Christmas Countdown ~ Day 14

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Less than 2 weeks to go – are you panicked yet?  I hope not….  The past 13 Days should have you whipped into such a state of organization that even Martha Stewart would be impressed.

Today it is time to focus on that great big, metal box in the kitchen that sometimes holds a treasure trove of science experiments gone horribly awry.  Like the décor inventory post from the other day, today we take on Refridgerator Inventory! Woo-Hoo!  I know you are just as excited as I am….

The Refridgerator

Take a hard look at what is lurking in your fridge.  A pickle jar holding a single leaning Tower of Pisa pickle?  A bottle of barbeque sauce with barely one inch in the bottom?  A down-to-the-last scrape mayonnaise jar?  DO something with them today, or toss them NOW.

Starting on the top shelf, remove all leftovers, past-the-shelf-date foods, shriveled fruits and drooping vegetables.  Remember to place all past prime foodstuffs in your composter, your garden will thank you for their Holiday Meal next Spring!

The Goal: Make room for Holiday cooking.

Just like our waistbands, our refrigerators overflow during this time of year.

Clearing the shelves of out-dated food stuffs will make room for scrumptious Holiday meals and while you are at it…give the inside a thorough washing with hot, soapy water.  Giving germs and sticky residues the heave-ho will lessen the chances of food-bourne illness and cross-contamination.

NOW…you are ready to fill it with all those yummy recipes that have been on standby in the back of your brain.

 Ready…SET….COOK!

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Christmas Countdown ~ Day 13

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Tree Trimming Time!

Are you a Real Tree Person?

Or

A Fake Tree Person?

I am a real tree person, rather, our family has been since, well, my husband and I started our family many moons ago.  Even as a kid, we always, always had a real tree.  I love the smell of a real tree as soon as you bring it in the house.  They need to bottle that smell as I would buy a ton of it.  I know what your thinking, they already sell those cardboard tree scent thingies to hang in your car – but trust me, those are not even close to the smell of the real thing.

But back to trees though…

If you are a Fake Tree Person, chances are you have had your tree up since El Dia de los Muertos – Day of the Dead….which is November 1st for you English folks that don’t know about the Mexican tradition…sheesh, there I go again, side-car careening off track.  Diehard Christmas-a-holics (of which I clearly do not understand) love their trees and décor so much they revel in it for as long as possible, making the neighbours green with envy….or sick to death of the displays before December even arrives.

Mind you, fake trees have come along way since the first ones were made way back in the 50′s and 60′s….like these….

Honestly…who really thought these things LOOKED like a real tree?!

But today, I am actually amazed how much the new artificial trees look like a real tree…

Still not going to buy one though…not yet anyway.  Maybe when they make a fake tree smell like a real tree…maybe….but I am not committing anytime soon though.

Real Tree People wait (or at least I do) until at least 1 week before but not longer than 2 weeks prior to Christmas to get their trees.  Otherwise, you could end up with more needles on the floor than on the tree come Christmas morning.  Yes, that is the only downside to real trees, but so well worth it IMO.

There are 2 types of Real Tree People – Type 1 are those that venture into the woods, spending hours carefully stalking their prey, before pouncing and lopping it off at ground level and dragging it home like a prized 8-point buck.

Type 2 Real Tree People are the ones that drive to the local gardening store or big box hardware store and purchase one that was cut down in August and shipped from the East Coast.  All told, they spend 15 minutes selecting a tree, run their debit card through the machine to the tune of 30 bucks or so, then strap the tree to the roof or stuff it in the trunk and away they go.

We used to be Type 1 people when the kids were little.  It was fun to drag them through the snow (or a muddy field…if we had no snow yet) and listen to them whining about cold and tired feet.  With the kids grown and gone, we are now Type 2 people.  It is tough to try and get a good pre-cut tree though.  So how do you get a ‘good’ tree when they all say the same thing: ‘Fresh Cut Trees For Sale!’ - What exactly defines a ‘Fresh Cut’ tree????

You do the Bang and Pull test before you plunk your hard earned cash over.

Have your hubby hold the tree up and bang it on the ground hard, if it loses half its needles, it has been sitting around since August.  Then comes the pull test, which is simple, just grab a branch tip of needles and tug, do all the needles come off in your hand? Put the tree back and try another.  With any luck, you’ll end up with a decent tree that will last until at least Boxing Day.

Once you bring your real tree home, you need to make a fresh cut on the trunk and then place it in a L-A-R-G-E tree holder that will hold LOTS of water…NOT like one of these…

This type holds less water than a thimble and your tree will suck the water up in 2 minutes flat.  Christmas trees are fir trees, not cacti.  The goal is to keep your tree alive during the Holiday Season, not transform it into a Saguaro.

Here is a decent sized one that will hold at least a gallon (or more preferable) of water…

Once your tree is secure in its new home, fill it with water and keep it filled every day.  You will be surprised how much water a tree will drink everyday.  I do stop watering mine a day or two before I take it down though, less chance of spilling water everywhere when hubby drags it back out the front door.

All you have to do now is plop your favourite Christmas music DVD into the stereo, grab a mug of hot chocolate (with Bailey’s!)  and spend the afternoon decorating your tree.

Enjoy!

(not QUITE ready to wish you Merry Christmas yet….soon though!)

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Christmas Countdown ~ Day 12

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Décor Inventory

If you haven’t yet ventured into the recesses of your attic or basement…then do this FIRST before you head off to wander the land of disheveled décor.  Grab a pad of paper and a pen and then poke your head into the cobwebbed areas of décor holdings and get ready to perform an inventory list.  This will serve 2 purposes…

1.  It gives you a detailed list of WHAT exactly you have amongst the many bins and boxes.

AND

2.  It gives you the opportunity to divest yourself of stuff that no longer ‘fits’ your decorating style or is broken and beyond repair.

Anything that is broken – toss, why hang on to something that no longer can serve its purpose?  I was guilty of this last year (ok, every year for the past 30 it seems), and after Christmas, I went on a purging spree in my crawl space and got rid of sooooo much broken or stuff I was no longer using.  Purging is highly under-rated in my opinion!

For stuff you want to keep, inspect it closely for any flaws, specifically lighting.  In the past few years with the new LED lights replacing the old strings of incandescent bulbs, now is your opportunity to start saving energy and some stores will even give you a credit towards new strings for old ones.

Once you have a detailed list of what you want to keep, come Boxing Day, you can join the fray of harried buyers looking for great deals to supplement your standby’s with some new and fresh ideas for next year (at bargain prices too).  Don’t forget to update that new inventory list so you will know what have next year beforehand.

Lastly, after the Holiday Season is over and you are ready to pack up your bling, grab a couple of large, plastic tote bins to carefully pack and store your décor items so that next year when you haul the stuff out – it will be neat and organized and contain just the things you want to display.

Now you are Ready and Set… TO DECORATE!

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Christmas Countdown ~ Day 11

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UFO’s

Have you started on your home-made gift items list yet? If not, you are in serious trouble with only 14 days left.  So what do Home-Made gifts have to do with UFO’s?

UFO’s are “Un-Finished Objects”

You know, those crafty things you start every year for family members but never finish them all and the un-finished ones are stuffed in the back of your craft closet awaiting completion….some year.  Now I know you have the best of intentions every year, but usually Father Time has a way of kicking you in the teeth and yanking time out from under your feet.

Be realistic about the time, skill and ability it takes to complete these treasures along with everything else on your To-Do list.  Plan to complete at least 2-3 gifts per week, lumping gift items into one ‘theme’ can help you get the job done quicker.  Themes can be hats, scarves or mitt sets.  Slipper Socks for the nieces and nephews.  Scrapbooking for your kids, these all take time, but if you have a theme, it can be easier to plan and execute as well as you will use up any ‘extras’ from the craft store from one gift to the next.

Working daily or weekly crafting time into your schedule will make it easier to see projects through to completion and have your family members marveling on how you manage to get through it all – with a smile even!

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Christmas Countdown ~ Day 10

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And a one and a two….Hit it!

I hope by now all you folks are organized, less stressed and groovin’ to Bing Crosby or Dean Martin…and speaking of cool Christmas tunes – here is a must have list to play over the Holidays when company comes a calling.  There is something for everyone on this list….except for the Beibs…I don’t think I will be purchasing a Christmas CD of his anytime soon….

1. Bing Crosby - White Christmas…compiled with John Trotter & his Orchestra, a great collection of nostaligia masterfully done!

2. A Very Special Christmas – a collection of Christmas tunes sung by a variety of artists,  the Eurythmics, The Pointer Sisters, Bruce Springsteen, Sting and others.  A great collection for the Classic Rock crowd.

3. Kenny G -Miracles, if you love the instrumental music of Kenny G, then this CD is for you.  Once it starts, you will soon be tap dancing your way around the house.

4. Dr. Elmo – who can resist the corny tunes put out by this band?  Best known for the hit tune “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer’, they also bring some wacky lyrics in ‘Texas Chainsaw Christmas” and “Uncle Johnny’s Glass Eye”.  Definitely not your average Christmas music!

5. Harry Connick Jr. – Harry For The Holidays, for a classic sit down meal, who can resist the crooning of Harry Connick Jr.? 

6. Country Chirstmas – The Covingtons, brings a collection of standard Christmas tunes done in the twang of Country music.  Interesting to say the least!

7. The Chipmunks Christmas – as my family knows, my very favourite CD this time of year and I know I have ruined it for my kids, but too bad.  Nothing gets me bouncing around the house faster than hearing Alvin, Simon and Theodore making merry the music of Christmas.

8. Dean Martin – Christmas Collection…not just a singer, but also a very accomplished actor and was hyterical in the movies he co-starred in with Jerry Lewis.  A powerful, soothing voice that belts out some great tunes in this album.

There are hundred of music choices out there this time of year, so grab your favourite CD’s, pop them into the CD player and bop away!  Just don’t over do it, lest your family try and toss the overplayed CD’s in the fireplace…

 

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Christmas Countdown ~ Day 9

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Impending Doom….January Toy Clutter

No matter the age of your children, it is safe to say most households with 2 or more children under the age of 12 have mountains and mountains of toys and hardly any room to store them.  How many times have you walked into your child’s room and stepped on a Lego or Hot Wheels car and cursed the darn things?  They hurt!  Or have murderous thoughts towards that Tickle Me Elmo doll everytime it goes off?  I am so glad my kids were grown by the time that annoying thing came to being….

Children’s rooms are already stuffed to the max, but they still want the latest and greatest fads.  If you must cave (or have doting grandparents that don’t know when to stop), then it’s time to sit down with the kids and have a chat about the sheer volume of toys in their rooms with barely enough room for their bed and clothing.

If your kids are older than say 5 or 6, you can include them in the organization by saying simply “Santa can’t bring any new toys until you have room for them”.  Start by sorting out all their toys.  Are there things they no longer play with but are in good condition?  Packaging them up and donating them to needy children teaches them the concept of charity that will last a lifetime.

If there are toys that they absolutely must keep, then let them help you box them up and store them in the basement or attic for a while, then, when they are bored with their new toys, you can swap them out in a few months and they will be enamored with them all over again. 

Recycling toys is what I used to do with my own children when they were younger, this way the toys stayed in their rooms and were not strewn all over the house creating a minefield to try and walk through.  Thus saving my sanity!

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Christmas Countdown ~ Day 8

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Company Comes Calling

This is a simple treat for when you have unexpected company with children drop in.  Have some of these pre-made and stashed under your tree to hand out to the kids to brighten their day and warm their tummies!

Snowman Soup

Take a single-serving package of hot chocolate mix, a couple chocolate candy kisses, marshmallows and a candy cane, package in a mug or holiday-themed goody bag, then add a gift tag or bag topper for a cheery winter gift.

Ingredients

1 Individual packet of Hot Chocolate Mix
2-3 chocolate Hershey’s Chocolate Kisses
10-15 mini marshmallows
1 small Candy Cane
Treat bag or zipper storage baggie
Plastic wrap or small zipper storage baggie

Instructions

Place mini-marshmallows in small zipper storage bag, or wrap in plastic wrap.
Tuck hot chocolate packet into treat bag. Add marshmallows, chocolate kiss candies, and candy cane.

Seal bag or close with twist tie.
Holiday hint: glitzy chenille stems make pretty, decorative bag closures.  Curl stem ends around a finger or a wooden spoon to create a curly closure!

Add a printable gift tag or bag topper, or attach hand-written tag using the Snowman Soup poem below.

Snowman Soup Poem

Was told you’ve been real good this year.
Always glad to hear it!
With freezing weather drawing near,
You’ll need to warm the spirit.

So here’s a little Snowman Soup
Complete with stirring stick.
Add hot water, sip it slow.
It’s sure to do the trick!

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Christmas Countdown ~ Day 7

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Gag Gift Time

We all have that one relative, friend or co-worker that has a penchant for handing out gag gifts, jokes, pratfalls, etc. all year long.  Well, now is your chance to get back at him/her with this simple, easy-to-make stocking stuffer.  Also a fun gift idea for handing out to kids too.

Reindeer Poop

Instructions:

To make Reindeer Poop, place a handful of malted milk balls or chocolate covered raisins in a decorative gift, snack bag (available at party supply stores).  Seal the bag and attach a gift tag printed from here that includes the Reindeer Poop Poem.

Reindeer Poop Poem

I woke up with such a scare when I heard Santa call…
“Now dash away, dash away, dash away all!”
I ran to the lawn, and in the snowy white drifts,
those nasty reindeer had left “little gifts”.

I got an old shovel and started to scoop
Neat little piles of “reindeer poop.”
but to throw them away seemed such a waste,
So I saved them, thinking you might like a taste!

As I finished my task, which took quite a while,
Old Santa passed by and he sheepishly smiled.
And I heard him exclaim as he rose to the sky~~~
“Well, they’re not potty trained, but at least they can fly!”

 Enjoy!

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Christmas Countdown ~ Day 6

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Bake With A Buddy Day

The premise is simple….grab yourself a buddy, round up some ingredients and spend the day baking with a friend.  Split the loot, a glass or two of vino and share some laughs and giggles together. 

Spending time with a special someone baking in the kitchen eases stress and gets the cookie-chore done in no time.  If your kitchen is large enough, invite several friends and have them bring their favourite recipes and ingredients.  The more the merrier!

The added bonus? You get to try out some recipes you may not have had the opportunity to taste before AND get to keep some of them!

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Christmas Countdown ~ Day 5

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Attitude Adjustment

Day 5 and even though you have read the past 4 days of messages, you are still feeling grumpy, moody and miserable.

Take a ‘ME’ day.

Turn the cell phone off.  Don’t answer the landline (I don’t answer mine anymore as the only calls I seem to get are people abusing the Do Not Call List).  Brew a cup of your favourite coffee, tea or hot chocolate and head to the quietest room of the house.  Read that book that has been sitting on your night table for months.  Soak in a hot bath.  Bundle up and take a stroll in your neighbourhood.  Pop your favourite CD in the stereo and dance until you are exhausted.

You get the idea.

So go and do it.

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