Back in Black

Go on, hit the play button — you know you want to hear this while you read the rest of this entry. 😉

Feeling overwhelmed by recent life events, I have been neglecting my blog of late. My apologies to those faithful few who read my blog diligently. I’d had several fun posts in mind for Halloween, but life events conspired against me.

But foregoing any unforeseen events, I’m back. 🙂

Whether you celebrate Hanukkah or Christmas — or neither! — or any of the many other holidays that occur around this time of year — I love the holidays we have coming up — Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s — this is my favorite time of year.

Many people get stressed over the holidays, but my focus is to enjoy them as much as possible. Here are some of the things I do and points of view I try to implement that help me savor this time of year instead of freaking out:

  • Plan ahead. For the big family gatherings, I get assignments from my mother-in-law on the contributions she’d like from me for the meal. I make a list of the items I’ll need, check them against what’s in my pantry, and figure up a shopping list. This can also help you avoid having to make any last minute visits to the grocery or convenience store.
  • Make a list and check it twice. I keep a running list (Google docs is great for this!) of things I want to make and/or do. This way, I don’t overlook or forget anything in the rush and excitement of the holiday. I also have three small dry erase boards in my kitchen: I write down what needs to be done and check it off as I do them. This way, I don’t forget to make the vegetable salad or prepare the roll dough. 😉
  • Do ahead. Anything I can do ahead of time and any task I can break into stages, I do. For example, I usually bake two or three pies for holiday events. I make my pie crust the day before and store them in the ‘fridge (one could also make them even farther in advance and freeze them). Breaking the task into two parts — the crusts one day and the pie fillings and baking the next — means I don’t feel exhausted on “pie day.” 😉 My roll dough keeps in the ‘fridge for several days, so I will make it up ahead of when I need it. When I’m the host, I often set the table the day before.
  • Do your food shopping as early before the holiday as you can and shop during off hours when you can. Since I’m self-employed, I can generally be more flexible with my schedule than many of you, but still, when you can, take advantage of “off-hours” by shopping early in the morning or later in the evening. If you’re able to, I’ve found that mid mornings of weekdays are usually quite manageable at my local stores.
  • Remember — the holidays don’t have to be expensive. You CAN stay in the black. 😉  If you’re hosting a gathering, make it pot luck and ask guests to contribute — they will most likely relish the opportunity to share some of their favorite dishes. If you want to have alcoholic beverages at your gathering, you can curtail this cost by either providing a limited offering (beer and wine, for example, or a party punch or signature drink) or asking guests to BYOB (“Bring Your Own Bottle/Beverage”). You can host a “pot luck” dessert party and have everyone bring their own favorite dessert to share. You could have a wine tasting party — everyone bring their own favorite wine (you could set a budget of under $1o or $15 a bottle, if you like) and favorite hors d’oeuvre. A “game night” party could be fun, also — everyone bring their favorite game, favorite snacks, and favorite beverages. Or have a movie night — popcorn, snacks, and a couple of favorite films. All of these are affordable ways to build happy memories with family and friends — and the memories are what’s important, aren’t they?
  • Not all gifts have to be bought in a store. Gift-giving to family and friends, as well as recognizing those we work with all year ’round, can be even more challenging in a down economy. A card or nice notepaper with a sincere, hand-written note is always appreciated. Gifts of homemade baked goods, candies, or the such are always enjoyed. (Many years ago, when I worked in a small office, I baked up yeast rolls in disposable pans for my office mates and wrapped them in cling wrap and tied a festive bow on them. There was not a person who didn’t truly and genuinely appreciate them.) Scope out the dollar stores and discount stores for festive but inexpensive cups and food bags to provide your offerings. Any special thing you can make or do — such as a homemade soap, beauty product, seasoning mix, etc. — will be appreciated as a gift.
  • Accept gifts in the spirit they are given. Don’t feel guilty if you don’t have a gift to give in return, or if you cannot return the gift in kind. Someone who thinks enough of you to give you a gift wouldn’t want you stressing out over a return gift, nor would such a person want you to provide a gift you could not afford. Simply accept it and enjoy it.
  • By the same token, give only those gifts you want and can afford to give. Don’t give gifts with the expectation of receiving a gift in return.
  • Don’t expect perfection and you won’t be disappointed. Cakes fall. Sometimes rolls fail to rise. Food gets burnt. Drinks get spilled. Guests arrive later or earlier than anticipated. It happens. The important thing is to remember to enjoy the season and focus on the happy moments and events.
  • It’s okay that you don’t love — or even like! — all of your family and friends equally (and maybe some not at all!). 😉 Don’t beat yourself up for being human. Just strive to keep yourself civil. Try to avoid things that you know will trigger an argument. And when your least favorite relative has a bit too much to drink and purposely starts trying to push all your buttons, separate yourself from him or her as soon and as quickly as possible.

Happy Holidays, y’all!

This holiday season, may you stay in the black financially and in the pink emotionally.

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About MissieLee

I love tasty food prepared in a healthy way with a budget in mind.
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