Sunday, November 30, 2014

Christmas Countdown to an Organized Christmas - Day 8 - Reality Check Week

Article and Photo Courtesy of Organized Christmas

Halloween has come, November is here--and the holidays won't be far behind! Furniture ads weigh down the Sunday paper, and in the shops, retailers are busy sweeping the remnants of harvest merchandise away before the tide of red-spangled Christmas promotions.

It's the quiet week before the rising tide of holiday season to come.

Time for a Reality Check! During Overall Reality Check Week, (additional printable forms)  we take aim at holiday illusions that stand between us and the Christmas of our dreams. What are the ideas, preconceptions, and habits that drain the joy from your family's holidays?

Granted, this isn't always the easiest week. We'll be examining several hot-button holiday issues. Money. Time. Stress. Unrealistic expectations.

These factors are the not-so-secret underside of Christmas joy. Don't be surprised if this week's exercises raise some holiday-related anxieties. At Christmas, is there ever enough time, enough money, enough energy?

There's a method to this madness. By taking a long, cool look at the forces that complicate holiday observances, we gain the power to change them: to simplify, scale down and reign in holiday excess. Our goal: to remake our celebration so that it expresses our own deepest values, free from outside interference.

We won't leave you alone and in the lurch; each day, you'll find ideas and inspiration to arm yourself against holiday joy-killers.

Ready? Time for a Reality Check ... to get organized for your family's most joyous Christmas ever:

To Do This Week

To Do Today

Check home preparedness on Time Change Sunday

The end of Daylight Saving Time brings a welcome extra hour to our day; will you use it to assess home preparedness as we move into winter? As you set back the clocks, check smoke detectors, change lightbulbs, review readiness for cold and flu season and assess your household's emergency plan.

Autumn's here and it's time to Fall Back: Time Change Sunday is on the way!

On the first Sunday in November, we come to the end of Daylight Saving Time in most of the United States. With an extra hour in the day--and winter on the way--it's a good time for a seasonal home preparedness checklist!

As you circle the house, resetting clocks to Standard Time, make time for this short safety checklist. It'll see you into the winter from a safe--and organized--home:

Change the clocks, change the batteries. Smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors save lives ... if they're powered on by a fresh battery. Safety experts recommend replacing smoke and carbon monoxide detector batteries twice a year--so celebrate Time Change Sunday with fresh batteries all around.
Energy savings hint: don't toss the replaced batteries just yet. While they're likely not fully charged, replaced batteries can still do duty in children's toys, media players or electronic devices. Squeeze the last drop of power out of them before you recycle!

Replace light bulbs. Long dark winter evenings call for a little illumination! Since you'll have stepladders out to reach smoke detectors and clocks on Time Change Sunday, double up on safety (and energy savings) by checking for light bulbs and fixtures.
Consider replacing conventional bulbs with energy-efficient compact fluorescent or LCD bulbs. The U.S. Environmental Protection estimates that replacing standard bulbs with energy-efficient ones saves over $30 in electricity costs over their lifetime.

Prepare for cold and flu season. Cold weather is here and so are colds and the flu; will your household be prepared if illness strikes?
Check the medicine cabinet, and assess stocks of over-the-counter medications. Do you have sufficient non-aspirin fever reducers, cough syrup, and decongestants needed to fight colds or flu? Has the thermometer gone missing? Be sure Dr. Mom is ready at the first sign of seasonal illness!

In the pantry, a stockpile of canned soup and lemon-lime soda can ease cold symptoms and fight off dehydration--and don't forget to stock up on disposable tissues for all those coughs and sneezes!

Make or review your family emergency plan. If an emergency strikes, will your family know what to do?
Review your family's emergency plan, or create one for the first time. Update phone numbers, addresses and contact information, and post an Emergency Information Page near the phone.

Learn more about what your family needs to know in case of disaster or emergency:

Family Emergency Preparedness from

Are You Ready? A Guide For Citizen Preparedness from

Print Emergency Plan Forms and First Aid Checklist to make it easy to develop a plan in case of emergencies: 

Christmas card call!

Last week, we began a Christmas card list; this week, it's time to get to work! If you'll send a holiday letter, time to draft and print. If sending cards, be sure you're stocked up and ready to write; add any needed items to the shopping list.

Divide the Christmas Card List into five groups. Write and address one group this week.

Print and start a master shopping list.

With the holidays drawing near, shopping can take on a life of its own. Between buying gifts, stocking the pantry and preparing for holiday decorating, shopping trips can multiply like snowflakes--and gobble up much-needed energy.

Holiday brains are busy enough! Save time and stress with a Master Shopping List. Keeping a one-page list of all needed items ensures you won't forget that must-have ingredient for the day's baking.

Color-code entries, or group them by store or category to speed shopping trips. Find a few extra minutes in your daily round? One look at your list will remind you that you need supplies for the week's handmade gift; take a detour into a nearby crafts store to mark one more item off the list. Neat!

Finally, grab the list when you go out the door. Knowing what you need--and where you need to buy it--cuts down on repeat trips to supermarket or shopping mall.

Simplify Your Holidays: Ten Tips for a Stress-Free Holiday Season

Planning your celebration, will you turn the volume down on holiday overkill this year? Try these ten easy ways to create a simpler celebration:

Sure, you love the holiday season--but just not so much of it! This year, you're hoping to cut the crazy out of Christmas: to trim the celebration back to one that is sustainable and calm.

Question is, just how do you do less--and enjoy it more--during the Christmas holiday season?

If you're aiming to simplify Christmas, take time to ponder ways to cut stress, save money and tame over-the-top traditions. Setting simplicity strategies in place early will keep you from being swept up in holiday madness.

Get armed! Try these ten simple strategies to calm holiday chaos and rein in the seasonal overkill this year.

10 Simplicity Strategies

1. Prune the to-do list. Ask, “If I don’t do this, what will happen?” Aim to knock down the list of chores to the rock-bottom necessity.

2. Cut the gift list. Rein in gift exchanges that have been outgrown or lost their meaning. Limit gifts to children only, draw names, or organize a gift exchange.

3. Wrap as you go. Who needs to spend Christmas Eve catching up on wrapping chores? Sticky notes will help you keep track of gift contents.

4. Buy, don’t bake. Turn your back on the oven this year. Supermarkets, bakeries and the freezer department of the discount warehouse are a great source for delicious, pre-baked holiday treats.

5. Call, don’t send cards. Reach out and touch someone … the easy way. Online greeting cards are easy, inexpensive and fun to send. No more lines at the post office!

6. Scale back décor. Substitute a simple door wreath for outdoor lighting, a tabletop tree for the over-the-top tannenbaum. Focusing holiday decor on the Big Three--front door, tree and focal point--can bring a festive feel to the house without day-long decorating sessions.

7. Cut the clean-a-thon. Focus cleaning attention on kitchen and public rooms; private areas can slide til season’s end. Better to schedule deep-cleaning chores like carpet cleaning until after the wear-and-tear of the holiday season.

8. Downsize dishwashing. Hand-washing fine china is nobody’s idea of a good time, so move to everyday stoneware. Simpler still: paper plates!

9. Finger food, not feast. A smorgasboard of tasty tidbits is easier on the cook and kinder to the waistline than a sit-down dinner. Share the work by hosting pot-luck events.

10. Stay home! Cuddling down close to the hearth beats holiday travel any day. A holiday "stay-cation" allows for evening drives to see the lights, family camp-outs in front of the Christmas tree, and evenings spent with carols and popcorn. Fun!

Today's Recipe

An easy holiday gift to make--and just the thing for good little boys and girls: Snowman Soup!

Assemble a packet of hot chocolate mix, a candy cane or peppermint stick, a small packet of marshmallows and a foil-wrapped chocolate kiss candy in a small food storage bag or cellophane gift bag.

Handwrite the Snowman Soup poem, or bring a bright spin to this easy stocking stuffer with free printable gift tags and bag toppers:

Warm the hearts of good little boys and girls with a packet of Snowman Soup!

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

Easy enough for children to make, Snowman Soup is perfect for stocking stuffers, office gifts, Secret Santa presents or 12 Days of Christmas gifts.

Add a Winter Warmer Jiffy Pop® Popcorn Topper for an easy, cheery winter gift basket.

1 individual packet hot chocolate mix
2-3 chocolate kiss candies
10-15 mini-marshmallows
small candy cane
treat bag or zipper food storage bag
plastic wrap or small zipper storage bag
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
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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