Saturday, November 15, 2014

My Current Thoughts on Holiday Simplicity

Thanksgiving Napkin Ring Kit, from Paper Source

I'm putting some thought into how I want to spend my holiday season this year. How wonderful to have so many options to choose from!


Celebrity Chefs Stamps, at

  • Have you dropped off cans of food at your local food bank or food donation drop box recently? There's a canned foods box at my library, which makes it super easy for me to donate since I'm at the library almost every day.
  • Have you gotten your flu shot for this year yet? How about your family members? I should have gotten mine by now - I've got to do this when I get back from my San Diego trip!
  • Do you take your children for Santa pics? If so, have you made time, plans, and room in your budget to do so?
  • How are your supplies of printer paper, ink, tape, stamps, and other office supplies? Need to add anything to your shopping list? Those of us who mail holiday gifts especially need to be sure we have a way to print labels and tape boxes together.
  • Kitchen maintenance - Today I plan to wipe down the front of all my cupboards and appliances. The microwave probably needs wiping too.
  • Is your diary or journal up to date? It's the middle of the month. Did anything happen this month that you want to document to read back on in the future? Before things get busy with Thanksgiving?
  • How is your progress on your book club reading, if you participate in a book club; and your NaNoWriMo writing, if you are attempting that this year?

TODAY'S PROJECT: Home Office Organization

Kate Stockholm Letter Organizer, from The Container Store

Today I'm working to organize and clean my home office area. I no longer have an actual "home office" room in my house. I decided it was more important to have two guest bedrooms, and a playroom. (So many kids come visit me and play at my house!) So now I have a desk in my bedroom. I don't like having it in here but can't find room for it in either family room or living room. The desk holds my computer, printer, scanner, and mailing supplies. Unfortunately I can't find a better place to keep a box or two of office paperwork, so they're sitting next to my desk, cluttering up my bedroom.

It's very dusty in here from me leaving the bedroom window open often. There's clutter on top of my desk and bookshelf. I also need to dust off my printer, monitor and scanner.

When I'm done clearing off the desk, I want to sort my four desk drawers, reorganize and try to get rid of things I don't use every week.

Is your workspace where you pay bills and do paperwork clean and tidy? Can you find things when you need them? Do you have scissors, tape, pens, and notepaper easily ready for you? Do you have a phone nearby? If so, does it need to be cleaned off, wiped down of makeup and fingerprints? Have you cleaned germs off your computer keyboard recently?

LOVELY HOLIDAYS: Christmas Simplicity

Christmas Ornament Storage Box, from Storables

This week I'm thinking a lot about how I want to spend my holiday season. Last year I decided, despite having four foster kids to ferry to appointments, supervise homework for and make dinner for, to throw a massive holiday cocktail party for the grownups. This year, with no foster kids to take care of, and way more energy and money to devote to the holidays, I can either go all out and have an even bigger party, or indulge in a simple, quiet holiday season. Much as I love parties, I'm leaning towards the latter this year.

Do you let your holiday preparations take over and become all-consuming? In the next few weeks, will your life become all about holiday planning, cleaning, freaking out, running to the mall to shop, stressing about cooking, etc? Will you miss out on social events and opportunities to spend time with your friends and family because you've chosen to be "too busy" with holiday preparations? I'm asking these questions because I've been guilty of all in past years, and know people who tend to put themselves through hell during the holidays.

I've been very amused by reading the Holiday forum posts over at Etiquette hell. A lot of what people's family members and in-laws are reported to do around the holidays are a great reminder of what we should not be doing!

Holidays are wonderful, a lovely part of life. It's so nice to have something to look forward to especially in the dark and cold of winter. It's ok to be excited and anticipate the holidays. But only if we don't make ourselves (and our families) crazy with the preparations. We shouldn't ignore the other important parts of our life (friends and family) because we're so frazzled getting ready for the holidays. What are we getting ready for the holidays for, after all? To spend time with friends and family. More and more, I'm embracing shortcuts, and leaving things out if there's no time to do them. (I'm probably not hand crafting any tablescapes, and the list of people I'm hand writing Christmas letters to is shrinking).

Are you stressed out because you are doing too much - throwing too many parties, taking kids to too many after-school activities, taking on too many take-home extra work projects, attending events you feel obligated to attend but don't want to go to, volunteering to bake cookies for the school bake sale, etc.? Ask yourself why you are doing all these things? Where do your expectations come from? Who tells you to do so many activities? Spend some soul-searching time to see what the cause of your stress is. Then figure out a way to de-schedule your life.

You can cancel events, do without some homemade baked goods, bake cookies or a cake from a box mix or packaged mix, throw one less party, skip a school PTA meeting, stop shopping for gifts, and insist on more family at-home nights if that helps you. Carve time out of your life for things that are important, and cancel things that aren't.

Being "busy" is not a race or a competition, and even if it were, it's not one we should want to win. I am striving for a good balance between being the least busy person I know (I'd feel lazy or unsociable) and the most busy. I don't want to brag about how busy I am. I don't need to feel important from being busy. I want to be right in the middle: Busy enough to be involved, giving back, being productive and having an interesting life surrounded by good people. But not so busy I am stressed or can't find time to share with loved ones. I love taking advantage of last-minute dinner invitations, because I've left an evening open and can then accept.

I've strengthened my resolve to consciously try to have a simpler Christmas. What traditions do I want to keep? Which ones can I let slide, or do in simpler, less grandiose ways? What do I really want to spend my time doing?


Walker's Shortbread Festive Shapes, on Amazon

For me, the big Christmas meal is not really all that different than the one I eat at Thanksgiving. Turkey for the meat eaters and Tofurkey for the vegetarians, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, and a couple veggie side dishes. One simple dessert (a cake or pie I can bake the night before) should do it. You don't have to have ten kinds of home-baked Christmas cookies around the house.


LED Trees, from Pier 1 Imports

My outdoor Christmas lights, plus the ones we put in each of my windows, take more than two whole afternoons to put up. I do it with the help of a young cousin, so that probably saves me another afternoon of work. We make a special fun time of it, and enjoy a nice meal together afterwards. The tree will take an hour to buy at a nearby farm and set up. Dragging it into the house is the worst part! Decorating it will only take one pleasant evening - another opportunity to spend fun time with friends or family, as I always invite people to join me for the decorating.

I won't spend more than a couple hours decorating the rest of the house - a few candles here, a couple of garlands on the banisters and mantels, but not so much I get stressed about the time it takes. Mostly it just takes time to haul my decorations out of their storage space in my garage. Since I'm not throwing a big holiday party this year, I don't feel the need to decorate in every room of my house.


This year I'm not buying gifts for adults. Just for the children in my life. Every year I try to get my Christmas shopping done before Thanksgiving, so I don't have to stress about it.


Activities are something very important to me since it's something you enjoy with other people. You create memories and have a fun time together. With time and budget constraints in mind, I'm going to carefully pick and choose which activities I get involved in. I love everything about the holidays, but to keep myself sane, I'll carefully book two "at home" evenings by myself each week. Activities I can pick and choose between include caroling, attending cocktail parties, babysitting friends' kids so they can go shopping, going on a dinner cruise to see the Christmas Ships, movies, theater, shopping, dinners out, gingerbread house making, baking, Christmas card sending, newsletter writing, gift wrapping, game night, karaoke night, a long evening spent reading a book, driving around to look at Christmas lights, white elephant parties, and more dinners out!

A Dream Come True

For years my dream has been to stay home in my own home for Christmas. Last year that dream came true! I don't look forward to traveling alone across dangerous snowy roads or through crowded airports to visit relatives hours away and staying overnight in their homes year after year. I like hotels! It's fun, but I am so excited to once again stay in my own home this Christmas. I'll invite a couple family members over to spend an hour watching their kids open gifts and drinking cocoa with me. Then I'll spend time with my dogs and my fireplace, and savor staying cozy in my own home. Right now this sounds like the loveliest, warmest, most simplistic, stress-free Christmas of all.

What are some of your dreams for this Christmas?

LOVELY BLOGS: See Vanessa Craft

Vanessa lives in Arizona. Her mission in life " to spread my love of hot glue guns and glitter to others." Hehe. I thought you might enjoy her recent posts on a bacon wrapped chicken holiday appetizer, glazed sweet potato fingerlings, organizing her family command center, and her craft tutorials for button bracelets and pine cone door decor.


Bigelow Tea's Pomegranate Pizzazz Cocktail (Bigelow)

Bourbon Glazed Meatloaf (The View From Great Island)

British Carrots: Sticky Roast Chantenay Carrot Medley with Pomegranate Molasses (Lavender and Lovage)

Christmas Tree Decorating Tips (Cakies)

Cranberry Pot Roast (Feasting at Home)

Pomegranate Bundt Cake (Afrodite's Kitchen)

Pomegranate Chicken Wings (Manu's Menu)

Pumpkin Streusel Muffins (Crunchy Creamy Sweet)

Psychedelic Purple Risotto (The Amateur Gourmet)

Skillet Corn with Browned Butter and Sage (Lemon Tree Dwelling)

Sparkling Pomegranate Christmas Cocktail (Happy Hour Projects)

--Copyright 2014 Lovely Living

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