Surviving the Holidays

December 8, 2013 at 3:12 pm (Multiple Sclerosis, Time Management, Trigeminal Neuralgia)

Anyone who has a chronic illness understands me when I say even thinking about the holiday season puts me into a state of panic.  How am I supposed to manage myself and family, which I barely do on a good day, during the hustle and bustle of November and December.  After all of these years, I’ve finally figured it out and I thought I’d share my ideas with you.

I start thinking about Thanksgiving and Christmas in October.  I get out my date book and write all of the hard deadlines and functions into the calendar.  Those are days that I schedule nothing else because I need to be able to hold conversations with people, usually in the evening.  With MS, if I am tired, I have cognitive issues, i.e., I cannot carry on a good conversation because I lose words and my speaking becomes muddled.

In October, I also begin a Christmas list and set my budget.  My children are adults now so I don’t have any idea of what they really want or need.  DannyO gets paid every other week so I begin to purchase gift cards, usually one a paycheck, and by Christmas I have all the gift cards I need and haven’t had to whip out my credit card to pay for them.

The one thing I usually give my kids is a bag of essentials, toothpaste, contact solution, teeth whitener, deodorant, chapstick, things like that.  Again, I purchase them bit by bit, with each paycheck, so by Christmas, I am able to have spent $200 on essentials (yes, they are THAT expensive!!) without using my credit card.  I am usually also reminding my kiddos that I need their Christmas list.

I have Thanksgiving dinner at my house for my parents and children.  We usually have between 7-10 people and I make my grocery list two weeks before that date.  I pull my recipes out (yes, I have a “Thanksgiving” file) and check my pantry supplies and note anything I will need, down to the sage and the white wine I use for the gravy.  At this point, I also purchase the walnuts (usually three pounds) and dried apricots (usually three pounds) for my Christmas nut and apricot rolls.

Thanksgiving 2012

Thanksgiving 2012

Thanksgiving 2013

Thanksgiving 2013

I cook a fresh turkey and do not purchase that until the Sunday before turkey day.  This year I got three different frozen vegetables in their “microwave in the bag” and it made things so easy!!  If I had thought about this post before Thanksgiving, I would have shared all of my recipes with you.  Perhaps next year… 🙂

Pies -- they were scrumptious!!

Pies — they were scrumptious!!

The week of Thanksgiving:

  • Sunday:  purchase turkey and pull out all of the dry/pantry ingredients, setting them on the dining room table in groups of recipes.
  • Monday:  Decide what serving dishes I will use for each specific dish and add to the dining room table pile.
  • Tuesday: Make brine for the turkey (I boil 1 gallon of the 2 gallons used and dissolve the salt, brown sugar, etc. I let the mixture cool to room temperature and then add another gallon of cold water to it.  I use three kitchen garbage bags into a 5 gallon bucket and pour the 2 gallons of brine into the garbage bags.  After that cools completely, I add the turkey to the brine.)  This year (and most years) I was able to just put the bucket in the garage, with a lid on it, of course, until Thursday morning.
  • Wednesday:  Bake the pies (this year I made three pumpkin pies and 1 pecan pie). Make the fresh cranberry sauce (I just use the recipe on the cranberry bag). I chop the celery and onions and French bread used in the stuffing mix and store them in a Ziploc bag.
  • Thursday:  Put turkey into the oven between 8 and 9.  This year I bought a probe-type thermometer, recommended by Alton Brown of Good Eats.  The temperature device sits on the counter for easy reading.  I loosely packed about two cups of stuffing into the bird cavity and put the rest into a doubled non-stick aluminum foil packet and added the package to the turkey pan.  At about 11:00 I (Amanda, really) peeled the potatoes and boiled them.  I use a ricer to make the potatoes perfectly smooth.  I also add sour cream, butter, salt and pepper.  After mixing everything together, I tented it loosely with aluminum foil and put it over a pan of simmering water until it was time to eat.  The small pan of sweet potatoes, I started in my Ninja crock pot/oven/stove.  I finished them in the oven while the turkey was resting.

Then I poured the wine. We ate at 1:30. Dinner was delicious!!!

Okay… on to Christmas.  Remember, I have the hard deadlines/functions put in the calendar.  I give myself a three-day window for each specific task culminating on December 25.

  • November 29-December 2:  Beginning on Black Friday through Cyber Monday, I purchased Christmas presents on line.  I paid exactly ZERO for shipping and was able to compare prices and got some wonderful deals.  I would recommend becoming an Amazon Prime member because shipping is free and I have paid for my membership many times over this last year in free shipping.
  • November 30-December 2:  I also addressed Christmas cards.  I had a picture card made with our greeting pre-printed so I only had to address the envelopes.
Our Christmas card 2013

Our Christmas card 2013

  • December 2-5: (Monday through Wednesday) I decorated my kitchen.  I worked as I felt well enough to work.
  • December 6-8: I decorated the living room, which included washing windows.  I finished that room on the 7th, because I had some good hours to dedicate to the task.

Surviving the Holidays-8Surviving the Holidays-11

Surviving the Holidays-9

Next week I have two doctor’s appointments and a hair appointment so that eliminates Monday and Thursday.  On Monday, after my neurologist appointment, I will pick up the five or so remaining gifts that I didn’t get on line.  I also have made a list of my Christmas brunch dishes (yes, I have a “Christmas recipe file”) and will purchase those ingredients sometime this week.

  • December 10, 11 and 13: Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, I will wrap presents.  I may begin today if I feel like it.
  • December 16-20: I will give myself the whole week to bake the apricot and nut rolls.  DannyO puts up the tree (it is real and usually very big) and puts the lights and beads on it.  I will then decorate the tree.  I will decorate as I bake – because there is so much down time with baking.

Surviving the Holidays-12Surviving the Holidays-10

Surviving the Holidays-6

So, if all goes according to plan, by Saturday, December 21, after I have cleaned the house well,  all will be done and I can enjoy the week of Christmas.

Surviving the Holidays-4Surviving the Holidays-3

By making a plan and giving myself (usually) a three-day window to accomplish specific tasks, I am able to enjoy the season and can place the focus where it should be… on Jesus.

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1 Comment

  1. It’s A Wrapping Party!! (And music party) | Melodyejoy's Weblog said,

    […] I wrote in my Surviving The Holidays post, I gave myself three days this week to wrap presents.  I ordered 95% of the gifts on line so […]

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