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

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?

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.