As a little girl I watched “Christmas in Connecticut,” longing to be Elizabeth Lane, the ever-imaginative writer who knew nothing about cooking or tidying as a domestic woman but certainly knew how to weave words that connected with her readers.
While I can bake up a storm of yummy Russian tea cakes and clean the house like nobody’s business, the modern domestic woman in me has other wants on my to-do list that have nothing to do with chores. Like loving my three children, writing, wife-ing, reading, sipping tea and just BE-ing.
What should you expect from this biweekly column? Well, there will be humor. And honesty. And talk of décor, local shops, events and interviews. At “The Modern Domestic Woman” we will embrace simplicity, but not downplay a beautiful home and hearth. I will also introduce to you the domestic experts in my life who will challenge you to make your home uniquely and undeniably YOU.
Today we are talking about surviving the holidays, from a hostess perspective and a mental standpoint. I’ve rallied two of my most trusted advisers to ring in on how to stroll practically carefree through this holiday season and not lose it. On the well-being side, my friend, Nicole Knepper, a licensed clinical professional counselor and gerontologist based in Naperville and Plainfield, recommends resisting the urge of saying “yes” when you want to say “no.”
“Set firm boundaries and stick to them,” encouraged Knepper. “I plan budget and meal plans. I have the kids make Christmas lists and make lists of my own to keep me on task.”
However, what happens when you are in the thick of the season and you need a break amid the celebrating? Knepper meditates by way of a weekly bath with a lot of Epsom salts and carves out time to sit and stare.
“I make time to listen to the oldies while I stare at my beautiful tree,” she said. “It centers me and reminds me of what Christmas is truly all about.”
Once you are locked and loaded into a mindset of serenity this season, it’s time to tackle the hosting of the holiday. Linda McFadden, a Geneva resident, home economist and the owner of Past Basket in Milwaukee, Wis., is one of my cherished domestic mentors. If you happen to have the pleasure of knowing McFadden, she has event planning and all things domestic down to a T. I love to gather ideas from her, especially when I want to create a beautiful gathering and have overthought to the point of anxiety. McFadden’s tips are brilliant and not only apply to holiday get-togethers, but easily weave into prepping for any party you might have in the future.
McFadden’s mantra? Ditch the grandiose expectations and don’t try to be who you are not.
“When hosting an event, think of the person you are instead of the hostess you would like to be,” McFadden said. “If you want to be a good entertainer, you can, but entertain in a way that reflects your style and personality.”
McFadden also brought to light the assurance that you need not apologize to anyone for your style of entertaining. They, after all, are your guests.
• No. 1: Take inventory of what you have. In terms of food, bring out your bowls, trays and containers, taking stock of what you have on hand. Linda suggests owning a big wooden bowl.
“There are so many ways to use a big serving piece for any occasion, but do make sure you start out with a full bowl,” she said.
For example, lots of popcorn, fruit, ingredients for s’mores or salmon on a bed of greens and roast asparagus look especially lovely in a large shallow bowl.
• No. 2: Don’t stress over the centerpiece. If you have the budget, a prearranged floral centerpiece is a nice splurge for your holiday table, but Linda assures me that it’s not always necessary to break the bank.
“If you plan to DIY, fresh evergreens are very pretty on a table,” McFadden said. “The Paper Merchant in Geneva has featured a glass bowl with floating candles and cranberries in their shop around Christmastime for years, which is easy to construct and very elegant.”
I wish you love and a happy home this holiday!
Your modern domestic correspondent,
This article was originally featured on December 15th in the Kane County Chronicle.