Ditching the yummy mummy wish for a stylish Christmas
Quite possibly the most stupid thing I’ve ever done as a grown-up is to reinvent the Advent calendar. In the early days of motherhood, I was so determined that my children weren’t going to consume the cheap, meaningless chocolate versions from the supermarket, I created my own.
I bought fabric from Lincraft and asked my babysitter to stitch it into the shape of a tree, with little pockets numbered one to 25.
It started well, with me penning witty, educational notes and tucking them into the pockets alongside the odd preservative-free candy cane and felt tree decoration. ‘Find out how children celebrate Christmas in France,’ urged one. ‘Choose one of your toys to give to children who have nothing,’ prompted another.
Yes, my worthiness was nauseating. But, since then, I’ve plummeted from yummy mummy to scummy mummy, and the bloody calendar has come back to bite me on the bum.
Having finally grasped that the ‘E’ in E numbers stands for ‘effortless’, I’ve tried bribing the kids with the $2.99 pop-a-choc versions, but they’re having none of it.
So, every summer, I’m forced to search our stuffy loft for the damn original. Then I have to come up with ever more creative and challenging notes, which is far easier after a few glasses of wine.
‘Make an acrostic poem out of the word ‘stollen’,’ I scribbled last year, to which my 10-year-old witheringly replied, “Mum, it’s Christmas, not school.”
One morning, they came across a note that had clearly been doctored. My cheery suggestion of ‘Let’s make stained-glass window biscuits to hang on the tree’ was crossed out and, underneath, my friend Kate had written, ‘Tell Mummy to get a life.’
My problem is, I have an image of myself as this wonderful, bosomy, cinnamon-scented mother, when, in reality, my attempts to organise the perfect Christmas are making me more stressed than a hamster on speed.
Take table settings. Everywhere you look, there are pictures of tables transformed with silver spray-painted twigs, or hibiscus and frangipani threaded into fragrant centrepieces.
I no longer adorn my tables with flowers, after my styling attempts with an armload of jasmine left one allergic guest sneezing his parsnip soup across the table. But, this year, I’m thinking of spelling out everyone’s name in vintage wooden Scrabble letters…
I blame Fleur Wood. The designer recently published a coffee-table book, Food Fashion Friends, which shows the style queen and her girlfriends swanning about in whimsical frocks and eating coconut ice.
As for the kids, there’s neither a snotty nose nor a grass stain among them. It’s achingly gorgeous, and sets the bar high for how your typical picnic or dinner party should look, especially for those of us who, unlike Fleur, didn’t come out of the womb wearing a tea dress and carrying a jug of lychee-infused lemonade.
Luckily, I’m beginning to realise that, like gingerbread houses (visually fabulous but as tasty as mothballs), what celebrations look like is never as important as how they feel.
It was brought home to me recently, when we paid a visit to my friend Marina. We were about to ring the doorbell, when my daughter remarked how much she loved coming to this house. “Why’s that?” I asked, assuming it was Marina’s gorgeous decor or swimming pool.
“I love how she always opens the door and throws her arms around us like we’re her favourite people.” Now that’s Christmas style.
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