Greetings!

Let the Party Begin! The holiday is almost here. Are you ready to have the best holiday get together with your family and friends? If you have dinner and desserts covered, but are wondering how else to entertain your guests…then scroll on down.

First, a few tips.

-Relax! A host or hostess who opens the door with a smile on his or her face is the best asset a party can have. Things do not have to be perfect, but everyone can have a perfectly wonderful time if stress is banished from the party. At some point, nothing else can be done, so enjoy your guests.

-All walkways need to be cleared and salted for your guests. If this is something you are unable to do yourself, hire a teenager from your neighborhood.

-It’s fun to pass out Christmas party bags, plastic or paper, with candy as guests leave. These do not have to be enormous and children especially enjoy them. My favorite bags to use are the clear plastic bags that are decorated. Put a few Christmas cookies and a handful of candy in each one and you’re set.

-Extra ice is almost always a necessity at a party, so stock up. This is one item easily overlooked.

-Although your family pet is the friendliest animal you’ve ever known, it’s a good idea to make sure the party does not stress your best friend to the point where small children may provoke an incident. Allow your pet some quiet time for peace of mind.

-This is the most important tip. Invite someone to your party who would otherwise be alone. Do you know of a neighbor whose family does not have the opportunity to visit in December? Make their day with a holiday invitation.

Games/Activities:

Christmas Charades & Pictionary: Entertain your guests with Charades or Pictionary where all subjects are Christmas oriented. Great games for all ages and you can visit the link, purchase it, and be ready to play. $6.99

Christmas Jeopardy: Another printable game, this has 15 categories including Christmas trivia and Name That Tune. Christmas Jeopardy will be sure to get you’re your guests laughing while getting acquainted. $6.99

Holiday Memory Game: Place about 15 items, mostly holiday related, on a tray or in a basket. Pass it around for a few minutes. Then remove the tray or basket from the room. To make this game a true challenge, allow for some time to pass by asking each guest to say something he or she is thankful for this holiday season. Then, hand out paper and pens and instruct your guests to write down the items on the tray or basket. Provide a nice prize or special treat for the winner.

Bingo: Visit any toy store or department store and pick up a holiday version of the game or the standard version. For the winner of each round, make available a small basket of holiday lollipops. Choosing the perfect lollipop will delight that child. When the game concludes, make sure each child ends up with a lollipop as well.

Christmas Card Making: Kids can quicklyget bored at a party where adults are visiting, so why not set up a card table with crayons, washable markers, construction paper, and stickers. (Skip the glue and scissors if the kids are very young.) Ask the kids to make a few cards for people they know. Kids think it’s fun to use holiday cookie cutters for templates and/or pieces of holiday paper to cut objects from for decorating. This can keep kids busy for quite some time.

Movie Stations: If you have several places in your home where kids and adults can watch movies, place a basket at each location for people to choose from. This way, if some of your guests need a break from talking, they can relax and watch a holiday movie or an all time favorite of yours. This works especially well if your party starts early in the day and then carries on into the night.

Crazy Eights, Hearts, Gin Rummy, Scopa: This is a super way to keep your guests entertained. Provide a few card tables in various rooms and stock each table with snacks and different kinds of card games. It would be wise to have a table just for kids since they will want to get in on the action too.

Memories-in-the-Making: Since a host or hostess will not have much time to take photographs, provide some disposable cameras for guests to use so the party will be remembered by all. Kids love to document the day by taking pictures. Some older kids can make good use of a digital camera and upload the pictures so they are ready to print in no time.

Photo Album Look-Back: Such an easy thing to do! Place some photo albums filled with family/holiday pictures on a few coffee tables. Much laughter and many smiles will occur as your guests visit the past.

 Merry Christmas!

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Greetings!

Three-Letter Word of Terror

Ice—black ice, need I say more? Is a wintery chill sliding down your spine? To me, nothing is more terrifying than black ice, which I had the misfortune of experiencing as my Durango gained velocity while sliding down a steep hill in Wheeling, WV on December 12th.  After a few twirls on the devil-glazed blacktop, I was lucky enough to skid off the road onto some gravel…unharmed, except for a near heart attack. A few seconds later, a white minivan crashed right next to me, and then a little silver car collided with another minivan broken down along the hill. Not a fun morning and we were all stranded for quite some time.

“It could never happen to me. I’m always the lucky one.” Yes, you may be a lucky one, but what if your luck is frozen as subzero temperatures speedily paralyze it making you vulnerable to Mother Nature? Are you prepared to be unexpectedly caught in a winter storm?

Traveling during the winter means packing for unexpected weather and vehicle complications because Mother Nature does not care if you have water, food, or flashlights. She’s a cruel adversary who is beautifully deceptive as her chilly breath delivers dangerous snow and ice. Please take the time to prepare for your winter traveling destinations.

Winter Traveling Tips:

-First and foremost, do not travel if treacherous weather is on the brink of befalling your route.  Wherever you’re heading will still be there when the storm subsides. Common sense is absolutely your best defense when winter weather is planning on taking a bite out of your plans. And do not use excuses like…but Christmas is special, Mom will be so disappointed, or Uncle Charlie will never forgive us if we miss dinner to validate putting yourself and your loved ones at risk. Your family and friends will understand if bad weather changes your plans. Chill out and stay safe.

However…

-Keep in mind all vehicles must be in good working order to be dependable in the winter. This includes making sure your battery, lights, ignition, fluids, brakes, exhaust, heating and cooling systems, and tires are ready for the winter roads.

-Try as hard as possible to maintain at least ½ tank of gas in case a breakdown occurs. If a breakdown happens, use the gas sparingly to run the heater. Check to make sure the tailpipe is not blocked with snow, ice, or dirt. Carbon monoxide poisoning can happen if you’re not careful. Another important tip is to crack a window and allow fresh air to circulate.

-An emergency travel kit including flashlights, water, food, a first aid kit, extra coat, gloves, and hats, plus blankets, real boots…not just a pretty pair, extra ice scraper and brush, jumper cables, flares or distress signals. You may want to consider an emergency generator since a car’s battery is crucial to staying warm.

-Basic tools for changing a tire…and of course, a spare tire is always a smart thing to have. Pack a product like Fix-a-Flat and be sure to include a small bag of sand in case traction is needed.

-Charge all cell phones! Carry an extra one if possible. Too many people travel with their cell phones on a low charge.

-Tow rope is an item to be tossed in the trunk too. A friendly by-passer may be able to assist pulling your vehicle out of a ditch, but not everyone carries this.

-Coffee can, matches (small lighter), and candles to use for melting snow in case extra water is needed.

-A shovel could be your best friend, so take it along for the ride.

-Extra batteries for the flashlights, but watch for the expiration date.

-If you wear contacts, make sure your glasses are packed as well. It’s also a fantastic idea to pack an extra pair of glasses just in case of breakage.

-ChapStick and body lotion for extremely dry winter skin is an added bonus if you remember to pack it.

-Sunglasses are important since you may be blinded from the glare of snow and ice. Any digging or repairs will be made easier with them.

-In addition, make sure to call people at the destination so they will know approximately when you should arrive. Update them as you get closer so if something happens, your location can be easier to find.

Check out these helpful links:

Auto Barn 

Survival Supply

AA Communications

Greetings!

Dashing to the Laptop

Now weeks away, Christmas and Hanukkah may be on the minds of many as the task of gift-giving draws near. Do not fear. No need to drive to any outlet or mall—dash to your laptop instead.

Remember, gift-giving can be as easy as eating pumpkin pie if you take note of these tips and visit the links below.

 -Shop according to your budget. This is vital for good mental health during and after the holiday season. If your budget is tight, relax. Go back to the way things used to be. Bake some goodies for someone or offer your time as a gift; just show you care. That’s what really matters.

-Make a list and check it twice. It’s easy to forget who you’ve shopped for and who is left on your holiday agenda.

-Write down everything purchased and keep all receipts in one place. Get gift receipts if possible.

-Consider a person’s age, job, hobbies, and entertainment likes and dislikes as guides to shopping for him/her. Toys have labels noting the appropriate ages for that toy. A person’s job could inspire a desk accessory or wall décor item as a gift. Do you know an artist? Get some top of the line brushes and paint for him or her. Or if you’re not sure of the specific items…organizational items for a person’s hobby are cool too. Movies, books, and the latest in music releases are all terrific sources to start, but keep in mind what genres your recipients prefer. Some people would be horrified to receive a horror movie no matter how much it was praised.

-Keep in mind what guardians/parents will permit as gifts. (This relates to ratings on video games, movies, etc. A six-year old child should not be playing “M” or “mature” rated video games. Be careful! Some covers look innocent. This is also relevant when purchasing music for young people.)

-Compare prices with shopzilla.com, and/or pricegrabber.com, plus go directly to Amazon, eBay, and Overstock to make sure you’re getting a deal. Watch out for shipping charges and remember Overstock has low, everyday shipping. Some websites offer free shipping depending upon how much is spent.

 Click Away for a Perfect Shopping Day

American Museum of Natural History (AMNH): Find educational gifts that are truly beautiful. Check out Deck of Stars which opens up 40 major constellations, plus other stars, galaxies, and mysteries of the night sky with glow-in-the-dark spotter cards. The Universe in a Nutshell by Stephen Hawking is also a brilliant choice for gift-giving. The AMNH offers up awesome calendars and posters, plus many other gift ideas as well. Just imagine how pleased a teacher would be to receive a gift from the AMNH.

Zazzle.com: Visit this website to buy stunning photography and posters that will surely please your recipients. Zazzle.com offers custom postage stamps that ship in 48 hours and their gift ideas start at $5.00.

SERRV: Handcrafted items like tapestries, wooden bowls, jewelry, baskets, and serving trays…absolutely different from what you’d pick up at the mall. Make a purchase from SERRV and help artisans in developing countries. Read about their mission to eradicate poverty. SERRV is a nonprofit organization.

 Container Store: The deal is sealed tight at the Container Store. Check out various gift ideas including containers for the kitchen, storage, and office. A favorite is the Salad Blaster Bowls.

 Personal Creations: They specialize in gifts personalized with initials and names, which definitely make a gift memorable. They have doormats, wall décor, apparel, jewelry and many other splendid gift ideas.

 eBay: Great website to find gifts, but consider sellers’ ratings and read the reviews posted about him/her. Also take a look at the sellers’ refund policies, shipping costs, and notice if the item in question is new, refurbished, or used.

 Amazon: Shop until your face hits the keyboard! Amazon’s prices are worth checking.

 Overstock: Let your fingers do the walking on the keyboard and try Overstock. Stress free shopping at its best with low shipping costs. Do remember to check if your electronic device is new or refurbished.

 Enjoy the holiday season!

 

 

 

Greetings!

Nightmare before Christmas

A blazing fire warms the TV room while Notting Hill loads in the DVD player. Cinnamon scented candles glow as a huge bowl of popcorn, lightly dribbled in butter and salt, is placed on the coffee table. Eight of us rush to find a seat, but Mushu, our black Shih Tzu/Chihuahua has gone nuts and leaps from the couch onto the coffee table…whereby the popcorn takes on the appearance of snowflakes as it scatters about. Tashi, the older Shih Tzu barks loud enough to scare Brenna resulting in her hot chocolate to spill on the end table. The carpet feels neglected, so it demands some of the hot chocolate to moisten it, which is an easy request for the hot drink.

Twenty minutes later, the popcorn is cleaned up and the carpet is denied a lovely stain. Both dogs are sitting on top of the couch looking relaxed. Eight of us rush to find a seat. Notting Hill loads as my family settles down to finally watch a movie.

Ah…nothing beats this. We’re all together on Christmas Eve. After grabbing a handful of popcorn, I cover up with a thick blanket feeling happy, because I’m ready for the holiday.  

Out of nowhere, faint light from a distance catches my attention. I stand up as my heart pounds. Do my eyes deceive me? No. The light magnifies, until two beams of light flood the TV room.

Then I hear that sound.  You know it, I’m sure. It’s the hushed, yet alarming sound of car doors as they shut.  

The popcorn falls from hand as my thoughts race. Company, tonight? Seconds later, I open the door to see my lovely guests have arrived and they’ve brought the most beautiful presents.

My eyes open. Relief replaces the fear that I’ve forgotten someone during the holiday.

Yes, that is a nightmare and one that I don’t want to happen. However, it could manifest all the same if I’m not careful. To prevent this nightmare, I must put on my soothsayer cape and predict the future. Usually, two, or three, unexpected…but absolutely wonderful guests, holding beautiful gifts, will pop in over the holiday for a short visit. They are thrilled to catch up on family news, eat with us, and even tolerate the crazy dogs.

These surprise visits add excitement to the holiday season and I welcome them. People are more important than things…but I feel better knowing I have something unique for them as well.

If this nightmare looms in the back of your mind, take charge. Prepare a few, extra baskets with wine, treats, and a great movie to give away when needed the most. The baskets look fantastic if you wrap them up in shrink plastic and place a huge bow and ribbons on them. Tie some Christmas ornaments around the bottle of wine. Baskets are always a good choice, but extra holiday bags will work as well. Use your imagination to create just a handful of gifts that will provide peace of mind.

Most importantly, expect the unexpected with a cheerful heart. If people drop by for a visit, that is what they need the most.

If you have any holiday tips, fell free to leave a comment.

Thanks for visiting!