- Keep them warm. Socks, thermal underwear, hats, gloves, scarfs. Go on dress them up like a mini Micheln man you won’t regret it.
- ….and keep them cool. We have a nice open log fire at home. One of the things I miss the most is sitting in front of warm glowing log embers on a dark cold winter evening…….but what no one tells you, is that sitting next to a burning flame is hot. Really hot and I don’t mean in the sexy way. Imagine sitting in the living room. Open fire. 40 degrees celsius stripped down to our underpants. Cheeks glowing pink (it’s probably due to the wine consumed, but we’ll blame it on the temperature) and then deciding its time for bed, or a bathroom break or whatever. Heading away from the fireplace into another part of the house. Now this can only be described as an experience similar to that of jumping into a frozen lake after sitting in a Nordic sauna. Not at all pleasant. Although come to think of it people do say this is healthy and good for you, which on second thoughts almost always equals something rather unpleasant.
- Get the liver warmed up. Increase daily tolerance of alcohol SLOWLY in the weeks leading up to the festivities. This should allow the body to get used to the blood being a little more diluted than usual. Do you need some more wine in your blood system??? No problem, just visit my mum.
- Gin and Tonic is an aperitivo. Consumed in our household normally before the Christmas lunch. This is THE secret ingredient to all our cooking and quite frankly anything that helps keep my mum singing while she’s juggling a 2 kilo turkey in the kitchen is more than welcome! In Italy this cocktail is more commonly consumed as a digestivo, late in the evening after a hearty meal so getting used to this cultural difference, I hope should come as a pleasant surprise.
- Throw away the daily planner. Mum is in charge. Much like Italian mothers controlling the household, Irish mothers seem to have read the same parenting handbook. Think Julie Andrews in Mary Poppins without the psychedelic trips into street paintings. You should not expect to make any decisions for the entire stay. This however should be seen as a positive. Say yes for a simple life and let the brain take a well deserved vacation.
- Set them up to make pasta fresca. I ordered a while back for my sister a large rolling pin and tagliere, the large wooden board for making fresh homemade pasta. This can have two benefits. The home cooked Italian pasta creating a mini-island of calmness and familiarity in the chaos that is an Irish home – and we get to eat well!…
- ….or alternatively get them to be mums chef in training in the kitchen. This is a more realistic option for Christmas as generally there is little time to ask, “what shall we eat today?” given all the mincepies, turkey, christmas puddings, coffee, cakes and finger food that is forced upon you. Bonus points with mum as she has a little helper never fails!
- Secret escapes to the beach. A little ‘down time’ away from the Irish clan is essential to (a) relax the brain from having to understand our babbeling, noisy, fast and unique way of communicating with each other. Remember your (better) Italian half will feel at times like a fish out of water (b) Breathing in the fresh salty sea air is just priceless and a great way to steal secret kisses and hugs with your Italian Stallion (although be warned the dog will be keeping one eye on you!).
- The dog is the most loved member of the family. She will be your shadow, cuddle your feet, eat your leftovers and take you for walks.
- Finally, say goodbye to elegance and impeccable Italian style. Say hello to crazy Christmas jumpers!
I really love this old Italian saying! “La cucina piccola fa la casa grande”, which means “A little kitchen makes a large home.”