Thursday, December 5, 2013

How to Enjoy the Holiday Season-in Style

How to Survive Enjoy the Holiday Season-in Style


I've got some ideas for us-and they've got nothing to do with survival. I don't like the hype that the period from Thanksgiving through the New Year is stressful because I think it sets us up to fail. Instead, I'd like to reclaim this time period as one of hope, renewal, togetherness, and, yes, style.

I think too often we as women put ourselves on the back burner. We believe the narrative that this time period is about doing as much as humanly possible. Somehow, if you're not occupied every moment of the day baking cookies, caroling, or wrapping endless piles of gifts with a glass of champagne in your hand, you've failed. I'm not buying it.

Here's what I'm going to do this year, and it might shock you: focus on me. That's right. What do I like to do? What makes me happy? What feelings do I want to seek out so that on the first and the second days of 2014 I feel healthy, refreshed, and enriched? Here's my simple, five-part plan for my holidays. I'd love to hear what you do every year or plan to start this year to keep yourself balanced and cared for.

1. Spend time with family--and friends. 


In the past, my husband and I have moved mountains (or at least driven up them, in the snow) to spend as much time as possible with our families. This year, we have decided to spend a few days with family (his mom over Thanksgiving, my mom and her side of the family for Christmas Eve and Christmas morning) and a few days together apart from the rest of the world.

In years past, I've really missed time with our friends who are like our family in the DC area since our families live far away. So, we also booked our friends for a Christmas party nice and early before their evenings filled up too much. We're hosting a nice, easy open house where folks can pop in and out on their way to and from other events. I'm channeling the Barefoot Contessa and using some of her tips (and recipes) to, as she encourages, be able to enjoy our own party.

For me, spending time is facilitated by setting out clothes beforehand. I'll organize my closet by work clothes and play clothes so that if something comes up, I can easily pull something festive out of the "play" section without feeling obligated to buy something new.

2. Create small moments that make me smile.

I tend to put a lot of pressure on myself, and this year I'm stepping away from that. I've realized that the moments that are the most lasting for me are the simplest. I have a distinct memory of lying underneath our Christmas tree in the house where I grew up and looking at the lights from underneath the branches while listening to carols, likely Elvis. That tiny moment stuck with me after all of these years, all of the changes in homes and family structures and the rest. So this year, I'm going to create time for those moments to happen by setting aside empty evenings without plans or projects or major cooking adventures to just be with the dogs and Peter-maybe even from under the tree.

There are certain things that make me smile during this time period that are unique to it: like playing Christmas music, wearing lots of sparkle or a silly elf hat or frilly apron, or staying in your PJS longer than is normally socially acceptable. Not to mention making snow angels and wearing earmuffs! I'm ready to embrace all of this-maybe at the same time!

3. Give unexpected gifts.

Cookies thanks to Faith, Hope, and Luck...

Last year, I started leaving gifts on neighbors doors and bringing food into work as part of our advent calendar. I strategically put things like "bake cookies" on dates that fell on easy days of the week, and then the next day I secretly dropped them off for neighbors or brought them into work. It's a fun way for me to bake things that we don't really eat in our house since I'm gluten free and there are only so many sweets that my husband will eat! I'd like to do this more this year. Other simple gifts I'd love to give (or receive) include a gift certificate for a manicure to redeem with a girlfriend. You could even DIY this one and host a spa breakfast at your house after the holidays are over.

4. Say yes to an amount of things I can be present for. 

For me, this is code for a few things. One is staying off my phone more. Since I officially started my business this summer, I am on Instagram, Pinterest, and email a lot. I'd like to step away from that during this time period a bit. In my life, I have been making an effort to say YES to the universe with the belief that it has a plan for me, or maybe several plans. I say yes more than I say no, but this time of the year seems like a good one to say no where it will stretch me too thin. I'd like to say yes to fewer things and really be present for them.

For me, thinking through what I'll wear beforehand helps me to feel present. Instead of thinking about what I look like, I'm comfortable in my own skin when I think through what to wear days beforehand instead of rushing in the minutes leading up to our leaving the house or having folks over. I can get kind of hysterical if I leave it to the last minute, and I'd like to avoid that "I have nothing to wear!!" feeling. I think it sometimes comes from not feeling like I am in the right mindset for the event, and I'd like to do a better job with that.

5. Spread Sparkle.

I volunteer weekly teaching adult ESL, and usually during this season I also volunteer at the local food shelter. We'll donate our coats this year, too, since we have a few that we no longer wear. I'll also think through some other ways to serve our community when I'm putting together our advent calendar tomorrow (a few days late, but that's ok!). Do you have anything that you do?

Here's to a happy, grounded, sparkly holiday season! Cheers!

If you've just looked around and realized that you're hosting instead of being hosted, Love Always Hannah has some important tips for you-including the incredible line "Mom, if you're reading, send more cinnamon buns!"

Photography: Lauren Modny Photography
Party Styling:Love Always Hannah
Stylist: StartCloseIn
Jewelry: Lou Lou Boutiques


  1. Bob always makes fun of me for my tradition of giving "Food for the Needy Kitties" every time this year. It's simple, it makes me happy, and he is learning to deal with it! My "Sparkle" almost always has something to do with a cat! Thanks for sharing Ella!

    1. Or with food! We are all blessed to benefit from your sparkle!

  2. I like the idea of giving baked good to your neighbors, it's something I've always wanted to do but never had the time. I think I will do the gifting of a manicure or spa breakfast at my place.

    1. Ooo! I like the spa breakfast idea! Make that delicious spa cucumber water!

  3. Love the idea of planning your outfits ahead, I'm off to figure out a plan for this weekend - 3 different events!