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    Seven Quick Takes on 2016 Planning, Favorite Christmas Books, Awesome Prize Packs, and MORE!

    December 11, 2015 by Brandy Vencel

    Seven Quick Takes

    :: 1 ::

    Today is Nutcracker day! This is one of our Advent traditions. I look forward to this annually, and since it fell through last year, we’re extra excited about it this year. Or local Nutcracker production offers a Young People’s Nutcracker during the day to school children, which is quite handy for those of us with a lower budget {if I do say so myself}. It’s a snippet version of the real thing, but I love it because we are able to go every year and it exposes my children to two of my favorite things: Tchaikovsky and ballet!


    :: 2 ::

    I found myself working on my 2016 goals, plans, and master calendar this week. This is about a month earlier than I usually do such things, but with some top secret projects for Scholé Sisters in the works, I decided I needed to get this stage out of the way. I usually do my year-at-a-glance with a marker and an ink pen, but this time around, I found a fun little template in Word that I tried out. It worked great, and I can easily go in and move things around, or add new commitments, as I go along. For some things, I only plan 3-months or 6-months out at a time, so being able to make changes and reprint quickly will be super helpful.

    Here’s what I’ve got so far:

    Afterthoughts 2016

    I love having all of this mapped out: where and when I’m speaking, when newsletters come out, family stuff, school breaks, and I get to add more as I go along. When I plan my weeks, I like to glance at my annual calendar to make sure that I can actually execute my plans. For me, this is the very first step in making plans and goals. No sense in setting unreasonable goals, or goals that interfere with previous commitments.


    :: 3 ::

    This week’s links collection:


    :: 4 ::

    This month in 2013:

    A Very Faerie Christmas

    In this post, I highlighted two of my all time favorite Christmas fairy tales — they were new to me back then.


    :: 5 ::

    It’s time for another amazing prize announcement! This one is super exciting to me. You know how excited I get about moms reading and growing — I think that keeping ourselves inspired is the first step in preventing the dreaded Homeschool Mom Burnout. Anyhow, Classical Academic Press has been kind enough to donate what I’m dubbing the Burnout Prevention Kit {aka Inspiration Prize Package Extraordinaire}. Can you tell I’m excited about it?

    Here’s what’s included:

    CAP prize pack

    That’s right! Five awesome books! Awakening Wonder, The Liberal Arts Traditionand the Giants in History bundle — so books on Plato, Milton, and Lewis. This should provide one lucky Afterthinker with a lot to ponder in 2016.

    As a reminder, the 10th Blogoversary Celebration Extravaganza will take place in early January — we’ll be giving away 10 prizes to 10 readers in celebration of 10 years of Afterthinking.


    :: 6 ::

    The second prize package I’m announcing today is what I’m calling the Simplified Everything package. Mystie my pretend life coach simplified my dinners years ago, and for that I will be forever grateful. In this prize package, she’s going to help one luck winner simplify three meals per day plus snacks!!



    This is going to revolutionize someone’s life, people!


    :: 7 ::

    I’ve had this urge to give gag gifts to my husband’s twin for Christmas. He’s becoming a pastor soon {after being a counselor for a long time}, and if I were less religious, I’d give him a Jesus Shaves coffee mug. As it is, it is just over the line enough that I can’t do it in good conscience, which means we’re moving on to the possibilities of Emergency Underpants or, naturally, a nose-shaped pencil sharpener {because every pastor needs one}.

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  • Reply Valerie Henderson November 7, 2017 at 1:24 pm

    #7 Made me laugh! I’m hunting to see if you have posted your favorite Christmas books lately. Are you doing a post on that anytime soon? I didn’t see a recent one, but maybe I missed it?

  • Reply SarahD December 17, 2015 at 11:15 am

    Cracking up over the nose shaped pencil sharpener. Lol

    Thanks for the laugh.

  • Reply Kansas Mom December 14, 2015 at 8:26 pm

    I’m reading The Long Christmas by Ruth Sawyer, which includes both of the stories in the picture and many others. So wonderful! The illustrations by Valenti Angelo are also delightful. I’m not even reading them to the kids (though I might next year).

    • Reply Brandy Vencel December 14, 2015 at 8:49 pm

      Ooh! I just ordered that, actually. I wasn’t sure what was in it, but was just trusting that she was consistently this good. Your recommendation makes me extra excited! 🙂

  • Reply Andrea Miller December 12, 2015 at 7:41 pm

    I love reading your blog and appreciate the links to interesting articles. However, I am disappointed by the sarcasm you used in your comment about the opinion piece in the Washington Post about combat positions in the military being opened to women.

    I appreciate your opinion but find the sarcasm grating, especially considering that this is not a political blog.

  • Reply Iris Davis December 12, 2015 at 7:29 am

    Hi, does that template in Word have a name?

    • Reply Brandy Vencel December 12, 2015 at 8:13 pm

      Iris, I think it was called “event schedule planner.” Hope that helps!

  • Reply Amanda December 11, 2015 at 4:58 pm

    I looked for you at the Nutcracker! Did you go to the second show? We were at the first.

    And thank you for the template — I came home, found the exact one in Word, and plugged in my whole year! LOL. That feels SO good.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel December 11, 2015 at 5:03 pm

      I was there, but at the second one. Too bad! We hardly saw anyone we knew this year, and then it was running late so at the end I was afraid I was going to get a parking ticket and we left quickly.

      Glad you’re enjoying the template. Isn’t it pretty? 🙂

  • Reply Amber December 11, 2015 at 3:33 pm

    Hey, a North Carolina conference and the Ambleside conference in TX! That’s exciting – you’re going national! 🙂

    Great links (as usual) – I particularly liked the learning styles one. I would love to print that and hand it out in certain circles… but perhaps that would be anti-social behavior.

    And that template is awesome! I love how orderly and attractive it is. I haven’t started thinking much about 2016 yet, but that’s on the agenda for next week.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel December 11, 2015 at 4:05 pm

      Honestly, I would love to sit back and watch you hand out the article. I can totally imagine that happening. 😉

      Instead of “going national” I think I will call it “going crazy” because I am a homebody and I’m not sure what got into me. After mapping out my calendar, it became very easy to say “no” to leaving the state any more times in 2016. 🙂

  • Reply michelle December 11, 2015 at 10:10 am

    Which template did you use from the Word files? I love the idea of being able to get both the calendar and the list like that in one page. I have been wanting to do that for some time, but never wanted to take the time to develop the calendar. 🙂

    Thank you! < Michelle

    • Reply Brandy Vencel December 11, 2015 at 4:07 pm

      I think it was called “event schedule planner” — there was some extra material that I took off in order to make it work for me. It’s really for mapping out the stages for a big project, but the way it was set up was exactly what I was looking for, and I *really* like having the ability to color code.

  • Reply Virginia Lee December 11, 2015 at 8:25 am

    Instant underpants, love it! I also like the bacon band aids and the Shakespearian insult coffee mug, both on Amazon. FYI, your nose pencil sharpener link does not work.

    Happy Nutcracker Day!

    • Reply Brandy Vencel December 11, 2015 at 2:18 pm

      Yes! That mug was awesome. The Shakespearian insult adhesive bandages are also in the running. 😉

      ps. Fixed the nose link. 😉 Thanks for the heads up!

  • Reply Anne White December 11, 2015 at 7:18 am

    Brandy, that truly is an awesome prize! What do we need to do to enter?

    • Reply Brandy Vencel December 11, 2015 at 7:34 am

      In early January {I’m shooting for the 2nd, but I haven’t said that publicly just in case it ends up being the 3rd}, I’ll put up the entry forms, and each one will have its own ways to enter. The contest will be open for 10 days {another 10!} and then we’ll randomly select separate winners for each prize — that is the nice part, that people can enter for specific prizes, rather than a big hat for all of the prizes.

      • Reply Cameron December 11, 2015 at 1:27 pm

        Where will you be for the 2016 NC conference? I know there is a Charlotte Mason conference in Boiling Springs each year. I am in NC and would love to know!

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