Monday, December 5, 2016

Ideas, Traditions, Games, Recipes, and Thoughts

Well, I didn't make it.  I spent the night hacking and coughing and could not fall asleep to save my life.  So frustrating.  Tomorrow will be the day.  I'm down until then.  I feel like everything is on hold until I get back to my normal routine.  I hate that.  One more day.  Only one more....I can hold on until then.

I've been thinking a lot about Christmas and I've been planning a few things.  One of the most important things I do to prepare for the holidays (for moi!) is to keep a holiday notebook!  I usually do this on my cell phone instead of with an old fashioned planner book like I used years ago.

Some time ago I added an app to my phone just for notes.  It's called Evernote.  Evernote is a great software app that lets you create text, photo, and audio notes on your phone.  You can also synchronize your notes with your computer as well.  

With this app I created a section for the holidays.  I created page headers for all of the lists I keep.  This way they are all together, where I need them.  I also make a separate page header and take photos of all the receipts.  I then put it in an envelope I have stashed away when I get to the house.  I also keep a separate calendar on my phone of everyones events using another app called Cozy.  That way I can keep track of everyones events from school recitals to holiday get togethers to the last mailing dates to get my gifts across the country.  I love these apps! 

Now on to the note headers in my holiday notes...

I keep a page for each person in my immediate family or recipient of more than one gift.  On each page I note little hints that are dropped by each family member.  We also give notice to our children and hold a family counsel where Kevin and I always say that this will be a small and humble holiday season that we'll focus on the reason for the season and I agree completely until I go shopping and fight the "give them everything they ask for" demons!  A friend of mine buys something practical, something spiritual, something to wear, and something fun for each of her children.  While I like that idea, it doesn't always fit into what my kids need or want.  We have tried to do something a little different.  I usually ask them to give me five things you want in each category:  $5 or less, $10 or less, $25 or less, $50, and $100, and your ultimate gift.  This gives me an idea of what to shoot for.  The less expensive items end up being some of the stocking stuffers and it's always amazing to me how practical the things they ask make-up, specific toiletries, school supplies that are lost already or need to be replaced......things that I might not otherwise have bought but wound up having to buy later anyways.  Over the next weeks, after the family counsel, they think of more things that they want or need and I add them to my list.

As I shop, I note the process of items on their individual sections of my notes and where to get the best bargains.  I also note the ads and discounts so that I can save wherever possible.  Places like Walmart will honor any competitors ads if you can prove it, so put this one to use as often as possible!

I keep a separate page for those others that you will be giving a gift to...extended family, friends, teachers,co-workers.  (you get the idea)

I have a section for cooking as well where I keep food ideas, menus, treats, recipes.  I also note little things like double the batch for the family party, so that next year, you can refer back to last year's notes and not have to second guess your memory this year.

I have a section for clever gift ideas as well.  You know the, the 2 liter bottles of Sprite with the "May your Days be Merry and Sprite" tag on it.  I ask everyone I know during the holidays, "what's your favorite neighbor gift so far?"  Then, I record them.  I've seen some pretty amazing gifts by some very creative people.

I keep a page for people who will get treats

A page of people who will get small homemade gifts

A TO DO page for listing things that are out of the ordinary such as getting something special dry-cleaned, scheduling hair appointments, getting the dog groomed, when to order flowers, and so on.

A page listing where I hid certain gifts.  Have you ever found a gift in July that was meant for Christmas morning?  Here's a great idea....hide them all in the same place. Buy a storage bin and label it something like "Canning Jars" or "Cleaning Rags".  No one would ever look in those bins.  Then, whenever you buy an item, make sure to record that it's purchased, wrap and label it and store it in the bin.  They'll never think to look in there and you won't be frantically searching for it on Christmas Eve!  Plus if you wrap as you go, you won't have a marathon wrapping party on Christmas Eve night when all you want to do is go to bed.

I keep a page for my projected budget for gifts.  This way you can check it often and try harder to keep on track.  Remember, a budget is keeping track of the money you will spend, not what you already have spent.

I keep a page listing the gifts that have been purchased and wrapped.  Again....wrap as you purchase!  This eliminates staying up until 4AM on Christmas Eve/Morning.  You don't need to put the bows on yet, but as you shop and bring the gifts home, wrap them immediately and write a number on each gift in the same location.  I write the number on the corner piece of tape on the bottom of the gift.  Then I keep a list in my notes that is formatted under these headings: #/gift/For/Where purchased/Price.  If I need to exchange or even open before the holiday, I know where it is.  By not having names on the gifts themselves and only having numbers on the gifts, this keeps away peekers.  (more on gift wrapping later)

I keep a list/section for expenses. Not just gift purchases.  Write down everything you buy for the holidays from gift-wrap, tape, batteries, house decorations, postage, gas for shopping, etc.  It's amazing to look back later and see EXACTLY how much you spent.  You'd be surprised how it all adds up.  And there is something about writing it down that makes you feel more accountable for every dime spent.  It works, trust me.

I also keep a list of things that I would like to do next year for the holidays.  We always hear of fun things that sound like great projects or fun things to do but it's too late to do it this year.  Keep a list and get started early next year or whenever it is that still "flips your trigger."

Keep a list/inventory of the holiday DVD's and CD's is also good to keep on hand.  I often see a CD and think I need that until Kyle or someone reminds me that we already have it.  An inventory allows you to keep track of what you own and what you loan too.

Keep a list of thank you's to write. Lots of gifts are received before the big day.  Keep track of who gave what and when so that thank you's are not a nightmare in January.

I always get asked what I want for Christmas and can never think of anything when I am asked.  Keep a list of things that YOU would like for YOU! Then if your sweetie or kids ask, you can say, "I just happen to have my own list right her!"

You get the idea.  Use your notes to keep it all together.  Make it work for you.  Create lists that fit your needs.  This list becomes your Holiday Brian from now until January when the kids go back to school!  And when the holidays are over, you've got a great record to keep on hand for further use.  It really makes an immense difference in how well prepared and organized you are for the holidays ahead!  So, download the app, get started on keeping your notes today, and if you have to or prefer write it all down, but whatever you decide, just start getting it all together now for the holidays!  Trust me, you will be glad you did.

Bright idea:  Music brightens every Christmas in our home.  From the first sounds of Mannheim Steamroller trumpets in Deck the Halls, Christmas really begins for us!  There's just so much good Christmas music out there!  I love all the a Capella groups that are out these days.  And I love some of the classics as well.  My Dad has made us a couple Christmas music CD's over the years and we love them.  Then Kevin and our boys have an awesome collection of all kinds of music in their iTunes account, so we pretty much have a wide variety to choose from and it's been awesome!  Also, don't be afraid to pick up those random unfamiliar group CD's, especially if you have sound kiosks to sample the music first like places like Target and Walmart offer.  There's some good stuff there.

A Tradition:  One blogger has a favorite Christmas tradition that I want to try.  Here is what her family does....."Each December, we have twelve candles on the dinner table.  I used to use a wooden candle holder, which I'd made, but it got tired.  Now I use 12 star-shaped individual candle holders (from Pier One) that I place on a round tray in a circle (I use a large silver pizza pan).  Beginning on the 13th of December, we light one candle at dinner time.  Each night after that, we light the original candle and one more until Christmas Eve, when we have our formal dinner, and all twelve candles are lit.  (was that clear as mud? So, one the third night, three candles are lit, the seventh night, seven candles are lit....)  The candle stays lit during dinnertime.  It's not very bright to eat by on the first few nights, but as the twelve days progress, it gets brighter and brighter.  During dinner, as we light the candle, we discuss Christmas, the life of Christ, His teachings, why we have this special season, what Christmas means to us and really try to focus for at least a few moments on what Christmas is really all about.  On Christmas Eve, with all twelve candles lit, it is actually warm and glowing.  We discuss how his life brightens ours.  It's been an important part of our Christmas for almost three decades now and I hope that one day, my own children will carry on the tradition.  If you'd like to try it, pick up twelve candles, and holders, and a silver platter, pizza pan, or something to fit your decor today.  It's a tradition worth remembering and it brings the Spirit of Christ into your home each night."  

I absolutely LOVE this idea!  I want to give it a try this year because I think we need to take those moments to remember Christ a little more in our daily life and this will kick start us.  LOVE it!!!

A Tradition:  Short and sweet....load up the family and take a drive around your town checking out all of the holiday lights and decorations!  Don't forget to go downtown and look in all of the store windows too.  Go out for dinner first or hit your favorite drive-up window and enjoy the night on the town.  Then, when you get home, have some hot cocoa to top off the evening!  It's a must do every year in our family!  Sometimes its a big deal, sometimes we just hit a few places every few nights.  It's worth the experience and the memories! We have several places we like to visit on our route that we go on each and every year.  Same houses, same lights, same fun! 

Game:  Here's a fun game.  It's actually pretty challenging. If you love words, this one's for you!  The answers are listed below.

  1. Bleached Yule = White Christmas
  2. Boulder of the tinkling metal spheres
  3. Castaneous-colored seed vesticated in a configuration
  4. Singular yearning for the twin anterior incisors
  5. Righteous Darkness
  6. Arrival Time: 2400 hours/weather: cloudiness
  7. Loyal followers advance
  8. Far off in a feeder
  9. Array the corridor
  10. Bantam male percussionist
  11. Monarchial triad
  12. Nocturnal noiselessness
  13. Jehovah deactivate blithe chevaliers
  14. Red man en route to borough
  15. Frozen precipitation commence
  16. Proceed and enlighten on the pinnacle
  17. The quadruped with the vermilion proboscis
  18. Query regarding identity of descendant
  19. Delight for this planet
  20. Give attention to the melodious celestial beings
  21. The dozen festival 24 hour intervals
And the answers are:
  1. White Christmas
  2. Jingle Bell Rock
  3. Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire
  4. All I want for Christmas is my two front Teeth
  5. Oh, Holy Night
  6. It Came Upon the Midnight Clear
  7. Oh, Come all ye Faithful
  8. Away in a Manger
  9. Deck the Halls
  10. Little Drummer Boy
  11. We Three Kings
  12. Silent Night
  13. God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen
  14. Santa Claus is Coming to Town
  15. Let it Snow!
  16. Go, Tell it on the Mountain
  17. Rudolph, the Red-nosed Reindeer
  18. What Child is This?
  19. Joy to the World
  20. Hark, the Herald Angels Sing
  21. The 12 Days of Christmas

Gift idea:  Here's a darling and inexpensive gift idea.  How cute is this?!  It's simple and quick to just score and fold the card stock, add a few embellishments and tuck the holiday socks into their place.  I'll definitely be picking up some holiday socks after Christmas for Lexi to make as friend gifts next year.  It would also be a fun thing to do and attach a gift card for teachers!


3 cups crushed pretzels
1 stick butter
1/2 cup sugar
Toss into 9x13 pan. Place in oven on low heat until butter is melted. Toss again until sugar is evenly coating the pretzels.
2 - 8oz. Softened Cream Cheese
1 large can crushed pineapple (well drained)
1 small container of cool whip
Mix in bowl til smooth and creamy. Spread over the cooled pretzel crust, making sure to spread and "seal" the edges of the cream cheese to the very edge of the pan.
2 small pkgs. Or 1 large Raspberry or Strawberry Jello
1 package of frozen or two cups of fresh berries
Make Jello as box directs. After it is partially set, fold in the berries. Pour over the top of the salad. Chill until Jello is set.

RECIPE:  Brunch Casserole

Here's my own variation on a recipe I found on the Internet. Very simple and an easy meal and it made a mean dinner too!

4-6 cups frozen shredded hash browns

2 c. shredded Cheddar or Colby-Jack cheese
2 tbsp. chopped onion
1 lb. mild sausage
4 oz. fresh mushrooms, sliced (optional)
6 eggs
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
2 c. milk
1 tsp. dry mustard

Brown and drain sausage. Set aside. Thaw potatoes and place 1/2 in bottom of 9x13 inch casserole (or 3 broken slices of bread may be substituted.) Add 1/2 of cheese and 1/2 of sausage and the mushrooms and repeat. Beat eggs, salt, pepper, chopped onions, mustard and milk. Pour liquid over top of potatoes and cheese. Cover and leave in refrigerator overnight. Bake, covered, at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Let set for about ten minutes before serving. enjoy!

On another note, tonight I finally made the fajitas.  I bought this pre-packages shredded beef and added my own seasonings.  It didn't turn out as well as I had wanted it to but it was quick and that was really what I was going for.  I didn't want to spend a lot of time cutting up and simmering fajita meat for about an hour just so it was all nice and tender like I normally do when I make fajitas.  I needed quick.  This certainly was quick, but it wasn't "my" fajitas that my family loves.  Oh well.  Note to self, no shortcuts.  LOL!  It's another quiet night.  We are taking it easy.  I went outside to turn on the pool pump and I ended up cough my head off tonight.  Not good.  I'm scared that this will happen at work, which will cause a chain reaction to a few other things I don't want to have happen while I'm at work.  I'll spare you those details.

Tomorrow is a brand new day.  Yay! Take care my friends and we will talk to you soon. 
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