Holiday De-Stressing

I don’t know about you, but I really start to feel the stress of the holidays right after Thanksgiving, and up until Christmas Day has ended. Don’t get me wrong — I LOVE the holidays, in fact, Thanksgiving and Christmas are my favorite holidays of the year, but that doesn’t change the fact that the holidays are stressful.  You not only have the stress of cooking all day with family in town and little kids running afoot while you’re preparing turkey, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, and gravy all at the same time while you’re family is watching football. Or, there is the stress of things like the “Thanksgiving Creep” — where Black Friday creeps so far into your thanksgiving celebration you either have to ensure your family dinner is early, and I mean early, or you have to skip family dinner in order to shop. I see this as a travesty of justice — a way to put you in the middle of having to choose between your family and saving money for that special toy your child wants that you cannot afford.

Even though I am Pennywise, I choose not to even look at Black Friday ads for stores that are open on Thanksgiving. I won’t support them. I refuse. Life is too short to choose family over shopping, in my opinion. Family is only in town for a very short time, and you are already spending all day in the kitchen cooking to prepare the perfect meal. By the time you get the food on the table, it would be time to go Black Friday shopping, if you were so inclined, and you’d miss sharing special time with your family, or you’d have to rush through dinner to be able to get out the door in time. Like I said earlier, life is too short for me to want to do that. I’d much rather spend time preparing the meal in the morning/early afternoon, and then spend the rest of the afternoon/evening enjoying the company of  family and friends from near and far.

Honestly, it’s easy for me to choose family over finances. I hate, and I mean HATE Black Friday shopping. Yes, you can get great deals, but it’s just too crazy and I don’t mean a little crazy either.  I mean you stop at a light and without moving more than a car length ahead, your light turns red, and the other side’s light turns green. Once you get to the store, people are rushing all around you, trying to get their holiday shopping done, and they see you grabbing for the last Hatchimal and elbow you in the eye so they can get it first, only to find out afterwards that you were just reaching for a Lalaloopsy doll and weren’t in competition for that Hatchimal after all. I just feel that life is to short to compete for gifts, to give up family time on Thanksgiving Day, or to fight the traffic that never seems to move. 🙂

Whatever you decided this weekend, you’re likely all stressed out from Thanksgiving, holiday shopping, and putting up Christmas lights, so I thought you could use some ideas for relaxation and de-stressing. Of course, I’d love to hear your ideas, so please comment below if you have any other ways that you like to relax:

Take Time Out for Yourself

Take some time out for yourself. Think for a while about what makes you feel good, and then do it! Do you like to cuddle up with a good book, by the fire? Or, perhaps you are the type who would rather paint your nails, or light some candles and take a bubble bath? Maybe there is a great movie you’ve been wanting to watch, but haven’t been able to because of all the things you need to do. If you find that you are too busy to take time out for yourself, talk with another busy friend to see if you can do things to give each other the gift of time, such as prepare twice as much food for dinner one night (giving one meal to a friend and keeping the other for yourself), so your friend could have a couple of hours to herself, and then a night, or two later, she could prepare twice as much food so that you will have time to read a book, paint your nails, or take a bubble bath — doing whatever you really enjoy that will make you feel good. Not a cook? Not a problem! Try trading babysitting with each other to provide a few hours for each of you to do something special for yourself. Spending a few minutes — even a few hours — by yourself after so much family time will often help you recharge and feel rejuvenated, and none of it has to cost much.

Give a Gift of Time

Gifts of time are my favorite gifts — they don’t cost you very much at all – often, just your time. If there is a cost, it is generally nominal. My husband takes a vacation day on my birthday every year just to clean the house! This gift, though to others may not seem like much, means the world to me! Though I have appreciated this gift for the past 15-20 years, I appreciate it even more since I was t-boned two years ago, and I have a much harder time cleaning than I used to.  Gifts of time are always the right size, always the right color, and they never have to be returned — they are my favorite, perhaps because of the thoughtfulness of the giver.

Spend some time with a friend you haven’t talked with in a while. This is the time of year when people, especially older folks and single moms, feel lonely and/or overwhelmed, especially if there aren’t a lot of people who call to check on them and see how they are doing. Single moms, especially, love to have the gift of a babysitter, a meal they don’t need to cook, or housework they don’t have to do. Older folks, especially widowed people, love to just have someone come and visit them — their favorite gift of time is company — someone to share a piece of pie and some coffee, or tea with.

Another gift of time is volunteering. This is the time of year when many places are looking for people to volunteer to help them — the Salvation Army often needs bell ringers, people to work in their stores, and people to help create and distribute food baskets; rescue missions need volunteers, pet shelters need volunteers — even your local Goodwill is likely getting more donations than they can handle! Helping others makes you feel good and makes you forget about your own troubles, as you see others who probably are worse off than you are. Plus, when you help others you feel like you’re really doing something worthwhile — you see how happy you are making others, and even what a difference you are making in their lives and it makes you happy, too! Many people will thank you for your service and will really appreciate whatever you do for them.



Thanksgiving on a Budget

Thanksgiving is a holiday that isn’t always as thankful as it should be — while Thanksgiving should be about things you are thankful for, and spending time with your family, you don’t always feel thankful. 🙂 After spending hours upon hours at the grocery store, and then spending all day cooking dinner for a few moments together at dinner, and then several more hours cleaning up the mess while members of your family watch football, it’s sometimes hard to find things to be thankful for and even more difficult to stay on budget.  While you’re losing your sanity trying to create the best possible Thanksgiving for your family, most of your guests won’t even notice, or care, if you’re doing everything on a budget.

You’ll need a few decorations to liven up the holiday spirit, and some food to make everyone feel at home.

Thanksgiving “Potluck”

One way to keep the budget lower and your sanity intact is to ask everyone to bring an item. While you’re baking turkey,  or whipping up mashed potatoes, someone else can bring the green bean casserole, apple or pumpkin pie, and yams, or whatever your family likes. If you don’t have to make everything yourself, you won’t be as tired at the end of the day, won’t have to spend as much money for ingredients, and you’ll have more time and energy to enjoy the family, and friends that are there to spend time with you.

So, let’s get started. Thanksgiving just wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without turkey, so you’ll either need to find a way to obtain the turkey inexpensively (your local foodbank will provide you one if you go on their appointed days and times, for free), or, if you choose to purchase a turkey, you can often get a free, or very low priced turkey if you spend a certain amount. Another alternative would be to scrap the whole turkey and opt for turkey breast, or drumsticks instead. Since supply and demand dictates price, and the general population is demanding whole turkey, turkey breasts, and drumsticks are much less expensive.

Buying a 10-pound bag of potatoes is often less expensive than a 5-pound bag, but get what will work best for your family. In my local grocery store, it’s $1.68 for a 5lb. bag of potatoes, but for just $1.30 more, I can get a 10lb bag of potatoes — that’s an extra 5lbs of potatoes for only a small amount more. If the cost of the potatoes are too expensive, or you don’t feel you could use 5lbs or 10lbs of potatoes, opt for instant mashed potatoes (another item your local foodbank will provide for free if you go).

Making gravy is easy and inexpensive since you can often make it with pantry items you already have on hand. Just take the turkey drippings, add in 1/3-1/2 cup of flour, and enough broth, or bouillon to give it a spoonable consistency, cooking it on medium until it boils, and then reducing it to low while stirring often.

Rolls, or biscuits are often staples at a Thanksgiving meal. Make them yourself to save money, or pick up a pack for a couple of dollars. Thankfully, a package of rolls isn’t more than a couple of dollars, so you can grab some without sacrificing your budget, unless your family is like mine and you need a gluten-free alternative, as my husband is celiac (allergic to gluten). In that case, making rolls is your only alternative if you don’t want to spend much money — our go-to gluten-free roll recipe is: Gluten-Free Pull Apart Dinner Rolls.

Jello parfait is also a very inexpensive side dish at a Thanksgiving meal. Just mix up a package of instant Jello (following package directions), and then once it is completely set, cut the Jello up into small pieces, and then mix in a cup, or two of whipped cream.

Stuffing is likely going to be your most expensive Thanksgiving item. Using dried herbs rather than fresh, if you have them in your pantry, will save you money. Just remember that you generally use fewer dried herbs than you would fresh. Here is a recipe from Recipe4Living, and another one from Epicurious for traditional stuffing that uses items you likely have in your pantry (unless, of course, you opt for the fresh versions of the herbs that they ask you to use).

Finally, you must have a dessert, and what would Thanksgiving be without a traditional Pumpkin Pie recipe? Here is a pumpkin pie recipe that won’t break the bank, if you purchase the items while they are on sale in the few days (maybe even a week) before Thanksgiving. Here is a great recipe from


Now that you have the food under control, it’s time to think about decorations. One simple decoration, that serves dual purpose as a way to keep kids occupied, is to take Kraft paper and roll it across your table as a tablecloth. You can add your own drawings, or even trace around your place settings to add some décor, but one of the best things about this brown paper tablecloth is that it entertains the kids of all ages who are waiting for dinner! Perhaps ask each person to write something they are thankful for — this will help them to remember their answers now, and then later, the tablecloth can be folded and kept as a memento, or can be cut apart and easily turned into scrapbook memorabilia.

Napkin Rings.  These turkey napkin rings are easy, inexpensive, and adorable. You can use any kind of felt — you don’t have to use the felt recommended in the article. 🙂

Dual purpose decoration and dessert. These cute little Candy and Cookie Turkeys can serve as both decoration before dinner, and dessert after dinner. Everyone — young, and old — will love these adorable candy and cookie turkeys that can be made fairly inexpensively — especially if you remember they serve two purposes, and you likely won’t have them on the table long enough to need to clean them up after dinner! 🙂

Can of gold, copper, or orange spray paint and leaves, pinecones, and acorns. You can make anything look more expensive with a can of spray paint. Get leaves from your yard, or a local park, lay them out on a piece of cardboard and spray paint them with gold, copper, and orange, and you’ll have some gorgeous décor to lay on your table.  Gather some pinecones, or acorns from under your tree, spray paint them and, after dried, place them in a bowl with some unused pillar candles from your local dollar store for a creative and decorative centerpiece. When painted in gold, copper, or silver, pinecones can be reused for a Christmas centerpiece at a later time.