I love watching TV segments about reducing stress at the holiday. Oh really, I never thought about taking deep breaths and scheduling time for a bath to relax. (To be fair to my TV friends, I know what it's like to get that assignment and groan a little bit. I had to do the same thing once upon a time.)
Stress is a bit of an area of expertise of mine. Let's just say I've had a lot of practice. Say, when I had to go to a certain office during my vacation last week. Twice. But now I've checked out for vacation for real, and just have Christmas & family fun coming up. No stress there, right?
In honor of the most wonderful time of the year (ahem), I bring you my secrets to a stress-free less holiday. Some I've recently discovered; others are tried and true remedies. And yes, I know they aren't applicable to everyone, but it's what helps get me through ...
1. Make candy that involves pounding the hell out of candy canes: Peppermint Bark!
We made it for the first time last night (after I'd eaten ever last crumb from a co-worker, as well as a tin from Costco) using this recipe from Savory Sweet Life.
My duty: to whack the living daylights out of candy canes. And unlike other kitchen duties that involve high temperatures and finesse, I excelled!
Crushing up the candy canes was actually therapeutic, and the end result was delicious. We're rolling around after eating half of it last night going to give some away as gifts.
2. Skip sending Christmas cards
Even typing this I feel a little sacrilegious. I've never had a year where I didn't obsess over my Christmas cards, i.e., hiring a designer friend and spending countless hours concepting and scrutinizing fonts and layouts. It kind of goes back to my "if it's worth doing, it's worth doing better than anyone else," philosophy, which I've been working on dissembling, much like candy canes.
I do believe in the tradition of the mailed Christmas card, the feel of the paper and photos of their families.
The truth is, I scrutinize images and layouts and words every single day. It was more of a stress this year, and I wanted to put my energy toward other projects. So I didn't do it. And I'm sure no one is standing at their mailbox crying because I've ruined their Christmas. (If they do feel bad, they can read my dad's amazing Christmas letter to hear about our family. It's posted on his blog.)
3. Throw a ginormous surprise Santa party for your child and all his friends.
Oh wait, that was hugely stressful. (Yes, preschool parents who didn't RSVP, I was shooting you a look during our children's Christmas program at school.) But the kids enjoyed it, and I got to eat all the leftover peppermint bark. See #4.
4. Move your peppermint bark-filled body.
To quote my favorite Richard Simmons line (from one of his records that my mother owned in the 80s): "You put it there/now lift it up and put it down." For me, that's starting to take Pure Barre and going back to yoga. (Even if my yoga teacher did say during class last week, "Well thats remarkable, Erin, especially since you haven't been in three months. Busted by the yogini.)
5. Stock up on bagel bites.
They are my specialty. One year during Christmas when we ran out of food I pulled them out. We opened presents eating delicious bite size morsels of goodness. Just like Grandma made. And you can get them in packs of eight zillion at Costco. I am totally serious.
6. Schedule time for champagne for the soul.
Chicken soup is ok, but champagne is better. Last weekend I got my winter blonde highlights and today I spent the day at Ross Bridge Spa with my good friend Amy. (Birmingham residents get 20% off on Monday and Tuesdays - score!)
Ross Bridge is one of our favorite places to get away, and what better time to do it than when everyone else is running around trying to do last minute things? One of the best things about Ross Bridge is that when you get a service you can take advantage of the spa facilities all day long, including the jacuzzi, steam room, and quiet room.
I had the Highland Foot Scrub/Scalp Therapy. It was divine, and the day a great pause from the hustle and bustle.
[For the record, I made Amy wear the hat. But she was so blissed out she was ammenable.]
I kid, I kid. In moderation, of course. One of the most memorable events of the Christmas season was last week when I went to a friend's house for our first annual "Bows And Baileys." Two of our resident mixologists created amazing conctions based on seasonal liquers, and we practiced making decorative bows.
It was all very civilized, but drinking things filled with cinnamon and chocolate and coffee sure was fun.
8. Have a snowball fight
I know what you're thinking: I don't like cold. It's true. The fabulous thing is that there are lots of places to access fake snow. We had a blast at Gaylord Opryland's "Snow" exhibit (which officially does not allow snowball throwing, although some little person of ours bent the rules).
And said little person was equally thrilled to play in the "snow" at the McWane Center's "Winter Wonderland" exhibit yesterday. There's just something about snow, especially when enjoyed in 72-degrees controlled temperatures.
9. Give to someone who really needs it.
The past few days I've been thinking a lot about the work of The Blogess. This Texas-based blogger offered 20 $30 Amazon gift cards through her blog to people in need. She got more than 500 requests. All of those people have been helped, thanks to the generous outpouring of her readers.
10. Bake a birthday cake (or pick one up at Publix).
As long as I can remember, every Christmas Eve after Mass my family gathers round and sings Happy Birthday to Baby Jesus. At times I played the flute, clarinet, saxaphone, and accordian. Now I just sing, and have introduced the tradition to Nate.
It helps us keep things in perspective.
And yes, afterwords we dance to Lady GaGa.