Christmas has felt a bit chaotic in our house this year. When I had more time on my hands I used to shop very methodically, starting with everything planned out on spreadsheets as soon as October half term finished. Now I seem to shop from my own posts as I go along and so deliveries have been piling up in my office. It’s only today that I’ve unpacked all of the parcels to see where I’ve got to! I’m just about there on the present front, all that is left for me to do is add the Christmas finishing touches – the little things that make it feel extra special.
A shortcut to Christmas spirit
Before I move on to Christmas itself, I want to say thank you to everyone who recommended The Christmas Chronicles. For some reason it wasn’t on my radar which is unusual for a book but it is new from the wonderful Nigel Slater. It is all about the appreciation of Winter and Christmas in particular. It gives you a simple recipe idea based on a different Christmas tradition for almost every day from the beginning of November.
When Mr MC and I first got together I was a hopeless cook. I took Latin at school rather than ‘Domestic Science’ as it was called then. I’m convinced that Latin has served me well but knowing that I had met a man with a solid appreciation of food who is a good cook himself, I realised I needed to up my skills. Nigel Slater is the man I turned to because his recipes are hearty and straightforward plus I love the way he writes, adding so much of himself to his books.
I’ve been reading The Christmas Chronicles every morning as soon as the boys have left for school. It’s almost like an advent calendar and it means that each of my days is starting off with a little Christmassy frisson. I really can’t recommend it highly enough, especially if you are struggling to get in the mood.
The pyjama fairy
So, we’re moving straight on to Christmas Eve now. As you know if you’ve been reading Midlifechic for a long time, the pyjama fairy is an important visitor to our house on Christmas Eve. She comes whilst we’re at the Christmas panto and when we get home, everyone has a new pair of pyjamas waiting on their pillow. Even now the boys fight each other to be the first one up the stairs to see if she’s come.
There’s nothing nicer than waking up on Christmas morning in new pyjamas and I think the women in the house deserve the nicest ones. So here’s my edit. Actually I’m starting with a nightshirt following requests last year from people who are not pyjama fans. I love this… and I so wish they’d done a pair of pyjamas too. I’d say it’s a particular must have if your other half is called John!
Upping the glamour factor, these cotton pyjamas are lovely with the iconic Biba logomark printed on them in gold. They’d also be a great gift because they come with an eye mask too…
Biba gold foil pyjamas (currently reduced)
… as do these. There is a touch of whimsy with their silver foil reindeer families. They may just happen to be the pair that the pyjama fairy is bringing for me this year and they’re currently reduced to a great price…
Silver reindeer cotton pyjamas with eye mask (almost half price)
I covered these supersoft pyjamas earlier in the autumn but they sold out almost immediately. They’re now back in stock and if I could send a gift to every Midlifechic reader it would be these. They are the softest pyjamas that you will ever wear, they feel like cashmere but without the ‘wool’ factor. Even if you just wear them for lounging in they’re a treat. Also available in an oatmeal or heather colour.
Alternatively if you feel the heat at night, these have short sleeves and are made of viscose which should help.
I’ve never worn a onesie but this one manages to be chic with its glitter trim, lovely for lounging in and of course there is the added non-iron factor that jersey gives you.
Silver trimmed onesie (20% off)
A refreshing cocktail
So, having no doubt woken up at an unreasonably early hour on Christmas Day, you will be in need of a little treat. We usually have people popping in during the morning and this year I will be offering simple prosecco cocktails. All I do is put a large teaspoon of sorbet into the flute and then add the prosecco and a sprig of rosemary for decoration. Blood orange sorbet is nice as is cranberry or raspberry – I find people really like to have a choice. You can even make Delia’s mulled wine sorbet but I doubt I will.
Clothes for cooking in
A few people have been in touch asking for an alternative to the knitted Christmas jumper. I ordered one of the Boden Christmas bretons to try but the quality was so poor that I sent it straight back. Instead I’ve found these and I will be wearing one next week for a business charity lunch where Christmas jumpers are obligatory.
This is the one I’ve bought – I’m thinking it will go rather well with my gold trousers from the awards and the red boots again.
You’re either going to find this amusing or you’re not. Having a Geordie husband I do – he takes endless pleasure in winding some of my friends up by referring to them to them as birds.
And lastly have you noticed that reindeer are a dominant theme this year? In fact when we were in London we did a walk of the Christmas windows on Oxford Street and Regent Street and were surprised to see that the principal motif across a lot of stores was woodland animals – hares, bears, deer, foxes… all surrounded by birch trees. Birch trees are a big hit.
And I know this is a knit but it’s so lovely. I can’t help thinking it would be easy to replicate if you bought the sequins from Ebay but then it would take an evening of fiddly stitching…
Moving on. We’re dressed, the dinner is on (I’m not going to stretch to recipes – simple cocktails are as far as I go), we need to set the table.
Dressing the table
My mum-in-law has booked herself a holiday in Scarborough this year so it will just be the five of us for Christmas Dinner. It means I need to make the the table look special or it will feel like just another roast. Firstly I’m going to ask everyone sit in a different place to shake things up a bit. I will use our usual white dinner service but place metallic chargers underneath (they’re actually really easy to find at Poundland). I’ll then top them with a special side plate like this one which will earn its keep throughout Christmas with slices of cake and mince pies.
Side plate (20% off)
A few posts ago I mentioned that The White Company had invited me to choose some pieces from their home collection. This oak serving board was top of my list. I know I’ll use it forever and of course constantly over Christmas for cheeses, dried meats, cookies and cupcakes and on Christmas Day for Yorkshire puddings. Since it arrived it has had to be placed out of reach because its resemblance to a cricket bat was too tempting for the boys and our windows were at risk!
Whilst we’re on the subject of The White Company this heart shaped dish was not a gift but it is a precious part of my serveware collection and it always comes out on Christmas Day.
Heart shaped stoneware serving dish
The Christmas tables groaning with greenery and candles that you see propped for magazine shoots always look lovely but I often wonder where on earth the food would go. I always have Boxing Day’s Bubble and Squeak in mind on Christmas Day so I make loads of vegetables and we need all of the space for dishes. I therefore find it easier to scatter the table with stars. Here’s a gold option…
Star scatter in gold – or silver
I’ve had these silver stars for years, I just pack them away with the Christmas decorations.
Silver table stars (40% off)
I also add these wire star lights – you don’t need to arrange them they just twist on the table and add a lovely glow. Again I bought mine from The White Company last year.
The last thing that I do (and I really must take some pictures this year before we eat) is add candles. We have a set of elaborate crystal whisky tumblers that we were given as a wedding present. We would never use them for drinks but they have sentimental value so I can’t give them away. Instead, I dot them around the table with tealights in and of course the crystal really picks up the sparkle of the flames and the fairy lights. It looks quite magical as it starts to get dark outside.
Mr MC and I moved in to our first house together on 23rd December and the first person to knock at our door was the Jane Packer delivery man who brought me a huge bunch of amaryllis ordered by Mr MC who was clearly aiming to impress. He did because they lasted for about three weeks and I imagined that it would be our first Christmas tradition. It hasn’t quite continued but I live in hope! As you can see they are really tall so they don’t work for the dinner table but they make a spectacular feature on a side table or windowsill.
Amaryllis; also available in red
With the table set and the food under control, I always like to get a family photo on Christmas Day – but not any old family photo! Last year we did novelty glasses…
Here are some for you…
Slightly more glam perhaps…
…or you could go the whole shebang with props as well.
The boys found stick on moustaches from somewhere last year. I posted this on Instagram and really upset a poor German chap who sent me messages all afternoon asking me to remove it!
Gary likes to join in the fun on Christmas Day and last year he had different bow ties for Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve. These attach to their collars so no harm is done
Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without crackers. I added these to an order that I did on Black Friday and they’re huge – they look really luxurious. I like the fact that they’re made by Tom Smith, the inventors of the very first Christmas crackers in 1847.
Glitter and flitter crackers (30% off)
We had these last year and I was disappointed when they arrived because I’d meant to order the luxury ones. However in the end they made us laugh till we cried. Each one contains a whistle with a music sheet and so we had a few rounds of trying to perform like an orchestra after our starters. The conclusion we came to is that we have many talents but we are not a musical family!
Tuneful crackers (30% off)
Here’s a simple idea – a sharing cracker with hats, photo props and trivia for six inside.
And these have been voted cracker of the year by The Independent. They explode with confetti when pulled and have useful gifts inside along with a fact sheet and (according to The Independent) conversation starters in case you run out of things to talk about over dinner!
Last ones now – these would be a really nice gift to take if you were going round to somebody’s house for a special dinner. Each cracker contains a different flavour of artisan gin.
After Dinner Games
So, dinner has been wolfed down all too quickly and if you’re like me, you’ll be hoping to keep people at the table for a little bit longer. This is when I usually get a new game out. The important thing is to make sure it has simple rules because everybody will be pretty dozy by this stage. Thinking about how well the whistles went down last year, I found this. Kazoos could be even more entertaining.
Play That Tune (on a 3 for 2 offer)
These will be making an appearance in our house – not that Mr MC is ever short of Dad jokes but I do love to see the boys squirm!
The game from the Radio 4 show, this has quick fire rounds where four seemingly unbelievable facts are presented and the other players have to guess which one is false.
I’m just realising I’ve gone a bit mad on the games front this year because I’ve bought this one too. The pudding plays Jingle Bells and you pick a card. The aim is to answer the question and pass the pud to the next player before it burps!
So as I’ve told you before, we don’t open presents in our house until late in the afternoon when dinner has been eaten and games have been played. We have an old grandmother clock that came down through Mr MC’s family. It bongs every half hour and when it does, everyone can open another present. I know that for some of you this sounds like torture. We must be masochists because each of us aims to be the last one to open a present which involves lots of self restraint as you miss a turn to make it all last longer. And that for us is the rest of the day. We eat and drink too much, watch a couple of Christmas specials and wait for the thunder of feet each time the clock strikes.
One more gift idea
I’ve run out of time to do a gifts for men post this year but I just wanted to give a shout out to a small company called Drake & Hutch. They are a group of young London designers with a mission to design the perfect men’s sock.
They also have beautiful handmade leather footballs which are very reasonably priced and all proceeds go towards Prostate Cancer UK. They are offering Midlifechic readers 30% off all orders with code CHIC17 and they ship internationally.
Handmade leather football – all proceeds to Prostate Cancer UK
There are some lovely designs and as always, it’s great to support young entrepreneurs who are just starting out.
Outfit of the day
I just want to show you this grey jumper that Baukjen have sent to me because I love it – so much so that I went straight online and bought it in pink. I first saw it when I went to preview their winter ranges in early September and if I hadn’t had the opportunity to examine it first hand, I would probably never have noticed it.
In my view it is the very definition of the perfect weekend jumper. It was hard not to look cold in this shot because it is absolutely bitter here today but also utterly beautiful – all of the hills are topped with snow.
Grey crew neck jumper (g); Girlfriend Jeans; M&S Boots AW16
What’s so great about the it? It’s a very flattering mid-grey but the best thing is the cut. They’ve managed to design a boxy jumper that works with your body. Thanks to the deep ribbing at the hem and the side splits, it moves with you. The ribbing at the neckline also works really well because it makes the collar stand slightly which slims your neck and frames your face. It isn’t remotely itchy because the knit is so soft. It has an understated Parisian insouciance. There’s something slightly vintage about it and I suspect it will be one of those things that I wear and wear until it eventually falls apart.
Something for others
Sorry, I know it’s been a long post but I have one last idea to share with you. At the awards do last week I was talking to Hayley from London Beauty Queen and some of the other guests. We got onto the subject of what bloggers do with unwanted or unneeded press samples. I explained that we have Midlifechic sales to raise money for Bloodwise. Hayley had another approach. She takes her beauty samples to the Food Bank.
She pointed out that women using the Food Bank are often trying to rebuild their lives but of course if they are going to a job interview, they can’t afford make-up or hair products. I think it’s a brilliant idea. I don’t receive many beauty samples but it made me think about my M&S Advent Calendar. Every few days I open something I don’t really want and can’t think what to do with it. So I’m going to pack all of the pieces up with some food treats and drop them off at our local Food Bank just before Christmas. I thought it might be something that you’d like to do too. It’s certainly a bit more rewarding than going onto one of those ‘swapping threads’ that are springing up.
Whilst we’re on the subject the other item that was mentioned was sanitary protection. Again it hadn’t occurred to me but women using Food Banks don’t have the spare cash to buy these necessities for themselves or their daughters and often have to improvise with loo roll. I felt shocked – it’s hard to accept that this is the case in modern Britain but clearly it is. So if you think it’s a good idea, maybe you could pop sanitary protection in too.
UK Blog Awards
And so for the next few posts I am going to have to keep on begging for your vote for me in the UK Blog Awards. If you missed my last post I am down for two categories this year, Fashion and Beauty and also Lifestyle. This is the round that decides the finalists and it is all down to readers to decide who goes through. I would be enormously grateful if you could vote for me in both categories which means ticking the box that says Fashion and Beauty + Lifestyle – but of course it’s up to you.
I thank you in anticipation of your kindness.
There may be another quick post tomorrow because the crossbody bags that I have spent so long designing have arrived. I’m busy photographing them and uploading them to the shop. I really do feel that they’re perfect pieces and I’ve had the first batch made in red, navy, tan and black. So, if you have a husband or partner who is still scratching their head about what to buy you, you may want to point them this way. We will dispatch all orders immediately so that they arrive in plenty of time for Christmas. The luxury totes are still in transit but will be here any day.
Have a lovely weekend everyone and I’ll be back on Tuesday.
Disclosure: “Christmas finishing touches” is not a sponsored post. Thank you to The White Company for the oak sharing board and to Baukjen for the jumper, they are both items that I will keep for years.
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