Christmas is evidently descending on us in all its glitter and glory. Decorations are all around, the magical adverts are taking over our TV screens and the countdown has begun. Have you started your Christmas shopping yet? Have you planned out all that needs to be done? It is overwhelming and the next few weeks will be really frantic.
With the first Sunday in Advent already gone, which also doubled up as Stir-Up Sunday, our first candle in church is lit and the Christmas pudding is made! Letters to Santa have been written, finalising what the children have asked for. Advent Calendars are up and now it is all systems go.
Here at Zest For Life, we would like to give you a few little pointers to help with your preparations.
3 Weeks To Go.
• Pre-Christmas offers. Now is a great time to start picking up some of those great offers on party treats, alcohol and gifts. The supermarkets and stores are all competing. Non-perishable foods such as crisps, biscuits, nut selections are great to stock up on. I always wait till this time to get my bargain bottle of Baileys and then have to resist the temptation to have a sneaky glass before Christmas Eve.
• Online shopping. Before everything goes out of stock and delays on deliveries begin. Start scanning the web for your best deals. Those hard to find presents can be found at the click of a button and it saves the frantic searching through stores.
• Stock up on wrapping papers, tags and sellotape. It’s good to have these in ready, so that you can start your gift wrapping as the weeks go by.
• Finish putting up the decorations. This can be a lengthy process depending on how much you like to fill your home with the festive spirit.
• Now is a good time to buy in your kitchen and bathroom essentials such as tinfoil, cling film, plastic tubs, baking paper, toothpastes, soaps and toilet rolls. Splitting the household shopping list over the weeks is an excellent way of keeping check on where you are up to and minimizing the chance of forgetting things in the last minute shop.
• Now is the perfect time to get your Christmas Tree. If you do the real deal! Any sooner and the needles will start to drop before the big day. The smell of the pine is a gorgeous scent that fills the whole house and really makes my Christmas. Make sure you leave the tree to dry out and drop for a couple of days before decorating! Water plenty and make sure it is kept away from any really hot radiators.
• The Christmas cake. Traditionally, this should have been made in November and have been feeding nicely on Brandy to keep it rich and moist. All is not lost though! There are lots of traditional and quick recipes around to make an exquisite Christmas cake. Search on line and see what takes your fancy. Try allrecipes.co.uk or bbcgoodfood.com. If you leave the icing until a few days before Christmas, there is still time for a cheeky Brandy, for the cake I mean!
2 Weeks Before.
• Finalise your shopping for presents. Make sure you have any last minute gifts that you needed to buy and check that you haven’t left anyone out.
• Make a dent in the gift wrapping. Get started, a glass of mulled wine, paper and scissors at the ready. You really don’t want to leave this to the last minute and you can make it fun. Put on a lovely Christmas film and start wrapping.
• Post all your U.K mail. Any parcels or presents really need to go in the post this week if they are going to arrive on time!
• If you are being creative this Christmas and making gifts, it is a good time to start. Any home-made chutneys or jams can be cooked and sealed in air tight jars ready to be decorated with ribbons.
• Mince pies and cookies can be made in advance. Also, sauces, butters and stuffing, these can be placed in the freezer until the big day.
1 Week To Go.
• All lists should be checked for last minute things. With only one week to go, this is your last chance to get organised.
• Don’t forget your crackers! Now is an excellent time to buy them as most of the stores reduce them to half price.
• Supermarket shop. You can do your big shop a week in advance, leaving your fresh goods until a few days before. Try early morning shopping or late in the evening for a quieter experience.
• Make sure you have a few craft activities or games for the children to play. Whether they are your own little darlings or just visiting, excited children need entertaining and it makes things less chaotic.
• Don’t forget batteries!
• Finish writing any last minute Christmas cards.
• Decorate your Christmas cake. I always let the children model any leftover icing or marzipan, usually nibbling most of it but having lots of fun.
2-3 Days To Go.
• Don’t panic!
• Pick up the turkey or start defrosting so that it has thawed out completely before cooking.
• You can make more mince pies if you have tucked in a bit too soon.
• Get the kids set up making gingerbread. This has been a family tradition of mine for years. Put a little hole at the top of the biscuits before baking. You can then thread through some ribbon to hang the biscuits on the tree.
• Any last minute bits can be done now – setting the table, cleaning up the dinner set, making beds for guests. The list is endless and different for us all. Get everyone in the house to help out. Write a chore list and get the kids involved, hot chocolate and a cookie is an excellent reward for their hard work.
• Have some relaxing time. It is always good to wind down, even in the midst of things. Watch a family film, go for a walk in the park, take a bath, book a manicure or read a book.
• Prep the vegetables and other side dishes. Take out any sauces, puddings or dishes that have been frozen, leaving plenty of time to defrost in the fridge.
• Turkey preparation. Some people like to cook the turkey the day before or on Christmas day. Either is fine, just make sure that you work out the cooking time from the guidelines or as suggested by the butcher.
• There are always a few things that need doing, people visiting or delivery of gifts. Just make sure the Christmas films are on and a glass of sherry or port are in hand, this is when I open the Baileys!
Deep breath, enjoy your Christmas and don’t forget to have fun!
Words By Diane Eliza Maccabe