From the Editor: The Easy Season
‘Tis the season for hustle and bustle. I look forward to the holidays with both excitement and dread, knowing that it’ll be all about the go, go, go on top of the snow, snow, snow. Rather than get worked up into an eggnog lather over it, I encourage everyone to find the “easy button” and press it. Whether it’s a Minnesotan thing, a Scandinavian thing, a Lutheran thing, a woman thing, or a “I CAN DO IT MYSELF” thing, I had been hardwired to think that the more difficult a task I accomplish, the more important it must have been. It’s not valuable if I didn’t kill myself to do it…and the holidays have been the prime season for overextending myself. Somehow, though, I’ve gotten past that fallacy and figured out that I need some things to be easy. And they’re good things. Not any less important or valuable or crucial to anyone, these easy-button solutions are a part of every day of my life, not just the holiday season.
My family is very utilitarian and organized in its gift giving (see previous Lutheran/Scandinavian remark). We write lists and the lists include links to exactly what we want (okay…mine does…I include links because I like to be clear in my communication). If someone tells you what they want and it’s within your means to get it, don’t put yourself through the wringer over it–get it. There’s no award for never referring to the wish list when buying gifts…or there shouldn’t be. Don’t read into things, just read the lists. Easy.
Because I’m single and live alone, I have a whole lot of freedom but not a whole lot of options for shopping. I can stop here and there, go gallivanting to and fro, and take as long as I want to pick up the perfect gifts from the lists that have been given to me, but the “options” part is all about the hauling. Sure, I could get oversized items for everyone, but that means that I’ll have to haul them, too. My stuff, my dog’s gear, the leash (and the dog attached to it), the snow, the ice, the not-gonna-happen. I’ll get little trinkets from some of the local stores as stocking stuffers and host presents because they’re easy to carry, but the rest has to ship itself. This is where Amazon comes in. I love Amazon and am a member of the Amazon Prime program that means free two-day shipping for all qualifying products…which, especially at the holidays, pays for the membership fee over and over. I’ll figure out where I’ll be for the event, have the gifts shipped there, and arrive early enough to unpack and wrap them. Last year, I even had the wrapping paper shipped to my parents’ house. Really. (And, if my dad shakes the big box and actually figures out that it’s the Husqvarna chainsaw helmet with face shield from his list, he deserves to figure it out.) You won’t hear me say, “Bah, humbug!” over that. Easy.
Food is a basic component of the holidays. I embrace cooking and baking, when I have time. Time is usually the limiting factor. Cooking and baking are putzy activities that involve prep, execution, and clean-up…and yield such tasty rewards. But, it’s all about knowing my limits. Finding the “easy” when I need to. If there’s a potluck party and I know I’ve got a day full of meetings, I won’t be bringing a homemade pie; I’ll pick up crusty bread and some cheese and olives. I kid you not, for a recent casual get-together, I picked up a very popular dish to pass via the Taco Bell Drive-Thru: a 12-pack of tacos that were more tasty than tacky. If I know I’ve got three potlucks in a short period of time, I’ll make a monster, triple-batch of my cheeseball and split it into three, one for each shindig. Easy.
In a sea of other cookies and confections, dried fruit sprinkled on melted white chocolate that hardens to be broken into pieces of bark are a visual and literal treat. Choosing the Caramel Puffcorn recipe on the back of the Old Dutch Puffcorn bag is the fastest way to get myself on next year’s invitation list. I love getting involved in a cookie exchange for which I make 15 dozen of the same cookie (one list of ingredients, one set of dirty dishes, countless loads of trays into the oven) and get back 14 dozen different varieties of sweets that I’d never have time (or ingredients) to make. Sure, even my “easy” solutions might sound difficult to people who don’t cook or bake, but there’s a solution to most any situation out there, even if it’s picking up a bag of candy to pass. Yum. Easy.
Most of all, we need to take it easy on ourselves. Before I allowed for the possibility that things can go off-course, off-list, and be bought off-the-bakery-shelf, the holidays (and my life) were prone to more martyrdom than merriment. I can do without that drama. Easy.
Happy Holidays to you and yours.
With cheer and thanks,