We’ve Moved!

Posted by on Apr 29, 2013

Holidays for Busy People has been consolidated with the other blogs in the Smart Solutions for Busy People family. No new posts will appear on this blog! Please continue to follow Holidays for Busy People at its new home!

Thanks!

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Easter Countdown

Posted by on Mar 9, 2013

One of the surest ways to arrive at any holiday with less stress is to create a plan for the day, including the week leading up to the actual holiday. For Easter the timeline starts on the Monday prior to Easter Sunday, giving you six days to finalize holiday preparations. By hopping through one or two tasks a day you’ll get it all done and have time to actually enjoy the holiday with your guests.  Here’s a suggested countdown. Happy Easter!

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Valentine’s Day Countdown

Posted by on Jan 28, 2013

Who can believe that January is nearly over, and our next holiday is just two weeks away? Never fear … with just one task or two a day beginning February 1, you’ll sail through Valentine’s Day on Cupid’s wings.

Here’s your day-by-day countdown to keep on track over the next two weeks. Be sure to add the tasks to your planner.

1 – Add a few touches of Valentine’s Day around the house: a wreath on front door, a collection of red and pink and white candles on a sideboard, or a heart-shaped dish full of fragrant potpourri on your night stand are just a few ideas. The “LOVE” votives shown above are surprisingly easy and oh-so-affordable.

2 – Make a list of the Valentines you wish to send. Purchase greeting cards and children’s Valentines to hand out at school, or use an online service like hallmark.com or Plaxo to send your cards for you.

3 – Not sending greeting cards this year? Schedule e-cards today for delivery on the 14th.

4 – Read Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights, each a perfectly crafted romance. No time to read? Download an audiobook on sites like iTunes and audible.com and listen during your commute or on the treadmill.

5 – Make heart-smart snack mix. Combine 1/3 c. each of three kinds of dried fruits (dried cranberries, diced dried apricots, raisins, or dried cherries, etc.) and 2/3 c. each of roasted nuts and seeds (try a mix of almonds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds). Package 1/3 c. portions in snack-sized zipper bags and stash in your desk, your tote and the kids’ backpacks.

6 – Plan your Valentine’s Day menu and make your shopping list. Purchase non-perishable items today, and the perishables on the 13th. Dining out on the big day? Finalize plans and make reservations.

7 – Plan the table decorations for your Valentine’s Day dinner. Layer red table runners or placemats with silver charger plates, your favorite china, red roses grouped in a small silver bowl and plenty of candles. (Tip: Tie clear votive cups with pink or red organza ribbons and use unscented candles so the scent of your delicious dinner won’t be overpowered.)

8 – Mail Valentine cards. (Remember that first class postage went up a penny on January 28, 2013.)

9 – Purchase chocolates to surprise your co-workers or friends. Indulge in a piece or two of dark chocolate yourself!

10 – Enjoy a bubble bath surrounded by candlelight, perhaps with a glass of wine or Champagne (pink of course!). Or, add an ounce of Chambord® raspberry liqueur to a flute before topping off with bubbly.

11 – Have kids sign their Valentines for distribution at school.

12 – Make heart-shaped mini cakes or Valentine’s Day cookies. Or, try these crisped rice heart treats!

13 – Shop for perishable food items for tomorrow’s meal.

14 – Spend time with your Valentine or host a chocolate tasting party with your girlfriends. A viewing of Pride and Prejudice is likewise in order!

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Send a Valentine to Our Troops

Posted by on Jan 6, 2013

National Handwriting Day is coming up on January 23, but get out those pens now to write a note of thanks or send a Valentine’s Day wish to U.S. troops. The non-profit group amillionthanks.org forwards cards, notes, letters and even emails to military personnel serving at home and abroad, or who may be injured in hospitals.

© Matthew Benoit – Fotolia

The deadline for Valentine messages is January 15.

Founded in 2004 by a high school freshman, A Million Thanks quickly reached its goal of sending a million cards to military service members, and to date has sent more than 5 million messages.

Anyone can write a message of thanks and appreciation for the troops’ military service. There are a few rules, though, such as no confetti or glitter, and no negative messages. A complete list of guidelines, as well as sample messages, may be found on the organization’s website.

Take your completed notes to a local drop-off center (click here for locations), or bundle your cards and notes in stacks of 50 and mail them to:

A Million Thanks
17853 Santiago Blvd. #107-355
Villa Park, CA 92861

The group accepts cards, notes and letters all year, but there are deadlines for holidays. Here’s a complete list:

  • Valentines cards and letters: postmarked no later than January 15. 
  • Memorial Day themed cards: postmarked no later than April 15.
  • Fourth of July themed cards: postmarked no later than June 1. 
  • Thanksgiving cards and letters: postmarked no later than November 1.
  • Christmas/holiday cards and letters: postmarked no later than December 1.

This is a wonderful opportunity to show appreciation for our military personnel, and is a good activity for schools, church groups, families and individuals alike. If you know a service member who would like to receive mail, submit his or her address to AMillionThanks@aol.com

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Making a Festive Centerpiece for Any Occasion

Posted by on Jan 6, 2013

Several friends asked about the floral arrangement I made for New Year’s Eve after I posted a photo of my table on Facebook, so I thought I’d share how I made it. The technique may be adapted for any number of holidays or occasions, from baby showers to Easter.

1. Start with a large, clear cylindrical vessel about 7 inches high and 6.5 inches wide. I used the small Bosphorus Bowl from Pottery Barn.

2. Add about 1 inch of base material; here I used kosher salt to mimic snow.

3. Insert a jar, about 2 to 2.5 inches wide at the top and just lower than the edge of the outer vessel. I snagged a gravy jar from the recycling bin.

4. Fill the space between the jar and the vessel with small glass ball ornaments or other filler.

5. Add water to the jar almost to the top. Arrange a dozen roses (these are from the grocery store) in the jar. Be sure to cut the stems at an angle with a sharp pair of scissors and remove any greenery and wilting outer petals.

6. Fill in the arrangement with greenery. I picked up the evergreens shown at the grocery store, but any evergreens will work.

7. I completed the arrangement with a few noisemakers tucked in here and there for a bit of interest.

All in all, it took about 15 to 20 minutes to make this arrangement. I like it so well, I think I’ll try it for Easter with artificial grass as the base material and jelly beans for the filler. Baby’s breath or statice could substitute for the evergreens with pink roses or tulips. Hmmm. I’ve just inspired myself!

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6 Tips to Get the Most from Your “Good Things” Jar

Posted by on Jan 2, 2013

If you’re on social media sites like Facebook or Pinterest, chances are you’ve seen posts about “good things” jars. My friend Carol gave me such a jar for the New Year, and it’s a great tool to keep track of all the meaningful things that happen in our day-to-day lives.

The idea is to write down good things/successes/achievements that happen during the year on a slip of paper, place the papers in the jar and collect them all year through New Year’s Eve, when you recap the year by reading all of the good things inside the jar.

Sounds uplifting and fun, doesn’t it? But like so many good ideas, good intentions only get us so far. So for those who would like to keep this “journal in a jar” all year, here are some tips to make sure you keep up with the good intention.

1. Be sure to date your notes to bring more clarity to the memory at the end of the year.

2. Decorate your jar to make it fun and eye-catching, and to make it more of a game or a pleasure to fill it up.

3. Keep the jar in an accessible area, with a pen and a supply of paper nearby. This way, you’re more apt to write something down in the moment rather than hunting down a pen or paper. When the paper supply runs low, replenish it.

4. Keep track of good things on the run with a voice memo or a quick note on your phone. Choose a time at the end of the day, week or month to transcribe them onto slips to put in the jar.

5. Expand your idea of “good things” beyond events or things that happen to you to include a-ha moments, observations of nature, amusing things your kids say to you, an act of kindness done to or by you … you get the picture. The idea is to create a beautiful bouquet of experiences.

6. Set aside time each day to reflect upon the day and write down the good things from that day. It may take some time to make this a consistent habit–or to find something good some days–but this practice alone can bring more peace, gratitude and experiences of abundance into your life.

If your jar runneth over, start a new jar! In fact, why not have a family jar or a couple’s jar and encourage other family members to participate?

By consistently taking note of the good things in life, no matter what else happens, next New Year’s Eve will be a good day as you reflect on the positive things, the blessings and the grace of the past year.

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4 Steps to Stress-Free Gift Giving

Posted by on Dec 2, 2012

© mao-in-photo – Fotolia.com

December is arguably the busiest shopping month of the year, with shopping centers and malls historically reporting the most traffic this month. It’s no wonder: on average we will spend about $750 purchasing gifts and cards for our family, friends, coworkers and pets this year, according to the National Retail Federation. That’s a lot of shopping; it’s going to be a busy month! Therefore, it’s important to keep track of where, how and on whom that money is spent.

To help track of holiday purchases—and gift purchases year ‘round—I created a Gift Tracker to record dates, names, gift ideas and a budget for everyone on your list. Click to download the Gift Tracker 2012 in Word or a PDF version. The tracker is only part of the story, however. Use the tracker in conjunction with the overall Gift Giving for Busy People system.

When I was developing my POPS (Plan, Organize, Prioritize, Schedule) plan for personal success, I knew it could have applicability to the gift giving side of life. Nearly everything I do for holidays, home decorating and even entertaining follows that basic outline. So why not gift giving? The one adjustment I make when applying POPS to gift giving is to make it personal.

Thus, here are the four simple steps to streamlining and simplifying your gift giving, whether it’s the holidays or any day:

Plan

Creating a gift giving plan gives you a bird’s eye view of your gift giving needs, and lets you budget accordingly.

  • Create a big picture view of all birthdays, anniversaries, known occasions and holiday gifts. The holidays are a heavy gift giving season, but look for groupings or clusters in the rest of the year. Maybe you have six birthdays and an anniversary in April. That’s a signal you will need to budget more for those times of the year.
  • Create an annual budget, paying particular attention to winter holidays.
  • Use a gift tracker to write down everyone you need or want to select a gift for, a price point for the gift and any ideas or things to remember.

Organize

Look at your gift giving behaviors. Are you typically a last-minute shopper, picking up some knick knack on the way to the office party for the grab bag? Or do you plan ahead? Even if you do plan and purchase ahead of time, is there a frenzy every time you need to wrap a gift? Once you identify what causes stress in your gift giving continuum, think about ways to make that task less stressful. Being organized might be the answer! Here are a couple of suggestions:

  • Use a gift drawer so you’re never caught without a gift. What is a gift drawer, you ask? Read on.
  • Designate supplies just for gift wrapping, and keep them handy.  Read more.

Personalize

Perhaps the biggest stressor in gift giving is “what” to buy or make to give to your recipient.

In Gift Giving for Busy People, I go into great detail with a series of questions designed to help you arrive at the perfect gift for your recipient. For now, try this exercise. Close your eyes and imagine yourself walking through a shopping mall with your recipient. What is she drawn to? Notice the stores, the items and the colors and see if any themes emerge. Or, would he even be caught dead in the mall? Where would he rather be? What would he rather be doing? What gift ideas come from those answers?

It is necessary to step into your recipient’s shoes for a moment to determine what is important to him or her. This includes being aware of your recipient’s social conscience and lifestyle; for example, you would not want to give a leather purse to a vegan. The reason this works is, people respond best when their values are supported. Challenge their values and they will withdraw or become defensive. This is true in any interpersonal exchange, whether it’s a business meeting, a family dinner, or a gift exchange. A gift giver should always keep in mind the recipient’s values, rather than his or her own.

Any gift you select may be personalized even more and made very special indeed. Do this by including a personal, handwritten note explaining your feelings behind the gift. For these gifts, we’re talking about symbolism and sentiment to move the gift beyond the realm of the generic and into perfection.  For example, a husband presenting his wife with a clock on their first wedding anniversary might say, “May this gift remind you that no matter how quickly time may pass, my love will always be there for you.” A personal sentiment is free and it transforms the ordinary into something extraordinary and meaningful. Read more.

Schedule

  • Plan shopping trips at holiday time. Literally block off time after work or on a weekend (eek!) to shop for gifts.
  • Looking at your gift tracker, look for groupings of stores; any time several gifts can be purchased at one store or at several stores in one shopping center, it saves time. (And gas!)
  • Use technology to your advantage to comparison buy or simply buy online and ship directly to your recipient.
  • Sign up on your favorite retailers’ social media pages, or sign up for promotional emails. Both are a great source of exclusive information on sales, as well as coupons.
  • Combine tasks by shopping where you are. Read more.
  • Save time by shopping when you are. Read more.

If you still need help selecting holiday gifts, check out my Holiday Gift Guide 2012 on Pinterest! Happy giving!!

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