baking

Reduce your mental holiday clutter

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When people think about staying organized over Christmas, more often than not they focus on physical clutter, like organizing presents and decorations. However, over the busy holiday season, people can develop mental clutter that can make it difficult to truly enjoy the season. Many people have a lot to do over the holidays in addition to their regular jobs or tasks – there’s visits with family and friends, holiday parties, gift shopping, gift wrapping, decorating, and plenty of other obligations. This holiday season take some time to organize your mental clutter to avoid feeling stressed and overwhelmed.

 

Remember: you’re not in this alone

If you’re hosting a meal for family and friends, don’t think that you have to do everything yourself. Ask your guests to pitch in and help with the meal by bringing a side dish or beverages so you don’t have as much to do. Cooking a turkey and bringing it as a guest can be difficult, but if you handle the turkey, it is easy for someone else to bring a salad or vegetable. Desserts and appetizers are also easy to delegate to other guests.

 When you’re assigning items for guests to bring, be sure to write down what each person is bringing so you or another guest don’t accidentally make the same thing or forget to bring a dish. Make sure you know what everyone is bringing, and if they will need to heat up their dish or keep it in the fridge until the meal is served. This way, you can plan your own dishes accordingly.

 

Change your gifting habits

A lot of mental stress during the holidays comes from having to buy gifts for your friends, family members and co-workers. Not only is it difficult to come up with ideas, but shopping can be very time-consuming and financially draining. Consider reducing your gift consumption without sacrificing the fun of giving and receiving gifts. Instead, try drawing names for “Secret Santa” or hosting a gift exchange with a lower budget. This way, everyone still gets a gift, but you won’t have to spend the same amount of time or money.  

Gifts don’t have to be expensive, and they don’t have to be a tangible object either. Consider going out for a nice meal with friends instead of buying each other gifts or take a loved-one to an activity or performance. These “clutter-less” gifts don’t have to be enjoyed during the holiday season either – they can wait until sometime in the New Year, so you aren’t scrambling to fit everything in December. Postponing your gifts will also help keep your spending down during the holidays.

 

Take time to relax

There may be a lot you want to do over the holidays, but it is important to make sure to do set time aside to relax and spend time with friends and family. Plan on meeting with friends for lunch or set aside time for after-work drinks. If you really want to relax, a trip to the salon for a quick pedicure or manicure with friends might also be a good way to unwind. It doesn’t have to take up a lot of time but getting together can be a great way for you to take a break while spending time with your loved ones over the holidays. Finding time to get together can be more special than just sending them a gift.

 

Purchase supplies ahead of time

It’s not too early to start purchasing your groceries for the holiday meal. Start looking for sales on cranberry sauce, condiment spreads, crackers, pickles, and other non-perishable foods. Turkeys, hams and other meats and fish can also be purchased in advance and frozen – just be sure to give yourself enough time to safely defrost them before preparing. Some desserts and baked goods can also be made up ahead of time. You can start baking simple bars, dessert squares and cookie dough now and freeze them. Whenever you have people over or need a dessert, you can simply pull them out of the freezer before the meal, so they are ready to go when you need them.

 

It can be hard to have fun over the holidays when mental clutter is weighing you down. Take time to relax over the holidays and make visiting family and friends a priority. Do what you can ahead of time but remember that you don’t have to do everything on your own. Giving gifts is a popular holiday tradition, but it doesn’t have to take up a lot of your time or money. With these simple steps, you can enjoy the holiday season!  

Avoid stress: Get ready for Christmas ahead of time!

There are many elements that make up the holiday season, but one of the most important events during Christmas is the dinner itself, whenever you may be celebrating it. For those that are hosting, this event is even more important – and stressful! With many activities on the go, the holidays may seem like one massive headache, but it doesn’t have to be if you plan ahead.

While most of the food can’t actually be cooked until the day before or the day of, that doesn’t mean there isn’t anything you can do ahead of time. On the contrary, planning out the meal and making a list will make the day of go a lot smoother!

First things first: plan out the dinner menu. You will have to make note of who is coming, and what, if any, dietary concerns there are and if you will need to make changes to your menu. For example, will you need to make your menu gluten free? If so, you will also need to be aware of any cross-contaminations between non-gluten and gluten dishes. 

Consider what dishes can be made ahead. Many desserts, casserole dishes, and sides are easy to make up or prepare a couple of days before, so all you have to do is place them in the oven before the meal. We recommend making a mashed potato bake recipe.On Christmas day they get popped in the oven and there is no mashing and no mess.

The oven is a popular place and time should be organized beforehand depending on what needs to be cooked, when, and for how long. To save time and space, consider cooking vegetables the day before so you can just heat them up in the oven or microwave right before the meal. Instead of completely cooking vegetables like carrots, take them out early and run them under cold water to help keep their texture and colour. On the day of, they’ll only need a couple of minutes to warm up.

Also important to consider is the look of your food. Aim for colour! Meat and potatoes are all bland colours, so add some bright and vibrant vegetables like Brussel sprouts, carrots, beets, and salad to make your dinner plates pop.

You can even add garnishes to colourless dishes to add colour and texture. For example, green beans with almonds, mixed seasonal vegetables, roasted peppers – a mix of complimentary colours!

Karen recommends a “favourite” salad of hers that includes pomegranate, candied pecans, feta cheese, and maple dressing. This salad is a “colourful and beautiful taste combination” that can be made ahead of time by prepping the ingredients and washing and drying the salad greens the day before.

Simple is always best. Cook dishes that you are comfortable with and have made before. If you are trying something new, do a test run and try the recipe ahead of time so you have a better idea of what to expect the day of.

Beverages can easily be prepared ahead of time. Make sure the fridge is stocked with wine, water, and any other beverages so they’re ready to enjoy at dinnertime.

Last but not least, make sure that your table is ready for the food. You can put on the table cloth (after it’s been washed, cleaned, and ironed, of course) and set out clean dishes the night before if you have a separate table. If not, these items can still be taken out and set aside until the day of, and can be set out when you have time while the dishes are cooking.

A plan of action will help ensure you are prepared and not stressed the day of. Getting steps done ahead of time creates a clean and uncluttered space in your kitchen so you can worry about what’s important on Christmas day: spending time with friends and family, and cooking a perfect turkey!  

Getting Ready for the Holidays

November is here, which means it’s time to get organized for the upcoming holiday season!

First things first, one has to determine what needs to be done. To break things down, we can look at the holidays in terms of gifts and cards, the meal, decorating, and holiday activities, and organize these topics chronologically.

All of these topics require planning, thinking of ideas, and making lists. This time-consuming task doesn’t have to be done all at once. While waiting for kids to finish lessons, on the train to work, waiting for an appointment – use these moments of time to think of gift ideas, guest lists, menus, shopping lists, etc.

Another important thing to remember is that it’s hard for a person to do these tasks by oneself – get family and friends to participate and help out!  

 

Beginning of November

-       Gifts and Cards

o   Start shopping: Especially when buying items online, it’s best to get them ordered sooner rather than later to make sure you receive before the holidays. Buying gifts is usually cheaper if you purchase them ahead of time, because they are more likely to be on sale and the stores are usually not as crowded, which makes for a less stressful shopping experience!

o   Create Christmas cards: Although they don’t have to be sent yet, get your kids to make up an ecard or design a print-out online. There are many websites that will offer easy print out picture options that are great to send out as well.

-       Holiday Activities

o   Charity/donations: A lot of people want to give back or support local charities by volunteering, but around the holiday time there are almost too many people that want to help. Consider making a donation or volunteering earlier – these charities don’t just need help around the holidays.

 

Mid-November

-       Gifts and Cards

o   Send U.S./International holiday cards and presents: A list of the deadlines for Canada Post’s letter and parcel shipping for the U.S. and International destinations can be found here. Don’t leave this to the last minute!

o   Wrapping: Now is a good time to make sure that you have the wrapping paper and gift bags that are needed for this year. As you purchase Christmas gifts, wrap them when you have time in the evenings in front of the T.V. or on the weekend.

-       Holiday Activities

o   Christmas parties: A lot of companies tend to host Christmas parties around the middle to end of November. Make sure you have an outfit to wear, item for donation, and potentially a food item to bring if it’s potluck!

 

End of November

-       Gifts and Cards

o   Send out Christmas cards: It may seem early, but get cards printed or make sure all of them are written and addressed, and send them out during the last couple of days of the month. That way, they are guaranteed to be received during the beginning of December and you will have one less task to worry about!

-       The Meal

o   Create a guest list and menu: Decide who will be coming, when you’ll be hosting, and what you’ll be eating. Is it sit down, potluck or buffet? Get this figured out now so you can start preparing your schedule for December.

o   Bread cubes: Another item that can be checked off the list early. Cube up the bread, dry it out, and pop it in the freezer.

o   Baking: Get some of the Christmas baking out of the way. A lot of cookie dough, squares, and cakes can be made ahead of time and stored in the freezer.

 

Beginning of December

-       The Meal

o   For a break down of managing and planning out a meal, check out our previous post for Thanksgiving Time Management. Different holiday, but the same guidelines apply!

-       Decorating

o   Christmas lights: Lights can be put up anytime throughout the month, but can be very dependent on weather. Watch out for warm chinook days and take advantage of them!

o   Christmas tree: Depending on whether you use a fake or real tree, it can be set up earlier in the month along with the rest of the decorations. It’s nice to get the house set up ahead of time! Get the family involved and make it a fun holiday activity.

All that should (hopefully) be left by this point is the rest of the meal preparation, most of which can’t be done too far ahead of time. Now, you can enjoy caroling, Christmas parties, and other activities instead of rushing last minute to buy gifts, decorate the house, and send out Christmas cards. Getting gifts and cards, decorating, and holiday activities done early allows you to enjoy the rest of the holiday season stress-free!