Wrapping Up Christmas

See what I did there?

This is the final installment of my posts about using FlyLady’s Christmas Control Journal to take charge of the holidays. Previous installments can be found here, here and here

 Christmas 2015 is over. Kaput. And even though I still don’t have all of my decorations put away, I’m sad to see it go. No wonder some people start decorating right after Halloween; the season just isn’t long enough.

Our Christmas was wonderful. Lots of food, lots of laughs and especially lots of love. My son just turned 2 in October so he really didn’t get a lot of what was going on. We did what we could: watched a lot of Christmas Mickey, ate a lot of cookies, and tried to get him interested in opening gifts.  He particularly enjoyed the cookie part but I’m not sure he really cared about the rest of it.

How did I hold up? Pretty well actually. My stress level stayed low and I think being organized with the help of my journal can take the credit for that. We hosted a very nice meal for my family on Saturday and I was even organized enough to take ingredients with me to make a dip for the family gathering at my in-laws later that week. We didn’t have any last minute gift grabs. I did drop the ball in two areas though: pets and dressing for travel.

I completely blanked on making sure our cats had enough kibble for while we were out of town. This resulted in my husband having to make a mad Christmas Eve dash to Kroger before we left town. Not a disaster by any means but it could have been avoided with better planning. Better make a pet column in my journal for next year!

The second misstep was not packing enough clothes for travel. I way overpacked for my son and under packed for myself somehow. The fact that it was unseasonably warm this Christmas didn’t help; the stuff I did pack for me was way too warm. My husband wore shorts for Christmas dinner, for crying out loud! Thankfully, my sister in law had an extra short sleeve Christmas shirt which saved the day. The Journal had a page for travel planning but I just didn’t put the thought into what I packed for me. Next year, I’ll do better.

Basically, I feel like keeping a journal was a tremendous help to me and it’s something I plan to continue. If you feel overwhelmed by the holidays, I’d highly recommend giving it a try for yourself.

 

 

 

 

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Weekly Check In: Heading Into the Ho Ho Homestretch

This is the latest in a series of posts about my efforts in using FlyLady’s Holiday Control Journal. You can read previous posts here and here.

By the time this posts, it will be one week from Christmas Day. And I feel like I have the heavy lifting of Christmas behind me. Gift buying is basically done. The work week is nearly over. Time to kick back and just ENJOY the holidays.

What a concept, eh?

This past Saturday, I met my two best girl friends for our annual Christmas lunch. We exchanged gifts-and I actually felt good about what I bought them for a change. I also had them purchased and bagged well in advance of our lunch. None of that last minute oh-my-gosh-I’ve-got-to-find-a-gift-by-tomorrow business. We had an amazing meal at a local place then walked around the downtown area and browsed in some boutiques. The weather was unseasonably warm-70s!-and it was just a great day to be out and about.

 On Monday, my husband and I delivered shoes to our local Chevy dealership who organizes a shoe drive each year for local kids. I also made the service department fudge. Both of these things were on my list, and I had marked the due date for shoe delivery on my calendar.  Score!

On Wednesday, it was sushi with another dear friend. I had completely dropped the ball on her Christmas gifts the past two years. One year was possibly excusable since I was home with a newborn but last year I had no excuse. This year she was on my Journal list of gifts to buy and I had a custom made ornament for her to celebrate her engagement. Score!

Thursday was our office cookie exchange. I made a list of possible treats in my Journal, narrowed those down based on time, effort and ingredients, and ended up going with a new cookie recipe that was totally out of the blue. I had considered also making Dreamsicle Fudge but decided two treats on a work night might be pushing it.

This weekend, I will host my side of the family for our Christmas dinner. This is something that we’ve done for several years because we travel to my husband’s family for the actual holiday. So, I guess the last Christmas challenge will be getting my house in order and getting a meal on the table. I’ve had the menu plan made out in my journal for a while now as well as the grocery list and I’ve already bought a few things. I’ll update on that in my next installment.

Hope your holidays are as smooth as fudge!

 

Weekly Check-In: Taking Control of Christmas

  Last week, I shared with y’all that I’m using the FlyLady’s Holiday Control Journal to take charge of Christmas. And I just know that you are all out there wondering, how’s that working for you?

The answer is: pretty good!

First, let’s talk gifts. The journal provides two spreadsheets for tracking gifts that you plan to purchase (there’s additional log sheets for gifts that you make). Each sheet has columns to list the name of the person you are buying for, what to buy them, how much to spend, where to buy it, plus shipping arrangements, wrapping status, and a check off column for when everything is done and the receipt is in your receipt envelope. I set up one sheet for family and one for friends/co-workers.

Now, it’s well known that I’m a lover of lists. When I make a list, I follow through whether it’s a shopping list, to-do list, a playlist…I follow the list. So, having all of my gifts to buy written down has motivated me to get busy with shopping. Right now, I’d say that I’m about 90% finished. Nothing is wrapped but for the most part, the majority of the gifts that I needed to buy are in my home or in route to my home.

Next up, decorating. The FlyLady apparently is a decorating whiz. There’s a sheet of the journal dedicated to decorations. She gives you prompts for each room or area of your house such as the entryway or main bath. Even though I don’t decorate as extensively as her, it was a helpful guide to figuring out what to put where. She provides lots of blank spaces so that you can customize the journal so I pencil in things that I’ve put out as decoration. I think this will be helpful at the end of the season when I have to put everything up because it never fails that as soon as the attic door is shut, I find a stray snowman somewhere. This time I will use my journal list to make sure that I have everything captured.

And finally, food. I haven’t really used this part yet but I will in the upcoming week as I plan for an office cookie exchange and a meal with my family. She provides templates for grocery lists, menu planning and a place to copy your recipes if you wish. I’ll report more on that later.

An added touch for my journal was a coupon envelope. We receive a lot of store coupons in the mail during this time of year so I cut those out and put them in an envelope inside my journal. So far, this has saved me about $30.

Hope your holiday season has started off merry and bright!

Taking Control of Christmas

 It’s the first day of December and the countdown to Christmas is ON! As much as many of us love the holiday season, it can be a little stressful. Gifts to buy, presents to wrap, decorations to put up, covered dishes to bake…the list goes on and on. Over the years, I’ve seen several cute “how to” guides for putting together Christmas planners or journals. But who has time for that? I still haven’t finished the yarn wreath that I started last year!

A few weeks ago, I stumbled upon The FlyLady’s Holiday Control Journal. If you aren’t familiar with Fly Lady, she’s an online helpmate of sorts to assist you with cleaning and maintaining your home. I’ve followed her off and on for years. One of her guiding principles is to do everything in 15 minute increments. Her arguement is that you can do ANYTHING for 15 minutes per day. All of her holiday help can be found here; just click on the Control Journal link for the free PDF of the journal.

I decided to give her Holiday Journal a try. I bought a 49 cent folder to put my journal in along with an envelope for receipts, an envelope of store coupons (excluding grocery), and a photocopy of the month of December from my planner.

Will it help me actually take control of Christmas? Stay tuned gentle readers…I’ll be updating you weekly!

Nilla Wafer “Cake Bites”

Last year, this recipe popped up as a sponsored post on Facebook. I decided to give it a try for my family’s Christmas dinner. To me, these were just okay but my husband LOVED them. In fact, he liked them so much that he asked me to make a double batch  for us to take to his family’s house for our Christmas visit. I did as he requested thinking that I’d take them to our get together with the extended family on Christmas Eve. Well as it turns out, my father-in-law liked them as much as my husband and they wouldn’t let me take them to the party! So while these might not be my favorite, they definitely are going to be repeated again. You could really decorate them anyway you choose and serve them for any occasion.

Let me apologize for the poor photographs. The lighting in December is not great and I’m not yet up to speed on my new flash.

Nilla Wafer Cake Bites

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36 Nilla Wafers

2 Tbsp. orange juice

1/4 cup raspberry jam

8 oz. white candy coating wafers (about 1-1/2 cups)

1 Tbsp. oil

Assorted decorations:  colored sprinkles, M&Ms, colored sugar, decorating icings, etc.

Brush flat sides of 24 NILLA Wafers with juice, then spread with jam. Place remaining wafers, rounded sides up, on waxed paper-covered baking sheet; top each with 2 jam-topped wafers, jam sides down. Refrigerate 6 hours or until firm enough to handle. Melt  candy wafers as directed on package; stir in oil until blended. Dip NILLA stacks, 1 at a time, in melted candy wafers, turning to evenly coat stack and reheating candy wafer mixture if needed. Return to baking sheet. Immediately drizzle with decorating icings or melted candy wafers, sprinkle with crushed candies or sugar and/or add decorations to resemble photo.

REFRIGERATE  30 min. or until candy coating is firm. Keep refrigerated.

I’m not too proud to admit that I used Candy Quik coating rather than wafers and oil. Easy to melt and you can toss the microwavable tray later!

 

Peanut Butter Fudge

Here in Kentucky, we really don’t need a holiday in order to appreciate some good fudge. There are two-count ’em two-fudge shops open year around in the town where I live. However, most people I know do wait until Christmas time to start making fudge.

This is my mother-in-law’s recipe. She makes different types of fudge each year and I always wipe out the peanut butter fudge. I had never tried making it and I’m not sure why because this recipe is super easy.

I had a minor setback when I could not find my 8×8 square pan. Since the peanut butter fudge train had already left the station, I used a round 9 inch cake pan. No harm done.

Peanut Butter Fudge

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You’ll need:

2 sticks of butter

1 cup of peanut butter ( I prefer Creamy Jif)

4 cups of confectioners sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

First, line an 8×8 or 9×9 baking pan with aluminum foil leaving a bit of foil hanging over to help lift the fudge out. You’ll thank me later.

Next, sift your confectioners sugar into a medium sized bowl. You don’t have to have a sifter; just use a metal strainer like I do. This will get the lumps out of your sugar and make stirring much smoother.

Then, melt your butter and peanut butter over medium heat in a sauce pan. I like to give the butter about a one minute head start before adding the peanut butter. (Of course, you can do this in the microwave if you prefer). Once the butter starts to melt, reduce the heat so that it doesn’t scorch.

Add your nice smooth butter-peanut butter mixture to the sugar. Now is the time to add your vanilla as well.

Stir it all up until combined. It will start to look and smell like fudge. Press it down evenly into your prepared pan. It may have a slightly glossy or greasy look. That is ok.

Refrigerate for 4 hours until the fuge is set. Lift it out of the pan using your foil over hang and cut into squares. Store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator.