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Little steps to Christmas

Saturday, December 8th, 2012

Over the years I’ve spent a lot of Christmases run ragged and not able to enjoy anything because I’ve been so tired that I could barely stand up. When the children were smaller I tried to make Christmas into a completely magical experience from start to finish. I put the tree up and decorated when they were all in bed so that they would have the excitement of finding that the fairies had come in the morning. I outdid Delia on the cooking front. We did everything possible that you can do for Christmas. And then a few years ago I realized that it was insanity and I had to do things differently. I am not a very nice person when I’m exhausted and much as I may dream I am, I am not in fact wonderwoman!

Firstly, I cut down my expectations. I can’t do everything and nor should I. Wherever possible I involve others…and tomorrow I’ll show you the lovely Advent decoration my elder daughter made for us this year.

Secondly I cut down on things whenever I think I need to. Usually I host a big Christmas party after Christmas with carol singing, mulled wine and a feast of Christmas food. It’s great fun, but it’s also a ton of work to pull it all together. This year has been a bit tough for me and I have decided to have a year off. Yes, people love coming and it’s a great evening, but we can do it again next year and this year I want to have some peace at Christmas. I don’t actually feel the tiniest bit guilty. It will be a shame not to see friends and have some fun, but the relief I feel at not having to go through the motions is huge. Huge I tell you. Which makes me feel I’m doing the right thing.

Thirdly I try to do a couple of little things on the way to Christmas every day in December. That is sometimes sending off a couple of parcels, ordering on the internet, baking some mince pies and putting them in the freezer, writing 4 or 5 Christmas cards. Little by little I’ve already managed to get through an awful lot. I’m still clueless on what to give my family for Christmas, but the relations and friends are pretty much taken care of.

Fourthly I make things. I love making things and I love giving homemade gifts – but I only give them to people who I know will actually appreciate them. (My mother may turn out to be an exception on this one….I know the exquisite pair of soft as a feather socks I knitted her a couple of years ago have never been out of the dreaded drawer…grrrr). Making things makes me happy, so building in some sewing or knitting into the programme has a positive mental health effect.

Fifthly, I accepted that it doesn’t have to be perfect, it only needs to be good enough….except for Christmas lunch that is!

On a happy note, I can tell you where things stand on the production line….

Woohoo, the quilt is just waiting to have the binding sewn down while I watch Strictly Come Dancing tonight……my absolute favourite part of making a quilt. I’m giddy with anticipation!

I’ve just run up this little table topper using a charm pack of Joy by Kate Spain. It went together in a flash and it won’t take a jiffy to have it quilted and on the table next week.

The hoodie I’m making for my daughter is making pretty quick progress – especially since I’ve really been concentrating on quilting…the Madeline Tosh Merino Light is divine. I’m making an Austin Hoodie, and I think after Christmas I might just have to make myself one too. Yummeeee.

What are you doing to prepare for Christmas? Any special tips or hints you want to share with the rest of us?

Right, now I’d better get on – I’m off to make some mince pies ready for the family members who’ve been out braving the snow!



13 Responses to “Little steps to Christmas”

  1. Vreni Says:

    You seem to have everything under control. And you are so right to cut back and relax and enjoy the season. I usually make a list sometimes in November with everything I need to do for Christmas. And I mean everything, every little detail is on it. That way I feel more in control and I can tick off as I go along. I use a note book which I use every year. I can also see who got what gift in earlier years, so I don’t get them the same again. I try to have everything finished at least one week before Christmas so I can sit back and relax.

  2. Katy Says:

    You look forward to Strictly Come Dancing with every quilt? How odd… šŸ˜‰

    Right now I’m making a quilt for mum and dad, but that’s it. I normally do handmade for my family, but I realised that being away for about a month meant that I just wasn’t going to have time, so I bought my gran and granny their pressies in the US, if it’s exotic, it’s okay to replace the handmade šŸ˜‰ Other than that I have mince pies to make at some point, but we’re out for Christmas dinner (to save me and my mum from my gran’s kitchen), so not much else, it’s rather odd not to have a huge pile to do…

  3. Stephanie Says:

    I seem to do less and less each Christmas. At one time I’d hand make all the presents, make decorations and do loads of cooking but it got a bit much. Like you, I do what’s necessary without killing myself any more. I’d liked to have done more knitting but it didn’t work out this year. I’ve made the cake but not the puddings yet, nor any mince pies … whoops, I’d better get a move on!
    The Christmassy runner is gorgeous!

  4. Julie Says:

    I used to do a lot too, Helen. Baking, hosting a women’s Christmas party, caroling, decorating, etc. Now I am paring down and trying to keep our season focused on why we celebrate in the first place. Today, however, I am baking cookies – the best spicy molasses cookies we’ve ever eaten, and a family favorite. The house smells wonderful! I have carols on and am getting ready to make one more kind. Tonight, my oldest daughter Sharon and her three daughters and myself are going to see The Nutcracker. Whew – that’s a lot for me, but I’m so happy for these opportunities. The regular, lovely peeks into your world are wonderful. Blessings on your day, on your family, and on you, dear Helen. xxoo

  5. diane stanley Says:

    If this is your cut back list, no wonder you were always exhausted. I think each year I do less and less and no one is the wiser. That quilt for your mom will be loved. Tell her to put it on her bed. If you find it in a drawer or closet you’ll take it back!

  6. Diane Neale Says:

    What a good idea to do just a couple of things everyday. I don’t have to do masses at Christmas, although this year I have made a few gifts . Like you say, just for those who appreciate it. The quilt for your mum is stunning. I’ll have words with her if she doesn’t like it.

  7. catherine Says:

    Great post Helen: I think we are all guilty of overdoing at this time of year! I have my exam on Friday and haven’t really thought beyond that!!

  8. Lizzy Ruffles Says:

    This is such a timely post for me as I’ve bitten off more than I can chew this year. I have the same charm pack and judging by how the table runner I’m currently making is going a table topper like yours would be far more achievable with the second charm pack I have! So pretty as well (and I can just copy your colour placement – if you don’t mine!).

  9. CarlaHR Says:

    Good on you Helen – over the years I’ve found that these holiday expectations are just too much to handle – for everyone – those of us who are super busy trying to please everyone and for those who are unable (for whatever reason) to reciprocate. I do a lot of walking when I shop locally to and from my village and just this morning (as I wal walking) I was thinking to myself “I will not feel guilty” if I can’t be everywhere for everyone – this is going to be a quiet Christmas season – just as soon as I get all those presents out in the mail (after they are finished of course).
    Take care.
    P.S. As I said before the quilt is gorgeous, the table topper will certainly add a festive mood to your decor and the hoodie is lovely – I especially like the top portion (this from someone who really doesn’t like them).

  10. MelD Says:


    We live and learn!!

    Hello from a day out in Worcester with Elaine… šŸ˜‰ xx

  11. Flying Blind Says:

    Good attitude – I am in panic mode, which then makes me too tired to do anything – something will have to give soon! xxx

  12. Susan Says:

    Perfection is overrated, but happiness isn’t. Go with what feels right for you. If you are relaxed that will rub off on everyone else. I try not to go anywhere over Christmas because, quite frankly, being in my own space with the family I love is what makes it right for me. I love Boxing Day most of all because all the nice feelings are there, the food needs no work, and I can happily do nothing all day. It is a great feeling!

  13. Elisabeth Says:

    Last year I found that I didn’t enjoy the time before Christmas because I was so tired after sewing for stalls at two Christmas markets so this year I said “no” and it felt so good. THis year I feel quite relaxed about everything although I really have to send some presents to Ireland before it’s too late.