Wednesday, February 19, 2020

A few thoughtful gifts from my Christmas season

I know I didn't mention all of these things here previously, so here goes with a simple post sharing a few thoughtful gifts I received over Christmas 2019.  That tin (which is much smaller than it appears here) at the top of the post contains a generous Hobby Lobby gift card.  Still haven't gotten to Hobby Lobby to spend it, but I know a couple of things I want to get.

 This Christmas teacup is so pretty!  A thoughtful gift from my friend Rhonda.  I later learned that she gave a Christmas teacup to each lady at church.  She included a package of pizzelles with each one.  I think (but am not sure) that all of the teacups were different.  I have some Christmas mugs, but this is my first Christmas teacup. It sort of matches these sweet ornaments:
These were a gift from my friend Linda in Utah, some years ago.
The pretty tray above was a gift from my daughter Carrie.  She asked for gift ideas and I was ready with this one!
 The "jadeite" look sugar and creamer are by Pioneer Woman and were also a gift from Carrie.  She also gave me a tip about the gorgeous melamine plates in Walmart this season, so I guess in a sense that middle plate is also a gift from her.
And this handcrafted owl was a gift from our friends Sam and Jennifer.  At a loss for affordable gifts, they turned to the internet for ideas and found this one!  Although our tree is down now, this sweet snowy owl is at home on an evergreen garland that tops our picture window year round.

Hope you've enjoyed seeing these thoughtful gifts ... maybe you even found an idea or two to use next year!

Sunday, February 02, 2020

After-Christmas debriefing

Every year after Christmas, I try to note down my thoughts about that year's season using the  Organized Christmas  After-Christmas debriefing form to help me evaluate how things went, what worked, what didn't, and what we might do differently in the coming year. This has been very helpful to me.  Wouldn't it be fun to snuggle into the cushion-filled rocker above and jot down your thoughts while sitting by a cozy fireplace and watching the snow fall outside?  I sure think so!

Here are my thoughts concerning Christmas 2019:

1.  What worked this holiday season?  What changes did you make to create simpler, less stressful holidays?

Again this year, there were a number of decorative items that I didn't even get out of the attic.  Another way I simplified Christmas decorating was to keep a box of things that I knew I wanted to use for decor this year, including the tree skirt, and to have it accessible through the year.  Those things were easy to find when the time came.  

I also decorated in stages, making sure things looked festive for a cookie swap early in the month.  We managed to get the tree up by then, with only lights, but it still looked nice.  Later, we added ornaments to the tree and other decor here and there.

Again this year, we shipped to Nevada using Click'n'Ship and carrier pickup.  This has worked so well in the past, but this year we did hit a glitch when for two days in a row the carrier did not pick up our packages.  We ended up taking them to the post office ourselves anyway.  We also had Amazon gifts shipped directly to Nevada where our daughter wrapped and tagged them.

2.  What was the worst aspect of preparing for the holidays this year?  How can you avoid the problem in the future?

Not planning carefully enough for several grandchildren's gifts.  I need to do a lot better planning next year.  I'm thinking we will also need to cut back on our spending due to Mr. T's retirement and being on more of a fixed income.  I'd like to make more of our gifts and probably do more kitchen gifts.

3.  Were you satisfied with your level of giving and/or spiritual observances?  How could next year's holiday better reflect your family's values?

As mentioned, I think we'll need to be more economical with our gifts in future, but I was very pleased with the gifts that we gave.

From a spiritual standpoint, all was good.  The cookie swap, though not hugely attended, was a lovely, low-key way for ladies to have a festive yet relaxed time together.  I asked each lady to bring a "sweet thought" in addition to her cookies -- a memory, Scripture verse, testimony, whatever.  To my surprise, all were of a spiritual nature.

We also had another church bless us with a Christmas musical performed by their children.  This added tremendously to our season.  All of our Christmas events at church ended up being scheduled earlier in the month than usual, and this turned out to be a great blessing.

4.  How well did your household function this year?  Were you calm and cozy, or stressed and strung out?  What improvements could be made next year?

In general, I felt calm and cozy.  I did have a few stressful moments when I realized I did not have enough time to start several planned gifts, never mind complete them and send them to Nevada.  But once I faced that, I could shift gears easily.

I will have to do a LOT more planning, a lot earlier, this year, as the Nevada family plans to come here for Christmas 2020.    (At least no shipping of gifts will be required!)  But I will need to figure out gifts, baking, meals and housing, etc.  Not to mention plane tickets.  Gulp!

5.  Honesty time!  How did your holidays go?  Did you experience the expectancy, the magic, the sparkle of the season?  If not, what changes could you make to recapture the joy?

In general, we had a joyous season.  We enjoyed some lovely events and family times.  I tried several new recipes, gave a few handmade gifts, enjoyed a traditional outing with four local grands.  We got to have a lovely festive meal and gifts with them and their parents on Christmas Day, and the same with our dear young friends Sam and Jenn and their boys the day after Christmas.  My hubby and I didn't have quite the time with one another that we'd hoped for, as his retirement got pushed off by a month.  I posted in my Christmas blog daily and in my regular blog 19 times -- a gift to me as well as my readers.  We managed to get out for a walk most days, too -- great stress relief and mental health booster!

So there you have it -- all in all, a blessed Christmas season!

Saturday, January 25, 2020

January's Rudolph Day

I have a busy day ahead (preparing for a number of lunch guests at our home tomorrow) so am not sure just how much I will be able to do regarding Rudolph Day.  I thought at the very least I could write a blog post regarding the to-do list I made during Tuesday evening's Christmas Club meeting.  Recall, Susan had given each of us a sheet of notebook paper she's been hoarding for some time, and gave us an assignment to quickly, right then, make a to-do list of what we have to do toward Christmas 2020.  So here's what I wrote:


Order Christmas stamps to use in 2020

Make tentative gift idea list for Christmas 2020

Go through cookbooks/December magazines and identify new recipes to try for Christmas 2020's kitchen gifts

Finish putting away the after-Christmas bargains

Make gift tags from 2018's Christmas cards

Update my Christmas card address list

That looks simple enough.

However, that "update Christmas card address list"?  I've got to admit that other than the address list for my card swap friends on the craft forum,  I've never really had a Christmas card address list.  Shocking, I know.  I have my work cut out for me on that one.  Even more shocking, after all these years without such a list, I finally think it's a good idea!

Thursday, January 23, 2020

January's Christmas Club meeting

So Tuesday night was our first Christmas Club meeting for 2020 at the local library.  (My lighted library above looks a lot like it, in my mind.)  Our Christmas club is informal and sporadic, but we have fun and it is truly helpful to those who attend. 

Susan, our intrepid leader, gave each of us a sheet of very special notebook paper to use for our to-do lists.  She then instructed us to write down the things that we knew we needed to do soon.  Would you believe I had to borrow a pen?  Thankfully, the library has plenty of them!

The thought is that for February and March, we will each do Christmasy things on our own, but in April we will plan to get together for a meeting.   In the meantime, we are to accomplish the things we wrote down on our to-do lists.

We took turns telling about how our Christmases had gone.  We were all so happy to hear that Christmas 2019 was much more joy-filled and happy for Rachel than 2018 had been, and a good bit of that had to do with planning more carefully and not expecting a Hallmark Christmas.  😉

On Monday, I had taken time to go through my annual Christmas debriefing based on this form:
and so I could easily tell how things had gone at our house.  And when Susan asked what didn't work so well, I could share that also.  I plan to post about the debriefing soon, so I won't go into detail now.

We spent the rest of the time preparing and displaying donated Christmas decor items for a Christmas decoration swap at the library.  A good and productive meeting!

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

And now, the actual 2019 candy and kitchen gifts lists

Once again, it's time for a reality check as to what I actually made for candy and kitchen gifts.  Here goes!

First, the candy list.  Below you see my actual list.

We only made about half of what I had listed.  Mr. T made several batches of Heavenly Delight, and I made a batch of Arlene's Easy Fudge and one of Special Holiday Fudge.  The other items didn't get made.  I bought the orange candy slices but ended up not using them.  We had some of the chocolate-dipped orange slices in the freezer from last year, and they were still delicious, so didn't need to make more.

Now, for the kitchen gifts list.

Again, this got tweaked in a major way.  I ran out of time to do the Christmas Jam, and I chose to make Chex Mix rather than Cinnamon Pretzels.  I ended up not doing the Hot Chocolate Mix until after Christmas.

I tried a different recipe for the Chex mix, thinking it might be more like the kind my great-aunt used to make for us.  I was underwhelmed with the result.  Next year I want to try a recipe that is spicy and incorporates beef jerky.  Think it might be a real hit with the people I give snack mixes to.  We will see.

It's great to plan, but I always like to also make good note of what worked and what didn't.  It really helps with planning for the next Christmas.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

The actual 2019 Christmas baking list

Believe it or not, there is actually still a bit of cookie baking going on in the Christmas kitchen!  The
  Chocolate Mint Crisps on the plate above are some that Mr. T still plans to bake one more batch of.  He keeps inventorying what's in the freezer and saying, "We're getting low on _______ (fill in the blank)."

As I usually do, I'm noting down what the actual Christmas baking list turned out to be.  Remember I had this tentative list:

Well, here is what we actually did (links and photos are on the post with the tentative list):

Lemon Shortbread Thumbprints (2 batches)
Chocolate Spritz (4 batches)
Sacher Tortes (2 batches)
Eggnog Logs (3 batches)
Whipped Shortbread (3 batches)
Chocolate Mint Crisps (2 batches and counting)
Christmas No-Bakes (2 batches)
Secret Spice Cookies (2 batches)
Blond Brownies (1 batch, to help fill out cookie trays early in the season)
Lemon Sugar Cookie Bars (same)

And I think that was it.  As you can see, we didn't make almond raspberry thumbprints, multicolored spritz, or gingerbread men.  And we did make a couple of quick bar cookies (the last ones on my actual list) to help fill out cookie trays we took to events early in the season.

Christmas cookies are so much fun to bake (and eat)!  My hubby is living proof of that, as he can't seem to stop!

Friday, January 17, 2020

Questions to ask for Christmas crafting in 2020

Back in 2016, Rose -- one of the participants at a Christmas craft forum I love -- posted a list of questions to consider for our Christmas crafting in the new year.  I decided it would be a good idea for me to answer those questions for myself again this year.

There were seven questions on Rose's list, so here goes:

1.  Let's decide if we want to finish any projects started for last Christmas and not completed.  Will we : 
a)finish them right away and put them in our gift closet;
b) put them away for a bit; or
c) get rid of them altogether?

 I have 3 large, long-standing UFOs (unfinished objects) -- a crocheted throw, a crocheted scrap afghan, and a felt campfire with s'mores.  I thought I had completed a fabric alphabet letters project, but recently found some precut fabric and batting squares (to make 22 more letters)  so that is a UFO again as well.

I also have two completed stitchery projects that just need to be finished off in some way -- framed, made into wall hangings or pillows, or whatever. 


None of these are projects started for Christmas 2019 and not completed.  They are just long-standing UFOs.  The felt campfire was intended to be a Christmas gift in 2015, and the throw was intended to be a birthday gift eons ago.

I don't want to get rid of any of these altogether.  I'm thinking I'll finish off the alphabet letters and give them to a friend for her baby.  I'd like to finish the crocheted throw in time for the recipient's April birthday.  As soon as I can finish the felt items, I'll send them off to Nevada.  The kids are still young enough to really enjoy them ... probably far more than if I had sent them in 2015!

The scrap afghan is for me so I don't mind that remaining a UFO for awhile, but I'd like to make some more motifs for it maybe this winter.  The three different styles of motifs are below.

2.  Decide if we want to go through any boxes/containers holding craft supplies; decide if we want to get rid of any of these supplies.

I'd love to sort out/give away craft supplies, but probably not just yet.  I have a house to clean out (not mine) first.  I do have far too many supplies in far too many areas of the house.  I have in the past gone through my cross stitch patterns and supplies, and got rid of many things, but I have so much more in other craft categories that I will never use again.  I know that storage wouldn't be such a problem if I had fewer supplies to store.

3. Write down any ideas people have given you for the coming year, crafted items or other ideas.

I've done some of this but have more to add.  I need to do my Christmas 2019 debriefing and start lists for 2020's birthdays and Christmas.  Kinda slow doing that this year, not sure why.

4.  Does your crafting area need a little tidying -- or a lot?

It needs a lot of tidying.  See question #2.  It is an absolute disaster, actually.

5.  Think about what went right or wrong in making crafts for gifts -- is there anything you would change for this crafting year?  

My biggest problems were starting too late and underestimating how long certain projects would take.  I so love making handmade gifts, but I need to stick to smaller projects in the future.  No more campfires after I complete this one.  The one that isn't finished is the second of two.

 6.  Set a date for when you want to have all Christmas crafting completed.

My hubby set this date for me years ago -- December 1.  In 2018 he relaxed the date when he saw how much it meant to me to accomplish some simple crafted gifts.  And that year they were quick, easy items.  In 2019 I had grandiose ideas and no real deadline.  I bought materials for super capes, but they didn't even get started.  Pretty sure I'm going back to a December 1 deadline for 2020.

7.  Start making notes of what you would like to make craftwise this year.

I've jotted down a few ideas in my Christmas notebook.  With my hubby's retirement, we'll  need to scale back our spending a bit, so I think more homemade gifts, especially kitchen gifts, may be in order.

Hope these questions are helpful to others like me who love to craft for Christmas!