Monday, December 29, 2008

Winter Essentials

Winter Gear?

How do you keep all of your winter gear organized (hats, scarves, gloves, etc.)? What space do you use? Most of us use the coat closet while some of you may use any available floor space - you know who you are! :-). For those that do use a closet, some simply throw their items on top of the closet, some throw things on the closet floor, while others use baskets. I personally love utilizing baskets.


Baskets can be used for almost any and everything and in any room; they come in all sizes, shapes, textures and colors. Baskets are especially great to use when you are in a rush. You can toss something in there quickly and go about the rest of your busy schedule. It also allows you to keep things out of the way, off the floor, and out of sight. This certainly gives the "illusion" of being organized. Don't worry so much that the basket itself is disorganized, that can be rearranged when you actually do have time (or if you have time).

One issue that I always have is that it is hard to see things in the baskets when they are on the top shelf. I am constantly pulling things down to figure out what I put there in the first place. So, here is a new way to view what you have in your baskets without this constant hassle - try turning the baskets on their sides. This allows you to see what you have in there at a glance.

As you can see in the picture below, I also added wooden letters (which I purchased from Michaels) with a ribbon looped through each basket to give it some personalization. In my family, there are 4 of us, but our closet was not wide enough to hold 4 baskets. So, I purchased 3 baskets and 3 letters. Luckily my husband and I share the same first name initial (and we were OK with sharing a basket). You may also use other items to identify who the basket belongs to - pictures, drawings, favorite colored ribbons, a favorite ornament during the holidays, etc.

Bigger Household

If there are more than 3 to 4 members in your family, or you just have too many items to share a basket, try topping the baskets on top of each other. You might need a small step stool to reach the higher baskets but you will still be able to see things at a glance. You could also put some baskets on the floor of the closet for the younger or smaller ones and the top shelf can be utilized by the older or taller members of your family. Keeping the baskets on the floor could make it easier for the younger ones, especially if you are trying to help them be more independent (although be careful to only put essential items in there, so there is no confusion of what to pull out during the morning rush).


Don't forget your pets, they are certainly part of the family and can also have their own basket which could include clothes, leashes, doggie bags, treats and toys.

Keep in Mind: One thing to always remember when using baskets in your mission to be more organized is that although they are a fast and easy way to put things aside, make sure that you only put similar items in to each one. If you use one basket to hold a hodge podge of items to disguise your mess, you are only going to cause more frustration for yourself. You will be unable to find anything, which in turn, will only cause more disorganization and further undue stress.


Another way to hide your Winter items in a hallway or even in your foyer is to get a storage bench. These work well to keep items hidden as well as giving you an area to sit down to put on your shoes. You can put small baskets in there to separate items for each person in your home. You can also put shoes in here, in case the hallway closet is overflowing. Some benches also have shelving and/or coat hooks incorporated in to them for more storage.


If you have enough area in your home for a mudroom, make sure that you are able to use the space efficiently. You should have an area for coats, back packs, muddy shoes, etc. Storage lockers or shelving with hooks and drawers are a great start. A couple of places that I think have great mudroom storage items are Art and Artifact and Pottery Barn.

For those with pets, Pottery Barn has a unique storage unit that doubles as a doggie bed.

If these items are too bulky for your mudroom or it doesn't fit all your needs, I would suggest getting a professional to view your space. They can come up with a plan that is designed for your specific needs and area specifications. Here are a few places that can help out with this (they can also help based on what you are willing to spend, so don't feel that this is something that you cannot afford).

Enjoy creating a less cluttered home!


Monday, December 22, 2008

Fun Holiday Ideas and Crafts

Computer Fun

This is a neat idea where you can upload you or your children's photos in to funny customizable videos especially around the holidays to share with family and friends. currently has some of the best videos for kids, including an amazing illustrated storybook about a princess for little girls, a non-stop action comic strip about a super hero for little boys and a funny spoof about holiday "it" toys like Tickle Me Elmo and Furby that is fun to watch.

There is also JibJab videos that has the famous Elf dances that many of you have probably already seen (check out the video of our family above). Go to the following JibJab and upload your own pictures and watch as you and your friends, family or even pets are featured in their funny videos and e-cards. This is great as a substitution for Christmas cards or to just send out for fun. They have these for many different occasions as well. You may also purchase actual greeting cards and gifts (mugs, mousepads and playing cards) on this sight.

(Last minute add) Here is a really cool website for those of us who have kids that still believe in Santa Claus. With a clever three-step process, Capture the Magic allows parents to upload a photo of a room in their house decorated for Christmas then you can drag and drop in a stunningly realistic image of Santa into the room and then finally download it to share with your children on Christmas morning via your computer. The cost is $9.95 for the first picture, the 2nd one is free, and anymore after that costs only .99 cents. Trust me, I think your kids will be surprised and excited without a doubt to see Santa in their own home dropping off his gifts.

Unique Gift Wrap Ideas

Here are some links that show beautiful pictures of great wrapping ideas.

Gift Wraps and Bows

Gift Tags

Creative Projects

Low Cost Christmas Projects

Christmas Crafts

Candle Display

Finally, another fun thing for the family or a couple to do together is to make cookies or to put together a gingerbread or rice krispies house. Make sure you have enough sprinkles and candy so that you can be as creative as possible.

Since my next post won't be until after Christmas, everyone enjoy your holidays! Merry Christmas and hug the ones you love.


Elf Yourself

Send your own ElfYourself eCards

Monday, December 15, 2008

Last Minute Holiday Ideas

Since the holidays are approaching fast, most of your "Holiday To Do List" items might already be finished - gift shopping, decorating, as well as ideas for parties.

In case you are not there yet, here are some quick last minute ideas.

Gifts ($25 and under)

For Kids

Try Five Below for some great last minute gifts. Since nothing at this store is over $5, you can get 5 gifts for one child for $25 or get 5 kids, one gift each for $25. Either way it's a pretty good bargain and a quick fix. They have many board games, craft ideas, small toys, books and lotion sets for kids of all ages. They also have many small items, which make great stocking stuffers.

Speaking of stocking stuffers, don't forget to utilize your Dollar Stores for items that are fast, easy as well as inexpensive. If your nearest dollar store seems to be more of a .25 cent store (in other words, it looks and feels really cheap), try to find some other nearby dollar stores. Some of these stores have great items that you would be shocked to see that it only costs $1!

For Women

Yes, we women are difficult to shop for, but there are always items that we need that we may not always buy for ourselves. Let's not get into what we want, because I can be writing for days about those wish lists!

Gloves and scarves; leather gloves can still be inexpensive. Pajamas, a nice robe, lotion sets, and even a throw. Perfume, rain boots, a USB flash drive for those that can't live without their computers. If she has an iPod, get some accessories for that. She enjoys a certain hobby, get items for that (example: crossword puzzles, word finders, sudoku - there are books for that; loves to draw or paint - get art supplies, such as new brushes, a drawing pad or paint; loves to read - get a book she has been wanting to read or get a gift card from a nearby book store)

Stocking stuffers - a new brush/comb, candy or chocolate that she likes to eat, hair accessories, hair products, or even a gift card to her favorite store.

For Men

Men are a little easier, although some of you can be picky too. :-)

Gloves, scarves, ear muffs, pajamas, a thermos, or a universal battery charger for his phone. Hobbies that he might have (enjoys tinkering with his car -a magnetic arm band that holds tools on it while he's working; enjoys taking pictures - a mini tripod or a camera strap; travels a lot for work - a mini travel set; sports enthusiast - anything related to his favorite team).

Stocking stuffers - a tie, cuff links, a book (maybe even comics, go ahead and indulge him), chocolate, a USB flash drive, a lens cleaner for his eye glasses, or accessories for his iPod/iPhone.


Sometimes we have unexpected visitors and wish we had something to give them. What is always nice and useful to have is a quick stash of "extra" gifts for just these types of occasions. Remember to always keep extra gift bags, tissue and wrapping paper as well as extra cards around - I think that blank note cards work best, since it could be useful for any type of occasion. I would also suggest keeping these items in a storage container along with a pen, tape, scissors and labels in there so that everything is all in one convenient spot.

Items that are nice to give are diffusers, soap or lotion sets, wine or sparkling apple cider, a nice coffee mug or hot chocolate set for two, chocolates in a nice tin or one of the smaller Godiva boxes, popcorn tins, jam sets, or even a set of assorted teas or coffees.

Tip: Something to also keep in mind is that even high end stores, such as Nordstroms and Lord and Taylor do have bargain racks and around the holidays you will find items (mainly clothes) that are under $50 and some are even as low as $5 (!) that used to be priced at over $100, so don't be afraid to at least check out these stores; even if it's for yourself. No one ever said you can't give yourself a little gift on Christmas.


A lot of stores are having sales of 30-50% off of their Christmas and holiday decorations to try to get these items out of the stores. So, if you still haven't gotten a wreath, garland or any other decorative item - go do it now. Michaels, Lowes and Home Depot have a huge selection of items to spruce up your home for the holidays. Take advantage of the sales and don't be afraid that you started late in the season, you still have time.

One quick tip: I bought a real wreath from Lowes that was pretty simple and inexpensive and then embellished it with silver and gold pieces that I bought from the local dollar store. Once the season is over, I will throw away the wreath and keep the fillers - either for the next wreath I choose next Winter or to be used in other holiday decorations. You can do the same thing either with a real or fake wreath. Just get something simple and inexpensive; then dress it up with some type of decorative or seasonal filler or even with some beautiful ribbon. No experience is required, just be creative.

Parties and Events

When you have guests over make sure that you have enough of all items in your home, so you are not telling someone to go out for a last minute run to get something from the store. Do your best to have the day of the event be as less stressful as possible.

  • Prepare most, if not all, dishes the night before; this will relieve some of the stress in case a dish you are preparing doesn't turn out well the day of the event.

  • Set up the room(s) the way you want them to look. Put the tablecloth on the table and put all the items where you want them to be.

  • Make sure that you have more than enough trash bags, napkins, utensils, dishes and food items on hand. It might also be helpful to keep extra batteries of all sizes around for toys that all-of-a-sudden don't work. Always keep in mind (for events in your home) that it is better to have more than less.

  • Crafts for the kids. Buy items from a local craft store, there are usually $1 - $3 lanes in most of these places or get a gingerbread or rice krispies house for them to work on; get a few sets if there will be a lot of kids. This will hopefully keep them near the adults for a while before they get bored and run off somewhere in your home.

  • Games for the adults. For those that enjoy playing cards, keep a stack available. Other good board games are Jenga, Scattergories, Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader? or most types of trivia games.

  • Games for all - how about the Wii or some embarrassing karaoke?

By the way, have you sent out your holiday cards yet? Don't worry, I am in the same category; just make it a priority for this week.


Monday, December 8, 2008

Simplify the Holidays

During the holidays, most of us are under a lot of stress. We have gifts to buy, events to attend or plan, homes to decorate, and things to clean besides the day to day duties of our normal lives, which can already be so stressful. Here are some simple things to keep in mind and to do during this time of the year, to possibly reduce some of your stress.

Presents, Presents, Presents

Once all the shopping is done and the gifts are wrapped and put under the tree, why not look around your house to see what you have an excess of or that you no longer need and start putting them in to bags. Take these down to your church, or to an organization such as Value Village. You will feel good that you have helped someone else.



You may feel obligated to go to every event, but once you are there, enjoy it. Stop thinking of what you need to do at home, what you need to cook, what you will be doing at work, what else needs to get done on that growing list of yours. Simply relax. You are not hosting it, let someone else do everything while you simply eat, drink and be merry.


You know when people tell you, "let me know if you need any help"....and we typically don't ask anyone to help? We take every burden upon ourselves. This year, why not try to learn to accept others generosities. We may be particular about how things should get done and when they should get done, but for once, let it go. This only causes more stress. Enjoy that there are people who want to help you and once they do help (cooking, bringing things, cleaning, decorating, etc.), you may find that it was the best thing that you have ever accepted and you may be more willing to accept offers like this in the future.


Cleaning is not always fun. During dinner parties, many feel that everything should be put away immediately after someone cleans their plate. Guess what? It can wait. When you are under extreme stress and pressure, just let things sit for a while (I am not talking about days), but if you feel that kind of stress, clean everything in the morning. Howeer, if cleaning is therapeutic, feel free to put things away, but please be mindful of your guests. Learn to sit (relax) and enjoy spending time with them.

For those who really hate cleaning, hire a cleaning service to clean up after you.

Enjoying the Season

What do you like most about the season? The lights, the snow, the presents, the eggnog? Take in everything, the sights, the sounds and the smells of the season.

Drink some eggnog or hot chocolate. Eat some candy canes. Roast some marshmallows. Crack open some pecans. Crank up the Christmas music. Watch your old holiday favorites (A Christmas Story, Frosty, Rudolph, It's a Wonderful Life, etc.). Attend Church events to really enjoy what this season is all about.

Light Shows

Go to the local parks that have all their Christmas lights and decorations up. I have listed some events that are here in the local MD-DC-VA area.

  • Maryland - Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia ($20 per car); Watkins Regional Park in Upper Marlboro ($5 per car); Festival of Lights at the Mormon Temple in Kensington (free, will need to walk once in); Seneca Creek State Park in Gaithersburg ($10-12 per car); Brookside Gardens ($15-$20 per car, although this is a garden walk); and Sandy Point State Park in Annapolis ($12 - $14 per car)

  • DC - the National Zoo in DC ($12 for non-members, $6 for FONZ members);

  • VA - Bull Run Festival of Lights in Centreville ($15 per car)
Here is a link for further information on all of the places that I have listed above

Petting Zoos

Take the family to one of the many petting zoos and farms in the area. They will sometimes have face painting, train rides, and arts and crafts for the kids to do along with refreshments. Some farms have reindeer, such as the Applewood Farm in Whiteford, MD. My kids loved seeing the reindeer, since it's not something that you would see just anywhere. The picture of the reindeer at the beginning of this post was taken at this farm.

Here is a listing of some local farms:

I hope some of these ideas will help you learn to enjoy the simplicity that the holidays hold!


Monday, December 1, 2008

December - Happy Holidays!

I love the holidays because it allows me to be a little creative; plus my children enjoy seeing things that are a bit unexpected; it keeps the wonderment of youth alive.

I have put together some great ideas to get your ornaments and holiday items put up and still keep things organized and attractive.

What to do with extra ornaments?

  • Hang them from the chandelier; you can hang different sizes and use ribbon to hang them at different lengths. Please make sure you don't put anything too close to your light bulbs.
  • Try using different colored ribbons to add an eclectic flair to your decor or change it up for whatever theme you may have going on in different areas of your home. If you have the metal hooks showing because the ribbon was not appropriate to use, make sure that you still cover it up with some type of ribbon - the kind that work best are those with the wire in them to make it easy to bend.

  • Find some (non-breakable) ornaments that are quirky or unique and hang from the door knob of your child's bedroom; or hang it on the powder room door knob so all your guests know which door to use.

  • Put them in decorative, non-decorative vases (to dress them up), bowls, or containers to add just a dash of color or elegance in any area that is lack luster.

  • If they are long, it would be nice to hang them in between railings with elegant ribbon; if you have many, you can put it in between each rail or if there are only a few, why not put them in between random rails?
  • Put some on the mantel among garland - or a beautiful runner. You don't have either? Try using a decorative tablecloth that you can wrap thinly and put on the mantel along with some decorative ornaments and ribbons.
What to do with extra beaded and tinseled garland?
  • Try draping garland (I especially like the beaded ones) around statues or figurines that you have in the house.

  • If you have a tree/plant in the house, wrap it around that or put it in the pot of a planted tree or bush along with some ornaments. If you plan to do this to an outside tree, make sure that it is staked in well and that the ornaments are heavy and not easily breakable, since the weather can be unpredictable.

  • Use the garland as a runner along the mantel.

  • Use the garland around doorways or windows - don't over do the tinsel though, what could be elegant can turn tacky very quickly.

  • If you don't have a fireplace and a mantel, hang your stockings on the railing.

  • Don't have railings, then try to hang them from the back of your breakfast or dining room chairs. Elegant ribbons always work.

  • You can always simply drape the stockings along with the gifts under the tree for a unique look to the presents.

  • If your stockings don't have a loop or it has come off, get a hole puncher and insert a pretty ribbon to hang it up.
A light handed approach on decorations is wise if you are not sure of what is too much. There is a fine line between being organized and being utilitarian as well as from being beautiful to being gaudy. If you think you have over done it - guess what, you probably have. Take one or two items away and stand back to view it.

If you are still unsure, you can always ask an "honest" friend for their advice. You may also feel free to ask me, I will be glad to give you some friendly advice/direction.

Enjoy the season and the beauty that you have created within your home.

I hope that everyone has a great month, full of answered prayers, a touch of peace and a sense of calm.

Have a blessed day!


Whatever It Takes