Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Debriefing for Christmas 2018

So I promised to share my thoughts from the post-Christmas debriefing I completed on Rudolph Day.  I use a form (which I've had for awhile) from Organized Christmas.  Before I share, though, take a look at the Christmas room above.  Isn't it lovely?  I especially love the coffee pot and cups on the little round table.  And the tree is so pretty also, not to mention that absolutely gorgeous fireplace!

I always like to look back on the Christmas just past and see how well everything worked, or where improvement is needed.  As mentioned, I use the five simple questions from a form available at Organized Christmas.  It looks like this:

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

There were a lot of decorations that I did not take time to put up.  I didn't get any of our own ornaments out of the attic, but used vintage ones found in clearing out my childhood home.  It was actually enjoyable to use those old ornaments; it made for a very pretty tree and it kept things much simpler.

I also worked to get all of our Nevada packages sent out relatively early in the month, and did them all using Click'n'Ship and carrier pickup.  That in itself reduces so much stress!

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

* I committed myself to an activity that, in retrospect, I should not have done.  I ended up getting way too stressed over something I should not have taken on.  Next year I won't get involved.

* I didn't plan carefully enough with gifts for several of the local grands, and ended up doing some very last-minute shopping.  It all worked out well, but obviously I must plan much better next year.

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

I was quite satisfied with our family's level of giving, and satisfied too with the spiritual aspect of our Christmas celebrating.  There are certain activities I'm  not sure about for next year, though.

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 pretty calm and cozy.  I did get just a bit stressed when I saw that I wasn't going to make the December 1 deadline for handmade gifts, but when my sweet husband saw how much it meant to me to craft a few simple gifts, he relaxed the customary deadline and told me to take all the time I needed.  I finished these mid-month, by the way.  The problem was that I hadn't even begun to plan these gifts until November.  So obviously, improvements would include starting to plan for any handmade gifts much earlier.
A scarf for grandson Nathan

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

In general, we had a wonderful season!  I took great joy in making a few gifts.  I tried several new recipes and enjoyed every moment.  I loved decorating the tree, even though I did it mostly by myself, with vintage memories from my childhood.  I posted in both of my blogs every day in December -- partly as a gift to my readers, but as a gift to myself as well.  I managed to get out and walk many days in November and December, which I'm sure lifted my spirits and lowered my stress level a great deal.  I even sewed a new tree skirt out of some wonderful fabric our daughter had gifted me with!

So ... there you have it:  my debriefing for Christmas 2018.  Have you done an exercise like this?  It can only help with planning for next year! 

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

With my Christmas notebook on Rudolph Day

Yes, I actually did something Christmas-related on January's Rudolph Day!  Well, not on the actual day which would have been Friday -- that was way too busy of a day.  I did this work on Thursday.

But before I talk about that -- isn't this the niftiest vintage scene featuring an old coal stove?  I found it in some old Christmas cards I am going through to list and sell on Etsy.  This pretty scene just caught my eye.

The sheer curtains, the sleeping kitten, the sprigs of holly decorating the finial atop the stove, the candles and ornament in the window, the braided rug and wooden bucket filled with berries -- oh, I just love it all!  Even those little oval silhouettes on the wall remind me of my grandmother's front room.

Anyway, for Rudolph Day I was able to spend some good quality time with my Christmas notebook.  The first thing I did is a given for me after Christmas: I took a fresh sheet of Christmas-themed computer paper and listed down everything that we gave for Christmas gifts.  Of course, I had already made a list,  on plain notebook paper, but some things changed with the actual gift-giving:   I couldn't locate a source for a particular gift, I changed my mind, etc. etc.  I had started this list the previous  January, and inevitably in the intervening months, my list had been scribbled on, crossed out, and so on.  So that there will be no confusion next year and I don't give someone a duplicate book, game or whatever, I make a nice, neat list.  It gets filed in the back of my notebook in a section titled Christmas past.

Then I take a fresh piece of lined notebook paper and start a new list for the coming Christmas.  Some things are going to stay the same, pretty much.  We always give my husband's boss and his family a big gift basket full of treats, for example.  We usually give my mother-in-law a jar of homemade hot cocoa mix, some homemade bran muffins, and a bag of clementines. Other gifts, like a science center membership for one family, a gift card for another, etc. will be the same again next year, so I've made sure to write those down.   I have already purchased a couple of items for next Christmas, so I've written those down as well.

I also took a fresh sheet of notebook paper and started listing ideas for 2019 birthdays.  I just jot down each person's birthday and their name, and I do this in order of where the months fall in the year.  We don't have any birthdays (other than my own) until March, so I start there.  I already have a few birthday ideas, having seen how certain Christmas gifts were received. 

Elsewhere in the notebook, I also like to note any new recipes we tried and how we liked them.  And I make a note of any new decorations we added, where we put them, and where I will be storing them. So I've done that.

Then later on in the day, I sat down with my Christmas debriefing form from Organized Christmas.  I like to use this each year to evaluate how the holiday season went and what needs to change in the coming year.   I don't always find the time for this exercise, but this year I did, and the results will be a blog post for another day!

How was your Rudolph Day?  Did you observe it in any way?

Friday, January 11, 2019

The actual 2018 baking list

 Back again to give an update as to what baking and kitchen-gift-making actually got done for Christmas 2018.    Mr. T made several batches of cookies, as he always enjoys helping out!

🎄 A double batch of Whipped Shortbread Cookies (pictured at top of post)

🎄 A double batch of Chocolate Mint Crisps

🎄 A double batch of Sacher Torte Cookies

🎄  A double batch of Secret Spice Cookies

🎄  A double batch of Eggnog Log Cookies

🎄 A double batch of Chocolate Spritz

and then single batches of

🎄 Almond Shortbread Thumbprints -- some with apricot and some with raspberry

🎄  Lemon Shortbread Thumbprint Cookies

🎄 No-Bake Cookies

For candy, I made:

🎄 Arlene’s Easy Fudge (I used peanut butter chips instead of the butterscotch along with the chocolate -- and wow!)

🎄  Heavenly Delight

🎄  Special Holiday Fudge

🎄  Chocolate-Dipped Orange Slices

And for other kitchen gifts:

🎄 Christmas Granola

🎄  Cinnamon Pretzels

That is pretty much it.  I didn't do all the baking or make all of the kitchen gifts that I had planned, but I was very pleased with what did get done.  Baking in my Christmas kitchen is such a delight for me!

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Next year's Christmas stamps -- check!

Yes, you read that right -- I have that item all checked off!

December is over, and I'm popping back into the Christmas kitchen this week.  I have lots to share, but for today I just want to share something I've done for the second year now: ordered my Christmas stamps online for the coming holiday.

Last year, I ordered the Christmas Carols stamps and so that's what I used for 2018's cards.  There are only a few of them left now.
 As cards arrived from others, though, I kept seeing these bird stamps that I liked even more.  I decided that I would order some for Christmas 2019.

So I did.  Just a short time ago I ordered 3 sets of the Birds in Winter stamps and one set of the Global Mail Poinsettia stamps, which I like even better than the Succulents I bought for international mail last year.
Aren't they pretty?
The stamps arrived today.  What a relief to know that my Christmas stamps are all bought and paid for and that I have designs I truly like rather than settling for what the post office has available in December. 

If you've never tried doing this, I highly recommend it.  Just go to and take a look at what's available.  I'm so happy to have this task off my list already!