Survive the holidays with style

How to cure a hangover, give a no-nerves toast and write an elegant thank-you card

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It’s Saturday morning, you’re nursing your fifth office-party hangover of the holiday season and you still need to whip up an impressive feast for six foodie friends by seven tonight. ‘Tis the season and, despite last year’s resolution to do less and enjoy more, you’re swept up in the inevitable holiday whirlwind. So what’s the best way to survive until the New Year’s countdown with your sanity and smile intact? Try these tips from the pros.

How to cure a hangover

“Don’t drink rum and eggnog at night,” says Joanne Smale, an event promoter for some of Toronto’s hottest red-carpet events. That’s because it takes time to burn off all the sugar in sweet liquor. A better bet for evening imbibing? “Stick to ‘whites,’ like white wine or vodka-based martinis,” says Smale. Or drink like a celeb and splurge on champagne. That’ll give you a different kind of hangover, says Smale, one that’s never truly horrible.

Those in the know, including Canadian singer Amy Millan – she’s spent many late nights on the road with indie bands such as Broken Social Scene – swear by Emergen-C. These little packets of powder fizz up in water like antacid and contain 1,000 mg of vitamin C, 32 mineral complexes and B vitamins to replenish depleted stores.

Still, if all you’re seeking is a quick pound of cure, here are some seasonal rescue remedies from Toronto wellness guru Elana Millman:

• Water is the obvious choice, since drinking alcohol is dehydrating. Drink two to three large glasses of water before heading to bed.
• Squeeze a whole lemon or lime into a glass of water upon waking. You can’t get enough vitamin C.
• Drink a banana milkshake for quick relief. Blend a banana, soy milk and some honey. Bananas calm your stomach and rebuild your depleted stores of magnesium and potassium. The honey balances blood sugar.
• There’s something to the folk wisdom of a morning-after Bloody Mary. Tomato juice contains fructose, which helps you metabolize alcohol more quickly.
• Feeling brave? Naturopaths swear the best remedy for a headache is raw cabbage, or for the truly fearless, sauerkraut juice.
• Peppermint or ginger tea will settle queasiness, try this recipe below.

Ginger tea
4 cups (1 L) water
2 in. (5 cm) piece of ginger
Brown sugar or honey (optional)
Orange slices
• Fill a large saucepan with water and set over high heat.
• Bring to a boil. Meanwhile, peel ginger. Then cut into thick slices.
• Toss into boiling water. Reduce heat to medium.
• Gently boil to develop flavour, 10 min.
• Add orange slices for last couple of minutes.
• Remove from heat.
• Pour tea into big mugs and sweeten to taste with sugar or honey. Makes 4 cups (1 L)

How to give a toast

Everyone has sat through those embarrassing wedding toasts, the ones where a best friend tells a long, rambling tale about the groom’s high-school exploits. And that’s exactly why you should never try to be funny when toasting your hosts at a Christmas party, says David Shore, a two-time Canadian Comedy Award-winner and host of the biweekly improvisational comedy show Monkey Toast at Toronto’s Drake Hotel.

“Speak from the heart and say how much it means to have everyone together and people will listen and be moved,” he says. “Don’t feel compelled to say positive things about your in-laws if you don’t get along; just say, ‘Merry Christmas, everyone,’ and leave it at that.”

Peter Ostrowski, president of a Toastmasters Club in Toronto, offers a few more useful pointers for toasting in style:
• The best time for a toast is after a meal, before dessert.
• Tap your glass with a fork and make sure everyone’s glass is filled with champagne, wine or even non-alcoholic punch. Coffee, tea and water are inappropriate.
• The whole point is to thank your hosts briefly, and with great warmth. First say to whom you’d like to “propose a toast.” Then bring everyone’s attention into the moment by mentioning some wonderful detail of your host’s environment: how good the turkey smells or how the house always exudes a sense of peace and coziness.
• Keep it short and sweet, never more than three or four sentences.
• End your toast by inviting everyone to drink to your hosts.
• If you’re being toasted, don’t stand. Just smile graciously.

How to write a thank-you card

Socialites and new brides aren’t the only ones who write thank-you cards. Think how good it feels to receive a warm, appreciative thank-you card on a cold January day. Don’t worry that you don’t have fancy monogrammed notelets or a fountain pen. All that matters is that you do, in fact, visit that mailbox, says Michael Vuksta. A former personal shopper for Tiffany & Co. in New York, he also initiated the gift and greeting card section at Indigo Books & Music.

Here are Vuksta’s tips for writing thank-you cards:
• Of course, write thank-you cards for Christmas gifts. But also write one when someone has thrown an amazing party or when you’ve been a houseguest over the holidays.
• Send thank-you notes to relatives, even if you see them often.
• Email and phone calls are fine. It’s just so rare that any mail we receive is handwritten; that’s what makes a handwritten card that much more special.
• Start by saying thank you. Then say why you liked the gift and how you plan to use it.
• If thanking someone for a dinner party or a weekend visit, mention a funny moment you both shared. It’s important to give someone a little chuckle when they’re reading the note.
• Make sure your note doesn’t sound like a generic form letter, one of dozens you’re firing off. The recipient should know it’s from you before they get to the signature.