A Guest Post by Christine Harrington;

Festive agony aunt reveals her secrets to a


stress free Christmas

Christmas is a time for fun and excitement so it is important not to let stress of the occasion spoil our enjoyment.There is so much to do and think of. The most important advice is to start preparation as early as possible. Make lists for everything you have to do- jobs, shopping, presents,cards. Start internet shopping before stocks run low.

Keep an accurate and detailed calendar and refer to it every day. Fill it in as soon as times and dates of events are known and reply straight away to christines-christmas-countdowninvitations. Especially important are dates of school plays.Get details of costume requirements as soon as possible to avoid last minute needlework! Book your babysitter as soon as you know when one is needed.

Do think about yourself to avoid last minute stress about your appearance and what to wear.Plan your outfits for each event,care for your skin and lose a little weight if necessary.

Spend time planning the activities that you are hosting. Send out invitations in good time and plan food requirements, not forgetting special dietary and allergy details. Prepare in advance and freeze as much food as possible to maximize free time over the Christmas period.

By the end of November try to get routine shopping done for things needed, irrespective of it being

Christmas, such as household essentials. Stock up on food storage containers and purchase cooking ingredients for “stir Sunday”, the Sunday before the first Sunday of Advent, which is a good time to do some cooking with the children. Don’t forget to place orders for the butcher and fuel delivery if needed.

It is never too early to check the Christmas tree lights and decorations to assess if any replacements are required.

Try to have your gift shopping complete by the end of November and ideally do some wrapping and card writing in stages so that it is not a chore later on when there are so many other things to do.Have some spare unlabelled presents to put under the tree for unexpected and surprise ( or even forgotten) visitors .Remember to get the children’s cards written in well before the end of term.

It is very important to check all the rooms in the house well before your guests are arriving. In particular, do a safety check to avoid any accidents with children and the elderly.

Once we are into December start thinking about posting overseas and then routine parcels and cards. Do a clothes check for all family members for all events.

Mid December make Christmas tree decoration a major enjoyable family event.It helps to have plenty of activities in mind to keep the children occupied while you are busy. Fill the Christmas sacks whenever you have a free mo-ment.

As the big day gets closer, write out all your meal plans and go through them at least 24 hours before they are required noting times to remove from freezer and cooking times. Prepare as much as possible beforehand.

There are no hard and fast rules, but it helps to set the Christmas lunch table on Christmas eve.

On Christmas day refer regularly to your cooking time lists and stay in control.

A little bit of the fun of Christmas is the anticipation and apprehension over our ability to cope but if we are organised and start planning early we can do it. Be determined to make it a joyous occasion for all the family, your guests and YOURSELF. Stay calm and enjoy every minute.

Christine’s Christmas Countdown by Christine Ida Harrington (published by Clink Street Publishing, RRP £4.99 paperback) is available to purchase online at retailers including amazon.com. and Amazon.co.uk and can be ordered from all good bookstores.

Christine’s Christmas Countdown 2015

The aim of this little book is to help busy mothers enjoy Christmas preparation by minimizing the worry that you will not get everything done in time and avoiding the stress of the last minute rush. You must start planning in mid-September. Then, if you follow the guidelines and suggestions in this book, you should be relaxed and remember everything. It covers shopping, household chores, children’s needs, clothing, decorations, party planning and safety tips. It reminds you to do everything from buying a few spare presents to getting the chimney swept! You will be guided through September, October, November and December. There is advice on keeping a clear and accurate diary and aids to list making for shopping and all Christmas tasks. Alongside all this there are tips to help you look and feel good throughout the festive season.

Book extract:

First thoughts of Christmas preparation should be in the second and third weeks of September. Make sure that you have a calendar prominently displayed in the kitchen

or set up on your computer and get in the habit of looking at it every morning. Have a notebook or memo section on the computer for lists. Start now to make lists of jobs, presents, cards and invites, adding to them as ideas come to mind.

There are four things to decide now:

1. Are any renovations, decorations, repairs or alterations required in the home?

Contact the appropriate craftsman now as many of us decide to smarten up the house for Christmas and workmen become very busy at this time of year.

2. Are you going to grow your own hyacinth bulbs so that they are in bloom for Christmas, looking lovely and smelling divine?

You should! Buy some prepared hyacinth bulbs and bulb fibre and plant in attractive bowls. Once planted and watered leave in a cool dark place and check weekly for water requirements, keeping them just moist.

3. Do you want to lose weight before Christmas? It is important to feel good and confident in your appearance both as a hostess and as a guest. Also, you can enjoy the extra calorie intake which is inevitable over the Christmas period. You have twelve weeks before Christmas so if you lose just one pound a week you can be twelve pounds lighter and fit into your favourite clothes for all the Christmas functions. Research weight loss regimes to discover which is suitable for you. This can be confusing as

we are now bombarded by so many recommendations about what is bad for us to eat. You may prefer to do your own calorie control—1000 to 1200 calories daily—with less than twenty grams of saturated fat intake daily and no added sugar. Study GDAs (guideline daily amounts) on food labelling so that you can work out your daily requirements and limits. If this is just all too much to cope with, eat from a smaller plate, reduce portion size and move your body more! You must try to increase your exercise. Do it!

4. Are you worried what your facial appearance will be like at Christmas, especially if you have lost weight?

The solution is to start doing facial exercises now. You do not need to spend a fortune on

topical preparations. We keep our limb and trunk muscles toned by exercising them so why not do the same for facial muscles? Open your eyes and mouth as wide as possible then screw them up tightly; smile as wide as you can then purse your lips; frown, then look surprised; raise and lower your chin. In other words, grimace as much as you can, at least twenty times each session, as many times as possible every day. If possible, do it in front of a mirror so that you can have a laugh as well. Massaging facial skin using circular fingertip movements when you cleanse or moisturise will improve skin tone. Drink plenty of water to keep your skin well hydrated.

About Christine Harrington

Dr. Christine Harrington is a retired Consultant Dermatologist who now lives in a farmhouse in South Wales where she spends her time gardening. Christine loves nothing more than spending time with her family and dogs, especially over Christmas.

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