Christmas is an interesting time. For me, it is about gratitude, family and food. For the littlest ones in my family, it is about presents; for others, there may be religious overtones. For some, it is about what's lacking. Sadly, it is also the season of busy-ness and stress, especially this last week leading up to the big day. That "gotta get it done before Christmas" vibe is everywhere.
For the past few years, December has consisted of party food, and the sandwiches and coffee that sustain my husband and me through necessary all-nighters as we struggle to make our deadlines. This way of working gets more difficult as our family grows, and every year I swear it will be different.
This festive season has shown a mild improvement. Seven months pregnant, I have been filling the freezer with ready-meals for the last six to eight weeks. These have replaced sandwiches, and pregnancy tiredness has led to earlier nights.
Motherhood and 2013 has taught me the words "no-thank-you". No thanks to that party, that last-minute food-styling job, that conference in the South Island, that magazine feature. Although my bank balance is shrivelling, it's pretty cool to be meeting the Christmas break without bags under my eyes. My smugness abounds.
But although I have been at home this week, preparing lavish food for photo shoots, I've also been listening to reports about hungry kids and families not making ends meet.
My thoughts go to the one in four children living in poverty in New Zealand. As I watch my chubby toddler gambol about the floor, I am shamed into remembering that Christmas is the season of giving - and not just lovingly wrapped presents. I seem to have forgotten Christmas could be about gifts of the more charitable variety.
I grew up surrounded by the poverty of Northland in the '80s. As I write this, I have taken a three-minute break to sign up to donate to KidsCan. These guys give food, shoes, socks, raincoats and basic hygiene items to Kiwi kids. They allow donations to be directed to different regions, so I can support children of my own childhood community in the Far North.
I can show my gratitude even in my busy-ness. I give thanks to charities like this who make it easy for me to help. Thanks also to the charity Hand Over a Hundy, which has allowed me to mentor a group of teen mums in the garden this year, an enriching honour.
I am grateful, too, for simple recipes. As I am a guest on a boat over the holidays, I will be giving the gift of something simple. This ginger and honey loaf is my version of the French pain d'epices (spice bread) that is traditionally sweetened with honey.
The spices make it a little Christmassy without being too cloying for our climate. It won't take up too much space and will keep for three days in an airtight container. I adore it equally served warm with icecream or topped with blue cheese. I also intend to enjoy thick slices of it spread with butter.
I'll be feeling grateful, hanging with family and waiting for the fish to bite. May it be a holiday season of plenty.
- Sunday Star Times
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