Podcast 96: Set Your “Holiday Intention,” the Fun of Making Graham-Cracker Houses, and the Problem of Holiday Shared Work.

It’s time for the next installment of  Happier with Gretchen Rubin.

Elizabeth’s young-adult book Flower is ready for pre-order! As promised, here’s the cover. It sounds so good, I can’t wait to read it! (In fact, as I’m writing this, I’m thinking–why didn’t Elizabeth send me an advanced copy? I need to remind her.)

To start the new year in a happier way, we’re doing a fun project on Instagram. Every day, for the month of January, Elizabeth and I will post a photo on Instagram of something that makes us happier (by giving us a boost, helping us stick to good habits, reminding us to feel grateful, etc.).  Join in! Use the hashtag #Happier2017 and tag us — I’m @gretchenrubin and Elizabeth is @lizcraft.

Try This at Home: Set your holiday intention; in other words, figure out what you intend to get from your holiday experience.

grahamcrackerhouseawningHappiness Hack: To make a graham-cracker house, you build the “house” out of graham cracker sheets, use tub frosting to glue it together, let dry for several hours–then cover the house with frosting and decorate with candy, sprinkles, pretzels, marshmallows, licorice, etc. So easy, so fun!

Happiness Stumbling Block: During the holidays, shared work can become a problem. (Here’s my post about shared work, which is one of my all-time favorite posts.)

Listener Question: Jenny asks, “I’m a librarian, and I want to give gifts to my volunteers — but I don’t have a big budget. Any ideas?”

Demerit: Once again, I left my gift-buying too late. I knew what I should do, but I just didn’t do it.

Gold Star: Elizabeth gives a gold star to her in-laws for making handmade tamales each year. It’s a lot of work, and they do it each year.

Don’t forget: Elizabeth’s young-adult book Flower is ready for pre-order!


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1pixHappier with Gretchen Rubin - Podcast #96

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  • mcf

    I don’t know if anyone else has this issue, but Elizabeth’s sound gets pretty garbled/distorted multiple times in almost every episode. I’m not sure if you’re aware of this. If I’m the only one who has this problem, please disregard!

  • Hannah

    For the listener question about gifts for her volunteers – Assuming you don’t have the budget to give a gift with any monetary value (like a stipend or a gift card for each volunteer) then I think it would be nice to give the volunteers a handwritten card thanking them for their volunteer work and letting them know how they helped the library over the year. I think a genuine statement of gratitude would mean a lot more to a volunteer than a token gift. Clutter gifters are my version of evil donut bringers.

  • Judy Brower Hunt

    For the volunteer gifts, I’d suggest homemade cookies or some other baked good. Time spent can be more meaningful than a monetary expense.

  • Shifra Light

    I was just looking online for post it notes and noticed this post it dispenser with a picture frame on it (link: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00GUSSJTK/ref=ox_sc_act_title_1?ie=UTF8&psc=1&smid=ATVPDKIKX0DER).
    Maybe you could give one to each volunteer, with a note of gratitude or a group picture in the frame.
    Happy Holidays, everybody!
    Gretchen and Elizabeth, I love the podcast and am now re-reading The Happiness Project in preparation for 2017. Thanks and keep up the good work!

  • Julina S

    Re: graham cracker houses – we used to build them around school lunch milk cartons to lend structural support.

    Unfortunately, the switch to small bottles in many locations has made it harder to get the half-pint milk cartons, but if you can get one, it does reduce frustration 😉

    • gretchenrubin

      We will try that next year!

  • Lisa Ramish

    A suggestion for Gretchen about getting shopping done in advance: Thinking of an entire gift list as a whole can be really daunting. But if you split it up into pieces over weeks, it could become a fun little project that really builds the anticipation of the holiday. You could focus on Eliza for one week and then Eleanor the next week and your husband the next. When your mind wanders over the course of the week, you can ponder what the person would really want and then buy it online by the end of the week. Just an idea.

  • Kim B.

    Gift-giving to volunteers sounds like the challenges I have with the kids’ teachers – there are so many of them, especially if you count the “specials” teachers (art, music, PE, science). My go-to gifts are: coffee/tea or a bottle of wine (on sale!).

  • Rebecca

    I wish you wouldn’t disparage making cookies as gifts. I love baking — and I love giving homemade gifts to people I care about. I know it’s not for everyone — but for me, it’s a way to spread a little joy. There’s something about getting gifts made from someone you know that makes them feel more special. If tamales can be a Christmas tradition, why can’t cookies be a Christmas tradition?

    • Kristyn Gainor

      Firstly, kudos to you for being a master baker. I am lacking in that department. Now to state the obvious: Not everyone will agree with all of your viewpoints. I wonder what makes you feel particularly invested about the podcast hosts’ views on cookies as gifts. It seems like such a small disagreement. If what you’re doing works for you, continue doing it.

      When I read your comments, I noticed how you mentioned how meaningful and enjoyable it is to you to make the cookies… and I think sometimes people confuse the joy they experience preparing a gift with the joy they expect the recipient to experience. Projection at its fines to experience. Projection at its finest! 🙂 we all do it. But if you happen to have ace unique circle of friends who enjoy receiving baked goods during an already – gluttonous time of year, then celebrated! Enjoy and keep doing what you’re doing. As for me, I would not like cookies as a gift over the winter holidays, although I will always try to focus on the positive intent underlying their scrumptious preparation.

      – apologies in advance for the likely plethora of voice dictation errors

    • Gina

      I just wanted to say I disagree with the response to you and enjoy getting homemade gifts, whether I eat them or not. It really is the thought that counts.

  • Le Genou de Claire

    Graham cracker-house: nice hack!! We will do this next year (or maybe even next week, because I’m desperate for something to do with my 5 yo). But I don’t understand why the need for cardboard covered with foil? Can’t the crackers support their own weight?

    And thanks for acknowledging that holiday = WORK. I’m a full-time mom (read: SAHM), so when my son is out of school, it is double the work for me because I have to do all the things that I do to keep the house running and take care of him. I’m sure all mom in my situation can relate. While my husband is looking forward to spending his days with my son, not me (and my husband works retail, so Holiday = busiest work days). The tips of work division helps a lot, and it keeps things less personal, more objective, at least to me.

  • Linda Sue Brown

    My daughter just made cookies! They are delicious. I make cookies for my family and take a big plate Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. I’m wondering if its a must and enjoyable task. Also sending gingerbread to grandson in the mail. I’m totaling confused as to this decision. Yes there is some that can’t have them. I would know if someone in my family would not want them. They would let me know. I just received homemade fudge from son-in-laws mother. Its delicious but if I have a health issue I would say something to everyone. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Maybe homemade tamales would be the answer!

  • Katelin

    This year I bought all of my support staff LUSH Bath Bombs! I picked a scent that I thought each person would enjoy and then wrapped them in a clear cellophane bag with a ribbon so you could see it, along with a little note with instructions on how to use and a note that said “wishing you a relaxing holiday season.” Each bath bomb was under ten dollars apiece, and given the stressors of the holidays they were a big hit!

  • Gina

    I agree with Rebecca – I think the fact that Gretchen and Elizabeth specifically say to stay away from giving cookies and fudge and call people “the evil donut bringer”. If you are one who enjoys baking and giving homemade gifts then of course you would be vested in the hosts opinion on this since they are telling you it’s wrong to do. I honestly cannot afford to give everyone I would like to even a $10 gift so baking or making something shows I care about them and value them. I work at a school and am so appreciative of even the little bags of snack mix or the chocolate bar that some students give me. I might not eat them but that’s not the point. It was the thought. I liked the ideas in some of the comments – a lovely hand written note or a bottle of hand soap or bath bomb. The time it took a student to draw me a picture is truly appreciated.
    I really enjoy this show and checked out the affiliate link of Olive and Cocoa but it is too pricey for me. I think the hosts and other people’s gift giving budget is way above mine.

  • Michelle

    I realize this is post-holiday now, but I have an idea for homemade, inexpensive gifts. I make homemade gifts for my “best friends” group every year for Christmas because my friends and I really span the entire country so I find myself making things that are easy to make and send in the mail. This year, I made bookmarks. I used a template on Word, uploaded some pictures of me with my friends from my phone and made these personalized bookmarks. All I had to purchase was the laminate paper, which cost about $6.


  • Victoria Berrey

    Thanks for the gift ideas. I would love to have a deep dive into holiday gifts — maybe in early November so we have to shop or make!

  • Alice Sears

    Just listened to this episode. I have a suggestion Gretchen for the next time you make gingerbread houses. I also use Graham crackers, but instead of having to build it around cardboard and using frosting, I just use a hot glue gun. Because it dries quickly (and it’s clear!), I can build the whole house and by the time I’m done, it’s strong and sturdy without needing anything else for support. Then I pipe frosting into the hinges between the Graham crackers to cover the glue and give it a more traditional look. You can put frosting in a ziplock bag and snip off a little bit off a corner and there you have a piping bag!

  • Anna

    I think the fact Elizabeth is a type-1 diabetic and Gretchin has a strict healthy diet maybe influencing their opinion on receiving cookies etc as gifts. I think lot’s of people would be happy get baked treats.