Thursday, January 17, 2013

After Christmas

By now most everyone has put away their Christmas decorations. No more traveling or visiting family. Things are settling back to a normal routine. What a better time to talk about planning Christmas 2013! No, really!
Take a look back. Did you like your decorations? Do you need to replace anything? Lights, garland, outdoor decor? Do you have a wrap station? It could be a laundry basket that holds all of your wrapping supplies. How about the traveling/visiting? Is it time to review how you're going to deal with it this year? Maybe now you have small children and  trying to visit multiple houses in one day is just too overwhelming for all involved.
Sit down and write it out. Make your master plan. Make your list of who you get gifts for - including the mailman, paper carrier, etc. Travel plans. Can you visit someone after the holiday rush when you're more relaxed and able to enjoy your visit more? Don't forget your menu! Do you host a get together or have any parties over the holidays? Did you get any raves over a certain dish? Make note to make it again now.
Breaking down your tasks to more manageable options over the course of the year will make this holiday season more relaxed. Maybe by a gift or two a month and put them away. I personally have a tote for gifts I keep with my Christmas decor. Since I'm the one who digs the totes out, I'm the only one going through them. Nobody sneaks a peek! Start with the points programs to earn gift cards in time for the holidays. I do send earnings, Inbox Dollars, swagbucks, and MyPoints (I can email you a link for that one). Not only can you get emails to click through (a few a day, maybe 10 minutes max), surveys to earn points, but if you make an online purchase you can earn points. You can also print out coupons! You get paid per coupon used with a bonus of using 10 or so a month. Start checking out clearance sections of the stores. That's our first stop when shopping now.
Back when we had littles, we decided it got to be too much to try to visit everyone in one day. We did my maternal grandparents on Christmas Eve for the Polish celebration, then Christmas day was ours. Sleep in (and yes, my kids were trained! lol), eat a good breakfast, then presents. Once we had a bunch of kids, hubby came up with a new game plan. Each child opens a present an hour. So, whenever we were done eating, we'd hand each child a present  to open. Once opened and the trash was dealt with, the microwave timer was set. I tried to make it so they'd each get a toy or movie or something interactive for the first one. Since we'd usually start presents about 10 am, we'd end up with a bunch by supper still waiting to be opened. It was decided that after a certain time (supper or shortly after), we'd allow them to open the rest, but they had to show us the present and throw away the trash so no gifts got lost in the paper. I also started using "code" names on packages. This cut down on the kids trying to sneak a peek or shaking of presents. Some groups I've used are Scooby Doo cast, Brady Bunch cast, elf names, reindeer names, and more. I didn't get to use code names this year as we're in a motor home and I was wrapping presents in the back of my Expedition, but my son back in PA carried on out tradition!
Planning meals is a time saver no matter what time of year. If you start now with a basic menu, you can add on dishes later. In November, before the madness hits, you can see which dishes you can make ahead to freeze. Cookie dough freezes well, either in balls or logs. Mashed potatoes freeze well, but there is a trick to reheating them. They tend to get runny, so you add some instant potato flakes.Most desserts are freezable, but iced cakes don't do well when defrosting.
We're now 1800 miles away from most family and friends, so we're making our own traditions now. We didn't do any decorations since I wasn't dealing with digging in storage for them. No code names, but they did open a present an hour. Unfortunately we didn't get to drive around looking at lights. My truck wasn't running, plus when hubby asked, he was told there weren't many places that decorated. How sad!
Do you have any traditions? How do you think pre-planning some of the holidays would help you this year?

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