How to Have a Focused and Stress-Free Thanksgiving

As Thanksgiving quickly approaches, thoughts turn to the stress that holidays can bring … and how to avoid that stress this year! We still have time to make a plan to get focused and breeze through Turkey Day (relatively) unscathed. Here’s how!

 

 

One of the best, surest solutions for busy people on a busy week like the days before Thanksgiving is to use a timeline and/or a checklist.

So I’ve come up with the Thanksgiving Countdown to help you navigate through last-minute details and help you make sense of everything that needs to be done. And it’s free!

The Countdown includes essential tasks from shopping to homekeeping for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, and then a full-blown hour-by-hour schedule for Turkey Day. Plus, this year I’ve included directions on how to roast a turkey, including a roasting timetable.

My goal is to help you arrive at your own dinner table a little less stressed and filled with gratitude for the gathering of family and friends. Download your copy of the Thanksgiving Countdown here.

And don’t forget all the resources available to you in the Etsy shop, including the more expansive and comprehensive Thanksgiving Planner. I’ve included suggestions on organizing your time and resources, setting a gorgeous holiday table, and of course lots of space to write out your plans for:

  • The guest list
  • The Thanksgiving table
  • Menu planning and budget
  • Shopping list
  • Thanksgiving decorations

And lots more — like getting ready for Black Friday with a gift list planner and a holiday card organizer. It’s only available on Etsy. Click the graphic below to learn more!

Thanksgiving planner for a stress-free Thanksgiving

I’ll be giving more tips and last-minute solutions on social media over the next ten days, so be sure to follow Smart Solutions for Busy People on Facebook and Instagram.

Sending you lots of love and wishes for a peaceful, joyful and grateful Happy Thanksgiving.

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5 Quick Decorating Ideas You’ll Fall For

You'll fall for these quick decorating ideas to bring some autumn ambience to your home.

 

Ahhh …. Fall. It’s a season of effortless decorating with natural elements, a few tricks and some pops of warm color. Here are 5 quick and easy ways to refresh your home and get ready for fall.

 

Birdseed is a unique and inexpensive way to add lots of fall color and texture to your home decor.

 1. Fill in with natural elements.

Nature is abundant source of home accessories this season! Look for what’s plentiful in your yard: gather pine cones, seed pods, colored leaves, and even twigs and branches. Mix in bird seed (adds texture and color for not a lot of money) and add some softness with Spanish moss. Display them mounded in bowls on your coffee table, layer them in vases, or use them as a base for a candle display. Here are 10 natural elements you can adapt and use as vase fillers.

 

 

Everday votive cups get a fast fall makeover with twigs gathered from your yard and a few crafts supplies.

2. Get twiggy with it.

Transform simple votive holders into textural accessories perfect for your Thanksgiving table with just a few crafts supplies and some twigs from your yard. This is great craft to get the kids involved in, too! Get all the instructions to make twig votives here.

 

 

Extend the life of your outdoor living space with cozy throws, piled in basket by the back door.

3. Go hygge and go home.

Have you heard of the Danish concept of hygge? It crossed my path a few times earlier this year and intrigued me. Essentially, it’s getting cozy at home, spending time with friend and family in a non-digital way. Hunkering down and enjoying each other’s company is my way-too-simplified way to explain it.

Here are two ways to set your home up for hygge:

  • Give yourself a warm and welcoming space to come home to by setting a few lamps on timers and placing LED candles on timers around your living space. Pay special attention to the area you first see when you come home from a long day.
  • Extend the life of your outdoor living space. Cozy up on cooler autumn evenings with warm throws, a mug of mulled wine or cider, and maybe even a fire pit. Keep those throws easily accessible by rolling them and placing them in a basket near the back door so you can grab one on your way outside.

 

4. Add some color to your couch.

When I was about 10 years old, I wanted a home with white couches so I could change out the throw pillows with the seasons.

Little did I know how impractical white couches are (especially with the chocolate habit I have), but I do still love to change out the pillows with the season. It takes minutes and makes a huge impact! When I can, I buy just the pillow covers and re-use the inserts season after season. It’s easier to store flat covers than bulky pillows.

Punch up your sofa with autumnal colors that coordinate well with your everyday décor, and mix in a print or an embroidered design. My go-to shops for pillows include Pier1 (shown), Pottery Barn, West Elm, Home Goods and World Market. New hues this year include navy, along with traditional deep oranges and russets. Woodland critters are big this year, and we’re still seeing some gorgeous grays.

Have fun with this! You only need 2 or 3 to make a big impact.

 

 

Create the perfect fragrance for your fall home with savory spices.

5. Infuse your home with fall.

I love scented candles, particularly in the fall. Filling the air with pumpkin, cinnamon, spices, apples and a dash of sandalwood is a sure-fire way to reset your mind and body to the season.

But, not all scented candles are created equal! Some use harsh, artificial fragrances and chemicals that actually coat the hairs and membranes in your nose. Gross, right!?

Instead, try this totally natural way to set a fragrant fall backdrop for your home: fill a small pan with about 2 cups of water. Add a couple of cinnamon sticks, some cardamom pods, a few cloves, a few strips of orange peel (use a vegetable peeler to remove just the peel, none of the white pith), and a few star anise if you like. Let it gently simmer, but keep an eye on it! Add water as it boils down, and do not let it boil dry (you’ll ruin your pan, speaking from experience.)

Want more quick holiday decor tips? Check out my free Holiday Home Quick Start Guide by clicking below.

 

Recommended and useful items to get that fall feeling at home:

There are affiliate links within this post that we can earn a commission on at no extra cost to you. Thank you for helping to support the site!

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How to Write Thank You’s That Create Raving Fans

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A note from Deanne: I’m delighted to have my friend and colleague Dawn Mena contribute her brilliance and guidance in a guest post, just in time for writing those seasonal thank-you notes and client letters. Be sure to read all the way to the end to get your free gift from Dawn–a valuable resource that makes writing thank you notes easy and FUN.

When it comes to building a company on the principles of gratitude and positivity, nothing is as easy or as powerful as taking the time to say “thank you.” Surprisingly, a good bit of gratitude goes a long with toward more than just making someone’s day, it can also be the spark that ignites business growth by creating raving fans who appreciate you right back – and keep coming back for more.

According to social media expert and author of the book “The Thank You Economy,” Gary Vaynerchuk once said that we need to treat each customer as though he or she were the most important customer in the world. I couldn’t agree more. And I’d add beyond customer people like mentors, colleagues, vendors, joint venture partners, newsletters subscribers, baristas, and anyone else who affects your day, your life, and your business. Since Day 1 of running my own business, I’ve made it a practice to send a variety of Thank You’s to people who make a positive impression in my life. Customers – yes. But also all the other people I’ve just mentioned and more.

How can you harness the power of appreciation? It all starts with what you say (or write) when you take the time to thank someone. And the format, or place, you send your thanks you. Cards are great, I love ‘em, but a surprise thank you in a different format can have as much impact as well.

Here are 5 unique ways you can thank those special people in your life, and a little help for brainstorming the perfect content to spread those warm, happy feelings during this season, and all year round.

#1 The Top Fan Thank You

Make a list of your Top Fans. You know, the ones that have been with you from Day 1. They’ve cheered you on, participated in your programs, given you valuable and honest feedback and support. They are the bee’s knees. Send them a personal email. And with that email, a special gift, something that took a little time or effort and they would really appreciate. As an example, I recently sent a “love” letter to one of my biggest fans. And as I knew she was starting an online business of her own, and using social media, I took some time to select something awesome she said in her online content and create a unique graphic image that featured her quote, name and website. All of this was done in less than 30 minutes (both email writing and image creation). And I used Canva to get the job done for free. (check out my user guide for Canva, it rocks!)

#2 The Unexpected Thank You

Thank someone who won’t expect it. Out of the blue. For no specific reason. Use email, or do it publicly using social media. Keep it simple, sweet, and include a silly token such as a cute photo, quote, or link to a happy, inspirational video. Put a smile on their face and a spring in their step.

#3 The Pre-Thank You

Thank new fans or followers BEFORE they buy or sign up. When a new potential customer first signs up for your newsletter list, follows you on social media, or sends you a simple inquiry, NOW is the time to let them know how grateful you are. Where’s the best place to do this? A “welcome” email. I see so many people use template messages in these that are super boring and robot-like. Take the opportunity to make strong first impression by using their first name in the greeting, telling them how grateful you are that they took a chance on you, and then send them a little hank you gift such as access to something secret, a download, a tip about a cool free graphic design site, etc. Or offer a free phone call, invite to your next gathering, or whatever else you think they would appreciate.

#4 The Old School Thank You

There’s nothing quite like a handwritten letter. Think about your best clients of all time, mentors such as business or life coaches, colleagues that cheer you on, or your biggest fans on social media. Take a minute to find out their snail mail address and send them a hand-written note. WRITING TIP: Be specific about what you’re thanking them for. Not just “thanks for helping” but “thanks for taking the time to sit down over PSL’s and brainstorm out what I needed to add to my new program. Oh, and the scone was great too!” Make them personal, original and to-the-point and you’ll really make their day.

#5 The Secret Handshake Thank You

Next time you attend a business networking meeting or any other live event, take the opportunity to sneak a thank you gift or card to someone who deserves it. Maybe it’s the leader of a networking group that has transformed your business. Or a women who took the time to make you feel comfortable at your first meeting. Someone who sent a lucrative referral your way.  A mentor, an inspiration, or maybe they just made you laugh. Write up a card, include a small gift such as a gift card, invitation, sticker, candy, etc. Slide it into their bag so they find it later. Smoothly hand it to them as you’re leaving the event. Make it low-key so they don’t feel on-the-spot or obligated – just appreciated.

If you struggle with what to write, I’ve rounded up some writing prompts for everything from fun to professional to heartfelt thank you’s that will spark your imagination and help you get started. Just click the graphic below to check it out and get started.

Bottom line, gratitude is super valuable in itself just for the joy it brings to everyone involved. But it can also help you to create a strong and growing business by creating unbreakable bonds between you and your audience – and inspiring them to return to you again and again because you make them feel special. And really isn’t that what we all want?

About the Author: Dawn Mena works with people who struggle with what to write for their blogs, newsletters, and anything to do with their business. She shows them how to get the results they are looking for by applying simple strategy principles, along with a lot of personality, to inspire audiences and keeps them coming back for more. Learn more at www.dawnmena.com.

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5 Ways Gratitude Brings Balance and Grace to Your Life

If you’ve ever told yourself anything like, “I need to exercise more” or “I wish I could stop the negative chatter in my head” but you’ve never quite accomplished either, have I got a smart and simple solution for you! Gratitude.

Yep, scientists have proven that gratitude can have measurable effects on our overall wellbeing and very specific benefits to our physical and mental health.

This is the perfect time to start (or refresh) a habit of gratitude: a daily practice of words and deeds that generate a sense of goodness our lives. With Thanksgiving Day just a couple of weeks away, giving thanks is naturally on our minds. But more than that, the holiday season is for many of us a stressful, non-stop time, while others may experience bouts of seasonal depression or anxiety.

Gratitude to the rescue!

Research proves that professing and feeling gratitude improves one’s emotional state, life experiences, health and relationships. The word comes from the Latin gratia (grace, favor, goodwill). So practicing gratitude literally brings grace into our lives. It helps us connect to something outside of ourselves—whether it’s other people, nature, or a higher power.

Without going all science-y on you, here are five surprising benefits that gratitude brings to your life and your health.

 1. Grateful people exercise more, have fewer aches and pains and generally feel healthier than other people.

In a study by noted gratitude expert Dr. Robert A. Emmons, participants were asked to write just a few sentences a week about things they were grateful for. Another group wrote about things that annoyed or irritated them, and a third group wrote about events in their life (not specifically positive or negative). Participants that focused on gratitude were more optimistic and felt better about their lives compared to the group that focused on irritations.

 2. Practicing gratitude can decrease a range of negative feelings, from regret and resentment to envy and frustration.

 3. You’ll sleep better. Spending just 15 minutes a night before bedtime writing in a gratitude journal was shown to improve sleep in a study published in Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being. It makes sense if that’s the last thing your brain is thinking about, instead of a news program of the latest doomsday headlines, sports, or a movie.

 4. Gratitude can reduce aggression and increases empathy and compassion, according to a study by the University of Kentucky in 2012. Those who ranked higher on gratitude scales exhibited greater sensitivity and empathy toward others, even when given negative feedback, as well as a reduced desire to seek revenge.

 5. Gratitude can actually boost your immune system! By promoting feelings of optimism, being thankful stimulates the production of red blood cells which in turns boosts our immunity to disease.

All of these benefits are great, but like any practice the question is, how do you start and more importantly, stick with it? The good news is, there are a lot of simple and practical ways to incorporate more gratitude into your daily life and routine. What’s important is the intention to feel gratitude for someone or something, and to express it in some way.

One of the easiest ways is to cultivate a habit of writing a thank-you note a week to someone who has done you a good turn or provided a great service. My friend Dawn Mena has five ways to write thank you’s that will create raving fans. What a great start!

For more ways to experience the everyday grace of gratitude, I’ve put together 20 simple ways to practice gratitude. It’s surprisingly easy to make thankfulness a part of your daily life and routine and reap all those benefits!

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Why not just try and see what happens when you experience and express gratitude? What have you got to lose?

I’d love to hear your results and what effects you see in your life and wellbeing with a gratitude practice. Share your experiences on the Facebook page—and thank you in advance!

Featured image (c) 2013 Shay Cochrane

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Create a Thanksgiving Cocktail

One of the secrets of effortless hostessing is to create a signature cocktail for your party. This reduces the amount of mixers and liquor that you have to purchase, helps reinforce a party’s theme, and makes it easier to mix and serve beverages.

This cocktail combines the flavors of fall in a rich and creamy, slightly spicy concoction. I call it the “Chai Thanks-a-Latte.” Get it??

 

Chai Thanks-a-Latte Chai Cocktail

1 c. Chai Cream Liqueur
1/2 c. vanilla vodka
1/2 c. half and half, cream, or milk
Cinnamon sugar (optional)

 

Combine the liquid ingredients over ice in a large cocktail shaker and shake well to blend. (Alternatively, mix the cocktail in a pitcher and shake/strain individual servings as needed.) Strain into martini glasses rimmed with cinnamon sugar if desired. Serves 4.

Note: This recipe may be easily converted to single servings; simply use a 2:1:1 shot ratio for the ingredients. So, for every 2 shots of Chai Cream Liquer, for example, use 1 shot of vodka and 1 shot of cream.

To make cinnamon sugar, combine ½ c. granulated sugar with 1 T. cinnamon. Spread a layer of sugar on a saucer or luncheon plate. Rub the rim of a martini glass with a lemon peel, an apple wedge or dip in water. Immediately coat the rim with the sugar.

Any leftover cinnamon sugar may be stored in an airtight container and used in tea, on cereal and grapefruit, or broiled on toast.

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Entertaining Essentials: The Pantry

Snack bar

Keep hungry holiday guests happy by giving them something to nibble on while you finish dinner or set out heartier snacks. Create a “snack bar” on the kitchen counter or coffee table. Arrange a variety of covered candy jars and vintage nut and candy dishes on a tray.

With the holiday season drawing near, I’m continuing my series of posts on entertaining essentials: those indispensable items that every home entertainer needs to make any gathering look and feel effortless. Previous entries in this series include setting up the essential bar and essential utensils for the home chef.

Today it’s time for the goodies! Whether you plan to bake up a storm or you have unplanned visitors arrive for a quick holiday chat, keeping these items on hand will allow you to spend more time with your family and friends, and less time running to the market or searching the cupboards at the last minute.

For baking:

Tips: Keep nuts in a zipper bag in the freezer; they’ll keep longer. Keep baking supplies together on a shelf or in a basket or bin, so everything is in one place when you’re ready to bake.

  • All-purpose flour
  • Granulated sugar
  • Confectioners’ sugar
  • Brown sugar (light)
  • Light corn syrup
  • Evaporated milk
  • Sweetened condensed milk
  • Baking soda
  • Baking powder
  • Cocoa powder
  • Baking (bittersweet) chocolate bars
  • Semisweet chocolate morsels
  • White chocolate morsels
  • Vanilla extract
  • Honey
  • Pecans (unsalted)
  • Walnuts (unsalted)
  • Pumpkin
  • Fruit pie filling
  • Refrigerated pie crusts
  • Butter or margarine
  • Eggs

For impromptu entertaining:

  • Salted or seasoned nuts (pecans, almonds, cashews, pistachios)
  • Snack mix
  • Water crackers
  • Flavored crackers
  • Cheese straws
  • Assorted olives
  • Tapenade or other spreads
  • Smoked salmon
  • Imported butter cookies
  • One box of assorted frozen puff pastry appetizers
  • Cheeses
  • One or two bottles of wine

 

With a selection of these items in your pantry, freezer and fridge, you will be on your way to less stressed holidays. Check what you already have on hand, and add any remaining items to your shop-ping list. Make sure to replenish items as you use them over the season.

For more entertaining essential ideas and tips, follow my board on Pinterest here.

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