One of my favorite holiday activities is shopping. Despite the holidays crowds, I love hearing the Christmas music in the background and can’t wait for my free sample of hot cider. Plus, what better time of year than during the after Christmas sales, not only is everything inexpensive but there’s still one more holiday you need an outfit for – New Year’s Eve! Here are some of my favorite looks:
You’re almost done with the holiday rush when you suddenly realize you agreed to throw this years New Year’s Eve party. You’re already having to put in extra time at work for everything you missed during the holidays and now you have to take the time to throw a party, too? Here are some ideas for hosting a great party with little time and effort:
- Invite: Create a New Year’s invitation to invite your friends, Cardstore.com will stamp and send them for you.
- Activity: Print out or make your own cards with fill in the blanks, such as “The skill I want to learn this year is ___” or “The good deed I want to do this year is ―――,” or get creative with other New Year’s resolution ideas. Everyone can fill them out, then take turns reading them out loud and guess which one belongs to who.
- Appetizers: Stick to finger foods. Trader Jo’s and other grocery stores have a wide variety of hummus, dips, cheeses, crackers, nuts, and chips and you can even get pre-cut veggies.
- Entrée: Your guests will already be full from appetizers and won’t want a huge dinner, so stick to something hearty, but bite-sized.
- Dessert: Ask everyone to bring their favorite dessert. If you’d prefer to make it yourself, try making ice-cream sandwiches. Make your favorite cookie dough in advance when you have time, freeze it, and pull it out and put the cookies in the oven the day of. Scoop some ice cream in a bowl, add a cookie on top, and you’ll have a delicious dessert.
- Drinks: Provide the champagne then ask everyone to bring their own favorite drinks and mixes.
- Music: Don’t forget to create a playlist in advance. Make one full of your favorite songs or one that’s New Year’s themed. If you’re not a huge music lover, ask that friend with the gigantic iTunes library to make one for you.
- For more details and inspiration, check out Real Simple‘s tips on how to throw an easy New Year’s party.
One of my favorite holiday traditions is pulling out all the old decorations from the attic, propping up a ladder, and hanging lights around the house. If you’re looking to add something new to your classic decorating routine, here are some of my favorite ideas from this year:
- Add twinkle lights to small shrubbery and bushes for easy, no hassle decorating or even buy this pre-lit topiary from Pottery Barn
- Hang a string of snowflakes from the ceiling or post them in your front yard along the walkway; check out the many snowflake options at Target
- For something different, try placing some glittering, light-up holly from Target in your trees or around your front door
- Target also has a vast collection of strings of lights in many different colors, including these LED lights in vibrant purple and royal blue
- Another easy decorating idea could be to hang some live greens, like this cypress garland from Pottery Barn or the holly wreath from Williams-Sonoma
- It also may be the year to invest in one of the giant light up holiday characters, my favorite is this Snoopy Christmas Doghouse, but you can check out more at Target and Costco
- Finally, if time permits, another fun decorating project could be decorating the garage with a Holiday scene or giant snowflakes. Get a role of packing foam or laminated paper and staple or tape up your designs for an inexpensive, fun project for you and the kids and a treat for the neighborhood to see.
Decorating the entire house for the holidays can be stressful, so instead of doing it all yourself, recruit the kids for help. This paper garland from Paper-Source is already cut and in pieces ready to assemble, all that’s needed is some double-stick tape or glue, so no mess and your time and advice won’t be needed. Another option is to get your own colored paper and help the kids cut out their own designs for a fun holiday craft.
I always struggle to find holiday gifts that my parents will actually use. That’s why I often look in cooking stores to try to find some new gadget or cook book that my mom or dad will enjoy. Luckily, Williams-Sonoma is currently offering a discount of 20% off all cookware through December 12 so anyone can take advantage of this great deal and find gifts that both inexperienced cooks and talented chefs will appreciate.
Traveling during the holidays can be hectic, but it doesn’t always have to be. Remember to book flights in advance and try to take afternoon flights to avoid long lines and delays. To ensure a smooth flight, also check out some of my travel necessities I always bring along when I go home for the holidays.
- Make sure to write down everything so you don’t forget anything important before you go. Here’s a great personal organizer from Kate Spade for all of your last minute thoughts.
- Since it’s a hassle to check bags, I always try to get small gifts like these great earrings at Bloomingdales to save space.
- Another light and cute gift can be a set of personalized stationary, like these cute airplane cards from Cardstore.com.
- Look for a good travel bag that isn’t too big for carry-on and can fit under the seat by your feet (in case they run out of room in the cabin). Here are just some of the many travel bags in different colors and prints at Longchamp.
- Pack blouses that can work for both dressy and casual occasions, like this festive top from Anthropologie.
- Finally, for ear pressure, don’t forget a pack of gum, a bottle of water, and straws to drink out of to equalize the pressure.
Now that Thanksgiving has passed and Christmas music has filled up every shop and café, I’ve started to think about what Christmas gifts to get for friends and family. Ornaments always make for a great gift, but creating it yourself makes it all the more special. You don’t need to be artistic or even know how to draw, just find some plain clear ornaments, paint pens or glitter glue, and some ribbon and you can turn a plain ornament into a personalized gift for anyone. Write Christmas greetings, favorite memories, or even draw a simple design for a simple, low-budget, and meaningful present. For more inspiration, check out this blog post on Etsy: Drawing-Free Glass Ornament.
Although a rainy day can seem disheartening, find something fun to do indoors and take advantage of the excuse to relax. Curl up with a good book and make some peppermint cocoa, watch a movie with some buttery popcorn, or try a craft with the kids, such as rain sticks.
This year start preparing for Thanksgiving with this all purpose tool set from Williams-Sonoma. These kitchen tools are perfect for prepping food in the kitchen and then using to serve and make the Thanksgiving table beautiful. Also a great housewarming gift that anyone will be thankful to receive!
- Brined Roast Turkey from Williams-Sonoma
- Bacon Smashed Potatoes from Epicurious
- Pumpkin, Corn, and Lemongrass Soup from Gourmet
- Green Beans with Toasted Walnuts and Dried-Cherry Vinaigrette from Bon Appetit
- Carmel Pumpkin Pie from Gourmet
- Cranberry and Orange Relish from Real Simple
- Baby Winter Squash with Spiced Orange-Current Stuffing from Bon Appetit
- Mixed-Mushroom and Tarragon Gravy from Bon Appetit
- Pumpkin Cake with Sage Ice Cream and Pumpkin Cherry Compote from Gourmet
With Thanksgiving on the way, I’ve been leafing through my favorite cooking magazines to put together the menu for this year. Above are some of my old favorites and some new recipes I can’t wait to try out!