Christmas Countdown C -14

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Holiday Open Office

Twice, I have had jobs that were very intense during the holiday season.  The number of hours I needed to spend at work made it impossible for me to either attend or host any holiday parties  This was very painful for me since I love both Christmas and entertaining.  I finally realized the long hours spent at work did not mean I could not celebrate the holidays.   If I had to spend the holiday season at work, then I would hold the party at work.  Instead of hosting an open house, hold an open office! 

I designed a celebration that would not cause me any additional stress.  My goal was to enhance my holiday joy and the joy of my co-workers.  I began by decorating my office for the holidays, including a small tabletop tree complete with lights.  I set up a narrow four foot table and covered it with a paper tablecloth.  I bought more than one tablecloth in case so I had replacements when one was stained or torn.  I brought in my holiday platters, baskets and bowls for my serving dishes and added green and red paper napkins, cups and plates.

During the holidays, so much of the food brought in to share at work is very sweet and high calorie.  We tend not to eat well during the last few weeks of December.  I decided to offer more substantial food.  The buffet featured chips, salsa, dip, crackers, a variety of cheeses, cookies, and sparkling cider. As you see, I did include a few sweet items to round the selection out.

I bought most of the items for the small buffet, making only one or two things myself.  I bought enough food to last 3-4 days, holding back a few fresh items for each day so the food did not look picked over by the last day.  I was able to set everything up in 10-15 minutes and it took about the same amount of time to clean everything up before I went home. 

I turned on Christmas music, opened the door wide and invited anyone who wandered by to enjoy the buffet.  While the open office will never win first prize in a Holiday Party competition, it helps reduce stress and increase joy during a busy time of year at work.

Suggested Buffet Items:

Cheese Platter

• Brie

• Herbed Brie

• Cheddar

• Gouda

• Smoked Edam

• Cheese Ball

Crackers

• Wheat

• Rye

• Club

• Pepper

Assorted Nuts

Tortilla Chips

Dips

• Salsa

• Guacamole

• Dill Dip*

• Spinach Dip

• Shrimp Dip

• Crab Dip

Cake Platter

(I purchase specialty loaf cakes at an import store)

• Amaretto

• Rum

• Pumpkin/Cranberry Bread

• Banana Bread

Small Plate of Chocolate Seashells

Platter of Assorted Cookies

Sparkling Cider

Dill Dip

  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup mayo
  • 2 teaspoons dill
  • 1 teaspoon celery salt
  • 1 tablespoon parsley
  • 1 tablespoon dried onion

Mix. Chill. Serve in bread bowl with the pieces of bread taken out of the bowl.

Christmas Countdown C -15

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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

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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

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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

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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 -19

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Shopping is a big part of Christmas. It can also be an exhausting part of the season! Today, I wanted to share 10 tips to help make your Christmas shopping easier for you. And I do just that in this classic video! Enjoy!

Simple Joy of Christmas Shopping

Christmas Countdown C -20

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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

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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

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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

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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!

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