Lifestyle & interior design Agony Aunt answers your questions this December

It’s that time of year already, can you believe it? If you can’t, you obviously haven’t braved one of London’s favourite shopping hotspots like Oxford Street or Westfield yet, which means that a) you probably have a few more hairs on your head than I do and b) you’re either behind on your Chrissy shopping or have been very clever this year and have managed to do it all online!

London Mums Magazine working with Landmark Lofts agony aunt Aneliese

Landmark Lofts agony aunt Aneliese working with London Mums Magazine

This month’s questions focus on – you guessed it – Christmas! Please don’t hesitate to send any questions you have about home improvements, decorating, space-saving techniques or maintaining a sense of style in the face of kids my way in time for January’s column and the first of 2014.

Q: We’ve just moved house in time for Christmas and decided to throw out most of our old Christmas decorations so now I’ve been tasked with building them up from scratch again! Do you have any suggestions for keeping costs down and creating different and unique spaces and arrangements, year after year? – Sue from Teddington

A: Sue, that’s quite a task you’ve got ahead of you, especially with only 2 weeks to go until the big day! What I’d suggest for this year is to buy a white tree. I suggest this because white trees have the ‘wow’ factor and expenditure doesn’t have to be huge because a small white tree will have the same impact as a larger green one. Also, you don’t need as many decorations for a white tree – in fact, buying a selection of basic decorations in the one colour, for example blue or red, makes an elegant and unique statement.

Once you’ve got some decorations to work with, you can grow your collection by adding a handful of new items every year. You can also mix arrangements and placements up to keep your scheme looking unique and fresh time after time without breaking the bank!

Q: Do you have any favourite healthy Christmas snacks you make when you’re playing host around this time of year? – Maree from Southwark

A: Being a mum, I’m conscious about what my kids are putting into their mouths, especially around Christmas-time when sugar and therefore hyperactivity and tantrums are only ever an arm’s length away. When I’m playing hostess, I make open-top mince pies which require less pastry, and I opt for filo pastry instead of traditional pastry. I also made a batch of whole-wheat cookies last Christmas that went down a treat – I don’t think the kids even noticed the difference! For myself, because I’m a self-confessed dip addict I always make sure that there are healthier tomato-based dips on hand and rice cakes or plain corn chips instead of crisps and crackers to tuck into them with. It’s little changes like this that make all the difference and don’t sacrifice flavour!

Q: I put my hand up to host Christmas this year months ago and now I’m really regretting it because I’ve taken inventory and I don’t have enough furniture, crockery and tableware to go around. Do you know of any reasonably-priced places where I can get supplies, and do you have any suggestions for pulling everything together and making it look uniform? – Jen from Richmond

A: Argos is great for kitchen essentials, and cheap too! However, I have an even better suggestion that your purse will love even more. Unless you’re planning on entertaining a large party in the foreseeable future, ask your friends and family to pitch in by lending you items. You’re doing all of the work by playing host this year so nobody will mind – in fact, they’ll probably jump at the chance to chip in! After you’ve gathered enough supplies, try to use your own tableware set on the main table and the borrowed items on the kiddies table so that differences in style, size and colour aren’t noticed, or take a different approach by experimenting with design and alternating different items and making that the theme of your Christmas lunch a reflection of your extended family and everyone’s input.

2013, it’s been a blast, and a classy one at that!

Until next time,

Aneliese

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