Sunday, December 04, 2011

Decorating for the Holidays

Christmas Ornament Pillow, from Pier 1 Imports


  • Need to launder your slippers or fuzzy socks? With winter's colder nights, I've been wearing either my pink slippers or my black plush slipper socks for several days now. Both pairs are in dire need of visiting the laundry.

  • Do you use an Advent calendar with your children? Either the paper or wooden kind? Any supplies you need to get for your Advent calendar to be ready? Coins, stickers, chocolates?

  • Know where your snow shovel is? Can you get it out when you need it, in case it snows in your area this month? Do you need to buy rock salt? Do you have an ice scraper in your car for your windshield and windows?

  • How is your family newsletter coming along, if you write one? Is your holiday card writing and mailing going along according to your schedule?

  • Made a plan for your family's charity contributions and/or charity activities this season?

TODAY'S PROJECT: Decorating for the Holidays

Jingle Elf Ball Ornaments, from Crate and Barrel

Today I am removing the last vestiges of my fall and Thanksgiving decor: anything purple, green, brown or orange. Next I will swap in my holiday candles, red tablecloths, red beaded coasters, gold and green glittery tablerunners, Christmas kitchen towels, and a red vase or two.

In my family room and my living room, I'm trading brown plush throws and pillows for red throws, white throws, and crimson pillows.

I've hung five stockings by the fire (one for each of my kids and one for my roommate). I don't think I'm interested in hanging stockings for my two dogs, I think that would be a little silly. I'll definitely sneak them some extra dog treats over the holidays though!

Over the past week I burned up the last of my orange, vanilla and pumpkin-scented candles. I also got rid of a couple candle stubs out of my hurricanes. Today I'll spend about fifteen minutes cleaning out candleholders and cleaning wax off my downstairs brick mantel. Then I'll set out my red holiday candles. I can't wait to see my home tonight glowing with festive candlelight and firelight.

Santa Ornament, from Macy's

I don't put a lot of kitschy Christmas stuff out around to clutter up the house (It's already cluttered enough with books and magazines!). I wouldn't have a plush Santa or an elf sitting on the mantel, I refuse to get hooked on collectible Christmas villages, and I won't have a wooden or plastic reindeer standing by the front door. I do use some garlands for the mantels (real, not artificial) when I find ones I like.

I use holiday colors when I set my table, decorate my couches, set out coasters for drinks to rest on, arrange candles, and choose houseplants and fresh flowers. Our bathrooms now have Target's Method Home "Fresh Currant" hand washes, instead of this fall's lemon verbena.

Tonight I'll go shopping for a wreath made of fresh evergreens and put it on my front door. I'll also start putting up Christmas lights in each window of the house - even the kitchen windows that you can't see from the street. They're there just for our own enjoyment.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Winter Emergency Preparedness

Vintage Kittens and Fireplace Postcard, on eBay

Seattle normally has mild winters, but every now and then we get hit by some sort of really bad storm. Whether it is ice, rain, floods, snow or wind, something happens that shuts down power for a day or more; floods streets so you can't get around well; or causes traffic disruptions.

Duraflame Color Logs, at

I do sort of enjoy the enforced isolation, cozying up to the fireplace and marathons of book reading and movie watching that happen on a snow day!

But I'll never forget the year a windstorm knocked out power to our home for 7 days, and the Christmas we were snowed into our cul-de-sac for eight days.

Because of these things that have happened in the past, I'm careful to stock up in case I can't get out to the store for a few days. I don't go crazy and build a bomb shelter, or overstock so my house is cluttered. I just make sure I have enough pet food and people food to last several days. I try to strike a good balance between having PLENTY of supplies on hand, but not having my home or garage filled with emergency supplies that become clutter. I don't want my provisions to prevent me from enjoying my home.

TODAY'S PROJECT: Emergency Preparedness

  • Are you keeping your car pretty full of gas throughout the week, in case of emergency? During Seattle's 7 day power outage years ago, gas stations were unable to fill tanks and we were stranded at home for days. I'll never let my car stay below at least half a tank in wintertime again.

  • Do you keep some cash on hand? In a power failure, ATMs won't work to dispense cash, and debit cards are useless if the store isn't powered. I remember shopping at a Rite-Aid by flashlight and paying for supplies with cash.

  • When your local news says a bad winter storm is on the way, do you immediately charge up your cell phones and laptops, and run loads of laundry in case you can't for several days?

  • Do you have a landline you can use to call people in an emergency? Remember that even if your cell phone is charged, it won't necessarily work. In a city-wide power outage, the cell towers that move the phone calls around are probably out of power too, so your cell phone will be useless.

  • How would you heat food if the power was out? How would you open cans?

  • How would you light and heat your home if the power and/or gas were out?

  • If you have a wood fireplace, do you have real wood, not just pretty Duraflames? They put out lots of nice light, but not enough heat to keep people warm overnight.

  • Where would you go if your home was too cold to live in?

  • Do you have plenty of extra warm bedding? One or two comforters per person isn't enough in a power outage in a cold snowy area.

  • You probably have enough batteries for your flashlight for a day long emergency. But do you have any idea how fast you go through flashlight batteries when your power is out for a week and you need a flashlight to find your clothes in your closet, your pets under beds, to take a shower by, to find your food in the pantry? And you can't buy more batteries because the stores are closed or sold out of batteries because 1 million people in your city suddenly bought and hoarded them, or because you don't have any cash to buy batteries and the store's cash register is electronic?

  • Do you know how to light the pilot light on your gas appliances if they normally have an electric switch? Do you know how to light your gas stove using matches, not just the switch?


What would you do if your power was out for an extended time? We used to think we'd just go to a hotel, but we never anticipated an entire city of over a million people being out of power at the same time. The hotels were all sold out. Plus we didn't really have enough gas to drive to a hotel without stressing out about running out of fuel on the way there.

Do you know how to get home to your house more than three or four different ways (if applicable)? Do you know more than one route to your favorite two grocery stores? Do you know which local websites you can check for street closures or emergency info (assuming you have power?) Do you have flashlights, candles, matches, and firewood?

Which is the best radio station in your area to keep you informed about current traffic and weather conditions, especially when a disaster strikes?

Have you talked recently with local friends and family members about your plans if someone's household loses power or has another winter emergency? Do you know who you'd stay with if you couldn't stay comfortably in your home? Do you know who you might need to lend a helping hand to if your home was ok but a family member's wasn't?

Emergency Candle, on Amazon

Like me, you probably have a LOT of candles in your house. But when you're keeping a candle lit in the bathroom, kitchen, hallway and living room all at the same time, for over 12 hours a day, you burn through candles a lot faster than you could ever anticipate. (I liked having a few "lights on" in rooms we used frequently, so we didn't have to wander back and forth with dangerous drippy tapers). It was great to get rid of all the weird odds and ends of candles I'd hoarded over the years, but I ended up wishing I'd had some nice new plain white unscented candles in various sizes.

And while you can sort of read by the light of one candle, it gets tiring after a while. I was really surprised, and it made me think a lot about people and their early bedtimes in olden days! You'd really need three or four candles to read comfortably or play board games with your houseguests. Experiment with it sometime and see - be sure to close your curtains to shut out any streetlights that might cheat the experiment by sending light into your house. We were so surprised we were unable to play Monopoly just by the light of a roaring fire - it was too hard to see the pieces!

I found out a few helpful things: such as using colorful glow sticks in the bathtub to help small children bathe in the dark without being afraid. (Fortunately our hot water heater is gas). I learned you can easily cook scrambled eggs and pancakes over an open fire outdoors, but they cool off very quickly in the cold air so they should be eaten immediately.

Spend some time tonight looking through your supplies. Talk with your family about what you would do in case of flooding, fire, earthquake, snow, a tree hitting the house, and loss of power. You can do it gently and make it a fun adventurous topic so your kids don't get scared or depressed at all the "What if's."

Friday, December 02, 2011

Making Winter Festive

Philosophy "Snow Angel" Shower Gel and Shampoo, on Sephora


  • Wrap a gift or write one holiday card

  • Fill up with gas for the weekend if needed; stop by an ATM for cash

  • Drop off Netflix or Redbox from the week; pick up a movie if you want to watch one this weekend

  • Eat some fruit, if you haven't already today

  • Quickly declutter one room, if any of your rooms need it.

  • Sort mail table and pay any bills that came in lately.

  • Recycle latest magazines/catalogs you are done with. I have a lot of catalogs this time of year!

TODAY'S PROJECT: Making Winter Festive

My cart full of goodies from Whole Foods: A tabletop Christmas tree; a box of Satsuma oranges; frozen appetizers in case of an impromptu party; and a dozen red roses I'll put in a red vase in my living room

Today I'm provisioning for the festive winter ahead. I'm stocking up on hot cocoa; buying tasty things for the holiday gift baskets I'll give to local friends and family; selecting greenery for my home (wreath, garlands and table centerpiece); adding things to my Christmas holiday baking cupboard; and buying fresh flowers to decorate my home. I'm also picking up a couple of red or green candles as I use so many during the holidays.

Whimsy Decor Collection, from Z Gallerie

When I get home, I'll be busy unpacking everything and putting it away. Later, I'll get out my Christmas lights and start the cold task of putting them up on the bushes and trees in my front yard. It's a pleasant chore, and I can look forward to hot cocoa (perhaps with a bit of rum thrown in) in front of the fireplace when I'm done.

LOVELY BEVERAGES: Holiday Spiced Plum Green Tea

I love the concept for this year's holiday tea offering from Republic of Tea. I'm personally allergic to cinnamon, so I won't get to try this. But I'm confident enough in this tea company that I'll be happy to gift this to several friends and family members as part of their holiday gift baskets.

Holiday Spiced Plum, at Republic of Tea

LOVELY BLOGS: Color Outside the Lines

This blogger shares his decorating inspiration finds, as well as letting us peek into his own beautifully decorated home. Currently he's focusing on Christmas decorations, posting about pinecones, decorating with greens inside, and showing us his past Christmas trees. This blog will make you eager to work on your own holiday decorating asap!

LOVELY STATIONERY: Rock, Scissor, Paper's Holiday Cards

This is my favorite stationery store on the net. I love their vintage retro styled cards. They're colorful, cheerful, and best of all, the people I send them to probably won't have seen them around in the stores. I like surprising people with new pretty things like greeting cards. Check out the ladder back chair with gifts, the animal-themed Merry Menagerie, the oh-so-trendy right now owl card, and the peppermint martinis card.

Holiday Cards from Rock, Scissor, Paper


Edible Shot Glasses (Luxirare)

How "Crazy as a Loom" Studio Decorates for the Holidays (Crazy as a Loom)

Streusel-Topped French Toast Cupcakes with Maple Buttercream (Bakingdom)

Thursday, December 01, 2011

First Day of December

Moonstruck Chocolate Advent Calendar, on Amazon

The festive season begins today! Ahead are long, dark, cold nights, hopefully sprinkled with a generous helping of parties, celebrations, events, guests, family and tasty shared meals.

I'm beginning to think about decorating, parties and holiday fun. I'm looking forward to nights spent reading books in front of my fireplace, visiting friends, crafting, throwing a party or two, and spending my first Christmas in my own home since I was a teenager.

What are you looking forward to especially this month?


  • Pay bills, rent/mortgage

  • Look over your list of upcoming birthdays this month. Write cards and mail now - it will get busier this month and you may forget later on. Order flowers, and send gifts if you're planning to.

  • Make room on your calendar for at LEAST one night every week in December where you can stay home in your pajamas, de-stress, and spend time with family. You'll spend your time at home, not running around busily to events or errands. Guard this time fiercely for yourself. It's an important gift to give yourself and your family.

  • If you use an Advent calendar or Advent house, time to get it out and stock it with small treats!

  • Time to put up your outdoor Christmas lights?

  • Have you planned your holiday party yet, if you're throwing one? Your potential guests probably already have every weekend evening booked for the next month. Better send out a save-the-date or invitation immediately if you are hosting a holiday party this year.

  • Do you need to make any doctor, dentist, vet, haircut or salon appointments for the next busy 4 weeks? Any appointments you can put off until next month, to keep December saner?

  • Check inventory of firewood, starter logs, matches, and candles (if needed and if you have a wood fireplace)

  • Bundle up and go for a quick, brisk walk if you didn't get any exercise earlier this week. You can always treat yourself to a hot bath or extra long shower when you get back to warm back up.

TODAY'S PROJECT: Holiday Preparations

Equinox Bowl, at Z Gallerie

Do whatever you think you want to do to prepare for the holidays you celebrate. Start planning your cooking for Hanukkah; or go Christmas shopping; write holiday cards; decorate the house; put up lights; bake goodies; decorate a gingerbread house with your kids or nieces/nephews.

All this should be fun to you, not an obligation - or else you shouldn't be doing this. Holidays should be something you enjoy, not dread or feel stressed about. Not everybody is into the holidays - that's ok. For those of you who are - if you start feeling overwhelmed, cut out some of the things you normally do. Forget about expectations or doing things the same way every year so the kids have a tradition. Only do what you can handle and what will bring you pleasure.

Solstice Pillow, at Crate and Barrel

Need to pick out your Christmas tree? Find a wreath for your front door? Hang some mistletoe?

Today I'm putting on Christmas music, wrapping a couple of gifts, and getting out my Christmas decorations. I will put out my outdoor lights this weekend when I have more time (I put out a LOT of lights!) For today, I will have just enough time to put colored light strands in all of my front windows, upstairs and down.

Jilly Candleholder, at Crate and Barrel

Tonight I plan to email some friends and family members, making sure I have their current addresses and information for my address book. That way I'll have everything ready as I mail out my paper Christmas cards.

LOVELY BLOGS: Between Naps on the Porch

This is probably one of my top five favorite blogs I've shared with Lovely Living this year. Updated with such frequency, quality, and wonderful posts, I can hardly wrap my brain around how she finds the time to do this so consistently. There are posts on tablescapes, an entire section on movie houses, and a section devoted to parties. You'll love the picture-heavy posts here.

LOVELY GIFTS: Miniature Trees

I just love this idea for a gift: miniature tangerine trees. They can live indoors even in cold climates, as long as they have a light-filled window. I would be careful only to gift it to people with green thumbs though, not someone like myself who unfortunately seems to kill houseplants. The tree can be relocated outside during spring and summer.

Miniature Tangerine Tree, at Sur la Table


Sour Cream Pumpkin Tart (The Crumbly Cookie)

Individual Pear Crisps with Oatmeal Streusel (Baking Bites)

Spiced Strawberry Creme Brulee (Raspberri Cupcakes)

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

November's End

Sicilian Orange Candle, from Williams-Sonoma

Now November ends. December begins, with its month full of dark nights, wintry cold, seasonal holidays, festive parties, and family gatherings.

Let's be sure to have some fun tonight or this week before the crowds completely make restaurants and malls unbearable. Let's enjoy this before we get wrapped up (so to speak) in holiday preparations and all the busy times ahead.


  • Need to send any thank-you notes? To your Thanksgiving hosts, perhaps?

  • Look over your past month. Did you achieve goals you set for yourself? (Whether they involve personal growth, housekeeping, budgeting, crafting, cooking, socializing, de-cluttering, travel, book-reading, journaling, etc?)

  • Make a meal that cleverly helps you use up your last remaining leftovers from Thanksgiving.

  • If you're wearing slippers at night a lot, do you need to launder them? They can get sweaty and a bit smelly. How about your family members slippers?

  • Put away any remaining autumn crafts or crafting supplies. It's time to switch to winter crafts.

  • Need to catch up on any mid-week vacuuming or laundry?

  • Try to remove two items from your bathroom counter and store them somewhere else (or get rid of them entirely!)

TODAY'S PROJECT: Pick-A-Spot Cleaning

Tonight's a schoolnight/worknight in my house. I don't want to involve myself in an enormous project, so I'm going to pick the very worst spot of my house and work on improving it.

Right now the worst spot is my upstairs living room. The carpet needs to be vacuumed and spot cleaned. The furniture is very dusty from having the dogs wander in and out of the rain. A light bulb needs to be changed, houseplants watered and tidied, and a couple dishes removed. A huge stack of magazines needs to be sorted, read, and recycled.

Lastly, the placemats I have on the side tables and coffee tables need to be laundered and put away - I'll be getting out Christmasy ones tomorrow anyway.


This site offers "skills for everyday living." Learn to wash it, cook it, clean it, and fix it. The blog also offers a very handy printable weekly chore schedule. Heather posted a series of very helpful posts on a Thanksgiving countdown, and I suspect she'll have a quite useful Christmas countdown series too.


Beet and Goat Cheese Tartlets (The Desk and the Stove)

Caramelized Mushrooms and Dumplings (Joy the Baker)

Gingersnap Cherry Cheesecake (Worth the Whisk)

Mini Pumpkin Tartlets with Homemade Cinnamon Whipped Cream (For the Love of Cooking)

Mozzarella-Baked Gnocchi (Cassie Craves)

Paprika-Spiced Cauliflower Soup (Saveur)

Spiced Strawberry Creme Brulee (Raspberri Cupcakes)

Tiny Giants: The Beauty of Finger Limes (Saveur)

Zesty Carrot Casserole (What's KP Cooking?)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Getting Ready for the Baking Season

Meri Meri "Santa and Reindeer" Christmas Cupcake Box, on Amazon

Today I'm getting my baking tools, supplies, and decorations ready for the holiday baking I'm eagerly anticipating.


  • Need to sweep leaves off your front porch?

  • Does your entryway or front hall need sweeping or vacuuming?

  • Any Netflix or Redbox movies to return this week? Any library books to be dropped off?

  • Is there fresh fruit in a bowl in your kitchen or on your dining table, waiting to be sliced and eaten?

  • Do you have tissues in your purse, car and coat pockets?

  • The month is winding down. Anything you wanted to get done this month, any place you wanted to go, any remaining projects to finish up?

TODAY'S PROJECT: Baking Cupboard Reorganization

This is my current cookie-and-cupcake sprinkles cupboard. Things fall out when I open it, and it's a disorganized mess. With all the holiday cookie, cake, cupcake and pie baking I plan to do, I'd better get this sorted, organized, and relocated to a place where I can see my things easily.

I currently have a pile of frostings, decorating gels and other supplies on the counter. They've been there for over two weeks. This is not acceptable! Time to move things into their own cupboard and clear up counter space the way it should be.

I'm wasting a lot of space in this kitchen cabinet. This is where I keep my "tasting party" dishes, tiny accessories, bento and sushi molds and supplies, two mandolines (I only need one), egg cups I never use, and odd-shaped serving plates. I also keep my spices in here - the only good use of this space.

I've decided to move my baking supplies into this cupboard, and the "tasting party" plates will move into storage in the garage - carefully labeled with the date so I can reevaluate in six months if I've used them or not. If not, it will be long past time to get rid of them.

I don't have an "after" picture for you yet as I've just begun this project today, right after breakfast.


I just found out about this tea, and have not yet tasted it. It's hard to tell from the dark pictures on the website, but they sell their teas in absolutely gorgeous tea tins. (Check out this LA Times article about the tins). At $45 per tin, it's unlikely I'll taste this tea any time soon. I'll keep it in mind as a luxury gift for those hard-to-surprise wealthy relatives or older family members.

LOVELY BLOGS: Handmaiden

Sharon is an Aussie ex-patriate living in Singapore. At her nice, clearly and cheerfully written blog, you'll find posts on quilting, sewing, crafting, and cooking. Recent posts include making your own Christmas crackers, infusing oils with rosemary, and a project where she screen printed adorable reindeers on Christmas napkins.


Christmas and Hanukkah Recipes (CHOW)

A Festival of Bites: Hip Hanukkah Cocktail Party (Epicurious)

Macadamia and Cranberry Christmas Log (The Crafty Baking Mama)

A Novel Christmas Chutney (My Pickles and Jams)

Super-Eggy Scrambled Eggs (101 Cookbooks)

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Leisurely Post-Holiday Weekend


  • Have you sat down and watched the news (or spent some time with your preferred news website) in the last few days? A lot is going on outside of all of our lives. It's so easy to focus so intensely on our Thanksgiving and family celebrations that we lose touch with what's going on in the world around us. It's easy enough to have the news on in the background while we're doing laundry or catching up with magazines. Make time to reconnect with the world.

  • Make weekend socialization plans if you haven't already and if you feel like seeing friends.

  • Need to do any Christmas shopping this weekend? If you can't bear the crowds, shop online. Or get other tasks out of the way so you can shop on a slower weeknight next week.

  • Spend some extra time with your pets if needed. They may be upset after the flurry and activity of Thanksgiving, or might need extra attention if you've been traveling.

  • Fridge and freezer maintenance - Clean one drawer, one shelf or two door shelves in both your fridge and your freezer.

  • Make menu plans and grocery list for the week ahead.

TODAY'S PROJECT: Laundry and Leftovers

Today I'm doing laundry, eating leftovers and rearranging my refrigerator. It got a bit messy and disorganized after all the cooking and baking I did this week. I'll be removing everything from my fridge and doing a major cleanup today.

Meanwhile my washer and dryer will be busy washing all the bedding in the house (including throws and the fluffy blankets we curl up in to watch movies downstairs). I'll also do a load of dark clothes so I have nice things to wear all week long.

Tonight we're staying in for a much-needed quiet night, catching up on homework and finishing this week's library books.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Recovering From Thanksgiving Fun

If you're reading this, you probably aren't traveling today. Are you back home? Are your guests gone, or staying for the whole weekend?

Tonight I will have a little bit of time for myself. Time to relax by the fire, catch up with my catalogs and magazines, and get just a few little projects out of the way. I'll eat leftovers, wrap some Christmas presents, do some extra exercise, and write some holiday letters.


  • Shovel sidewalk if applicable. You're exercising and working off those Thanksgiving calories, too!

  • What did you use up yesterday, or notice you were out of? Add to your shopping list.

  • Need to launder your kitchen towels? We went through a lot of mine during all our kitchen projects this week!

  • Did you call all your relatives yesterday to say Happy Thanksgiving? If not, be sure to make some catchup calls today.

  • Write a thank-you note to your Thanksgiving hosts, if applicable.

  • Clean up kitchen if you cooked yesterday and didn't clean up thoroughly last night.

TODAY'S PROJECT: Winter Car Emergency Preparedness

If you live in an area where you have bad winter weather, do you have a blanket in your car? An extra coat, at all times, in case you run out of your house without one on? (I sometimes do that when I have a warm sweater and it's "only" 45 degrees. I feel warm without a coat, until I leave the car to go into a store and realize how cold it really is!)

Do you have a pair of gloves in the trunk, and boots? Do you have an ice scraper, kitty litter or other traction aids? First aid kit, flashlight, matches?

Do you leave home with a full tank of gas? Do you have your cell phone with you, charged, at all times? Do you have a $20 (or more) in the car, plus some change, for emergencies? (Picking up a snack at a gas station while you are waiting for a tow truck, making phone calls from a pay phone, etc?)

Do you have a bottle of water or two, and some granola bars or other easy-to-transport snacks? If you have pets who ride with you, do you have water for your pets, and snacks for them?

Also, do you keep a pen and notepad in your car at all times? Fingernail clippers, hand lotion, breath mints?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving Pep Talk

Thanksgiving Cornucopia Card, at Papyrus Online

Think positive.

We can do this. We're lucky to have family and friends to spend time with (even if they drive us crazy) and food to eat at our feasts. Hopefully we have friends who will join us to celebrate today and help smooth things when our relatives are getting a bit uppity. (Note that I said when, not if, grin!)

Don't stress yourself worrying about how your Thanksgiving will go (whether you are worried about your travel, hosting, or spending the holiday at someone's house).

Nothing has to be perfect.

Thanksgiving is about being with family and friends. If you undercook or overcook the turkey, that's ok - people will happily eat the mashed potatoes instead. If old rude Uncle Joe starts in on you about politics, that's ok, you knew he would. Sigh and try to change the subject. Your tablecloth is stained or a bit ratty? Who cares - it was put on the table fresh and clean, right? Your furniture has cat-scratch marks on it, and your relatives will see it? Oh well, it means you have pets you love.

If something spills, wipe it up with a smile. Laugh if something breaks. Stains on your apron or clothing from cooking? Good, that means you worked hard to make something nice for your family. June Cleaver isn't here in her pearls and heels and immaculate freshly starched dress to make us look bad.

If someone cries, hand them a tissue, and give them a hug. If that person is you, have your cry for a few minutes but don't let it ruin your day, and don't let yourself contribute to or escalate family drama.

There are some things that won't change, and some things we can't control. No, our houses will never be as clean as our mother-in-laws' homes. Nor will the food we cook ever be as tasty as his mom's cooking. We will never have as nice of cars or furniture or as big a house as our brother-and-sister in law. We're good cooks, but there's always an Aunt Edna or a Gramma known for being the best cook ever. That's ok, let them enjoy that title. We still make darn delicious food.

It's all going to be ok. We can do this.

Take care of yourself first.

Thanksgiving Squirrel Card, from Papyrus

One thing that helps a lot is having some quiet alone time today as well as some tomorrow morning. If you have guests over, you might not be able to take half an hour tonight to hog the bathroom and enjoy a long hot bath. So maybe do something relaxing in the morning (Read a book? Browse a magazine? Go for a quick walk?) to de-stress before the stress even starts. Give yourself permission to take time for yourself, so you can give more of yourself as the holiday begins.

Delegate! Thanksgiving is not all about you, and you can't and shouldn't be the Queen of Thanksgiving. If someone offers to help, let them. If someone offers to bring a dish, let them. (Worried Aunt Ida will bring her nasty sugary marshmallow yams? That's ok, let her and be grateful she's not bringing her mushy overcooked cold mashed potatoes).

One of the things I usually do every year to emotionally survive the holiday is to throw a special after-Thanksgiving casual movie night on Saturday night for any friends who are still in town. We'll wear comfy sweats or pajamas, eat leftovers or fresh fruits and veggies, and watch fun movies while relaxing. Friends are the family you choose, and I choose to be around happy, fun, easygoing people on my four-day weekend.

And a special note to anybody reading this who might be spending their Thanksgiving alone. It's ok, it happens to all of us. Not everybody has family close by, or the ability to travel, and sometimes people have to work on Thanksgiving or the day after. On more than one Thanksgiving in years past, I absolutely couldn't face the whole thing and voluntarily stayed home alone and I truly did have a good time. Instead of sitting there feeling sorry for yourself for being alone, think of all of us who are having our crusty old relatives argue with us about religion or politics, ask us why we're still single (or not pregnant yet, or still fat, etcetera) and possibly fighting with our grown siblings. Make yourself a special delicious treat to eat, watch a movie or put on your favorite music and enjoy your relaxing alone time. If you are feeling a bit blue, skip the alcohol and have hot cocoa instead.

A special challenge:

Try to be there "in the moment" during the entirety of your Thanksgiving meal, plus during the preparation before it and recovery after it. What do I mean by this? Don't spend your time texting your friends; don't spend all day on your cell phone talking to people who aren't there in person. You can talk to your friends and text them all day long some other time. Thanksgiving is supposed to be about reconnecting with family who you don't see often. Give them respect by giving them your full attention. Unless you're an emergency room doctor, there really isn't a reason for your cell phone to be at the table or even in the room with you on Thanksgiving.

Granted, we do all have people we'll need to phone to wish a happy Thanksgiving. Try to keep those calls brief, and get it done in a solid chunk of time if you can so you aren't constantly sneaking off to another room.

This is obviously quite a pet peeve of mine, but I implore you with all my heart to think about this issue seriously. Try, if you can, to spend quality time (not texting time) with the people who took time out of their busy lives to spend tomorrow in person with you, celebrating with you face to face. Your text buddies will be there tomorrow and always.


In Praise of the Small Thanksgiving (Slate)

A Serving of Gratitude Brings Healthy Dividends (NY Times)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Almost Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Cookies, from Dean & Deluca


  • Need to give yourself a quick manicure so your hands look nice for the holiday? I need to, I don't want to show up at Thanksgiving with chipped nail polish.

  • Add 15 minutes to your normal exercise routine today - Thanksgiving preparedness!

  • Gather phone numbers of people you want to call on Thanksgiving to wish a happy holiday. (Please call, not just text!)

  • Sweep the entryway to your home, both indoors and outside.

  • Gather cameras, chargers and batteries you'll use tomorrow. Charge up phones and cameras tonight.


Pinzon Luxury Bath Towel, on Amazon

If you're going out of town for Thanksgiving, you can enjoy coming home in a few days to clean bathrooms. If you're hosting, you need all your bathrooms to be spotless for guests.

If you have a big crowd coming, more than one bathroom may be in use at the same time. So you might want to clean all of the bathrooms in your home, not just the guest bathroom. You never know when a guest is going to wander into a room you'd hoped they wouldn't.

Clean mirrors, light fixtures, light bulbs, sinks and counters. Scrub the toilet, then see if the bathtub and shower need any work. Finish by mopping floors, replacing hand towels and rugs/mats with clean ones, stocking toilet paper and Kleenex. Do you have a vase of fresh flowers in the guest bathroom? A candle you can light later on in the evening?

LOVELY BLOGS: The Enchanted Home

Here's a beautiful blog full of gorgeous home decor inspiration. Tina is building her dream home and lets us peek in from time to time at her efforts and dreams. There's currently a post on gorgeous walk-in closets that made me swoon. Tina is a very prolific blogger - 256 posts already this year so far - so you'll have lots of lovely things to look at here.


Thanksgiving Cookies: An Edible Craft (Simple Kids)

Thanksgiving Cookies with Kids (Heaps of Laundry)

Thanksgiving Turkey Cookies (Mama Grubb's Grub)

Yam Koftas: Holiday Party Appetizers (The Colors of Indian Cooking)

Two Days Til Thanksgiving

The hydrangea plant I bought to enjoy as a centerpiece on the dining table this autumn


  • Try to get your grocery shopping done very soon. The closer it gets to Thanksgiving, the crazier the stores get. Try to plan ahead so you don't have to run to the store at the last minute on Thanksgiving.

  • Do you have warm things to serve for breakfasts? Oatmeal, Malt-O-Meal or Cream of Wheat?

  • Pick out an ice cube from your freezer, smell and taste it. Does it taste fresh and delicious, or has it picked up food smells? Make fresh ice if needed (unless you plan to pick up Party Ice bags for Thanksgiving). Empty, scrub and refill your ice cube trays, or empty out your icemaker box and let it start over. With 2 days to go til Thanksgiving, your icebox should be refilled in plenty of time.

  • If you're hosting the meal, check over your menu plans. Do you have the traditional Thanksgiving foods coming? Turkey (or veggie alternative), sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, green beans, pumpkin pie? Corn, if that's your tradition? Plenty of food for any vegetarians or gluten-free people who might show up?

  • Do you need to do any laundry, launder table linens or hand towels? Your tablecloth might need to be ironed?

  • If you have overnight guests coming, do you have breakfast foods in the house? I don't often eat cereal, so I need to remember to at the very least stock milk and Cheerios. I also want to be sure to have orange juice to offer the next morning.

  • Clean off and sanitize your home telephone (and cellphones if you have time). I don't know about you, but my cell phone gets covered in makeup and my kitchen phone gets grimy fingerprints on it. Because of the holidays, your phone is likely to get a lot of extra use this week - calls coming in, relatives borrowing the phone to call out. A quick wipedown and some Windex will do wonders.

  • What movies will you show family members while they wait for (or recover from) the Thanksgiving meal. Can you find your DVDs and have them ready? Or do you just watch the Macy's parade or a football game?

TODAY'S PROJECT: Thanksgiving Preparations

Meri Meri Thanksgiving Place Cards, on Amazon

If you're traveling out of town, rather than hosting at home, you still might want to join the rest of us in tidying our homes today. That way you'll come back after a long, tiring journey, to a shining clean, relaxing house.


We sorted and organized our kitchens last month to prepare for the holidays. Now I don't know about you, but I let my normal maintenance cleaning slip a bit, and I have a bit extra work to do to get my kitchen ready for the holidays. Oops. Otherwise, I'm doing pretty well. My counters are cleared off and got spritzed with a nice smelling basil lavender cleaner last night, and my cupboards are still pretty well organized. The dishwasher is empty. My kitchen floor needs to be scrubbed and mopped (as always). Finish what you have left to do in your kitchen, and let's move on to our dining rooms.


Spiced Chestnut Candle, from Williams-Sonoma

Start by clearing off your dining table, if needed. Don't just move mail to another table, making a mess for another day. Now is a good time to stop and organize it, pay bills, file things and burn or shred those pesky credit card applications. Dust off and polish your dining table, then set it with your tablecloth, tablerunner, placemats or whatever you intend to use for Thanksgiving or even for your next upcoming meal.

Look around your dining room and see what else needs to be done. Do you have furniture to dust? Have your windows been washed, inside and out, in the last month? Dust and clean off your dining chairs. While doing so, remove them from the area and vacuum or mop the floor under your table. If you have time and someone to help you to move your table, it makes it a lot easier to clean the floor. Do a last check to see if there is anything in the dining room that doesn't belong (shoes, toys, clutter, dead houseplants?).

Do you need to have a box of Kleenex handy? Every year it seems at least half the table breaks down crying when we start the "What are you thankful for?" discussion. (Do you know what you're going to say when this inevitable discussion starts at your table?)

Finish by spritzing the room with home fragrance, and setting the table with some pretty fall-colored candles. Put out any last fall decorations you might nave wanted to put up. It's a day too early to get fresh flowers for the table if you are hosting a meal, though.


Let's move on to the living room, where it's likely our guests will retire with aching bellies, for hours of football, the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade, or chatting and visiting. Dust, remove clutter, vacuum, wash windows, clean off coffee table, fold throws. Be sure to dust off the TV screen.

Does your family have a particular movie they watch on Thanksgiving? "Home for the Holidays," "Planes Trains and Automobiles," "The Sound of Music," or "Wizard of Oz" perhaps? Do you have kids' movies ready to go? Make sure you know where your DVD movies are and have them accessible.

Do you have children coming to visit? Get out toys, books, and games - maybe store them in an attractive basket in a corner of the room.

Refresh houseplants and toss any dead ones. Does your fireplace look neat and tidy? Do you have firewood, kindling and/or Duraflames ready to light in it? Set out a magazine or two or coffee table books, and finish by spraying your home spray in the room.

Tomorrow I'll be working on my guest bathrooms so they are ready for company.

Keep your spirits up and don't get overwhelmed. We still have a couple days until the holiday. Don't forget to make time for yourself for some "down time" every day. A happy mom makes for a happy home. Build in some magazine reading time, bath time, or even mindless TV watching for a few minutes a day. The more private time you give yourself, the better a hostess you'll be during the holiday week. And remember.. Thanksgiving doesn't have to be perfect to be wonderful.


A Radical Rethinking of Thanksgiving Leftovers (NY Times)

Stunning Thanksgiving Table Settings (House Beautiful)

Thanksgiving is Coming: Refrain from Freaking Out (Eatocracy/CNN)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Three Days Before Thanksgiving

Fall Decorative Turkeys, at Williams-Sonoma


  • Are your kitchen sponges or dish scrubbers old and yucky looking? Need to replace them?

  • Need to go grocery shopping for the week? I highly recommend doing it before Wednesday afternoon. Avoid stores on Wednesday and Thursday if you can help it. Crowded, crowded!

  • Fill up with gas if needed, so if you have to go out for errands later this week you won't have to stop for gas.

  • Do you have a fireplace? Have wood for festive fires for this week? You might especially want to lay in a supply of firewood if you have company coming over.

  • Speaking of keeping warm, your guests might not be used to the temperature you keep your home. If you keep it cold, be sure there are plenty of blankets, warm socks and clean slippers to offer. Or be generous and accomoating - turn the heat up a degree or two for your guests who would prefer it.

  • Doing ok on coffee and tea to serve guests and to keep yourself caffeinated while you cook?

  • Need to write any Thanksgiving cards to mail out soon?

  • Visit the bank or post office tomorrow or Wednesday, before the holiday, if needed.

TODAY'S PROJECT: Thanksgiving Prep

Heirloom Pumpkin Dinner Plates and Tureen, at Williams-Sonoma

Use this time to pack, cook, bake, clean the house, write holiday cards, spend time talking about gratitude with your children, read books together, have a game night with your family, sort the pantry, go shopping, or do other pre-holiday things you might need to get done.

Don't forget to build yourself in a little "sit down and relax" time, whether you spend it in a hot bath, a rocking chair, a cafe you snuck away to for 45 minutes, or on your couch idly flipping through magazines.

I'm going to a friend's house for Thanksgiving, bringing a dish I can easily prepare that morning. So for today my tasks are vacuuming, cleaning muddy dog paw prints off the floors, spritzing the house with fragrance spray, and tidying the bathrooms.

LOVELY BLOGS: The Faux Martha

Melissa is a designer by day, and a baker by night. Currently her blog is chock full of comfort food recipes: chicken noodle soup, a beautifully photographed cranberry sauce, apple pie, and chicken pot pie that takes a lot of ingredients but looks well worth the trouble.


Autumnal Centerpieces (Martha Stewart)

Cheddar Cheese Risotto (Nigella Lawson)

Chocolate Crunch Cake and Making Your Own Christmas Hamper (Not Quite Nigella)

Cranberry Pumpkin Pie (An American Cupcake in London)

Four-Ingredient Cranberry Pumpkin Muffins (Bake at 350)

How to Make a Pilgrim Hat (Art Platter)

Paper Cup Turkeys (Fun Family Crafts)

Pretend Pilgrims Tutorial (Made)

Pumpkin Cake with Cranberry Gelee (Cake O Cake)

Pumpkin Seed Cranberry Biscotti (DeLish)

Secrets of Women Who Don't Get Sick (CNN)

10 Gorgeous Gray Rooms (House Beautiful)

Thanksgiving Turkey Cupcakes (Brown-Eyed Baker)

20 Guests, 19 Pies: What Happens When a Thanksgiving Tradition Gets Completely out of Hand (Slate)

Vegan Banana Cake (Peaceful Table)

Monday, November 21, 2011

Simplifying Christmas

Holly Garland Kit, at Paper Source

Holiday Simplicity

Because this blog often features shopping related info, images of things I've bought to enjoy in my own home, and excitement about new products, I hesitate to spend too much time talking about frugality. There are enough blogs on the net talking about money saving tips and budgeting. Lovely Living has a different focus.

However, I appreciate the idea of a simpler, less hectic Christmas. (Plus frugality is important right now with our troubled economy). That's part of why I begin my Christmas shopping early in the year, and finish by December 1st whenever possible. I shop for fewer items, make more careful decisions about the few gifts I am going to buy. I spend less time shopping and more time with family.

You can simplify Christmas, and yet still enjoy shopping, just by cutting down on the amount of gifts you purchase. I love shopping but I don't feel the need to buy a gift for everyone I know. I love giving gifts, but this year I'm only buying presents for children. I will buy just one small gift, one piece of clothing and one book each for my nephews and nieces. My foster daughter needs a lot of clothing, and I am excited to be giving her a gift of something she can actually use and wear - not just something that would sit getting dusty on a shelf.

No Need to Buy More Decorations

I realized a few years ago that there is very little I need to buy for my own home for Christmas, other than a fresh live tree. I already have more ornaments than I have space to fit on the tree; plenty of holiday decor; I already have more than enough wrapping paper and beautiful ribbons to wrap the few gifts I'll purchase. I already have stockings for my household members, and I don't need fancy mantel stocking holders like they're always advertising in the Pottery Barn catalog.

I don't need Christmas-themed kitchen towels, placemats or tablecloths. Until something wears out, I have plenty of holiday linens. I already have Christmas dishes, which I have to store in the garage because I don't have room for them in the house. I have a wreath for my front door, and tons of Christmas lights for outside. It appears that I don't have room (or need) in my life for any more holiday decoration supplies. At least not until I give some away, throw some away or recycle them, or trade them with a friend.

So this year the only things I should be buying for the holidays are a few gifts, fresh food and some fun beverages.


Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer DVD, on Amazon

I'll be frugal with my time and activities too. I want to prioritize enjoying time with family - even if it's just doing something simple like making popcorn and hot cocoa, then settling in to watch "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer." Or we might play board games all night. Rather than running around going to endless parties (though parties are extremely fun!) or driving myself (and family) crazy by throwing too many parties, I'll budget my time carefully. I'll keep it simple.


  • I like eating hard-boiled eggs on my salad, or for a quick shot of protein in the morning. But I don't often plan ahead enough to have hardboiled eggs on hand for convenience. Today I'm going to take just a few minutes to put four or five eggs on the stove, set a timer, and take them out once they're done. I'll label the eggs with a pen so I know what day I made them. Tonight my salad will be adorned by some tasty hard-boiled egg slices! Want to do the same thing too?

  • Recycle old newspapers, catalogs and magazines. Any newspaper that's more than a week old, throw out mercilessly. Don't be one of those people who accumulate a huge stack of newspapers thinking they'll get around to reading them someday. You can always visit your favorite newspaper on line and scan the headlines to catch up. Also, instead of keeping an entire catalog so you can remember something you want to check on later, pull out that page instead, then recycle the rest of the catalog.

  • If you're going to any plays, operas, ballets, or concerts this season, do you have tickets yet?

  • Check over your Christmas gift list - do you keep one in your purse or in your cellphone? (If you don't keep a list with you when you're out and about, I highly recommend this technique). Cross out anything you've bought, add any new ideas you've had.

  • Need to stock up on gift wrap tape or packaging tape?

  • Exercise for at least twenty minutes.

TODAY'S PROJECT: Home Office Organization, part 2

Today I am going to clean and organize my garage storage space. Because I run business out of my home, and especially because this is my busiest time of year, my office and storage space are a huge ongoing organization struggle. I pack my merchandise by reaching to bookshelves behind me, or quickly jumping up to grab something off a nearby shelf. So I need things nearby, and that limits how much stuff I can put away in drawers or out of sight.

Clean off your desk, and dust thoroughly. Clean your keyboard, mouse and monitor (I don't use anything fancy, just Windex sprayed onto the cloth, never directly onto the monitor, and Windex on Qtips for the keyboard).

Empty desk drawers and sort what's in them, throwing or giving away as much as possible. Organize your computer CDs and software collection. If you can get yourself to throw away the pretty-looking boxes that computer games come in, you'll open up a lot of space and get rid of so much clutter. Can you part with any old computer games you don't play any more?

Organize your pens, paper, notepads, staples, and other office supplies. Pay attention to how many pens you already own - I bet most of us truly never need to buy another pen for the next five years. Test each pen and throw out any that don't write. Make sure you can find tape, scissors, a calculator, a postage scale, stamps, and a stapler when you need one.

Clean your office chair and Febreze it or use leather wipes if applicable. Vacuum, mop or sweep the room depending on what type of flooring you have. Sort and clean any bookcases you have in your office. Replace needed items on top of your desk, but try to keep the clutter down.

LOVELY BLOGS: Deck the Holidays

This blog features "Folklore, facts and features about holidays around the world." Currently posting about pumpkin cream pie, the Detroit Thanksgiving parade, and the origins of Thanksgiving.

LOVELY BOOKS: The Hoarder in You

I'm so looking forward to Dr. Robin Zasio's book, which comes out tomorrow. I use the TV show Hoarders as a tool to horrify me into getting rid of belongings. (I'm a packrat, not a hoarder, but the show is truly frightening!) I try not to have an emotional connection to my possessions, but struggle to release sentimental items (such as the porcelain dolls my mother made and painted so many years ago). The book will present practical ideas on managing the items in our lives, decluttering and staying organized.

The Hoarder in You, on Amazon


Brussels Sprout Slaw with Mustard Dressing (Brown Eyed Baker)

Chipotle Lime Cranberry Sauce (All Day I Dream About Food)

Chocolate Peppermint Roll (Bakers Royale)

Cranberry Sauce (The Pastry Affair)

Cranberry Sauce with Ginger and Cloves (Girlichef)

DIY Flavored Salts (CHOW)

From Scratch Green Bean Casserole (Annie's Eats)

Macarons, Macaroons and Macaroni: The Curious History (Slate)

Quince Honey: The Perfect Thanksgiving Host Gift (Bon Appetit)

10 Vegetarian Thanksgiving Dishes (CHOW)

Three Easy Day Trips from London (Conde Nast Traveler)

What Is a Fashion Icon? (Slate)

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Pre-Thanksgiving Sunday

Set of 3 Gourd Candles, from Crate and Barrel

Today is our last chance to get ready for Thanksgiving on a non-workday.

If you're traveling, you'll have different tasks today than if you're hosting or bringing food to a friend's house. If you're hosting, you probably have a lot of cleaning to do today!


  • Do you need to go grocery shopping before Thanksgiving? Grocery stores are going to be very crowded today though. Still, better than waiting until Wednesday afternoon or evening!

  • 5 weeks til Christmas! 4 weeks til Chanukah! How is your gift shopping and wrapping going?

  • Fridge and freezer maintenance - Clean one shelf, one drawer or two door shelves in both your refrigerator and your freezer.

  • Make meal plans for the week ahead

  • Finish laundry so it's done for the week by tonight. Launder guest room bedding if needed, so it's fresh and doesn't smell dusty.

  • Launder and iron (if needed) the tablecloth you'll be using on Thanksgiving, if you're hosting. Don't put it on the table yet - it will get dirty!

TODAY'S PROJECT: Thanksgiving Preparation and Provisioning

Mini Twig Turkey Decorations, at Cost Plus World Market

Depending on what you're doing for Thanksgiving (traveling a long distance to someone's house; hosting dinner yourself; going to a nearby friend or family member's house; or enjoying a quiet evening home by yourself or with just a couple friends?) you have some projects to do before Thursday is here.

If you're traveling a long distance, you might want to pack your suitcases now, plan snacks and activities for your children, get your hostess gift ready, call your petsitter, locate your travel documents, and phone your hostess to confirm. Don't forget to pack your camera and charger or batteries for it, and don't forget a cell phone charger too! Thank-you card addressed and stamped (so you can mail it when you get home after your trip?)

If you're going to someone's house nearby, you need to figure out what you're wearing, buy ingredients for and prepare the dish you're bringing, and buy (then wrap) your hostess gift. Have you RSVPed to your host's invitation? Prepared a thank-you note? Planned what you are going to do with your blessedly travel-free extra days off of work?

If you're hosting, you probably have a lot of cleaning and grocery shopping to do. Guest room ready for overnight guests (or people who had a bit too much Thanksgiving wine?) Do you have plastic containers to send leftovers home in? Dining table ready to go? Fridge cleaned out to make room for the groceries you'll shop for this week? Guest bathroom clean? Background music picked out and ready to go? Home smell clean and cozy?


Cranberry White Chocolate Tarts (The Pastry Affair)

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Gift-Wrapping Day

Roger la Borde Christmas Gift Bags, on eBay


  • Need to de-clutter and clean out your car? I do this every time I find myself sitting in it waiting for someone. Do you need to restock things you might keep in your car, such as Kleenex, wet wipes, hand sanitizer, a cell phone charger, mints, lipstick, and hand lotion?

  • Are you mailing out Thanksgiving cards? Do you have time to write a few Christmas or holiday cards today?

  • Have you eaten fresh fruit in the last two days? An apple, banana, strawberries, melon?

TODAY'S PROJECT: Gift Wrapping

Christmas Stripe Wired Ribbon, at The Container Store

I'm wrapping gifts tonight. I've been buying gifts here and there over the past three or four months, tucking them away into my gift closet. I'll wrap them while I watch some shows I saved up on my Tivo.

I'll label the gifts carefully so I know who to mail them to or which gift pile to put them in in my home. After they're wrapped, I'll store the gifts in a Sterilite bin in my closet. This protects them from the cats, who like to chew on the corners of boxes that look or smell intriguing.

I'm looking forward to adding some special touches to my gift wrap. I want to make my inexpensive gifts more fun and exciting to open. I'll add some sequins and sparkles to some of the gifts, and glue some fake Swarovski crystals onto some of the ribbons I'm tying around the gifts. I tuck small inexpensive acrylic ornaments into the bows sometimes too.

How much gift wrapping can you get done tonight, assuming you've shopped for some gifts already?

Friday, November 18, 2011

More Holiday Simplicity Thoughts

Giant Paper Gnome Kit, at Paper-Source


  • Have you dropped off cans of food at your local food bank recently?

  • Have you gotten your flu shot for this year yet? How about your family members?

  • Do you take your children for Santa pics? If so, have you made time, plans, and room in your budget to do so?

  • How are your supplies of printer paper, ink, tape, stamps, and other office supplies? Need to add anything to your shopping list?

  • Kitchen maintenance - Wipe down front of all cupboards and appliances. If needed, remove items from counters, clean counters, then replace items. This should take less than seven minutes. I might even do it between commercials during my TV show tonight.

  • Is your diary or journal up to date? It's the middle of the month. Did anything happen this month that you want to document to read back on in the future? Before things get busy with Thanksgiving?

TODAY'S PROJECT: Home Office Organization

Today I'm working to organize and clean my home office. It's very dusty in here from my leaving the window open often. There's clutter on top of my desk and bookshelves, and two huge boxes standing in the doorway that need to be emptied and put away. I also need to dust off my printer, monitor and scanner.

When I'm done clearing off the desk, I want to sort my four desk drawers, reorganize and try to get rid of things I don't use every week.

Is your workspace where you pay bills and do paperwork clean and tidy? Can you find things when you need them? Do you have scissors, tape, pens, and notepaper easily ready for you? Do you have a phone nearby? If so, does it need to be cleaned off, wiped down of makeup and fingerprints? Have you cleaned germs off your computer keyboard recently?

LOVELY HOLIDAYS: More Christmas Simplicity

Chocolate Advent Calendar, on Amazon

Do you let your holiday preparations take over and become all-consuming? In the next few weeks, will your life become all about holiday planning, cleaning, freaking out, running to the mall to shop, stressing about cooking, etc? Will you miss out on social events and opportunities to spend time with your friends and family because you've chosen to be "too busy" with holiday preparations?

Holidays are wonderful, a lovely part of life. It's ok to be excited and anticipate them. But only if we don't make ourselves (and our families) crazy with the preparations. We shouldn't ignore the other important parts of our life (friends and family) because we're so frazzled getting ready for the holidays. What are we getting ready for the holidays for, after all? To spend time with friends and family.

Olde World Christmas Ornaments, from Pier 1

Are you stressed out because you are doing too much - throwing too many parties, taking kids to too many after-school activities, taking on too many take-home extra work projects, attending events you feel obligated to attend but don't want to go to, etc.? Ask yourself why you are doing all these things? Where do your expectations come from? Who tells you to do so many activities? Spend some soul-searching time to see what the cause of your stress is. Then figure out a way to de-schedule your life.

You can cancel events, do without some homemade baked goods, throw one less party, skip a school PTA meeting, stop shopping for gifts, and insist on more family at-home nights if that helps you. Carve time out of your life for things that are important, and cancel things that aren't.

Being "busy" is not a race or a competition, and even if it were, it's not one we should want to win. I am striving for a good balance between being the least busy person I know (I'd feel lazy or unsociable) and the most busy. I want to be right in the middle: Busy enough to be involved, giving back, being productive and having an interesting life surrounded by good people. But not so busy I am stressed or can't find time to share with loved ones.

I've strengthened my resolve to consciously try to have a simpler Christmas. What traditions do I want to keep? Which ones can I let slide, or do in simpler, less grandiose ways?


For me, the big Christmas meal is not really all that different than the one I eat at Thanksgiving. Turkey for the meat eaters and Tofurkey for the vegetarians (none of our friends or family eat ham or pork), mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, and a couple veggie side dishes. One simple dessert (a cake or even pumpkin pie I can bake the night before) should do it. You don't have to have ten kinds of home-baked Christmas cookies around the house.

I do however refuse to take time-saving measures such as buying refrigerated pre-sliced cookies. One of my holiday traditions is to bake cookies with children. I intend to spend time doing that this year again, as soon as I figure out which children I can borrow to do this fun event with! (Meanwhile their moms can enjoy going Christmas shopping without their kids for a couple hours).


LED Christmas Lights, on Amazon

My outdoor Christmas lights, plus the ones we put in each of my windows, take more than a whole afternoon to put up. I do it with the help of some cousins, so that probably saves me another afternoon of work. We make a special fun time of it, and enjoy a nice meal together afterwards. The tree will take an hour to buy at a nearby farm and set up. Decorating it will only take one pleasant evening - another opportunity to spend fun time with friends or family, as I always invite people to join me for the decorating.

I won't spend more than a couple hours decorating the rest of the house - a few candles here, a couple of garlands on the banisters and mantels, but not so much I get stressed about the time it takes.


This year I'm not buying gifts for adults. Just for the children in my life and for my foster daughter. I'm already almost done Christmas shopping because I started so early in the year.


Activities are something very important to me since it's something you enjoy with other people. You create memories and have a fun time together. With time and budget constraints in mind, I'm going to carefully pick and choose which activities I get involved in. I love everything about the holidays, but to keep myself sane, I'll carefully book two "at home" evenings by myself each week. Activities I can pick and choose between include caroling, throwing cocktail parties, attending cocktail parties, going on a dinner cruise to see the Christmas Ships, movies, theater, shopping, dinners out, gingerbread house making, baking, Christmas card sending, newsletter writing, gift wrapping, game night, karaoke night, a long evening spent reading a book, driving around to look at Christmas lights, babysitting kids so their parents can go shopping, white elephant parties, and Christmas stocking opening.

A Dream Come True

For years my dream has been to stay home in my own home for Christmas. I don't look forward to traveling alone across dangerous snowy roads to visit relatives hours away and staying overnight in their homes year after year. It's fun, but I am so excited to finally stay in my own home this Christmas. I'll invite a couple family members over to spend an hour watching their kids open gifts and drinking cocoa with us, I'll spend time with my dogs and my fireplace, and savor staying cozy in my own home.

Right now this sounds like the loveliest, warmest, most simplistic, stress-free Christmas of all.

What are some of your dreams for this Christmas?


Sweet Potato Pie (Bake at 350)