The end-of-year pressure valve is easing open, the mad rushing around is slowing down and it is beginning to feel a lot like Christmas.
Last night we celebrated with my husband's big, beautiful family, cousins running around everywhere. Teenage boys with newly broken voices back from boarding school and girls who had sometime this year turned into women gently carrying around the littlest cousins on their hips, tiny boys bobbing around the pool in swimming vests alongside older girls splashing around like mermaids while mums watched on with a glass of champagne. Coolrooms stocked with booze and ham. Christmas trees and presents and fairy lights and merry-christmas kisses all round. I've always found big families so appealing, perhaps because my own is so small, and last night, at least to me, looked like a scene from a novel. So much life in the one spot. All together.
This Christmas I am going to give myself the gift of no internet - that means no instagram, no quick check of the emails, no googling - for a whole week. My phone is a kind of shield when things are annoying. If the kids are bugging me, I can tune out and see what cool headscarf Local Milk is wearing instead. But it also blocks out some of the good bits of real life too. I am sure of it.
So, at the beach with my family next week, I am turning the phone off. It's time to recharge myself, play with the kids, listen to music (gosh I have missed music. These last few years have been so quiet on the music front, I always seem to crave silence when I have the choice, but I am now yearning for songs. Like Martha Wainwright for the first time or Vance Joy's Riptide. Does anyone have any tips?). Because before long it'll be my son who comes back from school with a deep voice and broad shoulders. Soon my daughters will be rocking mid-drifts and high pony tails and reading thick paperbacks. And before they do I think I better put the phone down and have a good look at them.
At a five year old who, on a particularly chaotic day last week, asked "Mum, do mums get any training before they can be a mum?" A three year old who describes vegemite as "the colour of night" and complains even before leaving the house "my feet are too tired of walking" and a little girl who says "shoes" in a way that is a sentence rather than a word and can mean "please put my shoes on", "please take my shoes off", "I am now thinking about how much I like shoes in general" and "Mum I have emptied three shoe buckets, where the fck is my other sandal, I must complete the pair".
Merry Christmas. And to those of you with little people, may your fights about suncream be few and your cuddles in bed be many.
I have two suggestions for some Christmas holiday food. The first is labneh - a kind of yoghurt cheese that can be kept in the fridge, ready to be spread on toast, put in sandwiches, dolloped on a salad, severed alongside lamb cutlets hot off the BBQ at a moment's notice. It is so versatile and remarkably easy to make.
All you need to do is get a 2kg tub of natural, unsweetened Greek yoghurt and generously salt. Then put a colander in a big bowl, line the colander with two layers of muslin, put the salted yoghurt mixture on top of the muslin, tie up, give a squeeze to get some of the moisture out and pop in the fridge to strain for a day or two. Then you can roll the strained yoghurt in to balls and marinate with olive oil and thyme, bay leaves, pepper and chilli like I did, or you could try lemon peel, garlic, rosemary - whatever takes your fancy. That's it.
The second holiday fare suggestion is ricotta stuffed zucchini flowers fried in a beer batter. There is something so satisfying about picking at fried morsels on a hot summer's night with a cold beer or glass of champagne. If you don't have zucchini flowers, you can use sliced zucchinis instead.
This is a great recipe and worked very well even without the olives and anchovies.