As if Christmas wasn’t stressful enough with all the cooking, shopping and wrapping (let’s not forget the overseas post deadlines again shall we?!), we are also supposed to become overnight Kirstie Allsopp’s with a house filled with home-made decorations coupled with Pinterest-worthy colour schemes that we’ve tried to recreate with weeks of glueing and sticking.
Well, the truth is, there is no shame in leaving your inner Kirsty to one side for a few more years and going with the flow to make your Christmas special. Here at TGP Towers it’s all about the company, the food and some rather special liquid refreshment from our friends at Pol Roger Portfolio, to make it a Christmas to remember.
Here are a few tips that we hope will help with your preparations and allow you more time to be a part of the party rather than be stuck behind the scenes toiling away. These tips come from experience as my Christmas Day has the added pleasure of being my daughter’s birthday! Let the fun commence!
If you have a dining room, my advice would be to save it for your Christmas Day feast, whether that’s lunch or dinner, and lay it up in advance and close the door. We’ll come back to this later. If not, and the kitchen is going to be the centre stage, here’s how to ring the changes and make each meal a special occasion.
The main stresses of the day tend to centre around meal times so try to make everyone comfortable from the off and if too many offers of help are distracting, go right ahead and dish out the chores! If you’re planning a Christmas Eve dinner, make it fun, there’s a long way to go until teatime on Boxing Day! If you have nephews and nieces, grandchildren, or cousins at the table, don’t over face them with 10 knives and forks and your best cut glass. Save it all for Christmas Day but do remember that they may not know how it should all be used and in what order.
Keep Christmas Eve supper in the kitchen so that if people are busy wrapping elsewhere, the kitchen stays the hub of activity and decorate the table with fun in mind, embrace colour and leave the matchy matchy effect for your trusty steed!
First things first, we love Covetable’s 100% linen wipeable table cloths. They are so smart and really do do what they say on the tin. Be it red wine or gravy, these clever cloths are a no brainer. Table wear Guru Jo Purton from Covetable says,
“Don’t stress about spills – they always happen and don’t need to cause a drama for you or the spiller! Who wants to be washing and ironing between meals?”
Colour is king so jazz up the table with vases filled with large-headed gerberas, which have long been associated with cheerfulness, innocence and purity (it’s never too late heh Santa!) Fill the table with decorations and being TGP, we’ve fallen head over heels with Blue Bowl’s festive zebras and Pegasuses – or is that pegasi? Add more colour with pretty glassware (we highly recommend Covetable’s dishwasher friendly glassware), napkins, and why not place a bowl of your favourite family baubles as a table centre. Remember, anything goes so mix and match.
Kick off the evening with a delicious cocktail to get everyone relaxed and ready for the festivities. Don’t be put off by mixing a cocktail. Here’s a simple but knock out (not literally) cocktail that couldn’t be easier..
You’re Machi’n Me Crazy
25ml Kilchoman Machir Bay Single Malt whisky
25ml Pressed Apple juice
Serve in a high ball glass with lots of ice and topped up with ginger ale and garnish with a slice of lemon.
Recipe Credit: Pol Roger Portfolio
If you need some Christmas Eve menu inspiration that can be prepared ahead, check out this delicious recipe for Whole Saddle of Bere Mill Black Welsh Mountain Lamb with Herb, Apricot & Hazelnut Stuffing, which also makes a mouth-watering alternative to turkey if the thought of basting for hours on end doesn’t appeal. And for pudding, look no further than Waitrose & Partners utterly dreamy sparkly Salted Caramel & Chocolate Tart, served with a dollop of Crème Fraiche, which we defy anyone not to melt over – we’ve rigorously put it through the test by the harshest of critics and every time it’s a thumbs up! Plus no cooking required! Just transfer on to a pretty plate and voila!
Anyone over the age of 8, I believe, can help clear the table. Get the young involved with clearing, stacking and loading the dishwasher so that they are fully briefed ahead of Christmas Day. As you allow yourself a quiet sigh a relief that you’re one meal down, don’t forget that Father Christmas is on his way. Help the children prepare a plate of well earned refreshment for Saint Nick and his reindeers and have some fun tracking his journey on Norad.
All your decorations can be left in situ for Christmas morning so that breakfast doesn’t become a chore. With stockings to be opened, horses to be fed and in my daughter’s case birthday presents to open, all you need do is empty the dishwasher, lay the table and add a few surprises to change the vibe. If you are super-efficient I would recommend doing this once the little darlings are all fast asleep or as you enjoy a night cap after midnight mass. If you’re feeling creative, a table runner provides a festive flash of colour to mark the big day.
We love these ‘Happy Christmas’ napkins from Covetable, which look pretty draped over the cereal bowl with a festive ornament on top. Sprinkle some chocolate money around the table, let’s face it, today’s not the day to be counting calories and I’m pretty sure most of the edible goodies that Father Christmas delivered will have been eaten way before breakfast! With breakfast over, and your little helpers washing and drying, here’s where you get a breather to enjoy some presents, go to church or put Auntie Sue to work on the sprouts.
The Main Event
If you do have a dining room, here are some ideas to add some magic and sparkle to proceedings. If you don’t, fear not as this ten minute transformation will take no time to surprise everyone with a pretty setting for your feast.
We love this giant star from The White Co surrounded by pretty glass votives and fir cones for the mantelpiece and if you have a fireplace that can’t be lit, fill it with candles, crackers and more fir cones for a lovely glow.
Keeping colour in mind, how wonderful are these 12 Days of Christmas crackers from John Lewis? Surround your table with glass votives (Covent Garden Market has a good selection) and add little touches to each place setting such as these golden foxes from Blue Bowl and adorable donkeys from Daylesford.
We’ve saved our best linen for this meal. William Yeoward has a wonderful selection and why not use tree decorations as napkin rings pimped with ribbon and add a candy cane for the children. Take time over where you want everyone to sit so that little people are shared around and you are near the door for the to-ing and fro-ing. Christmas is a time for family traditions, but don’t be afraid to start some new ones. If you’re hosting for the first time, try to bring in a few traditions from both sides of the family but I think it is important to bring your touch to the day, be it in the menu choice, (you DON’T have to have Granny’s favourite consommé) or by bypassing some of the formality and keeping it fun.
Understated floral elegance comes in the form of Paper Whites with their heavenly scent that will fill the room for days. Fill your vases and use them around the house until you need them for the main event. Finishing touches that really do add the thoughtful touch come in the guise of these pretty place cards from Felicity Buchanan (order via her Instagram page here.
Nothing beats a root around the garden for some extra foliage. If you are lucky enough to have a holly tree, pick some sprigs to place around the centre of the table and also visit your local garden centre for berry garlands, mini crackers and candy canes. Red or white poinsettia’s add instant Christmas pazzazz but remember they hate draughts, love light and like to sip water rather be stood in it.
The Last Word
As presents get opened, roast potatoes jimmied (the technical term we’ve adopted for this manoeuvre) and saucepans start to bubble, surprise your guests with a special apéritif before you sit down to your festive feast. Champagne Pol Roger’s Brut Reserve Non Vintage is never released until it is at least three years old and is composed from 30 still base wines drawn from at least three vintages. It’s a delicious treat to celebrate your Christmas.
So there you have it. Go forth and feast! Enjoy the Christmas build up and remember not to be a slave to your endeavours.