Wednesday, October 31, 2012

31 Days of Christmas Planning - the WrapUp

I can hardly believe that it is the end of my 31 days series. I wrote this series in a month that included not just Marc traveling, but my own traveling. Gone from my home and family for five days and coming home just ahead of Sandy - and I still did it. Can we have an early Christmas party just to celebrate that?! 

In some ways, I feel like I exhausted the topic of getting ready for Christmas, and in some ways I think I could do another 31 days on the subject. In all ways, I am pretty glad to have some space to write about some more 'random' things as I journey along. I still have quite a bit of work to do with my own Christmas planning. (Do you know it is only 21 days till Thanksgiving?!) 

I hit my original goal of getting all my thoughts written down so that in the future, I have my list of all that I want to remember to do. 

Here is a landing page of all my posts from this series (for me and you):

Also, this post marks the end of I am permanently migrating my JourneyNotes over to Please take a minute to visit my new and in renovation space. I look forward to continuing the journey over there.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

31 days of Christmas Planning - Be Generous
I just got home from a conference where I learned about Pure Charity. Pure Charity is a new player in the giving arena. It sort of takes social media,  groupon and credit cards rewards programs, a ton of corporate partners, and some great non-profits and mixes it all together. (That's terribly oversimplified - you should watch the video here.)
What I love about this is that our credit cards and stores have already trained us to be rewards members - earning money, credit or savings. This just takes those already well-developed habits, and makes it so you have a giving account. 

Through Pure Charity, I learned about Generous Tuesday. We have Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and now Generous Tuesday. 

It is my experience that the holidays - and not just the gift giving part - often make me feel squeezed. There isn't enough of me, my time, my creativity, my money. 

But you know what? That is just not true. 

We are more than enough. We bring to the holiday table all the uniqueness and creativity and joy that we were born with. It might not look like your neighbors or sister-in-laws or Martha Stewarts. AND IT SHOULDN'T. 

And we have more than enough. We do. 

The best antidote to feeling squeezed, in my experience, is giving. Make it a priority to give your money, your time, yourself. 

Check out Pure Charity.

Remember Generous Tuesday

Monday, October 29, 2012

31 day of Christmas Planning - Homeschool During the Holidays

One of the many blessings that comes with homeschooling is the flexibility that allows different routines and plans.

Holiday seasons are perfect times to take advantage of our flexibility.

In the past we have:

  • taken extra vacation time
  • had special baking adventures
  • done our regularly scheduled school at a muuucchhh sllloooowwweeerr pace
  • read some of those lovely books that we collect

This year we will probably do a mixture of all those things, add some sewing projects (the girls both  have their own sewing machine), and do some sort of video fun (all the kids are experimenting with different forms of video making/editing).

Sunday, October 28, 2012

31 days - the Pajamas and Ornament Tradition

On Christmas Eve, after we have gone to an early Christmas Eve church service (I wonder if the kids are old enough to go to a midnight service this year... hmmm), we all get to open one present. The present is always a set of pajamas and an ornament. 

For years, I made matching pajamas. But I became increasingly frustrated with our local fabric shops' (there are two shops) selection of winter flannel (and the prices). One year, I did the math and realized how much I would save if I just bought pajamas -both in time and money. Maybe someday I'll go back to making the pajamas- it is rather romantic - but this year, I'll be shopping for them. Sometimes I have tired to match our colors, and sometimes I have enjoyed getting just the right set for each of the kids distinct personality's. 

When I was a child, my mom would get us a new ornament every year. I still have a wooden truck ornament from 1984, among several others. We have continued the tradition with our kids. Each year they get an ornament that they will put on our Christmas tree. When they are adults they will get a box of ornaments from each year of their childhood lives. 

Christmas Eve wraps up as we open the presents, put on our pajamas, hang the ornaments, read a Christmas story, and go to bed hoping for some hours of sleep before the morning comes. 

Saturday, October 27, 2012

31 days of Christmas Planning - friends

I love getting gifts for friends. I don't do it often, because I am working hard to live within a responsible budget, but when I get to do it, it gives me great joy. Christmas is such a fun season, and sometimes I see pretty or fun things that I know would be AHMAZING for FriendSuchAndSo. If I bought or made everything that would be perfect for everyone - the bottom line might begin to look neon red.

So as I'm thinking about this ahead of time this year, it occurs to me that I have a couple options.

I can begin to buy gifts throughout the year and save them for Christmas (or birthday) season. 


I can buy gifts throughout the year and give them as I buy them. At Christmas, a pretty card - if anything - is plenty. 

I like the second option better. At Christmas time, we are often inundated with gifts. (I like that, don't get me wrong.) But one more gift, while nice and thoughtful, is one more gift. A gift given at an unexpected time has the opportunity to minister deeply to a friend. (This past year I gave a single mom a tin of her favorite tea on Valentine's Day. She couldn't remember the last time someone had given her a thoughtful Valentine's gift. That was such a humbling, cool experience.)

We all have seasons when we are dry and lonely and just trudging through. Watch your friends for those times, and get a gift that uniquely says 'I love you Friend'. You could even wrap it in Christmas paper if if makes you feel better.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

FiveMinuteFriday meets 31 days Of Christmas Planning IN REAL LIFE

This post was written at an InRealLife Party Five Minute Friday party at the Allume Conference. There was a room full of women who all wrote for five minutes together and then lots got up and read their posts in an open mic setting. It was seriously one of the coolest things I've ever been a part of.

The word this week: Voice

Lift up your voice, all ye saints!

It's Christmas time! Don't be quiet. 

You are a child of the King and the King has come and will come again!


Sing songs of quiet.

Songs of Joy.

Blare the trumpets. Strum the harp.

Whatever it is, Lift UP your voice!

How will I use my voice this Christmas? To grumble at the traffic or crowds. 

Or to be a light. To be a voice that will proclaim a way in the wilderness. 


Lift up your voice.

31 days of Christmas planning - extended family

Gifts for extended family - adult family - can get really tricky. Unless you come from a family that - you know - talks about it. I know, if I wanted to, I could initiate this conversation - but, um, yeah. (Holidays make me feel that way a lot.)

So while I'm making my plans for our core family, there is always the lingering anticipation - sometimes good, sometimes bad - of what other people expect and how they will (or won') feel loved.

ALAS (or THANKFULLY), I am not the God of the universe and I will not be the answer to their emotional needs during the holidays. FURTHER, it is my FIRST job to love my husband and kids and to guide a worshipful Christmas season for them.

When it comes to gifts for extended family, it has boiled down to budget and to time needed to execute:
  • Some years we have gotten everyone something (in-laws, outlaws, nieces and nephews).
  • Some years we consolidate the adults and get one gift per couple.
  • A couple years we donated things in honor of our family (like through Heifer International - that made someone made and it kind of ruined it for me a few years). 
  • Some years we have done cards.
  • Some years, gift cards.
I don't know what we will end up doing for gifts this year. *sigh* Nieces and nephews are taken care of, but the rest....

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

31 days of Christmas Preparation - Take Care of You

No matter how ninja I am or you are at planning and preparing for Christmas, there will be times when there is too much to do, too many places to be, too many people needing you. Unless you have the powers of Elastigirl, your flexibility will be tried.

Only you know what your spirit needs to renew it. But consider putting a few of those on the calendar RIGHT NOW.

  • Schedule a December haircut or manicure or both - and tack on at least an hour to go have a cup of coffee or tea before or after it.
  • Make a date with a good friend. Put it on the calendar now.
  • Do you have a friend that you love to pray with? Calendar... now. 
  • Make a date or two or four with your husband. They don't have to be expensive, but purpose to NOT talk about engagements in the month or things that need to be picked up. 
  • Buy a candle. Put it on your calendar (and your husbands) to sit in a quiet place to read or write with your candle.
  • Buy a book or magazine. Plan an evening (maybe one a week) of reading with a nice glass of wine in bed. 
  • Plan a bath. 
  • Color and draw with your kids.
  • Exercise. Do yoga. 
  • Eat fruit. 
  • Take a craft class. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

31 days of Christmas Planning - Christmas stockings

I grew up with a Christmas stocking tradition that included opening up stockings on almost everyone's bed in the house on Christmas morning. It was kind of a progressive stocking opening. It was great fun. (I didn't realize how weird it was until Marc and I spent our first Christmas married with my parents and we were all sitting on my parents bed.) We did stockings the way we did presents. All attention on one person at a time as we noticed and appreciated each piece.

Fast forward to when Marc and I had kids and realized how much stuff they could accumulate in just one month with no birthdays or holidays. The amount a kid might get during gift giving seasons is alarming! And we realized that what we were buying to put in their stockings didn't line up with some of our family values.... cheap toys that were made in questionable facilities that would break soon or candy seemed the easiest to fill the large space of the stockings.

So some years we have done stockings, and some years we haven't. Stocking stuffers have been the one thing that I have allowed myself to shop for in December when we have done them. I find that I really do like being in the shops in our downtown during this time of year and I like supporting the businesses down there.

I also find that I can totally break the planned budget for Christmas with all those last minute purchases.

Planning ahead... thinking ahead...

How do you do stockings?

Monday, October 22, 2012

31 days of Christmas Planning - those recipes I can never find

For my WHOLE life (almost 40 years), there are three recipes that have been part of December. And since Marc and I have been married (17 years) I have had a hard time finding these three recipes, EVERY.YEAR.

This blog is 100% for me. If you like you can use it to. But this will the the Christmas season that will be known as the year we knew where the recipes were and didn't have to pull out every book or box to look for it. It will be here. Foreverafter.

1c sugar
1q water
12 whole cloves
4 sticks of cinnamon
4 whole allspirce (or 1/2tsp ground)
1/4tsp ground ginger (this could be the root, too, but I don't know how big)
3c orange juice
1c lemon juice or 4 lemons
2qts apple cider

Boil sugar, water, spices for ten minutes. Add juices and heat until hot. You can add a shot of vodka or something else to individual cups.

PeanutButter Popcorn Balls
1/2 c unpopped popcorn
2T melted butter
salt to taste
1/3 c white corn syrup
1/2 c brown sugar, packed
1/2 c peanut butter

Pop corn and season with butter and salt (I usually don't use butter or salt).
Combine syrup and sugar in small saucepan. Stir over medium heat until hot and bubbly. Add peanut butter and cook over low heat until well blended.

Put popcorn in large, buttered bowl (I skip the butter again) and pour syrup evenly over the corn. Mix well.

With buttered hands form quickly into balls. (THIS IS HOT. Be careful and make sure the kids are careful.)

Chex Mix
6T margarine or butter
2T worcestshire sauce
1 1/4t Lawrys' seasoning salt
3/4 garlic powder
2 2/3 c each corn chex, rice chex, wheat chex, cheerios, crispix
1 c nuts (I like peanuts. Marc keeps trying to get creative with this ingredient.)
1 c pretzels
This would be a beautiful
bowl for chex mix!

Mix seasonings and butter in a sauce pan.
Pour over cereal.
Cook one hour @250. Stir every 15 minutes.