A Special Holiday Challenge For All
If you are reading this, this message must be for you. If you do not celebrate any winter holidays, please read on anyway. I believe that people experience everything for a reason. Because you found this, you must be meant to read this special holiday challenge.
This time of year can be a special time for everyone, not just those who believe in the birth of a higher power. There are many holidays to celebrate in the winter. Even if you celebrate no holidays, you can still get in the joyous mood this season often brings.
The winter holiday season is not about how much you can receive. It's about how much you can give. Everyone knows someone who needs something. The best gift is not always of value in money. However, some might be.
Maybe someone you know is in need of a home. Are you willing to share yours? Perhaps your financial position would even permit you to help them purchase a home or even to pay rent for a few months while they get on their feet.
Maybe you know someone who may not eat this holiday season. Are you willing to open up your home to them and allow them to dine with your family, expecting nothing in return?
Are you willing to give someone a gift that truly means the world to them? Will you do so even if it inconveniences you in some way?
If you have no money to spend, it doesn't mean you have nothing to offer. Offer to clean someone's home, offer a hug, or even a free night of babysitting.
Visit a shelter and volunteer to help serve food to the less fortunate, even if you yourself are one of the unfortunate ones who cannot afford to eat.
The value of a gift is not in the money spent on it, but in the thought put into it. Will the gifts you give mean something more than just dollars spent?
There may be someone in a hospice, hospital bed, or nursing home that would give the world just to have a visitor and a hug on their favorite holiday. Could you be that person?
What if someone you know has nothing to give or offer to you? Will you still do something for them?
Your challenge this holiday season is to give thanks for what you have, even if it isn't much and to give of yourself freely, expecting nothing in return. Will you do it or will you ignore this message?
Also, remember that even though holidays will pass, there's always room for giving every day of the year.
Let us know in the comments below what you plan to do to help someone.
Note: This is an older piece I originally published via Yahoo Contributor Network. However, the message will still apply.
What do you do when you have a list of people to buy holiday gifts for and a budget to stick to? Some websites are now helping you keep track of gifts, as well as any budgets you may have. Here’s how to manage holiday budgets and gifts online using Gift Box Home.
Manage Holiday Gifts and Budgets Online
Gone are the days of going through pages and pages of paper to keep track of your budget. It's the computer age and time to get with the program. Speaking of programs, you won't even need one to manage your holiday gifts and budgets online. All you need is a computer and an Internet connection. One Website to check out is GiftBoxHome.com, which allows you to manage multiple holiday gifts and lists in one place. Simply sign up and start using it right away.
Why Should You Manage Budgets and Gifts Online?
When you choose to manage your holiday gifts and budgets online, you are doing the planet a favor. Every little bit helps. By using the Internet, you are saving paper and wasting fewer trees. Another reason to manage gifts and budgets online is the benefit of having everything neat, organized and all in one place.
Lists and sheets of paper can get lost in the hustle and bustle of holidays. With the information stored online, you know it's a log on and a password away, not wedged under some stack of papers on the desk. Speaking of passwords, at GiftBoxHome.com, your information is password protected and not shared with anyone. Only you can see it, which is a good thing considering that some people like to peek at holiday gift plans.
How to Manage Holiday Gifts and Budgets Online
To manage your holiday gifts and budgets online, simply log on and sign into the website you will be using. GiftBoxHome.com allows for tracking several items. You can manage budgets as well as track your own wish lists and the wish lists of others. This way you won't duplicate or forget a gift. Also included is a way to manage refund dates, upcoming holidays and more. GiftBoxHome.com instructions are easy to use and follow.
Stockings can be bought at many retail stores during Christmas time. However, it is also fun to decorate and personalize your own. The instructions below will help you create a stocking all your own, using felt and Christmas-related items.
Choosing Your Stocking
When deciding upon a stocking to decorate, you want to be sure that the color is not similar to the color of the items you want to add to it. For instance, if you want to put red and white candy canes on your stocking, do not choose a red or white stocking. Instead, green or gold might be a better option. Plain stockings can be found at many retail locations, however, you might have better luck with different color options at a craft store.
Choosing Decorative Materials
There are many ways to decorate a stocking. Some might prefer to only use the felt and make their entire scene from that. Others may prefer to use ornaments, a small stuffed Rudolph (or other Christmas-themed toys), or even pine cones and sprigs of holly leaf or cinnamon sticks. There is no limit to what you use. This is your stocking. Decide upon the scene you wish to create and the items you'd like to use. Remember from above that you need to be sure your items are not the same color as your stocking.
Creating Your Shapes and Name
You should have felt in the colors you need to create whatever shapes you will use to create your scene. For instance, if you wanted to make a Christmas tree and a candy cane and have your name in gold lettering, you would need red, white, gold, and green felt pieces.
To create your shapes, you can either draw your own shapes on the felt with a marking pencil or use cookie cutters and trace around the edges. For the name, trace each letter you'll need from the stencil onto the felt color of choice. Once all your shapes and letters are traced, cut them all out and lay them onto your stocking as you'll want them to be when finished. You will want to have some old newspaper underneath the stocking to catch any glue drips. When you are doing this, your glue gun can be heating up with a glue stick inserted if you will use a glue gun.
Applying Shapes, Name, and Other Items
Now that all of your felt items are laid out onto your stocking, it is time to also lay any other items onto the stocking, such as ornaments and other decorations you may have chosen. Next, you'll glue each item into place, using either fabric glue or the glue gun. If you are using the glue gun, your stocking will dry and be ready for use fairly quickly. However, if you are using fabric glue, your stocking should dry for 24 hours before use.
To prevent your stocking from sticking together, insert an egg carton or piece of cardboard inside it while using glue and while drying.
Using too much glue can cause it to leak through your stocking to the other side, which could cause it to stick to your insert or to the other side of itself.
Generally, when putting a name on the stocking, it will go across the top, but for a different twist, you can run the name diagonally up or down the front of the stocking.
Dollar Tree is a great place to find unique ornaments and craft items to decorate your stocking with. They also sell all the other supplies needed for this project.
*I originally published this via Yahoo Contributor Network
The shops and lamp posts along the city streets are adorned with wreaths, bows, menorahs, and garlands. The hustle and bustle of the city has picked up its pace, due to gift, food and decoration shopping. You and your children may be among those shoppers. The holidays are drawing near. With all this excitement over presents, feasts, and decorations, have you taken the time to tell your kids the real meaning of winter holidays?
Determine Your Family's Personal Meaning
First off, you must determine what the holidays mean to your family. The exact meaning will vary from family to family. However, underlying meanings of the holidays can be similar. Many people believe that family is a big part of the true meaning of the holidays. Some also believe giving to others holds a deep meaning during the holidays. Special time spent with those you are closest to can be another meaning behind the holidays. And for others, the holidays can hold a religious meaning.
Seize The Moment
There are always opportune moments to seize for holiday conversations with your child. While gift shopping with your child, you can mention that while some people may be buying gifts, it is not as important to receive as it is to give. Explain about how great it feels to give to others. One way to reinforce that idea is to have your child do something special for someone else. It could be walking the dog of an immobile neighbor or carrying in someone's groceries from the car. It may even be as simple as creating a drawing or craft that is uniquely special to the one it is given to.
Another moment to explain the meaning of the holidays could come during grocery shopping to feed visiting relatives. Explain how important family is and what role they may play in holiday festivities, as well as how important it is for families to gather together and celebrate. Spending time together, for some families, only occurs during holidays. For those families it can be extra special.
Putting the Meaning Into Action
There are other ways to get the point across to your child. Try a few history lessons on holidays from History.com. While discussing various holidays celebrated in December, try discussing with the child common elements, including giving, spending time with family and thinking of others. You may also wish to have the child color some family-themed coloring pages from Edupics.com.
Perhaps you are on Travelzoo.com researching the best prices for your family member to visit you. A nice gesture that could provide a great example for your child would be for you to pay some or all of your family member's traveling expenses to come visit you. Donating to those who are in need can also be a wonderful example of teaching the true meaning of the holidays to children.
GuideStar.org has an easily accessible list of non-profit organizations that you may want to consider choosing from. If your family holds a spiritual or religious meaning behind the holidays, be sure to take time out to explain this to your child as well.
In essence, the methods used to explain the true meaning behind the holidays can vary. The methods you choose to implement don't matter as much as spending time together and sharing the meaning.
*I originally published this via Yahoo Contributor Network
Your One-Stop Resource for Shopping With Kids
Not all parents have the option of leaving their children at home when Christmas shopping. If you are stuck bringing the kids along, here is your ultimate guide to shopping, keeping the kids happy, and still keeping your sanity (yes, even amidst all the "deal-fighting" folks).
In order to remain happy, kids need to be clean, well-fed, with empty bladders, and well-rested. They also need to be entertained. In addition, along with holiday shopping, there may come some negativity from other shoppers. As a parent, you must also do your best to avoid their negativity or at least retain your own composure for the sake of your children. Below, you will learn how to deal with all of those issues, as well as how to sneak in gifts that are for recipients who are with you (a must for many parents).
Children like to touch many things and this can become a problem when you're in a public place where many other people have touched the same things. This can spread germs. Always bring a small package (or zippered sandwich bag) of hand sanitizing wipes with you. These should be used to not only wipe the children's hands of germs, but also to swipe shopping carts or fast food tables and seats.
For food messes, keep some baby wipes on hand as well. I recommend Huggies Shea Butter wipes, as these are nice and thick and it only takes one quick swipe with these in most instances. Plus, they don't dry out the skin, as they contain the Shea butter for extra softness. These wipes also come in handy for spills and for wiping food off of clothing.
Using Public Restrooms
Many parents are leery of letting the children use public restrooms, as they are often messy. Plus, there is the underlying thought of how many strangers use the same toilet. To save the toilet issue, parents can bring along a folding plastic toilet seat cover and swipe it with the sanitizing wipes after each use. It folds up small enough to easily fit inside a purse or diaper bag. If you're extra nervous about public restrooms, you can even pack your own tissue. Kleenex comes in small purse-sized packages and can work when on the go. Always be sure the children wash their hands. If the sinks are less than sanitary, use the sanitizing wipes instead.
Ah, yes, the children do need to eat, don't they? It seems logical to bring along snacks and beverages for the children, but sometimes in the rush of getting ready, parents don't think of this. I like to pack Juicy Juice boxes or bottles of water for the beverage. My homemade trail mix also makes an excellent shopping snack, as it's lightweight, but filling. Oh yes, and each kid must have their own separate zippered sandwich bag with exactly equal amounts of snack or there is sure to be some sort of disagreement otherwise.
If your child cannot have nuts, substitute any nut product with other things, such as dried fruit or crackers. If you don't have a baby stroller to keep these things under or don't want to carry a diaper bag or knapsack with you, you may want to consider leaving these in the car until the time is right. However, I should mention that it's always easier if they are on hand because as any parent knows, the whining or hunger urges can come at any point, and just your luck, they would come at the moment you decided not to bring your snacks.
Kids can become bored so easily when shopping. In order to keep boredom to a minimum, parents can do things to keep the children busy, like playing simple games or talking about interesting things. The kids can even help with the shopping. Some of my grocery shopping tips also work when gift shopping for Christmas. Gift shopping is also a good time to talk about school, friends, and family events that may be coming up. The key to kids not growing bored is to keep them busy talking or doing something.
Many stores that carry gifts also carry Christmas ornaments, or at least have some sort of Christmas display. Take time out to enjoy the beautiful items for sale or the store displays. Your children will appreciate this. Yes, you can be the annoying person who pushes the button on the singing reindeer for the millionth time. I'm sure the store associates would rather hear that than crying children. Believe me, I know. I've worked retail. Those sound effects items are annoying, but parents who let their children cry endlessly are even worse.
Just have fun and do not rush. Even window shop the toy aisle with the children. If Santa's there, go see Santa. Rushing causes stress. Trust me, you will get much more accomplished when you take your time, choose wisely, and have fun.
This is the inevitable doom of parents who are shopping. The kids will get tired. So if you've still got shopping to get done, what do you do? I suggest bringing along a blanket for a toddler. Line the bottom of a shopping cart with it. One person can push the sleeping toddler and another can push the cart of gifts. An even better option for babies or toddlers is a stroller that lies down easily. I prefer double strollers, as they also provide extra room for shopping.
If your older children are tired, try taking a break. If you're in a mall, there are probably benches to rest on for a bit. This can also be a good opportunity to replenish with snacks and a drink, to stop somewhere and eat, or to have a picnic lunch in a nearby park. If your children are too tired to even use these ideas, it's time to go home for a nap and come back later or another day. The children's needs are more important than your Christmas list.
Some children do not like large crowds of people. Try distracting a child like this with interesting items in the store or with conversation or imaginary play. For older children, try keeping them talking about something that interests them or letting them help pick out gifts for the younger ones. The key is to keep the child so busy and distracted that the crowd goes unnoticed.
Sometimes people are stressed and aren't very friendly. Some will even push, shove, yell, or get otherwise physical over an item that they want to buy for Christmas. If this happens and your children are with you, immediately remove yourself from the situation. The item is not worth letting children bear witness to that negativity.
If they are just pushy and no item is in dispute, still remove yourself and your children from the situation. Later explain to your children that it wasn't very nice and maybe that person is having a bad day. If you believe in God, you may also want to encourage your children to pray for the person and forgive the person. This can be an excellent situation for teaching humility, generosity, and forgiveness.
Sneaking in Gifts
Now this is the trickiest part of shopping with children. I think perhaps the best way to be sneaky about it is to pretend the gifts are for someone else. Now, if you've done this for Christmas gifts before and your kids are older, they might catch on, so you'll have to make sure the someone else also asked for the same gifts as your children. Another way to sneak in gifts is to quickly grab them and hide them under other gifts when the children aren't looking.
If you have teenagers, they can go to another part of the store while you purchase and pay for their gifts. Ask the cashiers to provide a dark bag or double or triple the bags to disguise the items. Some stores even have cardboard boxes and if you purchase a roll of tape, you can seal the boxes.
If you are wanting to purchase breakable items, try carrying a shopping bag or small shopping basket with handles for those items. You may even want to place some soft items in with those for cushioning. Keep these items away from the children as much as possible. When you go down a breakable aisle, keep the toddlers near the center of the aisle (preferable in a cart or stroller). It helps if your children know rules about touching things before you even enter the store.
Shopping for Christmas gifts can be tricky with children, but it can also be fun. You just have to relax, take a deep breath, and expect it to be fun. If you expect it to be hard and put in no effort for it to be fun, then it will indeed be hard. However, if you go into it, looking for fun, that's what you'll get.
*I originally published this via Yahoo Contributor Network
Want to show off your little angel's voice in time for the holidays? Kids can be amazing singers. But some may have more trouble than others memorizing the lyrics. Be it Christmas, Hanukkah, New Year's, Easter, or any other holiday year-round, kids love singing songs. Here are the lyric memorization tips I've had the best success using with my own kids and those in my care as a former nanny.
Start early. You can't start practicing two days before the holiday if you expect the kids to learn a new song. Have multiple songs? Start even earlier. The more time the kids have to practice and become familiar with holiday sing lyrics, the better they will learn them. While there is fun to be had when kids forget their lyrics, it can be satisfying to them to get through a performance without stumbling.
Practice often. The key to learning anything well is putting it into practice. Holiday song lyrics are no different. If this is for a school program, there is likely a specific time-frame set aside for practice. If it's for homeschool students or your kids are putting on their own show, practice might be done in a central location for several students or it may take place at the park or in the home. No matter the situation, be sure the kids have plenty of time to practice. Some may also choose to practice extra on their own.
Be patient. It may take some kids a while to get the lyrics straight. Be patient and understanding. If they see you get frustrated, they may do the same. A calm and patient environment will likely produce better results than if kids feel rushed. Holiday lyrics can often be confusing to kids because there can be so many variances. They may be used to hearing a song one way and have to learn it another. They may also have never heard certain songs before or just not be good at memorization.
Avoid pressure. This falls in line with being patient. Don't push the kids too hard to learn the holiday lyrics. If they mess up at certain points, it's no big deal. They are kids, not robots. Pressure can actually have the opposite effect you are looking for. It can also lead to the kids not being excited about singing carols or being in performances. Pressure takes all the enjoyment out of an activity that is supposed to be fun.
Have fun! No matter how long it takes to teach kids holiday lyrics and no matter what methods are employed, the most important aspect is fun. Just have fun! If someone messes up the words, laugh it off and start over. Discuss not just the lyrics, but the history and meaning behind them. Play fun games to help with memorization or relaxation. Remember that the point is not to create perfectionism, but to have some fun with the kids. A perfect show is not necessarily one where every kid knows the lyrics. It's one where everyone has fun.
*I originally published this via Yahoo Contributor Network
Create a Holiday Wish List Online
A simple way to let people know what you want is to create a holiday wish list online. Otherwise, they may not know what you want. There are several reasons you may want to create a holiday wish list online. One benefit is the ease of having your lists all in one place. The benefit of not having to create a new list to send to everyone is one of the biggest benefits of an online holiday wish list. When your list is online, you can simply direct everyone to one universal list once you are done. Here are several ways to create a holiday wish list online.
Where Can I Create a Holiday Wish List Online?
Amazon has offered an online holiday wish list for some time. Now there are even more Web sites geared specifically toward creating one universal wish list. Wishlistr is one that allows for simple organization for multiple lists and the ability to post an RSS feed to blogs and Web sites. You can also email the online holiday wish list you create.
How Can I Alert People to My Wish List?
Each Web site works differently. For exact instructions, it is important to check the wish list site you use. Email is one way you can alert family and friends when you create a holiday wish list online. Most of these holiday wish lists allow this to be done straight from their Web site. If the one you use does not, it's easy enough to just send a link to your list through regular email. Most sites give you a link for your list. Some online holiday wish list sites allow gift lists to be added to blogs or Web sites with widgets, RSS feeds and other bits of technology.
Is it Rude to Promote My Online Holiday Wish List?
As far as etiquette goes, it will likely depend on who you are sharing the list with, as well as how you share it. A subtle way of promoting and sharing your online holiday wish list is by posting it to your blog or Web site. Family and friends will likely notice it there and you won't be singling anyone out. Some won't notice it, so you may want to use email in those cases. You know your friends and family and should be able to determine how to share your list with them and who will be more receptive to it. When you create your holiday wish list online, it may also help to encourage others to so so as well. This way, they understand you are interested in what they want as well.
For many, Christmas is a time for baking and sharing traditions with family and friends. Even those who don't usually bake love to try their hand at Christmas baking. With these simple recipes I use for my family, just about anyone can try their hand at baking. I've also tossed in the traditions that we do with them for an extra treat.
Cookie Decorating Party
Once your cookies are made, you'll need to get them decorated. What better way than to have a cookie decorating party? Invite friends and family to bring or make their cookies for decorating. While everyone decorates cookies, Christmas music should be playing. Be sure to have a variety of Christmas music, so everyone can enjoy it. Singing along should be encouraged. Sipping on hot cocoa with candy canes on the side for dipping and stirring is a must.
Homemade Hot Cocoa
Heat 6 cups milk (we use vegan plant milk protein instead) to simmering in a saucepan. Pour in 2 cups of powdered cocoa slowly, stirring it as you add it. Also add ½ cup of sugar. Stir all ingredients until blended well. Remove from heat and serve. This serves about 6 people.
Christmas Sugar Cookies
What's Christmas without the cookies? Here's a fun sugar cookie recipe that can be rolled out for use with Christmas cookie cutters.
Some people mix the dry ingredients first, but not me. I just throw all the ingredients in together and mix it up. So, put all of the above ingredients together into a large mixing bowl. Stir them together and then once you have a shape that starts to lump together, take it out and set a pre-floured surface. Knead it a few times.
If your dough seems to be sticky, add more flour by kneading it in until the dough is firm and not sticky. Next, roll the dough out to ¼ inch thickness. Now you may start using your cookie cutters and cutting out the shapes. Once you make the shapes, place them onto pre-floured non stick baking sheets. These cookies should cook at 350 F for about 8-12 minutes. Different ovens vary in time. Once the cookies have cooled, you may decorate them with candies, icing, sprinkles, or whatever you choose
Family Baking Time
Our family enjoys baking every day of the year, but Christmas is our favorite of all. We enjoy baking breads, pretzels, and cookies. Above, you saw how we enjoyed having a party with the cookies. However, with the bread and pretzels, we prefer to just do this with close family members. Much like the cookie party, we still sip hot cocoa. However, we also talk, laugh, and play and possibly watch a good Christmas movie. Here's how to make your very own Christmas Pretzels and Christmas bread.
Homemade pretzels are a cinch to make. Did you ever think about making them Christmas style? Well, now you can. It's quite simple actually. First, you'll need to make this pretzel dough.
Get a large mixing bowl. Pour in the warm water first. Next slowly stir in the yeast until it dissolves. Next, add the flour and a couple drops of either red or green food coloring, whichever you want. If you'd like both, you can make two batches. Knead the dough until it's smooth. Cover with a towel or cheesecloth and let it rise (usually 30 minutes to an hour).
While you're waiting for that, add the brown sugar and a drop of the same food color you used for your dough to the beaten egg. Once the dough has risen, you are ready to make the pretzel shapes. Flour the bottom of a baking sheet and preheat the oven to 350 F. Take out some of the dough, forming a ball that is about 4 inches in diameter. Now, roll the ball on the table until you get something long, resembling a fat worm. Shape that into the pretzel shape. Repeat this until you have used all your dough.
Now, with the unbaked pretzel shapes on the baking sheet, lightly brush them with the egg/sugar mixture. Bake them for 10 to 20 minutes, depending on your oven. When they are done you might wish to add salt. That's it. Enjoy your Christmas-colored pretzels.
Sugar N' Spice Christmas Dinner Bread
We love baking bread together and the fresh taste and smell of homemade bread brings back many warm memories. Present this tasty bread topped with cinnamon sticks and crushed red hot candies.
Get a large mixing bowl. First, put in the warm water. Slowly stir in the yeast until blended. Next, put in all of the ingredients except for the Maple Syrup, Cinnamon sticks and Red Hot candies. Once stirred well, knead the dough until you have a solid ball that is neither too sticky nor too dry. You want something like the consistency of play dough. Now, cover the dough in the bowl with a towel or cheesecloth. Give it about an hour to rise.
Once it has done that, place it into a floured bread pan and bake it at 350 F for about 15-20 minutes, depending on your oven. Once the bread is done, butter the top and let it cool to warm. Cover the top with a thin layer of maple syrup. Then, sprinkle the crushed Red Hot cinnamon candies over the top. For garnishing, place the cinnamon sticks atop the bread neatly in a criss-cross design.
Don't Leave Santa Out
Ever wonder if Santa's tired of eating the same type of goodies at every house? To give Santa some variety, simply arrange one or two each of the treats from above onto Santa's Christmas platter. Be sure that you arrange them nicely. For extra measure to be sure Santa's treats stay fresh, wrap the platter in cellophane and top it with a pretty bow and some cinnamon sticks. Be sure that the kids do much of preparing Santa's treat. This is generally their favorite part.
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