3 Holiday Tips to Embrace Every Year for your Sanity

3 Holiday Tips for a Stress-Free Holiday; Every woman should embrace

We are officially in the busiest time of the year. I love December, but it is a whirlwind. As I was coming back from dropping the kids off at school this morning I wanted December to slow down so I could enjoy it. 

Next week alone, I have three school-related functions and a trip to the Nutcracker, as a chaperone. I have bathrooms to clean and laundry to fold. I have holiday presents to buy and doctor appointments to make. But, I'm just going to take Elsa's own advice, and "Let It Go!"

Frozen-Themed Birthday Party
This is one of my favorite photos of Liza as Elsa. She taught me how to "Let It Go" in pure Elsa style. 
I have three tips that I do every year that helps me during this time of year.  I've implemented them into my schedule and they work for me.  

It's OK to Say No, and Stay Home and Eat Chocolate. Tips for a  less-stressful holiday

1. I've Learned to Say NO!

This is the hardest tip to practice, but once you learn to do this tip then it really helps you be unstoppable during the busiest times in your life.  I've finally realized that I cannot do it all, and it's OK to say no and not do it all. It's taken me a long time to get to this point in my life, but now that I am finally here, it's helped me tremendously. There are tons of fun events that take place during the holidays, but you just cannot be everywhere and you cannot do everything. It's simply impossible. Pick what is most important to you, and plan from there. This tip can also help you stay on a budget during the holidays. You are going to be asked to give in many places, but pick the charities that are closest to your heart, and it is OK to say no to some of the others. You only have so much money and time to give. You don't actually have to stay home and eat chocolate, but give yourself permission to take a break. If you have a busy week then say no to that weeknight holiday gathering and instead, stay home to recharge for the next day. 

Enjoy a holiday outing, 3 Unstoppable Holiday Tips from Hines-Sight Blog

2. Plan a Fun Holiday Outing

This is probably my favorite tip of all, but take time for your family before the holidays. This is a very special time of year. Yes, it's truly one of the most wonderful times of the year, especially through a child's eyes. I personally like to plan a holiday getaway close to home. We experienced the holidays in Charlotte a few years ago, and it was really great to get away and forget about the hustle and bustle that the holidays bring to your to-do list. We spent time as a family soaking up a new area's holiday magic. Honestly, I would like to make a pre-holiday trip an annual tradition, but it does get hard to schedule sometimes.  Even if you can't get away for a weekend then do something special like a holiday tea, an afternoon of ice skating, or a special holiday production. For us this year, I've scheduled some things post-Christmas. We'll be going to the Angus Barn in Raleigh for dinner and I am going to take a spa appointment at the Umstead on my birthday.

Make time for yourself...sip some chocolate mocha. Tips for making time for yourself.

3. Make Time for Yourself 

This tip may be the hardest for a lot of women to do because it seems selfish to take time for yourself when you have so much to do. Make time for yourself and  I promise you that it will help you tackle your to-do list much better. This tip can really be something simple. While shopping, take some time to sip a chocolate mocha or coffee.  Sitting for an extra 30 minutes and relaxing with a good coffee, drink, or hot chocolate is not going to kill your schedule. Schedule lunch with a girlfriend or schedule a few hours at your local spa alone. Earlier this month, I spent some time with a friend of mine in Pinehurst to recharge without the kids. It was a huge help to me mentally.

As a new year comes closer, stop and enjoy the season around you. Indulge in yourself a little. But more importantly, embrace these tips to help your sanity.

I hope to be back in this space before 2018, but life gets in the way and I may not have anything else important to say.

With that, I wish each of you a very merry holiday season!


All Dolled Up Labneh Dip and Zaatar Pita Chips: A Lebanese Recipe Perfect My Holiday Gathering

Every family has holiday traditions. Perhaps, it is picking out a Christmas tree or always serving hot cocoa to Santa on Christmas Eve. For my family, ours is apparently a tree-trimming gathering. Last year, I didn't host one because we were still in the middle of our move to our current house. By skipping a year, I learned that I must have established a post-children "family tradition." My Mom told last week that she could not believe I did not do the tree trimming meal last year because she looks forward to the tree-trimming more than Christmas. 
Honestly, I think it's the chicken tetrazzini I usually make with my wintry green salad with cranberries and citrus that she missed the most.  But, regardless, our tree-trimming gatherings are usually quite the crazy family affairs.The kids usually fight, an ornament gets broken, Will usually complains I'm not helping enough with the tree and well, you all know the struggles with those darn strands of lights. One bulb is out every single year. 
This year with my being out of town, we needed to trim the tree on a weeknight and I just could not get a home-cooked meal together. One thing my family can count on is me mixing it up a little. No doubt about it, my personality tests say I'm quirky and that translated into Southern BBQ and Lebanese food. All items were take-out except for a Lebanese dip I made from a recipe given to me by Simone Saleh. Her family owns the restaurant Sassool Cafe with locations in Cary and North Raleigh. 

I interviewed Simone for a Live #OutaboutNC moment where she pulled things from the restaurant's new market area for this labneh dip recipe. She also gave me insight into Lebanese food.  In the live moment, we talked more about how labneh is used. I had never tasted it before and it's difficult to find except in specialty stores.  It also can be used as a substitute for recipes that use sour cream.  It is rich, creamy and delicious. It serves as the base for "All Dolled Up Labneh Dip" along with mint, olives, olive oil and zaatar spice. 

Labneh Dip with Zaatar Pita Chips

The pita chips are so easy to make, but Zaatar is the secret ingredient along with Lebanese olive oil. With Simone's wisdom, I learned that quality olive oil is most important for salads and such. One should not pay top dollar for olive oil then saute with it. Save your money there. Where has she been all my life? She suggested grapeseed oil for frying. My time with her was fantastic and I learned so much about Mediterranean cuisine. The video below details a second interview we did that incorporated more of Sassool's new market area. And you will not believe what she had to say about one of my favorite dishes, grape leaves so watch this video when you have time. 

Most of the items that I used for this appetizer can be found in the Sassool market. I really liked it and have found a new found love for pomegranate seeds which is the topping for the dip. 
All Dolled Up Labneh Dip and Zaatar Pita Chips

A Lebanese dip used for entertaining

Ingredients: Italicized items can be found now at Sassool. 
For Labneh Dip:
·         16oz labneh (Byblos brand recommended)
·         2 tablespoons of chopped fresh mint leaves
·         2 tablespoons of chopped pistachios
·         1 tablespoon of chopped pitted Kalamata olives
·         pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
·         1/4 cup of Zaatar spice
·         1/4 cup  Saifan brand Extra Virgin Olive Oil
·         1/4 cup of pomegranate seeds

For the Zaatar Pita Chips:
·         1 pack pita bread, 4 rounds, cut into wedges
·         2 tablespoons of Zaatar spice
·         1 tsp salt
·         2 Tablespoons of Saifan Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1.       Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Start by making the Zaatar Pita Chips, open the pocket of each pita round, cut up each side 8 wedges .  In a small bowl, mix the zaatar spice and olive oil.
2.       Lay the pita bread wedges in a single layer on a baking sheet and brush them with the Zaatar, salt and olive oil mixture. Bake for 10 minutes or until golden and crispy.
3.       Put pistachios on a small baking pan as well and let them toast while pita chips are baking.  Allow time for pistachios to cool before adding to labneh dip.
4.       In a small bowl, add in chopped mint, toasted pistachios, chopped olives, pepper flakes, zaatar spice, pepper flakes and olive oil. Mix the topping ingredients well.
5.       Spread your labneh in a shallow bowl and spoon the topping ingredients over the top of the labneh and allow it to drip from the sides. Sprinkle the pomegranate seeds on top.
6.       Serve with warm crispy pita chips 

Blogger Leigh Hines shares the Lebanese Labneh Dip she got from Sassool Cafe in Cary, N.C.

My tree-trimming gathering was crazy as ever this year. Andy, our new poodle, joined in on the chaos.

Liza still had Uncle Mitch to pick her up to put the ornaments up higher.

Hines Tree Trimming

And MiMa got a meal.


Pin this recipe for later:

All Dolled Up Labneh Dip and Zaatar Pita Chips are a Lebanese entertaining staple. This recipe using labneh as the base and includes Zaatar Spice, Black Olives, Olive Oil, and Pomegranate Seeds.

Disclosure: #OutaboutNC Live Moment was sponsored and the majority of the items for the recipe were complimentary from the new Sassool market. 


The Holiday Gift Guide for Practical People

Now is the time that the holiday frenzy is in full swing.  It's as if people flip their calendars to December 1st and the inner crazy in all of us rears its ugly head. Traffic backs up. People honk. It takes you twenty minutes to go two miles and longer if you are near a shopping center. We really try our hardest to be festive but we have to so much stuff on our "to-do" list this month. 

Will's holiday party is tonight. I'm going to muster up the energy to put on my make-up and perhaps a little sparkle. It's Friday night!. I get up at 5:30 a.m. By 8 p.m, I just want to go to bed. I know you think because I'm a blogger that I'm on the go a lot. I'm a hermit. My happiest is when I'm on the computer doing exactly what I'm doing right now. I schedule my work events very sparingly, and in my private life, I'm as bland as Britain's food. 

But tonight, the party is at one of Raleigh's local breweries, Trophy Brewing, and it's one of my favorite breweries in North Carolina. Because of that tidbit and the fact that I will be away from the kids for awhile, I have a little more pep in my step and the energy to do a holiday gift guide that I will call The Guide for Practical People. 

Holiday Gift Guide for Practical People. From Experiences to items to keep your sponge clean at all times. Gifts that practical people want.

Cleaning Service Gift Certificate

#1, Do you remember the old ads where someone suggested a vacuum for a gift?  I don't know how you feel, but I better not see a vacuum with a bow under the tree.  Oddly enough, now that we have our dog. Will mentioned that we needed to own a carpet steamer again. Like most pet owners, we've had a few mishaps. However, my suggestion instead of a broom, mop, duster, or vacuum under the tree, put a cleaning service gift certificate under there. I will tell you right now as I finish this sentence, surrounded by dust on my desk, I would be happy to see it. And if your spouse really likes a clean house then it's a win for he/she, too. 

Magazine Subscription, Local Paper Online Media Subscription, or TV/Movie Watching apps

#2. How many of you go to a store like Barnes and Noble, and look at the magazines? As a blogger, it would be crazy not to tell you that I love to read things online, but there is nothing like turning the page of a glossy magazine. I pick them up at the supermarket, too. Every recipe always looks so good. But, I'm too practical to pay $6 an issue so when it's my turn at check-out so I put the magazine back and read magazines at the doctor's office or hair salon. Subscription services are a gift idea for practical people. My Mom likes English Garden. She won't order anything online so she asked me to renew for her because the price was good. Andy, our poodle is now giving it to MiMa for Christmas. LOL. Magazines don't work too well in my own home though. Will hates the clutter because I want to keep something for future reference. In my household, online media subscriptions are good bets. Here in Raleigh, the News and Observer's social media team does a great job of promoting articles and every time, I go to read one, my free limit is up. With so many things charging now just to watch TV, I think it is easy to find subscriptions to give as simple gifts or stocking stuffers. 

Travel and Local Experiences
#3 I am an advocate of giving experiences as gifts. I ask for a spa gift certificate from a local spa every year for my birthday which is also this month. I don't use it right away either because life always gets too busy, but then I like to make time to go to the spa this month when life is just chaotic. Experiences for gift giving can be anything. From dinner, movie tickets, or an overnight hotel stay in your hometown or in another town.  The sky is the limit here. 

Hanky Panky Underwear make great practical gifts

Socks and Underwear
#4 These items are about as practical as it gets. But, I mean nice socks and good underwear. My favorite winter sock company is Smartwool and they are not cheap. They are comfy and keep your feet warm. My favorite pair of underwear is Hanky Panky, and it's not cheap either. With this underwear, there is no bulging or any cutting in. If you're really skinny, you may not have that problem, but at 48 and a mother of two, I like a soft, smooth side. I've bought imitation and they just don't last like a good pair of Hanky Panky.  

Kitchen Items
#5 Decades ago, I could not imagine someone giving me kitchen items as a gift. But now, I spend about as much time in the kitchen prepping meals as I do anywhere else in my home. When I was at University Place the other day, I saw some great kitchen gadgets. One being a zester.  I don't have an easy zester utensil that looks like a grater. A lot of recipes call for the zest of lemon. That's one recipe step where I fail.  I have never zested a thing properly in my life. I also saw the herb stripper. in person. and it seems useful. I cook a lot with Hello Fresh,(Use my code T54LKR and save $40 on your first box) and they send fresh herbs with their meal kits often. It is so hard to strip rosemary or thyme from their stems.  

The SpongeBath System kills 99.99 percent of bacteria on your sponge to keep it smelling fresh and clean. It also tidys up your kitchen.

Another item for the kitchen is the Spongebath system. I'm not certain how many people would think right away, "Oh, I need this right now!" at the price of $49, but it serves a great, practical function of cleaning your sponges without the use of harsh chemicals, which I like especially since I use so many chemical-free household items. I was gifted one last week and you can watch this live video on the day I set it up for use in my home. I really like it on my counter. It looks better than having a sponge sitting out, but the best part is knowing you are wiping your counters after a sitting in a solution that kills 99.99 percent of bacteria. Will seems to like it thus far and the sponge looks and smells fine after a week so far. The only upkeep after buying the system is to buy the cleanser approximately every two to three months. 

Do you have any other practical gifts to add? Good craft beer and wine are always good, too. 

FTC Disclosure: Referral links are in this gift guide post and this gift guide in which referral/commission income can be generated if any purchases are made from this website. The Spongebath System was given to me complimentary.  Thank you for supporting this blog's affiliates. 


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