Over the last five years of leading Holiday Sanity (nowonly available aboard the Starship or Lift Off), I’ve written quite a bit on surviving – even thriving – during the holiday season. With the official beginning of the season (here in the US) this week, I wanted to share a bit of what works for me.
As we leap into Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, and Christmas, I hope this collection saves a bit of your own sanity.
“For the busy Biz Lady, the holiday season is a time of joy (Peppermint mochas! Decorations! Candle light!) and stress (Holiday orders! The post office!). Sanity can be hard to hold on to between filling orders, fulfilling family obligations and standing in the dreaded post office line.
But sanity and profit are possible. It starts with knowing yourself, your business and what you want from the season and then setting expectations (and plans) for yourself and your community.”
I had a lovely Thanksgiving yesterday, how about you? All my planning and baking turned out great, and my vegan dishes got 4 thumbs up from the 13 year old twins. Now that the holiday season has officially begun, and the meal-including invitations are starting to fill our our calendar, I'm thinking a lot about how to enjoy the season as a vegan.
The cardinal law of being a vegan (or vegetarian, or gluten-free) is simple: Bring your own food. But beyond that, figuring out what to bring can be a challenge. Here are a few things to think about before you pick a recipe:
1. Find the spirit of the event.
Every holiday party has its own personality. Thanksgiving with my in-laws is about big plates of food and every sibling and cousin in one place around the long table. Thanksgiving with my mom is hot chocolate, cookies, tree lighting and craftiness. For some families, it's that Norman Rockwell brining-the-turkey-to-the-table moment.
Before you explore your vegan options for an event, take a second to acknowledge what you want to experience and what you love about it. Is there anything you don't want to feel you're missing out on? What doesn't matter as much to you? How can you take part in the spirit of the thing?
For example, at the big Swiger family dinner, everyone brings several dishes to share, so it's no big deal for me to bring 3 vegan dishes. Jay and I can load up our plates with food we love, and no one notices except to compliment it (out of the three sweet potato options, mine were the only ones completely devoured!).
2. Focus on the seasonal flavors.
A lot of vegetarians try to recreate the entire omnivore meal plan, which can be interesting, but is it really what you want?
What are the flavors you're most exited about? Focus on recreating those, or make sure there'll be a vegan option. The thing I always loved about Thanksgiving is the stuffing: sage-y, thyme-y, savory; paired with tart cranberries. I've made veggie stuffings in the past, but this year I made a chickpea tart that had the same flavor. My husband loves desserts, so I brought us a vegan version. Neither one of us ever cared about the turkey, so I don't worry about Tofurkey or Field Roasts.
3. Bring what you love.
While it's awesome when your uncle falls in love with vegan black bean empanadas, don't drive yourself crazy pleasing others. Be content that as long as you love it, and it improves your experience: it was worth the effort.
And now that you have some ideas for how to pick, here are the recipes I've used (and loved) in the last few years:
Black bean squash empanadas, from The Veganomicon – brought to last year's Thanksgiving, and gone to moans and compliments in under 10 minutes.
Festive Chickpea Tart– made the night before (but not baked) and then frozen. It thawed as we drove the 3 hours to meal and then baked for 30 minutes. Delicious!
These sweet potatoes – they beat out the other two options on the table.
It's safe to say that I am more excited about the Holiday Sanity program (and all you creative smart people who are joining me) than I am about actually doing the planning. Which is why I invited you to keep me (and each other)accountable. This afternoon is where it all starts, but before we get going, I just needed a little reminder:
With all this talk of holiday planning, it may overwhelm you.
I know it does me.
I finally filled out my own mini-guide (yeah, I shared it with you just to convince MYSELF to do it!) and then all I wanted to do was nap.
And so today, it seems important to know: you don't have to do everything.
You don't have to be perfectly planned.
Or have life balance.
Or know what's going on.
It's ok, just as you are.
Whether you have a family, or an illness, or just stress.
Staying on top of it all, seeming perfect, having your stuff together.
That's not the goal.
The goal (or at least, my goal) is to notice.
To interact with the stuff that comes up, instead of ignoring it and hoping it all works out.
To get help when I need it.
To rely on my community.
This is just a friendly reminder that wherever you are, with your business, with your holiday planning, with your life is exactly where you're supposed to be.
And I'm so glad that you're there. And here.
(If you do have life-stuff that makes you worry you can't run a biz, check out tomorrow's class with Kirsty Hall, about working Within Limits)
This is the third in an ongoing series about planning (your business and your life!) for the holidays. If you want to keep your Holiday Sanity this year, join a group of crafters + artists in our accountability fun. If you're struggling to find the time because of family or health limits, check out Within Limits.
Instead of going on and on about planning today, let's just get down to the action. The action of looking clear-eyed and honestly about what you want to do this holiday.
For most of us, that starts with a List.
I am Queen of the List, but my planning really needs to go beyond the list.
I've put everything I know about dealing with big (scary!) to-do lists and turned into a teeny tiny mini-guide.
How I figure out what needs to be done.
How I make sure nothing falls through the cracks.
How I make sure it actually GETS done, hopefully a few days before it's really done.
All of it explained and then demonstrated with silly handdrawn worksheets.
This is one of the first materials I made for the Holiday Sanity program, but I got so much gushing about how helpful it was, I thought, I need to share this with everyone.
So here it is, completely free. No sign-ups or commitments or anything.
Just right click on the little button to download.
Edited to add: At the request of several fast readers, we're going to do a weekly check-in, right here in the comments. Today, let us know: did you fill out the first List of Doom?
Of course, you can get private accountability (and brainstorm and learn from a whole pile of clever crafters) in the Holiday Sanity program. Tuesday's the last day to join!
November is the month of turkey, gratitude and crazy big group projects. Something about all that impending time with extended family seems to draw us to gathering online to accomplish ridiculous goals.
Today I'm embarking on two (um, three?) big projects:
I'm hoping I can convince some of you to join me in the craziness, let me know if you're also doing any of these in the comments!
For the uninitiated, NaNoWriMo is a yearly endeavor to write 50,000 words (or, a small novel) in the month of November. Thousands of writers, the world over, participate and it is a beautiful thing. You can read more about it here.
I'm not writing a novel, but I am challenging myself to write 50,000 words this month (these right here count!), in the hopes of giving you what you've been asking for: more CraftyBiz written material to go with the classes.
Gettting it done
I'm using 750words.com to keep track of my daily words. My goal is to write 2,000/day every day that I can, since I'll be traveling a lot in November and I'm sure there will be several days when I can't write at all.
I'm still a little sketchy about WHAT exactly I'll be writing about, so if there's something in particular about crafting a business you'd like to read about, let me know.
As if 50,000 words weren't enough, I'm also attempting to knit 50,000 stitches. Or, a whole sweater. This is a knitter's version or NaNoWriMo, NAtional KNIt a SWEaterMOnth, in it's 4th year and is organized by the inimitable KnitGrrl, Shannon Oakey.
Gettting it done
I'm knitting the Featherweight Cardigan by Helen Fettig. I spent, oh, an embarrassing amount of time thinking about what yarn I would make this in, before settling on the designer's own kit. It comes with the fabulously squooshy Malabrigo laceweight, which I got it in Pearl.
No special stitch-counting or knit-progress-tracking with this, I just plan to work on it All. The. Time. All the time I'm not working or writing or crocheting cute amigurumi.
(Not a knitter? Check out Art Every Day, a sort of NaNoWriMo for artists.)
Unlike the other two projects, this has no big goal line.
It's simply an accountability and planning group project that I put together to help myself get through the holidays. It's my hope that it'll help you do the same.
I'm creating all sorts of (optional) worksheets to help me (and you) figure out what, exactly, has to be done (and by when) in order to have a great holiday season, both in my business and in my life!
To figure out what to include, I put together all the tools and tricks I know help me get stuff done and I talked to other crafty people about what's worked for them.
What we came up with is simple and not too time-consuming (the goal is to focus on our work, not on the planning.)
Each week will have a theme to help focus our work and we'll follow up in a (private!) chat room where we'll check in and ask questions.
I'm looking forward to it because I know just the *idea* of checking in with someone pushes me to do better work. I've seen my gentle email accountability do wonders in other crafty businesses on projects as big as starting their first shop to making art on a regular basis.
You can join us right here.
A friend of mine (a fellow crafty business owner) recently wrote me:
Did you know Etsy is already on WEEK 5 of Holiday Bootcamp?!?!
I'm not even on Week 1 of planning and we have howmany weeks left?
And as much as I love Etsy, the thought of a bootcamp? for the holidays?
It makes me want to snuggle under my crocheted blanket and just knit for a bit.
I'm not about to get all drill sargeant on you, but I do think that planning ahead (even if it's just thinking about the qualities you want to have in your holiday season) makes everything more magical.
The season of craft shows, gift certificates, gift-giving (and gift-buying and gift-making!), travel, family time and pie!
Ok, so the pie doesn't take a lot of time away from my business, but the others? As much as I adore this season (and I really really do), even if do NOTHING holiday-related in the yarn shop, the holiday smoosh makes it hard to just do the normal businessy stuff.
But this season, I'm applying my questions, my noticings, my metaphors and I'm carving out some space to create Holiday Sanity.
And I'd like to invite you to join me!
For four weeks (or 5 if you sign up by Tuesday!), we're going to take about an hour a week to notice.
To pay attention to what we want, what we hope for and what we want to get rid of.
I couldn't come up with a clever name, so it's simply Holiday Sanity and you can find out more about it here.