Category Archives: Thanksgiving

Tips for Hosting Family This Holiday Season

tips for hosting family during the holidays

I sent these tips on hosting family to my VIP list a few weeks ago, but I thought they were just too good not to share with everyone. So if you’re on my VIP list then you are lucky because you received these way ahead of any holiday gathering prep.

The Holidays are almost here.  The hustle and bustle of holiday dinners and get-togethers is upon us.  With a little bit of planning you can have a stress-free dinner party that is filled with making memories.

J and I split our time between his family and my family during the holiday season. One year we spend with my family on Thanksgiving and then his family during Christmas. Then we switch the next year. That way we aren’t driving all over trying to make both families’ dinners. We did that one year and we ended up leaving at 1am to make it back home before the snow hit. It was miserable!

Now we get to spend uninterrupted time with each of our families. We aren’t rushed and it makes time together so much better.

Holidays can be a time for stress, but with a little prep you can really stop any anxiety to enjoy the time when hosting family and friends. As we approach Thanksgiving dinner and the Christmas Holiday there are a few things you can do to ease the feeling of being overwhelmed.

Prepare some space

More than likely it will be chilly. People will be wearing coats and winter scarves, so by having a designated coat area in a back room or a hall closet can help decrease clutter. I don’t know about you, but when my main living room is full of stuff it makes me stress out a little. I instantly feel like my whole house is a pit and I can’t focus until it’s cleaned. So by having a space specifically for coats, then you can keep them nice and neat, and out of eye sight.

Childproof Your Home

Even if you don’t have little ones, you should take a few minutes to childproof your home.  Take a look around and figure out what needs to be changed or picked up to make it a little more kid-friendly.  I recommend picking up an knick-knacks you don’t want to be played with. Also, make sure cabinets are closed and outlets are covered. A few simple steps can really help your guest feel comfortable and ensure little hands aren’t getting into something they shouldn’t.

Smell is Everything

Give off a warm environment by using scented candles or room sprays. I like to make sure I have a scented candle burning in the bathroom as well as the family room. Typically, I pick the same candle so there aren’t conflicting scents through out the whole house. If you’re preparing dinner then I like to put any candles away from the kitchen so I’m not mixing too many smells. A smell overload can make the whole house a bit unappetizing.

Easy Finger Foods

Having a few easy finger foods on hand will help guests feel more at home. Sure you can prepare mini quiches or wraps, but I like to have a few that don’t need any cook time. That way if any of your guests have small children they can be appeased by a few chips or crackers and cheese until dinner is ready. My favorite go to is a veggie and fruit tray. That way you can snack on a few things without ruining dinner.

Keep it Simple

Remember the most important detail is spending time together. Try not to overwhelm yourself with these grand ideas of what Thanksgiving dinner should be like. Sure you see these amazing tables and dinners on TV, but that’s TV. Keep dinner easy to prepare, ask for help, and try not to over plan too much. Just remember everything will be okay and you need to enjoy your time as well.

Join the VIP list!



 


Quick Tips to Avoid Holiday Stress

tips to avoid holiday stress

It’s hard to imagine how it’s already the middle of October.  I feel like it was just yesterday I was putting away my jackets and pulling out my shorts for summer weather.  Now here I am pulling them back out.

Funny story about yours truly.  I had misplaced my house key months ago.  I had tore apart my house, looked through purses, cleaned out drawers, even searched my in-laws home thinking I had left it during a visit.  I seriously could not find it anywhere.  Which wasn’t a huge deal because our house has an electronic keypad through our garage so I didn’t really need it.  But it was driving me crazy because I never lose anything.  Sure, I may misplace something for a short time, but I never actually lose anything.

Fast forward to last weekend and it was a bit chilly in the morning.  I pulled out my jacket and tossed it on.  About an hour later I reached my hand in the pocket and you know what I found? Yep! My house key!  I couldn’t believe it.  After months of searching I had found it.  It never occurred to me to look in my jacket pocket.

I placed my jacket up about the time our little guy was born so I guess between the commotion of having a newborn I forgot.  I hate to lose things and feeling stressed about things, that’s why I am such a planner.  

I love saving time, which also means saving money.  Because if you can plan way ahead then you’re sure to find good deals and save up the money you need.

It might seem pretty early to start thinking about the holidays, the reality is that most of us are too busy and it will be here before we know it.

Now, I’m not the local hobby store and I’m not recommending pulling out those decorations just yet.  But I have created a few quick tips on how to avoid holiday stress.  If you do these now then it will really save you later on when the holiday season is in full swing.  These tips will only take an hour or two at most and it will be well worth it!

Prioritize Your Yes

Sit down with your spouse and get on the same page about holidays.  If you plan now and know what’s important to you and your family then you will avoid holiday burnout.  Now is the time to know what Thanksgiving or Christmas will look like, who’s house are you going to be at, etc.  That way when invitations start rolling in then you and your spouse will know if it’s a “yes” or a “sorry we can’t.”

Establish Your Budget

Sit down and write out every event, gift, and upcoming expense you’re going to have that is out of the ordinary.  I create a spreadsheet in Google Sheets to help narrow down who, what, and how much.  That way I can keep an eye out for sales.  Plus, having a budget really helps keep you accountable.  You can check out my process on how I do Christmas on budget.

Make Your Gift List

This goes with the budget section up above.  By creating your gift list now then you can have more time to buy what you need.  I created my list last week and it has been a life saver.  J and I sat down decided a good idea of what we wanted to get everyone then I created my budget from my list.  

Plan Your Holiday Menu

I’m not saying it’s time to make the pie or Christmas cookies, yet.  Most grocery stores will advertise items at ridiculously low prices to get you to come in. So if you have an idea of what you need to get for November and December then you can add it to your normal grocery shopping.  By breaking down your holiday grocery shopping way in advance then you’ll be able to save money and not have a huge bill later down the road.

What do you think?  What else would you add to avoid holiday stress?  

Skinny(ish) Apple Pie Recipe with Cinnamon Roll Crust

apple pie recipe with a cinnamon roll crust
For Thanksgiving I wanted to bring an apple pie for two reasons:

1) I LOVE apple pie
2) I have been wanting to try a recipe for a cinnamon roll crust that I had seen on Pinterest.

The recipe was everything I had dreamed of and then some.  Yummy!  Plus, it wasn’t hard to make and didn’t require me to make a crust from scratch because we all knew that wasn’t going to happen this past week.  No way.  Then I had added a tried-and-true apple filling recipe I had used years ago from Weight Watchers.  These two recipes combined made for apple yumminess magic.  I promise you it was like heaven in your mouth – you could taste the orchard.

*I would like to go ahead and apologize for the poor photo quality. I forgot my nice camera at the office and only had my cell to snap photos with

apple pie recipe with cinnamon roll crust II

Cinnamon Roll Crust Recipe:
(adapted from Pure Wow)
1 package of 2 pie crusts (the refrigerated kind)
4 Tbsp. butter, melted (I used Brummel & Brown with yogurt)
1/2 c. light brown sugar
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 egg white (for the actual baking process – see below)

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the two crusts until they are each 1/2″ thick.

cinnamon spread
In a small bowl, mix together the butter, brown sugar, cinnamon and extract.  Spoon half of the sugar mixture onto each pie crust and spread evenly.

Roll up the crust, lengthwise.  Wrap in saran wrap and place in the fridge for about 20 minutes.  Take a serrated knife and cut the spiral into 1/2″ thick pieces.

cinnamon roll crust pieces
Take a rolling pin and flatten the spiraled pieces until they are about 1/4″ thick.

In the pie pan spread, lay out half of the flatten pieces so they overlap on the edges.  Press together.

You should be able to use all of your spiral pieces for the shell, however, if you have any remaining then you can make a pie topper.  Place Them together on top of the counter into a circle.  I didn’t have enough remaining pieces to make an entire shell to cover my pie, which I thought was fine!  Chill both pieces for about an hour before filling.

 

Lightened-Up Apple Pie Recipe
(adapted from Weight Watchers)

2 medium Fuji apples, cut into 1/4″ cubes
2 medium Granny Smith apples, cut into 1/4″ cubes
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
2 Tbsp. apricot jam

In a bowl combine the apples, sugar, lemon juice, cinnamon and nutmeg.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat.  Add apple mixture and cook until slightly softened.  You will need to stir every few minutes.  This should take about 10-12 minutes.

Remove the apple mixture from the heat and stir in the jam.  Set aside to cool.

apple pie recipe cooking
Once the pie crusts have chilled long enough, pour the apple filling into the bottom crust then top with the remaining cinnamon roll pie crust.  If your top covers the entire pie then cut 4-5 slits on top for it to breath.  Brush with egg white.

Adjust the oven rack to the lowest position and then place a rimmed baking sheet on the rack.  Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.  Once the oven is heated, carefully place the pie on the hot baking sheet.  Reduce the temperature to 425 degrees.  Bake for about 20-25 minutes or until the crust is golden brown.

Once the top is golden brown, turn the temperature down to 375 degrees and rotate the baking sheet.  Bake for about 30 minutes, until the crust is a deep golden brown.
skinny ish apple pie with cinnamon roll crust

It’s all about the turkey, no gravy – Happy Thanksgiving

thanksgiving, turkeyIf you thought you were going to see some picture of a nice juicy turkey then you are sadly mistaken.  Not because I won’t be having turkey today, I will.  But because it hasn’t come out of the oven yet.  You see, I’m writing this hours before we are even leaving to head to J’s family.  I am imagining the turkey that I will be eating later, and it’s good.  Real good.

I’m a simple kind of girl.  I like turkey with no gravy.  I think gravy ruins it.  Gravy ruins pretty much everything it touches – biscuits, turkey, and even chicken fried steak.  They are all ruined with the addition of gravy.  Some call un-American to not like gravy.  I call it normal.  It’s thick, dark in color, the texture is off and smothers the best part of any meal.  So today I will be sitting down enjoying some turkey and stuffing sans gravy.

I remember the first Thanksgiving J and I were together.  He had to work black Friday and wasn’t able to make it home.  I decided to stay with him and skip out on my family’s dinner.  I couldn’t let him be alone!  I went all Betty Crocker on him and worked so hard on creating a Thanksgiving feast for the two of us.  I bought a turkey, stuffing, made biscuits from scratch, had bacon-wrapped asparagus, and even made a chocolate chip cookie cake.  I spent hours in the kitchen working on dinner and in the end, we would have been better off going out to eat.  The turkey was dry because I didn’t wrap it right or baste it at all.  I had misread the directions for the biscuits and used 3x the amount of butter I was suppose to so they came out soggy.  I burnt the asparagus to a crisp.  The only two things that turned out was the boxed stuffing and the cookie cake.  Needless to say we didn’t keep any leftovers that year.

Although the food was a disaster, that Thanksgiving has been one of my favorites.  We were able to spend it together.  We laughed and laughed.  He calmed me down when I realized ALL the mistakes I had made and was on the verge of a panic attack.  I really got to see the sweet, sensitive and supportive side of J.

thanksgiving

I hope your Thanksgiving is wonderful.  May you get the opportunity to spend time with your loved ones and enjoy each other’s company.  May you not stress about what’s happening next week, but instead take a breather so you may have a relax, fun-filled long weekend.  Happy Thanksgiving!

What I’m Thankful For

thankful for
I saw the best sign at a local church this past week:

“You don’t need more to be thankful for, you just need to be thankful more.”

I think this statement is so true!  We always want more – more time to get work done, more money, more time with family and friends, more stuff.  But we shouldn’t look at it like that.  We should be thankful more for what we do have – family that supports us, a career that pays the bills and then some, friends that are there for us, a roof over our heads, a car to get us from point A to point B.

The one little sign really got me thinking of what I’m thankful for this year.

It’s important to be grateful for what you have, right now.  It’s easy to get caught up in the materialistic side of life.  But you have to ask yourself  in 5 years, 20 years or even after we’re long gone from this Earth, what will be important to you, your legacy and those you love.  I want to leave a mark on this world that truly represents me.  I’m a passionate, hard working, wife, daughter, sister, friend, that cares about others and puts their needs before my own.  I would go without food to make sure my dogs ate and are cared for.  I would drive miles and miles to help a friend in need with a moments notice.  I love the person I have become over the years.  I have found myself and know that I can achieve any goal I set my mind to.  I’m thankful for what my parents taught me, the love my husband shows me everyday and the excitement I receive from three little dogs when I walk through that door each night.  I’m lucky to have a job I love and work for my Dad.  I’m blessed to have a close-knit family that I call my cousins some of my closest friends.

I am loved, blessed, lucky, adore.  I cherish, delight in, and treasure those around me.

thankful

thankful Here is my thankful for list for this year.  I know I have forgotten some and know that I could go on forever with this list.

My husband, J
Our 3 dogs – Maggie, Tiny, and Bud
Being able to save Bud from that gas station parking lot that one afternoon
A career that I am undoubtedly passionate about
The ability to learn and develop my skills in the finance world
My parents who stand up for me
My in-laws and J’s family
My sister and her soon-to-be husband
My friends that are still with me after all these years and all the miles between us
A car that is paid in full for and still runs
A roof over my head and for the first time in years is actually a roof that covers a very nice home that we get to call ours for the next few years
My health
My drive to do more and be a better person

I really think I could go on and on with this list.  I really am a pretty lucky lady.

Red Velvet Cookies Recipe

red velvet cookies recipeI stumbled upon this red velvet cookies recipe a few weeks ago.

  I ‘pinned’ it and then I could not stop thinking about it.  Red Velvet cake holds a special place in my heart.  It’s my family’s favorite and just so happens to be my favorite too.

I thought that it would be a great addition to our Thanksgiving Dinner and made a few adjustments to the original recipe to create my own.  It was a super easy cookie recipe to follow, which makes me want to jump and down for joy.

Ingredients:
6 T. butter, melted and then cooled
1 box of Red Velvet cake mix
2 eggs
1 t. cornstarch
3 / 4 c. powdered sugar

Steps for the Red Velvet Cookies Recipe:
Preheat your oven to 370 degrees.  Grease 2 cookie sheets or cover with parchment paper (which I find so much easier).  In a medium bowl, mix together cornstarch and powdered sugar.  Set aside.  Beat together eggs, cooled butter and cake mix until well combined.  Refrigerate for about 15-20 minutes so that the dough is easier to work with.  Roll dough into about 1-inch balls and dredge in the powdered sugar mixture.  Place on cookie sheet, about 2-inches apart.  Bake for 7-9 minutes.  Let cool completely and store in airtight container.
red velvet cookies recipeThese were delicious and a big hit at Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving

ImageChef Word Mosaic - ImageChef.com

J and I will be traveling to see my family.  Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays.  My Dad’s side of the family tries super hard for all of us to get together.  As we get older and are getting married it’s becoming more difficult for all of us to get together.  Even for J and I.  You see, we decided after last years debacle and 15+ car ride over the Christmas holiday that we would not do that to ourselves and any future kids.  So, we will switch holidays.  I get Thanksgiving with my family during odd-numbered years and he gets Christmas with his family; then we switch.  It’s only fair and we are willing to negotiate if need be.  I hope your Thanksgiving is stupendous and you get to share time with those you love… and eat too much!

Cheers!

Thankful for in 2013

thankful

Here we go the post of what I am thankful for in 2013.

I’ll try to keep it short and sweet, but you will get the point.

J & I got hitched and it’s pretty amazing to think that I now am half of a whole.  You can read about our perfect wedding day here. // Maggie, the best dog a girl could ask for.  You see, it used to be just Maggie & me.  We would travel, lived alone, and took care of one another. // Tiny – the new pup on the block.  She was saved from the side of the highway back in January and I am pretty sure she made our home complete // family // my best friends // finding our townhouse days before our move back in August to a new city // having a job // good health // thirst for knowledge // merelynne.com // all the memories I made from 2013.

Last Thanksgiving was our first one together and we spent it in his apartment – just the two of us.  He had to work the morning of Thanksgiving and we both had to work on Black Friday.  We couldn’t travel to see family so instead we made it work with just us.  I cooked the driest turkey known to man, baked soggy biscuits, and Christmas shopped online.  This year we will be with family, eating great food and laughing.

Cheers!

Diet 7-Up Biscuits

Happy Thanksgiving! I hope everyone had a day filled with love and yummy goodness!


J and I celebrated our first Thanksgiving together this year.  Due to work schedules we both weren’t able to make the drive home, especially since our drive is in opposite directions of one another.  It just made it too difficult.  So, we made the best of it and celebrated on our own.

I got there just in time for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade to start, which is my absolute favorite part of the day.  I’ve seen a 7-Up Biscuit recipe on Pinterest lately and it looked delicious.  I adapted the recipe to be a bit more Weight Watcher friendly and the results were a-mazing.

Ingredients:

2 C. Heart Smart Bisquick
1/2 C. light Sour Cream
1/2 C. diet 7-Up
1/4 C. melted butter (I used I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter)

Directions:

In a large bowl, mix sour cream and bisquick together.  Add 7-Up to mix.  The dough will be really soft.  Melt the butter and pour into the bottom of a 9×9 pan.  Next, sprinkle some bisquick mix onto the counter and spread out the dough.  You don’t want to knead the dough, but just pat and spread to be about one-inch thick.  Use a glass or a biscuit cutter and cut out biscuits.  Place in pan and bake at 450 degree for about 8-10 minutes, or until golden brown.

Makes 9 servings – 4 WWPointsPlus per serving

I had one biscuit that didn’t want to cooperate when I was putting it into the pan… I’m sure you can figure out which one that was.  Oh well! Recipes can’t always be picture perfect, but they were still delicious.

10 Things I’m Thankful For

B&W #roadtrip

Happy Thanksgiving! I’ve decided that since it was Thanksgiving and all that it would be a good time to write down what I’m Thankful for this year.

1. My family. After this afternoon’s FaceTime session with them I realize that they are quite unlike any other family I know and for that I’m truly thankful.

2. J. It has been a wonderful year with him and I am grateful every day that we met sitting in Steak-N-Shake late one night.  It’s great having a guy that is so supportive of my ideas, my dreams, and everything going on in my life.

3. My friends. The first text I received this morning was from friends wishing me a Happy Thanksgiving. It’s great to remember all the fun times we’ve shared in 2012: a cruise, a haunted house, road trips, weekends at the lake, ‘family’ dinners, and so many more.

4. Work. This year has been quite a departure for me from the past several.  I started an amazing journey as a Weight Watcher Leader and have met so many amazing, supportive people since that time.  I’ve also been blessed with a job at a local law firm that has supported me through my school with a flexible schedule and has always been a place to go when I need an extra quiet study room at midnight.  Finally, I recently started a job as a Sales Associate at a retail store and cannot wait for my future with such a bright company.

5. Maggie.  We all know how obsessed I am with that pup so it’s no surprise that I can’t even make it half-way through my list without mentioning her.  Maggie and I have had quite a life together these past years.   I am thankful that she picked me that cold, rainy day in a hospital parking lot.

6. Graduate School.  Though I complain about it.  I am grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to further my education.  In less than 25 days I will be walking across the stage at Missouri State receiving my Masters in Business Administration degree.  Alright, so I actually won’t be getting my diploma that day, but I will be receiving an empty leather holder that symbolizes all the hard work and late nights I have put in these past 2 years.

7. My parents.  I know that I mentioned family as number 1, but the more I thought about it I really think my folks deserve their own number.  My Mom and Dad are awesome.  Seriously, I have the best parents around.  They support one another as they support their two kids.  I cannot say thank you enough to the two people who brought me into this world, guided me, and taught me to be an independent, educated, young adult.

8. J’s family.  They have welcomed me into their lives this past year and I’m grateful.  J’s family is absolutely wonderful and knows how to have a good time.

9. My Grandmas.  I’m lucky to have two amazing Grandmothers that have taught me a lot as I’ve grown up.  Still to this day the sound of wind chimes puts a smile on my face thanks to my Grandma D. who always had them on her front porch.  Grandma W.’s sandtart cookies are my all-time favorite and each Christmas I look forward to them.

10. Creativity.  I like that I can think out of the box (most days) and have a passion for creating.  There are so many ways to reduce stress out there and I’m glad that the one that helps me calm down the most is just so simple.

Okay, I know this post was a bit long.  Sorry.  Happy Thanksgiving and may your day be filled with happiness!