~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #184
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~Natural History Museum Ice Rink, London~
The holidays can be glorious and overwhelming at the same time, magnificent and demanding, joy-filled and draining. And since the holidays of Thanksgiving for Americans and a handful of religious and non-religious commemorations will take place in December for people around the globe each year, it is best to navigate an approach that enables the annual celebration to be something to anticipate with excitement.
It will be three times this Thanksgiving that I have enjoyed either the turkey holiday or Christmas in a unique fashion: on my own. Each time in the past it was a choice and each time it was an opportunity to explore or take part in something or a way of life I had not experienced. As a teacher, there are few times besides the summer months in which a vacation is allowed, and so I have become more and more inclined to use the week off for Thanksgiving and the two weeks off to end the year and begin the new year traveling, exploring and relaxing.
My approach is unique as I have two furry children who will gladly celebrate the exploration of their stockings any day of the month or not at all as a calendar is not something they fuss over. And while I do have family and friends I enjoy visiting, I enjoy more intimate opportunities to spend time with them over the course of the year. Now, don’t get me wrong, sitting down to gather with loved ones over a festive meal is something I not only enjoy being invited to but also being the curator of, but I also am very much appreciative of opportunity to take the hype and the expectation of “have-tos” and instead cultivate an authentic experience with people I enjoy spending time and lose track of time with.
Inspired by the goal of cultivating a holiday season to eagerly look forward to and revel in from mid-November through the first of January, I came up with a list of ideas for a making a pleasurable holiday season.
1.Create your own traditions
As an adult, you may remember holiday traditions you loved and a few you begrudgingly went along with. However, now you are an adult, so why not reconsider what you want and have to do. Take a look at my thoughts on traditions here.
2. Ease into the season
If the festive season of ho-ho-ho seems to begin far too early, then set your boundary and gradually ease into the celebrations. Maybe there is a particular time when holiday music can be played or the first film can be viewed. As a way to build anticipation, make each occasion a special one: for the first movie of the season, plan a feast of comfort foods shared with close family or friends.
3. Try one new decoration idea
Michael of Inspired by Charm shared with his Instagram followers a couple of weeks ago how to decorate your holiday tree with ribbon. If this is something you’ve always wanted to try, go ahead and give it a shot this year. Trying something new is a challenge and an adventure and who knows what new memories and traditions it will inspire.
4. Find a wood burning fireplace and enjoy sitting next to it
Whether you are fortunate enough to have a wood-burning, cracklingly fireplace in your home or not, make a date at least once (more for me please!) to snuggle or sit next to a warm fire with something warm to sip and either an enjoyable conversation to share with someone or a book you cannot wait to dive into.
5. Locate warm gloves for everyday
Keeping your digits warm is a simple way to feel a little more cozy and soak up the snowy moments or freezing, crystal clear days. Enjoy shopping for them and trying them on as gloves are one of the easiest items we wear to try on multiplies of without spending too much time.
6. Follow Peter Mayle’s Example
Having reread Peter Mayle’s A Year in Provence, it was his decision to throw a holiday party for his workers just prior to Christmas in the middle of the day (his soiree began at 11am) that made me realize, why not? Not only do you have some time in the morning to prepare, but you also have time in the evening to relax and savor the gathering without the worry of the roads, darkness or freezing temperatures at night.
7. Take a walk through the neighborhood to enjoy the lights
Instead of hopping in your vehicle, even if you live far away from neighborhoods with lights, park your car in a parking lot and stroll the streets with a friend or partner. Just strolling along, all bundled up is a reminder to slow the pace of life down, take in the festive sights and become infused with the holiday spirit.
8. Keep the tree decorations simple
The boxes upon boxes of holiday decorating may be appealing to some, and at least some decorations for my home are a must to remind me each morning when I wake and afternoon when I arrive home that it is indeed the holidays, but too much can become overwhelming and turn the holidays’ arrival into a chore. Keep it as streamlined, yet as festive as you wish, and don’t feel bad for not putting out the set of reindeer that you feel you “have-to”. Remember, you’re designing a holiday approach that enables you to enjoy the holidays you are celebrating.
9. Keep the tree small
For the first time last year, I purchased a three foot tree. And the ease and pure pleasure it brought to my weekend was a change I am going to be adhering to for some time. I still paid careful attention to the ornaments and ribbon. I still strung white lights, but I saved some money and experienced no stress what-so-ever trying to put it up.
10. Learn a new holiday recipe
So many delectable, amazing recipes abound around the internet, from family members and friends that choosing just one may be difficult, but similar to trying a new decorating idea, it is a fun challenge and adventure to look forward to each year. Hey, and if it turns out, that’s the icing on the cake!
11. Shop Small Business Saturday
Make a habit of shopping locally as often as possible and even on the designated Saturday after Thanksgiving here in the states. While yes, so much is available at the end of our fingertips as we peruse the internet, if we are able, why not build relationships with our neighbors as they work at their businesses and continue to strengthen the community we call home.
12. Perfect a simple holiday cocktail
Last year, I came up with a super simple cocktail recipe that is a show-stopper when it comes to looks as well. Whatever drink is your favorite, or you are looking for a favorite, always have the necessary ingredients on hand for those last-minute holiday invites of friends visiting from out-of-town to add that extra little holiday touch.
Whether you are someone who enjoys stepping into the kitchen and serving a holiday meal to your local citizens in need of a warm meal or you enjoy the ski slopes and can volunteer to tend to the local cross country runs which you frequent yourself, choose some way to give of your time as a way of showing gratitude and building a bond of kindness without seeking anything in return.
14. Select Favorite Holiday Comforts (films, music, candles, etc.)
Each of us has our holiday favorite comforts (Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack is my favorite – hands down), so make sure to carve out time to savor these comforts as a way to deepen the appreciation for this time of year. Do you have a luxurious hot chocolate recipe that you save as a special treat only to be devoured during these last few weeks of the year? Put aside any guilt and indulge. Being present in these moments of simple pleasures and comforts is a practice we can take with us throughout the rest of the year.
15. Find time to read one or two books you’ve been curious to read
Earlier this week I shared a list of 10 books to enjoy on your holiday travels or vacation. From novels to non-fiction, even a cookbook as well, I know during this time of year, I savor the extra minutes to enjoy more of the books I haven’t found the time to read up until now.
16. Let go of the myths and expectations
The holidays are yours to make as you will. Choose to plan your calendar thoughtfully, knowing what you value, what is important and most importantly don’t be afraid of saying “no”. Yes, we would all most likely agree, the holidays have become far too commercialized, but we can change that with our habits. And our habits can change if we choose to do other activities that brings us the reward we associate with the holiday season: joy, contentment, love, pleasure. (Click here or here for two posts on cultivating good habits and how to break bad habits.)
I recently shared with someone my plans for the Thanksgiving break (learn of my plans here), and they immediately said, “Well, that doesn’t sound like Thanksgiving”. But their response exemplifies exactly what was shared above, the holidays, Thanksgiving in this case, can be defined how we want them to be defined, celebrated how we want to celebrate them, but it is up to each of us to have the courage to examine why we do what we do and then allow ourselves to get excited about what works for us. I know that I am giddy to be where I am and will be on Thursday. I hope you will be too. (Discover where I am and will be this turkey day on IG – #tsllengland). See below a few pics from the trip so far.
~the skies upon arrival at Heathrow were a brilliant blue (as seen below)~
~took some time to walk and wander in the Victoria and Albert Museum~
~The Royal Albert Hall~
~My love affair with London’s limestone~
~Enjoy 15% off all TSLL Notepads, Planner Pages & Signed Copies of Choosing the Simply Luxurious Life: A Modern Woman’s Guide when you spend $10 or more with promo code HOLIDAY15, through Monday November 27th.
~Murder on the Orient Express
~Agatha Christie’s original Murder on the Orient Express (January 1, 1934)
This episode was sponsored by the following:
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