Thank you for your comments and messages after my last post, I’m going to reply to them tomorrow but before that I have a few last thoughts about Christmas to share. Now that my nest is full again I’m finding myself drumming my fingers and waiting for Christmas to begin but as it is, we’re all still busy with work, lectures and school, limping slightly as we see the end ahead. This is the last of my posts with John Lewis for 2020 and it’s all about wrapping up Christmas – the last little details that make the break seem so much more special. Details will count more than ever this year for a Christmas that is going to feel very different.
I’ve been trying to put a plan together for the two weeks that we’ll have off – of course it isn’t easy when we’re waiting to see what the review of the Tiers will hold although I’m not anticipating any big changes given that the virus levels seem to be nudging upwards again. As it stands, it will be very different to last year when we only had two full days together as a family because the boys were all so busy with their own plans. So, it may well be a full house with lots of cooking, games, movie nights and winter walks.
The thing we’ll be missing is visitors. I usually host a big get together for my siblings and their extended families but my London brother isn’t travelling up this year and the other two have people in their bubbles who are shielded and so they can’t risk coming over to see us. We saw mum-in-law very briefly on the doorstep when we went over to collect the boy last weekend. We just had long enough for a quick catch up and an exchange of presents before it got too cold for her to stand there any longer. Fortunately one of our nephews has moved in across the road from her and absorbed her into his bubble – they’ve just had a baby so it’s going to be a lovely Christmas for her. So, unless the tiers do change a lot we won’t really be seeing anyone else – apart from a couple of walks with friends it will be just the five of us.
With the way that Christmas falls this year, the younger two finish on the 18th so we’re planning to start our Christmas break then too. It means we’ll have a full week off before the big day and without any parties or lunches to go to I’m thinking about what I might do. Mr MC has a new passion for restoring mid-century furniture. So far he’s been doing a lot of acquiring without much restoring so I’m hoping that he might soon work on some of his treasures and sell them before the cellar becomes completely inaccessible. If he does, I’ll have some time to myself which will feel novel – I’ve only had three weeks off work this year along with the odd day here and there so I’ll have to discipline myself to stay away from my laptop.
What I’m hoping to do is spend a couple of days on the last minute bits and pieces – I need to buy flowers, think about the ‘tablescaping’ (the buzzword of the moment), wrap the gifts (and on that note buy wrapping paper), write my Christmas cards (and on that note buy Christmas cards) along with the letters that I put in the ones to elderly relatives. I’m still hoping to make the meals around Christmas Day itself feel special so my tablescaping will need to be extended to different formats – and as I think about that I remember that we need new wine glasses and flutes – yet again we seem to be down to four of everything. I still haven’t bought crackers or any props for our annual family Christmas selfie. And we need a few quick fire games that we can play between courses so that Christmas dinner isn’t over too quickly.
Wrapping up Christmas – the last little details
So I’m starting with the dinner table which is going to be more central than ever to our Christmas this year. Now that we finally have our breakfast room back in action we have a choice of two, a cosy one in the old part of the house and the large one that you often see in our modern extension. We’ve used Farrow and Ball’s ‘pelt’ in the breakfast room and so it’s a rich deep purple. The walls are covered with our rogue’s gallery, family photos of happy times we’ve had since the boys were little so there’s a lot of glass that picks up any hint of sparkle. It’s a room that really works well with a simple church candle theme and so I place varying heights down the centre of the table, interwoven with greenery from the garden.
There’s much more space in the other room and I talked about how I’ll be dressing the table there in my ‘Christmas 2020 – how to make it feel special at home‘ post. I have huge bunches of eucalyptus on order from the florist which will fill the room with fragrance and red amaryllis will add a touch of splendour. One of the things I’ve bene thinking about is how to make the meals feel different to an ordinary day with it just being the usual five of us. I’m going to shake things up by making people change places rather than sit in their usual spot. Lots of our meals will be based around sharing plates so I’ve made sure I have interesting dishes to serve them on. And I’ve ordered a few different boxes of crackers to add to the sense of occasion. Quick fire rounds of quizzes and other games between courses will help to make meals last longer so that I don’t spend ages preparing something only to find that it’s been wolfed down in the space of twenty minutes.
- Church candles – simple chic with no need for holders
- Olive wood serving dish – for ‘sharing plate’ meals
- Tulip champagne flutes – the best shape for managing bubbles and bouquet. A decent size too so you don’t have to keep going back to the fridge for a refill.
- Classic crackers – a chic way of adding a splash of festive red to the table
- Smoked tealight holders – these are so easy to move around when you want to add a glow to a different part of the house. I still like to dot them up the stairs on Christmas Eve to light Santa’s way – the retail editor in me has to remind you that you shouldn’t leave a burning candle unattended – but you know that.
- Tealights – like batteries… the things you almost always forget
- Charades – the middle son’s favourite and always good for a quick couple of rounds while you digest a course
- Cheese slate – we use ours for all kinds of things, charcuterie, tapas, sushi…
- Amazing facts – another little game that isn’t too taxing and it may well help to fuel the conversation when you move on to the next course
- Musical crackers – there has to be a round of musical crackers every Christmas, preferably pulled after a couple of aperitifs when you’re all a little less co-ordinated. We aren’t very musical so we usually end up crying with laughter.
These are the the small details that I’ll be focusing on this weekend. If you’re placing an order with John Lewis & Partners, don’t forget to add gift wrap. All of theirs is recyclable this year – a lot of gift wrap isn’t and it causes all kinds of problems at recycling centres. Adding it on to the end of an order is much easier than battling your way home with it if you’re venturing out to the shops – and you can easily find co-ordinating ribbon and tags too….
… or you could go for the super eco option of fabric gift bags designed in collaboration with various designers. These by Giles Deacon are my favourite. They’re a bit of an outlay the first time but either you or the recipient will be able to pack them away and reuse them for years.
Wrapping up Christmas – pre-Christmas pamper session
If I can get on top of all of that before I finish for Christmas, I’m thinking there may just be an opportunity for a bit of a pre-Christmas pamper session which is something I hardly ever do. Does it matter how I look this Christmas? Not really – but how I feel does mean something and I’d like that to be a little more ‘kempt’ than I’ve felt for a lot of this year when the beauty salons have been closed and pedicures have ranked a long way down the list of things to care about. I do find I get bored quite quickly with this kind of thing though so I’ve pared it down to a routine that I know will make a visible difference – this is what I use.
- Step 1 – this radiance renewal mask really works, it only takes ten minutes but it feels as though it gently eats away at the layer of dead skin on the top of your face to reveal a glowing new complexion underneath.
- Step 2 – to avoid any dryness I then use a hyaluronic mask to restore moisture and plumpness to my skin.
- Step 3 – this oil serum is a lovely product to massage in, I’ve been using both the morning and night versions since summer and I apply it before moisturiser, massaging it around my face with my fingers. The manual stimulation helps to refresh the circulation too.
- Step 4 – I’m not going to recommend a particular moisturiser because the products in the previous three steps have done the hard work in this pampering routine. Just use what works best for your skin.
- Step 5 – after a lot of trial and error this year which has been expensive without being able to go into stores for colour matching, I’ve finally found a replacement for the Dior Star foundation that I know so many of you loved too because I had a stream of heartbroken emails when they discontinued it. This Armani foundation gives the same glow although it has slightly less coverage if that’s a particular concern for you.
As far as hair is concerned, I have a lot of it but it’s very fine and so I’m always on the lookout for a good volumising system to give it structure. I started using this one a couple of months ago and it’s working well so far. The only product in the range that I don’t particularly like is the ‘dry volume blast’ because it makes my hair feel stiff and crunchy.
Full volume shampoo; conditioner; styling mousse.
Finally that pedicure – I’m planning to wear party shoes in the house so I need to restore my winter feet. I had a Margaret Dabbs pedicure a couple of years ago and they do live up to their hype. While I was there I bought this foot file which is by far the best I’ve ever used. It feels a bit industrial because it’s a heavy piece of metal with a strip of what feels like sandpaper attached but it really works. If you’re having a pampering session it’s worth then applying this softening cream but I’m afraid you’ll need to sit still and read a book for a while to let it soak in(!)
Wrapping up Christmas – wardrobe planning
The next thing I’ll be thinking about is what I’m going to wear over Christmas. I usually find I’ve spent so much of the run up to the big day dressed up that I want to dress down and relax but that won’t be the case this year. JL&P asked me to put together some ideas and in fact it’s very close to what I’m going to be wearing because as you already know, I have quite a few of these pieces.
We’re very much hoping that we’ll still be able to go to the panto. It’s been shortened and socially distanced, it just depends on what happens to the Tier systems next week. So, fingers crossed, for lunch and the theatre I’ll be wearing something sparkly but practical.
- Sparkly polo neck – I love a sequinned polo neck, it’s such a chic daytime look and it works with skirts or trousers.
- Wide leg velvet trousers – for this outfit I’ve balanced the neat fitting top with wider bottoms that are now in the winter clearance if you’re quick.
- Kitten heeled boot – I’ve had a pair of these boots since before I started blogging so they’re at least seven years old. They’re great for dressing up a simple jeans or trouser outfit and they’re incredibly comfortable too.
- Silver leather clutch – the joy of needing a glitzy bag because I’m dressing up and going out of the house!
- Cosy faux fur coat – sumptuous luxury that keeps out the chill
Christmassy but comfortable is the mot du jour.
This dress is light so I won’t get too hot when we light the fires, but it has long sleeves so we won’t need to have the heating on all day. It’s a good midi length and there is plenty of room for any waist expansion after a day of Christmas eating. The earrings are statement and the necklace is a token of luck – just what we need as we head towards next year. I haven’t added shoes because there aren’t many party ones left at JL&P but I’ll probably put a sparkly pair on for a while and then kick them off. Below is a reminder of what the dress looked like on me.
We haven’t made any plans for Boxing Day – there is a run in the calendar but I’m doubtful that it will happen. Instead I’ll be hoping to spend the day on the sofa with a book wearing something like this.
- Joie top – a sweatshirt that you could wear all year round with a clavicle flattering neckline, of course the red works especially well for Christmas
- Velvet jeans – my old favourites, comfortable to wear, washable and a little less formal than structured velvet trousers.
- Faux fur slippers – a chic mule that will keep your feet warm and show off that pedicure
New Year’s Eve
New Year’s Eve really needs to be a proper celebration this year. In a way I feel as though it’s more significant than Christmas as we wave goodbye to 2020 and look forward to a year that will, fingers crossed, be filled with fresh starts. I’m hoping that even the people who usually insist they don’t like NYE will feel a little more enthusiastic this year. It’s going to be a time to dress up and try to take stock of all the things we have to be grateful for.
- Sequin jacket – this was repeated from last year’s collection so I already have it and it’s a great unstructured shape which makes it as easy to wear as a cardigan… but much more glamorous.
- Halter top – I don’t have this but I do have the pink shoes so now that I’ve put them together I’m itching to order it because I love this look.
- Velvet trousers – this is the same pair that I showed for Christmas Eve, they work with lots of different looks and they’re good value in the clearance.
- Pink sequin shoes – I’ve already told you how much I love these – and they’re now in the sale too, along with the blue version.
Wrapping up Christmas – new year, new everything
And when the tree is down and the lights are packed away, there’s the lull of January to look forward to. It’s a month I used to dread because in the years of young children it seemed such an anti-climax after all of the excitement of Christmas – and of course they were long dark days when it was difficult to find a release for the energy of three boys. Now though I find it really restorative. I suspect that Mr MC and I will be reflecting a lot as we turn into the new year because for a long time 2021 has been a line in the sand for us. It’s the year when our youngest will fledge and although 2020 has taught us that they do sometimes return, it’s not in the same way – they perch on your ledge rather than burrowing fully back into the nest.
I’ve never known a year to be as much of a blank page as 2021 is for us, we have just three concerts and a wedding in the diary. From May onwards we won’t have to plan around the boys and their school timetable but at the moment we’re so sick of cancelling holidays that we don’t have anything booked. I’m hoping it will be a year of great health though – after my two disrupted ten-week bootcamps I’m considering signing up for a full year’s intensive programme, just for the challenge. It would give me the chance to prove something to myself, I’m not sure – maybe trying to defy the ageing process by making my body stronger and fitter.
I’m really looking forward to the idea of travelling again though – we have a big anniversary in February and it would be lovely to celebrate then but it may have to wait until later in the year. For now, I’m hoping that we’ll start to sketch out a few tentative dreams so that when the boys head off in September it might feel less of a wrench and more of an adventure. We’ll see. So when John Lewis & Partners asked me what I might use to look ahead, this is what I came up with.
- Happy New Year banner – the house definitely needs to be decorated for New Year’s Eve this year – unusually we may have all three boys at home to help us celebrate.
- Standing desk extension – this would fox my pesky Apple Watch which is constantly telling me I spend too much time sitting at my desk
- Travel planner – the book that says it all – the ultimate coffee table piece for us next year (I hope)
- Travel Theragun – I’m now so addicted to my Theragun for soothing my aches and pains that I’d need a travel version to take with me along with a soft nozzle attachment that would be gentle on my Achilles.
- Travel cable bag – this year has proved that we can run our businesses remotely as long as we have good tech. Whenever we travel there always seems to be a forgotten cable so I’m going to keep one of these pre-stocked with all the spares we need.
- SAD light – we’ll be low on light for the first couple of months of the year and it may drag as we await our turn for the vaccine. I have a friend who swears that this made all of the difference to her mood last winter.
- Juicing machine – if / when I sign up to the year’s gym challenge my nutrition will be constantly monitored and this would help to boost my healthy intake.
As I said at the beginning, this brings me to the end of my partnership with JL&P this year. I want to extend a big thank you to them for continuing to value both this blog and you as readers, even though it’s been a very strange year. A handful of brands have stuck by me which has enabled me to keep on writing, publishing and paying the various bills that come with the blog. I’m going to be signing off for the year soon. There won’t be a post this Friday because we’re trying to do our wrap-up meetings with clients and that will include my first trip to London for months. I’ll be back next week with a couple of short posts and then I’ll be leaving you in peace to enjoy your Christmas. In the meantime I hope your week is a good one and that you’re feeling as good about Christmas as you possibly can this year. See you next Tuesday.
Disclosure: ‘Wrapping up Christmas – the last little details’ was commissioned by John Lewis & Partners but as always, I had full control of the contents.
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