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Surviving the Holidays FOR



Edited by Kelly Ewing

Surviving the Holidays For Dummies® Published by John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 111 River St. Hoboken, NJ 07030-5774 Copyright © 2012 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc., Hoboken, New Jersey Knitting pattern and knitting styles © Pam Allen No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, scanning or otherwise, except as permitted under Sections 107 or 108 of the 1976 United States Copyright Act, without the prior written permission of the Publisher. Requests to the Publisher for permission should be addressed to the Permissions Department, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 111 River Street, Hoboken, NJ 07030, (201) 748-6011, fax (201) 748-6008, or online at Trademarks: Wiley, the Wiley logo, For Dummies, the Dummies Man logo, A Reference for the Rest of Us!, The Dummies Way,, Making Everything Easier, and related trade dress are trademarks or registered trademarks of John Wiley & Sons, Inc. and/or its affiliates in the United States and other countries, and may not be used without written permission. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., is not associated with any product or vendor mentioned in this book. LIMIT OF LIABILITY/DISCLAIMER OF WARRANTY: THE PUBLISHER AND THE AUTHOR MAKE NO REPRESENTATIONS OR WARRANTIES WITH RESPECT TO THE ACCURACY OR COMPLETENESS OF THE CONTENTS OF THIS WORK AND SPECIFICALLY DISCLAIM ALL WARRANTIES, INCLUDING WITHOUT LIMITATION WARRANTIES OF FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE. NO WARRANTY MAY BE CREATED OR EXTENDED BY SALES OR PROMOTIONAL MATERIALS. THE ADVICE AND STRATEGIES CONTAINED HEREIN MAY NOT BE SUITABLE FOR EVERY SITUATION. THIS WORK IS SOLD WITH THE UNDERSTANDING THAT THE PUBLISHER IS NOT ENGAGED IN RENDERING LEGAL, ACCOUNTING, OR OTHER PROFESSIONAL SERVICES. IF PROFESSIONAL ASSISTANCE IS REQUIRED, THE SERVICES OF A COMPETENT PROFESSIONAL PERSON SHOULD BE SOUGHT. NEITHER THE PUBLISHER NOR THE AUTHOR SHALL BE LIABLE FOR DAMAGES ARISING HEREFROM. THE FACT THAT AN ORGANIZATION OR WEBSITE IS REFERRED TO IN THIS WORK AS A CITATION AND/OR A POTENTIAL SOURCE OF FURTHER INFORMATION DOES NOT MEAN THAT THE AUTHOR OR THE PUBLISHER ENDORSES THE INFORMATION THE ORGANIZATION OR WEBSITE MAY PROVIDE OR RECOMMENDATIONS IT MAY MAKE. FURTHER, READERS SHOULD BE AWARE THAT INTERNET WEBSITES LISTED IN THIS WORK MAY HAVE CHANGED OR DISAPPEARED BETWEEN WHEN THIS WORK WAS WRITTEN AND WHEN IT IS READ.

For general information on our other products and services, please contact our Business Development Department in the U.S. at 317-572-3205. For details on how to create a custom For Dummies book for your business or organization, contact info@ For information about licensing the For Dummies brand for products or services, contact BrandedRights& ISBN 978-1-118-49593-3 (ebk) ISBN 978-1-118-49602-2 (ebk) ISBN 978-1-118-49594-0 (ebk) Manufactured in the United States of America 10 9 8 7 6  5 4 3 2 1 Cover photo: © Brandon Laufenberg/iStockphoto

Table of Contents Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 How This Book Is Organized..................................................... 1 Icons Used in This Book............................................................. 2 Where to Go from Here.............................................................. 2

Chapter 1: Getting in the Holiday Mindset. . . . . . . . . . . . 3 Avoiding Holiday Stress............................................................. 3 Surprise! Cleaning Your House for Unexpected Guests......... 6 Stocking Up on Christmas Spirits............................................. 8

Chapter 2: Surviving Holiday Shopping. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11 Dealing with Gift Expectations................................................ 11 Making Your Own Gifts............................................................ 15

Chapter 3: So You Want to Have a Party?. . . . . . . . . . . . 27 Deciding What Kind of Party to Have..................................... 27 Choosing a Date........................................................................ 29 Sizing Up Your Space................................................................ 30 Planning Your Guest List......................................................... 31 Inviting Your Guests................................................................. 33

Chapter 4: Cooking Up a Storm. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35 Planning Your Menu................................................................. 35 Greeting Your Guests with Quick and Easy Appetizers....... 36 Serving a Salad.......................................................................... 37 Making a Main Course.............................................................. 37 Preparing Side Dishes.............................................................. 40 Indulging in Dessert.................................................................. 43

Chapter 5: Making Your Party Shine. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 47 Developing the Right Attitude................................................. 47 Preparing an Action Plan: It’s All about the Lists................. 48 Setting the Mood with Music................................................... 51 Being a Good Host.................................................................... 51


Surviving the Holidays For Dummies

Chapter 6: Returning to a Positive State of Mind . . . . . 55 Lifting Your Post-Holiday Spirits............................................ 55 Regaining a Positive Outlook................................................... 56 Letting Your Actions Speak Louder Than Words................. 58 Developing Closer Social Ties................................................. 60 Relaxing after the Festivities................................................... 61

Chapter 7: Feeling as Good Physically as You Do Mentally . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 63 Getting Fit — No Time Like the Present!................................ 63 Giving Yoga a Try...................................................................... 66 Striving for a Relaxed Body and Mind: Meditation............... 68

Chapter 8: Ten or So Holiday Do’s and Don’ts . . . . . . . . 71 Do Make Yourself a Priority.................................................... 71 Do Take Time to Ask about House Rules or Make Them Clear............................................................. 71 Don’t Be a Hero......................................................................... 72 Do Let Social Media Help You................................................. 72 Do Stick with What You Know................................................. 72 Do Unwrap It Already............................................................... 73 Don’t Expect to Attend Every Party and Event..................... 73 Do Be Reasonable When Planning.......................................... 73



ust the thought of the holidays can be overwhelming: the decorating, the shopping, the entertaining, the extra commitments (not to mention the sleep deprivation). And if you have kids, juggling everything can prove to be even more of a challenge. Fortunately, Surviving the Holidays For Dummies offers great tips to help you not only make it through the holidays in one piece but also to have your friends and family marveling at how you do it all!

How This Book Is Organized This book is divided into eight chapters that guide you through the holiday process. Whether you’re having trouble getting in the holiday spirit or are overwhelmed by all the shopping and entertaining, we have some tips for you. In Chapter 1, you find out how to avoid holiday stress. (Yes, it can be done!) And in Chapter 2, you discover how you can get a head start on holiday shopping. In Chapter 3, you get the scoop on hosting a stellar holiday bash, including choosing the date and planning your guest list. Chapter 4 helps you plan an awesome menu, while Chapter 5 reveals the secret to making your holidays flow smoothly with must-have to-do lists. Holidays leave you feeling drained? In Chapters 6 and 7, you find out how to recover both mentally and physically. And, of course, no For Dummies book is complete without a lighthearted Part of Tens chapter. In Chapter 8, you discover what you should (and shouldn’t) do during the holidays.


Surviving the Holidays For Dummies

Icons Used in This Book Throughout this book are little pictures called icons, which highlight important information. Here’s the decoder key: This icon is a friendly reminder of the information you’ll want to remember as you go through the holiday season. This icon points out suggestions for ways to do things better or faster. If you’re looking for some quick and easy pointers on ways to improve your holidays, check out the paragraphs with this icon by their side.

Don’t be scared by this icon — but do pay attention to it. In these paragraphs, you’ll discover information on ways to avoid mishaps and minor catastrophes.

Where to Go from Here If you’re sitting down with a cup of coffee while visions of sugarplums are dancing in your kids’ heads, feel free to read from start to finish. But if you’re panicking about your never-ending holiday to-do list — you do have a to-do list, right? — then skip to the part that you need most.

Chapter 1

Getting in the Holiday Mindset In This Chapter ▶ Reducing stress by being prepared ▶ Cleaning up for holiday visitors ▶ Getting stocked up on beverages


omehow, what with all the jam-packed shopping malls, ungodly credit card bills, and sleep deprivation, most of us have forgotten that the holidays are supposed to be a time of great fun. But before you turn into a scrooge, check out this chapter. Here you find suggestions for avoiding holiday headaches and welcoming guests (no matter how unexpected they are!). We also help you stock the best Christmas spirits (of the drinking kind!).

Avoiding Holiday Stress Because we’re pushed and pulled in so many different directions during the holidays, we can all use some helpful hints for reducing the stress in our lives.

Plan ahead Planning ahead sounds like obvious advice, but unfortunately, many people fail to do so. Planning ahead helps you stay worry-free come the festive day.


Surviving the Holidays For Dummies Planning ahead enables you to take some early-bird steps to ease your holiday stress:

✓ If you have some idea of the holiday gifts you’d like to give, you can pick them up throughout the year and save yourself last-minute-shopping panic (not to mention money!). ✓ If you want to hold the holiday meal at your house, stake out your claim early. Other family members may be thinking the same thing, and the early bird gets the worm. ✓ If you know that you’re going to need an extra dining room table, you can call rental companies or ask neighbors about borrowing one ahead of time.

Shop smart! Always keep the recipient’s tastes and preferences in mind. By doing so, you reduce the stress of wondering whether your gift will be well received. You can pick up some terrific gifts at craft stores, super discount stores, gourmet food shops, party goods stores, flea markets, garden centers, and even hardware stores. (For more on gift-giving, see Chapter 2.)

Read the recipe instructions We can’t stress enough how important it is to read recipe directions, and that means from start to finish. You don’t want surprises halfway through a recipe. You also can acquaint yourself with the techniques you need to be familiar with.

Use some familiar recipes When you’re planning your menus, include some recipes that you’ve made before and know that you like; those recipes may even be your signature dishes. All the recipes in this book have been tested and retested so that they’ll work the first time, but it’s nice to have some recipes in your repertoire that you’re comfortable with and that your family enjoys.

Chapter 1: Getting in the Holiday Mindset


Prepare ingredients early Most people walk into the kitchen, begin a recipe, and work through it from beginning to end. That’s fine if you have no time constraints — but name one person who isn’t working under the gun during the holiday season! Here are some ingredients that you can prep ahead of time: ✓ Vegetables: Onions, bell peppers, celery, broccoli, carrots — almost any veggie. Cut to the desired size a day ahead and refrigerate in a covered container or plastic bag. ✓ Dry ingredients: Sugar, flour, baking powder and soda, cocoa, chocolate, nuts, dried fruit, and so on. Measure the proper amounts up to a month ahead and store at room temperature in a covered container or resealable plastic bag. ✓ Wet ingredients: Liqueurs, milk, cream, water, juices, sour cream, corn syrup, chicken stock, and so on. These items vary in their ability to be stored, so use your judgment. But you can measure all of them at least two days ahead.

Ask for help Okay, so you like to do everything yourself. Sometimes, you may even dupe yourself into believing that you can always do it best, whatever “it” is. Well, the holiday season is the time to do yourself a favor and ask for some help: ✓ Spreading the responsibilities around just makes sense from a logistical point of view. Children can help cook and set tables, and a family member can vacuum and clean bathrooms. You do not have to do it all yourself. ✓ Holidays are for family, so get them involved. If you’re celebrating Christmas, for example, ask them to decorate the tree, string the lights, and make ornaments and gifts together. These projects bring families together and make memories. ✓ Ask visiting family to bring food. If family members don’t cook, they can always bring cheeses for the cocktail hour or a bottle of wine or gallon of cider.


Surviving the Holidays For Dummies

Breathe Breathe in, breathe out. Repeat. Breathing enables you to accept help, accept presents, and take in the spirit of the holiday.

Exercise No, we’re not kidding! Exercise reduces stress and improves your sense of well-being. Sure, finding the time to exercise is difficult to do during the holidays — which is precisely one of the times you need to exercise the most. To exercise at home, simply use jump ropes, cans of soup instead of hand weights, a concrete block for stepping exercises, an inexpensive yoga mat, and so on.

Be prepared for surprises Even with all your planning, you’re going to have some glitches. The turkey may take longer to cook, or the first half of your guests who go through the buffet line may wipe out your entire sweet potato supply. But you know what? It’s okay. The holidays are not about getting one’s fill of tubers.

Don’t worry, be happy Whether you’re throwing a formal dinner with white tablecloths and silver or a casual open house with finger foods and paper plates, relax enough to enjoy your event. You’ve done the plan ning and prepared the food — now it’s time to be a guest at your own party.

Surprise! Cleaning Your House for Unexpected Guests The house is a mess, but who cares? You deserve a break. Just as you’re about to settle down in your favorite chair, the phone rings. It’s Aunt Bessie. Her train got delayed, so she’s going to stop by and she’s only half a mile away.

Chapter 1: Getting in the Holiday Mindset


If you find yourself in this situation, don’t panic; you can fix up things so that your unexpected guests won’t notice the grime. If you can’t get to all of these tasks, pick and choose the ones you think are most important.

✓ Shut the doors. People don’t have to see everything. Focus your cleaning on the few critical rooms your guests will go to (probably the bathroom, the living room, and the kitchen) and shut out the rest. ✓ Get rid of the clutter. Grab a big basket or a shopping bag. Quickly pick up everything that’s on the floor or out of place and throw it in the basket. Hide the basket where no one will see it. ✓ Make perfect piles. Stack magazines, books, and newspapers in nice, neat piles, with your classy magazines on top. If things are orderly, people may think they’re decorating accessories. ✓ Freshen the bathroom. Take a damp paper towel and give the counter, the sink, and the toilet a quick swipe. Hang a couple of pretty guest towels (that you save just for unexpected guests) on the towel bar. Rinse out the soap dish and put in a fresh bar of soap. ✓ Tidy up the kitchen. Remove any dirty dishes from the countertops and stuff them in the dishwasher, if you have one. Otherwise, pile them neatly in the sink (or the oven!). Get rid of any dirty kitchen towels and replace them with clean ones. Wipe off the countertop with a damp sponge. ✓ Dust off anything big. Dust on large items can be a screaming indicator that dusting is not your favorite household chore. Check the piano, the large mirror in the hall, and the TV screen and, using a slightly damp cloth, quickly wipe off any dust you see. ✓ Make something sparkle. Spend a couple seconds polishing the brass frame on top of the TV, the silver bowl on the coffee table, or the chrome faucet. Some sparkle gives your guests the impression that your whole house is thoroughly clean. A quick wipe with a soft, lint-free cloth will probably do the trick. ✓ Clean off the floor. Look around the floor and use your handheld vacuum to pick up any obvious clumps of dust or pieces of dirt. Shake out the mat by the front door.


Surviving the Holidays For Dummies

✓ Polish the telephone. Guests get a very up-close-andpersonal look if they make a call from your home phone. Take a second to wipe off the receiver and buttons with a cloth slightly dampened with household cleaner. ✓ Freshen the air. Light a scented candle. It makes a room inviting and cozy in an instant, and the aroma can also mask any offending odors. The scents of evergreen, vanilla, and cinnamon are particularly well suited for the holiday season.

Stocking Up on Christmas Spirits You should always make your guests feel comfortable, whether they drop by unexpectedly or you’re having a big party. In either case, you need to provide a drink (alcoholic or nonalcoholic). And no, water, sparkling or otherwise, is not enough, although you should have it, too. You also may want to consider offering a juice, such as orange or cranberry.

Serving smartly Your guests will be happy if you take the following suggestions to heart: ✓ Use nothing larger than a shot glass for shots and do not serve doubles to your guests. You aren’t doing anyone any favors by over-serving. If a recipe calls for 11⁄2 ounces of vodka, use just that amount. All mixed drinks should not exceed 2 ounces of liquor. ✓ Use lower-proof products, if they’re available. ✓ Have alcohol-free drinks available in addition to coffee, tea, and sodas. ✓ Use only clean, fresh ice and fruit.

✓ If possible, chill glasses and do not put them out until five minutes before the party begins. ✓ When serving hot drinks, make sure that the cups or glasses have handles. ✓ Use a scoop, tongs, or a large spoon to serve ice. Never use your hands. ✓ If you don’t have bottle pourers, rub wax paper over the tip of liquor bottles to prevent dripping. ✓ Stop serving 1 to 11⁄2 hours before the end of the party.

Chapter 1: Getting in the Holiday Mindset

Alcohol If you’re throwing a small party, a pared-down list of beverages will probably suffice. For a party of 12, here are the bare-bones beverage essentials: ✓ 2 bottles of red wine ✓ 2 bottles of white wine ✓ 24 bottles of beer (including maybe 6 light beers) ✓ 1 bottle of vodka or gin ✓ 1 bottle of scotch or bourbon ✓ 1 bottle of dry vermouth 1 ✓ ⁄2 gallon orange juice

✓ 1 bottle of club soda and/or tonic water ✓ Wedges of lemons and limes

Nonalcoholic beverages Your home bar setup also needs some nonalcoholic drinks. Colas, sodas, and sparkling waters come in 2-liter bottles and individual cans and bottles. Still water and juices are packaged by the quart, half-gallon, and gallon. Keep the following nonalcoholic drinks in your home bar: ✓ Club soda ✓ Cola ✓ Cranberry juice ✓ Diet soda ✓ Ginger ale ✓ Grapefruit juice ✓ Orange juice ✓ Sparkling water



Surviving the Holidays For Dummies

✓ Still water (or bottled, if your tap water isn’t great) ✓ Tomato juice ✓ Tonic water Consider buying small bottles of carbonated beverages, which come in six-packs. This way, if you use only a little bit of club soda during the evening, you’ll lose only what’s left in that small bottle because it will go flat after a while. The other, unopened bottles, which you can store indefinitely, will still be ready for your next party.

Chapter 2

Surviving Holiday Shopping In This Chapter ▶ Planning your gifts ▶ Discovering fun For Dummies gift ideas ▶ Being crafty with gift-giving


ome people love to shop, and some people don’t. But no matter which type you are, putting off shopping until the last minute zaps the fun out of the process. In this chapter, we show you how to find the perfect gift, whether it’s store bought or handmade, well ahead of the holiday rush.

Dealing with Gift Expectations Searching for the perfect gift can add stress to an already stressful time of year. A little bit of planning will help make the holidays a little bit happier: ✓ Budget, budget, budget. Nothing ruins the holidays more than overspending. Write down who you need to get gifts for and set a budget. Keep in mind that you don’t have to spend money to give a gift. ✓ Plan your time. If you’re heading out to a store, check the store’s website first for coupons, special offers, and hours of operation. ✓ Avoid crowds. Unless you actually like hordes of people, shop early or late in the day.

✓ Pace yourself. The holiday season is long, so don’t try to do all your shopping in one outing. You’ll end up frustrated and exhausted. Spread out your shopping tasks over a few trips and cluster those outings together to maximize your time.


Surviving the Holidays For Dummies

✓ Log on and relax. Sites such as Etsy make it easy to find the perfect gift. If you know that the person you’re buying for is on Pinterest, check out her boards for wish lists. The images should click through to websites, and you’ll be able to find the perfect gift in no time.

When buying online, check the mailing time. Most sites list cutoff dates for having gifts arrive in time. Pay attention to those timetables, or you may find yourself scrambling for another gift.

Gift-giving the For Dummies way Okay, this is a For Dummies book, so you had to expect some For Dummies products as gift ideas. For Dummies products are always fun to give and receive, and we have everything from e-books and mobile apps to budgetfriendly, product kits. The following gift ideas are based on individual interests, personalities, hobbies, and so on.

The cook:

We realize this section is a bit selfserving, so if you want to continue to the next section and skip the For Dummies gift suggestions (for now) tap here:

Pizza Making Kit For Dummies

The wannabe, or need to be, fitness guru:

Baking Kit For Dummies Bartending For Dummies (book and e-book) Cooking Basics For Dummies, 4th Edition (book and e-book)

Selecting a Wine For Dummies mobile app Turkey Roasting Kit For Dummies

Fitness For Dummies

Wine All-in-One For Dummies (book and e-book)

Kettlebells For Dummies

Facing the music man (or woman):

Yoga For Dummies (book and e-book)

Broadway Piano Songs For Dummies

Yoga For Dummies DVD

Christmas Piano Songs For Dummies

Chapter 2: Surviving Holiday Shopping

Classical Guitar For Dummies (book and e-book)

Canadian History For Dummies, 2nd Edition

Djing For Dummies, 2nd Edition

European History For Dummies, 2nd Edition

Electric Guitar Starter Kit For Dummies

Irish History For Dummies, 2nd Edition

Getting Started Playing Guitar For Dummies enhanced e-book

U.S. History For Dummies, 2nd Edition (book and e-book)

Guitar For Dummies CD-ROM Guitar All-in-One For Dummies (book and e-book) Guitar Basics For Dummies mobile app Guitar Exercises For Dummies (book and e-book) Home Recording For Musicians For Dummies, 4th Edition (book and e-book) Singing Exercises For Dummies (book and e-book) Spotify For Dummies Ukulele For Dummies (book and e-book) Ukulele In-A-Day For Dummies e-book History and genealogy fans: Australia’s Military History For Dummies British History For Dummies, 3rd Edition


Pet lovers and owners: Dog Training Basics For Dummies mobile app Dog Training For Dummies, 2nd Edition (book and e-book) Freshwater Aquariums For Dummies, 2nd Edition (book and e-book) Puppies For Dummies, 3rd Edition (book and e-book) The shopaholic: Online Couponing In-ADay For Dummies (e-book only) Pinterest For Dummies The technophobe or newbie: Facebook For Dummies, 4th Edition The Internet For Dummies, 11th Edition (book and e-book) PCs For Dummies, 11th Edition (book and e-book) Windows 8 For Dummies



Surviving the Holidays For Dummies (continued)

The I Love my eReader and Gadgets guy or gal:

Sewing For Dummies, 2nd Edition (book and e-book)

Android Phones For Dummies

Simplicity Sewing Patterns For Dummies

iPad For Dummies, Portable Edition

Woodworking For Dummies (book and e-book)

iPad For Dummies, 5th Edition

The happy hobbyist:

Kindle Fire HD For Dummies Kindle Touch For Dummies

Bird-Watching For Dummies Breaking Into Acting For Dummies (book and e-book)

Nikon D3200 For Dummies

Card Games For Dummies, 2nd Edition (book and e-book)

NOOK eReaders For Dummies

Chess For Dummies, 3rd Edition (book and e-book)

NOOK Tablet For Dummies The artsy-craftsy:

Coin Collecting For Dummies, 2nd Edition (book and e-book)

Holiday Decorating For Dummies (book and e-book)

Drawing For Dummies (book and e-book)

Home Decorating For Dummies, 2nd Edition (book and e-book)

Photography For Dummies, 2nd Edition (book and e-book)

Knitting For Dummies, 2nd Edition (book and e-book)

Screenwriting For Dummies, 2nd Edition (book and e-book)

Making Candles & Soaps For Dummies (book and e-book) Quilting For Dummies, 2nd Edition (book and e-book)

Stamp Collecting For Dummies

Chapter 2: Surviving Holiday Shopping

The sports fanatic: Baseball For Dummies, 3rd Edition (book and e-book) Basketball For Dummies, 3rd Edition (book and e-book) Football For Dummies, USA Edition, 4th Edition (book and e-book) Golf For Dummies DVD Tennis For Dummies The business professional: Business Etiquette For Dummies, 2nd Edition Business Plans Kit For Dummies, 3rd Edition (book and CD/e-book)


Managing For Dummies, 3rd Edition Marketing For Dummies, 3rd Edition (book and e-book) Project Management For Dummies, 3rd Edition (book and e-book) Selling For Dummies, 3rd Edition (book and e-book) Small Business Kit For Dummies, 2nd Edition (book and e-book) For details on any of the products mentioned, visit www.dummies. com.

Making Your Own Gifts Sometimes the best gifts aren’t store-bought; they’re the ones you make with your own hands. When you have more time than money or truly want to make something unique, consider making a homemade gift.


Surviving the Holidays For Dummies

Knit a scarf This scarf is quick and cozy, and you don’t have to worry about sewing any seams. Make it in a soft yarn and a favorite color, or try the suggested yarn. These instructions assume that you have basic knitting skills. If you don’t, check out Knitting For Dummies. Dimensions: 81⁄2 inches x 42 inches Materials: 3 skeins of Maya (Classic Elite Yarns), 50% wool, 50% llama, color #3081; one pair of size 8 needles; tapestry needle for weaving in the ends (Because this scarf takes 3 skeins of yarn, you’ll have to know how to join a new skein when you run out of the first one.) Gauge: 18 stitches to 4 inches in the stitch pattern (41⁄2 stitches to the inch) Garter ridge pattern: This pattern doesn’t require a specific multiple or an odd or even number of stitches. Simply cast on and knit up this scarf in any number of stitches. Just follow these instructions: Rows 1, 3, 5–11, 13, 15, and 16: Knit. Rows 2, 4, 12, and 14: Purl. Repeat these 16 rows until your scarf reaches the desired length. To discourage the edges from rolling in, work a selvedge stitch on the edges by knitting the first and last stitch of every row. To make this simple scarf, follow these steps:

1. Cast on 38 stitches.

2. Beginning with Row 3, work in garter ridge pattern for 17 repetitions.

The scarf begins on Row 3 of the pattern because the cast-on row works as the first garter ridge — a ridge consisting of 2 rows.

Chapter 2: Surviving Holiday Shopping

3. End the scarf by working Rows 1–5 of the garter ridge pattern.

4. With the wrong side facing, bind off by knitting every stitch for the final garter stitch ridge.


To finish your scarf, weave in the loose ends and gently steam or wet it down to block it. If you want your scarf to be wider, cast on more stitches. If you want it to be narrower, cast on fewer stitches. If you have a specific width in mind, multiply the number of inches you want your scarf to be by your gauge. (You’ll have to make a sample swatch and measure your gauge — the number of stitches per inch.) That’s the number of stitches you’ll cast on.

Give sweet treats like a pro Baking and decorating holiday-themed cakes and cookies certainly isn’t rocket science, but you do need some basic tools and some basic skills. After you master the basics, you can gradually add to your repertoire (and to your collections of decorator’s tools). Don’t forget to wrap up your goodies with cheer. Check out your local craft store for pretty boxes, bags, and ribbons.

Must-have tools for decorating Decorating cakes and cookies for the holidays can be extremely fun and rewarding. You can give out treats as gifts or impress your friends at your holiday party. With the items described in this section, you’re on your way to creating beautifully decorated holiday cakes and cookies.

Essential icing tips When you’re just getting started, you’ll repeatedly rely on round icing tips #1 through #10. You should also gather the following more specialized tips, some of which are shown in Figure 2-1: ✓ Star tips, such as #16, #18, #21, and #32 ✓ Basket weave tip, such as #48 ✓ Leaf tips, such as #67 and #352 ✓ Petal tips, such as #102, #103, #104, and #125


Surviving the Holidays For Dummies

Figure 2-1: Icing tips.

Couplers To fit a tip onto a pastry bag, you need a coupler, which consists of two parts: ✓ A round plastic cone that you fit inside the pastry bag ✓ A coupler ring that you screw over the tip on the outside of the bag Couplers are useful when your cake design involves different piping designs in the same color frosting.

Icing spatulas In the icing spatula arena, most decorators prefer offset or angleblade spatulas. They’re more flexible and give a smoother finish. Get two sizes of the offset kind: a 4-inch one and a 9-inch one. In addition, you’ll also get a lot of use out of a straight 8-inch spatula, which is particularly good for crumb coating a cake.

Frosting techniques

Frosting a cake is more than just slapping on a layer of sweet confection and calling it a day. Frosting the right way requires time, tools, and attention to detail. When you have your plain or colored frosting ready to apply to your cake, check its consistency. If the frosting is too thick, you’ll tear the cake as you attempt to spread the frosting. To thin out your frosting, return it to the mixer and add some milk

Chapter 2: Surviving Holiday Shopping


(a teaspoon at a time) until it’s the right spreadable consistency. If the frosting is too thin, it will run or puddle, leaving you with incomplete and unattractive coverage. If it was once the right consistency, it probably has just gotten too warm, so put it in the refrigerator for a few minutes to allow it to thicken. Follow these steps to frost a two-layer, 9-inch round cake. These guidelines are easily adaptable to other cake sizes:

1. Gather all the tools you’ll need to frost: wax paper, offset icing spatula, frosting knife, silicone brush, and (preferably) a pedestal that has a rotating round top.

2. Place four 2-x-8-inch strips of wax paper around the board your cake will sit on for presentation.

3. Place the first layer of the leveled cake on the board and then put the board on the pedestal.

4. With the silicone brush, sweep all excess crumbs off your cake layer.

5. Use the frosting knife to scoop about 1⁄2 cup of frosting onto the cake layer.

6. With the offset icing spatula, spread the frosting evenly and smoothly on the top of the cake only.

The initial coat will be a scant, thin layer of frosting — sort of a “protective seal” for your cake. The subsequent coat will be quite thicker, about 1⁄4-inch to 3⁄8-inch thick.

7. Place the second cake layer — flat side up — on top of the first and again, sweep any excess crumbs off the top and sides of cake.

8. Use the frosting knife to scoop 1⁄2 cup of frosting on top of the cake and use the offset spatula to spread it out in even strokes to be a thin seal for the crumb coat, and a 1⁄4- to 3⁄8-inch thickness for the second coat.

You can use excess frosting from the top of the cake to frost the sides of the cake, rotating the pedestal as you use the flat edge of the spatula for a smooth, even finish. Add more frosting from the bowl as necessary to cover the sides with a thin layer of frosting.


Surviving the Holidays For Dummies 9. Refrigerate the cake for at least 1 hour before you apply the final frosting coat. 10. For the final coat of frosting on the cake’s top and sides, repeat Step 8 but with a thicker layer of frosting.

Keep adding and subtracting frosting until you have the smooth, finished look that you desire.

Piping dots, rosettes, and more When piping, apply pressure to the bag with your dominant hand and guide the bag with your other hand. To hold the bag while decorating, curl four fingers of your nondominant hand around the top of the bag, and apply even pressure with your dominant hand at the tip end to squeeze frosting through the tip. The frosting will continue coming out until you stop squeezing. As you decorate, periodically squeeze frosting from the top of the bag down toward the tip so that you get a steady flow of frosting and therefore a neater execution of your design.

Taking care to crumb coat Have you ever noticed that some cakes have bits of crumbs in the frosting? Unless you’re going for the speckled look, applying a crumb coat to your cake will stop those crumbs in their tracks. The thin layer of frosting provides protection to keep crumbs out of your decorations and the frosting layer that your partygoers see. This one simple step ensures professional-looking results for your frosted cake. Follow these steps to crumb coat your cake: 1. After your cake has cooled completely, level it and brush off any excess crumbs.

2. Using a wide icing spatula, spread a thin layer of frosting over the top and all sides of the cake. 3. Refrigerate the cake for at least 1 hour. Chilling the cake allows the frosting to crust and seal in any crumbs that may still be left on your prepared cake. Thanks to the crumb coat, when you apply the second coat of frosting to the cake, you don’t have to worry about any crumbs mixing in with the frosting. You’re guaranteed to get a clean, polished presentation.

Chapter 2: Surviving Holiday Shopping


All dots, rosettes, shells, stars, and leaves are not created equal. Different tips turn out different designs in different sizes, making it easy to create variations on popular decorations (see Figure 2-2):

Figure 2-2: Different tips, different effects.

✓ Dots: Simply hold your bag at a 90-degree angle, squeeze the frosting out, stop squeezing, lift up your tip, and move on. If tips intimidate you, start with the open round tips in the #1 to #11 range, which are easy to maneuver. ✓ Rosettes: Hold the bag at a 90-degree angle to the surface, about 1⁄8 inch above it. Squeeze the pastry bag and hold the tip in place briefly before moving the tip around to the right in a short circular motion. Stop squeezing just before you reach the original starting point and pull the tip away.


Surviving the Holidays For Dummies

✓ Shells: Hold the bag at a 45-degree angle to the surface, slightly above the surface. Squeeze the pastry bag until the frosting builds up and fans out into a base as you lift the tip up slightly. Relax pressure as you lower the tip, just until it touches the surface. Release the pressure on the bag. Pull the tip away without lifting it off the surface, drawing the shell to a point. ✓ Stars: Hold the bag at a 90-degree angle to the surface, about 1⁄8 inch above it. Squeeze the pastry bag until a star forms. Release the pressure and pull the tip away at a 90-degree angle. To get a well-defined star, make sure that you stop squeezing before you pull the tip away. ✓ Leaves: Hold the pastry bag at a 45-degree angle to the surface, touching the tip to the surface. Squeeze the pastry bag, drawing the tip into a leaf shape, lessening pressure as you move to the leaf’s point. Release pressure on the bag and bring the leaf out to a point. For a basket effect, use (what else?) the basket-weave tip.

Basic recipes In order to decorate a cake or cookie, you have to bake something first. It also helps to have some frosting or icing ready.

Chapter 2: Surviving Holiday Shopping


Red Velvet Cake Prep time: 15 min  •  Cook time: 35 min  •  Yield: One 9-x-13-inch cake Ingredients 3 3⁄4 cups sifted cake flour 1 ⁄2 tablespoons cocoa powder 1

11⁄2 teaspoons salt 11⁄2 teaspoons baking soda 11⁄2 tablespoons white vinegar 2 ⁄4 cups granulated white sugar 1

⁄4 cup vegetable oil


3 eggs 11⁄2 cups buttermilk 11⁄2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract 2 ounces red food coloring

Directions Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease 1 and flour a 9-x-13-inch cake pan and set it aside.

In a large bowl, combine the cake flour, 2 cocoa powder, and salt. Whisk them together with a balloon whisk.

In a small bowl, dissolve the baking soda in 3 the vinegar. Stir well to make sure the baking soda is fully dissolved.

In a large bowl, beat the sugar and oil 4

together until blended. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Add the flour mixture to the sugar and oil 5

mixture in four additions, alternating with the buttermilk. (Begin and end with the flour.) Mix each flour addition just until blended.

Stir in the vanilla and food coloring. Stir 6

the baking soda mixture again and fold it into the batter with a rubber spatula. Pour the batter into the cake pan.

Bake the cake for 35 minutes, or until a 7

toothpick inserted in the center comes out with moist crumbs attached.


Surviving the Holidays For Dummies

Rolled Sugar Cookies Prep time: 11⁄2 hr  •  Cook time: 8 min  •  Yield: 4 dozen Ingredients ⁄2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (11⁄4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened 1

⁄4 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted

Directions In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat 1

the butter until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the confectioners’ sugar and superfine sugar to the butter and blend well.


1 cup superfine sugar 1 egg 11⁄2 teaspoons vanilla extract 2 ⁄2 cups all-purpose flour 1

2 teaspoons baking powder Pinch of salt

In a small bowl, lightly beat the egg with the 2 vanilla extract. Add it to the butter mixture and blend well.

Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt 3

in a medium bowl and mix well. Add it to the butter mixture in three stages, blending well after each addition. Wrap the dough tightly in plastic and chill it at least 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line a 4 cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Divide the dough in two and roll each section 5

between sheets of lightly floured wax paper to a thickness of 1⁄2 inch. Gently peel off the wax paper and use a variety of cookie cutters to shape the dough.

Transfer the cookies to the cookie sheet, leav 6 ing 2 inches between the cookies. If desired, sprinkle crystal sugar or nonpareils (tiny multicolored sugar pellets) over the cookies.

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until the cookies are 7 firm. Remove the cookie sheet from the oven and transfer the cookies from the parchment to cooling racks. Decorate as you like.

Chapter 2: Surviving Holiday Shopping


Note: For this recipe, you need an electric mixer or food processor, a rolling pin, cookie cutters, and a paper pastry cone for icing (optional).

Tip: To make the dough in a food processor, combine the flour, baking powder,

salt, superfine sugar, and confectioners’ sugar in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Pulse briefly to blend. Cut the butter into small pieces and add it to the bowl. Pulse until the butter is cut into tiny pieces. In a small bowl, lightly beat the egg with the vanilla and add it to the butter mixture. Pulse until the dough forms a ball, about 30 seconds. Wrap the dough in plastic and chill it for 2 hours. Then pick up with Step 4 of the recipe.

Tip: You can make ornaments by poking a hole near the top before baking. After they’re cool, string a decorative ribbon through the hole.

Buttercream Frosting Prep time: 10 min  •  Yield: 2 cups Ingredients 1 cup unsalted butter, softened 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 3 ⁄4 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted

Directions In a large bowl, beat the butter and vanilla 1 on medium speed for about 30 seconds.

Gradually add half the sugar, beating well. 2


⁄4 cup milk


Beat in the milk and then add the remain 3

ing sugar. Continue beating until the frosting is smooth and creamy and reaches the desired consistency.

Note: The most versatile of the lot, buttercream frosting is sure to be an essential

component of your frosting repertoire. It spreads and pipes wonderfully, and because of its lustrous, white appearance, you can tint it to exactly the color you want.


Surviving the Holidays For Dummies

Royal Icing Prep time: 5 min  •  Yield: 2 cups Ingredients 4 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar ⁄4 cup pasteurized egg whites

Directions In a large bowl, combine the confectioners’ 1 sugar, egg whites, and lemon juice.


1 tablespoon freshsqueezed lemon juice

Beat the mixture with a stand or a hand-mixer 2 until the icing holds its shape and isn’t runny. If it’s too thin for piping, add more sugar 1 tablespoon at a time and continue mixing until it reaches the desired consistency.

Note: Use this icing for drawing, filling in, and accenting designs and forms on cakes. It also works well for decorating cookies.

Tip: To tint the icing several different colors, pour the icing into separate bowls and then add and adjust coloring gels with a toothpick or by squeezing a few drops of color at a time into the icing.

Chapter 3

So You Want to Have a Party? In This Chapter ▶ Figuring out what kind of party to have ▶ Designating a time and place ▶ Coming up with a guest list


f you’ve decided to have a holiday party, but your mind hasn’t made it past that point, you’ve come to the right place. This chapter gets you started thinking about the who, what, where, when, why, and how of entertaining. You determine the kind of party you want to have, decide on the guests, figure out where you’ll have it, set a date, and start the invitation process — all in this one little chapter!

Deciding What Kind of Party to Have At most parties, all anyone really expects is a few hours of fun. But when the holidays roll around, expectations fill the air about food, drink, dress, decorations, behavior, and more. For this reason, holidays can be a considerable source of anguish.


Surviving the Holidays For Dummies The difference in what works and what doesn’t is all in the expectations. Start with your own. Do you expect to prepare holiday dinners for your family plus have a holiday party for your friends? Do you really expect to bake from scratch, put up the Christmas tree, make the decorations, and shop for the gifts, all while looking festive and being pleasant? Pleeeeze! Give yourself a break. Most people feel highly accomplished if they just get the presents wrapped, much less prepare meals for their families and entertain others.

Excuses for not entertaining — banished! Parties are supposed to be fun, not torture. Here are solutions to some of the most common reasons why some people would rather go for a root canal than give a party. ✓ “My house isn’t nice enough.” Unless you’re on the tour of homes, no one is coming over to judge your house. If you feel that they are, don’t invite them. ✓ “I don’t have time.” Make yourself a priority and find time for the things you want to do. Working too hard? Entertain on Saturday night. Spend an hour on Saturday preparing. Recover on Sunday. ✓ “I’m too nervous.” The key is being organized so that you can use the day of the party to relax. (See Chapter 5 for an action plan.)

✓ “I’m overwhelmed; it’s too hard.” Make entertaining easy on yourself. Even if you hate to cook, you can serve delicious food that doesn’t require you to turn on the heat. (See Chapter 4 for some recipes.) And if you organize your time, there’s no reason to be in a tizzy (see Chapter 5). ✓ “I just don’t have the selfconfidence.” Neither does anybody else. They’re faking it. The way to develop more confidence is by doing the thing that you think you can’t. Get your feet wet. Have a party. And never underestimate the value of faking it. If you act confident, soon you’ll find that you are confident.

Chapter 3: So You Want to Have a Party?


Why are you throwing a party? Many things are beyond your control during the holidays. The one thing you can control, however, is yourself. Instead of being bound by expectations (yours and everyone else’s), turn your holiday entertaining into one great big opportunity by using it to ✓ Discover your family history. ✓ Explore old traditions and create new ones. ✓ Spend time with the people who matter to you the most.

Tradition matters A big part of the holiday madness revolves around the expectations of different generations. Today’s expanded families often combine different cultures, religions, and ethnic backgrounds. Find out which traditions mean the most to your loved ones and try to include some of everyone’s favorites. You may want to create a few traditions of your own. Incorporate a family activity or a favorite food — something to make your celebration unique and to pass on to the next generation.

Choosing a Date The best day and time for your party depends largely upon your lifestyle and other obligations: ✓ Saturday may be your best bet if you work long hours during the week. You can spend Friday evening doing preliminary chores and taking some time to unwind from your work week. You have at least part of the day on Saturday to make the final preparations and Sunday to recover. To prepare for a large party without taking a day off from work, keep your plan simple and start far enough ahead so that you can make a few preparations each night.


Surviving the Holidays For Dummies

✓ Friday night may be more convenient if you don’t work outside your home and if you have school-age children. You can get things done while the kids are at school, and they won’t have time to wreck the house before your party. ✓ Three-day weekends are a good opportunity for a Sunday afternoon picnic or a Sunday evening dinner, with a cushion of time on both sides for preparation and recovery. If your obligations dictate a less-than-convenient day and time, take that fact into account when scheduling your preparations. Adjust the big picture to meet what is a realistic sched ule for you or plan far enough in advance to get a head start. For example, if you want to have friends over for dinner on Thursday night, plan a menu you can make ahead. Don’t wait until Thursday when you get home from work to start cooking. Don’t forget to take advantage of the power of social media. Thanks to Facebook and other social networking sites, you can quickly and easily find out which dates work best for your invitees before you select one. Even better, once you settle on a date and time, you can use a site like Evite to send an electronic invitation!

Sizing Up Your Space The key to finding the right space for your party is to match the size of the room (or rooms) with the size of your guest list. Inviting a realistic number of people is the first step to solving all your space problems. The setting you choose for the number of guests you invite may also depend on the kind of party you decide to give. Different types of parties require different amounts of space. For example, if you’re giving a large cocktail party for 25 guests (mostly standing), you need less space than you do for a casual buffet for the same number of guests (seating themselves randomly). You need even more space for a formal buffet or a sit-down dinner. A 400-square-foot space with furniture can comfortably hold about 30 people standing. You don’t need to waste time measuring to the inch, but estimate your space so that you don’t end up having to build an addition to the house to handle your party. Set up tables and chairs in advance, if possible.

Chapter 3: So You Want to Have a Party?


Using your resources wisely If you live in a two-room apartment, you may not think that you have space for entertaining, but you do. Even if you eat your meals off the kitchen counter and the sofa doubles as your bed, you can still entertain in your home. The challenge is to make the most of the space you have. Think of any obscure places that you can convert into party space with a little creative rearranging. For example, make the closet into a bar by stashing its usual contents under the bed, behind the shower curtain, or in the trunk of your car. Or clear out the center of the closet and drape beautiful sheets over the coats and brooms to turn the closet into a cocoon. Use a colored light bulb to make the space look more like a bar and less like a closet. Set up a small mirrored table on which to display the bottles and glasses. The mirror makes the space look larger and adds sparkle. If you lack a sideboard or other place to set up the food, serve from the kitchen countertop and/or stovetop. To create more work space, lay a cutting board across your sink or across two open drawers.

Planning Your Guest List Most people invite particular guests for one of the following reasons: ✓ They always invite the same people. ✓ They need to pay back invitations. ✓ They want something from one of the guests. Although there is nothing wrong with using entertaining to pay back invitations or get on the good side of someone, making a guest list can encompass so much more.

Setting your priorities Instead of going outside and inviting people for an ulterior motive, turn inward. Ask yourself these questions:


Surviving the Holidays For Dummies

✓ Who matters to me? ✓ Who makes me happy? ✓ Who is supportive of me? ✓ Who is fun to be around? ✓ Who intrigues me? ✓ Who do I want to know better? Gather these people around you, and your party will be refreshing and exciting. People are not just feeding on your food but also feasting on each other’s personalities, charm, and energy.

Looking at how many people you can invite Many factors affect the number of guests you can accommodate. First consider what kind of party you are giving and how much space you have. Be realistic about your energy level, too. Inviting many guests is much more draining than inviting only a few. No exact formula exists for inviting the right or wrong number of guests to any party. However, some numbers just seem to work better than others. Take a look at the following suggestions, but keep in mind that the numbers we suggest here are general guidelines. Use them to help you figure out what you can handle and what works best for you. ✓ Dinner parties: For a sit-down dinner party, seven is an ideal number. (That’s six guests plus you, or five plus you and your spouse or date.) Seven people around one table can have one conversation. With eight or more, guests tend to talk only to the people directly to their left and right. ✓ Large parties: A large party can be defined as too many people to fit around your dining room table or too many people to fit in your house. To determine how many guests to invite to a large party, ask yourself:

• Will the guests be sitting, standing, or both? If you aren’t serving a sit-down meal, you probably have space for more guests.

• What ages are the guests? Younger guests won’t mind as much if they are crowded together or have

Chapter 3: So You Want to Have a Party?


to stand. If your guests are older, be sure that you have enough places for them to sit and space to move around without being bumped from every direction.

• Do the guests all know each other? If so, make it a crowd. If not, allow for a little more personal space.

For large parties, the usual turnout is 80 percent. If you want to have 50 guests attending your party, invite 60 to allow for the 20 percent who won’t come. ✓ Cocktail parties: There is no ideal number of guests to invite to a cocktail party. A small cocktail party can be charming with as few as eight guests. A large cocktail party can be exhilarating with as many as 25, 50, or 75 guests. You can have a cocktail party to suit any size crowd. The average length of a cocktail party is between 2 and 21⁄2 hours. Don’t invite more guests than you can talk to during the course of the evening. ✓ Buffets: For a buffet, be sure that you provide enough space for guests to sit comfortably. This does not necessarily mean that they all have to sit at a table or in a plush chair with arms. Guests can be comfortable sitting on pillows on the floor or perched on foot stools, banisters, or stairs. If the affair is casual, people can put their plates on their laps, but they should not have to stand and juggle their plates in their hands. If entertaining is a new venture for you, start small. Two or three guests can make a perfect party. When you become comfortable with a few guests, you can begin giving larger parties. No matter what kind or size of party you give, never invite an extra person purely for the sake of creating an even number. Odd numbers of people often generate more intriguing con versations than a group of pairs. Unless the extra person has a dynamite personality, a special charm, or something to add to your party, you’re better off without him.

Inviting Your Guests The most appropriate tactic for inviting your guests, whether writing or calling, depends largely on your personality and


Surviving the Holidays For Dummies the type of party you’re planning. If the party is formal or very large, send written invitations. Otherwise, the method you choose is entirely up to you. Verbal invitations are great for spur-of-the-moment gatherings, casual parties or semiformal events, a guest list that’s subject to change, or creating immediate excitement. Written invitations are preferable for parties that are planned far in advance, formal affairs, a definite guest list, and establishing a tone or theme. Regardless of whether you write or call, be sure to include all the pertinent information in your invitation: the date, the time, the place, and what sort of event you’re inviting them to attend. To prevent misunderstandings, address the invitation to whom you are inviting. If you’re inviting a husband and wife, address it to “Mr. and Mrs.” If you’re having a ladies-only luncheon, then say so. In other words, do everything you can to make crystal clear whose presence is requested.

Planning a spontaneous party Don’t let any of these well-laid plans and organizational tips intimidate you or keep you from throwing lastminute parties, which can often be the most fun.

✓ Check your refrigerator for leftovers. Chopped-up meat and vegetables make terrific fillings for crepes, frittatas, omelets, or even bases for soufflés.

Keep your pantry, freezer, and bar stocked with a few items for drop-in company and last-minute entertaining. Some items to keep on hand include candles, tablecloths, napkins, champagne, wine, chocolates, nuts, and so on. Use your imagination to make the most of what you have for spur-of-the-moment gatherings:

✓ If your cupboards are bare, use the telephone. Order takeout and just figure out a place to put it all.

✓ Throw together some pasta and a simple sauce. Serve it with fruit or whatever you have on hand.

Organizing in a short amount of time means you may have to do two or three things at once — hide the clutter under the furniture, dash through the middle of the floor with the vacuum, and unload the dishwasher. For instant atmosphere, turn off the telephone ringer, dim the overhead lights, and light a few candles.

Chapter 4

Cooking Up a Storm In This Chapter

Recipes in This Chapter

▶ Kicking off the festivities with appetizers and

▶ Roasted Turkey

▶ Serving up tasty main and side dishes

▶ Green Beans with

▶ Completing the meal with desserts

▶ Basic Wild Rice


▶ Mashed Potatoes


▶ Apple Pie


▶ Gingerbread ▶ Peppermint Bark

ood is a huge part of the holidays. If you’re throwing a holiday party and you’re not quite sure where to start, look no further. No matter what kind of holiday shindig you’re having, this chapter provides the recipes that will get your party started and finish it off in style.

Planning Your Menu Menu design doesn’t have to be complicated, but there is an art to it. Some consultants and chefs make big bucks deciding what recipes should be offered on a menu. Your undertaking will be smaller, but no less important — yet it can still be easy! Take a look at this list of things to consider when planning your menu: ✓ What kind of party are you having? The more formal the party, the more formal the food. ✓ Consider including a selection of flavors and textures. Perhaps serve something spicy, something creamy and soothing, and maybe something crunchy. ✓ Always have at least one familiar appetizer, such as an onion dip. Then get as creative as you want with the rest of the food.


Surviving the Holidays For Dummies

Divvying up drinks Most holiday parties wouldn’t be complete without drinks of some sort. And what drink says the holidays more than eggnog? (For more on stocking your holiday bar, see Chapter 1.)

To make eggnog, mix 11⁄4 ounces Bacardi Light or Dark Rum, 1 egg, 1 teaspoon sugar, and 6 ounces milk in a shaker. Strain into a glass and sprinkle with nutmeg.

✓ Include at least one dish that you’re familiar with preparing and enjoy eating. You’ll gain peace of mind and ensure at least one successful dish. ✓ Take advantage of recipes that you can make ahead of time. That way, you can enjoy the party, too. ✓ Think about the shape and color of food. If the food looks good, people will try it. If everything you offer sits on little crackers, you’re not providing any visual variety. ✓ Look to the seasons for suggestions. A cheese ball just says winter holidays to some families. Also, if you buy produce that’s in season, it not only tastes better but also is less expensive. ✓ Consider the calories in your menu. Include raw veggies so that anyone on diet restrictions can still nibble along with everybody else.

The easiest choice and one of the most common ways to make a menu is from your own viewpoint. If you enjoy eating the food you serve, most likely, the guests will, too.

Greeting Your Guests with Quick and Easy Appetizers With a little practice, you can knock off any of these appetizers in a relatively short amount of time: ✓ Hummus Dip: Whirl in a blender until smooth a 16-ounce can of drained chickpeas, 1 clove garlic, 1⁄4 cup sesame seeds, the juice and grated peel of 1 lemon, 1⁄2 cup water,

Chapter 4: Cooking Up a Storm


and salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Serve on triangles of toasted pita or with assorted raw vegetable. ✓ Sun-Dried Tomato Spread: Whirl sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, and onions in a food processor or blender with enough oil to moisten into a coarse spread. Season with white pepper and serve on Melba toast rounds. ✓ Sweet Mustard Chicken Kebobs: Thread thin strips of boneless chicken and cherry tomatoes on skewers (if skewers are wooden, soak them first for 30 minutes in water). Grill or broil about 2 minutes a side or until done, brushing at the last minute with store-bought honey mustard. Serve hot.

Serving a Salad Salads are often overlooked in the meal-planning process, but they set the tone for the entire meal, so don’t forget to think about what kind of salad you want to serve. A basic mixed green salad goes well with any dish, but you can quickly create one of your own salads from these simple combinations: ✓ Tomato, Red Onion, and Basil Salad: Slice ripe, red tomatoes 1⁄4-inch thick and layer on a platter with diced red onion and 4 or 5 large chopped fresh basil leaves. Drizzle with oil and vinegar and season with salt and pepper. ✓ Red and Green Pepper Rice Salad: Combine about 3 cups cooked white rice with 1 cup cooked green peas and 2 cups seeded, cored, and chopped red, green, or yellow peppers (or any combination of colors). Toss with enough herbvinaigrette dressing to moisten the ingredients sufficiently, add salt and pepper to taste, and chill before serving. ✓ Cherry Tomato and Feta Cheese Salad: Toss 1 pint cherry tomatoes, rinsed and sliced in half, with 4 ounces crumbled feta cheese and 1⁄2 cup sliced, pitted black olives. Season with vinaigrette dressing to taste.

Making a Main Course Deciding what to make for the main course of your holiday meal can be overwhelming. And a Roasted Turkey is often on the menu for many holiday celebrations.


Surviving the Holidays For Dummies

Roasted Turkey Prep time: 20 min  •  Cook time: 3 hr, 15 min  •  Yield: 12–16 servings Ingredients


12- to 13-pound turkey, 1 Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. fresh or thawed 1 large onion, about 1 ⁄2 pound, peeled and cut into eighths

Cut off and discard the wing tips of the 2

1 tablespoon peeled and finely minced garlic, about 3 large cloves

Rinse the turkey cavity well and pat it dry. 3

⁄4 pound carrots, coarsely chopped, about 4 to 5 medium carrots 1

Salt and pepper to taste 3 tablespoons corn, peanut, or vegetable oil 3 cups turkey or chicken broth ⁄4 cup peeled and finely chopped onion 1

turkey. Remove the neck and giblets packet.

Stuff the cavity of the turkey with the onion pieces, garlic, carrot, and salt and pepper. Sprinkle the outside of the turkey with salt and pepper and rub the turkey all over with 2 tablespoons of the oil.

Rub the bottom of a large roasting pan with 4 the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil.

Place the turkey on its side in the roasting 5

pan. Place it in the oven and roast for about 40 minutes. Turn the turkey onto its opposite side. Return it to the oven and roast for another 45 minutes, basting often.

When a meat thermometer in the thigh reg 6

isters 180 degrees F, remove the turkey and set it aside briefly. Pour off and discard the fat from the pan.

Chapter 2: Surviving Holiday Shopping


Return the turkey to the pan, breast-side 7

up, and return it to the oven. Pour 2 cups of the broth around the turkey. Bake for about 30 minutes, turning the pan laterally so that the turkey cooks evenly. Continue baking, basting occasionally, for about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Remove the turkey from the pan and cover the turkey loosely with aluminum foil.

To make a sauce, scoop out the vegetables 8

from the cavity of the turkey and place in a large saucepan. Add the liquid from the roasting pan. Add the remaining 1 cup of broth and the chopped onions, bring to a boil, and then remove from the heat. Strain the sauce and season it well. Carve the turkey into serving pieces.

Tip: Check the label on your turkey for approximate cooking times and temperatures. Remove the turkey from the oven when its internal temperature is 5 to 10 degrees less than the final internal temperature, and then let it rest for 15 to 20 minutes. During the resting time, the turkey cooks 5 to 10 degrees more. None of this is exact science, though; you have to use a meat thermometer to get the results you like.

Note: When inserting a meat thermometer in a roast, do not let the metal touch the bone — the bone is hotter than the meat and registers a falsely higher temperature.

If you’re a vegetarian or you’ll be entertaining one at your holiday party, be sure to prepare something special as a main course or an alternative to your meat dish. Expecting vegetarians to make do by just eating salad and side dishes doesn’t do much to help them enjoy the meal.


Surviving the Holidays For Dummies

Preparing Side Dishes Side dishes add a lot to any meal, whether they’re the traditional kind or the more adventurous kind. Here are three fun side dish recipes to try.

Mashed Potatoes Prep time: About 15 min  •  Cook time: About 20 min  •  Yield: 4 servings Ingredients 4 large Idaho potatoes, about 2 pounds ⁄2 teaspoon salt


3 tablespoons butter ⁄2 cup milk


Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Directions Peel the potatoes, cut them into quarters, 1

and place them in a medium saucepan with enough cold water to barely cover them. Add the salt.

Cover the saucepan and bring the potatoes 2

to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, covered, for about 15 minutes, or until you can easily pierce the potatoes with a fork.

Drain the potatoes and then return them to 3 the saucepan. Shake the potatoes in the pan over low heat for 10 to 15 seconds to evaporate the excess moisture.

Remove the pan from the heat. Mash the 4

potatoes a few times with a potato masher, ricer, or fork. Add the butter, milk, and salt and pepper to taste and mash again until the potatoes are smooth and creamy.

Chapter 2: Surviving Holiday Shopping


Green Beans with Shallots Prep time: 15 min  •  Cook time: About 20 min  •  Yield: 12 servings Ingredients 3 pounds fresh green beans, rinsed and trimmed

Directions Place the beans in a large pot. Add cold 1

salted water to cover the beans. Cover the pot and bring the beans to a boil over medium-high heat; cook them until they’re just tender but still firm, about 10 to 15 minutes. (Actual cooking time depends on the tenderness and size of the beans.) Check for doneness after about 8 minutes.

6 tablespoons butter 1 cup shallots, sliced crosswise into thin rounds 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice (optional)

As the beans cook, melt the butter in a large 2

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots and cover the skillet. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring often, until the shallots are golden.

Drain the beans well and add them to the 3

skillet with the shallots. Stir to combine and heat them briefly just before serving. If desired, stir in the lemon juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper.


Surviving the Holidays For Dummies

Basic Wild Rice Prep time: About 15 min  •  Cook time: 45–55 min  •  Yield: 4–6 servings Ingredients 1 cup wild rice 2 ⁄2 cups water 1

2 tablespoons butter Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Directions Wash the wild rice thoroughly before you 1 cook it. Place the rice in a pot filled with cold water and let it stand for a few minutes. Pour off the water and any debris that floats to the surface. Drain well.

Bring the 2 ⁄ 2

2 cups water to a boil in a medium covered saucepan over high heat. Add the rinsed rice, butter, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir once. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, for 45 to 55 minutes, or until the rice is tender. 1

Fluff the rice and add more salt and 3 pepper, if desired, before serving.

Chapter 2: Surviving Holiday Shopping


Indulging in Dessert Dessert is the perfect way to end a holiday meal. The following dishes give you several sweet and delicious options that are sure to delight.

Apple Pie Prep time: About 30 min  •  Cook time: About 1 hr  •  Yield: 6–8 servings Ingredients


pastry dough for 1 Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Cover a 9-inch a double-crust pie plate with a sheet of pastry dough, and set 9-inch pie aside another sheet of pastry dough, about 11 inches in diameter, for the top crust. 6 medium apples (tart is best), peeled, cored, Mix together the sugar, flour, cinnamon, and and sliced about 2 1 nutmeg. Combine with the apples, lemon juice, and ⁄2-inch thick lemon peel in a large bowl. Toss gently to coat the 3 ⁄4 cup sugar apples with the sugar and seasonings. 2 tablespoons flour 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice ⁄2 teaspoon grated lemon peel 1

⁄4 teaspoon cinnamon 3

⁄8 teaspoon nutmeg 1

Fill the uncooked pie shell with the apple mixture. 3 Dot the butter over the filling in small pieces.

Brush the rim of the bottom pie crust with water and 4 fit the top crust over the apples. Trim off any excess dough and crimp the edges firmly with a fork.

Prick the top crust several times with a fork to pro 5

vide a vent for steam to escape. Bake for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees F and bake another 45 minutes or until the pie is brown and bubbly. Cool the pie for at least 20 minutes before serving.

1 tablespoon butter

Tip: For a shiny crust, use a pastry brush to brush the top pie crust lightly with milk or water (approximately 2 tablespoons of either) and then sprinkle 1 teaspoon of sugar over it.


Surviving the Holidays For Dummies

Gingerbread Prep time: 20 min  •  Cook time: 45 min  •  Yield: 16 servings Ingredients


⁄2 cup (1 stick) plus 1 Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare an 1 tablespoon unsalted 8-x-8-x-2-inch baking pan by generously butterbutter, at room ing it with 1 tablespoon of butter. Dust the pan temperature with 1 tablespoon of flour and shake out the 1

21⁄2 cups plus 1 tablespoon allpurpose flour 2 teaspoons baking soda


Sift the 2 ⁄ 2

2 cups flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg together on a large piece of wax paper and then blend in the salt. 1

1 tablespoon ground ginger Using a mixer, beat the 1⁄2 cup butter in a large 3 mixing bowl until it’s soft and fluffy, about 1 teaspoon ground 2 minutes. Add the brown sugar and granulated cinnamon sugar and continue to beat the mixture until it’s 1 well blended, about 2 more minutes. Stop a ⁄2 teaspoon ground cloves couple of times and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. 1 ⁄4 teaspoon ground nutmeg, preferably freshly grated Blend in the eggs and the molasses, beating 4 well, and then add the boiling water. Scrape 1 ⁄4 teaspoon salt down the bottom and sides of the bowl. With 1 the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredi⁄4 cup light brown sugar ents from Step 2 in several small batches, beating to blend well after each addition. 1 ⁄4 cup granulated sugar Spread the mixture in the prepared pan and 2 eggs, lightly beaten 5 bake for 45 minutes, until the top springs back when lightly touched and a cake tester 1 cup dark molasses inserted in the center comes out clean. 1 cup boiling water Remove the pan from the oven and cool on a 6

rack. Cut the gingerbread into squares and store it tightly wrapped in foil at room temperature for up to 4 days. Freeze for longer storage.

Chapter 2: Surviving Holiday Shopping


Peppermint Bark Prep time: 30 min  •  Cook time: 2–3 min  •  Yield: About 32 servings Ingredients


12 peppermint 1 Line a 13-x-18-inch cookie sheet with wax paper or sticks, or place a similar-size piece of wax paper on the counter. about 2 dozen individual Crush the peppermint sticks or pieces in a blender or peppermint 2 food processor or place them in a freezer bag and pieces crush them with a rolling pin or other heavy object 2 pounds white to a fine consistency. chocolate, chopped In a microwaveable bowl, melt 2 pounds of white choc 3 olate to a temperature of about 95 degrees F. To do so, cook on high for 2 to 3 minutes, stopping every 30 seconds and then every 15 seconds to stir and check with a chocolate thermometer. If you don’t have a chocolate thermometer, note that the coating should feel just about the same as your body temperature. Remove the chocolate from the microwave and stir 4

with a hard rubber spatula until smooth. With a small sifter, sift the peppermint into the white chocolate; put the larger pieces of peppermint aside. Stir the mixture to blend the peppermint.

Using the spatula, spread the mixture about 5

1 ⁄4-inch thick on the prepared cookie sheet or countertop. Sprinkle the larger peppermint pieces over the entire sheet of bark and press lightly with an offset spatula to press the pieces into the white coating.

Allow the bark to cool at room temperature; it should 6

be firm enough to cut in about 15 minutes, but the time varies according to room temperature and humidity. If you prefer to break the bark into pieces, allow it to cool for 1 hour. Then break it into pieces by hand.

Note: Don’t overheat the chocolate because you want the coating to be about

95 degrees F. You should be able to touch the coating to your lips and not burn yourself; the coating should feel just about the same as your body temperature.


Surviving the Holidays For Dummies

Chapter 5

Making Your Party Shine In This Chapter ▶ Getting in the party spirit ▶ Coming up with a plan to get things done ▶ Getting the party started ▶ Making guests comfortable


good party is never an accident. In this chapter, you find everything you need to know on planning ahead. We tell you about three lists that can make your partyplanning life much easier. We also show you how to make a timetable of what you’ll do and when you’ll do it. And we cover things like having the right attitude, setting the mood, and being a great host. Use the suggestions in this chapter, and your party will go off without a hitch!

Developing the Right Attitude The right attitude for entertaining begins with understanding what you’re really trying to do. You’re trying to give yourself and your guests a little enjoyment — nothing more, nothing less. It’s not important if your party is elegant, expensive, or extravagant. What’s important is reaching out to be with people. You don’t need sparkling crystal, gourmet cooking skills, or an enormous CD collection to have a successful party. All you need is intuition, flexibility, common sense, a positive atti tude, a fun mix of guests, and a sensible plan.


Surviving the Holidays For Dummies Pay attention to your own feelings and intuitions, and then go with your style. If you’re a triple-strand-pearl-necklace, all-theright-forks-and-spoons kind of woman or a three-piece-custommade-suit kind of man, don’t be afraid to have an elegant party and ask your guests to dress up. On the other hand, if you’re a let-your-hair-down, go-barefoot kind of person, go ahead and give a relaxed, casual party where guests will feel free to put their feet up. Either way, your party will be totally cool when it’s totally you.

Preparing an Action Plan: It’s All about the Lists Making lists is one of the best ways to get and stay organized. The three lists that follow come in handy for any and every kind of party. The items on each list will vary according to the type and the size of the party. Following are a few reasons why making lists is a good idea: ✓ Nothing is left to chance. ✓ You can mentally assess everything you have to do. ✓ Putting tasks to paper is the first step in getting them done. ✓ You can pass a written list to someone else who can help.

Creating a shopping list Create a shopping list on your cellphone or create a written one. Either way, list your menu and all the ingredients you need to buy. (For menu ideas, see Chapter 4.) Check your pantry for items you may already have. Also, check your drinks. In addition to the ingredients for your menu and bar, your list may include such items as candles, napkins, a mop, and so on.

You may want to separate this list into two lists. One can be your grocery list, and the other list can be miscellaneous items that you must purchase elsewhere.

Chapter 5: Making Your Party Shine


When you make your final stop for fresh food items on your grocery list, allow some flexibility in your menu. For example, if the asparagus you had planned to serve looks like dead tree branches, buy the gorgeous green broccoli instead.

Tasks you can do ahead of time The task list helps you keep track of what you need to do before the day of the party. For a dinner party or buffet, the list may include some or all of the following: shopping, food preparation, house cleaning, polishing silverware, ordering flowers, decorating, setting the table, and so on. If you invite friends at the spur of the moment, you can keep your task list in your head. For example, if you ask a few neighbors over to watch a ball game, your task list may be as simple as calling your favorite take-out restaurant, clearing off the sofa, and turning on the TV. For a more formal party or a large crowd, spread your task list out over a longer period of time. Break down each task into segments that can be done quickly or even while you’re doing something else. For example, buy the food for your party while you do your regular grocery shopping. Stop by the wine store while you’re out running everyday errands. Mix a cake to freeze for the party, and while it bakes, prepare dinner for yourself or your family.

If one of your guests loves to take photos, consider asking that person ahead of time to take pictures at your party so that you can post them on Facebook later!

Last-minute to-do’s You can do much of your preparation before the day of the party, but you can’t complete some tasks in advance. Divide the day of the party into time segments and make a list including things you need to do in the morning, things to be done later in the day, and only one or two last-minute things to do just before the guests arrive. No matter what kind of party you’re having, this list includes all final preparations. For a dinner or buffet, you can include defrosting food, chopping vegetables, setting up the coffee machine, frosting a cake, setting the table, arranging flowers, and so on. For a big party in


Surviving the Holidays For Dummies a space other than your home, the day-of-the-party list may even include travel, decorating, adjusting lights, and a final meeting with caterers, servers, or entertainers. Don’t forget to include some time to shower, dress, and relax. A few years ago, a friend of ours was giving her first seated dinner party. She loved cooking so she had planned to serve a complicated menu with many courses. She was so engrossed in preparing the food, she forgot to get ready. When the first guest rang the doorbell, she was wearing a bathrobe with her hair wrapped in a towel.

Timing is everything To avoid timing problems, expand your day-of-the-party list to include a timetable and include all the cooking and serving tasks to be done after the guests arrive. Creating and referring to a timetable will help you keep everything running smoothly and on time. It can also help ensure that you won’t have to serve food incredibly late, which can ruin any party. (Guests get tired as they wonder when they will eat, sometimes drink too much alcohol, and run out of conversation in the interim.) Making a timetable also helps you have time with your guests. The whole point of inviting guests is to enjoy their company. You defeat the purpose of the party if you are so preoccupied with serving the food that you never get out of the kitchen. For any type of party, the best way to make a timetable is to work backward. Figure out what time you want people to eat. For example, if you’ve asked friends over for drinks and you plan to serve hors d’oeuvres that take 15 minutes to heat, allow time to preheat the oven, take the hors d’oeuvres out of the refrigerator or package, heat them, and put them on a serving platter. By putting everything in writing, you know what to do and when to do it, even if you get distracted or confused. Keep your timetable in the kitchen and use it like a cheat sheet. Think of it as a tool that allows you to relax and enjoy your guests. By relying on your written time schedule to keep you on task, you can concentrate on conversations and having fun.

Chapter 5: Making Your Party Shine


Setting the Mood with Music Music can be a wonderful addition to a party. You can use it as entertainment or as a simple background effect.

When using music as a background for smaller parties, be careful that it doesn’t become overwhelming. It should never be so loud that it interferes with conversation. Choose music carefully. Consider your guests and the atmosphere you intend to create. Rock ’n’ roll may be all right for your New Year’s Eve bash, but not necessarily appropriate for a holiday dinner with your in-laws. Use your own taste in music combined with what you know about your guests to create the desired atmosphere. Classical music is lovely for a special dinner party. For almost any party, you can’t go wrong with jazz because it creates a lively atmosphere.

The most spirited and fascinating parties require no music at all. If guests are intrigued by the company, they won’t notice the lack of music. A lively party makes its own music, with the harmony of many voices and the steady rhythm of laughter. Take a moment to listen to your party. Your ears can tell you whether guests are enjoying themselves and the party is a raging success. Don’t panic if you hear a lull. Parties generally have a sound pause about a half hour after starting, almost as if the guests are taking a collective deep breath. Although the sound of silence can seem to last forever to the host, it’s really only a moment before guests get right back into it. Expect the volume to fluctuate — it’s part of the natural noise rhythm of the party.

Being a Good Host Your own style is the key to successful entertaining. If you want to be a great host, forget about putting on airs and trying to be something you’re not. The greatest parties aren’t necessarily about making an impression, but they’re always about putting people at ease and having fun. The one characteristic that makes you an outstanding host is being yourself.


Surviving the Holidays For Dummies Good manners are never fussy or pretentious. Good manners actually serve to put people at ease. If you’re the host, manners begin with making your guests comfortable.

Greeting guests If you want to bring out the best in your guests, start with a warm welcome, and a firm handshake or a warm hug. Tell each person how happy you are that he could come. When guests feel that you’re thrilled to see them, their personalities really shine through. During the first ten minutes of your party, make your guests feel like VIP’s by offering them drinks, introducing them to one another, and by initiating conversations and finding common ground so that they can continue talking without you. After you’ve greeted all the guests and they’re engaged in conversations, refill their drinks and pass the hors d’oeuvres. Even if you hired some help, passing something yourself is a good way to ensure that you get around to talk with your guests and is a way for you to gauge how conversations are faring.

Moving your guests to the table Getting people to the table can be one of the most frustrating parts of entertaining. You’ve made all this great food, it’s hot, and no one is budging. Instead of getting flustered, try one of these people-moving strategies:

✓ At a small dinner party, ask a friend or two to take another guest and lead him to the table.

✓ At buffets or cocktail buffets, ask a female guest (the guest of honor, the oldest woman, or a close friend) to start serving herself. Then gather up some more guests; others will follow. ✓ At large parties, moving 50 to 75 people to their tables can take 30 to 45 minutes. You and your help can tell guests, “Bring your drinks; it’s time to go in; dinner’s ready.”

Chapter 5: Making Your Party Shine


Serving sit-down meals Following are a few tips on serving etiquette for sit-down meals: ✓ Serve drinks from the right, because the glasses are on the right side of each place setting. (If you slip up and serve a plate or pour a drink from the wrong side, or if you just like being a rebel, guests probably won’t care.)

✓ If you’re plating food in the kitchen, you can have the food on the table before guests sit down, serve it while they’re sitting down, or wait until they’re seated and serve it from the left. ✓ Don’t begin clearing until everyone is finished and then clear the plates from the guest’s right.

✓ Serve platters of food from the guest’s left side.

When the meal is over and guests are relaxed and engaged in conversations, they may well enjoy sitting around the table for a while. Sometimes, however, moving people away from the table can be desirable. The most effective and polite way to get guests moving is to say “Dessert and coffee will be served in the living room.” If the dessert and coffee have already been served, say, “Let’s move into the living room to talk.”

Getting your guests to go home After dessert and coffee, guests usually linger a while longer and start their good-byes. If you’re tired and you want people to leave, you must send the right signals: ✓ Stop serving drinks and turn off the music. ✓ Let the conversation gradually subside. (Stop initiating new topics.) ✓ Don’t say “no” if someone suggests that it’s late and they really must go. Agree with them and usher them to the door.


Surviving the Holidays For Dummies

Coping with relatives Holiday alert: Your relatives know where you live. If you can’t run away, you may as well be prepared. Some people welcome visits with relatives as a chance to strengthen family ties. Others dread them because of the stress they feel after a few days of forced togetherness. If you find family visits just slightly more agreeable than a rush-hour traffic jam, you can do more than just grin and bear it. One solution is to keep everyone busy and productive so that there’s less time to get on each other’s nerves. Take advantage of their presence by letting them do some of your work. Think of different jobs for different personalities. Ask a quiet or shy person to shell peas, polish silver, or iron linens. Solicit energetic

or hyperactive guests to play with the children outside. Send the most obnoxious person to the grocery store and to do the daily errands. Cooking for a house full of relatives can be difficult if too many well-meaning helpers overrun your kitchen. For best results, do the thinking part ahead of time. Make lists, measure out ingredients, and set timers so that you don’t wind up ruining the food and your mood. If you have a visiting relative who is difficult to be around, find a polite way to keep that person out of the kitchen when you are cooking. Build a fire in the fireplace or suggest an activity that creates a focal point other than under your feet.

If guests don’t pick up on these signals, you may want to try something a little less subtle. You can look at your watch and say, “Oh my gosh. Look at the time! Let’s do this again soon.” Don’t start cleaning up until the guests have left. Don’t let your guests wash dishes or clean up. Allowing them to participate in the dirty work can spoil the whole thing. The exception is when you have cooked a holiday meal for family and close friends. You’d be crazy not to accept offers to help clear the dishes and clean up afterward.

Chapter 6

Returning to a Positive State of Mind In This Chapter ▶ Looking at the glass as half full ▶ Following through with actions ▶ Improving your relationships ▶ Taking time to chill


he holidays can be especially draining. If you find yourself stuck in a rut and down in the dumps, the tips in this chapter can help return you to a happy state again.

Lifting Your Post-Holiday Spirits How do you increase your spirits? Simple: You do little things that bring you pleasure. You don’t just wait passively to be uplifted — you make it happen! For example, you can lift your spirits by ✓ Splurging on a delicious dessert midafternoon. ✓ Spending your lunch hour relaxing on a park bench. ✓ Taking an exercise class and bringing a friend along. ✓ Searching for fun boards on Pinterest. ✓ Watching children at play. ✓ Enjoying a glass of wine at an outdoor café. ✓ Listening to some of your favorite songs while driving. ✓ Reading a magazine article that interests you.


Surviving the Holidays For Dummies These are all things that you can initiate. They don’t depend on what other people are willing or able to do that might please you. They’re things that you have control over.

Regaining a Positive Outlook Over the years, a lot has been written and said about the power of positive thinking. All of it is based on the premise that what’s in your head — positive thoughts — inevitably influences what’s in your heart as well as how you behave. Here are some examples of the kind of positive thoughts that can lead to happiness: ✓ This is such a lovely day. ✓ There really are nice people in the world. ✓ My partner is such a thoughtful person. ✓ I’m not rich, but I’m thankful that I have enough to pay my bills. ✓ I’m a very healthy person for my age. Carry a notebook with you and write down every positive thought you have in a given day. Sometimes at the end of a long day it’s hard to remember all the positives you experi enced, but if you write them down throughout the day, you’ll be able to reread your list before you go to bed and remind yourself that the day was actually pretty good.

Fighting negative expectations Pessimism is a learned response, and you don’t have to think that way. You learned to expect the worst, and you can unlearn it, too. Here are five simple rules to help you do just that: ✓ Accept the fact that you’re a pessimist at heart. You don’t have to go around sharing that information with just anyone, but be honest with yourself about the challenge you face in becoming more positive.

Chapter 6: Returning to a Positive State of Mind


✓ Accept the fact that your first thought is always a negative one. But don’t go with this thought, don’t dwell on it, and certainly don’t let it guide your behavior. ✓ Remember that it’s the second thought that counts. Counteract your initial pessimism by substituting an optimistic thought. So, for example, “I’m not sure I can do this” becomes “Wow, what a great opportunity!” ✓ Separate the past from the present (and the future). Start saying “That was then; this is now.” No longer link the chaos of your early years (or whatever negative experiences you had in the past) with the expectations you have for things that come up in today’s world. ✓ Reward yourself for this self-initiated change in thinking. Give yourself a pat on the back, or head to your local coffee shop for your favorite drink.

Moving beyond pessimism If you’ve figured out that you’re a pessimist, what can you do to change that? Lots! Here are my recommendations: ✓ Don’t fight it — change it. You have to begin by accepting, not resisting, the reality that you always start out with negative thoughts. Resistance is a waste of energy. The more you resist something, the more it persists! The key here is to change the way you think. ✓ Turn your thoughts around so that you never end with a negative. For example, instead of thinking “I can do this, but it’s going to be difficult,” say to yourself “It’s going to be difficult, but I can do this.” You want the last thing your brain hears to be positive. ✓ Put yourself in the company of optimistic people. Attitudes are contagious. Who do you know who sees the glass as half full? That’s the person you want to hang with! ✓ Develop a personal action plan for reconstructing your attitude. You’re stuck in your negative thinking, and you need to get unstuck.


Surviving the Holidays For Dummies

Letting Your Actions Speak Louder Than Words It’s not always what you think and feel that makes you happy as much as it is what you actually do in the course of a given day. When you’re making your daily confession, try to think of all the positive things you did in the past 24 hours. Here are some examples of positive actions: ✓ Held the door open for an elderly person. ✓ Picked up litter along the roadside. ✓ Sent a get-well card to an ailing friend. ✓ Took time to go to the gym to exercise. ✓ Treated a friend to lunch.

Living an honest life When you meet a conscientious person, what you see is what you get — there are no hidden agendas and, thus, no burdensome stress. You can never feel totally safe if you’re living a lie — you’re always on guard that someone will find out the truth. If you aren’t living an honest life, you can change. Here are some ways you can begin: ✓ Stop apologizing for who and what you are. If you’re a scoundrel, admit it. If you’re a decent person who fails to live up to someone else’s expectations, let that be their problem — not yours. ✓ Begin living your life as if it were, in fact, your own. Make your own decisions and accept the consequences that follow. Always be open to advice from others, but don’t take that as a mandate for how to live your life. If you do, you’ll always blame them when things don’t turn out in your favor.

Chapter 6: Returning to a Positive State of Mind


✓ Make sure that your outer self matches up with your inner self. Otherwise, you’re, as they say, a house divided against itself. ✓ Confess to yourself what’s really behind all your anger and dissatisfaction. For more on this topic, see Anger Management For Dummies by W. Doyle Gentry, PhD, (Wiley). ✓ Stop making excuses for not dealing with the part of life that’s difficult or painful. If you lack the courage to visit a dying friend in the hospital, just be honest and let her know that’s how you feel. Don’t try to tell yourself that you don’t have the time or you have more important things that you need to do.

Being ethical You can become a more ethical person if you ✓ Develop a set of principles to live by that conform to society’s expectations. For example, ascribing to the belief that “two wrongs never make a right” keeps you from answering bad behavior with more bad behavior. ✓ Always try to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. If you don’t want someone to take advantage of you, then don’t take advantage of him. If it upsets you when someone you trust lies to you, remember that when you’re thinking about lying to someone else. ✓ Deal with others in a straightforward manner. Say what you think. The other person may not like it, but at least she knows where you stand. ✓ Are consistent. Don’t tell one person one thing and someone else just the opposite. ✓ Seek to be righteous instead of always being right. Being right means you say or do something that is technically correct. Being righteous is a virtue that’s synonymous with being honorable, fair, and upstanding. The individual decides whether he is right; society decides who is righteous.


Surviving the Holidays For Dummies

Developing Closer Social Ties Human beings are social creatures. We’re also wired for emotions, and we experience those emotions within a social context. We’re at our best when we’re engaging one another in the course of daily activities — at work and at play. If those activities are productive, constructive, involve mutual cooperation, and contribute to our ultimate survival, we tend to feel joyful, happy, and satisfied. If they’re unproductive, destructive, or involve conflict, we feel just the opposite — anxious, resentful, and dissatisfied. What’s important is the nature of your relationships and the extent to which they’re supportive.

Dealing with setbacks The most significant benefit that people find in the aftermath of misfortune comes from their interpersonal relationships — their connections to other people. People end up forging closer ties to those around them. How do they do that? They do it by taking the following advice: ✓ When loved ones offer you support, accept it with appreciation instead of pushing it away. Foolish pride only keeps people at a distance. People want to help, so let them. And, always remember to say “thanks.” ✓ When others offer compassion and empathy, respond in kind. Remember: You’re not the only one in the world who’s hurting in some way. People need you as much as you need them.

✓ Educate others about your problem. You have to tell your story in a way that helps those around you understand all of what you’re going through and why you’re meeting the challenge the way you are. Don’t whine — educate! ✓ Discover the kindness of strangers. Friends often start out as strangers who want to help, and the relationship evolves from there. If you turn away the kindness, you offend the person on the other end. ✓ Foster better relationships with professionals whose help you need. Doctors and lawyers are human beings, too — it never hurts to ask them “How are things with you? How’s your son doing — I heard he was in an automobile accident?”

Chapter 6: Returning to a Positive State of Mind


Being socially “connected” to the world around you benefits you in two major ways: It keeps you healthy, and it makes life more fun. People don’t start out to be confidants — they start out just getting to know one another, and things progress from there. If you’ve already tried that and still feel unconnected, we highly recommend filling that need through some type of counseling relationship — for example, with a mental health practitioner or a member of the clergy. Not only is there no shame in that, but also it’s the wise, smart, and right thing to do!

Relaxing after the Festivities The way to relax after the festivities is simple: Spend more time doing absolutely nothing! Of course, some people simply can’t comprehend the psychological benefit that comes from doing absolutely nothing — nothing that’s productive, that is, in a material or tangible sense like building things or making money. On the other hand, when you do nothing, you produce a state of relaxation. Funny how that works! Here are some tips on how to spend more time doing nothing: ✓ Rent a dozen of your favorite movies and spend the entire weekend watching them. Your kids will love you! ✓ Get up on Saturday morning and head out for the day without any particular agenda or destination. If something along the road to nowhere catches your eye, stop. ✓ Spend the whole day reading your favorite novel — lose yourself in the author’s world. ✓ Plan a weekend so that when you go to work on Monday morning and people ask you what you did, you can say, with a smile on your face, “Absolutely nothing!” ✓ Ignore the time. It’s much easier to do nothing if you don’t know what time it is.


Surviving the Holidays For Dummies

Taking it easy even if you’re a Type A In general, the people who can’t seem to pull themselves away from work and are highly stressed are Type A personalities. And the people who are a bit more laidback and relaxed are Type B’s. To understand

why Type A’s spend so much time working and too little time playing, you have to see the world from their perspective and contrast that with the perspective of Type B’s.

Type A People

Type B People

Have a rigid standard for what constitutes satisfactory performance. They’re continually striving to meet some illusory goal of perfection.

Demand less from themselves even though they fully intend to meet the requirements of the job. They settle for being a “good employee” rather than striving to be a “perfect employee.”

Feel the need to engage in multiple tasks at the same time, giving each task number-one priority.

Are more satisfied completing one task at a time before moving on to the next one. They tend to prioritize tasks, ranking them as more or less important.

View work as a competitive Make good team players. They aren’t enterprise. They often initiate averse to healthy competition but enjoy competition in noncompetitive working collaboratively with others. situations. The word cooperation isn’t in their vocabulary. Prefer working alone but end Are quick to share the responsibility of up feeling like they carry the work assignments so that they don’t burden of getting the job done become burdensome. squarely on their shoulders. If you see yourself in that Type A column, you can make a few key changes in your life to adopt some more of the Type B tendencies. Here are a few ideas:

✓ Lose the watch.

✓ Appreciate the arts.

✓ Take your time.

✓ Be curious.

✓ Eliminate number-speak.

✓ Put down the grade book.

✓ Eat slowly. ✓ Think of others as just as important as yourself

Chapter 7

Feeling as Good Physically as You Do Mentally In This Chapter ▶ Getting in shape ▶ Gaining flexibility with yoga ▶ Relaxing with meditation


eeping in shape both physically and mentally can do wonders for you during and after the holiday season. In this chapter, we give you tips to get your body in tip-top shape and your mind in a relaxing state.

Getting Fit — No Time Like the Present! Taking just a few minutes a day for exercise can be the most productive time you ever spend. The good news is that getting in shape physically doesn’t have to take a long time. When you make activity and a healthy diet a part of your everyday life, you can reap the rewards.

Replacing fat with firm muscles Unfortunately, you can’t spot reduce. For example, doing hundreds of crunches simply won’t make your stomach magically disappear. When you lose weight, it comes off your entire body.


Surviving the Holidays For Dummies The key to targeting those trouble spots is to replace the fat with firm muscles:

✓ Burn fat: Including an aerobic activity in your routine burns fat and accelerates your toned-up results. ✓ Do tone-ups: Be sure to do your personalized tone-ups to hit the spots you really want. ✓ Eat a balanced diet: Escalate your results with a balanced diet.

Preventing back problems Most back problems are caused by weak muscles surrounding the spine. With weak postural muscles, any chance for correct body mechanics goes out the window. And slouching all the time doesn’t help. Following are some suggestions to prevent back problems: ✓ Strengthen your core. Strengthening your core muscles (lower back and abs) creates stability for your back and entire body. ✓ Do resistance training. Doing weight training helps maintain bone density. ✓ Maintain appropriate weight. Overweight people often develop back problems. ✓ Do stretching moves. Stretching can help prevent back problems. Muscles to stretch include hamstrings, hip flexors, back, abs, and chest.

Making activity and a healthy diet part of your everyday life Life is so much more enjoyable when you feel your best. Being active and eating right can bridge the gap between merely existing and really living. Forget fitness and diet fads and choose to be active and eat healthy.

Chapter 7: Feeling as Good Physically as You Do Mentally


Forgetting fitness myths So many fitness myths should be squashed: ✓ Spot-reduction myth: You can’t spot reduce no matter what the false ads say. You can tone up and lose overall body fat. ✓ Light-weights-bulking myth: Somehow over the years, people (especially women) became afraid of lifting light weights for fear of bulking up too much. This is false. Unless you take steroids and do extensive power lifting, you cannot bulk up like that. Most people do not have the genetics for such extreme pump-up action. If you’re doing

only one or two sets with light weights, you should not notice a huge increase in muscle size, yet you can tone up, burn calories, and build stronger bones and muscles. ✓ Exercise-weakens-the-heart myth: This one really amazes me. Exercise does not weaken the heart. It can help to make it stronger. ✓ Toning-up-does-not-help-youreduce-weight myth: Toning up actually helps to increase your metabolism. And a faster metabolism means faster weight loss.

Boosting your current activity level can speed up your fitness results and reduce your risk of developing some of the leading causes of illness and death. You can have fun, be active, and stay healthy at the same time. Here’s how: ✓ Create a daily activity log. Start keeping track of all physical activities when you do them. Jot them down in a notebook, computer, or whatever works for you. Include everything from washing the car to playing with the kids. ✓ Select new and fun activities. Think of ways you can incorporate new activities into your life, such as laser tag, miniature golf, and even bowling. ✓ Evaluate your log. Once a week review your log. See whether you find any patterns, such as sluggish Mondays or no physical activity ever in the evenings. Commit to adding more activity and chart your progress.


Surviving the Holidays For Dummies

Giving Yoga a Try Whatever your age, weight, flexibility, or beliefs may be, you can practice and benefit from yoga. Yoga includes physical exercises that look like gymnastics. These exercises help you become or stay fit and trim, control your weight, and reduce your stress level. Yoga also offers a whole range of meditation practices, including breathing techniques that exercise your lungs and calm your nervous system or charge your brain and the rest of your body with delicious energy.

Cultivating the right attitude Yoga encourages you to examine all your basic attitudes about life to discover which ones are wrong and dysfunctional so that you can replace them with better, more appropriate attitudes. One of the attitudes worth cultivating is balance in everything. A balanced attitude in this context means that you’re willing to build up your yoga practice step by step instead of expect ing instant perfection. It also means not basing your practice on wrong assumptions, including the mistaken notion that yoga is about tying yourself in knots. On the contrary, yoga tries to loosen all your physical, emotional, and intellectual knots.

No pain, no gain — not! The idea of “no pain, no gain” — a completely mistaken notion — often reinforces competitiveness. Yoga doesn’t ask you to be a masochist. Pain and discomfort are part of life, but this realization doesn’t require

you to invite them. On the contrary, the goal of yoga is to overcome all suffering. Therefore, never flog your body; always only coax it gently. Our motto is: No gain from pain.

Chapter 7: Feeling as Good Physically as You Do Mentally


Enjoying a safe and sound yoga practice As you travel through yogic postures, you begin to build awareness of the communications taking place between your body and mind. Do you feel peacefully removed from the raging storm of life around you, comfortable and confident with your strength, motion, and steadiness? Or are you painfully in tune with the passage of time, sensing a physical awkwardness or strain in your movements? Listening to your own rhythms — and acknowledging their importance — can help make your yoga experience an expression of peace, calm, and security. And that positive message is what yoga practice is all about.

Listening to your body No one knows your body like you do. The more you practice yoga, the better you can become at determining your limitations with each posture: Each posture presents its own unique challenge. Ideally, you want to feel encouraged to explore and expand your physical and emotional boundaries without risking strain or injury to yourself. Some teachers speak of practicing at the edge. The edge is the point of intensity where a posture challenges you but doesn’t cause you pain or unusual discomfort. The idea is to gradually — very slowly and carefully — push that edge farther back and open up new territory. To be able to practice at the edge, you must cultivate self-observation and pay attention to the feedback from your body. Listen to what your body is telling you through its ongoing communications. Signals constantly travel from your muscles, tendons, ligaments, bones, and skin to your brain. Train yourself to become aware of them. Pay particular attention to signals coming from the neck, lower back, jaw muscles, abdomen, and any known problem areas of your body.


Surviving the Holidays For Dummies Beginners commonly experience trembling when holding certain yoga postures. Normally, the involuntary motion is noticeable in the legs or arms and is nothing to worry about, as long as you aren’t straining. The tremors are simply a sign that your muscles are working in response to a new demand. Instead of focusing on the feeling that you’ve become a wobbly bowl of jelly, make your breath a little longer if you can and allow your attention to go deeper within. If the trembling starts to go off the Richter scale, you need to either ease up a little or end the posture altogether.

Moving slowly but surely All postural movements are intended for slow performance. Unfortunately, most of the time, we’re on automatic. Our movements tend to be unconscious, too fast, and not particularly graceful. We stumble, bump into things, and are generally unaware of our bodies. The yogic postures oblige you to adopt a different attitude. For the best results, practice your postures at a slow, steady pace while calmly focusing on your breath and the postural movement. Resist the temptation to speed up; instead, savor each posture. Remember to relax and be present here and now. If your breathing becomes a little bit labored or you begin to feel fatigued, just rest until you’re ready to go on. For more on yoga, refer to Yoga For Dummies, 2nd Edition, by Georg Feuerstein and Larry Payne (Wiley) .

Striving for a Relaxed Body and Mind: Meditation You can muse forever about meditation’s benefits or the nature of the mind, but there’s nothing quite like attempting to practice meditation to show you how stubborn and wild the mind can actually be.

Chapter 7: Feeling as Good Physically as You Do Mentally


The practice of meditation involves gently returning your mind again and again to a simple focus of attention. As the old saying goes, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. In the case of meditation, this simple but essential step involves turning your mind away from its usual preoccupation with external events — or, just as often, with the story it tells you about external events — and toward your inner sensate experience. If you’re like most people, you’re so caught up with what’s happening around you — the look in other people’s eyes, the voices of family and co-workers, the latest news on the radio, the messages appearing on your computer screen — that you forget to pay attention to what’s happening in your own mind, body, and heart. In fact, popular culture has been designed to seduce you into searching outside yourself for happiness and satisfaction. In such a confusing and compelling world, even the most rudimentary gesture of self-awareness can seem like a challenge of monumental proportions. Take a few minutes right now to turn your mind around and pay attention to what you’re sensing and feeling. Notice how much resistance you have to shifting your awareness from your external focus to your simple sensate experience. Notice how busily your mind flits from thought to thought and image to image, weaving a story with you as the central character. As the emerging field of mind-body medicine reminds us, your body, your mind, and your heart form one seamless and inseparable whole. When your thoughts keep leaping from worry to worry, your body responds by tightening and tensing, especially in certain key places like the throat, the heart, the solar plexus, and the belly. When the discomfort gets intense enough, you register it as an emotion — fear, perhaps, or anger or sadness. Because it connects you with your direct experience — and ultimately with a realm of pure being beyond the mind — meditation naturally relaxes your body while it focuses your mind.


Surviving the Holidays For Dummies As a beginner, though, you may not experience this natural relaxation for days or even weeks. So it can be helpful to practice one of the techniques in the following list before you meditate, especially if you tend to be noticeably tense. (If you’re one of those rare people who is generally so relaxed that you tend to drift off to sleep at the slightest provocation, you may want to skip this exercise.)

✓ Shower of relaxation: Imagine taking a warm shower. As the water cascades across your body and down your legs, it carries with it all discomfort and distress, leaving you refreshed and invigorated. ✓ Honey treatment: Imagine a mound of warm honey perched on the crown of your head. As it melts, it runs down your face and head and neck, covering your shoulders and chest and arms, and gradually enveloping your whole body down to your toes. Feel the sensuous wave of warm liquid draining away all tension and stress and leaving you thoroughly relaxed and renewed. ✓ Peaceful place: Imagine a safe, protected, peaceful place — perhaps a forest, a meadow, or a sandy beach. Experience the place fully with all your senses. Notice how calm and relaxed you feel here; now allow that feeling to permeate every cell of your body. ✓ Body scan: Beginning with the crown of your head, scan your body from top to bottom. When you come to an area of tension or discomfort, gently allow it to open and soften; then move on. ✓ Relaxation response: Choose a word or brief phrase that has deep spiritual or personal significance for you. Now close your eyes and repeat this sound softly, again and again. For more information on the techniques outlined in this chapter, click these links or visit the product pages at ✓ Meditation For Dummies, 3rd Edition ✓ Core Strength For Dummies ✓ Yoga For Dummies, 2nd Edition ✓ Fitness For Dummies, 4th Edition ✓ Kettlebells For Dummies

Chapter 8

Ten or So Holiday Do’s and Don’ts In This Chapter ▶ Focusing on what matters ▶ Knowing when to say no


ome of the choices you make ultimately affect your holiday enjoyment (and stress levels!). In this chapter, we offer ten or so tips on what you should and shouldn’t do to survive the holidays with your sanity intact.

Do Make Yourself a Priority Between holiday happenings and schedule demands, you can easily put yourself last on a list. Don’t make this mistake! Take the time to eat right, stay on your workout schedule, and basically schedule time for yourself. Even if you can manage only 20 minutes a day, carve out time to devote to yourself.

Do Take Time to Ask about House Rules or Make Them Clear Whether you have guests or are a guest, a little upfront communication can work wonders in keeping everyone happy. For example, before bringing Fido along on a trip, be sure to ask whether it’s okay to bring pets. Likewise, if you don’t allow pets in your home, let that be known upfront as well.


Surviving the Holidays For Dummies Don’t forget to discuss arrival and departure times. Arriving at 2 a.m. when your host has young children is probably not the best way to begin the festivities.

And, of course, nothing is worse than a guest who overstays his welcome, so be sure to be respectful of your host’s time and schedule.

Don’t Be a Hero If people ask whether they can help or offer to bring something, say yes! Although you may feel like you don’t want to make work for your guests or have high standards for your own hosting skills, being a control freak is usually not worth the extra stress. People generally are eager to help share the load, especially if you’re opening up your home for the holidays, and no one enjoys being around an overly frazzled hostess who’s clearly overwhelmed with running the show alone.

Do Let Social Media Help You Utilize Facebook and other social media for more than just amusing family updates. Put the event calendar to work so that everyone has the same information at the same time. Be sure to delegate tasks and meal lists and let others join in the conversation; you’ll probably find your group will have fun working out who is bringing what and when. Have a bit of fun with Pinterest and set up a board highlighting the menus or even gift ideas.

Do Stick with What You Know The holidays are not the time to try out new recipes or test your cooking skills. Plenty of old favorites and standards are sure to delight your guests, and who can resist a free homecooked meal?

If you must try out something new, take the recipe for a test run (or two) a few weeks before the event so that you’ve worked through the kinks before you’re feeding a crowd.

Chapter 8: Ten or So Holiday Do’s and Don’ts


Do Unwrap It Already Yes, some people have a knack for wrapping gifts with beautiful bows and adorable tags. We get it. Acknowledge it once and then move along. Holding up the unwrapping queue with statements like “Oh, it’s too pretty to open” and “I have to take a picture of this so that I can remember how lovely this bow was” only serves to irritate your fellow partygoers and makes the giver wish they’d just stuffed it in a paper bag. The same advice goes for pretty table settings, desserts, and anything else that may be deemed “too lovely” to actually use for its intended purpose.

Don’t Expect to Attend Every Party and Event The holidays are filled with invites and obligations that can wreak havoc on your normal schedule. Be prepared to politely decline an invitation here and there if you already have other commitments. And, by all means, do not ask the host or hostess to reschedule on your behalf. They may say it’s okay and do it, but trust us, it’s not okay.

Do Be Reasonable When Planning Sure, you love waking up early and making a big Christmas morning breakfast. Should you invite your friends and family to join you for a dawn-breaking get-together? Probably not. While it’s nearly impossible to accommodate everyone’s schedule, common sense goes a long way. Especially if you have guests with small children, consider that they may have a holiday morning tradition and schedule your event later in the day or on another day altogether. If you have older guests who may not be comfortable driving after dark, consider a lunch get-together rather than an evening dinner party.


Surviving the Holidays For Dummies

Surviving the Holidays For Dummies  

Surviving the Holidays For Dummies

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