Simplify: Thanksgiving

standard November 20, 2017 Leave a response

For many of us, Thanksgiving is a big production of food, football, family gathering, laughter, fights, and lots of pie. It can be an easygoing, laid back affair or it can be a stressful nonstop event. My memories of Thanksgiving growing up involved family vacation, since my family didn’t see the point of cooking a huge meal for just four people. I look back on those trips and see all the fun, all the experiences, and none of the stress (though I know some was probably involved for my parents in taking a vacation anywhere with kids).

Once I grew up and was making my own decisions about where to go for Thanksgiving, would we host, would we cook, where would we go, it started to get a lot more stressful. Then I switched to a plant-based diet, and things got even more complicated. I started making big productions myself, full of vegan dishes I was determined everyone would love. Family came, friends came, everyone helped out. It was fun and fairly low key (except for my cooking madness). But over the years, I started feeling like I had to keep topping each year’s menu and activities and things easily got big and stressful. FOR NO REASON. It was all in my head.

This year, I decided to go back to the basics. The menu is getting shrunk. The visitors are increasing. The activities are staying the same. Exactly as I want it to be.

Ready to get your Thanksgiving back and enjoy every minute without going crazy? Try these tips:

Cut the menu in half. Yes. Half. Take a look at each dish you traditionally make and ask yourself, “WHY do I make this?” Is it a food you love, that your family loves, that your one child loves and insists upon? Great. Keep it on the menu. However, if you find you are making something just because you’ve always made it, and no one will miss it, cross if off the list this year. There is no reason to make something people don’t care about that much. It just adds to your cooking list and provides extra time and stress.

Invite the people who matter.  We are all used to having family at holiday gatherings. But also think about those friends and coworkers and neighbors who might not have somewhere else to go and who have a big impact on your daily life. Yes, this is adding people to your day, and we’re trying to simplify here, not make things harder. But people can also bring food. Fill your table with the people that matter most to you. And give them a dish to bring to round out the meal without you having to do all the cooking.

Put guests to work. Have a friend or relative who always shows up early? Let them help! Even guests who aren’t as savvy in the kitchen can pop rolls in the oven or toss a salad together. Have someone stir cranberry sauce, mash potatoes, check on the pie, pour drinks, set the table. Even kids can get in on the prep work. And giving everyone a role to play will make guests feel more at home and included.

Make it fun. Thanksgiving isn’t about spending the day in the kitchen while your guests lounge around watching football. Add some fun activities everyone can participate in to your agenda for the day. Join in the annual Turkey Trot in the morning before coming home and cooking up your feast. Go out and play a round of tag or flag football. Have a family game night tradition after dinner. And make sure the host or hostess also participates! If you’ve cut recipes off your cooking list, asked people to bring food, and put guests to work, you have plenty of time to join in on the fun!

Looking for some menu and recipe inspiration? Check out these past holiday posts:

What are you doing this year to simplify Thanksgiving? 

Simplify: Traveling with Baby

standard September 18, 2017 Leave a response

If you’ve ever wanted to simplify your belongings and your life but thought to yourself, “I could never get there” or “I really NEED all this stuff,” then go take a 6 or 8 week trip. There’s nothing like an extended time away from home to make you realize what you actually need every day to not just survive but thrive.

We traveled for 6 weeks with a 3 month old baby. We packed two suitcases, 2 computer bags, a diaper bag, and a car seat. And no, we didn’t even use everything we packed, but it was pretty close. And yes, we bought stuff once we arrived at our destination. Namely, baby necessities and a few household items. Our goal was to make the day-to-day as normal as possible for our daughter, in order to make our lives easier (i.e. NAPTIME). However, despite our best efforts, traveling across time zones and being away during that dreaded 4 month Wonder Week/sleep regression is generally going to be a nightmare. Even our best efforts didn’t do much to help with that, but we survived.

Navigating airports, home rentals, cable car hills, and numerous skipped naps taught me a few things about simplifying travel with a small child. Namely, you really don’t need that much, but the few things you do need, you really will get every penny of use out of.

Top 3 Things to Take When Traveling with a Baby

1. Baby wrap or carrier.

LIFE. SAVER. If you only take ONE thing, take this. Child doesn’t want to nap, and you need to get stuff done? Child is unsure of new surroundings and needs to get used to environment? You desperately need to get out of the house? Babywearing is the way to go.  Especially when going through airport security and a long flight. I prefer my Solly Baby wrap over a carrier, especially at the airport, because I was able to also carry a backpack without the straps from a carrier getting in my way. I also easily got a sweater or jacket on and off without looking ridiculous.

2. Lightweight stroller.

We decided not to lug our beloved BOB stroller with us, just because of its weight. Instead, we ordered a smaller, lighter stroller to be delivered directly to our rental and then flew home with it. And while I missed being able to run on days I was solo parenting, it was really nice to have something that maneuvered easily through city streets and hills without the added weight.

3. Sound machine.

A sound machine was not on my baby registry. It was not even on my radar, until I was reading something online and stumbled upon a blog post that highly praised the NEED for one. I immediately hopped on Amazon and bought that exact one, and its been amazing. It’s just enough white noise to drown out almost anything without being super loud. And no matter where you are, it makes the room your baby is sleeping in sound and feel like home. I honestly don’t know where we’d be without this item right now. Along with my breast pump, it was the only other thing I insisted upon having in my carry on vs checking because I could NOT risk it getting lost in transit.

How have you handled traveling with an infant? Any other must-have items you’ve learned about along the way?

 

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Simplify: To-Do Lists

standard February 10, 2017 Leave a response

For me, the new year is always a busy season. Everyone has a resolution, a goal, a plan to get healthier, eat better, increase fitness, become more organized. Which translates to a lot of fun and exciting projects and new clients for me. However, as baby Darby’s due date is fast approaching, my usual to-do list has slowly become a very daunting list. I generally only give myself 6 top things to get done each day, and add other small things as needed, maxing out at 10 tasks in addition to appointments. But with my waning energy, 6 things has now become 3 or 4 some days. And as I’ve come to embrace this as both necessary and okay, it is making my days much happier, leaving more margin for the unexpected, and letting me appreciate the work I am doing more fully. One of my goals for February was to cross one thing off my to do list each day. That as well as a few other tips have been extremely helpful in letting me slow down. So whether or not you’ve got a baby coming soon, these ideas are still helpful in helping to make any day just as full and present.

1. Pick a number. 

For me, it’s 6. For you, it could be 3. Or 10. Pick a number of MOST IMPORTANT items you know you will want to get accomplished in a day. That is how long your to-do list is. Get everything done and ready to tackle more? Start on tomorrow’s list. Or add to it. But don’t give yourself more than that number of things to focus on for the day. You know your limits. Don’t stress out over what isn’t as important.

2. Cross one thing off.

This doesn’t mean cross off one thing you don’t want to do, or one thing you didn’t get to at the end of the day. Look at what you’ve given yourself as agenda items each morning before you start your workday and consider the feasibility of everything. Is your list realistic? Is it manageable in the time frame you have for your day? Find what doesn’t work and cross it off! Move it to another day. Or just eliminate it all together. Breathe a sigh of relief.

3. Just do it. 

First thing. Work on those most important tasks first in your day, before distractions and emails and phone calls pile up. Carve out time to focus on your tasks before checking your inbox. Especially if it’s a hard item or something you have been putting off and procrastinating doing. Don’t think about it. Just do it. And then breathe, take a break, and get back to the rest of your list.

Happy Simplifying!

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. Purchases from these links may result in a small commission used to support neatandnutritious.com.