Watching the last episode of the excellent BBC Nativity earlier this week I was reminded of this song by Andrew Peterson (he of Matthew’s Begats). Here is a YouTube clip of it, with pictures from The Nativity Story from 2006. A Christmas Day treat for us all.
And talking of a Labour of Love, if you were in bed at a decent hour last night, you won’t have heard my fumblings on air with Ranvir Singh of Radio 5 Live. My very kind brother-in-law managed to record my brief moment of late-night fame, where I spoke about what Christmas means to me. It was recorded from the telly, which is why it’s in a YouTube clip.
Just in case you don’t follow my Twitter stream, I thought I’d let you know that you can hear me on Radio 5 Live tonight, Christmas Eve. I’m joining a discussion on ‘What does Christmas mean to me?’ on the Stephen Nolan Show, although it’s being hosted by Ranvir Singh tonight.
Do pray, as I’m feeling quite nervous at this point. My dad was a radio journalist until he retired, so I have a family reputation to uphold. I’ll be enormously pleased if I manage to get through without saying ‘er’ and ‘um’ more often than I say something coherent.
In the meantime, we are chilling after a cheery Christmas Cracker service and waiting for the gammon to be finished. I boiled it in leftover Spiced Cranapple before giving it a final blast in the oven.
So it seems we all love our mince pies and some of us really go to town and drink champers at our festive services. If we’ve not had to cancel them because of all the snow and ice. Sigh. Actually, we’ve had a very encouraging time here with our festive services. And are hoping that the most recent dump of snow followed by freezing conditions won’t dampen the enthusiasm of parishioners for our Christmas Eve and Christmas Day services.
I hope this shows the main results okay for you – I’m trying a new way of displaying them which involves far less typing. As always, the ‘other’ category gave some fun and interesting answers. I think some of these answers locate the church – I’m guessing that the samosas aren’t on offer in a rural parish…
Sloe gin, apple juice, nuts, crisps etc
Fresh baked cookies
Yule log – we’re BIG fans!!
A single sad ‘other’ answer was that no refreshments were being served. I just hope that this was only because the respondent was thinking about the Midnight Communion service. Christmas is such a great time for God’s people to show expansive hospitality that I shudder when I think of churches who might not be taking up that opportunity.
A good headline, don’tcha think? Well, it’s not totally true, but my Twitter stream is already reporting a smattering of cancelled Sunday services. The Vicar is about to call round and cancel our 9am service which is mainly attended by elderly folk. The snow here is a good 6″ deep, and still falling and once it’s frozen overnight it will be even more hazardous for our more senior members.
Most sadly of all, live nativities have been hit by non-delivery of donkeys. The one we were going to attend at our old church in Wolverhampton today was cancelled as both the donkey (coming from Shropshire) and baby Jesus (coming from Tipton) were unable to make an appearance because of the snowfall.
I’m just praying that attendance our Nativity Service tomorrow morning and the Carol Service in the evening isn’t drastically depleted. Some of our church (and Christmas choir) members live outside the parish (and up steep hills), so they may well struggle to get in. It’s such a special time of year for churches and it would be very sad to miss all the fun and celebrations and the opportunity to share Christmas joy with folk who don’t often join us.
What will you be serving at your festive services this Christmas? I have just taken delivery of a bulk purchase for our church – ten 2 litre vacuum jugs. This is so we can serve Spiced Cranapple, a non-boozy mulled wine, after our carol service and after the Christmas Cracker service on Christmas Eve. With the jugs I’ll be able to mull the spices into the drink at home first and then take the hot beverage over to the church next door. We will also be providing mince pies, of course. And tea and coffee and biscuits too, for those not so keen on the festive delights. For the school carol service this morning I have two large choccie cakes with star sprinkles and some festive iced biscuits made with mixed spice.
What about you. Do you serve alcohol or not? With alcoholism and its attendant evils an ever-present problem in our parish, serving alcohol in church is something we tend to avoid. Do you mass cater with Asda mince pies or ask folk to bring their own, whether homemade or not? Time for a bit of sharing. I’ll close this poll at the weekend – I think we should all have our catering plans fixed by then.
Last night we ate one of our favourite Malaysian dishes for tea at the Vicarage. I love to cook this reminder of our 51/2 years in South-East Asia. And to provide ginger warmth in a chilly kitchen. It’s easy, delicious and only uses a single dish (tho’ you might want to use a wok for some greens on the side aswell). It’s expandable for lots of people and is not too foreign for most visitors. Anyone who occasionally eats takeaway Chinese will love this.
Claypot chicken rice and bok choi
Chicken pieces (preferably skinned dark meat on the bone, chopped into bite size pieces by your local Indian butcher – but otherwise skinned thigh pieces are probably easiest or thigh fillets if you have bone-haters dining) – 1 to 2 thigh or drumstick pieces per person
Rice (we love Thai fragrant jasmine, but any will do) – about 120ml per adult and 60ml per child (dry measure)
Big chunk of fresh ginger (2-3″ here)
Soy sauces, light and dark (1-2 tbspns of each)
Oyster sauce (1-2 tbspns)
Sugar (1 tbspn)
Oil – sesame (1 tbpn if you have it) and vegetable (2 tbspns)
Extra treat for authenticity – pickled green chillis (chopped) on the side, marinaded in soy sauce
Ready to serve
You need about an hour from preparation to serving for this dish. But there’s time to supervise piano practice and maybe do some laundry in that hour. Or even drink a cup of tea. Or blog a recipe. You don’t need a clay pot to cook it either – I use a casserole dish. Mine has a glass lid which makes it easier to tell if stuff is cooked, but a cast iron casserole or a good sized saucepan would be fine. It’s rather easier with a non-stick pan because of the crunchy ricey bits (see below).
First pop the rice on. I have a rice cooker which has a cup sized at 160ml. For three adults and three fairly hungry children I used 4 cups. I cheated and used the rice cooker to measure the water to the right level, but the Malaysian way, which works just fine, is to put water in so that your forefinger, laid flat on the top of the (pre-rinsed) rice, is covered by the water. Put the cover on the pan and cook the rice until all the water is absorbed. This should take about 15 minutes.
Whilst the rice is cooking prepare the chicken and let it marinate in its sauce. You can quickly drizzle on the soy sauces, the oyster sauce, the sesame oil and add the sugar before mixing the pieces about to ensure that the marinade is coated over the chicken. Then you want to get the ginger’s juice without the pulp. The best way to do this is to first peel your piece of ginger and then grate or blend it. Pop the chewed up ginger pieces in a sieve and press down with a spoon to get the ginger juice out over your chicken portions. I used my chopper attachment from my stick blender to whizz the ginger first and a small plastic sieve.
Once all the water is absorbed into the rice, pop the chicken pieces and the marinade on top, together with the vegetable oil. Cover the pot again and leave it to cook on a low heat for 20 minutes. Don’t open the lid, as this will prevent the chicken from cooking thoroughly, as it steams on top of the rice.
After 20 minutes, open the lid and get a spoon and mix the chicken into the rice. You should find that some of the rice at the bottom of the pan has gone all crispy. Mmmm. Replace the lid and cook for a further 15 minutes on a low heat. Whilst this is going on, you might want to cook some veg. It was Bok choi (with garlic, soy sauce and a little sugar) for us last night.
At the end of the 15 minutes, mix the rice and chicken up again to extract some more lovely crunchy ricey bits and serve with the veg and a side of chopped pickled green chillis in soy sauce for added zing. Warming, filling and family friendly.
Pickled chillis - ingredients and finished condiment
Thank you everyone for voting in the Great Tree Date Debate. The results show that there is very little consensus! So now I feel better about not waiting until Christmas Eve – there doesn’t seem to be an official Anglican position on this. And reminds me that we ought to go out and get our tree, seeing as the Engineer’s birthday has now passed. We’ll be heading out sometime this week. Or I’ll be sending the Vicar out with the roofrack, anyway.
In the meantime we’re still wondering what to do with the white fibreoptic tree that someone left on our doorstep this weekend. It’s used, with some tinsel and baubels. And we’ve not yet tracked down the donor. Another Vicarage mystery.
Other (see below)
Last Sunday before Christmas
When I can be bothered
First day of school holidays
I hate Christmas trees & don’t have one
The other answers show us how many people are blessed with December birthdays!
ASAP after 5th December (younger son’s b’day)
after 19th. sons birthday
Like the engineer on my birthday the 8th!
The weekend before my birthday (7th Dec)
Another December birthday here so sometime after the 3rd…but down on 2nd Jan!
Sometimes we do – sometimes we don’t. Depends on time
When we get organised
when we have time
Somewhere between ‘when I mean to’ and Christmas Eve
When we are fed up to hear Im nagging Steven to get it down!
When I can persuade my husband that he can’t put it off any longer!
in time for the first carol service
Earlier than when did not have children.
last saturday before christmas
the day the children break up
We don’t have one but we don’t hate them.
Following up from watching lots of Handel’s Hallelujah chorus in the form of flash mobYouTube clips over the last couple of weeks, the Vicar nabbed a couple of Messiah clips to encourage folk in church this Sunday. Here is the one that’s not the Hallelujah Chorus – For Unto Us a Child is Born, set to kinetic typography, which helps you to meditate on the words as well as the marvellous music.
Happy Monday. Ours will be mainly spent phoning plumbers (frozen and burst pipes around the Vicarage) and sourcing extra warmth in the form of memory foam topper and electric blanket for Rocky the Vicar’s Apprentice, who has been so cold in the attic that his asthma has been playing up. He sees this as a part of his training for future ministry…