Anthea Turner’s top tips for the holidays

The host of BBC Canada’s Perfect Housewife chats with Chatelaine

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In her native England, Anthea Turner is a celebrity, with a 15-year career in media and a stint on Celebrity Big Brother. Chances are, however, that you’ve never heard of her; I certainly hadn’t before phoning her in London. With her show Perfect Housewife becoming cult viewing in the U.K., I wasn’t sure what to expect. Would she be a snooty upper-crust type? A dry, dull matron? Thankfully, I couldn’t be more wrong. Turner is instantly charming, warm and laugh-out-loud funny, with a practical streak that proves why she’s the “perfect housewife.” Read below for Turner’s top tips for surviving the holidays without going, as the British say, Absolutely bonkers.

The organized Christmas fairies

Most men think the fairies make Christmas happen – somehow the presents get bought and wrapped, the tree gets decorated and the cards get sent. They wake up December 25th and it’s all lovely! To really enjoy Christmas this year, I’m mentally pretending that it’s actually the 25th of November. Although I won’t be completely ready, I get the worst over. Prep is everything, the earlier you start the easier it is on you. If you start to buy things now, financially it’s not such a burden on your credit card, your spending is spread out. We all have an idea of how much we’re going to spend on each person, but we feel must buy extra this and extra that. Don’t do that silly thing of getting more than you are going to eat or need. The shops will all be open Boxing Day.

If you have an organized home, Christmas is ten times easier. Actually, everything is easier when you’re not encumbered by life’s clutter. Do a kitchen pre-clean – throw out any dusty cans in your cupboard, get rid of spices that are out of date and half-bottles of things you’ll never finish. Make sure your freezer works for its living, get rid of any meat over three months old, things gone past the sell date, ice cream with that fur all over it. In children’s rooms, throw away broken toys they don’t like anymore or give gently used toys to charity.

Don’t be a Mary Martyr

You can’t be all things to all people, work out what you want to do by hand, and what you don’t. Give everyone something to bring, delelgate, tell people what to do. I spent Diwali the Hindu festival of lights holiday with an Indian family – one person provided the home and every sister, cousin or aunt brought something. The onus wasn’t on one person. You might be roasting the turkey, but if somebody wants to bring the veg all ready, cut and peeled ready to just pop in a pan, let then!

Wrap it up!

A lot of stores do a gift wrapping service, I always ask, and if they say yes, I’ll say how much! If you have a store credit card, lots of stores will do it for free. Gift wrapping has become quite fashionable now, things you get online or by catalogues can also come pre-wrapped.

For wrapping at home, what I do is buy a box of 50 brown paper carrier bags to keep all year round, I use them for all sorts of things. I buy a lot of red, green or gold tissue paper and lovely stamps with holiday decorations. Sometimes my step-daughter will make stamps out of potato, it’ll keep her busy for hours! I make sure I’ve got some nice Christmas ribbon or tie little bits of holly to the handle. It’s so easy, unique and personal.