Christmas the 1st

December 31, 2011

Almost a week since Christmas Day but this is the first chance I’ve had to sit down and think about it.

We moved into our new home on the 2nd of December and only a few weeks later hosted Christmas day for 9 of my lovely family, six adults and three children, including them all sleeping over so no one had to worry about driving.

This is the first time I have cooked a Christmas meal for many years, first time for this many people, first big meal in this house and first time using everything in the kitchen.  So I might have been a little stressed and a tad over prepared.  I decided to go for doing the lot from scratch and created the spreadsheet-of-doom to tell me when to do things on the day (this more or less worked for keeping things in order but the timing of each stage quickly went out the window and the estimated time of sitting down became “when it is ready”

First up, and made in advance was swede and cardamom soup, which I think worked really well but was perhaps a bit too heavy considering everything else that was to come.  Then the Turkey, which I bought from a local butcher, broke down into joints and cooked like this link – it lied by the way and took much longer than the time given to come up to temperature.  I also used that last link for a method of making the stuffing.  Along with this was the gravy, bread sauce & cranberry sauce, sprouts with bacon and chestnuts, roasted carrots, parsnips and potatoes and, of course, bacon-wrapped chipolatas.  Everything else, puddings, drinks, snacks, crackers, etc… were provided by my wonderful in-laws.

If you follow the links above you will see they are all youtube videos of the various recipes, and not all from the same chef, although I did stick to just two (with some tips from elsewhere).  By and large this was good because I like general pointers rather than strict recipes but a few time this was a little sketchy as not many quantities are mentioned in these videos, either to indicate how many the recipe is for or how much of any ingredient to use.  However, I worked it out more or less and everything sort of worked.

Cooking Christmas Lunch really isn’t that difficult and certainly not as difficult as I decided to make it for myself by not taking any shortcuts.  However, the lessons learned from this year might be as follows:

  • Jointing the turkey myself was a faff and not worth the extra effort just to get some bones for stock and a little brown meat.  A crown is enough for anyone and at a push turkey legs can be purchased fairly cheaply.
  • Scottish Free range organic… all nice words but this bird did have a lot of taste so I think it was worth it.
  • bread sauce is easy to make
  • cranberry sauce is even easier to make
  • gravy was a bit of a hassle because I was waiting for the bones and juices from the turkey – not sure this was much better than if I have prepared it fully before hand, then I could always just use the bones and juices later for stock or gravy for ‘left-overs’.
  • you can’t have enough chipolatas, especially with children at the table.
  • sprouts can be made almost edible by adding lots of other stuff to them

Above all, however, I think it is important to remember to have some really nice bread for the turkey sandwiches later on.


Leaving Woodlands

December 3, 2011

(that’s Woodlands, the area of Glasgow – not somewhere in the woods…!)

Today we move to our lovely new home for ‘smug-marrieds’ and out of my one bed flat in Woodlands after 10 years in the area.  Time for the final reflection on living in this area.

Sounds a bit pious now, but I certainly felt ‘called’ to live in this area because I was already attending church here.  St Silas is very much what is known as a ‘gathered congregation’ i.e. with people traveling from all over to attend rather than mostly living in the area.  But at the time I was involved in youthwork in this community and wanted very much to live hear.  The problem then was finding a place I could afford because this isn’t a cheap area and there aren’t many one bedroom flats, so I would have to try to afford something bigger than I needed.

It took me well over a year of looking to find where I’ve been for the last 10 years and it has been good.  I’ve done a lot of work to the flat, but really it is all about the location.  It takes me about 40 min to walk home from work (faster if I walk home with Ali) and that walk takes me past two cinemas that certainly in the past I frequently stopped for an early showing.  There is a bus stop just on the corner, the underground it 5min walk, Kelvingrove park is 2min walk and the church is 1min 26sec walk (if not in a hurry). Not to mention the resturaunts, pubs, cafe’s and small shops all around!  This really is a nice area to live in.

But.  Living in a tenement needs some degree of neighbourly civilized behaviour and I think this is becoming a rare thing in my experience of Glasgow.  In my 10 years here I have only gotten to know 2 neighbours to any great extent and I wouldn’t say either of them were friends.  Most of the flats in my block (and every flat that surrounds my one) is now rented out, presumably to students or newly qualified professionals.  They appear to have no consideration or comprehension of how much noise is too much, or when is too late to be shouting and screaming in the close.  They also appear to be unable to grasp the simple process of putting rubbish into black bags and leaving them in the correct place, any old carrier bag more or less outside seems to be fine.

Other than neighbours who actually live here we also have the problem of passers by after ‘kicking out time’ in town.  Thursday to Sunday you more or less get used to, but ‘special events’ like Halloween, New Year, etc. this place can be like a war-zone.  Obviously, getting home when drunk is a noisy affair, that requires much shouting, singing and falling over, but every weekend someone has to use our close door as a toilet (not just number 1s either), traffic cones – or anything that is out and not tied down will be flung in random places in the street or put on top of cars, windscreen wipers and wing mirrors are fair game as is running along the tops of all the cars in the street.

Which means that while there are many things I will miss about living in Woodlands I am ready to move to somewhere where ‘grown-up’ live and where I hope people will have some more respect for themselves and their neighbours.  Even if it does mean a longer drive to church :-/