mongolian fur pillows

I love sharing holiday posts with you guys, and this year I’m getting a head start by sharing some of the ways I keep things low-stress when hosting.

This will be our fifth Thanksgiving and Christmas in California, so I’ve had fun learning each year how to cook the whole meal (with the help of my sister-in-law who is a great cook) and have fun while doing it.  I definitely envy my friends who can just show up to their Aunt’s house with a pie, but I want to share some of what I’ve learned over the years!

holiday tablescape ideadecorating with mini pumpkins

1.  Do as much prep as you can ahead of time.

This is probably the biggest no-brainer tip, but it makes a big difference. The first few years I had a full-time job + CBL so I would prep things at night.  Now I am lucky to work from home so I can spend the entire day before cooking and prepping, playing holiday movies on my laptop and sprinkling cinnamon on everything!

thanksgiving tablescape

2.  You don’t have to make everything from scratch.

I mean… cut yourself some slack. Store-bought rolls, a pre-made casserole or a pie from a bakery never hurt anyone.  One year I spent all this time trying to make gravy (I don’t even eat gravy) and it wasn’t even good. The next year I bought gravy in a plastic container which tasted better than anything I could have made.

how to put together a cheese plate


3.  Skip the complicated appetizers and opt for a cheese plate, or frozen goods.

These pigs in a blanket and this dip are frozen from Trader Joe’s and always crowd pleasers!

juliska red wine glass


4.  Set your table the day before… and have fun with it!

By taking time the day before to set your table, you can have fun with it and play with it until you get it just right. I usually add greenery from outside and wait to add that the day of so it’s fresh.

slipcovered dining chair


5.  Ask your guests to bring their favorite dish.

Everyone has a sentimental dish, so invite your guests to bring something they love! It’s also a fun way to try something new.  Christian grew up with creamed spinach and I never had that during the holidays but now I’m trying to master it!

leaf place cards

6.  Place cards are a thoughtful touch and eliminates the whole “where do you want us to sit?” confusion.

I like to write names on greenery, but there are tons of charming ideas on Pinterest!

pink cardigan sweaterannie sloan chalk paint drop leaf tabletufted ottoman


7. Have a glass of wine and remember that the holidays are for enjoying time with loved ones and making memories. You don’t want to be stressed in the kitchen the whole time!

Red wine is my go-to this time of year and Seven Daughters Red Blend is smooth and well-rounded. I pour myself a tall glass and try to remember that the holidays area about love, no matter where you’re spending the weekend. Cheers!

similar sweater here and here | similar denim | breakfast table – antique, paint tutorial here | chairs & slipcovers | art in kitchen – by my mom | art in den | sofa | similar ottoman | mirrored tray | similar fur pillows | similar blue pillows | blanket | cheese plate | ruffled cake stand | wine glasses | water glasses | ruffled chargers | similar dinner plate | dessert plate | napkins | vaseSeven Daughters Red Blend available at, Target, BevMo, Whole Foods and Sprouts

You can check out Seven Daughters on Facebook and Instagram and find their wine in your area here.  AND the code CBL7D is good for 20% off any Seven Daughters purchase on! XO –

Photos by Christian Barnes

Brought to you by Seven Daughters Wine

26 Comments|See Comments

26 thoughts on “7 Tips for a Stress-Free Holiday

  1. Love the idea of writing guests name on a green leaf along side a mini white pumpkin! So so chic!!!

  2. I love the holidays but with all the parties and entertaining the to do lists really do ramp up! Thanks for sharing your top stress relieving tips. Also your table setting is absolutely beautiful!

    Happy Holidays!

    Allegra xx

    Allegra Ghiloni Fashion Stylist

  3. I love your tips Kathleen! I’m definitely one of those people who obsessively do things beforehand, like I plan myself into a tizzy – ha! I hope you have a lovely and stress-free Thanksgiving!


  4. These tips are so great and useful and I am all about not making all homemade items!

  5. Thank you for the reminder – “Have a glass of wine and remember that the holidays are for enjoying time with loved ones and making memories. You don’t want to be stressed in the kitchen the whole time!”

    We are moving into a new house right after Thanksgiving and then hosting Christmas. I need to be sure to keep this in the front of my mind and just “CHILL!”

    LOVE your wine glasses!

    Happy Holidays!

  6. What a great post! I think it’s definitely a great reminder about enjoying the holidays and not killing ourselves to perfect everything. That seems to be a common theme for the holidays. I love these little tidbits of advice on what we can do, and in my opinion, if you opened the box and cooked the food at home, it’s homemade, lol!


  7. Hello amazing human!! Could you pretty please do a quick tutorial on this bun!? I struggle so much with low buns like that – my hair is really similar in texture and length to yours – but my buns always look like awkward floppy balls of hair and it just isn’t cute SOS!!


    1. Sadly this was with my long hair which I recently chopped off, but it was just a low messy bun! YouTube has some GREAT up-do tutorials!

  8. I can’t tell you just how true the gravy thing is! I’ve been trying for years to make a good gravy, following the highest-rated recipes and failing repeatedly. Next time it’s on the list, it’s getting BOUGHT.

  9. Hmm it appears like your blog ate my first comment (it was super long) so I guess I’ll just sum it up what I submitted and say, I’m thoroughly enjoying your blog. I as well am an aspiring blog blogger but I’m still new to the whole thing. Do you have any helpful hints for novice blog writers? I’d certainly appreciate it.

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