Making Christmas Memories without Sacrificing Your Sanity!

Do you ever feel pressured to create a Pinterest-perfect Christmas? Trying to live up to impossible standards, others’ expectations, or even your own unrealistic standards for yourself can drain all the joy from the holidays.

As a recovering perfectionist, I’ve learned to let go of burdensome expectations and focus instead on creating meaningful traditions that my family can enjoy year after year . . . without losing my sanity!

In episode 10 of my Flourish At Home Radio show, I share some of my own favorite Christmas traditions: keeping Christ in Christmas, decorating the tree and the house, collecting special ornaments, giving gifts, sending Christmas cards, and enjoying delicious food. I also share my family’s favorite Christmas books, movies, and music, as well as funny stories, like the time our tree fell and why we outsource our turkey to Texaco. Finally, I offer encouragement to those who are alone at Christmas, as well as ways others can help bless them.

Christmas Memories 2

Here are the books, movies, and music I mention in the podcast, as well as my two favorite holiday recipes. (Note: Most of these are affiliate links. If you purchase through my link, I make a small commissionwhich I will almost certainly spend on more books! )


The Handel’s Messiah Family Advent Reader

 Jotham’s Journey by Arnold Ytreeide

Good News of Great Joy by John Piper (free e-book)

An Orange for Frankie by Patricia Polacco

The Baker’s Dozen: A Saint Nicholas Tale by Aaron Shephard

 The 12 Days of Christmas Cats by Don Daily

The Nutcracker by E. T. A. Hoffman, adapted by Janet Schulman

Dream Snow by Eric Carle

 The Christmas Cat by Efner Tudor Holmes, illustrated by Tasha Tudor

’Twas the Night before Christmas by Clement Moore, illustrated by Jessie Wilcox Smith


It’s a Wonderful Life

A Christmas Carol (with George C. Scott as Ebenezer Scrooge)

A Charlie Brown Christmas

The Polar Express

The Nutcracker

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

Frosty the Snowman


One Wintry Night  by Jerry Read Smith and Lisa Maria Smith

The First Christmas Morning by Dan Fogelberg

A Christmas Album by James Taylor

A Charlie Brown Christmas by Vince Guaraldi

Handel’s Messiah


I am not a noted cook (Yeah, I fried the oven’s motherboard along with the turkey), and I outsource most of our Christmas dinner. However, these are two recipes I actually make myself . . . and my family loves them. Both of them are from my mom, Rosemary Alinder.

Bean and Corn Casserole

For the Casserole:

1 can French-cut green beans (drained)

1 can Green Giant Niblets corn (drained)

1 can cream of celery soup

8 oz. sour cream

1/2 cup grated cheese

1 medium onion, chopped

For the Topping:

1 roll Ritz crackers, crushed

1 stick butter, melted


Mix casserole ingredients together. Bake 30-45 minutes at 350 until casserole has heated all the way through and is bubbling. After baking, sprinkle crushed crackers over the top and pour the melted butter over the crackers. Cook for about 10 more minutes, until topping is browned. Devour.

This doubles well. If you have more than 2 people at the meal, there’s no point in not doubling it! I usually triple the beans and corn, double the other casserole ingredients and crackers, but still use only 1 stick of butter.

If we had to give up all but one item in our Christmas and Thanksgiving menu, this would be the unanimous keepereven over turkey and dressing.

Frozen Strawberry Salad

1 can strawberry pie filling

1 large can crushed pineapple and juice (20 oz.)

1 cup chopped pecans

1 can Eagle Brand condensed milk

12 oz. Cool Whip

Mix in order listed in long covered cake pan. Freeze overnight covered.

OR Mix in large bowl and pour into muffin tins with paper liners. Cover loosely with foil and freeze overnight. Transfer frozen “muffins” into freezer bags. Great for ready-made individual servings!

This is called a salad, but it’s really more of a dessert.

Mom used to take this to friends who were sick or were recovering from surgery. It’s a delicious treat!

It’s Your Turn!

I want to hear from YOU! What are some of your family’s favorite Christmas traditions?



Of Dwarves and Dinner

Cook once, eat twice (or thrice). That’s my primary strategy for feeding a horde of hungry hobbits (er, boys).

I love leftovers, especially when I’m extra tired. So tonight—after a long day of running errands and working on my book—I was looking forward to converting the leftover roast, carrots, onions, and rice from Tuesday’s dinner to easy soup. So resourceful, doncha think?

Only one problem: The refrigerated rice had spontaneously generated a science-experiment-worthy ring of black mold all around the pot. Ewwwww. What’s more, I discovered that no one had eaten ANY of the meal Tuesday night . . . while I was away roaming Middle-Earth with Bilbo Baggins and 13 dwarves.


Image courtesy of David T. Wenzel.

You see, the roast HAD to be cooked on Tuesday (“use by” date looming), but that was the only night my oldest son Forrest and I could go to The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. He had already seen it with his girlfriend, and I had already seen it with my 3 younger sons, but we wanted to watch it together.

Forrest is my number one Tolkien fan. At age 11, he would regale any unsuspecting repairman who entered our home with obscure Tolkien lore, and at 21 he can explain—in excruciating detail—not only the differences between the books and the movies but also their sources in Tolkien’s lesser-known works. Encouraging my children’s interests is really important to me, as is making memories together. I wrote about both of those things in my upcoming book, Flourish: Balance for Homeschool Moms. Plus it made a good excuse to see the movie twice.

But I digress. Before I left home to meet Forrest at the theater, I had Perry (17) put the roast in the oven and arranged for Andrew (18) to add the carrots and onions and cook the rice later. They’ve done it dozens of times and are very self-sufficient in the kitchen (another strategy in my book). They and my youngest son, Thomas, would feast on roast while Forrest and I nibbled on popcorn at the theater. Or at least that was my grand plan.

I have no idea what Andrew, Perry, and Thomas ate on Tuesday night, but tonight we all had not-very-filling beef-and-vegetable soup without rice.

But you know what? One wasted pot of rice and one not-so-satisfying batch of soup were, after all, a small price to pay for a memorable evening with Forrest, who will soon be leaving home. I have no regrets. However, next time I won’t wait 48 hours to look at the leftovers.

P.S. – Perhaps next time I should use potatoes instead of rice. As Sam told Gollum, “Po-ta-toes. Boil ‘em, mash ‘em, stick ‘em in a stew…”

A Tale of Two Ovens, Part 1: I Fried the Motherboard

Ah, Thanksgiving. It brings back so many sweet memories, doesn’t it?

Counting our blessings. Gathering with family and friends. Enjoying delicious food. Setting the turkey on fire.

OK, maybe the setting-the-turkey-on-fire thing isn’t traditional. But Thanksgiving always makes me recall the year our turkey fried the oven motherboard.

First, a bit of context: I’m not a noted cook. (That may be the understatement of the century.) Yes, for a few years I ground my own wheat and baked my own bread, but that was a short-lived aberration. I’ve finally relinquished my dependence on Hamburger Helper (we once should have owned stock in the company), but I still keep things simple and fast.

In fact, now that my four sons are older, they often do the cooking. (They also do laundry, housework, and yard work. I expect to have very grateful daughters-in-law someday, but I digress.)

All I really expect of a range is that it boil stuff and bake stuff. Is that too much to ask?


When we bought our house 11 years ago, it came with a fancy-schmancy Jenn-Air, and I was suitably impressed. However, after a few years, while I was cooking our Thanksgiving turkey, something malfunctioned and created a spark, so we shut off the power to the oven. We averted a full-scale fire, but I have a lasting appreciation for the fire-extinguisher scene in The Santa Clause movie.

(Stop laughing. I didn’t exactly burn the turkey. It wasn’t my cooking! It was the oven’s fault. Really.)

The repairman said the MOTHERBOARD had fried.

1.  The words motherboard and oven shouldn’t be in the same sentence, much less the same appliance.

2.  An oven is designed to be operated at high temperatures. This seems like fairly common knowledge. One would hope that appliance manufacturers would have that basic understanding.

3.  If, against all reason, an appliance manufacturer insists on putting a motherboard in an oven, the motherboard should be, at minimum—How shall I say this?—HEAT RESISTANT.

4.  Disclaimer: I am not a computer whiz, appliance manufacturer, repair expert, or even a great cook (see above). I’m just a busy mom with apparently unrealistic expectations for kitchen appliances.


About $200. Yikes.

I have never roasted another turkey. Ever. For a few years I outsourced our holiday turkeys to Kroger, until I discovered that the nearby Texaco station (that’s right—Texaco station), which serves the best Southern-style plate lunches in town, sells delicious whole smoked turkeys. I’ll be picking up ours tomorrow.

Do your holiday memories include any cooking catastrophes?