By Kristin Johnson
What does holly, that untidy traditional greenery you just have
to festoon your house with every year, have to do with not tearing your hair out
before it's even Thanksgiving? Plenty. You can use H-O-L-L-Y to help you get
1. H: Help
How many times have you tried to do the perfect turkey all by
yourself just so your mother-in-law would be impressed? Here's a reality check:
(a) If your mother-in-law is any kind of a real woman, she remembers that her
mother-in-law put the exact same pressure on her, and (b) if she's the kind of
person who complains because the cranberries come from a can, she's the kind of
person who complains anyway and would be unhappy if she couldn't try to make you
look like an incompetent nitwit, and how a woman like that could raise your
wonderful husband is beyond everyone.
If that husband is such a great guy, get him in the kitchen. Sit
down and plan what the two of you really want---he might not want a six-course
dinner, which is fine, because you don't either. Get the kids involved. By now
some of them are at that stage where they want to show off what they can do "all
by myself," and you know that even though you hate your daughter's taste in
music, she did make killer stuffing last Thanksgiving. And your son makes a
great omelet for Christmas morning. Then there's your sister who loves to chat,
so put her to work while you listen to her endless monologue.
Electronic help is great too---use a PDA or the family computer
to keep a list of recipes and ingredients. There are many great, sometimes free,
computer programs available.
2. O: Oh-No
Let's face it. You'll make mistakes. The sugar cookies will
burn. You can always "eat" your mistakes and try again---just don't try a new
recipe for the first time Christmas Day. In fact, plan for your mistakes. That's
right. Most of us spend so much time agonizing over avoiding mistakes we forget
that they are going to happen anyway, and not necessarily at our hands. So your
best girlfriend Susan brought over deviled ham instead of double chocolate
cake...there's a reason we have bakeries, right? Just cheerfully accept the
mistake and move on. People can get over a slightly too well-done roast, but
they will be downright uncomfortable if you spend the entire dinner moaning
3. L: Love
You know Christmas is the season of love, and you can have as
much fun with take-out pizza as you can with an elegant dinner if the company is
right. One sure way to recapture love is to bake cookies together. There's
nothing like the sight of kids rolling dough and decorating their works of art.
4. L: Let It Be
Sorry for the Paul McCartney overtones, but once you have your
plan in place, stick to it---that doesn't mean you can't compromise slightly.
Agonizing over turkey versus tofu causes you to lose your appetite, and is as
harmful to your cooking as disorganization. Sticking to a decision and keeping
your plan, no matter what everyone else thinks, gives you peace of mind.
5. Y: You
Remember that there will be stress around the holidays, but that
your mind can choose not to give in. You can choose to refuse another beer
because "I'm frazzled" or avoid inviting people you really can't stand just
because your mind thinks you have an obligation to be popular and kill yourself
feeding 25 people. You can throw snowballs, or, if you live in California, go
throw some water on the wildfires...just take your mind off your cooking. You'll
rediscover just why it is you're cooking and what you love about Christmas.
So that's your H-O-L-L-Y for a happy holiday. And when all else
fails, there's chocolate.
Kristin Johnson is co-author of Christmas Cookies Are For Giving: Stories,
Recipes and Tips for Making Heartwarming Gifts (ISBN: 0-9723473-9-9). A
downloadable media kit is available at our Web site,
www.christmascookiesareforgiving.com, or e-mail the publisher (firstname.lastname@example.org)
to receive a printed media kit and sample copy of the book. More articles