The one good thing about having a party on the 18th December is that it forces you to tidy away all the clutter beforehand, and give the house a thorough cleaning afterwards. Spent much of Saturday washing sofa covers and scrubbing the kitchen (don't ask) with the result that everywhere is now looking unnaturally tidy, gleaming and like the home of someone who is in control of the whole Christmas juggernaut.
Of course, this is all a complete illusion, but at least after a last frantic shopping day yesterday the daughters are roughly equal in present terms. This is an annual challenge; balancing the number of parcels to be unwrapped with both the 'wow factor' and the amount spent, and having three girls makes it particularly challenging. Choosing sparkly fripperies that are equal in charm and value and yet still distinctly original and well-suited to the daughter in question requires a range of skills that you could only possibly hope to find if you melted together the brains of a management accountant, a psychologist, Kofi Anan and one of those style journalists who do annoying London-centric shopping features in Sunday magazines.
Anyway, in the midst of all this it's been fabulous to discover that so many people took the time out of their own festive preparations to answer the competiton question for a chance to win a copy of Powerful Italian Penniless Housekeeper (and it's also been gorgeous to get your messages in the emails too.) The daughters picked two winners each from an empty Quality Street box, and the names that came out are... Peggy, Jacqueline, Kelly, Jayne H, Sri and Susan. I'll email you later to get addresses and put the books in the post (where they'll no doubt spend a quiet Christmas, but hopefully arrive soon after.)
Am now off to look for something to give the children for breakfast. This year I very cunningly booked my Sainsburys online shop well in advance and felt enormously smug and in control. However, when it was delivered on Sunday I remembered that I'd only ordered bizarre seasonal items like dill sauce, mini-sausages-wrapped-in-bacon and 300 lemons and there isn't a box of Cheerios in sight.
(I wonder what toast and brandy butter is like?)