Tammy’s Top Ten (t3 report) Holiday Prep Ideas

The holidays are upon us. In part, I’m disgusted. The big chain grocery store has put up Christmas decor before Thanksgiving. There’s no need to rush unless of course we’re pushing for record retail sales. For some the holidays bring a certain measure of stress – a certain measure of how can I possibly get everything done and make this seem effortless like it was in my youth. First tip, this is not our youth.

Original image by D Sharon Pruitt - flickr creative commons

So, here are ten things that might make it go a bit smoother:

1. Eat healthy first thing each morning. If you start your day with something very healthy like a green smoothie, you’re much more likely to eat healthy the rest of the day. I know this is true. And it will help us to avoid the addition of 5 – 7 lbs that are supposed to be the norm during this time of year.

2. If you’re having a party or other event, use evite. I just used this online service for the baby shower and was pleased with the range of invitation design choices and the ease of the reservation system. No mailing. No fuss. Green. Complete understanding about who would be here and who wouldn’t.

3. Make it a date. If you’d like to do some baking, then invite a friend or two to join you. Pick your recipes ahead of time. Split up the grocery lists. It cuts down on the cost, provides help and you can get in a good visit while you’re at it.

4. Have a signature appetizer that is really easy. Mine is blue cheese and figs melted inside a baguette that’s been swiped with olive oil. (I add prosciutto for the meat eaters) It’s always a hit, terribly easy and I can conjure it up in no time to go to a party. Find one you like and get comfortable with it.

5. If you’re planning for a party or to do the big dinner, do some mind mapping. It’s a fun and easy way to make sure you have your bases covered. I planned our entire chili cookoff this way with great success but if the mapping is too random for you, then Word has a wonderful outline feature that allows you to brainstorm as freely.

Credit to not quite vintage. flickr creative commons

6. Fill a large bowl with seasonal fruit and veggies for a handsome centerpiece. This is really easy and nothing goes to waste. Color coordinate with your meal or you holiday or some other theme.

7. Do a read around. This is especially effective if you have kids at your meal but could be equally fun amongst adults. Pull out a seasonal kids book or a poetry selection and ask everyone to read a page and pass it around the table.

8. Hand out the tasks. Ask your brother to open the wine. Let your nieces and nephews set the table. Offer to take on tasks if you’re eating in the homes of others.

9. Ask your family what they want. Certainly it loses an element of surprise but if you are like me, it totally eliminates the stress of having to decide what to buy and if you don’t live close enough to know what they need, it’s very helpful.

10. Save the holiday cards and especially the ones with photos. Put them in a basket near your dinner table and each evening find one person or family in there that you can pray for. It keeps the spirit going all year long.

Leave a comment


  1. Really super tips (except for #4; I don’t like other people messing with my kitchen stuff), I especially like #10.

  2. Sound advice, Tammy, although I think No. 5 (the mapping) would stress me out more than the event itself would! Hope you’re having a good Thanksgiving weekend!

  3. Terrific tips, Tammy. As a former caterer, this was always a season that I had a love-hate relationship with, because the amount of work was daunting, but necessary/important. I developed some stress relievers, (occasionally crying jags) but mainly worked on the attitude that everything would get done, and everything would be lovely. Your mapping is Right On!

    • I cannot imagine catering. In fact, although my mother in law has done it very successfully for years, it only just dawned on me that I couldn’t do it. It is not predictable enough and I’m certain that during the holidays that predictability must be even less.

  4. Doreen Pollack

     /  November 26, 2010

    I love to have friends help me decorate the Christmas tree!!

  5. I love #4, both for the idea and the recipe! My mum used to fill cherry tomatos with good quality store-bought pesto. It was easy, and a hit. I might use that one in future 🙂

    The other tips are really helpful too – at 23, I’m still not quite in the hosting-parties myself stage, but I’m doing more and more for the family events so this is all good to know!

  6. LOVE #s 7 and 10 – perfect ideas! I have uber low-stress holidays but these are great ideas that can be used for ANY get together. Excellent, Tammy! and blue cheese and figs -super yum!

  7. Wonderful list.

    After reading Simplify Your LIfe, Elaine St. James, years ago, I cut out all the Holiday Hoopla that did not ADD to our enjoyment of the holiday ~ smaller tree, less Christmas baking, fewer gifts to exchange, etc.

    Now, I happily do things that add to our enjoyment of this festive time of year, and don’t do things that detract from it.

  8. Hmmmm…. I like #3, #4 and #9

  9. Tammy, I’ve just discovered that my RSS feed has not been working for a number of blogs – including this one. I wondered why you weren’t writing! TSK!

    I will catch up! I have missed you!

  10. Great ideas. I especially love #1. I think you are right about starting your day healthy…it does set the tone for the rest of the day. I would add a #11…start any party or big dinner with an empty dishwasher. Friends who offer to help have somewhere to put dirty dishes.

  11. I love these tips and I can really use them in few events to come in our family. I love your no. 1 tip, I really need to remind myself to eat and take care of myself first before doing anything 🙂

  12. Myrna Greenfield

     /  November 27, 2010

    Great tips, Tammy. I would add two:
    1) Schedule in time for a breather. For me, that’s walking around Jamaica Pond or going to the gym.

    2) Find a way to connect with others outside your personal circle, either in person or virtually. This might mean volunteering at a local charity or going to the website of an international organization to learn about the lives of the people they work with. I find this helps give me perspective and be more forgiving or myself and others during the holiday season.

  13. All wonderful things to consider this holiday season. Thanks!

  14. Hannah – cherry tomatoes with pesto sounds like a great app to have on hand. And, you’re a well seasoned 23!

    Diane – lovely to have you back. Hope your Thanksgiving was good.

    Nancy – yet another good reading tip from you! Won’t get to it this year but maybe in 2011.

    Myra – Would love to know what appetizer you’d pick.

    Soul Dipper – thanks for being diligent. I enjoy your readership.

    Geni – an empty dishwasher it is! That’s a great tip.

    Tes – Yes, look out for you. Your family will benefit. Also, see Myrna’s suggestions.

    Myrna – Two great tips to add to Geni’s empty dishwasher. Thanks for adding them.

    Ollin – Thanks. Good to see you.

  15. I love the ‘ask them what they want’ one. For so long I wanted to be clever and second guess my loved ones choices. And it usually ended in tears.

    Wonderful post, Tammy. Makes one feel quite festive!

  16. Kath (Eating for Living)

     /  November 28, 2010

    Great tips!

    We have Christmas things in the stores by the end of September already. It’s disgusting!

  17. Great ideas, Tammy! My mouth is watering with your appetizer suggestion. Yum… I also like to make Christmas cards from old cards.

    • Great suggestion. I actually cut up the old cards to make gift tags but that seemed like a bit of a cumbersome tip since you have to start the year before.

  18. Ozarkhomesteader

     /  November 28, 2010

    Myrna, I like your ideas too!

    Tammy, great advice. I especially like #7 and #10.

    I was surprised when I met Mr. Homesteader that both of us had reached a point in our lives when #9 didn’t matter so much anymore, because we had gone to extremely limited gift giving and receiving; it had all gotten to be too much. Now, except for the kids, we give when we’re inspired or when we have something homemade that we think a friend or relative will enjoy. We expect nothing. When we first started this plan, we got tremendous push back from family, but since then more than one person has confessed that it’s a relief, financially and in terms of stress.

    • I would like your #9 just fine but yes, there would be some push back. The Mr. and I have a joke that says, “if I really wanted it, I’ve already got it and if I don’t, then you can’t afford it.” We enjoy getting things done at our home more than “things”.

  19. Lisa H

     /  November 29, 2010

    I also like #9, especially when it comes to the kids. I use our kids’ wish list to pass on to family members. It’s a win-win all around. A few times the kids have added something to their list that I had absolutely no idea they wanted!
    My husband and I are like you, Tammy. We’re not big on giving gifts to each other. We have more fun buying a family gift together. Our time together is the best gift–year round!

  20. Jane

     /  November 29, 2010

    So timely, so topical. I had to share this one on Facebook!

  21. Great tips. I especially like #7 and #10.

  22. Tammy McLeod

     /  December 1, 2010

    Hiya Tammy, awesome list of tips! They’re all very helpful! I wanted to share one thing with you though. It’s something I learned from the Getting Things Done paradigm — if the holidays stress you out, it is quite likely that you have overcommitted yourself.

    You may have this image of how the season should be celebrated based on the memories of your youth, but if trying to recreate that is causing you to have negative feelings towards the reminder that the holidays are coming, it may be worth reexamining your mental commitments to what you want to accomplish in December.

    Simplify! Have the courage to say “no, I won’t do that,” over and over until the things that you have left to do are manageable, and allow you the space that you deserve, to truly enjoy each day of this fabulous life (not just December)!

    If you can’t get everything done, don’t promise to do everything .. it’s ok! 🙂


  23. Just what people need when busy- handy tips!!!

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