Happy December!

Ah, there it is! The scent of balsam fir is radiating throughout the main level of the house and someone cued up Burl Ives on the iPod speaker dock. Maggie and Jack foraged in the back of the corner kitchen cabinet for their snowmen hot cocoa mugs and are flipping through toy catalogs, carefully making their wish lists. I wait all year for the cozy feeling of Christmas to once again descend upon the house, and here it is.

The living room furniture was all pushed and tugged into different seasonal positions by yours truly, and we took the kids tromping through the Christmas tree fields to find the perfect Christmas tree. After getting the lights very meticulously wrapped, tucked and twisted into position, and all the ornaments unboxed and hung, we had only broken one glass ball and minimal vacuuming to do. Despite my best efforts, the cats have been drinking water from the tree stand since yesterday. I’m sure there must be something slightly toxic in tree sap, but they seemed to make it through the last few Christmases, so I’m not going to worry too much. We have the “halls decked,” and it is once again Christmas season!

This year, with Thanksgiving arriving as late as possible, we seem to have quite the time crunch in between that and Christmas. We’re still eating turkey leftovers and I’m already getting a bit panicky about getting all the gifts purchased, the cookies baked, the Christmas letter written, and all the other things on the holiday to-do list completed. In my daydreams, I like to envision the holiday season as a long stretch of peaceful days on which I sip cocoa in a chunky cable-knit sweater, sitting in a leather armchair as I watch deer nimbly make their way across a crystalline snow-covered backyard. Instead, I typically find myself mumbling under my breath as I desperately circle parking lots in search of a spot that won’t have me hiking through cold slush from the hinterlands of the mall property, and panicking that I won’t have enough time to actually bake cookies with the kids, as I adamantly promised them I would.

So, with December 25 steaming toward us at full speed like a runaway Polar Express, I offer you some tips and tricks to help with holiday prep work in an effort to de-stress and enjoy as much off the season as possible.[spacer height=”8″ mobile_hide=”true”]

  • Prepare. Make lists. Be reasonable. Every year as Thanksgiving creeps closer, I create lists for my husband and me. Some are for financial purposes, others are for scheduling purposes. I keep a yearly Christmas To-Do list saved on my computer. It includes such things as reserving an afternoon to chop down the tree. It used to be easy to predict—the Saturday after Thanksgiving. But now that Maggie is in basketball, I had to do some shuffling. Additionally, there are timelines and goals. Our yearly family photo must either be chosen or taken by the first week in December to avoid a scramble. At least some of the cookies must be baked prior to the office cookie exchange the third week in December. Having it all listed in black and white helps keep me on task.[spacer height=”8″ mobile_hide=”true”][image url=”http://blog.carlsoncraft.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/happy_december_1203131.jpg” alignment=”center” margin_left=”0″ margin_right=”0″ margin_top=”0″ margin_bottom=”0″ width=”400″ height=”268″]

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Another list is a financial breakdown of the costs involved with the holidays. This is where the genes I got from my dad really shine through. He’s a meticulous recorder of seemingly irrelevant data. But when Ryan and I sit down to really hammer out how much money we have to spend on the holidays, it’s critical that I can show him exactly how much we typically spend. And believe me, the expenses can really add up during the holidays! Consider the small things: a wreath, replacement lights for the tree or outside, postage stamps for holiday cards, baking supplies, holiday outfits for the kids. Before we even purchase gifts, there is a lengthy list of holiday expenses. Don’t get caught off guard by some of these costs. Keep track of spending and decide what’s important and what you can do without. Be sure to calculate these expenses when you’re deciding what your gift giving budget is.[spacer height=”8″ mobile_hide=”true”]

  • Stick to the budget. Decide what you’re able to spend on gifts and stick to it. It’s easy to pull out the credit card and forge ahead with buying what you want instead of what you can afford. But beware… January and the next credit card bill are but a month away.[spacer height=”5″ mobile_hide=”true”]
  • Accept that you can’t do it all. Attending the neighborhood parties, ice skating and sledding with the kids at the park, baking 20 different types of cookies, hitting the city’s tree lighting ceremony, taking in a holiday play or musical, and volunteering at your favorite charity all sound wonderful during the month of December, but bear in mind that adding more to the calendar just serves to make you busier and restricts your time to get other things done. Choose a few events or outings and really enjoy them.[spacer height=”5″ mobile_hide=”true”]
  • Delegate. If your spouse or significant other is able to help with things, divvy up the tasks. I used to think I had to handle all the shopping. Now, with the advent of online shopping, I can email my husband links of things that need to be purchased. Super easy.[spacer height=”5″ mobile_hide=”true”]
  • Stay healthy! Don’t run yourself ragged. Get plenty of fluids and rest, especially during the onset of cold and flu season.[spacer height=”8″ mobile_hide=”true”][image url=”http://blog.carlsoncraft.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/happy_december_3.jpg” alignment=”center” margin_left=”0″ margin_right=”0″ margin_top=”0″ margin_bottom=”0″ width=”400″ height=”270″]

Remember the magic of the season when you were a kid? It wasn’t about the hustle and bustle, and it wasn’t about “getting it all done.” Take moments to enjoy the holidays and focus on what really matters – family and friends.

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