It's Fall Y’all: A Holiday Quick Guide to Staying Happy
Updated: Oct 3, 2019
With temperatures dropping and the football team colors emerging, you can't help but feel giddy with excitement that the holidays are quickly approaching! We first encounter the season of fall with pumpkin spice everything (and everywhere) and Thanksgiving. Then within a few short weeks (mainly due to the retail stores that begin celebrating quickly after Halloween, thanks Target..) we move into "elf-on-a-shelf-hiding mode", winter and the true and gloriously epic holiday season. With all of this happening in a few short months, one begins to slightly panic this time of year because we now start gathering, hosting and entertaining and it begins in full force. Time to clean the house, attend events and cheer loudly for your favorite team all while maintaining a level of composure appropriate as an adult functioning (or semi- functioning, let's be honest) in society. I don't know about you, but it comes and goes so quickly each year it seems like a blur and once Valentine's Day rolls around, I look back at photos to smile and remember half of what happened.
I can relate to how you may feel, sister or brother man. I have something exciting to share though.... we can do this, together!
I've decided to make a Happy Little Seed version of a Holiday Quick Guide to Staying Happy (and Sane) for you to make your life a little easier. This will help you to stay smiling and healthy with the start of this exciting, and sometimes stressful, time of year. It will also help in enjoying the special small moments that sometimes get overlooked when focusing on other things that seem more important. Anytime you find you need a break, feel like even another stiff pumpkin/egg nog-flavored drink won't help (we have all been there), or just need a laugh...I've got your back. Here's the start of our little guide. Enjoy.
The Happy Little Seed's Quick Guide to Staying Happy (and Sane) During the Holiday Season
Dealing With Differing Personalities During This Joyous Time
I think a lot of times when we find ourselves stressed out, it can be partially blamed on the amounts of differing personalities in a single room, or even in our own home. When fall rolls around we typically start to watch football together, have gatherings and host others who may not be exactly like us. Yes, yes... it's what makes the world go 'round and we should always accept we are unique in our own way and be accepting of others. We know this, and have been taught this since Kindergarten when we learned the Golden Rule. It still doesn't make a differing personality or opinion any easier when in such close quarters. So how do you handle that person who you just have NOTHING in common with?
Laughter. LOTS of laughter.
Simple, easy and it keeps deep conversation at a minimum if this certain someone discusses topics that make you uneasy or you may disagree with. We all know that one person who constantly wants to talk about awkward things like...politics. Respect is so important in any situation, especially with friends or family, but what makes situations easier is to laugh and create laughter. If you aren't the type that is a good story teller (I am utterly awful at retelling stories verbally), find that one person who always has a good story to tell and ask them to retell it! Relate topics or funny memories to what you're doing or maybe something someone said. Coming together doesn't have to be stressful, unless you make it that way or allow it to happen. By creating laughter (which is the literal proof of happiness) you not only create a more positive environment around you, you create more great memories with a group during togetherness. Take pictures and look back at them. In moments when you may be with these people again, (which if they're family you probably will be) look back at the laughter and fun moments in pictures to remember the happiness shared.
So what happens if you don't have someone who is good at telling stories to make a group laugh, or if you're not good at it yourself? I've got your back again. Here are some great conversation starters or tips that will help in these uncomfortable situations to create laughter together:
1. Think of a time from when you were younger (if with family) and ask if someone remembers the event. Talk about specifics and vivid details about the event. Try and pick something happy or funny which involved either yourself or someone else in the room. Usually this sparks other similar memories or stories. If someone in the room wasn't involved, include them in the recalling of this memory by using their name when discussing the story. "Phil, there was this time when Mary and I were kids when..." Ask them if they have any funny memories similar to the story that's being told.
2. Talk about kids in a positive way. Ask about someone's kids or share something funny about your own kids (kids can also be fur kids, for dog moms or dads). Usually people LOVE to discuss their children and it's something that can be fun and/or funny and create great conversation.
3. Share a travel story. Ask about trips someone else has planned or what they're doing in the coming year. If you know of a trip they may be taking, ask questions about it. Share funny stories about trips taken or what you may have experienced. For some reason, on trips typically something funny happens because we are out of our routines or comfort zones.
4. If watching football (be careful with this one as some people are very touchy about their "team"), ask if he or she caught the game last week or talk about last year's season. You can ask these questions without a huge knowledge on the sport and can simply ask who the team played last week. Someone who loves football lives for others to discuss it, and likes to share. This may not be a good one if their team played poorly, so skip this one if so or if you don't know. Not a topic that will bring laughter but just a good tip.
6. DRINK. Everything automatically becomes funnier. This probably should be a last resort, but it may be a first for some. All jokes aside, it is a great way to bring people together, and talk about favorite holiday beverages or who makes the best drinks! My hand is not raised...[cough].
Cleaning Your Home for Company
Oh, cleaning. How much we wish you would just happen without the physical work. Another stressor during the approaching season is the act of cleaning our homes enough to look like we live presentably every other day or week of the year. Do we really have to go through the amount of trouble (and stress) that we do, in a time crunch? So many of us work full-time jobs, have kids (or fur kids) and our time is so limited that we rarely feel we have enough time to even use the bathroom. So why do we stress so much to excessively clean our homes? It doesn't have to be that hard and there are so many easier ways to do so in order to keep your sanity. In the end, will anyone judge you if your home isn't completely perfect? Let me let you in on a little secret...
The good ones won't.
An easy way to clean to get ready for company is to lightly clean regularly. #sorrynotsorry You probably were hoping for a magic trick to get out of this! News flash, if you regularly clean just a little bit and just do a small amount a few times a week, your work load during crunch time is less. Less cleaning all at once means less stress! This isn't a genius way to resolve your cleaning woes, but it is a great tip in reducing your anxiety and helping you to manage your time so you can focus on other important things prior to entertaining guests and enjoy the happiness of LIFE. I suggest leaving the easiest things for the day-of. These easy cleaning tasks can be dusting/sweeping, vacuuming common areas, wiping down counters and replacing hand towels. All the hard or time consuming cleaning tasks should be done (in my opinion) days prior. These things are ones we dread like.... cleaning toilets, scrubbing the tub/shower, mopping the floors, vacuuming rooms, and cleaning the fridge, etc.
By minimizing your workload right before you have company over, you will be overall happier and healthier. You're also more likely to get everything on your list done which as a result makes you feel good about yourself! You can also tackle it as a family and ask for help. Utilizing the minions and/or your spouse greatly cuts down on time and stress and you can assign tasks that are easier if that helps put your mind at ease.
A great finishing touch to a clean home is a home disinfectant spray and/or candle to add to the festive feel. As humans we always associate smells with memories and you want them to be good ones if entering your home! Lucky for you we have some natural soy ones right here you can buy (and they smell delish!) for a 'farmhouse fancy' feel.
When it boils down to it... cleaning isn’t worth stressing over and if it does get your undies in a.. well, you know...it’s time to stop and refocus for a moment on all of your blessings. Just breathe, light some good-smelling goodies and relax. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy. There are more important things to truly stress over.
Cooking for a Crowd
Holy Moses, the cooking. Cooking in the kitchen causes so much stress even for those of us who do it with ease and who enjoy it. Allergies, food preferences, vegans, non-vegetable eaters, fried food only eaters (yes they exist in mass quantities, thanks McDonalds).... how in the world do you accommodate everyone and have enough for even a small crowd?
Well, you can't... let's face it. There is no way to know exactly what each person will or won't like (unless you're having your immediate family over who you've known your entire life). Even if you do get it right and figure out what to make, there's a chance something in the kitchen will go wrong or won't actually get made because something unexpected comes up last minute. Hey. It's okay. You're having people over for togetherness, not to be Chef Emeril Lagasse or the Southern Butter Diva herself, Paula Deen. Leave perfection to the pros. You, my friend, should just do your best and it will be enough even if you end up with just chips and dip. I love those snacks, just saying.
I‘ve come up with some easy recipes that are quick, healthy and crowd pleasers. If you also want to take some stress off of your plate (see what I did there), host a potluck and request guests to bring a dish! Voila! Problem solved. If you do that, you may even get to enjoy an extra glass of bubbly.
Healthy "Fried" Chicken
Prep Time: 20 Minutes
Cook Time: 15 Minutes
1 cup of regular oats
3/4 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon Mrs. Dash/salt substitute
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pound chicken tenders or breasts cut into strips.
extra-virgin olive oil
coconut or olive oil-based cooking spray
For Dipping: Bolthouse Ranch (greek yogurt-based dressing) or buffalo dressing (a low salt and low sugar vinegar-based sauce)
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Place oats in a food processor, and process for 20 seconds or until coarsely ground. Add cheese, thyme, salt, and pepper. Pulse to combine, and place in a shallow bowl. Brush the tenders in olive oil (or dip and wipe off excess), then drench tenders in oat mixture. Make sure all of the tenders are completely covered.
Spray baking sheet with cooking spray (or you can use olive oil as well). Place tenders on baking sheet evenly spaced apart.
Bake at 450 degrees for 15 minutes or until browned. Adorn with freshly cut chives!
Guilt-Free Holiday Sugar Cookies
Prep Time: 10 Minutes
Cook Time: 13-16 Minutes
1 and 1/4 cup almond flour
3 Tbsp coconut flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup 100% pure raw honey
1/4 cup organic extra-virgin coconut oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
coconut or olive oil-based cooking spray
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a bowl, combine almond flour, coconut flour and baking soda. Mix evenly. Then add honey, coconut oil, and vanilla extract. Mix thoroughly until a dense dough forms.
Spray a baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray. Roll the dough into 10 compact balls and press each down softly onto sheet to flatten. Bake for 13-16 minutes (13 minutes for softer cookies, 16 for crispier cookies). Let cool for 5 minutes and then taste test & enjoy!
Scrumptious "Candied" Pecans
Prep Time: 5 Minutes
Cook Time: 5-10 Minutes
3-4 cups shelled and cleaned whole pecans
1/2 cup Truvia Brown Baking Blend sugar
(optional) 100% raw honey for taste as needed
1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
1/4 cup of water
Add all ingredients (minus optional honey) into a large (10-12 inch) skillet over low-medium heat. Stir to mix all ingredients together and then stir continuously as the sugar begins to melt in the skillet, making sure to coat pecans well.
Cook until pecans have begun to toast lightly for about five minutes and then remove from heat.
Pour pecans onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Allow to cool completely and add a drizzle of honey if needed for taste. Yum!
Bottomless Berry Bubbly
Prep Time: 5 Minutes
No Cook Time (yields one drink, adjust as needed for guest count)
1 half glass of red or white wine (I would suggest sweeter wines, not dry)
1 can of sparkling berry flavored water (La Croix is a good brand or if you want it spiked even more, use Briggs or White Claw)
1/4 cup of blueberries/raspberries
a splash of 100% all-natural orange juice or pineapple juice
2-3 ice cubes
Crush fruit into a puree, and place in the bottom of your glass along with ice. If you are wanting to present these drinks prior to serving, place whole fruit into glass prior to serving and crush fruit for any refills. It looks more presentable with whole berries.
Fill wine glass 1/2 full and pour sparkling water to fill to the top. Sip and enjoy!
To make a pretty table presentation, tie a festive ribbon around the base of glass and add a sprig of rosemary at the top inside rim. This is great for holiday parties!
All in all, the point of the holiday season (that starts even before Halloween these days) is to be together with those you love. Take a step back, smile and be thankful. Not everyone is YOU, stop comparing yourself to others and enjoy the small moments worth cherishing. The frustration and stress associated with this time of year is just an 'added bonus' easily pushed aside. Focus on the reason for the season and grab the hand of a friend or loved one. I wish you all the love in the world today and through the holidays and remember to laugh, and take it all in.