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‘Tis the season for Christmas tips
Monday, November 23rd, 2009

Inspired by mummy blogger 20 Something Mum, who is running a competition with John Lewis to showcase the best ever Christmas tips, here are ours. We know, it’s only November, but don’t look now because there are fewer present buying/cooking/preparation days left than you’ve got shopping bags for. Anyway, we love Christmas, and aren’t ones to panic when it comes to undercooked geese or exploding presents (truly. The ‘table bomb’ went off in the car, fortunately while we were on a quiet B-road). Just don’t get us on the subject of loo-roll Christmas tree angels, one of those things you don’t know about until you have children…

We’d love your tips, so give us the lowdown in the comment box, below.

Tips for Children
Make sure they have a good breakfast. Something like porridge is ideal because it helps balance blood sugar levels, even if the Christmas stocking’s gold coins and monster tube of Smarties have both been consumed by 5am.

Don’t let them open all their presents at once. If you do, they won’t see the presents for the blur of wrapping paper, you won’t get a chance to write down who gave what, and it will all be over in five seconds. Plus, it’s just rude not to admire and take in each gift, even if only for five seconds.

Once the presents have been opened, steal a couple away for Boxing Day and beyond to help keep the Christmas spirit going.

Tips for the Christmas Meal
Keep it simple with a starter (soup, or something cold) made in advance, and turkey/goose/whatever, with as many trimmings as you can manage. That’s ‘manage’. If you’ve never made a red cabbage, port and cranberry side before, whipping one up when you’ve a houseful of guests is not the time to start.

Check your oven is large enough to contain your turkey!

Tips for harmonious In-Laws
Keep quiet. Everyone’s Christmas traditions are different. Mother-in-law might be appalled that the children are allowed to open their presents before going to church (or, indeed, that you’re not planning on going to church), but let her have her say. You don’t need to agree in your head.

If things start getting tricky, give the trickiest guest a job. After a second stint scrubbing the roast potato pan, they might get the hint and pipe down.

Always ask your mother-in-law’s advice. You don’t need to take it, but she probably does know how to salvage too-salty gravy or the right timings for the festive goose. Damnit.

Tips for an Entertaining Time
Christmas often involves different age groups. When you’ve got young children, split everyone up into teams and send each team out on a treasure hunt. It works well – the three-year-old is usually better at picking up things like pine cones from the ground than his octagenarian grandfather, while grannies tend to be a dab hand at finding unusual plants.

Always get outside, even if just for five minutes between gales. Christmas houses tend to be overheated and overpopulated, and you’ll be amazed how a blast of oxygen helps refuel flagging spirits and put out toddler tantrums.

Keep a family friendly DVD on standby, just in case. Sitting in front of a classic like Chitty Chitty Bang Bang can help calm things down, or give the chef some extra time if everything has gone wrong in the kitchen.

Make sure your camera batteries are charged,  and you’ve enough space in the digital memory card.

Tips for Decorations
If you’re a control freak, have it both ways by letting the children help with the decorations. You can take all the loo roll fairies off once they’re in bed!

Sticking to a colour theme is a simple way to keep things easy, especially if you use something classic like red and gold or silver and white. But it’s Christmas, which is another word for ‘tacky’, so don’t let your inner stylista carry you too far from a fun and festive time.

12 Responses to “‘Tis the season for Christmas tips”
  1. Melissa says:

    My top tip: be organised. I spend the weeks before Christmas wading through my recipe books and Dec issue magazines with food sections, looking for food inspiration. I then (in my trusty black leather bound Christmas food book – god I sound anal) write down meal plans for every day from Christmas eve through to when the guests leave.

    I work backwards in making the food and prepare most stuff in advance so that on the day it’s mostly done. And the things that need to be done on the day, I write out timings. So that no matter how much champagne I have (because I am a champagne slut and cannot help myself) I will still no that at 10.05 the turkey needs basting.

    And I actually really like going back over my book each year to see what I did in year’s past. It’s become my little tradition – that and going to the butchers and farmer’s market at 5.30am on Christmas Eve all on my own when I get utter peace and complete festive spirit. And even though all the planning may seem like effort, it actually just makes it feel like Christmas!

  2. angels&urchinsblog says:

    Despite knowing I’ll never be this organised, I am totally taken with the idea of a Christmas book. What a lovely idea. You get to see who you entertained, what you gave them, and (if your kitchen is anything like mine) probably get a few visible reminders too, such as a slosh of wine or splash of gravy. I’ll definitely get a book and start a Christmas log this year. Thank you, Melissa, and the best sluts are the champagne ones!!

  3. Kay says:

    Being a mother of four I totally agree with the ‘Tips For Children’ part about not letting them open all their presents at once.

    We found the best way to do it is to let everyone open one gift at a time while the others watch. It makes the whole thing more controllable and they get a thrill out of seeing what the others have got, this helps them with the act of giving and not just receiving.

    Oh, and if they want to play with one thing before opening something else….let them (we used to say ‘wait until you have opened the rest’). The day lasts longer and the children love it.

  4. Melissa says:

    Just thought I’d let you know that I have now typed up all my menus from the last 3 years and have posted them on my blog should anyone want some ideas http://tinyurl.com/ykteknh :-)

  5. Al Baker says:

    My best tip? If someone asks if they can do something, say yes. You could ask for mince pies, Christmas crackers, some holly from their garden. Anything that you don’t have that might save you some time.

  6. angels&urchinsblog says:

    Melissa, just been over to Home Office Mum and the recipes look yum – thank you. I can imagine plenty of ‘waifs and strays’ being lured over by the delicious smells wafting from your kitchen!

    Al, good idea, I’m all for decking the halls with plundered holly. Saves a potential fortune, too!

  7. Don’t worry about everything being perfect. Write down your timings when you’re preparing lunch (Nigella Lawson tip, makes life a lot easier). Stick to your child’s usual routine (let babies and toddlers have their naps when they want, don’t become fixated on the idea you must eat dinner after the Queen’s Speech, or whatever). Don’t go crazy with buying presents for very babies (and for goodness’ sake use a cashback site!) as they’ll only really be interested in the wrapping paper and boxes. Buy batteries of every type. Relax and enjoy!

  8. angels&urchinsblog says:

    Thanks Liz. Wish could follow your, and our, advice about timings. The last time I tried I lost them half way through! Couldn’t agree more about buying presents for babies, unless it’s something you secretly want yourself…

  9. I had a problem seeing your site layout through the most recent version of Opera. Looks good in IE6 and Firefox however.

  10. Good post, thank you! I really like it!

  11. Jesse Serrin says:

    Great post. I got some very useful information from it. I’ve been trying out some new Asian recipes lately and am having a great time experimenting with them. Do you have a favorite cookbook? Visit my blog if you’d like to read more. Thanks again for this blog – it is really well-done.

  12. Some great tips for keeping the family Christmas harmonious, part of the British Mummy Bloggers’ carnival: http://survival4moms.com/2009/12/22/bmb-carnival/

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