Here is a list of some of the things I do to make December less stressful and more pleasant. I want to remember them, and I want to share them with you. Of course I’d also love to hear your ideas!
- We switched to making large amounts of simple cookies and candies instead of small batches of fussy ones, such as dairy-free chocolate covered marshmallows. Two of our favorites are Nicole’s Chocolate Barks and Katherine’s Chocolate Chip Shortbread. Parenthetically, Katherine is the newest member of the Go Dairy Free crew! It’s so much fun to do a monthly column with her. Here’s the first one–a great holiday roll recipe.
- I started sending New Year’s cards last year, and I am never going back to Christmas cards, at least while there are kids in the house. We don’t travel at Christmas, and Scott has the whole week off, so I have lots of time to spend on writing out cards.
- I finally ‘splurged’ on a timer for the outside lights. No more wading out in the porch snow to turn them off every night. See also: one of those big button things where you or a child can easily turn the tree off and on without crawling back to the outlet. Life changing.
- We let our nine-year old be in charge of the camcorder at Christmas concerts and other events. Sure, the quality might not be the best, but it keeps him entertained, we don’t have to do it, and who really watches their old middle school band concerts, anyway?
- We celebrate St. Nicholas Day. This has turned out to be a great time to give new Christmas shirts, or PJs, or a new Christmas book or movie. Also, I make Santa Claus pancakes with dairy-free whipped cream. If you make the pancakes ahead of time, you just have to heat them up, decorate them with whipped cream and fruit, and serve. It’s a nice way to do something festive early in the month before you blink and it’s December 18.
- I shop online as much as I can.
- Aside from shopping, I spend less time online. Something has to go in December, and blogging/tweeting/pinning is it.
- At the neighborhood Christmas party, we make graham cracker gingerbread houses, not real ones. And we make them ahead of time. The kids just decorate them, which is the only part they care about.
- And of course we talk about the Christmas story. One of my favorite ways to do so is through our yearly reading of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, which gets me every time. I must say I find parts of it even funnier now that I’m an adult. I really empathize with Mother, who ends up in charge of the pageant against her will. And the writing is hilarious. “The spotlight swooped back and forth and up and down till it made you sick at your stomach to look at it and, as usual, whoever was playing the piano pitched ‘Away in a Manger’ so high we could hardly hear it, let alone sing it. My father says ‘Away in a Manger always starts out sounding like a closetful of mice.” Last St. Nicholas Day, I gave them the TV movie version of it, which I loved as a kid.