Beautiful holiday inspiration at Longwood Gardens 

Ahh, the holidays. I had intended on beginning this blog post with some pithy comments regarding the emotional roller coaster that ensues each holiday season, but who has time for that? The holidays are here!

Like most, I have a love-hate relationship with the holidays. Thanksgiving rolls around with the Macy’s Parade and gluttonous amounts of delicious food. I love Christmas music, baking, decorating, and all of the delectable treats that come with the season. And there is something mesmerizing about the glowing lights of Christmas trees that stops me in my tracks. However, I detest the shopping, my kids asking for phones (they are 7 and 9), and the insanity of trying to coordinate holiday parties, dinners, cookie-swaps, school parties, visits with Santa, and anything else that involves my calendar. It disturbs me that we all are more focused on presents rather than being present. I digress… Our family has come to enjoy hosting large family gatherings over the holidays, and with each passing year, we gain a few new people and strive to be gracious hosts.

In this season of abundance and overload, I have found several ways to save my sanity and embrace the chaos.

I love mixing and matching my assorted
place settings for a bright and festive display!

#1 Setting the table

We host a lot of holiday events. It did not start out that way, but as we had our kids, it became much easier to keep the clutter and disarray at our house as opposed to potentially damaging someone else’s! One of the small joys I have found in entertaining is setting the table. As an interior designer, this may come as no surprise. Somehow I have accumulated a lot of china over the years, and it is a lot of fun to decorate with different sets each year. Holiday entertaining lends itself to upping the wow factor. However, the reason I love setting a beautiful table has more to do with my kids and less to do with what the table actually looks like. Setting the table has become a family tradition in our home. The kids carefully place each charger, goblet, and piece of silverware, making sure each setting has all of the necessary items. They dance around the table humming their favorite Christmas carols while making name tags and putting little “gifts” on each plate. And at our house, there is no kids’ table – all ages are welcome – creating some very interesting dinner conversations and a whole lot of crumbs. We take pride in entertaining, and I love that setting the table has become an activity my kids love too. Setting the table is a small act of kindness that we share with our guests and is a simple pleasure of mine. A labor of love? You betcha!

#2 Just Roll With It

Admittedly, I love to be in control. It took several years into having kids for me to realize that I cannot and should not control everything. Once I realized that, it was extremely liberating! I used to live and die by my calendar and wanted to be the perfect hostess. I wanted to have the perfect meal (where I made every dish), table setting, flower arrangement (fresh, of course), party cocktail, the works. In my head, I would be smiling throughout the evening, not having a care in the world. The reality was much different and way more stressful. How was I supposed to prepare all of that food? And where the hell was I supposed to get Cynar for those damn cocktails? I officially threw in the towel the year my precious pup ate all the pies off of the Thanksgiving table. Thankfully, after many kitchen blunders and holiday hail mary’s, I’ve learned to lighten up. I encourage you to try and let some things go. Let your mother-in-law bring her favorite fruit cake. Ask guests to bring a side dish or an appetizer. You don’t have to like it, but you also don’t have to make it! No one will know if you catered half of the meal; it’ll be our little secret. I come from a long line of “in this family, we make everything from scratch.” I am very thankful for that, but sometimes a gal needs some help. Don’t worry if your house is a mess, I guarantee no one will even notice. Now, I wipe down the bathrooms beforehand and do the major cleaning after my guests have left. The holidays are about being with your loved ones, so don’t let your inner control-freak ruin it for you. Take a deep breath, and just roll with it.

#3  Sit Down

That’s right, sit down. I am a huge culprit of thinking I can do more in one day than can humanely be done. Except, I will actually get them all done, but it might be 3am. But why?  Because you want to create the “perfect holiday experience,” you say. During the holidays, my husband is constantly asking me to take a break, sit by the fire, and watch a movie. I am usually elbows deep in my 4th batch of cookies. So, this year, my holiday resolution is to sit down. Cookies are in the oven? You have 12 more dozen to go, but another minute isn’t going to make a difference. My presence with my family is far more valuable than the cookies and cakes that will just end up in my freezer until in May. Do we need all of that food? No. Do I need to add more decorations to the dining room? No. Just. Sit. Down. And maybe, just maybe, we will all enjoy this holiday season a smidge more.

Thanksgiving is next week, and I want to thank all of you for your kindness, generosity, and support. I am grateful for each of you. As we enter this season of rushed retail, I wish you all a few moments of reflection, silence, and peace.