“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.”
-Melody Beattie

As our weekend soirĂ©e comes to a close, I am filled with gratitude for all the lovely people that stopped by! You all made this party very fun because YOU are fun! Now forever more, if I need a hostess gift or an hors d’oeuvre, all I have to do is read through the party comments! You were all so generous with your ideas, I know they will be enjoyed for a long time to come! Thank you!

I will be going through each one of your comments, adding my new BFF to my blogroll, and putting your entries into a hat for the drawings! Give me a couple of days to figure that all out, there was a tremendous number of participants so it might take me a bit of time to get it all put together. I cannot wait to announce the winners hopefully by the middle of the week!


Now, about the Holiday Season ahead…

I’ve been thinking.

Ever since I turned 40 last January, new thoughts of how to refine my life have entered my head pretty much on a daily basis. I know, what is up with that!? Gasp! Is that a mid-life crisis?

When I was a young wife, I used to create huge lists of everything that needed to be done around the holidays! I had the image of the perfect holiday in mind and I was determined to make it happen! And the perfect holiday meant the perfect gifts, the perfect decorations, the perfect cozy home, the perfect menu, and perfectly dressed children smiling on our family Christmas card! I’m exhausted just remembering it all!

And you know what? I could create the image of the perfect holiday because of my hard work, hard earned dollar, organizational feats and keeping myself busy making sure it all happened accordingly! But as wonderful as those holidays seemed, I don’t want to do it that way anymore! Maybe I am old and tired, or maybe I have just finally figured out what truly makes me happy.


While I still firmly believe in the wonder and festivity of the holidays, and I still want all that glitter and cozy holiday stuff, I realize there are more important things to me than all the preparation. Not that I didn’t know that before, it just wasn’t always in the forefront of my mind, especially once the holiday madness kicked in! We used to have to take a vacation right after the holidays because we were exhausted from the expectations both put on us and put on ourselves. We had a love/hate relationship with holidays.

I am entering the phase of life where I confidently declare how I want my life to be and I make it so, even if it isn’t popular. Funny how you become more confident as you get older! And you get to know yourself better. Even though I know all the things I want to do, I really don’t have time to do them. And that is starting to irritate me!

So, what do I do about that? I’ve made a list. Not of what I should do, not what I need to do, not what I must do, or what I have to do, but a list of simple things I WANT TO DO! And I am going to pick up that list at least once a week and DO SOMETHING I want to do! I am sick of lists of what I must do and should do. I loved that sort of thing when I was younger, but now I know those sorts of lists never end! You just keep adding more things that have to happen. I am feeding those lists to the shredder. Be gone, lists of must-dos!

Behold, the new and improved list! A journal!


I have made a list of what I want to do and then given myself permission each week to actually DO them. And if that means a simpler holiday must take place this year, I am all for it. If that means disappointing someone or failing to get something else done, so be it. I’m sporting a ‘tude. A new holiday attitude. I might have lots of holiday things on my list, I’m not going to give up festive activities, but they will only be fun relaxing things, not things I must accomplish.

This list is in my new reality journal. Not a list of dreams which will remain unfulfilled, but a list of things I will actually do because I will set aside time to do them.

I don’t want my holidays to be summed up by my must do list, I want it to be full of experiences, life, love, reflection, meaning and warm cozy feelings that I can create without a 12 page to do list! I might be a dreamer, but this time I am determined to make it a reality.

But wait, there’s more. I’ve also started a gratitude journal in honor of Thanksgiving. I want to remind myself of simple everyday joys.


My two most memorable Thanksgivings were ones in which I did the least amount of preparation, but savored the day and the meaning of the day in simple ways. The food was delicious but SO easy. There were simple decorations on the table, and the ambience came from candlelight flickering a warm glow in the dining room. But the real meaning of the holiday came through without being buried in a sea of holiday preparations. We didn’t notice the dust or the missing 20 holiday dishes we didn’t prepare that year. We just savored the simplicity of being together.

That is going to be my goal for this season, two journals reminding me of simple joys, simple ideas, fun projects, cherished family, happy thoughts and an abundantly full and blessed holiday season. With no must-do lists. I’m on strike from those.

Visit My Simpler Life for more ideas on creating the kind of life you really want!

Rubber stamps from Posh Chicago

Get that fun journal at kate’s paperie



  1. Yay! Good for you Melissa! I completely agree with what you are saying. Now, if I can only follow your lead………I’ll try! I’d love to hear what some of the things are on your wish list!
    Amanda (aka Cottage Contessa)

  2. (Maybe I am old and tired) No way, that’s just more mature and wiser!! I think I’ll join you. And if you don’t mind I would like to share this with several others who are getting geared up to their eyeballs with to-do lists.

  3. I love ditching the MUST-DO list!! I’ve done it – and am older than you. The attitude does come with age…LOL…
    It sounds like your new list is what we writers who reas Stella Cameron call an “artist’s date”!
    Have fun :>)

  4. Great ideas Melissa! (love the ballon journal by the way!). A want-to-do list is fabuluos. Good for you!!!

  5. Hi Melissa, oh you post is just ‘me’!LOL I (Jenn) can relate to your sentiments perfectly! I have thrown away the ‘must do’ lists forever and refined my life, it took a while and is still evolving! Love the hot air balloon journal, so cute! My new journal says ‘My Place My Space’ Oh, and you know when I said to you the Melbourne Cup Sweep/Giveaway was on Tuesday, well that’s Tuesday Melbourne time!! Which was today!! Jenn and Jacqui xo

  6. And will you share those “I want to’s” with us? Somehow, I think you may.

  7. Hi Melissa, I realized this year, now that the holidays are upon us again, I need to slow down so I can enjoy my own Thanksgiving and Christmas. As an artist, I usually have lots of custom orders to complete, to send out, so my customers can get them to whoever they are going to for the holidays. The last two years I’ve been so busy with these orders, I didn’t get a chance to put up a tree. By the end of the day, the prospect of putting up that tree seemed like too much work.

    This year I solved that by making my Christmas ordering cutoff earlier…this way, I can enjoy my holiday too, like I should be doing.

  8. You are right on the money Melissa! I don’t think that attitude is a result of a mid-life crisis so much as it is a realization as we get older of what is really important in life. I still love to foof things up for the holidays, but I don’t accept any invitations that I don’t have to or really really want to in December. If I can do without it,I do. It frees up time and energy to do what we want to as a family. The decision to do only what isnt going to stress you out is an important one because those stresses take our focus away from the real reason for the Christmas celebration. I wish you a happy, simple holiday season right now:>) Enjoy the love and happiness of your friends and family and the most precious gift of Jesus!

  9. Good for you Melissa! I simplified Thanksgiving Dinner years ago. My MIL used to always make mashed turnips that nobody ate because her mother used to always make them! Now I only make the things we actually eat and like. I don’t even bother with salad cause nobody wants it. I figure it’s not really a day to eat “healthy” anyway LOL!


  10. I agree! I have so much more fun when I let my children take the lead, and I put out the decorations they want me to use… and we bake together, too! =)

  11. Melissa,
    Thanks for the “permission slip”. I have been feeling kind of guilty the last few years because I don’t do all the stuff for the holidays that I used to do. Most of the decorations have stayed stashed in the basement as I bring in greens ( from the side of the road and yard).
    I think it looks festive in an organic way and it makes me happy and the cleanup…sweep the decor into a trash bag and dump it in the compost-type pile. Done!

    On my way to VT today, ‘catch up with you on Sunday.
    Thanks again for the lovely party.

  12. Good Morning Melissa!
    I so loved these photos and your post.. you are right in that it is really freeing to reach this stage in our life and to know who we are and what we want… good for you for embracing it! ((hugs))


  13. You did a terrific job! Isn’t it fun seeing all the guests arrive? I could have Giveaways all the time for 2 reasons: I love giving and I love guests!

    Have a blessed day!

  14. I like your ‘tude, and I definitely think it is the way to be to stay happy!

    The setting in your last photo is gorgeous, but then all your photos are.

  15. Oh Melissa, I’ve got ten years on you, but I’ve never been a list-maker — more a muddle-through-and-hope-everything-turns -out-OK person! LOL Enjoy yourself, and your family will be happier because you are happy!

  16. i so agree with you…as i grow into myself and accept who i am…i am more able to say no to things that don’t accentuate my life and my soul…i love the idea of a want to do list…blessings, rebecca

  17. Nope…you are not ‘old’ at all..just a bit more clever than your years.
    Usually it takes us a lot longer than 40 years to get to where we don’t feel “guilty” about doing a few things for ourselves and our own family. When my Dad was in his 70’s he told me to live my life as I want to – not how others told me to… hahha … funny; after him telling me all my life how to live it. Not that I did much he told me..but I digress… .. anyway… I did something about it earlier than he did and now I tell younger people than me to do it sooner too…

    I used to drive myself crazy with lists too..til one day, I wrote down all the other “stuff” I actually did in a day at the bottom.. instead of worrying about all the stuff I did not accomplish. My list of accomplishments was huge! Hey! almost like a …gasp…journal page!

    I began to congratulate myself on my ‘amazing-ness’ and tossed my lists. I felt about 65 lbs. lighter in my head and my heart, and all of a sudden, in control of my own life. Wheeeeee………

    Now, I say about them … if you must have lists …. at least cross off the last 6 things on your “to do” portion ( you know you will never get around to them anyway) … then, add some fun stuff, “wanna do” instead. At the bottom write down all your daily, weekly or monthly accomplishments… you will be shocked and amazed… and, it will put things in perspective for you. What if tomorrow was our last day?

  18. Oh boy! 85 comments!! That’s a hard job for you to go through LOL. But a nice one too I imagine.
    I have always found that the things that aren’t that expected are the funniest. If you’re invited for a party a long time before, for instance, you can get a very boring evening. But if you are invited only some hours before, then you’ll have a blast.
    Now I’ve been to my surgery and I’m tired, have a pain but is very sure that this will help out my wound to heal.
    Hope you have a great day.
    Love Elzie

  19. Amen. You said it all very well :)
    Simplicity is best!

  20. clap,clap, clap… I’m giving you a standing ovation!! I tend towards lists and now that I see my 6 year old daughter doing it, I realize that most of my lists don’t have an end (1. lose weight by Christmas party, etc). However, I still keep writing them. Like you, I found a prettier way to keep them and less unpleasant items to write! Have a wonderful Tuesday. Blessings… Polly

  21. melissa, i turned 40 in june, and i must say, i too roll around epiphanies in my head almost daily :) if this is a ‘mid life crises’ …i say, bring it ON! i love that i am able to finally ‘let go’ of all the ‘expectations’. i loved this post, i sooo related to everything you said.

    i am finally feeling free to just enjoy the holidays. my new thing these days is my new found philosophy on ‘energy’. i have just ‘so much’ of it these days and learning where to place it, to yield the best outcome of ‘who i am’…well that is the goal. that is the truest way to live. it’s how i base all my most important decisions in life now.

    it is liberating….this thing we call ‘aging’. i can’t wait to get old enough to wear big red hats and spit in the streets! drink vodka for breakfasts and eat twinkies til the cows come home! whoohoo!

    :::wink::: wink:::::

    many hugs to you today….

  22. Gratitude journals are the best. I started one when I was diagnosed with breast cancer…it helps to see the world with crystal clear eyes. And yes, as we get older, our priorities change and “perfection” takes on new meaning.

    Love those stockings by the way. Simply gorgeous!

  23. This was a great post…..thanks for sharing your plan….very inspiring!

  24. I wanted you to know that you inspired me today! Gratitude- It’s a wonderful thing!

  25. So happy I found you! I agree with you Melissa! I am happy to just to be with family and enjoy a simple meal. As I get older, I find that simple is truly best. I don’t want to waste my time on other people’s idea of “have to’s”. Now, I am going over to your other blog and check out your hints!


  26. Today was my first visit to your wonderful blog and what a treat to read the very reflection of my thoughts for this holiday season. I’m an idealist and have ruined so many holidays with false ideas about what the celebration is about. Perhaps it is MY age–I’m 45–but I have decided to simplify and enjoy the season my way this year. Keeping a gratitude journal is a lovely start. Thank you for the inspiration!

  27. Esther Sunday says:

    Cool idea! I turned 40 almost four years ago and have been questioning more – why? Why?

  28. Good luck with your new ‘tude, Melissa!

  29. Oh yes! how peace full it is for ones soul to ‘Be Still’ Is that your home in the pictures? it really is pretty! Ps. Cavallni has beautiful stamps and journals as well.

  30. Wise words. Thanks for these insights as I prepare for our first Christmas in our new home. I have always loved Xmas and helping Mom decorate and cook, but this is the first one in our new house. I want it to be beautiful, but also peaceful and quiet and calm and just soul soothing to be with loved ones. You can’t buy that! I will do what I can but most of the bother is for me because David is really low maintenance and none of his family is big into decor. They are all just foodies!! Oh no! I love to cook also and so does David, so hopefully we will make everyone happy in that dept. also…

    Love your list idea. That’s what I can a PRIORITY list!

  31. Another wee story – my sister in law comes from a huge Mennonite family. Every year there are around 30 people for dinner and they spend all their time cooking, eating and doing dishes. THis year they’ve decided to buy one gift each (name exchange) and they are are celebrating the weekend just before Christmas and plan to order PIZZAs!!! I can’t believe it but it’s true. Isn’t that cool? A real paradigm shift but just such a REAL thing to do.

  32. My sentiments exactly. As we grow older we do learn what is most important. What’s more, we realize that we must be proactive in unloading all the burdens with which we have saddled ourselves.
    The idea of the Want to Do List is great.

  33. Penny, Mosaic Artist says:

    I have been on a simplify my life plan for about 6 years now. I struggle sometimes, falling back into my old ways…..:-) But I do love the simpler life.

  34. We totally agree….we need to focus on what is important and who (especially the who)!

    Have a blessed day!

    kari and kijsa

  35. Those bonjour stamps are gorgeous!!! And I am really loving that image with the bird:-)

  36. Loved this post, Melissa! I’m completely like you with the ‘to-do lists’ and they’re taking over. Really like your idea of making lists of things you’d like to do and to take more time out to keep things simple and enjoy them more. Thanks for the inspiration–we’re heading into serious ‘to-do’ territory with Christmas, so I’m glad to have a reminder to slow down a little.

  37. I love the quote! I tagged you in a fun little game. Go to
    and then post your own!

  38. anindiansummer says:

    Oh no! Looks like I missed a fun party!! :(…Will catch up on rest of your lovely posts and relive the event :)


  39. I am much older than you but realized years ago that the simpler things were around my house, the better. My main blessing is, of course, my beautiful family. When we all are together, there’s a magic, if it’s a holiday or not. It is just so special, EVERY time. For holidays, we do have some family traditions that I always stick with….but never anything fancy, nor foods that take forever and a day to prepare. Just things my mother had, my children grew up with and now our grandchildren are expecting. I love simple…in fact, if I could paint, I would fix a small, pretty sign with those words on it.
    Thanks for a nice posting!

  40. Melissa, you’re so very right. And to think it took me well into my 50’s to get this!

    I so enjoy visiting your blog.

  41. Oh my goodness! You have so many lovely things to look at over here!!
    I definitely need to start a reality journal. I’m still stuck in that whole perfection state of mind when it come to Christmas! I usually end up working myself waaaaay too hard and I don’t have time to actually sit back and enjoy the season.
    Thanks for all of your wonderful advice!

    Hugs, Dara

  42. LoVe the images..particularly with the grn/red/white socks! Very simple and I think that is what we all must do so we can enjoy our life what ever the season!!
    Love your quote!! Love the fact that I have met you and will continue to visit!! hugs aNNa

  43. I like the way you think. When I get caught up in my “To Do’s” the holidays pass me by in a blurred frenzy. This year, I am going to apply the “Stop and Smell the Roses” attitude…I will stop and enjoy the twinkle of the lights, the carolers in the mall and the wonder of Christmas through the eyes of my precious 5 year old.

  44. What a fabulous idea! My journal is FULL of things that I *should* be doing. I love the idea of having one full of things that I WANT to do! Thanks for the inspiration! ~ hugs, Lynda xo

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