In the crush of holiday wish lists, gadgets, toys and media hype, it’s easy to overlook the four things experts tell us that children really want for Christmas. 

Modern family of four reading Christmas stories

  1. Relaxed time with family 
  2. Realistic expectations about gifts
  3. An evenly paced holiday season
  4. Reliable family traditions

Today I have a recommendation for you—a way that you and your family can accomplish all four things, even at this late date.  Read more

There was a time that I felt compelled to rise early on Christmas morning to bake Cinnamon Rolls—my family’s breakfast item of choice on that very special day of the year.

Homemade cinnamon rolls

When I say early, I mean 3:30am. It takes hours for sweet bread dough to rise multiple times. And let’s just say that over the years, some attempts have been more successful than others.

Those days are gone. I’m done with that routine and not because I don’t love my family.

Now I sleep in until exactly 43 minutes before I want everyone to wake up to the smell of fresh, hot, decadent, perfect-every-time Cinnamon Rolls.

I may regret letting the cat out of the bag on this because they still think I’m a world-class Cinnamon Roll baker, but for right now, I’m excited to show and tell the most outrageously awesome food hack I’ve ever discovered. Read more

If you could use an injection of fresh ideas for how to make this Holiday Season meaningful for the children in your life, take a lesson from my friend, Connie Copeland. 

Family at Christmas opening gifts

Connie’s clever creativity allowed her and her husband to give their four kids and now her 13 grandchildren the four things kids really want for Christmas, even when money was tight:

  • Relaxed and loving time with family
  • Realistic gift expectations
  • Evenly paced holiday season
  • Reliable family traditions

When her kids were little, Connie would spread the excitement of Christmas throughout the month. She did that with little notes—one tiny note per child, per day.

Most days the notes were similar, such as:  Read more

As tempting as a pricey, artificial, pre-lit Christmas tree may be, few things about the holidays are as satisfying as a fresh, real Christmas tree. 

Christmas tree farm couple

1. Why real?

If the nostalgia of a fresh, fragrant tree is not reason enough to go natural, consider these facts:

  • Artificial trees will last for six years in your home (got storage space?), but for centuries in a landfill.
  • One to three seedlings are planted in the U.S. for every harvested Christmas tree—a total of 41 million were planted in winter/spring 2013, alone.
  • Ninety-three percent of real Christmas trees harvested are recycled in community programs providing mulch for landscape and replenishing the earth’s soil. 

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I love Thanksgiving so much I would say it vies for first place in my favorite holiday lineup. I love and adore a classic Turkey Dinner with all the trimmings. I love the fall weather which always accompanies the day. I love the fact that Thanksgiving ushers in the winter holidays, offering me a front row seat on the very best time of the year.

Happy Thanksgiving

I love all of those things. In fact, I kinda’ wish that every day were Thanksgiving!

Gratitude is too important in our lives to be considered briefly en masse on this, the fourth Thursday of November.

Giving thanks and counting our blessings is good for us. It reminds us of the positive things in life. Gratitude turns bad things into good things and reminds us to thank others.

Just imagine what might happen if our annual single-day tradition of giving thanks were to become a daily routine? Medical professionals suggest we would be rewarded with better health, as medical research reveals more about the strong connection between gratitude and good health.

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As we face the crush the Holiday prep, could you possibly use some help? Try these tips and ideas on for size.

Double up

When you cook this month, double your favorite meals and freeze the leftovers. Then, when you’re in a frenzy the few days before Christmas, you won’t have to fret about making dinner, too.

family-room-tips-to-decorate-for-Christmas

Electronic cards

You can save a lot of time and money when you send electronic Christmas cards, or eCards. There are lots of free sites—DaySpring.com and BlueMountain.com offer the best selections.

Shop from home

Shopping online can save a lot of time, frustration and gasoline. Finding free or reduced shipping makes online shopping even better. Dec. 14, 2018 is Free Shipping Day. Check FreeShipping.com for retailers who will be participating.

MORE: 9 Ways to Avoid Christmas Debt Even If You’re Short on Cash

Get cash back

If you’ll be shopping anyway, you might as well get some of your cash back. Ebates is by far the easiest and most efficient way to do that. An Ebates account is completely free, easy to set up. Then every time you shop online, make sure you have your Ebates account activated (it’s so easy—you’ll see once you have an account). And you can use your Ebates account in-store, too!

If you’re curious why I’m such an Ebates fan, yesterday I got another Ebates check in the mail—cash back for things I would have purchased anyway, including the rental car Harold and I used on our recent New England getaway. I didn’t expect it, but I’ll take it!

The hardest part about using Ebates? Remembering to use it! Ha. However, they do make it pretty easy. I believe I’ll stop forgetting, now that it is putting money back in my pocket.

RELATED: 3 Ways to Find Extra Cash for Christmas Read more

Look up the word ‘impulsive’ in the dictionary and prepare to see my face. In my basement pantry, I have bags of of chocolate chips to prove it. They are the ghosts of a Christmas past—left over from one of my Gift-in-a-Jar marathon projects.

And those two containers of candied fruit that must be ten years old by now, which I keep because they’ve become such a novelty? They appear to be the same as the day I bought them.

Baking supplies on a wooden board, horizontal, close-up

 

Baking supplies are notoriously on sale at rock-bottom prices starting now in anticipation of Thanksgiving and continuing through the end of the year.

I still have bags of all-purpose flour from last holiday season, which I bought for $.99 each, which I’ve stored in the freezer. Sugar is cheap during the holidays, too. Ditto for other holiday baking ingredients from marshmallows to sweetened condensed milk, dates to nuts.

One of my basic rules of grocery shopping is this: When it’s on sale, buy enough to last until the next time it’s on sale. Baking supplies become so cheap this time of year, now is the time to stock up.

Which begs the question: How long will baking supplies last in the event you decide to buy enough to last the year? It all depends on the items and if you have the storage space to keep them at their optimum.

Here is a handy guide:

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Whether you are invited or doing the inviting this holiday season, choosing a potluck over a more formal dinner party can relieve a lot of stress. When everybody brings something it takes a great deal of pressure off the host and offers guests the joy of contributing to the festivities. 

Casual-potluck-dinner

Hosting duties

If you’re hosting you need to …

1. Pick a theme for the menu, like Comfort Food, Thanksgiving Bounty, or Christmas Favorites.

2. For one dozen people, at the least, you will need approximately two or three appetizers, two side dishes, bread and butter, two desserts, one salad, and one main dish.

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