Design lesson: Easy greetings
Dos and don'ts
DO keep it simple. There's nothing entertaining about a host who's too exhausted to enjoy her own party. Ask for help, and consider renting dishes for a large gathering.
DO consider a tree adorned only with white lights or completely bare -- marvel at nature's perfection. Wrap the base in natural burlap, a luscious throw made of wool or a cosy quilt.
DO use the Internet to save time shopping. Determine the party's theme, and search for items like tablecloths, napkins, candles and party favours that can be delivered to you. Not only does that save you a trip to the mall, you can enjoy the experience while drinking hot cider and listening to your favourite music.
DON'T buy special holiday decorations; use what you have. Add sparkle to the table with vintage or costume jewelry. Rhinestone brooches, shiny clip-on earrings and chunky plastic beads all look great when displayed with enthusiasm. Fill decorative bowls with oranges, pomegranates, apples or nuts. In the kitchen, fill a wire or woven breadbasket with boxwood cuttings and red pears.
DON'T do it all yourself. If your children are grown, have them contribute to a potluck dinner. Your favourite aunt may be thrilled to make a fruitcake for the occasion. Let everyone participate.
How to make memories
1 Take the family for a walk in the woods and gather fallen evergreen branches to use for indoor decorating. Back home, turn on some Christmas music and spend time as a group braiding the greens into garlands to use on the banister, mantel, windows and front door.
2 Keep a camera handy and snap family and friends as they enter your home or pose near the tree. Post pictures on a bulletin board covered with pretty gift wrap. Make sure everyone signs his or her photo.
3 Let school-age children decorate the tree all by themselves. Offer paper, scissors, glue, felt, popcorn, cranberries and ribbons. Provide help only when asked, and make no adjustments to their handiwork. Then revel in their pride. When company comes, you'll not only look rested, you'll have something to brag about.
4 Create a tree of life—invite friends and family to contribute one ornament each to your tree. Don't worry about “matching”; instead, celebrate the differences and bask in how much you're loved.