Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Holiday Stress and How to Kick It in the Pants

I love Thanksgiving and Christmas and the time leading up to both holidays. It’s exciting and festive and there are neat drinks being served at Starbucks. But these times are also a bit crazy. I always find that I have a million things to do, plus a million more. Work always gets crazy in November and December because we have to rush to meet deadlines that are cut short by the holidays. And when works gets crazy, and there are hundreds of non-work items on my to-do list, I get overwhelmed.

It’s two days before Thanksgiving and I’m happy to say that I have all of my work well under control. What is totally a mess are my Thanksgiving meal assignments. My family gives food assignments. It’s kinda like homework, but cooking. I was mailed an invitation…from my mother…that said, “You can bring Spinach Squares.” Let me give you the back story on Spinach Squares. You might know them by their common name, spanakopita. But we’re pretty fancy in my house and only use high-brow words to describe our food. My mom has made these for every holiday for as long as I can remember. They are my favorite but they are also a labor of love because Spinach Squares mean working with thin delicate phyllo dough. The whole project usually creates a decent amount of stress on its own, so naturally I asked my mom to teach me how to make them. It took a few batches to finally get it right, but I did. And I was pretty impressed with myself because I though they tasted exactly like my mom’s.

Making Spinach Squares is a two-man task. Here's my dad in his "Jay" apron, working with the phyllo dough.

Extra hands + butter + spinach + phyllo dough = delicious

This year I’m tasked with making them for Thanksgiving, and I’m a little nervous because I want them to be perfect. This is my first real food assignment. Also, I have to make white chocolate and cranberry oatmeal cookies and salted toffee squares all in one night. (Maybe I don’t have to make those, but I want to. And now it’s on the blog and I can’t take it back.)

 I think I might be up cooking for a while tonight. Luckily I have a great sous chef/taste tester to help! 

Now I can’t say that I’m the most stressed person there is right now, because I only have to make three things and it’s my fault that I left them till the last minute. I know there are people out there (my mom, maybe your mom, too,) who are making a whole lot more. (Like a turkey!) But may I just remind you that until recently I sat at the kids’ table and my only responsibility as host was to take people’s coats and drink orders. “Welcome! Would you like a martini? We’re just whipping up a fresh batch. Come in and find a seat, I’ll take your coat upstairs.” Wouldn’t you like your Thanksgiving to begin that way? I know, I know, I was trained well.

Getting back to the title of this post and how I kick holiday stress in the pants, I have some small advice to offer. 1. Make a list. (I make mine on post-it notes. I’m addicted to them. I have them everywhere and I think it’s a sickness.) 2. Spent less time stressing and more time working on your list. 3. When 1 & 2 fail, think about this time next week when all your stress will be over and say to yourself, “This time next week all my stress will be over, everything will be done, and I can sit on the couch and watch a movie.” Thinking this instantly makes me feel better.

Am I doing any of these above mentioned stress relief tactics? A little bit. I’m getting better at it, which is good news for our Thanksgiving guests who will get to snack on the fruits of my labor after I successfully conquer my marathon baking session tonight!

What is stressing you out this week? If you’re like me, and don’t like cooking meat that requires a thermometer, I totally feel your pain and see why this is a tough week for you. How are you dealing? Do you make lists, too?


  1. I make lists for literally everything!!! And so does my mom!

  2. I love the kid's table comment- I'm still at the kid's table! I'm very lucky that all we have to do is show at Thanksgiving. We're making a dessert just cause but it would be fine if we showed up empty-handed. You'll be fine & everything WILL get done!!

  3. "Everything will get done," is my motto! I practically sing it.

  4. Stop writing and start cooking!

  5. oh boy... looks like you had a fun-filled and action-packed Thanksgiving!!!