Tag: entertaining

Towards the Making of a More Relaxed Christmas 2018

It’s the 28th of December as I write this. I’m guessing both you and I are both feeling a bit “over” – overfed, overtired, over-partied, over-drawn – after weeks of celebrating. Am I right?

Most of us are looking forward to taking down our Christmas tree for a fresh start, and simultaneously feeling sad for the passing of this holy time.

Some of you are thinking “coulda/shoulda/woulda” regarding some of the choices you made this Advent. Maybe you said too many “yes’s” or were totally unorganized. Maybe you over-spent, or were too tired to be present in the moments. Our dream is to be present to God and to others especially during this holy season, so what are we going to do about it?

At our church, every week we do a little post-service eval, asking what went well and what we could do better. I’m thinking that if we do that and give a little forethought, Christmas 2018 can be even better than 2018. So here are a few suggestions.

And let me just say, if you are a man reading this and thinking, “Not my thing”, think again. One of the best gifts you can give your wife if you’re married is your partnership in this season. Step up men!

December 2017 /January 2018 

Have a conversation today. Evaluate Christmas 2017. Discuss these questions:

  • What worked well for Christmas 2017? What are we thankful for?
  • If we were going to choose one word to characterize Christmas 2017, what would it be?
  • What mistakes do we want to avoid for Christmas 2018?

The putzy stuff I hate to do, but this helps:

  • LABEL EVERYTHING as you put it away. Attach pictures of how you decorated to your storage boxes. Buy a storage box and label it 2018.
  • Buy candles, ornaments, ribbon, and goodie bags at post-holiday sales. Put these together and label “Hostess gifts”

  • I LOVE making things, but when November rolls around I feel too pressured to get creative. This January I’m looking at some of the DIY gifts I have pinned and am committing to actually doing them during our cold Minnesota winter.
  • Write on your calendar for December, 2018 which cookies you absolutely loved this year and want to commit to baking next year.
  • Record which menus worked this year – for an Open House, for easy family dinners, for whatever.
  • Update your Christmas card list now.
  • Did you have a great idea for a gift or an activity? Write it down on your calendar – December 2018.

Throughout 2018

  • If you have trips or family gatherings planned for 2018, write in reminders on those dates – TAKE FAMILY PHOTOs for Christmas cards!
  • Keep a gift chart of people, ideas and budget through the year..

November 2018

  • Buy or order your Christmas cards before Thanksgiving if possible.
  • I know not everyone can do this, but I block off the 5 days after Thanksgiving to focus on prepping for Christmas – getting decorations up over time so I can be relaxed. We make a point of coming home from visiting relatives at least a day early to miss the crazy crowds driving/flying home and to give ourselves some time to get grounded before the rush of the holidays starts.
  • If you’re married and have kids at home, sit down with your calendars and see if there is one day you can both take off and work together on shopping (grocery or gift). Enjoy a lunch date!

December 2018

Talk about expectations with your family. What are the things each person is MOST looking forward to and what are they apprehensive about?

Gift ideas

  • A lot of Christmas gifts can’t be anticipated or bought way ahead, but one that everyone loves that you can do in November is to create photo books for family members. If you do this on Shutterfly you can add to save and add to your project throughout the year too.

  • One of the best gift ideas I heard this year was from a grandmother who is a voracious reader and has a huge library of books. She chose one of her books to give each of her kids and grandkids with a note saying why she thought they’d like it. My mom has given me similar gifts that are precious to me – classics we loved, my grandfather’s Bible and my grandmother’s scrap book (100 years old!)

  • For busy mom friends this year I made them the main course of a dinner they could freeze and pop in the oven on a busy day when they didn’t want to cook.

  • Time is our most precious commodity. It may sound like a cop-out, but giving a “date” with someone to take them to a movie and dinner is a precious gift.

 

  • I love it when friends use their gifts and talents to create something special. My friend Sharon, who runs a creative communications team called Open Book,  made these prints to give.

  • And my friend Cara, who has started Rooted by Design, a flower arranging business made these lovely gifts for each of her friends (in a votive holder that can be reused!).

  • Looking for a gift for neighbors or hostess gifts? Make a big batch of ONE thing and put it in the bags you got after Christmas last year. Attach a tiny ornament. Three of the things I have given in the past are homemade granola, or “Christmas crack” snack mix, or quick bread in inexpensive ceramic loaf pans (I got red ones for about $2.00 a piece at Michaels)

 

  • Do you know someone who is grieving? This one is tricky because everyone what is helpful to one might be hurtful to another. The first Christmas after my brother died, my sister-in-law didn’t have the will or energy to decorate herself, but friends snuck over and hung a wreath on her door. You also might give an ornament that reminds you of the person who died, with a note sharing a memory. 

Those are a few of my ideas. What would you add? Please share in comments!

5 Mistakes I Made as a Hostess Last Night

I love gathering people – around our table, in our yard, throughout our house…whatever…

I do it a lot, but I’m a lifelong learner who still makes LOTS of mistakes!  Entertaining may not be your jam, but most people have to host something sometime.

Last night we had a small open house for some leaders in our church. I thought it might help if I shared some mistakes I made that you can avoid.

Things I did wrong last night:

  1. I tried too many new recipes. I love trying new recipes! With a large group of guests is not always the best time. I usually try to make sure I have at least one sure-fire winner and let myself try one new recipe. Last night there were 3. Not good.

 

2. I had too many hot things that needed to come out of the oven at the same time – last minute. The goal is PEOPLE time – “There you are!” time.

 

3. I put drink station in too congested area.  This is hard in our house – it’s an ongoing challenge, but I’ll keep experimenting.

 

4. Forgot to pray for guests. This is one of my absolute go-to’s – to stop and think about who is coming and their specific gifts and needs and pray for them. But yesterday I forgot. #fail.

 

5. Missed personal conversations with two guests. It’s hard to balance meaningful conversations with guests which may go long and keep you from circulating, and fly-by conversations that feel obligatory and too surfacy. I try really hard to engage meaningfully, but last night after folks left, I realized there were two people I hadn’t talked to at all! Ugh.

 

Things I did right:

1. Asked for help (people – especially introverts – love to be put to work!) Have people take plastic off plates, pull cider out of fridge…

 

2. Did as much as possible the day before. Labled serving pieces. Get out what you need, and think through how much room is needed for each option.

 

3. Made one easy, no-fail option. And here it is: Cut bacon slices into thirds. Wrap one piece of bacon around a “Lil Smokie” sausage and secure it with a toothpick. Dump all in a heavy plastic freezer bag. Shake in a bunch of brown sugar. Shake bag to coat and leave in fridge til ready to cook. Bake at 450 for 15-20 minutes. Can keep warm and serve in batches.

I’d love to hear from YOU!! What have you done as a host that we all can learn from?

 

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