Okay, Listen Here

Okay, Listen Here

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Cutting Corners to Happiness

Cutting corners definitely saves time and saving time keeps Jane sane, especially during the holidays.

During the holidays, it's easy to become stressed by to-do lists and shopping trips, not to mention wrapping gifts and decorating for company. There is shopping to get done, Christmas cards to write, parties to plan or attend, and the list goes on. Getting by is not how I want to proceed with my holidays. I would much rather be celebrating and enjoying every minute, but as the years have passed and my schedule grew to demand it, I learned to cut corners in order to survive.

This is my confession. The confession of a Martha Stewart wannabe. (Pirate!)

Yes! You can create wonderful holiday experiences with less. (Another reason why I like Sara Lee!) All your recipes don't need to be made from scratch. Your decorations don't need to be handmade. Gifts can be simple or extravagant, whatever your budget will allow. There is a shortcut for everyone. The trick is to find one that works for you.

I used to make all my Christmas gifts, but quickly ran out of time as my kids got older. I make cookies for all my neighbors to this day and deliver them on Christmas Eve. Doubling recipes helps me get platefuls of cookies, fudge and chocolate-covered pretzels. The most time-consuming thing on my list- Gingerbread Men. (But it is the one thing my neighbors look forward to.)

Here are some things I've learned to cut corners on:

1. Peanut Butter Hershey's Kiss cookies can be made quickly and easily using store bought Peanut Butter Cookie dough. Simply dump dough into a bowl, pick off a piece, roll dough into a ball, dip in sugar, fill cookie sheet with same. Cook. Immediately when the cookies come out of the oven, insert Hershey's Kiss into the center of each cookie. Let cool undisturbed. (I often put a batch in the freezer for a bit to help the chocolate set faster.) Voila!

2. Sugar Cookie dough can be store bought. Roll out dough, shape or cut into shapes, decorate with sprinkles or paint (if painting, mix egg yoke with food coloring to achieve exact color needed for paint. With small brush, brush paint onto cookies, then sprinkle with plain sugar for crystalized affect). Once baked, the painted cookies will resemble stained glass. Definitely a hit with my young bunch and safe to eat too!

3. Use store bought pie crust. (Though I always make my own because I still suffer from Martha Stewart mania.)

4. To make pull-apart Monkey Bread for breakfast, use plain Pillsbury biscuit or crescent roll dough, roll into balls, roll balls into cinnamon sugar, place in greased angel food or bundt pan, and bake when all balls have been added, one on top of the other. Makes a yummy breakfast treat!

5. When having company over, use candlelight. Candlelight masks any signs of dust or dirt in the room.

6. For a quick room freshening trick, spray room freshener on any artificial plants or arrangements in the house. The scent sticks and permeates throughout the room, keeping the air fresh and clean while your guests are in the house.

Do you have any helpful tips for keeping your holiday stress free?


  1. Gads!!!! I hate to admit it in front of Jean, but I buy my cakes from this Mennonite woman who is a fabulous baker! I do make cookies, from scratch, but I simply cannot keep trying to get a cake to rise. Mine all fall. So I cut out a lot of time (and teeth gnashing) by buying my cakes. (Shame)

  2. I try to make extras of meals that lend themselves to freezing--chili, lasagna, and the like, so we'll have food during the busy times. Also, I tend to make candy instead of cookies and cakes. I find it easier. Cook it up, pour it out, and you're done.

    Cheryl, There is no shame in hiring it done. I'm not raking leaves. You're not baking cakes. That's fair. Besides, those Mennonite women make the best pound cakes and fruit cakes in the universe. In fact, they might make the only good fruit cakes. I wish I had one right now. Except I don't. I would eat it. And I am trying to be good.

  3. To lighten the stress during the Christmas holidays, I start shopping early (and I mean early, like January early sometimes), I put up my trees and decorations early (Nov), plan, plan, plan, early, early, early, and buy some of the food items ready-made, depending on the event. That way I can bask in the glory of the season and let my inner child run wild!

  4. Hey Cheryl!

    Sometimes you have to cut corners in order to get things done during the holidays. And I've heard more people than we know pass off food as their own at parties. If no one is the wiser, no worries. I guess your cake issues fall in line with ordering a turkey or a ham from a well-known business. Same thing!

    If it equals yumminess, I say go for it! ;)

  5. Making extra meals or doubling your ingredients is a fantastic way to save time, Jean. Thanks for reminding me! ;)

    At Fort Leavenworth, I knew a woman who cooked prime meat on Sundays, like say hamburger meat, then she put the meat aside and divided it out for spaghetti, lazagna, etc..., cooked them and froze them for the entire week. She was only cooking on Sundays, but she had the entire week to herself. Yay!

    On a side note, I'm not particularly fond of cooking for an entire day so I haven't done this. I will get double the hamburger meat, brown it and put some in the freezer for spaghetti, later on. But that's as far as I go. ;)

  6. I bet you do have time to run wild, Crystal! Geez! Why can't I be like you?

    This year, I started shopping earlier. Major problem is: I bought stuff I don't remember I have and I don't remember where I hid it. Grrrr! Going to be a huge treasure hunt around here sometime soon. (Pirate!)

    Another problem I have with shopping early, I always seem to find something I like better for that particular person.

    I'm so indecisive.... :(

  7. Hey,
    These are good tips. I will have to add them to my tricks file!

    One tip that I read years ago was when guests are coming to visit you can mop the room that the they will enter first so that it seems like you cleaned house when in reality you just mopped one area.

    I will admit to using this trick more than once. :-)

  8. I've never made pie crust in my life. I'm so impressed by you!