Saturday, November 20, 2010

Trying to make a stress FREE holiday!

This is crunch time....all the recipe scouring, the multiple trips to the store for the "right" potato, the right spice, now is when you have to put it all to use.

I have always had Thanksgiving at my house, every, single year, (Except this year). My house is just a bit bigger than that of my little sister and mom's place so, it makes sense. So, it's usually me that plans, preps and bakes til the sweat is dripping from my brow! This year though, my mother is in her new place at the retirement community and my little sister does not have her kids because they will be with their father. So, less people made it easier to have a holiday at my mother's place instead. Which frees things up a bit for me (kind of feel guilty about that to!)

The free time has given me time to almost fully decorate the inside of my house too. It's also given me time to answer a few emails from friends and I realized in doing this, that we're all guilty of trying to do the holidays the hard way! Even though I had learned tips along the way, I never put them to good use. It's taken several years for me to get these tips for some reason, maybe with age comes wisdom? It certainly is not beauty, let me to you. This morning's bags under the eyes can attest to that! Seriously though, I think I am a bit slow to do them because I am such a control freak. Everything has to be "just so" or it's just not worth it in my head.

So, in order to avoid that chaotic, mad rush we all feel right about now, as one holiday is at your doorstep and another one fast approaches. I'm going to pass on tips that you might've heard before in the hopes that maybe they will get into your head a lot easier and SOONER than they did mine!

1) The biggest thing that took me ages to give into was having a familial potluck holiday dinner. Have every relative coming to the big day, bring their own dish. If you have a favorite few things that you like to do, say the bird, the pies, and your famous mashed potatoes, then keep those for yourself and pass on a list of foods that you usually have and have each set of people bring a dish. Just keep a list if you have a big family so that you know who's bringing what. This way you don't end up with 4 green bean casseroles and no dressing! 

*side note: If you are "blessed" with that one relative that can burn toast and nothing ever tastes good, then that is the one you designate to bring the wine, the champagne, the sparkling cider, eggnog or whatever you have for your holiday meals. In my house, it's usually Squirt, as it's one of the only times a year I let my son have any kind of pop or soda. 

2) My favorite tip, employ your freezer!! I always over looked this step, thinking that "fresh" is best but, the truth is, if you do it properly, you can bake things ahead of time and freeze them until you need them, like cookies and muffins/cupcakes. If you're unsure as to what is the best way to freeze a cupcake, click here and for the answer as to how long they will keep in the freezer or refrigerator, click here. For cookie freezing (oooh and brownie) freezing tips, head over to Confessions of a Cookbook Queen where she tells you how it's done and done right! (Thank goodness, she shares that brownie recipe there!)

3) Cleaning and decluttering. Here is where I pass on a great tip from the home organizing genius Flylady. Baby steps!! If you actually start decluttering, cleaning and decorating weeks in advance, it is not as overwhelming. She has the fabulous idea of a "weekly house blessing", that lasts only an hour, where you devote ONLY 10 minutes to each of these tasks: vacuum, dust, mop, polish mirrors and doors, change bed sheets, empty all the trash and purge your magazines/mail. You set your timer and go to town for ONLY 1 hour, 10 minutes each task. I know this sounds a bit silly to some at first and like you would certainly not get anywhere but, even after a couple of weeks of following her steps, like ONLY decluttering 15 minutes a day, the 27 fling boogie, you will be amazed at how fast your house can transform. Leaving way for the decorating fun!

4) Decorating, take a deep breath. It's not that overwhelming and you don't have to do it all up either! Those gorgeous magazines and all those beautiful pics from the other ladies that have amazing blogs are just that, AMAZING! I however, do not have a house that large, that nice (my house is 96 years old!), nor do I have the financial resources that some of those ladies do, though I wish I did!! Oh, and did I mention the two tornadoes that reside here too? Yeah, they are boys so that imparts some sense of impending doom to any seriously NICE decoration!

So, here are my little tricks for decorating with toddlers, boys in general and for being able to do it without costing a pretty penny. 

A) This is the hardest step, for me, so I will list it first. Enlist your child(ren)'s help! If you're a perfectionist about the tree, or decorations in general, this will be a hard step but, well worth it. I ask my boys to decorate the bottom of the tree every year now and I do the top....ok I will admit that sometimes I may move an ornament or two after they've gone to bed but, seriously there was a hole! 

If they are tall enough, ask them to put on the window clings, some household decorations, etc. Ask their input as to where you should hang some garland or cardboard cutouts of santa's head. Even if they want to make their own tree decorations, let them and let them hang them on the tree. The holidays are all about family and for most of us with children, it's mainly about them. So, hang up the OCD hat for one or two seasons and let the kids take the reigns. It will quickly become a family tradition and seeing the joy and light in their eyes every year will be something you won't forget. (Even if there are 12 window clings on the bottom pane of their bedroom window and none in the dining room...just breathe! lol)

B) Shop for your holiday decorations AFTER the holidays. I know this is a no brainer for some of you but, seriously if you want to be able to afford a lot of decorations for not much money, shop after the holidays for things like your window clings, lights, tablecloths, napkins, etc. Some of this you will have to get as soon as you can and others, like lights, you might be able to wait a couple of weeks til the price goes down and then snatch up as many as you can. Christmas lights in various shades can come in handy for other holidays too. So, that's always a good deal. You'll also have extra for next year when you can't seem to find that one light that has the whole string burnt out!

C) Keep it simple, especially if you have young ones. You don't necessarily need anything elaborate or expensive to make your home all festive. I reuse the same things every year until they are worn down, then I recycle them and use them for other things, like crafts for the kids. Then I go out and try and find some new stuff at a good deal. 

D) Look around you, your environment, outside your house even. For thanksgiving, I simply walk outside and collect pine cones for center pieces,  leaves as they are just falling, etc. With the leaves, if you press them and then use them to decorate later. Either in a vase with a candle or by making this "leaf curtain" as my son calls it. It is hard to describe but, here is my inspiration:
      How gorgeous is that?! It's from Jeff Rudell, a paper artist genius!! Click here for the full article. It is simply gorgeous and soo cheap too! Instead of the stickers there though, I use leaves, or leaves glued to some construction paper or scrapbook paper. I've changed it up a few times now. Though for Christmas decorating, I love doing this!

Anyway, even at Halloween, think ahead and snatch up some of those cheap wee pumpkins at the local farmer's market or store (though they are ridiculously priced at a store!). Throw the pumpkins in a vase or nice bowl with the pine cones for a fall decorative theme! The point is, always keep an open eye to your own environment. There are loads of things outside and indoors that can make for free or cheap and lovely decorations, if you've got an eye for it. 

Below, I will share some of my Christmas decorations in my home, they are not anything fancy compared to some of the other ladies blog's I've seen but, the best things of all about doing a lot of decorating indoors is that a) I did it mostly for my boys, there is nothing like seeing their face as it all goes up and b) EVERYTHING you see in the pics (And I'm not posting all of them) I did for UNDER $25!!! All by picking up things after the season was over and on clearance!

Top of my microwave....that garland was falling apart, so DW and I decided that it would look great as "snow" up there. :) The Christmas tree was given to me by someone and I simply attached a giant, handmade bow to the top of it to hide my son's crabby patty treat jar in the back! lol The red, velvet premade bows, I bought something like 10 cardboard packages of them for 25 cents a piece! The vase with the ornaments, I already had. I simply attached a ribbon and bow to it. 

My boys love this part of the kitchen. I simply hang the ornaments on the valance itself. It's a heavy duty one though. So, poking the ornaments through carefully was a bit of work. Same goes for the ornament bundle at the top but, it's well worth the effort. 

I hesitate to show this because the oven and overhead fan are the last apppliances that need updating in the kitchen and it does not look so great but, I wanted to show you I was serious when I said I decorated for the kids! lol I picked up two packages of those cardboard cutouts for something like $1.50 a piece!

Again, I'm sure that this has been done till we're all purple but, the reason why I HAD to show you this: IT'S PLASTIC!!! Both the red and "Crystal" bowl! How great is that, with two little guys in the house?! I got them for free when purchasing my Christmas dishes from a wonderful lady online. The tablecloth, I picked up this year at Walmart, on clearance for $3! (A little tip, always pic up the biggest one. You can cut it to size and the leftover, depending upon the size of your table, can be an extra tablecloth or you can cut the remaining tablecloth into whatever shape you want, sew it together and make double-sided placemats. These are just some of the ideas you can do with the extra bit.)

And my littlest one's favorite part: 

This is just my kitchen though. Still night quite finished with the rest of the house the way I would like to have done just yet but, needless to say. It is all pretty similar to this...FESTIVE! :) It's all garland, bows, hanging ornaments and a few trinkets. When I get it all done, I might post a few pictures. 

There are tons of thins that you can do for free or cheap to decorate the house for any holiday. Just keep your mind open, your eyes open for the good deals and let the kids take over. They have some of the most crafty ideas sometimes. 

If you celebrate Thanksgiving, I hope you have a fantastic holiday! 

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