Holiday Hacks: Surviving the Season

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Photo by Crystal Littrell Photography

By Hannah Gerken

Photo by Crystal Littrell Photography

Garland around the fireplace, the smells of home-cooked food wafting from the kitchen, music and laughter, a chill in the air … and an endless to-do list. It’s the holidays! Eliminate the stress and make more room for joy as you take back your holidays – one hack at a time!

Pick Out a Live Tree as a Family Tradition
Branch out from an artificial Christmas tree and pick out a live tree from the Farm Patch Market. Fresh trees, wreaths, and garland arrive from the North and bring a new dimension to family fun, says Molly Ward, Farm Patch marketing manager. “No matter what is going on in life, to have that ritual of picking out a tree brings people together,” says Ward. Nervous about having a live tree for the first time? No fear. Farm Patch provides care tips, including giving the trunk a fresh cut so it is ready to take up water when you get home. They also wrap the tree for transport. Wreaths and garland are sold by the foot for an always perfect fit. Trees can be purchased at the Farm Patch store on South College Avenue in Bryan and at the tree lot on University Drive behind the fountain in College Station. The tree lot opens the day after Thanksgiving on Friday, Nov. 24.

Farm Patch Gift Basket

Gifts That Gather No Dust
For a knockout gift for a coworker or that uncle who already has everything, Farm Patch has seasonal cheer that won’t become clutter after the holidays. Fresh poinsettias, wreaths, and beautiful plants inspire smiles and come wrapped with ribbons and holiday items to make it special. Fruit baskets are always the perfect fit and can either be customized and pre-ordered or grabbed pre-made on the go. Farm Patch carries local and imported delicacies for gift baskets, including always popular pecans. Whole or shelled, pecans are perfect for shipping to far-flung family or in holiday meals. Go straight for the best and buy mini and regular pecan pies that are baked in-store with the fresh pecans. Pre-order pies for just-baked deliciousness.

Circle X Country Store in Bryan also offers a selection of gifts, wide enough to cover your entire shopping list. From home décor items, Christmas signs, and rockers to popular clothing lines, like Cinch Jeans and Dear John denim, they can help accommodate your shopping. They also offer Sweet Tea Lotion & Soaps, a great gift for someone in your office or as stocking stuffers. Circle X Country Store can also help satisfy your family’s sweet tooth with homemade pecan pies, cakes, and Granny Vych’s cinnamon rolls and kolaches. Store manager Greg Duewall says the cinnamon rolls and kolaches are made from special recipes passed down from his grandmother, Granny Vych. There’s no shame in needing to test-run these delicious gift ideas, so stop by and eat a cinnamon roll while relaxing in the rockers on their front porch. You can pre-order the homemade pies, cakes, and goodies, or you can purchase locally grown in-shell or shelled pecans to bake pies yourself.

If pecans are the way to the heart of your friends and coworkers, you can also visit Royalty Pecan Farms for more great gifts. From pecan halves and pieces for baking to gift sets and pies, they have a wide variety of gift-worthy items. They offer both regular and flavored pecans. The most popular flavors are Cinnapecan, Tex Mix, and Dulce de Leche. Gift sets make great gifts to ship to family members you aren’t able to see over the holidays. You have the option to buy in bulk and have them shipped. You can also pre-order the pies and set your store pick-up time.

Lighting Your Home Bulb-by-Bulb
Shine a light on the Christmas holidays with decorative lights on your home or business. The tradition of driving around to see lights while drinking hot chocolate is a joyous memory for many. Avoid the stress of storing, untangling, hanging, and worrying if the lights work when you let the pros from EcoZapp take over. Joshua Zapalac, owner of EcoZapp, says the goal is to provide “hassle-free Christmas light installation.” LED lights means the strands can last five to seven years and are more energy efficient. They can customize the design for your home and are known for using a variety of color schemes. The ability to change out individual bulbs allows them to make any color pattern that fits your style. EcoZapp will maintain the lights throughout the season and then take the lights down and store them for you until next year. So stay off the ladder, and let the professionals bring the lights to you!

Photo by Jerry Haynes Photography

Memorable Meals Minus the Work
Are you nervous about cooking a large meal and getting everything done on time? If so, consider taking on only half of the cooking battle by pre-ordering your main dish, sides, or desserts. Only you will know your holiday classic meal didn’t all originate in your kitchen!

At Readfield Meats, opt for one of their popular holiday items: the spiral sliced ham, smoked turkey, or beef tenderloin. Or try the Cajun fried turkey, tur-duc-en, or a chicken that can be stuffed with different options. Along with the ready-to-serve meat, you can also order pans of broccoli and rice, sweet potato casserole, or baked potato casserole.

If your family loves some good ol’ Texas BBQ, you can order meats from C&J Barbecue. With packages available to customize your dinner plans, their most popular holiday main dishes are brisket, sausage, turkey, and ham. You can even bring in your own turkey or ham and they will smoke it for you. For side dishes, choose from homemade cornbread dressing, green bean casserole, and sweet potato casserole by the pan to feed your whole family/party. If you aren’t hosting a dinner party, but just want a homemade Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner for two, you can purchase individual meals that are ready to go.

With Kreuz Market, you can order your Thanksgiving meal ahead of time or even come by on Thanksgiving Day to solve those day-of emergencies. They offer full meals, either hot and ready or cold to save for later. With traditional holiday entrees and BBQ, they have options for everyone. Their most popular main dishes include turkeys, hams, brisket, and smoked turkey breast, sliced or whole. Pair these with one of their signature sides: macaroni and cheese, white cheddar macaroni and cheese, German potatoes, or sauerkraut. You can also take part in the holiday spirit of giving by participating in their canned food drive that started on Nov. 1. Kreuz Market will match the number of cans you bring in, so give back to those in need while taking the stress out of holiday meals.

For many families, ham is a staple entrée when it comes to the holidays. HoneyBaked Ham offers fully cooked and ready to serve hams, so that you can spend less time in the kitchen and more time with your family. You can choose to have it bone-in or boneless, and can also choose from other options like turkey, pot roast, and ribs. Pair this with a side of potato salad, broccoli bacon bliss, mandarin pineapple dream, or many other options and you will be ready for any family meal.

Everyone knows the holidays are never complete without dessert. Must Be Heaven can help satisfy your sweet tooth with delicious pies. Owner Donna Morrow says the five most popular holiday pies are pecan, dutch apple, buttermilk chess, chocolate meringue, and pumpkin. Along with pies, they also offer cookies and vegetable/fruit party platters.

Make sure to contact any restaurant early to secure your meal fresh and on time. Plan ahead with no do ahead!

Photo by Crystal Littrell Photogrpahy

Hire Help to Elevate Your Event
If you are planning a large corporate holiday celebration or even a small home gathering, consider hiring a party planner or rental company to make the evening less stressful. Party Time Rentals and Details Party Rental both offer options to de-stress and make your event more comfortable.

Rent cocktail tables or consider tenting your outdoor space. This can help a small area seem less crowded and give guests more room to mingle.

Think outside the Christmas party box! Take a Pinterest peek for new themes, which is a trend, according to Delores Crum, president and chief inspirational officer of Party Time Rentals. She reports return customers strive to theme the party differently each year to keep their guests guessing. From “Cowboy Christmas” to “Flannels & Frost,” make your event represent you. Then visit places like Details Party Rental and Party Time Rentals to supplement with linens, dishes, and more.

Depending on the age group of your guests, you can add dimension to your holiday party by adding stations. For kids, rent a popcorn machine, plan games, and offer things like a hot chocolate bar or a cookie/candy dessert bar. To spark the interest of your adult audience, Party Time Rentals can also help you plan a station for whiskey or scotch tastings with the specialized glassware you will need.

For those hosting a large Thanksgiving or Christmas family dinner, renting your dishes and glassware is a great option. Then once you finish with the linens and glassware, there is no clean-up required. Just give the dishes a quick rinse and Party Time Rentals will take care of the rest.

Even decorating is a snap. Details Party Rentals offers lit trees with basic ornaments. With specialty items like birch trees, glass vases, and more, they can capture any theme without a million trips to the craft store.

Photo by Crystal Littrell Photography

Details, Details, Details
A little time planning ahead reduces stress at party time. Script the event and the times you want things to occur. Rent a few extra plates and glasses in anticipation of unexpected guests or things breaking. And if you are planning to have a hot chocolate bar or other station, remember that kids make messes and plan for this to occur outside.

Remember to think beyond decor and logistics to make sure your event appeals on all sides. Do you have a signature scent for the party? Pine and birch are two classic scents for the holidays. Also, decide if you want to have any Christmas music playing in the background. All of these little details can help round out your party to make it the best it can be.