How many people are you feeding at Christmas? Do you have enough plates? What will you do if not? Buy more? Borrow some? Mix different sets? Is there anything you could adjust? Are the kids small enough to use salad plates? Would they prefer festive plastic plates?
Also check your cutlery, and glasses and if you don’t have enough, I can probably lend you some of mine, because Wendy rang me last night and said, “Janet, you know our cruise?”
Of course I do.
“We set sail on the twentieth. I’ve just found out.”
“The twentieth of January? How’s that going to get you back for first term?”
“The twentieth of December. We’ll be away for Christmas.”
I was aghast.
“I told you Gertruda was devious! And I can’t say no now. Everyone is looking forward to it so much – and it is a tropical cruise. I don’t want to miss it either.”
Do you know who that leaves on my guest list for Christmas dinner? Just Matthew and me. I confess I cried, but it wasn’t for the loss of the splendid Christmas I’ve been looking forward to, it was because my whole family seems quite happy to do without me. But crying doesn’t change anything, so I eventually pulled myself together and started to recut my plans. (We won’t need the extension for the dining table. In fact, we could use the little table on the porch and still have plenty of room for water jugs and walnuts. And crackers: I made fourteen, so we can have seven each. How festive.)
 My friend Fiona and her sisters couldn’t decide who should get their mother’s dinner service when she died, so they split it. This meant that none of them had enough dishes for even a weekday dinner so they all went out and bought more. Between them, they ended up with three dozen identical place settings so they all borrowed from each other whenever they had a big party. “The initial fight ended up with us working together,” says Jill. “I think my mother would have liked that.”
 They can be pretty gaudy, but kids usually like gaudy.