November 28, 2012 at 10:17 AM

Surviving the Holidays

"Time is short and life is sweet and we need to be able to enjoy every minute of it, stress-free and happy as a sugarplum"

By Lynn Cline

Gourmet Girl

Lynn Cline is a former food editor and the author of two books – Romantic Days and Nights in Santa Fe and Literary Pilgrims: The Santa Fe and Taos Writers' Colonies, 1915-1950. She also loves to cook, when not dining out.

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Oh how we love to hate the holidays. From frenzied shopping trips to the hassles in the kitchen with trussed up turkeys and lumpy mashed potatoes to making your table look as festive and perfect as the one you saw in Martha Stewart's magazine—the season to be jolly is often the most stressful time of year.

So in the spirit of giving, here are some tips to help you stay healthy, happy and sane during this holiday season.

When planning your holiday menu, keep it simple. This is not the time to try out a new recipe for a complicated dish that might not turn out exactly as you hoped. This is the time to make tried-and-true family recipes that you know will turn out perfectly. If there is a new recipe that you feel you absolutely must include in your feast, try it out beforehand to work out any kinks.

Lighten your workload by asking your guests to bring a dish, something that is part of their holiday traditions. It means less for you to do, and it involves everyone by having each person contribute to the feast. You can also order takeout dishes from Santa Fe restaurants and grocers that you simply heat at home and serve along with your home-cooked dishes.

Enlist your family, friends or roommates to help out in the kitchen by prepping food, doing dishes, setting the table and serving drinks. It will help you out immensely as you only have two hands and there's a lot to do to prepare the feast. If your guests offer to help with the dishes and clean up after the feast, don't be shy about letting them.

When the kitchen gets too hot, get out. This is Santa Fe! You have numerous ways to relieve holiday stress, from an afternoon soak and massage at a spa to a reinvigorating hike in the mountains.  Or escape for two hours with a good holiday movie, lunch or happy hour with a friend or an afternoon on the ski slopes. Heck, even a long bath at home can help ease the tension. Try not to think about all you have to do while you're on your mini-vacation.

Use common sense to avoid gaining the traditional holiday weight from all the feasting this time of year. Eating eggnog, fruitcake, pecan pie with whipped cream and panettone won't keep the pounds off. Instead, try eating healthier foods—vegetables with yogurt dip, hummus with pita bread, sorbet with fresh fruit. It also helps to eat smaller portions and snack on healthy foods before heading off to a party or going shopping.

Exercise is a great way to reduce holiday stress and keep you fit and merry. Try to get out every day for a walk, a run, a bike ride or any other kind of activity that provides a hearty workout for your mind, body and spirit.

Or take a tip from Julia Child's playbook…drink copious amounts of wine. It will not only relax you but it tastes great added to gravy, sauces, soups and stews. This was one of Julia's great secrets and it worked well for her throughout her career.

In the end, it's important to remember that the real meaning of the holidays is to celebrate the blessings of our lives, When all the presents are wrapped, the last pie baked and the cookies left out for Santa, be sure to take some time to reflect on all the things in your life that you're grateful to have. Time is short and life is sweet and we need to be able to enjoy every minute of it, stress-free and happy as a sugarplum.

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