Hello, I’m Aga – Easy Food, Easy Gluten-Free, Recipe Lab and Custom photographer at Zahra Media Group. In this blog post I am going to visually guide you through 12 easy steps to make your Christmas not only look beautiful, but also help you build joy and meaning into your celebrations. Just follow those simple steps to learn the hassle-free way to make the magic happen for the people you love…
Make the old-fashioned to-do-list on an A4 sheet of paper (I just find it more tangible than something hidden in my Notes App). Divide the page into three sections and name them ‘Must do’ (e.g. write a shopping list, buy presents, hang decorations, send cards), ‘Might do’ (e.g. deep-cleaning of the house, custom wrapping the presents) and ‘Extra touches’ (e.g. goodie bags for each guest, hand-made ornaments). Stick the sheet on the wall in the kitchen so that you will keep track of what has been done. You might also print a calendar page to set and colour code a date for each task. Make sure to pick a date for the ‘Have to do’ items first, and then work from there depending on how much time you have available in between lunches, dinners and other get-togethers. Don’t forget that it is the ‘Extra touches’ that really make the magic happen.
Know Your Menu
Plan the Christmas menu two weeks in advance of the date you schedule to do your last big food shop. Be smart about how and when you go shopping – buy non-perishable and hard-to-find items first, to spread out the cost, and consider when is the best time to go shopping to avoid frustration and panic, which are quite common when standing in long lines. It is also worth considering online shopping, but be sure to book your slot in advance to avoid disappointment. Remember you can order goods from the butcher and fishmonger to arrive straight to your door, too.
Share The Work
Don’t feel guilty asking for help, especially if you have the whole family over for dinner. A pot-luck feast is usually the best idea if you don’t have an army of helpers. Delegate the jobs on the day according to each person’s skill set. There will always be someone to help you with the most time-consuming tasks which usually won’t require your supervision.
Shake It Up
Do not be afraid to be adventurous with old, classic dishes, giving them a ‘new look’. Swap boring mashed potatoes for potato gratin, mashed potato and cheese muffins or potato stacks.
The WOW factor
You will be surprised how much excitement a showstopper cake can bring to your Christmas feast, with very little effort on your side. Simply make or buy three sponge cake bases, moisten them with a generous amount of Irish cream liqueur, make the icing with Mascarpone, cream and a drop of vanilla extract and then decorate everything with pre-made gingerbread figures and some greenery. Trust me, it will be gone in a blink of an eye!
Make It Pretty
Pick a colour scheme of 3-5 colours and build your décor based on that. Remember, less is more, so avoid day-long decorating sessions by placing your decorations only in the main focal points in the house, e.g. the front door, fireplace, table and Christmas tree. You can make it super special by baking edible treats that will vanish throughout the feast.
Make It Special
Making it special for loved ones doesn’t always have to require much time. Think about making goodie bags from aromatic oils, spices, hot chocolate or chilli con carne mixes. Home-made baked goods will always be greatly appreciated, but if you find yourself running out of time, a simple touch of candy in a rustic bag will make the next day equally merry and bright for everyone.
Make It Easy
There are many ways to save time and money, so be smart about it by introducing hat- picking names and running a Kris Kindle in your family if shopping is not your bag, or limiting the gift exchange to kids only. Take shortcuts where possible, wrap as you buy and divide the work so that there is enough time for you to enjoy the festive season.
It is always a good idea to make friends with your freezer from early December. A vast number of dishes can be made ahead of time, e.g. peel vegetables a few days before Christmas dinner, then blanch in batches and freeze. Simply defrost and reheat in the oven on the day itself.
Why not throw a finger-food party instead of hosting a sit-down feast? A board of tasty bits is easier on the cook and kinder to the waistline than a sit-down dinner. Save yourself time by serving a centrepiece platter of antipasti and a cheeseboard, together with plates of easy-to-prep nibbles.
Let The Aromas Out
Christmas time smells special! Think what aromas represent this time of the year for you, or which ones remind you of your childhood. Is it the fresh Christmas tree, cinnamon sticks, fresh herbs and spices or the smell of vanilla? Fill your house with those lovely aromas and take the time to relish them.
Spoil Them All
Make sure there are plenty of treats for everyone, preferably within arm’s reach. If you’re like me and often swap your starter with a dessert, you will want a jar of gingerbread cookies or spiced biscuits sitting on the coffee table, just in case dinner is delayed for some reason! It is Christmastime, so ditch the diet – that’s a worry for some other day! Bake or simply buy your old-time favourites. Let the sweetest season begin!
Make It Yours
Think about what is it that makes Christmas special for you and make it happen. Do not forget to treat yourself with little things such as an aromatic bath, a new sparkly dress or a festively-themed nail finish. Be good to yourself and take time to relax; in the end, you need to enjoy it too!
Buzz It Up
Last but not the least important, make sure there is plenty of buzz for everyone and some warming hot chocolate for those not drinking alcohol. It is a great idea to keep each glass pretty by adding ice cubes made with fresh fruit and mint leaves. If you have no space in the fridge to chill bottles, use the freezer instead. Wrap the bottles tightly in a damp tea towel beforehand to speed up the process – your fizz will be ice-cold and ready to pour within 20 minutes.
Have a sparkly Christmas Everyone!