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I have everything crossed for a good Christmas this year so I’m going all in. As some of you will remember, we all went down with norovirus on Christmas Eve last year and so the day itself was a write-off, as was Boxing Day and the day after. It was so disappointing. I’m now pumping everyone full of vitamins and hoping that this year will be a return to 2016 which I think was probably our best one ever because we just seemed to laugh all day.

So today I’m going to talk about the final push – the Christmas finishing touches. When I was out with my friends on Saturday night, I mentioned that I was going to spend the next day planning this and they instantly started groaning at me but… as soon as the idea for a Twixmas get together came up they all wanted to come over to us “because Christmas is always so nice at yours.” You see – it’s the little things that make it feel extra special.

So let me take you through some easy ideas and I should add that this is a post in collaboration with John Lewis and Partners but all of the ideas are my own.

Setting the scene

Before I start, did you know that John Lewis and Partners do real Christmas trees as well as artificial ones and deliver them to your door? Unfortunately they’ve all sold out now but they’re perfect for the family that no longer has a family car! This year’s Christmas tree expedition was a different one for us –  for the first time in over twenty years we had no boys accompanying us to choose one. Along with airport trips, Mr MC didn’t factor Christmas tree buying into his equations when he chose his new midlifemobile. How I chuckled as he battled in the rain, trying to attach two Christmas trees to the roof while stressing about his paintwork. It was a very slow journey home!

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Fresh Christmas tree selection

I may have told you this story before but a long time ago, Mr MC and I moved into our first rented house together on 23rd December. Never ones to do things the easy way, we were determined to make everything perfect and we hung the last picture as the clock struck midnight on Christmas Eve. I’ll never forget that amidst the chaos there was a knock at the door with a delivery of amaryllis that he’d organised. They’re so magnificent at this time of year when hardly anything else blooms and they usually last much longer than other flowers. For me they always encapsulate the romance of that first Christmas

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Amaryllis bouquet

If you haven’t started burning Christmas candles, I’d leave it now. You’ll probably end up with something that’s half used on New Year’s Day and it won’t keep well if you try to save it for another year. Instead, go for something wintery that you’ll be happy to keep burning throughout January. True Grace have heady fragrances inspired by English country homes and I recommend uplifting Orangery for its citrus notes…

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Orangery winter candle

… or comforting Amber with its velvety undertones.

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Amber winter candle

Practical matters

When I was going through my list on Sunday, I finally gave in and bought a new roasting dish that will work with our induction hob. I’ve been reluctant up until now because a few years ago our agency redesigned all the packaging for a major retailer’s roasting range. As a result I have more roasting equipment than a professional chef but none of it works with my hob. Making gravy is a struggle that makes me grumpy every Sunday and so I’ve bought one of these.

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Roasting tin

And while I was at it, I treated myself to this gravy separator which is something I’ve always wanted – never let it be said that my Christmas is anything but glamour!

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Gravy separator jug

I’m one of those people who makes journeys to separate supermarkets to buy festive loo roll and washing up liquid. I switch the hand towels in the downstairs cloakroom for festive ones…

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Santa hand towel

… and I wouldn’t bother if it was just for the boys but we’re doing a lot of entertaining so I’ll add some winter hand wash…

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Frankincense and allspice handwash

…and hand lotion.

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Frankincense and allspice hand lotion

What else is there? I’m having all of the sofas cleaned this week before the boys break up and take root on them for two weeks and I’m eyeing up the pet beds much to Gary’s disapproval – he hates it when they’re freshly washed. I realise that I sound as though I’m turning into a domestic goddess, I can assure you that I’m not, it’s just that a lot of these jobs are long overdue.

Christmas Morning

So, let’s move on to the day itself. When the stockings have been opened and we’ve had breakfast, we usually do a Christmas Day selfie that we send to a few unfortunate people…

Midlifechic family

… this box contains everything you need…

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Festive family photo booth

…and this year there’s one for pets too so Gary and the cats may be having a moment of their own.

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Pet photo kit

It has to be said that he’d look very dapper in this coat!

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Santa coat

The Christmas Table

I spent years doing Christmas shoots with interiors stylists and they always used to create magnificent tables piled high with greenery and elaborate candelabra. The thing is that although the shots looked incredibly pretty on the page, they were completely impractical because there was no space for serving dishes and guests couldn’t see each other across the table.

In my view, food should be the focus of the Christmas table. It’s a day for bounty and so I tend to keep everything else pared back. An easy way to make your table look twinkly is to use a set or two of these table lights…

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Table lights

… then pop tealights into cut glass tumblers like these and dot them around the table…

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Cut glass tumblers

…. add some metallic table confetti that will pick up the light…

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Table confetti

… and you’ll see that there’s a cumulative effect with wine glasses and cutlery all picking up the sparkle and making the whole table glimmer.

There are festive paper napkins…

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Reindeer napkins

…or if you prefer the real thing, these are cotton with a hint of glitter and come in silver or gold too…

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Sparkle napkins

… or you can have a bit of fun with these.

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Christmas character napkins

The novelty sprout dodger range is now reduced to clear

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Novelty side plates

For some reason party poppers always get the meal off to a good start.

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Party poppers

Crackers are a peculiarly British thing. I prefer to buy something that is more than just a hat and a bit of plastic that will go straight into the bin. These do the job of cracker and party popper all in one go.

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Crackertoa crackers

Musical crackers are a favourite of ours, we pull them between the starter and the main course and usually end up laughing until the tears run down our faces. It’s always entertaining trying to get everyone to play the right note at the right time – especially as some of us will have one in each hand. Music is not one of our strong points!

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Xylophone crackers

If you’re a more sophisticated gathering, these G&T crackers make a nice start to the meal…

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Gin and tonic crackers

…I took these as a hostess gift to a dinner last week and they went down well with coffee.

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Mini chocolate crackers

To ring the changes, I’m planning to add these to the place settings on Christmas Day this year, just one per person… but of course I’ll have to buy two boxes so there are going to be spares (what a shame).

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Posse of penguins

If you wanted to introduce some colour you could opt for these

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Chocolate figures

We annoy lots of people because we all like to make present opening last for as long as we can. Other than stockings, we don’t open anything until after lunch and we try to stretch our meal out as long as possible by playing games between courses. Nobody’s in the mood for anything strategic though and so these are some that I’ve earmarked this year.

With eleven colour cards in your hand, you hope to have the colour that answers the question…

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Colour Brain

This one has five star reviews and works well as a travel game too. It seems to be a more advanced take on the old fashioned ‘pairs’ game.

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And so we’re reaching the end of the meal. Here’s an option if, like us, you aren’t big fans of traditional Christmas pudding

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Salted caramel liqueur pudding

Or if you’re feeling too full for dessert, you can roll it all into one with a cocktail liqueur

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And at this point I’m imagining that you’re retiring to the sofa while those who haven’t cooked restore order in the kitchen. It does seem right to relax with something like an Irish cream or a good cognac in your hand. The reviews on this Coole Swan place it way above the more traditional choice.

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Irish cream liqueur

You’ve probably already discovered these but if not, a friend introduced me to them and I think they’re brilliant. You see I do enjoy a glass of Irish Cream with ice but then I end up drinking it too quickly because I don’t like it when the ice melts. This is the way to string it out, you just keep them in the freezer until you need them.

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Whisky rocks

If you’re a long term reader you’ll know that this is where part two of our day begins. We have an old family clock and the story goes that it was the one thing that Mr MC’s great great grandfather chose to take with him when he left Ireland during the potato famine. It chimes every half hour and when it does, the boys open a present from under the tree. It worked particularly well in the Lego days because poor old Mr MC would just have time to help with building one creation before the next one was opened!

In between the bongs, we keep an eye on the TV Christmas specials and we usually have a jigsaw on the go. It’s surprising how relaxing it is to sit down and add a few pieces every now and then. We always end up saying we’ll do them more often but we don’t.

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Christmas jigsaw

The boys will then torture each other when one of them decides to miss a bong which means the other two face the choice of missing one too or being the one that finishes their presents first. At some point we’ll bring out cheeses and crackers served on a lovely plate that my mum bought me a long time ago. Then we’ll have a pavlova served on another old family dish and these small gestures help to bring in generations of our family that we never met. That’s one of the nice things about Christmas isn’t it? Family past and present, each generation doing it their own way together but also keeping in mind those who went before and those who can’t be there.

When I was talking to my friends on Saturday we all commented that Christmas feels different this year. Everyone agreed that people seem to be looking forward to it even more than usual perhaps because there’s so much uncertainty around us at the moment. When everything else is hard to gauge, it’s good to look inward for a short time and feel safe in what you know. This is probably going to be the last of my Christmas planning posts so I hope it’s helped you to add some extra sparkle to yours. The thing is that Christmas is a time when we can make life feel a little more magical and I hope we all have some time ahead that’s filled with joy and laughter.

Disclosure: ‘Christmas finishing touches’ is in collaboration with John Lewis & Partners but all thoughts and ideas are my own

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