Keeping the Thanks in Thanksgiving & Our Tablescape

It’s one of our favorite weeks of the year, but also one of the most chaotic as we make plans to visit with both sides of our family as well as time with extended family!  Holidays in general invite a lot of unwanted stress into our lives as we work hard to please everyone, but it’s totally up to us to decide how to handle it.  We can lose our minds and our ability to deal with stresses or we can go with the flow and just enjoy the day.

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It’s easy to let stress consume us  and ruin our holiday, but y’all, it doesn’t have to be that way!

Have you ever noticed when you sweat and stress over the small things, that our thankfulness slips away and we find ourselves unhappy and dreading the special times coming up?

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Over the years, I’ve worked really hard to learn to go with the flow and find gratitude even when little stresses are piling up.  While I am a perfectionist when entertaining, I have discovered perfection is pretty difficult to achieve. In learning to “let it be,” I’ve also learned to find the joy in the little things and savor those fleeting moments of quality family time.

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I know I’m not the only person to struggle with the little things that can suck the joy and thankfulness right out of our holiday time, so I asked the question on Facebook; “what issues are you often faced with over the holidays?”  I was surprised by the common theme throughout the comments… pleasing everyone else.

People pleasing and comparison are two of the worst things we can allow into our lives at anytime, but especially during the holidays.

This morning I’m going to attempt to offer a few solutions and ways to not detest or stress about the holidays ahead, just go with the flow and keep the thanks in Thanksgiving!

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**First and foremost, stay true to yourself.  I know it sounds like a weird thing to say, but whether you host at your home or travel anywhere for the holiday, unapologetically be yourself.  I wasted so many years worrying about what people would think of my way of doing things, that the holidays were not fun at all.

If it makes you happy to set a table with china and all the trimmings do it without wondering if someone thinks you are putting on “airs”.  I set the table all year-long, and dress it up pretty for just my family, so why would the holidays be any different?

Go all out if it makes you happy!

On the other hand, if you are a super casual person, who cares if you put out paper plates?  Guess what?!  You can eat on them just as well and don’t have near the mess to deal with!

Never, ever try to be someone or something that you are not.

And remember, there is always that one person who just enjoys being critical, judgemental and jealous, so let them be miserable by themselves, while you are in your element enjoying yourself!

Thanksgiving-Tablescape

**The great hosting debate.  Every family at one time or another is faced with the question of when and where to have Thanksgiving.

 I’m up for celebrating the holidays as many days as possible if it means spending time with my loved ones.  It’s OK to be thankful on multiple days, not just on the 4th Thursday of November.   If the family is up to it, extend the holiday and celebrate two or even three days in a row!  It’s all about family time, not the “day”.  It’s the same thing with Christmas; Audley and I have traveled with our children and been gone nearly every Christmas in our 23 years together.  Santa has visited our house on the 23rd, 24th, 25th, and 26th over the years, whichever works best to be flexible for the family.

Sometimes where to have the family celebration is a source of contention. It’s been easy for us over the years as we have always let the senior most members of the family who want to host (my parents) do it!  I can cook in Momma’s kitchen as easily as my own. There will come a day when we can’t get together at their house, so I treasure every moment.

In families with brothers and sisters all wanting to host, there are a couple of solutions.  First, let whoever has the less stressful household (older children, more space, less stress in cleaning, etc…) take on the task and offer to help out.  Secondly, try alternating each year if everyone wants to host.  Talk it out and be flexible.  It’s not about one person, it’s about the family and the quality of time you have together. Third, if everyone in both families insists on doing it all on Thanksgiving Day, put on your stretchy pants, embrace the situations and go with the flow if you are able to attend both.  And finally, don’t be afraid to say “NO.”  Sometimes your sanity and the peace in your own home is more important than pleasing everyone else.

We teach our children to compromise, get along, and balance life so be the example and show them how to continue it as an adult!

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**The joys of children…. We love our children, but there are days we wish could just duck tape them to the wall and leave them while we do everything on our “to-do” list.

{I can neither confirm nor deny this ever taking place!}

Believe me, I know and have totally been there!

With four underfoot getting ready to host for the holidays presented enough stress on its own that I wanted to say forget it a million times, but I always managed because I wanted the kids to have memories to carry with them into adulthood.

Y’all, it goes by so fast.

There are days you want to hide in a corner, twirling you hair and sucking your own thumb, but one day they will be grown and your youngest child will enlist in the Marine Corps. and you’ll realize 2017 will be the last Thanksgiving you may have him home for the holiday.

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Here are a few ways to work with small children and still make hosting the holidays work:

*Ask a preteen or even teenage neighbor to entertain them while you do what needs to be handled.  The $15 or $20 you spend on that time will be well worth it!

*Give your kiddos one area in which to play, watch TV, etc… and prepare other spaces for your company.  FYI, bedroom doors shut.  Pull the door closed to the playroom or the bedroom when your guests arrive and just leave the mess in it.

*Find age appropriate “chores” your kiddos can help with.  Mine learned to set the table as early as four.  Give them a diagram, let them help, and even laugh when they put their own spin on a table-setting   You can also allow a smaller child place rolls on a pan, bring you things from the refrigerator, or put up smaller dishes when you are washing.  It’s a great time to use as a teaching moment as well as a time to bond.

*And finally, don’t be afraid to delegate and not take it all on yourself.  Spouses are usually glad to step up to help, whether entertaining kids or peeling potatoes!  Ask your guests to bring a dish: dessert, casserole, vegetables.  Don’t be afraid to ask, most understand the challenges of balancing life with small children.

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**Finally, keep in mind life is not a Hallmark channel movie.  Yes, we have expectations for the holidays, but leave yourself open for anything to happen. Wipe the tears and let it go.

There will be a time when your roast turkey worthy of a magazine cover hits the floor because you used a foil roasting pan instead of the heavy-duty pan to cut down on scrubbing dishes.

There will be a time when the rolls are burned to a crisp and the pumpkin pies are filled too much and flow over into the bottom of the oven setting off the smoke alarm.

There will come a time when not everyone in the family is on the same page for the holiday gathering and you have to make other plans.

There will be a time when you finally unpack the box of serving pieces from your last move and you realize your favorite platter that has been used for 15 of your 23 Thanksgivings broke during transition.

There will be a time when lunch is served at 3:00 pm instead of noon because you overslept and didn’t get the ham in the oven.

There will be a time when there are no more vacation days so everything is crammed into one day.

There will be a time that those large family gatherings become small.  Don’t let that change your attitude and excitement over the holidays, but make it special and memorable for all who do join you.

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Life happens (not always the way we pictured it) and it’s up to us to make sure we don’t let it steal our joy and be thankful for the little things that keep us on our toes during the holidays.

Happy Thanksgiving week y’all!  I hope your celebrations are full of thankfulness and joy, and not so stressed.

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A Thanksgiving Timeline

The excitement of the holidays is upon us and I am relishing every moment!  This year not only will we travel to see my family, we will also be hosting my mother and father-in-law here for a Thanksgiving celebration!  There is so much to do, but I love the busyness of the season.  Sometimes it’s challenging not to let that busyness consume me and take me away from the things that really matter.

Whether you travel or host for Thanksgiving, the short weekend that comes along with it can often create for a little extra chaos in our already busy lives.  It’s a long weekend, but oftentimes not quite long enough accomplish all we want, plus enjoy the time with family or friends as well.

Why plan a holiday celebration if you can’t experience the joy that goes with it?

And, if there is no joy in what you are doing, your gratitude will often slip away as well!

“Enter into His gates with thanksgiving and a thank offering and into His courts with Praise! Be thankful and say so to Him, bless and affectionately praise His name!”~Psalm 100:4 

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Being the control freak planner and organizer that I am, my family knows when November begins I’m attached to my planner and lists so that I can do what needs to be dome as the wife and mom, but still have fun as well.

While we do not host a big meal every year, I have a lot of cooking on my agenda (I am totally the Queen of Turkey roasting in our family), and make some pretty good deserts as well!   I’ve learned over the years, that the key to stress-free entertaining (and traveling with food to prepare) is to plan ahead.

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Don’t let a lack of organization and unnecessary stress steal your joy and rob you of a memorable and fun day with family. As wives, mothers and even grandmothers our mood often sets the mood for the entire home whether we intend for it to or not.  The Enemy loves to attack us in the sneakiest of ways and I think a stressed out wife is the most horrible of attacks!

“This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice & be glad in it.”

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Besides living in the Word, preparing and planning ahead is a great way to help prevent that unwanted attack from happening! By doing much of the prep work in advance, you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy the company of your family and friends on the day of the feast!

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Here’s my simple timeline for Thanksgiving (& other major holidays) planning:

1 to 2 Weeks before Thanksgiving (This would be now y’all):

*Confirm the number of guests you are planning to cook for, whether at home or away.  Then plan your menu.

*Make arrangements for your turkey.  If you want a fresh one, order ahead.  I won’t go   into detail, but trust me, order early so that it is ready when you want to put it in the  oven.  Go ahead and pick up your frozen turkey early as well so that you aren’t searching feverishly for one large enough to feed 15 people two days before.

*Plan your table settings, serving dishes and decorations. If you want china, use your china.  If you prefer paper plates by all means use them and don’t apologize!

*Read through your recipes to determine the food and items you will need for cooking.  This is perfect to accomplish while watching Hallmark Channel movies in the evening.

*Make your shopping and to-do lists.

*Shop for nonperishable food items, plus anything else you need for cooking and setting the table.

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A Few Days Before Thanksgiving:

*If you are planning to brine your turkey (which I am this year), prepare the brine, cover and refrigerate.  Do not add the turkey yet.

*Prepare any food that can be done ahead of time, such as pie crusts and cranberry sauce.

*If your turkey is frozen, place it in the refrigerator to thaw.

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The Day Before Thanksgiving:

*Complete any shopping for food that you have left.

*Make plans to pick up your turkey if your ordered one fresh.

*If you are brining your turkey, place it in the brine and refrigerate.

*Prepare any dishes that can be made in advance, such as cornbread for dressing, soup and pies.

*Chop vegetables for the side dishes (if you have preteens and teenagers, this is a perfect opportunity for bonding in the kitchen), then refrigerate in covered bowls or Ziploc bags.

*Set the table.  This is also a great project for kids; give them a diagram of how to set a table properly and you have a learning experience as well!

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Thanksgiving Day:

*Prepare and stuff (I use fresh fruit & veggies in mine) the turkey for roasting and put in the oven at the determined time. Remember most turkeys take several hours to cook.

*Peel and cut potatoes (if you are using them for a side dish); place in cold water and refrigerate.

*Prepare the dressing and other side dishes.

*While the turkey roasts, you can make mashed potatoes; while the bird rests, make your gravy and finish (or reheat) any side dishes.

*Carve the turkey and call your guests to the table!

*And most of all, enjoy your Thanksgiving!

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Besides being easy to follow, the best part about this timeline is that there are several opportunities to delegate.  Use those to your advantage.  When you start to feel overwhelmed, step back, take a deep breath and regain your focus.  This is a holiday about family and remember THAT is the most important part of the day, even if you drop the turkey!

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“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…”

Galations 5:22-23

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‘Tis the Season…

… To be busy!

Fa-La-La-La-La

{La-La-La}

Christmas-Cards

It’s October, but I’m already looking forward to the holidays just ahead.  I know it seems early to be thinking of Christmas, but if the Hallmark Channel can kick-off Christmas movies today, I can definitely write about Christmas cards!

Even while pumpkins are still the decor of choice.

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If your holiday season is like ours, it comes rolling in like a tornaodo, and leaves you grasping for time to finish everything on your to-do list.  We do not have a single free weekend again until … oh… February?

{Oh, wait, no, college lacrosse season starts in February!}

I am a planner and list maker; for me that means getting an early start on the little things so that December 24 I am managing it all pretty well.  We are entertaining our growing family both at Thanksgiving and Christmas this year, so I want everything to be absolutely perfect!  One thing that seems to get lost in the shuffle of the holidays each year are my Christmas cards, so this year I was determined to have them ready to mail before the week of Christmas.  Christmas cards are one of my favorite holiday traditions, and I love documenting the end of our year with a new card.

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In a day of social media interaction, there is something really special about opening your letterbox and finding a personal piece of mail!  I know every card we recieve is a treasure as it is a personal connection to our friends and family who send them. We have been so incredibly blessed to know many amazing people and Christmas cards are a wonderful, easy, inexpensive way to stay personally connected.

Addressing cards is something I take my time and enjoy as well.  As I write each address I think of how special each family member or friend is to our lives and fondly recall memories we have shared. After fourteen moves we have special friends living everywhere with many a fond memory.

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Picking out a Christmas card is always sentimental as it gives me an opportunity to look back over the year and pick out the perfect picture that fully sums our family.  The last several years have been easy as we have celebrated weddings, graduations, and the ever busy lives of our children.  This year was no different and I was able to choose the perfect photo to  decribe our year.

After choosing the perfect photo I wanted a reliable company to print them, so I looked to Basic Invite for our Christmas greeting cards!

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Basic Invite has been known for their wedding invitations since 2006, but they have a wonderful selection of baby shower announcements, thank you cards, graduation announcements (oh boy… thats coming up in May!), business cards and of course cute Christmas cards.

Why Basic Invite?

**With over 250 designs to choose from, Basic Invite offers you plenty of options to create your perfect card, plus the ability to fully customize with color and font.

**Basic Invite is one of the few websites that allows customers almost unlimited color options with instant previews online. Once you select a design you can change the color of each element on the card to over 180 different color options so you can make sure the card is exactly how you want it down to the littlest detail.  If you like foil options, they offer several choices as well.

**Basic Invite is one of the few websites that allows customers the ability to order a printed sample of their actual card/invitation so they can see exactly how it will print as well as feel the paper quality before they ever have to place their final order.

**Basic Invite is just as colorful with envelopes as they are with cards. Customers can choose from over 40 different colors when it comes to their envelopes so that they can make their invitation stand out even before it is opened. All envelopes are peel and seal so the envelopes can be quickly and securely closed without licking a single one…. Let me tell you, this is awesome!

**Most convientent when you’re really busy, Basic Invite offers an address capturing service that allows customers to simply share a link on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or any other form of social media to request their friends and family’s addresses which will be stored in the customer’s account and can then be selected during the design process. Basic Invite offers recipient address printing at no cost on all Christmas card orders.

**Best of all, you have a window of what I like to call “I messed up” when you see your preview in your email confimation and they are kind enough to open your design back up for you to correct it!  That is the kind of customer service I really like!

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Right now Basic Invite is offering 30% off with coupon code: holi30 

Check Basic Invite out for your cards this holiday season!

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