Archive for holiday

Finally! A Mother’s Day Gift Idea

My poor mom. Over the years she’s had to endure some less than thoughtful Mother’s Day gifts. Last minute gift pilgrimage’s to 7/11 doesn’t inspire the most wonderful gifts. (Boone’s Farm, anyone?) It’s not that I don’t love her. It’s just…well…you know. It’s hard to shop for someone who runs out and buys whatever she wants or needs, the minute she wants or needs it. (That’s my excuse, and I’m sticking to it.)

Happily, this year is going to be different for her. Today my toddler and I are painting a flower-pot for her as her “Happy Mother’s Day, Grandma” gift. I even have the cute little plant to pop into it. It’s bound to warm the cockles of her grandmotherly heart.

 For her “Happy Mother’s Day Mom” gift, she’s getting a gift certificate for… Missus Smartpants . For those not familiar with Missus Smartypants, it’s a service provided by a wonderful woman named Leslie for those of us who need a little help with our wardrobes. To check her out, you can sign up for her free weekly newsletter. The newsletter includes “style missions” that are a great reminder to focus on yourself at least once a week. 

 My mom is the type of woman who is constantly giving or doing for others. I’m pretty happy about finding a “selfish” gift for her. And as long as I remember to pick up a card, I’m also pretty happy about not making my annual pilgrimage to 7/11.

[Full disclosure: I am not being paid to promote Missus Smartypants. As far as I know, Missus Smartypants does not know I, let alone my little blog, exist.]

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I’m Dreaming of a Green Christmas…

Nope, not an energy efficient one, although that would be cool too. I’m talking about financing the holiday mirth next year in a way that would make credit card companies cry. I thought you all might want to get in on the fun, so I’m sharing my game plan to make it happen.

Get an idea of how much you think you’ll need. While it’s fresh in you mind, think about how much you’ve spent on gifts, food, decorating, entertaining, travel, holiday photos, etc. this year. See if there’s spots you can trim your expenses. (If you’re anything like me, there’s plenty you can eliminate and not even miss.) There. Now you have an idea of how much you need for next year.

Open an account just for Christmas. I’m opening a passport savings account at a bank that’s close to my home. It’s free, and only requires a $5 balance.

Have a monthly goal. Remember that number you came up with? Divide it by 10. That amount is your goal for each month.

Now for the fun part–filling the account! Wait, I have a few ideas on that too. So do a couple of other people ‘round the net.

  • Have you heard of Cindy’s Porch? Oh, Cindy is awesome! She recommends stashing change in a piggy bank, jar, what ever, and using that money for the holiday. I don’t have enough self control to stay away from the silver coins for a year, hence the bank account. She has other ideas for cutting costs around your home that you may not have considered before. More money for your account!
  • Are you ready to cut back or quit a vice? Cigarettes cost over $5 a pack in my area. Imagine quitting a pack a day habit. Cutting back on alcohol is another way to “find” money.
  • Speaking of found money, are you getting a tax refund? You can toss 10% of it into your account, and hardly miss it. Same with any other lump sums you may receive over the year.
  • Cut back on luxuries. For example, instead of buying the hard cover edition of your favorite author, borrow it from the library, and put what you’d pay for it in your account.
  • Coupon savings and rebates. If you don’t think these add up, think again. Missy managed to have a cash only Christmas using rebate checks to fund her account. Does that rock, or what?

Those are just some of my ideas for “account stuffing”. I’m really hoping you’ll share your ideas too. I admit, the thought of making credit card companies cry in January, 2011 Works For Me!

Be sure to check out the other awesome ideas over at We Are THAT Family.

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WFMW: Do you have a holiday checklist for you?

I thought of this after we got a call from some friends  the other day inviting us to a Christmas party later this month. If the party were the day of the phone call, my family would be set to walk out the door, properly attired, looking good. Me…not so much. I made a quick checklist fo myself, and thought I’d share it with my nearest and dearest internet pals.

 Hair: Need a cut? Color? Cute hair ornament?

Clothes: Do you have an outfit (or two) for the events you have coming up? Have you tried them on recently? Checked to make sure they don’t need cleaning?

Shoes: Are they a bit scuffed (like mine), or are they polished and ready to go? Do you know where they are? Don’t laugh–I once was late to a dinner because one of my dress shoes was hiding under the couch.

Accessories: Do you have shoes to go with your awesome dress? Nylons? Bag? Appropriate undergarments? Do you know where both of your favorite earrings are?

Misc.: Do your nails need a quick filing? How about your toes? Need a pedicure? Have you checked your eyebrows?

Better to think about this stuff now while were calmly dishing on the ‘net, and not running around like a mad woman five minutes before we’re due to walk out the door. Check out We Are That Family for what’s working for others today.


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Movie Time! Holiday picks…

You might have noticed that I love movies. The holidays have some true classics that I love to see every year. And the classic Christmas programs, like Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer, or How the Grinch Stole Christmas! My pop culture heart is filled with glee.

A few of my favorites fly under the holiday radar, though, and I’d hate for them to be lost in the holiday movie shuffle. WARNING: The first two movies listed are definitely not for younger viewers.

The Ref  Denis Leary is on the lam, and takes the most dysfunctional family in holiday history hostage.

Surviving Christmas Poor little rich boy Ben Affleck rents a family for the holidays. I think he should have shopped around!

Christmas Vacation No matter how nuts you get trying to create the perfect Christmas for your family, Chevy Chase takes it even further. Touted as a “new holiday classic” by certain cable stations.

Pocket Full of Miracles One of my all time favorite movies. It stars Bette Davis and Glenn Ford, one as a beggar, the other as a gangster, and their Cinderella style story. Although Christmas is never mentioned, the Nutcracker Suite score and the “miracles” performed by such unexpected souls, it rates a mention during the holiday season.

Those are my holiday movie picks. What are your’s?

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WFMW: Baby Socks and Christmas Gifts

Do you have some socks your baby/toddler has outgrown? Do you have some rice in the cupboard? Do you have some cotton balls? Some thread? A bit of glue? Congrats! You have all the makings of a Christmas gift grandparents will love.

I love this craft!  I first read about it in Women’s Day magazine when my teens were tots. It was one of my first craft projects that actually turned out like it was supposed to, and was incredibly easy to make.

Rather than give you  my garbled instructions, allow me to give you a link for more concise directions.

A couple of tips: I’ve used fabric paint and sharpie markers to make the face of the snowmen with great success. And I’ve tied off my snowman sections with thread–worked like a charm!

I’ll join you all over at We Are That Family to see what cool projects others have come up with.

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Working the Craft

I’m not sure how it happened. Once upon a time I would attempt these cute little craft projects, and they would turn out looking worse than a preschooler’s art project. Then, not too long ago the impossible happened–my projects started turning out the way they were supposed to.

I’m not questioning the sudden change. Frankly, I haven’t had time to. I’ve been too busy scouring magazines and the ‘net looking for fun stuff to make for the holidays, making trips to the store for supplies, and excitedly shouting to my oldest daughter to look at how great the project is turning out. 

In the past two weeks I have:

  • made turkey magnets with my toddler (I traced her hand on brown fun foam, had her color the feathers with markers, and attached a magnet to the back. )
  • made a Thanksgiving pillow (totally justified–I have so few Thanksgiving decorations. Ahem.)
  • knitted a fuzzy scarf for a friend’s gift
  • got supplies for a couple of wreaths, magnet angels (to make with my toddler),  and a mason jar pincushion

I’ve grounded myself from all craft stores until after the first of the year. I had to. I’m starting to have nightmares of skipping Thanksgiving dinner (that I’m hosting!) to re-attach ornaments to a wreath, or skipping midnight mass on Christmas Eve to make one more pincushion for the mailman’s cousin. Those years of wishing my craft projects would turn out like the pictures are coming back to haunt me.

I am not going to ask if you are planning/have done any holiday crafts this year. Nope. Too tempting. Of course, I can’t stop you if you want to volunteer the information!

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Bat Watch, 2009

There’s something I need to confess. One year I didn’t take down my Christmas lights until the day before guests were coming to my house for dinner.  They were coming to celebrate Easter. Oh yeah.  I had left those lights up for over four months after the holiday. I didn’t think about them unless I was walking up to my house. Once inside, I conveniently forgot about them.

Fortunately, I have kind-hearted neighbors. The following summer, some of them kidded me about how long the lights were up, but nobody complained. After that experience, especially witnessing the graciousness of my neighbors, I should be the soul of compassion when it comes to folks who may not have put away their holiday decorations as promptly as others. And I honestly thought I was. Until The Bat arrived on our block. 

 I have relatively new neighbors. They moved to our block over a year ago. They seem nice. We’ve met a few times, but haven’t really gotten to know each other. This Halloween they put up the coolest decoration ever. The Bat. It hangs inside their picture window. It’s a giant fellow with his wings expanded. And it has glowing red eyes on its menacing face. Before Halloween, I was infatuated with The Bat. On Halloween, I was coveting The Bat. It was so cool!  Now, almost two weeks after Halloween, I’m over The Bat.

The Bat is still hanging around. They still turn on his glowing red eyes every evening.  A few days after Halloween, I started mentally dressing The Bat in festive costumes for other holidays.  A Pilgrims outfit for Thanksgiving. A cheerful Santa hat atop of his menacing face, and a candy cane stuck in his claws for Christmas. Maybe something in a cherub theme for Valentine’s Day.

It’s getting clear that I’m becoming obsessed with The Bat. Last night I was sitting on my porch with the theme from “Batman” running through my head, looking at The Bat with his glowing red eyes, all back-lit from the light in the house. I had an overwhelming urge to scour the city for a Batman costume. I visualized myself putting on the costume, knocking on the door of these nice people that I don’t know very well, and ask why they were signalling me. As I was giggling uncontrollably (by myself on the porch) at that mental image, a thought occurred to me.

I wonder how many of my neighbors had an uncontrollable urge to show up on my doorstep singing Christmas carols that long ago March when my Christmas lights were still up?

Be honest! What’s the longest time you have left outdoor holiday decorations up?

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WFMW: Feeding Unexpected Guests During The Holiday Season

I really, really enjoy having guests over, and unexpected ones can be the most fun. Can be. It’s hard to be a gracious hostess, though, when the cupboards are bare!

When sales are happening before Halloween, we try to stock up on a few things to have on hand for company. It’s not a major shopping trip, and something that can also be easily done by adding one or two additional items at a time during weekly shopping trips. Having a bare cupboard isn’t the only thing that can bring out the Grinch in us–a bare bank account has that same effect!

For example: a box of crackers, a block of cheese, a bottle of wine and poof! cocktail hour with another couple you enjoy spending time with.

Coffee is always on hand here, so I use my favorite chocolate chip recipe to make my own “frozen cookie dough” for the freezer. Pop them in the over for 10 minutes or so and Tada! coffee and a sweet treat to have with a neighbor who stops by to dish.

I like it when my teens have their friends over, so I do my best to have some teen friendly munchies on hand, along with a few two liters of soda pop. A frozen pizza or two stashed away eliminates annoyance for me of last-minute invasions.

Having ingredients on hand for a simple dinner definitely makes it easier to enjoy guests who may be in town for just the day, and found time to stop by our place. It keeps us from running to Captain Cluck, or somewhere equally as charming. One of my favorite “have on hand” meals is chili. I pre-brown and season the ground beef (or turkey), have any vegetables I want to add to it diced, and toss the lot into a baggie that goes into the freezer. In the pantry I keep canned tomatoes, beans, and oyster crackers. It takes me less than five minutes to throw it into a pot, and I can get back to enjoying my guests.

These are a few things that work for me to keep my goodwill towards men (and unexpected guests!) during the holiday season. I hope you’ll check out the other tips and tricks that make life easier at We ARE That Family.

Do you have a favorite snack or meal that you keep on hand for guests?

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Getting into the Holiday Groove

A belated welcome to November!

In my inbox are about a dozen e-mails from folks that have been promising me that if I follow their plan, I will have Christmas prep finished weeks ahead of time. Isn’t that great? Oodles of time to spend with my nearest and dearest, doing… Wait, what are we supposed to do if we’re not running around like crazy people during the holiday season? And where does Thanksgiving fit into the scheme of things?

My crazy idea: In the midst of planning for Christmas (which is one day), I can also plan fun things through out the prep stages. I know, it’s not a novel idea, and many of you may already do this. In my happy home, though, our family’s big holiday entertainment is to watch Mom lose her mind during the season. To be fair, it’s a family tradition that was handed down from my mom. I think it’s time for new traditions around here.

To kick it off, I’m starting with a weekly family movie night. Our two year old isn’t into movies, but happily has an early bedtime. My teenagers (an 18 yo and a 19 yo) shouldn’t be too hard to sway. Food bribes still work with them.

My November movie list has a Thanksgiving theme:

My selections are definitely geared towards adults, with the exception of Snoopy.  The joys of having adult children! Now all I have to do is hide their car keys on movie night…

Do you have a favorite Thanksgiving movie?

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