Relax in the Spirit of Christmas, Tips On How To Make Your Holiday More Relaxed And Enjoyable:

Gift wrap and holiday sales, parking lots and tree lots, traveling and spending: it can all be too much.  Many consumers are reporting the holidays are less and less enjoyable and more and more stressful these days.  We have to wonder -- is it self-imposed? Why are people pushing themselves so hard to achieve the "perfect" holiday?  And how is it they continue to miss that perfection no matter how hard they try -- no mater how much they spend? Perhaps it's that they have forgotten Christmas doesn't come in a box.  Perhaps they've lost track of the true spirit of the holidays.  Perhaps they are trying to purchase a spirit that was never for sale to begin with.  It has always just been there for the asking.

Christmas isn't about setting a perfect table or outdoing the neighbors and the in-laws, Christmas should be about family, friends, hearth, and home.  And it's not what we give or what we receive that makes Christmas special; it's how we connect with and appreciate our homes and our loved ones.  Yes.  Easier said than done.   So, how do we step back from the hustle and bustle?  Here are a few tips to make your holiday more relaxed and enjoyable:

  • Simplify:
    We add so much weight to our lives -- Christmas is no exception -- overextending ourselves, trying be all things to all people.  Maybe it's time to forget getting a separate meaningful gift for every member of the PTA. The advent of the gift card is a wonderful opportunity for simplification.  If you are a purist and can't bear to give an electronic gift card, giving everyone in a group the same tasteful knickknack or charm may be the way to go. For the holiday table, don't feel the need to be super-host or -hostess.  Instant mashed potato mixes have come a long way in recent years and most supermarkets now have full bakeries to supply traditional pies.  Make no apologies.  Just embrace the spirit of Christmas and your guests will taste the love -- even in a pre-baked ham.

  • Take time out:
    Remember to smell the pine needles.  The most important step to relaxation is forcing ourselves stop and do it.  Forget about addressing all those cards for a while, put on a Christmas album, light a candle, turn on the tree lights and enjoy. A fantastic way to get into the holiday spirit is to take a few minutes to quietly meditate on what Christmas means -- why we give and receive, the tradition, the fun.  Fill your mind with happy memories and honest warm wishes and the Christmas spirit will shine from you all season long.

  • Remember:
    Pass on the traditions that you love.  Giving a gift is one thing -- it may last a year or two, or even a lifetime -- but a tradition will live on for generations to come.  Switch your focus from the material to the enduring simple pleasures.  Your children will not soon forget the lesson. Tell stories about happy holidays past.  Sing songs with your children.  Include them in your holiday crafts.  Remind yourself and others of the traditions you embraced, even if you can't recreate them every year.  Make the holiday about the past and the future.

  • Don't sweat it:
    Finally, as they say, "Don't sweat the small stuff."  Do what you enjoy and do it all with gusto.  But at the end of the day, make sure the details never become more important than the spirit of the holiday itself. Don't forget, no kid ever grew up wanting the perfect parent, just a loving one.  Make love and togetherness your focus and let the details fall where they may. 

So much of the stress that we carry is within our power to let go.  Let's do ourselves a favor and "make time to take time" -- to remember what is truly important.  Protecting our minds from materialism is as simple as changing our focus to the pure and enduring ideals of the holiday. And who knows, perhaps we'll all have a bit merrier Christmas.

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Holidays Greetings include Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, Season's Greetings, Happy Holidays, Happy Thanksgiving

Graphic ChristmasHoliday greetings are a selection of greetings that are often spoken with good intentions to strangers, family, friends, or other people during the months of December and January. Holidays with greetings include Christmas, New Year's Day, Thanksgiving (in the USA), and (more recently) Hanukkah, Ramadan, and Kwanzaa in the United States. Some greetings are more prevalent than others, depending on the cultural and religious status of any given area.

Typically, a greeting consists of the word "Happy" followed by the holiday, such as "Happy Hanukkah" or "Happy New Year", although the phrase "Merry Christmas" is a notable exception. When one wishes to convey a greeting to another regardless of which particular holiday the other may personally observe, the collective phrase "Happy Holidays" is often used as a simple way to refer to all of the winter holidays, or to the three major American holidays of Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year's Day. However, some controversy has aroused regarding the phrase "Happy Holidays" as an alleged attempt to diminish Christmas.

Merry/Happy Christmas - The greetings and farewells "Merry Christmas" and "Happy Christmas" are traditionally used in North America, the United Kingdom, and Ireland beginning a few weeks prior to the Christmas holiday on December 25 of every year. "Merry" dominates in the United States; "happy" in the United Kingdom and Ireland.

The phrase is often proffered when it is known that the receiver is a Christian or celebrates Christmas. In the beginning of the 21st century, as Christians in increasingly multi-cultural societies continue becoming more sensitive to and respectful of non-Christians and non-Christian faiths, the phrase has become somewhat less ubiquitous than it was in the 20th century. (However, the commercialization of the actual holiday continues unabated.) The nonreligious sometimes use the greeting as well, however in this case its meaning focuses more on the secular aspects of Christmas, rather than the Nativity of Jesus.

As of 2005, this greeting still remains popular among countries with large Christian populations, including, among others, the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, and Mexico. It also remains popular in non-Christian areas such as the People's Republic of China and Japan, where Christmas is still widely celebrated due to Western influences. Though it has somewhat decreased in popularity in the United States and Canada over the past decades, polls from 2005 indicate that it is more popular than "Happy Holidays" or other alternatives.

History of the phrase - "Merry", derived from the Old English myrige, originally meant merely "pleasant" rather than joyous or jolly (as in the phrase "merry month of May").

Though Christmas has been celebrated since the 4th century AD, the first known usage of any Christmastime greeting, "Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year" (thus incorporating two greetings) was in an informal letter written by an English admiral in 1699. The same phrase appeared in the first Christmas card, produced in England in 1843, and in the popular secular carol "We Wish You a Merry Christmas."

The then relatively new term "Merry Christmas" figured prominently in Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol in 1843. The cynical Ebenezer Scrooge rudely deflects the friendly greeting and broods on the foolishness of those who utter it. "If I could work my will", says Scrooge, "every idiot who goes about with 'Merry Christmas' on his lips, should be boiled with his own pudding." After the Spirits of Christmas effect his transformation, he is able to heartily exchange the wish with all he meets. The continued popularity of A Christmas Carol and the Victorian era Christmas traditions it typifies have led some to credit Dickens with popularizing, or even originating, the phrase "Merry Christmas".

The alternative "Happy Christmas" gained wide usage in the late 19th century, and is still common in the United Kingdom and Ireland. One reason may be the alternative meaning, still current there, of "merry" as "tipsy" or "drunk". Queen Elizabeth II is said to prefer "Happy Christmas" for this reason. In American poet Clement Moore's "A Visit from St. Nicholas" (1823), the final line, originally written as "Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night", has been changed in many editions to "Merry Christmas to all", perhaps indicating the relative popularity of the phrases in the United States.

Happy Holidays - "Happy Holidays" is a seasonal greeting common in the United States and Canada, and is typically used during the holiday season. "Holiday" is derived from Middle English holidai meaning "holy day". It is used as an inclusive greeting during the holiday season around Christmas to those who do not celebrate it, but instead other winter holidays like Hanukkah and Kwanzaa.

In the United States, it can have several variations and meanings: As "Happy Holiday", an English translation of the Hebrew Hag Sameach greeting on Passover, Sukkot and Shavuot. As "Happy Holiday", a substitution for "Merry Christmas". As "Happy Holidays", a collective and inclusive wish for the period encompassing Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, the Winter solstice, Christmas and the New Year.

In the United States, "Happy Holidays" (along with the similarly generalized "Season's Greetings") has become the common greeting in the public sphere within the past decade, such as department stores, public schools and greeting cards.

Advocates of the phrase view it as an inclusive and inoffensive phrase that does not give precedence to one religion or occasion. Critics view it as an insipid alternative to "Merry Christmas", and view it as diminishing the role of Christianity in Christmas, or part of an alleged secular "War on Christmas". Others consider the controversy to be itself hysterical.

A popular commercial variant is depicted in Honda ads that air during the holiday season. The automaker uses the slogan "Happy Honda Days", as wordplay on the phrase.

"Happy Holiday" is also the name of a popular song by Irving Berlin.

Season's Greetings - "Season's Greetings" is a greeting more commonly used as a motto on winter season greeting cards than as a spoken phrase. In addition to "Merry Christmas", Victorian Christmas cards bore a variety of salutations, including "Compliments of the Season" and "Christmas Greetings." By the late 19th century, "With the Season's Greetings" or simply "The Season's Greetings" began appearing. By the 1920s it had been shortened to "Season's Greetings, and has been a greeting card fixture ever since. Several White House Christmas cards, including President Eisenhower's 1955 card, have featured the phrase.

Some people believe that the "Season" in "Season's Greetings" is referring to the Christmas season. Due to this some people consider replacing "Merry Christmas" with "Season's Greetings" as an attack on their religion. Others say that it is pandering to a plurality of consumers by businesses so that they will make more money by hopefully not offending anyone by saying "Merry Christmas". Similar controversy has surrounded use of the phrase "Happy Holidays".

A differing opinion states that this saying is much more neutral and avoids elevating any one "holy" day over another. It may even be used to be more inclusive of other winter holidays (such as Kwanzaa or Hanukkah), or to acknowledge the possibility that the sayer does not believe in anything holy, including "holy-days".

Technically speaking, "Season's Greetings" could apply throughout the year, as each season has its own particular set of accepted behavior and greetings.

Wikipedia, free encyclopedia

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Shop Early for the Holidays and Save

holiday-gifts-click-here-to-shop-nowThe Christmas season usually brings out the best in people. It is a time when joy and goodwill is spread around like no other. But it is also a time that wrecks havoc on most financial budgets. The months immediately following Christmas are usually spent trying to pay off holiday debt.

Instead of doing all your shopping at once and incurring a large debt it is better to start early and space your shopping ventures out. Use cash to pay whenever possible. That way your purchase is paid for. Many people use credit cards to do their holiday shopping and then struggle to pay down their balances. If you buy items with cash you are not accruing the interest charges. Your purchase is simple and complete with no lasting negative financial effects. Of course, having the cash on hand to do so is not always an option.

One way to help alleviate high credit card bills is to take advantage of sales and make cash purchases as often as possible. Many prudent shoppers watch sales papers steadfastly in order to take advantage of sales throughout the year. They then purchase gift items to put away for the coming holiday season. You probably aren’t thinking about Christmas in June but just try to keep gift items in mind when shopping. It doesn’t hurt to keep an eye open.

It’s also helpful to keep a list of those people you’ll be shopping for during the holidays. Know your friends and relatives. It’s not that difficult to have a fairly good idea of what those you are close to need and want. Perhaps you see that coffee makers are on sale. You remember that Aunt Martha had recently mentioned needing a new one. You have a bit of money to spare so you purchase the coffee maker and cross Aunt Martha off your list.

Seasonal sales are also a good time to find holiday gift bargains and so are sales that take place right after Christmas if you don’t mind being a real early bird shopper. If you’re not particularly pleased with roaming through stores behind slow shoppers who refuse to move and let you pass by, try shopping online. Personally, I would rather shop online any day since I’m not really a “store” person. I still can’t quite grasp what my teenage daughter finds so fascinating about the mall.

As for alternative gift ideas you may want to give concert or theater tickets or even a subscription to a favorite magazine. For the person who has everything and is pleased with nothing, consider a gift of food. Everyone has to eat, right? Cookies, cakes and candy are always welcome gifts since they delight the palate and please the hard to please. Pies, brownies, cupcakes, pudding, cinnamon rolls, banana nut bread and poppy seed rolls are also good choices.

Don’t be a last minute shopper and don’t be steeped in debt until next Christmas. Be alert to gift ideas throughout the entire year.

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Great Holiday Gift Ideas; Last Minute Gifts to Keep on Hand This Christmas

go-cuddles-n-cookie-basketThe Holiday Season brings with it the delightful possibility of unexpected guests. Old friends, out of town family members, and neighbors we don't visit with as often as we'd like each may stop in for a bit of Christmas cheer. If a surprise visitor rings your bell this season, don't be caught off guard. Keep a few of these easy gift ideas tucked away and you'll have something ready for anyone who comes by.

A Gift Certificate - Next time you are shopping at your favorite store, pick up a few gift certificates to keep tucked away in your box of gifts for unexpected visitors. Gift certificates are an excellent choice in this situation because if you don't need to give them away, you can use them yourself and you won't be out any extra money. To make these gift certificates a bit more personal, pick up an inexpensive gift certificate holder designed for this purpose. Many Christmas themed holders are available and you can even make your own if you look for an inexpensive Christmas decoration or ornament into which you might tuck the certificate.

A Home Fragrance - Home fragrance makes a perfect gift for just about anyone. Home fragrance can take many forms, but the most attractive for gift giving is a candle. Choose candles that are neutral in color and if the candles are not wrapped, be sure to keep them stored in air tight, zip to close bags to keep the strength of the fragrance strong. Gifts like these can be arranged in inexpensive baskets, or other creative containers
available for purchase at a local dollar store.

A Good Book - Keep your eyes open for good books that might make nice gifts. Nonfiction usually works better in this situation, but a good fiction piece having to do with Christmas or New Year's would be appropriate too. Pick up a clever bookmark to tuck inside each book and consider writing a personal message inside the front cover before presenting it to the recipient.

Baked Goods - If you are handy in the baking area, consider baking up a few batches of your favorite cookies. Double bag them in zip to close freezer bags and tuck them away in the freezer until you need them. Keep a few Christmas themed cookie tins on hand to put them in when you present them as gifts.

Keep a collection of gifts like these tucked away during the Christmas season and avoid the awkwardness of not having a special something for unexpected guests.
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Before Father Christmas – the Gifts of the Three Kings

cb-Christmas-joy-gift-baskets

Father Christmas, or Santa Claus, is quite a recent Christmas tradition. But gift giving began with the very first Christmas, when the Three Kings brought gold, frankincense and myrrh to the Christ child.

In Spanish tradition, the Three Kings – Los Reyes Magos - are still the gift givers on Christmas Eve, and though Father Christmas has spread his influence in Spain, the charming legend of the Three Kings continues to this day.

The Three Kings do not arrive until the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6. This is the Twelfth Day of Christmas and marks the end of the celebrations. Like Father Christmas, children can write to the Three Kings and ask for gifts. Spanish stores hire people to dress up as the Three Kings as part of Christmas displays, and nativity scenes, or nacimientos, always include the Kings in royal regalia.

It is customary for village people to go out carrying torches and making a great noise to meet the Three Kings as they arrive with presents for the children, who are told that the Kings have sneaked past when they fail to materialize. But in many bigger towns and cities, a grand procession is held, with the Three Kings arriving on a float, boat or riding donkeys, or even camels, distributing handfuls of candies to the waiting crowds of children. This parade is called the cabalgata.

Instead of hanging out their stockings, children place shoes by their beds for the Kings to fill with candies, nuts and gifts. One of the most loved Christmas candies is a sweet nougat confection called Turron, popular for five centuries.

While little is known of the original Three Kings, legends have grown up around them. In the Bible they are called Magi, or Wise Men, astronomer priests who plotted their course by the stars to the birthplace of Christ. They receive only the briefest mention in the Bible, and that does not include their names. It was only presumed there were actually three of them, because they brought three gifts.

But somehow these mysterious visitors to Christ’s crib took hold in the public imagination. By the Eighth Century, they were named Melchior, Gaspar and Balthazar. Melchior is traditionally the oldest of the three, a seer old man with white hair and a long white beard. Gaspar (also known as Casper) is younger, with dark hair and beard, or sometimes clean shaven, and Balthazar is always depicted as a black man, King of Ethiopia.

The three gifts they brought to the Christ Child have many interpretations. The simplest one is that all three – gold, frankincense and myrrh – were precious substances, suitable gifts for the babe who would become the King of Kings. But they also have more abstract meanings.
Melchior brought the gold, which later came to be associated with the purity of Christ’s love; Gaspar brought frankincense, later associated with the incense burners in church ritual; and Balthazar brought myrrh, a bitter substance used in embalming, which came to be associated with the Passion of the Christ.

Legend tells that the Three Kings later helped spread the Word of Christ, and that today their remains are buried in Cologne Cathedral. The Shrine of the Three Kings is a magnificent gold sarcophagus, but whether it actually contains the bones of Melchior, Gaspar and Balthazar is a moot point.

Nor does it really matter, because they continue to live on and bring joy to small children all over Spain.

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Perfect Christmas Gifts for Nursing Home Residents

There are three things you need to know about the social dynamic in nursing homes before you select a gift for a loved one who lives in a nursing home or assisted living facility:
The major complaint of most residents is BOREDOM.
There is often a fierce competition between elderly women around the holidays!
The day after Christmas around most nursing homes is a lot like “show and tell.”

If you have a family member in a nursing home, the best gift you can give them is, of course, your presence. If it’s possible to visit them several times around the holidays, it’s a delight for them. If it’s not possible, a longer Christmas visit is important. It’s difficult for residents without visitors to watch their roommates or other residents receiving friends and family members, especially on special days like Christmas. And when you visit, don’t go empty-handed!

Gifts to Fight Boredom

To relieve boredom, patients love books, movies, music, crafts, and visitors. The problem is that most residents find it difficult to read and operate technologically advanced devices. While you might think a portable DVD player with movies is the best gift ever, it might end up sitting on a shelf unused.

If you are lucky enough to have a loved one in a facility with a lot of caregivers and volunteers, an electronic device is possible. It’s important to discuss this with caregivers before you invest in the purchase. Be blunt, and ask what the odds are of someone being around to help your loved one operate the device.

Another option is to purchase a simple device and “tweak” it a bit to make it easier to operate. If your father loves books but has a hard time reading, audio books on CD and a personal Walkman-type device would be perfect if you take a bit of paint or a marker and brightly color the Play button only. Don’t get ambitious and try to color-code the rest of the buttons. Keep it simple. If the CDs are plain or both sides look the same, mark THIS SIDE UP in the middle (label) part of the CD. Be sure to give a supply of batteries to the caregiver who is responsible for his room. Write your relative’s name clearly on the battery package using a piece of masking tape or a label.

Craft gifts are a good idea, but you really have to be careful about the types of crafts. Avoid anything with long directions in small print. Also avoid activities that require a steady hand or intense concentration. Even if Grandma always knitted, her eyesight and arthritis might prevent her from being able to these days. Getting her needles and a box full of yarn might only remind her of something she once enjoyed but can no longer do.

A better craft idea is a large scrapbook kit, a box of family photos, and a glue stick. It’s something creative that Grandma will enjoy without straining her eyes or hurting her hands.

Men generally prefer more practical gifts like fur-lined walking slippers, a new robe, or large print books if they are still able to read.

The Unspoken Female Competition in Nursing Homes

OK, it sounds a bit silly, but it happens! It’s a lot like an office full of women on Valentine’s Day. Although they’ve all told their husbands they don’t need flowers delivered at work, there is an understood competition between them, and they are all aware of who got the largest bouquet!

Even if your Aunt Sue says not to make a fuss for Christmas, make a fuss! The bigger presentation, the better! Overdo the wrapping of presents. Make sure the paper is flashy and there are lots of bows and ribbon. If there are two gifts, don’t wrap them in the same box. A big bouquet of flowers in addition to gifts will make her feel even more special! Organize the family so everyone visits at once on Christmas. She’ll feel more included in the family holiday, and having a large number of visitors is a big source of pride in nursing homes.

One of her gifts should definitely be framed photos of children or grandchildren. Women in nursing homes often have bragging contests about their children and grandchildren, and they love to show off pictures of their families.

While you want her to feel special in front of all her nursing home friends, you should also include a small gift, card, or treat for her roommate, especially if you aren’t sure if she gets visitors. It’s just a nice thing to do, and it will make your loved one proud of you.

Show and Tell – The Day after Christmas

For all of the residents who are able to leave their rooms and move throughout the nursing home, the day after Christmas is “show off day,” where the residents show each other the cool gifts they got for Christmas.

Keeping this in mind, skip the practical gifts for another time, and choose gifts that can be worn or shown off throughout the nursing home or assisted living facility. For women, this means colorful, fuzzy or silk scarves or beautifully embellished sweatshirts with lots of color and shine. Although your loved one would probably appreciate a comfy pillow for their wheelchair or a warm blanket, you should save those gifts for another time (unless the blanket is a throw that was hand-knit by a niece that she can brag about to others). A “show and tell gift” gives them something new to talk about with their friends, caregivers, and volunteers. It’s a way of making the special occasion of Christmas last longer for them.

Giving your loved one a bright, new nail polish color and doing her nails on Christmas is an excellent and inexpensive gift that she will enjoy. Manicures, pedicures, and styling or coloring hair are excellent “spa” type gift that you can do yourself and Grandma will really love!

It is more difficult to find gifts for male residents. Many like new hats – either baseball caps of their favorite team, hunting caps if they were once outdoorsy, or spiffy driving caps. Tennis shoes or nice looking, comfortable casual shoes are always a big hit. Unlike most women, men will usually be honest when you ask them what they would like or need. Women usually say they don’t need anything, but men will sometimes tell you they’d like a new sweat suit or pair of pajamas.

If your loved one is mentally challenged or has advanced Alzheimer’s, concentrate on a gift that provides textural stimulation or comfort. A large, incredibly soft teddy bear or a brightly colored squishy pillow filled with polystyrene foam beads that you can’t stop squeezing make excellent gifts. They will enjoy these types of gifts, and the gifts will also increase interaction with other residents and caregivers who will make a fuss over the cute teddy bear or want to give the soft pillow a squeeze.

Don’t just bring flowers on Christmas. To nursing home patients and assisted living residents, Christmas gifts mean a great deal. If you don’t have a lot to spend, it’s alright, because homemade gifts are special. Sentimental gifts are always touching, but silly and light-hearted gifts go a long way to brighten the day. Your gift should be something to make them feel special, loved, and remembered.
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Great Ideas for Holiday Gift Baskets

pc-season-cookie-boxHoliday gift baskets have long been a favorite to give and to get, but many of the commercially produced gift baskets lack creativity, imagination and style. In order to create a truly unique and interesting gift basket it is important to know a little bit about the recipient, and to plan accordingly.

There are many recipients for whom gift baskets are the perfect choice, including office associates, business colleagues and customers. These gift baskets are perfect as corporate gifts as well, and many companies provide their employees with colorful and fun gift baskets as a way of thanking them for their service throughout the year.

While corporate gift baskets and gift baskets provided to business associates may all be the same, often consisting of bottles of wine, cheese, cookies, crackers, chocolates or other foods, when it comes to family and friends you may want to put your own unique and personal spin on the gift basket by creating baskets they will find charming, different, and useful. Consider these ideas for some truly unique holiday gift baskets:

The Golf Lover’s Basket – A large basket filled with golf balls, personalized tees, golf club covers, and other items. You may also want to include a book of golf tips or a gift certificate for greens fees at a local golf course.

The Travel Basket – The travel enthusiast on your list may enjoy a basket filled with travel essentials. Some of the items you may want to include are neck pillows, travel wallets, passport holders and travel guides. You may want to include a gift certificate for travel services or frequent flier miles as well.

The Chocolate Lover’s Basket – Just about everyone loves chocolate, and creating a gift filled with gourmet chocolates, chocolate chip cookies, hot fudge ice cream toppings and packets of hot chocolate is sure to be appreciated by those chocolate lovers on your list. You may want to include a couple of your favorite chocolate rich recipes as well.

The Pet Basket – The pet lovers on your list are sure to enjoy a basket filled with lots of pet friendly goodies. Among the items you can include in this special basket are dog and cat toys, special treats, gourmet dog biscuits and catnip. In lieu of a basket, you can package it all in a fluffy cat or dog bed. You may want to include a gift certificate for the local pet store, or a contribution to the local animal shelter in the recipient’s name, as well.

These gift basket ideas are of course only a few of the many items that can be used to create the perfect gift baskets. After you have all these great items assembled in an attractive basket, all you need to do is wrap it all in some red or green cellophane, tie it up with a big bow, and give it a place of honor under the Christmas tree.

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Wedding Shower Gift Ideas, Wedding Gifts, Bridal Shower Presents

cb-wedding-gift-basketA happy couple you know is getting married and it’s up to you to come up with some wedding shower ideas. Don’t panic, it’s not that hard! The first thing to consider is what type of shower will it be? Do you want to host the same old traditional wedding shower, or do you want an event that will be remembered as the shower of the year?

Traditional wedding showers with traditional wedding shower ideas are nice. Everyone has them. You send pretty invitations, guest bring traditional wedding gifts and you play games like scrambled words and the memory game. Then you eat cake and go home.

Why not plan a theme shower that will be the talk of the town for weeks to come! In fact, wedding showers don’t have to be just for females anymore. Jack and Jill showers are coed and include everyone. These wedding showers are casual and can be held in the afternoon as a barbeque, or in the evening as a cocktail party.

Themes can be incorporated such as A Honeymoon Party, where guests bring gifts related to travel and decorations represent the couples’ destination for their honeymoon. A Barbecue theme may include gifts such as outdoor cooking accessories and so on.

If you want to keep it girls only, there are still dozens of wedding shower ideas that are fun and exciting. How about a spa & beauty shower theme? Candles, bath products and lotions are great gift ideas for this theme. One popular game for this type of shower is smell the herbs. Place 10 different types of herbs in 10 different Styrofoam cups. Cover each cup with aluminum foil and poke a small hole in the middle of the foil. Pass the cups around and let each guest smell the herbs. Whoever guesses the most wins. A small scented candle makes a great prize. A similar game is played with scented candles.

Another fun wedding shower idea is a Japanese Tea Bridal Shower. Invitations may be decorated with Japanese letters or brush paintings. Decorate the room with dragons and Buddha’s. Red and black decorations should be incorporated. Light incense and play Asian music to set the mood. If you are really into the theme you may serve Sushi, but have an alternate dish also. Green tea is also on the menu. Japanese teacups make a great shower favor. Gift ideas include exotic teas, China, candles and holders and Oriental music as well as Zen items.

Whatever direction you decide to go, traditional or theme, planning is key to your success. Don’t wait until the last minute. First decide your budget. Next organize your guest list and allow enough time for guests to receive invitations and RSVP if necessary. A wedding shower is normally held about 8 weeks before the wedding.

If you are having a theme shower you may want to match the location to the theme. If that is not possible, decorations and music may be used to set the mood. Every wedding shower has a least one game to break the ice, and prizes are a must.
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Holiday Fun - Inexpensive Christmas Family Activities

PC-Chimney-Sweets-COOKIE-TOWERChristmas is usually a time for family activities. If you are looking for an alternative to the hustle and bustle of this holiday or perhaps looking for a more inexpensive way to celebrate Christmas, here’s a list of some inexpensive Christmas family activities.

Present Exchange

A present exchange is a great way to share the Christmas expense especially with a much larger family. There are many ways you could approach the present exchange. You can do a random gift exchange. This involves putting everyone’s name in a hat and pulling at random who you get a gift for. You may want this secret by not telling the person who is getting a gift. A neat variation of this would be to put numbers in and whoever matches them gets gifts for each other.

Grab Bag Gifts

Dollar stores and other places of similar intent have great gift ideas for a grab bag gift party. This can save a lot of money especially for kid’s gifts. The grab bag gifts can also make great stocking stuffers. You could use plain brown paper bags to put the gifts. Then decorate the bags with ribbons, markers, crayons and the like. You could enlist the help of some willing kids to help you decorate the gift bags. Small toys such as cars and dolls are great grab bag gift ideas.

Homemade Gifts

Making your own gifts is a top way to save money at holiday time. From gift jars to homemade holiday cards, there is something to make for everyone on your list.

Gift jars are a great gift for the cook in your life. These can be soup mixes, cookie mixes or even herbed rice or pasta. Just get a good clean dry mason jar. Make sure the lid fits tightly. Mix in the dry ingredients of the recipe and attach an instructions tag to the jar. Add labels for a more festive look or add ribbons to the jar for decoration.

Sample Soup Gift Jar:

Fill the jar with beans. Examples are a bag of 15 bean soup, kidney beans or a white bean such as navy beans. Add favorite spices such as black pepper, cayenne or oregano. Attach a tag that explains what to do with the beans (i.e. boil the beans until done in enough water to cover the beans).

Another soup idea would be to add a couple cups of pasta such as egg noodles or rotini noodles, appropriate spices and maybe some dried vegetables such as carrots or celery. Don’t forget to attach the instructions.

Holiday Cards

You can make holiday cards or Christmas cards with any basic craft supplies. You will need:

glue
markers, crayons or colored pencils
scrap paper such as construction paper or other colored paper
heavy card stock
ruler
scissors
extra craft supplies such as foam pieces, felt, toothpicks, sequins, buttons, string or yarn and glitter

First, decide the size of the card. This is easiest if you know what size envelope you will be sending out the Christmas cards in. Cut the appropriate size from the heavy card stock. You can make a card that folds like a traditional Christmas card but it is not necessary. Use the ruler for even sides.

Next, decorate the card appropriately. You can add glitter, buttons, foam shapes, drawings, even photographs to the card. Make sure to let any glue dry before you send the card. A homemade card is sure to get responses.

Picture Frames

Grandparents and other relatives especially like picture frames of the kids and family. You can take simple picture frames you buy at any craft or hobby store and decorate them up with sequins, glitter and foam pieces.

You can also make a twig picture frame.

1. Choose the picture that you want to frame.

2. Find some twigs that are of the same size. In a pinch, you can use craft sticks or dowel rods.

3. Cut out a backing a little bit bigger than the size of the picture. You can make this backing from heavy paper such as card stock, felt or thin cardboard (like the kind you get from cereal boxes). Cut out another piece the same size. This will be the front. Cut the center from the front piece so that the picture shows through. Glue the picture to the backing. Then attach the front piece. Let it dry.

4. Glue the twigs to the picture frame. You can add sequins or other decorative items to add your own flair to the picture frame.

Have a Family Get Together

Whether you get together with family or friends, it doesn’t have to be an expensive get together. Have a simple party at a family member’s house or a friend’s house. Since many families sometimes have family members who live considerable distances, consider a place or home that is easy travel for those long distance relatives.

A family get together can bring the family together for game time. Bring plenty of board games and other types of games. You could invest in a couple of DVD games (both new and classic) that are now available. Board games can be fun for the whole family, even a younger generation.

Keeping Under Budget

Most holidays cause a little bit of stress on all parties involved regardless of the budget. But staying to budget can be easy with a little creativity and simple activities. Remember that a little goes a long way and it really is the thought that counts.

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