As I count down to my first Christmas as a mother of 3 in a brand new home that’s barely 1/3 in order, I am simultaneously overjoyed at how blessed I am and, frankly, a little overwhelmed by the sheer enormity of keeping 3 little ones (and myself) in festive mode throughout the month of December.
When winter hit us hard this year (with record snowfall in Stockholm in conjunction with a cold that affected every member of our family), I began to dream up ideas for how I could keep up the Christmas spirit while dialing down the stress. And then, in the midst of my pre-Christmas stress-minimisation musings, Lidl Sverige asked me to partner with them in creating some no-fuss festive recipes in line with their Christmas campaign, the premise of which is making sure no Christmas hero goes unsung (yes, that includes all those of us who budget/organise/pour love into creating an enjoyable celebration for our near & dear ones) while encouraging everyone to join in with the preparations.
So, with this post I am combining both my organisational tips for a peaceful, Advent with healthy, wholesome, budget-friendly festive recipes that can be prepped (with help from the kids) in advance of your celebration!
If we’ve been in touch for a while, you may know that I am an avid list writer with a propensity for taking on way too many commitments than can possibly be sustainable long-term. During 2016, in amongst having a baby, registering my own business (the same week as giving birth, no less 😛 ), selling our old place, moving to our new place and taking 4 separate overseas trips, I also started studying at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. I know that sounds like the decision-making of a mad woman, but there has been some logic to it all… and an important lesson that I have learned as a direct result of taking my course. I have a daily journal that was given to me by my school and with it I am supposed to set a daily intention, writing 3 – yes, 3 as opposed to 333 – tasks to undertake on any given day. It’s been a simple way of taking my list writing down a notch, finding a little more personal focus in the midst of circumstantial chaos, and generally getting back to basics.
I have decided to apply the same keep-it-simple tactic to Advent and Christmas this year. And I will combine this approach with others I believe work too, based on personal experience.
MY TOP TIPS FOR MINIMISING FESTIVITY-RELATED STRESS
Enjoy the lead-up, not just the occasion itself
This is crucial for someone like me who tends to suffer from pre-event anxiousness! In many areas of my life I am a ‘journey person’ as opposed to a destination one. I would like that to carry over to all areas of my life!
Prioritise experiences over things
For several reasons I believe this is the “way forward”. I don’t believe that any amount of toys/gifts/objects will shape my children more positively than quality time spent as a family having fun will, be it doing simple things such as baking together at home or travelling somewhere on a day trip. Secondly, budget doesn’t have to play such a large role in simple, everyday experiences. A trip to a park is free. As can be a crafting session to recycle things that may otherwise have been thrown out. Christmas is an occasion where the food is in focus, but you can be kinder to your bank balance by buying good quality, budget-friendly produce and cooking at home as a family… and the memory-making possibilities of doing so are invaluable. And on that note…
Get the family involved in preparation
Firstly, it makes it more fun. Secondly, the responsibilities are shared. Thirdly, preparation becomes a fun activity rather than a burden to be carried by one person!
Practice gratitude… and remember what it’s all about
Practicing gratitude has to be one of the easiest methods I use to snap myself out of a negative mind state any day/time of the year. And whether it comes to planning Christmas, a wedding or a party, keeping the core reason for the event in mind can also help stave off anxiety. Recently I spoke at an event about social media (more on that in an upcoming blog post). I am not a public speaker nor am I accustomed to putting myself “out there”, but the event was raising charitable legacy funds. So keeping that in my mind every time it all seemed overwhelming really helped, especially on the night itself (in fact, I was surprisingly calm and centred).
Be mindful of health & balance
Like gratitude, this is always important, but perhaps it’s even more apt to be mindful during a time of busyness, indulgence and (if you live where it’s bitterly cold 😛 ) reduced immunity.
’24 DAYS OF HAPPY, HEALTHY CELEBRATION’
If the things listed above resonate with you, yet you don’t know where to start when it comes to implementing them, I have taken the classic advent calendar model and replaced the “things” (candy/small gifts) that would normally be tucked away with little notes. On each note is an activity, and it is my hope that undertaking these activities will bring me and my family (and you & yours) a happier, healthier, more balanced December.
I have kept each note date-free and there are 16 pre-filled activity notes and 16 blank, making this Advent calendar highly customisable and leaving room for you to include all your personal favourite family traditions. Mix and match suggested activities with your own unique ones, and choose your own days/ calendar dates. In fact, you don’t even need to use an actual advent calendar (but it is rather cute, and fun for the kids to discover the “treat” du jour!).
For each suggested activity there is the easy version, then the super-easy one. I truly want this to be an achievable and fun exercise; the exact opposite of stressful.
For some of the activities, there are links to YouTube videos (click on them directly in the downloadable pdf or in the suggestions list below!). For some of them a recipe or crafting activity is mentioned.
And, to make things even easier for you, in partnership with Lidl Sverige (who have a clear goal of breaking the “Christmas stress” mold this year), I have created 3 simple wholesome recipes that can all be prepped ahead of time to hopefully make your holidays even more balanced and relaxing. And they’re all right here in this very post!
3 SIMPLE PREP-AHEAD RECIPES
to add to your no-fuss Christmas repertoire
Speckled Gingerbread Cookies
Based on the cookie recipe shared back when my little Oliver was a newborn, these no-fuss homemade treats (and a delicious smelling kitchen) are just minutes away! Make the dough in advance, freeze/refrigerate it and bake cookies as needed (or bake them and then freeze and thaw before serving!).
375 ml almond flour
60 ml tapioca flour
2 tsp ground ginger
1.5 tsp ground cinnamon
A pinch of ground clove
A pinch of salt
¼ tsp baking soda
2 tbsp coconut oil, melted
70 ml maple syrup
3 tbsp speckles of choice (e.g., chopped dried cranberries/cacao nibs/chopped dark chocolate/currants)
FOR DECORATING (optional)
Melted dark chocolate
- Preheat the oven to 180°C and line a baking tray with baking paper.
- In a large mixing bowl combine all dry ingredients. Add the coconut oil and syrup and mix until dough comes together.
- If your dough feels particularly tacky/sticky, place it in the fridge for 30 minutes or so to firm up a little, otherwise place it directly on a sheet of baking paper and dust it with a little tapioca flour.
- Roll the dough out flat with a rolling-pin (to around a 1/2 cm in thickness). Cut out as many gingerbread cookie shapes from the sheet of dough as you can. Re-form, re-dust and re-roll the excess dough to cut out extra cookie shapes.
- Bake for about 8-10 minutes (depending on cookie size and temperament of oven) and allow to cool completely before decorating with chocolate and coconut “sprinkles” if you like. To set the chocolate, place the cookies in the fridge or freezer.
Roast Veg & Buckwheat Salad with Ginger, Tamari & Orange Dressing
Roast the veggies and make the dressing and buckwheat the day before serving. Simply dress and add fresh greens when meal time rolls around.
3 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces
2 aubergines, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 onion, cut into 6 wedges
3 tbsp olive oil/melted coconut oil
450 ml buckwheat groats
750 ml water
A good pinch of salt
1 thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, peeled and cut in thirds
1 clove garlic, peeled & cut in half
2 tbsp olive oil
50 ml tamari
50 ml freshly squeezed orange juice (approx. 1/2 an orange)
TO ADD WHEN SERVING
Finely chopped herbs (such as parsley and chives)
Mixed fresh greens (such as rucola and baby spinach)
Pomegranate arils from half a pomegranate
2 tbsp pepitas
- Preheat your oven to 200°C (fan).
- Line a deep baking tray with foil/baking parchment.
- Add chopped aubergine and sweet potatoes to a large mixing bowl. Drizzle over oil and give the bowl a shake to coat the vegetables evenly.
- Tip veggies into the prepared tray and pop it in the oven for 30-35 minutes or until veggies are nicely roasted with edges caramelising/turning brown.
- Meanwhile, prepare buckwheat. Rinse buckwheat groats in a sieve under running water. Add to a large sauce pan with the water and a pinch of salt and allow to cook over low heat for around 20 minutes or until groats have cooked through and water is absorbed. Once done, remove from heat and allow to cool. Can be stored in the fridge or freezer prior to use.
- While the buckwheat is cooking and the veggies are roasting, prepare the dressing by combining all the ingredients in a small jar. Firmly screw on the lid, give the jar a good shake. Set to the side. Dressing can be made in advance and stored in the fridge. Note: the large pieces of garlic and ginger should be removed from dressing before serving (they are for infusing, not eating!).
- When ready to serve the salad, spoon buckwheat onto serving dish, top with roasted veggies, dress with half the dressing (reserve the rest for people to add extra as they like) and top with fresh greens, herbs, pomegranate arils and seeds.
- This dish can be served hot or cold. If hot, simply warm up the buckwheat and roasted veggies and top and dress as above.
Try serving this salad alongside veggie Swedish “meat”balls.
You can make your own (here’s an old recipe) or purchase organic ones such as these from Anamma.
Leftover salad? Perfect lunch-in-a-jar fare!
2-Minute Festive Warm Muesli
Make the basic muesli mix the night before (or hack it and just blitz 600 ml organic fruit & nut muesli in a food processor!). In the morning, simply pour over hot milk of choice and top with leftover sweet treats, for a no-waste, no-fuss festive breakfast.
Tip: if you made the previous two recipes you should have a selection of things (e.g., cookies, cranberries, pomegranate arils, orange and dark chocolate) to spare. These little bits and bobs make for the perfect toppings for your oats.
400 ml of oats
100 ml dates/golden raisins/dried apricots
100 ml almonds
80 ml desiccated coconut
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
A pinch of ground clove
- Blitz all ingredients (or 600 ml fruit and nut muesli) in a food processor to combine and reduce to a coarse crumb consistency.
- Store mix in an airtight container.
- When ready to serve, for each 100 ml serving of muesli mix, heat 250 ml milk of choice (I prefer oat, almond or cashew) .
- Pour milk over blitzed muesli mix, stir and top with treats of choice.
- Serve immediately.
I hope you find this post useful in some way. And I hope you feel as I do; that a stress-free, wholesome (with organic produce!) and enjoyable December/Christmas period should be the right of every family who wants it that way, not just a privileged, super-organised or wealthy few.
No matter your family traditions, culture or beliefs, I wish you a wonderful, peaceful December and a happy closing to what has hopefully been a happy 2016! ❤
Much love from Stockholm,
“Till julens hjältar och alla andra, ta hand om varandra i år. Glöm inte att hjälpas åt. Julen är för alla.”
(To the heroes of Christmas and everyone else, take care of each other this year. Don’t forget to help out. Christmas is for everyone.)
SOME FUN, FRUGAL DIY CHRISTMAS GIFT IDEAS
SOME FAMILY ACTIVITY IDEAS TO KEEP STRESS AT BAY
*As with the majority of ingredients, many of the items (including the clothes we are wearing and crafting materials) are from Lidl Sverige. [side note: aren’t the kids’ Lupilu jumpers adorable? I take credit for choosing them myself 😛 ] Much of what I used to create what you see in this post is organic too, yet I truly feel compelled to share that I was shocked to find the price point for ingredients was typical of (or lower than) many non-organic supermarket items found in other stores. I made it a personal mission to see what I could buy on a limited budget from this famous budget supermarket and was honestly surprised myself to see what was possible to get in terms of both quality and quantity. I have included active links to Lidl Sverige. Using these links will not generate any revenue for me. They are for your shopping convenience, for ease of searching and for transparency of sponsorship purposes only. And, as always, all opinions stated here are genuine and my own. 🙂