Getting a Jump on the Rush

Ever tell yourself that “next year” will be different … that this time you won’t put off holiday preparations until the last minute? This Farmgirl is tired of the typical holiday frenzy and harried hospitality that often accompanies the Christmas season, and this year is determined to do something about it!  Join the Mountain Farmgirl as she Gets a Jump on the Rush…

A few weeks ago we had a whopper of a killer frost. Up until then, we’d had some light freezes, but the days warmed up and the leaves were still mostly green.  Green enough, at least, to fool ourselves into thinking that the holidays were still far away.  Today however, leaves that were recently drenched in color are looking rather sparse and bleak, and there is more than a mere nip in the air we had 7" of snow before Halloween! In fact, up here in the mountains it’s downright cold in the mornings!  While it seems like we were just packing picnics and cooling our toes in the river, it is definitely the time to start bringing out the winter coats and splitting the kindling wood. While it kills me that stores had their Christmas trees and ornaments displayed even before Labor Day this year …  if mittens, hats and scarves are becoming familiar sights, can Christmas really be all that far behind?

Let me tell you a little bit about myself: I don’t like to rush. My husband will dispute this, saying that I charge through a room like a freight train when I’m on a mission(which is most of the time); and I’ll admit that my pace IS rather ‘determined’ and often comes on like a ton o’ bricks!  But what I really mean when I say I don’t like to “rush” is that I don’t like that awful pressure … the feeling of having to cram too much into too little time. Who can ‘savor the moment’ when we feel so under the gun?

I speak from experience.  When I was in my 20’s, I experienced that feeling to the extreme.  I had a fairly new catering business at the time, and for one particular party early in my career, I had bitten off more than I could chew (no pun intended!). It was an afternoon engagement party, serving just hors d’ourvres, punch and cake. I was newly out of culinary school, the party was for a prominent local family, and I wanted to make a name for myself and hopefully attract more clients. So to 'make a good impression', the canapés I chose were elaborate to the extreme and the variety of them was definitely over the top. Chalk it up to idealism and inexperience combined! For days ahead I prepped these time consuming little beauties, until – on the day before the event – I realized that I would NEVER have enough time to complete them all. A quick SOS call to my mother helped save the day (Good ole mom … not for the first time did she come to the rescue. I don’t think either one of us went to bed that night) … but even so, it was still right down to the wire, and I was sweating and fretting the whole time! “NEVER AGAIN,” I told myself, and since that day I have never gotten myself into such a predicament. Firstly, I no longer feel the need to prove myself and go overboard. The old adage is true: ‘less’ really IS ‘more’. I also try to be more realistic as to what I can accomplish within the time frame I have, and I give myself PLENTY of time within which to do it. I have learned to simplify all aspects of my life quite a bit.  Still, even with the best of habits and intentions, Christmas always sneaks up on me and I always end up feeling overwhelmed and sometimes (sorry to say), resentful. I just want it to be over and done with so that life can get back to ‘normal’.  How sad.  I vow every year to start early next time and learn to enjoy the ride. This year, I have finally taken my own advice!


Having come to the conclusion that I own way too much stuff, I am personally making huge strides to pare things down.  As I work through this process of simplifying my own life, I am also very conscious of not wanting to overburden others with “stuff” they don’t need. As a result, many of the things I like to give these days are consumable items, or “experiences” (such as an afternoon with a friend at a museum and then out to lunch; a massage; a few homemade frozen entrees for a busy friend to keep in her freezer; or freshly baked goodies on a lovely pottery dish that I no longer need).   Many items can be wrapped in beautiful fabrics I have been collecting for ages, hoping “one day” to making something with them … but of course I will never live so long as to actually make them all! So I cut them into rectangles, hem them, and not only do they become environmentally friendly wrappings, but they can also be re-used as dish towels afterwards!


Cookies make great gifts. Start making the dough for them now and freezing it, one or two a day. By the time Christmas is here, spend one delightful afternoon with a Christmas cookie bake-off!  Makes is so much more fun that way.

I also collect things all year long for the following Christmas (or for birthdays). We all take advantage of the slashed prices of ‘After-Christmas’ sales from time to time; but I buy little things all year long.  If I am somewhere and happen to notice a little something that reminds me of a friend or family member, I buy it on the spot, and place it in that special section of the attic to await some future occasion.  The same goes for cards (though I often make my own); or an item I might find in a catalog, or something of my own that I no longer need and want to share with a friend. How fun it is  (at a later date) to “go shopping” in my own house and not battle the tension and the crowds on Black Friday or Christmas eve! (Does anyone remember the madness of people who actually got  into fights with each other  in the aisles over the last Cabbage Patch Dolls, or Furby or iPhone or some such other insanity?! I think even bones have been broken over them…).  "Merry Christmas to you, too!"

Anyway, I’ve found a saner and much more enjoyable way. By the time I need to go “shopping”, I’ve long forgotten what I’ve collected over the preceding months, and it is so much fun to discover the treasures I’ve stored away!

(BTW: I often find wonderful things in catalogs that I like personally, or think would be “just perfect” for someone I know.  Catalog shopping saves a lot of time, although I much prefer to buy something handmade and support local businesses. Many times, however, something I felt I just “had to have” from a catalog left me totally cold when it actually arrived in the mail! “What was I thinking when I ordered this?!” is not an uncommon thought, and more often than not, I send the thing back. What a waste of time. Here’s a really helpful tip on how to deal with such impulse buying. I now mostly cut out the picture of the item from the catalog, making sure that I write down the phone number or website so that I could order it in the future if I wish. Then I put it in a neat little box I have, and stash it away for a while. Nine times out of ten when I go back to look at it later, the item does not hold the same fascination for me that it once did, and I’ve saved myself from unnecessary clutter and expense. Once in a while, though, there are some items that I only appreciate more over time, and those are the ones I purchase. My sister, mother and I have a fun little game we play. Whenever we see some little novelty in a catalog that one of us wants to buy for the other, (mostly as a joke), we now cut out the picture of it instead and send it to the other along with a note! For example, my sister is the funniest person I know. She can make a roomful of strangers  start laughing and feeling good about themselves just by walking into the room! What a gift!!  Needless to say we have spent many, many hours laughing together until we cried … (or worse!!)  Not too long ago I saw a T-shirt in a catalog that said: “Sometimes I laugh so hard that tears run down my legs”!  What a hoot … Of course I thought of my sister immediately!!  But instead of spending $19.99 on a T-shirt she would never wear, I just sent her the picture for the price of a postage stamp. She was happy to get something in her mailbox besides junkmail or bills, and the photo had the same effect as the item itself would have! My mom just gave me a “T-shirt” that way the other day.  It said: “Careful … or you’ll end up in my next novel!”

Here are some of the other gift idea I’m working on this year. (Mom and Sis, if you’re reading this, please turn off your computers RIGHT NOW!!). Anyway, for the rest of us, I wanted to say that  somewhere along the line I have accumulated all sorts of eclectic containers: large glass votives, suitable for candles; small ceramic bowls, wicker baskets with liners, etc.  I’ve discovered a good use for these as containers for flower bulbs, such as paper-white narcissus or amaryllis, whose colorful blooms and sweet scents are welcome anytime, but especially in the dead of winter.  This summer while wading in the river, I collected pails of tiny river rocks, which I have since distributed in all these eclectic little pots. Sometime late this month I will fill them with bulbs I buy from the Garden Club or the Botanical Garden where  I am a member. In this way I am supporting a good cause, and providing a growing, living reminder that although winter may be howling outside the window, spring can bloom eternal in our hearts (and indoor pots!).


Last January I started collecting all sorts of other things that I thought would make good gifts for the people I care about. I put them in a special section of the attic. In one basket I placed odd balls of yarn leftover from other projects I’ve worked on over the years. Often, in the space of a single evening, these odds and ends have found themselves transformed into cable knit headbands, fingerless gloves, leg warmers and scarves. I’ve even knitted 4 sweaters this year.  After a long day on my feet working at our inn, I love to curl up in the evening and watch a good movie or listen to a book on tape while working on a knitting or sewing project.  Our homeschooling family also watches many of the great courses on DVD, which sometimes become a backdrop to one of my handcrafted projects. My mind stays focused and the repetitive motion of knitting or weaving, another one of my hobbies, relaxes and centers me. Over this past year I have made dozens of items, many of which I am donating to our local Sewing Club for their annual Silver Tea and Sale. The money made from them goes to a good cause, their scholarship fund.


As I get older and notice that our finite lives march on with greater and greater rapidity, I am learning to make each and every day count … to make every moment a blessing. (Even the ‘unpleasant’ ones! It is after all, how we look at things and what we are able to learn from them that matters). We each have the ability to make our own happiness, and what a better time than the joyous season of Christmas, to revel in its anticipation and not get swept up in the chaotic, commercial hustle of our modern times?  Ladies, Christmas should be a blessing.  Let’s make it that way this year (and every year!) by reducing the amount of stress and pressure we put upon ourselves. Let’s get caught up in the spirit of the times, and not feel that time is choking the spirit out of us.  Please share with me and our Farmgirl sisters ideas that YOU put into practice to make the holidays a joyous occasion, and help to lighted the load this very busy, often stressful time of year.


Until next time,

Mountain Bounty, Mountain Blessings from

Cathi, The Mountain Farmgirl


By: Joan
On: 11/14/2011 07:48:38

Thank you, Cathi for all the great inspiration to help get me moving and even next year will be fun preparing ahead. I have had times where friends have admired something of mine - so I make a note of it and pass it on as either the gift or part of a gift - seems to make it more special.
Thanks again,

Hi Joan, Thanks for writing! It IS fun preparing ahead, and the season becomes so much more enjoyable when we are not rushed.Best of luck throughout the year. -cathi

By: Stef
On: 11/14/2011 08:14:54

Yes! I make little jars of treats while I'm canning in the late summer. This year it is a fire roasted salsa recipe that a dear friend shared with me. Who doesn't like food?!!

Food makes wonderful gifts, especially homemade! Thanks for writing.

By: Debbie
On: 11/14/2011 11:37:01

Dear Cathi,
Well, I'm with you.... less rushing around and more enjoyment!
I'm trying to live so in the moment these days I'm hoping the "Christmas Rush " will rush right by me and I won't even notice... I can dream can't I? I've got my list already made and have started a little shopping already.. luckily no one expects over the top things from me during the holidays! LOL!
I'll bake our favorites, buy a few more and we'll do our traditional stocking stuffers which always get a big laugh and satisfy a sweet tooth or two! Stick to your cookie dough and don't get swept away like flour dust in the rush!
Thanks again for a wonderful post and as always, your wise offerings to all of us farmgirls!
Much love,
Deb ( your beachy farmgirl sister 0

Good for you, Deb ... live those dreams! It would be great to let the rush just zoom on by and not notice, wouldn't it?! Sort of like when we lived on our homestead in NY and the power would go off, we wouldn't notice that either. Good feeling! As always, thanks for stopping by and keep up the good work down on the coast! xoxo 

By: Sharon
On: 11/14/2011 17:17:28

I really enjoyed reading this; it made me feel instantly relaxed & inspired about a rapidly approaching Christmas!

So glad , Sharon. Enjoy this blessed season. -cathi

By: Cat
On: 11/14/2011 19:12:15

Hi Cathi, when I read your wonderful and inspirational site I feel like I am the one writing it. I can't believe all we have in common! Amazing...Thank you for another wonderful sharing of your life with all of us. I would love to meet you someday.
Have a wonderful Christmas season. I hope to make ours a laid back and peaceful one out here in the woods of Kansas on Badger Creek.

Such sweet words, Cat, thank you! MaryJanes Farm is the gathering spot for kindred spirits, to be sure! Perhaps we'll meet at one of her gatherings someday, or if you're even in NH, stop by our Lodge! Have a blessed holiday. -cathi

By: barb
On: 11/15/2011 16:20:34
Cathi, thanks for the tip on making cookie dough. I have made cookies and froze them, but if I make the dough and bake later, I can make a lot of different kinds in one day. I never thought of it before.
By: Shery
On: 11/18/2011 10:10:15
The blue t-shirt. An outburst of laughter, yes. A sneeze ... ok, I shant go into detail ... information overage :o)

Maybe you need to be over 50 to get it. I way get it.

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Cathi Belcher

Cathi Belcher,
an old-fashioned farmgirl with a pioneer spirit, lives in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. As a “lifelong learner” in the “Live-Free-or-Die” state, she fiercely values self-reliance, independence, freedom, and fresh mountain air. Married to her childhood sweetheart of 40+ years (a few of them “uphill climbs”), she’s had plenty of time to reinvent herself. From museum curator, restaurant owner, homeschool mom/conference speaker, to post-and-beam house builder and entrepreneur, she’s also a multi-media artist, with an obsession for off-grid living and alternative housing. Cathi owns and operates a 32-room mountain lodge. Her specialty has evolved to include “hermit hospitality” at her rustic cabin in the mountains, where she offers weekend workshops of special interest to women.

“Mountains speak to my soul, and farming is an important part of my heritage. I want to pass on my love of these things to others through my writing. Living in the mountains has its own particular challenges, but I delight in turning them into opportunities from which we can all learn and grow.”

Column content copyright © 2010– Cathi Belcher. All rights reserved.

Mountain Bounty

“Keep close to Nature’s heart ... and break clear away once in awhile to climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods, to wash your spirit clean.”
– John Muir