Sometimes, even though the shops are overflowing with tinsel and toys and blaring out joyful Christmas music, it's hard to feel in a very festive mood.
I decided awhile ago that I was not going to put unreal expectations on myself when it came to special celebrations. I wholeheartedly believe in the importance of family traditions and the sense of belonging that they bring, but at the same time, I think that if the parent is going to have a mental breakdown trying to sew their advent calendar by December 1st and make a Gingerbread house that won't keep collapsing, it might be best to throw away the grand expectations and just take it easy (yes kids, I will eventually get that advent calendar finished one day).
It's okay to just let it slide. I've learnt from experience that families would rather have a happy home than a perfectly presented one with a freak-show of a mother.
So there we have it - I encourage you to make traditions, get into the Christmas spirit, but don't be too hard on yourself. Go with the flow.
In saying that, here are a few simple ideas for Christmas for the slightly stressed out family...
I drool over the amazing creations people make/bake for their kids teachers, but seriously, if you are not up to it, I don't think the teachers will mind getting a candy cane with a wee note or card (I don't even think they'll mind if they don't get anything to be honest). Sometimes a quick note scribbled in your child's communication book or a verbal thank you at the school concert can mean the world to your child's teacher. They will forgive you for not baking them an end of year rainbow cake (well, I hope they do anyway).
Delicious and easy things to bake...
If you want to make something Christmassy without losing the plot, here are a few ideas. Make some simple biscuits from your favourite biscuit/shortbread recipe (this one is good) and ice with white icing and sprinkle with crushed candy canes. There - easy and impressive.
Even simpler, gingerbread dusted with icing sugar. Cute, Christmassy and won't make you break out in a nervous sweat (although baking in the southern hemisphere at Christmas time does tend to make you break out in a sweat, so open your kitchen windows and wear something cool if you are living in that zone of the world).
My most delicious and easy things to make for any time of the year but especially Christmas is Chocolate Truffles, Odd-Fellow Roll and Coconut Ice. No baking required, rolling saves time and everyone loves them. You can make them days before they are needed and store in your fridge (Actually, Peppermint Bark is my alltime Christmas treat to make, but this post is all about a simple Christmas, so we won't go there today okay?).
Crafty Stuff to Make...
If you're into crochet, this Crochet Christmas Bunting is cute and fun to make as well as this Amigurumi Eggnog, or if you like to sew, these Christmas Tree Softies are so sweet... but if right now you feel like screaming whenever you see a crafty Christmas tutorial, take a deep breath, buy a $2 string of tinsel to tape to the wall and put your feet up with a cup of tea.
Keeping it simple...
Christmas is about the birth of Jesus, love, family and peace to all mankind... not stress, breakdown and wanting to shoot the next person who whistles a Christmas jingle.
Choose to have a stress-free and simple Christmas this year if you are feeling the stress or burden of great expectations. You won't regret it, and somehow the best memories made are always the simple ones... like sipping eggnog (or just plain milk) under the Christmas tree (or on the lawn), driving around and checking out the Christmas lights in your area, thinking of a neighbour who might be cheered up by finding a sneaky candy cane or card in their mailbox (as long as the candy cane doesn't melt all over their mail or get infested with ants).
Remember to smile and make the most of each day - from me to you (a lady who's learnt the hard way... and is still learning).