- Holidays and Celebrations
How to cure the Christmas Blues before they ruin your Holiday.
The Holidays are coming! The Holidays are coming!
The holidays are coming!
Do you flinch, just a bit, when you hear that cry? Thinking of all the work, the stress, the indecisions and of course all of the family? What ever it is that makes you a 'holiday wreck', you will no longer have to fear if you just follow these few simple rules. Okay, so maybe not a few, but they are all simple and some are even fun. Wave good-bye to your 'Holiday Blues' for good. Oh, and put the wine away for after the holidays.
Clean, clean, clean!!!!!
The cleaning fiasco!
To begin with, no one's house is ever perfectly clean. I mean let's face it, we all have cobwebs hiding around, right? They seem to multiply during the holidays. But, when you clean to your satisfaction, then you should be content. There should be NO racing around the house for days on end scrubbing every nook and cranny to within an inch of its life just because you have guests coming for the holidays.
Another thing, forget the new paint job to cover the scratches in the living room and the new cupboards for the kitchen. Who looks at those things? Okay, I give up, I did. But not because I am a neat freak. I looked because I used to worry that my home just wasn't clean enough. So I checked to see how clean other homes were. Stupid, right? I know better now.
Why should I clean my home to meet other people's standards. Its my home. As long as I am happy with it, everyone else should keep their nose out of it! So, clean as you normally would and then relax with a hot cup of cocoa and some sugar cookies you picked up when you bought your cleaning supplies.
And then there are these worries......Click thumbnail to view full-size
How am I doing so far?
Never fear, the answers are here!
Your animals are only trying to be a part of what you are doing, so give them something to play with while you work. Be careful with ribbons though, some might get caught in their throat and choke them. Unbreakable ornaments are great for them to play with and won't get stuck. Try the big ones or the ones with bells for extra fun.
As for the tree, that is easy peasy. If you are living alone, or just the two of you, why get a huge tree? Why get a real one that has to be watered and such? Go to the store and get a small, lighted tree. Most can be pulled out of the box and then fluffed a bit to look full and plump. Set it on a table with a Christmas tablecloth underneath. Now for the ornaments, just pull out your favorites and hang them. You won't need many. Put on the candy canes and plug it all in. If you like tinsel, you can put some of that on, but be careful if you have pets. Some like to eat the tinsel and it could cause serious problems in their tummies. As for those of you who absolutely have to have a gigantic tree in the house, I salute you. But I also think you are making way too much work for yourself!
Do you really need to outline the whole house in lights and then sync it with your favorite tunes? Perhaps you could put out your favorite blow up character and a wreath on the door. No need to get frostbite so the neighbors can enjoy your show. As for inside, decorate as you like, you won't get cold and you can take several days to do it. No rush, rush, rush. Put up what you want, then enjoy your own show.
As for the animals stealing the stockings, well, I guess I need to confess. I gave them the stockings to play with after they had been emptied. Of course, they had their own stockings, filled with toys and cat nip, which they quickly ripped apart or lost beneath the furniture (go fogure).
Uh, this kind of snow might be a problem, but I'm sure you could work something out, right?
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!
Snow is something you cannot control, so try to get as much of your running and Holiday shopping done before the snows start. I begin my shopping in January when all the stuff goes on clearance. Then I work my way through the year. By October, I am usually done with most of the things I need. All I have to do then is pick up the last minute things (like stocking stuffers). The food is a little more difficult because I can't pick that up early, but I try to check the weather and go early if the weather is supposed to turn bad, or later depending on the storm.
If you have a party scheduled and it snows, don't sweat it. Just think of it as a day of rest with lots of food. As for the party, um, you'll have to tell your guests "sorry, the food is all gone". No, really, you can just reschedule for the next day. If it won't be convenient within a day or so, then you would have to cancel it if the food would go bad. But, take a moment to talk to your guests. Often they have ideas on what can be done. Once, when it snowed and we were having a party, I called and asked if everyone could walk to the house. They did and we all had a snowball fight before going inside to eat and warm up. It was great. Of course, not everyone lives that close, but you get the idea.
Things that you can do if you are snowed in for a bit.
Fudge made with fluff
Sandwiches, like a picnic
Movies the family hasn't seen yet
That's the end, right?
No, wait! We forgot all about the wrapping of the gifts, and their unwrapping, the family dinner, and the deserts afterwards. Oh no, panic, alarms, sirens, help, help, what do we do now? Stop right there! I have answers for you there as well.
Before you do anything else, the number one thing you must do, is make a list. That's right, a list. List everyone for whom you will be shopping. Leave room between the names so you can put items you purchased for them. Then, once the items are wrapped, mark them wrapped on the list so you know it is wrapped and ready for the tree.
Your list would look something like this:
And now, on to the more intense part of the holidays-------the wrapping!
For the wrapping madness.....
- Try to do this on a day the kids are in school. If that isn't possible, try asking a friend to watch them for you for a bit.
- Pull everything out and sort into piles by the person who will receive them.
- Wrap each pile at one time so you can vary the paper and tags that are used.
- Don't put the bows on until the gifts go under the tree. Then you can stick a bow on next to the tag, walla a beautiful package.
- If the gifts will be going elsewhere, you can put them together in a bag or box so you don't have to search for them later. (If you have animals that like to check things out, try putting the box in a room they do not enter. Or you can cover the box with a blanket or tablecloth for protection.)
- Once your gifts are wrapped, you can store them as above or put them under the tree if possible. Be sure everyone knows to keep their hands off until the big day.
- While you are wrapping, keep larger pieces that you cut when making sheets of paper fit your packages. These can be used for smaller gifts or stocking stuffers.
- Keep a small trash can handy to throw away price tags and paper too small to use elsewhere.
- Hold onto tags if you are unsure of sizes. That way the person can exchange the item if they need to without a hassle.
For the unwrapping of the gifts....
The mess! Paper and ribbons everywhere. Pieces of cardboard, little bits of toys strewn around. Candy from the stockings just lying about waiting to be crushed into the carpet. Ahhhhhhhh (scream of agony).
Now, let's approach this in a new light. First things first. Prior to the big day, go to your local supermarket and acquire a large box. Perhaps a cereal box (case box) or even a banana box. Next, invest in large plastic lawn and leaf bags. Get the good ones if you can, it will be worth it. Now, on the big day, put one of the bags in the box and drape it around the edges. This is where you put all of the wrapping paper and anything else that would go in the trash. You might need to use more than one.
On the big day, have the kids open their stockings first. Once they have done so, have them put everything back into their stockings (except the wrapping paper of course) and then lay the stockings on their beds. That gets the stockings out of the way so nothing is lost or stepped on. The wrapping paper and such goes in the box. Everything is now clean.
Now for the gifts under the tree. Make sure everyone knows to toss their wrapping paper into the box once they are done opening each of their gifts. Don't worry if they miss now and then. It is real easy to pick up the few that missed or didn't get tossed in right away. The best part is: once the excitement is complete, and the bag(s) are tossed outside, your room is as clean as it was when you started. As for the box, I keep it in a corner (with another bag) for all the cardboard that will be forthcoming when all of the items are yanked from their packaging.
Dinner is served
Getting to the end now, so how am I doing?
Now for the dinner
Before you begin anything, you must know how many people are coming. Try not to invite more people than your home can hold (or some of your guests might be eating outside). Once you know the numbers, you can begin the preparations. Start as soon as possible so you are ready and don't have to fight the crowds at the last minute. Note: the majority of the fresh items that the store had in stock on Monday they still have in stock on Wednesday. That means getting it on Monday would make more sense.
Okay, here we go:
- Try to get everyone who is coming to bring something. It could be rolls, desert, drinks, wine, anything they like and/or you might need. Ask for some to arrive early to help with last minute things like setting the table. You can purchase decorative paper plates for the occassion or you can use regular dishes. So what if they don't all match, you are just going to put food on them.
- Buy your turkey frozen well before the holiday. Before storing it in your freezer for the big day, read the directions for thawing. That way you know when to take the turkey back out of the freezer so it will thaw in time. Remember to thaw the turkey on the bottom shelf of your fridge with a cookie sheet under it. I like to also add a towel or something absorbent so nothing drips.
- Most cookbooks and several turkey brands can tell you how many pounds you should buy based on the number of people you are planning on feeding-always allow for extra people just in case.
- Brine your turkey the night before in a large pan or bag in ice or the fridge. You can use salted water, water you have seasoned yourself, or a brine kit from the store. In the morning, remove the turkey from the brine and rinse it well, stuff and cook. Use the package directions for cooking, or a cookbook instructions. I like to use the Reynolds Oven Cooking bags (link below). They baste the turkey, cook it much faster, and keep it nice and moist. Just follow the bag directions (adding any spices you wish) and put in the oven when needed. Besides, it clears the oven much faster for those rolls and to re-heat dishes brought by others.
- Purchase the majority of your food pre-prepared. Okay, I am saying be lazy, but most frozen or canned foods are just as good as fresh and are much easier to prepare. Besides, you can get them weeks in advance and don't have to worry about them going bad.
- As you go through your days thinking about things you will be needing, start a running list. That way you don't have to stand in the middle of the store trying to remember that one thing you know you need but can't remember. You know, the one thing you need that someone will have to go out on the big day to try to find a store open that carries at three times the regular price.
- Go out as soon as you can to purchase your perishable items so you don't have to fight any last minute rush.
- Do as much prep work as possible the day before the big day so that you can relax and enjoy with the rest of the family.
- If you are baking, try to bake early in the week so you have more time closer to the big day to do prep work.
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Here are a few tricks you might not know but that could help make things go a bit smoother.
- If you like to cook your turkey without any 'special effects' like cooking bags, you can brine two days in advance and then put your rinsed, seasoned turkey into the oven on the middle oven rack completely covered. Put your oven on the very lowest setting possible. Let the turkey simmer all night. Check it in the morning. It should be fairly well on its way to being done. Remove the cover and tent your turkey with aluminum foil for the remainder of the cook time. You can remove the foil about a half hour before the turkey is done so the turkey can get that nice brown skin. Keep an eye on it and be sure to use a meat thermometer to be sure it is done.
- Potatoes will turn black if left out for even a short period of time. Cover the potatoes in cold water and place in the fridge for the night. Strain in the morning, rinse and refill with fresh water. Allow the pan to warm up a bit on the warm stove before turning on the heat. If you are using the potatoes for mashing (duh right), you can cube them before cooking and they will cook much faster. For smoother potatoes, use a beater to mash them.
- Canned and/or frozen veggies can be heated quickly in the microwave. So if you have one, you can wait until the very last minute to heat them up.
- Use glass plates over the food that is finished and placed on the table. This will keep them warm as the remainder of the meal is prepared.
- Have the kids set the table. This will help them to feel involved.
- If friends are bringing extra chairs or tables, ask them to come early so they can be set up. Don't be afraid to ask your guests to help; after all, they are going to enjoy the dinner, so they can do some of the little things to help free you up for some of the bigger ones.
- Keep everything moving smoothly by having those who aren't helping in the kitchen 'coral' the young ones so they are not underfoot. This way no one trips or gets burned.
Have a Safe and Happy Holiday!
© 2015 Cheryl Simonds