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December 5, 2013

Your Easiest Holiday Ever - Time-Saving Ideas From The Pros

You can have it all this holiday – great holiday decor, gifts for all on your list and a fabulous party – with a lot less stress. All it takes is some clever outsourcing. This post first appeared on ElleDecor.com.

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Photo Credit: Amy Neunsinger for Kitchen Revelry

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1. Have Your Tree Delivered
Skip a trip to the nursery and have your tree delivered from Mountain Star Farms, the 11-time New Hampshire Christmas Tree Champion at New England’s largest fair—and New Englanders know their Fraser and Balsam Firs. Fresh-cut trees are shaken to remove loose needles then sent in a wax-lined box to preserve freshness. From $24 for a 3-foot fraser fir, plus shipping.

2. Pre-Make a Festive Appetizer 
“I love Gougeres,” says actress and author Ali Larter referring to the French cheese puff recipe she shares in her book Kitchen Revelry. “They pack a lot of flavor, are light and airy and make a perfect pre-dinner snack or cocktail party hors d’oeuvres. Not only are they simple to make, but easy to prepare days or weeks in advance (kept in the refrigerator or freezer) and ready anytime. If you're having a party, they’re something warm and 'fresh' to serve that you don't need to worry about preparing while guest are arriving; just pop them in the oven at the first sound of the doorbell and in 25 minutes, the party will just be ready for these two-bite treats.”

3. Decorate With a Theme
Make an impact with simple holiday decorations such as white birds or golden apples and always use more greenery than you think you should. “Sometimes the most ordinary things, used en masse, can be the most beautiful,” says event planner Bronson Van Wyck. When placing greenery, “work with the architecture,” he says. “Use a garland to call attention to the crown molding, or to frame a particularly significant door or window. Part of the charm of garland is feeling like there’s an abundance of it. If you drape it luxuriously, the whole room feels more welcoming.” 

4. Assemble, Don't Cook
When cooking for big groups during the holidays, lifestyle expert Katie Lee likes to make assembly-only hors d'oeuvres and desserts, leaving more time to focus on the main course. “For cocktail hour, I'll wrap prosciutto on breadsticks, spread Gorgonzola on crostini, top with a dollop of fig jam, and serve smoked salmon on blinis. For dessert, a trifle is simultaneously simple and elegant. Just layer cubed, store-bought pound cake with fruit, an instant pudding, and whipped cream, then top with chocolate shavings. I set up a self-serve coffee bar during dessert with a carafe of coffee, creamers, and liqueurs.”

5. Outsource Shopping & Wrapping Even if it can be done online, shopping for gifts is one of the most time-consuming tasks of the holidays—and that’s before wrapping. Instead, outsource to Kalamazoo Gift, a full-service gift concierge that will receive your shipment of gifts and return them professionally gift-wrapped. Or, send them your shopping list and they'll purchase the gifts for you, then ship them to you in festive wrap. Start early to enjoy the wrapped gifts under your tree all season. Gift wrapping starts at $15.

6. Dress Up The Bar
It goes without saying that you’ll want to keep your bar fully stocked around the holidays, but take it a step further with cookbook and WhatsGabyCooking.com author Gaby Dalkin's advice. “For a fun and festive flair, freeze mint leaves, lemon wedges, or raspberries in ice cubes to add an extra pop to your cocktails or sparking water.”

7. Eat The Tablescape 
"I love to use candy to decorate a holiday tablescape,” says Los Angeles interior designer Hillary Thomas. “Use clear glasses in varying heights and fill them with ribbon candy, peppermint sticks, anything in bright holiday colors! It's cheap, chic, and cheerful!"

8. Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff
Hire a virtual personal assistant, through a service like Red Butler, to take care of your errands so you can enjoy the holiday parties without worrying about mundane tasks like paying bills, buying plane tickets, making reservations, tracking down that out-of-print book your brother wants, and more. Starting at $20/month. 

9. Let Technology Work (Hard) For You
It's the morning of the party and you realize you're in need of batteries. Or a dozen extra wine glasses. Use the new eBay Now app or site and order select pieces from nearby major retailers such as Target or Bloomingdales. They'll arrive at your home in about an hour for a delivery charge of only $5.

10. Drink To Your Health
Ever notice how many meals you eat standing up during the holidays? Cheese and crackers don’t make for the best December diet. Instead, prep for the holiday merry-go-round with a stash of meal-replacement shakes like those from Urban Remedy. You'll drink your vitamins and minerals between events and shopping, so by the time you hit a party you'll be bright-eyed and ready to greet—not just by the food.


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