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The most wonderful time of the year? We get it. The holidays are stressful. Bickering relatives, endless to-do lists and lineups galore. Not to mention toys that are sold out, tape that has run out and nowhere to hide (the presents). We’re here to help with solutions to common holiday problems, so as the too-short days of December fly by, you can keep your sanity – and sense of humour – intact. First up, a countdown to help you plan the last few days before Christmas:

Table of Contents

Read more of The Globe’s guides to living well, from how to shop for wine to how to sleep better


Food

Lucy Waverman

Goodbye dry turkey, hello dry brining

A lot of people are scared to cook turkey – or resigned to eating overcooked, dry meat. Lucy Waverman’s solution? Dry brining followed by high-heat roasting, which results in juicy, tender and flavourful meat.

Alternatives to turkey

If you still want something roasted as the centrepiece, try these tips for cooking duck or this recipe for lacquered harissa pork roast. Or, flip the script with these meatless main courses that make plants the star of the show. To ease the stress of feeding a houseful of guests, try bar snacks and party platters that look as good as they taste and take no time to throw together for any meal, even dessert.

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No time to bake?

Try this five-ingredient shortbread, or homemade chocolate truffles. If you have a bit more ambition and time, this last-minute fruitcake can be adjusted to your taste.

Leftover management

Lots of people throw them out, but all it takes is a bit of creativity to turn leftovers into an easy meal. Or upcycle them into something new for brunch on Dec. 26, a great way to play with flavour pairings.

How to make healthier choices

December is a calorie minefield, but there are ways to enjoy the season without worrying about weight gain come January. Dietitian Leslie Beck offers a plan for pacing yourself through the endless eating of the holidays, and a quiz to test your nutrition knowledge. And try these tips to avoid binging on holiday treats (first of all, forget any techniques for strengthening your willpower).

Dietitian Leslie Beck shares her top tips for navigating through an endless servings of holiday sweet and savoury treats Globe and Mail Update

Drinks

Alena Zamotaeva/Getty Images

Wine advice

Globe and Mail wine critic Christopher Waters has advice on what to pour whatever your budget, from 11 well-priced bottles that are sure-fire hits for holiday hosting to 11 splurge-worthy wines that truly deliver. As for bubbly, these eight sparkling wines are worth drinking any time of year.

How to minimize a hangover

There’s no magic bullet to ward off a hangover (except time, of course). But dietitian Leslie Beck offers seven strategies that might offer some relief – and still let you enjoy yourself. An ideal lighter beverage option is the aperitivo, and the drinks industry is catching on by offering non-alcoholic and low-alcohol spirits.

How to avoid booze this season

What if you’re avoiding alcohol and the dangers of problem drinking? These tips will help you get through party season, and accommodate non-drinkers as a holiday host.

Decor

fortyforks/iStockPhoto / Getty Images

Deck the halls in a more eco-friendly way

Less is more this season – less energy use and less waste lead to more merriment. Outside, make the switch to LED holiday lights, which use 80 to 90 per cent less energy than incandescent bulbs and last about 10 times as long. Inside, keep the decor natural with pine cones in wreaths, bowls and glass domes, and fallen or foraged branches and boughs tucked into a big vintage jug or vase.

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Relationships

KAGAN MCLEOD/The Globe and Mail

Holiday party handbook

Holiday soirées can be fun, but they can also be full of social awkwardness. David Eddie offers a guide to the five personalities you’re likely to meet at the punch bowl – and how to gracefully move on from them. And check his tips for how to handle hosting (sometimes uncivilized) people for dinner, from friends who show up early to those who never return the invite. If you’re an introvert, break out of your shell with these tips for surviving a party from start to finish. What if you’re not invited at all? Here’s something to make peace with: You can’t be invited to everything.

How to (tactfully) argue with people

In an age of hyperpartisanship and bewildering bombast, family dinners are a minefield. How can you make sure reason prevails this season? Here’s what the experts say. And if you feel like running away from all the family drama, here’s why you should stick around to air your grievances and try to resolve them.

Talking to kids about gifts, gratitude and the guy in the red suit

If you’re overwhelmed by the number of gifts your children receive and want them to feel grateful and understand their own privilege, try these strategies. And here are tips for talking to your children about Santa, whether he comes to your house or doesn’t, whether they believe wholeheartedly or wonder if he’s real.

Gifts

We’ve got you covered with help finding gifts for everyone (even the four-legged friends) on your list:

How to plan when you’re on a tight budget

This time of year brings pressure to spend and give to charity, but if you’re not feeling flush it can be tough to handle. One option: skip the mall and make gifts instead, or implement a Secret Santa gift exchange with a spending cap.

Gifting – and regifting – etiquette

There are those who go to the effort of sending a thank-you note in the mail. And then there are those who don’t even acknowledge a gift you’ve just handed them. If you’re planning to regift something, learn from one woman’s experience and follow a few simple rules.

Travel

Diane Labombarbe/istock

The case for Christmas getaways

If you want to outsource the holidays, these festive destinations and attractions take all the work out of seasonal diversions – from sleigh rides and Santa encounters to tree trimming and feast prep. If all you want for Christmas is to get away from the family drama at home, here’s how to reduce your stress and make the most of your time away. Still need convincing of why Christmas is the best time to get away? Being somewhere new and strange is even more new and more strange at Christmas.

Holiday travel survival guide

Travel-industry insiders offer their expertise to help you deal with the most common pitfalls of the season with as little stress as possible. If you’re travelling for the holidays, chances are you’ll need to make room in your suitcase for presents. And don’t be that person holding up the security lineup – know the rules and be prepared.

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