Christmas morning I plan to set out this super healthy bread, bagels, coffee and juice while we open presents. The kids will get some healthy snacks in their stockings.

Around 11, I’ll serve brunch. Here’s the menu.

Make-Ahead Christmas Brunch

Make-Ahead Breakfast Casserole

Even though I’m on the path to greatly reducing our gluten intake, this will be a hit with my family.  My friend served it at her daughter’s Thomas Buzz Lightyear Rainbow party and it was amazing.

Zucchini and Green Chili Egg Breakfast Casserole

I made this last Christmas and it was wonderful. Much lighter than your typical breakfast casserole.

Cranberry Harvest Muffins

I’m going to use my new Arrowhead Mills Gluten Free Baking Mix instead of flour. And it will make the house smell wonderful.

Merry Christmas!

The problem with falling asleep at 9pm is by 5:30am you’ve already had a full night’s sleep.

So here I am at 6:30am after already lying in bed for the past hour trying to meditate and wondering what I should do next.

Now I’m in the kitchen looking out to a pitch black sky. We have a full house with family, and everyone is asleep. So I can’t exactly fire up the Cuisinart to get a head start on my make-ahead Christmas brunch.

If I’m up this early, that means I’m going to be beat by 9pm tonight. But if I’m not getting anything done during the first 2-3 hours of being awake, how will I fit in all that needs to be done before 9pm?

Oh early risers, I don’t know how you do it.

I recently participated in something called the Holiday Joy UP. It was essentially a 10-day online retreat for women interested in tapping in to the joy and magic of the holiday season.

Led by the lovely Hannah Marcotti (whose writing I cannot get enough of), the Joy UP delivered a letter each day which explored a particular aspect of joy, along with a video from Hannah and the day’s assignment.

So for instance, one day we focused on Blessings, and the assignment was to be a blessing fairy–spreading little gifts or acts of kindness everywhere we went. (I’m still trying to practice being a blessing fairy in the high-strung parking lots around town.)

So many years I’ve longed to feel the holiday magic I felt as a kid.

I’d go to the mall just to try to get “in the mood.” This only made me feel worse.

I’d indulge in holiday treats. This only made me feel groggy.

I’d overspend on gifts, panicked that there wasn’t enough under the tree. This made my stomach hurt.

Having children of my own has helped bring back the excitement of the holidays.

We have our holiday channel on Pandora, our Advent activity calendar, our Elf on the Shelf.

But much of that is superficial “busyness”

Making cookies, opening early presents (holiday books or jammies), watching more TV than normal in the name of holiday fun, being more lax about sugary treats.

So while I started the Holiday joy UP thinking I was already full-on in the spirit of Chirstmas, having an opportunity to create a quiet space each day just to think about Joy from different angles actually left me a bit blue at first. As it turns out, pursuing joy can be hard work!

Getting quiet

The best part of the Joy UP was having an hour of focused quiet time each day (I did it during our mandatory 1-hour naptime/quiet time where everyone goes to their own room even if they no longer nap). Each day, I was able to open my Joy UP “letter”, watch Hannah’s video, and think/write about the day’s assignment.

The Holiday Joy UP helped me think about my intention for the holiday season. And it left me with a deeper connection to joy, along with the clarity that there’s a lot more to be explored.

Joy is Unfolding

Joy is Spirit

Joy is Blessings

Joy is Love

Joy is Desire

Joy is Faith

Joy is Magic

Joy is Celebration

Joy is Peace

Joy is our Gratitude

Thanks to Hannahfor this wonderful journey.

If you are interested in doing something similar, here’s where Hannah posts upcoming programs. I’m looking forward to her 2012 Making Space Cleanse.

(By the way, this is not a sponsored post.)


In our family, the key to holiday activities is keeping them simple and flexible.

To that point, I decide each morning what the days’ activity will be. I pull out a pre-cut red circle (I’m loving my new 1 circle punch), write the day’s activity, and put it in our Advent calendar each morning. (More about our Here Comes Santa Clause Advent calendar, and other adorable ones.)

We’ve been taping all the activities on the kitchen door, which is a fun way to remember all the fun things we’ve done.

Our Advent activity calendar list so far

  • Look for the elf on the shelf (he arrives today!) and read the book
  • Go downtown and watch the tree lighting (never made it to this one!)
  • Have fun for Judah’s birthday party
  • Go to our neighbor’s Christmas party
  • Get a Christmas tree and decorate it
  • See the holiday magic in the city
  • Watch Polar Express before bed
  • Open an early Christmas present (a popcorn maker) and watch a movie
  • Make Christmas ornaments (we’re going to make these)
  • Bake a treat for our friend’s dinner party (thank god for Trader Joe’s awesome box mixes)
  • Do our gingerbread village kit

And more tricks up my sleeve

  • Practice being blessing fairies (more on this in a future post)
  • Celebrate one night of Hannukah with friends
  • Take treats to our neighbors (best intentions…)
  • Go stargazing and soak up the wonder
  • Read Christmas books (we do this pretty much every day, but it’s a good low-key standby)
  • Welcome out of town family
  • Take our visitors to the city to see the big tree
  • Go to the Big Apple Circus
  • Take a night drive in our jammies to see Christmas lights
  • Make or buy presents for each other (I’m thinking about having our 3-year-old select a toy he doesn’t use anymore to give to his brother. Not sure how this will go over.)
  • Wrap presents
  • Attend a Christmas concert


That’s it–pretty low key. What’s on your list?