Thursday, December 19, 2013

Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo

I was lounging on the couch enjoying the lights on the tree when I looked at my watch and realized it was 5:15.  Hmmm...someone should really start thinking about getting dinner together.  I pinned this recipe for tonight's dinner and headed into the kitchen to get started.  Ya'll.  I had no idea it was going to be so insanely delish.  Like, I'm talking after one taste test I had to get the tablecloth and candles out.

Good as in restaurant quality good.  As I poured a pint of heavy whipping cream into the pan and my heart started skipping a joyful beat I had a hunch we were heading in the right direction, but still, little did I know.

I thought I had a great fettuccine recipe until I met this one.  Paired with a loaf of French bread and a salad, we had a dinner fit for a king.

Oh, it keeps getting better.  The entire dish is made in one pan.  Have you ever???? And, you can easily have this meal on the table in under 45 minutes.

I used chicken like her recipe said, but honestly, it would have been every bit as good without the chicken.  And when I cook with chicken I follow the example of Jesus.  I'm like, Lord, multiply these three breasts to feed the multitudes, hallelujah amen.  Now I'm just feeling awkward because I used the word breasts in a pasta post but I didn't know how else to tell you it wasn't tenderloins that I used.  Geesh. 

There is something else you need to know.  This is SUPER important.  You can't gloss over it or forget what I am about to tell you because it will make all the different in the world on whether your batch of Alfredo turns out to be award winning.  Are you ready?  There are 2 things you need to know.

  1. Use fresh Parmesan.  I used a 5oz block.  It comes in the shape of a triangle.  Use the entire block.  Don't go Kraft green can.  Promise me.  I'm serious.
  2. Use fresh garlic.  So help me, if you use powder and then come back crying to me that your dish was a flop, I can't help you.  When you press your own fresh garlic into the dish, it releases all the flavorful oils into your dish.  That is when people start thinking you are the next Food Network Star.

Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo
3 boneless skinless chicken breasts, diced into cubes
3 T olive oil
2 cloves fresh minced garlic
2 14oz cans chicken broth
16 oz heavy whipping cream (one pint)
12 oz bag uncooked penne pasta
5 oz block fresh Parmesan
salt, pepper, parsley

Saute' the diced chicken over med-hi heat, turn heat to low and add garlic.  Saute' a minute.  Add chicken broth, uncooked pasta and cream.  Cover pan, bring to boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 15-20 minutes.  Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and stir to melt (I just used a knife and thinly shredded the cheese directly over the pan).  Add salt, pepper and parsley to taste.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Wish List & Favorite Things

1) Look who has a new book out! 10 Gifts of Wisdom by Sally Clarkson.  This just moved to the #1 spot on my Wish List.  I love everything by Sally Clarkson.  She is my biggest mentor on raising kiddos.  I'm grateful for her writing and cannot wait to get my hands on this book. 

2) Grace Based Parenting by Tim Kimmel.  This one really caught my eye, it looks fabulous.  Grace seems to be the theme of where I am right now and I'd love to read this one.  I'd get the real paper version to take notes.  Are you a Kindle person?  I just can't do it.  I like the real deal!

(Lots of books on the list so far, what can I say?  My days are filled with interacting with little people and I take all the cheerleading and encouragement I can get!  Plus, I'm just passionate about this being a mom gig.  I love it!)

3) Archipelago Botanicals No. 12 soy milk lotion.  If I had to pick only one word to describe this lotion it would be luxury.  This is the best hand cream and body lotion I've ever used.  It smells a-ha-ha-maaaazing.  Perfect for lotioning your legs when you get out of the shower and perfect for keeping on the bathroom counter for your hands.  This is my special occasion lotion.  It is a big treat to wear this stuff!

4) Trapp Orange Vanilla Candle.  This candle is one that I have burned for years and years.  It is a special occasion candle and my all time favorite scent in the whole entire world.  If money were no option, this would be my signature home fragrance scent.  My entire home would smell like this every single day of the year.  But since someone named Dave Ramsey is a part of our family, my everyday candles come from Bath & Body Works and Wal-Mart. 

Orange Vanilla is a January smell for me.  When the tree is put up and the house looks sparse and white and the trees outside are bare, this candle lights up the house with joy and goodness.

Other favorite things...

5) Christmas Cottage by Scentsy.  This is another all time favorite scent.  You know that homemade potpourri recipe you have pinned on your Christmas board?  The one where you add cloves, sliced oranges, and cinnamon sticks to water and simmer on the stove?  This is that scent without all the hassle.  I keep this fragrance stocked up!

6) Earth Angels Pajamas.  I got this plaid pair for my birthday and it is hard to get out of them every day.  They are the warmest, softest, most wonderful things I've ever owned.  The collar has a sweet satin ivory trim that makes them so pretty.

7) Chaps Suede Slippers.  My mom said I needed a pair of house shoes and got me these from Kohl's and I'm a believer!  I wear these with socks and they are toasty.  Great gift idea!

8) Pearls.  My set came from Belk.  They are chunky and wonderful.  The studs are my favorite-they are massive and I wear them nearly every single day, even with sweatshirts.

9) Katie Daisy Prints.  I ordered this one for our home as a celebration of coming home full time.  It is my little reminder that I was obedient to what God asked of me and now I'm living in the blessing of the joy that comes in walking in the path God has for me.  This is even more gorgeous in person.  She is definitely one of my very favorite artists!

10) Pure Grace Lotion.  This lotion is so clean and fresh.  It layers well under your perfume and is great by itself.  This is the lotion you'll put on and folks don't ask what you're wearing.  They just say you smell good.  Unless it is your 8 year old son.  He'll say you smell like suntan lotion but what does he know, he'd walk around in camo boxers all day every day if you'd let him.

It was fun putting this list together. I guess it's pretty obvious I'm a girly girl from the South who loves pretties and smell goods. 

Monday, December 16, 2013

Cute Schoolroom Dry Erase Board

The biggest need I've had for our school room which is also our eat in kitchen area is a cute dry erase board or chalkboard.  I wasn't about to put a stark white dry erase board in the kitchen and I don't really like the way chalk feels-but chalk boards are super, super cute.  My idea was to find a huge picture, line it with burlap, and voila!  Did you know you can use dry erase marker to write directly on glass?

I did not want to pay more than $25 for this project and I wanted a big, chunky frame.  Yesterday I scored big time.  This frame retailed for $150.  It was marked down several times and I got it for $10 at a Flea Market.

It has a double matte inside which I loved.  It was easy to loosen the back and remove the waiter picture.  When you are shopping for a frame, just make sure to look at the back to make sure it is going to come off easily.  This picture was secured with staple things that just needed to be lifted up.  I bought one yard of cream colored burlap (Have you seen the cream burlap?  Shabby Chic heaven is all I'm sayin')  One yard of burlap cost $6.

It was incredibly hard to photograph this with my phone :) but you get the idea...

How cool is that???  This entire project cost me $16 and I love how cute and functional it turned out to be.  And when company comes?  You better believe the Menu will be posted.

Saturday, December 14, 2013


This song ties for first place in my vote for best Christmas song. 

This morning, I'm trying to think through my day.  Two Saturdays left before Christmas and I'm torn on how to spend my time.  The morning is getting late and I feel pulled in different directions.  Wrap up shopping, wrap gifts, or stay home and clean the dirty house.  Although I'm not sure which direction this day will take, I did stop and spend time with God.  I hope these words bless you as much as they did me.  After reading them, I'm not as worried over what does and doesn't get done...

The book, The Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp, has been the highlight of my days.  I always picture her life being picture perfect.  Living in the Canadian quiet, half a dozen well-behaved Jesus lovin' kids who prefer fresh vegetables over French fries and who prefer memorizing catechism over video games.  A deeply godly woman whose faith never wavers and who always chooses the right way the first time, it is how I think of her most of the time.

A few lines into December 14 let you know that she has known the dark of night.  People don't have her wisdom unless they've lived it.

Light To Warm Us
Light the Advent candles.  Light them, light them.
Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark.  In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.  No hint of help.  No rumor of relief.  No sign of saving.  For us waiting through the night, waiting through the dark.
And then...there it comes to the waiting, to the leaning, to the cold-a dawn!  Light! Light!

Christmas can only be found.
Christmas cannot be bought.  Christmas cannot be created.  Christmas cannot be made by hand, lit up, set out, dreamed up.  Christmas can only be found.
Our God who breathes stars in the dark-He breathes Bethlehem's Star, then takes on lungs and breathes in stable air.  We are saved from hopelessness because God came with infant fists and opened wide His hand to take the iron-sharp edge of our sins.
Our God who cradles whole inking galaxies in the palm of His hand...
The Light never comes how you expect it.  It comes as the unlikely and unexpected...It doesn't matter how dark the dark is; a light can still dawn.
God favors the darkest places so you can see His light the brightest.  And once the light of Christ shatters your dark, shadows forever flee your shadowlands.  You live in impenetrable, safe Light of light, and Christmas never ends for you.
So light the Advent candles.  Light them, light them.
Hope catching on everything.

"The people who walk in darkness will see a great light." Isaiah 9:2

Friday, December 13, 2013

Christmas Dinner

This week we helped host our 7th Annual Youth & Family Christmas Dinner.  It is an evening where the youth and their families come to sit and enjoy a 3 course candle-lit dinner and a time of worship with the youth worship band.

The Menu
Fresh Spring Mix Salad
Smoked Turkey
Pineapple & Sugar Glazed Ham
Twice Baked Potatoes
Bacon Green Beans
Dinner Rolls
Pumpkin Pie
Chocolate Brownies
Apple Crumble
Hot Cocoa

We have such a ball working and putting this dinner on every year.  Granted, we can barely move the next day because we're so tired from three days of preparing for a 250 person dinner party, but it is tons of fun!  Some things just signal that Christmas is near.  It starts with filling Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes.  Then, this dinner.  Next,  a couple fun filled days of shopping for family and friends.  The wrapping part of gift giving is the part that causes me great angst each year.  My mom and sister wrap gifts that would make Martha Stewart cry with pride.  Then I roll up with my gangsta gifts bags and pitifully wrapped Scotch tape jobs.  I'm trying though, I really am.

I am behind this year in my shopping.  We had ice last weekend and today I tried again but it started sleeting on me and I got tired and had to call it quits.  We are, however, sticking with our Advent book, Jotham's Journey.  Our evenings have been Christ centered and sweet.

And last but not least, my favorite song of the season this year!  Hugs, Bugs

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Boys Bedroom

Thank ya'll for your input on Facebook, emails and comments!  I've posted some pictures from all of your ideas of the type of look it would create.  One thing all these pictures have in common is how cozy the rooms feel.

After measuring my space, I do not think I have room to do a set of full over full bunks on the right wall AND a full size bed on the left wall.  It would only leave about 23 inches of floor space between beds and that seems like it would overwhelm the room completely.

I love the feel of the room in the above picture.  I like the idea of having a nightstand in between both beds that I could put two lamps on.  To me, that is such a warm, clean, cozy look.  I also like the idea of 2 full beds, side by side, because I can use flat Rubbermaid storage bins to store their stuff hidden underneath the bed.  Bed skirts would hide the storage.  That is part of my current problem.  We keep the beds clean underneath because there is no way to put a bed skirt on the bunks...but that is just wasted space.

I know the blue striped bed picture below is outdated looking, but I still like the overall feel of the room (two beds, side by side, lamps in middle and plenty of wall space above beds to customize look of room).  Bunk beds are very hard to make.  I dread changing the sheets.  Since two of our boys sleep together anyway, I am considering the 2 full size bed idea.

Again, another outdated picture, but it has a clean feel.  I also really like the idea of giving them the space above their beds to put what they like on the walls, in coordinating frames/colors.

The boys side room is the one room I never can get to feel warm, cozy and having a "put together" feel. 

Thanks again for your ideas.  As of right now, here is how my votes are standing...
  • keep the twin over twin bunks and make them work
  • sell one set of t/t bunks and add a full size bed to replace it
  • sell both sets of t/t bunks and replace with 2 full size beds
My biggest problems with our current layout...
  • beds are hard to make/sheets hard to change
  • room never feels orderly and put together
  • the room feels dark right now, want it to be a brighter space
  • if we switch to full size beds, we can put storage underneath both beds
  • lighting in bunks is not good for reading
  • most of all, I want them to have a comfortable space they can retreat to for lounging and getting away

Monday, December 9, 2013

Decorating Dilemma

I have a decorating dilemma and would love your opinion.   Our boys share a bedroom.  Currently, we have 2 sets of twin over twin bunks.  We are considering getting 1 set of full over full bunks, and putting a free standing full size bed in the room as well.  The room would sort of have the feel of the picture below, except the beds on the right wall will be full over full bunks and the bed on the left wall will be a plain full (no bunk).  I'd put a nightstand in the middle of the beds with a cute lamp on it. 

My reason for upgrading the boys to full size beds is to give them more personal space to call their own.  It will take away floor space in their room, but they don't play on the floor of their room anyway.  Since our family is growing, I want them to each have a space they feel they can retreat to when they need to get away, or just want to sit and play or read.  I feel like each of them having a full size bed, even if they are sharing a room with their brothers, will give them each a personal space to lounge.  So, here is my question.

Do I let them each pick out separate bedding they each like, or do I pick out a uniform bedding for all three beds and let them customize their spaces by hanging pictures and posters above their beds?

Here are two examples of neutral sets I found from Wal-Mart.  The red rugby is sharp and clean lined.  If you click on this link, you can see the sheet set better. 
This one is a nice brown plaid, which I also thought would create a clean, orderly look in their room.  3 boys in one room can be a challenge.  I want the space to feel warm and cozy.  I want them to each have wall mounted lighting above their bed for reading.

The next picture is one that I absolutely LOVE.  Of course, we would not do pink and green, but I like the idea of them being able to decorate their side wall.  I even thought it would be cute to paint the boys names on big pieces of wood to hang on the wall.  They each want a poster that could hang at the head of the bed-they want Army, Batman Lego and Star Wars Lego.  I thought framed posters would be easy to change out when they outgrow them.

I included this last picture just for an idea of creative ways they could decorate the space by their beds.

I would love any input you have.  My biggest desires are:
  • Each boy has a space to call their own that they are proud of
  • Clean, orderly area
  • I want it to be cute, but I also want them to be happy
  • I need help deciding about the bedding issue-3 different sets or 1 uniform look?

Friday, December 6, 2013

The Best Kind Of Friday

This is the best kind of Friday. Lazy, lamplit, candle filled, coffee drinking, kids outside playing in the ice kind of good.  Here's a pic of my apple dumplings we ate last night.  I just can't tell you how good these things are.  They are buttery and wonderful and make the entire house smell like heaven.  We had mixed reviews over The Sound Of Music at our house, but of course I enjoyed the heck out of it.  It's the 1000 Gifts mixed with Pollyanna tendencies that live deep within me.  I just can't help it.

So, here are some pictures from the boys raking leaves the day before the ice hit. is today.  Now that I am lazier wiser in my old age, I am realizing there is no harm in sending them out to play while I sit in the warm comfort of the inside.  It took me how long to figure this out?  Would you just look at those rosy red cheeks?!

Right now we have more ice than snow.  They don't care.  You can throw an ice ball just as good as a snow ball, apparently.  They are happier than larks out there playing as freezing rain falls from the sky.  And mommy and daddy are happier than larks sitting inside enjoying old people kind of things like electricity.  We lazed around this morning under the covers until noon.  Now that's what I'm talkin' about.

The heater is on in the bathroom and extra hot water is heating on the stove to add to the Jacuzzi for the de-frostbite-if-i-cation process when they decide to come in.  And on the back burner, a tea kettle filled with the warm water for hot cocoa.

And on the agenda for tonight? A Mexican food fiesta.  My mom's recipe for Chicken Enchiladas, nacho night for the boys who hate on enchiladas, and homemade salsa.  Dear Lord, please let the lights stay on!!!

Now if I can just stop yodeling.  We're going on a week strong of high on a hill was a lonely goat herd...this is the reason I can't buy the soundtrack.  If I had it in my possession the yodeling would never end.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Ice Ice Baby

We are gearing up for Ice-A-Palooza looks like it is going to get nasty.  The meteorologist in me is a little wound up over the weather models right now.  I love a good snow but a good ice?  That is a huge bummer.  There is nothing fun about sitting in a cold, dark house waiting for the power to come back on.

The fireplace people fixed our fireplace today.  The very first thing my boys did when Mr. Fixthefireplace Man left was pull down their pants to warm their biscuits!  I was like, boys, at least let him get out of the driveway before we start warming the biscuits!!!  For the love...

If we loose power it won't work, but I was so happy to get it fixed in time for our event tonight.  We've been on the waiting list for a month.  There are some things around the house that need fixing and we let them go.  The fireplace isn't one of those things-we are serious about our fireplace.  It is part of the family.  We use it all the time. 

We've got a little one who is very sick with a double ear infection.  His cough is horrible, he can't catch a breath to stop and get relief.  Thankfully, we got him in to see the doctor this morning and I have all his medicines now.  He's the one I worry about-him and my Mamaw.  We asked my Mamaw if she wanted to come stay with us and she said she guessed she better not.  Between me and you, we don't get QVC at our house and she does, so I think that explains it.

I've spent the day trying to get us prepared in the event we loose power.  All the phones are charging, cars filled with gas, the laundry is going, we rounded up all the Cuddle Duds for the kids, pulled down the sleeping bags that are warm, and stocked up on peanut butter, bread, bananas, cereal, milk, water, and our traditional movies we watch during bad weather-the Love Come Softly series.  My hope is always that we can have a tree lit few days of snow with good food and movies, but if we're in the dark eating cereal, then we'll try to make lemonade and I'll try not to whine too much.  Oh, and just for the record yesterday we hit a record high of 77 degrees.  My boys raked and filled 11 bags of leaves.  Today, below freezing.  Until next time...

This hills are alive, with the sound of music...

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Sound Of Music (Apple Dumpling Recipe)

Come on Thursday night, would you get here already?  We are super excited about the LIVE production of The Sound Of Music tomorrow night on TV.

The Menu
Wiener Schnitzel
German Fries
Crisp Apple Strudel

We are making an evening of it.  Musicals are my all time favorite.  I grew up singing.  From the time my sister and I were little, we sang in a little group.  As I got older, I had the privilege of singing with All-Region Choirs, All-State Choirs, Symphony's...I went to college on a music scholarship...I love music.  My all time favorite music is musicals.

We've seen Phantom of the Opera at the Orpheum in Memphis and Les Miserable on Broadway in New York.  Musically, my favorite is My Fair Lady, I love the songs.  The Sound of Music is in my top 5 though and that is why I am so super excited to see it LIVE tomorrow evening.

So, let me tell you about the menu and share a recipe with you.

Wiener Schnitzel
Traditionally, Wiener Schnitzel is a breaded thin cutlet of veal.  I'm not your animal activist friend, but even I won't eat veal. For our Wiender Schnitzel's, we are going with the Oscar Meyer all beef frankfurter. 

German Fries
I am hoping the French don't mind if we change the name of their fry for one evening.  I cook these a few minutes longer than the directions say because it makes them extra crispy.
Crisp Apple Strudel
I'm Southern, so the way I translate Crisp Apple Strudel is to make a pan of my Apple Dumplings.  When the boys helped me unload the groceries, they immediately spied the 20oz bottle of Mountain Dew and cheers broke forth in the garage..."Yay!!!!  Apple Dumplings!!!"  They know what a bag of Granny Smith's and a bottle of Mountain Dew is my recipe.

  • 2 (8 count) cans crescent rolls
  • 3 -4 granny smith apples
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar (sometimes I use a little less)
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 (12 ounce) cans Mountain Dew soda


  1. Spray a 13x9 baking dish or pan.
  2. Peel and slice apples into 16 pieces.
  3. Roll each apple slice in 1 section of crescent roll.
  4. Place rolled slices in pan in two rows, put extras along side.
  5. Melt butter, add sugar and cinnamon and pour over apples.
  6. Pour can of Mountain Dew over all.
  7. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Getting Dressed Experiment

So I was reading a book on the disciplines of the beautiful woman.  It was a funny little read because it was written in the 1970's.  Anne, the author, recommends things like "creaming your hands" before bed.  We call it putting on lotion.  She encourages you to plan your shampoos so you don't end up at the grocery store in your hair curlers.  As you can see, the book was filled with sound advice.

I'm joking around about it, but it really did get my wheels turning on practicing some new routines in the beauty department.  I can say this with certainty.  It is easy to get frumpy fast when you are at home with nowhere to go.  Every once in awhile I fall off the fashion wagon and when I fall I fall hard.

A couple weeks ago I knew I had fallen off the wagon again.  It was the day that all we had on the agenda was a trip inside the bank for some business.  I sure as heck wasn't about to shower and put on make-up just to go to the bank.  While I was perusing my closet for something to wear, I landed on a bleach stained pair of non-maternity velour pants paired with my Banana Republic yard sale sweatshirt that is so worn it is getting a hole in it.  I know.  I know.  It is worse than you imagined.  And yes my rear is about 3 sizes too big to be wearing non-maternity pants and yes the front rolled down under my belly like an accordion window shade.  I'm telling you, it was bad.  For some reason I threw on a silver stud earring to complete the look.  As if that was going to salvage the outfit.

You will be proud to know that I in recovery.  Today I am on Day 16 of getting up and getting showered and dressed with clothes, shoes, jewelry and make-up.  I have allowed myself 2 pajama days in this run and today I am still in my gown is cloudy and I felt like it.  My hair and make-up are fixed though!  My mom stopped by for a surprise visit but I think me in my dragonfly gown surprised her even more.  Lesson:  Being dressed allows for drop in visitors!

So another part of the experiment included being ready by 8am each morning.  Yeah.  About that.  I don't know what I was smoking.  Ya'll, I'm just not a morning person.  I'm having to take this experiment in bite size pieces so for now, that has landed with getting presentable the minute my feet hit the floor in the morning.  Shower, face, hair, clothes, jewelry, shoes. 

The first morning I came out of my room all dressed I created a disturbance.  The menfolk of the house were all piled on the couch peacefully reading.

But when they saw me dressed and ready for the day?




Oy.  It was so funny.

Here is what I have learned from my experiment of getting dressed each day.  Some of my finds annoyed me.  I suspected they'd be true but hoped I was wrong.

  • Being ready for the day gave me more energy.  So frustrating to me for some reason.  I want to have energy without getting ready for the day dadgumit.  Is that too much to ask?  It did make me feel much more productive to be dressed and ready. 

  • Shower first.  It was surprisingly easy to make this transition.  The minute I get up, I am getting in the shower.  If you wear make-up, put it on when you get out.  If not, moisturize your face, fix your hair and get your clothes on.  This is my biggest daily battle {the putting on real clothes part}.  Gosh.  I love my pajamas so much.  I always want to get ready and then put my pajamas back on.  Before my experiment, I had my Bible reading time first thing in the morning but then I never wanted to take the time to get ready after.  Switching the order of shower and reading has made ALL the difference in the world for me.  Who wants to get ready?  No one!  That is why it is best to get it over with first thing.  Plus, Anne suggested that maybe God gets tired of facing all those millions of hair rollers and old robes each morning.  {insert chuckle here}

  • Make the bed.  This is where you really start feeling good about where things are heading.  You are up, dressed, ready, your bed is made and you are off to a great start.
After I make my bed, I get my coffee and let the boys know we are one hour away from starting school.  This is their time to finish their playing and prepare for school and it is my time to spend with Jesus. 

I ditched the alarm clock for  now.  There is a place somewhere between discipline and grace and that is where I want to live.  There are sacrifices to staying home but there are also some great benefits.  Freedom in your routines is one of them.

I also discovered that I'm not so much concerned with a schedule as I am with establishing strong routines.  A schedule, in my mind, is structured with the clock.  If you get off schedule you are behind.  A routine is a flow of the day.  It creates a rhythm.  Both a schedule and a routine do something great for children.  They create expectation.

So there you have it.  My experiment I've been working on.  She is getting up and getting ready for the day and it is making her more productive. 

My next mission in the beauty department is thinking through my clothes and personal style.  This one will be a few months in the making but for now I'm people watching to think about what looks I like the best.

Monday, December 2, 2013

My Holiday Planner

I have found it works out really well for me to get most of my planning and shopping for Christmas taken care of in the first week of December. My goal is to have everything bought and wrapped by the first Saturday (which would be this weekend) of December.  This frees me up to focus on other things we enjoy-things like opening our home to family and friends, watching Christmas movies, looking at lights and drinking hot cocoa.

We did end up doing some shopping on Black Friday after all (much of it online).  Today I wanted to show you my festive holiday planner.  I like to refer to it as Grand Central Station.  As you can see, it is a lovely spiral notebook.  My cover is actually blue because I pulled it from the school room.

This little notebook is where I keep track of all the gifts we've purchased and what we still need to purchase.  It keeps my grocery lists for the month.  Today I am spending some time in my office thinking through menu's for the month.  I am also including snacks/desserts/fun drinks in my menu planning.  I want to be prepared for last minute drop-in's or those spur of the moment evenings when we want to invite someone over for coffee and dessert.

Here are a few tips on planning and shopping for the holiday season:

  • Keep it simple.  Sometimes this is easier said than done.  Have you considered the three gift idea?  Something they want, something they need, something to read?  We are using this as our baseline this year and I can already tell it has relieved pressure on me to create the perfect Christmas morning experience.  Because I know me, I'll supplement some more fun things to unwrap.  Things like this metallic coloring book.  Our boys LOVE these things.  They are super cool!

  • Plan.  For some this comes easy, for some it will feel like the death of you.  There is a huge amount of value in spending a few minutes thinking through your priorities for the month.  Include menus, gift lists, events you'd like participate in or create, and people you'd like to have over for dinner or dessert.  Last year we took the weekend before Christmas and went to Branson.  We took our own food, our Christmas books, candles, games and fun snacks and just got away as a family for part of our gift to each other.  I can't tell you what a blast we had.  We did not turn on the T.V. in the condo.  We spent the time being intentional.  Because we planned a little, we were able to make it happen.  Planning can reap huge harvests of blessings!

  • Set some deadlines.  If you enjoy going out on Christmas Eve for last minute shopping then do it!  But if you'd rather spend it sitting by the fire and playing games, then that will require getting your act together early.  The longer I have to accomplish something, the longer it is going to take me.  This is why I have the goal of completing my shopping the first week in December.  This week I will shop online as much as possible and Friday I will spend the day wrapping up loose ends-making sure I have wrapping paper, tape, bows, stocking stuffers. 

  • Take advantage of online shopping.  Amazon is one of our best friends this time of year.  You can get better or comparable deals and it ships in the perfect box.  All you have to do is wrap it!

  • Pray over the details.  Pray for creativity in shopping and gift giving.  Ask God to lead you to the right stores, websites and sales.  Ask for Him to stretch your dollars.  I even wrote out a little prayer at the top of my gift giving page.  "LORD, please lead and guide us, help us keep you at the center and focus of our shopping."