Posted at 12:48 PM ET, 12/28/2006
One of my 2007 New Year's resolutions is to lose weight. Original, I know.
This year I feel a bit more confident about my chances. Why? I've been reading the Holiday Challenge series by Sally Squires.
If you're unfamiliar with the holiday challenge, it's a guide to help you stay the same weight during the holiday season of parties, restaurants and cookie-baking activities. We don't have to lose any weight; Sally just wants us to avoid gaining any.
I have to admit that I have not been following the program exactly. But that's precisely why I feel it's so effective. I've read Sally's stories, and I think about them during the week, but I have not felt as though I'm on a diet. In fact, Sally emphasizes that the Lean Plate approach is NOT a diet; it's a smart way to pay attention to how we eat. And three days before New Year's, I have not gained a single pound since Thanksgiving. (I'm patting myself on the back here.)
If you're anxious about your weight, check out these stories. The approach aims to give us all the confidence that we can improve our eating habits and head into the new year with a realistic strategy.
Posted at 12:07 PM ET, 12/27/2006
New Year's Eve
Whew. We're rounding the bend to the holiday home stretch: New Year's Eve. What's everyone doing? I highly recommend checking out our list of activities on the Holiday Guide.
As for me, I'm undecided.....Hnmmmmm: Limos, fancy clothes and party-hopping till dawn, perhaps? Well, given the two toddlers who control our lives right now, perhaps not...Though I admire a deliciously diabolical New Year's trick one of my co-workers staged a few years ago: She and her husband had plans to ring in the new year with several other couples. Between them they had about six chiildren under the age of 10. So about 4 in the afternoon, they started turning every clock in the house back an hour. By 8 that evening, the clock neared midnight. The all put on party hats, passed out the noise makers and sparkling apple juice and raucously toasted the new year. Then they put the clueless kids to bed, and went ahead with their elegant adult dinner as planned.
I'm not sure my husband and I are up to staging such an elaborate hoax. But that afternoon, maybe we can at least find a babysitter and slip away for a movie or early dinner.... Or maybe just stay in a cook a nice meal together. That doesn't sound half bad.
Happy New Year, one and all.
Posted at 1:00 PM ET, 12/26/2006
I hope everyone had a swell Christmas. This is the last week for Holiday 911 so we're eager to hear your comments and questions about surviving the holiday season.
Anyone returning gifts today? I urge you to check out Ylan Mui's story about return policies that was published yesterday.
My advice is to skip the stores today. Instead, hunt out your favorite online Web sites to see if they've posted their after-Christmas markdowns yet. In that maddening but time-honored tradition we all know so well, almost every store lures us back to shopping with sales and bargains. Holiday decorations and wrapping supplies are especially good deals the day after. I found terrific wrapping paper and ribbon at Crate and Barrel, holiday accessories at Pottery Barn and deals on clothes at J.Crew, which is offering an extra 25 percent off this week if you shop online.
Posted at 8:30 AM ET, 12/26/2006
The Day After
Welcome back to Holiday 911. We are here through the end of the week to answer questions and offer advice about surviving the holidays.
I can't decide whether to brave the after-Christmas sales and wondered what others are doing today.
I'm also interested in hearing some gift-giving stories. We've heard from lots of people who did not intend to spend as much on presents as their siblings planned to spend. We've also heard from folks struggling to find the right gift for the grandmother who has everyting or the toddler with too many toys.
Let us know what happened in your family.
Posted at 11:32 AM ET, 12/22/2006
Last-Minute Advice, Part II
We've been recapping some of the advice we've offered--and you guys have brought to our attention--to help folks get through the madness of the next 72 hours.
If you're cooking dinner or having a party in the next few days, take the time now to plan your menus, write out your shopping lists, figure out a cooking timeline and see if you have all the right cooking tools and serving dishes. This will not be quick, but it is totally worth it. You will be so much more relaxed and then be able to spend time with your friends instead of being trapped in the kitchen with your pots and pans. For more entertaining tips, check out our package of stories, especially Brenna Maloney's graphic on setting a table.
Christmas cards have generated a lot of comments. I must confess that I have not mailed any yet but I am determined to finish them even if I'm writing the last few on Christmas Eve! Several readers suggested playing Christmas music and writing 10 at a time. Take a break and write some more. Others suggested setting a timer for one hour and doing as many as you can. I actually met my boss at a Starbucks in our neighborhood for one hour and we both wrote out a lot of cards.
Holiday 911 is taking a holiday of its own and we'll be back posting questions and answers on Dec. 26. If you find yourself facing a holiday or end-of2006 dilemma, let us know. Merry Christmas.
Posted at 8:30 AM ET, 12/22/2006
The New Boyfriend and The Family
Let's review one of the many joys of the holiday season: bringing that someone special home to meet the family. Are you cringing yet? Consider this question:
I recently started dating someone new. He will be joining me and my family for some holiday get-togethers. I have quite a large family and sometimes we can all be a bit overwhelming. What are some things I can do or say to make him feel more comfortable and not so nervous?
Before the first meeting, I would warn him this is a raucous group. Also tell some family members that he's coming from a much smaller family and isn't used to this craziness. Pick out one or two family members who are particularly good at putting people at ease and ask them if they'd make sure to include him in conversation or other activities.
I would also ask family members to refrain from pointed questions or snide innuendoes about your relationship. New love can be stressed enough at the holidays without your little brother or nosy sister-in-law adding to the awkwardness.
Don't hold it against him for forgetting names and personal details of all the new faces. While it may be important to you that Aunt Jenny had her third kid named Nancy, your boyfriend won't remember or care.
Do not expect him to become one of the gang right away -- or ever, though he probably will some day.
Introduce him to a cool in-law and say something like: "I'm going to leave you two alone so you can make fun of our family. This will put him at ease very quickly and will probably be fun for him."
Don't speak for him, show him off or put him on the spot. Relax. Treat him just as you would at a cocktail party with friends. Nothing makes someone nervous more than a nervous date.
Posted at 12:55 PM ET, 12/21/2006
As we get down to the final days, I want to remind you of some of the advice that we've given you and you've give us over the past few weeks.
Still shopping? Take a look at our gift guides for sure. It's too late to shop online so hit a few stores where you can buy for several people. A book store is always good for this method. Also worth checking out is a big-box electronics store, with lots of variety in not just merchandise but price too. For those on a budget, homemade baked goods are a lovely option. Not a baker? Send a donation to the gift recipient's favorite charity.
On deadline with wrapping? Lay out paper, scissors and tape and set your timer for 60 minutes. Do nothing else but wrap presents and you will be amazed at how many you can get done. When the time goes off, put the rest in gift bags and cross this chore off your list.
Holiday fashion is on sale now so if you don't have something for New Year's Eve, don't fret. I saw cashmere sweaters at half-off prices at several stores. Many of you said you'd be wearing basic black this season and I got mixed reviews on my choice of black velvet. I think it's okay, really.
Any more ideas on these topics? Let us know. We'll go over a few others tomorrow.
Posted at 8:30 AM ET, 12/21/2006
Gifts for New Colleagues
Good morning. We've received a question, our first one in a while. I'd like to encourage more questions. You all know what I'm struggling with, but it's much more interesting to hear what everyone else has done to ease the stress of the holidays. Send questions and comments about gift-giving, cooking, holiday fashion and entertaining to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Now, on to our question:
One of my friends just started a federal government job a month ago. He's wondering if he should give any gifts to his new bosses and co-workers. If yes, what kind of gifts are good? The federal government has a regulation that limits any gift to a supervisor to less than $10. What's your opinion?
I think gifts are unexpected and unnecessary, given that he's only worked in the office for a month. If he supervises other people, perhaps he could take them out to lunch. That's a nice gesture. If not, what about bringing in some baked goods (he does not have to bake them) for the entire office? Not fancy, but festive.
Posted at 11:37 AM ET, 12/20/2006
So I've decided to get in the holiday spirit and bake cookies.
Do I really need something else to do? My tree still is not decorated. I have not wrapped a single present. My Christmas cards have yet to go in the mail.
Nevertheless, my friend Maria is coming over Friday night and we're gonna bake some cookies. My daughter will help a little, but she's only four and is unlikely to stay awake past the first batch.
Why are we doing this? It was Maria's idea. But it's an excuse for the two of us to hang out and we would never bake cookies on our own. And it is festive.
Also, any tips you can pass on about cookie baking would be helpful: How many cookie sheets do we need? Should we work independently on separate recipes or collaborate on the same recipe? Let me know what's worked for you.