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Staying in at New Years: Fun Ideas for All

Guest Post by Jen Malik

Can you believe it’s almost here…the last celebration of the year? Coming up the milestone year of 2010 that used to just to be something we heard about in science fiction novels and movies.
We’re planning a fun evening in this evening (fondue…as usual!) – forget the crowds, over-priced events. If you’re doing the same, here are some ideas for you.

For the Whole Family

- Slumber party. You don’t have to invite people over to sleep in the living room in your PJs. Have a family slumber party. Clear space in your biggest room. Everyone can bring their sleeping bag and pillow to spend an evening in the living room. Make snacks, watch your favorite movies and watch the ball drop, somewhere, together!

- Game night. Bring out your board games, electronic games and party games for a rip roaring good time until everyone falls asleep. If you have a karaoke machine, play some musical games while you laugh at each others musical talent (or the lack thereof). Or if your family has moved into the 21st century, RockBand will do the trick. ;-)

- Light up the sky. Shoot off a few fireworks to celebrate the New Year. Of course…be safe and obey all your local laws.

- Make some crafts. It will be a night of celebration, so you can take the day to make some crafts to use later on that evening. Create noise makers. You can use plastic eggs and rice or beans. Fill the eggs and then seal them with glue. Once it dries, paint the outside with festive colors. Another idea is party hats. It’s never a party without hats. Use construction paper, streamers, markers and glue to fashion a special hat to ring in the New Year.

- Prepare a special meal. Since the family is altogether, make dinner together. Each person can contribute their favorite dish to the meal. We love fondue at our house…it’s an all night feast.

Other Ideas

- Host a theme party. Invite guests to your home for New Year’s Eve but ask them to dress the part. How about a favorite movie character theme? What’s your favorite decade? What about sports?

- Teen New Year’s Eve party. If you are not in the mood to throw a party, your teenager might be. Instead of waiting up for them to come home, host the party in your home. Brainstorm with your child as to what the menu will be and how to decorate. They can give you some pointers there. If the parents want to stay, create a room with food and games for you guys.

- Movie night. This is a great idea for a group of friends or dating couples. Each person can bring a movie that they want to see. It can be of any genre or you can request holiday movies. Each person can also bring a snack for the evening. Just remember to turn to the ball dropping at midnight.

Whatever you do…have fun. You don’t need to buy a fancy dress, spend a ton on tickets and a cab ride home. Stay home, stay warm and have a ball.

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas

Guest Post by Jen Malik

I love Christmas Eve. It’s a relaxing night (well, compared to the chaos of tomorrow morning) and offers a little time to reflect while the wee ones sleep. They’ll be jumping on my bed at the crack of dawn (or earlier), so now’s my time.

We usually have a simple dinner in the evening. It’s often our family tradition of fish. On more elaborate evenings, that might mean breaded and fried sole with homemade tartar sauce. On more tired ones, it’s Highliner fish sticks and chips for the crowd. Interestingly enough, both are met with equaled enthusiasm.

After dinner, we get the cookies and milk ready for Santa. And of course, carrot sticks for the reindeer. I never get tired of seeing the look of satisfaction on the kids’ faces when they see they gobbled up their snacks. Funny thing is, they often check the treat dishes before they even look at the presents.

Then the kids are off to bed, but of course, there are a few starts and stops along the way.

“Mommy, I can’t sleep.”
“I’m hungry.”
“When will it be morning.”
“I’m thirsty.”

You know the drill, but eventually, they drift off to sleep and it’s quiet once again. With a glass or red wine, I settle down to last minute wrapping and getting presents under the tree. And of course, the stockings need stuffing too.

I often look through the old photo albums…you know, prior to the digital age…and see how everyone has grown and changed. I think about Granny, who isn’t with us any longer and a few friends that have been lost along the way, but overall, it’s positive thoughts and remembering the good times we had.

Cap it off with a Christmas movie favorite and the night is golden. I can’t let a year go by without watching A Christmas Carol. My favorite is still the 1951 version with Alistair Sim (although I am considerably younger!). I’ll save the hilarious A Christmas Story (remember, Peter Billingsley) for a fun night with the kids and remind them, “You’ll shoot your eye out!” over and over again. They love this, or so I convince myself.

That’s pretty much for me. How does your Christmas Eve go?

Last Minute Gift Ideas

Guest Post by Jen Malik
I’ve never been one to get my Christmas shopping done ahead of time. It just doesn’t feel like Christmas until it’s really time. I got a good chuckle when I was in a grocery line earlier this month and the cashier told me (it was DECEMBER 4!!!), “I’m going to finish my last-minute Christmas shopping tomorrow.”
What?
Last minute?
Well, I guess because in the commercial world Christmas starts well before November even starts, December 4 can seem like last minute. Of course, if you wait until the TRUE last minute and hit the shopping mall, you’re probably headed for some aggravation and disappointment.
However, if you use some of my tips below, last-minute shopping can be much more pleasurable and the recipients of your gifts will probably pretty happy too.
- Food clubs. It’s the gift that keeps on giving. Many of us think of the fruit-of-the-month club or something like that but this kind of thing has caught on. You can find just about any kind of monthly club that your recipient is interested in: salsa, jellies, desserts, wines, beer and even barbeque sauce.
- Gift cards. It seems like such a small presentation, but it is quite a popular gift. Do you know how many people pack the stores the day after Christmas just to return gifted items? A gift card avoids all of that. Have the kids put together some festive wrapping or decorate and envelope for a personal touch.

- Charitable gifts. These gifts put others first and help great causes at the same time. Perfect for the person who ALREADY has everything, you can make a donation to various international charities (wildlife foundations, disaster relief, medical missions, peace keeping efforts and more) in the name of your gift recipient. They will receive a letter thanking them for their donation.

- Food gifts. Before toys and technology, people gave what they had and that was usually some sort of food item. Sweet breads in decorative loaf pans, cakes, cookies and cupcakes still make great gifts for teachers, grandparents, neighbors and friends. Give the delectable offerings time to cool sufficiently before wrapping them.

- Memberships/Subscriptions. Has one of the people on your list been meaning to join a gym? You can gift them a membership for Christmas. When money gets tight, memberships and subscriptions are usually the first to go. Renew a subscription to their favorite magazine or a service like AAA Motor Club.

- Gift baskets. Most stores have them on display at Christmas time. You can purchase one that is already made if you see one that fits your recipient’s tastes. For teachers and coworkers, baskets with mugs and coffee or hot chocolate are a safe bet. Or better yet, create your own with a basket and small items that reflect the recipient.
Overall…have fun. Dress your packages up, make your own cards. The personal touch will always go a long way.

Easy Christmas Dinner Ideas

Guest Post by Jen Malik

I’m looking forward to coming around with a few thoughts over the Christmas holiday while our resident blogger takes a well-deserved break. I welcome your comments and ideas. I love this time of year and hearing about other people’s ideas and traditions.

So let’s get to the heart of the matter here. Christmas is in 3 days (two if you celebrate on Christmas Eve!), so dinner’s gotta get get done. Everyone thinks of the traditional ham or turkey with all the trimmings as the must-have meal, but it’s a lot of work.

You can still have a delicious meal without slaving away all day.  Really!

Ideas:

* Don’t have a lot of guests? Try oven-roasting a whole chicken or even chicken pieces.
* Take a walk on the wild side with a crockpot recipe the family loves. Even a pot roast can be cooked with a Christmas flair by topping the roast with cranberry sauce. Yes, cook the roast with the cranberry sauce on top and sprinkle a little onion soup mix for extra flavor.
* What about a Christmas pizza? A simple idea that can get the family involved. Choose a Christmas-themed pan shape (Christmas tree, bell, etc.) and go for it.

If You’re Still Making The Big Turkey or Even a Ham:

* Choose ready-made stuffing.
* Packaged turkey gravy can help in a time crunch. Just replace some of the water with pan drippings and YUM!
* Packaged mashed potatoes have come a long way. If you haven’t tried them in a while, do a test in your kitchen. You might be surprised.

Of course, if you aren’t into processed foods, things may not be so simple. You’ve just got to get creative with the time you spend in the kitchen:

* Appetizers can be simple. A veggie or meat plate. You can even purchase these fresh items, pre-cut and arranged.
* Don’t go overboard with side dishes. If you’re making them yourself, you don’t have to have EVERYTHING. Just make bigger batches of a few vegetables and other items. They WILL satisfy a hungry crowd.
* But better than making less is getting OTHER people to make it. Enlist all your guest to bring a side dish. Unless they have a specific dish they really want to make, be bold and tell them what to bring. It’s easier for everyone involved.
* Chop vegetables, get the bird ready and do other kitchen prep the night before. Enlist the help of family members and enjoy a glass of wine or a hot buttered rum…or two.
* Don’t be shy about asking for help on the big day. Your guests are perfectly capable of basting, slicing, setting and more.

The important thing is to enjoy the day. Entertaining can be fun, but if you’re running around the kitchen all day, sweating up a storm…it can lose a bit of its lustre.

Happy Holidays

As we all gather with family and friends for the holidays I hope we all give thanks for the things we have. This has been a very rough and tough year for a lot of us and as we move forward into the new year we all hope that things will get better.

I too will be be reflecting and planning for the new year to make things better for all my readers, while taking some time to be with family and friends .

My blog is being hijacked for the next couple of weeks by someone who has signed off as S. Claus. Anyone you might know? I will try to sneak in a few words over that time to be sure to take a look in during your busy holiday season.

If I don’t have another chance let me now wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. May you find what you are looking for under that tree.

Happy Holidays…

Merry Christmas - Bon Noël - Frohe Weihnachten
Image by Garry’ via Flickr

As some of us are getting ready for some holiday cheer, I would like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and Happy Kwanzaa or however you celebrate this season.

I have met some really special people this year who have helped me grow. My ultimate goal, as I am sure it is for the rest of you, is to take care of my family.

I am trying to make that happen with Internet Marketing. And I have some good people who are showing me what I need to know to do that.

I hope you have someone like that as well. Or you could be the one who is showing people the right way to go. In whatever profession.

I know I plan on helping others just like I have been helped. This has been a trying year for a lot of us. Many have lost jobs, homes, savings and lifestyles.

And it may get even worse before it gets better.

We have a new bunch of leaders who say they want to put us in a better situation than we are right now in the US. We can only hope that that is true. Hopefully true for the world as well.

But, we must also help ourselves. Only with our determination can this be accomplished. Let us all look forward to better times ahead.

But for now let us enjoy this special time with family and friends. Make this as merry an occasion as possible for the little ones. They deserve it as their time will come to face these challenges

May we prepare them for the times ahead. And let’s try to leave them something to be proud of.

Have a Happy Holiday. And a Happy New Year.