Today, we are answering your questions all about the upcoming holiday season.
You can find the podcast posts archive here.
And if you’re looking for a specific code you heard on the podcast, you can see a full list on this page!
Ultimate cozy night:
Elsie – Classic Christmas playlist, making snowflakes, and popcorn
What do you do with your Christmas decorations on Thanksgiving:
Keep Christmas decorations up in rest of house and only decorate the dining room for Thanksgiving
Merge Christmas decorations with Thanksgiving
How do you let your kids help decorate?
You don’t have to keep everything out all at once, so move stuff around and take down things after a day or two
Give them freedom to do what they want
Let them decorate their own rooms
Limit their color palette
Provide crafts that you don’t mind hanging up (Check out our Childhood Magic templates HERE)
Ideas for Christmas brunch:
Check out our blog post on Sweet Brunch Recipes for the Holidays
Building gingerbread houses
Do you have any holiday/Christmas adult books you would recommend to read?
Royal Holiday by Jasmine Gilroy
Holiday movie recommendations:
The Family Stone
How to make a Christmas baby feel special:
Christmas during the day and birthday event in the evening
Do a birthday party before Christmas
What to do with spot for Christmas tree the rest of the year:
Tree or plant with fairy lights
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Episode 209 Transcript:
Elsie: You’re listening to the A Beautiful Mess podcast, your cozy comfort listen. Today, we’re answering your questions about the upcoming holiday season. So this is a Q and A week all about holiday questions. This is fun.
Emma: Yep. And these are all listening questions. I think they’re all from the podcast box.
Elsie: Okay. Before we jump in, I thought of something so fun I wanted to talk about. So the ultimate cozy night. Cause last night I was trying to have the ultimate cozy night. What’s your Christmas playlist? What’s your snack, and what’s your activity?
Emma: so playlist, I feel like I tend to put on, you know, we have one of those, like, you talk to the computer and you tell it to play something. I don’t want to say any of them in case, you know, someone has it in their home. And anyway, but I usually tell it some kind of like random Spotify playlist that has like all crooners. So basically like Frank Sinatra era type Rat Pack singers, because I just feel like it’s very classic and there’s some specific Christmas ones that have like the old time Christmas songs and they’re sung by, you know, so I tend to like those. It just makes me feel like a classy person. Like I’m in a Nancy Myer’s movie.
Elsie: You know, I have my Andy Williams thing.
Emma: Yeah. So. It’s like that. And then what was the other thing? Snack and what are you watching?
Elsie: Yeah. I like your activity.
Emma: Oh, activity. I mean, I love watching movies, obviously, but I also do love a puzzle. If you’re with someone who enjoys doing a puzzle. I’m not a real puzzle by myself person. I’ve learned that about myself over the years. I like to chat while we’re sorting out the colors and finding the edge pieces and all that. Like, I think it’s kind of fun. So I like it at a party and I like it if a couple of friends are over. If they enjoy puzzles. You never want to force the puzzle on someone. But actually, Oscar has gotten really into puzzles every morning at 6:30 a.m. We’re doing puzzles right now, he’s very into it. He’s pretty good at them. Surprisingly good for a two-and-a-half-year-old. Okay, and then the other thing? Snack? I mean, savory or sweet? Both, I guess. Yeah, I mean, I love soup. I have this really good tomato soup I made for Halloween.
Elsie: Soup is not a snack.
Emma: Soup is my savory. This is my savory. I think it’d be a snack. Like, it could be a small meal. It could be a light meal. It could be a heavy meal, too. It depends on the soup. Or, like, if you put crackers in it or not, I guess. I don’t know. But I have this tomato soup that I made for when we were hanging out at Halloween. And I think it’s great any time of year, anytime it’s cold. And it can be light, or you can put stuff in it, like serve it with bread or whatever. But it’s basically like a Panera copycat soup, and I think it’s really good. So that, and then I also have these soft and chewy peanut butter cookies. So they have peanut butter chips in them. It’s kind of like, you know, when you put chocolate chips in your brownies, so it’s like you have like a very chocolatey brownie. It’s like that, but peanut butter cookies. And they’re on the blog, but they’re really, really good. I make them really often. Okay. What’s yours?
Elsie: Okay. So my Christmas playlist, I think it’s pretty much just like classic Christmas songs, but we like to go like from the spectrum of like, The Burl Ives, you know, like the snowman singing, all the way to Mariah Carey, and that’s pretty much the spectrum.
Emma: I do like Kacey Musgraves though, and that’s fairly new. It’s not new, new, but it’s like newer.
Elsie: For a snack, it’s just like all popcorn all the time. Popcorn, popcorn, popcorn. Nothing but Popcorn’s Whirlypop. That’s what I’m interested in right now. And then for an activity, I definitely love a puzzle. At the moment though, we’re in our snowflakes era, and we’re probably going to be in it for at least a couple more weeks.
Emma: I need to buy Oscar some safety scissors and see if he can do it, I don’t know if he’s quite ready for it.
Elsie: He’s two years old. He’s not old enough to do that yet.
Emma: I think he could make some ugly ones though, and it could be fun.
Elsie: I mean, I think he could practice cutting paper.
Emma: He could practice cutting paper, yeah.
Elsie: Yeah. Make some confetti. Yeah. If you think he’s gonna cut a snowflake.
Emma: I think honestly just giving him the safety scissors, he’d probably be like, wow. I never let him have scissors.
Elsie: It is exciting, and I think practicing your scissors skills can take years.
Emma: It can take a long time. Yeah. I’m still practicing now. I’m 37.
Elsie: Okay, do you want to jump into the questions? The Q&A?
Emma: Yes. So the first one is from Catherine. It says, if I remember correctly, y’all don’t wait until December to decorate for Christmas. So how do you handle the crossover Thanksgiving Christmas decor? Do you hide your Christmas decorations for one day of Thanksgiving? Do you embrace the Christmas magic, even on such a distinct fall holiday?
Elsie: Okay. I love this question, cause I think this is like funny how controversial it gets. This is one of the ways that the internet truly delights me. When people are messaging me they’re like, I would put up my Christmas stuff, but my husband says I have to wait until after Thanksgiving. And I’m just like typing back don’t listen to him. So, yeah, my strategy is Thanksgiving, 100%, real holiday, important holiday, big, major holiday, we absolutely love it, but for me, it’s a dining room holiday. So I will decorate the table for Thanksgiving. I don’t feel like I need to decorate the whole house for Thanksgiving, and I’m totally fine with having Christmas trees up all over the house during Thanksgiving.
Emma: I mean, there are trees outside, you know. So it’s not like they’re not seasonal for the time of year.
Elsie: I’m still making the table very, you know, fall-looking Thanksgiving. And I just think for me, it’s so much work putting all the Christmas up that I need the extra month to enjoy it. I’m not willing to have only one month. Cause if you waited until after Thanksgiving, you’d have even less than a month cause you’d still be setting it up. It’s just too short for me. So everyone has to do what they want. But yeah, my strategy with my husband is that I make the rules of the seasonal decor, and I think that’s fair. I clean it up, I get it out, I do most of it, the majority of it by myself. It’s my thing, and for him to ever, ever try to control my seasonal decor would be like, so unhinged and it would be like. It would be crossing every boundary for me. So he would not do that.
Emma: Yeah. This is another reason I highly recommend living together before you get married so that you can know the level of someone’s holiday decor you can get a feel for that because if that’s a problem for you, maybe you should know that ahead of time before death do you part. Because, you know, some people just need to put up. It’s part of our mental health plan to get up the Christmas decorations when we can, okay? So please don’t take that away. But yeah, for me, I kind of do like a crossover situation. So my Halloween stuff is a mix of spooky skeletons and things like that, and also a lot of pumpkins.
Elsie: Oh, so do you leave out the pumpkins and take out the spooky?
Emma: Yup. So right now, you know, what is today? November 1st as we’re recording?
Elsie: November 2nd.
Emma: November 2nd? I don’t know. I’m taking away the spooky, putting away the skeletons, putting away the specific Halloween, but I’m leaving the pumpkins and the pumpkins won’t start going away until after Thanksgiving. So they’ll stay out for Thanksgiving because they work for me. And I actually have a lot of Christmas stuff that to me vibes in the middle. It’s not like Crazy Christmas. It’s kind of the same thing as Halloween where it’s like it’s kind of this crossover. So I’ll start because I like to decorate slowly because I do it basically all myself And that doesn’t bother me, but I don’t want to do it all in one night.
Elsie: Yeah, do it when you’re in the mood to just do a little bit of time.
Emma: Yeah, I like an hour in the evening and that’s it. So I’ll just get a couple of things out. So I may put up my Christmas trees before Thanksgiving and I may not, it’s not a big rush to me cause I’m putting things up slowly. I’m getting out, you know, a little carton at a time. And yeah, I don’t put my Christmas tree in my dining room, so it doesn’t really feel like a big deal to me if people came over, which Elsie’s hosting our family Thanksgiving this year.
Elsie: I have a Christmas tree in the dining room and I don’t care. My position is as long as you can take a picture of your Thanksgiving table without a Christmas tree in the picture, that’s good enough. Nothing else is required.
Emma: I just don’t feel like Christmas decor ruins Thanksgiving.
Elsie: I hope it doesn’t.
Emma: It just doesn’t for me, ’cause I feel like there are so many movies where they’re doing Thanksgiving, and it doesn’t look like only pumpkins and fall leaves. It looks like a little Christmassy.
Elsie: Like the Thanksgiving Day Parade is very Christmassy.
Emma: It’s very Christmassy. Yeah, so it’s like not really a big deal. And like here where I live in Southwest Missouri, it’s a very, you know, everybody’s seasons are different. We have all four seasons, but it almost felt like it could have snowed on Halloween this year. So I just feel like the seasons are kind of a mix sometimes some years feel more like it might snow for Thanksgiving this year. I don’t know. So I don’t really see a reason to hide all my decor that looks like snow cause It might be snowing outside, so I don’t know. To me, it doesn’t really feel like I have to protect. I feel like it just makes Thanksgiving better, but I definitely do a crossover thing and it’s solely because I’m kind of lazy and I’m the main person who decorates at my house cause I’m the person who enjoys it the most. So I just do it slowly. And so it ends up being this kind of Halloween fades out and it’s left with pumpkins and fall and then Christmas fades in and it’s just how it goes.
Elsie: Woo hoo, sister! I think that’s a good strategy. I do, I mean, I’m going to leave my pumpkins on the porch for longer, so I’m like starting inside with the Christmas.
Emma: Well, I bought my real pumpkins this year, so I’m just going to let them naturally fade into existence and see how that goes. I don’t know. It got cold this year, so I’m curious how long.
Elsie: A little melted squirrel food soon?
Emma: Yeah, exactly. Thanksgiving meal for them.
Elsie: Yes. Okay, the next question is from Alexandra. I want to give my five-year-old daughter the freedom to decorate. How do I let her help decorate for the holidays without it becoming randomish everywhere? She has her own ideas that are totally the opposite of what I would do. It’s mostly seasonal drawings that she just tapes up all over the house. She will not let me make a small gallery of her art. Okay, I have these exact children so I absolutely know. Honestly, this is my honest advice just let it happen because it’s a short amount of life when your kids are little enough to where they want to like tape random stuff on the walls. I think that if you move things around when they’re not looking, which I do. I definitely do that.
Emma: Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t.
Elsie: Reducing clutter and stuff, you know, like once they’re so excited about something, but then the next day they’ll be excited about something else you don’t have to keep everything out all at once. So, I think moving things around, but I think giving them the freedom to let them do it their way at first, I think is a very kind, like good parenting thing to do. And you know, you can always like adjust a little bit. My kids are always excited about change so I don’t have as much of a problem with if I don’t leave it exactly the same, they’re able to handle that. Another suggestion that I have is to let them decorate their own rooms because we are doing bedroom trees, which I know is great. I know that it’s like, level 10, but the thing that’s cool about the bedroom trees is that, you know, they get to decorate them with their own interests and their own special things. And like, if they make ornaments at school, you know, things like that. I think a bedroom is a really good space for things like that. If it’s absolutely too much like kids’ stuff for you, then maybe that’s one way to like, give it a space where it makes the most sense. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having like a tree that’s like your tree that’s your beautiful tree. And then another kid’s tree. Yeah. I think that’s totally acceptable.
Emma: That’s another thing too, like letting them decorate their room. I would also point out like you could decorate your room and be like, this is mommy and dad’s room and I’m going to decorate it mommy’s way in here, and you can come to look at it, but this is my area like it is really okay to have boundaries with your kids, I think it’s really healthy and that’s part of life. That’s part of having a relationship, obviously, at different ages. Introducing that idea in different ways in age-appropriate ways is normal and good. But yeah, having boundaries is fine. Keeping something for yourself is fine. I think sometimes moms have a hard time with that. I know I do. And the only other tip I have, other than just letting it go, is to limit their color palette. So probably you are the one who supplies a lot of their art supplies. So to make it a little less random-ish, limit the color choices they have of their paints, of their color, of their crayons, whatever it is that they use to make their art with, you know? So if you’re like, we’re going to do, you know, Thanksgiving palette right now, so just only let them have red, oranges, yellows, maybe black, brown, whatever, take away the blue and the purple, you know, and that will make things feel a little more cohesive, even though it’s all randomish. Whatever they’re feeling, but you know, and I know some people don’t want to, if you don’t want to do that, that’s fine too. You can let your kids do whatever you want. But if you’re like, it’s driving you a little nuts that they have all these Ninja Turtles up during Thanksgiving, that’s okay too. If it’s bothering you, just be like okay we’re going to make some orange and red Ninja Turtles right now. It’s the season for that or whatever.
Elsie: Yeah, my suggestion is to provide the crafts that you want. So I like paper chains. I like paper snowflakes and I like making ornaments and that’s pretty much the projects that we’ll do. And I will link this in the show notes, but on childhood magic, we have a ton of really good templates you can use. I’m thinking of, in particular, the snow globe one and the gingerbread one. They’re so cute.
Emma: There’s a mitten one. There are also some Turkey ones. There’s one for bigger kids, a 3d Turkey where they can cut it out and make it like for like the center of a table or whatever, like it can sit on top of a tabletop, it’s 3d. Yeah. There’s a whole bunch on there and they’re really cute. So you don’t have to feel like they’re, you know, like a style that’s maybe not one that you prefer in your house or whatever.
Elsie: Yeah, I just decorate a ton when my kids are at school, and then when they come home, they’re like, wow. And then I let them do one thing, you know because kids usually don’t have the attention span to really help you do the whole project in the first place
Emma: Yeah, they get tired. They want to move on to a different activity.
Elsie: I hope that was helpful. I think that that’s such a sweet question.
Emma: Yeah, and you can look forward to the years when they get old and they’re in high school and they move out, college, whatever, and your house will look exactly how you want.
Elsie: That’s true.
Emma: You’ll have your season. Don’t worry. Okay, so this next question is from Grace. My idea is to throw a Christmas brunch this year. It will be couples in their thirties and forties and no kids. I’m having trouble thinking of things to do besides a white elephant exchange and a mimosa-boozy hot chocolate bar. Can you think of any activities or have any must-have food recommendations? I’m excited, but I want to make sure it’s not a bunch of awkward silence.
Elsie: Okay, I have a couple ideas. So we will link in the show notes Emma’s best brunch recipes. Cause she has so many good casseroles and there’s like, I think the French toast sticks would be cute. There are so many things that you’ve made that would be cute for a party like that.
Emma: There are some good cocktails too, that are like mimosa on steroids kind of things.
Elsie: I love the boozy hot chocolate bar. I think that’s a really cute idea. You should definitely do that.
Emma: Invite me, Grace.
Elsie: Okay. The thing that I think would be fun for a party like this, but I will say if you’re doing White Elephant, that can take up a lot of time, and it’s kind of its own activity.
Emma: And I think it’s fun. I love white elephant.
Elsie: Yeah, I think it’s fun too. The other thing that I think would be so cute is either decorating cookies or doing gingerbread houses, which is a lot of prep. I did a gingerbread house party last year and I like to put them all together myself. It’s expensive, it’s a lot of prep. But it’s so cute and it’s so fun.
Emma: It’s really festive and it is kind of fun to do it with no kids if you’ve never done it because you can really get into it. You could even make it like a competition if you want if your friends like that kind of thing and there’s a prize or, you know, whatever.
Elsie: Yeah, I think that would be so cute. I don’t think it’s going to be awkward silence. I think you’re going to have so much fun.
Emma: And just have a playlist going. As long as you have a playlist it’s never going to feel that awkward and silent because it’s going to feel festive and there’s a party and people can, you know, mosey around and stuff.
Elsie: I like the idea of having a party with no kids.
Emma: I know. It sounds fun, yeah.
Elsie: Okay. The next question is from Christine. Do you have any holiday slash Christmas adult books that you would recommend to read? Last year I had a couple of ones that got me into the spirit. Okay, so I have never read a Christmassy novel. Have you? I don’t have any recommendations.
Emma: I really only had one and it’s Royal Holiday by Jasmine Gilroy. She does like romance because I will say there are quite a few romance writers and also cozy murder mysteries. So they’re not super dark, they’re kind of lighter you know, cozy mysteries. Those two genres tend to have like seasonal like they’ll have a Halloween thing, they’ll have a Christmas. So if you like romance or you like a cozy murder mystery, I think those are great ones to look into. Also, you can go to the library and look for Christmas books and there are lots of random ones.
Elsie: I wish I had a recommendation. I’m going to give movie recommendations instead cause that’s what I do have. So this is my ultimate lineup of Christmas movies for feeling cozy and we already started this morning, right? Okay, so The Holiday and The Family Stone, I love Home Alone and Gremlins are my favorite happy kind of funny. Gremlins I don’t know I have a weird thing with them it makes me so happy.
Emma: It’s just like a wacky kids’ horror movie. Don’t actually show it to kids It’s like too little of kids, but It’s so funny.
Elsie: Much older kids, I think, but yeah, not little kids. And the last one is Harry Potter, the whole series, but especially the first one. I watch it so much this time of year like my background movie and it brings me the most possible joy.
Emma: Yeah. I watched half of the first one the other night while I was painting my nails using my little nail lamp again.
Elsie: Yes. I feel like I spent a lot of time trying to find Halloween books this year and witchy books, which was great, but I haven’t even thought that it never occurred to me to try to find a Christmasy novel. That’s a good idea.
Emma: Next question’s from Maura. My daughter was born last year, and her birthday is December 25th, so obviously Christmas. We are navigating her first birthday, and I’m wondering if you have any ideas on how to still make her birthday feel special for her, even though it’s a special day for everyone. And I’m a huge Christmas lover, so downplaying the holiday isn’t an option. I didn’t think it was, don’t worry. Actually, my father-in-law’s birthday is on December 25th. He is also a Christmas baby.
Elsie: Tell us what helps him enjoy it.
Emma: So he’s an adult obviously, he’s my father-in-law, I think as a parent, once you start having kids your birthday gets a little, it’s different than when you’re a kid, right? So, you know, there’s that going on. But what we usually do is like Christmas is all day and then the evening is like a special dinner or a time for him to open just birthday presents. So they kind of try to set aside some time on the day. And I think it works and I think he likes it just fine, but I would be curious, I should ask him what his parents did when he was a kid to try to make that special because it actually sounds really challenging.
Elsie: It sounds really challenging. I think I would do it on a different day, too, and probably before Christmas would be my instinct. Like, if it was even a couple days before Christmas to have like a designated birthday party with birthday gifts so that you don’t have to wait, and you feel like you’ve kind of already enjoyed that and then you can enjoy Christmas. I don’t know. I’d like to hear what you end up doing and what ends up working because that is a very unique problem, and honestly, it sounds tough.
Emma: It does sound tough. It sounds sweet. Also picturing too, like she was in the hospital on Christmas last year. Like, Oh, that’s so sweet and special. But yeah, it does sound challenging, especially as her daughter grows, making that feel special.
Elsie: As long as you have a designated birthday and it’s not like people giving one present that’s supposed to count for two occasions, cause that’s rude.
Emma: That’s not cool. But yeah, it’s a little overload. It feels like an overload in one day for a kid.
Elsie: The next one’s from Jackie. The space where I put my Christmas tree is kind of a sad, empty corner for the rest of the year, I relate to that. I don’t want to put furniture there or something big that I can’t move when it’s Christmas time. I’ve been debating buying a fake Birds of Paradise plant to put there, but I’m not settled on it yet. How do you style the space where you put your Christmas tree during the other nine to 10? I like how she’s nine to 10 months of the year. Okay, so Emma had the ultimate strategy. She thought of this at our holiday house, and I just think it’s so great. It is just regular decorative trees with fairy lights in them, so then you can plug them in, they don’t have to be plugged in. There are so many different trees that look good with this. Anything that’s kind of like full and leafy, I think you had it with a fiddle. But there are also more sparse ones that I think would be really nice too. I wouldn’t do like an olive tree, I think that’s too sparse.
Emma: Might be too sparse, but it could look very Charlie Brown Christmas tree.
Elsie: I totally relate to that, though. It’s like the hole in your heart, and you don’t want to put something there that you don’t have a place for. I think another kind of tree is the best move.
Emma: Yeah. That’s what I do and I will say, being realistic here, once all the Christmas decorations come down, it’s kind of a sad time. It’s just like, you’re like, oh, my house feels so much more boring and less decorated and minimal and clean, which is nice, but just less festive. And I think you kind of just have to prepare your heart for that a little bit when you take down all your stuff. I usually don’t take it down all the way until after New Year’s because yeah, it’s just not as fun. Christmas is very fun. If you like Christmas decor, it’s sad when you have to take it down and wait. Which is why we’re all like getting it out so early and everyone’s like, why? And I’m like because I’ll miss it when it’s over. But yeah, putting some fairy lights on some fake plants or real plants around your house I think can help, especially during dark months. And it can still feel like festive, but not in a holiday way because obviously, the holidays are over. And I’m not the type to leave my Christmas tree up all year. Some people do, but it’s just not for me.
Elsie: Not for me either, and I wouldn’t decorate like I don’t really decorate for Valentine’s Day or Easter or really like any of the holidays until it’s Fall again, it’s kind of the main time that I have like tubs of decorations.
Emma: I have like a couple of garlands and we’ll put up some kid art, but yeah, I don’t really do a whole lot either for Valentine’s Day.
Elsie: I kind of think I think that’s a very valid problem though. And where we live, the best strategy is to schedule a vacation after Christmas because you just need something different to look forward to and kind of get through the winter months, maybe two vacations. It’s a sad time.
Emma: Yeah. It’s just like everything’s dead outside where we live and it’s kind of snowy, which is very pretty, but it can be icy. And so it’s harder to get out and see friends or do things and there can be a lot of school closures at times and I don’t know, which can be fun, but it can also be, I don’t know, just sort of a bummer time of year a little bit, but I do love the four seasons, so it’s worth it, but it’s not my favorite part right after Christmas.
Elsie: All right. I think this week we have a special meditation with Nova. Hey Nova, what do you have for us this week?
Nova: A meditation.
Elsie: What kind?
Nova: A Thanksgiving meditation.
Elsie: Okay, I’m closing my eyes.
Nova: So imagine you’re in your bed. You wake up. You think about school. Then you’re like, wait, it’s Thanksgiving! You hop out of bed and run downstairs. Your family and friends are there, and your parents, bringing in food and you smell delicious food in the air and you know It’s Thanksgiving time. So, you get on your Thanksgiving dress, and then you get on your Thanksgiving shorts, and then you run into the kitchen, then you sit down, everyone sits down, you all are talking excitedly. When it’s time for your grandparents to go, you’re very sad, but then your parents surprise you with something. A little pet chicken.
Nova: You smile, and you say, Thank you.
Elsie: Can we open our eyes now?
Elsie: Okay, thanks so much, Nova. Oh my gosh. She’s so cute. Thanks so much for listening. You can submit questions at [email protected] or call our voicemail at 417-893-0011. We will be back next week with our Thanksgiving favorites episode.