6 December

Influx of cards

If you’re Belgian, this morning is when you will find the presents Sinterklaas left for you. And if you’ve grown too big for your dummy and left it in your shoe, Sinterklaas will have taken it away to look after it, leaving chocolate in its place (which is an exchange of vices that may not work in your favour).

As cards come in (if you still have anyone who sends them to you):

  • Update your address book with the sender’s return addresses (and their significant others, if they’ve mentioned them).[1]
  • Add the senders to your Christmas card list for next year.
  • You may want to respond to personal notes (email is fine).
  • If you get a card from someone you didn’t send one to, pop one in the post to them pronto![2]

Today is a good day to make lemon butter for your hampers[3] and make sure you keep at least one jar for yourself because it makes excellent Christmas desserts. (See 22 April.)

Who loves you?

I am confident that these whipper-snapper ideas people have designed a good office party but I do not know yet that they can execute a good office party so I insisted we have a social club committee meeting at lunchtime today to go over the plans for Friday night. Sure enough, everyone thought everyone else was doing all the work and that they just had to swan in looking lovely. But now we’re all quite clear on who’s buying the alcohol (me: I have the purse strings), who’s mixing the wassail (Adam, who has been practising at home and has been looking quite bleary-eyed as a consequence), and who’s doing the final comms (Laura, who has already drawn a pretty series of posters and written some witty emails). (I particularly liked “R.S.V.P. = Really Special Vintage Party”.)

[1] Failing to mention significant others may also be significant: the first I knew of my friend Jenny’s separation was when she omitted Richard’s name from her Christmas cards.

[2] My old neighbour Gustav used to write “return to sender” on his and send them straight back and I don’t think anyone had to be told twice.

[3] Or passionfruit butter, by swapping passionfruit pulp for the lemon juice.

3 November


If you’re growing herbs for hampers, they may be ready for drying now. Hanging them upside down in bunches and letting nature take its course is traditional but doing them in the oven is faster and less risky.[1]

Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme (and oregano, chives and spearmint).

I’ve persuaded Gemma to volunteer for the social club committee. I think the party cubs will enjoy working with her because she’s fun-loving and young but she also understands that a beer budget can’t be stretched to champagne cocktails. Provided she doesn’t propose anything to do with indoor cricket, I think we’ll all be very happy with her.

[1] My friend Fiona was drying bunches of parsley in the sun in her bay window and she walked in one morning to find them covered with caterpillars. She said the creatures were the same colour as the swirls on her couch so it took her days before she was convinced that she’d got them all out.