Merry Christmas!

As I’ve gotten older, I’m moved more and more by the lyrics of the classic Christmas hymns.  This year, it’s ‘Hark the Herald Angels Sing’.  I can’t get through it without getting choked up.  The solid truth of the gospel in the final verse is especially moving.

Hark the herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn King!
Peace on earth and mercy mild
God and sinners reconciled”
Joyful, all ye nations rise
Join the triumph of the skies
With the angelic host proclaim:
“Christ is born in Bethlehem”
Hark! The herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn King!”

Christ by highest heav’n adored
Christ the everlasting Lord!
Late in time behold Him come
Offspring of a Virgin’s womb
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see
Hail the incarnate Deity
Pleased as man with man to dwell
Jesus, our Emmanuel
Hark! The herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn King!”

Hail the heav’n-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings
Ris’n with healing in His wings
Mild He lays His glory by
Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth
Hark! The herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn King!”

May your Christmas be filled with hope and peace that comes from this promise.

Holiday Meal Prep

For the last two Thanksgivings, I’ve had Thanksgiving meal at my house.  Two years ago, our only guest was my mom and this year, it was just the four of us, so I haven’t done the extended family, large gathering thing.  But I didn’t want to skimp on any part of the meal just because there was a small number of us.  And, everyone knows that the best part of Thanksgiving dinner is the leftovers.  Am I right? Upon tackling preparing a meal with more than our typical three parts (protein, vegetable, fruit), I found myself needing to write down all of the pieces to make sure that I didn’t miss anything.

As I thought it through, I decided that I needed a menu, shopping list, cooking plan and serving plan.

I started with the menu, and from there, wrote down all of the ingredients needed to make each dish.

Menu.  Check.

Shopping List.  Check.

This printable is a good way to start your menu.  It’s a basic skeleton for most holiday meals, but can easily be edited to fit whatever your family does.  And it doubles as your shopping list.Holiday Meal Planning Menu & Shopping list - www.maximizingdaysblog.comI wanted to make sure that I had enough oven space and stove burners to cook everything, and if I didn’t, to either change the menu accordingly or figure out what I could make ahead of time.  This printable helped me lay that all out.

menu-plan

The last column may be a little extraneous, but because I was thinking through the other details, the next step was determining serving dishes.  This was especially necessary this year as most of my serving dishes were still packed in boxes, so I needed to figure out ahead of time what needed to be pulled out from the depths of storage.

The final step was figuring out when the actual cooking needed to begin for each item.  I started with the serving time and worked backward from there.  meal-cook-times

So, let’s say the meal is set to be served at 4PM.  List each dish that needs to be cooked that day in the dish column.  Jump to the ‘Time to Cook’ column and write the amount of time that each dish needs to cook, then do the math and write what time that means each dish needs to be on the stove or put in the oven. Then go the ‘Time to Prep’ column, and write the amount of time each dish needs to be prepped before it can be cooked.  Subtract that amount of time from the time you wrote in the ‘In Oven/On Stove Time’ column, and now you have the exact time each dish needs to be started.  If you’re like me, you may want to print two.  On the second one, you can write the dishes in the order that they need to be started.  That just makes good sense.  🙂

This is what my Thanksgiving Cooking Prep Sheet looks like:

meal-cook-times-ex

Hopefully, these lists and tricks take the stress out of holiday meal prep and allow you to just enjoy the time.  And even if there still is some stress or a burnt turkey, you can still enjoy the time with friends and family rejoicing in a Savior’s birth who brings hope and promise of an eternity where the perfect banquet is being prepared (without the need for lists and arranging cook times).

Friday Faves

On our brand new oven’s inaugural use, whatever I was making spilled over the sides and there is a huge mess in the bottom of our otherwise gorgeous oven.  This video came up on my Facebook feed last week, and I’m seriously considering trying it.  Can it possibly be this easy?

My friend, Angela, told me about this Instagram feed and I’m enjoying it.  I will warn you that it is one of those that can be intimidating.  Here’s my caution: this woman is a professional organizer.  She makes her living creating these spaces for people.  Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that if your life and house don’t match these pictures, that you are doing something wrong.  DO look closely at the photos that first catch your eye and try to pick out the pieces that are most appealing to you.  Take one or two of those pieces and figure out how it can be done in your home or life.

My husband found a stellar deal on these boots on Black Friday.  I’ve lived in Minnesota for ten years and didn’t have real snow boots.  These last couple winters have been relatively temperate for Minnesota, so there have only been a handful of times when I’ve wished I had heartier footwear.  All the weather people are saying that this winter is going to be one for the record books, and if trends keep up, I think they’re right.  These boots are amazing.  Maybe too warm, if there’s such a thing.  If you’re looking to invest in quality winter boots, I highly suggest these.

I’ve been a fan of Paul David Tripp since hearing his teaching at a marriage retreat four years ago.  I’ve since purchased two of his books (What Did You Expect? and Parenting), of which I’ve started one and the other is, literally, collecting dust.  I borrowed Morning Mercies from a friend, and it is fantastic.  The first thing I do once both kids fall asleep, is open this book and read that day’s devotion.  At the end of each day’s reading, he has a scripture reference for further study, which I really appreciate.  I’m at a stage of life where finding time in God’s Word each day isn’t easy, so I’m really appreciating how this devotion is making the most of the 15 minutes I have set aside each day.

 

Using Christmas Card Photos

In the interest of full disclosure, I found this Tuesday Tip somewhere else.  It is not my original idea.  And I would love to give credit where credit is due, however, I cannot, for the life of me, remember where I read this idea.  If I were playing the odds, I’d go with Real Simple.

I absolutely love receiving Christmas cards in the mail.  There is no other time of year when I’m as eager to go to the mailbox and retrieve it’s contents. After displaying the cards through January, I put them all in a scrapbook (more about that at a later date).  But even in an album on my bookshelf, it can feel like I didn’t get as much use out of them as I’d like.

Upon receiving the cards, I take pictures of each person and assign that photo to that person’s contact information on my phone.  It is a fun way to see the beautiful pictures throughout the year as I’m calling and texting friends.  Bonus: It only takes a few seconds!

Christmas Card Mailing List

I almost didn’t write this post because I thought it may be too obvious.  But I’ve had a couple conversations over the last couple weeks where I’ve been the sole person in the group who didn’t know or do what everyone else did and I thought “Why have I never known this?! It seems so obvious, but I would have never figured it out myself.”  So, this tip is in that spirit.

I have a spreadsheet saved on my computer called Addresses.  In January of each year, I create a new folder on our computer entitled that year Christmas Card (i.e. The new folder I will create in a couple weeks will be ‘2017 Christmas Card’).  I open the Address spreadsheet from the previous year’s folder and save as the current year.  Throughout the year, as people move, I edit addresses so that it’s not a huge, daunting task to get addresses as I’m mailing our cards.  The spreadsheet also serves as a digital address book of sorts and because it’s saved on our Dropbox file, I can access it on my phone any time I need an address.

I go through the list each year sometime in November and make any necessary edits.  Thankfully, we are at a life phase where most of the edits are adding new babies and not having to take names off due to deaths.  By the time my Christmas cards arrive (I aim to order them on Black Friday, when I’ve found the biggest discounts), addresses are ready to go.  In typical ‘me’ fashion, I go with efficiency and print labels.  I know that some people feel strongly about hand addressing, and more power to them.  But I’m all about a Microsoft mail merge export from the spreadsheet to an Avery labels template.  From spreadsheet to printed labels takes less than 5 minutes.

Christmas cards arrive the first week in December (unless Tiny Print has a printing delay…….) and labels are ready to go.  We have a return address stamp and postage stamps are purchased in November.  Which means that instead of a rushed attempt to get everything for the card designed, printed and mailed in a hurried frenzy before Christmas, everything is ready in the beginning of December and the cards can be stuffed, sealed & stamped sitting on our cozy couch, taking my time while enjoying White Christmas.

It takes a little planning ahead and self-discipline, but it’s totally worth it to me for the latter.

2016 Christmas Card