Sabbath Rest

Last night's sunset
Then a voice came from the throne, saying,
"Praise our God, all you His servants and those
who fear Him, both small and great!"

-Revelation 19:5

Using a Planner to Plan Out 2019

A year ago, I started out 2018 with more of a sense of purpose than usual. I felt like I needed to find a balance between the big components of my life: family, home, and my business. And I wanted to be more faithful in all the little things of life: exercise, home maintenance, social media, and more. Maybe you're feeling similarly challenged as we head into 2019? 

Reflecting back on the past year, I have to credit my (then) newly acquired planner with helping me stay on track and accomplish big goals through little steps all year long. I cannot recommend this planner enough. (No financial compensation for this endorsement. Just my enthusiasm overflowing!) I use the Erin Condren Hardbound LifePlanner, which you can learn more about by clicking here.

One of the things that sold me on this particular planner (because let's face it, there are gazillion choices out there) is that it's hardbound. I have no desire to tote it about with me, so it wasn't important that it be lightweight. Something about a hardbound book speaks of more permanence than one that is spiral bound. And I loved it that it can lay open on my desk, where I pass by it countless times a day, with its pretty ribbon bookmark and a LePen in the groove of the two-page spread. If I could personally design one, I'd give it a solid color cover, because all those colored lines are not my usual, classic style at all, but the weekly pages are simply nicely colored and I like that.

I recently purchased the 2019 journal, and I thought I'd share how I use it, in case you need some fresh inspiration on planning out your year. I know I love studying how people think about their time and how they organize it.

I will use the simple, lined pages in the back to list out everything I'd like to accomplish in the coming year. I will most likely list them in the most important categories to me: spiritual, diet/exercise, celebrations/holidays, home cleaning/maintenance, garden/yard, business, social media, and so on.

Then I'll use the 12 boxes in the front to plug all those goals into months of the year.

The last Sunday of every month, I plan out the next month. I write down all the appointments, birthdays, commitments, etc. we have on the two-page calendar spread for that month. And I use the column on the side to list all those goals from the corresponding box where I listed my goals (in the above photo).

And every single, Sunday night about 9 p.m., I cozy up on the couch and plan out the next week, so I know exactly what the week's priorities look like before the week begins. It has been incredibly helpful to me to know the direction I'm headed when I wake up on Monday morning AND to have a plan for the month broken into manageable bites. I take all those monthly goals and decide which ones I need to accomplish in the week, and I list those on the side of the weekly page. Then I plug that list into each of the days. 

I particularly love it that this planner has a vertical layout. I use the top of the three daily squares to list everything that needs doing from the time I wake up until noon. The middle square is for to-do's from noon until 5:00 p.m. And the bottom square is everything after 5:00 p.m. And I use the small spot at the bottom of each column to write the dinner menu for the day.

I'd love to hear how you organize your time! Are you setting goals for 2019? 

Christmas Celebrations at our Home

I hope each of you had a lovely Christmas celebration! 

This year, we had no visiting family and even Max and Rose are relocated to the other side of the country. So, in stark contrast to the 17 we had together last year, it was a much smaller celebration. But it was no less heartfelt!

Walter, Felicity, and the kids came over on Christmas Eve morning, just as though it were Christmas Day. (It was his family's turn to have them on Christmas Day this year.) We had our traditional Christmas breakfast to start the day: egg casserole, potato casserole, raspberry coffee cake, orange juice, and coffee. I sort of feel that the Christmas breakfast menu is something akin to the 1990's calling and wanting its breakfast back, but everyone screams "Tradition!" if I suggest altering it, so we feasted without regard for cholesterol or sugar content. 

The breakfast keeping with my Christmas theme of simple, natural, and magical this year. Just greens in the center of the table. A calming color palette. And fanciful, casual, paper placemats with owls (a gift from a friend).

Then it was on to present opening! I've included the blurry pictures even, because...well...that's basically all I got. But I think it's so real life...the kids are seldom still...all four of them in motion most of the time. Makes for a very jolly Christmas! Their Christmas presents from us were handmade, flannel pajamas or nightgowns and coordinating heat sacks. (Some pictures taken before they opened them, and some after.) Super snuggly Christmas!

The middle part of the day was consumed with watching "The Muppets' Christmas Carol" (my favorite Christmas movie), playing with new toys, and the kids chasing or being chased by Carson (the new dog). I think Carson and the kids are all fast friends now, which just makes me delighted beyond words. When you rescue a dog, you're never quite, 100% certain that they'll come exactly as described as "good with kids", so it was a great relief and a great joy to find he's fabulous with them...and they with him.

The sunset was beautiful on Christmas Eve...such a blessing.

We skipped lunch and had an early dinner of just appetizers. The menu was:

Meatballs in Cider-Barbecue Sauce
Assorted Cheeses and Crackers
Vegetables and Garlic-Chipotle Dip
Maple-Glazed Bacon-Wrapped Dates (recipe here)
Italian Sub Sandwich Roll-ups (recipe here)

Then it was off to church to worship God and celebrate the Incarnation. God be praised for His great mercies to us. Singing "Silent Night" in a candlelit church on Christmas Eve is one of the highlights of the Christmas season for me.

On Christmas Day, it was just the three of us (plus Carson). We have never had a Christmas that quiet. I think it's easy to start to feel self-pitying when the group is small, or you're missing people, but I really tried to focus on the unexpected blessings of a quiet Christmas. I'm usually the one who sets her alarm to wake up before the rest of the house on Christmas. I normally quickly shower, get dressed and make up on, and skitter downstairs to turn the oven on and get breakfast going. But this year, I slept without an alarm...always an indulgence for me. And we ambled downstairs when we pleased and heated up leftovers from breakfast the day before. Since it was our traditional Christmas breakfast, it still felt like Christmas tastes (if that makes any sense) and I enjoyed the novelty of not spending much time in the kitchen. The morning was sparkling with frost when I took the dog out.

I stayed in my pajamas all morning, which hasn't happened since I was a kid. We opened presents from each other and from family and friends around the country. Someone got a rhinoceros for Christmas.

At some point in the day, we all traded in our pajamas for lounging clothes. And I spent most of the afternoon wrapped in my new cashmere shawl (from Hubby, and oh, sooo dreamy!) and cozied up on the couch with my new books.

Colette and I worked together on Christmas dinner, a simpler affair than normal: spiral-sliced ham, corn, mashed potatoes and gravy, and brioche rolls (store bought). It wasn't until the next day that I realized I forgot to make the salad. But no one missed it. I was in favor of eating in the formal dining room, or for pulling a table over next to the fire in the family room to make it special. But Colette said, "Let's eat in the kitchen. The kitchen is what feels like home to me." *heart melts* So, the kitchen it was! But I wanted candlelight. Remember, when I said this Christmas I wanted candles and more candles? So I just gathered them from all over the house and a few from the pantry, and we dined by candlelight and it was magical and lovely in all new ways.

Teamwork got the dishes done, but we let the candles burn. And when everything was cleaned up and we were ready to pop in a new movie for the night, we let the candles burn still, because it was so pretty and I don't think any of us wanted it to end.

I've left all the candle holders on the table, because we all agreed that it would be beautiful for New Year's Eve too!

Christmas Sale!

For the first time ever, I am having a Christmas sale in the shop! From now through Jan. 25, 2019, all Christmas merchandise (stockings and sachets) are 40% off! No coupon code needed. Click here to go to the shop! Happy shopping!

Ready and Waiting

I think this is the most organized I've ever been for Christmas. I'm usually not doing too badly, but I have spent more Christmas Eve days sewing pajamas (as Christmas Eve gifts) than I would like to admit. But this year, I buckled down and made any gifts I was making in October. Yes! And I purchased Christmas cards very early, and that helped.

But the last present was wrapped yesterday. The gifts going to family far away shipped earlier this week. Food gifts to friends shipped Wednesday. The menus are planned. It feels wonderful to be prepared enough to have time to just relax and have fun! I spent the day with Colette, exploring some of our favorite small, New England towns and enjoying some great food. It was delightful to have time to be part of the general festiveness vs. part of the hustle.

How about you? How are your Christmas preparations going? 

May I Introduce...

May I introduce...Carson! He joined our family less than two weeks ago, and we are completely in love! We got him from the same rescue group that our beloved other Goldens (now gone) came from, MAGRR. (The are the best!) He's 2-3 years old (no one quite knows) and he's mostly Golden, with maybe a bit of Border Collie way back in his background. He's whistle smart and has extremely acute senses of hearing and direction. But mostly, he's a love who follows us, like a little shadow, from place to place all day long.

In case you're wondering, his name was given to him by the rescue group, and we LOVE it! We love it because we adore Carson, the butler, in Downton Abbey. (He's my favorite character.) So, does this Carson seem like the butler? Well, at our Christmas party, he was quite well behaved. Well behaved, right up to the point, when nearly all the guests were gone, and I caught him up to his elbows on the dining room table chowing down on the blue cheese. *gasp* We've demoted him to under butler for the time being. But his charms greatly outweigh his...ahem...oversight in caring for the dining table. SO sweet!

Christmas Party

Last week was a super busy week around our house, because we were hosting our annual Christmas Open House on Saturday! We've hosted this party every year for 25 years, and we have the best memories from it. As much as this has been a big event in our family life, I've been terrible about taking any pictures by which to remember it. I was determined that this was not going to happen this year, so I snapped pictures from the beginning of the preparations all through to the end of the party.

Every party starts with lots of baking. This year's menu was: 

Gingerbread Men
Snowflake-shaped Sugar Cookies (my grandma's recipe)
Chocolate Raspberry Bars

Baked Spiral-Sliced Ham with Pineapple-Habanero Glaze
Antipasto Skewers
Assorted Cheeses and Crackers
Vegetables with Chipotle-Garlic Dip
Olives and Pickles

Lindt Truffles

Cranberry and Orange Infused Water

We were expecting almost 60 people for the party. I divided my week into baking, which happened Monday through Wednesday, and grocery and flower shopping on Thursday, cleaning and savory prepping on Friday, and final party prep on Saturday, the day of the party.

Lots of silver polishing happened that Friday...of all the serving pieces we were using for the party, as well as any silver that sits on the open hutch. It's important to me that everything be clean and sparkling for the party...light dancing off everything is a big part of making an evening gathering feel festive.

And fresh flowers are important too! This crystal vase with a big bouquet was destined for the dining room table, where all the food would be spread. The dining room is painted a pretty icy shade of green, so it try to stick with greens and white flowers there, with maybe a minimal pop of red.

The morning of the party! I love how the winter light streams into my kitchen. And when it's completely ready for a party, well...that's even better!

The candy jars on the kitchen island were full of tempting sweets, allowing all the small (and not so small) guests unfettered access to the candy. I was amused that only the smallest jar, containing gum drops, was empty by the end of the night. I think it was the easiest jar for the little ones to reach. Too cute!

All dressed up and the party is just a couple hours from starting, but we paused for some pictures.

In the final 15 minutes before the party is supposed to start, I sweep through the house and make sure all the Christmas lights are turned on, the dimmers are dimmed to just the right amount of light to keep people awake and yet make them relaxed, and I light all the candles.

I guess I only took video of the food table (which you can view in my archived stories on my Instagram account @goodwifeh), but here is a trio of cake plates sporting cookies.

It is SO difficult to take pictures during the party, because I want to devote my time entirely to our guests. This year, probably owing to the fact that I wore black velvet jeans and could just slip my phone into my back pocket, I did manage to take a few. Our party is a happy mix of family, friends from our town, friends from church, and more.

I loved this sweet grouping of a party happening within a party!

My peeps (as the young people say) from our town's historical society, where I volunteeer.

And this sweet peep is 97 1/2 years old! She still lives in her own home, starts a fire in her fireplace every night, and she drives a Mini Cooper. She is a precious, precious soul.

Adorable granddaughter spying out her present under the tree.

And our youngest grandson chomping down on a gingerbread man. We make many types of cookies each year, but the gingerbread men have happened every one of the 25 years.

Final moment, about midnight, when all the guest had gone home and all the dishes had been washed and dried. Christmas lights twinkling and soft Christmas jazz music playing and feet up. 

On Instagram, I had a heap of questions about the food and the tradition of our party. I've archived that story for future reference. But I'm more than happy to answer questions here too!

Just a Little Over 24 Hours

Just a little reminder that cut off for Christmas delivery for shop purchases is 3:00 p.m. (EST) tomorrow, December 18th! Costumes, stockings, balsam fir sachets, bomber hats, and more are in the shop! Click here to visit.

Sabbath Rest

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart,
and you will find rest for your souls.

- Matthew 11:28-29

A Few Days Left

There are still a few days to place Christmas orders in time for delivery before Christmas! The last day to order is Dec. 18th! I ship USPS Priority Mail, so your package will be to its destination in three days. And I can ship directly to your gift recipient! Click here to visit the shop!
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