Greet the girls with green!

St. Patrick's Day greetings

Staying in contact with our friends is important. We can easily go under the radar and not be heard of or seen for weeks. St. Patrick’s Day can be an excuse to

send out a greeting to your friends. Whether or not they celebrate it or not, it just says “Hi there!”. They’ll appreciate hearing from you, even if its not a call or an email. In this age of social networks, we need to remember that we’re more than just a picture on a screen. Stay in touch! A handwritten card shows you took the time to remember them.

I always like to use stickers and stamps on my cards. Here’s an example of what I’ve done with my St. Patrick’s Day cards. You can find these cards in packs of 8.


Advertisements

Valentine’s Day Gift and Decor Ideas

Here’s some ideas that will cost you little money and time to put together.

#1-Try to get most of the items you need at one store if you can.

#2-Keep it simple, yet give it the “Wow” factor by making the gift into an arrangement or placing an item in a cute box.

#3-Try to find items that you know will go with their home decor.

#4-Buy in multiples for teachers.

Here are some sites that have great Valentine’s Day gifts and decor

For Valentine’s Day Ornaments check out Bronners.com. You can have a couple of them personalized.

Another great site for decor and ornaments is Christmastraditions.com.

Williams-Sonoma.com has great sales on some of their baking essentials, like dragees and decorating pens.

For hand made gifts, try Etsy.com

Terrysvillage.com, Partycheap.com and Personalizationmall.com

Basic materials are Scotch Tape or double sided tape to attach items to trays or plates. Ribbon and cellophane wrap from Hobby Lobby.

For teacher’s gifts this year, I purchased a set of 6 “LOVE” balloon holder/picture holder paper weights. I added a jewel on each one for a little sparkle. I purchased a box of 6 petite four Valentine’s Day magnets. Each one has been placed in a tiny treat box with mini doilies. I tied them off with ribbon. These are simple yet thoughtful gifts. For a busy mom, this shouldn’t take up much of your time putting them together. I found the mini doilies, mini treat boxes at “HEB Cypress Market”. The magnets I stumbled on at a local gift shop “II Friend’s Gifts” in Cypress, Texas.


This slideshow requires JavaScript.



Celebrate Friendships on Valentine’s Day 2011!


January is almost over and we’re speeding ahead into February…which means Valentine’s Day is approaching!

SHOW YOUR FRIENDS YOU APPRECIATE THEM!

We often think of Valentine’s Day as gaudy and girlie. It could very well be a happy day or a bad day, depending on your relationship status. Maybe its just like any other day because you don’t celebrate it anyways. We often just do dinner with our spouse, give the typical gifts, buy a box of cartoon character Valentine’s Day cards for our kid’s classmates.  I know most people find themselves at the grocery store the night before their child’s Valetine’s Day class party. You end up getting  some conversation hearts. Maybe you already got your significant other something earlier.

Guess who you probably forgot though…YOUR FRIENDS!

Just the simple gesture of sending them a card will brighten their day. How about raising it up a notch!

Candy gets eaten and ends up on our hips. Cards get thrown away. You may not be able to see them at all in the month of February due to your conflicting schedules. Depending on your budget and your time, you could do something nice to show your appreciation for their friendship.
This is the first year I’m doing a Valentine’s Day tree. Why not? I bought a fluffy feathery tree at my favorite craft store, Hobby Lobby, last year. My intentions were to have an “Easter Tree”. So I hung some egg ornaments on it and it was small enough to put on my fire place mantel. It was cute. I packed it away and didn’t think about it till I started getting the urge to decorate for Valentine’s Day. So I pulled it out of storage and went online to find cute Valentine’s Day ornaments and garland.

Christmastraditions.com has really cute ornaments for every holiday.

So this year, I’m sending my closest friends a Valentine’s Day gift they can bring out every year. I found an inexpensive Valentine’s Day tree  on Terrysvillage.com. Under $10 before tax and shipping.
That site accepts Retailmenot.com coupons as well for larger purchases.
I know the tiny tree will work well with my friend’s decor. I’m having it shipped directly to him.

A friend of mine up state has 2 little kids. Instead of sending candy, I ordered a personalized puzzle with their names on it from Personalizationmall.com. This site also accepts Retailmenot.com coupons. The kids can put it together and use puzzle glue to preserve it.

As for my friend, their mother, I’ve assembled a few things she can use in her kitchen with the kids. A sparkly plastic heart shaped plate from Target, a Valentine’s Day dish towel (from a pack of 2) and a set a Valentine’s Day sprinkles and cookie cutters from Target ‘s value bins. This is an inexpensive gift, but its reusable!

She can make memories with the kids by baking cookies with them every Valentine’s Da y from here on out. These items don’t have to be expensive, but I want them to be reusable and enjoyed year after year. To put this all together, I’ve placed all the items on the plate and wrapped it in pink cellophane wrap (available at Hobby Lobby, also in other colors).

I bought a couple of spools of Valentine’s Day ribbon from the value bins at Target. You don’t get much, but you get just enough to tie up cookie cutters together and tie off the cello wrap.

DON’T FORGET THE BABYSITTER!

We love our babysitter. She’s a newly wed and soon to be home owner. She’s moving from a condo to a house. Valentine’s Day is one of her favorite holidays.  I found some really neat keep sakes and housewares she can use years to come.

Since she’ll be entertaining a lot after she moves into her new home, I got her a pretty but inexpensive Valentine’s table runner from Partycheap.com. I liked it so much, I ordered one for my table! Under $7 for a 6ft runner!

She loves to table scape, so the runner is right up her alley. I found a cute 2 tier sweets dish with hearts and polka dots. She’s a big polka dot fan, so once again…its PERFECT! I put in a couple of dish towels, cookie cutters and cookie sprinkles. Because this is her first Valentine’s Day as a newly wed, I went on Bronners.com and ordered a personalized heart ornament, which she can hang up in her kitchen or on  a future Valentine’s Day tree. The ornament was the highest priced item, $12. Everything else was under $10.

TEACHERS!

We have to remember our kid’s teachers! I needed 5 gifts for my son’s teacher’s gifts. I found picture holders that spell out “LOVE” (like the sculpture) on partycheap.com for under $3 each. Minimum order of 6! Perfect, so I’ll have one left over. I’ll attach a school picture to them. I’ll be baking some heart shaped sugar cookies which I’ll place in Valentine’s Day cello bags. Wrap up the picture holder in Valentine’s Day colored tissue paper and place the cookies with it in a Valentine’s Day gift bag. Easy and inexpensive! I found a set of 6 petite four magnets that are decorated for Valentine’s Day. I placed each one in a tiny treat bag with a mini doilies.

GRANDPARENTS!

The grandparents in our family watch what they eat, so we don’t give them candy, usually just one large heart shaped cookie in a cello. Last year, I got an oven mitt/dish towel set from Hobby Lobby. It was inexpensive, about $11. I just placed it in a gift bag with tissue. Just a little something to brighten up their kitchen for Valentine’s Day. Of course, a home made Valentine’s Day card from the kids were given.

If you search for these items ahead of time, in early January for instance, a lot of sites have sales. Valentine’s Day seems to be an after thought.


Friends are special to us too! Why not show them you appreciate their friendship. Of course, we don’t want to just give material things. We need to give our friends our time, our ears for listening and our words of wisdom and encouragement. The little “material” things are just tokens.

Depending on your tastes and life styles, you could also do a Valentine’s Day Tea or brunch with your friends. Tea rooms are great places for some “friend” time. Great conversations over tea and a light lunch, is a nice break from the routine of our day. Maybe meet at a place that serves breakfast all day, like La Madeleine. Bring a little Valentine’s Day bauble for them. It’ll make them feel special.

We should appreciate our friends and family everyday, but having a set day every year helps us remember them.

Don't Forget Your Girlfriends for Christmas 2011!

1930's Spun Glass Angel Tree Topper

ORNAMENTS AREN’T JUST ORNAMENTS!

So  “that” time of year is now over. You’re either “over it” or you’re having the post Christmas blues. If you’re having the post Christmas blues, planning  ahead for next Christmas may help reduce your  post Christmas funk.

After becoming a mom and meeting other moms, I’ve realized that we tend to neglect our old and new friends because we are so focused on our own families. Lets not forget our girlfriends! Its easy to forget your girlfriend’s birthdays and forget them for holidays. Remember when you would all get together for drinks for birthdays? Then kids came along and that all went out the window. Now you’re booking your child’s parties, making cup cakes and goody bags. Its hard shopping for friends when you’re adults. Chances are, most of your friends probably have everything and don’t really need another picture frame or cookbook.

What can you do that doesn’t break the bank, is fun and won’t get in the way of our busy schedules?

START AN ANNUAL ORNAMENT EXCHANGE!

SET A DATE EARLY IN THE FALL! It seems like everyone’s households get chaotic right about Halloween time. Just when you’ve caught your breath from the kids starting school, the holidays jump at you! Instead of just setting a date, I begin by emailing my friends my availability for “November” for instance. Ask everyone to figure out what dates they are available for a few hours. When everyone can agree on a date, then you can narrow it down to “where”.
GIVE YOURSELF A BREAK! Although you may be the “planner”, don’t add to the stress by hosting it yourself at your own home. If its “November”, chances are, you have pumpkins out and aren’t quite ready to pull out the Christmas decor just yet. So think of some places that you and the girls can all enjoy. Send out an email asking where everyone would like to meet. Figuring out what time of day or night can be done much later. Maybe do a Sunday Brunch while the hubby can watch the kiddos. Try an “Early” Saturday night dinner to avoid messing up your nightly routine at home too much.

AVOID AWKWARDNESS! We have all had this happen. You’re out with the girlfriends and the check comes. Faces that were smiling change to blank stares. Its the “awkward” moment of the evening. “Do we all pay on one check and just split it up?” or “Do we all pay separate?”. We all know there’s going to be someone that had more drinks than the next girl or the one who wanted an appetizer that you didn’t want to eat. It changes the mood when money is the topic. Make is clear to the waitstaff that you want separate checks. It may be a pain for the waiter, but everyone will be held accountable for their own meal, drinks and tip and there’s no “awkwardness”.

SHOPPING FOR FRIENDS. There are plenty of places online that have sales on their ornaments in the summer and fall.  In southeast Texas, its hot here till Halloween, sometimes even on Thanksgiving. Its hard to get into the Christmas spirit if its 88 degrees outside! So shop online instead. You don’t have to drag the kids out with you all over the place looking for ornaments. Tell your friends about the sites you’ve found. They may not know where to go to get ornaments pre-season.  Date the ornaments if possible “From Suzy 2011” with a Sharpie. Some sites will personalize your ornaments.

Every year that your friends unpack their ornaments, they’ll see what you got them from the year before. They may have already forgotten about them. It really is a gift that keeps on giving year after year. You can do this with your friends that live far away from you.  Christmas cards are nice, but they get tossed. They may hang around for a while if there’s a picture on the card, but eventually it ends up in the trash.

I love cookies just as much as the next person, but cookies get eaten. You may receive the recipe for them, but its not as special as an ornament.

SHOPPING FOR FRIEND’S KIDS. Remembering your friend’s kids is important as well. Maybe your kids don’t play together but she’s still your friend and you love their kid too. Shopping for toys can be stressful. First, you have to find out what they’re into, then find the item but stay within budget. The kids will get plenty of toys for Christmas, why not get them an ornament. They may not appreciate it quite as much now as they will later.
KIDS, GETTING OLDER & CHRISTMAS.  My personal experience with Christmas is that of happy memories as a young child, then sort of blah “Who cares” attitude as a teen, to liking it again…but now I love it! I regret not appreciating my grandmother’s ornaments. Her ornaments spanned the decades of the 1930’s-70’s. A mix match of themes, but it all worked somehow. I was in “Awe” as a child, then as a teen, I really didn’t care. I just wanted to get “cool” gifts and get back on the rotary phone to call my friends.

Years have passed and I didn’t give much thought to my grandmother’s Christmases. I didn’t think much about the effort she put into making everything  “Merry and bright”.  I’ve long forgotten about the gifts I received year after year. But what I do remember are the decorations and all the hard work she put into making Christmas happen. The big retro multi-colored lights on the porch. The mercury reflective ornaments on the tree. The Christmas nick knacks all over the tiny house. Then, the mother of them all…the 1930’s spun glass and tinsel angel topper. I was lucky to find one that looked just like hers on Ebay. I put it up on my tree this past Christmas. She’s a little damaged because she’s been used, but its vintage and reminds me of what I should of appreciated before.

I know my kids will grow out of the “Awe” stage when it comes to Christmas. They won’t be as excited about the decorations and the twinkling lights. They’ll probably only care about getting “cool” gifts when they’re teens. They will probably blow off Christmas as young adults. I know at some point in their adult lives, maybe after they start their own families, they’ll appreciate the Christmases they had as children. They will have the ornaments I bought for them. I will make sure they get passed down whether they get hung or not.

A sad comment was made by someone I know. She said that she loves to decorate for the holidays, but that her sons said that they really didn’t care that she did or didn’t. Her sons are in their teens and early 20’s. They’re at that “I want cool gifts/I don’t care” age. It hurt her feelings.

I told her my experience. How I had that attitude as well, but now that I have my own kids, I really appreciate what my grandmother and my mother did for me for Christmases. I told her that when her sons have their own families, they’ll remember Christmas, when it was magical and exciting. They’ll want that same feeling of warmth for their own kids. The grand kids will appreciate the decorating at “grandma’s” house. They too will make memories.

How I wished my mother would of kept the ornaments on my childhood Christmas trees! I would of loved to have them now.

I love my friends dearly and I really love to see the ornaments they’ve given to me of year’s past on my tree.

We all need to remember our friends. Most of them were probably around before your spouse came into the picture. They probably have seen you at your best and at your worst. Taking some time out of our busy schedules to appreciate them is important.

So start planning ahead girls! Make time for yourselves and make time for each other!

I did an ornament exchange in September this year with my cousins. It was really early and our other family members thought we were nuts. We had to because three of them were going to be traveling at different times during the months of October, November and December. We all met for drinks and dinner.

We let the waiter know right from the start that we wanted separate checks so there’s no awkwardness when the bill comes. We all know the bill never gets broken up evenly when there’s more than 2 people at the table.  We exchanged our ornaments and had fun doing so. We later send each other pictures of how the ornaments look on our trees. Date the ornament if you can with the giver’s name. Its a gift that gives each year. Everyone will forget about the ornament after its packed up, but it’ll put a smile on your face when you bring it out again. The only thing we did differently this year is that we all pitched in to get one of the girls a small artificial Christmas tree. She had started her life over and didn’t have any of her Christmas decorations from before. We couldn’t let her receive ornaments and not have a tree!

I had another ornament exchange with my friends. We made a day of it. We had to plan way ahead for this one since we also bought tickets to see “A Christmas Carol”. We had brunch, exchanged ornaments, went to see the play and had dinner. We did more than we normally do this year, but we planned way ahead for it and it worked out.

Ornaments are also a great gift idea for your friend’s kids that you won’t necessarily be seeing during the month of December. Personalized ornaments are a great idea! I like “www.personalizationmall.com and “www.RussellRhodes.com. Have one made up and have it shipped. You won’t be adding to the clutter of toys they may already have. Kids get bored and forget about the Christmas gifts they get. Who knows if someone else will give them the very same gift. Mom’s love keepsakes! Its a gift that will give every December.

I ordered 3 “Baby’s First Christmas” ornaments this season! I haven’t seen the babies in ages. I have no clue as to what they have and they’re too young to have preferences. I ordered personalized ornaments for all of my son’s teachers as well.  All on sale and all with coupons on top of that.

I didn’t break the bank with any of these ornaments.  I watched the ornaments on  http://www.personalizationmall.com all summer to see if any would go on sale. When they did, I bought them. I even was able to use a http://www.retailmenot.com coupon as well. I haven’t been able to use one on http://www.RussellRhodes.com.
Since I’ve been Christmas shopping all year round, I don’t get quite as stressed out during the holidays. I started keeping track of lists of gifts on Google Documents. Whenever I get an idea for someone, I’ll type it in. My husband also logs on to add suggestions.  Start your Christmas stash as soon as Christmas ends. Keep it all in one spot, labeled and document it on some kind of spread sheet.

BAKING

Baking gifts isn’t anything new, but its one of my favorite things to receive and to give for Christmas. When do you have time with work and kids? I don’t have much time, so I start preparing early. I make a list of who I’ll be baking for and how many each friend will need. Some of my friends have families and some don’t.  I buy my ingredients in bulk the first week of December.  I make batches of doughs and store it in the freezer or fridge, depending on how quickly I can start baking. PARCHMENT PAPER! I can’t believe I discovered this beautiful product only about 7years ago while watching Martha Stewart baking. No clean up! No sticky mess on your baking sheets and no artificial chemicals to keep your baked goods from sticking.  I plan out when I’ll be seeing the people I’m baking for.  This insures a fresh product and you’re not going out of your way either. My neighbors usually get their cookies first. Then teachers, coworkers for my work and my husband’s, the hairdresser and manicurist when I see them for my appointments, my chiropractor who I see often and the wonderful lawn mowing guys.

I bought some cute personalized baking tag from Personalizationmall.com for my baking this year. You can get them in a sticker label or a hanging tag.


The uncommon Gift

Now that my friends and I have been in our 30’s for some time now, we have all come to realize that we’re harder to buy gifts for.

We all have established homes with just about every gadget you can think of.  So what now? What will the recipient fall in love with the moment they open their package?  I’ll be sharing with you uncommon gift ideas, my favorite shops and online stores to get “The Uncommon Gift”.  Some may seem over the top, but some may seem overly practical. I’ll also share crafty gift ideas, organizational tips, party planning and recipes.