The holidays should be a relaxing time to visit with family and friends, but too often the stress of entertaining can make the season less enjoyable.
Cleaning (Not necessarily a dirty word)
Here are some tips to help make the clean up of holiday mess a bit easier.
· Plan ahead. Advanced preparation is the key to effortless entertaining and easy cleanup. When possible, do your cooking ahead of time. Not only will it reduce the stress of last-minute food preparation, but it will also eliminate the mountain of pots and pans in the sink when your guests arrive.
· Keep it simple. The less mess you make, the easier it will be to tidy up. Your guests will be more likely to enjoy a simple meal served by an unfrazzled host than an elaborate production accompanied by screams from the kitchen. Think one-dish meals.
· Consider having a portion of the food catered. Check local prices to get the best deal.
· Do your heavy cleaning ahead of time. Plan your effort far enough in advance to leave you time to get ready for the party.
· Clean up as you go. Start the party with an empty trash can and an empty dishwasher. Wash pots and pans as you use them. Circulate through the rooms during the party, picking up dirty dishes, cups, and glasses to reduce your work after everyone leaves.
· Keep a disaster kit handy. To deal with the inevitable spills, have paper towels, a couple of small plastic trash bags, club soda, etc., stashed strategically. Quick blotting with a paper towel will often prevent a small spill from becoming a major stain.
· Wrapping up. Opening presents is always a joyous family activity, but it also produces a generous pile of boxes, tissue paper, and gift-wrap. At the very least, have a couple of large trash bags handy. Resist the temptation to bury wrapping paper in the fireplace. The colored inks can release toxic fumes when burned, and smoldering paper can blow out the chimney, crating a fire hazard.
· Remember the important rule: Never serve red punch with white carpet!
When we focus on all the things we want to get done in a short time, we feel the stress building up. We can replace holiday stress with holiday peace.
First drawing upon your own personal experience, jot down brief answers to these three questions:
1) Looking back over past holidays, what is one cause of seasonal stress you would like to eliminate or reduce this year?
2) What would you really enjoy adding to this year’s celebrations?
3) Name one reasonable thing you could do daily during this season that would bring more peace into your life.
One of the best ways to combat holiday stress is to take your attention away from it and focus on its opposite – peace. Peace is an inner state of alert calmness and vibrant tranquility. It is harmony with people and one’s environment. True peace is not dependent on outward circumstances, the behavior of others, or the absence of illness. It is the ability to accept with composure whatever challenges come our way. Inner peace carries with it a quiet feeling of power and energy. It bears no kin to passivity or laziness.
Here are a few suggestions for cultivating a spirit of peace during the holidays:
Examine what helps you feel peaceful. Maybe it’s having fun with a good friend, listening to uplifting music, praying, mediating, enjoying a good message, or gazing at the stars. Whatever works for you, build more of those experiences into your daily life.
If you find yourself rushing all the time, you’ll have to break that habit if you’re serious about living in abiding peace. Build more free space into your life. Kindly say no. Keep life simple. Let go of non-essentials. Do less and enjoy it more.
Reach out to ease the way for others. Scattering kindness, lending a helping hand and spreading cheerfulness are good medicine for all concerned.
Breathe with a soft belly. Feel the easy, natural, sensuous rhythm of your in-breath and out-breath. Doing this is a quick, effective way for regaining or deepening your calmness.
Cultivate the companionship of calm, happy, peaceful people. Gradually, and in subtle ways, you’ll find it easier to bring that sense of peace into all your relationships.
Spend time in nature with your eyes and ears and heart wide open. Even brief moments here and there can make a big difference.
Say no to worrying about the past and fretting about the future. Live fully in the here and now. Look with awe into the beautiful eyes of the person in front of you. Take time to hear the song of the wind in the pine trees. Embrace the wonder of each moment.
Avoid dividing your attention. With peace as your companion, do one thing at a time. Give full concentration to the task at hand, striving to perform all actions with even-mindedness.
Make a game of it: See if you can remain unruffled even in the face of challenging situations. Little by little, your skills as a peacemaker will increase.
Keep in mind that sometimes a lack of peace is peace is an inner call for a change in lifestyle or the healing of a relationship. If this is the case you will know it, as long as you sensitively listen to the signals of your body, mind, and spirit.
Perhaps most important of all, use your creativity to schedule in some relaxed periods for being quiet and having some solitude. In that stillness feel the spirit of peace within you and around you; and listen carefully and respectfully to the whisperings of your heart.
Resource: Sam Quick, University of Kentucky Extension Service
Adapted and made available by: Kim Evans, Extension Agent
Among the many pleasures of the holidays are the foods and festivals of the season. From the traditional to the exotic, you can celebrate and serve healthier foods. Whether small groups or large, whether casual or more formal, the successful party is a harmonious blend of organization and flair with everyone thoroughly enjoying the occasion–including you. The party tips will set you on your way to successful entertaining all through the year.
Begin Planning Early: Advance planning is the key to a successful party. Your guests are more likely to be available and there is more time for shopping, cooking ahead and freezing, readying your house, and all the other aspects of entertaining.
Be Specific: Write or phone each guest with the important details, such as the date, time, place (including directions), type of party or occasion and sometimes, what to wear.
Select the Menu Carefully: Your time and budget, number of guests, type of party or occasion, guests’ food and beverage preferences, ages of guests, season of the year, the oven, freezer and refrigerator space, and supplies available are all considerations when planning the menu.
Food, Recipes, and Garnishes Should Compliment Each Other: After you have selected the menu, picture it in your mind on a plate; Does it offer variety in color, flavor, texture, and temperature? Does it look attractive? Is it appropriate for the holiday season? Does your menu offer some healthy alternatives?
Pamper Your Budget: You don’t have to sacrifice quality, quantity, and appearance when you cut costs. Serve punch instead of alcohol or colas; have brunch or lunch instead of a dinner party; serve hors d’oeuvres instead of a full course meal; incorporate grocery specials and seasonal foods into your menu; and borrow rather that rent extra glassware, flatware, serving pieces, tables, and chairs.
Use a Checklist: Realistically make a list of how much time you need to prepare for your event. Note which foods can be made ahead and frozen or refrigerated. The week of the party, make a day-by-day agenda. The day of the party, make an hour-by-hour schedule.
Take Inventory: Check your supply of table linens, serving pieces, flatwear, glasswear, and other necessary items to be sure they are adequate and clean.
Arrange for Help if Necessary: Appraise the work to be done. If you cannot gracefully handle everything alone, hire an experienced person or line up a family member or friend to assist you. Passing canapes, pouring punch, clearing tables, serving coffee, or cleaning up can be problem spots for the host trying to cope along.
Relax and enjoy your own party. If you are having fun, your guests will, too!
Resource: Sandra Bastin, University of Kentucky Extension Service
Southern Living Magazine, November 1999
Adapted and made available by: Kim Evans, Extension Agent