And just like that we’re in December! I’m bringing you that last of my Christmas prepping posts today, after this we’ll be back to chatting about real life until the end of the year and we have a lot to catch up on because November was a funny old month for us. However we’ll talk about that soon, for now I have my final post with John Lewis & Partners for 2022 and it’s all about last minute Christmas details, the little bits and pieces I put in place before the fun can begin. As those of you who follow my Instagram feed know, they’ve challenged me to work with video for Christmas this year too. It’s taken me right out of my written word comfort zone but I’ve actually had fun doing it. So let’s begin where we left off last month shall we? As the anticipation starts to build with November moments… here’s a video recap to get you in the mood.
So like most people, I’m hitting December feeling slightly shellshocked that we’re at the end of the year already but I’m almost in control – and having this post to pull together has really forced me to tick some more things off over the last week. So let me show you what they are.
Last minute Christmas details – games and puzzles
One of the things I’m most looking forward to this Christmas is the game playing. Mal and I are too competitive to play on our own – we need the boys’ refereeing skills so as always I’ve been researching new games and there seem to be quite a few at John Lewis but I’m starting with an old favourite Catan. We’ve spent hours playing this over the years, it’s a strategic trading and building game so you create a settlement and build it up, winning points as you gather more resources. The winner is the first one to reach a set number of points. No two games are ever the same and you can make it more complicated as you all get better at it so it grows with you.
The Genius Square is more about spacial awareness so it’s good if you have a mixed group of ages and abilities. It’s a quieter game for two people and it can be played solo too.
Carcassonne I’ve mentioned lots of times on here, it’s one of our top three along with Perudo and Ticket To Ride. It’s similar to Catan but actually if I have to choose between the two I always go for this one, I can’t quite explain why… it’s probably just the link with such a beautiful French city. Even just typing these games reminds me what a precious tradition game playing is, especially when you play the same games with the same people, year after year. There are just so many memories and emotions wrapped up with it aren’t there? It’s incredibly comforting… unless, of course, it’s the battleground that is Monopoly…
Anyway back to this year’s selection, Herd Mentality is another new one for us. It’s one of those daft games that’s just going to make everybody laugh hysterically – the idea is that you have to write down the same answer as everyone else in order to win a herd of cows but if you’re the odd one out you get a pink cow and your herd is worthless. I just know that none of our brains work the same way so it’ll be hilarious (and hopeless)!
I’ve pulled out The London Underground puzzle with Mal in mind because he views the map as a graphic design masterpiece so there would be endless satisfaction in it for him. For those who prefer quick puzzle challenges, there’s more stock of the smaller version here.
And last of all the Bronte puzzle in the personal hope that someone in my family is reading this!
Last minute Christmas details – the pyjama fairy
So what else have we been doing? Well I finally have dates for the boys coming home – it hasn’t been easy to pin them down so there came a day when I had to apply what they call my ‘cross voice’ to a WhatsApp message. Train strikes willing they’ll all be back on the same day in a bundle of noise and energy so I’m trying to get all of the jobs done now. I’ve been preparing bedrooms with thicker duvets because we have our heating lower than usual (who doesn’t?). And I’m getting everything ready for the arrival of the Christmas pyjama fairy who very sensibly used to bring them new pyjamas on Christmas Eve when they were little and now wonders when it will be time to stop.
I do all of the gift buying and in return Mal’s always happy to sit in front of a movie and get on with the wrapping… until he hits something particularly challenging! Don’t forget that John Lewis is a great place to buy your wrapping paper, just add it to the next online order you’re doing. It’s 100% recyclable, printed with biodegradable inks and it’s glitter free plus there’s no plastic wrapping. They have a great selection of ribbons and bows too that match their decor themes – you can see it all here.
You don’t need me to tell you how to dress your Christmas tree. Some of the lovely things about a midlife Christmas are the memories that you unearth from your Christmas boxes when you bring them out for another season. It’s too early to buy our real trees yet but I have done the smaller artificial one that we have in the boys’ room. It’s the tree that’s filled with all of the baubles we’ve collected over the years, going back to the ones I inherited from my parents that are linked to my old childhood days. It isn’t the stylish design tree of Mal’s dreams (that’s one of the habits he had to surrender when he met me along with a garden that only contains white flowers). And sitting proudly at the top is the plastic fairy that my grandma gave me when I was six. I remember her saying, “you’ll have this on your tree long after I’m gone” but I bet she didn’t think I’d still be getting it out at the age of 55. It used to make my mum shudder and now it has the same effect on Mal – but it makes me smile!
In the run up to empty nesting I imagined I’d feel sad putting the tree up on my own but actually I feel full of anticipation because it’s a step closer to us all being together again. And this year doesn’t feel overshadowed by Covid – let’s never forget what that was like. This delicate cow parsley bauble is a new one this year and it makes me think of my mum and her love of wild flowers, it’s low in stock but there’s another version here.
Other little touches I like to add are baubles on the doorknobs to bring a bit of extra colour into the hallways. You need to choose something light and relatively sturdy so that it won’t break – or bang against the door in the middle of the night. And this is where I wish I could replace our doorknobs with something from a salvage house that’s a little grander but they’re 300 years old and listed with the house so they have to stay.
And there are always other levels that you can add sparkle to as well. Light fittings are the perfect opportunity although I know the youngest will be grumbling about bashing his head every time he walks through the hall. The really easy way to do this is to buy one of the ready themed mix and match multipacks of baubles so that you have a harmonious contrast going on, there are so many that you’re bound to find one that will pick up the accents in your colour scheme. The print is one of Mal’s designs, he comes up with something new for that frame at the beginning of each month.
And it’s worth keeping on thinking up other unusual ways to use decorations in places other than just the trees. I like to use wreaths as easy table decorations – all you have to do is intertwine a little set of battery operated lights for extra glow. I’ve decided that the tiny boxes of John Lewis champagne truffles are too small to count as calories on a cold December evening and this is still my favourite Christmas candle this year. I’ve been using it for a while now, it pools beautifully which means it will last a long time and the fragrance is such a great contrast with my usual cinnamon smells.
And finally, when all of the prep is done, the real fun of December can begin. I’ve had to schedule events with friends in early this year because we’re in Newcastle next week then going straight on to London and we’ll just get back in time for the boys coming home. I don’t have many new discoveries to share with you on the beauty front but I do just want to draw your attention to this gold nail polish because it goes with everything and once it’s on it lasts for about two weeks without chipping. The whole of the silver topped range is superb, especially when you use it with the Infinite Shine base and top coat. Oh and if you’re still using emery boards you won’t look back if you start using one of these nail files made from abrasive crystal. They file your nails in seconds leaving them really strong and smooth – and they last for ages.
And of course once you’ve finished there’s nothing left to do but sit back and wait for your gold tipped fingers to dry. I find a Seville orange gin and tonic helps to pass the time… while hoping I won’t end up with a black fur trim to my manicure. Surprisingly, as I type I can see that these Boston mules are back in stock – you can’t find them anywhere so JLP must have had a sneaky delivery!
When it comes to hosting I’m all for cutting corners. I don’t see the point in having people round if you’re going to spend all of your time in the kitchen. For me it’s all about the chat so people know if they come to us they’re welcome to make themselves at home and fix their own drinks – everything’s there ready for them. I think it always feels special if everything’s beautiful and John Lewis have outdone themselves with their glassware this year – just look at these. They’re so well priced and they’d make a lovely gift too.
And I absolutely have to draw your attention to these pre-mixed cocktails. They’re nothing like the usual facsimiles that make you wish you’d bought the ingredients and put them together yourself. I don’t think you’d get a better cocktail in any high end London cocktail bar and they’re absolutely perfect for lazy /efficient hosts. We tried the Lychee Martini, the Old Fashioned and the Negroni and each one was superb – all I had to do was prep a few fancy garnishes to go with them before people arrived and then look the part with a cocktail shaker. Even if you aren’t having people over they’d be rather lovely to have in the fridge for a treat every now and then at Christmas and they currently have 20% off.
And while we’re on the subject of lazy /efficient hosting, this hamper contains a great selection of little treats that you can keep putting out over the course of the evening so that it looks as though you’ve put lots of thought into everything. There are nuts and shortbread biscuits inside as well.
These are one of my favourite, easy canapé options – figs with gorgonzola and parma ham. You don’t need any instructions. They always seem to make an impression and they’re particularly good for lining stomachs. And just look at this beautiful serving board with the bark edge, I can’t help wondering if John Lewis have mis-priced it because it feels as though it’s worth four times the actual cost. A lot of other people must agree because it keeps going out of stock but it’s worth putting an alert on it.
Moving on to tablescaping which I far prefer to the cooking bit, again John Lewis are on fire with possibilities this year but I’m not sure that anyone’s in the mood to spend a lot so I’ve put together a simple option here that will work with the white plates I’m sure you already have. The mini treescape that you saw me buying in store is out of stock at the moment. I don’t know why it has such mixed reviews on site because it works brilliantly for me both on a mantelpiece and the table. I’ve added the simplest from the JLP cracker range and they actually have really good game cards inside to play while you’re having dinner…
For the place settings themselves, I started with a gold rimmed glass charger. The glass picks up the twinkling lights making each place setting gleam. Then on top of my own white plates I’ve added a gold porcelain side plate with a scalloped edge for texture. I’ve finished it off with a cotton napkin with a gold snowflake print that mirrors the crackers and topped it all with a bauble. The only other addition needed was a little tealight holder at each place setting to make everyone’s faces glow.
And finally all that’s left to do is get changed – this is a lovely, easy, comfortable velvet dress. I’ve been wanting to try it since I saw it at the press show in early September and since I photographed it last weekend it’s nearly sold out in both the red and blue. If you’re lucky there might be a return. The sandals are my own and as I type there are only a few pairs left. Platform sandals like this are the fastest way to update every Christmas outfit you own this season, they’re a huge trend that will make everything look relevant and these, in particular, are really comfortable too.
And those are all of the last minute Christmas details I can think of – now it’s time to crack on and enjoy it unless you’re around next week when it will be Members’ Week at John Lewis.
They’re running all kinds of shopping events in store all over the country and on Thursday (8th December) I will be one of the hosts at the shopping evening in Newcastle. Along with the Personal Styling team I’ll be giving you easy ways of pulling together outfits for different Christmas moments. You’ll be able to see everything modelled in real life AND there will be two special guests on the catwalk… Mal and the middle son have gallantly volunteered to strut their stuff and give you ideas for the men in your life (and depending on how they behave it’s a moment that might never be repeated!).
There are two shows, one at 6.30pm and one at 7.30pm and they last for about half an hour. So if you’re around please do come along and say hello – you have to be a My John Lewis customer to attend – it takes moments to sign up here. And if you can’t come to the very best event in Newcastle, I’m sure there will be lots happening at a John Lewis store near you as well as other exciting things you can attend online – you can find it all here.
And that’s it for today – we have our very first performance as a village choir this evening. The musical direction has been taken over by the very enthusiastic young new vicar who arrived in the summer. He used to be a music teacher so I think his expectations may be higher than we can deliver but he’s managed to keep on smiling and in fact at our last practice on Wednesday said, “well that wasn’t quite so awful,” so we’re clearly progressing! Tonight we have a gospel number which I’m really looking forward to, sadly I won’t have any family there to hear it but I’m sure there will be a friend or two in the crowd. So, I’ll leave you now so that I can put on some (past season) sequins and loosen up my jazz hands. Fingers crossed that I see one or two of you in Newcastle… and I’ll be back next Friday with a catch-up post.
Disclosure: ‘Last minute Christmas details – home, style & beauty’ was commissioned by John Lewis & Partners but as always, they left the content and chat up to me
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