A Little Strategy Goes a Long Way When Storing Holiday Decorations

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Don’t toss the holiday decorations in boxes and crates and shove them to the back of the closet. By planning ahead when you put them away, you’ll save hours of time and even money next year when you’re not checking for the bulb that has burned out or running to the store to replace something that got crushed.

Before you get started putting things in boxes for next year, make sure you want to keep everything. Now is the time to get rid of decorations you don’t like, have no sentimental value or are broken. Even with the best intentions, are you really going to look for the burned out bulb in the strand of lights next year? Perhaps you can find a new strand on sale this year. (Click here for tips on de-cluttering after the holidays.)

Storing the Christmas Tree: Storing an artificial tree in the box it came in is not a good idea. The box deteriorates, making the tree prone to bugs crawling in during the year. You can buy a tree bag or a tree box inexpensively. Other ideas:

Wrap the tree in old belts to cinch it up and make it easier to store and more manageable to handle.

If the artificial tree is getting older, before you put the tree away, label the layers by number so you can see what piece goes where.

Storing Christmas Ornaments: Take the opposite approach to storing your tree for your ornaments and keep them in the boxes they came in. These boxes are designed to protect your ornaments.

Other storage ideas:

Ornaments can be stored in egg cartons and apple containers and you can put a layer of tissue paper for extra protection. Non-fragile ornaments can be stored in sandwich bags. Of course, be sure to wrap anything fragile in tissue paper and line the boxes with paper if you’re not storing in the original packaging.

You can also store your ornaments in plastic cups in a box or container. If you do this, glue the cups to the bottom of the box to keep them from moving around and to protect the ornaments.

Storing the lights: Wrap strands of lights around old coffee cans to keep them from tangling. Put a hole in the top or bottom of the can and put the ends of the lights strand through the holes. If you don’t use coffee cans, use something bold to wrap your lights around, or you can be guaranteed they will come out of storage tangled.

Labeling Your Boxes: You can make unpacking and setting up even easier by labeling your boxes. Number them by how many you have, e.g., 1 of 12, 2 of 12, etc. And label the first box you need as number 1. If the tree goes up first, then label the box(es) with tree stand, decorations and lights for the tree with the earliest numbers. The last thing you want is the tree stand in box number 7.

Storing Wreaths: You can purchase special boxes that your wreaths fit in to protect them or you can store them in plastic dry cleaning bags. Hang your wreath on a coat hanger and then slip it into the bag. If you’re careful when you put it in, it’ll come out ready to hang next year.

It may take a little extra time when you put the decorations away, but you’ll be ready to go next year, with time and money savings in mind.

Countdown to Christmas!

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Are your kids anxious for Christmas to get here? Are you looking for some fun ways to count down to the big day? Here are some fun activities for kids and grownup kids alike to make the time until Santa arrives go a little faster.

Red and green meal – Make a healthy pre-holiday Christmas dinner out of green and red foods. Some ideas: A tossed salad with cherry tomatoes and snow peas; another helping of cranberries; pizza with peppers, tomatoes and broccoli, spinach lasagna in marinara sauce; spinach enchiladas. Let the adults pick a healthy red and green entree and then let the kids be creative with the side dishes.

Christmas lights drive – You can do this more than one time, for sure! Load everyone in the car and check out the holiday lights. You can go to new neighborhoods or see what’s new in your own. Make a game out of it by seeing how many Rudolphs you can find on house roofs, count blowup Santa Clauses or listen for houses that are piping music outside. This driving game makes for limitless fun!

Gingerbread houses – Make your own gingerbread house. You can actually build your own out of gingerbread or buy a starter kit. Decorate with gum drops, cinnamon candies, frosting, marshmallows, or really, anything you can dream of and imagine. Gingerbread houses aren’t just fun for one night; they are great decorations for the entire holiday season.

Christmas movie night – This activity is an oldie but a goodie. Pick out your favorite holiday movie and plug it in. Are you a fan of White Christmas? Or is Christmas Vacation more your style? No matter what your taste, a movie night with popcorn and family is sure to put you into the holiday spirit.

Balloon volleyball – Want an activity that is only as holiday-themed as you make it? Blow off some of the Christmas energy by playing balloon volleyball. Put out some ribbon on the floor for a makeshift volleyball net and blow up a few balloons. Indoor balloon volleyball is a great way to burn some holiday calories and get out a burst of family energy.

Bake cookies (and then deliver them to others) – You may be baking cookies already, so fire up the oven for a few more and deliver them to fire houses, police stations, hospitals, assisted living facilities. If you can think of people who serve others or may be lonely during the holidays, then bring them a batch of cookies to show you care and to say thank you.

Make holiday decorations – Break out the scissors because there are few things more fun than making holiday decorations. What do you have in your house already? Construction paper? Ribbon? Glitter? Sequins and Beads? Glue? Styrofoam balls? If you have these things, you have the makings for a fun craft table. If you are a really festive elf, you can leave the craft table up all season and you can make ornaments whenever the spirit moves you.

Start planning now so you can make the lead up to the holidays part of the holidays!

Keep Your Kids and their Friends Entertained All Winter!

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Winter can be a snowy blast for kids, but when it’s too cold to play outside, kids need something that entertains them inside. Here are some winter games and activities for kids and the kid inside every adult. 

Indoor Snowball Fight

Whether there is snow on the ground or not, you can still have a snowball fight inside! Ball up some white paper or some white socks, give each kid a basket with their snowballs and let loose. Clear away furniture or anything that could be fallen over, tripped on or broken, but this is a great way to burn off some energy during the coldest days.

Pass the Antlers

Get a pair of inexpensive antlers and have them ready for a fun game of Pass the Antlers. It’s like Hot Potato, with a winter twist. Sit in a circle and start the music. Pass the antlers around the room as the music plays. Each player must put the antlers on their head when they receive them. When the music stops, the person with the antlers on their head or whose holding them is out.

Pin the Nose on the Snowman

This is a winter spin on Pin the Tail on the Donkey. Cut out a large snowman from some white paper and add some eyes and mouth, and even a hat if you’re creative. Cut several “carrots” from orange construction paper, add some tape, cover the kids’ eyes with a scarf, and let them try to get the nose where it goes on the snowman.

Reindeer Word Search

Write the word reindeer on a pieces of paper. Pass these out to the kids. They have three minutes to find and write down as many words that they find in “reindeer.”

Mitten Pictionary

Get out your classic Pictionary game and add a little winter fun. Put mittens and snow goggles on the child whose turn it is to draw the picture. This puts a fun, childlike spin on this classic game. Kids love it and cannot stop laughing while they play.

Hello to the Relatives

Grab your craft supplies and spread them out. Let the kids decorate cards with glitter, glue, paint, sequins, beads, whatever you have available. Then have them write thank you notes and messages inside the cards for all their relatives – grandmas, grandpas, aunts, uncles, cousins and even friends. They’ll have fun creating these and the recipients will have fun opening them.

Just because it’s cold outside doesn’t mean the fun has to stop inside! 

Cold Weather Hacks to Stay Warm Inside All Winter Long

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When it’s cold outside, you want to stay warm inside. Here are a few hacks to make your home warmer and cozier as we settle into whatever winter brings.

Add a rug or two. Got cold hard floors? A rug will provide some warming insulation. Even better, layering several will create a cozy barrier to keep your feet warm. Put a plush rug on a tile floor, and you’ll gladly stand up for winter.

Make your sofa snuggle-worthy. Put pillows and throw blankets on your sofa to make it a place you’re happy to snuggle on and snuggle into. Then burrow in with some tea and a good book or a good movie.

Reverse the direction of your ceiling fan blades. When you do this, the fan blades will push the hot air downwards (instead of drawing air upwards) and help keep the heat lower. This is especially important in rooms with high ceilings. How do you know your fan is spinning in reverse? When you look up your blades should be moving in a clockwise fashion.

Block a drafty window with a towel. Roll up a towel and place along the bottom of a door to stop drafts and heat leaks. Feeling crafty? Make some homemade door snakes.

Let the light shine in when it’s sunny. Open the curtains on sunny days; close them in the evenings. You want the sun to heat your home but you don’t want the cold nights to make your home drafty.

Warm your bed. Use flannel sheets and a warm down comforter to stay warm on frosty nights.

Wear your favorite warm clothes – the oversized sweater, the loose lounge pants – and don’t forget your socks. According to the Univesity of San Diego if your feet are cold, you’ll be cold. And wear slippers – in addition to wearing warm socks, keep your feet extra toasty when doing chores by wearing slippers.

Keep your oven door open after baking. Let the warm air circulate in your kitchen. This works especially well in a smaller home or kitchen, but it’s good to try no matter what size your home is.

Home alone? Keep your bathroom door open when you shower. The warm, humid air will seep out into your home.

Finally, close off rooms you’re not using. If you have an empty guest room or storage space, close the door and seal it with a draftstopper. You won’t waste money heating a room you don’t use.

Tips for Safe Snow Shoveling

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The good news about shoveling snow is that you can burn some calories, about 250 in 30 minutes for a 170-pound person. And that may be all of the good news. As winter weather inevitably moves in, it’s good to keep in mind a few snow shoveling tips.

Prepare for shoveling.

  • Get ready before you get started.
  • Put on layers of clothing.
  • Stretch.
  • Wax your shovel blades by spraying them with cooking spray. By spraying your shovel blade with cooking spray, you make it slippery and make it easier for snow to slide off.

Once you head outside, maintain good physical health by doing the following:

  • Lift with your legs.
  • Push the snow across the walkway rather than lifting and carrying it. If you do lift, move your arms down close to the blade keep the blade close to you.
  • If the snow fall is deep, skim a layer off the top and make two passes in one area, so you aren’t pushing or lifting too much.
  • Take breaks and rest, and drink a lot of water. Shoveling snow is intense, and you need to treat the activity like you would any physical exercise, which means resting and drinking water.

Pay attention to paths.

  • Make sure you aren’t blocking any pathways or doorways with piles of snow. And push the snow far enough off the driveway or walkway that it doesn’t fall back to where you previously shoveled. By leaving room, you also are ensuring that you have room to shovel more snow if it continues to snow or snows again soon.

Care for your tree limbs.

  • If too much snow sticks to the trees, it can cause branches and limbs to break. Remember to knock snow off of branches, especially if it is heavy and wet snow. This will protect your trees and anything that is below.

Make your car safe to drive.

  • Knock all of the snow off your car’s windshield, roof, hood and trunk before driving anywhere. You need to be able to see and you don’t want it blowing back at you or blowing onto the cars in traffic.

Winter can be a snap (or a little easier, anyway) if you are careful in the snow.