holidays - travel

The holidays are coming – Travel (part 4)

“Oh the places you’ll go”.

Dr. Seuss

I realize that holiday travel didn’t really exist last year and may not exist this year depending on how everything progresses between now and the holiday season.  However, if you are able to do so safely, you might just be packing a suitcase and headed off somewhere.

Even if your holidays don’t include a suitcase, sometimes the in-town travel can be hectic as well.  When you have multiple houses to visit in a small period of time, it can be challenging.  Brunch at a friend’s followed by lunch at your aunt’s, and then dinner with the grandparents.  It can feel like you need a suitcase just to get through the day!

Travel planning is essential!

Planning and organizing is the key to smooth travel, whether you are going 15 miles or 1500 miles.

I could not travel without my packing list(s).  I like to roughly sketch out what I think I will be doing every day and then pack accordingly.  Most of the time I don’t take too many “just in case” items but it depends on the travel plans.  I like double-duty clothing and double-duty toiletries just to reduce what I have to fit into my luggage.

Traveling in town?

If your travel is just around town to multiple stops, truly consider packing a bag.  Maybe not a full suitcase, but it could be helpful especially with young kids.  Maybe an extra set of clothing just in case of spills, definitely entertainment of some sort, and always a small token for the host or hostess.  Plus, if this is the holidays, you might also be lugging presents around as well.

Traveling out of town?

If you are going to be traveling by plane with presents, I strongly urge you to ship them ahead of time.  No one wants to stand in the airport and watch security unwrap those beautiful packages.  I love shipping the big box ahead of time to my mom’s so that I don’t have to fit all those packages into my suitcase.  (Side Note = Also remember to either leave space in your luggage or plan to ship a package back in case you receive gifts that don’t fit easily.)

Whether you are celebrating with loved ones in person or Zoom, let’s get ready for the season!

holidays - minimalist

The holidays are coming – Minimalist (part 3)

We’ve talked about Holiday Gifts and Holiday Meals.  But what if your family is trying to practice restraint when it comes to the gifts and the meals?  It’s hard to tell grandma not to buy the grandkids presents and it’s hard not to sample all of mom’s cooking!

Three easy rules about too many gifts

It’s so much fun to unwrap everything but I always have a minor panic when it comes time to find a home for all of the lovely presents I’ve been given.

  1. Ask in advance for the givers to be conscious of their giving.  For adults, maybe charitable donations instead of presents.
  2. Clean out in advance.  If you are expecting new clothes for yourself or new toys for the kids, try to purge items in advance of receiving new ones.
  3. The one-in-one-out rule.  For every new purse or stuffed animal, put one in the donations bag.

Three easy rules about too much food

Dips and cheese are my biggest weaknesses.  So I try to use veggies with the dips and count the cheese as my protein so that I feel more balanced after a meal and not ready to sleep for 12 hours.

  1. Balance your day / week.  It isn’t about going without; it’s about making healthy choices for a balanced diet based on what you expect to be eating later.  A green salad with lean protein for lunch if you are headed to a big dinner party later.
  2. Balance your plate.  Fill about half of the plate with the freshest options you can find, and then treat yourself to the goodies too.
  3. Balance your mind.  It’s the holidays, and a couple of extra cookies are not going to derail the universe.  Enjoy yourself and forgive yourself and eat better tomorrow!

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Don’t forget to check out these beautiful holiday card templates!

holidays - meals

The holidays are coming – Meals (part 2)

Oh the eating that happens during the holidays…  Whether you visit lots of friends and family or celebrate the holidays quietly at home, eating is a center point of almost all holiday events.  Appetizers, party trays, chips and dips, mounds of potatoes, stacks of cookies, and the list can go on.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s all good stuff!  But a little planning and balance means you can enjoy all of your favorites.

The storming of Normandy

Yes, this is actually what my family calls my holiday meal prep list.  I start with my menu, then check the recipes, then make a grocery list, then make my prep list.  I still make some of the same recipes that my grandmother made for our holiday meals growing up.  And some of the prep starts several days in advance!

So one of the holiday “essentials” is the green bean casserole and I have to admit I did not have this dish with a holiday meal until I was over 30.  But I have learned to either make it or have someone bring it!  If you are looking to ease the burden of being the host or hostess, definitely consider having other family members contribute dishes to the meal.  I do recommend asking them to bring dishes that are ready to go and won’t mess up the ‘oven rotation’ such as salads or desserts or appetizers.

The Normandy list has gotten easier over the years.  Partially because I host smaller groups nowadays and partially because I save the list every year so that I have a place to start for the next year!

But anyone who has cooked a full holiday meal knows, the planning and organization is essential!

Special diets?

One of my sisters-in-law has Celiac and is very strict in avoiding of gluten.  My mom and I have successfully adjusted two of those family recipes I mentioned earlier – the squash casserole and the cornbread dressing.  (Why, yes, I am Southern.)  Gluten-free ingredients are getting easier to find it seems.

If someone in the family has a special diet requirement that would be more difficult to accommodate, I think it’s reasonable to ask them if they can contribute something just in case.  I have been known to take my own sliced turkey breast to a meal when I knew steak was being served.  But since I was being the picky one, I was more than happy to bring my own.

Maintaining your “diet”

Most of these holiday parties and meals are not offering the healthiest of selections.  And once the holidays begin, there are usually ample opportunities to overeat and to choose unhealthy foods.

My biggest recommendation is to balance everything out, either by the day or by the week.  If you know your weekend is going to be full of fried or cheese-covered or chocolate-filled treats, then be cautious of what you eat leading up to the weekend and probably the week after.  Focus on lean protein and fresh fruits and vegetables.  You can also balance an individual meal, right on the plate.  If I know I want to have some of the less-healthy options, I always try to fill half my plate with the fresh fruits/vegetables first before serving the other treats.  Green salad and fresh fruit salad get huge portions before I serve myself some of the necessary squash casserole and cornbread dressing!

holidays - gifts

The holidays are coming – Gifts (part 1)

I know, school just started back and it’s only September.  I mean, it’s still in the 90s here in Dallas.  But the holidays will be here before we know it.  I’ve already started stockpiling the gifts I will need for my loved ones.  In an ideal world, I like to buy them throughout the year whenever something strikes my fancy for someone.  But life doesn’t always work like that.  So advanced planning for the holidays can really save time and headaches (and possibly even money!).

Our first topic is Holiday Gifts.  We’ll get to meals and travel later.

Planning the gifts you give

Truthfully, this is one of my favorite parts of the holiday season – giving gifts to my family and friends and coworkers.  Sometimes I track ingredients if I’ve planning handmade gifts, but mostly I track what I am giving to whom.  I love this gift tracker.  I usually have at least two in my planner, one for birthday gifts throughout the year and of course one for the holidays.

Organizing the gifts you receive

This part is a little harder for me.  Sometimes I don’t know what to do with the gifts that I receive.  I love that someone thought of me and wanted to give me something, and I never want to hurt anyone’s feelings.  But what to do with it now?  It needs a place to call its own, not to mention any maintenance that might come with said gift.

I’ve tried to shift some folks to donations in my name or “experience” gifts but not everyone accepts these shifts.

I’m a big fan of experience gifts — a day trip somewhere, a special meal out, or tickets to an event.  Some of these gifts are not available right now in light of the ongoing pandemic, but it can be done.  My mom and I like packing car picnics and taking drives in the area where she lives around Austin.

However you want to plan your gift-giving and organize your gift-receiving, make sure you have the right tools at your fingertips!