Sunday, November 30, 2014

Christmas Countdown to an Organized Christmas - Day 21 - Give ... to Make a Difference!

Photo Courtesy of Clipart Heaven
Article Courtesy of Organized Christmas

Is your holiday giving only about "stuff"--or is it a reflection of your heart? To express your deepest holiday values, plan to make a gift of yourself this holiday season!

This week in the Christmas Countdown, we've focused on gifts and giving. 99% of the time, we've seen this effort in terms of "things." Stuff. Boxes and parcels and bags. Stocking stuffers. But have we considered making a true gift: a gift of ourselves?

In the days to come, we'll begin planning the American Thanksgiving holiday. Will we also begin to ponder those things for which we are thankful? Out of gratitude comes grace, and from abundance comes true giving. How will we reflect this gift?

To Do Today

Plan family service projects

Challenge yourself and your family to make a difference: to make a true gift of yourselves. Today, plan service projects or volunteer activities.

Service doesn't have to be regimented. Even small efforts can reap big rewards.

Teach someone a new skill. Tackle a service project as a family. Visit an assisted living center, or take part in a church ministry.

Don't just share your stuff this season: share yourself! The real secret? When you give of yourself, you are returned blessings tenfold!

Complete holiday scheduling

Calendar in hand, review holiday season activities and events.

Consider adding a no-event "family night" to the calendar to provide stress relief during the height of the season.

Schedule family service projects, or sign up for church charity efforts.

Reserve baby-sitters for December's nights out.

Keep tabs on the holiday budget

As you shop, record expenditures on your holiday budget. Keeping your budget in the front of your mind helps prevent impulse purchases and over-spending.

Clutter-Free Gift Solution: Think Consumable!

Simplicity. Frugality. Great holiday gifts. Find a way to serve all these values with clutter-free consumable gifts:

Gift-giving. Seldom do we engage in an activity that invokes so many conflicting values.

On the one hand, we hope our gift will entertain, educate, and amuse.

We dream of seeing our special gift proudly displayed in the home of the recipient.

We hunt and search and shop, trying to find just the right gift to stand for the relationship we're celebrating.

On the other hand, gift-buying brings us up against our limitations. While our emotions urge extravagance, our wallets counsel frugality.

The desire to delight a child with the year's hot toy runs smack up against the knowledge that the toy is question is shoddy, lacking in play value, and composed of 374 tiny plastic parts (most of which will become food for the vacuum cleaner by January 15th).

We squander precious time to produce a hand-crafted decor item, yet suspect it will never see the light of day in the recipient's precisely decorated home. The sheer drudgery of slogging through a lengthy gift list--never enough time, never enough money--takes the emotional component of gift-giving and stands it on end.

There is a strategy that can cut through the gift-giving conflict. A strategy that will ensure each gift is appreciated and enjoyed. A strategy that serves the values of frugality, simplicity, and freedom from consumer mentality. And, not at all incidentally, a strategy that makes gift-buying much, much easier: think consumable!

A consumable gift is one that will be used. Used up, not stashed in a closet for the next yard sale. A consumable gift is something that can be eaten, sent, read, or enjoyed by the recipient. A consumable gift is the gift of an experience, not a thing, a "keepsake", or another piece of clutter.

How does it work? Start with the small fry. Forget the "Mrs. Fields Baking Oven", a pricey piece of kiddy work that purports to bake cookies using a single light bulb. Instead, bundle a few cookie cutters, a rolling pin and a box of sugar cookie mix together with a certificate for "cookie lessons". Child in question learns some baking skills and has a memorable afternoon with Grandma or Auntie. Consumable!

That teen-aged nephew? Sure, you could try to figure out which video games he has, which he doesn't, and which of the store's supply he might like to own (to the tune of $39.95). If you guess wrong? Too bad.

Think consumable. Delight the young man in question with a selection of three or four video gaming magazines, the flashier, the better. He'll pore over them for game cheats, information on new games, and tips for power players. You've simplified gift-buying, saved money, and given a gift you know will be used. Consumable!

Your parents? Forget more decorator junk to add to their overstuffed house. Give them tickets to a play or a certificate for dinner in a restaurant. Give Mom a big supply of note cards, greeting cards and stamps. Give Dad a basket full of car wax, windshield treatment and tire cleaner for his beloved classic Mustang. Consumable!

To think consumable, think "experience". You won't be buying things, so much as buying an activity.

Many consumable gifts are very direct: passes to a movie theater, fast food gift coupons, magazine subscriptions. Others take more imagination: give a group of women friends the same book, and invite them all for a Book Night party in early February. Give a teen-aged daughter a set of hair brushes, some styling aids and two or three hairdo magazines (and be prepared for a locked bathroom door).

The Christmas gift industry knows the appeal of consumable gifts. Where would Swiss Colony be without them? Try, if you can, to pass up the obvious "I'm in despair" choices. Have you ever truly enjoyed the stale and salty offerings of those "gift packs?"

A better, more frugal strategy: use commercial consumables as models for your own gifts. Send special children "cookies of the month" throughout the year. Model a gift basket for a gardening friend on the commercial variety--but spend far less by buying gloves, trowel, herb seeds and a garden bucket and packaging the gift yourself.

Think consumable as you buy your Christmas gifts. Think consumable to fight clutter, to save money, and to bring the holiday spirit back home. . . and get Organized!

Today's Recipe

apricot bread recipe

Apricot Nut Bread is a sweet addition to holiday gift baskets. One of Cynthia's specialties!

To make ahead, bake this quick bread recipe in small loaves, then double-wrap with plastic food storage wrap. Place wrapped loaves in a freezer storage bag; they'll stay fresh for up to 2 months:

Apricot Nut Bread Recipe

Looking for a different holiday quick bread recipe? Try Apricot Nut Bread!

Tangy dried apricots give a pleasing taste and color to this succulent nut bread.

Bake it in mini-loaves for holiday giving.

1 cupdried apricots, snipped in 1/4-inch cubes
  boiling water to cover
2 cupsflour, all-purpose
1 cupsugar, granulated
1 teaspooncinnamon
1 1⁄2 teaspoonbaking powder
1⁄2 teaspoonsoda
1⁄2 teaspoonsalt
1 cupwalnuts, chopped
3⁄4 cupsorange juice
1⁄4 cupvegetable oil
1 egg
1 teaspoonorange rind, grated

Place snipped dried apricots in heatproof bowl or measuring cup; add boiling water to cover. Let stand for 5 minutes; drain well.

Stir together in a large bowl: flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, soda and salt. When well blended, add walnuts and dried apricots. Stir to coat nuts and fruit.

In a separate bowl, stir orange juice, vegetable oil, egg and orange rind with a fork until well blended.

Pour over the dry ingredients; stir just until dry ingredients are completely blended into wet ingredients.

Pour into greased 9x5 loaf pan or 3 mini-loaf pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 60-70 minutes for large loaf, 45 to 60 minutes for small loaves.

Cool completely on baking rack before wrapping individual loaves with plastic wrap.


To freeze, wrap individual loaves in plastic wrap, then place wrapped loaves in freezer storage bag. Freeze for up to 6 weeks.

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