• This Surrey Mummy

This Surrey Mummy's Guide To.... Getting Ahead In Time For Christmas...

I am a HUGE Christmas fan - there's no Grinch's in our house either which I'm really lucky about and that both Webbo and I love Christmas!

This year we are hosting at ours on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and in the break between Christamas and New Year on average there's likely that I will be catering for at least 10 people for breakfast, lunch and dinner each day so for me getting ahead when I have a little extra time on my hands in the run up to the festivities is key!

With Webb and I both working in schools the last couple weeks of term is normally chocker block with reports, shows, chapels and that's before we've even thrown the boys end of term Christmas school schedule into the mix. I am an avid planner in life. I love a good meal planner and my 18 month diary is my lifesaver so planning at this time of year does not come as a chore and by spending 2 or so hours in the run up planning will save me so much time in the long run.

So here is my guide to getting ahead this Christmas!

Firstly what I tend to do is get my diary out and look at the weeks running up to the big day. I've made the mistake of in years gone by of cramming so much in in the run up to Christmas so that when the big day arrives we are all physically exhausted so this year we are keeping our commitments to a minimum. I think the problem with Christmas is that expectations are so high and we set such high standards that when we don't achieve them we beat ourselves up about it.

Think about the things that you actually want to attend and think about what's important to you and your family and prioritise them. For me I want to spend as much time with the boys as soon as they break up doing things together with them as a family so in the week before Christmas our diary highlights are... Peppa Pig World to see Father Christmas, a craft afternoon with my sister in law and niece at my Mother In Law's and THAT IS IT. The rest of the time will be spent chilling and relaxing at home watching Christmas films and just reenergising for the manic week that will be ahead of us.

Next up is FOOD!! I love cooking and at Christmas for me, cooking with a glass of bubbles whilst Michael Buble belts out a couple of festive numbers is my idea of bliss - that said you certainly won't find me on Christmas Day peeling sprouts and spuds!

Plan what you want to have for the big day - make a menu if need be and STICK TO IT! Compile a separate shopping list of Christmas items that you'll need and if they are able to be frozen buy in advance, freeze and spread the cost.

It might not be neat, tidy or pretty but this is my go to list for this Christmas....

My proposed Christmas Day menu...

In the run up to Christmas try to get as much of the food preparation done and the majority of this can be done and stashed in the freezer a couple of weeks before. I LOVE a Christmas dinner so we did a trial run the other weekend to see what worked, what didn't and how much food I could actually get on the table - I love a full spread of food!

Fake Christmas dinner to work out what worked and what didn't!

Great items for freezing include:

- Custard - Mince Pies - Pigs in Blankets - Homemade cranberry sauce - Bread sauce - Gravy - Red cabbage - Carrot and swede mash - I always buy shop own and stash away! - Shop bought stuffing

So, off my Christmas Day menu here is what I will make before...

Festive pavlova - this will be made a couple days in advance and stored in an air tight container. This also leaves room for error - I have been known to make four of them in a bid to achieve the perfect pav!

A summer version of my Festive Pav! 

Pigs in blankets - as I mentioned mine are already chilling in their blankets - simply assemble, place individually on a baking tray, cover and pop in to a freezer for an hour. After an hour remove and place into a freezer bag - these can be cooked from frozen on the big day or before with every single roast if you are like us!!

Everybody loves a piggie in a blanket!!

Yorkshire puddings can also be made and frozen - a bit a la Aunt Bessie - cook and freeze like the piggies in blankets and then remove and cook from the freezer ten minutes before eating!

Mince pies are also another great one for the freezer - make ahead freeze individually and cook and warm throughout from frozen!

My Christmas braised red cabbage is in the freezer as I made a double batch the other weekend in the slow cooker and froze half.

I will be making my Brussel sprouts the day before. Trim as you like them, I like mine with a X on their bottoms, boil for 5 minutes, strain and plunge into a bowl of iced water (this will stop them cooking further), leave to cool and place in a fridge bag. On Christmas Day I am going to be doing a recipe that my friend Lauren does where she pan fries pancetta in a dry pan, crisps up the pancetta and then adds the sprouts after - sounds lush!

Roast potatoes will also be made the day before. Cook in the goose fat as you would normally and then 20 minutes before they are done remove from the oven and cool in the tray. Then cover the tray and place in the fridge then the next day stick in the oven at a high temp and cook until crispy!

Fridge space at this year can be a total Tetris style nightmare so my advice would be if you can, ask around to see if anyone has a large cool box - fill any excess food for Boxing Day and ahead in the cool box and store outside - it's normally cold enough for the food to stay safe but just to be super safe whack in a few ice blocks for good measure!

When it comes to pressies I again have a list at the back of my diary of who I am buying for and what I have got them - I also have photos of these on my phone in case I am out and about and get caught short! Once the pressies are purchased I assign the "Head of Wrapping" aka Webbo in our house to wrap the presents. We've gone for a simple wrapping scheme this year - Hector gets Paw Patrol Christmas wrapping and Charlie gets Christmas dinosaur wrapping for their individual presents and then we have a reindeer one for joint presents - I got this idea from my friend Cate who suggested it - it also saves a huge amount of time writing labels!

Now, I am not saying that all of the above will work for you, you may also find it a bit militant but that's ok - I just love planning. The main thing is to just go with the flow. It's such a special time of year because we are surrounded by our loved ones that no one will care that you are running late for lunch or that the sprouts are slightly over done - just enjoy yourselves!

I'm off for a mince pie and a little browse online,

Nathalie x


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