Christmas arrived early at TV and radio star Toni Street's place this year. The tree went up at the start of November, decorations were dusted off and carols have been blaring ever since. The Coast breakfast host might be a festive fanatic, but even for her, this was a little more enthusiastic than usual.
"We decided to go hard and early," laughs Toni, borrowing Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's famous line. "We really needed to break the monotony of lockdown and lift everyone's spirits. The kids loved it and excitement levels have been super-high ever since."
She might be smiling, but Toni is the first to admit she's ready fora holiday. The 38-year-old mum-of-three is used to being busy, but 2021 has been one to top them all. She released a bestselling book, hosted the TVNZ coverage of both the America's Cup and the Olympic Games, moved into a new house, home-schooled her children throughout Auckland's long lockdown and all the while continued to rise at 4am each day for her radio gig.
Fortunately for Toni, she has a month of rest and relaxation ahead of her, and she simply can't wait for December 18, when she and husband Matt France will board a plane with their children Juliette, nine, Mackenzie, six, and Lachie, three, to fly to her hometown of New Plymouth. It's been almost five months since they saw Toni's Taranaki-based parents Geoff and Wendy, and the kids (and grown-ups!) can barely contain their excitement.
"This is the longest they've gone without seeing their nana and granddad in their entire lives," Toni tells Woman's Day. "We've had some very teary moments. Juliette was crying her eyes out the other day, saying, 'I never get to see Nana and Grandad any more.' Usually Mum and Dad come up to stay at least every few weeks, so this has been upsetting for them too. Everyone's missing each other very much."
Toni and her wha-nau will spend a few days on the family farm, before they all head back to Auckland for a celebratory Christmas at Toni and Matt's new North Shore pad, where they'll be joined by extended family, including Matt's mum Mary, who lives in Christchurch.
Toni and Matt, 37, moved in just before the level 4 lockdown in August, and the star can't wait to finally throw open the doors to friends and relatives. The day will start with presents – "because the kids can never wait" – followed by the Street family tradition of waffles for breakfast. "That's about when we crack open the bubbles too!"
At about 1pm, they'll sit down for a long lunch of turkey (courtesy of Wendy, who uses a secret brine recipe) and all the trimmings. Dessert will be Toni's famous trifle and her mum's pavlova with fresh berries. If the weather gods are smiling, the former Seven Sharp host hopes they'll end the day on the beach for a picnic dinner of leftovers.
"I love everything about Christmas," she tells. "It's the traditions and rituals that make it so special, and the joy of being with the people you love the most."
After Christmas, it'll be straight into wedding mode for the Street family, with Toni's younger sister Kirsty, 31, set to marry her fiancé Richard in Auckland on January 6. "I'll be on rations from Boxing Day so I can fit into my bridesmaid dress," jokes Toni, adding that the whole family is crossing their fingers that the wedding will be able to go ahead.
"It's been postponed once already because of COVID, so we're just all hoping there won't be any curveballs this time. It's so exciting."
But as with any major family event, the wedding will also be a day to remember Toni's lost siblings – her twin brother Lance, who died at 18 months from leukaemia, baby sister Tracy, who was born without kidneys, and little brother Stephen, who was killed in a quad-bike accident at age 14.
Toni still can't believe how well her book has been received and says that the process of writing was hugely cathartic. "It was initially terrifying to open up about everything, but I have no regrets at all. It's helped my family to remember the ones we lost and to have conversations that we put off for too long.
"But it's also been amazing to know it's made a difference to other people. I receive messages every single day from people going through similar things, who say my book has helped them feel less isolated and alone."
Next year is already shaping up to be exciting for Toni, who has been announced as the host of ASB Gamechanger, a new TVNZ show that follows Kiwis struggling financially. With a team of experts, she'll work closely with them to help them get back on their feet.
"It might be someone with huge credit-card debt or a family desperate to own their own home. I just love the idea that we can help people with their financial wellbeing because it's so important, particularly in these COVID times, where things have been tough for many."
She admits she hasn't always been great with money herself, but she and Matt – who celebrated their 12-year wedding anniversary this month – sought help from a financial planner several years ago and it was life-changing.
"For me, setting up separate accounts for things like holidays and groceries made it that much easier to know exactly where we were spending our money, and then we were able to take control," she explains.
Toni is excited about getting back on the road and she can't wait to meet the 10 Kiwis chosen for the show.
"It's actually the part of the job I love most, meeting people from all walks of life because it's such a privilege and I've missed that in recent years. I also think that after the year we've had, we all need some positivity. Uplifting telly is what we all need right now."
In the meantime, though, Toni is looking forward to sitting back and revelling in her summer holiday. She's got her togs and sunhat ready, and an open invitation has been issued to friends and family to join them at their beachside home. In mid-January, she, Matt and the kids will escape to a rented bach in the Coromandel for a blissful week away with Wendy and Geoff.
"There's going to be a lotof socialising happening this summer, that's for sure. Barbecues, backyard cricket, drinks on the deck… I just can't wait. But the best part will be seeing the people I love. It's been too long."
Give Us A Clue Christmas Special, screening Sunday, December 19 at 7.30pm on TVNZ 1.