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Top Christmas tips

12:04pm Wednesday 10th December 2014 content supplied by Netmums

Christmas gifts, cards & wrapping

A nice idea for  gifts for teachers or carers is to give them an Xmas tree bauble as a pressie. It's more personal than just giving chocs and the teacher or carer will remember your child each year when they put up their decorations - posted by Susan S

My little girl will be nine months at Chrimbo so I'm going to be wrapping her pressies in coloured tissue/crepe paper so it's easier for her to open - posted by Sam S

I always think buying paper to wrap presents is a waste of paper and money. So I keep all the artwork that my daughter brings home to use as wrapping paper. Far more original and interesting for the recipient! - posted by Andrea M

Open your children's toys and remove all the fiddly fixings and pop in the batteries before you wrap them up - that way they'll be ready to go on Christmas morning - posted by Deborah W

I keep all the kids artwork throughout the year to use as wrapping paper - posted by Wendy S

Cut out old Christmas cards to make gift tags for the next year - it's a good way to recycle and saves money too - posted by Jacky P

Each year my kids draw a Christmas picture for their teacher and teaching assistants. I buy photo cards from my local supermarket, scan the pictures and then print them as a card. The teachers love them, because they have been drawn, and they look really professional - posted by Carie S

I buy inexpensive small photo frames every year and get my children to decorate them with sparkly things and paint. I put in a recent photo of them and they make a perfect Christmas present for grandparents and family - posted by Lisa Y

Every year me and the kids use last year's Christmas cards to make cute little pressie boxes then we make a job-lot of coconut ice and peppermint creams (might even try fudge this year!), pop a few in each little box with some pretty tissue and tie them up in a ribbon. You end up with dozens of little sweetie boxes which make really handy (and relatively cheap) presents for friends, teachers, rellies and people who turn up unexpectedly on your doorstep at Christmas! - posted by Sam P

Try searching car boot sales or charity shops and for smaller gifts and stocking fillers, or vintage clothing and antique jewellery shops for something really special - you'll be giving a unique present as well as recycling - posted by Marrisa H

Wrap and label Christmas presents as you buy them and that way you save yourself a whole evening nearer Christmas day to relax and put your feet up - posted by Anila F 

Food and catering 

I make a stew on Christmas Eve morning and put it in the oven to slow cook. I then do all the preparation of my vegetables and stuffing for Christmas Day. Then I have the rest of the day free to visit friends and attend Christmas Eve service. When we get home at 5pm the stew is ready, and all I have to do is just serve up with crusty bread and a glass of red wine. Perfect! - posted by Amber R

Liven up Champagne or sparkling wine by making a fruit puree (watermelon, strawberry, raspberry or pomegranate are nice) and mixing into the champagne. Tasting first (the enjoyable part) add icing sugar if required to sweeten slightly. Place onto flattest tray that will fit into your freezer and freeze. To serve, bring out from freezer leave to defrost slightly, then scoop into Martini glasses or similar and serve with a cocktail straw (or large straws cut down to size). It should be like an adult slush puppy and is a lovely alternative to plain champagne (you can use cordials instead) before, during or after your meal - posted by Nyree K

Get each person or group coming to the big lunch to bring a part of it: one person brings peeled spuds, another brings the prepared sprouts, another the pudding or cake etc. This saves time and money!- posted by Helena F

Make sure your kids don't fill up on chocolate gifts first thing in the morning by preparing them a quick but appetising breakfast. I always make sure there is a nice breakfast waiting for them on the table for when they come downstairs. Quick things you can try that kids love are pancakes with strawberries, blueberry waffles or warm croissants with a little side fruit salad - posted by Barbara S

We have our Christmas dinner at tea-time because it fits in better with when our kids are used to eating a big meal, and means that I get to enjoy all of the day with them, without being chained to the kitchen. We usually go out for a walk mid-afternoon, once it's gone dark, and look at everybody's lights and trees. By then the kids are refreshed and have worked up an appetite for their tea - posted by Karen H 

For a relatively stress-free time on Christmas day, peel all veg the day before and bag up and store in the fridge. Then there's time for a glass of champers whilst family are unwrapping presents! - posted by Jeanie E

Make your older kids feel grown up on Xmas morning by giving them a grown-up glass of bucks fizz - just use orange juice and lemonade instead of your champagne, and don't muddle up the glasses!- posted by Lydia B

I look for as many meals as I can that can be made ahead and frozen or popped in the slow cooker and left to do their thing. For example, I par cook potatoes and then freeze them ready for Xmas dinner. They can then be roasted from frozen and taste great - think Aunt Bessie without the extra cost. I also make bread sauce, gravy and cranberry and pop in the freezer in cartons or freezer bags - posted by Angela L

Last year I made Christmas-themed cup cakes rather than a big fruitcake. They went in no time and we weren't left with cake until Easter! - posted by Philippa D

Don't feel like you have to bake on the day - mince pies will survive well enough in the freezer! Make them now, stick 'em in the deep freeze and just pop them out the day before they're needed. Throw them in the oven to reheat, brush with a little milk to brown them and dust with icing sugar for that domestic goddess feeling - posted by Kelly D

Christmas can be a nightmare for dieters - you either end up feeling guilty if you succumb to all the goodies, or miserable if everyone else is stuffing their face with Quality Street while you nibble on a carrot stick. Make sure you buy/make some low-cal treats - I make a tin of tiny mince pies so I can still have my mince pie fix without breaking the calorie bank - posted by Anne T 

Decorations

Small touches like candles, vases, pine cones, fruit bowls, fresh flowers, holly sprigs and tealights can finish off your rooms nicely. Fun stuff like singing snowmen, reindeer with red flashing noses and cuddly Christmas toys are considered tacky, but you know the kids love them - so why not put some in their playroom if you have one, or the downstairs toilet's another great place! - posted by Olivia W

Make extra special crackers by replacing the toy with a small something that is personal to the recipient, add a tag with their name and voila - a personalised cracker - posted by Kirsty C

I buy a Christmas tree decoration whenever I can on my holidays/travels and put a small label on to remind me when and where we bought it. Every year when we put them on the tree it brings back lovely memories and we talk about all the exciting places we have been - posted by Amanda S

Whenever I'm out for walks with my girls and I see pine cones on the ground I pick up a few of the better looking ones and take them home. With my little ones we give them a good coating in different coloured glitter glue so that they are all sparkly, leave them to dry and then later on I tie loops of cotton to the top. These make lovely, tasteful homemade decorations and your children will love to see their artwork displayed on the tree - posted by Kate S

Sew a button on to your child's stocking each Christmas Eve, and say the Christmas Elf does it to show Santa has been. Even when they grow too old for this, they will still enjoy getting a new button every year and the stocking will become a lovely keepsake - posted by Michelle O

Buy some cheap baubles and use them as place settings for the table. Write each person's name in glue, cover with glitter and then add a pretty ribbon. The guests can then take them home and use them on their tree - posted by Catherine J

We display our Christmas cards using a piece of garden trellis! We take down a picture in our lounge and fix the trellis to the wall where the picture usually hangs so that for the rest of the year the screw-hole is covered up! Then as the cards arrive we push them into the cross sections of the trellis. Not only does it look lovely when it is full but you are not forever standing up cards - posted by Janet 

Having fun, spreading goodwill

The best way to make for a happy Christmas is to start the day with a Champagne Cocktail -guaranteed to make everyone laugh. Here's our family recipe, which my Dad normally makes: Drop a sugar lump into a champagne flute. Cover the sugar lump with a drop of brandy or Angostura Bitters, the sugar will dissolve. Top up with Sainsbury's champagne. Sip it slowly as you exchange presents. This is an instant stress busting recipe! - posted by Jenny R

Focus your efforts on family fun, food, laughter, love. Remember you're helping shape your child's idea of what Christmas means! Make gifts meaningful but don't make presents the biggest theme - posted by Rine I

Have a party and invite someone like Vie at Home - a great chance to catch up with friends before Xmas and get all your shopping done at once - posted by Sinead C

Invite someone from another country to experience your style of Christmas, or include someone who would be on their own over Christmas. It helps to focus the season of goodwill to all people, and it's strange how having an "outsider" can lighten the mood in familiar or awkward family gatherings, just by bringing a fresh range of conversation! - posted by Cheryl

We have the Boxing Day Challenge every year where all the Aunties, Uncles, Cousins, Nephews, Mums, Dads, Kids, boyfriends get together and play games. We usually split into two teams and have to do daft things like act out a carol for the other team to guess (but without singing it). And we dress up - I was the Angel of the North one year as a 'statue' they had to guess. We also have board games, famous faces and a general knowledge quiz. Everyone brings food and drink and it is the highlight of our whole Christmas. I think the most we have ever had was 34 of us and as don't see each other very often all year it's a great way to catch up - posted by Debbie W

If you want to get to know all your neighbours send them all Christmas cards! If you don't know their names just write 'Merry Christmas from' and then write your names and the first line of your address. Then when you get cards back from everyone you get to know their names and everyone knows yours. It's a good way to break the ice and worked really well for us when we moved to a new area - posted by Natalie J

Take some time out to have a cuddle with the ones you love on Christmas morning. The fuss and work can wait while you spend some time drinking in the Christmas atmosphere - that's more important than the dinner, the presents and what the house looks like - posted by Jo B

Whatever your faith, make the effort to attend a church or religious service with the family around Christmas-time. It can be magical and helps to bring home the real message of Christmas. Many churches welcome non-attenders and have services especially for children. It's a chance to meet and chat to little-known neighbours and there's something special about communal carol-singing. A nice alternative to the shop-till-you-drop craziness at this time of year - posted by Maureen S

Don't forget to give to the postie/binmen/delivery drivers at Christmas. A small token of chocs/biscuits or booze will make a big difference to the service you get for the following year! - posted by Sharon M

For my girlfriends we plan a meal before Christmas where each person provides a course/drink. We don't buy a present for individuals and most importantly it means we spend TIME with each other which is always in short supply what with children/careers/husbands etc. We value our one special evening and cooking for one another -posted by Emma C

We always split our Christmas Day to keep down the stress levels and keep the children occupied and active. In the morning we open presents, make phone calls to the family, etc. Then we all pile into the car with a yummy picnic. We pick a different place each year, but the main idea is to find the perfect car park with a view and then set off to have a bracing walk in the country. By the time we return to the car we are all ready for a some sandwiches, pie and of course some Christmas cake. We arrive home in time to put the turkey in, and then the children get a chance to play with all their new toys. We find this so much better than the big lunch time meal that leaves everyone too full (and a little too 'tiddled')!!  - posted by Rebecca G 

Collect small items throughout the year (non perishables). Cover an old shoe box in wrapping paper and fill with items collected. Make sure they are for a specific person i.e. baby boy/girl, teenage boy/girl, lady/man. Hand them into your nearest church or group which is collecting shoe boxes for Romania or a similar initiative. You can use items that are used but in good condition (clothes etc) but also use things that are maybe on offer in the shops (BOGOF etc) It will bring a smile to the recipient's face at Christmas and also make you feel like you have helped just a little - posted by Nyree K 

Clearing up & organisation

Get plenty of big black bags in ready for all the wrapping paper, boxes, bows etc. that get discarded on Christmas morning - posted by Karen P

We've trained the dog to pick up the discarded wrapping paper and take it into the kitchen to the dustbin! - posted by Jeanie E

I always have a stash of thank you cards to hand and a pen and paper. The "who sent what" list gets attached to the cards and dealt with as soon as the little ones have finished unwrapping and are busy playing. It doesn't take long to do, you can have a glass of something yummy while you do it and then feel virtuous - posted by Rebecca D

Use the little draw string bags that you get with washing tablets to keep all the fiddly bits out of kids toys (ie the balls out of hungry hippos, the teeny pieces from Lego sets etc...) - posted by Clare B

Always keep all the wrapping paper that is collected in a bag in a garage/cupboard for a week or so after Christmas in case anything - toys/receipts etc. - has been scooped up in the clear up - posted by Heather S

Save some presents for after lunch. It's often the time of day when the kids are getting tired (especially if they've been up since dawn). We've found that this allows us to get the washing up/tidying done in peace whilst the kids play with whatever arrived in the "second round"- posted by Rachel B

Have a good sort out of old toys a month before Christmas to make room for the new toys. The old toys can be donated to others in need - posted by P.P

Save egg cartons or egg trays to store Christmas baubles in - posted by Mary C

To keep curious little children from finding where the presents are hidden keep them locked in a suitcase until they are ready to be wrapped! - posted by Sarah

And if it all gets too much...

Get out in the fresh air - that gives everyone time to let off some steam and makes for a peaceful household! If you can't go out for a walk, maybe set up a little 'Santa's Treasure Hunt' in the garden with clues and little prezzies along the way. Get adults and kids in teams and let them loose! Lots of glitter will add a magical trail along the way. And don't forget 'the reason for the season' - that will keep everyone focused on what it's all about and gives a healthier focus than just how many prezzies they get - posted by Gill

As a general rule happy children = happy parents. So when the roast potatoes are burning but the turkey is still running around, take a deep breath and send the children on a treasure hunt. Wrap up small yet desirable things and hide them around the house; a new toothbrush, fancy bobbles and clips, a hot wheels car, and don't forget the sweets! - posted by Lucy P

I know it can be a real stress if things don't seem to be going according to plan, but really, in the great scheme of things, nothing can be that bad. Enjoy the day and don't worry about all the little things - it's your Christmas, too! - posted by Jennifer T

Don't get caught up in all the hype that tells you you're bound to be stressed - why should you be stressed? It's a day off work, and a roast dinner. End of. Ditto present buying. You don't have to spend hours/days shopping, or start in November "in case they run out". Guess what? Christmas comes every year and shops do actually stock up - often reducing prices nearer to Xmas. Make a list, go out and get it at the quietest time your life allows, shop online if it helps. What's the big deal? What's the worst that can happen? - posted by Christine H

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