There are those who meticulously decorate dozens of sugar cookies for the office cookie exchange, give bottles of homemade Irish cream to coworkers for the holidays or send perfectly curated gift baskets to family and friends. And there are those who may want to do all of that, but don't have the time or the creative flair. But that doesn’t mean their holidays can’t have that “homemade” charm. All it takes is a little help and savvy know-how, and your holiday celebrations can have the same love and care as if you DIYed them.
Here are some ways for you to make it look like a pro-DIYer was behind your holiday entertaining.
Semi-homemade hors d'oeuvres. Combine pre-made phyllo cups with already-prepared deli items like tuna or chicken salad, chicken curry, barbecued beef or pork or anything else that appeals to your palate. Or fill them with cheese like cubed brie or gruyere and pop them in the oven until the cheese is bubbly, or use ready-made pie filling to make a sweet treat. You can even raid your pantry and fill them with what you already have on hand. They're elegant and easy, a perfect combination!
Know when to outsource. Cooking dinner or heavy hors d'oeuvres for a crowd can be time-consuming, but not everyone can use that time to prep for a party. The busy host or hostess knows the secret sauce of holiday entertaining is knowing when and what duties to outsource. Dessert is one easy option and a big time-saver. Even catering in your whole party becomes affordable when you factor in the cost of ingredients and the time you'll spend prepping, cooking and cleaning up. Many grocery stores will even deliver a party to your door, hot, assembled and ready to go.
Hire a cleaning service. Kids and pets — and let’s face it, ourselves from time-to-time — tend to leave a swath of dirt, debris and clutter in their wake on the best of days, but around the holidays the mess seems to get magnified into epic proportions. Lucky for us, there are services like Merry Maids, which offers a variety of customizable cleaning services — from light housekeeping to disposing of those takeout boxes that have been in your fridge since the Clinton administration, to a deep clean of your entire house top-to-bottom. Even though 53 percent of women and 44 percent of men claim to enjoy cleaning — according to research Merry Maids recently conducted — a majority (72 percent) would “happily outsource their house cleaning to a service if they could.” This is likely because two-thirds of them (68 percent) also agree that having a cleaning service alleviates stress, and there is already enough of that going around during the holidays.
Give homemade gifts. (Just not made in your home.) You can find anything online, from handmade ornaments to art and collectibles. Etsy is one great site for finding creative gifts you may not have even known existed. It specializes in handcrafted, vintage and unique items, many that have been homemade. No one said they had to be made in your home. If you're feeling creative, you can use Etsy and other online sites to find easy ways to personalize or DIY gifts you already have. One option is to make custom labels, which you can find on Etsy, for craft beer or wine to give as gifts. Or take something as simple as a candle or quilt and customize it to make it that much more meaningful.
Don't even think about making dough. Ready-made pie crusts make baking a pie child's play. One super easy recipe that will take you literally five minutes to assemble: Line a pie plate with one of the crusts. Mix 5 cups thawed or fresh blueberries with 1/2 cup sugar, 2 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca and 1 tablespoon lemon juice, pop the mixture into the crust, top it all with the second crust and cut four slits in it. Fancy it up by brushing the top crust with milk and sprinkling a little sugar on it. Bake according to the directions on the pie crust box and boom, you've got pie. (Secret tip: You can buy pie filling ready made in a can, too.)
With everyone's lives being so hectic these days between work, getting the kids to school and their various activities, and finding a few minutes to connect with your loved ones on any given day, the holidays can kick stress up a notch. But celebrating with family and friends should be fun and relaxing, right? Give yourself a break and use these easy tricks to add a personalized, DIY air to your holidays, just without the added stress.