Thursday, December 9, 2010

Reaching for the Ultimate Christmas Experience - 10 Tips

As a child, Christmas was a magical time of year. The kitchen was overflowing with holiday delectables, the decorations materialized overnight, and gifts were piled under our picture perfect tree. Then I became an adult, wife and mother. I am left to wonder where the instruction manual is for Christmas? Did my copy get lost in the mail? TwitterMoms and Hasbro Ultimate Gifts teamed up to ask bloggers for their ultimate holiday season tips. I think this was a great idea.

In order to survive the adult world of Christmas, I need to follow lists as well as collect tips and tricks to pull off the whole shebang. So, want a little peak at my collection of festive insight? Sure you do! Just consider this my Christmas gift to you.

1. Santa knew to have a list and check it twice... though I am not as concerned about the naughty or nice of it, I do need to stay organized. Lists can be helpful friends. I keep a purse sized calendar with important party dates and times as well as notes on my personal deadlines. I know that December 11th is my target for sending out cards, and my cranberry sauce can be made 3 days ahead of the big day. Try to budget your time wisely. I also keep little notes on prices of desired items. That way I know a good deal when I see it.

2. Make extra hostess gifts and wrap a spare present or two. I make simple hand made gifts for our close friends. I don't want to obligate anyone to reciprocating with an extravagant  gift, and I don't want my friends stuck with more "stuff". So, I usually bake or make mixes to give out. I try to make a few more for taking along to our Christmas parties as hostess gifts, or in case I need a last minute present. You never know if someone will be inadvertently left off the list, or you will yourself receive a surprise gift.

3. Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring... so why be up wrapping? I am a bad procrastinator, but the last thing I want to be doing the night before Christmas is a marathon wrapping session. Wrap your gifts as you buy them and keep them in a larger box for easy transport and so nothing gets lost. The night before Christmas you will need your beauty sleep!

4. Meal Plan... not just the big one. During the holidays breakfast, snacks and lunch can be overlooked. In order for me to keep my crew fed and happy, I will be writing out a simple meal plan to cover three days... Christmas Eve, Christmas and the 26th is my DH's birthday. Look at some make ahead favorites like a stratta or breakfast casserole that can be nutritious as well as save you time.

5. Shop ASAP. If you haven't finished your holiday shopping yet, consider finishing soon. I dislike crowded stores and though there might be a great deal last minute, it doesn't seem worth it if I am stressed out right before Christmas. My goal is to be done by the first week of December. That way I can enjoy the month and spend my free time doing the baking that I love.

6. Set the Mood with Music. My ultimate Christmas involves a little mood music set by Bing Crosby, Andrea Bocelli and Nat King Cole. It is hard to be in a bad mood with the those great voices reminding me all about the glorious holiday season. I am also a huge fan of the Christmas Wee Sing collection for my children. It gives our family a great chance to sing together and really get in the mood.

7. Giving is Good for the Soul. Everyone has their favorite charity for the holidays. Since I have young children, that is where our focus goes. Donating toys for local children always makes me feel good and promotes the magic of the season. I can imagine the smiles on the recipients faces and feel good about playing santa for someone I don't even know. Whatever your interests and personality, there is a charity out there for you to get involved with. Even though charities need items and help all year, it is still nice to spread Christmas cheer, too.

8. Get Up... and Get Out! Nothing is healthier for your family than to get out of the house this time of year. My family loves the snow and we have already gone out for our first family ski trip. But, if skiing isn't your thing, consider bundling up for a little sledding or go all out with a stress releasing snowball fight. No matter what you choose, it will get your family moving  and out into the fresh air. Miraculously, this always causes my family to be in a better mood.

9. Pitch in and Decorate as a Family. When I was little, as I mentioned, my parents did all the decorating. With my children I want them to be more involved. This includes a bit of paper, safety scissors and tape. Our decorations are not expensive, but I am sure my children will remember the time we spent making our home festive. My perfectionist side still has trouble with this, but I want the holiday to be more about our family than being picture perfect.

10. Try Something New. The holidays are built on traditions, but traditions have to begin somewhere. This year I will be trying my hand at a few new baked goods and hopefully will find a new favorite. Combining new finds with the beloved classics will be my way of striving for the ultimate holiday. There are so many new things

So, do you have any tips or tricks to share? I love comments. Do you have a favorite tip of mine? If you comment on this post, as always, you will receive an extra entry into any current giveaway. Don't forget to take a peak at the collection of Hasbro Ultimate Gifts.

Celebrate the season through a limited time collection of toys and games by Hasbro:!

Hasbro 2010 Holiday “ULTIMATE GIFTS” include:
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(Ages 8 years & up/Approx. Retail Price: $49.99/Available: Now)
(Ages 8 years & up/Approx. Retail Price: $119.99/Available: Now)
(Ages 4 years & up/Approx. Retail Price: $179.99/Available: Now)
(Ages 5 years & up/Approx. Retail Price: $89.99/Available: Now)

*Disclaimer - I wrote this blog post while participating in the TwitterMoms and Hasbro Ultimate Gifts blogging sweepstakes, making me eligible to get a $50 Gift card to use at! For more information on how you can participate, click here.
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