Santa’s Helpers

Local businesses take the hassle out of holiday preparations

By Laura DeSisto | Photography by Alyssa Stone

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the pressure to create picture-perfect holiday décor and dishes (thanks, Instagram). But with packed work and family schedules, finding the time and energy to pull it off can be a challenge, and the season can easily snowball into a stress-filled fiasco. Fortunately, a cottage industry of modern-day “elves” has sprung up to help families enjoy a more festive and less frantic season. From wrapping presents and cooking holiday meals to decorating your home inside and out, here are a few local businesses that are ready and able to make your holiday hassles disappear.

Mary Kay Richardson

Merry Multi-tasker
The mother of four grown children, Mary Kay Richardson has a lifetime of experience solving problems, running errands and juggling a multitude of tasks.

“After my kids left the nest, I thought, Why not keep doing what I love?” says Richardson, who is now in her fourth year of running Consider It Done concierge service. “I have done everything from taking a car to get inspected to meeting a cable guy and taking a sick cat to the vet.”

Not surprisingly, business picks up around the holiday season when Richardson is often called upon to purchase, return and wrap gifts, run out for forgotten recipe ingredients and pick up clothes from the dry cleaner to be ready for festive celebrations. “I rarely get a request for a task that I can’t get done,” says Richardson. “And if I don’t have the skill or the time, I will always find someone who does.”

There’s almost no request that’s too outlandish. “I once had a client who was away for the holidays ask me to bring a present to her dog on Christmas morning,” says Richardson. “I was happy to oblige.”

Leslie Armstrong

Deck the Halls
Now that your party is planned, all that’s left is to add the finishing touches to your table, mantel and outdoor décor. That’s where Leslie Armstrong of olive james bouquets steps in.

“I’ve always believed that flowers bring people so much happiness that they should be a part of everyday life,” says Armstrong. “My goal with olive james bouquets is to offer affordable, high quality and personalized floral arrangements.”

In addition to designing beautiful centerpieces, Armstrong will decorate outdoor planters and window boxes for the season. In the fall, she might fill outdoor planters with succulents, grasses, pumpkins and vines, and for Christmas, she might decorate with evergreen boughs, pinecones, berries and other unexpected surprises.

Armstrong drives into Boston at 4:30 a.m. a few times a week to shop at the New England Flower Exchange where she hunts for unusual flowers, plants and decorative material. “Last week, I found these really cool owls that will be perfect in woodland-themed holiday planters,” she says. “When I’m designing décor, I like to consider the color scheme of the house and any natural features, such as woods, water or rock outcroppings. No two arrangements are the same.” Upon request, she will also decorate mantels and trim Christmas trees.

Katie Callahan

Food and Drink Finesse
With your errands done and your presents wrapped, it is time to plan your holiday dinner or cocktail party. Enter Katie Callahan, a chef turned caterer with over 10 years of experience in the food industry, including stints working with Boston’s famed chef Barbara Lynch and for America’s Test Kitchen.

“That’s where I learned to make food more approachable for the average person,” says Callahan, of her time at America’s Test Kitchen. “I can now take the techniques I learned in restaurants and use them to create elegant food people are happy to serve in their own homes.”
With this philosophy in mind, Callahan recently stepped down from a full-time gig at the popular Scituate eatery Galley Kitchen & Bar to start her own catering business, Amity Events Company. Still less than a year old, her catering business is already off to a running start, offering an array of services and menu items.

“You can order as little as a dozen hand-painted sugar cookies or we can plan an entire event, including a full dinner, service staff, bartender and rentals,” says Callahan. “I believe that’s what distinguishes our business.”

Convinced that cocktail party fare should be easy for guests to manage, Callahan includes what she likes to call “party dress appetizers” on her catering menu.

“There’s nothing worse than standing around in a nice outfit and trying not to spill while you juggle a glass of wine and a plate full of food,” she says. “My appetizers can be eaten with one hand, in one bite.”

Some of Callahan’s favorites dishes include seasonal soup “shooters” served in shot glasses, beet skewers, local sausage skewers and salmon tartare elegantly portioned into wooden spoons. If you are ordering for a dinner party, she might suggest beer-braised short ribs or bacon-wrapped pork loin with sides of crispy brussel sprouts with pancetta, cauliflower gratin or butternut squash lasagna.

Consider it Done

Amity Events Company

olive james bouquets

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