Sunday, November 30, 2014

Christmas Countdown to an Organized Christmas - Day 4 - Connect With Holiday Values

Article and Photo Courtesy of Organized Christmas

What do you really want for Christmas?

For most of us, our dreams center around family, faith and friends: a celebration of our deepest joys.

Yet too often, those dreams go by the wayside as the holidays take on a life of their own. What can cause this distortion of what we truly want?

The season brings many pressures to bear on our celebration. Holiday commercials raise their voice to an unavoidable shriek during this time of year. Lavish television programs showcase food and décor standards out of all reality. A trip to the mall can bring a quick end to a wish for a homemade holiday; all that glitz can be seductive!

Even our families can be parties to holiday distortion. Spouses may bring different expectations and family traditions to the same holiday. Children may clamor for a Christmas measured by a classmate's yardstick. Family traditions can live on well beyond their time, no longer enjoyed but not yet willing to leave.

Solution? Connect with your holiday values before you plan for the holiday season. Put your most cherished wishes at the center of your celebration ... for an organized Christmas.

To Do Today

Complete the holiday values exercise

To keep the season centered around the ideals your family holds dear, make a pre-season holiday values check. This short values exercise will keep you focused as you prepare for the holiday celebration.

Print the Holiday Values Worksheet to record your findings. Add a second sheet--or take notes--to track answers given by other family members in a second, fact-finding session.

Use the results to trim your celebration to the things you hold most dear ... to do less and enjoy it more this holiday season.

Focus on Holiday Values

What do you really want for Christmas? Our ideas may differ in the details, but most of us want much the same thing: a seasonal celebration focused on faith, family and friends.

We want the excitement of the season without the disruption that too often comes with it. We want to draw closer to those around us, not to be thrust apart by hectic schedules. We want to enjoy as well as to prepare, and to keep the Christmas season in a manner that is joyous and spiritually centered.

Problem is, it’s easy to get caught up in the seasonal whirlwind! Tradition, the media, family expectations and the economy lean on our decision-making, each with a different agenda. Unconscious forces can distort our celebration for reasons that have nothing to do with what we truly want from the holiday.

Lavish Christmas magazines raise décor standards out of all reality. Husband and wife may bring different expectations and traditions to the same holiday. During the Christmas season, we're easy prey to forces that open our wallets and eat our time, as well as to those that touch our hearts and open our souls.

Solution: focus on holiday values before you begin to plan the season’s activities. Knowing where your values lie allows you to set a path to true holiday happiness, and to avoid the minefields that culture and commercialism will throw in your way.

Ask the question! When you shop or cook or bake or decorate, what values will you serve? What result do you hope to see for your family’s seasonal expenditure of energy and resources?

Try these exercises to focus on the true meaning of the season:

For You
Sit back and bring to mind last year's celebration, then open the Christmas Notebook, and answer these questions. To make it easy, use our free printable Family Values Worksheet:

1. What went well for your family last year? Did you make innovations that made you more organized, calmer, and more centered?

2. What stresses did your family face? Were there too many activities on the calendar? Did household systems fall apart with the season's faster pace?

3. Was your family spiritually invigorated by the holiday celebration? Did you participate in appropriate service, worship or giving activities?

4. Did inappropriate influences enter your home? Were decorating, clothing or gift-buying decisions motivated by competitiveness or insecurity? Was the celebration over-focused on gifts and getting? Did the hectic pace of the season take precedence over family closeness, family values?

5. What would you have done differently?

Pondering last year's end sets the goals for this year's beginning. File your answers at the front of the Christmas Notebook, then take a day or two to review the notes you made.

Don’t be alarmed if your list contains more negative than positive entries; this taking-stock exercise naturally focuses on areas that need work. Becoming aware of the seasonal misses will help you hone this year’s activities to the holiday hits.

For the Family
After you think through your own conclusions, take the questions to the household as a whole. At a relaxed moment, such as a weeknight dinner or a long car ride, ask family members these questions:

What do you remember most about last Christmas?
What did you like best?
Was there something you didn’t like about the holiday season? How would you change it?
If we could only do three things to celebrate Christmas, what would they be?
Prepare to be surprised! Chances are, family members will bring a new perspective to the question of “What’s the right Christmas for us?” Nobody can be quicker to puncture the limp balloons of worn-out traditions than the very children who’ve outgrown them.

Listen, learn and let the family lead the way. The surest path to a stressed-out season is to insist on giving life-support to traditions that have run their course, so call an end to ho-hum activities that don’t make the cut for anyone.

Focus, instead, on those activities that brings the family closer—however silly, however small. Better a family Movie Night with popcorn and pajamas than a forced march to the Nutcracker, neckties dragging. Put your energies where the meaning is!

Tips for Holiday Season Travel

Will you visit family or take a Christmas holiday?

Between tight security, cramped airports and busy highways, holiday-season travel can be a big source of Christmas stress.

Whether you're flying or driving, being prepared means you'll be better able to roll with the inevitable punches.

Try these tips to keep the “happy” in holiday travel:

Be An Early Bird
Make travel plans early. Particularly during the busy Christmas season, early birds have more choice of transportation options, and usually pay a better price than the holdouts.

Fly Flexible
Can you be flexible about seasonal travel plans? During a holiday period, the best day to fly may be on the holiday itself, when traffic is light. Busiest days are generally the day before Thanksgiving, the Sunday before Christmas, and Christmas Eve.

Stay Informed
Bad weather, oversold flights or highway closures can all wreak havoc on carefully-laid travel plans. Fight back by staying informed of travel conditions. Check online travel sites or install smartphone apps to alert you to changes in travel arrangements. The earlier you know about travel issues, the easier it will be to find alternatives.

Packing Checklist
The distractions of the season can get in the way of efficient packing. To stay focused, print a packing checklist for each family member, noting all items of clothing and personal care needed for travel.

Try this free printable packing checklist from OrganizedHome.Com, or create your own list on blank lined paper. Bonus: store the lists in empty suitcases for quick reference for the next trip.

Traveling With Gifts
Airline security checkpoints are no place to try to re-wrap a Christmas gift. If you must fly with presents, wait until your destination to wrap them, or place gifts in easy-to-inspect gift bags. Better: ship gifts ahead of time, or arrange for direct delivery to your final destination.

Today's Recipe
Kitchen gifts are the right stuff: creative, consumable and low-cost. What does Mrs. Santa give from her kitchen? Reindeer Chow! A little bit salty, a little bit sweet--and a lot crunchy--this snack mix is Rudolph's favorite.

Package Reindeer Chow in zipper food storage bags or cellophane snack bags for an easy classroom treat or Secret Santa gift. Add a free printable Reindeer Chow bag topper to make an easy holiday gift.

For a fun and festive family gift, fill a pet dish (from the Dollar Store!) with Reindeer Chow. Inexpensive self-adhesive "foamie" letters spell out the name of your favorite reindeer!

1 poundwhite chocolate chips or almond bark coating
3 cupsRice Chex-brand cereal
3 cupsCorn Chex-brand cereal
3 cupsCheerios-brand cereal
2 cupspretzel sticks
2 cupsdry-roasted peanuts
12 ouncesM&M-brand chocolate candies
10 printable gift tags
Slowly melt chocolate in double broiler over water. Alternately, place almond bark or white chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl, and microwave on high for 30-second intervals, stirring between each, until chocolate is melted.

Combine remaining ingredients in large bowl, then drizzle melted chocolate over top and mix well. Spread in a shallow layer on a cookie sheet or broiler pan.

Allow to cool completely, then package in single-serving bags or an inexpensive pet bowl.

Attach the Reindeer Chow gift tag or create your own tag using the poem below.

Makes 10 servings.

Reindeer Chow Poem:

When reindeer fly on Christmas night,
They work up quite an appetite!
But Mrs. Claus knows what to do,
To feed them when the flight is through.
She mixes up some Reindeer Chow.
A secret only she knows how.

With something salty, something sweet,
It’s Rudolph’s favorite reindeer treat.
Back in her kitchen at the Pole,
She heaps it high in every bowl
To welcome her returning crew.
So here’s a batch that’s just for you!

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