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Are you ready for holiday guests? Take a critical look at your guest room (or the corner of the basement you use as a guest room). Is everything clean, fluffed, and ready for guests? Do you have plenty of decent towels? We have a small basket with things like toothbrushes and sample-size toothpaste, deodorant, and such that we leave out for guests. By taking inventory now, you’ll have plenty of time to pick things up little by little so you don’t overwhelm your budget.
Only 61 days until Christmas! It's 2 months from today.
If you’ve got someone on your list who’s difficult to buy for, try thinking outside the box.
My brother and I could not be more different if we were raised on separate continents. In addition to the fact that we have very different taste and interests, he and his wife live a much more affluent lifestyle than we do. (In other words, they have lots more money.) It was always a struggle to figure out something for them. A couple of years ago I gave my brother a memory. When we were kids we’d watch the Christmas specials together. We’d have popcorn, Hershey bars, and Pepsi in Slush Mugs* while we watched all of those 1960s TV specials. Those specials are on DVD now, so I bought a few of our favorites. I found a set of 4 Slush Mugs and packaged those together with the DVDs, some popcorn, and some bottles of Pepsi. I included a note saying that I hoped he would be able to build some of the same kinds of fond memories with his own family.
*Slush Mugs have an internal sleeve that you freeze. You pop that sleeve into the mug, then add your drink. Soon slushy ice begins to form on the sides. I always scraped mine down so it got all slushy quickly. My brother would let his sit until it was almost solid. If you search online you should be able to find them if they interest you.
Here I said I'd do the countdown, then I completely forgot to add to it. Shame on me! Here's long list
Today is November 15. There are only 40 days left until Christmas!
If you can’t, don’t. You’ll be asked to do lots of things during the holiday season. When that request comes to head up the school’s holiday bazaar, think realistically about your schedule. Can you do it? If not, remember these responses:
No. No is a complete sentence. You are not required to make an excuse or justify your answer.
No, I’m already committed. Have you already agreed to head up your church bazaar? Direct the children’s program? No one said you have to do everything.
No, but I’ll . . . If you’re willing to take charge of the spring carnival or chaperone the next four field trips, let them know.
Let me think about it. This is actually my standard answer. I realized years ago that I usually became overscheduled because I didn’t take the time to really look at my schedule and see if I had the time to do what I was asked. Now I routinely ask for a day or two to make a decision. If they need a decision right that minute, I have to say no.
I learned a number of years ago that one of the guilt-trips that worked well on me was to say that if I didn't do it they might have to cancel. It took a long time for me to realize that if it was supposed to get done but I couldn't do it, God was tapping on someone else's shoulder. It wasn't my fault if it didn't happen. Plus, if I did it when I wasn't meant to do it, I was cheating the person who was supposed to do it out of the opportunity to serve where they were supposed to serve.
How’s your music? Do you love classical Christmas music or are the classics (like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer) your passion? Check over what you have. Make sure they’re in good shape. Make note of any replacements you need. This way you can be on the lookout for good deals.
Keep a healthy perspective. I love Christmas magazines at least as much as the next person, maybe more. However, they can make you crazy. I don’t want to burst your bubble, but Martha Stewart doesn’t actually do all of that by herself. If you don’t have a full-time staff supplemented with additional seasonal help, you cannot do everything she does. The same goes for Paula Dean, Rachel Ray, and even Sandra Lee, the Semi-Homemade lady. Don’t beat yourself up if your home and dinner table don’t look like the ones in the magazines. Take a few ideas and run with them. Make them your own. Just promise me you won’t be awake at 3 a.m. the night/morning before the big family dinner hot gluing leaves (or snowflakes, or baby Jesus cut-outs) to your napkin rings.
Once you put your tree up you’ll probably have lots of fairly small things you’ll want to keep on hand—light fuses, extra bulbs, ornament hooks, etc. Get a small decorative gift box with a removable lid or decorate a box and lid separately so you can get inside easily. Put your tree supplies inside, then tuck the “present” under the tree. It will keep those things handy while getting rid of a bit of clutter. Make sure it will stand out among your packages, though. You don’t want to have to go searching through dozens of actual gifts to find it.
Consider putting together a Christmas morning basket. The concept is simple: gather the tools and supplies you'll need to open Christmas gifts and put them in a basket, gift bag or gift box beneath the tree.
Include items like scissors, box cutter, notepad and pen (for recording who got what from whom) camera or videocam, trash bags, zippered food storage bags (for bundling small pieces so they're not lost) and extra batteries. Yes, you can put those things in the box with the tree supplies, but I find it easier to keep them separate.
Today is November 17. There are only 38 days until Christmas!
Connect with people and be nice.
Hold the door. Everyone’s rushing. Everyone’s focused on their own mission—finish the list. Make a genuine effort to hold the door for others over the next several weeks. Don’t expect a thank you, though. As I said, everyone’s focused on their own mission. Of course their bad behavior doesn’t let you off the hook. If someone holds the door for you be sure to make eye contact, smile, and say thank you. It just might make their day.
Visit someone who can't get out. Do you have a neighbor who's housebound? Is there someone from church who barely makes it out once a week for services? Is there a nursing home nearby? People need people, and spending a little bit of time talking with someone who has few visitors could be one of the best gifts you give yourself this year.
Write a letter. This is a great time of year to reconnect. And, who doesn't enjoy getting a handwritten note? You can include it in a Christmas card, but you don't have to. A few years ago I wrote to someone I hadn't seen or heard from in years. She's my godmother. She and my mom were best friends when I was little. Over the years they'd lost touch. For some reason she'd been coming to mind, so I looked her up online. It led to a reconnection. At the very least, you might bring a smile to someone’s face.
Today is November 18. There are only 37 days until Christmas!
We're just one week from Black Friday. If you're a Black Friday shopper like me, you'll want to be prepared. Work on your list before you go. Many stores have already started letting you know some of what they'll be offering.
Don't just concentrate on gift shopping. I know that may be your main focus, but it's also a good day to pick up things that you've been wanting or needing for your home. Most of my gift shopping is done, so most of my list is things that are just for us. No reason not to take advantage of those sales for ourselves.
On Black Friday make sure you eat a healthy (but fast ) breakfast. I'll have something before I leave, but I know lots of people who stop for breakfast after their first couple of stores. Just don't load up on lots of simple carbs; you'll be sorry later when your energy bottoms out. Eating yummy stuff is part of the day, but don't completely fall off the wagon. Make wise choices and indulge sensibly.
Take along a healthy snack. When I'm power shopping I carry a small bag, backpack, or sling bag. I'll have a couple of Lara Bars or RX Bars in there just in case I start to lose energy or get too hungry. You know how it is—you get involved in those deals (or standing in line) and realize it's been far too long since you last ate. If you have something with you, you'll be less likely to reach for that tempting Cinnabon or candy bar.
Be safe. I usually shop alone, so I know I need to be very aware of the people around me. Make sure you lock your car. Pay attention to your surroundings. Make sure your most expensive purchases aren't readily visible to people who pass by your vehicle.
Today is November 19. There are only 36 days until Christmas. We're 5 weeks from Christmas Eve, people!
Find a place to give. Volunteer to ring bells, serve a meal, or anything else that will help someone else.
I’ve read about a family that gets up on Christmas morning and makes a huge batch of pancakes and coffee. They then take these along with cups, paper plates, plastic forks, and syrup down to where the homeless gather in their town. Before they ever open one gift or peek into one stocking they give to others.
Today is November 21. There are only 34 days left until Christmas!
Smile and inquire about the person who is serving you. When the person taking your order or the cashier behind the counter says, "Welcome to _____________. How are you today?" Respond with, "I'm [good, great, wonderful, fantastic, blessed, or however you’re feeling], thanks. How are you?"
I'm amazed at how often it really catches that person off guard. I've been rewarded with big smiles. I've had many people thank me for asking. I've had several others tell me that no one ever asks them that.
Showing concern for others can be a wonderful way to spread Christmas cheer.
Today is November 22. There are only 33 days until Christmas!
Want a tangible way to spread some cheer? Tip big for the next several weeks. This is a very busy time for people in a lot of service industries—restaurants, salons, etc. Unfortunately, this is the time of year they often deal with some of the nastiest customers. With the economy tight, it’s very likely that people will scale back their tips. Be amazingly different, and tip a little extra.
Also, many of us take advantage of some fantastic deals this time of year. A few years ago my lunch on Black Friday was actually free. But, when your meal is discounted, don’t discount your tip. Tip on the full, non-discounted amount of your meal. In fact, since you’re saving so much, tip a little extra.
Those of you who know me might remember about my tip cards. I leave a little card with every tip thanking the server for their attention. Of course, if it accompanied a skimpy tip it probably wouldn’t have quite the same impact.
Today is November 23. There are only 32 days until Christmas!
If you're like me you'll be decorating soon. Many of our decorations have sentiment attached. Does your family know the stories behind your decorations? Several years ago I started a list. It's a spreadsheet listing each of the sentimental decorations/ornaments, when we got them, and the why. Was it a gift? Was it to commemorate something?
Doing the initial list was daunting, but adding to it each year is easy. Now there's a record of the reason we have over a dozen pig-related Christmas ornaments and decorations.