Families with Style: Take the Hassle Out of the Holidays

You seem to be so organized. Got any tips for moms who are cooking big meals this season?
I like to cook, but if I can break down the task, I like it better. I like to have a strategy for everything.
I get my tips from watching cooking shows. I try to mimic those TV chefs by prepping '- filling little cups with precut ingredients. Whether I'm cooking alone or with the kids, I do the chopping in advance. I pop everything into the fridge in little Ziploc bags. Then I can work with ease two days later.
Another important part of my prep work is recipe review. I always read the recipe several times '- really! That way, I get familiar with it, and it works much better.

We're talking about big meals! Do you really involve the kids?
Well, the kids are around me anyway. They're at the table drawing, chatting. The kitchen serves as an extension of the family room. That's quality time. And they like to help. The best kind of quality time is when you're getting something done and spending time with the kids.

Any more cooking time-savers?
Stop getting stressed about making the perfect meal.
I often tell women who are building their wardrobes to stretch their collections by mixing my high-end items with my Target items. The same thing works when you're cooking. Why not save time by making something simple with the kids and buying the main dish? Buy a rotisserie chicken and make the sides.

You mentioned clothes. Any special suggestions for women who are pregnant during the holidays?
That's another source of stress. Pregnant women feel that they're under pressure to look right. I'm constantly reminding them to relax and recognize that no one expects them to be the dressiest person in the room. Find a good, versatile go-to piece '- a black dress or pair of pants '- and mix it with accessories. Feel comfortable wearing it again and again. Give yourself a break. Anything goes... even simple denim with cute shoes and a flowing top can be considered quite dressy.

Can we decorate just as simply, without spending too much time and money?
There are a million fun things you can do that aren't expensive. My kids love those reusable decals that stick to windows. In fact, you should ask your kids for ideas. They're at an age where they might be more creative than you are. My kids suggested using cotton balls for snow, and I love that. Also, try helium balloons '- they're inexpensive and festive. We decorate by lining the ceiling with silver, green and red balloons. For Hanukkah, we might use blue. Silver and gold are always festive. And they're cheaper than flowers.

Any "new" traditions that moms can adopt, and enjoy in future years?
Kids love rituals, repetitiveness, activities that they can count on. If you can say "This is our tradition," then it becomes your tradition. It can be anything '- and that's what makes it exciting. For Hanukkah, we make potato pancakes and invite the family over. Our kids know we do it at that time of year, and they love it. It's a family tradition.
If you're buying a Christmas tree, pick it out as a family and make it a tradition. Decorate the tree and invite the neighbors over to help. Make that a tradition. We enjoy lighting Hanukkah candles each night of the season, and the children recognize that as a tradition too.

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