Sunday, October 31, 2010

Holiday System Day 6 - menu planning

This originally posted November 2009.

For me, the holidays are about one main thing... besides the family, friends and faith I've already talked about here... FOOD. If you follow along here, you'll have noticed that food is a major part of my life. The holidays are all about dinners, special family recipes, and cookies (yum!) The importance of these meals can be overwhelming, but this only means you have a great opportunity to
De-stress with Meal Planning

Holiday menus are often traditional, and troublesome. Family members who insist on certain dishes, friends with special dietary needs, and finally your own tight budget... What can be done to bring these different points together and allow you to have an easy, stress free season? Plan it out!

The meal on the holiday (either Thanksgiving or Christmas) is something that most families have a set way of doing. This doesn't mean that you can never change anything, though. Plan on what dishes you all like, allowing for any dietary needs that anyone has. Figure out how much can reasonably be made. Take into account how many stove burners you have, how big your oven is, and how long each dish will take to prep and cook. Is there any sides that can be made mostly ahead of time? These will save you a lot of sanity when it's only 5 hours to Christmas dinner with your large extended family. Trust me.

If you will be entertaining guests for other dinners, plan ahead some easy meals. I love dishes that are either crockpot, one-pot, or completely make-ahead. I'll be sharing some of my favorite meals that fall into these categories over the next few weeks.

Holidays are meant to be enjoyable, and reflective- how can you focus on joy and faith when you're up to your neck in side-dish stress? Don't do this to yourself- plan ahead!
I am happy to share this post at Homemaker Monday, visit for lots of great ideas.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Holiday System Day 5 - scheduling tasks

Yesterday I posted on the importance of having a plan for both little details and big projects for the holidays. This will keep you on track. For instance, to keep a tight budget I make almost all of my holiday gifts. Some of these need time to develop, such as my flavored vinegars, pickles or mustard. It's important that I schedule these, I have to start them early so that they are finished in time to give as presents. Knowing when everything needs to be done is critical, so for today we will be

Putting A Schedule Together

I have told you how disorganized I am by nature- if I didn't write all my holiday tasks done I would be making sandwiches for Thanksgiving dinner! 

The simplest way to fit your tasks into a schedule is the same way you would with any other to-do list.

  1. First step- write in a due-date for each task: knowing the time when it needs to be accomplished will help you see which order things should be done in.
  2. Second- allot a certain amount of time for each task. If something is a multiple-day task, make sure to account for this. Examples might include decorating, visiting family or friends, and preparing dinner.
  3. Third step- put all the tasks into a schedule. I like using a monthly calendar for this, it allows you to see what is coming up for the next few weeks. Keeping one eye on the upcoming future is so important for sanity in the holiday season.

I hope these steps can help you simplify your planning (or just encourage you to plan if you're like me a few years ago!) Please share if you have any comments, questions or any advice of your own on holiday planning.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Holiday System Day 4 - plans...expanded

Today is a simple task- start filling out your holiday plan. Since this month we will cover Thanksgiving, we will focus on these tasks. Basically, you will be

Planning a Master To-do List

Think of all your tasks the way you would if you were writing a regular to-do list. I have heard this called "brain dumping" and I think the term applies well. Just grab a fresh paper (or word document) and start listing. Don't worry about editing- just get it all out. Big, time-consuming tasks (decorate, buy/ make all presents) and the small stuff (get stamps to mail cards, clean out guest rooms), it doesn't matter -put it all down.
Once you've written all your tasks down- relax! That's it- fitting these all into a schedule is a task for another day (namely, tomorrow.)

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Holiday System Day 3- a plan

You'll see a recurring theme in today's post. I firmly believe in having a system for everything- and the more difficult or stressful a task is likely to be, the more I want my system. Put the holiday work on autopilot with

Your Holiday Season Plan

and this system will allow you to relax and enjoy the best parts of the season- family, friends, food and faith. oh yeah, and fun.

  1. I already talked about household binders, so again, it's no surprise that I make my plan right in my binder. That way I can just flip the pages and add every task in my plan to my weekly schedule. But no matter where you write it (or even type it) the most important thing is to just
  2. Start already! Stress around the holidays has one main cause: trying to fit 3 months worth of work into 1 or 2 weeks. This is just silly and unnecessary! Make a plan, even if at first it only includes where you'll be for the actual holiday. Slowly start writing in tasks you'll need to accomplish. I'll be covering this in more detail this week.
  3. Don't forget the extra details- a menu for holiday dinners, a timeline for gift-giving and all important in today's time: a budget. Do not let this fall through the crack or you will be kicking yourself come January. Trust me.

Your task- just write down the most basic of plans- even just one or two sentences. You can go back and flesh in the details over the next week or so. Remember yesterday's post- this is supposed to make the season more enjoyable, not less. And if you use it properly, and keep breathing, a system really will help- I promise.

This week will be filled with ideas on helping make a holiday season plan, so check back in.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Holiday System Day 2 - a focus

(This was originally posted in October 2009)

Thanks for joining us on our way to a happier holiday season. Stress is the opposite of the spirit of joy that should shine through this season. Unfortunately, it seems stress is unavoidable at the holidays- or is it? I always felt like it was just part of the whole package to be worried, anxious, and an all-around mess. Having my kids made me want the best holiday ever- the first year with Big Boy we went to three Christmas Eve parties, and three family houses on Christmas. Ahhh!

It was crazy- obviously- and made what should have been pleasant just overwhelming. The next two years I slowly moved away from the old way of doing things, and plan to continue in this path. My first tip for you is the simplest, and yet might be the most difficult to add into your life. Not a specific task, but a goal of focusing on what the holidays are meant to be about:

remember the meaning of the season

This time should be about family, friends, and faith- whatever your faith is personally. All traditions have a holiday (remember it means Holy Day) in this season. Thanksgiving is more secular but can be very close to your own faith, as it is a time for giving thanks. Gratitude is the way to happiness.

For this point I recommend writing down a Holiday Focus paper. Include what in your life is important in this season, what you have to be thankful for. If you follow a faith, what does it say about this holiday time? Maybe add a specific meditation or focus statement that will sum up the true meaning of the season for you.

I'd like to invite anyone who wants to include a comment on their holiday season focus. If you have a blog and want to write a post on this, feel free to include a link in the comments below. Sometimes sharing ideas with others can add an influence and strengthen your own focus.

Be sure to come back tomorrow for more.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

re-introducing... 30 days 'til the holidays... a system

I'm reposting my series from last year...

30 days 'til the holidays

This year there will be many brand-new tips on organizing, planning, and even more new recipes designed to get you ready for the holiday season. Just like last year, I will post once a day, Monday- Friday, for a month until Thanksgiving. I will share it again for the month from Thanksgiving- Christmas, and will include different recipes and tips each time!

I had so much fun with this last year, and the goal this year is the same... Having the holidays be stressful is upsetting, "but until the last two years when I had children, I thought it was inevitable. Well, it's not- even if you're a flaky disorganized mess by nature (like me!) The clue is to take it one step at a time, relax, and try to remember this time is supposed to by about enjoyment (and sharing joy, which grumpy, anxiety-ridden people don't do too well.)"

I hope you'll join me for this series. Tomorrow's post will be on how to remain focused on the true spirit of the holidays, even with all the responsibilities (ahem, stress). Here's to a great (and calm) holiday season!

Monday, October 25, 2010

my path to faith

This is a post I have been considering for some time. I felt called to share it, though this has been hampered my personal reluctance to not talk about things I know are going to bother people. Still, I feel that the time is right, so I will share a bit of how I came to my new faith.

After my second son was born, I was in the doctor’s office for his first check-up. (Disclaimer, the rest of this is not for unbelievers, you will laugh- though I wouldn’t blame you as I would have myself 2 years ago. You might just want to skip this.)

On the tv, there was the 700 club, the evangelical program. The show was on the section where they share miracles of faith healing. I will admit what was in my heart as I heard the speaker telling people to feel Christ healing them- complete derision. I remember thinking something like ‘right, maybe you- speaking to God here- should just heal my depression.’ I know- blasphemy! I had no belief and in fact was just about mocking and daring God. Little did I expect what happened next- I did in fact feel something. I could feel, just as the speaker was saying, the hand of Christ on me. I felt the pain I had in my shoulder, from a pinched nerve that I had struggled with for 7 years, disappear. I almost couldn’t get up when the nurse called me in because of my shock.

Now I know, this might sound absurd even to some believers out there. I will hold that I have been logical and scientific my whole life. I felt that we shouldn’t believe in things that couldn’t be proved. But possibly, what I will say next will shock you more. When this event happened, and I felt that I had been called through my disbelief and actual mocking of God himself, I did consider myself spiritual. I just wasn’t Christian. In fact, since I was 14 I had been a neo-pagan, a wiccan. Yes, you read that right.

Many would say that I had felt something that wasn’t real, but I know different. I know that I wouldn’t had felt something that wasn’t real, because I was the last person who would have expected on even wanted to feel that. I was perfectly happy with my religion, and had no desires to change. Now, over the last 1 ½ years I have changed. I wasn't really happy then, I just thought I was. I began this new path with much doubt and anxiety. God did not leave me in my faithlessness; instead I can tell you He kept drawing me to Him with a steady and understanding hand. When I questioned, He let me; when I complained, He remained there. In these most recent months I have felt called to share my path, that it might help even one person. I have had my relationship with Mr. Shelley, our boys, and in fact my entire outlook on life changed. Surely, things are not perfect, but I am grateful for the many blessings we have, and hope to share whatever I can, in God’s name to help where I can.

And, if you were wondering about my original request, though it was made wrongly, it seems it has been answered anyway. I have not been hampered my lifelong depression, and am so thankful now to be truly happy in the grace of God. May this bless you, also, and know that God is really there- (apparently even when you don’t believe) and He does really love.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Simplifying Your Kitchen

With the holiday season fast approaching, I am looking forward to a reprisal of my season preparation series. To get in the mood, I thought I would talk a bit about simplifying the most used (and most-visited) room in our homes, the kitchen. In the upcoming months, I am sure that there will be many hours spent cooking, whether for small family dinners or large holiday dinners. Let’s spend some time getting ready…

• Don’t try to clean the whole room in one day. Clean two cabinets, or a shelf in your pantry each day. This way it only takes 15 or 20 minutes a day, for one week and you’ll have it organized without burning out!

• Do use labels. I always thought this was silly, but here’s what happens if you don’t label each shelf… You will go away for a few days, or come down with a cold. And then someone else who doesn’t know your system will put things away in the wrong area, you won’t be able to find things for weeks. Trust me.

• Don’t mix things up all over the place. Assign one cabinet or shelf for baking items, one for spices, one for your pickles or jams. Whatever works for you, but put things together logically.

• Do remember to think about how you use the items. Put the tools and ingredients you use all the time in easy reach. That turkey roaster or fondue pot can go on the top shelf, in the back. If you use your mixer all the time, put it where you can get to it (mine is even on the counter, those things are really heavy to lift out!)

I hope that these ideas can be of some service to you. I just went through my own kitchen this week, and am feeling better every time I open the cabinets. I am planning to put labels in the fridge too! (And yes, I do have a problem with OCD, and no, I’m not joking.) Please share any tips you have, I know I always love getting new ideas (especially since with my housekeeping disorganization I do need all the help I can get.)
And later this week, I will be sharing a post on my journey to my faith. This is a very personal story, which I have been going back and forth on posting about. I have really felt like if it is something that might help one person, it is worth it to talk about.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Submitting in Marriage (part 2)

So, the last time I talked about submitting, I figured I would get some people who weren’t really into it. I know that a year ago, if someone had talked to me about submitting (especially to my fiancĂ©) that I would have gasped in disdain.

Which is really a sad reflection, I think, on our society- isn’t it? We balk at the idea of submitting to our spouse, when we take no notice of all the other people (and their rules) we have to acknowledge and abide by. Who else should I rather submit to than the man who loves me in spite of my short temper, displeasure at housekeeping, perpetual lateness, and frequent cooking experiments with natural foods?

God loves me despite my many shortcomings. I am lucky that my fiancĂ©’s love comes close to this. I am not perfect by any means, and am certainly no easy task to bear living with. Looking back, I am amazed by the years I spent kicking and screaming, fighting the idea of submission.

Now, for those of you who I can hear groaning in the background, I have a message:

“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, submit to your husband as the Lord. … Husbands, love your wives…” Eph 5:21- 5:25

Many people do not note this verse, focusing on Colossians 3:18. Both verses clearly state that a wife is meant to submit to her husband, and a husband meant to love his wife.

But the verse in Ephesians has a prelude from the verse before it, ending with “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Eph 5:21) This relationship should be mutual, a giving in to put your spouse’s desires first.

“Love is patient, love is kind. … it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no records of wrongs.” 1Co 13:4- 13:5

Love does not desire it’s own selfish whims. Love doesn’t hold grudges. This is the ideal I will be striving for, and remembering to be willing to submit makes the difference.

Submission doesn’t mean laying down “like a doormat.” Submission is, instead, a conscious effort to stand up. Stand up, against common societal misconceptions. Stand up, against the mythologies of feminism. Stand up, with the Word and Truth, Stand up, with the message that the Lord has given to us. Submission in marriage is true liberation.


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