Your Holiday Guide: How To

Whether you’re hosting a party, trying to navigate family dynamics, or looking for expert wrapping advice, we’ve got plenty of tips to help you celebrate the season. We’ve even included five ways to de-stress and unwind now or later.

How to: Plan a Party

Alesha De La Cruz of De La Planning shares tips on event planning.

Photograph by Emily J. Davis

The menu …
If you’re having a more casual feel, then you want to keep in mind things that people can eat while they’re chatting and walking around. If you’re trying to do a more formal party, then you would choose a plated menu. In that case, you would keep in mind dietary restrictions because they’re going to be seated and eating every course.

Types of music …
I love the idea of live music for a holiday party: a solo guitarist or a saxophonist or something that is going to create a different vibe. People can watch and enjoy the music almost like it’s an activity. 

Activities …
I think white elephant is the most popular game, especially for a really big event where a lot of people don’t know each other. I’ve seen caricature artists at smaller events become popular. There’s a 360-degree photo booth that’s really popular as well.

The vibe …
I like to think about focusing on the five senses of your guests because a holiday event is an experience. As your guests walk in, you can have holiday scents or you can have really strong-smelling food cooking that’s going to bring them warmth and feel inviting. For touch, you can play with different textures like linens that are velvet. Sight would be decor, and sound would be having that live music. Think about how you want to portray those five senses to your guests so they’ll be immersed in the event. 

Common mistakes …
Not having enough staff. If you are having a holiday event, as the host, you want to enjoy it. I think people can forget that and think they’ll handle everything. If you are cooking yourself, still have a service staff there so they can tend to the guests while you enjoy.

How to: Deal with Difficult Family

Michael Uram is a licensed marriage and family therapist. He gives advice on how to manage tricky dynamics during the holidays.

Image by Macrovector on Freepik

How do you handle politics at dinner?

A very simple answer is to devalue and deflect. Your goal is to let them know that the topic is not OK without directly confronting them. “Devalue” means you (let them) know this isn’t the moment they’re going to try and convince you or you’re going to try and convince them one way or the other. Even if they’re being offensive, remind yourself of what you do appreciate about them. And then “deflect”—talk about that thing you like about them. You can say, “Wow, it sounds like you’re really passionate about that. I remember you’re also really passionate about that sports team. How are they doing?” In that moment, they’ll probably switch (topics) with you. It’d be pretty odd for someone to continue to try and irritate you—unless they’re really trying to irritate you, and then maybe they just shouldn’t have been invited. 

Our goal in life isn’t to change our family members in any way, no matter how repulsive their thoughts are. Our goal is to take care of ourselves. If they ever ask our opinion and we’re up for it, it’s OK to do that in a small, one-on-one setting—not when there’s a big audience or when we’re about to eat and you can see a bunch of people being like, “Oh no, they’re doing it.” 

What about negative comments on relationship status?

You would then say, “It sounds like you really want an update on my life,” and you just go through and start saying all the things that are going on and don’t even answer that question. 

If there’s anxiety about seeing family, what’s a positive outlook?

Remind yourself that you have control over how your day is going to go, so you’re not going to let this person shake you. If you don’t give them that power to change your mood, your mood isn’t changed. 

How to: Wrap Like a Pro

Christine Backus, manager at Where’s the Party boutique in Costa Mesa, offers tips on how to wow friends and family with gifts before they’re even opened.

Photograph by Emily J. Davis
  1. Start early—whether you’re going to do the wrapping yourself or whether you decide to bring your gifts in for us to wrap. We have people bring us their gifts as early as September. But we can also accommodate those last-minute shoppers.
  2. Have an idea of what your color theme or pattern might be. An example of a theme might be “reindeer.” We sell lots of wrapping supplies here, everything from rolls of paper, gift bags, and boxes to every style of ribbon.
  3. Choose the best materials for each gift. If it’s something heavy like a serving dish, you don’t want to put that in a gift bag because it can tear right through. Instead, use a box and wrapping paper so it’s really secure, and put a beautiful bow on it. Or if you have a collection of items for someone and you want them to be visible, place them in a basket and use clear cellophane wrap. 
  4. Have fun with it! Don’t be afraid to try something different, like adding accessories. If the gift is for someone who just had a baby, you can attach little booties to the package. Or if it’s for a newly married couple, add a wedding-themed Christmas ornament. 
  5. If you don’t have time to shop, let alone wrap, we can do it all for you here. Just walk in and tell us who you’re shopping for and some things about them. For instance, if they like to entertain, we have a lot of beautiful home decor items, holiday platters, and charcuterie boards. And when you buy your gifts here, we wrap them as a complimentary service.

How to: De-Stress

Relaxing remedies, many new to O.C., will soothe your spirit and ground you after weeks of commotion.

Photograph Courtesy of The Susan Samueli Integrative Health Institute

Reflect and Unwind

Meditation and wellness classes: The Susan Samueli Integrative Health Institute’s new home on the UC Irvine campus is welcoming, serene, and full of health benefits such as the living wall decor and classes for the community. Mindfulness, tai chi, nutrition, and yoga sessions take place mostly online, but might be in person again in January. Hoag hospital also offers online community wellness classes, including Effective Stress Management Techniques and Mindful Mondays.  

Photograph Courtesy of Burke Williams

Serenity in Sound and Stones

Tranquility massage at Burke Williams: Nepalese singing bowls are added to this new massage to help induce calm ($280). The sound and vibrations from the bowls, which are placed on various parts of the body, combine to bring your body into a state of rest. Cranial holds to finish leave you totally at peace.  

SPA VEA at VEA Newport Beach: The 14,000-square-foot spa got a refresh to match the resort, which opened to guests in July after a full redesign. In addition to the heated saltwater spa pool, hot tub, steam room, dry sauna, and spacious locker rooms, there’s also a new outdoor lawn and yoga studio. The coastal escape massage ($249) features hot stones to soothe tired feet after a season of plays, parties, and parades. Or try the VEA radiance facial ($249) to restore your glow for a special occasion. Day passes are available ($50 and up) if you simply need a spot to escape.

Photograph Courtesy of Knife Pleat

Eat Your Relief

CBD Power Lunch at Knife Pleat: Water-soluble cannabidiol is added to each dish in the three-course lunch ($90) and combines with specific ingredients to provide benefits such as detoxification, increased focus, induced calm, mood enhancement, digestive support, and other features. Knife Pleat owners Yassmin Sarmadi and Tony Esnault—who offered the CBD lunch at their previous restaurant in L.A.—introduced the menu at the South Coast Plaza penthouse spot over the summer, and they use the CBD drops regularly. “I feel more clear,” Sarmadi says. “It evens my mood.” The pear tart—pâte sucrée, almond frangipane, brandied pear, and Indonesian pepper—promised calming and mood boosting benefits and provided a delightful conclusion to a fall meal. Between the elegant setting, the Michelin-star-winning fare, and the CBD additions, it’s hard to come away feeling anything but blissful.

Get Zen in the Garden

Programs at local gardens: The Fullerton Arboretum offers a curator walking tour in the evening for members as well as classes such as beginning bonsai. Sherman Library & Gardens has a lunch and lecture series, plus mosaic classes and family tours available this month. The first Sunday of each month is Family Sunday at Casa Romantica, with activities for kids. Find peace as you meander at your own pace around “California Scenario,” the Noguchi Garden. 

Photograph by Trac Vu

Bliss at the Beach

Visitors come from around the globe to experience the comfort of the ocean that we can take advantage of year-round—and perhaps we take it for granted. Make your way to the nearest coastal locale to find harmony in the ocean’s waves, calm in the sand under your feet, and peace in our little spot of the world. 

Read more features from our December 2022 Holiday Guide issue!