97: Sing in a Christmas Celebration!

Do you like to sing? Do your kids like to sing? Now is the time to get involved in choral organizations if you want to be a part of their annual Christmas programs. There are many opportunities to sing during the Christmas season. If you don’t have a church home, now is a great time to “church shop” if being a part of a music ministry is important to you and your kids. If you do have a church home, find out when the choir meets and go give it a try! In my experience, choir folks are some of the friendliest people in church and love to have a good time together! For kids, it’s a great opportunity to work as a team. Singing in a choir builds self-confidence and is a very positive experience for all participants!

Find a program that meets your scheduling needs, because this is supposed to be fun and bring joy, not drudgery and complications!

Psalm 100  says “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord” or “Shout for joy to the Lord!” Excellence is important (Psalm 33:3,) but only comes through experience. So, get out there and spread the Good News this Christmas!

98: Christmas Cookie Overview

Do you bake the same cookies every year? In preparation for the big cookie baking season ahead, take some time today and look through your cookbooks for recipes you’ve always wanted to try. This is the time to get those out and do a test run. You don’t want to wait until the week you need 12 dozen cookies for the cookie swap! You need an opportunity to tweak it and make sure it’s going to work for you. Here are ten of my favorite holiday cookies:

  1. Snickerdoodles
  2. Shortbread
  3. Thumbprints
  4. Bourbon Balls
  5. Rum Balls
  6. Buckeyes
  7. Haystacks
  8. Gingerbread
  9. Lemon Snowflakes
  10. Turkish Delight (this is a 4-pack from Amazon, and my favorite brand!!! Authentic and delicious!)

Make a note of all of the cookies you want to try, print them out or copy them, and put them in a 3-ring notebook inside page protectors. This is a cheap and easy way to make your own personalized cookbook. For even more fun, you can make up your own cover page, or decorate the notebook as you like! Enjoy!

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.

 

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!

36: Wish Lists

Handmade wish lists have a certain charm and appeal that you won’t see anywhere else, so hang on to these! Make copies before you mail them to Santa!

Great advances have been made in online wish lists. There is something for everyone!

The Amazon Wish List is our top pick. Our favorite feature is that you can’t see what has been purchased from your list, but other users only see what is available to be purchased on your list. The purchased items remain a surprise! This feature can be activated for 30 days before all important occasions (birthdays, anniversaries, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, etc.)

Wish list websites

Photo courtesy of Karyn Sig. Wish List courtesy of her daughter!

37: Go on a Date (with your child!)

We’ve started a Mommy-Daughter date night in our family once a week after choir rehearsal. I pickup my daughter from choir and we have dinner together with lots of talking, then we go to a bookstore, then home. This has been a really wonderful thing for us as she gets older (9) and needs to have some one-on-one time with her mom. We make lists, have some “girl talk,” giggle and laugh, and sometimes even grab some Starbucks hot chocolate to finish the night off.

Today, I had a date with my son. We took a walk outside, watched a construction site, and shared a basket of fish and chips for lunch. We had a great time, and he got some time alone with his mom.

The kids love going on their “dates” and so do I!

Here are a few ideas for your date with your child:

  • Baking cookies
  • Christmas shopping
  • Wrapping gifts
  • Volunteering
  • Bowling
  • Dinner
  • Dessert
  • Coffee/Cocoa/Tea and Bookstore
  • Walk

I don’t recommend movies for dates because there is no interaction. If you do choose a movie, include time after the movie to talk about the movie together. Have fun with it, and post your kid “date” idea in the comments!

39: Christmas Caroling Party Action Plan

I asked my sister about her favorite Christmas tradition and she replied very quickly:

“My favorite tradition is caroling (Are you surprised?). I have done it every year with the kids and other friends on the Sunday before Christmas. We take the guitar, jingle bells, any other instruments on hand, and friends who can harmonize – what fun! I am getting in the Christmas spirit just thinking about it!”

Christmas caroling is really fun and with very little planning it can be transformed from a last-minute idea into a memorable occasion for family and friends. Here are a few simple steps to get you started.

  1. Get out your calendar and find a convenient early evening to have friends over. A great option is to limit yourself to 2 or 3 other families with kids, making sure to have buddies for your kids.
  2. Invitations can be as simple or elaborate as you like. For something very informal, a phone call is acceptable. I like to use Evite. You can always mail or hand deliver the printed or handmade variety of invitation.
  3. One week before the event, touch base with everyone and get a head count (RSVP).
  4. For the party, your house will hopefully be all decorated before then. For your menu, have plenty of cookies, hot chocolate, cider, etc.
  5. ALLERGY NOTE: Please find out from your guests if anyone has a peanut or nut allergy. Do your best to keep peanuts and nuts out of areas where allergic children will be. Enlist your allergy mom to provide a safe alternative for her child. She knows best.
  6. The focus of caroling is fellowship and spreading joy, not musical perfection!
  7. Make your own caroling booklets with the song lyrics printed in a booklet form. This is easy to do in Publisher or Word. Lyrics can be found for just about any song using Google.
  8. Have extra mittens/scarves/hats available. One fun thing to do, if you like giving party favors, would be to make matching fleece scarves for everyone. This is very simple to do without any sewing!

Photo courtesy of Doug Floyd.