Autumn Christmas List

Autumn Christmas List

Lessons from Christmas Past

Fall festivities and Thanksgiving require their own preparations and time allotments, so beginning Christmas planning in early autumn is always a wise move.

Wise Christmas elves remember holiday budgeting is most effective when included in their annual budget discussions and is made part of their savings plans for the year.

Learning from Christmas past is one way elves grow in wisdom. As you go through the holiday season, or after the powdered sugar settles, take notes as part of your planning for Christmas future and include them with a ‘master plan’ template for the years ahead.

Makin’ a List

Autumn Christmas List suggestions to start the snowball rolling:

  • Jesus is the Reason for the Season (make Him the centerpiece of your planning)
  • Develop a Master Plan Template (to reuse yearly)
  • Determine specifics for THIS Christmas (total budget, in-town/travel, caveats, etc.)
  • Pencil preliminary plan on printable calendar (Oct-New Year celebration)
  • Breakdown budget (ministry donations, holiday offerings, cards, postage, gifts, wrapping supplies, special meals, extra dishes/paper products, holiday clothing, baking & storage/wrap supplies, travel, holiday décor, unexpected, etc.)
  • Update personal and business contacts
  • Take family photos for Christmas cards
  • Buy or order Christmas cards and begin addressing envelopes
  • Determine dates for mailing Christmas cards and placing special holiday phone calls
  • Determine dates for gifts that need to be mailed
  • Place specialty food orders (turkey/ham, breads, desserts, etc.)
  • Determine dates to deep clean your home
  • Schedule in seasonal yard work and home maintenance
  • Determine and schedule in seasonal activities and special events
  • Ensure time in schedule for routine housekeeping
  • Determine dates you need your teenagers available and make certain they’ve arranged their work/social schedule accordingly
  • Working backwards, determine specific days/times for items that have to be scheduled in last days of preparations (pick up special order and fresh foods/produce, determine who is going to pick up Grandma and when, assemble serving dishes/utensils, set table, etc.)
  • It bears repeating here and be sure to tell others too… Jesus IS the Reason for the Season

Checkin’ It Twice

Go back through everything again with a fine-tooth comb and realistic eye. Ensure your plan is sound, anticipates surprises, and won’t allow the ‘Oh, I’ll remember that’ type item to be forgotten.

If you added new traditions or recipes to your repertoire, be sure you’ve eliminated some of lesser importance -unless you ended up with extra time and money on your wise-elf hands last year.

Be certain to have sufficient margins of open time throughout your days. Your vehicle will need fuel and you’ll need to fill your own tank occasionally too.

Make wise adjustments to lists and schedules now and thank your wise-elf self later.

For a little Christmas frankness and a few more suggestions…

It’s Christmastime, Let’s Get Real

Gotta Be Cute

Day of Week Chalkboards

WHEN?•z•day is a wide-ranging Wednesday blog series covering organizational planning, seasonal themes, ‘time of life’ issues, growth and development; basically, anything that addresses, “When?”

Being the first entry in this series, I thought I’d share a few (of my many) personal peccadilloes. These relate to organizational tools, so don’t hold your breath for anything racy.

Ding-ding-ding-DING!

I’m reminder-dependent. Almost everything in the realm of my life is noted by me somewhere, and if it is noted somewhere, it probably has an alarm or notification set to go off -at two different times. A heads-up for any needed preparations a day to a week before and a day-of one that goes off with ample time to stay on schedule for the task or event. I don’t know if it is age, fear, or just habit, but I assume I will lose track of life if I don’t operate this way.

To List or Not to List?

That is the question… Prior to being reminder-dependent, I was list-dependent. The lists were my reminders and they were posted all over the house and in binders. I had grocery/menu and family calendar lists in the kitchen, school lists in the office, cleaning lists in the bathroom, bill paying lists in files, seasonal lists in binders on bookcases, and THEN, we started to homeschool our sons. That pushed me over the top with lists. Thankfully, technology stepped in and saved the day.

Don’t get me wrong, there are beautiful ways to display practical lists, but I like to keep it to a minimum nowadays and technology allows me to have most of it in a few, easily accessible, key places (computer, tablet, phone) and they all sync… I’m sync-dependent too -and I love it.

There are plenty of specialized list-type apps with notification functions, but my ‘stuff’ is pretty well covered by my multi-purpose, family accessible COZI app and by my personal iCloud Calendar, Reminder, and Notes apps. Not all, but most of the lists I still maintain can be found on my devices, either within apps or in file form.

It’s gotta be cute.

Call me shallow, but looks matter to me when it comes to schedules, calendars, and other listy things.

Google ‘organization schedule’ images and you’ll see a bunch of boring calendar-type schedules. However, if you look closely; or better yet, search on Pinterest, you will find ideas for appealing, eye-catching, and very functional lists, most of which you can easily make on your own.

I’m a huge fan of color-coding, special fonts, and decorative accents. Color-coding pulls eyes to just the right places and accenting with appropriate adornments makes the list more friendly and inviting. Displaying lists in a way that is pleasing and strikes a cord with users is important to drawing them into the information on the list. And, that’s key to me, because if it meets the criteria for display, I want it used as intended.

Sometimes you gotta go 3-D.

Too much ‘stuff’ in my home sends my senses into overload and I feel like the walls -and my life, are closing in on me. I have to limit ‘storing’ things ON counter-tops, desks, and other furniture. We lived in small homes for years and it’s a serious challenge to have everything stored out of sight. However, it is a rewarding thing to strive for if there is more than one person living in the home… or if I live in the home.

My rule of thumb: If it must be out, it must be orderly and have as small of a profile as possible. And, as I shared earlier, it’s gotta be cute!

The fact is, if you see it every time you enter the room, you live with it -like a silent roommate. Why not strive to have it be something nice to spend time with, as well as have a job, and help keep the place clean?

Resolution

Happy New Year

Happy New Year!

Well, I say that -and I do mean it, but honestly, I’m sentimental and sentimental people aren’t necessarily the most festive type you’ll find when it comes to New Year’s celebrations. It’s always been a bittersweet time for me, even as a child. Sure I had lots of New Year’s fun with friends as a teen and young adult, but underneath I’m always feeling a touch of melancholy. Regardless of the type of year it was time waits for no man and change is inevitable. As a Christian, I always have Hope when looking ahead, and for good reason, but moving on past certain blessings leaves a bit of longing in the heart. Nevertheless, the freshness of a crisp, new year is something to build on and I certainly hope to do just that.

The fall of 2013 brought my fiftieth birthday. That’s 5-0 for us visual types and it’s a lot to take in when you’re on the receiving end. It’s a lot to receive, and for that I’m grateful. I’m also hopeful it’s just marking a halfway point for me.

Big ‘H’ Hope is sufficient {Hope in Christ}, but small ‘h’ hope needs back up in terms of planning and execution. It requires dedication, discipline, and determination, or it becomes an empty hope in short order. In seasonal terms, small ‘h’ hope takes ‘resolution‘, accompanied by prayer, if it’s going to stand a chance at materializing.

In practical terms, say you hope to acquire more wealth or shed some weight in the year/s ahead; ‘hope‘ alone is not going to cut it. Get in prayer, consult with God and His Word regularly, develop a realistic yet challenging plan, pray some more, and stay the course. A year from now you’ll be thankful to God, to some encouraging folks along the way, and to yourself for a hope fulfilled. You can also look forward to acquiring some wisdom worth sharing and a few surprises along the way.

res·o·lu·tion

/ˌrezəˈlo͞oSHən/

noun

  1. a firm decision to do or not do something.
  2. the action of solving a problem, dispute, or contentious matter.
  3. the process of reducing or separating something into its components.
  4. the smallest interval measurable by a scientific (esp. optical) instrument; the resolving power.

Resolved for 2014

I haven’t completed my list of resolutions for 2014 just yet, but I thought I’d share what I’ve put together thus far. I started small, soon, and practical, added general items to further develop important habits I’ve been working to strengthen, and will be adding some specific personal goals prayerfully hammered out in the coming few days -or as God leads… One of my persistent goals not mentioned below is to not step on His toes, “He leads, I follow,” is a daily challenge. For you too?

  1. Pack-up Christmas decorations, at my leisure, between Dec. 31-Jan 2
  2. Compile notes regarding next Christmas & set phone reminder to look at them next fall (more of this/less of that, schedule/timeline, gift ideas, savings plan & spending budget, etc.)
  3. Continue to remind myself via calendar reminders, sticky notes & whatever else it takes:
    • more Bible
    • more prayer
    • more water during day, less food in evening
    • ask, answer & act on introspective/retrospective questions about my life roles and lifestyle
    • routinely tweak lifestyle for sake of  love, life, longevity & the Lord
  4. Prayerfully set specific goals that will challenge without disrupting overall balance

I’ll be sharing my strategy and experiences regarding some of my specific goals over the course of the year. I’ll probably be asking for some kind of advice along the way too. Let’s face it, at 50, if you haven’t accomplished a particular goal yet there’s probably a reason why and a good chance that you’ll benefit from wise advice and fellowship as you see it to fruition.

I hope you’re taking advantage of a fresh start too and I wish you the joy and satisfaction of hopes-fulfilled in the coming new year!

12 Verses to Inspire

  • “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”  Proverbs 3:5-6
  • “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.”  Proverbs 16:9
  • “May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed.”  Psalm 20:4
  • “…but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”  Isaiah 40:31
  • “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”  Ecclesiastes 3:11
  • “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”  2 Corinthians 5:17
  • “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.”  Psalm 90:12
  • “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”  1 Peter 1:3
  • “Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 3:13-14
  • “Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always.  Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced,…”  1 Chronicles 16:11-12
  • “The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves.  He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.”  Zephaniah 3:17
  • “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.  He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.”  James 1:17-18

Questions: What is your process for setting goals and resolutions? What are your resolutions for 2014? What is your plan for accomplishing them? How do you address setbacks?

It’s Christmastime, Let’s Get Real

Merry Christmas

We can all use at least a little more time and a little more peace by Christmas Eve. Give yourself the gift of both by staying ahead of the game.

I’d like to share a few tips I’ve learned over the years to help maximize the peace and joy while minimizing the stress and distractions that can easily slip into the season. I hope you’ll share some of your own words of Christmas wisdom in the comment section.

Most Christmas Eve and Christmas-day stressers can be anticipated and avoided… Before this year’s festivities get any closer, think back to Christmases past and make a list of items you wished you had done differently: things that did not have to be left to the last minute; things that ended up taking longer to complete than you originally anticipated; to-do items that really required a helper or two. Set firm deadlines of at least 2-3 days out, delegate or arrange for assistance, and stick to your new schedule. It will bless you later.

Less is more, especially during Christmastime… Look at your Christmas To-Do List and pick a few things to eliminate -unless you’ve already learned the hard way and now start with the short-version list. If that’s the case, pat yourself on the back and rest in the joy of that blessed Christmas season you have realistically planned out.

Earlier is preferred to later… Give that To-Do List another look-see and determine at least a few things that may take longer than what you’ve allotted. Either move up your start time or leave it for another Christmas.

Okay, sometimes later is preferred to now… Remember Christmastime isn’t your only options for visiting with friends. New Year’s Eve and day are just around the corner, bowl games and the Super Bowl are coming up too. If your plate is just too full for Christmas, schedule (or reschedule) a little somethin’ somethin’ in January or Feburary. It will be here before you know it and folks are freer and more relaxed then. You’re sure to have a good time and just may find you want to make it an annual event.

Expect the unexpected… Move a couple things to your Maybe List and allocate some buffer time which usually requires some streamlining too. Very few things are a ‘must’ for Christmas. You know what they are, mark them accordingly and be willing to let the rest go. Hey, if it turns out you can do it all, great, but determining early-on what is most important will serve your family well. It’s a wonderful conversational teaching moment to have as a family too. Kids who are prepared to go with the flow during the Christmas season are a blessing to their parents. And, even better, children who know what is most important about CHRISTmas are a blessing to God.

Wrap gifts as you buy them… Eliminate the stress of last minute gift-wrapping into the wee hours on Christmas Eve. The first couple gifts might be fun to wrap, but when you’re running short on time, even the most happy of Santa’s helpers can get grumpy. Don’t procrastinate on this one. It’s gotten many a good elves on Santa’s Naughty List.

Remember, batteries are required… If you purchase something that requires batteries, buy the batteries at the same time whenever possible and wrap them with the gift.

Prepare a healthy make-ahead breakfast for Christmas morning… At some point the family will be ready to eat and real food will keep the day running better than if everyone chows on candy from their Christmas stockings and the cookies Santa left behind.

Clean the kitchen and tidy the Christmas tree room before bed on Christmas Eve… Waking up to a fresh home on Christmas morning after all the prep is done is a blessed gift in itself for most women.

Place garbage bags and a pair of scissors in a convenient child-safe place on Christmas Eve… Things usually get moving quickly on Christmas morning and the handy garbage bags for wrapping paper and empty boxes makes it easy to stay ahead of the inevitable trash collection needed from opening presents. There’s always at least one gift that requires a pair of scissors to open, so leave them in a handy, but safe place too.

Shower before bed on Christmas Eve… You may be completely whooped and running on Christmas cookie sugar rather than sleep, but at least you will wake up with clean hair.

Shower before bed on Christmas Eve… It’s worth mentioning twice. It will also help relax you so you can get to sleep quicker. At this point we all need rest.

Christmas traditions are wonderful, but they don’t all have to be done every year… Schedule in and plan ahead for the ones that draw your family toward Christ first and foremost; like Christmas Eve service at church or family reading of pertinent Scripture. Don’t be so busy with last minute prep that you’d consider skipping such an opportunity to recognize the great gift from God, His Son.

Jesus is the Reason for the Season, but… It’s impossible to truly celebrate CHRISTmas if you’ve set yourself up for an unfestive amount of stress and chaos as you prepare. Pray for discernment and decide what can realistically be done with the time and resources you have available.

I wish you a joyful Christmas season filled with the Peace and Hope that is only found in Christ… “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” – Romans 15:13

Questions: What are your favorite organizational or time saving tips for Christmas prep? What have you learned over the years about keeping the peace in your heart and home during the Christmas season?

Today…

TodayWill NeverComeAgain

Learned Today: PREROGATIVE

I learned something today: PREROGATIVE

I’ve always said per-o-ga-tive, rather than the correct pre-rog-a-tive, when speaking and apparently have never typed the word into a computer as I’m a stickler for mentally noting things my spell-check catches. So, if you’ve also been a per- rather than pre-rogative type person, here’s a little something to stick in your cap, and I hope you will because YOUR prerogative is an important, discretionary power in your life:

“Prerogative” is frequently both mispronounced and misspelled as “perogative.” It may help to remember that the word is associated with PRivileges of PRecedence. –Common Errors in English Usage 

This bright new day, it’s your prerogative to actually make it just that…

NewDay

Our Favorite Christmas Cookies

I was going to start this blog in 2013, but it’s almost Christmas and I figured that’s a pretty good time to start something new. And, if we’re starting something new, why not celebrate? If you’re celebrating, why not start with cookies?!? And if you’re starting with cookies, you’ve got to start with the biggest favorite of all, Christmas cookies!

Here are some family favorites my three sons and husband requested again this year:

  • PEANUT BUTTER REINDEER COOKIES… These are a fun cookie, my middle son always looks forward to them, even at 16 years old. I usually use regular small pretzels, but the Bakergirl uses small chocolate covered pretzels and I thought I’d try that this year. We like the taste of cinnamon flavored Red Hots candy for Rudolph’s nose. For a brighter, shiny nose, use red M&Ms as the Bakergirl recommends.
Peanut Butter Reindeer Cookies from Bakergirl at BuddingBaketress.blogspot.com

Peanut Butter Reindeer Cookies from Bakergirl at BuddingBaketress.blogspot.com

  • SNOWBALL COOKIES 3 WAYS… These are my husband’s favorite, so I’ve been making them for years. Jessica, at A Kitchen Addiction blog, offers a little variety to the traditional recipe, so I decided to mix it up a bit this year.
Snowball Cookies 3 Ways from A Kitchen Addiction

Snowball Cookies 3 Ways from A Kitchen Addiction

  • PEANUT BUTTER NUTELLA COOKIE CUPS… I usually make Peanut Butter Blossoms with Hershey’s Kisses at my youngest son’s request, but I’m thinking of doing a 50/50 this year and going with some Nutella lusciousness from Barbara Bakes for the other half.
Peanut Butter Nutella Cookie Cups from Barbara Bakes

Peanut Butter Nutella Cookie Cups from Barbara Bakes

Candy Decorated Christmas Sugar Cookies from Jamie Cooks It Up

Candy Decorated Christmas Sugar Cookies (Almond Butter) from Jamie Cooks It Up

I like to pick a new recipe and something I haven’t made in recent years for my choice every year:

  • DOUBLE CHOCOLATE PEPPERMINT SURPRISE COOKIES… Peppermint is a Christmas requirement and there’s nothing minty on the list yet. Don’t these look fabulous? And, in keeping with the Christmas spirit, you’ll find a surprise inside! Santa hat tip to Deborah over at Taste and Tell for this perfect Christmas cookie.
Double Chocolate Peppermint Surprise Cookies from Taste and Tell

Double Chocolate Peppermint Surprise Cookies from Deborah at Taste and Tell

  • CHOCOLATE-COVERED CHERRY DELIGHTS… I actually made a similar recipe several years ago and they were big hit. I was really glad they caught my eye again while I was perusing the Taste and Tell blog. I know from experience with my husband that if you make a batch of these for a cordial cherry fan you know they will love you forever!
Chocolate-Covered Cherry Delights from Taste and Tell

Chocolate-Covered Cherry Delights from Taste and Tell

  • CANDY CANE BLOSSOMS… A dear friend is participating in a bake sale at work to benefit a co-worker who is experiencing a serious medical issue. We are getting together next weekend to bake cookies for the sale. When I saw these on Diana’s AzoresGal blog I thought they looked like a winner. Tasty and eye-catching in hopes of a very successful benefit event!
Candy Cane Blossoms from AzoresGal

Candy Cane Blossoms from AzoresGal

GINGERBREAD COOKIES… I know these are a Christmas staple, but I haven’t made them for quite a few years. I’m really looking forward to trying BreAna’s recipe at Sugar and Spice & All Things Iced. I had to add a large picture because the batch she made with her kids is just so cute!

Gingerbread Cookies from Sugar and Spice & All Things Iced

Gingerbread Cookies from Sugar and Spice & All Things Iced

My plan is to shop for supplies and get all the dough made before next weekend. Then visit my friend to make the bake sale cookies and some for her family to enjoy too. On Christmas Eve day I’ll bake the batches for our family. If I bake them any earlier, they will surely be gone before Christmas with four cookie-loving men in the house… That’s the plan, but it could change!

Questions:

What are your family’s favorite Christmas cookies and how do you schedule-in your holiday baking? Do you have tips on storing pre-baked cookies? 

You can leave a comment at the bottom of this post’s page here

Thanks for checking out my new blog & MERRY CHRISTMAS BAKING to all.