I don’t know about you, but for me October is the unofficial kick-off to what is traditionally considered the “busiest season of the year” for many of us. The weather has noticeably started to change, retailers and advertisers have started to let us all know we only have a limited time left to prepare for all that is coming and the cozy, festive feelings (with a bit of Halloween scare thrown in to keep us in check!) start to remind us that another year is coming to a close…..

I am a Summer Baby through and through and the change in seasons always makes me a little sad….I could live on the beach with my feet in the water and my butt in the sand and never regret it!  But, I also LOVE Thanksgiving and Christmas.  I know….make up your mind lady! The magic of the holiday season has always been something I look forward to.  Thanksgiving feels like the start of it.  And the magic of Christmas is very different now that I have children.  And this year, 2020 amidst a global pandemic, it is all feeling very different indeed.  The way advertisers and retailers are marketing, how we’re planning and what we have in mind for the season ahead.  

I was approached a few weeks ago to be a featured contributor in another blog with a number of other entrepreneurs about how we plan to celebrate this year in the face of 2020.  Reading how others have changed their plans and what new traditions they plan to create got me thinking about some of my favourite things about this season as well.  There is a bit (ok, probably a lot for most of us) of sadness when we think about what we might not be able to do this year, but we have also been given the opportunity to slow down, take a look at what we DO have and appreciate it all the more.

Over the last few years, Thanksgiving has been one of the weekends I look forward to the most.  My husband usually has all of his year’s vacation time to still use up (he’s a company man through and through and lets his staff take all of their holidays before he does!) so he has often used a vacation day to take the Friday before Thanksgiving off and uses another 4 days to take the week following Thanksgiving.  Which gives us 10 days for the cost of only one of his weeks of vacation! 

We use some of that time to make a plan for the rest of the year, and for the last few years, (with the exception of last year and now this year) we’ve also made a trip out to my best friend’s house (and to her mum’s in years past) with our girls to celebrate together.  It has honestly been my favourite part of Thanksgiving over the last decade!  I think we started this semi-tradition when I was expecting my oldest daughter and she’ll be 10 in January! 

There are some people in your life who just feel like home and these girls and their mum (and now one of their hubbys as well) are my “home”, our friendfamily, for sure.  We would spend the better part of the entire weekend outside….in the garden with the last of the veggies to harvest, in the barn with the horses, hiking through the woods around their house with the dogs, and in recent years, learning about keeping honeybees! 

Amidst the outdoor time, we’d share amazing food, laugh for hours and likely enjoy a few glasses of wine.  And it never felt like anyone was stressing about getting things done.  We flowed through the weekend at our own pace (although now that I am a mum I can definitely say I appreciate my bestie’s mum for all that she has done over the years to make us all feel welcome!) and enjoyed each other’s company without expectation.  I think this is part of why it has been one of my most enjoyed weekends of the last few years.  No expectation.  No rushing.  No stressing.  We all contributed food to the communal pile, we all took turns preparing and cleaning up and we all got to enjoy each other because no one person was in charge of everything.  And I think we can all take some advice from that when we look at preparing for the “busy” season ahead of us! 

 

Jess’ 5 Tips for Making the Most of the Busy Holiday Season:

  1. Delegate or plan potluck style events so that no one person is responsible for all of it. Who will bring what food and drink? Is someone going to be in charge of desserts?  Will someone be setting the table or will it be more like a buffet?  Who will be the one playing with the kids while the food is prepped? Are the kids old enough to participate in some of these jobs?
  2. Be mindful of EXPECTATION. This one can be hard and is often a large contributor to stress and overwhelm!  There can be a general plan (we know we’ll need food and drinks etc) but try not to hold too hard and fast to a schedule or build up what you expect an event to look like so you are less likely to stress out about things “not going to plan”.  Also, don’t hold yourself to someone else’s expectation either!  Just because someone else thinks you should do something one way or another does not mean you have to!  And if you find that someone or something doesn’t work for you, it is perfectly ok to say no!
  3. Work together! When everyone takes a turn in the food prep, serving and cleaning up,  again, no one person is responsible for all of it.  This can also help to not exclude anyone from the fun part of the holidays.  If you are always the one doing the washing up you’re the one stuck in the kitchen with your hands in wash water while everyone else relaxes over pumpkin pie and mulled wine….
  4. Find “shortcuts” where you can. This is where Epicure has been a massive help to me!  Meal solutions, baking mixes and ready-made blends for desserts, hot drinks and appetizers means less overall work required to bring a meal together.  Make use of tools like slow cookers and sheetpan recipes to cut down on prep, dishes and hands-on cooking time.  Prep ahead when you can so that things can be reheated for serving rather than trying to cook it all at once.
  5. GRATITUDE! One of my favourite parts about our Thanksgiving meal with my bestie and her family has been our tradition of going around the table before we start to eat to share what we are grateful for – in that moment, for the week or month or year we’ve had, the people, places or experiences.  It has been something we’ve all enjoyed and all taken away from the table with us when our meal was done.  To be grateful for who we are with and what we have while we’re in it makes it all so much less overwhelming.  Appreciate those people and situations who make you feel like “home”.