We hope you all enjoyed your Thanksgiving weekend!

Humans tend to be natural planners, thinking forward to wahtever is ‘next’. So, we decided we would jump on the opportunity to start brainstorming for the winter holidays! With all the uncertainty and stress we have experienced the last 7 months, it is probably safe to say that this is the year to keep things simple. The holidays aren’t so much a season as they are a feeling, after all. The most important part of all the hustle and bustle are the memories and connections we make as a result – that is the best holiday gift we can ask for.

This week we would like to bring home that simple is not the same as bland or boring, and ideas do not have to be complex or elaborate to have a successful outcome.

An old photo of people gathered around a table to eat


Taking care of an entire meal can be very challenging, time consuming, and overwhelming, so it might be easier to focus on one thing to do well.

If you have a specialty appetizer/dessert/drink/entrée, this could be the moment to make it shine! Tip: try assembling a charcuterie board- it doesn’t have to be the typical meats and cheeses but it could be themed to anything or arranged as an assortment of everyday favourites.

To share the load, pitch having a potluck, buffet style, so everyone can help themselves, and the clean-up is evenly divided.

roses surrounding a blank piece of paper


Though it is tempting to buy all the beautiful wrapping paper with bows, ribbons, and tags to match, at the end of the day it can be expensive and wasteful. Alternatively, there are several eco-friendly and fun ways to present gifts!

  • Tea towels (doubles as packaging and a gift)
  • Newspaper
  • Music sheets
  • Leftover tins
  • Reusable materials such as bags, boxes, and beeswax wraps
  • Sprigs of cedar or cinnamon
  • Gift tags made of photos
  • Bows made of twine
  • Old fabrics (scarves, t-shirts, curtains)
a girl traces a circle on parchment paper


Making crafts is an excellent creative outlet and a way to spend quality time with someone. Turn crafts into an annual tradition, give them away as gifts or gift wrappings, or use them as decor! This could be ornaments, paper snowflakes, wreaths, etc.

To change it up, test your imagination by only allowing yourself to use contents you already have in stock, or put a limit on supplies (cap a price point or quantity of items) to see what craft you will come up with!

For more ideas:
25 Cute and Simple Christmas Crafts for Everyone
Fun Kwanzaa Crafts
25 Hanukkah (Chanukah) Crafts – The Festival of Lights

An old photo of two young people singing to a guitar


Trends and materialism fade but thoughtful gifts are lasting, both in our possessions and in our memories.

If you are going to purchase items, set a budget in advance of what you realistically can spend outside of your usual expenses. Write a list of who you plan to buy for and brainstorm what you think they may like or need (it is not faux-pas to ask them!). If you have something in mind, you can then compare prices across different sellers to see where you can get the best deal. Get into the habit of using cash and debit where possible so the credit card bill doesn’t sneak up on your post-holidays.

Instead of doing gifts for everyone, you could draw names within your family and friend groups, decide to do gifts exclusively for the kids, or bring a random gift and play a game to see who gets to open which one- include price limits on items that have to be bought.

Feel free to get creative with presents this year – go homemade, make a coupon book for skills you can offer and help you can provide, give preserves or prepared food- the possibilities are endless!


Everyone has a favourite activity/food/custom they adopted and continue to incorporate into the holidays year after year. These traditions give us something to look forward to and are often associated with fond memories and feelings. One of the great things about traditions is that new ones can always be added. Some of the best traditions are those that are naturally effortless – like movie marathons, baking, family walks, snowball fights, games, and riddles.

In the spirit of keeping things simple to lower the regular amount of stress levels the holidays bring, it is important to take measures to protect our mental health:


  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
    When you are all wrapped up in the moment it can be easy to forget that there is no reason to be managing everything solo, and it is likely no one expects you to. Take people up on their offers, let your family and friends know what they can do to alleviate some pressure, and learn about services in your community that can assist when it all feels like too much. Contact Us for more information.
  • Release your expectations of others.
    You can’t change how others behave or respond. If your kid throws a tantrum on the holiday or your significant other has an underwhelming reaction to a gift you selected for them, know that you can’t control their feelings but you can focus on accepting the decisions you made (giving a gift without expecting anything in return, doing things you enjoy like reading in pjs with hot chocolate).
  • Ask yourself what you want to get out of the holidays.
    Start with 3 top priorities, maybe it is time with the family, relaxation, and fun. Don’t let anything else outside of those identified goals take up too much space mentally or physically.
  • Practice moderation.
    This pertains to everything: your schedule, food intake, drink consumption, etc. We worked so hard on re-introducing new routines and structure into our lives since the pandemic, we do not want to lose all of our progress.
  • Connect with others.
    Being alone during the holidays can feel lonelier than any other time of year. If distance or pandemic protocols do not allow you to physically be with someone, reach out through other means (video call, letters, apps). Source.

How you can do your part to help your community this holiday season:

Support Local

While many large companies and corporations thrived financially as a result of the pandemic (we’re looking at you Amazon, Purell, Netflix!) our small and medium businesses in the community suffered. If you are going to be purchasing gifts/décor/food this year, considering shopping at local vendors, storefronts, and from-home entrepreneurs (through online platforms such as Etsy, social media, delivery arrangements). With your support, you would be helping families pay their bills, boosting the economy of where you live, and helping bring product to your area. During the pandemic, many places continue to offer online ordering and curb-side pick-up. In Durham, we are fortunate to have many independent businesses who want the best for their customers. Discover what is available here: https://downtownsofdurham.ca/


If you want to contribute but do not have the funds or time, donating second-hand items is always appreciated. We are familiar with the term ‘spring cleaning’, but de-cluttering this time of year allows for space to be made for new things you may receive from others over the holidays, and the colder weather has us spending more time indoors which we can enjoy when our space is organized and comfortable. If you come across clothing, household items, or tools that are gently loved but you are no longer using, someone may be able to benefit from them. It is a win-win situation!

Helping One Another Brock Township
Thrift Hub Cannington
Brock Animal Shelter


With the holidays come many campaigns for food and toy drives, clothing and personal item collections, in addition to the regular day-to-day help needed at non-profit organizations and other facilities that care for vulnerable populations such as seniors and children. Not all volunteer work needs to follow formalities – it can also be an act of service such as shoveling someone’s walkway or picking up their groceries. If you have some spare time you are looking to fulfill in a meaningful way, begin your search here to get involved in something that touches your heart:

Volunteer Durham 
Volunteer with TNDF
Cannington Odd Jobs