I write about what you---
women, wives and moms---
about your family, faith and future.
I write about what's hard, what helps and what heals.
I show you how it's done. And not done.
I hold your hand as you find what matters to the Savior.
And let go of those things that mattered to you, but not to Him.
I write about what Him.
               Sonya Contreras

Holiday Helps
Recipes and helps to help you enjoy the holidays.
I've written before with helps. These articles can be found here: Twelve Steps to Take the Hectic out of the Holidays,
Tips for the Holidays, Tips to Save Time in Making Meals 
Today are just a few more. Some just time savers, others a different mind sent on decorating.

Ham in the Instant Pot.
Cooking a ham for the holidays?
Now you can have the ham ready in less than an hour and your oven free for other dishes.
7-10 lb ham (precooked, spiral cut, if bigger, cut to fit your instant pot)
Cooking oil
1 c Brown sugar/maple syrup
1 c pineapple juice
2 T corn starch

Spray Instant Pot with cooking oil.
Put pineapple juice and ham into pot.
Rub brown sugar then pour maple syrup over ham.
Seal lid.
Pressure Cook for 20 minutes.
Naturally release pressure for 10 minutes, then quick release.
Remove and cover ham to keep hot.
Whisk corn starch in pot drippings.
Use Saute mode until sauce boils and thickens, stirring frequently.
Pour over ham.

Another time saver is to make the yams/sweet potatoes ahead and freeze it. Here’s my recipe for those.

I also make the cranberry salad (since it’s frozen anyway) ahead. Here’s that recipe, too.

While we’re making things ahead. I’ve already cooked the turkey, de-boned and distributed it in bags.
Since turkey is cheaper than ground beef now, I’ve gotten a few turkeys to bake. By cooking through the night, it eliminates the congestion for the oven when everything for the meal must be baked. Just re-heat (covered), and serve.

I’ve spoken about minimizing before—decluttering to the point where you have what you need and value.
What about Christmas decorations?
This year I went through my Christmas decorations with that mentality. 
My son was disappointed when I got rid of the tree.
(The lights didn’t work, and he described it as a Charlie Brown tree. I was too tired to fix all the limbs.)
I kept two small trees with lights, no ornaments.
(I usually see them only in the shadows anyway. And lights are important to me when days get dreary.) 

The garland was a tangled mess and sat on the floor for several days before I fixed them, and put them in bags for Good Will.
It required too much energy, time and effort every year. 
Ornaments that I saved for memories, given by my sister who died of cancer, that I never even used, I passed on to someone who might actually use on their tree.
I wasn’t remembering her any more keeping it in a box.

Books I got out each year for Christmas, I asked the boys if any wanted them. None did. They were given away.

I did buy flameless candles. I can turn them on with a remote while I sit in my chair (like a lazy bum, but  well, …then I can enjoy them more.)
(Yes, I did keep one garland strand. Maybe I won’t keep it after this season. We’ll see.)

My goal is to minimize the decorations to one flat box for flower arrangements, one box and one big container for the trees.
It should only take me one day to decorate, rather than two days just to bring everything from storage and riffle through them for a week to find what I will actually use for the year. Clean up should be streamlined as well. 

The simplified decorations help me focus on the picture of the Christ Child and the ornament beside it that says, “Oh come, Let us ADORE HIM.”
Focus without distraction. 
I’ve created too many distractions in previous years.
They were perhaps for that season.

My son still likes to decorate. He’ll circled the trees outside with lights.
They do offer a cheery greeting when we return home in the dark.
That I will also forego when he is not available. Too much effort.

Age has a way of narrowing my focus. I only have so much energy, time, and resources. I don’t want to waste them on unimportant things. 
By eliminating stuff, I have more time and energy for what I value. My house doesn’t demand attention. I have time for people.

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Author of Biblical fiction, married to my best friend, and challenged by eight sons’ growing pains as I write about what matters.

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