Preparing for a simple Christmas - week 2

3 December 2012
I believe that just about anything is possible for me if I plan well enough ahead of time and organise myself so I don't have to rush. This really comes to the fore at this time of year when Christmas is lurking around the corner and I know we'll have the family here for a big get-together. If my entire immediate family is here, that is eight adults and two small children. It is we two, Jens and Cathy, Shane, Sarndra and Alex, and Kerry, Sunny and Jamie. Jens and Cathy live only a few minutes away so there is room enough for everyone else to sleep here before or after the celebration meal.

So this week, I want to do a few things that will make our family time together really special and memorable, especially for my littlest loves Jamie and Alex. If I can organise myself well I'll be able to prepare most things in advance so I can enjoy the time they're here. It is at these family events that I become more than a mum and a grandma. I consciously take on the role of provider of heart-felt hospitality, and planning ahead helps me do that. I want every thing to go smoothly, I want to have everything I need at hand and I want everyone who spends time here to feel welcome, relaxed, happy and filled to the brim. I want these days to become a special part of our collective memories.

It doesn't take much for that to happen. All I have to do it to make our home comfortable and welcoming, to provide a variety of foods and drinks my guests enjoy and to give what we can within those parameters with grace and pleasure. The rest of it takes care of itself.

And just a word to the younger women who read here. This week would be an ideal time to think about your Christmas traditions. If you don't have any but would like to, why not start your own traditions this year. It could be anything like personalised tree or room decorations, selecting music to play on Christmas day, selecting special family recipes that you will cook from now on, leaving cake and a bottle of beer out for Santa, writing a letter to Santa, making gingerbread houses or biscuits/cookies, Christmas activities that children and adults can do together. Whatever it is, now is the time to decide what you want your Christmas to be and make sure you have what you need to make it happen.

Instead of having a mad rush in the week before Christmas, I'm going to take it slow and do a few tasks each week. This week I plan to:
  • Work out my Christmas budget.
  • Clean out the fridge. If my oven was dirty I'd clean that too but it's fine.
  • Check my cloth napkins to make sure I have enough, and that they're all clean. If they aren't, I'll wash and iron them.
  • Wash and iron my "good" white tablecloths.
  • Decide on the Christmas lunch menu.
  • Send out all the Christmas cards.
  • Wrap gifts.
No matter what is on your list this week, it will serve you well to get through a few tasks early. Or maybe you do this another way. Tell me how you prepare in these weeks before Christmas.

Don't forget to check Christmas prep threads on the forum today. The mods are working with me on this and they've got some wonderful ideas.


  1. Oh dear! I'm so behind in my preparations this year. My mind is still on the dilemma of sustainable gifts, but time is not on my side. I'm glad you've reminded me to think about the day itself because I have so much to plan. I'll be getting out my linens this afternoon after reading this. Maybe that will kick my enthusiasm into gear! Thank goodness for your practicality!

  2. Hi Rhonda,
    We have over the years created numerous christmas traditions & of course they're still evolving as our daughter, nieces & nephews grow up remembering special moments that are then repeated & another tradition is born. They will say things like, "Aren't we having Gran's caramel custard with the plum pudding, she always made that" & so we make her recipe & it becomes a tradition. Funny enough, I was informed by my niece only yesterday that as children they had developed their own tradition of seeing which one of them could sneak the skin off the custard with their finger each year, without being caught...argggh! She only told me this when I went to put cling wrap on the jug of custard I made yesterday to stop it forming a skin & she said, "Don't do that, it's the best bit"....... remembering with fondness, their naughtiness as children. One that is special to me is that we have always attached a christmas ornament to the ribbon/tag of each gift we give. The children have collected them over the years from everyone & those ornaments now decorate their christmas trees in their own homes now that they are adults, some with children of their own. Some have written on the base of each one, e.g.. Aunty Ann & Uncle Donnie 2001. some even remember the gift that went with each one. A few other traditions - family going to midnight mass together, then kids to bed, champers for adults while santa visits; no gifts opened until the breakfast dishes are done (a good one to get the kids to do the dishes.... I only wish they'd let me finish my breakfast first); oldest family member hands out the presents; big traditional lunch; self assembled leftovers for dinner; 2 hr rest (quiet) period in the afternoon or games OUTSIDE; & last but not least, the family lottery ($2 per nomination, kids included & winner takes all) as to what colour Aunty Bev's hair will be this christmas (needless to say, Aunty Bev is oblivious to this family tradition).... but that's a whole other story on it's own!

    1. Oh Ann I loved reading this, hope your family get to read it too.
      Happy Christmas and a wonderful New Year to you all,

    2. Julie ... Barossa ValleyDecember 03, 2012 1:07 pm

      Hello Ann, I really enjoyed reading about your family Christmas also.
      Merry Christmas Ann
      Cheers Julie

  3. Hello slightly off topic last evening I spent sometime reading through past posts ways to save money etc this morning one of the news story's is they hope the banks will lower interests rates intime for Christmas so we will all go shopping and spend more and I thought why in the world would anyone do that with the savings lol plus considering interest rates will rise again ... This way of being is really starting to kick in for me I think :)

    1. Julie ... Barossa ValleyDecember 03, 2012 1:11 pm

      hello anonymoeee! :) absolutely agree with you ... :) after reading Rhondas book in June, my hubby and I have looked at 'everything' including the savings made on lower interest rates ... and where to use it :D
      Merry Christmas
      Cheers Julie

  4. I was interested to read of your plans for Christmas. Our families all live a long way away so Christmas gifts are usually gift vouchers for places of their choice of money to buy things they need or want. When you dont see the Grandchildren very often it is hard to know exactly what they would like. Christmas day will be just to two of us so our Christmas decorations are not the elaborate ones they once were. On the plus side we will be spending the day with someone we love and appreciate so that makes it all pretty special anyway.Have a lovely time ,Rhonda.

  5. I love creating family traditions with our kids. This week we'll be baking our batch of Chrissy bickies and the kids will have a messy, sticky time decorating them! I've started menu planning - but whatever we decide, the day always starts with a tropical fruit platter and ham and cheese croissants. Hubby always cooks a ham in the kettle bbq, and dessert is always my grandmother's Christmas pudding and my mother's brandy sauce (tat's a family tradition that has been around longer than me!).
    The kids are planning Santa's snack, although it's always the same - beer, cherries, chocolate, Xmas bickies (he's a very hungry Santa!), and reindeer oats and carrots outside too.
    Now that I have a sewing machine, I have some material to make napkins and a tablerunner that we can then use every year.
    One thing I started the year my eldest was born, is that we ask the kids every year to choose a new decoration for the tree. I put their name and the year on it, so they have one for every Christmas, and eventually they will have a collection they can take with them as adults.
    I do love Christmas, especially now I have children.

  6. Hi Rhonda
    I agree about doing tasks mindfully and a littleeach week in the lead up to Christmas. One thing I will be doing this week is writing out my menu for Christmas Day and Boxing Day as we split ourselves between two families on each day. Then this week I intend to get in all the non perishable food that pertains to these menus. then closer the Xmas I can just use my local greengrocer and butcher for the fresh ingredients and avoid the crazy malls.

  7. Since some of our married children are going to their in-laws on Christmas eve we will be having everyone over on Christmas afternoon and evening. It will be something different, a slow morning for us with Church, and setting up the table etc. When the grandkids arrive they will be able to open their stockings that Santa left (he knows where grandma lives). Then an afternoon of swimming winding down to Cold Ham, prawns and salads. We have a secret Santa so we each only buy one gift, and the grandkids read the names and hand out the presents. I have been making bath salts with loofas, and crocheted snowflakes for little gifts for friends.

  8. Oh Rhonda I have been cleaning my frig out and baking cookies for the freezer. I probably need to clean my oven and I am going to ready the girls rooms for their visit. I will hang the sheets outside hopefully not in the snow and bring the fresh air in for them since they are coming from the city I know they will appreciate that.
    I will be getting my Mom's tree up tomorrow and then hope to decorate. She loves her tree up early. B

  9. We are having Christmas dinner at my son's home for the first time, so not much for me to prepare this year. Once he has planned the menu he'll let me know what I can bring. My 90 year old mum still makes the Christmas pudding each year. She's not a very good cook and it is either soggy or crumbly but that's ok. I'm going to make a Christmas cake this week and will send a "getting ready for Christmas" box to my daughter and her family in Queensland.(we're in Melbourne). This is a new tradition for my grandkids. I put together a few decorations, Christmas cookie cutters and framed family Christmas recipes--Grandpa's shortbread and Nanna's rum balls. I hand painted the frame with Christmas trees and am pleased with the result. I am crocheting Christmas stars as gifts for a friends and also potting up some aloe vera plants. I thought they looked like little Christmas trees so I'll add a paper star to complete the effect. I am also planning to start om the Christmas cards this week--some will be home made.

  10. Thank you for the inspiration Rhonda. I feel quite motivated to give it a go tomorrow! Katie

  11. My christmas for the last seven years is just with my husband and two boys both our families live about 6 hours away. Part of our tradition is that each one of us writes a thank you note to each one, which often ends with lots of tears (especially from mum), my boys can really write from the heart when they want too. Then the youngest one gives out the presents. Once we have cleaned up we all pitch in to help make breakfast (crossiants, pancakes and fruit, breakfast usually it at 9:30). After breakfast, my husband and I clean up and start preparing our lunch (we usually eat around 2pm). The boys set the table for lunch. Then for the rest of the afternoon we just sit and relax, the boys (including my husband) play on the playstation while I just read. If we get hungry, we just pick at the left overs. This year, we have been invited to visit some friends for dinner however my boys are not too keen, they like our tradition.

    I have started planning already, we have bought the turkey, the ham is ordered, I have made most of my gifts for the family and friends, they are wrapped and ready to go. I do, however need to clean my oven which I will do this coming week-end.

    Have a great week everyone,


  12. We are in the middle of moving house so I've had to be organised. We're still sorting out gifts for our kids although they will be well simple so not much to do now. The adults in my family don't do gifts so that is all sorted and my kids have their gifts for Nanna and Poppie and Omi sorted. My daughters birthday is next Tuesday and that is all sorted, as is my mum's 60th. I've also sorted the gifts for my nephews (also small) but the Christmas food is scaring me somewhat. We are aiming for a local Christmas so I will probably do a big shop at our soon to be new local farmers market on Saturday and pick up any veggies there. Otherwise I will be cooking my first attempt at a sourdough fruitcake in the next few days as well as a sourdough chocolate cake for my daughters birthday. We will decorate the tree once we move but that's the simple bit. We don't do a big fussy Christmas so I know that's pretty simple to sort at least.

  13. Adding to those you have already mentioned, Mum and I also get together at this time and polish all the silver together. It is a chore but when it is with someone it turns into a nice traditional event. The outdoor furniture comes out of storage (our seasons are short in Tas. We have snow on the mountains today) and gets a clean down too.

  14. I enjoyed reading these comments about christmas traditions, I am in the US in California so its interesting to hear about other parts of the world. Some the things my family does, the kids each get to pick a new ornament for the tree, we always make cookies to leave out for santa, along with some milk. I always look foward to getting to visit with family we dont see often, and this year we have family coming from the Boston area that we very rarely see so that is exciting. I make jam every year to hand out as gifts and I usually have the kids make cards or ornaments to hand out as well.

  15. I love every part of Christmas and I believe it shouldn't be stressful and all parts of it should be enjoyed.

    The way I acheive this is to plan plan plan. I don't leave everything to the last minute and I remember that xmas dinner is just a posh Sunday roast with the added bonus of family and friends. If I don't expect a perfect christmas, it usually turns into one.


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