Tis the season…

Maison Bentley Style

IMG_3949You know it’s Christmas…

1. When a mince pie becomes an acceptable meal substitute..and egg nog equals a portion of protein.

2. When the inbox sends out it’s own SOS due to spam overload.

3. When you go out to buy a party dress and come back with a fire engine.

4. When you search for your heels and find them in the dressing up.

5 When you find yourself multi-ing the multi-tasking..writing the shopping list on the toilet whilst texting the plumber.

6. When the kids suddenly start acting nice.

7. And as a result they fool you into taking them Christmas shopping and just when your impression of an suppressed, repressed, depressed packing mule has reached it’s limits someone always needs a wee.

8. When the list of things to take to school is representative of an expedition to climb Everest..white plimsoles, black plimsoles, red trousers, red top…

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Cards and Letters

         You’ve recovered from Thanksgiving and you’re ready to dive head first into the joy of Christmas.  If you’re sending cards, now is the time to address them (or use pre-addressed labels.)  I like to get my cards done in one day, so I take a strike from cooking.  Santa is on his own. Fortunately he knows how to grill a mean steak.  He’s so talented, the elves made this darling ornament commemorating his accomplishments.     santa barbecue     

Here’s the recipe for santa’s marinated steak.

I spread my cards out on our dining room table along with my envelopes, pens and stamps and my short Christmas Letter with only the highlights of the year.  No one needs to know Santa suffers from gout, or the chief elf threw a tantrum this morning, or that I need a haircut.  Just the important events, please!      

The advantage of devoting a full day to cards is that once it’s done, you can clean up your work space and go back to the normal that is December.

Today is Black Friday so while everyone’s at the mall, you can quick go to the post office.  Remember we’re working towards a stress-free December and there’s nothing that will set your nerves jangling louder than Santa’s sleigh bells then standing in a long line.  If you’re sending e-cards, of course you won’t have this problem, but I’m old-fashioned enough to want to open an envelope and place the cards around the house as decorations.

Another way to avoid the stress of cards is to send them out after Christmas.  You’ll have no deadline to meet and post office lines will be insignificant.

Have you received any humorous or inappropriate holiday letters you’d like to share?

Can you believe December is nearly here?  If you’re followed my suggestions so far, you’ve finished your shopping, addressed and sent your cards, and are ready to relax and relish in the true meaning of Christmas—love of family and friends.  If you haven’t yet finished everything, still congratulate yourself.  You’ve started and I imagine that’s a big change from previous years.  On December 2nd we’ll begin decorating your house and I’ll have a recipe for a Not-so Fruity Fruit Cake

Until then, let’s all strive for a stress-free, love-filled Christmas . . .

Ring in the Holidays with Good Deeds and Bells

      Let’s ring the bells first.  009 (2)  If you need a break from preparing for Thanksgiving, take a seat, grab knitting needles and Christmas colored yarn.  Follow these simple directions and in less than half an hour, you’ll complete a bell and return refreshed to your work.

Thanksgiving and Christmas are times we bask in the love of family and the blessings of our lives.  We also must think of others less fortunate.  Bob Hope said, “If you haven’t got any charity in your heart, you have the worst kind of heart trouble.”  He certainly didn’t suffer from heart problems,spending many of his holidays away from home, entertaining our troops.


Thanksgiving is the perfect time to reach out to others, not only immediately, but also to plan ahead for Christmas. 

Call your local hospital and see what would cheer their patients.  A homeless shelter might appreciate your pitching in to help cook a meal.  A senior center might love to hear carols and you could organize a group to serenade them. 


          Caroline Kennedy said, “You have to remind kids to stay connected to the meaning of Christmas. Sometimes it takes a little bit of effort, but it’s so worth it.”  

In that spirit, involve your children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews. Invite your neighbors to participate.  The more the merrier. 

Christmas is the season of giving . . . not just to those who have, but to those who do not . . . not just to those we know, but to strangers.

Plan now to truly celebrate the holiday by opening up your world to others and treating your heart to medicine that doesn’t cost a thing.

I’d love to hear any special experiences you’ve had giving to others.

Hopefully you have already taken my suggestions and completed all, or at least the majority, of your shopping. You’ve have your cards.  So now forget about Christmas. Enjoy Thanksgiving with your loved ones. In my next post we’ll discuss Christmas letters and address those cards.

Until then, let’s all strive for a stress-free, love-filled Christmas . . .


Party-Time Means Stress-Time

        Malcolm in the Middle’s Mom, Jane Kaczmarek stars in a great book trailer for ‘TWAS THE LATE NIGHT OF CHRISTMAS, that book I’ve mentioned starring me.  You’ll see fun pictures created by Nancy Hayashi and get an intro to the story.  Unfortunately to see my role, you’ll have to buy the book.

  Now let’s move on to the real business of this post.

Why does everyone and her cousin decide to have a party in December?  There are classroom parties, office parties, tree-decorating parties, and book club parties, just to name a few.

Do you have an urge to give a party this holiday season?

Want my advice? 


Long ago my dear Mr. Saint Nick and I moved our Elf Appreciation Party to March when no one has the pressure of Christmas hanging over his or her head. 

Delay your party.

Sit on your hands so you can’t address one invitation or send out a single Evite.  Keeping up with the responsibilities of family and the holidays you have more than enough on you platter.

Wait until January, or better yet February, when it’s gray and dreary and no one is sick at the thought of another gathering.  You’ll be the only celebration in town and believe me time everyone will be grateful for your invitation.

So it’s decided—no December Party, but in case you have guests drop in unannounced, it’s best to be prepared.  I keep several appetizers in my freezer just in case.  And if no one visits , no matter, you can bring them out Christmas day.  My two favorite are recipes are for yummyhammymeatballs 003 (2)


asparaguswreaths.  IMG_3568

        Do you have other holiday appetizers that can be prepared in advance and frozen to turn any gathering into a special event?  Tell us about them.

Our next post the day before Thanksgiving, the day before the beginning of Hanukah, November 27th is a good time to think about actions we can do to help others. 

 Until then, let’s all strive for a stress-free, love-filled Christmas . . .

Puzzle Elves Suffer from Arthritis Pains

        Poor Santa has trouble.

The puzzle-making elves can’t work.  They’re suffering terrible aches in their hands from cutting out so many pieces.  I’m sorry to say this year you’d best make your own.  Don’t panic.  It takes very little time. 

Just scan a cherished family picture, or perhaps a piece of art you or your child created and go to www.shutterfly.com or www.puzzleyou.comPuzzle You is more expensive, but the puzzle arrives in a pretty holiday box that you don’t need to wrap.

Shape puzzles for the youngest on your shopping list are easy to make out of felt. Check out this website for easy instructions.  Here’s a picture of one:Homemade-Gift-Felt-Puzzles-Fish-1024x768

           And while we’re on the topic of puzzles, do you have any of those kid’s puzzles where each piece is a whole object—a cat,an apple, a house—but you’re missing some of the pieces.  The elves always want to throw the rest of the pieces away, but don’t! They make great tree decorations. 

 001 If you want to be fancy, paint the backs, or you can leave them plain.  Using a glue gun, attach a ribbon hanger and voila!  You have a one of a kind decoration that brings back happy memories to your family.

          And my last word on puzzles . . .

When Santa comes home after a long and busy day at his factory, he and I often relax over a puzzle.  Next month, especially if you’ve finished your shopping and cards, is a great time to bring out a puzzle.  What fun everyone will have searching through a pile like this to find the missing edge piece!  Make it a family project.  It can keep you busy for days.


On my next blog, November 25th we’ll talk about NOT planning Christmas parties.

Until then, let’s all strive for a stress-free, love-filled Christmas . . .

Gifts to Charity

          Was anyone inspired by my last post to do something crafty for the holidays?  If my pillow wasn’t your thing, check out these possibilities. The Crafty Christmas Link-Up A The Crafty Christmas Link-Up BThe Crafty Christmas Link-Up B This link will direct you to the specific instructions for each one.

         Now let’s change the subject back to gifts, especially those to friends and family members who don’t need anything (and you know there are some people on your list who fit into that category.)  Consider making a donation to a charity in that person’s name. 

        Because Christmas is a holiday of wonder for children, I suggest donating to a charity that focuses on their well-being.  Surfing the Internet, I found this helpful website that lists 25 children’s charities to consider.

       Another favorite charity is Heifer International that turns your donations into gifts that help less fortunate people around the world become self-supporting.  Their catalog offers numerous possibilities to help no matter your budget.


Look for charities that touch a special place in the heart of your receiver.  Do you have a family member who works in the health services?  Make a donation in her name to Doctors Without Borders

      Do you have a dog lover on your list?  Consider an organization like Rescue Me.  Check out their full website to see all kinds of animals—reptiles, squirrels, wild birds, farm animals—who need homes.  Kids especially love getting pets as gifts, but beware!  Bonny Becker wrote a fun book about the problems that can result in THE CHRISTMAS CROCODILE!

  thGV380YRPYou might want to read it before you give anyone a pet.

Any favorite charities you’d like to plug for donations?   Any fun pet stories?

On November 22th, I have bad news to support, especially if some people on your list have asked for puzzles this year. 

Until then, let’s all strive for a stress-free, love-filled Christmas . . .


A Riot of Ribbon

         You’re not the crafty type? Don’t have the tiniest pinch of creativity?  Everything you’ve tried to make fails.  This ribbon pillow is the project for you.

007 (3)  

All you need is ribbon,


018 plus fabric for backing, a pillow form (sold at most fabric stores) and a sewing machine.  Download the easy instructions here.  This is my tutorial for the crafty Christmas link-up.  The main link will come in a future blog.  Keep tuned. 

Don’t stop with just one pillow.  I made two with many of the same ribbons.  You can see how placing the ribbons differently makes two unique designs

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Following the directions, you can easily adapt them to make pillows of varying shape and ribbon pattern.

            008 (3)

       These charming decorations, also made out of ribbon take very little time to put together.   


          So all you uncrafty people out there, this project is for you!  Now I have . . .


Christmas_cover - Copy

is finally available at bookstores, or online at Barnes & Noble or Amazon. This book makes a perfect gift, if I do say so myself, for young and old alike.  It finally recognizes my contribution to the holiday.

Do you have a fun Christmas project to share with our readers?  Let us know about it.  Include directions, too.

On Wednesday, November 20th we’re going to look at gift ideas for the person who has everything.  And none of these have to be wrapped.

Until then, let’s all strive for a stress-free, love-filled Christmas . . .