Although I realize it is difficult to avoid stressful moments altogether at this time of year, I have decided to focus on the traditions that are really important to our family, and which ones won't be missed. In years past, you could say our family was over the top with everything...decorating, entertaining, food and gift-giving. Such decadence! Some of these traditions will remain (hey, it's traditional to eat until you can't breathe, isn't it?) but since I am hosting the festivities I plan to do the following, for my own sanity and so we can fully enjoy what the season is really all about:
1. Sending greeting cards: Sorry no family photos this year, and no guilt for not getting them done in time either! The important thing is letting your friends and family know you are thinking of them, even if you don't have time to visit as often as you'd like.
2. Pared down baking: Shortbread, ginger cookies, butter tarts, & chocolates. (what else do you need?) Food is a big part of the Holidays for most.
Pick your favorites and skip the rest.
3. Cleaning: No cleaning until 2 days before guests are arriving. Yes, those two days will be stressful but why drive yourself crazy trying to maintain a perfect household so far in advance? Impossible in my case with 3 teens and twin toddlers.
4. Gifts: Make a list! Keep track of what you've bought, so you don't overspend- a major stress inducer, and really try to buy thoughtful gifts rather than expensive ones.
It makes people feel warm and fuzzy if you remember, and buy something they mentioned months ago.
Buy a few extras for unexpected gift givers or guests. Things such as chocolates, wine or gift certificates are always appreciated.
Pick one day and WRAP IT ALL. Yes, that day will be busy but you will only have your supplies all over the place for that one day. Use brown craft paper(eco friendly) and plaid or gold ribbon, or even twine; saves on waste and still looks "Country Chic." Top it with a pine cone or berry sprig for a bow.
5. Decorating indoors: Keep it tasteful...not tacky. I prefer to decorate the main living areas injust a few colors and add lots of natural greenery (which I am fortunate enough to be able to get from my backyard) and white twinkling lights. Clear bowls with sparkling ornaments, lots of candles, and potted amaryllis or paperwhites all look elegant with little effort or expense.This creates a unified warm look and feeling to the space. Instead of spreading your collection of snowmen throughout the house, display them in a group for more interest.
Don't feel like you have to decorate every nook and cranny; remember, less is always more.
6. Decorating outdoors: Light up one big tree or several shrubs-don't risk life and limb scaling a frost covered slippery roof just to hang lights that you will be taking down 3 weeks later with your frost bitten fingers. (or leaving up to annoy neighbours well into Spring)
Hang a beautiful wreath on the door. Don't be afraid to skip the giant inflatables and fake jumbo candy canes either.
7. Hosting parties: Do as much as you can ahead of time so you can really enjoy yourself too. It makes your guests more comfortable if you can relax and have fun, and not just spend the whole evening catering, cooking and cleaning up the kitchen. The mess can wait until later. Keep the menu to "make aheads" and remember, most people are happy to bring something.
If you have overnight guests, prepare a make ahead breakfast (stratas are GREAT for this...recipe to follow) Pair it with a fresh fruit platter and voila...you're an amazing hostess!
8. Attending parties: Pick a maximum of 2-3 so as not to overwhelm yourself with obligations. If one of those is a staff party, keep it professional by refraining to over-imbibe. People will not let you forget it if you end up dancing on the table with your boss or knocking over the Christmas tree on your 10th visit to the washroom.