My turn to host AGAIN - ideas for making life easier(9 Posts)
I've been hosting Christmas at my house since DS was born and he will be 15 this year BIL and SIL were supposed to be buying a huge house in the summer and I was looking forward to being a very bad house guest over christmas but unfortunately the purchase fell through and they are still in tiny rented accomodation. So its all round to chez webwiz again.
The christmas timetable is as follows: My parents arrive about a week before christmas and stay for several days, they leave and as soon as bedding is changed PIL arrive. I am usually ok at this point and it works like a well oiled machine. Both DD's will be home from university for Christmas and we have boyfriends staying for several days that haven't been agreed yet. This is all fine so far but once we get to boxing day and BIL and SIL arrive I start flagging. There are also "issues" between SIL and MIL that bubbled over a bit last year and there was some falling out in a rather heated row about opinions on capital punishment (you had to be there to appreciate it!).
The thought of all the menu planning, shopping, cooking and of course expense is filling me with horror this year and I really want ideas to try and make it as easy as possible.
Well, my first thought is to warn everyone in advance that they will be allocated chores to do, this applies to dd's boyfriends too (maybe this will put the BF's off coming!) I'm sure your parents could strip their bedding for you before they leave, and someone else can make the bed up or help you do it. In fact, if coming by car, could your parents bring their own sheets, pillowcases, duvet covers and towels, then strip and take them home to wash?
Decide on some stews and things that won't spoil if people are delayed arriving. Delegate preparation to DD's and BF's if there are other things needing your attention. You can bulk up stews with lots of root veg to make them go further.
Regarding fall outs, I think you need to raise the subject and make it clear that 'issues' are left at the door, you as host want and deserve a relaxing time not worrying about when a row will start. Warn that an argument will have to be taken outside, and certainly not be allowed to continue at the meal table. If it's DP's family he ought to back you up on this. If the rows are alcohol fuelled, limit the amount of alcohol that you buy and have available at home (as part of your economising) if people want more they can go and buy more themselves, or bring it with them.
I would expect people to contribute some things towards the catering, how you go about this is up to you. You can either agree that they will bring certain things, or ask for cash upfront if that is easier so that you can get the components that you need for meals. I would be deeply ashamed to stay with family for Christmas and not help or bring food/drink, if I wasn't able to entertain them in return on another occasion.
Have you got a slow cooker? They can be very useful for sticking large quantities of food on to cook with minimal effort. Or even a big casserole dish that you can put on low in the oven for the day.
Also think in terms of assembling food for some meals rather than cooking it, things like platters of ham and salad and French sticks that are pre Cooked and you heat up when needed.
Or say it's going to be soup and sarnies for lunch every day and ask people to be on soup duty once in their stay. They could even bring the raw ingredients with them. Sandwiches put the bread and fillings on the table for people to do themselves (more assembly rather than cooking!)
I like the idea of allocating chores - I could make a list of what will need doing each day and get people to choose something. DD1 is studying in America at the moment and won't be arriving back till the December 23rd. DH has offered to do the drive to Heathrow but I could go with him and leave a list of things to do for everyone else in the house.
Stews sound good too and we do normally have soup or sandwiches for lunches. I usually make a choice of homemade soups and some fresh homemade bread but I think I'll just see if I feel in a soup making mood one day and if not I get some tins in! Ham, salad and baguettes would be easy as well.
MIL was mortified after the row and at Easter when we had everyone round, I noticed that she didn't drink very much during the meal so she was obviously keen to keep her cool (SIL doesn't drink much anyway). People normally do bring wine as a contribution so that does help but BIL and SIL usually bring a couple of bottles of expensive wine and I think that's a bit wasted on the rest of us!
Up until last year I have really enjoyed Christmas but last year was the first time that it felt like hard work - it didn't help that I was only just getting over huge back problems. I did think that we would get to go to BIL and SIL this year and I was quite looking forward to it all being someone else's job. Ah well maybe next year!
I find it isn't the work as such that is hard, it's the planning and thinking and remembering and generally being responsible for every little thing. So my top tip is to tell your dh that he is in charge this year, and you will of course help with anything he needs - if he wants some carrots peeled he has only to ask. As long as it is a string of small jobs he's giving you, not something like "cook Christmas dinner".
That's what I'd do.
And I'd deff be the one swanning off to heathrow to
get out of the house by myself and meet my dd.
Could you suggest going out to eat some evenings and everyone paying for themselves?
serin if we were talking about normal people then going out would be nice but any meal outside the house involving the ILs is fraught with difficulty (too long and boring to explain here!) even takeaways are a bit of a nightmare
WhereDidAllThePuffinsGo yes it is the planning and filling up of general headspace that's the problem. I've just bought the Ideal Home guide to Christmas and it has some recipes that can be made ahead and frozen so I'm going to use three of those.
I think DH would recoil in horror if he was put in charge - he tends to be sous chef and waiter!
How close do your parents and in laws live? How about asking them to make a couple of dishes each before christmas to go in your freezer? Then you'd have a few nights sorted. Or send a shopping list to everyone with their contribution clearly marked (one family sort wine, one cheese board etc) and get everyone to bring their own sheets and towels, and take them back. No one decent minds if you make it clear and suggest it in plenty of time. To be fair my sil would mind, but then she minds everything.
i host every other year and ask everyone for a specific contribution -ie cheese for cheese board, crackers, mince pies, an additional pud for those that dont like christmas pud etc and everyone has to bring what ever they think they'll want to drink. cuts down hugely on cost and i keep a list of who is bringing what so nothing gets duplicated etc. we also ask everyone who is staying to bring own bedding and towels which also reduces the work! then we dont mind hosting and everyone has fun!
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