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Tips and Tricks to Surviving the Holidays
During a normal year:

The holiday season is to be full of love and joy, however being humans we can never leave well enough alone. Between shopping, sending cards, parties, decorating, ...... Our stress level goes into overdrive.

This year isn't normal !!  Many people are have to do a lot more with a lot less.

When I was young, we didn't have a lot money, but always had a great Christmas. To this day I still have fond memories. When I grew up and had my own family there were also 'hard times'. While some years there was a little extra money, there were a few where I couldn't even afford a little tree.

So don't worry, here are some tips that might help bring back the love and joy and decrease the stress and the cost. So sit back and scrol though this page or use the quick links below.

Christmas Cards/Letters - Emergency Decorations  - Emergency Gifts - Hard to impossible to Wrap Items - Survive the Parties  - Turn the Little Headaches into Fun Times   - Entertaining in the home - Taking Care of Yourself
If your headache is coming from the kitchen, check out the Kitchen Tips and Tricks

Turn the little headaches into fun times

Hate cleaning the house for company, invite a friend over to help. Then help them when they are fixing to entertain.

Gift wrapping, have several friends bring their gifts, tape, and paper. Turn it into a wrapping party, serving munches. This way you always have that extra set of fingers you always need. Also you can swap wrapping paper and ribbon.

Too much food to cook at one time, let a friend help by doing some at her house.  Than return the favor.

Many foods can be prepared, weeks ahead of time. By planning ahead, all you will have to do is pull it out of the freezer, and bake. Just think all the good smells, with almost no mess.

Bored kids - If you own some holiday DVDs, this is the time to dig them out. Swap out with friends. You can even rent them for almost nothing, and some libraries even offer them for lending.  Or if you would prefer something a little better, set-up a little craft area. Stock it with all the basic supplies: white paper, construction paper, scissors, glue, colors, pipe cleaners, scraps of fabric, scraps of wrapping paper, and if you dare.......glitter. You will get a little peace, and they will have something to be proud of.

Holiday grocery shopping can be a killer if you work. See if you can take off early one day. Grocery stores are almost empty during week-days. Then enjoy the time you would normally have to be in the store, doing something you never have time for.

The large bulk discount stores (like Sam's), can offer some great prices, but you may not need or can afford a case of something. Check with close friends and/or co-workers and see if they would like to split the cost of the item.

Of course you will need to eat after Christmas, so take notes of any stores that appear to have a lot of normal items that are  'holiday' labeled  in stock. These will be marked down later, and trust me that Hershey's Kiss in red & green foil tastes just as good as the one in sliver.

Ohhhhh the wonderful food, so many great dishes, so many calories. Don't deprive your self, sit back and enjoy every little morsel you place in your mouth. Eat enough to satisfy those taste buds, then stop. Then watch what you eat during normal times. Just think about how good that gingerbread cookie is going to smell, and taste.

Survive the parties, yours and theirs

The Food

  • Don't try to loose weight during the holidays. There is something to be said for just holding onto the pre-season weight.
  • Eat before attending, and party.
  • Arrive a little late, and leave a little early. Less exposure to food, can't hurt.
  • Go of the low calorie drinks: diet soft drinks, coffee, hot tea... After all you are the designated driver, right?
  • Keep the hands busy, offer to help the hostess with music, dirty dishes, taking pictures.. anything but serving

If you are in a situation, where you are expected to host a party, but the time and money budgets simply can't handle it, do a pot luck. The trick is you don't have to call it a pot luck, it's a "Holiday Sampler Party". Instruct each guest to bring the one food item that has a special holiday memory for them or just their favorite holiday food. Then at the party, have everyone share the story behind their item.

Then use some of the other ideas here to decorate and entertain. With a little thought, and a little bit of work, and not much money you can have a fantastic time for almost no cost.

Entertaining in the home - Keeping everyone busy from 9 to 90

This the time of year that your are likely to have more than normal amount of entertaining to do. Most times your guests will have something in common. However during the holidays, you could end up with a very diverse groups of people to entertain.

Simple arts and crafts are great for the kids big and small. As they will be the first to become bored. Clear out a corner of a room that is off the beaten path, like a bedroom. Set up a little work station, colors, paper, scissors, glue, etc.

For the grown ups, try to set-up at least two different sections to sit, as a rule they will break off into small groups and talk. By offering the little extra room, the noise level won't be too bad.

Now for the games. One of the great things about the holidays is that it brings out the "kid" in all of us.

    Place the star on the tree.
    Much like pin the tail on the donkey. Draw a Christmas tree on a large piece of paper. Tape to the back of a door or a wall. Draw and cut enough stars for every guest to have his own. Have each guest write his/her name on the star.
    Then one at a time, blind fold them, place a piece of double stick tape on the back of the star, and have them try to place it on the top of the tree. For an added extra, have the adults hit the kids craft area and make a paper
    decoration for the tree. When the game is over with, you may wish to roll it up and use it next year as a keepsake. It might bring good memories, if the guests are older family members, that may not be with you many more Christmas'

    How many words.
    Give each person a piece of paper with "Merry Christmas" written across the top. Give them 5 minutes to write as many words as they can using the letters from "Merry Christmas". The person with the most words wins.

    Gift swap.
    Wrap enough gifts for each person to receive one. These can be token gifts. Like a big Christmas cookie, or just little inexpensive items. Have each person write their name down on two pieces of paper. Place all the names in a box. Now draw the first name, this person can pick any gift they wish, and open it. Now draw the second name, this person may either pick a new gift or take the one from the person that already has one. If they take the other person's gift, that person may pick a new one. Now the third name is drawn. They may take a new one, or any one of the gifts already picked. This continues until all the names have been drawn. By having each name in twice, it gives them a chance to get the gift back that some one took. I have played this game a many parties, and is always enjoyed.

    What is it?
    Write down things that have to due with the season. Some easy while others may offer a little more thought. Fold in half and place in a box. Divide folks into groups of three or four. Have a person from the first group, pick one of the pieces of paper. They now must draw a picture of it. The first group, to guess what it is wins the round. Then have a person from the second group do a drawing, and so on until everyone has done one. The group with the most points

    Tell a story
    With everyone together, have the first person start to make-up a Christmas story. They only need to do the first couple of lines, then the next person adds on to it, this continues to the last person who must end the story. (Once upon a time there was a Frog named Rudolph. All the other frogs use to pick on him. (next person) Then one day Rudolph decided to go to the North Pole and ask Santa for a job. (next person) On the way he....

    Days gone by
    Have each person write down either their favorite or funniest story that has happened to them during a Christmas. Gather all the stories, shuffle them, and pass them out. Have each person read one. Then let everyone try to guess who's
    story it is.

Emergency Decorations

Grab a nice looking goblet, place a colored votive candle in it, tie a matching colored Christmas ribbon around the base or stem. Remember if using a candle near the area where you will be serving a meal, use unscented candles. Scented candles often don't mix well with food.

Hang some Christmas tree ornaments from the ceiling, be sure everyone will be able to walk under them. By using fishing line the will appear to be floating in mid air, narrow ribbon with a small bow will accent them.

Centerpiece just got knocked off the table, and guests are expected to arrive any minute

    1. Simply wipe some gold gilding on apples some apples and pairs, place in a glass bowl.

    2. Take some fresh fruit, moisten with egg whites. drag through a bowl of sugar. It magic.. frosted fruit. Arrange on a Christmas plate or glass dish.

Need Christmas Dishes? Right now the hottest thing in is mis-matched place settings. Use this to your advantage. Using either discount stores, thrift shops, or the attic. Look for red, green, or white dishes, they don't have to have a Christmas designs on them. If you eat fast food, make the rounds and pick up an assortment of Christmas cups and glasses. The trick to making this look good is that there are only two ways to do it:
    1. No 2 pieces are alike, but all have something in common. Either shape, type of material made from....

    2. Each individual has a matching set, but no two people have the same set.

Don't like plastic/paper table cloths, but don't want to spend the $$ for a Christmas table cloth.
  • If you have a nice neutral one, using some white school glue (washes out with soap and water) simply glue on some nice bangles from the hobby shop. After the party is over, dump in the sink, let it soak for a few minutes, remove the bangles, then wash as normal.
  • If you have a plain daily used table cloth that has a stain, decorate it with fabric paint (covering the stain). You can hand paint, stencil or even stamp your designs.
  • Don't forget a holiday table cloth, doesn't have to have a holiday pattern. A plain solid  can look great by simply using holiday accessories.
Place mats can make a simple table look elegant, and you don't have to bust the budget.
  • Go to the local discount store, buy a couple of yards of the cheap holiday fabric, cut either in to oval or rectangles. To give it that finished look you should hem the edges, but if you don't sew or don't have time. You can buy some liquid hem at the store, or even use some fabric glue.
  • If your table cloth has a pattern, you may wish to use a simple looking mat. If you have neutral colors around, you might get by with them as is, or simply decorate them  as suggested with same ideas as listed above for table cloths.
  • If the gathering is family or close friends, using either white mats (bought or homemade) let the kids decorate them. If no kids, you can always print past holiday photos or photos of the person onto transfer paper and iron them onto the mat. (You can buy transfer paper for most jet ink printers at any discount store)
Napkins rings?
  • Pull out some of that Christmas ribbon, from the closet. Gently tie round napkins. If you glasses are stemmed, a simple matching bow there will make it looked planned.
  • Using paper tubes from either bath tissue or paper towels, cut into pieces about 1 to 1 1/2 inches. Cover with scrap fabric, ribbon or even yarn. If you want to fancy it up a bit, glue on little jewels.

Window scarfs are an hot item this year, simply measure your windows (from floor to top - left to right - top to bottom) add up the lengths, hit the local discount store or fabric store and buy some cheep cloth.  Drape from existing rod, tucking under in raw edges on ends. I did my living room picture window in a Gold metallic, fabric I found at Walmart. Total cost was less then $20.

Take a plain cylinder candle, and tie a piece of Christmas ribbon around it.

Spray paint some mixed nuts (in the shell) with silver and gold metallic paint, place in a nice bowl, trim with come ribbon. Don't eat the painted nuts!

Emergency Gifts

You have finished all your shopping, used the extra gifts you had stashed, and now you find that you missed someone. There is no time to make something, and the thought of going to the mall or discount store sends a shiver down your back. Try shopping at the local grocery store. Most grocery stores carry more than just food.

The average person - Grab a nice looking coffee mug and:

    a small package gourmet coffee.
    several packets of gourmet hot chocolate
    fill with candy
    a small plant

    For a family make it  set of mugs, each mug having something different

The kid - Grab a pail or plastic tub/bucket,  Permanent marker, along with art stuff: water colors, crayons, colored pencils, ruler, stickers... (these items can be found in school supplies)
    Write the kid's name on the pail or tub, than fill with the goodies.
The person that has everything - Grab a basket or flower pot and fill with bath stuff (oils, lotion, bubbles, sponge...)

The hobbyist - Pick up a magazines that specialize in the hobby, call or mail an subscription for the person and wrap the copy you bought with a note tell them their subscription will start in a couple of issues.

Health nuts - Pick up a nice large bowl, flower pot, or basket, fill with fresh fruit.

 While, gift card can be practical, they aren't very personal just in an envelope. Not to mention in 'emergency gift' situations, having the right card to the right place may not be that easy. I suggest keeping either a 'Visa or Mastercard' gift card on hand. Then tuck it in to something that relates to the person. For example if they are a 'coffee' person, place it in a mug. If they like to eat out, or go to the movies, find a cute graphic on the net and print a fake movie ticket or type up a menu and attach the card to it. Best part is if you don't need an extra gift, you can save it for someone's birthday or even treat your self with it.

Hard to impossible to Wrap Items......No problem

Tickets, and gift certificates, and other small flat gift are normally placed in an envelope. If you wish to be different, place them in a "Cracker Wrapper". Simply use either the cardboard from bath tissue, or cut the cardboard from a roll of paper towels, or ever wrapping paper. Place the item in the tube, wrap by rolling the wrapping paper around the tube, gather the ends and tie off with ribbon. This will also work for small gifts, that came with out a box.

Bikes, Trikes, and riding lawn mowers, are just too big to wrap. Not to mention a real pain to get in the house. There are two ways to handle these.

    1. Take a picture of the item, and wrap the picture.
    2.  Wrap something that goes with it, and watch their face as figure out what is happening.
Boxes too big for wrapping paper. Spray paint the box, add some Christmas stickers, and a big bow.

Christmas bags can be handy, of course they don't hid the gift well. If you choose to use bags, buy some white garbage bags, using a stencils spray paint christmas designs on it. Tie if off with a matching ribbon.

Christmas Cards/Letters

Make a list, figure how many cards and stamps you will need.

Need a zip code? U.S. Postal Service

If you are wanting to let them know how the family has been doing this year, pick up some commercial Christmas paper, or design you own. Using a nice Christmas font, make a Christmas letter to send rather than a card. Here are some basic rules of Christmas letters:

  • Tho shall not solicit. This includes for charities, having a Tupperware party, and especially that new business you are starting.
  • Tho shall not brag. If you got a promotion, mention it, skip the $$ details. Hit only the high lights of the kids activities, not a blow by blow listing of how little Joey won the state championship.
  • Keep it personal, after don't forget the reason your are sending it.

If you miss the post office deadline, don't worry. After all where do you think the old saying, "Better late, than never" came from? Or better yet, consider sending eCards for Christmas; those are never late!

Taking care of yourself!

If you allow it, you holidays can take a toll on your mind and body. This won't only ruin your holiday, but might bring down others around you too. So head the problem before it starts.

Don't worry about the small stuff! So what if the gift isn't wrapped perfect, or the cookies are store bought.  No one is perfect, and the odds are no one will really care.

Time management - There are only 24 hours in a day, so don't try to do 26 hours worth of stuff. Allow yourself enough time to sleep your normal time length. If you work that's fixed time. With the average person needing 8 hours sleep, and 10 hours to deal with work (don't forget the drive time), that only leaves 6 hours for everything else. If you have a spouse and/or kids, you loose another couple of hours. So if you are lucky, you might squeeze out 3 hours a day to do everything else.  Treat you time as if was more valuable than your money. Prioritize your to do list and make sure to write in at least 15 to 30 minutes just for you.

Pamper yourself - Limited time and money is no excuse not to. Even if it's just a hot bubble bath, a cup of your favorite coffee or tea, or even 10 minutes alone with a chocolate candy bar. Do something just for you.  If the family and phone won't leave you along, lock the bathroom door or steal that little bit of time when you go out to grocery shop. Trust me 10 minutes in a car, cell phone off, with a cup of java, a donut and my favorite CD playing can do wonders for the mind.

Of course this isn't the season to start a diet, but watch what you eat. Over eating or skipping meals can throw your system off.

If start feeling depressed, don't think you are alone. The holiday season has this affect on a lot of people. If it's just mild depression, just look around, you won't have to look far to find someone having worse problems. If the depression starts to affects your daily life, it's time to seek help. Talk to a friend, minister or seek a professional.

If you are just in a slump, go do something for someone else. That feeling you get will leave you on a natural high.


 Any question? Would you like to send in a tip?Christmas mail

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