Post Christmas ~ Day 26

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I hope Santa has been good to all of you and that you have enjoyed the past couple days of festivities with your families. 

I know I have.

It is time to take a short hiatus, but I will be back on January 2, 2013 with a fun announcement and of course, many more posts and stories to come.

Happy New Year to All!

Happy New Year

P.S. Remember, if you are heading out New Year’s Eve – Be Smart!

Please do not Drink & Drive!!!

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Christmas Countdown ~ Day 23

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Holiday Wardrobe

Or lack thereof?  Tomorrow evening marks the first of 2 days of some serious, festive apparal.

So what’s in you closet? 

Does it fit?

Or have you have been into the Christmas Cookies too much already?

If not, there is still time to make a 100 m dash through the department store to see if there is anything left in your size.  You hope.

You don’t need to go all Vera Wang or Pierre Cardin either.  Be mindful of your holiday budget and purchase separates that can be worn throughout the coming year.  I love clearance racks and because I am cheap (ahem….frugal), usually that is the first place I source out in a store.  If they don’t have anything in my size on the clearance racks, then I will grudgingly look elsewhere and try to negotiate a better deal with the sales clerk – you know, like bartering for trinkets in Mexico…everything is so over-priced and we should be allowed to barter here.

Anyway, by now you have found something that doesn’t look like a black burlap sack with the lumpy potatoes in it and you skip out of the mall with prize in hand and geat ready to celebrate in your new found LBD (Little Black Dress)…or slacks and shirt if your a guy. 

Don’t forget the tots in the family either!

Enjoy the festivities over the next 2 days – just don’t overdo it, head back to Day 19′s post for a refresher if you have forgotten already!

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Christmas Countdown ~ Day 22

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It’s a Wrap!

Now that you have pretty much bought and/or made everything that is on your list…it’s time to get them all packaged up and festive looking in the couple days that we have left.

Some people are great at ‘wrapping as they go’….but what is the fun in that?

I like leaving it to the last minute and then spending an entire day surrounded by tissue and wrapping paper, scissors, ribbons, bows, nametags and tape.  Oops…almost forgot the two most important things…Christmas music and a Bailey’s on the rocks.

There…now I am all set.

If you are a really organized person (HA!), then you would have already done inventory of your wrapping supplies 3 weeks ago.  If not – then best grab your hockey helmut and shinpads and venture out to the nearest store to replenish.  Actually, if you wait long enough, you will get better deals on the supplies as the stores are trying to unload as much as possible right now.  Then you can raspberry the organized people who paid full pop for theirs.

Once home, get yourself into a wrapping groove and before you know it, the job will be done.  Then you can concentrate on the last meal planning items on your list and enjoy the next couple days of festivities! 

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Christmas Countdown ~ Day 21

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Status Check!

Pull out every list you have going…grocery, meal planning, gift giving, etc.

Are you missing anything?

If so, get on it today as you have precious time left and no sense waiting until the 24th.

That day is reserved for all the men to do their shopping. 

So let them have the stores to themselves.

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Christmas Countdown ~ Day 20

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ARE WE THERE YET???!!!

Holiday Travel – such fun with kids in tow…..

I would rather stick a needle in my eye than travel with wee tots again.

Only one year I took the kids on a long trip over the Holidays.  It was up to my Aunt & Uncle’s house/farm in Northern Ontario, by Northern, I mean…Friggen Northern almost to the North Pole northern.  OK, maybe not that far, but it sure seemed like it.  

578 km from our home in Southern Ontario to the boonies of the North.  A seven hour drive with 2 kids (ages approx 5 and 8 then) was just about enough to kill every holiday spirit I ever had in me.  I did this trip sans hubby too…he (thankfully I am sure) had to work so I was left to pile the kids into the ol’ station wagon (beauty of a car really, I do miss the floaty ride that Crown Vic had) and set off down the highway.  I don’t remember much after that, it must have been so horrid that I banished it from my mind…..all I know is I arrived, with barely any sanity left in me and proceeded to let my sweet Aunt nurse me back into some sense of reality. 

Traveling with kids is challenging… not just for the kids, but for the adults stuck with them.  Kids do not understand the concept of time and think everything should happen with Star Trek efficiency…via Transporters.  I wish…

Hopefully your vehicle is larger than a smart car too, cause your gonna need the room for the travel games, books, ipods and electronic gadgets for all the kidlets.  These will last approximately 5 minutes though… tops.

Next up, the license plate game, if you are traveling across many state/province borders, it will be somewhat exciting for them.  Otherwise, plain, Ontario plates gets tiring pretty quick.

Snacks and drinks…snacks are fine, gummies, carrot sticks and celery, raisins, home-made trail mix, dry cereal…all are good.  Try and limit the drinks though, otherwise the whiz stop count is going to be a lot higher.

Rest Stops…DO stop once in a while and let the little ones get out of the car and run around like possessed madmen, it will help burn off some energy and restlessness and maybe tire them out enough to nap the rest of the way.

Straight-jackets…. for when the cute-when-sleeping siblings turn into evil monsters trying to out-poke the other.  Actually, we found that if we just split the kids up into different seats (front/back), this solves *most* issues.

Pillows…bring along their pillow or favourite stuffed toy.  Not only does this help to calm them in the different surroundings at night, they do double duty as nap inducers in the car (and no, they are not to be used to smother the little angels, please curb your enthusiasm).

Patience…something every adult needs to pack an extra suitcase of…cause your going to need it.

Sleep…ensure everyone gets plenty of rest, lack of sleep is the number one cause for ill-mannered kids and adults alike.

If you do have to travel with the kids, hopefully the above tips will help you (and them) arrive in one piece…good luck!

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Christmas Countdown ~ Day 19

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What is the Hardest Part of the Holidays?

Staying Healthy

We are coming down to the wire, but still with a very hectic schedule ahead.  Make sure you and your family stay healthy over the holiday season by being mindful of holiday stressors that can suddenly creep in to kill the holiday mood.

Fatigue:  Most adults can attest to not getting enough sleep all year long, but throw the madness of holiday time into the mix and you have a good chance of being downright miserable and cranky come December 25th.  So do what I do – nap! Who says naps are just for children?  Even a 30 to 60 minute nap is enough to recharge your batteries to get you through the day.  Make sure you get at least 6-8 hours of quality sleep every night too.

Over-indulgence:  Yes, it is the holiday season, but it is no reason to totally abandon your healthy meal choices.  Over-indulging not only leads to weight gain, but it will make you miserable in the process and lead to anxiety which leads to sleeplessness, which leads to more misery post-holiday time.  Treat yourself once in a while, but also keep the hummus and carrot sticks handy for when you want a snack. 

Exercise:  Just because it is the holidays, doesn’t mean you are allowed to hang up your gym shoes for the month of December.  If you can’t find the time to get to the gym, throw your favourite music CD into the player, crank it up and dance while you vacuum or steal 20 minutes from your day and bundle up to take a brisk walk.  Moving even for just 20 minutes a day will help to keep your muscle tone.

Booze:  Most certainly, for an adult, it can be one of the best (or worst, depends how you look at it) things to happen over the holidays.  Fancy-schmancy martini’s and liqueurs to sample at the many parties to attend can lead to more than just a hangover the next day.  Too much booze isn’t good for the mind or the waistline.  One of the best things to do while at a holiday party is to drink a full glass of water after each cocktail, taking the time to nurse both cocktail and water will ensure you are staying hydrated and sober.  One major rule of the holiday season never to be broken is: DO NOT DRINK AND DRIVE.  Call a cab or have someone be your DD.

De-Stressing Activities:  Make time at the end of your hectic day by taking 30 minutes or so to ‘unwind’.  Walk the dog, do some yoga or pilates, unearth your knitting project or work on that crossword puzzle.  Spending 30 minutes or so to unwind at the end of the day will prepare you for a good nights sleep.

Practising and following through on the above will help you get through the coming days of madness without sacrificing your mind and body…soon it will be over and we will be able to get back into our normal routines…whatever your normal may be!

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Christmas Countdown ~ Day 18

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AGH! One week to go!

Sorry about that, just had to let that out.  Kinda like a steam kettle, you have to let the pressure out once in a while to be able to continue on.

Today is all about P & P

Planning & Preparation

Have you undertaken an ambitious menu?  Your Freezer and Fridge are your best friends this time of year.  Some of your menu items can be prepared ahead of time and either par-baked or frozen and baked when you need them on the big day.  Right now my freezer is stuffed to the rafters, hubby keeps offering to make room for me though – what a sweetheart he is, so thoughtful!

Taking the time to plan out what can be done in the days leading up to Christmas helps to minimize that frazzled, harried feeling the day of.  Here are a few tips to help you get through the next week in the kitchen.

Planning on Cinnamon Buns Christmas morning?  Prepare the dough and fill the pans ready for baking but instead of baking, immediately put them in the freezer.  These can be made up to a week ahead of time.  Then, the night before, take them out of the freezer and put them in the fridge to thaw overnight and rise.  Then you just pop them in the oven and in 15 minutes, you have warm, heavenly, ooey-gooey, sticky cinnamon buns.

Casserole & side dishes can be prepared and assembled a day or two in advance and kept refrigerated until you need them.  Even smashed taters can be done ahead of time.  With a little research and planning, you can pretty much make everything ahead of time.  No one wants to spend the entire day in the kitchen on Christmas Day, advanced prep allows you to enjoy the day with family.

Planning on a turkey?  Brining is the in-rage right now.  Brining takes anywhere from 12-24 hours.  So make sure you allocate enought time for brining AND roasting.  For more info on brining and roasting, click here.

Desserts need not be fancy either.  Have you already made oodles of Christmas cookies and treats?  Grab a large platter and fill it with an assortment of sweets, this way people can pick what they want or nothing at all, especially if they have managed to stuff themselves like the turkey.

And there you have it.  If you follow the P & P mantra above, you should be able to come away from a hectic but satisfying meal with a smile on your face and hopefully leftovers!

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Christmas Countdown ~ Day 16

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DANGER!!!!

As much fun as the Holiday’s are – they are a clear and present threat to the safety of our furry-four-footed household critters.  Every year, numerous pets are sickened (or worse!) from getting into a number of holiday dangers. 

Here are the top 5 Holiday Dangers to Household Pets:

1.   Holiday Tinsel and Ornaments

Tinsel, while not toxic, is very attractive to pets, particularly cats. The shiny, dangling decoration reflects light and can move in the slightest draft — appearing to come alive to watchful critters.

Cat sits in a Christmas tree

The problem with tinsel is that once it’s consumed, it can cause serious injury to your pet. If not caught in time, this foreign body ingestion could actually be fatal as it twists and bunches inside your pet’s intestines. Immediate veterinary care is required.  If the tinsel does indeed make its way through your pets intestines, the image of ‘poop-on-a-string’ isn’t at all a pleasing visual….

In addition, bright and colorful tree ornaments can attract your pet’s curiosity. Place glass, aluminum and paper ornaments higher up on the tree. Pets can chew and swallow these fragile objects and not only can broken pieces form sharp edges that may lacerate your pet’s mouth, throat and intestines, they could also create a choking hazard.

2. Holiday Lighting & Candles

Twinkling, shiny and dangling holiday lights — such as the icicle, netting, garland, curtain, rope and the many different candles — may be another source of danger to your curious pets.

Got a pet that likes to chew? Electrical shock may occur when a pet chomps down on an electrical cord, causing tongue lacerations and possible death. Check your holiday lights for signs of fraying or chewing and use a grounded three-prong extension cord as a safety precaution.

If you have candles on display, place them in a hard-to-reach spot so that your pets can not access them. Not only can pets seriously burn themselves, but knocking over candles creates a fire hazard and may leave a trail of hot wax that will easily burn the pads of paws and more.

3. Gift Wrap Ribbon

You may be tempted to fashion your pet with a decorative ribbon “collar” but beware that this could become a choking hazard.  It is best to quickly discard ribbons and bows wrapped around holiday gifts so that your curious companions won’t be enticed to chew or swallow them. Ingested ribbon can cause a choking hazard and ultimately twist throughout the intestines, leading to emergency surgery and even death.

4. Food Hazards

Festive events often mean edible treats — and lots of them. Unfortunately, some of the most popular holiday goodies, such as chocolate, bones and nuts, can be extremely toxic or fatal to pets.

 
  • Different types of chocolate contain various levels of fat, caffeine and the substances methylxanthines. In general, the darker and richer the chocolate (i.e., baker’s chocolate), the higher the risk of toxicity. Depending on the type and amount of chocolate ingested, dogs might experience vomiting, diarrhea, urination, hyperactivity, heart arrhythmias, tremors and seizures.
  • Fat trimmings and bones are dangerous for dogs. Fat trimmed from meat, both cooked and uncooked, may cause pancreatitis. And, although it seems natural to give a dog a bone, a dog can choke on it. Bones can also splinter and cause an obstruction or lacerations of your dog’s digestive system.
  • Abundant in many cookies and candies, certain nuts should not be given to pets. Almonds, non-moldy walnuts and pistachios can cause an upset stomach or an obstruction of your dog’s throat and/or intestinal tract. Macadamia nuts and moldy walnuts can be toxic, causing seizures or neurological signs. Lethargy, vomiting and loss of muscle control are among the effects of nut ingestion.

Keep your pet on her regular diet and caution visitors against giving your pet special treats or table scraps. For a full list of toxic foods, visit this toxic food guide for pets.

5. Toxic Holiday Plants

They may be pretty, but some holiday plants are poisonous—even deadly. As little as a single leaf from any lily variety is lethal to cats. Others to avoid:

Holiday poinsettia
  • Christmas tree pine needles can produce oral irritation, vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, trembling and posterior weakness.
  • Holly, commonly found during the Christmas season, can cause intense vomiting, diarrhea and depression.
  • Mistletoe, another Christmas plant, can cause significant vomiting and diarrhea, difficulty breathing, collapse, erratic behavior, hallucinations and death when ingested.
  • Poinsettias can cause irritation to the mouth and stomach and sometimes vomiting.

For more on toxic plants, visit this toxic plant guide.

Taking precautions with pets during Holidays can help ensure that you and your family will enjoy a happy healthy Holiday Season!

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Christmas Countdown ~ Day 15

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B    P    T

Three letters that represent your financial successes over the Holiday Season

Budget,     Plan,     Track

Avoid the January Financial Hangover by budgeting, planning AND keeping track of your expenses this month.  It is easy to get carried away this time of year.  Not just over-indulgence in gift spending, but over-indulgence in food buying as well.

If you sat down and actually calculated how much you spend every year on ONE day of the year – you would be flabbergasted to say the least.

To help you in your quest to save you from financial difficulties come January, initiate the following plan of action and be better prepared this year.

To create a Christmas Budget, you need 3 things:

1. List Spending Categories

2. Set Spending Goals

3. Track Expenditures

Spending Categories:

  • Gifts
  • Stocking stuffers
  • Gift wrap
  • Postage and shipping
  • Christmas cards
  • Holiday photo
  • Tips and service gifts
  • Holiday meals
  • Baking and kitchen gifts
  • Entertaining
  • Décor items and Christmas tree
  • Home improvements
  • Travel expenses
  • Holiday clothing
  • Charitable donations
  • Post-Christmas sales

Spending Goals ~ Next to each category, set reasonable spending goals allocating funds according to the most important categories.  Add up all the items and….pass out…then get up and only then will you realize just what Christmas costs to you and your family.

TRACK all expenses ~ even those small, impulse-type thingies displayed at the store checkout counters.  Then, every other day or so, compare expenses to the actual budget to keep you on an even keel.

Voila….you will have managed to stay on (or under!) budget and can feel pretty darn good about it too.  Keep this year’s budget to set next years budget to keep your ongoing reality check IN check!

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