Christmas Countdown C -10

849e90578c67d6b315bba84e0b40566b.jpg

The Simple Joy of Holiday Entertaining

Entertaining in your home is an important part of the Holidays. Spending time with family and friends over great food is an incredible way to increase the joy of the season.

Unfortunately, most women I know groan when you mention Holiday entertaining. They are already tremendously stressed over the basic Holiday tasks that have been added to her enormous to-do list that she doesn’t know how she is ever going to get everything done. Who wants to add a party on top of that?

Well, if you do things the Simple Joy way, Holiday entertaining doesn’t have to be stressful. In fact, it can be very easy. The primary thing you must remember is:

Attend Your Own Party!

You should never invite friends over to show off.  Entertaining during the holidays is about relationships not about bragging rights.  Creating an atmosphere where guests are able to relax and enjoy themselves, you are able to move effortlessly through your guests with no stress, no fuss, no worry.

How is this possible? To begin the transformation, follow these three extremely easy steps…

Simplify, Sweetie!

To enjoy your holiday party, you must reduce the stress.  The easiest way to reduce your stress is to simplify your event.  Mommy was right, Sweetie, “Never bite off more than you can chew!”  To maintain a manageable level, follow these “simple” steps:

Simple Event

Plan a holiday event that fits well into the time you have to prepare.  There never seems to be enough time during the holidays and nothing brings on stress faster than a shortage of time.  Determine what you are able to handle and go with that.  Be honest with yourself.  Now is not the time to be Super Woman.

Simple Plans

Work smarter, not harder.  Once you decide the type of event you wish to hold, sit down with pen and paper to determine what needs to be done to prepare.  Spend your time creating your list, not running around aimlessly.  Save your energy for your party.

Simple Menu

Spending hours in the kitchen with a hot stove is simply wilting.  Plan a menu that offers dishes your guests will enjoy but will not wear you out.  You want to be with your guests at the center of the fun.  Choose dishes that can be prepared in advance or require little last minute work.  Or, follow the my Simple Joy example:  purchase pre-made dishes that only need baking or microwaving.  Remember, your guests came to see you, not your food.

Delegate, Darling!

You have chosen your event, developed a plan of action and selected your menu.  Now you need to decide who is going to do all the work.  What do you mean you thought you had to do the work?  No, no, no, darling, not when you take my advice:

Decide What Needs to Be Done

You have a plan of action.  Take the time NOW to expand on that plan.  Determine step by step exactly what needs to be done and when it needs to be done.  Break things down into very small parts if you need to.  Once you are satisfied with your list, copy it to a fresh piece of paper and keep it with you always… or at least until your party is over.

Determine What You Want to Do

With completed list in hand, study it very carefully.  What things do you want to do?  If you make great desserts, then you may want to save this activity for yourself.  If you REALLY like to clean your house, this may be the activity for you.  Pick and choose now before others get a crack at the list.

Delegate the Rest

Yes, you are actually going to ask other people to do things to help you get ready for your party.  Gee, what a novel idea!  Who are these people?  Friends, family and hired help.  You may hire a company to clean your house or cater the party.  Assign tasks to family members.  When friends and guests offer their help, accept!  Remember, your job is to attend the party.  Let others help.

Pamper, Pet!

The day of your party arrives.  Everything is going smoothly.  Now is the time for you to pamper yourself.  Take time for you so you have energy for your guests.  Here are just a few things you might do for yourself, Pet.

Take a Nap

Can’t have you nodding off in the middle of a conversation.  Don’t want any lines under your eyes.  Prevent this by taking a little nap before you get ready.  Even if you only have a short time, lie down for a few minutes.  Relax.    Smile and let all your care and tension drift away.  Prepare your mind to turn your energy from you to your guests.  Now, take a deep breath.  Let it out.  Open your eyes.  It’s time for your bath.

Take a Bath

The Queen never rushes through a shower when she prepares for a party.  Time to pull out all the Royal stops.  What better way than with a warm relaxing bubble bath.  Fill the tub with scented bath salts, light the candles, and turn on music to relax.  Then slide deep into the tub.  Lean back and let the last of your cares float away, Pet.  Not too long, though, you still need to get dressed.

Take a Breath

You’re ready.  The food is waiting.  The music is playing.  The house is perfect.  The doorbell rings.  Wait!  Not just yet.  Take a deep breath.  Now smile.  No, a big warm smile and go greet your guests.  The #1 guest (YOU) is in the house!

Christmas Countdown C -15

images-2.jpg

Family Service Project

Every child will tell you how much better it is to receive at Christmas! Not that I think kids are greedy. It’s just so exciting to find all the things Santa has brought when Christmas morning dawns. However, not everyone is joyful at Christmas. Many people are lonely without family to celebrate the Holiday season with them. Many families don’t have the resources to give their children gifts at Christmas. Many children spend Christmas in the hospital, some miles away from home.

There are so many things families can do to brighten the Holidays for the lonely or the children that might not otherwise receive a gift. Things that can encourage children & families battling illness this Christmas.

This week-end, do a search in your community for projects that need help. I really think it is important not to simply buy some gifts & drop them off at a distribution center. Kids need to be involved in the work that goes into providing a Merry Christmas to those in need, those who are alone, those away from home. Let the family decide which group they want to help, then find out how you can volunteer. It might be packing food boxes to be delivered before Christmas. It might be going to nursing homes to sing Christmas carols & deliver cards. There are so many ways we can bring the joy of Christmas to those alone in the dark. This year, let’s shine the light of Christ’s love in our communities with those that are searching in the darkness. It’s a gift for the whole family to enjoy.

Christmas Countdown C -16

07ae8c2f1a1949d273b1fddc6c21fe0e

Guests

Are you having guests stay over during the Holidays? This can be stressful for both hosts AND guests. I know there are all kinds of articles telling you how to prepare a wonderful guest room so you company is comfy during their stay. However, I would like to share a bit of advice.

As wonderful as it is to have the grandparents or the grandkids visit for Christmas, it can also be exhausting. Schedules & routines are upset. People are around all the time. They may be family but you still feel you must treat them like company. And it is tough for your guests to relax since it isn’t their home.

My suggestion is to make the guest room into a sanctuary for your guests. Let them know you don’t mind if they retreat to their room for some quiet time. If they have a television, snacks, even a coffee maker with the fixings right there for their convenience, it can make for a more relaxing visit.

And if you are the guests, give your hosts some time to relax alone. This isn’t being rude. It’s being very polite by preventing frayed nerves at the end of the day. Have books with you. Bring some snacks. Spend time relaxing away from one another & you will enjoy each others’ company so much more.

Christmas Countdown C -17

3a29f29977149c439526661da7e25bfc.jpg

Entertaining

Christmas is a great time to entertain. Your home is decorated & it’s fun to connect & visit with family & friends. I know many women are intimidated  To help simplify entertaining for you, here are 10 tips from this month’s issue of Simple Joy e-zine:

10 Step Guide to a Low Stress Holiday Entertaining

  1. Attend Your Own Party:   Follow these steps in order to be a guest at your own event.
  2. Plan Your Guest List:  Remember…it’s about the people, not the event. Always begin with the guest list.
  3. Plan Your Event: Once you know how many are coming, you can determine what type of event works best: sit down dinner, buffet, cocktail party, open house, etc.
  4. Plan Your Menu: Now you need to decide what to serve. Your menu is determined by your guests and your event. The menu is the cart; your guest list is the horse. Do Not confuse the two.
  5. Determine What Needs to Be Done:  Take time to create a list of all the things to be done to prepare for your event. Include shopping lists as well.
  6. Decide What You Want to Do:  Select two or three things from the list that you WANT to do.
  7. Delegate the Rest:  Assign the remaining tasks to other people. When guests ask if they can do anything or bring anything, always say YES!
  8. Take a Nap:  Begin transformation from hostess to guest by taking a relaxing nap. If you can’t sleep, then just relax.
  9. Take a Bath:  Now is not the time for a quick shower. Take the time for a long luxurious bath. Engage all your senses as you bathe with candles, music, fragrant bath products, lotions and chocolate.
  10. Take a Deep Breath: When the door bell announces your first guests, take a deep breath and smile. The Queen is in the house and she is entertaining.

Christmas Countdown C -18

Vintage Christmas Card022.jpg

Create a Wrapping Station

Gift wrapping can be something of a pain but there are ways to make it easier. I like to create a wrapping station so I can find everything needed when it’s time to wrap. Especially if it’s my family doing to wrapping. I like to make sure they can find everything without me having to search for all the items needed.

First, I take a small plastic container & go around filling it with the small items needed to wrap gifts. Scissors, tape, tags all go in the container.

I use a medium size box or container for ribbon. I have a selection of curly ribbon that I put in the box. I use a tall box or wrapping paper holder for all the wrapping paper. Finally, I use a container or empty box for the gift boxes that might be needed. Mr. D & the Child like to get creative when it comes to wrapping gifts, especially Mr. D. So I have an assortment of boxes at hand to help him!

As you are gathering the necessary items, this is a great time to make certain you have enough tape, ribbon, boxes & paper to do the job. Shop now for the items you need. Stores are already running out of Christmas items as people are shopping early for the best selection.

Now, create your station. I have a small, very small table I have used in the past but this year, I plan to use my small desk that sits under the breakfast bar in our home. There is room around, behind & over it to set up all the tools necessary to wrap. It is also a short walk from the desk to the tree making it easy to add wrapped presents to the others under the tree.

It’s easy to create a wrapping station. Make sure everyone know this is the place to wrap presents so the scissors, etc don’t wander off, leaving YOU searching when you want to wrap presents. Easy gift wrapping is an easy way to reduce Christmas stress for you & your family this year. Take a bit of time to prepare & everyone has reason to celebrate!

Christmas Countdown C -20

4285b6afa76bab81384ce54f0530afd8.jpg

Christmas Decorating

I know many of you have already decorated your home for Christmas however, these tips help you whether you have everything in place or everything still in boxes.

I always say “Work Smarter, Not Harder!” This means planning. Before you do any decorating, sit down & create a plan to determine what you want to do, where things are going to go & what you need to move to accomplish this. You want to have an idea where your tree is going to go & where you are going to put any furniture that the tree displaces, for example.

You should also go through your decorations to make certain nothing is damaged or needs replacing. Mr. D always tests his lights before he hangs a single strand. this ensures he doesn’t waste any time putting up a strand of lights that doesn’t work. While we are in rather balmy SoCal, many of you live in colder climates. You want to spend time INSIDE testing those lights & deciding where outdoor items are going to be placed before you head out into the cold.

You also want to check your decorations before you purchase anything new. I know how much fun it is to pick up bright & shiny new decorations each year but that expends a lot of money & can take up a lot of space, neither of which may be affordable to you & your family. Perhaps a few new items added to your existing decorations can help brighten up your Holiday home without spending too much.

Your home is more inviting & lovely this time of year. Take time to create a plan, inventory your decorations & test any electrical items & you will save time, money & patience in the long run. Ah, that’s a real simple joy!

Christmas Countdown C -21

07ae8c2f1a1949d273b1fddc6c21fe0e.jpg

Baking

I LOVE to bake, especially at Christmas. At one time, I made myself a little crazy trying to get all my Christmas baking done. I baked dozens of cookies, giving them out to friends, whether they wanted them or not!

Now I am more relaxed about my baking. I still make dozens of cookies but most of them are for my family AND I have found easier ways to bake, like my fabulous cake mix cookies!

However, I do make some cookies from scratch & when I do, I make sure I keep my stress level low by following a few simple steps:

  1. Make a List: I make one list of the types of cookies I want to make. Then I make a list of the ingredients I need to create these cookies. Then I check the grocery ads to see who has the best prices on the things I need.
  2. Make a Check: Inventory your pantry to make sure you have the things you think you have! You might think you have plenty of sugar only to find out you already used that extra bag of sugar that was hidden in the back of the pantry;
  3. Make Certain: Be sure your seldom used ingredients are fresh. If you only use nutmeg for your Christmas baking, you may need to buy some fresh nutmeg. Same for things like baking soda & baking powder. Your baking may not turn out the way you hope if these two items are not fresh.
  4. Make a Trip: Head to the store to get what you need. Making one trip to get everything insures you have what you need when the baking mood strikes.

Holiday baking is a great family tradition. I learned to love baking when I would help my mom make cookies every year. And when I became a mom, I taught Katy my simple tips for great cookie making. A simple joy that is enjoyed generation to generation, year to year!

Christmas Countdown C-22

d50b187164e14565885fb2f10fa2dbad.jpg

What Would YOU Like to Do?

Every year, I think of things I would like to do for the Holiday season. Walk through Downtown Anaheim & look at the lights. Visit South Coast Plaza & admire the decorations. Take a trip to a large local nursery that decorates dozens of trees. And a few more fun things.

Then I get busy & I forget. Oh, well, there’s next year! Yes, but there is still THIS year! So I’m making one of my famous lists & creating a schedule so I am able to do the things I want to do this Christmas! None of them is elaborate. They are just simple local activities that take an afternoon or evening. And it takes coordinating with Mr. D. When we work together on these things, it works much better.

So, what are the things you would like to do this Christmas? Perhaps you want to have friends over to decorate the tree. Or maybe go caroling. Just simple things that bring so much joy & create memories that last a lifetime. Take time today to create a list of the things you want to do. Then schedule them & share with your family. You may have to push them a bit but you will create Christmas joy for everyone in your family!

Christmas Countdown C -23

4ac148a96113d8846f3457b242075a74.jpg

What REALLY Must Be Done?

When I was in the Navy, we were very busy in the weeks before Christmas. I was concerned I might not get everything done before the big day. This was not only causing me stress, it was also making me very sad. Katy, our daughter, was about 6 years old & I wanted her & Mr. D to have a great Christmas. How was I going to get everything done? Then I got an idea!

I sat down with a pice of paper & created 2 columns. One was labeled “Have to Do” the other was labeled “Want to Do.” Then I thought about all the things that needed to be done before Christmas morning. As I thought of a task, I asked myself, “Did it HAVE to be done or was it simply something I wanted to do?” I had to decide if Christmas would be ruined it the task didn’t get done. And I forced myself to be honest about it.

When I finished, there was only ONE thing on my Have to Do list. We need to shop for Katy so she would have presents on Christmas morning. We needed to make certain Santa had gifts to deliver to Katy. As much as I wanted to get all the other tasks done, none of them was a deal breaker. We might be disappointed if we didn’t put up a tree but Christmas wouldn’t be ruined. So, everything else went on my Want to Do list.

Then a strange thing happened. As soon as I took the pressure off myself, as soon as I told myself I didn’t HAVE to get all those things done, I was able to relax, slowing working my way through the tasks I simply wanted to get done. And do you know, by Christmas Eve, every single item on both lists was done!

Pressure & stress often cause us to freeze up. Determine what you absolutely HAVE to do by Christmas. Not the things others are forcing on you but tasks YOU determine are necessary. Then put everything else on your Want to list. Finish the Have-to’s first. Then slowly work your way through the Want-to’s. You may be surprised how much you get done when the pressure is off!

Christmas Countdown C -24

 

2b183effa20bd632fbb18c4c2d5f6a89.jpg

You Deserve to Celebrate Too!

Your focus at Christmas is your family. You spend most of your time making certain everyone around you has a wonderful Christmas. Well, you deserve to celebrate too! At Simple Joy, we believe women must take care of themselves first or they won’t be able to care for others. If you focus entirely on everyone else this season, you may forget to enjoy yourself. Take time throughout December to do things YOU enjoy! Remember, we are the hearts of our families. The way we feel impacts the way the entire family feels. If you are stressed, focusing only on others, you may develop a not so nice attitude that eventually affects everyone around you. Taking care of yourself first is NOT selfish. It is the best & most effective way you can care for everyone else!