tips for a stressfree christmas

  • Staying Lean at Christmas

    health coachThe plan today was to finish up our series on Christmas Traditions in other parts of the world. However, I had a meeting this morning with Melissa, my health coach, and now my mind and heart are reeling from our talk . . . so much so that I'm having a hard time thinking about anything else! I do love switching things up around here, so here we are, discussing staying lean at Christmas!

    Melissa and I were talking specifically about my journey and what is next on our long list of things to work on, and maybe sometime I'll share some specifics about that. But for today, this whole process I'm in got me thinking too about the holidays and weight gain and the aftermath of all that. For a couple years now I have been a part of a Facebook group whose goal is to maintain our healthy habits throughout the holidays without deprivation. Say what?

    snowmenIt seems almost impossible what with all the extra sugary treats, rich foods, parties to go to, cookie exchanges, etc. to emerge none worse for the wear.  And, even tho some studies show that we, on average, gain only about 1 pound over the Christmas holiday, so often momentum that was hard won prior to the holidays is lost, and that takes much longer to recover.  I'm going to share with you some of the things I have learned, both through that group and from my health coach that can help to avert that crisis.

    We_Can_Do_It!

    Keep that momentum going while still enjoying the most wonderful time of the year! Here's how:

    1. Set your mind. Once we set our minds to accomplish something, to do something, to be something, it is often very difficult to change, good or bad! Decide ahead of time what you want, what you really want. You don't want extra pounds in January, right? You don't want a foggy brain or an energy sap, right? Then, adjust your plans. Decide. Then, when it comes time to make choices at the party or the family dinner or the cookie table at work, you'll intuitively know what will and what won't serve you best.
    2. Maintain your healthy diet and exercise regimen. Many people use the holidays as an excuse to take a holiday from how they know they should eat. The trick is turning that "shoulda" into something that you want to do. Once you find what's right for you and your body and you don't feel deprived, stick with it. You will enjoy Thanksgiving and Christmas far more and feel so much better about yourself. And, who knows, your good habits may just rub off.
    3. Go for a walk. After that family dinner, enlist others to go for a walk. I know I know, sometimes all you wanna do is lay on the couch. But, just a short 20  minute walk about 15 minutes after eating a large meal burns more calories, plus aids your digestion. It doesn't even have to be a fast walk. Take a stroll in the snow or at the park or wherever you want.
    4. Choose your indulgences wisely. Some people decide ahead of time they'll enjoy just one very decadent treat, so that means they are constantly on the lookout for what that'll be. Once you find it, have a small piece, or even just a bite. Often that's all our taste buds really need to feel satisfied.

    I am not a health coach or a personal trainer or anything like that. I'm just a person who strives every day for good health. And, I'm wondering why it should be any different at Christmas. :)

    Have a happy, healthy holiday!

    Photo credit:  Tape measure, Snowmen, We Can Do It

  • Getting Organized: Build a Christmas Notebook

    The brainstorming for fun and fresh ideas for Christmas 2013 gift-giving has begun! If you saw yesterday's post about the perfect gift for your culinary friends, you know that the wheels are gathering momentum. I'm tellin' you, once they start rolling, there is no stopping them! With so much time to create, my brain has slipped into overdrive. The ideas are popping like popcorn (mmm, popcorn, what could we do with popcorn?) and I need to corral these ideas before they jump ship.

    Can you relate?!

    This all just means we need to get organized. These genius ideas need to get plugged into a grand plan so that they actually become reality. I encourage you to join me this year in starting a Christmas notebook, a place where everything Christmas has a place.  I’m imagining this will be a valuable tool we'll use from year to year. There will be a handful of standard sections that we'll unpack over the next few posts, and of course you’ll be adding in your own sections based on your traditions. To start, we'll have Ideas, Gift Recipient List, Christmas Card List, and Schedule.

    Over the weekend, go ahead and pick up your supplies. You will need a notepad (accessory size), a 1 - 1-1/2" three ring binder that has pockets on the inside, a couple sets of dividers, and a glue stick. I like to use binders that have the clear plastic sleeve on the front to insert my own cover, but for this project I'm tempted to get one that I can draw or paint on as the mood strikes. Do whatever makes you smile. :) Also, it will be helpful to have a calendar that will either go in one of the pockets or you can three-hole punch it and leave it in the front of the book.

    Until next week, let the ideas roll! Be thinking, too, about your own traditions and what other sections you might want to include.

    Merry Organizing!

     

    Photo courtesy of Someecards

  • Cleaning up after Christmas

    My Target ad has a sale on plastic storage bins this week, from special sizes to hold wreaths and ornaments, to the regular box shapes. I'm certainly not ready to pack away my holiday decorations yet, but it did get me thinking...what are some things I can do to make that process easier? And even better, what could make next year's decorating process smoother?

    Our empty stockings are now laying in a pile, having served their purpose for the year. I realized a while ago that each hanging-ribbon should be stored in its own stocking. This year, I'm adding a photo of how the stockings are hung on the railing with even spacing. Sounds silly, but I always end up rearranging the garland and untying/retying them several times to get it right. (Probably not so tricky if you're using stocking hangers on a mantle. :))

    If you have a real tree, Kevin Sharkey suggests putting a large plastic bag around the base, under your tree skirt. Then when you're ready to bring the tree outside for trash or for the birds, you won't have such a needle-y mess. Maybe you could even store a bag with your tree stand now, so that you remember for next year.

    Does anyone else have an empty cardboard box lying around after present-opening? Maybe ten? Don't recycle all of them, but instead cut them into pieces and wrap your strings of lights and tinsel garlands around them. No more untangling battles when it's time to light the tree next year! Thank you, Taylor at Household Management 101.

    I've seen a couple of good tips on Pinterest for storing ornaments, if you don't want to buy special bins. One from the Greenbacks Gal is storing small ornaments in empty egg cartons. Another from Martha Stewart is making your own storage by hot-gluing plastic cups to a sheet of cardboard. I like this because you could make the boards any size you want, to fit the size of your bin and the amount of ornaments that you have.

    What are you doing to simplify or organize your post-Christmas cleanup?

  • Christmas on a Budget

    December is an expensive month, is it not? Christmas gifts are the most obvious expense, but there are often clothes to buy for the parties, at which there is food. Or photos (in possibly a different set of clothes) for holiday cards. Decorations, a tree, charitable giving, etc. - it adds up quickly!

    Whether you need to cut back on spending, or just want to rein in the madness, there are many ways to do so without feeling like Ebeneezer Scrooge. Here are a few angles that you may not have considered.

    Writing at Simple Mom, Tsh reminds that planning ahead is the key to staying within a budget at Christmas. That includes setting money aside each month for the bigger bills in December, and also being mindful of the many little expenses that come up in this season. She offers this free Christmas budget printable to help you plan.

    A Christmas tree is another big expense. I realize that some of you just questioned my promise of non-Scrooginess because cutting down your own tree or picking the best one from the corner lot is your very favorite Christmas tradition. But for others, this may be a fun way to change up your holiday decor. I was definitely looking for tree alternatives in the years when my boys were toddling around precariously! Check out these creative options for inexpensive Christmas tree alternatives.

    This is probably my favorite list, and I may accidentally leave a printout where my husband will find it...10 Holiday Dates. There are a couple of splurges like tickets to the Nutcracker, but most of the options won't put a dent in your bank account. Brett at The Art of Manliness puts the list in a romantic context, but nearly all of the options could be adapted for a group of friends, a family or even an office get-together. Another bonus is that most of them are interactive, perfect for forming lasting memories.

    Remember that you can start with just one or two areas to cut back your holiday spending - Pinterest is a great resource for this. Try entering a search like inexpensive Christmas gifts or whatever suits your holiday budget style. You're sure to find a way to save a few dollars this season!

    What are your best money-saving tips at Christmas?

     

     

     

  • Timeless Gifts to Help You Save

    One of the most often suggested tip for saving when buying Christmas gifts for your friends, family and loved ones is to buy way before the Christmas rush starts. Shopping for Christmas gifts in January is not too far out. The only way to do this is to hoard gifts that are considered timeless. MerryStockings.com offer these suggestions on what to get your many friends and relatives for Christmas 2011, as early as now!

    1. Get Creative! If you have the talent to paint or draw, you can probably create some masterpieces that you could give your loved ones. Paint their portraits, houses, favorite places, children. The ideas of what to paint are endless. It all depends on what you want him or her to remember or knowing what he or she cherishes the most. This is also true if you are interested in needlework, cross-stitching or other crafts. Starting now, it is very possible to be able to give each and every friend or relative a unique gift that came from your hands.

    2. Start a savings account for your kids. A great way for you and your kids to bond and teach them a little something about money. Instead of encouraging your kids to list down their most wanted list from Santa this year, tell them that they can buy anything that they save for come Christmas time. What's more, you can match their savings to make it more attractive for them. Say you can match it 1 to 1 or 50 cents for every dollar.

    For example, you can tell your kids that for every dollar they put into their savings account, you would also deposit a dollar. So if he or she deposits $10 now, he or she would have $20!

    3. Give them something very useful for them. If you know your loved ones very well, you have an inkling what they need the most. It could be an article of clothing, a tool or materials. For example, if your mother loves to bake, then you can certainly buy her baking materials or pans when your local retailer has a sale. You can buy umbrellas at half the price during summer. It's all a matter of timing!

  • More Ways to Have Fun with Old Christmas Cards

    MerryStockings.com offers you more ways to make use of old Christmas cards. Now you do not have to throw them out and still have fun with them! Talk about re-purposing!

    6. Create your own unique bookmark. Christmas cards are made of thin yet very sturdy cardboard, making it a great bookmark material. Cut out the graphics and punch a hole in it. Run a ribbon, twine or string through the hole and voila! you have a great looking bookmark!

    7. Reuse them as Christmas postcards. For those Christmas cards where the inside front are left without any writing, cut out the front of the card and use the card as a postcard. For added effect, draw a line down the center of the card. Then you can use the left portion for your message and the right portion for the recipient's address.

    You can also use these postcards as a thank you card for all those gifts you have recieved!

    8. Turn old cards into scrapbook material. If you keep a scrapbook, the graphics on these old Christmas cards can provide the best background for your Christmas page. You can create picture holders, stickers and frames using old cards.

    9. Old Christmas cards make the best Christmas ornaments! Simply find a figure or graphic that you can cut out from old Christmas cards. Have a card with a particularly cute Rudolph or an endearing Santa Claus up front? Then cut it out and tape a looped string behind it. These would make your Christmas tree a lot more interesting and bursting with variety.

    10. If you enjoyed turning your Christmas card into gift tags, you can probably use the larger designs as accents for your gift wrapping. Next Christmas do away with simple gift wrappers by gluing cut out graphics on them.

  • Don't throw those Christmas cards away!

    Now that Christmas is over, you are probably packing away the tree and storing away your Christmas decorations. You may have received a bunch of cards from last Christmas and are ready to throw them out. Don't. There are a lot of things that you can use these old Christmas cards for. MerryStockings.com offers you some suggestions.

    1. Use them to decorate your house next Christmas. Think about setting up a Christmas card wall that includes the Christmas cards you have received over the years. These could be those special cards from special people. Not only would this give you the chance to recollect on the messages and the people who sent them, the beautiful graphics of the card would provide a great Christmas display.

    2. Use them to decorate your own candy holder. The graphics on the front of the card could provide eye-catching designs for a Christmas candy holder. If you have old tin cans, you can paint these with green or red and then stick cut out card fronts all over.

    3. Create a Christmas ball. Cut out the front of several cards to make similarly sized pentagons. You can glue these together to make a hanging ball.

    4. Use them to show your love on Valentine's Day! There are a lot of Christmas cards that come in red. You don't even need the graphics for this one. Cut out the back of the red Christmas card to form the shape of a heart, or a cupid. There are a lot of stencils for you to use with this particular project. Send these to your spouse, children or significant others!

    5. Christmas gift tags. People usually leave the back of the card's front empty. You could cut out the graphics on the card and use the back to write your own messages to server as gift tags for next Christmas!

  • Tips for Cleaning Your Brass Christmas Hangers

    Brass is a metal that will oxidize and turn black in the long run. This is the reason why the raw brass is coated with a thin layer of lacquer to prevent it from tarnishing. MerryStockings.com offers you some simple reminders to keep your brass Christmas hangers shining year after year.

    1. Brass is actually simple to maintain. First you would need to remove the tarnish with a good polish that contains detergents and other chemicals designed to clean the metal. Then coat it to inhibit tarnishing in the future. Most commercially available brass polish products have these chemical to clean and protect brass.

    2. Do not overdo it. A lot of people think that when polishing brass using more polish is good. This is actually a misconception. Using a lot of polish can cause the surface to discolor. You would also have a problem with fingerprints. When polishing brass, make sure that you use only a small amount of polish, enough to cover the metal with a thin film of polish.

    3. Spread out the polish with an absorbent cloth. Buff the metal using the thin film of polish and an absorbent cloth. This will make the polish harden on the metal, making it less prone to smudging.

    4. If you do not have brass polish on hand, use rubbing alcohol to clean your Christmas stocking hanger. Use a sponge to clean the brass. Then using a treated dust cloth, wipe down the brass. The minute amount of oil present in the treated cloth would help protect the metal.

  • How to Store Christmas Ornaments

    MerryStockings.com gives you some more tips to remember when storing Christmas ornaments.

    1. If you buy a new set of ornaments, keep the boxes that they come in with. Manufacturers know what would protect their merchandise best, so they line their boxes with bubble wrap, or they make it into certain shapes. This is especially true for online retailers who take extra precautions in their packaging to minimize the chance of damage while shipping. Hence this is also the best way to store your ornaments.

    2. Do not remove the hooks and the strings you used this year. Pack your Christmas tree ornaments with the hooks inserted. This would lessen the work you have to do the next time you hang these ornaments. Besides, taking out the hooks and strings and putting them together is one way to end up with a tangled mess next year.

    3. Buy a storage bin. You might want to buy a storage bin for your ornaments. Pick one that is bigger than what you need now to make room for ornaments you're going to buy or for those ornaments that people gift you with. Choose an airtight storage bin as this will protect your ornaments better.

    4. Throw away broken ornaments. This does not need further explanation, except that a lot of people hang on to broken ornaments for sentimental reasons.

    5. Hold on to ornaments that come in different colors, sizes and shapes. You may have bought a set of ornaments before and over the years some parts of this set has been lost, broken or thrown out. Do keep the good ones that are left. You can still use these for your wreaths during the next Christmas season. Or you could go with a more festive and varied ornament bowl. You can also use smaller orphan ornaments as a pretty addition to your gift wrapping.

  • How to Store Christmas Decorations, Part II

    MerryStockings.com continues to give you time-tested tricks on how to store Christmas decorations to make them last for years to come.

    Here are some more:

    4. Old socks for your Christmas candles. Wrap your Christmas candles using old stockings or socks, to avoid scratching them. If you store them in the attic, make sure not to place these candles under hot areas.

    5. Store your Christmas lights right. Using a piece of carton, wound your Christmas lights so that you do not have to contend with the tangles next year. Similar to Christmas ornaments, you can wind together similar lights and properly label them. Do not be a cheapskate and make sure you throw out lights that are not working properly or have been damaged. It is better to be safe than sorry.

    6. Label, label, label! With Christmas decorations and just about anything that you store, it makes good sense to label the boxes properly. Make sure that you put a list of contents outside each box so you do not have to open them all. Order the boxes in the way they should be unpacked. For example, those things that you need at the start of the Christmas season such as the advent calendars, Christmas cards and Christmas stockings are to be found in Box No. 1, while those that you need at the end like Christmas ornaments would be at Box No. 12.

    7. Take pictures! If you want a head-ache free assembly for Christmas decorations that needs to be reassembled, then take pictures so that you would remember how things look like and you would get an idea on how to reassemble it.

    8. Storing Christmas cards. Whether you have left-over Christmas cards, or you just want to keep Christmas cards you have received from friends and relatives, the best way to store Christmas cards is inside a tin can. Save those tin cans from chocolates and store your cards in it. For added protection, you can use a used Christmas gift wrapper to wrap you cards first before storing them.

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