Monday, December 31, 2012

New Year's Resolution - Be Better Prepared for Christmas Next Year

I really did it this year. Despite the best of intentions (I even read a great book on how to have a stress free Christmas), my finely tuned procrastination skills still got the better of me! There I was - 10 days away from Christmas and still so much left undone.
My Outback - see? I was right!

Now 10 days might sound like a lot to some folks. If you live in a town, for instance, 10 more days to shop seems like plenty. I live in the wilderness, however, and was racing home (after a 2-week out-of-state trip, I might add) to beat a snowstorm so that I didn't get snowed out. Once I got home, I figured I'd be snowed in. So you see why 10 days weren't going to be that helpful?

I do have to cut myself a little slack. Although I am totally responsible for the mess in which I found myself, the crisis was actually the result of a series of unrelated, unforeseen, unavoidable events that all conspired in perfect harmony against me. Well, actually, in perfect chaos is more accurate.

Even the truck and plow won't be going anywhere soon.
But Christmas came and went like it always does and it turned out fine (other than being completely snowed in and not being able to celebrate with any of the kids or grands, that is). But the stress of being unprepared has motivated me! So I've already begun prepping for Christmas next year. And when I say Christmas, I'm also talking about birthdays throughout 2013, as well.

And there's about five miles of this...
Anyway, I'm going to blog regularly about my ongoing prep and I plan to have nothing that is left undone by the end of October. That's right - I'm leaving myself nearly two full months to enjoy the upcoming holidays! No more frantic last-minute shopping online or making my DD spend her lunch hours in the week before Christmas shopping and mailing gifts for me. Nosireebobcattails - this coming year I WILL be ready!

How about you? Will you prepare for Christmas throughout the year?

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Who Would Wash Diapers in a Stream?

I’m completely appalled and more than a little fired up today! In an article about camping on a ‘green’ cloth diapering site, I found the following:
How to wash in camp: Take your diapers to the nearest stream or collect fresh water in a bucket. Sprinkle soap on the diaper and scrub away. (Again, if you’re at a stream, make sure you’re downstream from your water supply and other campers.)
WHAT!!! Are you kidding me??? Wash your diapers IN the stream but just make sure that you’re downstream from YOUR water supply and other campers. What about the folks downstream from you? Hmm.

Are the owner/writers at this site so focused on promoting and selling products that they completely dispense with common sense? It appears so. After all, who could be this ignorant? And surely no one who reads this piece of ridiculous (and I might add totally ANTI-GREEN) advice would really wash diapers in a stream – right?

I’ve chosen not to include a link to the site and have sent in a request for them to edit the article. I sure hope they do so!

Monday, December 24, 2012

A White Christmas - WAY Overrated!

So... What are you doing this Christmas?
Were you dreaming of a white Christmas? Did you get it? Well, we did! In fact, we’re mostly snowed in for Christmas 2012. But this also means that the kids and grands that were planning to come are snowed out.
Our current depth of snow is not unusual. We usually get enough snow after Christmas to be snowed in - but this year it came early. After a full week of more days with fresh snow than without, we’ve got a couple of feet here at the house and my Outback is just a hump in the deeper snow up where we park. Looks like it may be a long winter...
Have a Merry Christmas!

Yes, my Outback is under there - really!
And winter has just begun...
So, how long do you think I'll be snowed in?

Thursday, December 20, 2012

3 Last Minute Christmas Gift Suggestions

If you're not quite done with your Christmas shopping, I have a few last minute gift suggestions.

1. iTunes Gift Cards - I needed last minute gifts for several pre-teens and a friend suggested iTunes gift cards. Available to purchase in many stores or online, you can choose from denominations to fit any budget.

2. Homemade Drink Mixes - If you're on a tight budget, consider homemade drink mixes. Mary over at Penny Thots gives a couple of recipes and packaging ideas in Homemade Christmas Gift Mixes.

3. Car Stuff - And if you've got a little money to spend, and especially if you're shopping for a guy, check out my post on Penny Thots, Last Minute Christmas Gifts from Your Local Auto Parts Store.

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Give Your Children Gifts that Matter

What’s on your Christmas shopping list this year? Have your kids been asking for the latest, greatest toy or gadget? Have you searched the stores or online and found it on sale yet? If not, stop and reconsider. And if so, consider taking it back.

The problem
You’ve probably noticed that many youngsters don’t even know what Christmas is about. And I’m not talking just about the birth of Christ. I’m talking about Christmas, a spectacular holiday that should bring joy to all, having turned into a commercial nightmare that breeds greediness and discontent, especially in children.

The solution

Think about what you want your children to learn and talk it over with your spouse and/or your child’s other parent. Then choose to give gifts that matter instead of perpetuating the commercial glut that is so prevalent each year on Christmas morning.

Three suggestions for gifts that matter

Anything that expands your child’s mind or enhances your child’s life experience can be considered a gift that matters.
  1. Lessons of some sort, a season or annual pass to a museum or planetarium, or some other hands-on experience. If the gift involves you or a grandparent or two, so much the better!
  2. Books and interesting but educational DVDs also fall into the gifts that matter category. Age-appropriate fiction or picture books foster a love of reading, which matters greatly.
  3. Art/craft supplies may seem like all fun and games but also expand the mind and foster creativity. And now that I think of it, I suppose some games (the real kind – you know, where you play with other people? NOT video/electronic gadgets) could even be considered as gifts that matter.
So what do YOU think?

What are your ideas about gifts that matter? Is this even important to you?

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

How to Save Money on Christmas Card Postage

It’s that time of year again and Christmas cards will soon be traveling across the country and around the globe! With ever-increasing postal rates, sending Christmas cards can be expensive. Follow these tips to save money on postage.

Modify Your List

The first step toward saving money on Christmas card postage is to reduce the number you send through the mail. Look over your Christmas card list and remove the names of people with whom you are no longer close. Of those remaining, which recipients MUST receive a card by mail and who can receive greetings in person or by email instead?

Send Postcards

Recycle old Christmas cards into postcards.
The cost of mailing a postcard is significantly less than that of mailing a regular greeting card. To qualify for the postcard rate, the postcard must be rectangular and at least 3½”x5” by 0.007 inch thick but no more than 4¼”x6” by 0.016 inch thick. Postcards outside these dimensions will require extra postage.

For added savings, recycle old Christmas cards into postcards. Just cut the fronts to the required dimensions and add your message, the address and required postage to the reverse side.

Consider E-cards

Although there are lots of online e-card sites available, many people (me included!) are wary of commercial e-cards. So opt for a more personal touch and make your own card or Christmas letter on your computer, convert it to PDF and send by email to friends and family. Remember to include photos!

Final Thoughts

Keep in mind that you can edit your computer-generated card or letter to postcard size/format and print on cardstock to send to those who will not be receiving it by email. And be sure to check with the post office for information on size restrictions and postage requirements for international mail.

Warning! Even if the grandparents on your list have email, they still want a real card with a handwritten message!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

How to Save Money on Christmas Gifts

The gift of time.
With Christmas just around the corner, are you worried that you can’t afford to buy presents this year? Don’t despair! Nice gifts for family and friends don’t have to be expensive. Be creative! You can make presents yourself, find nice but inexpensive gifts, or give the gift of time. The following tips will help you keep Christmas affordable.

First, Get Some Perspective

Most everyone is in the same boat and need to limit expenditures. Your family and friends will appreciate your thoughtfulness much more than they would an expensive gift. So often gifts are chosen in haste and then quickly discarded by the recipient. While lavish Christmas celebrations may be fun, a simple Christmas is more in keeping with the true spirit of the holiday.

Then Make a Plan

Realistically assess your Christmas list. Decide what level of spending is feasible this year and allocate your resources accordingly. Consider giving gifts to children only – their parents will understand and be appreciative of your generosity. Couple or family gifts are often a more affordable option. For adults, consider a card with a personal, heartfelt message. Be sure to remove from your list anyone to whom you’re no longer close.

A Few Ideas

    Delicious homemade fudge!
  • Homemade Goodies - Baked goods and homemade candy are popular during the holidays and provide an inexpensive way to affordably share the holiday spirit. A plate of special holiday cookies complete with the recipe, festively wrapped miniature loaves of pumpkin and zucchini bread, a small box of delicious homemade fudge or gift-in-a-jar mixes are just a few simple and inexpensive gifts that are appreciated year after year.

  • Homemade Gifts - Simple homemade gifts can be more meaningful than the most expensive item. A photo memory jar, for instance, filled with photos on which memories have been recorded is a personalized gift that will be treasured. Think of other homemade options based on your interests and hobbies. Are you a woodworker who can make picture frames or wooden toys? Can you knit or crochet winter hats or scarves? Do you sew or craft? By putting existing skills and materials to use, you can make a variety of unique and inexpensive gifts.

  • Gift of Time - Giving of your time can be the best gift of all. Taking an elderly person shopping, babysitting so that parents can go out for an evening, inviting a child to the park – these gifts cost you nothing but are invaluable to the recipient. For added fun, make a coupon book so the recipient knows how many times and for which activities you are available.

  • Family Gifts - Consider giving a single gift that the entire family can enjoy. Board games are inexpensive and will be used repeatedly. To get the most bang for your buck, stick to the classics like Clue, Monopoly or Life. Yahtzee and Rummikub are also a lot of fun and, with a little help, can even be played by preschoolers.

  • Start an Inexpensive Tradition - Many families choose to draw names to reduce the expense of Christmas gift giving. If your family hasn’t done this already, consider it as an option, at least for the adults. Another inexpensive tradition that can take the place of regular gift giving is an ornament exchange. Ornaments can be purchased or homemade, either in bulk or specifically for each individual recipient.

Parting Thought

When planning your holiday this year, keep in mind that it is not the specific gifts but rather the time spent together and the Christmas traditions that will be remembered.