I love the slowness of the actual Christmas holidays: Christmas Day and Boxing Day. The days feel long and leisurely and full of potential to me. It struck me yesterday that although we’ve been bond-holders on our house for 8 years, I haven’t really lived in it before. We’ve enjoyed it, especially the garden and the pool, but always been so busy that the only times that I’ve lolled in the pool on hot days, have been at Christmas and maybe those few days after New Year. I remember a particular PaperHeaDs meeting that didn’t happen because everyone suddenly couldn’t make it, so Paulette and I lolled and chatted the afternoon away. Moving slow has it’s benefits. And it’s always at Christmas that I seem to think of weird things to do. Here might be Pat’s take on the day.
“So Pat, how was Christmas?” – “Lovely”, she’d say, without mentioning what I put her through e.g. standing over a fire from 7 am in the morning, making a potjie for the first time, in 32 degree heat. It was hot and humid on the porch yesterday morning. We were up at 5.30, partly because it’s our ritual on birthdays and Christmas to be up early and partly because Rocky and Pepper were looking at me. They stand quietly by the bed willing one of us to wake up – it’s irresistable – no matter how tired or hungover you are, they will wake you. At least they don’t bat one’s face and mieow like cats do, when their owner is being inattentive. Such joys you have to look forward to, Sioux (new kitten)!
We then spent a happy hour opening gifts from our family. I was thoroughly spoiled with amongst others: a new fleece (royal blue) and tracksuit pants (fleecy for those days when the cold hits), an incredibly soft new summer bathrobe, codeword puzzle books, a new pressure cooker (which needs a pilot’s licence to drive it). Pat loves her Adele Live at the Royal Albert Hall DVD. It’s been a mission keeping her out of CD shops for the last two weeks! She does love her music.
Which doesn’t really explain why we started the potjie so early. We wanted it to cook slowly – so even though the recipe said it would be done in 2 hours, we went slowly, with my iPad on it’s stand so we could follow religiously until we didn’t (going with Andy’s recommendations). So it was getting a little fire going – enough to make an ongoing series of little coals, which you add and subtract as you need the heat very energy efficient. We added pearl barley, chicken spice and peas to the recipe and used chicken breasts rather than thighs (bit fatty). I think pumpkin would also have worked also in it. It was delicious by the time we ate at 2pm, with all the flavours of the veggies separate (the mushrooms!) yet working so well in combination with the spices. The best was that it was so easy on the tummy because everything was so tender. We had it for supper as well! And there was enough to freeze for a little meal later if the tum is playing up.
This was a number one pot. What we enjoyed about the whole process, was the smell of the fire that wasn’t overly polluting or energy intensive – like a braai, the sound of the pot hubbling and the smells that rushed out every time we opened it to have a look see. We will be doing potjie again!
Pat was the one feeding the fire and loading the pot in the required layers – it was pretty hot out there – while I was Skyping the Willisons in Nelspruit, the Harrisons in Edenvale and my mum in Adelaide. Between us, we still haven’t mastered the conference call yet. We spend a lot of the time asking whether the other person can see/hear each other, and we forget the delay that’s always been a feature of long-distance calls. For all that, being able to see loved ones, animated and busy about their days, is wonderful. Not to mention rude remarks about the windiness in Pinetown that were the likely effect of lentils in the potjie! iPad to iPad Skyping is an absolute joy. I wish I’d been able to capture Dougal saying “Thank you Mummy” for his biscuit this morning. Such lovely manners in a two year old. He didn’t want to do his Felice Navidad dance for Aunty Liz, but I figure after two days of socialising with his Oz cousins and friends, he’s pretty knackered. Sam and Hamish look so well!
The dogs had a lovely Christmas too. Though from their point of view it was just a nice day with lots of ‘in the moment’ moments. They had their tripe chewies while we were doing Christmas presents. Then Sharon and Dave popped over with two lovely gammon bones (and other goodies) on their way to lunch with family. These disappeared with speed! So nice to sit on the porch, watching Rocky swim, with the fan blowing on us. Sharon and Pat had little G & Ts while Dave and I went with ice cold coke zero, while we chatted about family, christmas, bike-riding and how things are going in general. Lovely, light and loving, so nice to see them. Happily the zings didn’t cause the colddrink to freeze my throat – probably because of the heat of the day. It was great to be in cargo shorts and a t-shirt with flip flops.
Both hounds were involved in the potjie pot clean-up. We were able to get this pic of Rocky – Pepper does everything fast! Hope that doesn’t offend anyone. I promise that the pot has been thoroughly cleaned with vey hot water since!
On Christmas Eve, Friday, was it? I had a new side-effect. You know how your feet burn after hours of shopping or walking a long race? Well this made walking on Friday quite sore. Thanks to the internet, I was able to learn that this is called HFS – hand and foot syndrome, which is apparently caused by the little blood vessels in the feet bursting because of the chemo. I learnt that I could deal with it by slathering my feet in E45 aqaueus cream, then covering them in loose socks, then that keeping them elevated would relieve the burn (just as in race-walking – RICE works- Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation). Apparently there’s a story of a guy on chemo who’s hands lost their fingerprints because of this side-effect. He got detained in the US and now has to carry a letter explaining this weird side-effect.Talk about an identity-crisis !
Because of my foot immobilisation, Pat had to do all the last minute shopping and she did it with incredible speed and efficiency. She found it interesting that it was the food shops that were crazy-crowded, not the mall shops with consumer goods that can only be ‘consumed’ by one. She was looking for all-spice for the potjie – sold out. What spice is allspice anyway? I know it goes in mince-pies. We put nutmeg in the potjie instead – our own twist.
Happily my feet were blissful yesterday and able to be in flip-flops not socks and slippers. I’d have had to walk around nekkid (as Karen puts it) if I’d had to do that, because of the heat. Might have disturbed the neighbours to have me in the buff with only socks and slippers.
The potjie – delightful as the whole experience of cooking and eating it was – was not the end of the things I inflicted on Pat yesterday. I was puttering in the laundry when it struck me that we really needed one of those flip-fold laundry folding gadgets. I saw one on Oprah years ago, and figured that they wouldn’t be available in SA for awhile and forgot about it. Lou mentioned that they are available now in SA, but it being Christmas Day, that didn’t help me at that moment. And moments are to be lived in. So it was that Pat ended up cutting out pieces of cardboard from my Russell Hobbs Pressure Cooker box, for three hours, while we sat on the porch watching the evening draw in. (Instructions on how to make a flip-fold). And then of course, we had to try out our creation which involved going through our closets and folding all the clothes that we weren’t chucking!
This is kind of classic for me, and Pat has gotten used to it over the years, but she was pretty knackered by the time we’d finished watching the cartoon movie about the origin of Iditerod sled dog race last night at 11pm.
We ended Christmas Day with full tummies, happy feet, and tidy closets. Not much more one can ask for in a day, what?