My Weapon Against Holiday Busyness – Advance Planning!

As I have mentioned before, I am type-A leaning, so I value efficiency, organization, and planning. With my daughter in 4 year old kindergarten, our lives have certainly adopted a quicker pace week in and week out.  To stay ahead and not get overwhelmed, I always try to think ahead. I’m that person buying Christmas presents in July, picking up birthday party favors weeks in advance, and recording important dates and to-do’s in my planner.

My weapon against holiday busyness IS simple – Advance Planning!

As many of you have noticed, the holidays are ALREADY upon us. I’ve seen a mix of Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas in stores lately.  YIKES! I do have a few gifts in hand, so I don’t expect to have a hectic, last-minute shopping season, which is SO not my style. Daddy O., on the other hand, is a different story, but that’s his deal!

Similarly, I often start looking at holiday card options this time of year.  I enjoy trying to find a good family picture to share in our annual holiday card. I love the old-fashioned tradition of sending and receiving cards.  It’s something that social media just can’t replace.

I was pleasantly surprised to discover a new holiday card source this year.  It’s a site called Minted. What I love is that it is an independent design community, so think small, talented, independent designers who have their works voted on and sold through Minted. This means my card won’t be like every other one I receive.  It will be unique!

This quick video is a cool intro to Minted.  Many moms (either working or staying at home) are also designers, pursuing their passion and submitting their work to the design challenges on Minted.  This community of designers (similar to the blogosphere) delivers beautiful, award winning design.

Moms pursuing their passions – hmm…sounds familiar. And yes, I’d like to support that community!  I bought my daughter’s Halloween costume from Etsy (an Elsa dress), and it seems that Minted is a sort of Etsy of cards, art, and decor.

The number of choices is a bit overwhelming, but I managed to find a few favorites.

Minted Watercolor Bunting Holiday Card

Love this Watercolor Bunting at the top of the card! There is also a gold foil, shiny option.

Being a proud Sconnie, or Wisconsin native, I like the idea of this card, but I don’t like that Wisconsin was covered up.  Daddy O. and I did, however, once call Pittsburgh home.  This COULD have been our card then when it was just the two of us! There is also a West Coast version of this card, but I think Wisconsin was covered up in that one too.  Bummer – this option is not for us.

Minted Holiday Map Holiday Card

Fun way to show off where you live in a holiday card.

I was drawn to the fun lettering on these cards.

I am not sure what family pictures I have to include in this year’s card, so I may have to get creative with multiple photos on one card.  Here were some multiple photo options that caught my eye:

Minted Holiday Collage Photo Card

A card with multiple pictures may work best for our family.

My family isn’t too big on super heros, but I someday we may be.  When that is the case, we’ll use a card like this:

Minted Comic Book Holiday Card

You could really have fun with this card’s comic book style!

Certainly professional photographers’ pictures are far superior to my own snapshots, and I’m having a little picture envy just looking at all these lovely cards used on the site.  In the spirit of advance planning, here are some tips on how to get a great family picture for holiday cards by Heather Lee on Julep. She recommends having pictures taken now and having a photo card in mind, so the photographer can compose the shot correctly.  Good tips!

For our own card, I’ll try my best to snap some good pictures within the next few weeks or use what we have.  I think these two cards are my top holiday card contenders:

Next step – playing on Minted with some of these cards and my pictures.  Stay tuned to see which pictures and what card I choose!

This was a sponsored post, but the opinions expressed were my own. Photography by Minted.

Do you buy your own “Santa” gifts?

As the primary shopper in the house, I was tempted to be my own “Santa” this year, and I guess I sort of was.  There is one present under the tree that I bought for myself online and wrapped up, saying it’s from Santa.

This concept is not new.  My mom and mother-in-law have been known to buy presents from themselves and pass them off as being from either Santa or their dear spouse. It was only a matter of time for this tradition to come down to my generation.

As I wrote about last Christmas in The Joy of Giving and Feigning Joy of Receiving, I am not overly into receiving gifts, nor giving out gift ideas for myself. I enjoy giving presents much more. Above everything else, I value the time and experience with loved ones over the holidays. Last Christmas I didn’t give Daddy O. the best kind of guidance, so I was horrible at graciously receiving gifts from him.  To his defense he bought me the eye shadow color that the store employee gave him.  It was labeled “sea grass” instead of “sweet grass” like I had written down.  C’mon Aveda, get some more distinct makeup color names to help us out!

In hindsight (emphasis on HIND), I was genuinely thankful for the mannish-looking padded bike shorts that he gifted me last Christmas.  For a picture of me in said bike shorts and my delayed thank you, see this post from summer.

While out shopping for presents this year, I ended up buying some new pants for work (including jeans!), so I offered these items as gift options for Daddy O. or Santa to give to me.  He declined.  I strategically left magazines open to pages and put X’s by items I liked, so there could be zero confusion as to what I had on my list.  I caught the UPS shipment the other day, and I think Daddy O. successfully listened to my obvious prompts.

Now I just need to properly smile, say thank you, and simply enjoy the time with my dear family this Christmas.  I’ll let you know how I do!

Do you buy your own Santa gifts?  How do you share gift ideas to make shopping easier?

Some Things Stay the Same

Like if a two year old sees a cookie, he WILL eat it…even it it is twenty years old and hanging on the Christmas tree within reach.  He bit his head off – literally!!

Poor gingerbread manBeyond poor gingerbread man, our other breakable ornaments have remained in tact.  My two-year-old HAS touched our Elf on the Shelf, so I’ve had to keep him in higher locations.  Otherwise, it has been a delight seeing Christmas through his little eyes.

To calm a tantrum on a car ride at night, we quickly pointed out pretty Christmas lights, and that abruptly ended the screaming and crying!  Last night on a quick evening errand, we took turns naming colors of lights as we drove past.  It was not only adorable, but fun! Cheers to this magical, wonderful season!

Merry Christmas!

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday: Christmas Magic

The busyness and hectic pace of this season can be a real drag on Christmas cheer.  After a brief and stressful loading-in of our freshly cut tree that our daughter named Big, we slowed down the next day (courtesy of a Wisconsin snowstorm), listened to Christmas music and decorated the tree while little brother napped.  He woke up from his nap and viewed the fully decked out tree with such wonder and joy.  Just magical!

two year old and our Christmas treeI was happy my relatively basic point & shoot camera could capture these images with a pre-set mode and a little photo editing after the fact. Big sister and Daddy O. had their own moment in front of the tree too. I may not have a classic family picture in front of the tree – yet – but I’m thrilled with these beautiful images.

enjoying our Christmas tree as a familySimple family moments like this are what Christmas is all about.  Love this season!

The BEST Line(s) to get out of a Toy Store

Just days (okay, maybe hours) after Halloween passes, Christmas season comes to life in all shopping destinations.  The annual Christmas catalog for stores have been filling our mailbox.  My daughter has eagerly circled her favorite things in such catalogs (and it’s A LOT of course).  The shopping and preparations are upon us, as Christmas will be here before we know it!

Inevitably, I’ll be doing some shopping with my children along.  We recently went to Target and perused the toy aisle just to look for ideas.  With her fourth birthday AND Christmas coming up, I was able to use a few of my BEST lines to get out of the toy aisle without buying everything (or anything) in it!

3 Things to Say to your Kids while Shopping

  1. “Let’s put that on your birthday / Christmas list.”
  2. A close second, “Let’s save that for another kid. It’s not on our list.”
  3. Recently I added, “Ooh, let me take a picture of that one, so we can remember what you liked.”

I’ve used these lines when shopping for nieces or nephews, and they’ve really worked for me.  I’ve even pulled out a piece of paper and handwritten out ideas on my daughter’s list, and she REALLY had fun with it.  She even found a few things for her younger brother, saying, “Mom, I think my brother would like this.  Put it on his birthday list.”  It was awesome!

Inevitably, we end up with an item or two from the dollar section (though I sometimes manage to sneak some of these prized items away before buying them) to save a few tantrums, or even hand them to the store clerk at checkout and ask that they be returned to the proper area. The bottom line: I don’t want all of this STUFF in my house, and I don’t want my kids to feel like they automatically get what they want EVERY time we go shopping.

At the grocery store, my daughter was insistent about getting the Dora yogurt (thank you Yoplait for marketing to my children), so I told her that it wasn’t on our shopping list, but explained that she could use HER money to buy it if she really wanted it.  She agreed to that, and handed over the $2.19 from her piggy bank with a little counting help.  She has also told me recently that she wants to save her money for something really big – a canoe, I think she said!  Funny!

How do you get out of toy stores without buying stuff?  What phrases work for you?

One blog that I really enjoy following is called The Heavy Purse.  Meet Shannon and check out her posts: Financial Literacy Makes a Difference, and How to Avoid Creating Feelings of Deprivation in Kids.