Lessons Learned 2019

Discussion in 'Year Round Prep: Month by Month' started by PamelaG, Dec 27, 2019.

  1. PamelaG

    PamelaG Moderator Staff Member

    Please share what worked and what didn't work for you this holiday season.
  2. sweetpumkinpye

    sweetpumkinpye Well-Known Member

    I realised that we can do with less and still have a great Christmas.
    Mum cut right back on gifts and it was much better. It was quicker and more relaxed and we all enjoyed what we got. We will do the same in 2020

    Christmas Eve here was a nice evening. We held it the Saturday before Christmas and it was great. Very relaxed. the kids came at 6 but next year I would like them to come slightly earlier so that the evening is not so long.
    I offered too much food, some was not even touched. Next year I will do a fruit platter, cheese platter and meat platter and that is it. This year I added crackers and dips and they were not eaten.

    Christmas breakfast, once again too much was bought. I got 2 lots of juice but we only used 1. I bought too much cereal so will cut that back to 3 different boxes. The croissants I made were a hit so would do that again. Did not need French toast and donuts so will either do smaller portions or cut one out.
    I am glad that I did alot of prep Christmas Eve as it made Christmas morning much more relaxed

    I am thinking of cutting back on gifts, we got about 20 each but think I can cut this back and still have a great morning, if I try to cut back to 15 and see what I think. Stockings, need to reevaluate these too. I love coming up with stocking ideas but once again could potentially cut back on these, I have asked Mum to cut back at her house.

    Decorating was just enough, the house looked very nice. I can mix and match next year, change things up a little. I would like to cull some so will look at that before packing it all away.

    All in all it was a wonderful month. I need to remember today and not get carried away throughout the year as I tend to. Simple is OK.
    Last edited: Dec 28, 2019
    AuntJamelle and jampss like this.
  3. MrsSoup

    MrsSoup Well-Known Member

    I need to work on shopping (at least for stocking stuffers) year round. I did a lot of online ordering this year, which was great and will do that again most likely, at least while we live on the island. Stockings were a pain trying to figure out what to put in them, so if I grab things as I see them all year then it will be easier.

    Decorating was good, I loved having the real Norfolk Pine. If we are still here next year for Christmas, we will get another one and I will not put up my white tree and just have two trees. I'll forego putting some ornaments out but that will be okay. Our large artificial tree can definitely hold more ornaments that we put on it so I might just get rid of the white tree since it has turned yellow in many places from the humidity.

    I didn't get to all my baking this year because of my job, not sure how next year will go but I need to do better or cut some things out. I made everything but sugar cookies and there are still cookies in ziplocks on the counter that will get thrown out soon, so i'll cut back next year. Of course, I usually gift cookies and I didn't really do that this year so that could be why we have extra laying around too.

    Everyone was happy with their gifts and we did have less than we usually do I feel like, but I wouldn't mind cutting back even more. We'll see though.
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  4. PamelaG

    PamelaG Moderator Staff Member

    Decorating - Definitely needed a fourth tree - I know it sounds crazy but I've been collecting ornaments for forty years and as I heard in a Hallmark movie, each one is a moment in time. I can't bear to part with any of them, but I can also make sure that we don't ever get to the stage where we need a fifth tree! It will be tough not to buy those cute Disney ornaments that come out every year but my motto has to be Just Say No, we have enough. The third tree is and the fourth will be smaller trees, two that go on top of a media table (long wooden top, metal shelves underneath, we used to have the tv on it). I wholeheartedly agree with the article that said decorating earlier makes you happy and I can easily incorporate the Christmas trees with the fall decor, enjoying both in November and then taking down the fall decor after Thanksgiving.

    Activities - I tried to do it all in about a quarter of the time we usually have so I have to trim that list. Vic and Sophia arrived so close to Christmas and both brought work with them so they weren't as happy about trekking out here and there and I can work with that. Sophia will no doubt be working up to a few days before Christmas so changes to the activity line-up need to be made in the future.

    Gifts and Shopping - I stayed within the budget so that's a good thing. Stocking stuffers weren't too difficult, we used our Target shopping trip to take care of some of those so everyone got useful items rather than a bunch of bits and pieces that most likely wouldn't be used. Sophia got a lot of gifts, Vic was difficult to buy for as usual so maybe we should go back to the something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read, something to make, something to eat, and something else gift-giving.

    Food and Entertaining - This was a definite problem area. I grossly over-estimated both the menu for my Christmas tea and our meals/snacks in general over the time we were together. I bought so much candy and so many desserts that I have a lot that will be wasted. I sent Sophia home with three huge bags - she'll use some of it and a lot of the candy she can take to the teachers' lounge when she goes back to school on the 6th of January. A lot of the things I bought from the British food stores arrived damaged, I got a refund for some but others I didn't discover until Christmas Day. I'll definitely take into consideration what I bought this year when I'm planning for next year. Like you, Jess, working got in the way of baking but that's ok because it would have been more that would have gone to waste.

    All in all, a great holiday for the three of us, just a few things that I need to learn from for next year.
  5. halimer

    halimer Well-Known Member

    Food - wise there was too much as usual.
    For our Hanukkah party we only made 5 lbs of potato latkes per DH's suggestion and that was enough for the party itself - and I made them early, not waiting for DH and DS to do it when people were there. Made less egg and tuna salad but they still seemed to last for days - the lox, however, disappeared - the cookies did not!
    I bought way too much candy and made too many cookies and oreos - have to realized that since we are not working we have fewer people to gift. Therefore I did not have to bake as much as before, which I actually missed doing.

    Gifts - the main ones for DS and DDIL went over well. It is impossible to buy for DH so don't know what to do about that.
    Will have to organize stocking stuffers better and hunt for them year round
    I will spend less time on finding personal gifts for some of our friends as they seem to just be gifting cookies and candies.

    Decorations - I have too many ! My mantle is overflowing! It is hard to have Hanukkah and Christmas decorations up simultaneously. Next year Hanukkah will be earlier so that should make it easier.
    I love that I got myself a small tree for all my piggy ornaments!
  6. sweetpumkinpye

    sweetpumkinpye Well-Known Member

    Baking, once again I shared the baking with Mum and seemed to have the right balance. We made gingerbread, malteaser fudge, white coconut slice, snowballs, chocolate bark, fruit mince pies and decorated biscuits. We also made frozen peppermint pie. I bought ingredients for other items but did not use so will make those sometime in the new year.

    Outings. Mum, DB and I had lunch one day which was nice. DrillDance team had dinner the Friday night before Christmas and we got a Santa photo taken, this was fun. We did not go for a drive and look at Christmas lights, there never seemed to be the right time, would like to do this next year.

    Giving to others, Mum and I gave packs of socks, tissues, shampoo, tooth brush and paste, combs etc plus tinned foods to a local charity. They seemed to have already received a lot of goods so will look for a new charity to support.

    Self care, Mum and I went to get our nails done the Thursday before Christmas and it was crazy busy and took nearly 2 hours. Need to schedule things like nails and hair earlier next year to avoid this.
    Last edited: Dec 28, 2019
  7. Myron's Mom

    Myron's Mom Well-Known Member

    Food wise, a little too much (again). Dinner- I pulled too much soup and cabbage rolls from the freezer. I can do smaller amounts and if I need more it’s easy to defrost. No one ate the coleslaw so I won’t make it again. I made breakfast casserole to go with the cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning. The rolls are plenty for breakfast.
    This year I bought a rather expensive bottle of wine for Christmas dinner. The wine was just ok but we had the best time evaluating it. My husband and son thought I should do the same next year.
    Baking- I didn’t bake at all. No one missed cookies except for my one cousin. Honestly I didn’t miss the baking. I did make some fudge for my cousins which I enjoyed. I made a few pecan turtles and that was fun too.
    I didn’t decorate or entertain like we usually do because of Myron. I missed all of that but it was the best choice given the circumstances. Next year I would like to have just one holiday party with everyone instead of small gatherings here and there.
    We bought a 7.5 artificial tree for the sun room this year. We both missed cutting down a tree and hauling it home with the tractor. But it was a wise choice. I have a beautiful tree, no mess, and I’m not crawling around every night to water it.
    I bought fewer lottery tickets( which was fine) and candy for the stockings this year. Next year I’ll just buy my son a box of Ferrero Rocher and that’s all the candy I’ll do.
    Other gifts, I need to do a better job buying gift cards during the year. Spreading the cost out makes my budget much happier.
    Entertainment- I’ve already put reminders in my planner in June and July to check for the Nov/Dec holiday shows. I was able to get tickets for white Christmas minutes after they went on sale.
    The major thing that didn’t work for me was having gifts stored in one room of the basement, wrapping supplies in another and actual wrapping in another. A lot of back and forth, hauling gifts from room to room, I felt very unorganized. I plan to do a major reorganization down there.
    I think Christmas went pretty well. Everyone was happy with their gifts and spending time together. I’ve made a lot of notes in my planner so I stay on track for next year.
  8. Ahorsesoul

    Ahorsesoul Santa's Elves

    I like tp donate canned food to the food shelves for Christmas in July. I think they are over stocked at the Holidays. I am thinking of talking to one shelter that they could call me if they need something gluten free.

    We really cut down on the gifts this year. We did forget to get some gifts out. Will have to keep an inventory and keep wrapped gifts only next to the tree.

    Food. I wasn’t in charge of the food since Dh is still doing the cooking. We had less than half of normal out to eat. There was plenty and everyone was happy. No candy, cookies or breads. I miss the banana and cranberry bread so I’ll make it in a free weeks when the pins are out of my finger. Also chocolate covered cherries will have to be made for me. Precooking the meat the day before worked excellent. Reheating was a learning experience. Took longer than expected.

    Trees. Dh went to Lowe’s for another tree today. Love the price after Christmas is over. The new tree went directly into the cleaned out storage area. I will be needing more ornaments since we increased our full size trees from one to three this year. But I have all year to collect. The old tree will move to the Sunroom next year. I’m thinking ornaments of dogs,cats and garden items.

    With the move this year all the decorations will all over the place. So very little decorating was done. Nothing outside which we will need to plan ahead now. We never have done much outside but this neighborhood has a lot outside. I’ll like it. I want to do a Gingerbread house over the top of the basement stairs so I have started collecting ideas, boxes and decorations. My finger surgery put a damper on doing it this year. Will have to decide if I make it out of cardboard or wood. A wood one could go outside the next year. If I put a lot of work into it do I want to just toss it out because cardboard will not take to moving very well.

    I did buy a few decorations at the after Christmas sales. I would have liked to have done some more shopping but the weather put a damper on it.

    Biggest lesson was even if things were not as organized as I would have liked it still was enjoyed.
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  9. jampss

    jampss Well-Known Member

    Tree. We didn't get one! I know! Ack!! :) In the past, we have been cutting one down at a local place. But DD27 was flying home from Vermont on the 15th and DH and DS16 just never got around to doing it (with DS's issues). It was ok. I missed the ornaments, but not the needle mess. I wouldn't mind a fake tree, but I don't want to store it. LOL

    Food. I made some gluten free cookies that turned out well and a gf gingerbread cookie that DID NOT! I bought some cookies from Aldi's too, like the maple leaf ones. We had a simple meal of ham and cheese sandwiches, green bean casserole and this butternut squash, wild rice, olive vegetarian casserole that is DD's fav. Pies bought at Aldi's. I was fine with not doing so much baking.

    Decorations. DD and DS decorated once she was home. Yay! I have been over it for some years as DD has been my interior designer! LOL And last year, we had purged and so, that made it quite a bit less. Plus she had put aside her decor that she eventually moved with her to Vermont.

    Gifts and Shopping. We did few but meaningful items and it was very nice. I shopped online. But I went out shopping with a few friends here and there ... mostly as just a tag along because I didn't need to shop but it was fun to look at the festive decor and go out to lunch. Fun and relaxing.

    Entertainment. We had a friend of DD over Christmas Day and we all played board games. It was a hoot. And throughout December we gathered with friends here and there and that was nice.

    Activities. Well, we actually didn't get to any light looking, music, plays, tree lightings ... but we did watch Christmas movies like White Christmas, The Preacher's Wife, and The Lemon Drop Kid.

    I like the idea above I saw about 'Giving to Others' and 'Self Care'. I would like to look into this area next year.
  10. Minta

    Minta Administrator Staff Member

    I really burnt my self out this year trying to do too much in less time than normal. This was our first year with having a child in marching band that performs at football games and competitions and it was a real eye opener. I will be starting my combined version of the HHP and HGP in the beginning of summer so I can tackle a lot of it before marching band starts backs up again. This was the first year where I had several bags of semi prepared meals in the freezer and will be doubling my efforts on that as those were great to have on hand.

    Wrapping needs to start n Nov. I am going to plan a vacation day in Nov to get a jump start on wrapping and to finish any last minute cleaning that needs to be done before Thanksgiving.

    I baked entirely too much. I received a new cookie recipe book and found several new recipes I plan on trying out the first half of the year. I am looking to replace some of the cookie recipes and I will be cutting back on how much I bake of each. For many years I gave out bags, platters and tins of cookies to family and friends and this year proved to be too much and this contributed to the burn out I had. I will still give cookies to certain family members but not the rest. I saw a Pioneer Woman recipe for white chocolate peppermint popcorn that can made up in minutes and can prove to be a good alternative.

    I make and can a lot of jams and apple butter over the summer. I am thinking of making extras as gifts in lieu of the cookies. Still thinking about this .....

    Christmas Eve - didn't have time to make waffles for breakfast. This was missed. Hosted a large ham sit down dinner with my good Christmas dinnerware (which has to be had washed) Because my oldest child had to work until 5 we didn't eat until 6 and a house full until 10/11. BY the time we finished cleaning up, getting gifts under the tree we were exhausted. We were going to do a buffet this year but since we had guest from out of town and were hosting other family members for the first time on Christmas eve we went with a formal sit down dinner and let them have a say in dinner. That was me trying to be too nice and accommodating to others before me and my immediate family. Will not do that again. Lesson learned the hard way on that one.

    Christmas: breakfast - didn't happen either, my dad and his wife were suppose to come over for breakfast but couldn't come over until the afternoon and we hosted an informal dinner on Christmas day.

    Between not eating right, not drinking enough water and over doing it I ended up sick the day after Christmas.

    Next year I will make a breakfast casserole and a stuffed french bread to have ready for breakfast day and I will be making waffles for Christmas Eve.
    Going to make things easy for me Christmas Eve/Day dinners:
    Christmas Eve Buffet- will order lunch meat platter, a fruit platter and a veggie platter, make macaroni salad and potato salad. Will use paper plates, napkins, cups and plastic silverware.
    Christmas Day Buffet (late lunch/early dinner): Hot roast beef sandwiches, meatballs sandwiches, coleslaw and anything that is left over from Christmas Eve.

    We bought matching Christmas PJs. What I never thought to check was the tag on the actual PJs in the package to make sure they matched the size on the packaging. The PJs for my son were a little too small and didn't realize until Christmas Eve night that the the PJs size did NOT match the size on the packaging. Will do the matching PJs again but will just be more careful with checking the sizes.

    My focus will be on our needs/wants and what works best for our family. I just can't afford to make myself sick again trying to accommodate everyone.
  11. Miss JoDee

    Miss JoDee Well-Known Member

    I totally understand. I worked so hard trying to prepare ahead of time for Christmas. The biggest issue was the food that needed to be gluten, dairy, soy, almond and some without meat. I cooked 2 different menus. I am still finding some of what I made can be eaten by family members with a special diet. I was expecting them for 3 days and there are here 6 days. If we do it this way again next year I will limit their # of days they can stay. I have non sustainable SVT and it raises it ugly head when I am anxious. I need to take better care of me.
  12. Minta

    Minta Administrator Staff Member

    We all seem to throw 110% of ourselves into making Christmas great for our families and friends that sometimes we overlook ourselves. I will do what I can when I can but no more running my self ragged or burning myself out. Really got to find that balance AND maintain that balance.

    Maybe next year they can help prepare some of the meals to make it easier on you.
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  13. girlsinmo

    girlsinmo Well-Known Member

    2019 Holiday Lessons I Learned:

    It seems God was teaching me some things with the 2019 holidays. The holidays, especially Christmas are not my favorite time of the year. Yes, I own that. A wise young adult told me it's not the holidays that I dislike so much, it's the way people behave. I realized she is right.

    I prayed several times for a peaceful and stress free, as possible holiday. My Heavenly Father favored me with what I asked for in prayer and taught me some things along the way. We had 2 wonderful times of gathering with family and friends at our house on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. As well as seeing others throughout the month.

    So what did He teach me?

    1. With my age and the daily body pains that I lived with I need to PACE myself and do things at a SLOWER pace. Take breaks for rest and naps WHENEVER needed.

    98% of our shopping was done online several weeks before Christmas arrived. He also reminded me gift wrapping isn't that important. Ponder how the greatest gift ever given was wrapped!!

    Part of our meal was cooked and frozen a few days before it was needed. Part of our meal was purchased from a couple of cooks we know and trust. This meal was easier to bring together when it was time to.

    2. Traditions are good but so are starting new traditions. We exchanged gifts with family for the most part in our traditional way. However, the traditional time of day we usually met was changed. I believe it worked out for everyone.

    3. Don't let anyone steal whatever joy we have. We have no control over others actions or attitudes BUT we do our own. We have choices in how we respond to others.

    I plan on remembering these lessons as well as adding to them in 2020 because for me they don't only apply to the holidays.

    My DH, DD, DS ;DDIL don't know it yet but Lord willing our Christmas meal may very well be a potluck meal. With myself & DGD making dressing, ham, deviled eggs & DD, DS & DIL bringing whatever other sides they want

    We have a New Years Eve tradition but I believe with our new sleep schedule that may be changed up this year.

    I pray as you think back over the season you'll hold on to the good and learn from any part that might not have been the way you would of liked.

    May we remember as 2019 winds down to be thankful for those in our lives. And make wise choices with our words, thoughts and actions.
  14. sweetpumkinpye

    sweetpumkinpye Well-Known Member

    Diedra, what a good point you raise. The charity that I am currently looking at only accepts donations at Christmas so maybe I re think things and donate in July. Thank you.
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  15. sweetpumkinpye

    sweetpumkinpye Well-Known Member

    I made an amazing baked french toast that I added fresh raspberries and white chocolate chunks on Christmas Eve for Christmas breakfast. It was lovely and very quick to prepare.
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  16. sweetpumkinpye

    sweetpumkinpye Well-Known Member

    Beautiful. A lesson for us all.
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  17. PamelaG

    PamelaG Moderator Staff Member

    We didn't make it to any lights either and I had zero self-care, need to work on that next year. I'd also like to work on supporting a local charity more next year.
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  18. Holiday_Mom

    Holiday_Mom Well-Known Member

    Here's what worked for me:
    • I had to be honest with myself and with my immediate family. Last Christmas Eve at our house with my extended family and Christmas Day at my brother's house just didn't feel right. It felt off compared to other years. There was an undercurrent happening that had nothing to do with me but I didn't want to experience that again on the two days that I love - Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. In August, I sent out a note to my family explaining that we were moving the date of getting together from Christmas Eve to the Sunday before Christmas Eve. I didn't know if it would be brunch or dinner but I would let them know. In November I sent out an invitation for a brunch at my house. I love brunch so I was happy to make the food. Doing this made for a more enjoyable time for me. I spent less time in the kitchen and more time with the extended family.
    • Working ahead allowed time for me to be with people and not completely freak out when life happens. I had two minor surgeries in November and then in December on my leg and veins. It put me out of commission for standing or sitting for long periods of time. I did what was important to me ahead of time and then let everyone else pitch it with the other stuff.
    • Making and freezing Thanksgiving side dishes and cookies eased the stress of surgery, recovery and dealing with Thanksgiving dinner. I may do just a turkey breast next Thanksgiving instead of a whole turkey. Cooking the turkey the day before was great.
    • I made less cookies than years prior since we kept our celebrations to a minimum this week. We had the right amount of food for Christmas Eve.
    • Pre-cooked meals for busy days in November and December was a help. Having a menu plan for the week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve helped.
    • I asked for Christmas gift suggestions from my older children in early November. That was very helpful in finding gifts or at least in pricing them before Thanksgiving.
    • Wrapping gifts as I bought them or shortly thereafter was great. I tracked gifts in Excel and added color coding this year for gifts that had to be wrapped and for those gifts that had been wrapped. That helped tremendously with not losing gifts.
    • I sent out Thanksgiving gifts instead of Christmas gifts to our service people: teachers, bus drivers, trash, recycling, mail. This helped me to reduce the stress I usually feel the week before Christmas.
    • Getting enough sleep, eating right and exercising in the months leading up to Christmas kept me energized and healthy. This is my third year of doing this and I haven't gotten sick during the Christmas season. I use to get sick almost every Christmas.
    Here's what didn’t work for me:
    • I need to send a written invitation and then confirm with guests the time that they are arriving and what they are bringing. At Thanksgiving we had one family arrive 90 minutes prior to their expected time and I had to keep their food warm while baking our food. It was very stressful on so many levels.
    • The menu was just about enough for the Sunday brunch with my extended family. I ran out of salad. I will double the amount next time. I made four pots of coffee. I could have gotten away with three pots of coffee.
    • I will list ornaments, gift certificates, and gift cards on the spreadsheet. That will help me to keep track of whether or not those gifts have been bought, put into a card, a gift bag or wrapped up. I will also work on homemade gift certificates and ornaments earlier in the season with the rest of the gifts.
    • Circumstances didn’t allow this to happen this year but I would like to make up the dough and freeze the cookies sooner next year. We had a lot of baking to do the week before Christmas.
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  19. Holiday_Mom

    Holiday_Mom Well-Known Member

    Minta, again, I can relate to a lot of this. We didn't have anyone in marching band but 4 out of the last 5 years I've spent most weekends visiting colleges or going to volleyball games in the fall. That first year was R-O-U-G-G-H. Not having weekends to do the extra prep work made me prioritize and rethink a lot of things.

    One thing that helped me was to define what was important to me or what made Christmas seem like Christmas to me. Then I focused on making sure those things happened. For example, if I could only make one type of cookie, it would be springerle. If I could eat only one thing Christmas morning, it would be stollen. So those are my two priority foods to make. Is there a favorite candle scent or soap scent you like at Christmas? If so, buy it for you. Is there a movie or book that you'd like to read for Christmas? Then go do it. Liturgically speaking, the Christmas season ends January 6th so if you are resenting where you are now, you have time to reclaim the things you like to do at Christmas.
  20. Holiday_Mom

    Holiday_Mom Well-Known Member

    I do hope that family offered to bring their own food and to help prepare it. We have a food allergies here and we make sure that we know what is in the food being served but we also bring dishes that we eat and share with others.
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