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6 Awesome Gifts of Summer to Make Now for Christmas

Even if you didn’t have an abundant garden this year, don’t worry. You can still make these wonderful gifts of summer to hold onto for Christmas. You can find everything you need at a local farmer’s market.

How wonderful it will be when you welcome the holiday season knowing your gifts are ready to go.

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Photo credit: AFamilyFeast.com

Freezer jam

Mix 2 cups crushed fresh strawberries with 4 cups sugar, and let stand for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, stir one package dry pectin into 3/4 cup water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, and boil for 1 minute. Stir the boiling water into the strawberries. Allow to stand for 3 minutes before pouring into jars or other storage containers. Place tops on the containers, and leave for 24 hours. Freeze and store frozen until ready to give. Makes 5 pints.

Isn’t that a cute label for “Christmas Jam?” It’s a free printable HERE from AFamilyFeast.com

MORE: Peach Freezer Jam

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12 Things You Can Do Now to Get Ready for Christmas

Faithful readers know that we pull out all the stops around here to celebrate Christmas in July. Or at least start thinking about the holidays, just five months down the road. If you are or have ever been plagued by credit-card debt, I can nearly guarantee that revolving expenses related to Christmas have contributed greatly to that miserable situation. The problem? Procrastination.

 

Santa's hat next to the pool suggesting it's Christmas in July!

 

Face it, when it comes to Christmas, the longer you wait, the more you’ll spend. The opposite is also true: The sooner you get started the less you’ll spend.

Everyone procrastinates in some area. And some people procrastinate about everything. Why do we do it?

We feel overwhelmed

The holiday expectations we place on ourselves plus those that come from our families, the community, even the church can be so great we feel paralyzed. So we do nothing until the only choice we have is to spend as much money as it takes to get by.

We overestimate how much time we have

From where we sit here in July, Christmas seems so far away. We tell ourselves we have “plenty of time!”

We have to do it perfectly

Experts tell us that at the root of procrastination is perfectionism. Because we feel we have to do everything perfectly—and fear that we might not—we do nothing rather than run the risk of failing.

We say we work better under pressure

Waiting until the last minute can provide quite an adrenaline rush. Procrastinators  believe they cannot operate without that creative surge, so they sit back and wait for it to happen.

The way to deal with procrastination is to identify why you do it. Ask yourself: What price have I paid in the past for the delay? Do I really want to pay that price, or even more, again this year?

If the answer to the last question is yes, you have lots of time; you don’t need to be thinking about the holidays yet.

If on the other hand, you are not willing to go into debt to measure up to others’ expectations, get started. Do something now.

1. Start saving

I get it that not all of us are into Christmas shopping any time other than December. It just doesn’t feel right. What you can do starting now is get diligent with creating a healthy cash stash so you have the money to do that come December.

Stash $50 a week starting now, for Christmas shopping in December. Once you are in motion it will be easier to keep going. Even if that’s all you do, you’ll be way ahead.

 

2. Book travel

We’re learning that the ongoing Boeing 737 Max grounding is going to affect holiday travel and not in a good way. Southwest Airlines opened its calendar for booking flights for December much earlier than usual. And by the looks things, lots of flights are already sold out. Now’s the time to book any holiday travel you have in mind.

Southwest, which doesn’t charge travelers fees to change or cancel their flights, will waive fare differences for customers who need to change their trips because of the extended schedule disruption.

3. Family photo

Whether it’s for your family Christmas card or to frame for a gift to friends and family, now’s a great time to take that photo. You’ll have plenty of time to shop around for the  best price on high-quality prints.

 

Parents giving piggyback ride to kids at beach. Close up of smiling family having fun at summer vacation. Portrait of happy family looking at camera at beach.

Costco

It’s hard to beat Costco’s prices and service, but you need to be a member. However, right now it doesn’t appear you can order holiday photo cards—if you want to go this route. You’ll have to check back in a few months to see if their holiday templates are available.

Snapfish

You can get 5×7-inch photo cards printed for as little as $1 each when you order a package of 20—and the price goes down if you order more. Even though it’s July, Snapfish has its holiday templates available for you to order and print.

Vista Print

A great source for a postcard with your photos, plus many other options. VistaPrint has frequent specials and sales throughout the summer, so check back to see if you can get a deal at VistaPrint.com. Caution: You will be hounded throughout the order process to buy all kinds of “add-ons.” Don’t waste your money. Buy only what you came to buy.

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9 Super Cool Summer Tips, Tricks, and Hacks

Whatever end-of-summer adventures you have planned for the last month of summer—the beach, pool, or even your own backyard—these cool summer tips, tricks, hacks, and DIYs will bring a smile to your face and perhaps even a sigh of relief. There’s still plenty of time to get out there and do summer like a champ!

Child going on summer vacation. Car travel and beach concept

Sand-free Electronics

Stick your smartphone, notebook, CD player or other electronic inside a zip-type plastic and zip it up. You can operate item without ever opening the bag. It will stay sand-free and totally dry.

Pack a Fitted Sheet

Take a fitted bed sheet with you to the beach. Do this first thing once you locate you spot. Spread out the sheet and turn up the corners up and place something heavy in each one (the cooler, food basket, etc.) This will keep it spread out and all of your gear (and you, too) free of sand without having to make sure you’re lying on a small towel.

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How to Make Perfect Iced Tea

The only thing more comforting than a big, tall glass of iced tea on a hot summer day is knowing how to make that perfect iced tea yourself. With confidence and for just pennies per serving.

 

Two jars of perfect, refreshing ice tea sitting on a wood table

Proper Iced Tea

My dear mother-in-law, a very proper Canadian, taught me the difference between proper iced tea and the “swill” most restaurants pour, which in her opinion was, at best, a very poor facsimile. And trust me, she knew her stuff—including the six rules for proper iced tea:

Rule 1

Use plenty of tea. The flavor of tea served cold is not as intense as when served hot. That means it must be brewed stronger, so use more tea bags. Use two tea bags for every 3 cups of water.

Rule 2

Do not oversteep. Allowing tea to oversteep releases the tannins in the tea, which can make it bitter. If you want it weaker, reduce the steeping time, not the number of tea bags.

Rule 3

Cool first. Once you remove the tea bags, allow to cool before you pour it over ice but do not put it in the refrigerator to cool. Doing so will make your tea cloudy.

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Plan a Staycation Now!

This summer, a cash shortage need not eliminate the idea of a family vacation. Clever and creative parents can turn time off work into an amazing vacation experience, without leaving town.

The idea here is to take a stay-at-home vacation or a “staycation.”

staycation famiy camping in the backyard.

Make a plan

Determine the dates of your staycation. Create a schedule and itinerary that includes activities and meals. Make a big colorful chart and allow the kids to participate in the planning.

The point of a staycation is to make it feel as much like a real family getaway as possible, without leaving home. So, to make sure the whole family is on the same page, it is good to establish ground rules that everyone can agree on. 

Save the date

Start with deciding exactly when your vacation at home starts and ends. Make sure these are dates you clear of all regular life, just as if you and the family were leaving town for a period of time.

Establish guidelines

Set a few guidelines for what your family may and may not do during this time. These could include all or some of the following: Read more

Free Stuff to Do With Kids This Summer

Got more time than money for family entertainment this summer? No problem. There are lots of things you can do with the kids that are completely (or nearly) free. No kidding! Check out these ideas:

Using a smartphone to find a treasure in an activity known as geocaching

GO GEOCACHING

Geocaching (pronounced gee-o-cashing) is an outdoor treasure-hunting game in which the participants use GPS to hide and seek containers (caches). A typical cache is a small waterproof container concealing a logbook or “treasure,” usually toys or trinkets of little value. More than 750,000 geocaches are registered on various websites devoted to this pastime. If you have a handheld GPS or a GPS-enabled cell smartphone, you’re ready to get started.

First, read The Ultimate Treasure Hunt—Geocaching with Kids, to get inspired. Then go to Geocaching 101 to get a great overview followed by this 75-second video, What is Geocaching?

To get started, you’ll need to register, but it’s free. Once you’re ready to start treasure-hunting, just type in your zip code and start exploring! Geocaching is the ultimate treasure hunt and kids love it! Be sure to learn simple geocaching protocol and etiquette before you head out on your first adventure.

SUMMER READING PROGRAMS

Public libraries and retail booksellers across the nation are offering wonderful free reading programs for kids this summer. What a great way to encourage your child to read over the summer months while at the same time having so much fun! Many of these programs offer the kids freebies—free books, coupons for free ice cream or other goodies. Summer Reading Programs 2018 offers a list of Summer Reading Programs for Kids that give free books, money and more.

VISIT A MUSEUM

Many museums and galleries throughout the U.S. offer free admission on special days or weekends.

For example, The California Science Center, new home to Space Shuttle Endeavor, is always free. Chicago Children’s Museum offers Free Family Night on Thursday evenings, 5 to 8 pm. The Bowers Museum in Santa Ana, Calif. offers free admission on the first Sunday of every month. Contact the museums in your area to see when they offer free admission.

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7 Ways to Turn a Boring Side Salad into a Main Dish Summer Salad

If there’s one food that signals the arrival of summer, it’s gotta’ be salad. Backyard gardens everywhere are bursting with beautiful tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, and basil.

But the same warm sun that nudges produce to perfection can also zap all the energy from the average cook. That’s why we love big, lovely summer salads. We can step away from the hot stove to eat well any night of the week.

big main dish vegetable salad with grilled chicken

And now the problem: How? Where’s the recipe? Truth be told, there really aren’t a lot of specific recipes for entree worthy salads. What we need is a formula of easy-to-remember yet specific steps that will let us use what we have already to create hearty summer meals that even our pickiest eaters will enjoy.

Start with a big bowl

Depending on how many you’ll be serving this may need to be really big. Because salad ingredients are generally low-energy density and high water content, you’re going to lean on volume to fill and satisfy even the hungriest member of the family.  Read more