Holiday Hacks: A Guide For Making Your Festivities More Joyful

holiday hacks for christmas
For a lot of us the holidays leave us feeling overwhelmed. We have so much to do and very long to do lists. Here are some easy entertaining ideas to minimize your stress at the most "Wonderful time of the year"
Plan Ahead: Set the menu weeks in advance. If it is an appropriate setting ask everyone to bring a dish for dinner and make it a potluck. If you want to make it very simple opt for a buffet or food stations instead of a sit down dinner. It will require nothing more from the host than some rotational reheating of hot foods and rapid replenishing of those that can be eaten cold or at room temperature. 
Fall Back On Favorites: Think easy, limited ingredient main dishes. Make batches of seasonal soups or chili in advance and freeze them. Prepared platters and food boards are trendy right now. You can't go wrong with a no cook charcuterie board filled with fine cheeses, cured meats, crackers, olives and fresh fruit. For appetizers you could melt some spicy and mild cheeses in a slow cooker and pair with chips or celery sticks for dipping or put a pot of melted chocolate beside pretzels, orange wedges or cookies for a fast dessert. Another stress reducer would be to cook the main dishes and buy the sides such as a chicken pot pie and add ready made creamy mashed potatoes or quinoa salad. If drinks and cheese party is more your style then keep it simple and elegant. Make a really good punch so you won't have to be running around being a mixologist the entire night. Pair wine or punch with almonds, walnuts and cheese. 
**tip** Always buy more than you think you'll need
Delegate and Personalize: Let go of doing everything yourself. Ask others to pitch in. Ask others to bring a dish, lead activities, shop, decorate or clean. If family members who don't get along will be attending, strategize in advance to separate and divide. Adjust the seating plan or keep one of them busy helping out. Grab a friend and let them garnish premade salad mixes with Parmesan cheese, nuts or sprinkle smoked paprika or minced herbs over a ready made dip. If kids will be at your party ask them to assemble dessert. Choose a large item for the center of the tray such as pie or cheesecake and have the children surround it with peppermint bark, slices of delicious dessert loaves and festive cookies. Also consider chilled, ready to serve desserts such as tiramisu and mousse. 
Pace Yourself: It's ideal to shop all year round, not at the last minute. If you've already missed that window try to finish shopping a couple of weeks before seasonal events. Set a budget in advance and spend only whaat you can afford. Older kids can help with shopping. 
Focus on What Really Matters: Spend quality time with loved ones. Host a technology free event by collecting mobile devices in a basket until it's time for guests to go home. Start new traditions, like taking sleigh rides, playing family type games or trading stories. 
Relax: A stressed host can change the entire feel of a party. Any great gathering should be fun and fuss free for everyone. Don't worry about the food being perfect and the house being spotless. Focus less on trying to impress and more on being engaged. No one will remember your table but everyone will remember how you made them feel. 
Setting boundaries, getting organized and making time for yourself are the essentials of keeping stress at bay. Give them a try and here is hoping you will be feeling a bit merrier for the season. 
Jane Langille (Costco Connection)