Twelve Weeks of a Simple Christmas — Week 12

Last week you finished up everything that can be done ahead of time. You’re prepared for guests or travel, your gifts are ready to go under the tree, other gifts have been mailed, cards have been sent or intentionally abandoned, cookies fill your freezer or pantry, outfits are hanging up, the house is decorated, and everyone is smiling because you’ve been spending time with them and enjoying a stress-free holiday season.

Here comes my favorite mission and the reason you have everything ready early.

Twelve Weeks of Simple Christmas Week 12: Help Others -- the best mission of them all!

Contact someone on your love list. Your love list is a list of people you love–brilliant naming, I know. (You don’t need a real list—it’s in your head).

See if they need any help with anything—shopping, wrapping, decorating, addressing cards, cooking, baking, a ride to the store, or just some Christmas cheer. Or get in touch with a local church or shelter and see how you can help.

Please make this a loving habit year round in honor of the Christ child, and not simply a holiday affection overflow.

It’ll be the best mission of all!

Next week I’m not sending you a mission, because you know what you still have to do, and that’s completely different for everyone. You have the last-minute (or festive minute as I prefer to call it) items to accomplish. Prepare any festive minute foods. Do a final clean up of your home—easy since you don’t keep clutter and you already prepared for guests. Curl six heads of long hair–or is that just on my list?

Then put your feet up and enjoy some cocoa while the rest of the world runs around in a flurry of last-minuteness. I’m so excited for you!


Don't stress this Christmas!

Totally Unprepared for Christmas? Just do this.

So you jumped ship on the Twelve Weeks of a Simple Christmas missions and now you’re kicking yourself and possibly your dog, Max. Poor Max.

First, don’t stress. Stress stinks like hot chocolate gas–nasty that.

Second, stop kicking poor old Max. And don’t yell at your kids. And don’t be mean to your husband or your mother or the poor kid in Kohl’s trying to earn a little Christmas cash. Just be nice.

Third, I’m not going to lecture you on Jesus being the reason for the season and that Christmas is still Christmas even if you don’t have gifts for your kids. That is super true, of course. I mean, super-duper true. Super-de-duper-de true! (I lost my thesaurus.) But the fact is, you want to give your children presents–I get that, so let’s get it done. 

Jump on my Festive Minute Train (that’s a nice way of saying Last Minute Train) and let’s get this Christmas prep chugging along.

IF you're unprepared for Christmas and starting to stress, this post will help you get it done.

Here’s what you’re going to do:

1. Get a piece of paper and a pencil…oh, and the budget you keep firmly attached to your body at all times.

2. Write down everything you need to get done. Ask my four-year-old about the differences between need and want.

3. Cross off the things you don’t really need to do. The cards can go. The fancy up-do appointment–really? Is it necessary? A manicure. Come on here. Let’s all just be real. Buying another new dress? What’s wrong with last year’s outfit? Cross those things off! Look, you’re halfway finished with your list and you’re still sitting on your keister!

4. Simplify the things you really want to do but are going to stress you out. You wanted to cut a tree, but Walmart has pre-cuts for 20 smackeroos. Just get one. You wanted to do a fancy Advent activity every night. If all you can get around to is reading Luke 2 and singing Away in a Manger, that’s beautiful! You really want to make cookies with the kids. So maybe you won’t get a dozen or so homemade cookies done, but you can follow Sandra Lee’s example and do semi-homemade. Dip some Oreos in chocolate and put sprinkles on them. Lovely! Dip pretzels in chocolate and drizzle a different color chocolate over the top. Dip anything in chocolate! Buy sugar cookie dough. Nobody’s judging, and if they are, they don’t get your cookies–send me their share.

5. Simplify the gifts. If it’s homemade and it isn’t nearing completion by now, forget about it. Gift cards might just be the way to go this year. Write it all down.If you are a visual person like I am, barricade yourself in a room, lay everything out, see what’s missing, and fill in the blanks. Buy it online. Done. Do it tonight!

6. Simplify wrapping. Homemade–forget it! Quick wrap is just fine, and so are gift bags, although I find them expensive. Let the kids help–happiness trumps perfection.

7. Make all the necessary phone calls and record everything on your calendar. Who’s hosting? Who’s bringing what? When are the kids’ programs? When is the office party? Write it all down.

8. Plan the menu for Christmas week. Just do it. Stop grumbling. Remember that enough is as good as a feast, so don’t go overboard. There’s no shame in ordering a ready-made meal from your grocery store. Serve it with a smile on your face and it’s all good. It’s all good!

9. Make a shopping list for groceries.

10. Shop. Don’t drop. Do shop. You have to get groceries anyway, so get your Christmas food at the same time.

11. Postpone anything (including school) that doesn’t have to do with Christmas until after the holidays…unless it’s paying bills or another time-sensitive necessity. Do brush your teeth.

12. Breathe! Sit and watch a movie with the kids and breathe.

13. Speaking of kids, let them decorate this year. Or just do the very basics. It doesn’t have to be Better Homes and Gardens. It does have to be Happy Home and Heart

14. Do yourself a huge favor and get the laundry done this week. Clean all the church clothes and set them aside and don’t let anybody who’s been dipping things in chocolate anywhere near them.

15. Call your grandma or your mama. Don’t rush it–just let them talk while you listen. It will be the best present they get this Christmas…even better than the chocolate-dipped-Cheerios your kids are inspired to create while you’re on the phone.

That’s that. If you do one or two of these a day, you’re finished with a little breathing room for Christmas. Please please please don’t stress. Just start at the top and move down, repeating numbers 11, 12, and 15 at will.

Keep it merry!

Thanks for the photo, Leland! (Text mine.)

Twelve Weeks of a Simple Christmas — Week 11

Unless you are my super-organized friend Tammy or my seeeeester Karen, you probably have a few missions from the Twelve Weeks of a Simple Christmas to finish up. That’s what we’re doing this week–putting the bow on our Christmas prep.

Twelve Weeks of Simple Christmas Week 11

Take a peek at all your presents. Has everything been wrapped? Delivered? Shipped?

Are your stocking stuffers organized according to person–I use shopping bags, but you can use whatever you want.

Take a look at your house–is it cheery and bright?

Take a look at all your cards. Have they been sent out and the rest put away for next year?

Take a look at your menu? Have you purchased all the non-spoilables? Have you labeled them with coal-in-the-stocking threats so nobody touches them? Do you have a shopping list of what you’ll need to purchase later? Do you have a write-up of when to do what?

Have dinner invitations been sent? Is your home prepared for guests?

Is your calendar filled in and up-to-date? Did you include family fun down-time, like watching the Grinch and eating popcorn from the $5 tubs at Walmart?

Are your clothes ready for the season?

Is your freezer FULL of cookies?

If yes, you are set. If no and you’re feeling stressed, consider crossing things off your list and not doing them. If no and you’re not stressed, start at week one and work your way through the list, finishing up each week until you’re ready for next week’s mission, my personal favorite–no, it’s not about cookies.


Don't stress this Christmas!

Twelve Weeks of a Simple Christmas — Week 10

If you’ve been following along on our Twelve Weeks of a Simple Christmas missions, you are almost finished with buying, wrapping, and sending gifts; you’ve got a great start on cards or you’re finished; you’ve got the meal planned and many of the non-perishables tucked away; you’ve got the month scheduled so as to enjoy your favorite activities without being overbooked; and you even have some cookie dough in the freezer.

If not, you are right where I am. I don’t always practice what I preach…but I should listen to myself more. Especially about the cookies. (Eat the cookies, Self. Eat them all.) Hmmm…maybe not.

First, let’s address today’s mission. Tomorrow I’ll share an alternative schedule for those who are starting to freak out because it’s December and you still have pumpkins out. ‘Kay? ‘Kay.

Twelve Weeks of Simple Christmas Week 10: Laundry (Prep clothing,PJs, and linens, and get caught up on household laundry.)

This week’s mission for people more organized than I am has to do mostly with laundry. Woo hoo! Since we don’t have a machine in our rig (you remember we are full-time RVers, right?), laundry means laundromats. Some of them are pretty skanky, but when we find a nice one, it’s like a party in the laundry room! We are simple folk.

I digress. What’s new?

This week, make sure everyone’s church clothes are clean and ready to go for Christmas programs, fancy dinners, and church services. This might mean mending, letting down seams, or shopping. It might also mean polishing shoes.

Personally, we’re the thrift store, hand-me-down, only-own-what-you-truly-need type of people that make serious shoppers shake their heads. If you’re like us and can’t or won’t spend money on new outfits every year, add a little merry and bright to an old dress by purchasing or passing down a fancy hair doo-dad. My six girls are all getting a hair clip (because I’m a girl and I get it) and new tights or nylons (because I’m freezing my toes off in Wisconsin this month and so are they).

After every event, spot clean the clothes and hang them back up. Please don’t buy a new dress for yourself or your kids for every single function. Please don’t. Just please don’t. Think of her future husband! I’m glad I got that off my chest.

Next, if you’re having guests, wash your sheets and linens and set some aside so they’re clean for when your guests arrive and you don’t have to hustle and bustle to get that done when what you really want to be doing is eating the secret cookie stash sitting and visiting.

Still not done with the laundry!

Do you participate in the Christmas Eve PJs tradition? This is year 15 for us. I used to make PJs for my kids every year. Then I bought coordinating outfits. Now I get them each something they’ll like, even if it doesn’t match everyone else’s. Sniff sniff.

Wash those PJs so nobody wakes up with a Christmas morning rash! Then wrap them and stash them away. (I only wash them for my littles, not my middles and bigs, because I’m never positive there won’t be a return on the bigger sizes. There never has been, but…well…it’s what I do.)

Still not done with the laundry!

Get caught up on your laundry this week and stay that way. You don’t want to be crashing and burning Christmas week because you stayed up too late folding undies, do you? If you crash and burn, you want it to be from a self-induced chocolate cookie overload, right?

That’s it for the laundry. Whew! I feel so clean and fresh.

Now then, a few more details–keep going on the cookies if you’re into that. If you’re not…who are you? Also, if you haven’t started making those gifts yet, it may well be time to reconsider your gift list. And finally, deck those halls! We talked about decorations back in week X, so this is just a friendly reminder to actually do it and then pack the boxes away so they’re not cluttering up your Christmas. Have I mentioned how clutter makes me feel–can’t…breathe…gasp…gasp…gasp. It makes me tense.

Accountability Time

I’m so far behind that if this were a race I’d have been lapped by next Christmas…but that’s okay. I’m not stressing about it. If you’re behind also, you’ll appreciate tomorrow’s Festive Minute Mission–It’s technically Last Minute Mission, but the phrase “last minute” makes me get all stressy, while “festive minute” makes me get all cheery. Simple mind–simple mind game–it works for me.


Don't stress this Christmas!

Twelve Weeks of a Simple Christmas — Week 9

This week is the official launch of the Christmas season. If you’ve been following the Twelve Weeks of a Simple Christmas missions, you’re almost ready and can skate through the month with peace! If you are behind (like me), just jump in where you are. No procrastinating, no yelling at your kids, no blaming your hubby–just jump in joyfully and enjoy the season.

This week’s mission is a continuation of what you’ve already begun.

Twelve Weeks of a Simple Christmas -- Week 9: Finish Shopping. Wrap & Deliver Gifts.

1. Finish your Christmas shopping. If you can get it all taken care of by December 1, have a candy cane! If you can’t, have one anyway. If you’re making gifts, that have to wait until the last minute, double check that you have everything you need (including time).

2. Wrap all remaining gifts. I wrap everything individually, including stocking stuffers–it makes Christmas morning last longer and the kids feels like they’re getting more presents than the bank account actually allows for.

3. Deliver teacher, office, mailman, newsboy, and pastor gifts (unless there are specific times, such as an office or classroom party, when gifts are exchanged.) Ship gifts that need to go to family far away. (Remember, the post office does pick-ups.) Hide the rest. Wink.

It’s all about giving this week.

See all the Simple Christmas missions here.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Accountability Time

Let’s not go there. Wink wink. You know that comment at the beginning about not stressing out about being “behind?” That was for me.

Now is the perfect time to take a look at my ebook, From Frazzled to Festive: Finding Joy and Meaning in a Simple Christmas. It will help you with the practical side of Christmas as well as keep things in perspective. As one reader said, “It’s a guide for life–not just Christmas.”

Don't stress this Christmas!

Twelve Weeks of a Simple Christmas — Week 8

We are on week eight of Twelve Weeks of a Simple Christmas. It’s never too late to jump in!

This week is simple. It’s about cookies and cards.

Twelve Weeks of Simple Christmas Template Week 8


If you’re sending Christmas cards, here’s what you do:


Gather all the Christmas cards leftover from years past–the packages that come with 20 but you only use 17, the freebies in the mail, that one card you had to buy but never sent. Gather them all in one place.


Grab the cards you ordered last week.


Put them in a pretty basket or an ugly Walmart bag–whatever! Add your address book (unless that’s your cell phone), stamps, and some pens…because you will lose a couple.


Address a few each day or night. Of course, you can’t mail them until after Thanksgiving–it’s tradition! I always envied whoever was organized enough to have sent the first card that arrived in our mailbox every year. Maybe this year that will be you!


Eat a cookie.

Try to get them all out by December 11—two weeks before Christmas.

If you don’t do cards, you can skip to here. Try to get another batch of cookie dough in the freezer before all the Christmas hullabaloo starts next weekend, or just focus on Thanksgiving baking.

Accountability Time

Wait. What?

How are you doing?

Don't stress this Christmas!

Thanksgiving Holiday Helper

I’ve gathered a few of our simple family Thanksgiving guides for you all in one place. No chatting–just links…mostly. A post with me not chatting it like Thanksgiving without pie! You know you’d miss it. Actually, I once had a Thanksgiving without pie, and I didn’t really miss it. Hmmmm…


How To Thaw a Turkey (Even at the Last Minute)

How to Thaw a Turkey (Even at the Last Minute)

Of course, when I say “last minute,” I mean last day. Also, this post contains the rather humbling story of my lost turkey.

Brining a Turkey via The Simple Homemaker

How to Brine a Turkey

There is some debate out there about whether or not brining a turkey will make it juicier or not. We think it does, so we brine. If you’re going to do a 12-hour Texas smoking on your turkey, you don’t need to brine it–you need to give it to us.

How to Keep Potatoes From Browning

How to Keep Potatoes from Turning Brown

It just occurred to me that potatoes are already brown. What I mean here is peeled potatoes…or grated, cubed, sliced, slivered. Just one more thing you can prep in advance!

A Simple Guide to Selecting, Baking, and Slicing a Juicy, Affordable Ham

How to Bake a Ham–My Simple Recipe and Guide

This ham is super simple and super moist if you don’t forget it in the oven for four hours while you’re out at the turkey trot. It doesn’t have a sweet coating or anything else that looks pretty, but makes some of us a little, um, in need of R-O-L-A-I-D-S.

(photo credit)

The Perfect Holiday Redefined (

The Perfect Holiday Redefined

If you only read one of these posts, let it be this one. The concepts in this post are as relevant for Thanksgiving as they are for Christmas, and as relevant today as they were when I wrote it six years ago, and as relevant for the 21st century’s simple home cook as they were when cooks were sweating into George Washington’s hoe cakes and fish muddles 250 years ago.