Families with Style: Take the Hassle Out of the Holidays

We all love the holidays. We all hate the stress. So we asked our family style maven, Liz Lange, to share her favorite tips for surviving the season with sanity in check. From shopping and cooking to decorating and memory making, you can do it '- and she's here to help.

It's that time of year again! What's your favorite thing about it?
Baking with my kids. I know I say that all the time, but this is a fun time to make really special cookies that the kids can decorate. You don't have to be a great baker to do it. I'm not talented enough to build a gingerbread house, but you can buy those easy-to-assemble kits that the kids will love.

What about the shopping '- love it or hate it?
I love it, but that's because I do my best shopping online. It's amazing what you can do. You can send something to every single person on your list, gift-wrapped with a note. You can order last-minute hors d'oeuvres for an impromptu party. You can do it when you want to, at your convenience, at the office, at night after the kids go to bed. And then you avoid the in-store drama that comes when the kids point at every toy and plead, "Mom, I want that!"

Speaking of kids who want everything '- how do you handle it?
Here's a trick. My kids constantly see items they want on TV commercials, at friends' homes and in stores. Rather than tell them "no" a million times a day, I keep a list for each child. When he or she asks for something, I say, "I'll add it to the list." That excites them, it makes them happy '- and it sounds like a "yes." It feels like I bought it already! When the time comes to actually purchase presents, I take out the list and pick a few items. It's practical, it's a handy reference for me and it gives me a sense of what their age group likes. I use it as a gauge for birthdays, for Hanukkah, for giving presents to other kids. That's a year-round de-stressor.

 

Do you ever bring the kids into the store?
Sometimes. The trick is to be the first one there. Whether you're going to the store or the doctor's office, go early before huge crowds arrive. Also, I try my best to manage expectations and limit the scope of the errand. I remind them what we're going to buy, whether it's a food ingredient or an item for someone else.
But honestly, it's less stressful to shop alone on the way home from work. I just attach the errand to my workday, so I'm done when I get home '- and then I can devote myself to my family.

How do you take the hassle out of gift giving for adult friends and family?
It's nice to spoil the people you care about. When it comes to gift selection, I have two approaches. Sometimes I think about what each person might like. And sometimes I select one great gender-neutral gift anybody would like. Then I order 20 of them and I'm done. That's another de-stressor: Buy a terrific gift in multiples.

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