12 ways to an easier christmas
I might be taking some liberties with that title – 12 ways to an easier Christmas but I so wanted to write this post as I have been feeling a bit tired of all the “12 perfect gifts” (even though I am going to include some) and the “12 incredibly difficult Christmas dinners” posts that have been popping up everywhere. In my work as an interior designer, I get to see first hand how frantic everyone gets about finishing their homes or baches for that magical date – 25th December. The weird thing is that by Boxing Day it just doesn’t seem to matter. So I am hoping to add a few shortcuts to a more stress free Christmas.
1/ It is particularly hard at this time of year to avoid all those magazines and posts extolling the virtues of the perfect christmas tree, giving you lots of ideas of how you can decorate the tree to perfection. I always find those interesting because there is simply no way I could ever change our tree, and redecorate it because the children simply wouldn’t let me. We started a tradition when the children were tiny of visiting the Christmas Shop in Newmarket and each child choosing a decoration to take home to add to the tree. So it explains why our tree is a complete miss mash of decorations – and it also includes all the ones the children made at kindy etc. Bear in mind our eldest is 27 and the youngest is 11 – and you get some idea of the state of some of the decorations. To my mind the kids in my family trump everything else in regard to Christmas. So ignore those flashy articles, unless of course your children want a beautiful new tree – (go look at Alex Fulton’s masterpiece if you want to see something splendid) but also remember that magazines are just inspirational. They are just there for ideas if you want them. Decorations put on by small people in a random, higgledy piggledy manner makes for a fine christmas tree in anyone’s book, especially mine.
2/ The same goes for food. Sometimes we put WAY too much pressure on ourselves about what we are going to serve on the day and then we end up cooking all day and then exhaustion seems to be our only reward. And a wrecked kitchen. I heard of someone who bypassed all that, and in a household that doesn’t ever get takeaways, they get KFC every Christmas Day so that no-one is cooking – and everyone gets to enjoy themselves. My children regularly mention that this would be a fantastic idea, unfortunately my visiting mother wouldn’t agree… But we stick to a pretty easy Christmas each year. We have the same thing – it is always a roast eye fillet (Allyson Gofton’s fantastic 2 hours at 100 degrees recipe which is always perfect) for full proof meat. It is a bit extravagant but we also always start the day with a brunch on the BBQ (hash browns and eggs and breakfast sausages) and only have one other meal (the roast with baby potatoes and green beans) later in the day. Two meals – what could be easier?
3/ Keep the other stuff easier too. We always have Eton Mess (Nigella’s recipe) as our dessert. It take 10 minutes to make – everyone chips in and every scrap gets eaten. My parents always do a cold rice pudding that is Danish in origin but it can be made the day before. That was always my Mother’s mantra – make it the day before. When my parents arrived in NZ when I was born, they had no extended family and no-one to share Christmas with (other than my godparents from Denmark). She didn’t want to be cooking all day like her own mother, so my memories of Christmas was cold ham and salads – and it meant my Mother had some sort of break too.
4/ Paper plates and napkins are your friend. Along with masses of cooking, there is often masses of washing up! I give you permission to use paper plates and throw it all in the bin at the end. I like to choose a bright napkin and dress the table with that and flowers. And nice that everyone avoids doing as many dishes as possible.
5/ Families are tricky things – who to be with an where. I have lived through this as much as everyone but in the I think we have to ease up on the complications of Christmas. This year our own children said they just wanted to wake up in their own beds. Traditionally they have been at one grandparents home or the other, then we pack up on Boxing day and drive to the alternate grandparents. Recently we just had a talk with our Eldest Daughter and her lovely husband and said that we promise that they can spend Christmas wherever they want once small people arrive in our lives (exciting!). I realize that for our own children we have put too much pressure on “the day” – I am sure the weekend before or after would be just fine. But it has taken me an exceptionally long time to realize this…
6/ Traditions are a good thing. They take the guesswork out of things. If you don’t have any, let the kids invent them (if they want – if not, don’t bother). They make things simpler.
7/ Never go into a mall after the middle of December. Do you have a death wish? It is a sure-fire way to remove any trace of seasonal cheer – spending hours trying to find a carpark and then screaming around the mall jostling for the things you want. Just joyous. There are alternatives (other than starting your shopping in July)…
8/ There are some splendid out-of-the-way places to shop – find them and go there. Kingsland and Ponsonby in Auckland has a fantastic array of shops (just not many with children’s things) but plenty of other things to make you happy. Native Agent has the gorgeous An Astute Assembly popping up in their store til Christmas. Tribal Modern has a whole host of bright things to appeal and MIXT is an old standard. Try the splendid YOUREWELCOME who do the stunningly bright Zanini Beanbags $320 which are available at Terrarium in Kingsland.
I love Newmarket with Madder & Rouge (just go first thing in the morning) and Indie Home Collective… Alex Fulton’s AFD Store in Blenheim is a destination store but is surrounded by a great village too. She will send anything you want anywhere in NZ but get onto it for guaranteed delivery before Christmas. Daiso on Queen Street is the most amazing stocking filler with all sorts of Japanese delights with pretty much everything is three dollars. It is a great place for the kids to buy presents for each other! And a great place to do your secret santa shopping if the need arises.
9/ Go online, go online, go online… seriously at this point in the proceedings online is your best friend. The Market has a physical store in Ponsonby but if you order by the 16th December they guarantee Christmas delivery. Toyco has an online service – and one of the best ranges of Lego in the country. You can’t go wrong (or at least you can’t in our house). Go to Collected for a great range of homewares, also Room99, Simon James Concept Store, Nature Baby, George & Edi (for great candles), Curio Noir for the same, Toots Noodles for all sorts of stationery things, Paperplane for some of the best design books they order just for themselves, Teapea for the best lamps (Heico) on the planet (as well as some of the best service), Meadowlark for jewellery, Needle&Nail for handmade wooden toys… support these beautiful people and their great, thoughtful businesses – support local when you can – you make their Christmas as well!
10/ Books always make fantastic gifts. Always. We always give small people books – our favourite is Mainly Toys in Mt Eden. They also have one of the best ranges of card games (which my geeky family love) and also are online as well. I may have accidentally bought Absolutely Beautiful Things by the amazing Anna Spiro for myself (to go under the tree). I got it from the always wonderful Small Acorns in Wellington. They are online too…
11/ If you have the time and inclination, handmade is always fun and cheaper. I have included our standard family gift – which is an orange and lemon cordial. We give it all the family, neighbors and friends and Madeleine and I just take our time and make it slowly and enjoy giving it away at the end. I have included the recipe at the end. It is another tradition (in our family) and takes the guesswork out of what we give people. The kids love the taste and the adults tell us that it is rather nice mixed with soda water and vodka (not that I would know or anything…)
12/ Ignore all advice that starts “12 ways…” or any other advice unless you want it. Do what is easiest for you at Christmas, but especially what is easiest for your beautiful family. It is supposed to be about family and for some of us, faith – it really doesn’t have to be as perfect and flashy as we think it does. Merry Christmas! Hopefully I haven’t added to your stress levels…
Orange and Lemon Cordial (fondly named Ouma’s Juice after my Mother in our family)
2 oranges – both the juice and the rind (finely grated)
2 lemons – both the juice and the rind (finely grated)
1.5 kg sugar
4 tbp Epsom salts
2 tbp tartaric acid
1 tbp citric acid
6 cups boiling water
Dissolve the dry ingredients in the boiled water. Once it has cooled a little add the orange and lemon juice/rind. Done! Put in the nice bottle – great as a present. Particularly nice with sparkling water and a wee bit of gin or vodka (or so I’ve been told…)