We had some friends over for supper on Boxing Day - or Stephen's Day as I always forget to call it.
It was a lovely, informal evening of food and wine and chat.
#2 Son was home for Christmas, and as he is an excellent cook, I was only too delighted to have him help with all the preparations. He made some lovely baby peppers stuffed with a spicy cous-cous, feta, mushroom and spinach concoction; and butternut squash in a creme fraiche and mustard sauce.
Along with roasted sweet potatoes, Christmas gammon and Jamie Oliver's gorgeous rainbow salad, it all went down a treat.
We probably could have stopped there, but there were several puddings too - two of them based around oranges and bitter marmalade.
|Why are rooms only ever tidy once a year?|
I know that many - quite rightly - lament the fact that Christmas has become a meaningless financial blow-out.
It isn't in our house. I don't mean to sound priggish or virtuous, but for one thing we've never had enough money to do that, whether we wanted to or not.
But we do tend to eat a lot. Not caviar and champagne, but a lot, nonetheless.
So I guess Christmas is perhaps as much of a blow-out, just not in financial terms.
But after the rain and the drear and the sheer, utter greyness of the year's last quarter, there is something totally wonderful about sitting around a house full of fairy lights, firelight and Christmas decorations, whilst eating, drinking and laughing with friends and family.
I bit the bullet big time this year. For ages, while the boys were away, either working or simply being too far away to travel home for the season, we didn't have a tree. There didn't seem to be much point, and oddly, in this part of the country where so many seem to grow, it can be hard to find a nice one.
When I was visiting my parents in Suffolk in early December, the lovely, old-fashioned greengrocer opposite their village house had masses of them, clustered outside his shop on little wooden stands. Each one was as gorgeous as the last, and I'd quite happily have brought any of them back with me, except it would have caused a bit of a problem at the airport.
Then, when I got home, I decided we'd just not bother, but after a bit of thought, I realised that actually, despite my years of abstinence, the tree is an integral part of what Christmas is. So I bought an artificial one.
I'm slightly wincing, just confessing to that, but you know what? I think it was a good decision. OK, it took ages to put up (but only because I'd never done it before. And there were no instructions), but it looks good, it gave me a reason to unearth all my favourite decorations, and there's something about a tree glowing in the corner of the room that takes me back to all the Christmases that ever were, and kindles warm memories that I can't even place or name.
The friends who came to visit said they liked it too, and it's still there, reminding me that there are a few days of the season still to go.
A tree isn't our only traditional 'event' - there's the Christmas Jigsaw. The In-Charge rather turned his nose up at my choice of puzzle for this year's festivities. I wasn't really surprised - I chose it because I liked it, not with him in mind this time round. It's a sort of collage of Victorian Christmas designs in cigarette card format.
So after our Boxing Day glut was over, #2 Son and I moved on to conquering the puzzle.We transferred it onto the kitchen table (on it's handy pin-board) and spent a couple of evenings and a rainy day putting it together.
It was a tricky one,as they seem to have introduced some very weird shapes that are, quite frankly, not only meaningless,but which don't actually hold the thing together. What is that about?
Anyway, it looks great, and I'm now postponing the day when it has to be broken up and go back in the box.
|My lovely Victorian inspired jigsaw|
We went for a walk on our favourite beach as well. The ModelDogs raced and chased and sank into deep pools left by the tide, and were generally thrilled with life. They looked splendid in their special Christmas collars.
|SuperModel is still afraid of accidentally dissolving|
And we started Christmas, as always, with the service of 9 Lessons and Carols from Kings College, Cambridge. It was rather a bitty affair this year, and not the satisfying fix it usually is for me, as our broadband is so appalling these days that it came and went, went being the more operative of the two.
Fortunately I have a CD of another service, from long ago, so after the official one had fizzled away in a haze of buffering silence, I put that on instead, before we set off for a jolly dinner at a friend's house to welcome Christmas in. During the evening the rain even stopped, the clouds parted, and I went outside and stared at the full moon. I didn't catch a glimpse of Father Christmas speeding through the sky, but it was magical all the same.
|Model Dog likes to open her own present all by herself|
So it was a very good Christmas, despite missing #1 Son like toothache.
But there still remains a mystery, that several days into the New Year remains unsolved.
All the silver spoons that were used at our Boxing Day party have disappeared without trace.
The In-Charge - apparently - washed them up, dried them and put them on the table in the late hours after our guests had departed.
(So I can't even ponder whether they each left with a spoon in their top pocket or reticule.)
It is a puzzle even more brain-defying than the Victorian cigarette cards, and one that my repeated searches of drawers, dressers, rubbish bags, hidden corners and laundry baskets has failed to solve.
My sister, who also lives in a very old house - as does my mother - swears it is the pixies.
Well, I hope when they've finished staring at their reflections, the pixies will feel moved to return them.
To the right house.
|The birds had a Christmas present too - a wreath full of goodies|