How to have a simple Thanksgiving

How to have a simple Thanksgiving

If Thanksgiving has become more stressful than restful, try having a simple thanksgiving this year!  Instead of spending the holiday stressed, simplify your day with these 9 tips!

Why I decided to have a simple Thanksgiving

I love Thanksgiving.  It’s one of my favorite holidays, in fact.  When I was young, it was always such a simple holiday. (Well, aside from Mom’s insistence that I dress up…why did I have to wear a dress just to eat a big meal and nap the afternoon away?)  We’d go to grandma’s house, eat LOTS of good food, usually dishes that we only had once or twice a year. We’d sit around after the meal, football on TV in the background, some of us napping, some of us playing card games.  Lots of laughter and a very relaxed day of being together.

Or so I thought.  When my hubby and I got married, we lived states away from most of our family, so I decided to start hosting Thanksgiving dinner for friends,  family members that wanted to visit, and basically for anyone who didn’t have a place to go for the big meal.  And it was a LOT more work than I expected.  

I thought the only way to do Thanksgiving properly was to recreate the version I had grown up with, AND add in some of my husband’s family Thanksgiving traditions.  I love traditions and wanted to keep ALL of them going. I’d would spend days cleaning the house, top to bottom. I’d make sure the table was perfectly set, put up Thanksgiving themed decorations.  I spent hours finding the perfect recipes, making a huge shopping list, planning down to the minute which dishes needed to be started at what time and in what order so everything would be on the table at exactly the same time.  I made 3 different pies, so everyone could have their favorite. No one needed to bring anything, I had it all taken care of…just come on over and enjoy the day!

And it was lovely…for everyone except me.  By the time the day was over, the kitchen was a mess, the house was a mess.  And I was a mess. But I pressed on, year after year, with a varying cast of friends and family members coming by for the meal.  Until the last year I hosted a big fancy Thanksgiving…

That year, I went through all of my normal pre-Thanksgiving madness, making sure everything was “perfect”.  The house was sparkling clean, the meal was done on time as planned, and we were all ready to sit down to enjoy.  Weren’t we? I was so wrapped up in preparing and making everything “perfect”, that I didn’t even notice that all those little details that seemed so important to me, didn’t really matter to anyone else.  And this particular year, they didn’t matter to the point that no one was really even interested in the meal itself. “We’ll be there in a minute,” they said.  And I waited, watching the food get cold.

I was upset. I was angry. How could my guests do this to me? Didn’t they know how hard I had worked?  How much effort I had put in to make sure that everything was perfect?

I was feeling all the feelings – except for one. Thankful. It’s hard to be thankful when you’re stressed, frazzled, and annoyed.

That was a rough Thanksgiving for me.  But it also made me think…if the big, picture-perfect meal didn’t seem to matter to anyone but me, why was everyone here?  What were they doing the whole time I was working so hard to make sure everything was perfect?  

They were enjoying each other’s company.  They were having fun just being together.  They were enjoying a day off work, laughing and chatting, playing games.  They were truly enjoying the day. And wasn’t that really what I was trying to recreate?  It was a reality check that I definitely needed. I wasn’t enjoying it, I was too busy trying to make everything “perfect”.  I wasn’t thankful, I was busy and stressed. And it was all my own doing. We had so much to be thankful for…a roof over our heads, plenty of food to eat, and friends and family all around us.  I was the one that wasted the day and missed the point. I was the one that wasn’t really celebrating Thanksgiving because you can’t be thankful when you’re too busy being overwhelmed.

How to make thanksgiving simple (without losing the magic)

These days, Thanksgiving at our house looks a lot different.  Instead of running myself ragged to make everything “perfect”, I’ve simplified Thanksgiving. I’ve dialed it WAY back. I accept help.  And now I get to enjoy hosting because it’s simple and actually fun.

I ask guests to bring dishes.  I accept help when it’s offered.  And sometimes (gasp!) I even ask for help!

I only make my favorite dishes instead of ALL the dishes.  I don’t worry about the house being spotless, just presentable – it’s only going to be a mess by the time the day is over.

I took the pressure off myself to make it a “perfect” day for everyone – and now, Thanksgiving is back to being fun!

 9 ways to have a simple Thanksgiving

If you’re hosting Thanksgiving dinner this year (or even if you’re a guest), here are a few tips on how to have a simple Thanksgiving, so you can actually enjoy the day with your family and friends.

1. Don’t go overboard with the prep work

I’m a clean freak.  Always have been. But really, no one is going to notice if there is a stray dust bunny in the corner of a room that no one is even using. Make sure the house is presentable and leave it at that!  No one is coming over to judge your housekeeping skills.

2. Don’t worry about the decorations

Of course, you can decorate, if you’d like. I love to decorate for each season! But don’t feel like you HAVE to.  It won’t make or break the day. You don’t need an amazing, Pinterest-perfect table setting or centerpiece…the food is enough!

3. Limit the menu to the basics  

It’s easy to get caught up in all the fancy recipes and meal plans that show up everywhere in the weeks before Thanksgiving.  But is now really the time to try a fancy, new 47 ingredient recipe that you’ve never made before? Or will everyone be just as happy with the basic dishes? If you really love to cook, maybe pick one new dish to try out.  Ask your guests what their absolute favorites for the Thanksgiving meal are and just focus on those dishes, instead of trying to make 14 different side dishes. (Learn from my mistakes on this one…I was surprised to learn that I was the only one who even liked sweet potato casserole…)

4. Take shortcuts (I won’t tell)

If you don’t like to cook, there is no shame in buying ready-made food!  And if you do like to cook, use the shortcuts that are available. Instead of spending your day peeling a mountain of potatoes, try out the frozen steam and mash kind.  Buy a pie. Paper plates may not be for every day, especially if you’re environmentally conscious, but NOT having three days worth of dishes to do after the big meal is over will free you up to enjoy the day. 

Whatever shortcut will make it easier for you, take it.

5. Don’t duplicate your dishes 

You don’t need 3 pies for 6 people.  Or stuffing, rice pilaf, cauliflower rice, AND mashed potatoes.  Pick your favorites dishes and just go with those.

6. Try it pot luck style

Provide the turkey and tell everyone that’s coming to bring a dish.  Everyone gets to contribute and no one has to take on the whole meal by themselves. This can turn out to be even more fun than the big, perfectly planned menu because you never know what you’ll get.  

7. Send everyone home with leftovers  

I think leftovers are the best part of Thanksgiving dinner.  But after a week of turkey sandwiches, they lose a little of the magic.  Instead, ask your guests to bring containers with them (or grab some inexpensive reusable containers to send home with everyone) and load them up with leftovers!  They’ll get to enjoy the leftovers too (and no one will have nightmares about forcing themselves to eat another turkey sandwich).

8. Enjoy each other’s company 

Half the fun of Thanksgiving is the meal itself.  But the other half is being together.  Sit around and chat.  Play games. Watch a movie. Have a dance party while you’re doing the dishes.  Enjoy the fact that you are spending time with people you love, and may not see that often.  Make the most of your time together.

9. Traditions aren’t set in stone

As much as I hate to say it, traditions don’t have to be kept.  Have crab legs instead of turkey. Have a Thanksgiving brunch instead of dinner.  Don’t be held prisoner by a tradition you feel like you should keep, just because that’s the way it’s always been done.

Finally, remember the point of Thanksgiving day

Thanksgiving isn’t just a big turkey dinner.  It’s a day to take time out to be grateful for what you have, no matter how much or how little that is.  Think of all the things you have to be thankful for. Don’t get so caught up in the “event” that you miss the focus of the holiday.

Need a few more ideas?

24 ways to have a cozy holiday season

How to overcome perfectionism 


What are you doing to simplify Thanksgiving this year?

Hygge basics – What hygge means & how to embrace a cozy lifestyle

Hygge basics – What hygge means & how to embrace a cozy lifestyle

If you’ve been on any kind of social media in the last few years, you’ve probably seen the term hygge.  Probably associated with cozy images of winter, blankets, hot drinks, and fireplaces. But if you’re just discovering hygge or haven’t really looked into it beyond the pretty images, we’re going to talk what hygge really means and how you can embrace a hygge lifestyle!

What does hygge mean?

I started writing this article one chilly fall evening while sitting in front of my fireplace.  I had a warm cup of tea next to me, comfy clothes on, one of my kitties sleeping next to me, and my favorite blanket tucked around my feet.   Sounds pretty cozy, doesn’t it? It was. And that’s the idea behind hygge.

The word itself is Danish.  If you don’t know much about Denmark (I didn’t either), here are two key things to know: One, they have very cold, dark winters.  Like really cold. I love cold & dark weather, but a Danish winter might be a little much, even for winter lovers like me.  Two, Denmark is always near the top of the list of the world’s happiest countries. What??? How on earth do those two facts even go together?  One big reason is that they embrace a hygge lifestyle.

I’m not Danish and I’ve never even been to Denmark, so all the knowledge I have about hygge is based on reading about the concept.  And as it turns out it’s something I’ve always aimed for, I just didn’t have a name for it!

The word hygge doesn’t have a direct translation in English, but it can be summed up as the art of cozy living – enjoying the simple things in life, contentment, and creating an intimate environment. Hygge, in a nutshell, is whatever makes you physically and mentally cozy

If you’re into etymology, hygge comes from a combination of the Norwegian words for “wellbeing” and “hug”. That little fact makes me smile.

Some related words that you might run across as you learn more about hygge are hyggelig, which basically means hygge-like.  And hyggekrog, which is a cozy little nook (I don’t know about you, but that makes me think of a warm little reading chair).  Seriously, all these words make me want to learn Danish!  Even the words themselves are cozy!

How on earth do you pronounce hygge? 

I’ll give you a hint.  It’s not how it looks. Hygge is pronounced Hoo-gah or Hue-gah (A lot of people mispronounce it as “huggy” – I have to admit, that sounds a pretty cozy too).  If you’re a native Dane, please feel free to comment with a better explanation!

So how do I do “hygge”?

Absolutely anyone can embrace hygge! It can involve a combination of things, but the general idea is to focus on slowing down, being present in the moment, and enjoying the simple things in life. It’s the purposeful act of being cozy. To be a little more specific, here are some general hygge concepts:

Set the atmosphere

A warm, cozy atmosphere is definitely hygge.  Think low lighting, maybe soft music in the background or quiet conversation with loved ones.  Comfortable seating, cozy blankets to keep the chill away.

Be present

Instead of getting lost in your social feeds or zoning out to a tv show, be present in the moment.  Notice the simple things around you, like a fire in the fireplace or the smell of food cooking on the stove. If you’re not alone, engage with the people around you.

Be grateful

It may be cold and dark outside, but you are warm.  You are comfortable. You have enough. You ARE enough. Be grateful for the moment.

Get comfortable

Think comfortable clothes, comfortable chairs, soft blankets, comfortable relationships

Be content

Take a break from thinking about what you don’t have or what you wish could happen.  Be content in the moment.

Enjoy safety & shelter

There could be 4 feet of snow on the ground outside, but you have a roof over your head, a warm home, and a place to get away from the stresses of daily life.

Embrace togetherness

Hygge doesn’t always mean alone time!  Time spend with a few friends and loved ones is definitely hygge.  Small gatherings with people whose company you truly enjoy.

Keep it simple

Hygge is not about luxury or the latest trends, it’s about simplicity and enjoying the simple things!

What does hygge look like?

One of my favorite examples of a hygge time in my own life would be memories of Thanksgiving afternoon at my grandparents’ house.  After the meal, surrounded by family. Everyone’s bellies are full, some are napping, some are playing card games. The house is warm and smells of good food.  No one is in a rush, there is laughter, coziness, and contentment.

Another of my favorites is an unexpected snow day.  I get fewer of these since moving to Ohio, since snow is less of an impact on daily life up here, but there is magic in waking up to canceled plans.  Knowing that the whole day is in front of you and you can settle into a lazy, cozy, snuggly day in a warm home.

Those a few isolated examples of hygge times, but you don’t need to wait for a holiday or special event!  Hygge is an everyday practice.

Here are a few ideas to bring hygge into your everyday life:

Light lots of candles

Dim the bright, overhead lights and enjoy the coziness of low, warm lighting

Host a good, old fashioned potluck

Invite some friends to bring a dish to share and simply enjoy each other’s company. No cheating and planning ahead though. You may end up with amazing gourmet food or 7 bags of potato chips and french onion dip.  That’s half the fun. (Growing up in a Baptist church in the midwest, I’ve experienced LOTS of pot luck dinners.  I can tell you from experience that both versions are equally fun.)

Go outside, no matter the weather

There’s an old saying: There is no bad weather, only bad clothing.  Bundle up if it’s cold, throw on some rain boots and a raincoat if it’s raining, and go outside for a while.  Sunny days aren’t the only days with value, embrace all the weather!

Home-cooked meals

Get some soup simmering on the stove or throw a roast in the oven.  Enjoy the act of preparing it, the scent of food cooking, and the meal itself 

Ditch the tech for a while

Take a break from your phone, turn off the tv.  Have a conversation, play a game, or just enjoy the quiet

Take your time & linger a bit

We spend so much of our lives rushing to get to the next thing.  Take a break from that. Take your time, enjoy someone’s company without a time limit, linger over a good meal.

What hygge ISN’T

Since we’ve talked a little about what hygge IS, we should probably discuss a few things that hygge ISN’T as well.

Hygge isn’t a specific product

Over the last few years, advertisers have definitely caught on to the hygge trend.  All sorts of products are being marketed as “hygge”. There is even a type of yarn called Hygge. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but hygge doesn’t require any sort of specific “items”. It doesn’t mean a newly re-decorated home and brand new cozy clothes.  In fact, another hygge-related term is hyggebusker. Loosely translated, hyggebusker are those pants that you love to wear around the house, but wouldn’t be caught dead wearing in public.  That one makes me laugh, because I’m pretty sure we all have them. (Mine are an old paint-stained, holey pair of sweatpants I stole from my husband. Terrible to look at, but one of my favorite cozy things in the world!)

I’m bringing that up to point out that you don’t need to get caught up in the marketing to enjoy hygge.  Hygge isn’t about new and shiny, it’s about comfort and simplicity.

Hygge isn’t limited to cold weather

Yes, hygge is often associated with the fall and winter months, because they are so favorable for coziness. But you can absolutely embrace hygge year round!  A quick pinterest search will bring up hygge ideas to enjoy during any season!

Hygge isn’t complicated or fussy

Hygge is all about enjoying the simpler things in life.  You don’t need to spend hours making a gourmet meal or plan every little thing down to the very last detail.  (For example, leave the fancy rosemary parmesan popcorn recipe on Pinterest for another day and just enjoy plain buttered popcorn.)

How can I learn more about hygge? 

We’ve just barely scratched the surface on all the ways to add hygge to your life, but I think you’re starting to get the idea.  

If you’d like to go a little deeper, here are a few more resources to help you cultivate a hygge lifestyle:

The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living – by Meik Wiking

Happier: How Using Hygge, Lagom and My Own Common Sense Helped Me to Find a Happier Life – by Jo Kneale

Hygge: The Danish Art of Happiness – by Marie Tourell Soderberg

And just for good measure, here are a few more hygge examples:

Getting together with a few friends for large batch baking or cooking

Watching a fire wrapped in a blanket

A casual game night

The feeling when you walk into a warm home on a freezing day

A hug from a loved one when you’re feeling blue

A cake that didn’t turn out pretty, but tastes wonderful!

Waking up with no rush to be anywhere

Snuggling with your pets


What are your favorite hygge memories?  How do you plan to add hygge to your life?

Celebrating the simple pleasures in life

Celebrating the simple pleasures in life

Let’s talk for a minute about celebrating the simple pleasures in life.  The little everyday joys that happen all around us, but are all too easy to miss.

“The little things? The little moments?  They aren’t little.” ~ Jon Kabat-Zinn


It’s pretty easy to celebrate the big things in life. 

Weddings, parties, promotions, holidays. It doesn’t take much thought.  They are happy occasions and worth celebrating!

But what about the small joys?  The simple pleasures? They’re all around us, but in order to enjoy them, you have to be open to noticing them.  All too often, we get so busy and wrapped up in the normalcy of our daily lives that it can be easy to miss the simple joys.  They are usually unplanned, sometimes unexpected, and also some of the sweetest parts of life, but often go unnoticed.

But if you make a point of noticing them, of being aware, of expecting the small, simple bits of happiness that are all around you, it will do wonders for your mood!

I’ve always felt that happiness is largely a decision.  Instead of waiting for happiness to find you, instead of waiting for something big to happen in your life that you can be happy about, CREATE happiness.  Look for things to make you smile and you will almost always find them.

This post is simply a reminder to look for the everyday little pleasures in life.  Celebrate the small things! Notice them, enjoy them, be grateful for them.

Here are 65 small joys:

Sunshine on a cool day
A nice scent
Fairy lights
A good book
A day with no plans
A nice meal
Listening to birds
Children’s laughter
Favorite song on the radio
The first sip of good coffee
Driving with the windows down
A cool breeze while you’re sleeping
Clean sheets
Comfy socks
A needed hug
A call from a friend
Fresh snow
Freshly shaved legs
Fire in the fireplace
The sound of rain
A hot shower after a hard day
Unexpected slow dance
Witnessing an act of kindness
Performing an act of kindness
Dog kisses
Sleeping in
Eating outside
Having your hair washed
The smell of food cooking
Waking up and realizing it’s the middle of the night and you can still sleep for hours
The first chilly day after summer
The first warm day after winter
Coffee on the porch
Laughing until you cry
Clean, warm towels
A pet choosing to sleep on your lap
Warm cookies, fresh from the oven
Lying under the stars
The first spring flowers
The first fall leaves
Finishing a good book
An unexpected day off
Fresh cut grass
Your dog greeting you excitedly at the door when you get home
A full moon
Warm soup on a winter day
Finding something you lost
Seeing a happy facebook post
Dew on a spiderweb
Taking your time in the morning
A brand new notebook and pen
Seeing others having fun
Coming home after a trip
The smell of rain
A cool breeze on a hot day
A cat laying in the sunshine
A perfectly ripe avocado
Inside jokes
Waking up refreshed and ready before your alarm goes off
The first bite of something you’ve been craving
A cold drink when you’re thirsty
A rainy Saturday


What simple pleasures would you add to this list?