65 articles Articles posted in Christmas

7 Things To Remember This Holiday Season

The holiday season is a fun-filled time where there seems to be something happening every day during the busiest periods. Avoid feeling overwhelmed this time of year by taking these steps to prep for the new year and also take care of yourself.

Tie Up Loose Ends At Work

Before you take your end of year break, prepare your documents so that you can come back and hit the ground running. Settle up all of your projects that have deadlines over the holidays and consider making a checklist with ‘back to work’ you in mind.

Set up an ‘away’ message for your answer phone and email if you don’t need to answer your messages while you are on holiday. Maybe set up a meeting for when you return so that everyone can recalibrate together.

Plan Your Gift Buying

Gift buying can get out of control fast, so make a list of the essential presents you have to buy, then prioritise those gifts.

Set a budget so that you don’t go overboard or overspend on one person (this can get tricky if you prioritise one sibling over another). Go to the mall and tick off the list first, and if the stores are offering gift wrapping then take full advantage of that.

Self-care

With all the family catching up and friends, catering and parties, it can be easy to burn out. Self-care is recognizing when you are burning out and taking some time to recharge. Know your limits when it comes to your energy and listen to your body’s cues to know when you need to have a night in.

A night in can involve a favourite movie and book, or it could be some light yoga and stretches or some meditation. Have a wholesome meal and a good night’s rest so that you are decompressed for the rest of the holiday season.

Manage Your Bills

A tight bank balance can be a huge source of stress for anyone, so make sure that you are on top of your finances this season. Manage your spending with a spreadsheet or figure out the best way to manage your own finances.

If you have annual contracts, such as rent, insurance or medical, then have a shop around for a better deal. Plus, you can search around for things like a cheaper car insurance quote or a better life insurance deal. Making a saving can put you in a good mood for the next year.

Tidying the House

A cluttered home can make you feel busy and stressed, so take the time to declutter your home.

If you live with other people, set a ‘busy playlist’ of some music or a podcast which can be as short as ten minutes to clear the clutter. Once the music stops, everyone can stop tidying. This takes the burden of tidying off of one person and puts a time limit on the chore. There are more tips to get the house in order before the holidays.

 Manage Social Media Time

Everyone goes into holiday hyperdrive on social media and browsing through your friends’ photos is fun, but can be a huge time drain. Turn the mobile ringer off so that a notification doesn’t distract you from being in the present.

The holidays are about making memories, so make sure you have some and don’t get lost in the social media well. However, when visitors are coming over, turn the ringer up in case guests get lost!

Avoid The Tradition Trap

“But this is how we have always done it” is a phrase that can create unnecessary stress around holiday time, even if the tradition is not terribly convenient and even causing you stress.

Instead, rebrand and create your own traditions that work better for you and your family. Try activities that work around your plans, such as morning walks, baking together or just trying something new.

So roll up your sleeves and get ready for the holiday season, the holiday stress does not need to sneak up on you if you take a few steps to prepare for the fun. By managing your mood and your household, this season will be a breeze.

How to Make Your Christmas Cards and Envelopes Extra Special

Christmas cards and envelopesI don’t know about you, but the one part of Christmas that I find a little bit of a boring chore is sending out Christmas cards. It’s not that I don’t want to send messages of good tidings to our nearest and dearest each year – it’s more to do with how boring the cards are. Every year, it’s a conveyor belt of cards with “Dear XXX, From XXX” written inside, shoved into boring envelopes and the whole thing feels like a damp squib. I’ve decided this year that I’m going to make our cards a lot more interesting, and I’m sharing some of the ways with you today:

Ditch the Boring Envelopes

Plain white envelopes might be functional, but they’re hardly inspiring, and blend in with the daily post and bills coming through your door. We’ll be switching things up this year by using gold envelopes from Bestbuyenvelopes  for our cards so that each one looks like a little bit of magic, sitting on the doormat. They’ll definitely stand out from the other boring post!

Use Rubber Stamps

Another thing we like to do is use a rubber stamp and ink pad to put a lovely festive image on the outside of the envelopes. It makes it look so lovely and takes only the tiniest bit of effort. In fact, I highly recommend you get the kids involved with this bit because mine love doing all my stamping for me (disclaimer: I won’t be held responsible if you kids end up bickering over who gets to use the stamp!)

Include a Drawing

Speaking of the kids, one thing that Sausage and BB love to do is draw pictures. They spend a LOT of their free time with a pen or pencil in their hands and love nothing more than creating something for someone they love. Give the kids a pile of paper and ask them to do a Christmas doodle to put in each card. It’ll make a sweet keepsake that people can look back on when the kids are all grown up.

Make More of Your Message

I know it will take a lot longer, but making your message a bit more personal can really improve your cards. Include a joke you think the person will like, or even joy down a happy or funny memory you share so that they’ll have a smile on their face when they read their card. Just a tiny bit of effort can really spread joy at this time of year.

What do you do to make your Christmas cards special? Leave me a comment below, I’d love to hear from you.

Christmas Traditions Worth Sticking To

I’ve written in the past about how I feel overwhelmed by certain elements of Christmas. Being a mum in the age of social media means that as soon as Halloween is over, I’m bombarded by images of huge piles of presents, questions on groups about where people are going to see Santa and what people are loading their kids’ Christmas Eve boxes with. Each to their own, and all that, but I do find it all a bit excessive at times. When I was a kid, Christmas was a little more minimal but just as enjoyable.

We do, however, have a few Christmas traditions that we stick to and I thought I’d share a few of them with you.

Christmas Dresses from David Grant

New Dresses

The girls and I always get a new dress to wear on Christmas day. The key features are that it must be pretty, it must be festive and it must be comfortable! This year, I wanted something special for the girls so I’ve been looking at special occasion dresses for children from David Charles. The designs are stunning and I think Burrito Baby would look so cute in them!

Decorating the Tree

This is something that the girls and I do together every year. We set aside the first Saturday or Sunday of December and get the tree and decorations up. We drink hot chocolate with cream and marshmallows, we put a Christmas music channel on the TV and we get properly in the festive spirit while we adorn the house. It’s one of my favourite parts of the Christmas season.

Films

There are certain films that we watch as a family every year – Elf, Home Alone, Gremlins and The Polar Express, to name but a few. Then, on Christmas Eve, Husband and I watch It’s a Wonderful Life once the kids are asleep and share a few hours of peace before bed.

Wrapping

Speaking of wrapping, ours has become a bit of a regular event. I’m a bit of a control freak and love doing all the wrapping myself, so we usually compromise by enjoying a mulled wine while I’m doing it, with Husband delivering me festive treats like stollen and mince pies while I work. It may sound silly, but it’s something I really look forward to.

Boxing Day

Christmas Eve and Day are usually the time we spend with family, but Boxing Day is spent at home, eating junk (we usually buy party food from Waitrose to pick at throughout the day), watching movies and letting the kids play with their toys. Its great to have some downtime after two busy days and I think it’s something we definitely need, as a family.

Get The House In Order Before Christmas

Get The House In Order Before ChristmasIt’s that time of year when our thoughts are filled with festive plans; where we’re going for Christmas dinner, what’s happening on Boxing Day, who will we see the New Year in with? If you’re someone who likes to host, you may also be thinking about getting your house into shape before the masses descend upon you for eating, drinking and general merriment. But what can you do to spruce the place up without spending a fortune? Here are some ideas:

Flooring

It doesn’t matter how perfect your paintwork is, if your flooring is worn or dated it can ruin the whole look of a house. One of the most economical and hardwearing ways to improve things is by putting down some laminate flooring. It won’t cost a fortune, it will last for decades and you won’t have to worry about someone spilling a glass of Christmas mulled wine on it (which you KNOW will happen if you put a new carpet down instead!)

De-Cluttering

Another thing which can massively improve the look of a house is de-cluttering. If you get rid of stuff you don’t want and keep surfaces as clear as possible, it can even make your rooms look bigger and improve your health because of the reduction in collected dust. If you sell anything of value, you could even make yourself a few quid in the process!

Woodwork

Sprucing up things like skirting boards and dado rails can give the room a much fresher look, and sometimes they simply need a wipe down with a wet cloth or Magic Sponge to get them looking nice again. Look at the bottoms of doors and the areas around handles which can often get grubby over time, especially if you’ve got kids or pets.

Sofas and Cushions

If your sofa cushion covers and throw cushion covers are washable, taking time to stick them through a wash cycle will have two positive benefits – as well as looking cleaner, they’ll smell nice too, which can make your whole living room smell nicer. If they’re compatible with fabric softener, opt for one of the strong smelling concentrated ones for maximum effect.

Carpet Cleaning

If you don’t have the option of ripping up your carpets and laying laminate (if you live in a rented property, for instance), hiring a carpet cleaner is a good alternative. It won’t cost much and will revive the carpets, leaving them looking cleaner and smelling much fresher. You can get spot stain removers and even anti-pet smell solutions which can get your carpet looking and smelling as good as new.

Christmas Preparation

Christmas PreparationChristmas seems to come around earlier and earlier each year. There’s the long school term; a drag which seems to take forever, and when (mercifully) the summer holidays roll around, they seem to come and go in a flash and before you know it you’re faced with the onslaught of the silly season.

For many, what is supposed to be a joyous time surrounded by family and friends, becomes a stressful, unenjoyable holiday that feels like more hard work than the rest of the year. Thankfully you can take the edge off with some canny planning and a fresh outlook, and these are our favourite ways to take the stress out of your Christmas.

Budget (and stick to it)

Money is perhaps the biggest source of stress for families during the Christmas period. Gifts, food, drink, decorations, evenings out; the list is endless. Take the money worries away and you’re already 9/10 of the way towards an enjoyable yuletide season.

By writing yourself a strict budget you can work out how much you have to spend on each necessity and take away much of the indecision that comes with your Christmas shopping by sticking to your budget 100%. No compromising.

Write down all of your expenses, allot each one an amount and lock it down! If it isn’t on your list, kick in into touch.

The internet is your friend

Ordering gifts online is a huge time and money saver but many people forget that you can actually order much of your consumable Christmas wares online too. There are some excellent online butchers who can send you your meats and if you buy alcohol online you’ll likely save a fortune on supermarket prices. Once those boxes arrive with your gin,  turkey and other tasty treats, you’ll feel the relaxation descend. Guaranteed.

Be prepared to say goodbye to the Christmas rituals

Most families have things that they always do at Christmas time, whether it’s hauling themselves through the crowds to the local panto or making sure they watch their favourite Christmas films in the right order, but you don’t have to do the same things you do year on year. Krampus won’t sneak up on you in the middle of the night if you forego It’s a Wonderful Life and spend some time other things you enjoy. When things that are supposed to be fun become a chore, it’s time to cut them loose.

Your house, your rules

If you’re catering for friends and family over the Christmas period, you’re going to want to make them feel comfortable and well looked after, but all too often the hostess (or host) feels like they have to make a raft of changes just to sate their guests, and many of us have guests who are quite happy to be vocal about what they’d do, were they you. Here’s the thing though: they aren’t you. Your home shouldn’t be somewhere where you feel frozen out at the expense of others who are only around for the day – and drawing a firm line will let everyone know where they stand.

The emergency present

This isn’t a new one by any means, but budget for (and buy) an auxiliary gift that will suit anyone – chocolates, champagne, a diary or planner – and wrap it up, just in case you’re faced with an unexpected plus one or someone else that you might have overlooked. Just knowing that you have an emergency gift tucked away will allow you to relax that little bit more.

If your family is packed with kids, maybe include a child-friendly option, too.

Embrace your daily rituals

While we think it’s important to be flexible about saying ta-ra to your Christmas rituals, we think it’s integral that you maintain the things that make you tick day-on-day. If you go for a run every morning, take a bath before bed or enjoy a few pages of your book after lunch, make time for these things during Christmas. You’ll find it easier to keep your head in the game if your simple pleasures are there for you.

Remember Christmas is for you too

We all get caught up in process of making sure our loved ones get the presents they want and our guests are fed their favourite foods and everyone is happy and content – but you must remember that applies to you as well. When you’re doing your online booze shop, throw in that nice bottle of fizz you’ve been denying yourself all year, or treat yourself to some new clothes, so that you can feel on the top of your game come Christmas day. You’ll feel better for it and maybe (maybe) when next Christmas rolls around, you won’t dread it quite so much.

Have Fun With BetFair this Christmas!

Keeping the kids entertained during the Christmas period can be harder than it seems – everyone is hopped up on sugar and expecting constant stimulation and as well as being taxing on your brain it can also take it’s toll on your bank account, too! We try to do a lot of paper crafts and simple games which don’t require loads of cash and resources, as well as baking and other fun stuff around the festive period.

Roll a snowman provided by Betfair Slot Machine Games has you covered with this printable dice game:

We’ve got some other ideas for Christmas paper crafts if you’ve got ids who are raring to start decorating the house, just follow the link to see what we’ve been making.

Last Minute Christmas Gift Ideas

Christmas Gift StashI don’t know about you, but there have been Christmasses past where I’ve been well and truly caught out. Times when I’ve been convinced by the middle of December that I’m completely done with all of my Christmas shopping and that I have no more gifts left to buy, only to remember a whole bunch of people who I really should be buying for! Times like this are when a good gift stash comes in handy; a handful of generic gifts that you can buy and put away in case someone gets left out or turns up unexpectedly so that you’re never caught out. Here’s a list of five things that make perfect ‘gift stash’ buys:

Vouchers

Picking up a couple of gift vouchers for a department store is a really good idea as they can be given as gifts, or even spent by yourself in the January sales if it turns out you don’t actually need them. As long as you check the expiry on them, they could even be put away as birthday gifts for people throughout the year if you want to be super organised!

Scarves

If you choose the right colour, such as grey or black, a good quality cashmere or merino scarf will make a good gift for an adult of any gender and will be appreciated by anyone who receives it. Things like this never go out of fashion either, so could be put away for NEXT Christmas if it doesn’t get gifted this year.

Smellies

Smellies are another great non-perishable gift which can be kept around until they’re needed. Pick up a gift set for both male and female  (you might find a bargain with https://www.myfavouritevouchercodes.co.uk/debenhams-voucher-codes)  and you’ll be well and truly covered for unexpected gifting needs.

Board Games

Board games are loved by both young and old and are such a lovely gift to buy at Christmas because they encourage the family to spend time playing together. Classic games like Mousetrap and Monopoly never go out of favour and can be picked up pretty cheaply if you search out 3 for 2 deals or similar.

Preserves

If you’re the crafty type and you’re also handy in the kitchen then making some festive preserves a little earlier in the year and keeping them on stndby as last minute gifts could be a great idea. Foraging for local fruit and freezing it, and saving jars throughout the year could also mean that it’s a free or very cheap option and well-presented preserves make really pretty, thoughtful gifts which can be enjoyed over the festive holidays.

Do you keep a spare gift stash? What’s in your stash? I’d love to hear your ideas!

Age Gap Kids at Christmas

Age Gap Kids At ChristmasIt’s been a pretty eventful week for us, here in the Mum’s the Word house…I’m sad to say that this is the week that Sausage has become an un-believer. Sadly, a child who used to be in her class but has now moved up a year decided to spoil the magic for almost the whole class and tell them that Father Christmas wasn’t real and on Monday afternoon Husband and I had to deal with a very confused and upset Sausage who wanted to know the truth from us but was too scared to ask.

Husband, in his inimitable style, managed to explain it to her in a way that made her feel happy again, using a combination of history and humanism; the broad strokes that Saint Nicholas was a real man and the origins of that story, and that although there’s no “man in a red suit with a big beard” popping into our lounge each year, Father Christmas lives in all of us who want to buy presents and make our loved ones happy. I was actually quite impressed with how he managed to turn it around and make her feel happy, but I’m also gutted that it’s another stage we’ve waved goodbye to. She seems more grown up, somehow and I won’t deny that I shed a little tear.

I had a message from one of my oldest friends, Sarah, which actually made me feel a lot better. She has two much older brothers and said “If it’s any consolation, I don’t think I believed in Father Christmas post about 6 or 7 – (having brothers who are a generation above you makes it tricky!) BUT Christmas is still my favourite time of year I still think it’s magic and listen to Christmas music way before it’s acceptable. I know Sausage will still have lots of magical Christmas – just a little different. Proper gutting I know but lots of scope to create weird and wonderful new elements hopefully!”

Having one kid who’s well and truly ‘through the looking glass’ is all well and good, but we’re all still intent on keeping the magic alive for Burrito Baby, who isn’t even three yet, and is excited about Christmas like never before! Her first Christmas was a total washout – she was 10 months old and we were both horribly ill, spending most of the day asleep. Last year, she was coming up to her second birthday and still a little too young to properly “get” the whole idea of it. This year it’s totally different – she’s talking at length about Father Christmas and going to Nanny’s for dinner. She’s totally in love with the lights that we see on people’s houses and she’s enjoying grooving along with Sausage and I during our Christmas-themed car discos each morning. The Christmas bug has well and truly bitten our BB!

We’re lucky in the respect that Sausage is a really good girl and has absolutely no intention of ruining it for her baby sister, nor her friends who still believe, and she actually seems to enjoy being part of the “backstage” element of Christmas, where she’s being allowed to see gift we’ve bought for other people and keeping conspiratorial secrets with Husband and I. I think Sarah was right – it’s still possible to make the whole thing magical, even if Santa is suddenly fictional and I’m really looking forward to having our best Christmas ever.

In case I don’t get a chance to say it to you all in the next ten days, I’d like to wish all of Mum’s the Word’s readers a really Merry Christmas…even if you’re an unbeliever! 😉

Waitrose Party Food – A Family Review

At this time of year, one of the things that I love to do is try new food and recipes and I can usually be found watching some Christmas-themed cookery show or another, such is my obsession. However, this year I’ve decided to dial back the stress and try to have a more chilled-out festive period, which is why I was particularly interested to try out the Waitrose Party Food range. One of the main appeals is that everything that needs to be cooked goes in at the same temperature, so although you have to get your timings right, you don’t have to wait for an oven to heat or cool between cooking sessions, which made life SO much easier when prepping it all. Here’s some of what we were sent:

Waitrose Party Food

  1. Waitrose Christmas 12 Bourbon BBQ Pork Waffles 230g (£6.00)
  2. Waitrose Christmas Cheese Toasties Selection 110g (£5.00)
  3. Mixed Mini Pie Selection – Chicken & Gravy 400g (£6.00)
  4. Mixed Mini Pie Selection – Beef & Stout 400g (£6.00)
  5. Waitrose 1 chipotle 4 chilli sausage rolls (£2.49)
  6. Waitrose Party pork crackling straws 130g (£4.00)

We were also sent Christmas olives with snowballs 320g (£5.00), Waitrose Chai Spiced Chocolate Nuts 220g (£4.99) and Waitrose Maple Caramelised Cashews 175g (£4.99) but they got devoured by my lot before I could take a picture! We have a bit of a family ritual of going to my MILs on a Saturday evening and either cooking or having a takeaway together, so I took the party food with me to get some varied opinions and basically everything went down really well!

The waffles were definitely a hit and the smoky, almost sweet barbeque sauce added a lovely flavour to the softness of the waffles. The cheese toasties were lovely little savoury morsels that I probably could have eaten about ten of, all by myself! My Sausage found the chipotle sausage rolls to be a tiny bit too piquant for her taste, but the rest of us loved them so just beware if you have chilli-wuss kids! The pork crackling straws were like an amazingly delicious alternative to a breadstick and went beautifully with the apple sauce, but BEWARE if you have any dental issues – they’re really hard and crunchy and only get harder and crunchier as they cool, so definitely not or anyone prone to breaking of teeth!

The only thing which was a little hit-and-miss were the mini pies – the beef and stout ones were really tasty, with a rich gravy and crisp pastry, but the chicken ones were less of a hit – not bad or unpleasant, just not really a flavour that any of us found massively appealing.

Largely, we were really impressed with the quality of Waitrose Party Food and the ease of cooking, and for a small family gathering it would be ideal as party nibbles, however I’m not sure that the individual prices would be ideal if you had more than around 10 people to feed. Having said that, people usually shop at Waitrose for the quality of their items, not in order to get a bargain, so maybe this is a moot point?

Everything was sent to us about three weeks ago, right when the family was in the middle of a nasty bout of gastroenteritis, and I was able to freeze everything which is also a huge bonus, meaning that it would be really easy to buy ahead of time and bring out for cooking closer to Christmas, and I’m actually planning to go and get us all a few bits for New Years Eve as they’re ideal for a casual evening at home with Jool’s Hootenanny and a few bottles of fizz!

Have you tried the Waitrose Party Food? What did you think? Leave me a comment below.

Why I’m Doing My Best to be UN-Christmassy

un-christmassy grumpy catThe eagle-eyed amongst you will have noticed that today’s date marks exactly a month until Christmas Eve, which means that the whole world will be going Christmas-mad, and every shop, TV advert and event will be geared up to all things festive. Despite the fact that Thanksgiving isn’t even over yet, Christmas seems to be everywhere we go, and I’m not going to lie, it drives me a little bit mad. Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas, especially now we’ve got the girls and it’s all about them, but starting this early just destroys the magic for me.

I’ve seen several people on Facebook, both in random groups and on my friends list, who’ve got their tree up already, and some who’ve even had a Christmas dinner already, which is absolutely fine for them, but not for me. For me, Christmas is really special, a time to spend with family and friends and indulge in all of the excesses of the season…ONCE a year. Christmas is big and exciting and a happy time, but doing it more than once would just dilute it completely.

For the last few years in a row, I’ve managed to shoot my festive load WAY too early – I start to get excited at the beginning of November, planning presents and decorations and all of the other bits that go with it, and by the time 25th December arrives, I’m spent – both mentally AND financially. I seem to have a finite amount of Festive cheer and if I let it all go too early I have none left for the big day. Christmas Day is genuinely one of my favourite days of the year but there’s nothing as disappointing as polishing off your Christmas dinner and thinking “Oh. I don’t actually feel that Christmassy…”

The thing is, Christmas is a one, maybe two, day celebration, or at a push three days if you include Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day. Most of us spend the equivalent of a month’s wages getting ready for it, and if we start the the beginning of November and don’t take our trees down until after New Year, that basically means that Christmas lasts TWO MONTHS. Put into perspective, that’s 1/6 of the year – there is literally NO other holiday that we would allow to take over our lives for that bloody long!

I know I probably sound like Scrooge but I don’t dislike Christmas altogether – I just wish people would hold their horses. I’ve seen several houses which already have elaborate lighting displays outside and it’s just making me cross. It won’t even be the slightest bit special by the time Christmas arrives, and I think I’d probably throw my Christmas tree on the bonfire if I had to cope with tinsel droppage and fallen baubles for two whole months! What people do in their own living rooms is entirely up to them and I’d never dictate to them what they should and shouldn’t be doing, but it’s just not for me.

What do you think? Am I a miser or are you right here in NON-Christmas Land with me? I’d love to hear what you think,