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A Few Tips For Surviving the Winter Holidays to Ponder Over Thanksgiving Break
Submitted by Pam on Tue, 11/22/2011 - 03:39
Thanksgiving is right around the corner and I am so looking forward to another delicious dinner at Diane's house. And a few days off! So this will be the last post until next Monday, November 28th - time to share the contents of my stockings and announce the 2011 Christmas Stocking Giveaway!
It is almost December 1st!
Many of us are up to our ears right now in baking and cooking and cleaning and preparing for the big dinner. Others are packing their bags to enjoy a home cooked feast with family.
Few of us are thinking of Christmas this week! BUT once the feast leftovers are consumed and the festivities are a memory, most of us are ready to begin thinking seriously about what must be done to prepare for the coming season. I thought this might be a good time to share a few things I do to make the whole month feel like a celebration rather than a lot of work and stress.
This is not a "planning guide" or a "how-to" - just sharing a few things that make it all so much easier and more fun!
My goal every year is to have all my shopping completely done by the first weekend in December. A little secret - the Monday following the "Black Friday madness" is the quietest day/evening at the malls!
Hand made gifts, same goal - although I admit this year I am a bit behind because I have been playing on my blog too much!
There is one very selfish reason for setting these goals - the angst and stress that is often associated with what gift to give is all taken care of BEFORE the holidays even begin! Oh two selfish reasons - almost forgot - getting done early means staying far, far away from traffic and crowded stores! Think about it!
After many years of trying to decorate the whole house and put up the tree all in one day, this Christmas elf has learned to break it all up into little celebrations.
November 1st is reserved for setting up my winter village. In the evening, the warm light shining from all those little windows and reflecting off the sparkling snow really begins to stir up a festive mood! (And since setting it up is a really big job, it is good to get it out of the way early!)
I get a lot of "flack with love" over the fact that I put my tree up one weekend before Thanksgiving! But putting up a tree is a ton of work and takes a ton of time!
Why would anyone want to put that much work into something that is only going to be around a couple weeks - unless of course it is all about their love of the whole getting a fresh live tree! I have been there and I do understand!
But a few years ago, we made the decision to purchase a most beautiful, pre-lighted artificial tree designed by Martha Stewart and I have never, ever regretted it for one minute. I send Martha a big hug every year and buy a small fresh, fragrant evergreen wreath which I hang on the winter solstice.
You see, for me, after these many, many years, the tree is all about the ornaments. I have a huge collection of them and I want to enjoy they as long a possible.
Sometime between November 28th and December 4th, my Father Christmas collection is released from storage. Why between these dates? Because they coincide with the celebration of St. Nicholas in the Netherlands of course!
December 1st, all the Advent Calendars are hung or set up!
December 10th (my personal holiday - "Angel Day") is celebrated by setting up a tree of miniature ornaments; and nativities are set up around December 17th -18th to mark the beginning of 8 days of nativity visits so prevalent throughout South America, Spain, Portugal and Italy.
To facilitate all this "compartmentalized" decorating, I long ago developed a system for storing decorations and ornaments. I have about 20 boxes of decorations and ornaments, and I have them packed and catalogued in such a way that I can lay my hands on nearly anything I want within minutes. When I am ready to put up my village, I simply ask my "warehouse manager" to pull boxes 7, 7a, 7b, 7c, and 7d.
If you have never organized the storage of your holiday decorations, maybe this year is a great one to start! Just schedule a little extra time while taking everything down this year so you can sort and pack and and label and I promise the future will be easier!
Except for things like wreaths and garland, every ornament, Father Christmas, nut cracker, nativity or snowman is packed in the box it originally came in - (or a box is found for it).
Every ornament gets this treatment. Older ornaments that no longer have their boxes are wrapped and stored together in a larger box that will hold about 3 to 5 ornaments. A list of every ornament inside is written on the outside!
Larger cardboard shipping boxes are used to hold collections of smaller ornament boxes, Father Christmas boxes, nutcracker boxes, village boxes....
A number is assigned to each box and it is written in big black letters on all four sides.
Since this process was begun many years ago, my inventory list is analogue! But it is also very simple - a number followed by box content ID (ornaments, nutcrackers, etc. When ready to set up nutcrackers, I only need to pull down one box.
What about those plastic storage cartons? I don't use them. I know many people find them very handy, but since they are plastic - hard plastic that is not particularly environmentally friendly - and expensive, I prefer to reuse shipping boxes and gift boxes and tissue for storage. When they wear out simply recycle. Seriously, I have boxes used for storage that are - oh I hate to say it - over 40 years old and they are still functional.
Moisture? Well - I live in the Pacific Northwest! It rains a lot here but moisture has never been a problem.
COOKIE AND TREAT BAKING
Many, many years ago, I would save all my baking until the week before Christmas! And in those crazy days, it was not unusual for me to bake 20 different kinds of cookies and 6 or 7 kinds of candy! I wanted it all to be nice and fresh for Christmas! Like my poor family could possibly eat all of that sugary goodness in a day much less two or three!
MUCH smarter now! I have figured out that it is much more fun to bake cookies and special breads throughout the holiday. When the biscotti is gone, the Speculaas and Norwegian sugar cookies are waiting! When they are gone, sugar cookies and gingerbread are fresh from the oven!
And my baking is paired with specific holidays which makes it even more fun. Gingerbread and Speculaas and Lebkuchen and Stollen in Early December to celebrate St Nicholas Day. Biscotti, Norwegian Sugar Cookies, Lucy Buns to celebrate Santa Lucia/St Lucy Day. Bizcochitos and Panettone to celebrate Nativity traditions in southern Europe and South America. Challah, potato latkes and dried fruit compote near Hanukkah. You get the picture!
Of course I still do a lot of pre-prep and pre-baking in late November. But these special dates are when I bring goodies out to enjoy - and try to bake at least one or two of my favorites on or the day before so I can enjoy the smells of Christmas baking all month long!
Some of our spectacular Washington Country. The image was taken by photographer Andy Simonds. Treat yourself to a visual feast of our beautiful Pacific Northwest on Andy's Flickr photostream.
Hopefully some of you will find something of value here that will lessen the stress and yield more fun during the coming season.
I gratefully welcome any tips you have discovered for reducing the stress and strain during holiday preparations. Share your thoughts in the comments, won't you?
Happy Thanksgiving to all. See you again next week!