During the holidays, most women have too much to do and too little time in which to do it. Our hectic schedules make it next to impossible for us to get together with friends. One way to solve this is to host an open house that features a buffet. You might hold your open house on a Saturday, allowing your friends to stop in for a bite to eat between their errands. Or you might choose to invite couples and families to your open house.
Schedule the open house just before the fifteenth of December. People get busier as it gets closer to Christmas. By scheduling your open house earlier in the month, your guests will not have to choose between invitations.
Decorate your home for your open house. This helps set the tone for the party and gets everyone into the holiday mood.
Create a menu that saves you time and keeps your stress to a minimum. A suggested menu with recipes follows. The suggested dishes can be prepared ahead and cooked just before your guests arrive. The menu also contains pre-made items that save you from spending all your time in the kitchen. Remember, a successful party is not determined by the number of hours you spend in the kitchen.
To set up your buffet, you will need a long table for the food, a smaller side table for beverages and a third area for dessert. If you do not have room for three separate tables, then place the desserts on the buffet table with the rest of the food. It is more important to have a separate area for the beverages in order to ease congestion around the buffet table.
You may prepare your tables the morning of your open house. This will save you time later in the day. Cover your tables with tablecloths. Choose a simple centerpiece for each table. An arrangement of candles and small poinsettias works well. The centerpiece should not be large since you need every inch of table space for food.
Put out your serving dishes and determine what you plan to serve on each dish. Place a note on each serving piece to remind you, or to inform someone else, just what goes on that dish. This will save you time and worry when you begin setting out food. In addition, you should prepare folded mini-cards to labels each dish on the table. This will let guest know what everything is on the table and save you from having to answer the same question over and over.
Lay out your table to the appetizers are on one end or one side of the table and the food for the main course is on the other. Guests have a tendency to hover around the appetizers. Set up a traffic pattern around your buffet table that makes it easy for people to serve themselves.
An open house allows you to invite more guests than you could for a formal dinner. Unfortunately, most of us do not have enough dinnerware or flatware to serve everyone at once. Rather than make guests wait while you run a load of dishes through the dishwasher, simply use disposable items for your buffet. Yes, I am sure there are some people who will roll their eyes at your paper plates. That is their problem. Your goal is to hold a wonderful event and enjoy yourself at the same time. Ease your stress. Use disposable.
The suggested buffet menu has only 2 dishes that require cooking. Each dish may be baked just before your guests arrive allowing you to serve them hot out of the oven. Cheeses may be set out earlier, allowing them to soften slightly for easier cutting. Prepare your beverage table, set out other food items, and lay out desserts. As the pasta cooks, go take a bath and get ready for the party.
Just before people begin to arrive, turn on Christmas music, light the candles and set out the entrees. Check your list and your table one last time. Take a deep breath, pour yourself something to drink and prepare to attend your party.
Tray of chocolates
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…
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Almond Eggnog Pound Cake
- 2 tablespoons soft butter
- 1/2 cup sliced almonds
- 1 package yellow cake mix
- 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
- 2 eggs, room temperature
- 1 1/2 cups eggnog
- 1/4 cup butter, melted
- 1/4 teaspoons rum extract
Generously grease a bundt pan or tube pan with soft butter. Press almonds against the buttered sides and bottom; set pan aside.
Have Yourself a Low-stress Little Christmas!
During the Holidays, many of us are guilty of procrastinating. We put things off until the last possible moment, filling ourselves with anxiety as we scramble to get everything done. Each year, we promise ourselves we will be better organized THIS year and each year it’s the same. Holiday tasks come rushing at us leaving us standing frozen like a deer in the headlights.
Why do we do this to ourselves year after year? I believe most of us have good intentions of doing better every year but unfortunately, we become overwhelmed by everything we have to get done for the Holidays. Our to-do list seems endless and makes it impossible to know just where to begin. We flit from one task to another, never quite completing anything. Or, we become immobile, unable to motivate ourselves to take on even the simplest task. How can we overcome these feelings and begin to enjoy the Holidays once again?
You should begin by saying the following words over and over again, “Work smarter, not harder!” Take the time to sit down and develop a strategy for the Holiday season. Do not do another thing on your list until you begin to follow the 6 steps listed below:
1. Distinguish between “have to” and “want to:” It is difficult to motivate yourself when you feel there is so much you “have to” get done for the Holidays. How many of these things are really “have to’s” and how many are “want to’s?” A number of years ago, when our daughter was in grade school, I was overwhelmed by everything I felt I had to get done before Christmas arrived. I couldn’t get motivated to do anything. Then I had an idea. I sat down and made 2 lists. On one, I put everything that really had to be done by Christmas morning. I tried to be realistic and only list things that, if not done, would truly spoil Christmas. On the second list, I put everything else, the tasks I only wanted to get done. When I was finished, I only had ONE item on my “have to” list. I needed to buy our daughter’s presents. She was still young enough that I knew Christmas would be spoiled if I didn’t have her presents ready by Christmas morning. Everything else on my list was something I only wanted to do. I didn’t have to put up the Christmas tree. I didn’t have to send out Christmas cards. Well, there were a lot of things I didn’t have to do. Once I gained that perspective, the process became easier. I felt the pressure being lifted from me and I got to work. I organized my “want to” list and one by one, I whittled each task away. By the time Christmas morning arrived, I had completed every item on both lists without the stress. Take the time to create 2 lists. Be brutal. You may have more than 1 item on your “have to” list but it should still be a small enough list that you can tackle it easily. Then, organize your second list and get to work.
2. The calendar is your friend: This time of year, we see the calendar as our enemy. Each day it reminds us how little time there is left to prepare for Christmas. Do not see the calendar as your enemy, make it your friend. Once you have prepared your 2 lists and then organized your longer “want to” list, grab your calendar and begin to plan. Write in all the scheduled events, like the kids’ school programs, the church Christmas event, holiday parties, etc. Next, study your list and schedule a deadline for certain events: mailing Christmas cards, mailing packages, decorating the house, shopping, etc. Make sure you write tasks in pencil. No need to add to your stress level by setting arbitrary deadlines in pen. Pace yourself by spreading out tasks throughout the month.
3. Let the list be your guide: I am a great maker of lists. It is too easy for tasks to fall through the cracks during the non-holiday part of the year. This time of the year, it can be overwhelming. Therefore, I make a list. In fact, I make multiple lists. I have a master list of everything I want to get done for the holidays. I have a daily list of the 5 and only 5 things I need to do for that day. I have my Christmas shopping list with everyone and their gift ideas listed. I have a grocery list for everyday items and the various lists for any entertaining I am doing. These lists go everywhere with me. I never know when I might see a gift I can purchase or have a chance to pop into a grocery store to pick up a few things. I have the lists clipped together so I can easily refer to them. I do not let the lists intimidate or overwhelm me. They allow me to calmly plan things in the quiet and comfort of my home. They help me stay on top of things. Most important, they give me a sense of control. When you plan ahead and make your lists, you control the Holidays, they do not control you.
4. Give yourself the gift of “no:” One of the reasons we become overwhelmed at Christmas is the added burden of Holiday tasks piled on top of our already full to-do list. Unfortunately, everyone else around us has a lot to do and some of these people are looking for unwary individuals upon whom they can thrust one (or more) of their tasks. They may not mean to burden you but they do burden you just the same. You must learn to say “no” to these request. At the very least, you need to get something in return for doing the task. For example, if your husband asks you to pick up a gift for someone in the office, you need to have him take one of your tasks. Explain in a calm tone that you are also very busy during the Holidays and, in order to do one of his tasks, you need him to take one of yours. Everyone only has 24 hours in a day. This means we are only able to do so much in the course of a day. To have time to do his task, you need something removed from your list. For both of you, time is valuable. Be respectful of each other’s time. Keep in mind, there are other times when you must just say “no.” Take a moment to consider whether or not you really have the time to do the requested task. If not, say so. You do not owe anyone an explanation. If you are unable to do one task, you might offer to do another but only if you have the time. You owe this gift to yourself and you deserve it.
5. Allow others to help: We often think everything must be done by us. However, there are all sorts of people able and willing (or at least easily swayed) to do tasks for us. Some of these people are family and friends. Some of these people can be hired, like a cleaning service to come in and give your home a thorough cleaning for the Holidays. Nowhere does it say Mom must do everything. If no one offers to help, then ask. Women often feel men should know they need help. Men believe women will ask if they need help. We are both making assumptions. Mr. D. always tells me to speak up if I need help. Getting your family to help you also gives them a better respect for all you do to prepare for Christmas.
6. Take care of yourself: This is the most important thing of all. Most women I know develop terrible colds or other ailments right after the new year begins. I believe this is often caused by the lack of care we give ourselves in December. Take simple basic steps to care for yourself during the holidays. Drink lots of water. Eat more balanced meals. Cookies and fudge just done’t cut it. Get plenty of rest. At least once a week, I climb into bed with a good book about 8:00. I may read for hours or fall asleep before 9:00. I find my body needs the rest. In addition, get some exercise every day. I like to go for a walk or ride my bike. This gives me time to plan my day, or the next day if I go out in the evening. It also clears my head. I also like to pray while I walk, helping me maintain perspective on the season.
Christmas is a fabulous time of the year, too fabulous for us to be wishing it over. Take a few simple steps to get a handle on the holidays and you can truly have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.
Keeping Kids Happy during the Holidays
The radio plays continuous Christmas music. The stores suddenly sprout six extra rows of decorations and triple their ads. Tension builds into a frenzy of buying. For many of us, the holidays herald feelings of dread. Did you know that kids can get stressed out by the holidays, too?
Children of all ages anticipate special occasions. Some have built up the fantasy of a “perfect” Christmas so much that they are in for a big disappointment when the day finally arrives. As parents, we can do a lot to help kids have a great holiday season full of memorable moments.
Stop the stress with some of these simple strategies. First of all, sit down and make a list, preferably with your child. List all the activities your family does and maybe some new ideas, also. Now look at each item and ask these questions.
1. Are there some traditions your family has outgrown or no longer appreciates? We used to visit Santa’s village every year, but last year both children decided they were too old. We still went and enjoyed a horse-drawn hayride, though.
2. Are you too meticulous in your decorating? Kids love to get in on decorating, so put on some cheerful holiday music and let them help.
3. Can you spend less on gifts? Before you step foot in a mall, decide on a reasonable budget. Make kids a part of it by having them choose one to five things they really want, and then surprise them.
4. Can you skip some events or obligations? If driving six hours to Aunt Millie’s house every year brings groans of dismay and relentless squabbling in the car, why not invite her to your house?
5. Could you assemble store-bought bakery goods instead of baking? You can get the whole family involved in making fancy cookie trays, even if you don’t bake them yourselves. An easy idea is to arrange assorted cookies or treats on a fancy paper plate, wrap in cellophane and tie with a festive ribbon. Attach tags with “Assembled with love” or other cute sayings.
6. How do you keep boredom at bay? Children usually get a long break from school. The trouble comes when too many hours of free time overwhelm them. They quickly tire of all their new toys and gifts and you are faced with grumpy kids. One idea is to put them to work. Instead of waiting until January, have them help un-decorate the house. Offer incentives and rewards. You can also schedule fun activities, but don’t overdo it.
7. Have you heard the saying that visiting relatives are like fish? Nice when they’re fresh, but they start to stink after too many days. Try to schedule shorter holiday visits and provide some familiar toys and games to keep kids occupied. Renting movies is an inexpensive activity that all ages will enjoy.
8. Give the gift of time. Most children would rather spend some fun time with their family than get heaps of over-priced presents. Schedule some “down” time and just have fun with your kids.
9. Help kids focus on the spirit of giving, instead of getting. When they start to experience the joy of helping others, they will truly understand the reason for the season.
A lot of stress is caused by unrealistic expectations. Remembering past holidays through the rose-tinted glasses of memory can leave your family feeling flat or disappointed when events don’t measure up. Relax! Plan doable activities that everyone can participate in and even if a few things go wrong, your attitude is 90% of the battle. Years later, it is the “disasters” that we recall with a chuckle or a groan, not the uneventful days.
Kids aren’t the only ones that get stressed out over the holidays. Are you filled with excitement, brimming with plans, or do you stay awake at night, worried about money, menus and meddling family members? Avoid these common holiday problems by planning ahead and you’ll be ringing in the New Year with smiles instead of frowns.
1. Bulging Budgets – Gift lists a mile long, rising gas and grocery prices, party supplies, postage, decorations; everything costs more at Christmastime. Keep your budget in check by reining in spending and planning ahead. Try to spread out your gift buying over several paychecks, to ease the strain on your wallet. Pare down your gift list to just the kids, or draw names for extended family members.
2. No room at the Inn – All the relatives want to visit, but you have nowhere to put them! Instead of turning them away, pick up some inexpensive air mattresses. These make incredibly comfortable beds, especially on top of flat surfaces like a futon or Klick-Klack sofa. They even make old-fashioned sleeper sofas actually comfortable! Deflated, the air beds take up a tiny amount of space until the next visit. Spruce up your decor with fresh pillows, seasonal decorations and scented candles. The Dollar Store is filled with clever and useful items that only look expensive.
3. Don’t go cold turkey! Have you ever forgotten to unthaw the turkey? Start three days before by placing the bird in the refrigerator. Use an oven bag with a tablespoon of flour, in a drip-free pan for fool-proof cooking. Bake for 3 1/2 hours at 325 degrees, then let sit for 1/2 hour before carving. Some grocery stores even offer unthawed birds, but at a premium price. You could also serve several smaller Cornish game hens, which cook up in a fraction of the time, provides plenty of legs for the kids and has less clean up afterwards.
4. Multiple Menus. What if one of your guests is a vegetarian or needs a no-salt diet? The best thing is to plan ahead. Ask the person to provide menus or bring some of their own food. You can be accommodating, but don’t become a slave to someone else’s lifestyle. Another solution would be to eat out, where there are plenty of options for the pickiest eaters.
5. Don’t get caught in the breakdown lane – Keep your ride rolling with regular oil changes and maintenance. Jiffy Lube offers free computer checks if your red Service Engine Soon light comes on, and also checks your tire pressure for free. The proper inflation is printed on the inside jamb of the driver’s door. Inflating tires slightly higher helps with traction in heavy snow, and also improves gas mileage.
If you do need service, try to call around for the best rates or even bring in coupons. Most stations will price match or work with you on a payment plan.
6. Don’t go postal – Do your shipping as early as possible. Each day you delay makes the prices go up and the lines get longer. Online shoppers have an advantage: free shipping on holiday gifts at most online retailers. You can ship the item right to the recipient, cutting out the costly middleman.
7. The weather outside is frightful – holiday traveling can be as perilous as Santa’s sleigh in a blizzard. Invest in trip insurance so if Nature messes up your plan, you can get a refund or rebook without costly fees. It is better to be safe than sorry; so allow plenty of time for travel and arrive alive. Also, it pays to have a Plan B, because we all know how fast our plans can go awry.
8. Meddling Relatives – The holidays often bring the whole family together, along with old grudges, nosy questions and uncomfortable topics of conversation. Instead of being the Grinch, use these clever coping strategies for getting out of uncomfortable moments:
a. Say, “Thank you for your input” to criticism.
b. Or, “That’s a difficult subject I would rather not discuss.”
c. Stick to “safe” topics; the weather, the food, sports.
d. Practice avoidance. “Oh, I forgot something in the car.” Or step outside for a breath of fresh air. Or you can always hide in the bathroom until the dessert course.
Not all of these ideas will apply to you and your family. The key is to prioritize your list and only do the things that add to your happiness. So this year, take a deep breath and vow to eliminate stress. Give yourself permission for a smaller to-do list. The holiday season is not about how much you get done, but about the warmth of the spirit and the love of family and friends. Make this your family’s happiest holiday ever!
Shaunna Privratsky is a full time author. She lives in North Dakota with her family and is happily looking forward to a new year. Visit The Discount Diva at http://shaunna67.tripod.com/id21.html
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.
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 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
- Attend Your Own Party: Follow these steps in order to be a guest at your own event.
- Plan Your Guest List: Remember…it’s about the people, not the event. Always begin with the guest list.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Decide What You Want to Do: Select two or three things from the list that you WANT to do.
- Delegate the Rest: Assign the remaining tasks to other people. When guests ask if they can do anything or bring anything, always say YES!
- Take a Nap: Begin transformation from hostess to guest by taking a relaxing nap. If you can’t sleep, then just relax.
- 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.
- 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.
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!