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JUST AROUND THE CORNER

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By Kimara - Posted on 15 July 2008

Anyone that has been with me since the birth of One Generation to Another knows that I have a tendency…tendency, that’s such a lovely word, so polite, so laid back…to get slightly carried away with the Holidays. Perhaps a more accurate statement, less sugar coated, would be to say I become an obsessive, raving lunatic…but in a nice way! Although we can all get a bit stressed…so much to do, so expensive, so disruptive…the benefits are a feeling of peace, good will, and a chance to relive our childhood. Not a bad trade off!

 

            The secret to minimizing the stress of the holidays is to confront them well in advance! Just like a general leading his army into battle, having the right equipment, a well thought out plan, and cooperative soldiers will make the difference between success and failure. Although my family FORBIDS me from ushering in the Christmas season until the day after Halloween, my preparations are truly year long. It’s never too early to start planning for the Holidays, and the more you do now, the less you’ll have to do later, giving you more time to relax and appreciate the season. Below is my list of 10 things you can start doing now to make the coming Christmas Season truly a blessing.

 

1.      Get your family involved. Anyone given the opportunity to help plan an event is much more likely to embrace it and participate.

 

2.      Defray the costs of Christmas. If you start buying or making gifts now your expenses in December will be mainly perishables like food and evergreen products! There are some gifts you will want to wait to purchase, especially for your children, because their interests and desires can change a million times between now and them, however, you can still begin to squirrel away knitted socks, a retro game, or stocking stuffers.

 

3.      Make your Christmas list now. Who do you want to give gifts to? Remember the less obvious like a child’s teacher, your mailman, or the annual gift swap at work. If you already have ideas, jot them down. Keep this list handy and as you come across the perfect gift, buy it. For example, your father may be a Civil War enthusiast. The next time you are at your favorite bookstore, check through the discount books. You can often find very expensive books for dollars. If you give yourself several months and regularly check out the weekly specials, chances are you’ll come across something appropriate and appreciated.

 

4.      Think green and reuse or repurpose! Okay, on the surface, it might sound tacky to give someone something that has been used, but in an effort to become responsible and conscientious consumers, I don’t think we should overlook this option. With a fresh coat of paint and a few funky flower decals you could turn a garage sale find into the perfect end table for your college bound niece. A stack of used detective stories purchased at your local library’s annual sale will please your grandfather as much as new books would. Visit your town’s Goodwill or Salvation Army. If you kinda squint your eyes and allow your creative juices to flow, you can come up with “swell” ideas. A stack of sweaters can be cut up and turned into throw pillows for your children’s reading corner. That case of diner coffee mugs can be filled with hot chocolate mix for token visitor gifts. Rifle through the stack of linens. You might find a table cloth or apron to add to your sister’s vintage linen collection. The possibilities are limitless and affordable.

 

5.      Use the summer’s bounty to make edible gifts for family and friends. What do you get for Grandma who’s gotten everything and likes nothing? A basket filled with 6 jars of jam you made this summer. And what about your 3 brother-in-laws? Lift their spirits with a little spirit. Try making this Kahlua recipe. Start now. The longer it sits, the better it gets! Pick up some bottles with corks from Pier One or Amazon, and wah-la, a totally unusual and appreciated gift! (Getting closer to Christmas I will have a blog with more Gifts from the Kitchen.) Use the summer to make canned edible gifts for teachers and bus drivers, next door neighbors and friends, using garden produce. Trust me, as a teacher the best gifts I ever received were food. It was always useful, especially at the holidays.

 

KAHLUA

 

This was something my dad made every year. He’d print up labels, and it was HIS gift to the men in the family. He felt really good about doing it, too! Perhaps all the DHs and BFs out there may want to give it a try!

 

Ingredients

2 cups boiling water

3 cups sugar

1/3 cup instant coffee (NOT freezed dried)

1 fifth of vodka

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract (very important not to use imitation vanilla)

 

Directions

Combine boiling water, sugar and instant coffee. Allow to cool. Add vodka and vanilla. Put mixture into big bottle (at least 1/2 gallon jug) and set aside for 30 days. Shake the bottle each day. Keep tightly closed. When ready, pour into clean bottles and cork.

 

Note 

It has been our experience that the longer the Kahlua sits, the mellower it becomes. We’ve had some after 12 years and it was out of this world yummy!

 

6.      As a child I had dreams of making a construction paper chain that wrapped the whole room. I always ran out of steam and enthusiasm before I rounded the first corner. Children can burn out on any activity, especially if there’s a lot to do. Put together a Christmas craft box. On rainy summer days when you’re forced inside, think winter! Pull out the Christmas box and work on favorite projects. (You can even get really crazy and throw on a Christmas CD! I won't tell if you won't tell!) Also, over the summer is a good time for children to make gifts. Remember the old fashioned looms that you made potholders on? My mom still uses some that my children made years ago! Go through children’s craft books and magazines and have children pick out projects they would like to make.

 

7.      Start a nature collection of things you might want to use around the holidays. This is a great time to gather pinecones to be used in wreathes, Christmas ornaments, or when covered with peanut butter, corn meal and sunflower seeds, a perfect Christmas gift for our backyard bird friends. Acorns and seedpods, pressed flowers and lavender sprigs, or if you live by the ocean, shells and sea glass, can all be tucked away to make marvelous and personal Christmas gifts.

 

8.      Begin knitting and sewing projects. If you knit, felted bowls are very popular today and knit up quick, as do mittens and slippers. Make an assortment of mittens in different sizes and throw them in a basket. They will look charming in your room and you can nab a pair when you need a last minute gift. Do the same thing with socks. Aprons have come back into style with a vengeance. Grab a cup of coffee and go to Google and type in “free apron patterns”. You can spend an afternoon going through hundreds of apron ideas. I’m sure there are many people on your Christmas list that would love a homemade apron!

 

9.      Make you own Christmas cards. This is a wonderful way of telling your friends and families that they are special. Kids can make their own. Decide on whether you wish to stamp, scrapbook, or paint your cards. Because you are not rushed, you can really put some effort into making beautiful cards. Then tuck them away, somewhere you won’t forget about them, and pull them out in December when you’re ready to mail them out.

 

10. Do a little research now and come up with a service project to do with your family for the Holidays. At Christmas the well known charities receive much attention and assistance. Try to find something you can do that often gets overlooked. Perhaps you have a lonely elderly neighbor or know a family in town that has a father stationed in the Middle East. Start planning ways that you can brighten their Holiday. When Christmas rolls around, you’ll be well prepared. You might even decide to start now. Why wait for Christmas? 

 

Christmas is too wonderful a time of year to be confined to 2 – 4 weeks in December. To truly embrace the meaning and importance of Christmas, we should think and act Christmas 365 days a year! So, here’s a little summer HO! HO! HO! Times awastin’. After all, Christmas is just around the corner!


Do you have a suggestion on how to prepare for Christmas in July? Please share!


 

Having a unique and interesting ideas on artworks is something that one can be proud of. - Nova Science Publishers

Sarah: Refinishing the frames and giving your own art work as gifts sounds like a wonderful idea. I think the frames themself could become art. I saw some frames at http://www.theskippingstone.com/Hand_painted_Frames_p/17217.htm. that I thought were cute...You could paint and add a mirror. Anyway, congrats on your find!
Tina: Thanks for the Christmas web site. Lots of great ideas. I also like the idea of the homemade pledge. I've already made a felted purse for our extended family Christmas exchange and am busy with felted bowls for friends. AND...I thought I was the only one who made an Excel spread sheet of Christmas gifts...including stocking stuffers! I'm going to go with great minds think alike ;)
Lisa: How neat to make your own Christmas cards. I was really into that 10 years ago but I think I'm feeling inspired to do it again this year. And, I want cotton dishrags! They will make wonderful gifts. I have been knitting since I was 7 but have only done a little crocheting. I figured I'd make crocheted dishrags as a first project.
Michelle: The children's wrapping paper is a wonderful way to get children involved with the Holidays. Washable paints lose their color, but you'll probably want to use them on packages because they won't crack like regular tempra paints and if they happen to come in contact with liquid from the children's tea parties or, in my house, dogs, they won't stain the carpet!

I keep a list in Excel of everyone I want to buy presents for. I type ideas in there, and budget an amount per person. Then, as I buy things, I update it so I can *try* to stay on budget. (It never works 100%.) But, then, the next year, I already have a list, and can just copy and update it for the upcoming year. It also helps remind me what I got someone last year or the year before. Sounds kind of anal, doesn't it? LOL. But, your post has motivated me to get out last year's list and update it for the upcoming year.

You'll be so proud of me. I normally don't go to garage sales but my friend's mom was having one so the kids and I went. I bought a ton of wood frames for next to nothing. I figure if I strip them or paint them they'll look good as new. Inspiration for Christmas gifts. I'll do some paintings for certain family and friends, put the kid's pics in some of them, or just give frames for certain gifts. Everyone can use more frames, right?

Being little Miss Organized I get a big jump on the gift buying. I'm usually done with Christmas shopping by mid October. I do find that I'm like Tina, though. I find by buying presents early I usually have the desire to buy right until Christmas so I over buy or put things away for next year which I forget about or wind up giving as "just because gifts" which is really rather fun, I suppose.

I just learned to knit this year and I've been making things and putting them away as gifts. I've made a ton of dishclothes. They go very fast and they gave me a chance to practice different stitches. I think I'll roll them up and tie them with a ribbon to take as hostess gifts and such.

I've made Christmas cards for years. I like to write poetry and I usually work on them over the summer. They aren't fancy, I usually stamp them, but they have my yearly Christmas poem on them.

DH and I were recently talking about doing some sort of Christmas community project as a family. We are so blessed and would like to give back something. Guess this is a really good time to start thinking about that.

I love your idea Michelle of making your own Christmas wrapping paper. My kids are older and I think they could come up with really beautiful ideas!

I've never had Kahlua but I'm a coffee fan so might try making some!

There's this great website called Organized Christmas, and they have some great planning tools that focus on preparing for Christmas well in advance.

http://organizedchristmas.com/

I also know of people who set aside the 25th of every month to work on handmade Christmas gifts, which I think is a fun idea (although not practical for me personally). I do buy ahead for Christmas gifts, usually starting in September-ish time. My problem is that I am an over-enthusiastic gift-giver and tend to go overboard, especially when I buy ahead. I will be all done with a person, and then on December 20th, I will see a "perfect" gift and not be able to restrain myself. It's quite a problem. But, I really do love to give gifts that will be loved and appreciated. I put a lot of thought and effort into it. I'm going to try to buy less toys for my children this year though. The quantity of gifts can be overwhelming, and it's quite unnecessary really. I totally take the blame though because I find it so hard to resist. I also try to buy things like wrapping paper, etc. at after-Christmas sales.

We play Christmas music year-round! My older DS likes to play the "pretty Christmas lady" CD, AKA Ella Fitzgerald.

I also know many people who take a "handmade pledge" for the holidays (or year-round) and try to only make or buy handmade items. I don't think I can do that 100%, but I am going to try to buy more things at Etsy.com this year as gifts, and of course, I'm already brainstorming about things that I can make myself.

Oooow, I hate to admit it but I'm one of those people who puts off gift buying to the last minute. I don't even know why I do it because I like to shop with the best of them. But there's something about buying stuff for other people. I think I'm one of the worst gift givers in the world. I worrying so much about what to buy I'm paralyzed with fear then wind up buying something dumb at the last minute. So, Kim, I've now been challenged. At nap time today I'm going to start a Christmas shopping list. There are times I seen something during the year and I think Mom would like that or that looks like something Lily would wear. I'm going to start buying things now!

I really like the idea of having a Christmas craft basket that you can pull out anytime during the year. It's funny but I did the same thing with paper chains. Always had grand plans that fizzled out. I even like the idea of throwing on a Christmas CD. What fun in the middle of summer while crafting.

And I especially like the suggestion of picking a service project. I'm going to check out the book you recommended. Last year our family rang the Salvation Army bell. It was for 2 hours and maybe not the best decision I ever made. A rather annoyed DH did the last hour by himself! So coming up with a more family friendly project would be a good idea.

Oh yeah. The Kahlua sounds great. One of my personal favorites. And it sounds easy enough so I think DH might really get into it, too. I'll keep you posted.

Thanks for tons of good ideas. Have a great week all. We're going on vacation for a couple of weeks and so you'll have to carry on without me 8( I'll catch up on my return!

I need to have that running list of people to shop for handy. I always end up going over budget at the very end because of all those 'forgotten' people that I have to shop for at the last minute.

Here is one idea...
Have your kids color on large sheets of butcher paper through out the year. Save them and when you need to start holiday wrapping use the kids' art work. This is something I keep thinking about doing... but just haven't executed yet.