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Ready or not, here comes Christmas!

Saturday, January 3, 2015

The Fruits of Advance Planning: My Christmas in Pictures

Look at me! I’m a big kid at Christmas! (Dollywood)
Happy New Year! Did you have a good Christmas or, like many people on Facebook, did you insist on not beginning your Christmas preparations until after Thanksgiving, then spent the month of December moaning about the stress of cleaning, cooking, shopping, decorating, and how you didn’t have time to do everything that you wanted to do? The purpose of this blog is to encourage you to plan ahead so you can enjoy Christmas and all the season has to offer! I hope you see the value in planning a little each month. It’s worth it! (And really, how much time preparing for Thanksgiving does one need? Certainly not an entire month! You can give thanks and finalize plans for Christmas at the same time!)

I enjoyed Thanksgiving with my Illinois family, and I had a great December, even if I was late typing up my newsletter and getting the cards in the mail. Extenuating circumstances aside, suffice it to say that the month came close to meeting my expectations. I had made time to cook, decorate, volunteer for several charitable activities, attend parties, watch Christmas movies, see light displays, and even visited Dollywood for extra holiday cheer! (And in case you are wondering, I managed to do my paywork throughout the month as well!)

To demonstrate how advance planning frees up time for fun, I’m going to list my holiday activities in the order they occurred. Honestly, this was the best December yet!

1. Christmas Gift Plate Painting Party
2. Dickens of a Christmas street event

3. Angel Tree group activity: dinner and shopping (no photo)

4. Gingerbread House Decorating Party
(in my case, it was a Rice Krispie house)
5. Christmas Craft Volunteers at Children’s Event
6. Watched a Christmas parade from a chilly street corner on an otherwise sunny Sunday

7. Dressed in red for a writers group Christmas party

8. Enjoyed a Christmas Dinner Show by these performers
9. Christmas Party with Fun Photos
10. Christmas Drop-in followed by fun photos in the nearby decorated park

11. Participated in a retirement center’s Christmas program (no photo)


12. Enjoyed Christmas lights display with friends
13. Enjoyed Bethlehem Revisited (a walk-through nativity, no photo)

14. Cookie Exchange Party
15. Christmas in Dollywood! (shown in the 50s section of the park)



16. Strolled through a Festival of Trees display






17. Christmas Eve service at church with my daughter and son

18. Christmas Morning, fun photo time!
It’s me as the Elf on the Shelf!

Family Christmas Day Chili Dinner

A note about Christmas meals: in the past, I have made monkeybread for breakfast and a feast for dinner. I have spent more time in the kitchen than I liked. If you miss out on Christmas fun and relaxation with your family because you are cooking for an army, find ways to reduce your workload. You might ask everyone who is coming to dinner to bring a dish. You might switch to slow cooker meals. You might choose to start a new traditional breakfast or dinner.



For me, I discovered frozen monkeybread at the grocery store a few years ago. Two minutes in the microwave, and it’s ready to eat! I no longer make my own monkeybread. Now I have time to open stockings and watch the Disney Christmas program with the kids.

I used to try to replicate the feasts of my childhood: turkey, ham, green bean casserole, potatoes, cranberry salad, rolls, and desserts. Sometimes other things like deviled eggs or mac 'n cheese made it to the table as well. After all that work (combined with a late night gift-wrapping session), I was ready to sleep the rest of the day away! Now I wrap gifts earlier, often as soon as I have them, to avoid staying up late on Christmas Eve. And to make sure I spend as much time with my young adult kids as possible on Christmas, I gave up the feast. This year I made slow cooker Christmas chili served with shredded cheese on top. It’s a family favorite, and it’s easy. For dessert, we had cookies from the cookie exchange, plus the fudge and holly leaf candy I had made earlier. Maybe everything wasn’t perfect this season (sorry if your card arrived after Christmas!), but perfection is overrated anyway. 

So how was your Christmas? What did you enjoy, and what would you like to change for Christmas 2015? Have you shopped the clearance racks? I already have my cards for 2015 and a two-tier Christmas tray for the coming holiday’s candies!