With only two weeks to go until Christmas, I have lost count of the number of times someone has said “we must catch up before Christmas”! You would think that one of us was leaving the country for good. New Zealanders love to socialise - to bring together family and friends. We love BBQs - although December’s weather has been such a mixed bag - sharing an impromptu meal or simply coffee and a chat. But this deadline-driven need to catch up can put people into a tailspin, especially if you’re the one organising the get-together.
Talking to a girlfriend last week, as we sat in the late afternoon sun sipping G&Ts in our respective backyards – her in Wellington and me in Auckland, we chatted about how best to survive the Christmas craziness, on top of the already busy lives we lead. So here are a few ideas...
Bring a plate - when people ask “what can I bring”, be specific. If you know you will need a green salad, say so. If they or their kids are fussy eaters, ask them to bring a dish they will eat. If they are great cooks, and are known for a particular dish, ask them to make it - they will be flattered and everyone will enjoy it.
Keep things simple - unless it’s a formal event and let’s face it, do you really have time for these right now - you don’t need five different salads and three desserts. Create shared platters and everyone can help themselves.
Don’t get stuck in the kitchen - if people ask if they can help, let them. Give them a task: slice bread; put out the plates, cutlery and serviettes; toss the salads; man the BBQ - although there is never a shortage of volunteers for this one; top-up drinks; clear plates etc. You don’t have to do it all yourself.
Keep the drinks list short - beer, wine and lots of non-alcoholic drinks. If someone only drinks bubbly, ask them to bring some.
Lots of ice to keep the drinks cold - use oversized plastic baskets or the laundry tub comes in handy too. This means the fridge can actually be used for food and get people out of the kitchen.
Ensure people can get out of the sun - a large pump bottle of sunblock is handy too. And if you’re planning on staying outside late, citronella candles to keep the mosquitoes in check and even a pile of blankets.
And the best idea of all - catch up in January, when everyone is more relaxed!