Chances are, you've left something to the last minute when it comes to your Christmas preparations. You spent all that time sewing stockings, but you haven't thought about your festive lunch. Or you never got around to picking up a tree. If your current Christmas state is somewhere between mild panic and major anxiety, here are all the Christmas hacks to make your season a little less silly.
Chyka Keebaugh: Make one dramatic statement on the table.Credit:Simon Schluter
Elleni Pearce, Lenzo founder and director (and who recently did Rebecca Judd's "Juddchella" housewarming party): "You can be really clever about using what you already have. With a bit of DIY, you can upscale what you've got and it's sustainable as well. Go through your kitchen cupboards first and take out what you have, then work on a theme based on that.
Use your amazing candle holder but get a new candle to work with the current trends. And use any classic pieces that don't date. Start with a "hero" colour. I pick white hydrangea flowers from my garden and start with that. Silver is a good hero, and to that you might add a touch of rose gold and traditional gold. But let the main colour shine. My favourite colour combination for Christmas is olive green and terracotta, which is a modern play on a traditional palette.
Chyka Keebaugh, author of Chyka Celebrate and Chyka Home: "If you haven't got enough of everything, mix and match it up. For new plates, you can't beat Kmart: they have an incredible selection and it's cheaper than hiring. At florists and nurseries, you can find bits and pieces for the centre of the table: in Australia, where you don't have to be so traditional, you can use gum leaves and olive branches. Make one dramatic statement on the table. An abundance of things is also good. At a two dollar shop, you can buy a mass of one-colour candles. At Lincraft, you could buy a bolt of fabric as a tablecloth; new tea towels can be used as serviettes. I put the tea towels at the back of the chairs and tie them in a knot, or place them over the plates. It adds texture and makes the table look interesting."
Clare Scholes, joint owner of homewares store Mondocherry: "If you don't know where to hang your fairy lights, pop them into glass bowls or jars because that makes the sparkle even bigger. If you don't have a good tablecloth, put brown paper down the middle and put jars and bottles with greenery in them in groups around the table. Then you can add the bowls of fairy lights as well as any baubles not hanging. They look beautiful together as well. You could also get twigs and spray them with gold spray paint. Gold always looks nice and sparkly at Christmas."
Clare Scholes and Joy Stewart, owners of Mondocherry.Credit:George Poulakis
THE GREATEST GIFT
Megan Morton, stylist and lifestyle book author: "I like the Furoshiki [traditional Japanese cloth] idea, and I wrap oil, wine or spirits in a tea towel – either scaled up (from Blackhearts & Sparrows) or down (local IGA) in a tea towel. Who doesn't need a bottle of staple liquid and a spare, clean, new tea towel? I avoid gift packs because we all know that only three out of the 12 things are any good.
I do encourage making your own. A market basket or simple recycled box with mangoes, chutney, relish and caramels is the height of gift-giving, in my opinion. And I like to make pomanders [aromatic balls enclosed in a perforated bag] from oranges and cloves. Any food market has the materials – you tie them with a ribbon. Finally, I love new pillowcases, and often buy them as an alternative to Christmas wrap. Inside, I put rose or lemon water – from a local Indian or Italian grocer – and a bar of Velvet soap from The Hub General Store for the ultimate home care gift."
If you don’t have a tree, use my go-to of gaffer tape to a blank wall in the shape of a tree. Place gifts under it. Done!
Rebecca Judd, TV & radio personality: "You know the one thing that never lets me down? The Daily Edited, which is personalised. You just pop in and go: 'that, that' – it's a winner every time. I get little cosmetic cases with a beautiful font in the gold stamp."
Rebecca Scourfield, regional manager, David Jones Melbourne CBD: "We have gift gurus in stores [the exact stores can be found online] wearing pink aprons, and their job is to help you prepare for Christmas. We have them in food, too, selecting the right products for a Christmas feast. If you're short on time, they're there to support whatever you need. And we're open until 6pm on Christmas Eve."
Silvia Colloca, celebrity chef/star of upcoming SBS show, Cook Like an Italian: "If you have forgotten a gift for someone, the easiest thing you can do is make an edible one. I do panforte, a traditional Tuscan confectionery because you can use up all the leftover nuts, bits of sultanas and dried apricots that are sitting in half packets in your pantry. Get them all in a bowl, melt some chocolate, honey and sugar, bind them together and bake them. Afterwards, you can wrap it in cellophane or baking paper covered in a tea towel."
Silvia Colloca in Cook Like An ItalianCredit:SBS
Elleni Pearce: "These days there are all sorts of Christmas tree variations: balloon trees, paper trees, which you can make with paper cones. Sometimes it's as simple as finding a pot plant that's in your garden and adding Christmas ornaments if you're struggling for time."
Megan Morton: "If you don't have a tree, use my go-to of gaffer tape to a blank wall in the shape of a tree. Place gifts under it. Done!"
Clare Scholes: For last-minute decorations, you can get rolls of ribbon and put ribbons on the ends of the branches tied with bows and with some lights added, and that looks really smart. If you don't have a tree, you can make one with 3M hooks: stick them on the wall where the points of a tree shape would be, and then outline the tree with fairy lights, following a zigzag on the wall. You can hang little baubles off the hooks, and that's especially effective at night. You could also make a wreath out of a wire coat hanger. Shape it into the traditional circle and tie on some greenery from the garden, adding a bow with some ribbon. Or you could shape it into a triangle and just add the greenery around the bottom of one side, which also looks striking.
Megan Morton: Spray your bedrooms and loos or other places guests will be so they smell like Christmas. I love a sweet orange room spray.
Silvia Colloca: If you want a nice Christmas smell in your house, do a dry rub of cloves, smashed-up cinnamon stick, a bit of vanilla, a little rum and if you like, some orange peel. Put it into a roasting tray with water and a bit of sugar, and pop it into the oven. The aroma will spread all over the house. You can also use that to make Christmas cocktails by adding a couple of tablespoons of the liquid to vodka and a bit of prosecco."
LUNCH/ DINNER IS SERVED
Scott Pickett, chef/owner of Estelle, Matilda and brand-new Pastore, and author of Marriage of Flavours: "If you've left it that late, you've got to blow out your budget and go to your fishmonger to buy cooked prawns, or splurge on a couple of lobsters. You get oysters and they're already opened and you make a quick dressing, buy smoked salmon and all of a sudden you've got a seafood buffet.
Seafood wows everyone: it's civil, and it fits with the Australian weather and Aussie summer barbecue theme. No one will know that you didn't organise it until the night before. For dessert, I like a summer pudding with stale bread. Make it the night before when you're wrapping presents and it's in the fridge, ready to go the next day."
Scott Pickett: Seafood wows everyone.Credit:Gareth Sobey
Matt Haigh, Group Executive Chef at Peter Rowland: "You always eat with your eyes first. Add pomegranate seeds and chopped herbs to green salads, or some freshly sliced radishes to give that nice contrast of colour on the table. Colour is the first thing that people see. At the last minute, I would go for a big piece of meat. A ham is just so versatile, and there's so much to do with it after Christmas day so that it becomes more than one meal. All I do is score the ham and put some honey and freshly squeezed orange juice over it. Put it in at 140 degree for two hours. The honey makes it go nice and colourful, as caramelisation happens."
Chyka Keebaugh: If you haven't got enough platters, go to the nursery and buy planter saucers. You can line them with baking paper and put salad I the middle of them. Wooden boards can be bought and used as placemats for something different. I also put salads or fruits in glass vases. Putting berries in vases looks dramatic and impressive. When food is going down the centre of the table, put some on cake stands so you have layered heights to make the table pop."
THE GREAT OUTSOURCE
Michael Whitehead, Centre Manager at Chadstone: "We have a new valet service and parcel pick-ups. With the valet, we've got software so that you can SMS when you want your car to be ready, or ask the valet to come pick up your bag from a store and drop it back to the car for you. If you want to be indulgent in the lead up to Christmas, why not come stay at the new Hotel Chadstone? You could have a swim at the rooftop pool, go to the day spa, head to Pastore for dinner – and then, if you check in on the 22nd, take advantage of the 34-hour trade, which starts at 8am on the 23rd and closes at 6pm on the 24th. You could shop at two in the morning. It takes all the hassle out of Christmas. The hotel is also doing a pop-up with Veuve, where you can personalise a tin with your name on it.
We have a digital gift guide created by our ambassadors, but our best-selling Christmas present is probably Lego. At the centre, we've gone back to a traditional style Christmas theme: we've got an 11-metre high Christmas tree with talking reindeers and snow falling every hour, and pantomime shows outside DJs, with proceeds going to the Starlight Foundation. And of course there's a huge amount of food to buy. On the 23rd and 24th, our fish shop will go through three tonnes of prawns and the poultry shop will go through 1000 kilos of turkey. Colonial Fruit will go through 1.5 tonnes of mangoes. The advantage of that is, you could come here on the 23rd and get everything done in one day.
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