9. Use wine glass markers to make your hydration a little more festive
Everybody like to express their creativity, and nobody likes to lose their glass in the middle of a soirée. Kids and adults can have fun marking their beverages (be sure to use mason jars for kids, and only kids old enough to handle real glass). There are no restrictions to the size of the group required to pull these out...if you are sipping wine by yourself, doodle on the glass and at least you'll remember your name at the end of the night. 😉
10. Visit your local farmer's market for gifts and goodies
A favorite for inspiration, a farmer's market combines great food, creative items, and good prices. Who wouldn't want to enjoy something a little unique - at an affordable price - for the holidays? Our DeKalb Farmer's Market also has great goodies for gifts. If visiting close to your gift-giving time, consider pairing unique coffee with some freshly baked muffins and a small bar of dark chocolate. The beauty of having so many options is that you really can't go wrong!
11. Consider writing a short note on each holiday card you send
Everyone has an opinion about Christmas or holiday cards, especially in the age of social media. I plan to write a blog post about this later (stay tuned!), but I do think it's a great tradition to keep around. Many people put their best foot forward on Facebook, Instagram, etc. so Christmas cards actually have a unique opportunity to provide genuine context to your life. At the very least, include your original John Hancock on the cards...it's just a nice touch to keep everyone feeling valued.
12. When Mother Nature gives you a treat, take some time to take advantage!
In Atlanta, snow is a bitter-sweet concept. Since our municipalities don't have the tools in place to keep roads completely clear during a legitimate winter event (and, it doesn't make sense for them to), the threat of winter weather is usually enough to give everyone a day or two off from school and work. Even if nothing happens, that is a fun silver lining. But, there is just something more fun about the white stuff making an appearance. And, not just a dusting. This happened December 8th and it was incredible! I may have gotten behind with cards (their delivery was delayed) and shopping, but we had a blast. And, this was the FIRST time EVER, that we got to decorate for the holidays with snow on the ground outside!!
13. Mix up your workout routine with some Blogilates action
Of course, we want to enjoy every single sweet treat thrown our way during the holidays. Even though this year has been a major success for health and fitness, I have stronger motivation than ever to not deprive myself of the holiday food that helps make this time of year special. As I believe is true with every aspect of life, everything is better in moderation. We will alternate nights when we have dessert, or split some of the desserts that have been gifted to us. I have frozen some cookies for later in the year and will try to eat a lighter breakfast and lunch on the days I want to indulge. So far, it was worked out well! I still want to make sure I'm working off the calories. If you're looking for a good workout to squeeze in among the shopping, check out Cassie Ho's Blogilates series. It really gets the job done...trust me! We have a few more days to get through, but I know I can focus on the company and tasty goodness, with less focus on calories.
14. Mix colored and white lights to add character
I don't know about you, but my taste in decor can change quickly - one that has been consistent my entire life is the use of colored lights on the Christmas tree. I can absolutely appreciate the beautiful white lights that create a warm, homogenous tone in the house. One way we have compromised our aesthetic is to use white lights on our garlands outside, with colorful lights on the tree in the window. I just love the combination of an exterior classic look with the welcoming festive color inside. There is no right or wrong way (or very few, at least) to decorate your home...follow what makes you happy!
15. Add the Christmas spirit to any of your dessert recipes by incorporating red and green candies
Almost any dessert can have a holiday twist, if you are willing to experiment. One of my favorite recipes this year is the pecan butter pie I shared a few months ago. You can find the recipe in the Recipe section. All I did was chop some red and green M&Ms, and sprinkle on top of the pie. The whipped cream topping provided the perfect backdrop and I was still able to include some toasted, chopped pecans around the edge so guests would know what they were eating. It tasted great!
16. Lighten up your winter favorites with lighter variations
Cliff and I are lucky that we do have each other in life, love, and the ability to share desserts when we are watching that weight. Just as I discussed in post 13, moderation is the key to success (in my opinion). When we wanted a fun dessert to celebrate the surprise snowfall, hot cocoa was the natural choice. We split the packet of hot chocolate, and added Greek Yogurt Whipped Cream dollops I had waiting in the freezer months earlier. It added another dimension to the hot cocoa that was really interesting - and good!
17. Go "old school" with stockings and include a piece of fruit
I will never be happy with a stocking unless it has some chocolate, treats, and useful items that I would never purchase for myself on a regular basis (thank you for the purse Kleenex, Mom!). I think it is really charming to include at least one piece of fruit to promote health and wellness for the upcoming year. I usually select a really beautiful apple or orange...something that will be enjoyed in the present, but acknowledges the tradition of Christmases many decades ago.
18. Host or attend a cookie swap
Thanks to Mother Avery, I attended my first cookie swap this year! It was so much fun...and what a cool concept. I'm ashamed to say it took me this long to get in on the action, but better late than never, right? I left with so many cookies that I did have to freeze some, but what I love about the idea is that you can host a gathering (or attend one as a guest) and exchange cookies (gifts) without breaking the bank. It gives people an opportunity to sample the traditions their friends hold dear and may provide inspiration for you to add some new cookie recipes to your holiday tradition!
19. When decorating cookies, incorporate a new topping
Nothing will ever replace the pure goodness of your favorite cookie recipe. But, it is important to remember that the opportunities are limitless to creat a fun twist. Even a minor change can make a big difference and the fun is in the experimentation. For the cookie swap, I dipped traditional sugar cookies in melted chocolate chips and tried some new themes...chopped pecans, shredded coconut, vanilla buttercream frosting, and Christmas sprinkles. Sugar cookies are tasty in their simplicity, but they also provide the foundation for some sweet upgrades. What are your favorites?
20. Don't forget your pets!
Even if you get them a new bag of treats and need to stop there, that is FINE! It is fun to see their faces light up on Christmas morning. I remember seeing my first edition of Modern Cat and fell in love. I think Cliff and I got the most enjoyment out of it. We couldn't stop laughing as we put together Stanley's stocking!
21. Add pops of elegance with greenery from your garden
We are lucky enough to have blooming nandina bushes in our backyard, along with a Camellia bush with beautiful white blooms. These provide some great greenery to arrange in vases and highlight the pop of red color throughout the house. If you have bushes that need some trimming, or a live Christmas tree that can spare a branch or two, then you have a canvass at your fingertips!
22. Mix the old with the new
It is always fun to try new decorations, but I think the transition from old to new in any tablescape or home decor should be revered. Just as I discussed when we covered decorating with books, the holidays hold a special place in our hearts because of the memories we want to emulate each year...all while generating new memories. Make sure to pay homage to the memories that drive your sense of the holiday spirit, but never hesitate to add a new piece to your collection.
23. Hang extra ornaments from the chandelier
Chandelier garlands are all the rage right now...and rightly so! I've seen so many gorgeous pictures of greenery accenting the warm glow of dining room lighting. We didn't have any extra garland space this year (or $$ for new garlands), so I took some extra red ornaments and hung them from the chandelier over our dining room table. It looks really festive and sweet...and would go well with greenery if you have already embraced the latest trend!
24. Decorate with red and green candies...our favorites are mint M&Ms
Who doesn't love tasting some candies throughout the last few days leading into Christmas? Mom and Dad always put out red and green M&Ms - I have distinct memories of trying to sneak too many and getting yelled at from the kitchen. One down side to a glass bowl and hard-shelled candies is that you can hear them clank as they move! We are putting out our own M&Ms this year, but waited until Christmas Eve so we wouldn't overdo it before the big day.
25. Don't forget to enjoy your friends and family. Togetherness is one of the most special aspects to the holiday!