Gingerbread tree forest

Christmas is almost over (it doesn’t officially end until April when you find the last dried pine-needle under the couch cushion) and I thought it was about time to tell you about the Christmas Lunch: 2016 edition. For those who have been reading since the beginning, you know that my family goes a little over the top when we cook Christmas lunch (they have no choice in the matter and would far prefer a simple turkey instead of the behemoth I force them into). Since 2011 we have been cooking an at home degustation (lots of little courses) menu which at its height of weirdness was 15 courses for three people. 15 courses is too many in case you were wondering. Always stop at 14 courses.

Check out 2013 here

Check out 2014 here

This year my ever strict mother said we had to limit it to 8 courses. I know, her rule is overly draconian but there is little we can do about it – the Runawaykiwi household is one of the few remaining dictatorships in the world*. Since there were going to be seven of us for dinner at the start of the planning process we decided to do 1 course each. But as I got more and more ‘Monica’ about the lunch I could see my family planning to excommunicate me, so it was safer for all involved for me to just do it myself with sous chef help from mum.

If you want to plan your multi-course dinner I suggest you cook everything possible the day before. Mum and I spent about three hours in the kitchen on Christmas Eve morning cooking every element possible. For the courses below this is what we pre-prepared:

  • Eggplant (rolled and put in the fridge)
  • Roasted and crushed pinenuts
  • Sweet potato
  • Apple sauce
  • Pork belly (scored, rubbed, on a tray of veg in the fridge)
  • Sorbet
  • Ginger stained glass biscuits
  • Trifle
  • Pavlova
  • Chocolate bark

This meant that on the day the only things we had to cook were the pork belly (which just gets shoved in the oven and forgotten about) and the salmon which we made the pregnant sister create (it took maybe 3 min to prepare and 15 to cook). Other than those each course was very quick to plate on the day and we reused two sets of wooden boards so there was limited washing up to do after.

Origami menu stars

I always want to make things as interactive as possible (yes I am entirely insufferable) so instead of normal menus, I made 56 origami stars with the course number on the outside and the details of the food on the inside. Before each course the family had to hunt out the right numbered star and unwrap it to find out what was next. Particularly useful as I got dunker and drunker with each course and forgot what order things came in. So on brand #gin

I love this Christmas lunch more than anything. For someone who lives on the other side of the world being able to demonstrate my love for my family in such an elaborate way just makes Christmas for me. I may forget to Skype, miss all important family occasions and not ask for permission when I get a piercing – but I can cook 8 courses to shove my love for them down their throats on Christmas day. It’s all about family y’all.

*when my Mum reads this she may send me to my room, if you don’t hear from me please send help.

Course 1: Christmas champagne sangria

Christmas champagne sangria

Course 2: eggplant, pepper and goats curd involtini with pine nut crumb and red pepper pesto

eggplant, pepper and goats curd involtini with pine nut crumb and red pepper pesto

Course 3: fennel and herb salmon with asparagus and horseradish coconut cream

fennel and herb salmon with asparagus and horseradish coconut cream

Course 4: summer salad (aka the cop out course)

Summer Salad

Course 5: roast pork belly with kumara mash, apple sauce and cracking

roast pork belly with kumara mash, apple sauce and cracking

Course 6: coconut, rum, ginger-beer and lime sorbet served with a shot of Kings Ginger

coconut, rum, ginger-beer and lime sorbet served with a shot of Kings Ginger

Course 7: raspberry trifle with a stained glass gingerbread star

raspberry trifle with a stained glass gingerbread star

Course 8: mango and lemon pavlova with chocolate bark

mango and lemon pavlova with chocolate bark

Maria Tash at Liberty piercing

From: Rebecca
To: Family
Date: 23/10/16

Ok family don’t freak out.

Most importantly I am completely safe and you don’t need to worry. I have some news, and I know I should have got a permission slip signed by each of you first prior to action. In my defence, since I’m back in London the time zone makes it rather hard to get parental (or sisteral, or brother-in-lawal) consent at midday on a Sunday.

And thankfully since I managed to convince them I was 28 they didn’t actually ask for my Dad to be present.

Ok team, sit down, take a deep breath and have a sweet cup of tea ready.

I got my ear pierced.



Yes I look like a punk*, but I don’t think it will impact on my future love or career prospects. It is a rose gold hoop on the top bit of my right ear. I don’t have a photo for you because ears are stunningly hard to photograph. Also I am concerned I look slightly like a pirate; I am currently avoiding being in photos with parrots or rum just in case.

I knew you would be worried about me getting it pierced somewhere safe and clean, so I went to the poshest place I could find – Liberty. Yes that Liberty. I went in for a pink lemonade to celebrate being home from China (and doing a 12hour flights with no drugs and no freak outs!) and came out with an extra hole in my body. At least I am a classy hooligan?

I completely understand if you no longer want to be my whanau. But please try to understand that this was not an act of rebellion and I think our family friends will still talk to me, this piercing is not a reflection of bad parenting or sistering or brother-in-lawing. I wanted it because all the cool kids have them. And rose gold is really pretty. And how fucking awesome is it to have got a piercing in Liberty.

I do hope that you agree to continue our relationship irregardless of this act of self mutilation I have undertaken today.

Yours sincerely,
Rebecca ‘please don’t disown me’ Kiwi.

*I look nothing like a punk, saying that is an insult to punks. At best I look slightly more like a middle class hipster than I normally do.


From: Sister
To: Rebecca
Date: 24/10/16

My top 5 things that crossed my mind before you said piercing…

1. You are also pregnant
2. You got married
3. You invested in a coffee startup
4. You burned your passport and are never coming home
5. You spent all your money on coffee and we don’t get Christmas presents.

So based on the above, the rose gold piercing from Liberty sounds wonderful!

Mum and Dad

Well what a month it has been. No I’m not talking Brexit, mass shootings and the world slowly imploding; I’m talking about my parents visiting. A month of me sleeping on a couch so hard it felt like it was made of bricks while they slept in my bed. A month of Mum making me cups of tea, and Dad enabling my alcohol problem. A month of showing my parents my life, my London.

It was kind of a big deal for my parents to visit me now. The last time they visited London I was only a year into living here and was not in a great situation. I had a job that was not only unfulfilling and going nowhere, but also paid me nothing and refused to allow staff access to kettles because they were a health and safety hazard. I had no close friends, a flat where mould had more rights than I did and was utterly lost.

Having them visit in 2016 felt like a milestone, it was the first time I could show my parents that not only did I vaguely have my shit together but I was actually happy. I am god damn fucking happy.

It was like the Queen going on a state tour, I made my parents have an official meet and greet with my friends. It backfired a little though, because they loved my friends so much they are all invited to New Zealand for Christmas – I am not.

I had so much that I wanted to show them, so much to cram into a month. I love London (does that come across in this blog? My huge love affair with this silly city?) and have discovered so many cool places over the last four years, the only challenge was if we really could have four brunches in a day…

The side benefit of this month of familial love is that I have some cracking blog posts coming up. We ran away to Florence for a week with the goal of eating pasta for every meal and finding me an Italian husband (after Brexit it is the only way to stay in the EU). I forced my parents to do two escape rooms (both of which were ironically larger than my flat). And of course “three flat whites” was the standard coffee order.

I am secretly excited to write all these posts, it means that I get to extend the awesome times a little longer. Because since 2016 seems to keep kicking us when we are down, I want to bring some sunshine to y’all.

And yes, the photo above is what happens if I ask my Mum and Dad to take a nice photo…yes that is where I get it from.

Today I'm feeling Meh

Today I’m feeling really meh. Somewhere between the third bottle of champagne and the second box of chocolates I just started feeling a bit down. This meh-ness is slightly at odds with what is meant to be the most wonderful time of the year but for some unbeknownst reason there are no Christmas songs that account for the general post-Christmas blues that is hanging around everyone right now.

I had such a busy and fun start to the month & for the introvert who needs a lie-down after a coffee with friends I did an impressive amount. I then had a magical Christmas (blog soon to follow!) full of eating, drinking and spending WAY too much money enjoying myself. But now? Yesterday’s feeling a ‘little off’ led to a full blown existential crisis as I was trying to fall asleep. AWESOME.

I think most of the existential crisis can be traced back to the fact that I am 27 and that is just what we do for fun these days. Seriously, don’t worry about that whole I DON’T KNOW WHAT I’M DOING WITH MY LIFE panic, everyone else is having it too and most of the time you are actually just hungry.

But the post-Christmas ‘down’ time is another matter entirely.

One of the most obvious causes for the holiday blues is the slowly dying Christmas tree in the corner that somehow manages provoke three emotions at once:

  1. Foreboding that much like the life of this tree the holiday will soon be over and you have to return to work;
  2. Ennui over the consumerism that is leading to the general death and destruction of mankind; and
  3. Confusion as to how the hell you are meant to get rid of a dead Christmas tree in London, because your Dad always took care of that back home.

Of course for any Doctor Who fans there is the added emotion of suspicion as I am pretty sure one of these Christmases the tree will come alive and take me directly to our Sycorax overlords. For anyone not into Doctor Who just ignore this horrifying fact.

I think part of the down-ness is because we put so much chocolate covered pressure on Christmas, even more so if you are an expat. In the great busyness of the last half of December there is this little movie reel in the back of your mind saying that your Christmas in London will be like Love Actually, Dickens and Downton Abby combined. You will overcome the fact that your family is on the other side of the world by carolling with your chums as you all learn some sort of invaluable life lesson over your first Yorkshire puddings. But then it turns out that Christmas in London is just, well… weird.

Yes it is a nice day but it is not the same as home, it’s just not. You can totally plan an awesome day and bad-ass your way through it, but it will never be the same as a family Christmas. For one it is a hell of a lot more exhausting because all that cooking and shopping that your parents normally do is now down to you and your friends. As it turns out the reason your Mum complained about spending all day in the kitchen is because to cook Christmas dinner for ten people you have to spend all fucking day in the kitchen! Oh these things you discover when you try to adult for the first time.

The good old rose tinted glasses come into play as well, Christmas is always best looked at with about 10 months breathing space. Go on, what can you actually remember about the last Christmas you had at home? I would bet you a flat white that it has actually reduced down to the happy glow of presents and family… so you are comparing your current Christmas to what is essentially a highlights reel.   The bitter fact of being an expat at Christmas is you remember all the rosy good times, and not the ‘oh my god my sister just took the chocolate I wanted’ angry times.

There is also the small fact that what with being away from your parents and not having to drive anywhere, well you might have been drunk consistently for the last four days. I for one got up on Boxing Day planning to have a day without drinking and then saw I had some leftover champagne… there was only one logical conclusion. So feeling a little down is because this is the slowest built hangover of the year, four days of binge eating and drinking cocktails ‘to hydrate’ is finally taking its toll.

So why don’t you go through this in New Zealand? Back home you get gently eased back into reality like a kitten filling out a cardboard box. Everyone has time off work, the sun is shining and Christmas drinking just turns into Summer BBQ drinking – no harsh blues, just seemingly endless good times. I think even if you were an expat in New Zealand it must be a lot easier at Christmas time because of the general vibes of the entire ‘happy its sunny’ nation.

What to do about the miasma of meh? Firstly its time to utilise the unique post-Christmas benefits: all the chocolate and party trays are half price at the supermarket and it is totally acceptable to crack into the Baileys pre-lunchtime. Also you need to enjoy the fact that London seems oddly chill this time of year, like you can actually leave your house without wanting to punch a slow moving tourist kind of chill. The second approach is to just bloody revel in it, don’t try and fix the blues just know that it is a temporary thing that will pass with the New Year.

So how am I enjoying my post-Santa ‘down’ time? Well I have spent a rather splendid day catching up with those Kardashians. Not only is it junk food for the mind, but I feel a lot better about the dying Christmas tree in the corner when I compare it to the frightfully heated argument that Kim and Khris got into over Lamar. I mean, it’s Christmas so we really should be thinking about those less fortunate anyway.


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Its ok to feel down