The beginning of a new year is the time when people traditionally take pause, reflect on the past year, and resolve to make some positive changes. ‘A better work/life balance’ is something we hear lots of people expressing a desire for. Many people say that they feel out of balance. They feel that ‘work’ dominates, robbing them of time and energy for ‘life’.
I see 2 problems with the ‘work/life balance’ concept. The first is the actual language used. It infers that our lives can be categorised into 2 parts, ‘work’ and ‘life’. But we don’t have a ‘work’ and a ‘life’. We have just one life. And our paid employment, assigned the broad term ‘work’, is just one part of the portfolio of activities that integrate to make up our life as a whole. The second problem is the Continue reading
This is the last in my season of posts on the topic of simplifying Christmas. I hope that you have been influenced to think differently about gift giving, gathering, and menus, particularly if these have been a source of stress for you.
Today, I’m making a disclosure that some will already know about. I have SAS – Supermarket Avoidance Syndrome – especially during the holiday season. I was going to call it SCAS – Shopping Centre Avoidance Syndrome. But saying ‘I have SAS’ sounds more appealing than saying ‘I have SCAS’! Unlike most syndromes, I won’t say I ‘suffer’ from SAS, because there is absolutely no suffering involved in Continue reading
For me, part of simplifying Christmas is avoiding the shops! It is so nice, during the holiday season and at any other time, to give and receive something that has been home made rather than store-bought. Here are my top 5 home made gifts, for the host, teacher, or to put together in a gift basket for a friend. They can all be made weeks ahead of time. Just make sure to hide the sweet things somewhere so that they don’t disappear before you need them!
1. White Christmas Crackles. The addition of pistachios and cranberries adds Christmas colour to this popular sweet.
Russian Caramels are quite easy to make, provided you don’t get distracted! The mixture does need to be stirred constantly. Even stepping away from the saucepan for a few seconds will lead to it burning on the bottom.
2 Tbl golden syrup
1 cup white sugar
395g can condensed milk
2 tsp vanilla essence
Prepare a square or rectangular cake tin with baking paper. Spray or smear saucepan with cooking oil, and add butter, golden syrup, sugar and condensed milk. Stir constantly over medium heat as it comes to the boil, using a wooden spoon. Turn the heat down to low and keep the mixture bubbling away whilst stirring constantly for about 10 minutes or until it starts to thicken and come away from the bottom. Remove from heat, and add vanilla. Pour into prepared tin and leave at room temperature to cool. Cut into squares and refrigerate.
Rum Balls are so easy to make! They are a lovely addition to a home made gift basket or to take as a hostess gift.
1 cup raisins, chopped
1/2 cup plain flour or almond meal
1/2 cup cocoa
125 g melted butter
2 Tbl rum
2 ts vanilla
Coconut to coat
Combine all ingredients. Roll into balls and coat in coconut.
This White Christmas Crackles recipe adds a splash of holiday season colour with the addition of pistachios and dried cranberries.
2 x 180g blocks white chocolate, broken up
80g dried cranberries, chopped
100g rice puffs
Line a tin with baking paper. Set chocolate over boiling water until melted. Set aside for 5 minutes and stir until smooth. Add cranberries, pistachios and rice puffs. Stir until well combine. Spoon into prepared tin, and refrigerate. Once set, cut into squares.
To make vanilla, simply pour vodka over a vanilla bean. That’s it. What could be easier? Use an interesting bottle or jar if you are giving it as a gift. Make it a month or so ahead of when you need it. Home made vanilla darkens as the weeks pass, and gets better with age.
I hope that my previous posts on rethinking gift giving and rethinking gathering have provided you with some useful ideas for simplifying and reducing the stress of Christmas this year. This week we are rethinking menus.
As a guest, who hasn’t felt seriously over-indulged during the holiday season? I for one love food and am prone to excessive consumption at this time of year (actually…..at other times as well!). As the host there is always the tendency to overcater. And we’ve all been to those lunches where the table is groaning under Continue reading
Last week on the blog I challenged you to rethink gift giving as a way of simplifying Christmas and reducing the stress of the holiday season. This week we are talking about ‘gathering’. There are 2 aspects of gathering with others that are commonly identified as major sources of stress. The first is negotiating family expectations. The second is the large number of social events that all seem to occur in the weeks leading up to Christmas. These can be ones that you are invited to attend, or that you feel you should be hosting.
Here are my ideas for rethinking gathering in order to further simplify Christmas.
Negotiating family expectations:
Families often feel an enormous sense of obligation to spend a gruelling day travelling from one gathering to another. This is often in response to pressure from each sets of parents (who may not reside together) and sometimes multiple grandparents. There are some who insist on seeing the family ‘on the day’. Then, if it simply can’t be squeezed into Christmas day, the family faces the unenviable Continue reading
This is the question that arrived in my inbox recently, courtesy of Beth Dargis from My Simpler Life. It really caught my attention because it arrived during the same week that people started talking about the number of Fridays until Christmas break.
You could substitute other words here to suit your personal tendencies. Like ‘from calm to overwhelmed’. What I find particularly interesting about this phrase is the order of the key words. It makes the refreshing assumption that we are mostly doing ok but that we sometimes get ourselves into a frenzied state. And it suggests that preventing the shift from a desirable to an undesirable state is within our control.
It seems that just the word ‘Christmas’ itself sadly transforms many people from whatever state they are currently in to ‘frenzied’. As the year speeds to a close and the ‘countdown to Christmas’ begins in earnest, stress levels start to increase. The pressure is on to shop for gifts, plan menus, cram in gatherings & end-of-year Continue reading