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A New Baby
Cate's Personal Holiday Tips and Tricks

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This is a "happy letter" today!  The baby has arrived! 
It was a very long couple of days but my sister-in-law
(the strongest woman on earth) delivered an adorable bundle of joy.  My
new niece was 7 pounds, 8 ounces and 20.5 inches long.  She's fair (like
her mom) and we can already tell she has a mind of her own!
I was privileged to be part of the experience, from nearly start to finish.  It was an unbelievable thing, a memory I will always cherish.  And it sure made me appreciate my kids all over again! 
They DO grow so fast. And even if you don't have kids, I think you can agree with me that time DOES pass quickly.
So get out there today and stop taking your life for granted.  Tell the ones you love that you appreciate them. 
And happy birthday, little one...welcome to our crazy family!
So, in the midst of baby happiness, I'm realizing that next Thursday--a week from tomorrow--is Thanksgiving!  YIKES!
While I'm not hosting it this year, I do have to look down the road a few
weeks in order to host both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.  Appetizers,
turkey, sides, desserts, drinks, baking--how do you pull it all together and keep yourself--and your weight--from going nuts?
"Real People Don't Diet" includes a bonus booklet on how to eat for the holidays, so if you've purchased my book, go back and re-read it for great tips on how to keep from gaining weight in the midst of all the delicious food and eggnog.
(And don't forget the price is currently reduced--the 2009 edition is nearly done and ready to go--just finished up some charts over the weekend.)
BUT for those who don't have the booklet, here are some tips based on what I'm planning this year.  I'm also going to include tips on keeping your sanity, and staying organized.  I hope you find them helpful!
~~Create a holiday planner.  I have a binder with master forms I copy and fill out each year.  I got mine from .  I'm going on my 6th year with it, and I don't know how I could live without it.  I fill out a holiday budget with my husband, then gift ideas for each person on our list.  From there, I create a master gift list, and hit the internet to start shopping.  I have an internet shopping tracker to make sure I receive all the items I ordered.  I also use the master gift list when I hit the stores to get any remaining items I can't order online.  My binder also includes:  a family wardrobe checklist, household spruce-ups, gift closet inventory, baking planner, menu planner and more!  Use the forms
that apply to you.  Not all of them will be helpful.  Print out master copies to keep in your binder--that way, ifthe site should cease to exist, you still have blank forms you can use year after year.
~~Have a master shopping list on you at all times.  It should include gifts, small items such as wrapping supplies, any holiday movies or CD's you plan to buy, and food items.  Anything you need to buy, add to the list.  When you're out and about you'll find it incredibly handy!  Write it down, and then you don't have to trust your memory.
~~Plan your baking.  I pull out cookbooks with Christmas treat recipes, as well as my clip file of holiday recipes I've gathered over the last year.  (I get them from magazines like Kraft's Food & Family, Family Circle, etc.)  I make a list of all the treats I want to make.  I usually stick to just 5-6 varieties, and I try to make sure they're all capable of being stored and transported easily.  I also try to make a mix of traditional family favorites and new recipes.
-----Once you have your list, write down all the ingredients you'll need, including amounts (don't forget to triple and quadruple recipes, if necessary).  Now, go through your pantry and compare to your list.  Anything that isn't fresh, toss.  What's left can come off your ingredient list.  What's still needed stays on the list, which you bring with you the next time you go grocery shopping. 
-----Schedule a day or two on your calendar to do nothing but bake. Put on music, load up the DVD player...get festive!  Bake up a storm.  If you want to taste-test, make this a day where you eat eggs for breakfast, a salad for lunch and soup for dinner.  Then you can afford a bit of extra sugar.  :-)
-----Purchase inexpensive decorated Ziploc bags or plastic containers to store food gifts.  Have the kids join in the fun by decorating the bags with colored Sharpies (make sure they're old enough to do it without defacing your kitchen table) or making tags.  You can also find nifty gift tags on the internet, easy to print, cut out and add to your tasty gifts.  If you have scrapbooking supplies, so much the better.  I have a tag maker that is AWESOME!  A couple punches, and you're good to go.
-----Freeze some goodies for the week of New Year's.
-----Keep notes.  Which new recipes are keepers--and which ones aren't?  Transfer keepers to actual recipe cards and have a special book just for your favorite family recipes.  Make a note of the year you started making a certain treat, and record on the recipe card each year you make that certain item.  You'll have a treasured heirloom to pass down, and you'll make it easier on yourself in future years to make that fudge your neighbors can't live without.
-----Enlist help.  A friend of mine gets together with her mom for a couple days each year.  She says they hardly talk.  They just bake!  They turn out dozens and dozens of goodies, and it's become a tradition they look forward to each year.
-----Use fresh ingredients and try to stay as homemade as possible.  If you can afford it, opt for organic ingredients like butter, milk and eggs.  I personally avoid sugar substitutes like Splenda and use the real thing (heck, it's only once a year, and the substitutes are loaded with chemicals I'd rather avoid).  But you can use natural sugars found at a health food store, and experiment, if that's important to you.
-----Set limits.  There's no way you can bake without trying some of your
handiwork!  On baking day, decide how many treats from each batch you'll allow yourself to enjoy.  I usually limit myself to two, and truth be told, by the time I'm done cooking, I'm really not as enthusiastic about the sugary treats as I was when I started. Have your treats as you go, or set them aside for a put-up-your-feet-cookie-and-hot-cocoa-feast when you're all done.
-----Take breaks for healthy food and drink.  Make sure you sit down to eat lunch and dinner while you're baking.  Always have a glass of ice water on hand (sugar makes you thirsty, by the way).  Slice up some apples and cheese for a snack break.
-----Make treats relatively inaccessible.  If you have a problem with excessive splurging, put your treats away in jars or containers up high and out of sight.  Set a certain time of day to enjoy them.  No unlimited snacking!  But when it's time to enjoy them, let yourself go...savor every bite.  No guilt.

~~Have all your dinner guests bring an appetizer and dessert, so you can focus on the main meal.  BYOBeverage helps, too.  
~~Whenever you fill up a plate, be it with appetizers or dinner, try to fill three-quarters of your plate with veggies and meat, and the rest with those yummy starches like mashed potatoes.  You can go back and have seconds, but stick to those proportions, and you'll go a long way towards preventing weight creep.
--Alcohol, eggnog and sodas can really pack on the pounds.  If you want to enjoy some cocktails, try to space them out, or limit yourself to just one or two.  Enjoy them with lower-fat or lower-carb food items.  Try spiced cider instead of eggnog and seltzer instead of soda.  If you don't like flavored seltzer, try adding regular seltzer to a fruit juice for a spritzer.
~~Eat big breakfasts.  You won't be as hungry for dinner!
~~Decorate in one day.  Make it a day off.  No housework, just fun.  Finish with an easy dinner like take-out or crock-pot basics.
~~Borrow, borrow, borrow.  Borrow ideas.  Borrow recipes.  Borrow
traditions!  If someone you know has an easier way to do something, ask if
you can copy it.  Why re-invent the wheel?
~~Always aim to simplify.  Do you really need to go overboard?  The house doesn't need to be perfect.  Some yummy candles and Christmas lights are enough to make any room festive.  
~~Re-use everything.  Those boughs you trimmed off your Christmas tree?  They look great on your mantel with some Christmas ornaments strategically placed on throughout.  Add pine cones from the backyard.  Put cranberries in a pretty bowl, or place a pillar candle on a serving dish and surround it with berries left over from your baking.  Last year's wrapping paper works just fine this year.  Use last year's gift bags to give this year's baked goods.  Just line with tissue and put the treats in plastic bags.
~~Establish a casual wardrobe tradition.  Instead of dresses and patent leather, opt for festive sweaters and shirts atop blue jeans or corduroys.  Everyone will be more comfortable and you'll only have to purchase a top or two for the family members that tend to grow.  :-)
If you just can't find yourself getting into the holiday spirit, try some music!  I listen to a great local radio station that plays Christmas music 24/7 this time of year, and you can listen online if you don't have such an option where you are.
Just go to: and click on "listen online".
I hope you found all these tips useful.  If you have tips of your own, please write me at cate AT and I'll share them with fellow readers.
Keep it real, and see you next week!


Cate Brizzell signature


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Copyright (c) 2008 and Cate Brizzell

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