Sunday, August 30, 2009

Lose Five Pound in Five Years

Five pounds in five years--now that's a doable rate of losing pounds. Although if I take that long, I might not live to see my goal reached. I really wanted to title this "Preparing for the Christmas Spread." And I didn't mean buffet.

This week the Word Quilters will share a few healthy eating habits that we practice or that we've discovered this year. Last season when we posted on this topic, friend and co-author Karen Robbins mentioned a no-cal salad dressing that she uses when she sprinkles one packet of artificial sweetner on salad greens and then squeezes lemon juice over that. It's really quite yummy and zippy in flavor.

Also, when dining out ask for salad dressing on the side. Then dip your fork into the dressing and spear greens onto fork. I tend to use about one-third to half of the dressing by doing this.

The most significant way I keep my weight down is to eat only when I'm hungry and to stop when I'm full. I don't alway adhere to this but even using this method most of the time will help. Also, when you are about to take a bite of something especially snacks, ask yourself, "Am I really hungry or am I thirsty." Often, I find I'm getting dehydrated but seeking food instead of water.

Do a little sacrificing now in order to enjoy a special treat or two at Christmas. OK. I'm not thirsty. This post makes me want a vanilla-ey sugar cookie, the homemade tea cake kind. But I'm gonna go and down a glass of sugar-free orange flavored Metamucil instead. Hey it's filling and maybe this time it will taste like a Dreamcicle instead of orange flavored Creme of Wheat. I've heard the fiber is very healthy for you. As my husband loves to say, "It's not habit forming. I've been taking it for 15 years and I ought to know."
Happy week to any good eating habits and tips to share? Would love to read your comments.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Gathering Friends and Family

There's a song we sang in Girl Scouts that went, "Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other gold." My first Christmas open house was held a year after my mother died. Mom was the spirit of Christmas personified. It was tough those first few years without her. So, in her honor, I decided to hold a Christmas Open House where I would invite friends we hadn't seen in a while and new friends we had just made and neighbors and family and the list kind of went on.

Some invitations were formal. Others were word of mouth. I wanted to make it a day that would be fun for everyone. I had no RSVPS. I asked that if you were in the neighborhood that day, about a week before Christmas, between noon and 9 p.m. to just drop in for a few minutes or stay the day. It allowed for people to stop by and catch a quick lunch or dinner on a full day of last minute shopping.

I made the menu as easy as possible. Sloppy joes in the crock pot, a veggie tray, chips and dip, and cookies I could bake ahead and of course soda pop and coffee. I made lots of sloppy joe and planned to freeze what was left if our turnout was small.

The day started out slowly but eventually our home filled with laughter and song and the warmth of friendships renewed. Each time the bell rang and I answered the door, it was like opening up a Christmas gift. I never knew who was there on the other side.

There were lots of surprises. Folks brought more things to eat, ornaments for our tree, and of course lots of pictures to catch up with each other. Some stayed for a short time and a few others spent most of the day enjoying, as I did, seeing their old friends too.

We had many open houses after that--almost an annual thing while the kids were still home. It's been a few years since the last one. I think it may be time again. Hard to think of friends in terms of gold and silver now though. Mostly I think they are all platinum--it's much more valuable.

Friday, August 28, 2009

BBQ Mixed Grill

Hi Friends.
I live where our climate allows grilling outdoors all year, barring unexpected cold snaps or heavy rain.
Thus, our family staple for gatherings is the beloved Mixed Grill.
Yes, for Christmas, heat up the Weber or other grill on the patio, and put on it whatever your crowd favors.
For four people, for example, it is fun to grill 4 sausages (2 chicken jalapeno and 2 bratwurst), plenty of steak, and salmon, allowing everyone to sample some of each.
Many stores sell sausages that are not pre-packaged, so you can buy several kinds, like 2 bratwurst and 2 chicken peach habanero, for example.
Marinate in soy sauce and olive oil some zucchini sliced lengthwise and put that on the grill too.
If you are inspired put some mushrooms, cherry tomatoes and slices of onion on skewers and add those too.
A delicious side dish is cooked asparagus, set in oil and vinegar or any salad dressing you like, and served at room temperature.
Guests can bring anything they want, from side dishes to chicken wings (which don't take too long to cook).
Bravo to the hearty chef. At my house, this is my dear husband doing the grilling.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Best Christmas Open House

This week each of us co-authors on A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts (available at bookstores & online) are to post a brief blog about party ideas and themes.

I love Christmas parties, open houses, drop-ins, you name it! Especially in the small town where I live, it's a rare treat to dress up and be festive.

One of my girlfriends always throws the best Christmas Open House. Why? Because she begins with a personal touch by delivering her creative handmade invitation door-to-door. One Christmas her invite was a ribbon-tied scroll with the opening words, "Hear Ye, Hear Ye."

Each Christmas her home is filled with oodles of food in fancy dishes - creative presentation - and a wide circle of friends. I always meet somebody new because she has such an inclusive guest list.

Finally, she prepares a small commemorative token to gift her guests. She places her gifts in a basket by the door. I particularly remember the basket of silver glass ornaments with the date artistically etched in gold and a red ribbon looped through the top hook so it could hang it on our tree. Her takeaway treat is not only a generous gesture but a marvelous way to remember her family year to year. I can't wait to see what she comes up with this year.

How do you throw the best bash? Leave your comment here to share with the world.

Brenda Nixon,
Co-Author, A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Christmas Cookie Swap Party - by Trish Berg

Sometime from late November to mid- December, you can host a Christmas cookie-swap party. It is a wonderful way to save time and money, and have some sweet treats all season long for holiday guests.

It is so much simpler to cook in bulk and make a LOT of one type of cookie, then swap so you have a wide variety of cookies. It also saves money on ingredients since you can buy ingredients in bulk.

Here is how it works:


1. Ask 2-10 friends to swap Christmas cookies with you.

2. Each person chooses one or two types of cookies to make, and make 1 dozen of that cookie for each person in the swap. (i.e. 10 swappers means I make 10 dozen nutmeg logs)

3. Each swapper puts 1 dozen cookies on paper plate, and covers with Saran wrap. Bring all cookies to swap with you.

4. Place all cookie plates on table, and each swapper goes home with 10 doze DIFFERENT cookies (assuming 10 swappers.)

You can place cookies in freezer bags and freeze until closer to Christmas if you want to save some of the cookies. and enjoy!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Avoid 911 With The 411 On 311

We travel a great deal. I’ve been through the security routine countless times. You would think I would know better than to wear a belt but a couple years ago, I decided that if I wore a pair of loose pants on our trip, it would be more comfortable and would give me a little space for those extra pounds we tend to tack on during vacation. Needless to say, it required a belt. The buckle wasn’t very big so I thought it would make it through the metal detector without a problem. I was wrong.

The female security guard came over and asked me to step on the mat with the little feet drawn in white and spread my arms. I told her I was sure it was my belt but she had to wand me anyway. Sure enough as she passed it over the buckle it went off.

“You’ll have to remove your belt,” she said.

“I can’t,” I told her. “If I do, my pants are going to slide down.”

Without the least bit of compassion she said, “It’s that or we have to go into one of the private rooms.”

Bob is standing by the Cinnabon case tapping his foot. Now I know if I don’t hurry here, he’s going to buy a Cinnabon and send his sugar numbers sky high. So I removed my belt and hung onto my pants.

“Arms out,” she said.

“My pants will fall,” I said.

She folded her arms and stared me down. I put my arms out and prayed. The wand passed quickly out to the tips of my fingers, down and up one leg and started down and up the other as I held my breath hoping to make middle big enough to hold the pants up until she finished. Just as she started up the second leg, I had to exhale. I could feel my pants begin to slide—embarrassment was only a moment away. Just as they were about to let go, she caught the wand in a belt loop and yelled, “Gotcha!”

I truly think she enjoyed the challenge.

You can avoid an emergency going through security by following a few simple steps:
The most important thing to remember right now is the 311. Simply stated it’s only 3 oz each of liquids and gels that can all fit into a 1 qt. see-through plastic Ziploc bag per person. Prepare this ahead of time and remember the 311 rule only applies to your carry-on.

As you are waiting your turn in line at security, begin emptying your pockets. Bring along a little bag to toss it in and then it can go in your carry-on to go through the machine. Stuff your belt into the bag as well. Don’t where a shirt with metal buttons.

Remove your jacket, or sweater, or over-blouse—anything that looks like a jacket. Either stuff it in your carry-on or hold it until you get a bin.

Your 311 bag needs to be taken out and placed in the bin along with your other items: jacket, shoes, purse, etc. Video cameras need to come out of their case.

Computers need to be taken completely out of their bag and placed in a separate bin.

And don’t plan to carry on those remote control cars to play with up and down the aisles. They will slow you down in security.

Also be aware that water guns are still considered weapons and will probably be confiscated at the security gate—don’t ask me how know.

Lastly, don’t wrap your Christmas gifts before you go even if they are in your checked luggage. You may find TSA has unwrapped them to check them out. It’s best to send gifts on ahead by USPS or UPS or FEDEX or reindeer. I don’t think Santa has all the security checks we do.

Friday, August 21, 2009

My one holiday travel tip

I have one travel tip for airline flights, which I learned from a friend who goes to Europe about once a year. She indoctrinated me with her mantra of "only take a carry on bag. If I can go to Europe for a month with one carry on, you can fly within the states with just one small suitcase."
Per her advice, five years ago I began traveling with just one carry on suitcase which I carefully measured in the store before I bought it, so it fits the carry on luggage rules. My suitcase is 22 inches tall, but check your airline rules for size since rules vary.
Boy, what a blessing to skip the whole waiting at the luggage claim carrousel time.
And of course, the airline won't be losing any checked luggage of yours.
Don't pack it too heavy, so you can lift it to the storage bins above your seat.
I love this idea and hope you do too.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

One if by land, two if by air . . .

By air
If you’re flying, shop around and book early. Possibly look at flying into a nearby, less busy airport. Or fly at off-peak times, early morning or late night.
Arrive early. You will encounter hassles. Not running late on top of that helps minimize stress.
Pack light. Ship gifts ahead. Ask your host if they’ll have basic essentials (shampoo, toothpaste) so you don’t have to lug around all those extras. You can live with using someone else’s brand for a few days!
Prepare ahead: have necessary phone numbers, itineraries, e-ticket printout.
Take quiet toys/games/books to keep kids entertained.
Smile and be pleasant. Remember, airline personnel can be stressed. They’re working up to the last minute—or perhaps even during the holiday. Keep your cool and you’ll get better service.

By land
Driving presents more options (you can take more stuff), but that’s not necessarily a good thing. You can have a tendency to take too much! Make a list before you pack and stick to it.
Wrap gifts when you arrive at the destination or, at the very least, wait to put on bows.
Again, have plenty to keep the kids entertained (DVDs, books, games). But take advantage of the time you’re together, too. You can listen to a family-friendly book on DVD. Our family loved Where the Red Fern Grows, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, and Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh.
Lower your expectations. It will take you 20% longer to get there than you think. (Gently remind Dad of this fact, too.) Know that your car will be trashed by the time you arrive. You’ll have to make unexpected stops, but that’s really OK. Your parents probably had to stop and let you go potty when you were small!
Take advantage of the togetherness. Talk—have real discussions with your kids. Reward them for good behavior or kindness to one another.

The Wilson family drives everywhere (Branson, MO, the beach at Gulf Shores, AL, South Padre Island, TX, my hometown of Evergreen, CO). We’re conditioned, but we also make the trip itself a time of purpose, instead of simply the means of getting us to the real fun. Of course we have our moments—arguments, getting sick in the car, almost running out of gas—but these simply serve as the backdrop for some of our favorite family stories.

Now we want to hear from you. Won’t you share some of your favorite family travel experiences or tips for making travel a bit easier?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Holiday Travel Made Easier by Brenda Nixon

Holiday Travel can be fun, chaotic, memorable, a drag, stressful, or all these! When you travel with kids, it's all those and more; throw-up on the window, the rotten egg under the seat, fungus-covered "I don't know what that is," mismatched toys and hairbands, stale French Fries, and mountains of wadded-up candy wrappers.

When my girls were young we lived several states away from family. Holiday travel became a fine work of art in our home. Here are some ideas that helped us and might make your holiday car travel easier:

  1. Check out books and games from your local public library for the drive.
  2. Take frequent (every 3 hrs) breaks to let the kids run off steam.
  3. Consider driving over-night while the kids are asleep (hopefully).
  4. Play car games as a family.
  5. Sing silly songs together (One trip our family of four, along with my sister-in-law, changed the lyrics of a familiar children's song. Today, we still laugh about it!)
  6. Rotate seating. Allow each kid have a turn sitting in the front passenger seat.

Enjoy your holidaze in the car with your kids!

Brenda Nixon,
Co-Author, A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

10 Holiday Travel Tips - By Trish Berg

There is a lot of information out there in holiday traveling, but here are my top 10 tips.

Top 10 Holiday Travel Tips

1. Book early
The earlier you book your flight, the more options you have on prices, lay overs and airports.

2. Shop around
Whether you're using booking sites, bid or auction sites, check them all out online. During peak travel season, casting the net as wide as possible will help you understand all of your options.

3. Check alternate airports
This is pretty standard, but at this time of year it can really make a difference. At no time can the alternate airport gambit pay off better than during the holiday crush. You can score on almost every front -- parking, rental cars, traffic to and from, nearby hotels -- and save on both time and money, and might even have a more pleasant experience.

4. Travel light to save hassle and money
Packing light is always a good idea at peak travel times, but this year it could save you money, as many airlines have decreased luggage weight allowances and charge per bag. Pack a bag small enough to carry on, and you even save the baggage claim hassle.

5. Travel early or late in the day
As a rule, airports are least congested at times when normal human beings would rather be at home or even asleep. Delays are far less likely for morning flights, and airports usually unclog as the afternoon and evening peak passes.

6. Bring diversions.
Take along work, books, MP3 player, laptop. Things that can keep you busy as you wait. Time will pass faster.

7. Keep Pertinent Info Handy
Have phone numbers for everything: your hotel, your car rental agency, your airline, friends at your destination, and a print out of your ticket or hotel reservation in one place, like a folder in your briefcase or purse.

8. Fly Non Stop
Choose nonstop flights. The worst, most brutal delays occur in connecting airports, where you have no home, friends or family to retreat to.

9. Don't Wrap
Do not wrap gifts, especially if you intend to carry them on the plane. Even in checked baggage, there is a strong chance they will be unwrapped for inspection by security personnel. Consider gift bags instead.

10. Get a Gift Card for Food and Drink
To make life easier at the airports, get a pre-paid Starbucks and/or McDonald's Card so you can pull it out and grab a coffee or a snack on the go without having your debit card accessible or cash to hassle with.
And whatever your travel experience brings, remember to be joyful. The journey should be part of the experience, part of your holiday celebration.

Sunday, August 16, 2009


Travel at Christmas. We'll give you ideas this week for making your holiday travel a bit less hectic. Karen, one of the Word Quilters, is a traveling guru, and I'm sure she'll have great tips. Throughout the year, I travel several times a month with my husband but our family never traveled much at holiday times. Since grandparents lived within a few miles of us, our holiday travel meant a ten minute ride over the hill and through the woods to grandma's house. But if you travel frequently, I have a tip that works well.

I don't pack my clothes or hair dryer or makeup, but I keep a small carry on bag packed and ready with all other overnight essentials--several doses of a nightly medication, shampoo, toothbrush and paste, shower cap, hair spray, hairbrush, etc. I also keep a list of last minute things that I don't want to spend extra to duplicate and keep in the bag. On an index card tucked into the bag is my last minute list of clothing and things to add such as my hairdryer, cell phone charger and other extras. By keeping my bag semi-packed, I avoid a lot of repetitious work and thinking throughout the year.

I've noticed an aside bonus too, we help our four elderly parents and on occasion I've gotten calls in the late evening and went to attend to their needs not knowing if I would need to spend the night at their house or even make a trip to the hospital. Within minutes, I could be out the door with everything I might need for several day's stay.

Another tip, always do what the truckers do each morning--they pre-inspect their trucks. Walk around your vehicle and watch for water and oil leaks and low tires. If in doubt, use a tire gauge to measure air pressure. Low air in front tires can cause a blow out and possibly an accident.

If you are traveling with children over the holidays, check out the printables, games and such, for kids at Family Fun. These are even coordinated by states. And for Mom and Dad a travel itinerary and car trip list is available for printing.

Do you have travel tips you could share with us? Please do. You might save a parent's sanity or even help a family be safer through the holidays.

Photo: from left Leslie Wilson, Judy Bowyer, and Cathy Messecar at A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts book debut in Abilene, September 2008

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Global Gift Wrapping

There are two places in the world where wrapping is taken to a whole new level whether it is for a gift or just for a purchase in a store. In France or Japan when you make a purchase in a store, it is carefully and neatly wrapped in paper and secured with a piece of tape. It is not just tissue paper as some of our stores do. It is more like a gift wrap paper. Your purchase is ready to be given as a gift when you walk out the door of the store.

The Japanese are especially careful about their gift wrap since gift giving is a big part of their culture even when it's not Christmas. By the way, they celebrate Christmas with a trip to KFC. Its become such a tradition that lines form around the block on Christmas day. But I digress.

In Japan you will also see gifts given in a piece of cloth, wrapped and tied neatly. This gift wrap is called furoshiki. (Click here to see some examples.)

Whether it is paper or cloth, the wrapping of the gift is as important and significant as the gift itself. Should you find yourself in the fortunate position of receiving a gift from someone who is Japanese, be sure to unwrap it with care and respect.

All of this reminds me that Mary wrapped God's gift to us, Jesus, in swaddling cloths. A precious gift wrapped with loving hands.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Raffia and recycled paper gift wrap

It is easy to help the planet when choosing gift wrap and ribbons. I am a fan of natural raffia ribbon. The natural raffia is made from Raffia palms, with 20 species native to Africa and especially to Madagascar, and 1 species found in Central and South America.

Raffia can be found in most stores that sell stationery and gift wrap. Some raffia is made from rayon, so I look for the raffia made from the palm trees.

You can buy raffia in its natural beige color, or dyed in many colors. Also, by typing in “recycled gift wrap” in an online search you will find many appealing wrapping papers made from 100% recycled paper. is one company I found which sells some pretty Christmas wrap at a good price.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Let's Wrap!!

My kids have always enjoyed the outside package—that is, the gift wrapping—almost as much as the gift itself. So, through the years, I’ve had to come up with ways to be creative in the presentation of the gift. Here are a few of our favorites:

The Scavenger Hunt
My husband and I devised a series of clues (a riddle, a rhyme or a photo) to guide the gift recipient to the location of the next clue. We usually did this for a larger, or pricier, item, such as a bike. One year, in particular, we sent our youngest son Reese all over the house, searching in closets and cabinets, under rugs and furniture, even lifting the toilet lid, to find the next clue. The final clue included a string that he followed to the garage, where his new bike awaited him. He appreciated—and needed—the gift, but he liked getting to it just as much!

The Box-in-a-Box
Our daughter Molly is particularly fond of this wrapping method. It was either Molly or Reese who complained that “whoever invented gift bags took half the fun out of Christmas.” While the percentage might be exaggerated, the sentiment isn’t. Kids enjoy the frenzy that accompanies pulling off bows, tearing off ribbons, and ripping wrapping paper. They like watching the pile of trash grow around them—a signal that it’s been a big haul. To that end, I wrap a box within a box (repeated!) until the outside gigantic box beckons my curious daughter for days. She loves the thrill of opening the smaller and smaller boxes until she reaches her prize!

Wrap Music
When it comes to wrapping gifts for other friends and family, get the kids involved:
Label items—so there’s no confusion later on
Gather plenty gift wrapping tools (scissors, tape, labels, pens, bows or ribbon, glue gun)
Heat up some cider, turn on Christmas tunes and sing while you wrap
You may either wrap individually one item start to finish or set up an assembly line, where one person cuts the paper to the correct size, another wraps and tapes it in place, another adds bows and ribbons, and another writes and puts on the tag.

My sisters-in-law, Kendall and Claudia, have creativity oozing out of their pores. Some of their innovative, clever, and beautiful ideas for wrapping (and adornments) include:
Burlap, dishtowels, leftover wallpaper, the “funny” pages (Sunday comics), plain brown or white paper stamped with Christmas stamps or drawn on by the kids
Instead of plain ribbon, they’ve used raffia, silk flowers, pine cones, tiny ornaments, even craft scraps (fuzzy balls or googly eyes)
For gift tags, they’ve used the previous year’s Christmas cards or cut recycled paper bags with decorative edge scissors.

These are just a few things that have worked for the Wilson household. How do you do it in your family? Share your ideas for fun or time-saving gift-wrapping tips.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Creative Gift Wrap by Brenda Nixon

Everyone likes an elegantly wrapped gift. It's like they say in the restaurant industry, "Presentation is everything" or those in marketing say, "Sell the sizzle."

One way I use my my creative energy and save a buck is through wrapping gifts in unusual ways. First, it doesn't have to be paper (what a waste of trees anyway); try wrapping a gift in a clean, new hand towel and tie with brightly colored cord. Artistically place your recipient's gifts in a beautiful basket. She might like the basket so much, she uses it to store soaps or misc items. For kids gifts, I might wrap a box with the newspaper's comic strip page.

My daughter "makes" personalized wrapping paper by stamping birthday or seasonal images onto butcher paper. You can also look for recycled paper if you're eco-conscious.

Or don't wrap it at all. A couple of Christmases, I placed notes with clues around the house so my daughters had to scout out their hidden gift.

How do you get creative with your gift-wrapping? Share your tip with me here; I'd love your feedback.

Brenda Nixon,
Co-Author, A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Color Coated Gift Wrap- By Trish Berg

One of the best Christmas gift wrapping tips is to color coat your gifts for each child or each extended family event.

We have 4 children, so from the time they were babies, each child inherited a gift wrapping color, which matches their stocking color as well.

Hannah - Hannah is green. So all her gifts are wrapped in paper that is mainly green.

Sydney - Sydney is red.

Colin - Colin is blue.

Riley - Riley is gold.

I purchase my wrapping paper at the end of the season on clearance prices, and store it in the attic. And keep in mind that the color coated paper does not need to be solid colors. It can be a pattern, just mainly that color. Then you don't have to label any gifts, each child knows their color. I also stack each child's gifts under the tree in a pile all theirs, so they know where to choose their gifts form one at a time to open them on Christmas morning.

As for extended family events, choose one color or type of paper for each extended family gathering so when you pack the car, its easy to see which gifts go where.

We also save all our boxes, store them in the attic, and reuse them every year. Any boxes worth saving (sturdy ones that are nice) make life easier when you are in need of boxes at wrapping time.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Clever Gift Wrap Ideas

This week the Word Quilters will either give you a great gift wrapping idea or we'll share a way to cut your work load through the holidays or get through in a calmer mood than ever before. I'm giving you both.

The first tip is to print free gift tags from these
sites. Use stiff card stock in a natural or light color. Many choices of designs.

To "wrap" up this Christmas, I've watched for satchels and totes markdowns. These can hold sizable gifts and then the recipient will also have a usable tote. Or how about purchasing the eco-friendly store bags and gift your presents inside, encouraging the recipients to keep them in their cars and remember to carry them into stores to use for purchases.

For that special person on your list who needs a break, stuff the inside of one of those totes you find: include a box of chamomile tea, a mug, and a small tin of cookies or a bag of homemade goodies and a paper back book. Write a note giving them permission to take an afternoon off and lollygag.

I can't wait to see what my clever friends have come up with for our relaxing or gift wrapping you have any ideas to share. Let's hear them...thank, readers.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Garage Sale Time!

Since we are getting a jump-start on Christmas planning, now is the time to find the little extra cash that's hanging out in your drawers and closets and basements. I'm not talking about the coins you find in pockets or purses although that could easily accumulate in a loose change jar over the year and provide some extra Christmas money. I'm talking garage sale!

While the weather is still cooperative, take some time to go through toys, clothes kids have outgrown (and maybe you too), knick-knacks, mismatched china, etc., and gather it together. Clean it up nicely. Hang clothes on hangers or fold for display on tables and organize your nicely cleaned garage or yard for a sale. Put a sticker on each item with a reasonable price. (You might go to a few garage sales and see what things sell for.)

Be sure to have some change ready. I'd suggest keeping it in a wallet or small envelope and on your person rather than a cash box that might disappear. Enlist your kids and/or a couple of friends or relatives to help you the day of the sale especially in the morning when you will have the biggest rush of people wanting a first look.

My daughter-in-law has a garage sale the beginning of summer each year and what they earn pays for the kids fun excursions during summer vacation. She even has them bake cookies and make lemonade to sell at their own little table. This could be a way for kids to earn some money to buy Christmas gifts or supplies to make gifts.

Be sure to check with your local authorities to see if you need a permit.

If you're not up to having your own garage sale, perhaps you could take advantage of the ones you see this summer and fall. There are good bargains to be had for gently used toys and clothing.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Money saving credit card tip

Is it possible to spend money to save money?

For my husband and I the answer is yes. We use mainly one credit card from a national department store, which can be used anywhere, and buy all our groceries with it, pay for vacations and gas for the cars using it, and pay off the credit card balance in full each month.

The card has no annual fee, and strangely enough, a couple times a year the store / credit card company sends us a gift card to use at their store. The gift card costs us nothing, and we have the pleasure of going to the store and buying things at no expense to us.

We often use the cards, which are usually for $20 to $100 of merchandise, to get Christmas gifts for family and friends, at no cost to us. This is a good idea only if you pay off the balance in full each month; credit card interest rates can make a balance turn into a nightmarishly large amount owed. For us, this reward system works nicely.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Saving the $$$$$$$

With regard to gift-giving—something it’s nearly impossible to avoid at Christmastime—consider these ideas to help you spend less and have the gift count even more!

First, think like Santa. Make a list and check it twice. If you work from a list (and a budget), you’re less likely to succumb to impulse buys. If you don’t have in mind a specific item for that hard-to-buy for aunt, at least list a category (kitchen item, book, etc.)

Second, comparison shop. Check online sources and weekly circulars for the best deal, incentives or coupons. Again, if you have a specific item in mind, comparison shopping is a breeze.

If you really want a particular item that’s beyond your budget, ask another family member to split the cost with you. Much better to surprise that special someone with a pricier gift she really wants than several smaller items that she doesn’t need.

I hope this helps you as you plan for Christmas shopping. Now what money-saving ideas do you have to share?

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Frugal Finds for Christmas by Brenda Nixon

There are many frugal finds for Christmas if you take the time to look.
Online, you can go to a gazillion freebie websites; one of my faves is Also, "shop" online before going out to the brick and mortar stores. Often you'll find better bargains online because you're not spending gasoline or paying sales tax.

In neighborhood stores you can use coupons, scout out clearance items, and watch for manager sales. Car pool with friends to save gas.

I used to think driving to the store once a week was the best way to save on my budget. My rationale was, If I'm in the store only once, then I'm not tempted to buy unnecessary items, plus I save gas by staying home. While this practice may help some folks, I've since changed my ways. I frequent the stores several days weekly. Why? Because when I pop in, I might find a "just marked-down" item or a one-day only unadvertised sale. Of course, I always take along my coupons and hope that I have one to match the clearance item. And I do not buy just because it's a good deal -- there must be a need for or an eventual use for the item.

Most of the stores I frequent either offer double-coupon value or they match any competitor's ad. By simply showing a manager the advertised price of their competitor, I can get it at that location for the competitor's price -- and that saves me gas and time.

When stores mail me a $10 off coupon good toward any $10 or more purchase -- you guessed it. I can't wait to ferret out a $10 item and then by presenting the coupon, get it free! Recently, I received one of those coupons from a local retailer. "I'm going to see what I can get," I cheerfully announced to my husband.

"You'll end up spending more money. That's what they count on," he warned.

"No, it's like a challenge or a game to me. I bet I get something we need for free or at a garage sale price.

I slowly browsed around the store and found adorable garden ornaments reduced by 30%. Since I wanted a couple more cutsie garden decorations, I grabbed a $15-priced plaster blue bird. With the sale price plus my coupon, I paid only $ .50 and that's what I call a deal! Because of it's beauty and future use, I felt it was a reasonable purchase. Now, I could've put it back for a Christmas gift but, a bare spot in my garden needed it more.

Watch for end-of-season markdowns. Now is the time to buy your graduation cards, announcements, or deco for next year. In the fall, buy summer items on clearance. After Christmas, get the following season's wrapping paper, gifts, and cards.

With today's dwindling economy wise families must create ways to be frugal. It can be fun and challenging. Make a game of it; see who in your family can ferret out the best deal.

Wishing you and your family a bountiful Christmas!
Brenda Nixon,
Co-Author, A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Save Money by Exchanging Names - Trish Berg

One of the best decisions we made as an extended family was to exchange names for Christmas gift giving. We put everybody's name in a hat, and each person draws a name out, and that is the person they buy for. We have 6 people in our immediate family, so that means we buy 6 gifts total of my husband's side of the family.

And we set a price limit or range on the VALUE of the gift, not the actual price. That way, if you shop on clearance and are able to get a $40 necklace and earring set for $20, YOU save the extra money for yourself. It allows you to shop within your budget and still get wonderful gifts.

We usually set a GIFT VALUE range from $25-$35 per gift, but usually I can shop on sale and clearance items and spend half that amount.

And only having to buy 6 gifts for that side of the family is a HUGE savings. There are actually a total of 24 of us total, kids and adults. With 6 being in our immediate family, that means we would have had to buy 24 - 6 or 18 gifts if we were buying for everybody.


18 * $25 = $450.00 TOTAL SPENDING


6 * $25 = $150.00 TOTAL SPENDING

And with shopping on sale ahead of time, I can bring that down to $75.00 to $100.00!!

And the Best time to exchange names is NOW NOW NOW!!! So you can watch for sale prices, and plan ahead.

So, get with your extended family, and swap names. A gift exchange not only saves you money, but it allows you to put more time and thought into each gift since you are buying fewer gifts. So each gift you buy is more meaningful and thought out.

Gift Exchanges

*Reduce stress
*Save money
*Make the gifts more special
*Draw you closer as a family

So get going, and start making plans for those special gifts.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Money Saving Tips

This week the Word Quilters will share a few money saving tips for this holiday season.

My hint is simple, but it's something I do every year about this time. I think of all the dishes, cookies, and trimmings that I might serve over the holidays, I check my pantry for any canned goods I need to use up or recycle, and then I make up a tentative menu for Thanksgiving through the New Year's gathering.

When I go to the grocery store, I pick up one or two items for my freezer or pantry that will be needed for the holidays. By mid-November, my pantry is stocked and I don't have to be concerned about spending extra money for staples during the six weeks leading up to New Years Day. Those quick trips to the store can be for fresh items, and then I'm not so tempted to buy all the display baking stuff. I've inventoried and know I'm ready for the holidays.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

La Befana

While searching for the different ways Santa Claus is represented around the world, I happened upon this story about a Christmas character in Italy, La Befana. She resembles a witch and is said to be able to do magical tricks but is not a witch. She leaves goodies for good little Italian boys and girls and coal for those who are bad.

As the story goes, she saw the Christmas star in the sky and when the magi passed through her town, she provided them with shelter. They asked if she knew about the Christ Child and where they might find him. She was invited to join them but she declined. Saddened by the loss of her own child however, she suddenly had a change of heart and wished to see this baby the magi talked of. She filled a bag with bakery and gifts and left to follow after the magi.

Too late to catch up with them, she became lost. Legend says angels gave her a broom so she could fly around searching for the baby Christ Child. She searches to this day and on the eve of Epiphany, she drops in on the children she finds to see if it is the one she seeks. It never is but she still leaves a gift. It is said she realizes her search is not in vain. That, in a way, the Christ Child can be found in all children.