Organized Christmas

Welcome Home ... for the Holidays!

   December 3, 2015 by Cynthia Ewer

The approach of the holidays! There's nothing quite like it to turn our hearts toward home.

Literally. The first week in December could be termed "Housing Dissatisfaction Week." It's a little-known seasonal indicator of the coming of winter--and it afflicts many of us as we plan Christmas celebrations.

Look around. What do you see? Dirty carpets. Furniture that's seen better days. Mismatched china, cluttered kitchens, drab and bedraggled window coverings.

Christmas Countdown Day 40: Plan Holiday Parties!

   December 3, 2015 by Cynthia Ewer

Will your family celebrate the holiday season with a party?

It's an occasion that can fluster the most experienced hostess--and if you're new to the art form, you can experience a royal case of the jitters.

We've got some tips and printable planning pages that will get you started, but throwing a party is a learning experience.

That's why I want to tell you about my birthday party a couple of years ago. It was a surprise, cooked up by my sweet but not domestic husband.

A few days before, we'd been talking, idly, about birthdays. I realized aloud that I'd not had a birthday party since I was 15, not to mention a birthday cake. Over the years, I'd become the party giver, never the guest of honor.

Doctor Steve decided to fix things. First, he did something smart: he went to see Joyce, our area's premier party diva. She advised him to have a little dessert party. A cake, some cheese, keep it simple, she said.

I'm not sure she realized how literally he would take her words.

White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookie In A Jar

   December 2, 2015 by Cynthia Ewer

A deluxe cookie with a sweet taste of the Hawaiian Islands, White Chocolate-Macadamia Nut Cookies are a sweet and tender accompaniment to hot coffee--or a cool drink.

A recipe from C&H Sugar, this layered cookie in a jar mix makes a happy holiday gift for family, friends or classroom teachers.

Our version includes free printable gift tags.

"Gimme, Gimme" v. Doing Good: Teaching Children to Give

   December 2, 2015 by Cynthia Ewer

Recently, I eavesdropped on an online discussion about teaching children to give.

The original writer was a concerned, conscientious parent of a preschooler. This father shared his plan to teach his daughter about holiday giving. They would, he wrote, sort through the child's toys and set aside several toys "to give to needy children."

An admirable effort, I thought--until he set forth the rest. He hoped to locate a charitable agency that would permit his daughter to hand her toys directly to the child who would receive them. This way, he felt, his child would learn what giving meant in a direct and unambiguous manner.

I stared at the screen and asked "What is wrong with this picture?"

Christmas Countdown Day 39: Teach Children To Give!

   December 2, 2015 by Cynthia Ewer

Today's guest editor, Cub Reporter Perry Bear, takes on a ticklish parenting dilemma.

How do you teach children to give during a holiday focused on receiving?

Today's essay focuses on how to model and teach giving during the season.

Perry has a suggestion, too, which is not so bad for a little teddy bear!

Layered Mix Success: Tips for Making Gifts in a Jar

   December 1, 2015 by Cynthia Ewer

Interested in making layered baking mixes in a jar?

While pretty, these gift mix recipes can leave people asking lots of questions.

How do you get all the ingredients into the jar? How do you make sure the finished product tastes as good as it looks? How far ahead can you make these gifts?

You've got questions? We've got answers! Try these tips for successful Mason jar gifts.

We Whisk You A Merry Kissmas: Stocking Stuffer To Make

   December 1, 2015 by Cynthia Ewer

Ready to share Yuletide greetings ... with a clever twist? This "We Whisk You A Merry Kissmas" stocking stuffer is a sweet surprise for the chocolate lover in your life!

A homemade Christmas gift, a "Kissmas Whisk" is easy enough for children to make and give--and with ingredients from the dollar store, it's inexpensive to make.

Makes a great teacher gift, stocking stuffer or office Secret Santa present.

Christmas Countdown Day 38: Make Room For New Toys!

   December 1, 2015 by Cynthia Ewer

Santa's coming ... will there be room to store new toys?

Adding Santa's bounty to overstuffed kids' rooms is a recipe for January clutter disaster--and don't even try to tell this Nana to scale back on presents for the grandchildren. Bah, humbug!

About this time of year, it's a good idea to contemplate the toy situation in your child's room.

It's a fact of modern life. Children's playthings have exploded in number, size, and complexity, while children's storage options have remained static.

Just try storing a Happy Meal collection in the average toy box! Even the best-organized kid's rooms can easily drown in today's toy avalanche.

And nowhere is the clutter more apparent than at Christmas. Time for a sneaky/secret/flat-out toy reduction!

Simplify Holiday Traditions: Do Less, Enjoy It More!

   November 30, 2015 by Cynthia Ewer

"Tradition" is a powerful force that sometimes pulls an unsuspecting family along in its wake. Do your holiday traditions serve your family, your values and your spiritual beliefs--or are you running a tired and joyless circle each holiday season in the name of tradition?

To cut stress during the season, don't wait to give your family's holiday traditions a stiff scrutiny.

Give some thought to your family's holiday traditions well before the season is full upon you. Try these ideas to simplify your family's traditions--and deepen the season's joys!

Christmas Countdown Day 37: Simplify Holiday Traditions!

   November 30, 2015 by Cynthia Ewer

Last night, good Dr. Steve and I participated in one of our favorite holiday traditions: watching the wonderful Christmas movie, A Christmas Story.

As we laughed along with Ralphie and his friends, we made the same comments we make every year. "That kid looks just like my Dad, when he was little!" said Dr. Steve. In singsong, I chanted "Mommy's little piggy!" right along with Ralphie's mom.

Just as we have for the last 18 years, we turned to one another at the end and said, "That is the best Christmas movie ever made!"

Earlier in our marriage? Meshing two sets of holiday traditions wasn't as simple as watching movies together. His way, her way needed to become our way.

How did we simplify and harmonize two sets of holiday traditions?

Magic Reindeer Food: Printable Stocking Stuffer

   November 29, 2015 by Cynthia Ewer

Many families leave cookies and milk for Santa, but what about his reindeer?

Sprinkled on the lawn on Christmas Eve, Magic Reindeer Food leaves a glittering path--and a sweet snack--for Rudolph and friends.

An inexpensive stocking stuffer, Magic Reindeer Food makes a great classroom or Secret Santa gift.

Package this simple recipe in zipper food storage bags, and add a free printable gift tag containing the Magic Reindeer Food poem to make Magic Reindeer Food easy to make--and to give.

Make Christmas A Family Affair

   November 29, 2015 by Cynthia Ewer

Who knows why? How did it happen? Women--wives and mothers--have come to bear the brunt of holiday preparation.

It's enough to make Barry Manilow sing! Women plan the meals, list the gifts and shop until we drop. We cook, we clean, we decorate--and we wrap and wrap and wrap.

Our hands cramp from addressing Christmas cards. We go short on sleep to run the sewing machine late into the night. We rise before dawn to anoint the holiday bird and entrust it to the oven.

House & Holidays Plan Week 14: Storage Week

   November 29, 2015 by Cynthia Ewer

December's here and with it, the fullness of the holiday season. This week in the House & Holidays Plan, decorations shine bright as we prepare a welcome home for the holiday season! 

As we remove decorations from storage, we'll focus on the storage space they call home the other eleven months of the year.

In holiday prep, the season moves toward full swing with the coming of Advent. It's time to begin Advent observances, complete gift shopping, mail send-away gifts and work on holiday decorating.

Christmas Countdown Day 36: Celebrate! Week

   November 29, 2015 by Cynthia Ewer

We're in the home stretch! It's Celebrate! Week at the Christmas Countdown, a time to tidy up our preparations and shift gears into full holiday mode.

Take stock today! Find and tie up those loose ends.

This week, we'll complete and mail Christmas cards, finalize gift-buying and gift-making, and plan any holiday parties.

We'll finish holiday decorating, inside and out. We'll focus on family, bringing all family members into the holiday preparations. We'll consider the children, and find ways to teach children about giving, not just about getting.

Most of all, we'll rejoice. While the holiday season means many things to many families, for all, it's a season of joy and celebration.

You're nearly ready ... to celebrate an organized Christmas!

Control Christmas Tree Clutter with an Under-Tree Storage Box

   November 28, 2015 by Cynthia Ewer

Christmas is a time of cheer ... and clutter! You'll find Christmas clutter lining each box and storage bin as you pull out holiday decorations.

An ornament box spills over with hanging hooks and zip ties. The tiny red-tipped light bulbs you need to make light strands blink. Special tools and assembly sheets for your "nevergreen" artificial tree. The dandy gun-shaped light tester, complete with instructions and replacement bulbs. Left to their own devices, they scatter around the house, never to be found when you need them--but popping up to haunt you right into the new year.

How to bring order to Christmas clutter? An under-tree storage box.

Christmas Countdown Day 35: Catch-Up Weekend!

   November 28, 2015 by Cynthia Ewer

It's coming, it's really coming ... it's here? Oh, NO! The Saturday after Thanksgiving can be a time of flagging motivation. How is it that, despite cooking for three solid days, the leftovers give out less than 48 hours after the Thanksgiving feast?

In spite of all the preparations, no one feels really prepared for the Christmas season to come--and after the Thanksgiving holiday, it's no longer possible to avoid the obvious. Here it comes!

It's natural enough when you think about it, but nobody expects to be a bit depressed at this point of the season. But for many of us, there's no "good enough" when it comes to the holiday season. No matter where we are, plans, prep or purchases, this is the week we feel the strain.

Have you made a Christmas planner, gotten organized for gifts and giving, and done more holiday prep than ever before--but still, you feel anxious?

Time to relax--with a catch-up weekend!

Christmas Countdown Day 34: Record Holiday Memories!

   November 27, 2015 by Cynthia Ewer

Who says holiday traditions have to be "sweet"? Thinking about Christmas trees, I can't help but laugh at my childhood memories.

An Episcopalian home, our family kept a "good Advent". While we observed special Advent customs and decorations, no Christmas tree entered our home until December 24, the first day of the liturgical Christmas season. The tree then stayed up until Twelfth Night, and we'd make a little family party as we took it down on January 5th.

"Awwww!", I hear you say. Well, there was just one tiny little problem: our family lived in hot, dry Las Vegas, Nevada. Buying a once-fresh tree on December 24 was an ever-changing adventure!

Christmas Countdown Day 33: Give Thanks!

   November 26, 2015 by Cynthia Ewer

We are thankful! Today, America gathers for family, feasting and football. It's the purest of our holidays: a day set aside to be grateful.

Gratitude is an attitude. Psychologists have proved that Pollyanna was right: counting your blessings creates a blessed heart. Those who are grateful weather life's minor storms more easily.

So be thankful, America!

And our Canadian friends, and readers from throughout the world? You can be thankful, too--no assignments today on the Christmas Countdown!

Christmas Countdown Day 32: Prepare a Holiday House!

   November 25, 2015 by Cynthia Ewer

There's something special about a holiday house!

This weekend sees a long standing Ewer family Thanksgiving tradition: on Black Friday, my husband and I will scour the storage room, drag out the boxes, and begin decorating for Christmas.

Lighted garlands, fresh poinsettias, bright bows will change the entire feeling of our home. "It's such a merry, cheery holiday house, Sweetie!" Dr. Steve is sure to remark.

Yes, my dear husband loves the holiday season. So much so that he'll spend 30 minutes poring over the professionally-installed holiday lighting on a neighbor's home and laying plans for the coming weekend.

Will he do our neighbors one better? Only the Home Depot knows for sure!

Blizzard Bites In A Jar

   November 24, 2015 by Cynthia Ewer

Crunchy and sweet, this no-bake snack mix in a jar is easy to make and fun to give.

To make Blizzard Bites, you'll layer crunchy cereal, pretzels and peanuts with tangy dried cranberries and candied pineapple in a Mason jar or canning jar, then add meltable white-chocolate chips.

To make Blizzard Bites snack mix, recipients melt white chocolate chips and coat the snack mixture with a sweet holiday topping. It's simple ... and sweet!

A great gift for teachers, Secret Santa exchanges or 12 Days of Christmas activities. Make it easy with free printable gift tags!

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