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Author’s Note: If any of you are still interested in helping the survivors of the Paradise fire please message me for the information where donations can be sent.

Why do we make everything so complicated? Now is the time to decide this holiday season you are going to make some small changes to help simplify so you can enjoy your family and friends more.

Establish traditions. Traditions bring peace and comfort, and create happy memories. Traditions are important to the mental health of adults as well as children. We all need the reassurance that all will be well. Family traditions help us to understand that no matter the situation, we still have each other, and together we can handle anything. Traditions are crucial to recovery and peace of mind following a disaster so establish a few for each holiday and birthday in the family. Keep it simple this Christmas and plan to add more complicated traditions when you can plan further ahead. Need a few suggestions?

Keep a journal and have a family member write in it before bed each night. Record Christmas related events, the Christmas newsletter you received, cookies you baked and the recipe, decorations you hung, favorite Christmas carol or Christmas movie you watched.

Hang a picture of the Savior in prominent places.

Display nativities in every bedroom and the family room. These do not need to be extravagant. Nativities can be found even at a dollar store. Purchase one or two after Christmas when they are on sale for deep discounts.

Change your bedtime routine and sing a Christmas carol each night before you tuck in the kids.

Prepare a few special foods every holiday season and make them part of what your family looks forward to each year. Include the recipes for some of those foods in your 120-hour kits or mail them to your out of area contact. Then, if you should be evacuated during a holiday you will be able to prepare those traditional foods.

Make a small ornament or favorite treat and play secret Santa. Place the gift on the doorstep, ring the bell, and run like mad! One year we delivered homemade bread to a couple. The dad in the home was 50 and he told his wife later no one had ever done that before. He was so moved. This tradition will make treasured memories for your family and for those you visit.

Watch a Christmas movie together as a family. Pop popcorn and get on your jammies, ignore the phone and just enjoy some quiet time together. Our family favorites have changed over the years but the tradition of watching a movie continues even in to the next generation for our children and grandchildren.

Play Christmas carols while you eat breakfast.

No money for decorations, make snow flakes and hang them from the ceiling and light fixtures and tape them to windows.

Make a paper chain and count down the days until Christmas.

There are many, many more great traditions you can adopt with your family. What are your favorites? Feel free to comment below.

To make the holidays more enjoyable plan for the inevitable, start today:

Clean your pantry, freezer and refrigerator. Get rid of all those old jars of jelly that have turned to sugar, and wrinkled fruits and veggies. Now you have room for holiday foods and you know where everything is and that you need to add to the shopping list.

Inventory baking supplies and replenish anything needed. Don’t worry about sale prices just do it. Of course, if your General Store is stocked you can skip this step.

Make up master mixes for the foods you know you will be making. We love puff pancakes so I have a master mix for those. It’s only three ingredients but I don’t have to drag out the flour and make a mess all over the kitchen floor. Try the same thing for your favorite cookies and breads. To find directions for making a master mix visit Totally Ready.

Baking or cooking go better when you begin with a clean counter and sinks. Fill the sink with hot soapy water. Get a large bowl to be used for scraps of things you use during cooking, such as eggshells, orange peels or apple cores. Move a trashcan within tossing distance and toss bags and boxes as you empty them. You will be amazed how much easier cleanup is when you spend a few minutes to prepare in this way.

Spend one day and make freezer meals. When the parties, practices, and performances get to be overwhelming grab a meal from the freezer and bake it while you wrap gifts or dress for the night’s activities. As you prepare foods double the recipe and freeze the extra.

Prepare your holiday feast in advance. Bake your turkey or ham and reheat. Prepare appetizers and freeze. Quiche, pigs in a blanket, sweet and sour meatballs, lots of things freeze well.

Better yet…make a big Christmas dinner a thing of the past. Purchase croissants, artisan bread, meats, cheeses and a few different salads and keep it simple. Spend time enjoying family and those fun new games, movies and other gifts.

Not time to make desserts? Purchase a store bought cake or cupcakes and sprinkle with a few crushed candy canes or place a mini candy cane in the frosting. Add fresh fruit to a store bought cake or cupcake. Purchase pies and add a fun whipped cream design or drizzle with chocolate. Purchase sugar cookies and drizzle with chocolate and add fun sprinkles. Purchase a premade graham cracker or chocolate cookie crust and fill with ice cream, drizzle with chocolate sauce.

Place all Christmas decorations on timers. This tip has two awesome advantages, you don’t have to worry about turning them on and off each night and no one will know whether or not you are home because the lights will be on every night and all will look normal.

Prepare for surprise guests by wrapping up a few handmade ornaments or a small box or bag of treats. Place them in a basket and you are ready to grab one when you are surprised.

Make assignments. You do not need to make all the food for Christmas dinner or your annual Christmas or New Years Eve party. Make your favorites and assign the rest.

Say yes when someone asks if they can help.

Forget the elf! Enough said.

Shop early in the morning or later at night to avoid long lines.

Make cloth sacks to use for gift-wrapping. Saves lots of time and money when used to a few years.

If you are not a seamstress, purchase gift bags at a dollar store add a little tissue paper and safe lots of gift wrapping time.

Send out Valentines Day Newsletters and don’t add to the Christmas stress. Let’s face it people will be more likely to really read them when they receive your note and it is not one for twenty.

Remember the real meaning of Christmas and include the Savior in all your planning and activities. Time with family and friends is what will make memories for you and your family that will live on.

Your family will remember playing games, completing puzzles, watching movies, and celebrating the Savior long after they forget the gifts.

Contact Carolyn and learn more self-reliance tips at