Jo’s corner of delightful information for the holiday season

It’s getting to be that time of year again.  The holidays are sneaking up on us and before we know it, 2014.  This year start early, and I don’t mean with shopping or baking. The most important thing to begin now is your stress reduction plan.  

            How do you start? 

Ignore all the fliers, catalogs, commercials and most importantly getting up at 3 am on the day after Thanksgiving to go shopping. If you are spending your Thanksgiving with friends and family, take it into the next day and relax, eat leftovers and enjoy just being together.  Plan a hike, a bike ride, a drive to the beach, or a trip to a museum, all day movie marathon, something appealing that doesn’t include trying to find parking, waiting in line, and buying things people end up not liking anyway just for the bargain. And speaking of bargains, they don’t go away after Black Friday, as we have all witnessed by the influx of TV, radio, newspaper ads, they just keep coming.  

When you do get a chance to bake and create cool gifts, is it fun?  Or are you trying to get it done and get the packages in the mail before a certain date?  Last year a friend and I got together for a Sunday baking day. It was wonderful and so entertaining.  We were not stressed, we enjoyed ourselves, our conversation, we enjoyed spending one on one time together, she was making her Grandmother’s recipe and I was improvising and customizing a recipe I had found.  Lots of love went into the cookies we were making.  I then packaged them and shipped them off to loved ones who live out of town.  Of course I had cookies with tea, but did not over indulge.

Speaking of food, this is a good segue about the endless conversation regarding holiday eating. 

We just make the excuse we will start our diet after the holidays.  What about just this one time keeping your fingers out of the See’s candy box and not giving in to the holiday indulgences.  Pretend it is bikini season instead of winter where we can cover everything up so nicely. (And it is bikini season in New Zealand)  Have fun, don’t miss out on the good stuff, but do it in moderation. How many times have you wondered who ate all the cookies?  It was you!

 Back to the stress release…….schedule in time to have fun, time for a massage, a mani/pedi, a cup of tea with friends.  If you are not crafty and suck at baking, try going to a holiday boutique.  This time of year you can find them every weekend.  Giving a gift that is handmade and useful will be remembered more than the packaged gift you got because it was such a great deal.  Take a moment to write down gifts you received last year and the ones you are still using.  That hot item of the moment may be sitting in a box waiting to go to Goodwill.  That will give you an idea of how to shop wisely. 

 I am hoping I don’t sound down on shopping, because trust me, it is one of my favorite pastimes. And to quote (watch out cheesy alert coming) Carrie Bradshaw from “Sex And The City”, “Shopping is my Cardio.” I love shopping, I love finding cool things for people that they will love.  What I don’t love is being rushed, stressed and irritated because I couldn’t find parking, it’s raining and there are too many people in line and this stopped being fun an hour ago.

A couple of ideas to help your stress level during the holidays.  Plan time for you to have fun. Make sure your kids are well rested if you are going to take them with you to the mall.  A cranky kid can ruin the already high stress situation.  Plan a break during shopping, meet a friend for coffee. Go with the intention of having fun, even if you are buying socks and underwear for stocking stuffers. You all know you have received those in your stockings.  Do something different with your family. If you don’t mind crowds, take the train or drive to San Francisco and take in the lights of Union Square, the people walking around and the adorable kittens and puppies in Macy’s window display.  Give experiences as gifts, they take up a lot less space and the memories live on long past the holidays. 

One of the best gifts you can give is you.  Take your family and do a day of volunteering.  Whether it be at a local animal shelter, women’s shelter or other community organization that needs extra hands during this time of year.  When I was a Big Sister with Big Brothers, Big Sisters, my “little” and I would go and volunteer in the kitchen at Poverello House at different times during the year, not just for holidays.  We have some of the best memories peeling potatoes and setting tables, and whatever else they needed done. Then instead of gifts, my little and her siblings would pick out a charity they wanted to donate to and for Christmas I would donate money in their name.  They learned the significance of giving and giving them the responsibility to pick the charity and explain why was a wonderful learning tool for them.

So this year, turn off the TV, in fact DVR the shows you want to watch, plan time in your day for you and honor that time. Take a good look at the person you are buying for, remember it is not about quantity, it’s about quality, about the thought, about the love.  Then find a DVD of “It’s A Wonderful Life” pop it in, make a cup of tea and get some cookies and settle in to get in the holiday spirit!! 

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