my life (triggered by something my brother said, so it wasn't even my fault), hurts were exposed, and I left in tears. I still struggle with my relationship with my mother, and feel that nothing I do will ever be enough, I will always manage to upset her in some way. I did try to patch up things before we left, but things are a little frosty!
So Friday was spent getting myself back in the mood, the final wrapping of gifts, visiting my sister and seeing my niece open her presents from us (she loved the wrapping more than the dog toy or frilly pants).
Saturday dawned, and we cleaned up the hut, packed the car (this always worries the dogs) and headed off. After waiting in line for 15 minutes, Rob picked up a 5kg piece of aged beef to take for dinner at our friends place on Sunday night. When we picked up Rob's daughter I moved into the back seat with the two dogs. Despite our best efforts we seemed to collate quite a few gifts, by the time we added an eski for the beef, gravlax and ham and our other gear, the boot of the station wagon was full. Nigella and Claudia were not impressed at sharing the back seat with me, and there were all sorts of crazy dog yoga positions before they sorted themselves out.
Rob and I ordered our first ever Christmas ham. Mount Gnomon farm pork is delicious and truly free range. We picked up our shoulder ham from the freight company depot on the way (a surreal experience really- a massive warehouse full of supermarket milk, I was bit worried that my little ham would get lost).
We always enjoy a quiet Christmas Eve dinner with Rob's parents, usually a bottle of champagne followed by a stuffed duck ballotine with new potatoes and asparagus. Dessert was simply lovely fresh raspberries and ice-cream.
Rob's daughter, although 16, still loves presents, and traditionally asks to open one on Christmas Eve. She opened a present from Rob's mother, a lovely pair of pajamas. Rob and I slept out in the living room with the little tree swamped with gifts, and two snuggle dogs.
I woke up really early, but had to wait til after breakfast and people to wake up to open the presents.
Rob is always terribly smug about guessing what I've bought, and although he did know about the scythe and the Birkenstock clogs, he only guessed that he would get a t-shirt. His favourite are created by Hiiragi, with funny robot cartoons on them. But I also found a soft grey shirt on etsy with a fox walking through a forest. My favourite for him was a gift box of 6 teas from T2, including Chocolate and Pu-erh. But he didn't mind the chocolate almonds, Cook and the Chef DVD box sets and the Martha Stewart cookie book either!
Rob's daughter loved all hers but especially the gift voucher for drivers lessons (perhaps more of a present for Rob and her mother!)
Santa was kind to me, although did have a bit of a laugh. Rob went shopping on Friday morning without me, and came back with a large box that he hid. He seemed excited by it, although also nervous.
I opened a few that I knew first, a chocolate nougat, my Birki clogs, and some cherry vinegar. I actually had two "wear" presents; a pair of white linen pants that I had picked out, but the other was a pair of my favourite track pants, a singlet and a long dress all from Bonds. My book was the complete notes by Bill Bryson, and my "watch" was the last series of Inspector Rex (a favourite in our household as you can imagine!)
Finally it came down to my two "want" presents. Rob could barely contain himself, "open the big one". The mystery one. I opened it up and it was a deluxe window cleaning kit! I had been grumbling about how hard it is to clean the windows at the hut BUT I didn't expect that for Christmas! Don't worry I have a sense of humour, and besides he redeemed himself with a gorgeous Moroccan lantern.
Rob's parents spoilt us also with thoughtful gifts, and delicious ones too!
With the gift giving over we got ready to head down the Tamar for Christmas lunch at Rob's sisters house. It overlooks the Batman bridge. Now you think we eat well, combine Rob's family and we eat like kings and queens. Firstly we had drinks and seafood out on the deck, this included crayfish, our trout gravlax with freshly baked rye bread and blini, garlic mussels, and a cheese tart. That probably would have been enough really. But main course included rare roast beef, a cold duck ballotine, our baked ham (Rob glazed it with quince jelly, orange zest, brown sugar and mustard), salad nicoise with poached salmon, fresh asparagus, mango salad, green salad, baked zucchini (with cheese, breadcrumbs and prosciutto) and new potatoes.
All of the food was beautiful, and extremely delicious, but Rob and I were quite proud of our shoulder ham, it was so silky, not too salty, and everybody commented on it.
After a much needed break, wandering around their new garden and a mini nap in the hammock by the water (with the dogs of course), dessert was served.
A traditional steamed pudding with cream, ice-cream and custard, a Buche de Noel with the cutest little meringue mushrooms, and mango sorbet with raspberries. Rob's father brought out a special bottle of dessert wine, a 1972 Chateau Coutet.
I would have loved to have found a couch and fallen asleep, but we got back in the car and drove to Bridport for Christmas dinner with our friend and his sons. We had a slight hiccup when we discovered his oven wasn't working, which would have been a sad waste of the beef. Not that Rob and I were really starving! So Rob sliced the roast into thick rib eye steaks and grilled them on a mini-weber instead.
With a simple salad it was more than adequate!
Yesterday we drove home, keen to get back to our hut. Maybe next year we'll be able to stay home, or host Christmas there. As much as I love the big family thing, it would be lovely not to be dashing from one place to the next and just be able to relax a bit.
Right now we're enjoying the second half of our holiday, and the second Christmas cake!