For Thanksgiving week, we all deserve less to read and think about, because we’re all COOKING!
(Maybe so, maybe not.)
Maybe we’re just eating!
In the spirit of “all things food” and this week of gratitude and full tummies, I’m referring you to an article that will surely bless you with ideas for creating memorable and happy conversations at your Thanksgiving table, should you be dining with, well, others.
Because the Thanksgiving table often includes an unusual array of participants, those you know well, and those you don’t (each group presenting its own challenges) this list of conversation-starter, conversation-maintainer questions could save you, should you need saving!
(Maybe cooking is easy for you, and the conversations not so much. )
Knowing how to head awkward conversations off at the pass is also a handy, “in your back pocket” skill, and these suggestions about how to pivot an awkward or unwanted conversation are mentioned in the main article.
The link will take you to the full article, but if you don’t have time for that, here’s the summary list of questions.
Food52’s Recommended Questions for Thanksgiving Tables Everywhere
Infinitely better than vague “How are you?” or “How’s life?,” these questions offer more direction without putting your talking buddy on the spot. (Ease into them: Best not to overwhelm someone with a “Tell me your hopes and dreams and the values you hold dearest to your heart” before finding out what they do for a living or where they live.)
“So, how’s life?” —Not a question you want to answer
For total strangers
Early in the conversation:
What did you do last Thanksgiving? How have you spent the holiday in the past? Where did you grow up? What’s your favorite part of living in [insert city or town here]? What do you do for a living and how did you get to that place? What are your hobbies outside of work?
What are you looking forward to in the next month? Have you eaten at any good restaurants (or cooked anything delicious) lately? What’s the last good book or article you read? What are you doing for the holidays? Do you have any trips or activities planned? What’s your best Thanksgiving memory (besides this one, talking to me, of course)? When’s the last time you laughed really hard? Where’s the best place you’ve traveled to? If you could move to another city or country, where would you go?
For relatives who might as well be (or strangers you saw last year):
Last time I saw you, you were [insert craftily-researched or remembered fact here]. How’s that going? Are you still at the same job? What’s your favorite part about it (or, what keeps you there)? Remember the last time I saw you, when [insert fun memory here. Childhood memories are acceptable]. So you’re in [insert grade in school—again, research comes in handy]. What are you learning? What are your favorite and least favorite classes? Are you working on any new projects in work, school, life? What are you proudest of? Are you planning to buy any gifts for the holidays? Do you need help brainstorming? What Thanksgiving food have you been looking forward to the most? What’s the funniest thing your pet has been up to lately? Did you hear about [uncontroversial, relatively well-known news story]? What’s something you’d like to learn more about?
And, when I’m wrapped up in asking questions, I sometimes forget the even more important part: to listen to the answers. They’ll naturally lead to additional questions (and the foundation of “research” for next year’s encounter).
Plus, once I get the conversational ball rolling, maybe I won’t want the interaction—or the party—to end? On Thanksgiving, anything is possible.
I swear creativity is the answer to everything. Being creative means we’re fully connected to ourselves, the grand flow of life, and to our personal happy and productive place!
Being in a creative frame of mind is what helps us splash paint on a canvas, invent a game, write a bestseller or cook a meal that’s so delicious we find ourselves talking about it long after the tastes and aromas are gone.
Having our creative hat on while brainstorming solutions with our intimate partner is a smart thing, too! My quick advice? Leave the struggle or blame hat on the shelf and don the one you’d wear to a costumed street dance!
Creativity in relationships is important. If we’re not being creative with that guy across the breakfast table, are we:
positional, heels dug in deep?
ignoring, avoiding, stonewalling?
stuck, on automatic, in a well-rehearsed pattern?
blah, passive, resigned?
If you and your hubby want opposite things, doing battle or putting up with a huge compromise is no fun. Getting creative will save you all sorts of trouble, and besides, you’ll likely find a way to make both of you happy! Sit down together and come up with 8 or 10 or 20 out of the box ways to solve your problem. No editing, just speak aloud any solution, whether or not you would actually employ that solution. The exercise won’t work if you’re serious and practical. Don’t even bother being offended at anything that is suggested! Laugh a little and loosen up the gospel according to you. Outrageous is just fine here. Go ahead and give voice to that ridiculous idea – you never know where it might take you.
It’s good if some options are things like “I could give up my opinion and we could do it all your way.” Or “we could get a divorce and find a new partner who agrees.” Like I said, include everything. Speaking all options gets the flow going. Empty those negative tanks so you can see what else you’ve got — maybe happy surprise discoveries.
I’ve done this process many times with couples, and I often start with, “if you could have it all your way…” After all is said and done, the most amazing thing happens. Both people realize they want, in essence, the same thing.
There are genius ways of doing, well, anything at all! One food writer, Food52’s Executive Editor, Kristen Miglore, is in charge of “Genius Recipes.” She doesn’t even make up the recipes. She simply finds them and dubs them “genius.” Here are her top 10. Now she’s got a cookbook full of genius recipes like Marcella Hazan’s Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter, or Paul Bertolli’s Cauliflower Soup. The recipes are often simple, but they work.
Another example of food genius comes from the recent issue of Cooks Illustrated. There was a recipe for “Almost Hands-Free Risotto” (who knew?) and an article on how to keep your kitchen staples fresher longer. (nice to know) There were instructions for how to make “Perfect Scrambled Eggs.” (for one person: 2 eggs, plus 1 yolk. 1 TB half n half. A pinch of salt and pepper. Cook in an 8 inch skillet for 30 to 60 seconds over medium-high heat and then 30 to 60 seconds over low heat. For 4 people, use 8 eggs, 2 yolks and 1/4 cup half n half. In both cases, coat the pan with unsalted butter.)
The recipe is very specific. It tells you the steps to make scrambled eggs turn out better. And no, they won’t be dairy free or have fewer calories, but you’ll be really happy about it!
Being creative in your relationship is way more fun than pretending things can’t change, holding a grudge or believing that there are no answers. This I am very sure of: there’s a genius recipe for your relationship, waiting to be discovered. By you.
Expectation is huge. When Kristen Miglore scours the planet for recipes that make her “genius” cut, I don’t suppose she’s wearing the struggle hat. Or the hat of disbelief. Why does she find these great recipes? Right! Because she’s looking for them! It’s her thing. She believes other people come up with great ways to make great food and all she needs to do is go find them. If you believe there is a brilliant solution for you and your spouse about how to take vacations, raise children, or feel closer to each other, it’s there, I promise.
HOW DO I BECKON MY GENIUS GENIE WITHIN?
Mostly, finding your own genius recipes are all about being in an open, easy-breezy frame of mind. Here are 11 ways to open the doors and windows to your creativity and let the sunshine in.
1. Know that you can’t do it wrong. If your attempt fails, be like all the great inventors. Learn from it, add to your nap sack of knowledge and try something else. Don’t be so timid. Not every experiment will produce a bed of beautiful red roses. It’s OK. Growing weeds is part of the process. Nothing is a failure. You’re just one step closer to the thing that works.
2. Go easy on yourself no matter what. Hello High Achiever! Be nicer to yourself, even when things don’t turn out the way you think they should. You’re doing the best you can at any moment. Find a way to give yourself credit, it will help you every single time. I know long jumps are your favorite, but lasting long jumps are made up of baby steps over time.
3. Take yourself and your troubles less seriously. It’s not the first time your problem has occurred in the Universe and it won’t be the last. Many other people have had this problem. They figured it out and so will you. It’s not such a huge deal. Really.
4. Back up twenty paces. Heck, go to the moon, find a nice place to sit, and look back at the Earth and your problem. In the grand scheme of things, your scene is itty-bitty, but — yes! — it’s there and you do need to figure it out. But now, from your perch on the faraway moon, you can at least breathe. Breathing is helpful. Maybe while breathing deeply, you’ll realize you’re better off than you thought. You’ll turn your attention more easily to questions like, “What’s working about this? How is this helping me?” Answering these puts you in a better frame of mind immediately.
5. Go lightly. Wear fairy shoes. Step gently. Get some air. Give it time. Relax more. Play in the clouds. Take your time. Be mindful. Rest.
6. Find your silly. Do something that guarantees a smile from you. Watch a video of a baby laughing. Get out that Carol Burnett video. Do a 1 minute crazy dance in your living room. Think about your best friend and what she said yesterday that made you both fall on the floor and hold your sides.
7. Pretty soon, this problem will be old news. You know all the times something terrible happened and eventually it worked out? You got through it. You’ll get through this, too.
8. Don’t take this thing in front of you so personally. There’s a good chance it’s not personal — it’s not about you! Not taking something personally gives you more room to move. If you have room to move, you have room to discover.
9. Get over yourself. Snap out of it. Change your mind. Turn the corner. Leave it behind. Let it go. Turn over a new leaf. Start fresh.
10. Play “what if.” Whatever you think is going on, what if that’s not really going on? (opens up your mind) What if I could have what I wanted, what would that be? (helps with clarity) What if he’s not doing what I think he’s doing? (see if you can come up with 5 other interpretations of the event in question. What else could it be? and what else? and what else?) Looking for other ways to see a situation will lead you to a more open frame of mind, which is like inviting the Queen of Creativity to tea.
11. Give up any opinion that causes you angst. Try it for a day. Bet you didn’t know you had that many opinions! You’re late? Give up your opinion about that. You just stepped on the scale and you don’t like what you see? Give up your opinion. Someone didn’t call you and you thought they should? Give up your opinion. Give up the opinions about big stuff, little stuff and everything in between. It’s revealing. You may even have an opinion about having so many opinions.
Ahh, now that’s better! Do a few of these, or any of these and your creativity will come a knockin’ at your door. What creativity does for your relationship over time is remarkable. It loosens and lightens most anything that comes up between the two of you.
You’re broken down and tired Of living life on a merry go round And you can’t find the fighter But I see it in you so we gonna walk it out And move mountains We gonna walk it out And move mountains
And I’ll rise up I’ll rise like the day I’ll rise up I’ll rise unafraid I’ll rise up And I’ll do it a thousand times again And I’ll rise up High like the waves I’ll rise up In spite of the ache I’ll rise up And I’ll do it a thousand times again
For you For you For you For you
When the silence isn’t quiet And it feels like it’s getting hard to breathe And I know you feel like dying But I promise we’ll take the world to its feet And move mountains Bring it to its feet And move mountains
And I’ll rise up I’ll rise like the day I’ll rise up I’ll rise unafraid I’ll rise up And I’ll do it a thousand times again
For you For you For you For you
All we need, all we need is hope And for that we have each other And for that we have each other And we will rise We will rise We’ll rise, oh, oh We’ll rise
I’ll rise up Rise like the day I’ll rise up In spite of the ache I will rise a thousand times again And we’ll rise up High like the waves We’ll rise up In spite of the ache We’ll rise up And we’ll do it a thousand times again
During this strange time in history, I noticed y’all were tackling all sorts of interesting projects. I decided I needed one, too—something positive to remember the pandemic of 2020 by.
I decided to pay attention to something I had abandoned…
Nope, I’m not cleaning my garage. I am not organizing one single thing. I’m not planting a garden or cleaning up my yard.
Instead, I decided to take care of myself better. This, folks, has made all the difference for me.
With relatively little time and effort on my part, I feel so much better than I did a month ago.
On March 30, I got on the exercise bike and the yoga mat for the first time in a long time, and did 30 minutes each. I liked it so much that I decided to do it every day. But I fell short of that, and changed my commitment to every other day, which felt more manageable, reasonable, and doable.
I also get off the bike after every song, take a couple of sips of water, shake out my legs and arms for a few seconds, and get back on. This makes the bike project a reasonable proposition, too.
Daily walks of any length—by myself, or with my little guy, Jackson—are a fresh air bonus.
My recumbent exercise bike has pulleys to work my upper body while I pedal, which gets my heart rate up fast, and also helps my whole-body strength. It feels good to get up from writing, or doing a consulting session with a client, to do something physically challenging while listening to good music.
After only a month, I feel a sheet of muscles on the front of me I haven’t felt for a very, very long time. Goodness gracious. Who knew they were there. I’ll be posting rippling ab photos soon, I’m sure.
I have no idea what the scales have to say about my bike/yoga project—I don’t care. Paying attention to scales tends to send me sideways, and therefore, I’m ignoring them completely.
But—I LOVE the way I feel! Hang in there, everyone.