Tag Archives: holiday decorations

Holiday Home Entertaining Tip – Stocking Stuffers!

Holiday Stocking Stuffer vert

A fun update for an ancient holiday tradition.

I think one of the most fun and endearing holiday traditions is Christmas stockings. When I was a kid, it was a way to get a lot of candy. By the time I was a teen, the presents I had found in my stocking got a little more sophisticated. One year, I got my first really nice watch. That was a really happy memory.

As far as the history of the stocking stuffer goes, apparently that’s how everyone got their gifts, from the earliest time when the holidays started until about the 1940s. One of the stories I read goes all the way back to the 4th Century when the European legend of the guy we know as Santa Claus first emerged. St. Nicholas, as he is also known, heard about a poor man who didn’t have enough money to take care of his children. St. Nick, being a rather clever man, tossed bags of gold directly into stockings that were hung by the fireplace to dry. BAM. There’s where legend and a centuries-old tradition merge.

While the stocking stuffer became more a thing you did with kids, I think the tradition has gotten a bit more trendy among adults. A friend of mine owns an agency in Santa Monica. He and his wife sew up small stockings for each employee. Then he stuffs the stocking with some candy and the annual Christmas bonus. Nice stuffer! A dance group in New York uses the stocking stuffer as a rather unorthodox way to announce the next year’s list of principal dancers.  Now, that could be either a stocking you want or maybe not!

You can use the stocking stuffer for just about anything – as part of your regular holiday celebration or your annual Christmas office party. Whatever you do, think about the people who will receive the stocking.

Don’t just automatically add candy and snacks – especially among adults. Unless that’s what the receiver would normally eat. Maybe a theme for the stuffers would be a nice twist to the tradition.

For instance, what if you stick with individual hobbies and interests?  If someone you know loves to cook – then think about small and handy gadgets that they would like. Or maybe one of those gourmet cooking sauces. I find plenty of ideas at Crate and Barrel and Williams-Sonoma.

If you’re giving to someone who loves to travel, how about small travel conveniences like personalized luggage tags, organizer bags for cosmetics, little travel bottles that can go through security. I go to the Container Store for those ideas.

Maybe you’re a do-it-yourselfer. In that case, perhaps a gift that comes from you – like something you’ve made. Back to the friend who sews stockings for his employees. He got the idea from his wife when she used to dance in the Nutcracker for a regional ballet troupe. She sewed elves for each of her fellow dancers. About 100 of them. Now that’s commitment.

Unless you have a knack for sewing (or knitting), you’ll probably have to buy the stockings. I’ll make it easy. Try these from Amazon. They have all kinds of styles, colors to choose from – some are funny, some are traditional, and some are knitted socks!

I think stocking stuffers can be a fun alternative to the typical wrapped present. It keeps the whole activity of gift-giving simple and fun for everyone.

Time Management for the Holidays

time management - vertical

My Top 5 Tips for sane and safe planning during the holidays.

This is one of my favorite times of the year, I can plan all the holiday parties I want and not go crazy. It’s the one time of the year that I can turn on all the great holiday party ideas that I’ve been storing up for the year. And you know me, holiday decorations, party themes, finger food, appetizers – you name it – I’ve got something I want to try.

But, this is also the time of year that we can lose ourselves in all the demands on our time. Considering that the usual demands don’t stop – work, the meetings, classes, a visit to the dentist, coffee with a friend, a drive downtown – we’re adding a lot of extra stuff. This is where all those years owning my restaurants comes in handy.

Owning a restaurant is all about planning. A well-managed restaurant is a little like a ballet. The key to making it easy? We never let up. We always plan ahead. And, we’ve always got a plan “B” – you know, just in case.

My Top 5 Tips for Holiday Planning:

  1. Start early – like NOW. If you’re like me and sometimes think it’s a circus up there – write it down! Don’t rely on your memory to hold in all the ideas and schedules in your head. Use that smartphone that you’re carrying around. It’s got a calendar function in there that works pretty well.
  2. Big time saver: make a list of everything that you need to do and update it on a regular basis. Include everything: shopping for gifts, shopping for food – your grocery list, Holiday decorations – whatever. Then consolidate the lists into shopping trips.
  3. Match your calendar with your list. Set blocks of time for everything from your list. Pick a start time and how long you think it will take, but pad the time block a bit and expect delays. They are inevitable. Do as much early as you can i.e. – anything that doesn’t spoil try to buy way ahead of when you will need it.
  4. Multitasking isn’t always the best idea any time of the year. But, it’s particularly true this time of year. In fact, multitasking too many different things often produces a disaster. Speaking for myself, I focus on one task at a time. Make it right. Then move on to the next.
  5. Follow your plan and schedule as closely as possible. If, for some reason, something is delayed or postponed, reschedule it immediately or delete it entirely. Resist the temptation to “save” tasks that – for whatever reason – cannot be completed as planned. Reschedule or move on.

Along with my “TOP 5” holiday planning tips, make sure that that you always think about doing something nice for yourself each day. Whatever it is – some quiet time, a hot bath, watching your guilty pleasure – just take time in the day (or evening) to do something you like to do for only you!

And, most important of all, don’t forget to breathe. The bustle of the holidays may encroach on your space a bit. Some of the tasks may pile up – especially if you have kids (or friends and relatives with kids). The stress level may climb a bit. Remind yourself (if you can every day) that you’re in control. Your schedule is your key to getting everything you need accomplished for the holiday season.

Remember there are only 24 hours in a day. If you schedule too much for one day, prioritize and start taking things off your list – if you can – try to delegate what you can’t get to. You’re only human! It’s OK to say no.

How to Plan Your Holiday Shopping

holiday shopping - black friday - cyber monday

SIX SHOPPING TIPS to help you from being “cyber-crazy” this holiday.

 

It’s that time again – time for the year-end holiday traditions: the Christmas office party, finger foods, holiday decorations, and gifts. OMG, did you forget the Secret Santa Gift – again? You rush headlong into the mall and BAM – you’re smack in the middle of another tradition: the start of holiday shopping season.

Take a breath and remember that it only happens once a year. Retailers have been calling the day after Thanksgiving “Black Friday” for more than 60 years. The theory is that the term “Black Friday” originally came from the Philadelphia police department because thousands of people would descend on the city the day after Thanksgiving ahead of the annual Army/Navy football game on Saturday.  The stores took advantage of the crowds with big sales and the police were stuck with long and very busy shifts.  They weren’t happy.  But, the shoppers were!

Why the rush? It’s historically a day when retailers pull out all the stops to get shoppers into their stores. Retailers called it “Black Friday” because the volume of sales could put a retail store back into “the black” with enough profit to cover the entire year.

It’s also, historically, the best day of the year to get a great deal on all those holiday gifts you want to buy for friends – and for yourself. But these days, it doesn’t stop there. If you’re an online shopper like many people are now, you can avoid the crowds, the lines, the hassle of brick and mortar shopping, and get in on some pretty good deals. Retailers got wise pretty quickly and created “Cyber Monday” just for you.

The whole weekend has morphed into the biggest shopping weekend of the year (sales begin to be advertised more than a week before with some retailers posting ads as early as October); enough cyber-crazy to produce more than $3 billion in sales last year. Some retailers will also push out good deals through Tuesday. So, from Thursday (with some starting midnight Wednesday night) to Tuesday, you can literally shop until you drop – or your fingers get too tired!  Big Retailers already have their ads out for Black Friday.  If the retailers are planning that far in advance then it just makes sense then that we should plan ahead too, right?

Here are Six easy tips to help you survive this holiday shopping season and not spend more than you planned:

Tip One – Make your shopping lists for everything including electronics (iPhone, Xbox, etc.) and set the price that you’re willing to pay now. That way you can jump on the deals when you recognize them.

Tip Two – The technology deals are best on Thanksgiving and Black Friday but some may get better the closer to Cyber Monday/Tuesday you get.  But, don’t wait and hope to see a lower price than the one you’re happy with because it’s possible the item will sell out before the end of the day.  Remember – once an item is sold out the store will not honor the sale price – if it’s sold out – it’s sold out.  Cyber Monday has gotten pretty good for “soft goods” like clothing, shoes, even beauty products. There are even great deals on travel – mostly for year-round presales for resort hotels and spas.

Tip Three – Buy from companies you know – Amazon, Best Buy, Walmart, eBay, and so on.  The holidays are a very bad time to test out a new online shopping experience.

Tip Four – DOUBLE check the return policies – because you never know. Remember that whatever the store policy was last year, it’s a good bet they’ve changed it this year.

Tip Five – Don’t forget to check shipping terms and conditions. Sometimes you’ll find excellent deals that can save you a bundle on shipping. How about that Secret Santa gift? Remember that the faster you want something, the higher shipping costs. It only makes sense.  All the more reason to plan ahead and shop with plenty of time to spare.  About that sometimes nasty shipping cost – if you’re a late shopper you may have traded one hell for another. Your choice might be to either get swallowed up by the thick crowds at the mall or be hammered by very expensive overnight shipping costs.

A friend told me about her experience last year. She waited until the very last week to do her holiday shopping online and wound up paying hundreds of dollars in rush shipping fees to make sure that the gifts arrived on time. She said that one gift that she bought cost less than the overnight shipping fees. I was astounded.

Tip Six is for the deep divers: I found this great stream on The Verge for the best Black Friday/Cyber Monday deals all in one place. The deals change quite a bit, so go back and check it often.

Keep it fun!