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Southlake Style

Hassle Free Home For The Holidays

Nov 13, 2014 03:16PM ● By Dia

Home is where the heart should be this season. Being with family and gathering around the dining

  room table or fire- place hearth is where everyone belongs. Not running here or there to get a last minute ingredient or present for your second cousin twice removed who happened to show up this year. Adding too much to your plate —the figurative one —during the holidays has really become the new nor- mal. The season by nature is full of hustle and bustle, and it is easy to find yourself in the midst of holiday commotion!

Combat this commotion through preparation and fore- thought. It’s the simplest way to have a hassle-free home for the holidays. In order to accomplish at least one or two things on your to-do list and at the same time not feel naughty for cutting corners, preparation is key. We’ve spoken to experts who specialize in organization, décor and stress —which can all be related during the holidays! They’ve got great advice sure to get you in good spirits for the season.

Hassle Free Menu Planning

Nothing feels worse than getting ready to bake grand- ma’s favorite cookies and realizing there is no butter or flour. Katie Oswald of the NEAT Method advises that planning in advance is key. “This is the one area and time of year I encourage clients to have extras on hand. Between baking and meal prep, common ingredients (i.e. butter, flour, oil) tend to get used more quickly during the holidays than other times of the year. Having plenty of basic ingredients on hand will ensure no one has to run to the grocery store during holiday traffic and chaos.” 

And if ever there was a time to make a menu and grocery list for the upcoming weeks, it is during the holidays! With all that is going on during the holidays – planning for guests to arrive, decorating your home and buying presents – it is essential to stay on top of things. One way to do this is with as many lists as possible.

  “Part of planning is of course creating many detailed lists,” Oswald said. “I recommend making a list of every- thing you want to make two weeks before the big meal. Then make a list of which platters and serving utensils you will use for each dish and what quantities of ingredients you will need to buy. And last, but most important, make a detailed timeline for the meal prep and cooking.”

If lists aren’t your cup of hot tea, perhaps organize your pantry and refrigerator in a way that with just a quick glance you know what you have and what you are lacking. Either way, organization is key for seamless meal preparation.

If your cookbooks have a thin layer of dust on them, there are simple ways to make store bought look and taste like you spent all day preparing them. First of all, if you picked up a few side dishes from a restaurant, be sure to transfer them to your own serving platters.

 Second, if you stopped by the grocery store to dabble in cooking, add a topping or mix-in to your sides. Have frozen green beans? Once cooked, add slivers of almonds to top them off. Already prepared mashed potatoes? Stir in Par- mesan cheese and garlic seasoning.

Lastly, whatever baked goods you bring home, from pies and pastries to cookies and cupcakes, warm in the over just before serving. And don’t forget to serve on your own stand or tray. We really like the Antique Silver Tiered Stand from Pottery Barn.

Preparing for Guests

According to Professional Organizer and founder of NEAT Method Katie Oswald, creating a comfortable environment for holiday guests is essential. “Fresh flowers, pressed linens, a few current magazines, and extra pillows and blankets in each guest room will ensure visitors feel welcome.”

Everyone’s been in the situation of traveling and realizing too late that they left a thing or two at home. Rather than sending guests to the nearest store that sells the forgotten items, wouldn’t it be nice to have them handy?

 Oswald suggests having extra phone chargers on hand in the guest room, and staging the guest bathroom as well. “Like the bedroom, the guest bathroom should contain essential items that will either help guests feel at home or substitute for any they may have forgotten. I like to keep travel-sized toothpastes, shampoos, and soaps in a large glass jar or other visible container for guests to easily access during their stay.”

 Above all, guests should feel at home. They could have chosen to stay at a hotel, but since you have opened your doors to them, make sure it is a pleasant experience. Living out of a suitcase for a week is not a fun way to spend the holiday vacation. “Designating a space for guests to store their belongings, even if it is small, will help them feel settled and at home during their stay,” Oswald said. “Place a few extra hangers in the guest closet as well as a mini clothing steamer, or iron and ironing board, especially for those who are staying a few days.”

Coping with Holiday Stress

Everyone can attest to the fact that the holidays are a stressful time of year. There seems to be much to do, and we often times don’t allow ourselves much time to prioritize or accomplish our to-do list. In fact, according to Maryellen Dabal, MA, LMFT, in Southlake, this falls under the category of top three stressors. “In my opinion, the top three holiday stressors are financial worries about having enough money to cover holiday expenses, being able to prioritize people and events during this time, and anxiety associated with being with family or friends,” Maryellen said.

However, on a positive note, these stressors don’t have to bring you down. For example, looking at prioritization —it all boils down to making it simpler for you. “In order to prioritize what is important during the holidays, take time when you are calm and not overstressed to think about what you want to do during the holiday,” Maryellen said. “Decide who is important that you be with.”

Simplify the holidays so you can enjoy them,” Maryellen said. “Delegate responsibilities to others where possible and eliminate those tasks that are not necessary. Allow the kids to help wrap gifts for others. You decide if you have to send out 150 holiday cards that are hand signed with special notes written in each. If this is what is important to you, then absolutely make time for it. Be sure to plan time for the things that are most important to you now.”

Holiday anxiety 

“Anxiety is a huge problem during the holidays,” Maryellen said. “Whether we are anxious about seeing family members we haven’t seen in a while or trying to impress people we are meeting for the first time or nervous about the neighborhood holiday party, it is normal to feel anxiety. A small amount of this anxiety can actually motivate us.”

We all have faced some sort of this feeling in life, even if briefly. As Maryellen said, some types of anxiety can push us to do what is necessary this holiday season. However, there are certain levels of anxiety that do more harm than good. “When that anxiety interferes with everyday life, however, we need to be sure to address it,” Maryellen said. “When uncontrolled anxiety hits, take a step back and have a conversation with yourself. Remind yourself who is in control of you….you are. Remind yourself to breathe and fully think through a situation before you make a decision on it. Take a moment to close your eyes if you can and just breathe.  Listen to your breathing and slow down so you can focus on your priorities and responsibilities. With regard to family, remind yourself of your strengths. No one knows you better than you.” Maryellen suggests that if you cannot control this anxiety, contact a healthcare professional.

 Stress and your family

Emotions during the holiday season can run the gamete, from happy and joyful to worried and frustrated. Stress can affect family life —not only can stress affect adults, but kids also. Children can sense the level of stress their parents are shouldering. “Our children model what we do more often than what we say,” Maryellen said. “Communicating with our family about what is important and what the priorities are can help make for better guidelines and boundaries during the holiday season. Discussing expectations of family members ahead of time can reduce stress and allow each person to prepare for what they need to do during the upcoming holidays.”