How To Host Your First Christmas

How To Host Your First Christmas

Don’t freak out if it’s all happening at yours on Christmas Day. From cocktails to playlists and DIY decorations…we’ve got it SO sorted for you

What To Cook For The Veggies
By InStyle’s food writer Elly Pear

The Christmas table is overflowing with veggie delights anyway…  I’d be more than happy to pile my plate up with amazing roast parsnips and potatoes, plus loads of greens, cranberry sauce and my ultimate Crimbo essential: bread sauce. But making a mega centerpiece is always worth the extra effort. Every year, I make a nut Wellington. I’ve done the same for years and I look forward to eating it for months. Like cooking a turkey, it’s quite a bit of work, but everyone – including the meat eaters – will love it.

Take your favourite veggie stuffing + a big bag of mixed nuts, roughly chopped + sautéed mushrooms and sage (the king of Christmas herbs)

Combine all of the above with enough egg to bind, then treat as you would a salmon en croute – wrap the mixture in puff pastry and decorate the top with holly leaves made from the pastry scraps. Bake in the oven for 45 minutes, or until puffed up and golden.

The book Fast Days and Feast Days by Elly Pear is out 5 May 2016

Deck The Halls (On A Budget)
by blogger Alexandra Steadman

As much as I love Christmas, there’s no need to go over budget on decorations. Save that for the food and booze. I love bringing out a few special ‘festive only’ purchases to spruce up the house for the season, and my advice would be to keep things simple and chic. It’ll look more expensive if you keep to a luxe colour palette – this year, I’m going for Nordic grey with a splash of copper.

Copper accents
H&M’s Home range is so good and really affordable. I love their copper pieces, chic trays and cushions. And Habitat has so much more than furniture – marble chopping boards, great tea lights and gorgeous copper cutlery.

Candle holder, £7.99 (

Festive lighting
I like to feel like I’m in a New York warehouse apartment at Christmas – not my tiny south London flat – and string lights keep the dream alive. A star-shaped light sure makes things look festive – you can even keep it out after Christmas.

LED star light, £150 (

Homely touches
Christmas just isn’t Christmas without a bit of nostalgia. Every year, I dig out A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens and place it on my fireplace, next to a seasonal scented candle. Also, my house is mainly grey, so I like any other decorations to blend in seamlessly, like this cushion. You always need a Christmas cushion.

Cushion, £19.50 (

5 frugal festive tips:
1.Buy candles in bulk from Tiger and Ikea.
2.Wrap your presents in brown paper from the 99p Store.
3.Have a fake tree; it’s more affordable to pull it out of the loft every year.
4.Do your big food shop at Lidl.
5.Buy your Christmas cards for the following year in the January sales.

Read Alex’s blog about staying chic on a budget at

MORE: how to win Monopoly and other games at Christmas

DIY Decorations
by craft blogger Christine Leech

You will need:
• 25cm x 50cm pieces of different coloured crêpe paper • Scissors • A ruler • Cord

STEP 1 Fold your piece of crêpe paper in half. Making sure you have the fold at the top, cut into the paper to make a fringe. Leave 10cm at the top uncut.

STEP 2 Open out the rectangle, then roll the paper tightly from one straight, long end to the other.

STEP 3 Twist the centre to secure it, leaving two streamer shapes at either end.

STEP 4 Fold the tassel in half.

STEP 5 Twist both halves together, being sure to leave a loop at the top.

STEP 6 Repeat with the other pieces of paper and then string them all onto your chosen piece of cord.

Christine Leech blogs at

The Easiest Homemade Sweets (Ever!)
by caramel queen Chloe Timms

MAKES ABOUT 12 (depending on scoop size)

• 110g caster sugar • 30g butter • 200g condensed milk • 1tsp sea salt • 100g cornflakes • Edible glitter

Begin by measuring out all of the ingredients – it’s a quick recipe so it’s best to be prepared and have everything already to hand.

Place the sugar in a large heavy bottomed pan and heat on medium/low. The sugar should start to caramelise after a few minutes. Stir gently, folding the mixture over the remaining sugar to achieve an even liquid consistency, bashing up any lumps as you go. Cook the caramel until it’s the colour of a copper coin and is just starting to smoke. You want it to be just verging on burnt.

Hit the caramel with the butter and stir to combine – it will splutter!

Quickly add the condensed milk, then stir thoroughly and add the salt.

Remove the pan from the heat and add the cornflakes, mixing well to coat every flake evenly.

Leave the mixture to cool slightly to avoid burnt hands.

Prepare your work surface with a large piece of parchment and have a bowl of water to hand.

Using an ice cream scoop, portion out mounds of the mixture, dampening your hands in the water as you go and compressing the heaps to help them to stick together.

Sprinkle with edible glitter for an extra special, Christmassy touch.

Leave to set for 30 minutes (if you can wait that long).

These can be stored in an airtight container for three days.

You can find Chloe selling her bocaditos and other caramel goodies every Saturday at London’s Druid Street Market, SE1 (

The Ultimate Alternative Christmas Playlist
by Ruth And Martin’s Album Club

It’s that time of year when songs about sleigh bells, reindeers and generally being cold get played everywhere you go. And if you don’t go anywhere, they’ll come to your house, carrying lanterns and singing in your face. It’s intense. So, you need a great playlist of songs you may have never heard. Here goes our gift to you…

Christmas Wrapping by Summer Camp
A much better version of that song by The Waitresses that we love, but finally got bored of by Christmas 1997.

That Was the Worst Christmas Ever! by Sufjan Stevens
Presumably he wrote this because we hadn’t come up with our playlist yet. Blame InStyle, Sufjan –they only asked us this year.

It’s Cliched To Be Cynical At Christmas by Half Man Half Biscuit
They’re right, it is. The best advice from a Christmas song since Do They Know It’s Christmas?

Christmas by The Who 
From a rock opera about a deaf, dumb and blind kid who’s great at Pinball. #Festive

Santa Claus Go Straight to the Ghetto by James Brown
Again, good advice. Let those posh kids wait.

Sleigh Ride by The Ronettes
OK, you’ve heard this one, but it’s still bloody brilliant and if it isn’t on your Christmas playlist then you’re probably one of those weirdos who cooks birds within birds.

2,000 Miles by Mark Kozelek
The Pretenders song covered by Sun Kil Moon frontman and professional miserablist, Mark Kozelek. A serious music journalist would use the word ‘haunting’.

Don’t Believe in Christmas by The Sonics
Fills the ‘60s garage rock’ gap on the playlist perfectly.

Back Door Santa by Clarence Carter
And the award for the most inappropriate Christmas song title goes to…

Just like Christmas by Low
Who’d have thought that a bunch of Mormons from Minnesota would write the best Christmas song ever? No one, but that’s exactly what they did.

Read classic album reviews on the Ruth and Martin’s Album Club blog –
Click here for the playlist on Spotify

MORE: Claudia Winkleman's Christmas rules

Post-turkey Cocktails
by Experimental Cocktail Club

The Handsome Jack is an elegant, boozy and  slightly sweet cocktail. The maple syrup and Chartreuse provide an earthiness, the rye gives it a kick and the cognac adds a sweet, smooth finish. It’s intense, but great for cold nights… and our favourite way to finish the Christmas meal.

Handsome Jack

• 20ml Rittenhouse Straight Rye 100 Proof Whiskey • 20ml Pierre Ferrand Cognac • 15ml Aperol • 20ml Byrrh • 3ml Green Chartreuse • 3ml maple syrup • 2 dashes of Angostura Bitters • 2 dashes of Peychaud’s Bitters • 1 piece of pared lemon rind • Ice

Place all of the ingredients in a mixing glass, fill it with ice cubes and stir gently until slightly diluted. Strain into a chilled coupette glass, then squeeze the lemon rind over the drink to release the oils and discard it.

Romée de Goriainoff, Pierre-Charles Cros, Olivier Bon and Xavier Padovani are co-founders of ECC Chinatown and authors of Experimental Cocktail Club: The Way We Drink (£20, Octopus Books)

Expandable Waistbands (And How To Look Chic In Them)
by style blogger Julia Rebaudo

Christmas should always be about comfort. Eating loads of food and hanging out with the family means finding an outfit that you can cuddle up in comfortably on the sofa. Or floor.

Leather leggings are a brilliant solution. Mine are from Hush (£330, and are such a great find! They’re super flattering like skinny jeans, but have the elasticated comfort of leggings. Plus, the hems are raw, so you can just cut them to your perfect length.

The rest is even easier: layer up with an oversized boyfriend knit and a slouchy jersey cardigan worn on top. I wear this one by Uncivilized all the time (£65, It’s unrestrictive, cosy and relaxed.

And of course, cashmere socks (try and a pair of sheepskin slippers (my faves are from are the perfect indulgent final touch.

Read Julia’s style blog at

MORE: Are you a Christmas fashion Grinch?

The Best Emergency Presents
by InStyle’s fashion features editor Hannah Rochell

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from my mum, it’s to have a stash of small emergency presents – wrapped and ready-to-go – in case of unexpected guests. Make them inexpensive but really nice, and then you won’t mind keeping them for yourself if the festive period ends up being quiet! Oh, and don’t forget a handful of blank Christmas cards you can write at the last minute, too…

Cute matches
Light My Fire matches, £5.95, Archivist at Selfridges (

Posh chocolate
Cow Milk chocolate, £7, Mast Brothers at Cissy Wears (

Decorative soap

Sunglasses soap, £6, Primal Elements at Liberty (

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