Stressed? KISS your Thanksgiving (and other celebration feasts)
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  1. #1

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    Talking Stressed? KISS your Thanksgiving (and other celebration feasts)

    People get very stressed about providing the "perfect" feast for various celebrations, Thanksgiving and Christmas being near the top of the list.

    I just heard a chef on CBS this morning explaining that if you didn't have perfect stuffing, your family would remember your fiasco for generations.

    OK he meant it as a joke, but it's a rather cruel one because women everywhere struggle so hard to provide a perfect dinner on these occaisions.

    Here are some things I've done, to bring the joy back.

    The feast days in my house are days when I give my frugal self permission to use ready made/canned/boxed/instant/disposable products to make my life simpler and easier.

    Next I tell myself it's not what we eat or do that makes the holiday special, it's the fact that we are doing it together. Each family has their own rituals, and routines.

    SO why not build new ones that have meaning for your family and break out of the mold you were born into. After all you and your spouse probably had different traditions.

    So rebuild from the basics. What do you want to include? We don't eat potatoes much, dh doesn't like them, dd and I are on semi constant low carb diets, and there are TONS of carbs in the meal otherwise

    so we ditched the mashed potatoes in favour of more boxed stuffing from Stove Top which is one of my family favourites.

    We have the obligatory brussel sprouts (at least up north in Canada they are part of a traditional meal) and dump loads of CANNED cranberry sauce on top to make them palatable if they aren't sweet and tasty (Canadian thanksgiving sometimes happens before the hard frosts that make brussels sprouts taste good)

    While I do gravy, I make life simple and buy BISTO gravy mix (yes every other day of the year I am perfectly capable of making it with flour and drippings and water but this is a special day).

    Yams are just boiled and peeled a day ahead, then mashed, and reheated in the microwave. Pies are bought at the store.

    NON FOOD:

    Next if your family has a lot of fun with a particular board game, make it part of the tradition.

    Christmas Carols, tree trimming, board games, they are all good NON FOOD RELATED traditions.

    The point is being together, doing something special, and a special meal. Sharing a tradition.

    But when the tradition becomes difficult, remember that it can be revised and still provide meaning and fulfillment.

    THE KILLER STUFF BEFORE HAND:

    And another thing!

    Do you clean frantically for the holidays, only to face a mountain of dishes and stuffing that is stuck to the carpet, cranberry spills or eggnog spills that glue your bare feet to the kitchen floor????

    Why not make it even simpler?

    Use your dimmer switches, (Save sanity AND electricity) light candles and enjoy the ambience of the season,

    THEN CLEAN AFTER!!!!!

    And consider holiday themed paper plates and napkins which are really useful to have on hand to eke out the supply of Granny's good bone china that you are busy collecting. They are nice for putting out crackers and dips, and cookie trays too when company arrives. The rest of the year you can stay with washable plates, but if it's crazy it's nice to know there are some things you can do to make it simple.

    IN SHORT:

    So take some shortcuts, and revamp the traditions, create entirely new ones.

    It will be something wonderful to pass on to your children, the stress free memories where mum had time and fun and energy to spare to enjoy her kids and family.

    Now that WILL build the right kind of memories.

    One reason I struggle to this day with Christmas and holidays is because the aunt I went to live with after my mum died turned into a screaming wretch.

    Oh it all LOOKED perfect, but the strain on everyone was horrific. The screaming fits she threw if anyone disturbed the "perfection" were awful. The tension surrounding whether you managed to surprise her properly with the right gift, and the cousins, with gifts that she deemed had "thought" and heart.

    because of her I get nervous about gift giving and I absolutely hate picking out a gift. I often give money instead and avoid the whole beastly expectational mess even though it's been years since I've given to people who have expectations of perfection.

    I vowed I wouldn't do that to my kids. I've set them free by showing them every year that fast foods, and shortcuts are a great way to build memories and that traditions are great when they serve the people that enjoy them.

    But the minute they become a slave driver, they suck the joy out of the memories faster than a vacuum sucks up dust.

    HOPE THAT HELPS

    HUGS and happy American thanksgiving all!

  2. #2

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    KISS stands for KEEP IT SIMPLE SWEETIE!!!

  3. #3

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    Boughten cookies, pies, cranberry sauce, prestuffed turkeys, boxed stuffing, canned yams, frozen veggies, instant mashed potatoes dolled up with sour cream and butter, boxed gravy mix and fancy paper plates and napkins yes it sounds expensive and flimsy.

    But it can be the price of peace.

    I pick stuff up on the sales surrounding the build up to the holidays as many of these things go on for cheap.

    I find Costco quite helpful for buying paper plates, napkins, and tablecloths. The bulk packs last many years if you only use them for holidays.

    I prefer non themed plates and napkins as they will do for other occaisions but when my current lot run out (some have been around since the kids were babies) I probably will go with holiday themes as that seems to be all I ever use them for.

    If that yucks you out, don't do it, but it's an option if you are feeling stressed.

    Oh and as for grannies' bone china, haul it out for sunday dinners and make a weekly event for the family to celebrate the week.

    But for the big holidays, keep it simple and save your sanity.

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  5. #4

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    Don't forget your crockpot for things like keeping mashed potatoes hot (I do them for large family get togethers with family that eats potatoes, just not Christmas and Thanksgiving)

    or keeping spiced apple cider hot, or cocoa or mulled wine.

    Then there is the crockpot version of nuts and bolts. That Cheerios and pretzel snack.

    Stuffing for a crowd, steaming the yams, baking potatoes, it does it all.

    You can even use a small dip size crock to keep gravy hot.

    It makes good hot soups, and on days when you are shopping or cleaning or making cookies, having dinner in the crock can be a life saver.

  6. #5
    Registered User hollyhill's Avatar
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    Thanks Margery! Brilliant like always.
    It is our turn to host Christmas this year but I had to bow out. I simply can't pull together the extra food to serve 20 people right now. Even though we do pot luck for many dishes there are still lots of extra costs involved which our measly budget can't absorb. My extended family thinks I am scrooge.Bah humbug.............LOL Ah well you win some and lose some. But I am going to save this thread for next year! YEAH Next year.

  7. #6

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    You are welcome!

    It's amazing how people can be, thinking that it's no extra cost involved when they have NO idea of how tight it can be at times.

    Someday if the tables were ever turned, they'll be singing a different tune. They'd probably come asking for advice on how you managed to hold it all together.

    I remember some times when it was embarrassing for me to explain nope I couldn't afford whatever, and the person would look incredulous and say OH BUT..... followed by a little explanation of how even the poorest person could manage

  8. #7

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    my computer just hung, got it fixed.

    rest of post

    how even the poorest person could manage X. usually followed by another incredulous remark like "surely you don't mean to say that you can't afford X, why if you really want something, you'll manage, everyone can if they really want X.

    hmmmmmmm

    At this point one might be forgiven for saying in loud and harsh tones, WHATEVER MADE YOU THINK I WANTED X!

    however by that time I'm usually thoroughly embarrassed.

    I really wish people would stop with that stupid myth that if you truly wanted whatever it is, that you would find a way to afford it.

    It really isn't so.

    family and aquaintences can be somewhat unthinking and judge people as Scrooges, when they just can't take part in something due to finances.

    My sympathies.

    Next year will be so much better.

  9. #8
    Registered User hollyhill's Avatar
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    Thanks for understanding......
    The way I see it is it also boils down to different levels of "I can't afford to....". People use that term frequently. But what it really means is that they have a set amount of money, which they may choose to spend on certain things, but anything that isn't really important to them they choose not to spend their limited funds on that item.

    So friends and extended family presume that when I mean I can't afford to host an event it means it isn't a high priority for me <sigh>....Which isn't the case. It is a high priority but for us "I can't aford to" means if I spend the dollars on the dinner for family I won't have the money to buy milk for my kids.....it is a very different kind of "I can't afford to". And unless they have experienced that level of financial difficulty you can't really explain it to them.

    I knew a family several years ago that were experiencing severe financial hardship because their Dh injured his back. I remember her complaining to me that so many people said they were having equally difficult times, but she said all she had to do is look at their fruit bowl. If it was full and contained at least 3 different kinds of fruit, they werenot experiencing the same kind of financial difficulty that they were experiencing because fruit for them had become a luxury item.

    So now I am so happy when our fruit bowl is full of apples, bananas and oranges! Because I then feel that things aren't too bad . However, when it is empty and I can't afford to fill it I become very worried.

    But back to family..... my family is small and we have a very small manageable and affordable get togethers. My inlaws dinners are large and I have not told them the nitty gritty of our situation because then they bring up the "well, put the kids in school and get a job" routine. So I just don't say anything.

  10. #9

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    Hey Margery thanks for all of the great posts I don't feel so bad now that I bought a few ready made items (boxed mixes)for Thanksgiving now I will still have plenty to do.
    You mentioned a crockpot version of the nuts and bolts recipe could you please post it?

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    Wonderful wisdom, Margery! I totally agree with you that its all about being together with the ones you love.

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    Margery, ummmmm I use Stove Top stuffing too. And I even purchase Christmas cookies and we don't have large gatherings anymore.

    I learnt a long time ago that celebration get togethers are about being with family, not about what you eat, what you wear or how expensive your gift is. I read in a book (can't remember which one) that the nicest meal the author had was sitting down with a friend and having a slice of hot homemade bread, with a dollop of butter and homemade jam and a hot cup of tea. The meal was simple and yet elegant, served on a nice plate and fancy cup. The author mentioned how she had such sweet fellowship with her friend.

    I agree totally to take short cuts so you can spend time with those around you.

    As to cleanup - that too has become very easy for me. The whole family gets together and takes part in the clean-up. Years ago, everyone would come, eat our food, open their gifts and leave. I'd be in the kitchen slaving away, doing all the cooking and all the cleaning afterwards. I seldom got to visit with the company I had invited over. Now, if we have a family gathering or friends over for a celebration, I ask everyone to bring a food item and before anyone leaves, they are put to work in the kitchen cleaning up. It's made any celebration a whole lot easier.

    Holly I agree with you in what some think "I can't afford it" means. I don't use that term anymore for that very reason. When I can't have family home, I make no excuses other than to say "we've chosen to spend a quiet Christmas (or whatever celebration it is) by ourselves at home". Personally I don't think anyone needs to explain the reason why unless we feel comfortable doing so. If they don't like it so be it. In most cases, they'll get over it.

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    I forgot, I've also made gift giving a whole lot easier for those thinking they need to bring a gift at any celebration. I ask them to donate canned goods to the local food bank or to bring canned goods to us and I will donate them to the food bank. It's worked perfect for us in that I'm not getting something I don't want and it's helping others in need. In many cases, although they'd never admit it, I think most are quite happy in not having to purchase more gifts.

  14. #13

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    I love that food bank suggestion!!!!

    One of the nice young couples in our church is having an open house over Christmas, I just got our invite in church yesterday and they printed that right on there.

    LOVE IT LOVE IT LOVE IT!!!!!

    I have to dig up that cp recipe, later, but I'll put it over in Crockpots.

  15. #14

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    Okay thanks I'll be looking for it

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