No Pressure, But… (Holiday Edition)

November 14, 2012 § Leave a comment

It’s that time of year again: The Holidays.

You will probably remember that I am not a fan on account of all the rushing and general insanity this time of year brings. But I have made a little promise to myself not to be so Grinch-y this year.

Sadly, that does not exonerate me from the planning and prep, which does make the actual events of the season go much more smoothly. And since things can get so hectic at year end, I get started early to avoid finding myself In The Soup. So, in order to discourage you from getting into The Soup yourselves, here are some of the things I rely on quite heavily this time of year:

Wrapping

Paper Mojo (www.papermojo.com)

These folks have the most lovely gift wrap, available by the sheet, so that you don’t have to commit too heavily to one or two styles. And as an added bonus, you don’t have to wrangle those long rolls of paper, which is one of my least favorite things to do.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I don’t really do “holiday” themed wrapping — I just try to put interesting combinations together that hopefully feel delightful. This year I went gaga over PM’s Chiyogami and Katazome papers, and wound up doing a larger selection than usual. But I could not help myself and I honestly can’t wait to see them all.

One King’s Lane (onekingslane.com)

They regularly have gift wrap available  and if you free yourself from the need to have specific holiday-themed papers, you can purchase it whenever, and use it now and later. Their prices are pretty good as well, which makes wrapping larger gifts feel less painful. Order early as they take time to ship.

Kate’s Paperie (www.katespaperie.com)

Oh, yes. They have been around forever and while I can’t go into the store without some kind of beta blocker, I find their house brand of ribbon to be perfect for almost anything. So, I heavy up this time of year and use leftovers until I run out. Order online to keep the insanity level low.

Dempsey & Carroll (http://www.dempseyandcarroll.com)

Here’s the thing about Dempsey & Carroll: If you look hard enough, you will find things that are well made but aren’t trying too hard. Since my wrapping will be on the effusive side this year, I just purchased enough of their cream colored gift cards for slipping under the ribbon of each package. It is just enough space to put a little something sweet without having to go on forever. Because let’s face it: People want to open the gift. And a long card feels like all those trailers you need to watch before the movie.

Gifting

Our company gift and recipient list is all taken care of by October. But that still leaves me with around forty — yes, forty…4-0* — gifts to buy for family, friends, colleagues and all the wonderful people who do so much for us year round. Need I say I use a fierce little spreadsheet to track it all? I do. It eliminates confusion and puts the attention back on the gifts themselves, which is more fun.

For hostess gifts and other smaller tokens,  I always opt for something a little luxurious or totally delicious. A fabulous nail polish (Chanel, Tom Ford, YSL), fresh yummy baked goods,  mini Diptyque candles…stuff I buy to treat myself that I think others will also enjoy.  You can find these things at the usual places, but that does not mean I don’t like a good deal, so I also like One King’s Lane for some of these items. And I really can’t tell you how much people love things from Zingerman’s (https://www.zingermans.com). I do, too. So I guess it all makes sense. Oh, and did you know that Russ and Daughters ships?? They do. So I do, too. (http://russanddaughters.com)

As for the children in our life, I love The Land of Nod (landofnod.com). With careful digging, one can find really great things that seem to go over quite well with the Wee Folk. I always try to include an art project or two for children that will be home for the holiday break. I figure that leaves one less activity that their parents need to plan, and it doesn’t create as much long-term clutter.

More personal gifts for good friends and family are always harder, but I do think that experiences (concert or show tickets, dinners to a new or favorite place) are always nice presents for people who have all the sweaters, pjs and electronics that they need. I’ve also had great luck online with 1st Dibs (1stdibs.com), Net-A-Porter (just add the “.com”), Ruby Lane (yeah…add that “.com” again), Paul Smith (www.paulsmith.com) and Design Within Reach (dwr.com). And nothing beats taking a little time to go hunting for that perfect thing in some well-known or off the beaten path place. You know the drill.

Still, my absolute favorite gift to give and receive is one that takes the pressure off: A commitment to spend time together after the holidays. I do this with one of my dearest friends — usually spa and lunch. It gives us time to catch up and unwind. What better present for a Bestie?

Decking

If you don’t have time to mess with assembling your own greenery and the like, White Flower Farm (www.whiteflowerfarm.com) does a bang up job with pre-assembled boughs and wreaths. L.L. Bean is also an able contender in this category. (www.llbean.com) I try to keep things simple, so I just fill the place with paperwhites, amaryllis, and the usual greenery. And this year I am trying something new: battery powered lights from Restoration Hardware. You can use them for covered outdoor areas and I am hoping they will eliminate the need for the troublesome cord that always hangs down the table where we keep our little tree** in the city. Fingers crossed and full report TK.

Making Merry

I don’t host every holiday, but for the ones that I am responsible for I do try my best to follow The Ina (Garten) Principle: Keep it simple and delicious. Honestly, there is not one cookbook of hers that I do not love — the recipes always work and are not hard at all. That said, I have evolved into a pretty good Just Cook What Looks Good kind of person, so that is generally what I do. This year we are hosting Thanksgiving, so the menu will consist of whatever arrives my CSA box (yes, it includes a turkey), fresh cranberry sauce and Classic Joy of Cooking Stuffing. Oh, and Ginger Cake from Zingerman’s (I really hate baking) and some good wine of Mr. H’s selection. Pinot and Turkey? Maybe a Zin? We shall see…

For pre- and post-holiday visitors, I like to do cozy things like fresh pasta with bolognese, braised short rib and roasted vegetables and maybe a baked fruit of some kind. Easy but not Everyday. And do not forget the power of the Cheese and Charcuterie Plate!! Or the festive feeling that sparkling wine and a little canapé tray can lend to any occasion.

Savoring

This is a major Development Area for me. Work is nuts, there is the added pressure of the above AND the need to feel like This Is The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year, even though you are exhausted, possible cold, and probably (if you are me) cranky.

All that said, I am going to make a real effort to appreciate the decking, make time to Make Merry and to take care of myself (early to bed when I can, keeping up with cardio and pilates, and eating a cookie now and again) as a gift to myself. Care to join me?

xx

* We’ve been over this, right? Forget The Godfather, almost all the answers to life’s questions are answered in All About Eve.

** I cannot extol the virtues of the Table Tree enough. I used to do giant trees, which always resulted in a foul mood on my part.  But with the Table Tree, in under an hour I get the same effect and no dogs snooping around the presents or drinking tree water. Like!

(Photo of a bit of 2011’s Wrap-Mania: Some Cozy Night)

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