Dec 062011

Christmas is coming! Scene from our local parade.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas . . . . everywhere but at our house! While I am seeing so many lights and decorations in my neighborhood as well as cute blogs showcasing elegant homes and decorations, we have yet to put out a single decoration! While the holiday cards are already rolling in, we have just started our shopping and are currently on the Type B path to Christmas.

If you are in a similar boat, take heart in the following:

1) “Christmas” in many cultures and religions starts on Christmas Day and continues for the 12 days following Christmas. On this schedule, Christmas “ends” January 6. So you can still get 30 days enjoyment out of your decorations if you start today!

2) There might be a safety advantage to starting a little later in your decorations if you are using a live tree.

“Do not put your live tree up too early or leave it up for longer than two weeks.”

Focus on Fire Safety: Holiday Fire Safety, U.S. Fire Administration

3) If you missed out on Black Friday sales, you might not have missed much and some of the best shopping bargains are only coming out now! When I spot-checked prices over Thanksgiving weekend, I didn’t find any sales that I found irresistible and even found that one sneaky retailer actually increased prices by 5-20% over Black Friday weekend and has only recently lowered them back down to where they were before the holiday season.

The “holiday season” is one long marathon from Halloween to Christmas and by this stage in the game we are a little tired. We enjoy the Christmas season, however, and we actually have done some things to prepare:

1) Months ago, we booked season tickets to the ballet, including my holiday tradition with my girls, attending the Nutcracker.

2) Around Thanksgiving, we negotiated with both sides of our family regarding gift giving lists for the holiday season. You may recall that last year, we implemented “No gifts.” This year we are trying “kids only” on one side and “draw a family for a family gift” on the other. This cut our shopping time and general holiday stress by 90%.

3) We booked activities with our children for each weekend in December. Last weekend, was the Christmas parade, this weekend the Santa Train and next weekend, the Nutcracker. We are trying to be out and about enjoying the season.

However, there is still a ton left to do and the time windows for certain activities are closing fast. Keeping track of priority deadlines is required at this point. If you need a quick checklist (like I do), here are the things to concentrate on this week and to finish no later than next week:

This week:

1) To the extent possible, finish Christmas/holiday shopping or at least finish your shopping list of exactly what you plan to buy this year.

2) If you are buying anything used (books, etc.), which is a great way to save money, you probably need to place those orders this week to ensure they will ship in time for Christmas. Most used sellers use the slower “Media Mail” shipping option.

3) Take Christmas/holiday photos and order any photo reprints needed. You can save some money on your photos if you give yourself enough time to take advantage of regular shipping and non-expedited printing. Soon, photo printers will be overwhelmed with Christmas orders and you may not get your photos in time for Christmas.

4) If you are framing anything for a Christmas gift or ordering anything custom-made, get that order in now before the maker is overbooked.

No later than next week:

1) Mail any continental U.S. presents. Regular shipping deadlines are closing around next Thursday, December 15, for most retailers. After that point, you will need to pay for expedited shipping which can be expensive and many shippers won’t guarantee that even if you pay for expedited shipping that your order will arrive in time for Christmas.

2) Decide on your Christmas menu. Put in orders for any special ingredients, etc.

This month at Ruly we are going to take it easy as we proceed through to Christmas and New Years. I hope to keep the posts light and fun and point out simple ideas from others to de-stress your holiday celebrations. We will also continue our organizing efforts with a feature on one of the organizational challenges for all parents…toy storage.

For your holiday enjoyment today, I wanted to point out the following fun holiday posts:

  • Apartment Therapy: No Room for a Tree? 10 DIY Modern Holiday Alternatives – I love these clever ideas for a unique and space-saving tree, from hanging items on the wall in a tree shape to projecting a tree with light. If we didn’t have a beast of an artificial tree in the basement (that our children are begging to put up) I would love to experiment with these ideas.
  • Lego’s Online Holiday Advent Calendar – While a physical advent calendar, counting the days to Christmas, is fun, this year we are experimenting with a virtual advent calendar. Lego has a great animation that unlocks about every two days showing different Lego characters getting ready for Christmas. I set it as the homepage on my daughters’ computer and they love it. Free!

How are you coming along with your holiday preparations?  Please share in the comments.


 Posted by on December 6, 2011 Previews Tagged with: , , , ,
Dec 232009

With less than 48 hours to Christmas morning, life is proceeding at a frenzied pace at our home. We are now unburied from the snowstorm and mobile and able to complete our holiday errands. Apparently everyone else in the area has the same idea and I am hearing reports of crowds and parking hassles at every major shopping center. Good news for retailers and the economy, though! Also, in my last post, I questioned whether delivery services would be delayed due to the storm. I am shocked to report that the U.S. Postal Service in our area never missed a day of delivery! Somehow we received mail on both Saturday and Monday. Incredible!

Today, I have a few odds and ends to post about holiday preparations.

2009-12-23-holidaycardsHoliday cards
Yesterday, I spent 9.5 hours getting our holiday cards ready. I try to streamline the process by keeping all of my names and addresses in an Excel spreadsheet. Throughout the year, whenever someone tells me they have moved, the first place I update is the holiday card list and note the date that the update was received. The list is useful for birthday and other invitations throughout the year as well.

There is still some time involved, however, to mail merge the list onto labels and update some addresses. The Washington Post wrote an interesting article about the decline in holiday cards this year. I was most interested in this vignette suggesting that social networking sites like Facebook are intruding on the practice of holiday cards:

“. . . Charbonneau reluctantly swapped a holiday greetings model dating back to the 1800s for this four-sentence posting on Facebook: ‘Dear Everyone, Please consider this your holiday card for the year. Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Blessed Yule, and so on. Sorry to be a lame friend but, really, I’m just not Superwoman. I admit defeat on holiday cards.’ . . . ‘I like this card . . . consider yours this reply,’ responded one, closing the yearly greetings loop in eight words and about 10 seconds.”

-Steve Hendrix, “Fewer People Are Sending Holiday Cards Via Snail Mail in 2009,” The Washington Post

This year, my holiday card process took extra long because I ended up writing many long overdue thank you notes to include with the cards. I am glad to go into the Christmas season caught up on the thank you notes as there are many more to come soon. While I am still searching for a good solution to streamline my thank you note writing process, this free Thank You Note tracker printable from Family Fun has at least given me a place to consolidate all the thank yous to be written in a single place.

2009-12-22-insideoutwrappingWrapping Paper
I am one of those tactile people who has always enjoyed wrapping presents. I like getting out the big rolls of paper, putting on the tape and finishing it all off with a ribbon and gift tag. I also like hints for unique wrapping ideas, like this “rip cord” wrapping paper technique that allows for quick opening.

This year, I saw this suggestion from Martha Stewart for a “gift wrapping station.” While I think this looks beautiful, I know it is not practical for our home as we don’t have a space like this and my husband feels that it is just an invitation for little hands to pull the paper and ribbons off the spools. As I was thinking about why I liked the “gift wrapping station,” I realized that it was not about the station itself but the simplicity it contained. Notice that there is only one all-purpose roll of wrapping paper in the station. The four types of ribbon give enough options for different types of presents (birthday, holiday, housewarming, etc.).

My frugal and simple version of the gift wrapping station was to take the wrapping paper I already have and turn it inside out so that the printed side of the paper faced inward and the outside was white. I put on a festive holiday ribbon and the presents looked great! We will see if the recipients realize that the inside of their Christmas presents say “Happy Birthday.” (Of course, if you purchase the perfectionist wrapping paper with the grid marks on the back, you might not be able to use this hint—although grid marks might make for a neat “plaid” effect.)

Wrapping paper is not very environmentally friendly and I was also thinking about options to throwing away a huge garbage sack full of papers. My first thought was to find “wrapping paper” that could be recycled, like a wide roll of plain newsprint or white office paper. I have not yet found a source like this. I also found ideas (again from Martha Stewart) for re-using materials such as children’s artwork, shopping bags, paper towels, old phone books and old calendar pages. The most unique idea I found, however, was to borrow a Japanese tradition and wrap and tie the gifts in fabric, furoshiki style.  I will keep these ideas in mind for next year.

2009-12-22-treegarlandChristmas tree
Our artificial tree is now out of the basement and assembled but still awaiting ornaments. We discovered to our horror that the entire tree smelled of dead mouse! Fortunately, there was no mouse to be found and after airing our for a few days and with the help of a pine-floral air freshener (still looking for a true pine scented fragrance) the stench is gone.

While our tree is going up later than most, I was heartened to read this description in the book “Christmas in Colonial and Early America,”

“Christmas Eve was probably the busiest night of the year in most American homes [in the 1870’s]. There was the last-minute wrapping of packages to be done, and rushing a belated Christmas card across town to that old friend who had somehow been forgotten until his card arrived late in the afternoon. Many of the house decorations, too, waited until the eleventh hour because there was an old belief that some Christmas greenery would bring misfortune to the family if brought into the house before Christmas Eve.”

–World Book, Christmas in Colonial and Early America

Once the tree was up, however, my little ones knew it was Christmas and that is priceless. They are busy decorating and undecorating the tree. We have ornaments strewn all over the house now.

In light of the Christmas holiday, this will be my last post for the week. I will be back again on Monday. To those who celebrate, wishing you a very Merry Christmas!

How are your holiday preparations coming along? Please post in the comments.

 Posted by on December 23, 2009 General Tagged with: , , , , ,