Christmas tree, cards, presents, food, wine, fizz, games, leisure time and people. Mix and match quantities and vary cooking times according to your personal taste, but don't scrimp on the most important ingredient - loved ones, family and friends.....
At least 24 hours before the big day - longer if possible - marinade guests with wine, fizz or Christmas tipple of their choice to help them unwind and get into the festive spirit. Allow yourself to be marinaded by others as part of their festive preparations!
When fully relaxed, warm up gently as the presents go under the tree on Christmas Eve, and stir occasionally to keep the circulation going...
On Christmas morning, carefully lift the presents from under the tree and remove the wrapping gently to discover the contents.
Whilst waiting for dinner to be ready, use the time to play with presents and keep up blood sugar levels in between taking power naps. Some wonderful combinations include sudoku and chocolate biscuits; crosswords and chocolate truffles; books and chocolate ginger sticks; DVDs and chocolate money; games of "Pointless" and boxes of chocolates. Oh....and did I mention chocolates?
But don't go over the top or you will spoil your appetite for dinner.....
Hint: Don't forget the parsnips roasting at the back of the oven, out of sight of the casual observer....we discovered them at the end of our meal, but they made very good "leftovers" soup the next day!
Dine by candle light - it's flattering and romantic, and the best option to see what you are eating if your electricity goes off (fortunately, we were not affected by power cuts caused by storms in the south of the UK but pity those poor people who were...)
Wake yourself up with a Boxing Day walk - carefully avoiding swollen rivers, flooded roads and footpaths, whilst enjoying the diversions on your way to higher ground! But don't worry about a bit of mud - it just adds another texture to the rich tapestry of the festive season.
We headed off to Wittenham Clumps to enjoy the fresh air and fine views over the Oxfordshire countryside (quite a lot of which is under water at the moment).
|Steve captures the view from the top
|The Thames in flood below Wittenham Clumps
|Daughter Katie, partner Ed and Steve get a breath of fresh air
And so another Christmas has come and gone - Steve's fifth since the mesothelioma diagnosis. Thank you to everyone who helped make it memorable with your good wishes, social gatherings, delightful gifts and wonderful company!
It feels rather strange now the house is empty again, but it won't be for much longer as there will be another social gathering here before Twelfth Night. In the meantime, there is a New Year's Eve celebration to look forward to tomorrow, followed by lunch out with Steve's brother and his wife later in the week. Plus a get-together in London with friends from my school days before we need to prepare ourselves for the meeting with Steve's consultant on 9 January to discuss treatment options and decide what happens next.
To all our family and friends, we send our very best wishes for a happy and healthy 2014 and hope we will see you again at some point during the year. And special hugs and positive thoughts for all the Meso Warriors who continue to fight this disease; their carers and loved ones. We are moving closer to a cure...One day it will come....Who knows, maybe 2014?