Simple Holiday Survival

In The Mood: Finding The Holiday Spirit

XMAS Ball 2

As a transplant from New England, now living in Florida, I find I have to work harder to find the Holiday Spirit.  Let’s face it — with temperatures reaching the 70’s, and not a snow flurry in sight (just rain!), it just doesn’t seem like Christmas.  And somehow, the “snow” in the Mall just doesn’t cut it!

So I have developed a checklist, of sorts, to get me in the mood. It has worked for 16 years, and maybe it will help you find your holiday spirit, too, whether you live in the warmth of the South or the snowy North.

Set a Date –Between traveling for kids’ sports, family commitments, and work events, sometimes you just have to schedule when to start celebrating.  I choose a date to begin my holiday decorating AND a date to finish it.  If you have limited time for decorating, maybe don’t go all out.  If you don’t have everything done by your finish date, so what?  Just get the important stuff out that makes you and your family happy. And don’t feel guilty when your neighbor’s Christmas display is finished on Thanksgiving evening.  You have your own schedule – don’t pressure yourself.

Set It Up (In stages)– I do my holiday decorating in stages. First, the Christmas Village is set up; next the outdoor decorations; and finally the trees.  This is spread out over a week, so I don’t overwhelm myself.   And yes, I did say trees! (So much for simple)  Years ago, I started doing a second tree upstairs by my kids rooms.  About two years ago, I tried to simplify and eliminate the second tree, but guess what?  My kids decided THEY wanted it and now it is their tree to decorate – and they do it all. It makes me feel good to know they have their own traditions already.

Take a Stroll – Nothing perks up your holiday spirit like taking an evening stroll where the holiday lights already shine.  I am lucky enough to live near St. Augustine, Florida, where they begin their “Nights of Lights” the weekend before Thanksgiving.  Almost every building in this beautiful, historic city is lit in tiny, white lights for six weeks and it has a magical feel.   So find a “Night of Lights” near where you live, soak it in, be present in the moment, and feel the holiday spirit.

Set the Music – On the morning of your decorating day, blast the holiday tunes!  Sing along with your favorites and get the rest of the family in on it.  Nothing says holiday spirit like an off-tune rendition of “Jingle Bells”!  Plan for a little holiday music every day through the holidays.  I set up on my iPod several different holiday playlists, each with a different mood.  My personal favorite is the “Jazzy Christmas”, featuring Ella Fitzgerald, Eartha Kitt, Little Charlie and the Nightcats, Lou Rawls, and more, crooning jazz-styled holiday songs.

Take a Tour – One evening, just prior to Christmas, we fill travel mugs with hot cocoa, don our silly Santa Hats, and pile into the car.  With the holiday music on, we take a tour of holiday lights in the neighborhood.  If it is warm enough, we roll down the windows and blast the music.

And finally:

Put The Devices Down – We all love technology (some of us even have careers based on it!), but a key element of getting the Holiday Spirit is to be present in the moment.  You can’t be present in the moment and still text, tweet, “like”, and post.  Use them to take photos, but post them later.  Tweet about Aunt Millie’s horrendous sweater tomorrow.  You may miss something more important – connection with your family and friends.

Here’s to you finding your Holiday Spirit – Happy Holidays!

Simple Holiday Survival: Mini Baked Brie Bites

SSD Mini baked brie

Today’s Simple Holiday Survival Recipe is for Mini Baked Brie Bites.  I love baked brie, and this is such a simple recipe, I think I could make it every day! Enjoy!

Mini Baked Brie Bites


  • 7 oz. Imported French Brie Cheese Round
  • Two Packages Frozen Mini Fillo Shells (30 total shells)
  • One Jar Cranberry Relish


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Take fillo shells out of packaging and place frozen shells onto baking sheet (I cover baking sheet with tin foil to make for easy clean up!).  Cut the brie round into bite sized pieces(see “Notes On Brie” below). You can get 30 pieces from one 7 oz. brie round.  Place a piece of brie into each fillo shell.  Bake filled shells for 5-8 minutes, until cheese is melted but not browned.

Remove from oven; place a dollop of cranberry relish on top of each filled, baked shell.  Place on serving platter and serve warm.

Notes On Brie:

  • The brie round will come out of the packaging with a white rind on it.  This rind is edible; you can choose to keep the rind on, or you can remove it.  Just make sure before you cut it that the cheese is cold — it makes for easier cutting.
  • You can actually FREEZE brie! This comes in handy for this recipe – Freeze the piece of brie for about 30 mins., and then you can cut it into small pieces easily. Package those small pieces in a baggie for future use! Great to prep your appetizer the day or week before you serve, or just to have handy when company drops by! I recommend you freeze brie only when you plan to cook it — it alters the texture slightly, so I would not serve it on a cheese platter!


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