How To Dress The Christmas Tree Without Losing Your Sanity First

One piece of advice I will be eternally grateful to my mother for is ‘don’t take life too seriously,’ and I have been forced to live by this approach each year as I dress the Christmas Tree. 23915791_1546298868783446_2538083681710659730_n




And it has very nearly killed me.


Every year I think that this will be the year we grow up as a family and I will be allowed to create those trees you see in home magazines, where they don’t have kids or animals and they do have loads of money,  and every year it’s the same. Either: a) I’m disappointed with the result, because it looks boring rather than sophisticated and so and I start to slap all the crappy ornaments and tinsel back onto it, or b) Kurt redesigns he thinks I’m not looking.


I know that Christmas is about bringing joy to the family and it’s probably about time that I accepted that my family likes a bit of kitsch at Christmas, but…


This year I decided to grasp my first opportunity to decorate the tree myself – although the kids don’t know that yet. I’d meticulously planned the day for a while – it’s called taking advantage while the kids are out earning money (not for rent, I hasten to add, but for their weekly supply of avocado on toast and party drugs). ‘It just happened that way,’ I’m going to say when their disappointed faces walk through the door later this evening and they realize that they can’t destroy my Christmas tree, nay my Christmas, for the first time in, like, forever.


And I have made some style improvements this year. I have decided that as the kids still live at home on the basis of our goodwill, I get to say what goes on MY fucking tree. Which means I’ve erased all memory of those dreadful kindy homemade decorations which for the past fifteen years I’ve stuck around the back of the tree and the minute I turn my back, Kurt replaces at the front; and I’ve also attempted a color theme, so any ornament that hasn’t met the stringent demands of my design brief has copped it.


In light of my new experience today, here are my tips for a perfect tree:


Do not let the children anywhere near it.

A bottle of festive wine will be required before attempting to unravel the lights/tinsel/fake snowballs on a string because some selfish fucker just shoved them in the box last year. This is a mindfuck of a test in the early stages of the process that (if you’re not careful/drunk enough) can completely ruin your festive cheer before you’ve really started.

Use a dodgy adapter for the lights so that any children that do touch the tree will be shocked into not touching it again.

Lather the branches in as much tinsel as they will hold for superior kitschiness.

The more naff animal ornaments, the naffer your tree will be.

Destroy any baubles that do not tie in with your color theme – don’t get all emotional about the fugly bauble that your grandmother left you – your creativity is under public scrutiny here, and the glass ball wrapped in a doily could fuck that up. It is with sadness that I must report that the pink bauble that NC made in her first year at school (barf!) didn’t coordinate with the organic effect that I hoped to achieve with my white/red/aqua/tropical/Hamptons/beach themed tree – as such, it has been laid to rest this year.

Theming is difficult with OCD. Try to remind yourself that the tree is a natural thing (mine happens to be artificially natural) and therefore not perfect. If that doesn’t work, take everything off and start again.

Book cats into the cattery for the duration of the holidays or use as an alternative to turkey for Christmas lunch.


‘Tis The Season Of The Family Holiday

It’s that character-building time of the year when all those carefully thwarted irritations caused by living with people you didn’t choose to live with, are thrown squarely into the spotlight on the family holiday. family-932245_1280


Why I insist on instilling this week of hell bonding I have no idea, but I get sentimental after I watch the Americans celebrate Thanksgiving and we begin the final approach to the silly season. All those movies like Love Actually, The Holiday and Home Alone remind me of the importance of keeping families together, no matter how far apart our life journeys take us.


Why I should feel the need to do this when our young adults refuse to leave home, I don’t know, but the aim of this week is to get through it to be thankful for what we have and to remind each other how much we really love and appreciate each other. I expert either Kurt or the old man to be back on the road by day two.  


We’ve allowed the kids to invite a friend this year, with certain conditions drawn up by our solicitor. We want to encourage their friendships, show them how much we respect them as young adults and demonstrate to them how chilled we can be by this out-of-character ‘more the merrier’ approach, but we also hope that their friends provide enough of a distraction that we don’t have to actually do anything to entertain them ourselves.


We have yet to meet Kurt’s friend in person because each time he has come to the house so far he is stowed away in Kurt’s den as fast as you can say ‘Marijuana’, so the only evidence of his visits are the sound of his baritone laugh, an increase in the smoke levels in the courtyard and a shared enthusiasm for twanging ‘Waltzing Matilda’ on guitar late at night. He did order in a pizza the other night under the name of Donald Trump, so I assume he has a sense of humour.


We’re not over-anxious parents but Kurt and his friend don’t arrive at our holiday home until the day after we leave Sydney and so to avoid the temptation of the current teenage trend for a ‘free’ at our place – teenage slang for when the “rents” are away, hence a free house to destroy – we need to make sure he leaves before we do, check every orifice for any spare keys he may have secreted, and hire guards (at great expense) for each boundary of the property.


NC’s friend has replaced The Astronaut – he who can never be mentioned but whose loss the old man and I continue to grieve over when we’re drunk, much to her disgust. Hopefully she matches NC’s current enthusiasm for all-night partying which means we won’t see them much of them.


The best part about this holiday is that it is a dog-friendly establishment and so The Princess is coming with us and her superior parenting skills should keep things vaguely civil. Hopefully this means that the old man won’t be tempted to spoon me in the bed for our annual Christmas ‘cuddle’ and we won’t have to endure her un-stoic suffering at the kennels on the pet-cam either. When the suitcases came out, her usual panic attack provoked by separation anxiety was quickly quashed once we gave her her own back pack which she has been filling with relish with her toys and the contents of hers and Kurt’s Advent calendar ever since.


The old man and I remain optimistic about long walks along the beach, time for reading, a chance to catch up on the one or two British Netflix series that we haven’t yet done marathon screenings of when hungover and some culinary indulgence. With four twenty-somethings (who we suspect are only really coming for the free booze), and an anxious dog, what could possibly go wrong?