The Last Festive Hurdles

Oh my! Ten days to go and the shops are crowded with women who clearly haven't found a moment to dab a little lipstick on, let alone stuff all the stockings they are obliged to fill or decorate their homes with half the pizazz they wished they could find the time to string about... It's a sorry state of affairs isn't it? The incredible pressure to create a picture-book perfect Christmas? And Sweethearts, I know, that I, who peddles some of the most scrumptiously delicious puttery treats and mithers you to count your way down to a gorgeous Christmas must accept responsibly for a slither of the pressure you my Darling Housekeepers feel.

And so in an effort to lift even an ounce of the burden from your shoulders I hereby bring you my ten point plan to climbing over the last hurdles on the road to a Christmas that won't leave you feeling as though you there should be a great big "must do better next year" stamp on your score card...

1. Compromise your festive ideals. Accept that now this isn't going to be the Christmas one might find between the pages of  Country Living, but it might just be the fun one the kids store away in their memory boxes for always. If you don't have time to fix up a Winter Wonderland light display in the front garden or enough money buy them iPads for Christmas, then go the extra mile to spend quality time with them: playing board games, helping them look beautiful for parties, leaving tiny little love notes from Santa around the house just for them.

2. Hold in your frustration. There is only YOU who truly cares whether those fir cones are dipped in glitter and whether or not the tags match the gift wrap. Just YOU. Everyone else barely notices that you have busted a gut trying to make things perfect, but they do notice when Mommy/Wife/Daughter is short-fused, grumpy or borderline hysterical, so don't let your inner perfectionist dictate the mood of the entire proceedings...

3. Give up fussing about the details and the puttery treats and the home-made nibbles and concentrate instead on making sure that the things that truly matter are in place: forget stocking fillers until every main gift is bought and wrapped. Abandon fiddly festive baking until  the cupboards are lined with enough food to get through the main meals of the holiday, then buy shop-bought versions of everything else and PRETEND. Trust me, if there is a God, he isn't in the business of striking down harassed Housekeepers and only those who don't need to make it on to your Christmas Card list next year will notice. So damn them too.

4. Quick fast ways to bring a little Christmas into every room include bowls of tangerines, copious amounts of candles and strings and strings of fairy lights. Yes they might be festive cliches but they add seasonal joy in a jiffy and when you are pushed for time you can't argue with that!

5. Abandon keeping up with the Joneses. They don't notice whether or not you send Christmas Cards or wrap lights around twin bay trees on the porch because they are too busy keeping up with the Smith's. Give even the merest hint of social snobbery short shrift and do what you've got to do. No more and no less.

6. Get choosy about what invitations you accept if the pressure to be ready for each party, gathering or celebration compromises your sanity. If you don't feel like going DON'T GO. This is your Christmas too and now you are a grown up you get to celebrate it anyway you see fit: even if that means munching your way through a family sized tin of biscuits and ignoring the mad cow in the reindeer earrings who wants to get the party started at the first sniff of a tumbler of sherry.

7. Draw the line. If you think you have bought enough presents you have probably bought more than you need to so resist temptation to nip out shopping "for a few more bits". A few more bits inevitably turns into piles of little junk nobody needs that cost money, require wrapping and often end up in the bin the week after Christmas. Be unapologetic about avoiding filling up stockings with yet more junk and set up the monoploy board in front of Bing Crosby instead...

8. Fragrancing everything with the scent of Christmas really, really contributes to a festive atmosphere. As does  a toasty warm room, seasonal music and lots and lots of cheap wrapped chocolate sweeties. Don't slip up on the basics and you will get away with festive murder! So get busy spraying that cinnamon and orange air freshener...

9. Make keeping the house TIDY and CLEAN your number one priority without getting demented about it. Putting clean and tidy before festive and fussy will mean you feel infinitely calmer and ready and able to strew a little bit more Christmas around the place whenever you can grab five minutes. So rally the troops and INSIST they keep the house in order prior to the big day.

10. And finally... delegate as many tasks as you can and be grateful they get done without getting dictatorial about how they are done. In the end family harmony matters more than napkins folded into angels and gratitude always, ALWAYS, brings us one step closer to harmony...

Enjoy. Go easy on yourself. Sleep as much as you can. Eat chocolate. Be nice. Say thank-you a lot. Be kind to everyone. Go for walks by yourself to escape the madness. Plug your ipod earphones in while you cook. Seek tiny refuges. Eat your body-weight in tangerines.  Dance with your husband. Paint your nails red. Read A Christmas  Carol. Ignore grumbles. Sprinkle icing sugar on shop-bought everything.  Laugh. Feel beautiful.  Reminisce. Drink Baileys just because it is Christmas. Watch sitcom repeats. Play games. Play Santa.

And try not to care too much: it's just one day Sweetheart. Just one day.