Skip to content
Home » Head Start to the Holidays

Head Start to the Holidays

Gift box with Make a Wish Tag

As the holiday season approaches, we often find ourselves caught up in a whirlwind of preparation, hustling to create the perfect festivities. But what if, this year, we took a different approach? Let’s slow down and savor the true essence of the season, discovering the simple joys that have always made our hearts sing. Join me in a journey through the Foundational 5 F’s – Food, Family, Friends, Flora, and Fauna – as I embark on a head start to the holidays. In this post, I’ll share ways to pare back on the stress and embrace the things that bring the most joy. From self-care to thoughtful do-ahead ideas, let’s uncover the magic of the holidays in the most delightful and meaningful ways. So, grab a cup of hot cocoa, cozy up, and let’s explore some tips to make this season truly special and unforgettable.

Festive Food

Food is the heart and soul of any holiday celebration; at least in my family!  It has the power to evoke cherished memories and create new traditions. In this section, we’ll dive into the delicious realm of holiday flavors. From treasured family recipes like my grandmother’s apple crisp, (which I can’t wait to share with you), to a host of practical food-related ideas that will make your holiday season a breeze. Whether you’re seeking easy-to-prepare, make-ahead dishes, comforting holiday beverages, or the joy of enjoying takeout with loved ones, I’ve got you covered. Let’s make food a source of joy, not stress, this holiday season and keep the focus where it matters most:  on the company, the conversations, and the moments that truly matter.

Stone-dried orange slices on chocolate cake

If you’re like me, you can’t make every recipe pinned on your Pinterest boards without exhausting yourself.  But, you can intentionally select a few items to showcase.

Savor the Season
  • Highlight one or two family-favorite side-dishes, desserts, or appetizers (like my grandmother’s apple crisp above)
  • Make-ahead dishes are wonderful time savers when you really need them. A sweet or savory compound butter can be a special addition to the table.  Freeze-ahead desserts/ appetizers/soups are time-savers, yet full of homemade goodness.  Additionally, store-bought puff pastry works beautifully as a rustic tart crust. You can mix sliced fruit with a tablespoon of Minute Tapioca (to gel juices).  Add a hint of sugar and spice. Fill the tart shell and bake!
  • Comfort Beverages:  Hot chocolate, coffee, tea, cider and seasonal flavorings are iconic this time of year.  I’ll share my pumpkin spice half & half recipe to get you started!  Also consider a hot beverage station on your countertop.  Arrange with seasonal mugs and fun stirrers like candy canes and cinnamon sticks.  Family and friends will happily make their own holiday creations!
  • Take-out.  You don’t have to cook every meal. Ordering takeout gets you out of the kitchen and into the conversation.  Relax and celebrate with your guests.  Keep clean-up easy as well with disposable holiday servingware.
  • Self-care.  Don’t forget to stay hydrated and maintain a foundation of good nutrition and sleep habits during the holidays.  It will keep your energy up and keep you balanced while partaking in seasonal treats!
Compound butter on a serving board
Hot cocoa mugs with chocolate rims and cinnamon stick stirrers
Holiday table, man pouring wine
Woman's hands holding black collapsible water bottle

Family and Friends

As the holiday season approaches, time with family and friends is at the forefront. Yet, too often, the hustle and bustle of shopping, cooking, decorating, and cleaning can leave us frazzled and exhausted.  As a result, we miss out on what truly matters. In this section, let’s explore ways to set aside time for our loved ones, and enjoy those moments without the stress. From cozy fireside gatherings, to delightful dinners out, and heartwarming board games, there are countless opportunities to embrace the essence of the season. 

Overhead shot of dining table.

Placing focus on the simple joy of quality time with those you hold dear is never a mistake.  It can make the holiday season one to remember for years to come.

Time Well Spent
  • Again, there is no rule saying you have to cook every meal.  Enjoy an evening out to dinner with friends during the holidays.  Or, meet at a festively decorated cafe and treat yourselves to coffee, cookies and catch-up.
  • Fireside ambiance is a favorite of mine during the holidays.  I like to have a basket of warm socks by the fireplace along with a stock of cozy throw blankets and pillows. And, why not throw in pajamas and a movie?  If you don’t have an indoor fireplace; an outdoor marshmallow roast or ordering a tabletop one at a restaurant is loads of fun and adds a bit of seasonal whimsy.
  • Board games are a way to relax and have fun with your loved ones.  Add that fireplace ambience to the mix and there’s no better simple pleasure.
  • Ask a friend or two if they’d like to have a gift-wrapping party.  It’s a great way to catch up, share a glass of wine or cup of tea and get things done!
  • Delegate.  You don’t have to do everything by yourself.  Ask guests if they have a favorite side dish or dessert they would like to share at your next gathering.  Put a family member in charge of beverages.  Ask your immediate family to take part in the chore list.
Closeup of Scrabble letters
Two women's hands making bow on wrapped package
Woman in white sweater and glasses making a list


As the holiday season unfolds, nature gifts us with an abundance of natural beauty, inviting us to bring the outdoors in and infuse our homes with warmth and charm. In this section, let’s take a leisurely gathering walk and explore outdoor treasures that will enhance seasonal decor. From pinecones, acorns, and chestnuts that add a rustic touch to arrangements and Christmas trees, to garlands and wreaths woven with herbs and vines that bring a fragrant, earthy allure, there are countless ways to adorn your space with natural elements. Floral arrangements, live plants like Christmas cactus and amaryllis bulbs, as well as branches and twigs, can last from Thanksgiving through the New Year.

Chestnuts, pinecones and dried leaf

If you don’t have an outdoor area to explore and forage; there are plenty of natural selections at the florist and craft store.  If you can take a hike, I encourage you to explore how the outdoors can become an integral part of your holiday décor, creating a cozy and inviting atmosphere that celebrates the beauty of the season.

Natural Holiday Beauty
  • Cones, acorns and berries are abundant as we begin November.  Add them to floral arrangments, tablescapes and greenery around your home.
  • There are so many evergreen branches that make lovely bristly wreaths or soft, swaggy garlands.  Some Christmas tree farms have them available for purchase if you do not have a property you can gather from.
  • Seasonal fresh floral arrangements are lovely this time of year.  The deep velvety colors of fall and winter can be found at your local florist and grocery stores.  Fill them in with Christmas tree cuttings and gathered twigs, nuts and berries.
  • Live plants like Christmas cactus and amaryllis are longer lasting additions to your tablesettings and holiday decor.  You can enjoy them annually.
  • I also love to gather branches and twigs for centerpieces or use them as stand-alone accents.  Check out this Winter Wonderland DIY project.
Closeup of holiday wreath
Floral arrangement on holiday dining table
Closeup of red amaryllis blossom
Closeup of Red Berry Detail


As the holiday season envelops us with warmth and festivity, let’s not forget the beloved members of our extended family, both indoors and in our own backyard. Our pets and the wildlife that visit our outdoor spaces also appreciate a touch of seasonal care and kindness. In this section, let’s think about the ways we can provide extra nutrition and protection to our furry friends. From crafting homemade stocking treats for pets to ensuring our outdoor birds have nourishing suet, let’s delve into gestures that make this season a true time of giving.

Horses in winter field

Extending a helping hand and to the Fauna that enriches our world, celebrates the spirit of giving in its purest form.

Embrace Wildlife Wonder
  • Homemade pet biscuits made with healthy ingredients are a fun way to support your pet’s good health while providing a tasty holiday treat.  I have two recipes I can share with you for peanut butter-pumpkin dog biscuits and low sugar/starch horse treats.
  • Winter gear.  Sometimes older and short-haired pets need a little extra warmth when going outside in freezing temperatures.  Having blankets, coats and gear on hand for pets can help them keep weight on and regulate body temperature during cold weather.
  • Bird suet and seed.  If you enjoy backyard birds as well as those seasonally migrating to warmer climates, you might choose to support them with additional feed.  This can be helpful during harsh winters in colder regions when food sources are scarce.  I have a simple recipe for no-lard bird suet if you’d like to try it!
  • Reserve some seed heads and leaf litter during yard clean-up.  Leaving some leaf litter can provide winter shelter for beneficial insects.   Visiting birds will enjoy the dried seed heads.  I have a variety of birds that work on my dry coneflower seed heads during cold weather.
  • Salt licks.  Again, livestock, such as horses benefit from having a salt lick available.  If you are not trying to deter deer from your yard, they will enjoy a salt lick as well for a convenient source of nutrients.
Long eared tan dog in red winter coat
Woodpecker on suet feeder
Closeup of dried coneflower seed heads
Closeup of salt lick

As we wrap up our journey through the Foundational 5 F’s this holiday season – Food, Family, Friends, Flora, and Fauna – it’s important to remember that I’m not suggesting you must do it all. Instead, I encourage you to reflect on what truly matters to you and your loved ones. This season, let’s pare back the distractions and stress, and focus our time on the things that will make this season feel like a true holiday. Whether you choose to savor a favorite recipe, create heartwarming moments with family and friends, incorporate the beauty of nature into your decor, or extend your kindness to the creatures that share your world, the key is to find joy in the simplicity of the season. These moments define the holiday. May this season be filled with warmth, love, and the magic of what truly matters.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *