Is it just me, or does it feel like the Holidays come careening upon like an Escalade without brakes heading down the Conejo grade? At one moment I’m handing out candy to cute little scarecrows and Storm Troopers, the next I am wrapping gifts and eking out one more batch of holiday cookies before midnight.
The last 60 days of the year seem to fly by in a blur. Wouldn’t it be nice, that between accepting invitations to private parties, joining friends at group events, attending local ‘happenings’, and more than likely, planning your own party or gathering, you could savor the time – and truly enjoy the sentiments of the season?
Here are a few Ideas to simplify the holidays - and lower your stress level.
1. Plan ahead – yes, this sounds obvious, but don’t wait until the last minute to grab a host/ess or co-worker/networking gift. Have a few ‘generic’ gifts for men and women on hand (fancy hand lotion, boxes of chocolates you can stash in the freezer, or bottles of wine you won’t drink). Stock up during the year so you can catch a great discount instead of paying the premium last-minute, “pick it up on my way” price.
2. Get help – if you have a family, you can gain a few moments of peace back by getting the kids to do their own laundry, the dishes, and picking up a duster (this is a habit you will want to keep up all year long!) If you are single – or an empty nester – there may not be any ‘littles’ around you can put to work. In that case, reach out to the professionals.
a. Professional cleaners and organizers (Like our own, Caravel Cleaning Company!)
b. Stagers and designers, like Raini & Associates, Inc often offer interior holiday décor design and installation.
c. Outdoor Lights and décor can often be installed by seasonal professionals like landscapers, or full-service companies like The Glassman located in Ventura, CA. They not only design and install exterior lights, but they also take them down and store them until the following year – now that is service!
d. There are a number of Catering and Food delivery options, depending on your budget. Using a service like Seasons Catering (which serves Santa Barbara and Ventura counties) impresses your guests and keeps you out of the kitchen. For a casual option, try my fave El Pollo Norteno. They have a very limited menu of chicken and tri-tip, but it is delicious!
3. Give your home a quick makeover - without spending much time or money. We don’t all have the time, or inclination, to go ‘all out’ on holiday décor. If you find yourself feeling you haven’t done enough, use these quick tips to give your home a festive flair:
a. Colorful pillows in the holiday color of your choice. Red, Blue, Silver , or Gold – they can all bring a festive feeling to the room. I like to keep extra pillow covers so I can just pop them on over whatever I have on the sofa. This saves space too.
b. Place a few white or cream-colored battery-operated candles around the room. Place them in groups of 3 (I like to do different heights). They create a soft glow and cozy atmosphere.
c. If you have a mirror that is typically a focal point in your room, hang a holiday themed wreath over it. (I use a t-pin and fishing line). I also like to light mine with battery operated twinkle lights. This creates significant visual impact without having to move anything – and it takes less than 10 minutes.
4. Keep the snacks and drinks simple – consider make a mulled wine or sangria ahead of time. Store it in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week. I am also a proponent of buying pre-made treats. Recently, I grabbed a selection of cookies and confections from World Market. Stick with a single theme (or country) or select items from around the world like I did. My guest loved that they were able to try new, and some very unusual, treats. No one cared that I didn’t make them myself!
5. Relax – Take a few deep breaths (or hold your breath for 10 seconds) to center yourself before walking into an event, or opening the door for your first guest. This is the time to enjoy the company of those around you. Memories are made in less than perfect moments – remember to savor each one.
We hope these tips help you to take a moment and truly appreciate the joys of the season.