Back in 2015 (can you believe that was EIGHT years ago?!?!) I went gang-busters with a series of holiday posts on my original blog. It is a thread of articles I still remember fondly, written while my three youngests were still homeschooling (8th, 10th and 12th grades) and we were spending our first holiday season in our new home.
Here on F&H Pub, as I hope to push this site and our publishing mission into full-steam-ahead with the coming new year, I felt it would be the perfect homage to rekindle some of these old posts. It is also a time to revisit old information, revised with some new, and prepare for a project I hope to release in 2024.
More than anything, I LOVE sharing homemaking thoughts and tips... especially around holidays. I grew up in a rather large family. Moving west right out of high school and spending the past 30 years with only my small crew, makes me a bit homesick and misty with reminiscence every year about this time. I have worked hard to re-create the most endearing sentiments of these long-lost experiences so my own children could enter adulthood with the same warm, nostalgic feelings I am grateful to enjoy, even if they are sans a plethora of aunts, uncles, cousins and the such.
My efforts seem to have succeeded! My oldest, now 29 and married, confessed a few years ago how the holidays just don't "begin" until he walks into our home because, according to him, no one decorates or celebrates quite like we do. It has become an earmark and wonderful reference for him. Even the youngers, also all in their 20s now (and my youngest married as well), have begun building plans and traditions around the warmth they recall from growing up. And my husband, not to be left out, relishes in bragging to family and friends who may visit in the off-seasons, how they MUST return for a holiday extravaganza!
Everyone who reads this will have their own ways. Perhaps you are skimming through this article with firm roots in your own family traditions and flows for this Thanksgiving-to-Christmas holiday season. I invite you to share any advice and tid-bits in the comment section below!
Or, maybe, you are just starting out or fumbling through to a change or pattern you long to find. This month I hope to address BOTH, but especially those in this second group. Pulling from our culminating traditions in November 2015 (and some add-ins since), I plan to re-release a twice-a-week series aimed at preparing for the holidays with everything from homemaking challenges I will share each Monday to cooking and planning inspiration each Friday.
How did I get to this point?
I kept, and continue to keep, copious notes!
In our Resource section here on the site, I have included a FREE download for my Thanksgiving planner. It is rather basic yet quite helpful.
(I know the image capture says "November 2019" but I have since switched this out for a more timeless blank calendar.)
You can use any or all of these pages for however they may work for you and your home. If you would like some ideas, though, below is my original post sharing how I have come to develop and use my holiday planner through the years. The images of my planner are slightly different then the updated printable planner available on the website here, but the concept and layout is the same:
...maybe you, like me, are investing energy this week into pre-Thanksgiving prep. Or, maybe, you aren't sure HOW and desperately need some direction. So... I thought I would share how our time and energy will begin to shift in focus for the Big Meal at the end of this month.
Normally, I do shopping and start pre-cooking a month in advance. This saves a tremendous amount of time on Thanksgiving day and spreads my resources out a bit better. Sweet breads, pie fillings, and even many vegetables can be pre-made/pre-cut and frozen for quicker prep (and less messy clean up) on day-of.
It starts with a plan. I keep a fall planner (in a 3-ring binder) which covers all our big 'events' starting with back-to-school, all the way through Thanksgiving (I have another binder entirely devoted to Christmas). From making the First Day back at regular class work special, to our Bread Bowl Chili kicking off the autumn equinox... even special fall gatherings we find fun in October, to the biggest event of the season: Thanksgiving. My planner helps me keep track of it all, plan meals, set up my schedule and even track previous years' successes (and flops). These reflections have been priceless and helped each year's dinner go smoother.
For my dinner plans page, I used stickers and colored pens to create a decorative border. List making is always more fun when your paper looks festive!
I draw out the main points of the day's meal. It isn't anything fancy. I just think from top down, beginning to end: Breakfast, Appetizers, Meal and Desserts. I divide my paper up accordingly with these respective labels. I then begin to list out what I would like to have for each. I try to do this at the beginning of November so I can be watchful for sales on items needed and, on good years, I begin baking extra early in the month and freezing the goods to make preparation week easier. When we are expecting company, I will also list condiments so I don't forget anything on the serving table. [The new printable planner pages have this broken up for you along with a column to list if someone else is bringing a given dish AND a column to begin tracking ingredients and groceries needed. I will share a snapshot of this updated feature and post on the blog or on socials later this month, it is my favorite!]
Breakfast: For Thanksgiving I usually have sweet bread set out in the morning because it is low mess and I serve the left-overs on our dessert buffet with cream cheese frosting. Some years I even boil eggs before hand so there is a splash of protein in the offering! Some of these eggs can later be used for deviled eggs.
Lunch: since all of our moving around from city to city, we usually don't have company for dinner anymore (people in these new places usually have established traditions and local family to celebrate with). When we did expect visitors, I use to leave kids and hubby to making their own sandwiches or light snacking but since doing Thanksgiving just us, I started putting out the Appetizers around lunch time. Cheese, sausage and crackers as well as my dip and veggies (recipes coming soon!) It does a good job of curbing our hunger but still leaving plenty of room for a big dinner. I set this small smorgasbord out with paper plates so there are no extra dishes either.
Dinner: usually mid-afternoon, around 2 or 3. I list out our regulars on my menu planner and some ideas of new things to try.
Dessert: I try to make 2-3 special pies we don't usually have any other time of year, along with some other traditions like Cranberry Jello Salad and our Turkey Cookies. The last handful of years I made fudge and 7-layer cookies for Thanksgiving and it has turned out to be a super fun treat (for us chocoholics) and a way to have a taste of the Christmas season officially kicking off with the close of the day.
Beverages: Having this listed on my menu plans helps me remember to make this part of the meal special as well. It is even more helpful when we are having company because I like to offer options like sodas or a special punch. I will also keep a hot pot of water on the coffee maker for tea, instant hot cider, or cocoa when a crowd is expected. No matter the size of our group, I always like to get some sparkling (non-alcoholic) grape juice to serve in our crystal goblets and I will purchase or make eggnog as a holiday treat to serve with dessert. By the way, small or extra slowcookers make a great vessel for keeping mass quantities of hot beverages warm for the duration of your gathering.
After listing out our plans, I then check my pantry for stock I already have and start a running list of all that will be needed to pull off the event. If we are having company, I usually invest in some paper products as well like paper plates, napkins and such. Be sure to add these to your list if you need them. Memories are unreliable when fighting holiday crowds at the grocery store!
This week, not only will I formulate a clear grocery list for shopping this weekend, I will also draw out Thanksgiving week plans.
[This image is dated and the packet includes a pre-printed 4-square arrangement to get you through Thanksgiving week with full boxes to move around in for Monday - Wednesday and then a lined, timed count-down for the day-of so everything can go off without a hitch (mostly!) or last-minute scrambles because a task was forgotten. I will also share an updated image of this one on the blog or socials soon] As per my original post: I consider what dishes can be made ahead... and how far ahead... and begin the prep-work on these. Some examples:
- Having apple pie? Peel and slice apples, place in freezer bag, and pop into freezer ready to go. (You can also fully mix up the pie filling and freeze it, take it out a few hours before you are ready to make your pie, empty into pie crust, and you are ready to bake)
- For any pie you can make your crust and form it into a disk or roll it out and place it in your pan, cover with wax paper and plastic and freeze ready to go.
- Homemade rolls? While cooking some for dinner this week, make extra and freeze for next week.
You get the idea.
I could go on and on, so here is the basic principle: look at each dish in parts and consider what parts can be done how far ahead and stored until they are needed. With this idea in play, you will make Thanksgiving week prep go much smoother, leaving more time for making memories and enjoying your family!
With a few tweaks and updates, that was the original post regarding my holiday planner. And this was the original challenge for week 1:
Home and Heart challenge this week: Is there an area in your home you find difficult to face because you feel like you can never get it just-right? Do you get discouraged by what you feel are shortcomings in accomplishing this task or area? Well, FACE IT this week!! I want you to hit it head-on, even if you have to do a little each day. Don't do it because you HAVE TO (I know many people have company coming at the end of the month for turkey and stuffing), instead, do it because you GET TO. Don't worry if you get it just-right. Do the best you are capable of in the time you have and give yourself heaps and mounds of grace for however it ends up getting done.
Hold your chin high because you are saved by grace... not by how clean or perfect any area of your house might be! Have joy and gratitude nesting in your heart for the hope and peace you have in Christ as you work: Thank Him as you dust and tidy and organize for how He dusted away your sin, tidied up your messy inner self and organized your hope to rest on eternity rather than all the ups and downs of right now. Find peace in your chore because you have peace in Jesus... what is really left to worry about beside this?
I look forward to even more sharing throughout this month! I hope to see you here (and on social media)... bring a friend!
P.S..... are you looking for a Bible Study for this month of gratitude? Grab your FREE copy of our study below on "Choosing Gratitude" as we walk through the book of Philippians!
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