99: To host or not to host

If you are hosting Christmas, do everyone a favor and give them some direction, but not too much direction. I can only imagine what situations might have caused Thanksgiving hostess Marney to pen this letter! With a little planning, you should avoid most of those and do it gracefully.

People appreciate knowing your expectations ahead of time. Invitations don’t have to be fancy, but they do need to be informational.

Guests want to know:

  • Arrival time
  • What to bring (ex. green vegetable side dish for 12, BYOB, etc.)
  • If there be a gift exchange, and  house rules
  • Time food will be served
  • Where they can park
  • What time the event ends
  • What to wear – is this a formal dinner, or are we eating off paper plates and swimming?
You should ask:
  • Does anyone in your guest’s party have life threatening food allergies or other dietary requirements. Let them know in advance if you can or cannot accommodate them, so they can plan ahead.
  • Ask for an RSVP and give them a deadline.
Most of the time, people are willing to go the extra mile if you have something very specific in mind. If you are planning to get a coordinated extended family photo during the gathering and you want everyone to wear black and red, let everyone know in plenty of time so they can pull their wardrobe together.  If you don’t mind that Uncle Eddie will show up in his plaid pants, then don’t worry about advance notice.
All of this knowledge before the event helps everyone with kids plan a successful and enjoyable day for their families, which in turn, is enjoyable for everyone else.
If you’re not a host, but are a guest, I think it’s reasonable to call you host and get all of your questions answered, especially if you have kids. I hate showing up to something that I think is obviously kid-friendly or family-friendly in my mind, and the reality of it is that everyone has gotten a babysitter and it’s an adult-only sit-down dinner. That is a incredibly awkward for everyone involved. Nobody intended it, but there it is.

100 Days Until Christmas!

It’s hard to believe, but it’s that time of year to start thinking about Christmas. Check back with us every day for useful information on planning, shopping, and celebrating the most wonderful time of the year!

Where will you be spending Christmas this year? Will you be at home? Traveling? With family, or friends? Now is the time to make your travel plans or send invitations if you’re planning to host the big event this year.


26: Mind Your Money

Today is Black Friday. While the retailers want us all to do our part to boost the economy, be careful out there. Just because it’s a traditional shopping day, doesn’t mean you need to get out there and overspend. Make a list and check it twice. Have a budget. Stick to your plan. Don’t dig yourself deeper into debt! Bake cookies for gifts, spend $10 more and go watch a movie if you have to go to the mall! Be smart!

29: Outdoor Decorations

It’s Thanksgiving week and for many of us that also means it’s the week to do a little outdoor decorating. We also put our tree up during the Thanksgiving week, typically the Saturday after Turkey Day.

Today, the kids and I got out the reindeer that go in the yard and put them together. We still can’t decide if we want them in the front yard where the neighbors will enjoy them, or the backyard where we will enjoy them. We have a large oak tree in the front/side yard and I’m considering getting some of those large-scale lit ornaments to hang from it, but I haven’t really done any research on seeing what kind of elaborate electrical configuration that might require. I like all the lights, but am not a big fan of all of the extension cords running everywhere.

Tomorrow, I plan on putting the wreaths on our front doors. Our wreath hangers have jingle bells on them, so it will really start sounding like the holidays every time we open the door!

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

34: Food Allergy Awareness

Any kind of holiday or occasion involving food is a high alert time for food allergies. Near and dear to my heart is the issue of food allergies. Our daughter and my brother have life-threatening food allergies that require planning, research, and prevention. The key to success in not having an emergency room visit, or worse, is to plan your food. Pack snacks, safe desserts, and other food options if you are uncertain about the ingredients or preparation conditions of food you will encounter.

Here are some potentially deadly items for peanut- and nut-allergic people:

  • pies (a pumpkin pie might seem okay, but it might use pecan flour in the crust!)
  • anything prepared in a kitchen containing nuts or peanuts (past and present)
  • processed baked goods
  • all bakery items
  • anything on a buffet where a nut item is also located (cross-contamination)

At parties with lots of holiday foods, make sure you only drink from your glass. Again, cross-contamination is possible and occurs in drinks. Eat using only your utensils from your plate. If it is possible to go first in a buffet situation, do that and try not to make a second pass. Cross-contamination covers a picked-over buffet.

Remember to make sure your Epi-Pens are current. If you need a refill, take care of it. While you’re doing that, review all of your labeling and contact information on emergency medicines and update it. We keep our Epi-Pens in a red, insulated bag that has been clearly labeled with Sharpie with our contact information and medical information. Inside that bag, we also keep Benadryl Strips and an Albuterol inhaler. The Epi-Pens are also in their own plastic duo-case that is also labeled very clearly.

If you are hosting an children’s event, please have your food clearly labeled and any nut items out of reach of small children, in particular. Children under 3 years of age should not have any peanut or nut items at all, so keep that in mind, too.

In the past, I think of Christmas with nut goodies of all kinds playing major roles, but now it’s a little different. Making safe desserts to give and take has become a tradition in its own right.

Have a safe Christmas this year!

35: Take a Vacation Day (to shop on a weekday)

If you are able to take a day off to shop, do it! Before your big shopping day, make your list and check it twice. A comprehensive list with the sizes you needs, people you need to shop for, stocking stuffers, entertaining housewares, and sale flyers will help you organize your day. Plan a time-saving route ahead of time. Stick to your list. Pack a few snacks in your purse and don’t forget your own reuseable shopping bags. They are durable, packable, and hold a lot. On days like this, I enjoy having lunch by myself at a restaurant I love and go through my lists and relax for a bit.

Take a day and get it done!