holiday stress*

The holidays are right are upon us and the anxiety is already building in me. 
If you love the holidays and everything about them, then this post is not for you.  Also, know that I envy you greatly.  This post is for the rest of us...

I took the photo above for an apple recipe that I was going to post but realize it is better served here discussing holiday stress.  You see, I consider it a successful Thanksgiving if I haven't stabbed anyone by the end of the day.  Holidays in general bring out the worst in me, and I do it to myself.   It's not the holiday itself that makes me cranky but all the extra stuff that goes with it.  I'm talking about the over-commercialization, the high expectations, the over-decoration and the ideals of perfection that just kill me.   My holidays are often wrought with guilt, pressure and a desire to please everyone that often leads to insanity.  Thanksgiving alone is a monumental amount of work in the kitchen, house and garden.  And if you have to work the very next day...well, it's a lot.  This year I want things to be different.  I want to focus more on being relaxed as opposed to things looking perfect.  I think that in my effort to produce a beautiful day for everyone, I wind up killing myself.   And then the worst part is that I'm pissed because no one noticed the hard work that went into the day. Talk about passive/aggressive behavior.   Also, the pressure to appear happy when you are not is exhausting.  There is nothing like the holidays to amplify things that are not going well in your life.  Every image associated with the holidays shows happy families gathered together, laughing and having the time of their lives.  There are times in life that really don't make a pretty greeting card.   Can you just picture that card, I'd so buy it.  So my goal this year is to pretend it's just another day in the life.  There will be no turkey and no perfection.  For the first time in my adult life I'm going to try and not get wrapped up in the image.   We are going to be eating outside because I think it is more conducive to relaxing.  I will also post my menu and recipes this week in case you want any vegan ideas.  I'm starting to feel better already.  I would love to hear from you and how you handle the stress of the holidays.  Maybe we can all learn something here.  Comment anon if you have to, I understand and I'd love to hear your story.

*no animals or people were harmed in this post, fingers crossed.


  1. What do YOU want to do for the holidays? Do it.

    The family Thanksgiving thing? We went to a campground, almost 2 decades ago, to opt out.

    Campground was FULL. Full of families opting out and having a FABULOUS Thanksgiving.

    Perfect pic....
    Garden & Be Well, XO Tara

  2. word...our thoughts must have met in passing...right down to the idea of eating outside (i mean really... if it were good enough for the pilgrims and indians...) while i love many aspects of holidays...the decorating...the gift buying...even the cards has always been the demon DINNER that has given me nightmares...i think however i have discovered that i am a big part of the problem...trying to duplicate my own sweet mother and mother in law...suddenly it has come to me that i am the host...this is my home...and the day should follow my lead...this year will be a casserole free/ multiple desserts year...and while we will have turkey...i am not so sure about dressing...i am leaning more to fresh vegetables... and store bought dessert...i too already feel the weight of the world lifting from my shoulders...and i must claim the responsibility of placing myself in the stress zone...and i am taking great pleasure in stepping out of it...blessings...

  3. True, it's not a holiday if you are stressed out. I used to end up with a headache every holiday. I could count on it.
    It is best to do what isn't stressful. The images of perfection we see are not real. Because no one is perfect!
    Your plan for this year sounds terrific!

  4. I feel so much better now after seeing that pretty much sums up what I feel too. I only wish I had written this post first! Well, you know my life's story - just because it's the "holidays" doesn't automatically make things any easier, better ...
    I'm taking the same approach. No one comes to my house for Thanksgiving because they all want turkey and they're not going to get it here. So be it. I make my own dishes and haul them to my inlaws. Of course, I have to spend the whole day listening to "how can you eat this stuff" and "just try some turkey." I'm going to let that roll right off me this year and not worry about the food. If my kids come along, great. If not, great.
    Christmas...I donated ALL my decorations last week to the goodwill. This Christmas will all be about giving time - not spending gobs of money, stressing about the perfect gifts, fighting people and lines, buying the latest item...only about spending time with the people who care to spend that time with me. I have Christmas at my house every year and this year I am going to do it my way. I am making a big pot of potato soup and some snacks, giving homemade bread and jam from my father's farm, going to church and not forcing anyone to go with me, music and a fire but absolutely nothing commercial this year.
    I think people have really forgotten about what the true meaning of the holidays are...isn't it giving of yourself, your love and your time.
    Since things have been so difficult around here lately, I want simplicity and everything to be relaxed. I figure that starts with me, my approach, my attitude and my expectations.
    It all used to be very stressful for me too - if you're not that perfect greeting card and try to act as if you are, it doesn't work.
    I'm not in it for the show this year - I am going to put up a tree, because I love the nighttime with the white lights glowing. It's very peaceful to me. I am going to bake, listen to music, write handwritten cards and buy myself some pointsettias - also very peaceful to me.
    I feel better now too. :)

  5. As I learned from my family, ignore it and it'll all be okay. Oh, and have several martinis.

    All kidding aside, I think you're on to something.

  6. dear j
    personally, i love the holidays. on the whole decorating, entertaining etc.... i don't care if my house is perfect, i dont care if my dishes match, i dont care how the kids's just not important to me. i just want to see everyone's face, play games, eat the traditional ham and deviled eggs(until this year), watch christmas vacation, go to the parade downtown etc. i love the fact that christmas music will soon be on the radio 24/7.....i know I'm nuts. i cant help it. my mom always complained and i never understood. i just look at things differently than she did. for me, depression hits jan 1st.

    love you mucho,

  7. Hi Janet,

    I try, EVERY YEAR, not to get sucked into all the bs but it never works. I work like a dog, no one notices and I end up resentful and SO glads it's over by the end of it all. Hope I can avoid all that this year; maybe with my blogging friends 'with me', I can make it through unscathed.

    Will there be tofu on the menu? I'd love to know how to make it taste NOT like rubber, lol! Please help!


  8. I looooove the Holidays, but I understand where you are coming from. I use to almost get caught up in that but I learned years ago the important things always get done. At the end of the prep we let the little things that knawed at us go, they were'nt needed anyway. I think you might like my post today!! I am so in the Holiday spirit already, hang in there!!!

  9. ahhh...You do know you're not alone, right? I've always rather loved the holidays, especially Thanksgiving. I can't say I never stress out, but now that my kids are grown, I do it a lot less often! I just try to keep things as close to "just a regular day" as I can while having a special meal, which everyone contributes to. I try to focus on how happy I am to just have my family all in one place for a day (something that only happens during the holidays)! I used to go all out on decorating, but (as you'll see in future posts) now I try to keep it simple, natural, but festive. I have no words of wisdom, I'm afraid, other than just do what you want to do, and forget the rest. In reality, it IS just a DAY.

  10. Sisters! Sisters! Sisters! In other words, help from people who know what you think already...

  11. dear tara,

    thank you and you are very right. opting out is a def option. i love the idea of a little campout. i know some people who do that too. thank you for your suggestions!

  12. I have a vegetarian husband and daughter (five children altogether). I am always torn between having the traditional meal that I grew up with and loved, and my feelings about cooking that nasty turkey for people that are grossed out by it. I know what goes on in the meat industry and it is NOT looking like Norman Rockwell. All extended family would expect the big turkey dinner, if invited to our house for Thanksgiving. I have not made any plans yet. We do something different every year. Sometimes we just go out of town and take a family vacation. ?????

  13. Hi Janet,

    I am a perfectionist so hosting a holiday party (or any type of party) stresses me out to the max. I usually wait until the last day or so to clean and then I'm cussing myself out in my head as I am finishing cleaning the bathroom 10 min. before the guests arrive.

    How do I deal with the stress? I stopped hosting Thanksgiving or Christmas 6 or 7 years ago because our house isn't that big and my husband's already large family kept getting bigger and bigger! Plus some of the family members wouldn't keep on eye on their kids and I was tired of worrying about things getting broken.


    P.S. Remember wine makes everything better!

  14. Hi Janet, I thought you might want to know that my Thanksgiving will be perfection, as in Martha Stewart perfection. We will sit around in cashmere sweaters and penny loafers, drinking champagne in front of the fireplace.
    The dinner will be one will argue and nothing will burn. The dog will be bathed and there won't be a speck of dirt on the floor. And I will be relaxed and looking fresh as a daisy...

    How about that for a fairy tale!

    You're sooo not alone...we should start a club!

    xx kelley

  15. dear laney,

    thank you for your comment. it's funny b/c the food is the easiest part for me. my problem really lies in my expectations. i'm working on them.

  16. I truly don't know how you brave Americans do Thanksgiving and then Christmas all in about 4 weeks. I feel faint and slightly queasy at the thought of all that effort.

    Rather lazily, if Christmas is at our house, I ask everyone to bring different dishes and that way it all gets spread out. I do, though, get entirely freaked out by the glossy interiors magazines that have a 40-day countdown to preparations and discuss the minutae of, say, the Christmas Eve table dressing as if it was crucial to the remotest hope of seasonal happiness. It all becomes about achievement and that sucks, frankly.

    So, I tell myself, ban the reading of Interiors mags for a month, and bring on the relaxed, everyone helping out, non-achievement orientated holiday! ps Bucks Fizz always helps on the day, I find!! xx

  17. carol,

    you are so right about no one being perfect. i am starting to do things more the way i want so why not thanksgiving/holidays?

  18. dear sarah,

    thank you for all your wonderful ideas. i want to be at your house! i love that you donated all the christmas decorations so someone who needs them can really use and appreciate them. your attitude is so great and i will be channeling you throughout the season.

  19. dear steve,

    i have tried ignoring but it usually just makes me angrier! martinis would prob help. i'm gonna give this acceptance thing a go. i'll report back.

  20. dearest margot,

    i'm so envious of you. i do love our downtown parade also. i hope to enjoy some of that happiness that you speak of. jan 1st is one of my most favorite days of the year b/c it's all over!

  21. dear sue,

    well i can relate to everything you said. i can actually remember getting sick the day after some holidays. there will be no tofu on the menu although i do love tofurkey. i really do love my menu and i'll share it in the next few days.

  22. dear kathy sue,

    i'm so happy you love the holidays maybe i can learn something from you. i'll pop over and see what you've got going on.

  23. dear karin,

    it's the family in one place that always gets me. some years it's easier than others. but i really do want to focus on the blessings in my life.

  24. dear lisa,

    thank you for the suggestion. asking for help has never been one of my strong points but i'm gonna give it a try.

  25. Janet,

    I understand and empathize, all families have their quirks and there will always be an elephant in the room that we somehow must just "ignore"...

    I love the holidays and press on,
    in spite of these not so perfect family qualities...

    my card would show a drunkard, a pouty face, a lazy overbearing female family member smoking outside pissed off that she cannot pollute our home, children with rosy faces and sparkly eyes, a snoozing elder, and me in an apron shoes kicked off, glistening with perspiration as I tidy up after the feast...listening to Xmas carols...sister, mother, and daughter all hands on dissecting the evening/dinner/who said what/a little gossip and sipping wine and we jostle about and laugh in our tiny kitchen....this female connection is my preservation.

    I do not strive for perfection...I simply facilitate the event.
    I guess I learned long ago about disappointment.

    I hope that you enjoy the day and make it what YOU want it to be.

  26. dear anon,

    yes, there is always the issue of the turkey and that tradition. it's hard if your family is split on that issue. i really don't even like the smell of turkey roasting. i def take a stand on that but it does make things difficult.

  27. dear linda,

    you sound just like me, a perfectionist. i like to think of myself as a recovering perfectionist as it does not serve me well. i'm trying to change and for the most part i'm good with it but the holidays can really make me crazy. i'm learning though.

  28. dear kelley,

    i'll be over w/penney loafers on! you holiday does sound perfect as in fairy tale-ish. why have i done this to myself for so long?

  29. dear belinda,

    you are so right about everything. being influenced by the magazine layouts gets me all the time. i really do enjoy some aspects of preparing for the day. it really is something i'm working on. thanks for your input, it is greatly appreciated.

  30. dear leslie,

    i actually thought about you when i decided to go ahead and post this. somehow i knew you would make the best of the holidays. i really admire that attribute in you. i love your holiday card too. maybe as time goes on i will be able to laugh about mine too. thank you again for your comment.

  31. Hi,
    I haven't commented before but this post really spoke to me. This is how I feel every year. You and Sarah are my kind of people. Oh, and Steve too!

  32. Thank you! For being honest about what a lot of us really do feel. You put those emotions into words beautifully. I wish the whole world felt like this and then maybe, just maybe, we could all get back to living our lives more simply without all the fuss and muss and hopefully learn to actually look forward to and love the holiday season!!

  33. I have greedy family members who think Christmas is a time to scrape in as many presents as possible at the same time as give out mingy and often bad-taste ones. Also, they have two kids and we have none, but it doesn't count apparently. We give four nice presents, get two mingy ones back. I feel like someone who 'doesn't get the meaning of Christmas' moaning about this, but it annoys me every year.

    I'd love to say 'no gifts, lets just spend the time together', but it would then turn into 'only buy gifts for kids' and we'd still be digging deep.

    This family is a lot better off than us too! I wrote an email one Christmas which really set the cat among the pigeons, for a time. Now it's back as it was before. I feel like handing the mother my wallet and saying 'take it'.

  34. janet,

    please post your vegan thanksgiving recipes. yum!

    and your post is a good reminder that life is not perfect. i woke up today stressed that due to not the best planning - i am sanding my bowling alley countertops IN MY KITCHEN, after they were installed. which means there is a fine layer of sawdust over everything.

    your idea of eating outside and taking care of yourself - sounds like a nice spiritual practice for the holidays.

    thanks for sharing so openly. i've just started reading your blog, and have you on a pedestal - this post made it go a little higher. :) (no pressure - i mean it as a sincere compliment.)

  35. Dear Janet, Long ago I reached the conclusion that the 'picture postcard' representations of holidays [always on a white sand beach], women's figures [always toned, tanned and trim] and houses [always clean, tidy and 'designed] are but the stuff of fairy tales, but not nearly so much fun. Enjoy, relax, only invite those you love and like and let the wine flow freely....the rest will look after itself!

  36. Hi Janet! I watched a Rick Steves holiday travel special a few years ago and was struck by the simplicity of European Christmas traditions. They are so much classier and cultivated than US--I think all this rampant consumerism is vulgar and cheap. Since the kids left home we stopped putting up a tree--just a wreath on the door and Christmas music sets the perfect tone. I can't stand dragging out all those decorations when I feel my house is decorated to the max as it is. And don't get me started on those magazines--they are all about "staging", NOT decorating. I've been loving your posts about simplicity and hang on every word. Please keep them coming--along with the great pics! Thanks, Allegra

  37. dear deb,

    thank you for your comment. steve and sarah are wonderful people who i have grown to love and admire. i'm so glad you commented and so nice to know i'm not alone in my thinking.

  38. dear karen,

    thank you too for your comment. i don't feel as if my words are beautiful, i mostly just blurt things out but i feel i had to say something about my stress. getting it out there has made me feel a lot better.

  39. Allegra tradition I forgot is that on Thanksgiving Day we listen to "Alice's Restaurant" and at Christmas we listen to "A Child's Christmas in Wales". So old-fashioned!

  40. dear anon,

    i feel every ounce of your pain re gift giving. don't get me started on that yet. i can only take one holiday at a time! i recently read a little quote...santa came and jesus wept. i have been thinking a lot about that lately. i will never understand people.

  41. dear edith,

    wise words indeed. thank you for you comment b/c i know you must have had experience with this. i love your ideas.

  42. dear allegra,

    how have you been? thank you for your comment and i so agree with you. we have lost our minds it seems with the "over" everything at the holidays. time to put some true simplicity in place. and i love your music traditions!

  43. dear terra,

    yes, i will post my menu and recipes soon. i think you will really like them and they are quite easy too. thank you so much for your comment but please, no pedestals for me, that fall hurts!

  44. Dear Janet, I am so glad you wrote this post, I think this time of year is so hard on people, you can just see it and feel it! So now with your post, we can talk about it and that will certainly help. Hugs, Joyce

  45. Here, here! And Cheers!!

  46. dear joyce,

    all kidding aside, it is a hard time of year for many people. living up to expectations take a terrible toll on us. thanks and feel free to talk about it here.

  47. ps. I think of the next month and a half as 'lock your keys in the car season'(so keep another set in my handbag) but I try to make a point to remember to enjoy the day and count blessings always. Hugs, J

  48. I thought I was alone on this, what a relief to see I'm not. J, this may be your most valuble post ever. Thank you, CW

  49. The "problem of the holidays" started when we removed the reason for it all. When you remove God and thankfulness from the equation something has to fill in the hole. In this case it is consumerism.

    I grew up with the holidays revolving around Church and my faith. Everything else was just an aside to the main event. When I wandered away from that concept the only thing to replace it was stress, overwork, consumerism, and a healthy dose of pride (my dinner is better than your dinner:-)

    We now live in a society that is almost 100% secular. Nativity display? Forget it! Santa Claus bearing bulging bags of gifts? You bethcha!

    It is all so sad...

  50. Dear Ms Janet, I so hear you, Sister! Christmas can be such a fraught time. One of the secretly lovely things about being overseas was doing Christmases exactly as Mr LiC and I pleased which sometimes meant a roast chook with our then tiny baby and sometimes going out to a nice restaurant. The one Christmas I catered for Mr LiC's family, I was so stressed, I burnt my hand on the oven. I am now learning to let go. Doing things simply is best and people actually enjoy being asked to help (as long as you don't hang over them). To make gift-giving a bit easier and more meaningful, I have started giving OxFam cards to my friends and family - who have too much anyway. Through these cards, you can, for example, buy a goat or a cow or school books for a family in a needy community. My brother-in-law got a good laugh when he saw I bought some manure for a Sri Lankan farmer for him. These days you can buy these all on-line too. Much simpler with no waste. I still buy pressies for the children, however. Their pleasure at opening presents after Christmas lunch is still the best bit of Christmas for me.

  51. dear cw,

    maybe, maybe not but i had to say it! thank your for your comment and you are not alone.

  52. dear adrienne,

    you are right about the over-commercialization and all the headaches that go with it. keeping up with the neighbors has become a full time job. i long for the true spirit of the holidays. thank you for your comment.

  53. dear linda,

    thank you for your thoughtful comment and yes, i agree with you about trying to simplify and not overdo. also, the expectations that all the perfection creates is terrible. i am going to take a cue from you and relax more. i am going to visit the oxfam site now. thank you. i won't tell my children where i got the idea from.

  54. in my perfect world, i would hire team E & J to decorate my home and fix my meals. one day;)

  55. dear grace,

    now that would be nice. eddie could cook and decorate and j and i could sit and chat. you are on to something here.

  56. OMG holidays stress me so much! I clean and cook and want my family to have a wonderful day but it usually turns out with someone mad about something and.... I don't want to cook a turkey ever again!
    Where is the balance? I have sons so it is a hassle getting them to commit because of their wives families, so I never know how many are coming.
    Would it be wrong to run away from home until Dec. 26th?

  57. dearest betty,

    oh i so agree with you. my bag is half-way packed! where are we going?

  58. Hello again! Guess I'm on a roll today. Your 33 project made me want to do a version of that so I'm washing and getting items ready for the thrift store. But I'm a real chicken--I decided to use 56 items (56 being my current age). Guess it's really all about the point of the matter, not really the number of items. I'll let you know how it goes. And by the way, 2 of my daughters are now reading your blog. They think you are so hip!!! Allegra

  59. dear allegra,

    i guess you are supposed to pick 33 items and then put the rest of your wardrobe in another closet. i don't have another closet so i just sectioned them off. it is really amazing to me that even with the whole wardrobe pared down i still am only wearing 1/2 of the 33 items. i can't wait to see what you come up with. thank your daughters for me...but i'm so not hip.

  60. there is something good about doing a renovation during the holidays!
    I think that this year, I will be forced to keep a sense of humor.
    I love that image. it says it all.

  61. Apple and knife pic is great- we have the same knife.
    Loved ready this post J because you have echoed the sentiments of so many. Of course as we don't celebrate Thanksgiving in Aus the images I own are what I gleam from Hollywood movies ie. probably totally unrealistic.
    Christmas is a firecracker of torment for me cause it's my birthday too and it sucks, always has always will, for lots of reasons. My lovely family always pitch in and I do spend as little time in the kitchen as possible. The norm for Christmas lunch is cold buffet involving seafood or B.B.Q's as the weather is awfully hot so to have an oven on inside the house is murder. I have never cooked a turkey in my entire life and don't know many Aussie's who do.
    As we sponsor a World Vision child I buy 'smiles' gifts through this organisation (like Linda above describes with Oxfam) and choose appropriate gifts for the receiver eg. a gardener will receive a 'bag of seeds'. I include a small amount of cash for a treat and
    thats it-done.
    Lets all try and take a deep breath this year and....drink lots of wine!

  62. dear patricia,

    i would love to rip out a wall right about now. first of all i love renovation. somehow the chaos of it thrills me b/c it is so exciting. secondly no one expects anything of you during a reno. lucky you.

  63. I didn't have time to read through all 62 comments before I wrote mine. I am gathering your disdain for the holidays is quite common!

    More than a few years ago I decided to make the holidays fun for me and they became fun for most everyone around me as a result. I decided I want to lay around more and take in movies. I also felt really good about giving to neglected and abused kids. I told my son's that their life was already full of Christmas on a day to day basis and our gifting would be guilt free from now on. (They were also off the hook. Funny thing, I now get a thoughtful gift from them because they really dig I am giving to those that need!)

    You are right on to bag out. Do what you want and the world will learn new ways to embark on holiday madness!

    There are plenty of HAPPY HOLIDAY PEOPLE around. How about simply being happy?


  64. dear anne marie,

    funny my birthday is just 5 days after christmas so i know what it feels like. christmas is worse though, i'll give you that. i love your suggestion on world vision smiles. giving of oneself always is the best way out of any problems don't you think? yes, and wine does help.

  65. Every year I wanted our Christmas and Thanksgiving to be like the ones I saw on television. Everyone happy, snow falling gently outside the window, no heavy drinking, no arguing. It usually wasn't to be. Someone usually got messy, voices were raised and it never met my expectations. Expectations raised by the commercials I saw, the 'perfect' vision of Christmas that was supposed to be what we aspired to. I get it, Janet. Now I just like my quiet Christmas with my husband. Some music playing, a good veggie dinner and no stress. I think your idea of eating outside is on the right track. Just be.


  66. Janet, How about everyone who is comming brings a dish. You can make a buffet out of what they bring, with your things added in. Instead of turkey I always pick up a 'Honey Baked Ham' and everyone seems to like it. Turkeys can be a awful lot of work. Having dinner outside sounds like a great idea, lots of atmosphere and you have the perfect place for that. Hugs, Joyce

  67. Tell us how your REALLY feel Janet :)
    Honestly, I have never really liked Christmas for all the pressure and expectations. It's better now because I experience it through Drew--that's pretty cool. I do look forward to taking all the decorations down and getting back to normal once all the "fun" is over.

    Thanks for keeping it real J!

  68. claudia - thank you. you are on the right track and i'm getting on it too. thank you for your kind words.

  69. dear joyce,

    thank you for your suggestions. no turkey or ham here but the food will be simple this year for sure. and i think outside will help everyone breathe a little easier.

  70. dear julie,

    you know me now and i just blurt everything out. christmas is so fun with little ones. that really is the best. i like january 1st better than all the holidays put together. there is just something so fresh about it.

  71. dear bodeci,

    there are a lot of comments today b/c i'm answering each one because of the topic. i love your ideas and i am so close to being there. i love the idea of new and different traditions to start. i love the idea of volunteering and all the other great giving suggestions that everyone gave. i'm really glad i posted this today. thanks for your comment.

  72. Oh have I ever been where you are, it is painful to look back and remember how lost I felt when Halloween arrived, because I knew it would be hell [for me] from then on until after the New Year.

    And look at you, you're answering every comment personally, one-by-one, which tells me a lot about your attention to detail and your huge wide open heart. You MUST protect yourself, people with wide open hearts and attention to detail genetics are susceptible to furrowed brow grief by year end.

    Solution: Anonymous in the line ahead of me has suggested that everyone coming to your outdoor [yea!] feast bring a dish. I couldn't agree more. Can you at least try it this year as an experiment?

    Please don't answer my comment, keep that time dearly unto yourself and meanwhile do consider putting out requests to others to walk in the door bearing dish. It's ok.

  73. I read that Queen Elizabeth II and family watch 'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang' with Dick Van Dyke and Julie Andrews every Christmas Day. It actually sounds like a good idea to me! Great songs! Best, Kerri

  74. ps. I meant Dick Van Dyke and Sally Ann Howes. Best, Kerri

  75. More on the idea of folks walking in with an offering, with a side dish fantasy that I'm invited.

    I was the last one on earth to catch the mashed cauliflower train but, once I got on board, I adore it especially with horseradish stirred in. So I will bring that. Also I'll bring chilled broccoli salad, but should I set the bacon off on the side, probably so. And, mmmm, warm wild rice mixup with mushrooms, toasted almonds, onions, raisins.

    FWIW, my brother and his wife do crab cakes and grilled vegetables [outside!] for Thanksgiving.

    Keep your Vitamin D levels up and strong.


  76. AMEN! YOu know what stresses me out... the expectations of family. You know, that you are expected to be somewhere when you don't really WANT to be there... or have them at your house. This Thanksgiving, it is just going to be the 3 of us. And I am thankful for that :) But, we are sure to get a guilt trip. So, it will probably be just like most days off for me.. and that is okay.

  77. Janet,

    I saw this first thing this morning, but needed a day to reflect. Obviously people have had A LOT to say. I have to agree with you on every point. This made me think of the movie Four Christmases where Reese Witherspoon's character says something like...Why should we feel guilty about going on vacation on our vacation?"

    One of our best Thanksgivings was spent on a train from London to Paris. Not without guilt for the extended family we left behind of course. I think my little family of four would prefer a trip at the holidays over me stressing over every detail. This year we are staying home and trying to keep it simple. I will set the table with things we have and we will eat outdoors because and we can. I want my kids so badly to remember holidays with fondness and not dread. I'm hoping we can talk the kids into taking a long walk on the beach and then maybe watching a movie and playing Scrabble. I am so glad you posted this today, because I know I could always use a reminder to keep it simple and enjoy the real pleasures in life. And in this case, it would be my family of four. Thank you!


  78. Thank you for sharing your frustraion with us. Thankfully, I don't have to host any of the holiday dinner parties (my mother-in-law does them all and she loves doing it!), but I've been frustrated with the over commercialization and the high expectation of the holiday gift giving. So this year, my husband and I decided to encourage our family members to make donations to some of the charities on behalf of us, instead of giving us zillions of (unwanted) gifts. We realized we are simple people and we don't need much to live happily. Hope you have a relaxing holiday season this year!

  79. Love the photo! Thank you.

    I love the cooking, the search for perfection, the deliciousness. Can't say why. Perhaps because it's not about family so much as it is about creating a brief spell of edible and visual perfection for a few other people (and 'perfection' is obviously in the eye of the beholder!)...

  80. Darling, you officially have the best blog of all time. Behind every delighted family photo from Christmas or Thanksgiving is an exhausted mother. My father used to get drunk every Christmas, so that added to the angst of the season for me. I am trying to "take back" Christmas, decorating the house within an inch of its life and baking lots - luckily or not, I have no (thankless) children (which in itself becomes a measure of sadness over time, as one has not accomplished one's life's meaning without a child!). So these holidays are wrought with all kinds of distress. It is hard to remember "meaning" in life at all these days. I find myself increasingly on an emotional roller coaster striving in all the wrong directions. You keep me centered dear Janet when you post an apple with a knife in it. I know I am seen, heard, loved and reflected in the world for a change! ; )

    By the way, your Cambridge friend Steve commented on my post and then I discovered his blog and spent 6 hours reading it and now I am stalking him as he lives my secret fantasy life...(with cats in an amazing New England house - no husband in sight). haha.

    xo Terri

  81. Whew! Thank the Goddess. tell it loud,tell it proud. The blogs that are full of CHRISTMAS already tend to freak me out.

    Think of being a florist the week of Thanksgiving, and shudder. Then of course we always host Thanksgiving(????) then the next day I take a big crew and do a huge decorating job at a big law firm.

    Add the paint/decorating job going on in a tiny house and you've got migraine heaven.

    Okay it's out now. Let's all take a deep breath and carry on.

    xo Jane

  82. dear flo,

    of course i'm answering your wise comment. well, i suppose with 3 sons, i don't expect them to bring food as none of them actually cook. it really isn't about the food though is it? i love your food suggestions and will look a few of them up.

  83. dear anon,

    chitty, chitty bang bang? really. how funny but i like it a lot!

  84. dear michelle,

    savor your holiday with hubby and son. when the kids are small it is magic. nothing else matters.

  85. dear annie,

    thank you for your thoughtful comment and i would love to be on a train somewhere and one day i will. i think spending time with the ones you love is the most important thing. sometimes that is not always possible but when it is - it's the best.

  86. dear yuko,

    thank you for commenting and i love your idea of give to others in need instead of doing the same old thing. it sounds like you have a wonderful mother-in-law too.

  87. dear marie,

    yes, you are right. perfection is almost intoxicating to me. i don't know why but it's a battle to not give in to it. i'm learning though. thanks for sharing.

  88. dearest terri,

    thank you for sharing and i feel your pain. it is so hard when things don't measure up. i just want a simple holiday in every sense of the word. i know it can be done and i think you and i have what it takes to do it. like the old seinfeld episode...serenity now! so glad you found steve. he is a dear, a crack up, and has amazing taste, too.

  89. dear jane,

    i know what you are saying about being a florist. i was a caterer for 10 years! oh that was hard. the food, my god the food. i could hardly look at it! so yes, let it out and take a deep breath and we'll all survive.

  90. Reading all these comments brought back a memory for me--I was a very little girl watching my mom prepare a holiday meal, and I heard her say to herself, "It's just another day."
    I remember feeling sad for her, and I didn't really understand this at the time, but now I do--My mother was simply trying to quiet the stress inside herself.
    I helped her, of course, with the holiday dinners as I grew older, but after she passed away, the singular responsibility of having those dinners went to me--the only daughter.
    For several years now I have quietly thought, "I just can't do it like Mom did," but after reading these comments, I think this year I will say, instead, "It's OK."
    How nice to understand.
    If my mom were here, I believe she would tell me, "Yes, IT IS OK; it's just another day."
    We do the best that we can with what we know, don't we? -Suzanne in Illinois

  91. dear suzanne,

    thanks for sharing your sweet story about your mom. she was so right. it is just another day. and yes, we are all just doing the best we can. thank you.

  92. If I could, I would run away the day before Halloween and not return until January 1.

    January 1st is absolutely my favorite day of the year. I get the day off and nobody cares if I spend it alone. I get to think about my goals for the next year. I don't have to worry about what anyone else expects of me. It is a day of recovery and fresh starts.

  93. dear mrs. m,

    were we separated at birth? that would be my wish too. i love new years day. love it.

  94. Wow. Seems like you've struck a nerve or ninety. I'm hunkering down at home for Thanksgiving this year- no 3 hrs one way drive to Mom's and then back this year cuz I have to go to work the next day and I want to spend every possible minute with my home-from-college daughter - none of them in a car thankyouverymuch. Christmas finds everyone at our house - on the Eve that is - and I expect this year will be the same. Exhausting but fun. Unless, of course, the family boycotts me for boycotting Thanksgiving!
    btw... still loving the job and it's still kicking my butt. Old Town is a really festive place during the holidays... you should stop by!
    Tracy the Missing Blogger

  95. dear tracy,

    wow, so glad to hear from you. yes old town is a festive place. i will try to stop by and say hi. good to hear you are still loving the job. your holiday plans sound perfect to me.

  96. thankful for your post ... as a single mother who works full time, thanksgiving is divine for me. I say "no" to all those kind invitations for my daughter and I to join a neighbor or friend's dinner. Instead we laze around in the early morning, head down to the beach with wetsuits to play, come home and fix what barely passes as a meal - sweet potatoes with marshmellows and some type of red jello concotion for my 8 year old and stuffing for me and that green bean/cream of mushroom awfulness that I love once a year! okay, maybe a turkey breast and some roasted vegetables or mashed potatoes, but then again, maybe not. at dark, we head out to enjoy the fabulous lights already hung by much more organized type-a'ers than me. absolutely no shopping on friday but maybe a bike ride or long walk. my daugher will know doubt grow up wanting the huge family dinner, but for now, she's a happy as a clam.

  97. dear annie,

    what a wonderful day you have planned. it sounds peaceful and relaxing, zero stress. it sounds as if you will be focused on each other rather than focusing on all the meaningless details that have come to represent thanksgiving. thank you so much for your inspiring story.

  98. My dearest Janet, here at my kitchen where I´m blogging you have made me jump of my chair, laugh for a while and then had to read your post again to realize that it was not me who wrote it!!! To me this time of the year is exactly felt as you do, some anger and stress arise from my being besides I have to cook for the family who expects to be a very different and delicious meal which I really hate, hate hate!!!!
    Yesterday I had to run out of the mall, it was so full with "chirstmas" things and more things and things...!!!!!! Darling, believe me you are not alone in your feelings... I do love gathering family together though.
    is it perhaps a capricorn thing going on here??
    maria cecilia

  99. dear maria cecilia,

    maybe it is a capricorn thing, we are driven. maybe it has to do with adult children and changing times. i'm not sure but i want things to be different this year. i promise to stay out of the mall. in fact i don't plan a single visit to one this year.

  100. Love you even more for putting out this raw, real post! Looking forward to seeing your vegan holiday recipes!

  101. dear emily,

    thank you and i will post it tomorrow. glad you found/read the vegan post too. good luck with earthlings, you're gonna need it!

  102. Every Thanksgiving we dig out the, "Alices Restaurant" and sing in *two* part harmony all the way to the ...In-Laws. :/* I hate going there. I dont like them and they dont like me. Weird huh?

    My favorite Thanksgiving was spent with Leo, in a cabin at Zion National Park. It snowed.:) Thanksgiving is actually my and Leo's anniversary We've been together since 1971. Boy I'm old.

    Your Desert Rat sis,

  103. Janet, I live in South Africa and so enjoy catching up on your insights, ideas and style. Today's post particularly has resonance for me. Best wishes Pam

  104. dear jeanne,

    your zion thanksgiving sounds perfect. hope to see you soon!

  105. dear pam,

    thanks pam and i guess no matter where we are in this world we can all relate to holiday stress.

  106. dear janet,

    janet's can read janet's minds. ahaha!

  107. Love the post.

    I have tried asking for help. It hasn't worked.
    I am the only adult female in the family that takes on the responsibilities of the holidays.

    I am tired of it all. It hasn't been fun for me since my children have grown, and married. I tried to teach by example. When my children were young we would go to my Mom's/Mom-in-Laws.
    I always, and I do mean always brought sides, and desserts. I always helped with any and all work. Helping to serve, as well as dishes etc.

    I always taught my children that one should never just show up, sit, consume, and act as if
    one were at a fine dining facility. (waiting to be served/mindlessly ignoring responsibilities.

    Yet, my children have not learned this lesson.
    They also have spouses that didn't learn this lesson.

    The holidays for me are a nightmare. I am opting out this year. I have told my children that I won't be home for Thanksgiving.

    Sad but true. I have three adult children, their spouses, and four grandchildren. Also, my Father-in-Law, Brother-in-Law, my husband, and myself. My Mother-in-Law died three years ago. It is more than I physically, and emotionally can handle alone.

  108. dear anon,

    i feel your pain and you are obviously not alone. i think your decision to opt out is great. it really is just too much...

  109. Hi Janet
    I've only experienced the one Thanksgiving when visiting a friend in San Francisco some years ago. From what I saw at that time it IS a lot of work!
    Being Australian and living in London I just have to deal with Christmas. But as my parents and brother are on the other side of the world we have very low key Christmas days with just the three of us. And, how lucky am I, my husband does the cooking.
    My mum has the right idea - she provides a ham and some seafood and then all her guests bring the rest, salads and desserts and everyone eats outside.
    Sometimes I yearn for a 'hot' Christmas in the sun instead of these dark Northern Hemisphere ones!

  110. dear jo,

    thank you for your comment and judging by the comments here, you aussies have it whipped. it seems so much more low key there.

  111. Oh my. I am amazed that so many feel as I do. I hate the "happy holidays" for they are never, ever, either of those words! I am usually depressed for the whole season, and have only recently begun to understand why, and how I could change it.

    I've been married and a mom 30 years. And that's exactly how long it's been since a holiday rolled around that I wasn't too tired, too stressed, etc, to actually enjoy. The last decade has been particularly difficult. This year, I waved the white flag. I am not doing a traditional Thanksgiving. With one vegan, one vegetarian, one low carb diabetic and one meat/potatos type appetite - I just ain't doing it. The vegan won't be with us this year, so that's one diet off the list. I will fix a turkey earlier in the week, and maybe a side dish or two that week, in advance. Small and simple. Thanksgiving day, I plan to heat everything up after making cottage dill bread and he'll have his traditional meal and myself and the vegetarian will scrounge a salad. And then I'm going to do something I enjoy for the rest of the day. And my daughter will go to her second family's house (her BFF) and be a part of a huge family with the traditional groaning table of food. I sincerely hope she has a wonderful time; they're an awesome bunch. It took me a long time to realize I was trying to reproduce the holidays of my childhood; and for starters, we're about a couple dozen people short of the crowd I remember fondly, so it just isn't something I can do for my kids.

    Himself will pass out after eating all the turkey/potatos. That will mean I can be in my quilting studio doing what I love. All of us will enjoy the day in our own way.

    I'm doing pretty much the same thing for Christmas. The tree is up already. I have done everything I can in advance. Presents are made and mailed. I'm revolting this year. I am not going to get caught up in having the most wonderful memorial picture-perfect holiday. We're going to focus on the reason for the season and the love we have for each other and gratitude for our little family. It's what we've got. We put the fun in dysfunctional and I kinda like us! Sorry to blather on!!

    Joy (HBS)

  112. Oh my goodness Janet - just look at the amount of comments on this post! Maybe more people pretend than we realise that all is jolly and happy when really it's STRESS city... Have to say that if I was in England at this time I would be worrying about Christmas, making it all wonderful etc. and what I was cooking and who was coming over.. (usually at least mother in law which was enough to stress me at the best of times!!) Funny thing is because I am here in Australia and its Summer holiays in January I almost forget at times that it's Christmas soon!! I'll be lucky if I get my cards out in time and you know what? I don't care this year!! There, I've said it! x

  113. This holiday is something that does not exist around here. Instead I will invite my youngest niece and we will design christmas cards, bake christmas cookies and giggle a lot. It will be a weekend like any other weekend. I am not sure if I miss the holiday you have.

  114. Dear J
    I'm in England typing this from Blighty's computer (true! We went to Oxford yesterday) anyway we say Don't get stressed re Thanksgiving- nominate people to bring a dish and keep it casual. And start drinking early. Really really early. Love FF and Blighty from Blighty HQ xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

  115. dear joy,

    thank you for your comment and i hope you feel as good as me getting all that off your chest. sometimes that's the best thing isn't it? i love that you are taking a stand and sticking to it!

  116. dear sarah,

    after reading all these comments, i'm positive that austrailia is the place for me. so much more kick back there! i'm so glad you said IT too. thanks.

  117. dear paula,

    thanks for commenting and trust me, you do not miss this holiday! your weekend sounds perfect!

  118. dear ff and blights,

    so nice of you both to comment on my misery while living it up in blighty's HQ's. i've decided i'm working in a local shelter on the morning of and then coming home and having my vegan feast outside. so i won't be able to start drinking really, really early.

  119. Hi Janet - This is why this year we are saving up (eating out less often on weekends) to treat ourselves to Thanksgiving dinner at The Ritz in Boston. Something entirely new for me. I love to cook, but it takes hours to prepare the mean and we eat it all so quickly, dinner is over in 15 minutes. No more trying to be Martha Stewart for me.

  120. I hear you, and I remember those times! However this year I would take it all back to have my soldier/son home from the war and at my table.....

  121. dear deborah,

    your dinner sounds so perfect and elegant. i can just picture you 2. except that i really don't know what you look like, do i?!

  122. dear connie lou,

    your comment really does put EVERYTHING in perspective. thank you.

  123. I get very stressed out from November 1st to to the middle of January. It seems like everything, everyone is rush rush rush, buy buy buy and I am so not a Scrooge. I enjoy looking at the decorated trees and the songs. I find the Spirit of the Season in my 4 year olds eyes. We buy him only 3 presents and I and I make a huge feast for the 3 of us..but it is not rushed and my hubby and my son join in. We eat as we go and generally turn off our phones and just enjoy the day. We bake cookies and just try to chill. It is very low key and stress free. Long walks and lots of white chocolate cocoa's seem to help me be more pleasant. : )

  124. dear heather,

    you day sounds absolutely perfect. and the holidays are best seen through the eyes of a child, you are so right.


kindness is never out of style.

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