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Apr 24th

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Holiday celebration etiquette 101: Mind your manners

Holiday celebration etiquette 101: Mind your mannersThirteen years ago, after having just moved to the Chicago area, we met a couple at church and invited them over for dinner. Although I was a new mom, and not a great cook, I spent a lot of time and effort preparing the best meal I could for these new potential-friends. They were over an hour late getting to our house, so I started to worry. When we finally spoke on the phone a few days later, she casually said, “Oh, we couldn’t make it.” In my mind, I was screaming, “Why didn’t you have the decency to pick up the phone and call somebody?!” Right after that call ended, in my mind, I crossed her name off my potential-friend list.

Most of us usually don’t set out to be rude or inconsiderate to others, but truth is, it happens at times. Especially during the busy holiday season when many social gatherings take place, consider these helpful tips whether you are the host or the guest during the 2010 Holiday season.
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Holiday regifting: Do’s and Don’ts

Holiday regifting: Do’s and Don’tsDid I ever tell you about my favorite Aunt Annie?  Many years ago, an older man started calling and coming around to see her.  They began what my aunt would call, a friendship, and, what the man would call, a courtship.  Before long, he had managed to upgrade his status in her eyes; he was her boyfriend (sort of).

Christmas rolled around and the suitor presented my aunt with a, let’s just say, very, very modest engagement ring.  I couldn’t tell if my aunt was more put off by the size of the ring or by the fact that she was in no way ready to commit to him in marriage.  I happened to be visiting that year and when I examined the still-boxed ring, I noticed that the inside was engraved, but not with my aunt’s name!  She was horrified when I showed her that she had been the victim of a serious crime; regifting-the practice of attempting to pass off a used gift as new or giving a gift to someone that you originally received as a gift, but didn’t want. (Needless to say, my aunt did not marry him and the relationship went quickly downhill from there-much to my relief and hers too, I think.)
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Budget friendly gift ideas for youngsters

Budget friendly gift ideas for youngstersSo, did you get all of your Christmas shopping done on Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving)? Why is that day called Black Friday anyway?

I spoke to one of my girlfriends who said that between the doorbuster deals and the Macy’s coupons, she scored big savings on Christmas gifts. If you were among those of us who did not go out and do battle over bargains and parking spaces, then I want to give you a few budget-friendly gift ideas for everyone on your list.

Infants - Okay, do we really need to buy gifts for infants? They should at least be old enough to appreciate the joys of tearing into a beautifully-wrapped present and throwing the paper as they go. If you are insistent on a gift for baby, splurge and buy the premium, extra-absorbent diapers. (Online you can even find holiday-themed reusable diapers and covers.)
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Thanksgiving and Christmas Together


Thanksgiving and Christmas Together
Leaving church this past Sunday, I stopped to hug Nicole and wish her a happy thanksgiving.  “You cooking, right?” I asked.  I’ve been told by many church-folks that she “throws down” in the kitchen, although I have yet to find out first-hand. In her usual, tell-it-like-it- is style, she responded, “Yes, girl, and I’m making enough for Christmas, too! There’s no sense of doing all that work twice!”  She explained how she doubles up on her dressing and sweet potato recipes, sticks half, uncooked, in the freezer and the other half in the oven. Then for Christmas, two of the main essentials are oven-ready. Sounds great, right? Although I’m a little too far into my Thanksgiving 2010 planning to double up, it definitely will be on my to-do list for Thanksgiving/Christmas ’11.

Want to save cooking time and stress during the holidays, or any other time of year? Be like Nicole and tackle two (or more) meals at once by planning menus in advance and preparing certain items to go right into the freezer. Here are a few tips to get you started.
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Holiday entertaining made simple (and cheap)

Holiday entertaining made simple (and cheap)‘Tis the season to throw a party! Do you thoroughly enjoy a great holiday party, complete with jolly folk; smiling faces, joy-filled hearts, red sweaters, and lots of sequins (they’re really hot right now)?

Somewhere between Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day, everyone should host at least one festive gathering of family and friends to celebrate something- thankfulness, Christ’s birth, a new year, a new love, a lasting love, etc... In our house, there is much to celebrate between November and January; thanksgiving, day-after-thanksgiving-sales (no, really), Christmas, our wedding anniversary, New Year’s day-which also doubles as my birthday, and two days later, my youngest daughter’s birthday! We squeeze in a lot of partying. Are you always the one waiting for an invitation to the parties, but never hosting one of your own? What are you waiting for? Stop worrying about all the excuses that you have been using for not having people over. Here’s the deal: If you invite them, they will come. Just keep it simple, do a bit of preplanning, stick to your budget, and let the good times roll!
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Making a good Thanksgiving impression

Making a good Thanksgiving impressionMy girlfriend, who’s more of a sister, recently called from Atlanta in a frenzy. I could hear it in her voice. “Missy, what you doing?” she asked. She went on to tell me that she was just leaving the furniture store, where she’d been shopping for the perfect new family-room sectional that would comfortably seat all the out-of-town in-laws expected for Thanksgiving. She wanted to get a second opinion about her choice, so I went online to the store’s website.

While the sectional was nice, it really seemed too big for her space, so I gave her my honest opinion. Over the next couple of days, I provided my long distance decorating consultation, and then my sister had a sudden epiphany; all the stress about the seating was self-imposed and unnecessary. The sofa she already owned, although well used by her family of six, was still in good shape; it just needed cleaning. It even had removable, washable covers on the cushions. In addition, she concluded that instead of making a rash decision under pressure, it would be much wiser to work with what she already had. She decided to take her time, save up, and buy the sofa she really wanted.
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Time to winterize: Proper care for winter wear


Time to winterize: Proper care for winter wear
I’ll never forget a conversation I had with one of my closet childhood girlfriends. Having just had a baby, she was lamenting about how her visiting Jamaican mother-in-law was stressing her out. When I pressed for details, I learned that my girlfriend had a problem with the fact that her mother-in-law did not wash her own pants after every single wear. It drove my girlfriend crazy, so her solution, between frequent nursing sessions, was to wash grandma’s clothes every night for her. Really?! I had to keep it real, “Girl, I don’t wash my pants after every wear either-you better leave grandma alone and let her help you with that baby!”

Based on that conversation, I started taking an informal poll among friends and researched “rules” on frequency of washing and wearing clothing. Of course, we all must use our common sense-if it stinks or it’s dirty, wash it-but I thought it might be helpful to consider a few helpful guidelines for caring for clothing, especially winter wear. These tips are sure to save you time and money, which you should never wash.
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