Start Planning Your Christmas Get-Together For A Festive Holiday Season

The season seems to have crept up on everyone, and Christmas is finally around the corner. There’s no better time of year to see your loved ones and celebrate together with food, music, and catching up with each other’s lives. Festive parties are a great way to enjoy the holidays and ensure you’ve handed out all your cards and gifts to those you love, as you make more memories together for the future. A get-together with food, decorations, and drinks might seem a little overwhelming, but with some planning and preparation; you’ll be able to have a stress-free and seamless Christmas with your family and friends.

 

As long as your guests are well fed and are enjoying the company and their surroundings; they’ll leave full, happy, and with plenty of festive cheer. As you’re heading even closer towards the holidays; you might want to start stocking up on what you can now, planning what food and drinks you want to serve, and think about the best way to host your get-together. The following are some ideas, tips, and inspiration for those who want to give their loved-ones a party to remember this Christmas and how to start planning for it as soon as possible.

Image source: https://www.pexels.com/photo/brown-acorn-near-clear-long-stem-wine-glass-225224/

 

Straightforward (and tasty) Food

 

It’s worth planning exactly what you’re going to cook, bake, and create in the kitchen for your get-togethers so that you can make a thorough list of ingredients beforehand and begin sourcing everything you need. Smoked meat is always a favorite, so make sure you know where you can get hold of a quality, sizable joint, and perhaps think about investing in an electric smoker that will see you through the festivities and into the future. There are now many options available regarding a smoker you can utilize at home, and your guests will always appreciate home-smoked meat (not to mention the delicious smell).

 

You can prep the larger items of food beforehand, and create the fresh salads and sides on the morning of your party. If you’re inviting your nearest and dearest; get people to bring a dish so that there’s plenty of food to go around and everyone has something to eat that they enjoy. The same goes for drinks; people are more than happy to bring their own, and you can add a festive punch or cocktail to occasion for those that want it.

 

A Setting To Remember

You’ll probably have sorted out the festive decor in your home already, but you can always pop little extras onto tables and chairs, and around the food and drinks for a special touch. Candles will reflect off glass and china creating a pretty ambiance, and if you have a fireplace; you can hang garlands of leaves above for a festive focal point. Dried fruit, cloves, and cinnamon sticks can be repurposed into decorations that will make a room smell of Christmas, and they’re easy to make with some red ribbon and a little time. Sprinkle festive sequins and glitter over tables and between dishes for added sparkle, and pour yourself a drink and enjoy the rest of the evening!

Break Up With The Traditions: Plan A Christmas Road Trip

It’s almost that time again when you have to keep the house clean and tidy, decorate the Christmas tree – unless you’ve been an early bird and have already done it – and constantly bake for the entire duration of the end of year celebrations – yes, that includes New Year’s eve too. For every child, Christmas is the best time of the year. For their parents, it’s debatable. Of course, you can’t stay insensitive to the Christmas spirit, but you’ll surely appreciate it better if you didn’t have to go through the same ritualistic nightmares year after year. You know the kind: Visiting the family, trying to avoid petty comments about some of the family presents, and family pretending to care about that distant relative you see only once a year… without mentioning about the stress of the preparations! In short, the time of love and family reunion can be very unpleasant for a lot of families! So, maybe this year you could take a break from the traditions and enjoy your Christmas with the kids and your partner only.

Christmas market

 

Breaking out of the traditional boundaries

Now’s the perfect time to stop wondering about who is going to visit who over Christmas and who is staying over. You can give your family visits a twist this year – and stop worrying about how to survive spending an entire Christmas with your relatives. You don’t have to. You can still plan courtesy visits, but you don’t need to stay if you plan your Christmas road trip around the mandatory family visits. Remember that there are a lot of positive points to visiting your relatives, but more importantly making sure that you incorporate the visiting time in your travel projects means that you can focus on the positive and escape any negative part. Don’t just think car journey, though. You can hire a camping van for the season and spend a week or two touring!

 

The necessary equipment

You may be wondering what to pack for a road trip through the country. Get the essentials to keep the trip enjoyable, such as a high-quality cooler for your drinks and foods – you can find a handy cooler resource with reviews on here – and the sleeping gear. But it’s also the best time to make new memories with useful gadgets, starting with a waterproof and shockproof digital camera and even a GoPro for scenic shots. Make sure as well that you’ve packed car chargers for your electronics, or, if you fancy something easier, a voltage inverter that allows you to plug standard plugs directly into the vehicle.

 

Pick amazing destinations at home

The beauty of a road trip is that you can plan stops in areas you want to see. If you’re visiting your family around Chicago, make sure to spend a day in town to enjoy the Christkindlmarkt, the German Christmas market filled with craft toys, German foods, and drinks. With a bit of luck, it might even snow! If you’re family lives down the south-west coast, stop by the Walt Disney World for a very Mickey-esque Christmas parade.

 

There is no need for the stress over the family visits this Christmas. Instead, you can focus on your direct family by spending the holiday touring through the US and taking a bite of Christmas specialties in each town.

 

Tips for Surviving a Family Visit Over the Christmas Holidays

It’s not uncommon for people to do things they don’t like, and visiting family during Christmas is one of those situations.

 

Let’s face it unless you have a great relationship with your relatives, the yearly Christmas holiday visit probably isn’t something you look forward to. The trip to visit them might involve several hours of driving, the food might be terrible and you probably won’t have much to show after it’s all over. In fact, most people would rather just stay at home so they can enjoy Christmas in the comfort of their own home surrounded by close family and friends.

 

Sadly, it’s still something we do for the sake of family so here are a couple of tips that will help you survive the grueling experience and perhaps make it a little more enjoyable for yourself.

Image Credit

 

Be Open to Visiting Your Family

 

Make sure you open yourself up to the idea of visiting family. Try and find the positive parts and keep the negative ones away. For instance, focus on the fact that you’ll be visiting parents, relatives or even distant friends to catch up. If you haven’t seen them for a while, then they could be a little different and perhaps you’ll find them more bearable.

 

Make the Car Journey More Bearable

 

If you’re going to drive to visit relatives, then make your car journey as bearable as possible. If it’s going to be cold, make sure the heating in your car works so you don’t freeze on the road. Keep the tank filled and make sure you carry some de-icer in case your vehicle frosts over during the night you spend there. In addition, keep your kids occupied by bringing a charged laptop, tablet or smartphone so they can have some fun in the car instead of nagging you. Make sure your kids are safe in the car if they decide to take a nap as well. Look at this review of the Graco Nautilus car seat if you need a booster seat that will keep them safe and comfortable when they fall asleep in the back. For your own enjoyment, bring some music, a podcast or an audiobook to play in the car to keep you interested during a long drive.

 

Don’t Overspend for Their Sake

 

You shouldn’t show up to your relative’s home without presents, but you also shouldn’t overspend. Save your money and get simple gifts instead of expensive personalized items. In addition, you shouldn’t be forced to pay for expensive transport tickets or accommodation if you can’t afford it or simply don’t want to spend too much money. Keep an eye on your wallet and don’t overspend just for the sake of seeing family if you don’t think you’ll enjoy it. Make the effort, but don’t overdo it.

 

Consider Sleeping at a Nearby Hotel or Inn Instead

 

If you find it difficult to sleep under the same roof as your relatives, then consider booking a room at a nearby hotel or inn. This is especially useful if the relatives you’re visiting have a small home, and it will allow you to partake in celebrations without worrying about driving home while under the influence of alcohol.

Dealing With Overnight Guests At Christmas

The festive season is quickly approaching, and it’s likely that you’ve already decided what you’re going to be doing Christmas day, and whether you’re stopping at a family member’s house, or if they are coming to you. If it’s your turn to host the Christmas meal and you have family coming to stay overnight for the Christmas period, here’s how you can deal with the pressure of being a good host, while keeping everyone happy.

Image

Bedroom

The fact that the bedding and towels should be fresh doesn’t even need to be mentioned, but to make your guests stay as lovely for them as possible, you could add a sprinkle of Christmas magic to the room. Adding decorations and fairy lights for them to have on if they choose will really add to the Christmas festivities for them, and also create a lovely warm glow in the room.

 

Other things that you could add to the room are:

  • Cinnamon scented candles.
  • Potpourri.
  • Dressing gowns and slippers to relax in.
  • A television to watch.
  • Bedside lamps and alarm clocks
  • A lockable door to add privacy for them (you might want to consider that on your bedroom door too!)

 

Making the effort to add little details like this will make their stay away from home as comfortable as possible, and your guests will appreciate the extra effort.

Food

One of the biggest things for hosts to think about is the food that they are serving. You may be choosing to have a traditional turkey Christmas lunch, but there’s no reason why the other food that you serve shouldn’t be out there and impressive. Crawl your local grocery store to see what unusual delicacies they have on offer for you to serve to your guests. Be sure to check for any allergies or preferences so that you can tailor to them as much as possible.

 

Another route to go down would be to serve a family favorite in your household so that they can see what kind of food you would regularly eat. Of course, you will need to plan accordingly to time, budget, and amount of people.

 

You could always get everyone involved in cooking a meal (including your guests) so that you’ve all contributed to the meal that you’re about to eat. Everyone will finish their meal pleased that they’ve helped create a lovely meal, and it will also help your guests feel like they’ve helped you rather than sitting around waiting for a meal.

Gifts

At Christmas, many people around the world choose to exchange gifts with their loved ones as a token to show them how much they mean to you. Instead of the usual tube socks and chocolate, why not go for something a little out of the ordinary? It will add to their day and also spark conversation. Not only that, it will show that you put thought into your gift(s) to them. If you’re stuck for ideas, here’s a great article from giftbeta that has everything covered, so you’re sure to find the right gift for everyone.

 

Remember though that Christmas isn’t all about the gifts that you give, it’s about spending time together as a family during the festivities so if you’re on a budget, don’t panic too much because there are loads of gifts available that won’t break the bank!

Traditions

Like if you were staying at a family member’s house for Christmas, you should hold up your Christmas traditions for them to experience and welcome the possibility of their being included too. Traditions almost make Christmas special by themselves, because the actions we take remind us of a special time of year with our families.

 

Another thing to consider would be to create a tradition for this occasion so that if it ever happens again, you could use it as a family. For example, if you decide to take your family out to the bar for a few festive drinks on Christmas Eve, yet you wouldn’t normally do it, save that tradition for when they stay again!

Help

Lastly, don’t forget to ask for help if you need it. The responsibility of cooking and preparing for a lot of people can add unnecessary pressure to you. Remember to enjoy your Christmas too otherwise you will end up dreading each year that you’re the host. Enjoy your Christmas as a family unit, whatever you’re doing!

Top Tips To Save Yourself Some Cash This Christmas

Pixabay

 

As magical as the Christmas Period is, it isn’t half expensive at times. You may not want to think about it yet, but Christmas is right around the corner, so you may want to start thinking of ways to save yourself some cash during the festive period. The most expensive parts of Christmas are the extra energy we use to heat the house, the extra food we buy for Christmas dinner, and, of course, the gifts. Hopefully, the tips below will help you to avoid spending too much money during the winter months.

Flickr

Energy

 

Shop Around – The most obvious way to save money will always be to shop around (which is why this tip is going to be featured a lot). You might want to consider doing some research on different energy companies to help you to find ones that are the best value for money. There are lots of comparison website online that should be able to help you out. While gas is the most obvious place to save some money, due to the extra heating, you must remember that you will also start to put up Christmas lights soon, and the earlier nights will mean that you have your normal lights on more, so you need to try to save on electricity too.

 

Add Insulation – It’s a well-known fact that heat rises, meaning that most of the heat being lost from your home will be being lost from the roof. To lower the amount of heat loss, you may want to consider having some roof or loft insulation installed. This will mean that you have to use less gas, as less heat will be being lost from your home, which is certain to save you a lot of money. Similarly, you might also want to consider double glazing windows, to avoid heat loss through your windows.

 

Only Use What You Need – Are you one of the many people that turn the heating on for the whole house, rather than simply the room that you’re sat in? If you are, you may want to stop doing this, as it’s a waste of energy and money. Similarly, avoid leaving on lights that aren’t in the same room as you, and unplug appliances that you’re not using, such as televisions and games consoles, as they continue to use power, even in standby mode.

Pexels

Food

 

Use Cheaper Alternatives – Turkey may be your go-to bird for Christmas, but it’s not the cheapest available. Instead, consider buying a chicken or duck, or simply buy a turkey breast, instead of the entire bird. You might also want to consider making a smoked salmon pate, and serve it with breadsticks, either earlier on in the day, or later at night, when you’re watching the Christmas TV, instead of the smoked salmon that you usually serve with dinner.

 

Shop Around – It’s back again! Search through the websites of several different supermarkets to try to find the best deals on Christmas food essentials, such as the bird, the vegetables, and even a bottle of wine or two. You’d be surprised how big the price difference can be from one store to the next, so it pays to put in a little extra effort.

 

Buy A Bigger Bird – This might seem counterproductive, as a bigger bird is sure to cost more than a smaller one. While this is true, you should think of the bigger picture. People tend to cook a lot of vegetables for Christmas dinner, most of which is wasted, as it’s hard to reuse vegetables. Your bird, on the other hand, can continue to be reused a few days after Christmas day. You could have it on a sandwich, in a curry, with salad, and as part of a variety of other meals, which saves you money on other food.

Pexels

Gifts

 

Stick To A Budget – It can be incredibly easy to overspend on gifts at Christmas, so it’s important to come up with a budget and stick to it. If you have more people to buy for, you will have to spend a little less on each gift. If you have fewer people, you can splash out a bit more. You might want to save up throughout the year so that you know that you have enough money to cover all of your gifts. This will make budgeting a lot easier, as you can see exactly what you have to spend.

 

Encourage Secret Santas – If you have a group of friends to buy for or a lot of siblings, bring up the idea of Secret Santa. This means that you will only have to buy one gift, so not only will you be able to save a lot of money on all of the other gifts, but you will also have the money to be able to buy that individual a more elaborate gift. This will also reduce the stress of having to come up with ideas for gifts for a lot of people.

 

Shop Around – This is the last time, I promise! Like with you Christmas food, you’d be surprised how many stores sell the exact same thing for completely different prices during the Christmas period. That bath set that you were thinking of getting your Aunt is probably a lot cheaper elsewhere and is sure to be even cheaper online. Start thinking of Christmas gifts earlier on in the year, as stores sometimes raise the prices during the Christmas period.

 

Christmas is expensive, there is no doubt about that, but you need to remember that it’s not money that matter during Christmas. If you don’t have the money to go out and buy elaborate gifts, then don’t. You could always do a Rachel and Monica and bake cookies instead, which is much more meaningful and much cheaper. Your loved ones will be much happier to spend time with you, than having you spend your money on them, so enjoy your family time, and follow these simple tips if you need help saving a little cash here and there.

Fun Christmas Gifts To Keep Your Kids Active

Whether you want to think about it or not, Christmas IS just around the corner. The commercials have already started, and you’ll soon start to get an idea of what it is your kid wants from Santa. So many of today’s kid’s toys are focused on games and screens that it seems like a long time since a bike was the top of every kid’s Christmas list. This Christmas, why not think about getting your kid a gift that is not only fun but helps them stay active too? Take a look at the following suggestions for ideas on Christmas gifts that will get your kids moving.

A trampoline

A trampoline is a great gift for kids; it’s something they can use to have fun while also helping them to stay active. Trampolines come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, so you can get small versions to use in the home, or larger domed varieties that are great if you’ve got the garden space. If you’re concerned about safety, then taking a look at a trampoline buying guide could help you make the best decision that will help you to feel at ease.

A scooter

Image: Wikimedia Commons

 

Scooters are a fun gift to give to kids, that will encourage them to head outdoors and enjoy the fresh air. There are several different types of scooter on the market that suit different budgets, and you can pick up some great accessories like helmets to go with them. It’s worth taking a look at an electric scooters for kids comparison guide to see which scooters are available. Scooters are great for helping your kid get to school or for when they go out with their friends and are easy to store in your home.

A Nerf gun

Did you know that Nerf guns have been around since the 1960s? Nerf guns have been a popular gift for decades, and they’re ideal for encouraging kids to get out of the house and play – even if it’s just in the backyard. A Nerf gun is a fun and harmless way for kids to blow off some steam, and you’ll probably want to join in and have a go too!

Active video games

You can’t expect kids to go outside all the time, especially when it’s dark or the weather’s bad. Finding fun and active games they can play at home can be tough, but there are some fantastic video games out there that will help them get moving, without them even realizing. Games like Just Dance and Kinect Sports Rivals for Xbox offer games that all the family can join in, ideal for parties or family game nights.

Thinking ahead to buying Christmas gifts is one way you can start preparing for Christmas now. Toys and games that are active will be a much better investment than buying things that they’ll lose interest in or offer no value – helping you keep your kids moving. Who knows, you might even discover something fun for you too!

Hasbro’s Joy for All Companion Pets Dog Cat #Hasbro #Joyforall

This post was sponsored by Hasbro’s Joy For All brand as part of an Influencer Activation for Influence Central. All opinions expressed in my post are my own.

15556393_10154341223928155_554629629_o

Growing up close to my grandparents was amazing. I was so fortunate to have had them right down the road. Now that I am grown, I feel like I appreciate them more. We lost our grandmother a few years ago and if it wasn’t for Bella, my grandfather’s black lab mix, my grandfather probably wouldn’t have dealt with her loss as good as he did. They were married for a long time.

Recently we lost Bella to old age, this has been really hard on my grandfather. When I stop by to visit, some days he will ask me to let Bella out. Some days he will talk about missing her so much. We are moving him soon to a retirement villa where we can keep a better eye out on him so getting another dog is just not an option.

I was so relieved and excited to have found the Hasbro’s Joy for All Puppy. I took it to my grandfather and he was so happy he cried. It made me feel good knowing that he has a purpose again. Therefore he will continue to live a happier life. The puppy is so much like a real dog that he kept saying I hope they let me keep him at my new home. I wasn’t sure if he realized it wasn’t a real dog. He talked to it and was holding it and petting it. I love the fact I don’t have to worry about him forgetting to take the dog potty or feeding him.

 

15595803_10154341248418155_559795044_o

I love knowing this dog will be around a long time because Hasbro has a long tradition of creating the world’s best play experiences, and the Joy For All brand represents an extension of that tradition, striving to bring happiness and fun to aging loved ones and their families. They are amazing at not only make toys that last but making items that even my grandfather can play with.

I taught him how to mute the dog for night time, and how to turn him on and off. This is a perfect companion for those aging love ones that don’t really need the responsibility of a pet, but long for one. He started calling him Buddy, saying he is my bud now. Of course, he calls me my sister’s names but he can remember his new companions name.

You can talk to the dog and it will respond so you feel as though it is real, especially with its soft fur! The batteries are already included and can be used right out of the box. Of course, we have always been a dog family but they have the cutest Cat Companion also just in case your loved one prefers a cat!

• Joy For All Website: http://joyforall.hasbro.com/en-us
• Joy For All Pet Pup: http://joyforall.hasbro.com/en-us/companion-pup
• Joy For All Cat: http://joyforall.hasbro.com/en-us/companion-cats
• Joy For All Instagram Page: https://www.instagram.com/hasbrojoyforall/
• Joy For All Twitter Page: https://twitter.com/joyforall

Hurry and head to JoyForAll.com to purchase your very own JOY FOR ALL COMPANION PET today and use JOY2016 for 10% off your purchase!

15608794_10154341223748155_747802693_o

We wanted to see what our own dog thought of him, and he thought he was real, we had to hide him!!

#JoyForAll #IC #AD

Winter Time Games #Staples

winter-wonderland-pic-11

Baby it is cold outside!! I love this time of year, fireplace going, hot chocolate and the smell of baked goods in the oven. Nothing better, except sharing all of this with your three grandsons! I love spending time with them, usually we try and do outside activities but since it is so cold here we decided to find some fun stuff to do inside.

Thanks to Staples for supplying our games, we now have several of inside games to choose from during this winter weather.

First we absolutely love to play with Lincoln Logs.

15555579_10154337767373155_531866949_o

Not only is it fun and safe, but it helps the boys use their imagination to build things. I love how they would rather do that then watch tv! These would make an awesome Christmas gift. You can mix and match Lincoln Logs to make even bigger designs. We can play for hours just building different items. It is recommended for 3 years old and up, due to small pieces.

15536678_10154337766588155_541932572_o

The next thing we love to do while it is cold outside is draw! As a former teacher, I couldn’t wait until the grands wanted to start writing. We learn letters and numbers. As a reward after lessons, they get to play with the Spirograph Kit. This is so fun to them and they love to hang up their final design on Mimi’s fridge. I have a fridge of memories!! These are awesome for their little brains because they have the freedom to design it like they want.

15555498_10154337767903155_522221052_o

This too would make an awesome Christmas gift. It includes markers and paper in it’s own tray. Great for children who need to work on their motor skills and allows them to learn to make their own decisions by choosing their colors and designs. My favorite type of gifts!

Last we love Bounce Off, this gives them a chance to get up and move, which three little boys seem to love to do. Bounce Off is a game where you have to throw the ball in a pattern.  You draw a card telling you which pattern to use. This has been so neat to watch them grow while playing this game. The are learning so much from counting and patterns.

15536707_10154337767098155_1174708176_o

This is also my grown children’s favorite game to play with a bunch of friends, so from young to old everyone will love this!

If you think these games look fun, you should see what winter time Staples Games Terri’s playing over on Shabby Chic Boho.

I have tried to simplify my shopping this year, I love spending time over money with the grand kids, I want them to learn the importance of family and time. Staples has been a lifesaver, they have such a variety to chose from. I was able to order most of my Christmas online and save a ton of money.

If you are in need of last minute gift ideas, check these out. You will have so much fun while it is cold outside!