It’s that time of year again! Shopping Lists, Little Elves, and Lots of Holiday Fun!

Sometimes us moms need a little help keeping it all balanced around the holidays.  With ever ending to-do lists, hard to handle relatives, and busy schedules, it can seem like a real job bringing joy and magic to the season.  I hope my December no-thought meals, What to do with that ELF list, and 2015 gift guide can make your holiday just a little happier!

What to do with that ELF? list.

Nov 29 – it’s back! – ours takes the USPS…some throw a party, some arrive toy airplane, by train, or go all out and make a hot air balloon – tonight you’re on your own.

Nov 30 – spilling DVDs and books all over living room

Dec 1 – making a paper chain

Dec 2 – hanging out of cabinet surrounded by police cars

Dec 3 – drawing minions on the bananas

Dec 4 – over the door swing on tp roll

Dec 5 – repelling at window

Dec 6 – working on the truck

Dec 7 – digging in M&M bag

Dec 8 – in a Lincoln log house

Dec 9 – making paper snowflakes*

Dec 10 – gift bows all over kitchen

Dec 11 – playing cards or board game with stuffed animals*

Dec 12 – riding t-rex

Dec 13 – hiding in the silverware drawer

Dec 14 – roasting marshmallows over a candle

Dec 15 – goldfishing with pole

Dec 16 – sack race

Dec 17 – stuck under a weight while working out

Dec 18 – hiding under a glass (staged to play hide and seek with a toy)

Dec 19 – riding in the remote control car (doll controlling it)

Dec 20 – Little people carriage ride with doll

Dec 21 – checking out a yarn moustache in the mirror

Dec 22 – posing behind an empty picture frame

Dec 23 – crepe paper over door

Dec 24 – praying over Bible/ letter goodbye

Supplies – police cars, gift bows, bananas, paper lunch sacks, goldfish, cards/game (game night supplies), supplies for paper snowflakes, small hand weight, remote control car, paper chain supplies, little people carriage, crepe paper, brown yarn, M&M’s, Bible/goodbye letter, small picture frame, Little People and doll, drinking glass

If you are like me, you know you’re going to fall asleep or forget to move the little guy at least once, so plan ahead with a little Pinterest help…

Creating Peace at Home – Hopefully!

The holidays seem to amplify the hustle, bustle, and chaos of our overfilled lives.   I may have a few tips to create a little peace this holiday season. If you aren’t into organizing, stick with me one more minute – pretty please.

IMG_6257.JPG
1. The Binder.  The goal is to make things move decisively and quickly.   Inside I filled my binder with tabs (what can I say…even ex-teachers still love binders with tabs).

  •  Meal Planning – menu planning templates, the freezer and pantry inventories, go to recipes for quick meals (I also keep all the ingredients on hand)
  • Kids – school calendars, handwriting template, our I’m Bored sheet
  • Shopping Lists – I use this awesome app for my weekly grocery shopping, so this tab is to keep a long running list of household items, upcoming family/friends’ gifts, school items for class parties or teacher appreciation – the app can do all that, but I prefer old school pen & paper lists for some stuff
  • Miscellaneous –  we have a running family bucket/wish list,
  • Pockets – urgent items I need to take care of (like signed papers for school, recipes in progress, in the works projects, etc.)
  • Holidays –  I added in a tab for the holidays based loosely off of the Planning for a Peaceful Christmas suggestions on Raising Arrows.
  • all encompassing holiday shopping list
  • holiday menus
  • holiday shopping lists
  • holiday craft list
  • decorating shopping list

If you see a lady with three kids and a binder in Hobby Lobby, that’s most likely me.  If I’m out, I can glance at my lists and see what I’m forgetting.

2. Bored Boxes  These are clear plastic shoebox containers filled with toys and books that have worn out their admiration at home, but if we are waiting on a sibling in the carpool line, shopping at the mall, or sitting at practice become fun and fascinating again.  We have several stacked by the door, and as we head out, we grab one.

3. Dinner Bins  If you think of a fancy or cute name, let me know and I will change it.  I took large clear organizing tubs and packed up quiet toys to hide inside.  These are things the kids unfailingly hold their attention, but we don’t play with every day.  There are three, with different items to appeal to each child, and I rotate them week to week (or when I remember).

IMG_6291.JPG
These are nice because the activities don’t require me to supervise, are quickly picked up, and I can make dinner in peace.

Need a little more joy?

Try my Fill Your Freezer Plan, Dinner Advent Calendar or Elf on the Shelf Calendar.  Sometimes taking the guess work out of what to cook is half the battle. I LOVE this Random Acts of Kindness chain from Coffee Cups and Crayons.

The Advent Dinner Calendar

What better way to savor family time, holiday rushing, and last minute shopping than to save precious moments making dinner?  Inspired by several of my friends’ requests for a complete dinner plan and Raising Arrows series of posts on Preparing for a Peaceful Holiday, I have outlined quick and easy meals for every night of the holiday season.  Sit back, relax, and be merry!

Click HERE for the printable PDF that has breakfast and dinner outlined for every night.  This outline doesn’t repeat meals and works off of soups, casseroles, and traditional “supper” items. I didn’t make a shopping list because I don’t know what all you have on hand and I didn’t want you cussing me if you made it all the way home to find I forgot an ingredient.

Option Two – at the beginning of the week, stock up on a fish, pork, chicken, and some ground meat.  Grab the produce on sale for that week, and you’re set for broiled or grilled meat with a simple vegetable side dish for the week! Usually the sale or special items for the week are the items that are at the peak of season.

November 30
Pioneer Woman’s Dr. Pepper Pulled Pork – In the oven or slow cooker, this make it and leave it dish is great on slider rolls with sliced gouda or piled in tortillas with cilantro, queso fresco, sliced avocado, and a lime wedge for quick pork tacos – Plus there are usually plenty of leftovers to freeze and use again*

December 1
Dirty Rice

December 2
Super Simple Chicken Pot Pie

December 3
Tomato Parmesan Soup with Crunchy Croutons

December 4
Market Fish and Nancy Fuller’s Garlicky Green Salad

December 5
Chicken Enchiladas with Green Chili Sour Cream Sauce and Mexican Style Street Corn

December 6
French Bread Pizzas with Greek Salad – there are a gazillion versions of these, but basically, grab a loaf of French crusty bread, add a good jarred pizza sauce and whatever toppings you like! I recommend saluting any veggies first. We bake ours for 10-15 minutes at 375, then raise the temp to 450 for another 5-10 minutes to make the cheese golden and bubbly.

December 7
Roast Chicken with Winter Root Vegetables

December 8
Beef & Vegetable Soup the Way Dad Made It

December 9
Broiled Salmon with Sautéed Greens and Roasted Acorn Squash

December 10
Pork Chops with Caramelized Onions, Apples and Thyme, Quick Roasted Asparagus

December 11
Tex-Mex Sweet Potato Skins

December 12
Chicken Broccoli Supreme Casserole

December 13
Toss Together Southwest Chicken Soup

December 14
Chicken Marsala with Garlic Whipped Potatoes & Green Beans with Caramelized Shallots

December 15
Roast Pork Loin (LOVE this one by Paula Deen too) with Gingered Carrots

December 16
Shrimp & Andouille Gumbo

December 17
Roasted Broccoli Soup

December 18
Tex-Mex Beef Enchiladas with Simple Avocado & Greens Salad

December 19
Spicy Teriyaki Chicken with Steamed Rice and Steamed Veggies

December 20
Sloppy Joes with Oven Crisped Fries

December 21
Rachael Ray’s Braciola and Sausage Sunday Gravy

December 22
A’s Potato Soup

December 23
Chicken Spaghetti

December 24 & 25
Christmas Eve & Christmas Day are not included since everyone has their own traditions

December 26
Breakfast for Dinner

December 27
Chicken Chile Relleno Casserole

December 28
Lasagna (seriously — you do not need a side)

December 29
Herbed Pork with roasted broccoli

December 30
Beef & Chicken Fajitas, Black Beans & Cilantro Lime Rice

December 31
Kid’s Nite In or Parent’s @ Home Date Night – don’t forget the bubbly! I prefer Prosecco
Beer Cheese Fondue

Make things even easier by using a rotating cycle menu for breakfast during the month of December! I will also make sure I have a big batch of granola or a couple of boxes of cereal on hand for when the inevitable happens: “We OVERSLEPT!”

Week 1:

Monday – eggs to order & toast

Tuesday – oatmeal – dress it up differently with a variety of dried fruit and spices or make it a make your own bar by setting the condiments out and letting the kids build their own bowl. There are tons of recipes online for overnight oats and crock pot oats for even more hands-off time.

Wednesdaymini frittata cups

Thursday – yogurt parfaits – just make sure you have a protein component so you don’t run out of fuel before lunch!

Friday – breakfast burritos – scrambled eggs, salsa, beans/leftover meat, avocado, veggies – options are endless

Saturdaypancakes or waffles – take a basic recipe – I like this one, and add seasonal flavorings all month long – you can even mix dry ingredients the night before. In a rush?  Make a big batch on a slow day and freeze them to warm up later.  Feeling really indulgent?  Try the Pioneer Woman’s cinnamon roll recipe.  You’ll have enough for you and your neighbors!

Sundaybreakfast casserole or omelets to order. Older kids?  Try Omelets for a Crowd – originally a Paula Deen recipe, this method lets everyone customize and cook their own omelet, no cooking knowledge required!  From experience of making hundreds of these – use name brand quart freezer bags, tongs, and have a pot watcher (to make sure the bag isn’t touching the sides).  Save yourself the pain.

Week 2:

Monday – I these little muffins from love Serious Eats! So easy, and the kids always gobble them up! Or for a holiday treat, try Balancing Health and Happiness’ Almond Butter Gingerbread Muffins (hello gluten & sugar free!)

Tuesday – English Muffin or Biscuit ( great biscuits here) breakfast sandwiches

Wednesday – oatmeal or yogurt parfait

Thursday – Eggs! Sometimes I get lazy and make a regular frittata, call it breakfast pizza, and I’m done!

Friday – leftover muffins from earlier in the week or a repeat of breakfast sandwiches

Saturday – Scones – my family loves scones J We make chocolate chip, cinnamon sugar, dried cherry…my favorite are Christmas Sconces, but Two Peas & Their Pod have a lovely Fresh Cranberry Scone recipe as well!

Sunday – same plan as last week…little kids, church service to make it to….if it ain’t broke…

Then you repeat. Not sure about some of my choices?  Check out my Breakfast Board for more ideas!

LOVE this Advent Joke calendar!

Related:
Cute Ideas to Get Your Brood in the Holiday Mood
2013 Gift Guide
The Merry Christmas Post

***if a recipe is not linked, it will appear in this month’s posts, so bookmark this page!

IMG_3267.JPG