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I do this for two reasons:

  1. I LOVE I love the carols, the lights, the food — all the things that give me warm fuzzies and all the feels. I want to happily revel in all of Christmas and not be stressed out. Advance preparations give me space to be “in the moment” at Christmas.
  2. On the farm, we’re crazy busy in December cutting prime ribs, stuffing sausages and making fresh turkeys for the holidays. It’s double time work with no time to think about anything else!

Honestly, I rarely hit the December 1st goal, but by December 10th-ish, I’m mostly ready. Over the years, we have simplified our family Christmas to save our sanity and amp up the pure pleasure of the season. Here’s how:

  • We curb our FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) tendencies and only choose a few concerts or parties to attend. We have learned to say “No” to some things so that we can say a hearty “yes” to other activities. We love to party, but too many events drain us and then it becomes more of an obligation than a privilege to attend.
  • We make our gift list in advance and finish all the shopping early. I like to take a Tuesday off work in November, go early in the morning and get all my shopping done before the crowds arrive.
  • We simplified gift giving. Within our family and friend network, we have decided we all have more than enough stuff and choose instead to put money towards shared experiences together. For example, we don’t exchange presents with my brother’s family in Alabama. Instead, we save our money for plane tickets to visit each other.
  • I simplified baking. My mother-in-law is a fantastic baker. I bake the things she doesn’t bake like shortbread and sugar cookies and she gives us baking as a Christmas gift. How wonderful is that?
  • We plan the food:
    • 1 Month ahead of Christmas
      1. I research recipes and plan menus for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day. Traditionally, we enjoy a soup supper before church on Christmas Eve, a family brunch on Christmas Day, and a big celebration feast on Boxing Day. I also start thinking about New Year’s Eve and whether we’ll host a party or not.
      2. Talk to family and invite guests.
      3. Delegate the menu – You don’t have to do it all anymore! Guests will happily bring whatever you ask and you can be specific. Delegating desserts, salads and appetizers is particularly helpful and simplifies time in the kitchen.
      4. If I were you, I’d order my fresh turkey from Pine View Farms!
    • 1 Week Ahead of Christmas
      1. I write my grocery lists based on the menus.
      2. I buy all the wine, booze, and beverages we need to get us through the holidays.
      3. I make sure I have enough plates, silverware and glasses. Renting tableware means you don’t have to wash dishes — just scrape and stack in the crate to return the dirties later.
      4. This is probably the most important thing I do when it comes to calming the kitchen chaos at Christmas: I read all my recipes thoroughly, so I know exactly what to do at each step, how much time it will take and how to strategically plan my cooking timeline. This way, I feel much more confident with new recipes.
    • 3-5 Days before Christmas
      1. If I were you, I’d pick up my fresh turkey at Pine View FarmsI
      2. I buy all my perishable groceries.
      3. Wash and dry produce. You can even chop your lettuce, wrap it in paper towel and store in a plastic bag in the fridge. Same with vegetables.
      4. Defrost made-ahead items.
      5. Make dips, relishes and salad dressings.
      6. Chill wine and beer — good thing for cool garages in winter act as your second or third fridge!
    • On the Feast Day
      1. Pour myself a glass of champagne and pair with a cookie to start the day.
      2. Preparation pays. Having read the recipes a few times in advance, I start the mise en place — that is, organizing and arranging my meat, spices, and pre-cooked foods, and chopping vegetables etc. With everything chopped and ready, my kitchen runs like a TV show on the Food Network. It really does!
      3. Let the cooking begin! I prep my vegetables first, cover and set aside in the garage ‘til cooking time and then dress the turkey. That way, nothing is contaminated and kitchen clean up is much easier.
      4. Put the turkey in the oven. Cooking times and recipes are on our website just for you!
      5. Pour myself another glass of champagne and join the family fun.

Over the years, I’ve learned to ask for help. I don’t have to do it all! Kids and guests enjoy being a part of the kitchen buzz. If you’ve already done the mise en place (chopping, assembling and organizing ingredients), it’s easy to hand a recipe to a guest, give them a foot of counter space, and let them run with it.

Soon your home will be humming with happiness and overflowing with aromas of good food cooked with love, and you’ll be in the middle of it all — loving every minute. What could be better this holiday season?

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