Saturday, November 29, 2008

It’s beginning to look a lot like a Simplified Christmas!

If you're just joining us on this journey to Simplify your Season, WELCOME.  Feel free to jump in and plan along with us.  Need some help catching up or feeling overwhelmed?  Just send an e-mail my way and I'll coach you right along.  If you've been with us since we started, how are you doing so far? 

Is everyone still feeling good and satisfied from yummy turkey and “fixins”?  How was your week of shopping?  Did you survive Black Friday?  I not only survived it, I enjoyed the morning at home in my jammies getting the same deals that were offered in the stores.  Sneaky?  Yes.  Did I keep my sanity?  Mostly.

Now that we have all of these gifts (or they are on their way from the North Pole) what do we do with them?  My suggestion is to….. WRAP THEM!  Yay!  Pretty presents with ribbons and bows.  No worries about kiddos (or spouses) peeking into hiding places.  What is the most simplified way to wrap?  Well, since we all know what a fan I am of setting up zones, it is time to set up “Gift Wrap Central” somewhere in your home. 

Before we go any further, I have a confession.  I LOVE gift wrap.  Therefore, I have put a moratorium on buying any more gift wrap.  Ever!  HOWEVER… What I do own is all neatly organized and easily accessible. 



Pretty Ribbons and Bows!



Tissue, Tags, Stationary, and other Gift Accoutrement! (The rolls seen on the right are stored upright in a bucket.)


My gift wrap rolls,  and ribbon bins will be seated on adjacent dining chairs as I carefully wrap all the family gifts upon my dining table.  I keep extra supplies (like scissors and scotch tape) in the gift wrap bin year round.  I have the blessing of having a no-napping-preschooler this Christmas.  Therefore, I am looking forward to wrapping everything this week before he is home for Christmas Break.  What are my other handy gift-wrapping ideas for you? 

  • Some people need portability like bins that can be stashed away between wrapping sessions. 
  • Others need a permanent set up (like in the corner of the laundry room). 
  • Many moms need secrecy, like under-bed-storage-boxes that can be used on the bedroom floor and then stashed away quickly. 
  • Wrap while they nap, if you can. 
  • Sesame Street is a good hour of uninterrupted fun in our house!  (Just make sure you start finishing up when you hear the Elmo’s World Theme!)  Find your source of uninterrupted fun time and go!

What other ideas do you have for Gift Wrap Central, my friends? 


Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

Can you think of FIVE things you are thankful for today?

Ask your family members and friends what they are thankful for on this special day.

I try to think of at least one thing a day to be thankful for.  That list usually grown exponentially once I begin having a grateful attitude.

I am thankful for a God who loves me enough to send His son to die on a cross in return for the gain of eternal life.

I am thankful for my sweet son and the vast improvements he is making.... and  for his preschool teachers who realize that he is an individual and lavish him with love and understanding.

I am thankful that I have a hubby who gets up and goes to work every day and that he is able to do what he feels called to do. 

I am thankful for in-laws who host Thanksgiving dinner (especially since I don't have the energy this year!) and parents who understand that travelling to see them the weekend after Christmas is just as good as being there Christmas Day.

I am thankful for NOT HAVING severe illness and trauma in our immediate family.  We are cancer free, debt surviving, and striving for abundant life.

It’s about more than just the turkey.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

We have a winner!!!! Plus, Simplified Photos and Cards

First of all, I would like to thank those who commented for participating in our first ever giveaway!  I also want to extend heart-felt congratulations to TESS (check out her blogs- Atlastphotography and the 365 photo blog) for winning the random drawing for her very own HOME HUB NOTBOOK SYSTEM including: white-clear-view-pocket binder, fun binder pouch, two sheets of business card holders, notebook paper, 10 colored dividers with pockets, and sheet protectors! Here it is!!!!  


For those of you wondering how I made it random… each of the comments was assigned a number in the order they were received. The numbers were then put into a bowl and a blind drawing commenced. Like so….




It was VERY scientific.

Now on with the Simplifying!

How was the shopping? I must admit that I am usually mostly finished with my shopping by this point in the season, and yet this weekend I feel like I have just begun. Take heart, even the organized are human.

For those who have shopped and kept up with Simplifying the Season, Yay you! You are well on your way to that stress free Christmas you have dreamed of. For the rest of us, let's get cracking!

This week's topic: You should have been in pictures!

Seasonal Portraits. This is an insane time of year for portrait studios. We only do family portraits once a year and this is it! Just this week the photo place that we use starts scheduling for the first week of December. If you have not yet thought of booking a time slot for this traditional favorite, do it this week. December is bound to fill up quickly. Things to keep in mind when planning this particular picture possibility (I had to go with the alliteration):

  • What outfits do you want you and your family to wear?
  • What is your alternate outfit choice?
  • Do you need to work around school, work, and nap schedules? 
  • Keep these same things in mind when going to visit Santa.


While we're on the subject of Pictures, let's talk about:

Christmas Cards. The way I see it, if someone has not sent me a card in the past two years OR if someone sends me a card and only signs it without imparting any personal information whatsoever (example: "Merry Christmas! Love, Aunt June"), they do not really want to stay in touch with me. These two categories of people are off my Christmas card list. They probably breathe a sigh of relief for not having to send me a card just because I sent them one. We are being economical with postage and papers. We are being environmentally friendly with our resources as well. All of this, not to mention the amount of time we save by not writing and sending the abundance of cards. (I'm stepping on toes again aren't I? I am a-ok with that!) In return, I will not send a Christmas card where I simply sign it. I include the family portrait, or at least a picture of my son. I hand-write a few short notes about what has happened with us individually that may be of interest to the card recipient. (I am not against a wholesale typed up Christmas/end of the year letter.) I enjoy receiving little notes about what our friends and family have been up to for the past year in their cards as well. Both practices of sending the Christmas Cards and writing the Christmas letter are fine traditions. Make sure you plan a list of those who will receive cards. Sit down with you address book/various directories. Note the people for whom you would like to send cards. (Sounding similar to our Christmas Wish List Shopping?   Hmmmm.  I sense a theme!)  Seriously consider if you will have the time to send out cards with more than a "Love Mary" sentiment attached. Make out the card envelopes (or if you do not yet have cards, make labels). Labels can be hand-written or typed, but having them ready to stick and go when you are ready is a great resource! Go ahead and write your Christmas letter NOW. Many people will have a little extra time off to recreate this week with the Thanksgiving Holiday at hand. Make card labels and your Christmas letter a priority before the season escapes you… Otherwise, (and I do not believe this is a bad sentiment if it is what you plan to do) you may be sending out New Year's Cards.

Feel free to share your thoughts on portraits, Christmas Cards, New Years Cards, and the "family newsletter"… or any other randomness that you feel like sharing with us as we Simplify the Season!

Next time we will talk about wrapping all those gifts. For those of you participating in Black Friday, Godspeed!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Simplified Shopping!

(Sorry this was set up as a auto post and it failed yesterday!!!!  Comment away!)  FIRST, there was something about having a contest today, wasn’t there?  Oh yes!!!!  I’m excited!  I am giving away ONE HOME HUB SYSTEMThis is the ultimate notebook system for corraling paperwork!  How can you win it?  Post a comment to this blog before 11:59 pm on Saturday Nov 22, 2008, at which time the contest will end.  A randomly drawn winner will be announced on Sunday Nov 23, 2008 - before midnight – in our regular weekly blog.  Now on with the Season…

At the risk of sounding like a school marm… Did everyone do their homework?  We all have our nice little lists, divided into columns, and ready to fill in the blanks with this handy blog posting, right?  And that will lead us to just one thing… shopping! 

Did somebody say shopping???  Isn't that just your favorite contact sport?  Ah, "Black Friday".  The excuse that women use for getting up at 3 am to go to their local stuff-mart to elbow, hair-pull, and scrimmage their way to the mile-long check out line for special offers from the stores - and all for the joy of purchasing this year's rendition of Tickle Me Elmo.  What?  You don't want to be a part of that brawl this year?  Hmmm... me neither.

Maybe your problem is similar to mine.  Maybe you have to buy gifts for people (read:  family members) whom you hardly know.  Do you end up spending hours wandering the malls and marts to try to find that special gift that will please the recipient?  Look no more I have the answer!

But first... THINK about this whole downsizing, streamlining, lack of clutter you are trying to bring into your own life.  (That is why you're here, isn't it?)  Now, let's try to do that when we're shopping for those special people on our list.  Let’s be on the look out this season for a gift that the recipient will actually use.   Novel concept?  You betcha!  Here is the answer you’ve been waiting for...

This is the Ultimate gift finder.  It is totally free to use.  It will scour the internet (yep, this whole crazy web thingy) for unique gift choices just for you.  All you have to do is fill in a minor detail or two (gender, age, interests, occasion) about the gift recipient.  Another perk of using this site is that you can get ideas without making a commitment.  You can even go to the retailer sites from the site and find more ideas!  Yes, it helped me find that wine chiller for my "hard to shop for" family member last year as well as sparking gift ideas for out of town relatives.  Personally, I have a hard time of thinking of gifts to put on my own wish list for Santa.  I have used this handy tool at to help me out on more than one occasion.

Are you a parent or a grandparent (or an aunt or an uncle) looking for toys for the tot in your life?  Try the search features on or for age appropriate toy ideas.

Are you trying to compile a wish list for yourself?  Use the sites listed above to see what unique things you can find for you!

Still no luck?  Get a gift card.  Make it personal.  Think about the recipient's tastes on this one.  For example, if the recipient is a luddite, a gift card for an electronic or computer store is probably not the best idea; however a restaurant gift card for that uncle who enjoys fine dining - a gift card to an Aunt's favorite boutique - some movie passes for the college student (babysitter) - and a bookstore gift card for the reader whose favorite author will be releasing a book past your holiday celebration deadline. 

Finish filling out Column B on all of your lists and…

Are you feeling empowered?  I know I am!  Make sure to let me know what unique things you're finding along the way.

Are you ready to simplify your holiday?

Finish filling out Column B on all of your lists and…



Sunday, November 16, 2008

Simplify the Season is underway!

My organizing pals, November is officially HALF over! That means one thing and one thing only... It is time to get down to serious business with this Simplifying of our Season! After all, Santa will be here is just 38 more sleeps!
Since it seems we are just getting down to business here, let's lay some ground work before we go any further. It does us no good to talk about all of the aspects of simplifying our holiday and then end up not knowing where we have stored all of this hard work, right?

I am a big believer in using a spreadsheet system to hold all of this data. One file with multiple sheets (one per topic) should keep you in step for a simple holiday. Not super computer confident? That's ok too. Grab a pretty notebook (or a plain old legal pad) and join us. The notebook system also works well for having all of those wish lists available when you are out shopping.

This is our plan by the week. Try to keep up. If you fall behind or join us late - just keep on moving forward. Skip what isn't relevant to you. E-mail with questions and suggestions. Let's have fun!!!!!!!!

This week we are going to prepare to go shopping. YAY! I was out and about this weekend and I can tell you that the hustle and bustle is already in the air. It is time to join in, my friends!

How do we prepare?  Well, that’s simple!  Divide a sheet of paper into three columns. 1) In Column A, Make a list of everyone for whom you will need to buy gifts. Include family, friends, neighbors, clients, teachers, your child's favorite playmate, service people (school teachers, nursery workers, babysitters, hair dresser, the staff members at an office you frequent regularly, postal worker, barista, etc). Even if the gift is "just" a plate of cookies, jot the person down. Great! 2) In Column B, write down gift ideas. What? You're short on gift ideas? Your Uncle Joe has everything anyone could ever want? You have no idea what your silent Sister-in-law even likes? Whew. That's no problem! But I am going to leave you hanging for a few days before I unveil the solution. Check back Friday for that info and a special surprise! (Hint: There will be a winner involved!) 3) Column C is the place to list amount you wish to spend on this person, or the amount the aforementioned gift will cost. It is very easy to get off-list and thus off budget (and mostly over budget) at this time of year. Not only will that cause you stress now, but also when the credit card bills come in January. Note:  Your children have probably been dreaming up what they want to ask of Santa for weeks now.  This is the time to get them pinned down on writing to the jolly old elf.

Start your list and remember to check it twice. And then, check back for Friday's Special edition of Simplify the Season!!! I promise you it will be here in time for the weekend. Just in time for Christmas SHOPPING!!!!!!!!!!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Simplify the Season Begins Here!

I was blessed enough this week to speak to a local MOPS (Mother of Preschoolers) group.  These women were inviting and inspiring.  I presented “Simplify the Season” and it was a wonderful time of interaction.  I promised to have a list of gifts posted this weekend and you will find the (rather lengthy) list at the end of this blog.

Since we are now in Nov, we definitely need to begin talking about Thanksgiving, Christmas, and how to keep it all SIMPLE, right?  Let’s start with planning Thanksgiving.  This gathering of loved ones should be like any other special event.  If you were to send out an invite for such an event, you would need to include the “Who, What, When”.  In thinking of planning a large dinner, let’s look at these W’s. 

Who? – Who is hosting?  Who is coming?  If you aren’t hosting, offer to help the hostess by making your favorite dish or two.  If you are hosting, it’s time to start getting that head count.

What? – This is menu plan time.  What is everyone bringing?  It is perfectly fine to delegate dishes.  You still get to make your favorites (if you wish) or you can just be the hostess with the mostess by concentrating on preparing your home. 

When? – Thanksgiving Day or some other point near the actual holiday?  Lunch or dinner or somewhere in between?  If you have a large family or if your family is separated on the actual holiday, you can make the actual dinner (or if you are so motivated, a second dinner) on a day other than Thanksgiving Thursday.  Because of my dad’s work schedule, growing up my family NEVER had our Thanksgiving Meal on Thanksgiving Day.  Dad was usually off from work the Sunday following Thanksgiving and we would have our dinner and family celebration on that day.

Whatever day you choose and what ever plans you make, remember that this is often a stressful season, but it doesn’t have to be.  Thanksgiving in and of itself is a time to be THANKFUL!  Don’t let the stress of this season rob you of that.  I am so thrilled that you are starting on this journey with me!  As we continue the process of Simplifying the Season comment with your questions, your stories, and what is/isn’t working for you.  I always look forward to hearing from you!  Now let’s breathe and get started.

Oh, and here’s that list! 

Wow what a long list it is!  No, I'm not this creative on my own.  I had help.

Are you’re tired of the same old bottle of wine? Sure it’s a classic, but some tee-totalers may not find it all that useful. Here is a list of some fun, cheap, and cute Christmas gift ideas for neighbors, hostesses, teachers, and friends. As I have said before, consumable gifts are my favorites for this type of gift-giving! No clutter! Practical gifts to help out are a great (and novel) idea as well.

• Christmas balloon bouquet — "Uplifting" wishes for a fun-filled holiday!
• Bouquet of flowers or cookies — We're sending a "bouquet" of Christmas wishes your way!
• Bag of pistachios or peanuts in shells — Don't go "nuts" this Christmas! From your "nutty" neighbors.
• Fresh grapes — A "bunch-ful" of wishes for a "grape" holiday!
• Frozen lasagna — "What's for dinner?" During the holidays we hear this a lot, just heat this lasagna until it is hot!
• 7UP — (great for Holiday punches and tonics!) There's "seven" reasons why you are "up" on our list of favorites! Merry Christmas (list seven reasons).
• Christmas plates — Hoping you'll "arrange" to have a wonderful Christmas this year with a "plateful" of fun! (You can even fill with homemade cookies!)
• Christmas paper plates, napkins, cups and plastic utensils — A bit of "disposable" Christmas cheer! What could be better? No dishes, my dear!
• Bag of salad and dressing — "Tossing" out a wonderful Christmas wish to you and yours all "dressed" up with Christmas cheer!
• Magic Markers — Friends are the "magic" of Christmas!
• Roll of wrapping paper — "Wrap" yourself up in a wonderful holiday season!
• Bolt of Christmas ribbon — This simple gift is meant to help you "tie" up those loose ends this Christmas season!
• Mittens (fill with tape, scissors, tags and pen) — Let us "lend" you a "hand" this Christmas season!
*  Kitchen Towel and oven mitt sets -- For a "warm" hand of friendship just as you've given me, and the wish for a joyous season with love aplenty under the tree!/ "Hot" holiday wishes for you! Merry Christmas!
• Note cards or Post-It-Notes — Take "note!" We're thinking of you this holiday season! (Add a pretty pen!) – Perfect for a Teacher!
• Package of pens — Whenever you need them, they're never around, so here is a supply ... 'cuz you're Christmas bound!
• Symphony candy bars — Just a "note" of "sweet" Christmas tidings! (Music Teacher gift, anyone?)
• Starbursts — We are "bursting" with wishes for you to have a "starry" bright Christmas!
• Jolly Rancher soft chews — We "chews" to wish you a "jolly" holiday season!
• Christmas taffy — We're "pulling" for you to have a very merry Christmas!
• Christmas Rolos — "Rolo-long" with a Christmas song, spreading good cheer at the time of year!
• Werthers Original Butter Candies — "Original" Christmas greeting for no "butter" friends around.
• Reeses Peanut Butter Cups — There are so many "Reeses" why we like you!
• Mint M&M's — These are "mint" to wish you a "Magical" and "Merry" Christmas.
• Big candy bar or candy cane —"Enormous" Christmas wishes to you!
• Package of Milky Way reindeer — For won-"deer"-full friends from the whole herd!
• Poinsettia — Our friendship is forever "blooming." Hoping you have a wonderful Christmas!
• Ice cream roll or frozen drink concentrate — Happy "freezin'" season! Have a happy Christmas!
• Animal Crackers or Teddy Grahams — This neighborhood/family would be a "zoo" without you! Merry Christmas to a "beary" "grrreat" neighbor/granddad!
• Ritz snowflake crackers and a can of cheese — Have a "ritzy" Christmas season and "spread" around the joy!
• Townhouse crackers and cheese ball — From "our house" to "your house" with love. We hope you have a "ball" this Christmas!
• Cheese Nips — We're going to "nip" it in the bud and wish you "cheesy" holiday wishes!
• Jello Mousse Mix — Merry "Chris-mousse" to you!
• Frozen item — You're the "brrr-y" best!
• Frozen cinnamon or orange rolls — "Rise" to the occasion and celebrate the holidays in a "tasty" way.
• Pancake mix and syrup —We're "pouring out" Christmas wishes and hoping you have a Christmas to "flip over!" (What a bonus for a Christmas Breakfast!)
• Eggo Waffles and syrup — For a "quick-o" breakfast that will be just fine, when running late this holiday time! Merry Christmas from our house to yours!
• Toaster Struedel or English muffins — May your holidays be warm and "toasty" Merry Christmas!
• Frozen or refrigerated turnovers — The holidays are wrapping up, there is still one thing we want to do. We couldn't go another day without this holiday wish for you. May the new hear "turn over" with health, wealth and happiness, too!
• Baked item — It's a Christmas miracle ... I baked! Warm Christmas wishes to you and yours!
• Pepperidge Farm cookies — Homemade cookies would be so fine, but these are so much better than mine! Merry Christmas! (We love the little ginger men!)
• Bagels and cream cheese — "Spreading" a little Christmas "shmear" to our friends who are so dear!
• Soup mix — We wish you a wonderful holiday "simmering" gently with love!
• Bean soup mix — You've "bean" such good neighbors!
*   Popcorn and flavored seasoning -- Just "popping" in to wish you a Merry Christmas!
• Fritos Scoops and bean dip — Here is the "scoop" for "bean" so nice. "Dip" into fun!
*   Tortilla chips and and Spinach Dip -- Gifting you with some "Green" this Christmas Season!
• Apples and caramel dip — To a most "a-peel-ing" family. "Dip" into a very happy holiday season!
• Snack mix — Here is a "mix" of holiday wishes for you! (or) May your holidays be "Chextra" special!
• Bag of mini carrots and veggie dip — We know you are 24 "carrot" neighbors! What a treasure! Have a happy holiday!
• Flashlight — We love how you "light up" our lives. We've come to depend on your "glow." Here's a "flashlight" to store, so you'll always be sure to create "light" wherever you go!
• Batteries — "'Twas the night before Christmas and Santa was worried, he had an emergency. Boy was he flurried! The power was off, and his flashlight was dead. He didn't buy "batteries" when Mrs. Santa said. We don't want you in a similar plight, so we give you "batteries" to "lighten" your night! Merry Christmas to you. May you walk in the "light"!

See all the helpful solutions? Who doesn’t love dinner or breakfast provided during this busy time of year? How easy is it to write a cute note to stick on a bag of candy before heading out to a party?
Thanks to a mom of four from Utah for helping me compile this list. 


Saturday, November 1, 2008

DLS Day Light Savings

I'm not really sure what it is that we save by doing this little irritating ritual but -- tonight is the night to FALL BACK. Set your clock back one hour before going beddy-bye.