At holiday time, my meal planning shifts into overdrive. I shop for meals, second-guess my menus and recipes, prepare them anyway, clean up afterwards, and repeat the process. So what did I do the day after Christmas? I visited the first Houston location of Trader Joe's, the California-based specialty-grocery chain.
This post isn't a plug for Trader Joe's, although I enjoyed my field trip and plan to make another, chiefly because TJ's doesn't pretend to offer everything a household needs, so a visit doesn't require a super-long list and two carts. More importantly, at a time of year when food-prep burnout looms with every invitation that requests my company PLUS a dish to share, I need a creativity jumpstart.
Spent so much time in the kitchen you've got a cooking hang-over? Take a hair-of-the dog approach and visit a farmer's market, food bazaar, or new grocery store for ideas. While there, snap up an already-prepared shortcut.
Trader Joe's olive tapenade will appear at my house on New Year's Day. Later that week, I may mix it with cheese and butter, slather it on French bread, and tote it to a party.
The strategy that eases kitchen burn-out works, with tweaks, in other areas. Exhausted by writing, teaching, working retail? Take a flyer on something related but different.
If you write fiction, give blogging a shot. If you write science fiction, try your hand at contemporary suspense.
Do you know any teacher who isn't bone-tired come holiday time? When exhaustion hits, it's tempting to eat, drink, and sleep away the school break, but those strategies are less effective than a classroom-role switcheroo. If you teach, use the break to take a dance class, conversational Spanish, or learn basic auto repairs.
Nothing kills holiday spirit like working retail. You're knee-deep in returns now, I know, but on your half-day off, deliver yourself to a restaurant, barber shop, or nail salon with a reputation for good service, and let someone wait on you/anticipate your needs for an hour.
A new approach can be more invigorating than a nap and better for us than another cup of eggnog or a second cupcake.
Olive tapenade, anyone?