Words by WYLDE MOON staff writer
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Already feeling frazzled at the very thought of the big day? Here are a few tips from some WYLDE MOON experts to help bring the chill this Christmas….
From squabbling family members to burned roast potatoes, here’s how to navigate stress over the festive period and (gasp) actually enjoy yourself. It’s easy for stress to feel all-consuming, with things like meticulously timed roast dinners, endless gift lists and hosting to contend with (not to mention the financial burden on top…). Here, we asked a selection of savvy Wylde Moon experts to share their most useful festive hacks to help keep stress levels down.
1. Always pre-cook your veg, and brine your turkey overnight
Stressed out about the Christmas Day feast? “I’d recommend cooking all your vegetables the day before, having them ready in cling-filmed serving bowls with a few knobs of butter, ready to be reheated in the microwave on Christmas Day. The same goes for sauces like bread sauce, brandy or custard, too.
“My best tip to make the turkey juicier and generally nicer? Brine it overnight using a 5% salt to water ratio. Check it hasn’t already been brined – self-basting ones may have been. Make sure it’s completely submerged, then pat dry in the morning and leave out at room temp for an hour for the skin to dry out before cooking. And avoid cooking too much food! People think they need countless sides of vegetables. Personally, I’d choose three favourites, like cauliflower cheese, sprouts with bacon and roast potatoes. That’s really all you need.”
Michelin-starred chef Allister Barsby of ‘Hide and Fox’.
2. Exchange experiences instead of gifts
“When it comes to gifting, offer – and ask for – help, rather than gifts. A voucher for an evening’s babysitting, help with the gardening or a beautiful homemade cake will always be appreciated. By encouraging friends and family to do the same it helps alleviate pressure to overspend. Children appreciate experiences, too – perhaps you could commit to one special present, but also give your time and company via a trip to the beach, park, a nature trail or time spent playing football. These experiences will be remembered long after expensive gifts have been outgrown.
“Likewise, if hosting this year, why not suggest ‘safari suppers’ where each household provides a course? Not only does it make life less stressful for the host, but guests will feel genuinely helpful and like they’re actively contributing, too.”
Counsellor & Hypnotherapist Susan Leigh.
3. Be smart with DIY decorations
“One of my favourite tips is glamming up fairy lights with fir cones & dried fruit slices. Just attach them to a piece of string then gently wind around your fairy lights so they’re easy to remove – it looks like an expensive garland but costs very little and is brilliantly easy. You could even spray the rustic DIY garland with Christmas room spray before attaching to the fairy lights for that extra festive touch.
“For ultra-luxe, super-simple baubles, grab plain baubles and pour a few drops of your favourite nail polish shades into a bowl of warm water. Then, carefully dip the baubles into the water and let dry for beautifully marbled baubles at next to no cost!”
Interiors and DIY writer and Content Creator Claire Douglas.
Stay Christmas Safe; Always unplug lights when you go out or overnight and don’t let the bulbs touch anything that can burn easily.
4. Use leftovers to your advantage
“Find yourself with leftover roasties? They make great potato cakes for breakfast over the Christmas period; just mix the mashed cooked potato with chopped onion, leftover veggies and herbs with matzo or cornmeal to make patties, which can then be baked or fried. Likewise, leftover cheese or rinds of cheese can be chucked into soup to add extra flavour (or grate all the cheese chunks into a cheesy pasta bake).
“If you’re lucky enough to have wine leftover, it can be put into ice cube trays and frozen for future risottos, stews or red wine gravy. And the mince pies that didn’t get eaten will make an amazing mince pie ice-cream with any leftover custard and cream. Simply combine and freeze, stirring every 2-3 hours (or use an ice cream maker if you have one).”
Newcastle Foodcycle Volunteer Project Leader, Jean Paul.
5. Put a ‘twist’ on shop-bought staples
“Adding some extra flare to shop-bought puddings saves you hours of making it yourself. My best tip is to get a good quality plain ice cream (vanilla or clotted cream ideally) and add flavour to it at home. Give mincemeat a little blitz in the food processor and then soften the ice cream slightly before swirling in the flavour – now you have your own mincemeat ice cream! It’s great served with Christmas pudding, a slice of tart or anything else you fancy. You can do the same by adding a little brandy to clotted cream ice cream, or orange zest and even a little spice.
“Don’t be afraid to mix things up – a lot of brilliant restaurant ice creams just come from a good, simple base, with new or fashionable flavours added. So, get creative and make your ‘own’ (nobody will know!).”
Anna Williams, Head Pastry Chef at ‘Fallow, Piccadilly’.
6. Visualise your dream day
“It might sound bonkers, but science has proven that if you think positively, you’re more likely to experience positive outcomes. Of course, it’s natural to worry about Christmas Day, thinking about the things that could go wrong, but try and flip these statements to positives. For example, ‘What if the Christmas meal turns out to be really brilliant this year?’. Or ‘What if I feel really relaxed and end up having the best time?’.
“While changing your thoughts and imagining positive results can be incredibly powerful, be sure to have realistic expectations, too. Remind yourself that everyone is different and avoid pre-empting how people will behave. By focusing on everyone’s positive points and doing your best to accept guests for who they are – and not what you want them to be – you’ll find the day runs much more smoothly than you may have anticipated.”
Law of attraction Coach, Salarah Starre.
7. Diffuse family arguments with box breathing
“Instead of automatically reacting when something triggers you, it’s better to gently ‘respond’. By that I mean giving yourself time to acknowledge what has been said with the most appropriate choice of words and tone, versus an immediate, default reaction (which, newsflash – will definitely not diffuse the situation!).
“If you feel yourself becoming angry or flustered by a comment, take a deep breath, hold it for a few seconds and then exhaling for the same amount of time (this is called ‘box breathing’). Repeat this until you feel comfortable responding calmly, even if that’s just a ‘Let’s chat about this later’. Reducing alcohol intake is another smart move – you don’t have to abstain completely, but being intoxicated only increases the chances of an overreaction and decreases your ability to defuse tension.”
Psychotherapist and counsellor Lordia-Lewis Spencer.
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