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Surviving the holidays becomes test of endurance by season’s end

By June Mathews

I hate to say it, being that the holidays are supposed to be joyful and all, but by the time New Year’s rolls around, all the celebrating has become a test of endurance.

I’ve often wished I could spend the entire month of January in holiday rehab, recovering from the rush of the season. But considering the cost of Christmas, getting back to work is critical to rehabilitating my checking account. So surviving the holidays with a minimum of wear and tear on body and spirit is paramount.

Now I love holiday parties. I really do. But there comes a point, usually right around Christmas Day, when I become weary unto death of hurrying from one place to another, not to mention finding something festive to wear for each occasion and getting gifts wrapped and ready to exchange.

But after years of experience, I’ve become a bit of a party-going pro. A red sweater paired with a black skirt or pants makes an appropriate holiday uniform; a supply of gift bags and white tissue paper stashed in the trunk of the car ensures ready wrapping supplies for last-minute gifts purchased on the run.

The keys are to keep the sweater clean and make sure the latest purchase will fit into an available gift bag. There’s nothing tackier than showing up at a party wearing a sweater stained with last week’s cocktail wiener sauce and toting an unwrapped Dirty Santa gift. Believe me, I know.

Then there are the potluck gatherings to which I’m obligated to contribute a dish. I’m a passable cook/baker/stirrer-upper, but spending a lot of time in the kitchen is nowhere near the top of my list of favorite things, particularly at such a busy time of the year. So to make cooking/baking/stirrer-upping easy, I maintain a repertoire of simple party recipes calling for only a few ingredients.

My problem, though, isn’t the creating of an edible addition to the menu; it’s getting everything needed to prepare it into my kitchen at the same time. Thanks to what I’ll attribute to a case of holiday-induced forgetfulness, collecting the makings for a three-ingredient cheeseball recently required just as many trips to the store. With gas hovering around the three-dollar mark, that cheeseball turned out to be one of the more expensive items I’ve ever set on a potluck table.

And as we know, all that party food can be fattening, especially when ingested in great quantities. I’ve had enough chips, dips, crackers and cheese spreads over the past few weeks to sink a battleship, and my backside will soon be capable of doing just that if the table-grazing doesn’t stop.

While some people can go to a party and spend the evening nibbling on a couple of plain crackers and sipping water, that’s not my style. Unless a dish reeks of anchovies or is heavily layered in mushrooms, I’ll give it a try. It’s only polite to taste everyone else’s dishes and show proper appreciation for the effort taken to prepare them.

And if I really like something, I’ll “appreciate” it a little more. I figure I can always make a New Year’s resolution to rid myself of the extra pounds. Not that I necessarily keep resolutions, especially when it comes to weight issues. But the thought soothes my conscience, thus aiding in the digestive process while I’m doing all that appreciating. It just doesn’t do wonders for my waistline.

The important thing, though, is I’ve survived the celebrations, and 11 months from now, I’ll be ready to hit the party circuit again. In the meantime, I can get a jump on the 2014 holiday season by laying in a new supply of gift bags and maybe even shopping for a stain-free red sweater at the after-Christmas sales.

But not before I eat the rest of that cheeseball. It cost too much to let it go to waste. Now, let’s see… Where did I put those crackers?

Email June Mathews at jmathews120@charter.net.

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