In a perfect world all holiday food would be made from scratch and every gift would be lovingly chosen specifically for the recipient with no thought to cost. Right. And sometimes you have the BEST intentions but run out of time, money, patience or…all three. Here are a few of my tips that make the holidays a little easier. I’ve been collecting these tips for years; they never fail me.
1. Keep a few generic gifts wrapped under your tree. These are perfect for the last-minute lunch you get invited to, the unexpected person who stops by with a gift for you, or that one person you forgot to put on your list. I have a friend who keeps gift cards inside miniature stockings hanging on her tree for these occasions. Throughout the year I’ll pick up pretty candles or other things on sale to use for these gifts.
2. Did you run out of time to send out Christmas cards? Don’t sweat it. Send Happy New Year cards instead. You can mail them after Christmas and people have time to actually look at the cards they receive after Christmas. I had a great pic of my kids at Zap Zone one year and used it for Zappy New Year cards. Everyone loved them.
3. Speaking of Christmas/Holiday cards – if you are using your own photo and getting them printed up, why not print up postcards instead of cards? No envelopes needed (fewer dead trees) and they are cheaper to mail. I’ve been doing this for years.
4. Don’t underestimate take-out food – no matter where it’s from. This year I was in the Thanksgiving Parade and my husband was running the Turkey Trot and we were hosting – so he stopped on the way home and picked up the complete Thanksgiving dinner from Market Square. Delicious. I made Mac & Cheese in the crockpot (delicious AND easy!) and put together a lasagna two days before. Last Christmas we had my entire family over but the only day that everyone could make it was the day after our two-day Salvation Army broadcast. As I was working 6 am – 10 pm my husband had to prepare the house and food for my entire family. He got a tray of sandwiches from Costco, some of their side dishes, lots of chips and cookies and everyone was thrilled. It was a fun, casual lunch with minimal clean-up and more time for games.
5. Years ago I started a Holiday notebook. When I do have time to cook it has all of my go-to recipes, decorating ideas, etc. If I like someone’s Holiday card, I pop it in there so I can “borrow” the idea for the next year.
6. Frozen lemon slices make every drink look fancier, and you can do it way ahead of time. Also, freeze champagne in ice cube trays to spruce up the adult’s orange juice.
7. I keep a small vase filled with candy canes near my front door to offer people. Kids get the hugest kick out of this. Some adults do too.
8. I like the look of wrapped gifts under my tree, but don’t like my family snooping at their packages. My mom used codes to label gifts without names and I’ve found it very useful. Sometimes I assign everyone a letter and write it on the bottom of the package, sometimes I use the same paper but everyone gets a different color of ribbon. Whatever your code, make sure you write it down somewhere. Even if you think there’s no way you can forget it, when things get crazy busy you’ll be asking yourself “Was Susie the A or the D?”
9. Trader Joe‘s has all kinds of delicious and festive goodies that make fun little gifts, especially for those people who aren’t expecting something from you. For years my daughter and I have been buying their sprinkled chocolate rings and wrapping them like Christmas crackers (or Tootsie Rolls) with red and green tissue paper.
10. No one is going to remember what you wore to the party! Be comfortable. Sometimes I don’t have the time or just don’t feel like shopping for something festive. All red or all black always works. Throw on a festive accessory and you are good to go. (If possible, schedule your regular haircut/color for the day of a big party. Boom! Fresh fancy hair!)
11. Here’s my best tip: The most fun I have every Holiday season is helping someone less fortunate. If you have the means to do it, I highly recommend it. I’ve participated with several different organizations and this is my second year with Adopt A Family in Troy. I get my kids involved with the shopping and wrapping and it’s a great reminder of how truly blessed we are, not just at the Holidays but all year long.