Make a Christmas Game Plan: Printable Planners

December 3, 2010

BigSis just talked about her Top 4 Tips to get your Christmas Planning Started and since we’re both crazy, obsessed organizers and list makers, I wanted to talk a little more about this topic before we move on.

There isn’t anything more important around this time of year than planning, planning, and more planning. It’s an absolute necessity for me in order to keep myself from getting totally overwhelmed and stressed out!

Holiday Planner

I have this adorable little hard back holiday planner that I bought at Hallmark five years ago and I still use it every year.  I actually leave my previous years pages in the planner so I can refer back to them when planning my shopping list. I like the fact that I can look back and see what I bought family members and friends in previous years.

Holiday Planner Tabs

In my planner, there’s a tab for the Calendar, Notes, Card List, Shopping List, and Gifts Received. The pages for Christmas cards are ideal because below each persons name and address is the year and a place for you to check off if you sent a card and if you received a card.

(Helpful hint: Write all your addresses in pencil; so when an address changes, you can just erase it and you don’t end up with a bunch of old, scratched out addresses in your planner.)

I haven’t checked Hallmark to see if this particular planner is still available, but why buy one if you can make your own? I’ve discovered through browsing the Internet that there’s a great selection of forms available to download for free.

Here are a few sites you can visit for FREE Christmas Planner forms.

  • Organized Christmas has a huge selection of forms to help you create your very own customized Christmas planner, including printable dividers. (Their Christmas Card form is very similar to the ones I have in my planner.)
  • Family Fun has instructions and some cute forms to help you create Ann’s Amazing Holiday Planner. She has a couple of different forms such as Holiday Memories and Holiday Menus and Party Planning.

Hopefully, some of this info will help you get organized for this Holiday Season. I’ve already printed out some of these forms to use in addition to my Holiday Planner but now I’ve got the itch to create myself an entirely new full size Christmas Planner. :-)

~LilSis

4 Top Tips to Get your Christmas Planning Started

December 1, 2010

Checking It Twice

I hate to break it to you, but it’s December.  Yep.  And if that isn’t enough to put a little panic into your bones, consider the fact that 3 weeks from this weekend is Christmas!  3 weeks!

Fear not though!  Even if you haven’t yet given one single thought to Christmas, it isn’t time to freak out.  It’s time to get organized and we have some tips to help!

Make lists! These are a few to get you started:

  • Gifts to buy
  • Christmas cards to send
  • Other things you know you’ll need, like Christmas lights or new Christmas dresses for the girls
  • Charitable donations to make before year-end

Start a calendar. Pick one up at the office supply store, download one online, or just draw one out on a piece of paper…just do it!

  • First add every function to it that you know about this minute
  • As invitations for parties and other events come in, add them to the calendar so it’s always current
  • Add travel arrangements
  • Add other important dates, such as shipping deadlines

Do as much as you can now. Seriously, don’t put anything off til next week if you can avoid it.  You’ll thank yourself later!

  • Start your shopping NOW!
  • Think about what you want to bake or cook this year, and if there are any new recipes on the list test them now.
  • Don’t wait until Christmas Eve wrapping time to find out that you need boxes and tape.  Get it now when you see it on sale.

Order online as much as possible. You avoid the crowds and the parking lot dramas that always occur, plus you get it all done at the speed of light.  And you can usually get great deals!

  • Gifts, of course
  • Christmas cards, gift bags and wrapping supplies, mailing materials
  • Stamps (avoid that deadly post office line that steals your Christmas joy)

There you have it: our top 4 tips to get your Christmas planning off to a great stress-free start.  Now get out there and deck those halls!

photo credit: jannalauren

~BigSis

Organize Your Holidays NOW to Beat Stress

November 10, 2009

Hey LilSis, I think it’s a really appropriate time to talk about stress since we’re all about to go into Turbo-Speed Stress Season.  We all have holiday stress for different reasons.  Many of us get so excited at the holidays that we overcommit and underestimate how much time all of these things will take.  We may have financial issues that make the holidays stressful.  Some people are sad at the holidays and dread going through it, and feeling like they have to do things they really aren’t up for.  Other people have family issues that can’t be avoided at get-togethers.  Many us of just feel pulled in too many directions at one time.

For whatever reason, we’re ALL going to have stress to some degree over the next couple of months.  Maybe we can all help each other out by sharing some ways to tame stress since it’s such a universal experience!  I’ll start us off.

  • My favorite way to manage holiday stress is to plan and start early!  I already mentioned that I’m doing another Christmas bake sale for the SPCA on December 14th.  How can I commit three full weekends to baking, just before Christmas?  It helps that I’m kuku/kookoo (how do you spell that?), but I actually started planning a week ago.  The baking team has already had a meeting, and we all know pretty much what we’re baking, except for a couple of new recipes that I’m going to test-drive this week.  I’m going to have all my Christmas shopping done before baking time starts, as well as all the bake sale shopping, and packaging for the bake sale goodies will be ordered this week.

How does my bit of planning translate to organizing your holiday season?

  • Even though it seems way too early to start thinking about the holidays, do it now!  How often do you hear yourself say that the holidays just “snuck up on you”?  There’s no sneaking!  Christmas comes at the same time year after year!  We just haven’t planned for it!
  • First of all, have a brainstorming session with yourself. Find half an hour of quiet time, and just make a rambling list of everything you can think of that you need to do between now and New Year’s Day.  As more and more things come to mind later, add them to your list.  Just getting thoughts out of your brain and onto paper will give you a serious chunk of peace of mind.  Sign me up for some of that!
  • Now go back over the Master List you brainstormed, and start making Detailed Lists.  If you included “buy gifts” on your Master List, then make a Gift Idea List.  List everyone you want to buy for, and then start listing any gift ideas you have.  You can see where the holes are.  If you have no ideas at all for Uncle Paul, then make yourself a note to call Aunt Paula to find out what Uncle Paul wants.  If your list includes “send Christmas cards”, then start a separate list of the recipients, and check to see if you’re missing any addresses.  Look for those addresses now, and not on December 22nd!  You’ll also know how many cards to buy when you’re in the store, and won’t have to run back out for more at the last minute.
  • Make yourself a notebook, folder or binder with all of your lists and keep it with you!  If you work outside your home, take it with you in a tote.  It doesn’t do any good to have a plan if you don’t have it available to refer to when you need to.
  • Now that your lists are in the works, next get yourself a calendar going.  You might like a big wipe-off calendar that can be displayed in the kitchen for everyone to see, or maybe a calendar in your planner or on your phone works bet for you.  Whatever it is, start adding every party, every cookie exchange, every school function and every travel itinerary on it as you find out about them.  Grill your family for all of their commitments.  Update this calendar immediately as new functions are discovered.  Threaten your family that failure to notify you of a commitment means they have to eat the fruitcake that’s been regifted since 1974.  Or you could say that Santa will bring them a lump of coal, but that would be pretty mean.  :-D
  • Practice saying “no”.  The reality is, you won’t be able to do everything that is asked of you for the next couple of months.  It doesn’t mean you’re a bad person.  You can say “no” to good things in order to say “yes” to the best things!

That’s how I get my holiday season organized, and it really seems to help me to just write things down!  It’s a simple thing but it has a huge impact. You won’t wake up in the middle of the night worrying about whether you’re going to forget to bake the two dozen cupcakes for the school if you’ve already put that on the calendar.

If you have other ideas, please pass them on.  Over the next few weeks, we’re going to be on a mission to find other thoughts and tips that we think might help us all enjoy this glorious season even more!

~BigSis

How to Organize Your Online Recipes in a Delicious Cookbook

September 21, 2009

One of the things I love about blogging is the community.  We share a common interest, and it seems to me that most bloggers are very supportive of each other and encourage each others’ success.  And if you’re lucky, at some point you might get to meet your online friends in person.

The other thing I really like is that bloggers know food!  If I see a recipe posted by Anna, Peabody, Grace, Cathy, Susan, Michelle, Susan, Lisa, or  Heather (among many, many other incredible cooks and bakers), I am confident that I can make that recipe and it’ll turn out great.  If I have any questions or problems, or successes I want to share, then I know who to go to.  I can’t do that with the cookbooks on my shelves.

The only problem with online recipes though is how to organize them.  I used to highlight the recipe and paste it into Microsoft Word, then print it out and save it to my hard drive.  But then I had all of these hard copies to sort and file, and who ever goes back through all of those?  There’s too much paper in our lives to deal with already.  And invariably I save a recipe to my laptop at home, and then later need to access the recipe at work so I can pick up the ingredients on my way home.

What if you could save an online cookbook of all your favorite recipes, sorted the way you want it?  Well, you can do just that and it’s super duper easy!  Are you using Delicious bookmarks?  If you are, then you can tweak it to organize your online recipes, and if you’re not, then think about getting on board!

Delicious is awesome because you just sign up for a free account, and then you use it to bookmark your favorite pages.  It doesn’t matter which computer you’re on.  Your bookmarks are on Delicious, not on one particular computer.  The other cool thing is that you can choose to share your bookmarks and your personalized cookbook with other people that you specify.

So, let’s set up your online cookbook!

  • First, access your account at http://delicious.com or set up a new account.
  • In the right sidebar, click on Tag Options and choose Manage Tag Bundles.
  • A new window opens. Click on Create to make a new tag bundle.
  • In #1, enter the Tag Bundle Name, something like “Emma’s Cookbook”.  In #2, enter the tags that you want to use to sort your cookbook.  Separate your tags with spaces.  You could use broad categories like appetizers, vegetables, meat, and dessert, or you could use more specific tags like cookies, chocolate, soup, potatoes, quiche, candy, fruit, etc.  You get the idea.  It’s totally up to you and how you want to organize your recipes.
  • Click on the green Save button, and you’re done!  Voila!

Now, when you go back to your Delicious home page, you’ll see your tag bundle listed on the right sidebar under Tag Bundles.  To place a recipe into your cookbook, just add your tags to it before you save the bookmark.  Delicious will sort it into your cookbook bundle, and you just have to click on the tags in your cookbook to show all of the recipes with that tag.

If you decide later that you want to add more tags to your cookbook, just choose Tag Options and Manage Tag Bundles again. Then click on Edit next to your Tag Bundle’s name.  Add, change or delete your tags as you wish, then Save.

That’s it!  You have your own online cookbook, wherever you are!  I hope that you give this a try and enjoy it as much as I do!

~BigSis

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It’s Time for a Trip to The Container Store

August 21, 2009

Yesterday, BigSis mentioned The Container Store and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since.  A few weeks ago, I accidentally received someone else’s happy organized home sale catalog in my mail box. I’ve looked through it several times and have been drooling over a few products that I’d really like to have, yet I haven’t found the time to make the trip down to the store. Even though 45 minutes to an hour isn’t really that far to travel for a great shopping trip, I have yet to make it to our San Diego location in the seven years that we’ve lived here.  That’s about to change! ;-)

I’ve mentioned how the whole back to school thing makes me want to reorganize a bunch of drawers and cabinets. And not just the drawers for school supplies, I’m even dying to reorganize my makeup drawers. These Acrylic Trays with Removable Dividers will work perfectly for both!

Acrylic Trays with Removable Dividers

Acrylic Trays with Removable Dividers

These trays come in three different sizes. The large are on sale for $17.99, the medium are $12.99 and the small are $9.99 each. Here are the same Acrylic Trays shown being used to organize cosmetics.

The same acrylic trays shown as cosmetic trays.

Acrylic Trays with Removable Dividers

And as long as I’m reorganizing my cosmetic drawers, I’ll need to work on the cabinets under my bathroom sink. I love these 2-Drawer Stackable Organizers with the slide out drawers. These are on sale for $7.99 each. These would be perfect for all the hair products and lotions that I keep under my sink.

2-Drawer Stackable Organizer

2-Drawer Stackable Organizer

These Clear Stacking Bins could be used in so many different ways! They come in five different sizes ranging in price from $3.49 for the small to $9.99 for the Extra Large. I’d love to have a few small and medium ones to hold desk supplies.

Translucent Stacking Boxes

Clear Stacking Boxes

For some reason, I’ve always had a hard time finding a good hat rack that will hold quite a few hats. BigT went through a little phase of liking certain sports caps, especially ice hockey teams, and BigGuy always had a few favorites, like Notre Dame and ‘Da Bears, but HayHay is way over the top with the hat thing. He’s pretty obsessed with the Boston Red Sox hats, golf hats and Billabong hats and has at least a couple of dozen.

Since the hat racks with pegs never hold enough and I don’t want two dozen hooks all over the wall, I’m wondering if this Canvas Hanging Storage Bag might work well for hats. He could stack several on top of each other in the six compartments. This is a pretty good price at $12.99.

6-Compartment Hanging Canvas Bag

6-Compartment Hanging Canvas Bag

And while I’m talking about getting HayHay organized, I wonder if he would actually hang up his towels if I had one of these Overdoor Towel Racks on the back of his bathroom door? These are normally $24.99 and are on sale for $14.99. At that price, I’m willing to take a chance that it might help keep towels off the floor.

Bungee Overdoor Towel Rack

Bungee Overdoor Towel Rack

These are just a few of the products that I’d really love to get while this sale is going on. The only problem is that once I walk in that store, I just know that I’m going to want to go crazy!

~LilSis

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Dorm Room Organizers

August 20, 2009

I called this post Dorm Room Organizers, but these ideas could be used in any student’s room or anyone’s office.  I can personally ALWAYS use more organizers.  I’m a little bit of a fanatic about them…ok, a lot fanatic.  One perfect obsessive example is my pantry.

But enough about me.  Back to the organizers.  You say organizer, I say Container Store!  Oh, sweet mystery of life, at last I’ve found you!  I adore Container Store.  And you may know it’s the #1 company to work for, at least in Texas.  Their employees seem so darn happy, don’t they?  I think I would be if I worked in organizer mecca, however, I wouldn’t be happy when payday rolled around because I would owe the company money.

First of all, the Happy Organized Home Sale is running until September 7th.  My favorites:  Those skinny huggable hangers for $6.99 ($3 off) and their slim folding step stool for $19.99 ($10 off).

Back to back-to-school!  You see how easily I’m distracted in this place!  As always, Container Store has some incredibly cool things for your back to school organizing needs.  I love their organizing tips section for back to school.  You can shop by closet, walls & doors, desk, laundry, bath or storage.  Or you can search by your style of dorm: artistic expression, booksmart, a natural fit, high fidelity, big ideas or fashion forward.  Choose natural fit, for example, and you get this:

Container Store Natural Fit

Container Store Natural Fit

Gorgeous, isn’t it?  Below the photo, you get a list of all the products used, along with their prices.  I’m loving the bamboo clothing rack ($129) and the coordinating magnet bamboo boards ($14.99 each).

Container Store Mini Mantel

Container Store Mini Mantel

Also, in the category of things-you-didn’t-know-you-need-but-now-must-have is this little mini mantel ($14.99) that grips onto your bed post.  This would be perfect if your dorm room didn’t have room for a nightstand.

And before we leave Container Store, don’t forget all of the awesome Elfa carts that make organizing simple.

And, one last thing.  There is a really cool web site that you must check out if you’re an organizing junkie like me.  It’s Jeri’s Decluttering and Organizing News.  She’s done posts recently on cool ideas in cork bulletin boards and on memo boards with pretty fabric coverings. Love these!

That’s it for today, gang!  Now get out there and organize something!

~BigSis

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LilSis’ Baking Pantry

April 2, 2009

I’m probably going to totally embarrass myself by showing you a photo of my cabinet that contains my baking supplies.  But, that’s okay. I’m not too proud. Go ahead and laugh, those of you with perfectly stocked pantries! That includes you, BigSis!

My teeny tiny supply of baking ingredients

My teeny tiny supply of baking ingredients

What led me to show this photo is the previous post by BigSis about the OXO Containers. I was thinking that if I bought a couple of those, I’d have to put expiration dates on the bottom of the containers. I, seriously, do not use my flour enough to not look at the expiration date.  And yes, I have also had baking powder expire. I think I might have even used it once after it was expired. You can guess how that turned out.

This cabinet is actually not too messy because no one gets in it very much! Ha! I don’t even drink tea, but that whole top shelf is full of tea. I think I bought it for guests and there it sits taking up an entire shelf! I may have to work on that.

If I had time, I would put the spices on the bottom shelf on a lazy susan, like I have my other spices, but it’s not a top priority. I do love my spices in alphabetical order but every time BigT cooks, he never puts them back in their place!

I love the theory, “Everything has a place, and everything in it’s place.” BUT, I don’t live in a fantasy world. I live in a house with three males. So, I can’t let my OCD tendencies take over or I’d drive myself up a ding dang wall! If I’m going to have HayHay help unload the dishwasher and allow BigT to cook in the kitchen, nothing is ever going to be exactly as I would like it.  I’m okay with that. I’ve learned how to deal with it.

So, BigSis, ya think I need one of those containers for my flour? Hee Hee! Every time I use it, flour goes everywhere because there’s  hole in the side of the bag! And, just for you, I didn’t change anything. This should at least have a clip on it to stay closed, right?

Believe it or not, I really am a neat freak! My flour is just neglected!

Believe it or not, I really am a neat freak! My flour is just neglected!

One more question, that King Arthur Whole Wheat Flour on the third shelf has never been opened but I cannot find an expiration date on it anywhere. I don’t even know what I bought it for. Should I just toss it?

~LilSis

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Food Network Loves My Pantry Containers

April 1, 2009

Remember when I went on and on about the cool OXO Good Grips Pop Containers that I used to organize my baking ingredients?  Well, guess who else is using them?  Food Network!  I’ve noticed the containers on episodes of Iron Chef America and on Chopped.  Pretty cool, huh?  I figure Food Network could choose any food storage system they wanted to, so if they opted for the Pop Containers, then it’s a pretty credible confirmation of my choice, me thinks.

I worked in advertising for a long time, so the concept of product placement is not lost on me.  For example, could Glad possibly feature their products any more than they do on Top Chef?  It seems like every other shot focuses on a box of Glad bags.  Perhaps OXO has a sponsorship deal with Food Network (aren’t we suspicious!), but I haven’t noticed any mention of it, and the Pop Containers’ appearances have been pretty subtle.  I just happened to notice them because I’m crazy mad for these things!

OXO Good Grips Pop Container

OXO Good Grips Pop Container

Keep your eyes peeled for these little beauties the next time you’re on the Food Network.  And watch for the Bed Bath & Beyond 20% off coupons so you can get your own!

~BigSis

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Pantry Organization Project…Check!

March 2, 2009

Remember the other day when I talked about my undying love for the OXO Good Grips Pop Containers?  I’ve been skipping up to Bed Bath & Beyond every weekend to buy a few more containers.  If I only buy 2 or 3 each trip, it seems to my little brain that I’m not spending as much money on this project as it would if I got them all in one fell swoop.  Just a little psychological game I play on myself.

So today, I made another trip to BB&B and picked up the last two containers I need for Phase 1 of my pantry organization project.  All of my flours, sugars and cocoa are contained and labeled!

OXO Good Grips Pop Containers at work

OXO Good Grips Pop Containers at work

They fit nicely on one shelf, and make me a verry happy girl!  I could go crazy and start Phase 2, which will be containing the lentils, popcorn, beans, and rices… all of those little bags of stuff, you know.  But I’m pretty content for now and the bags aren’t bugging me at this minute.  Next week may be a different story, but everything’s good in BigSis’ pantry today!

~BigSis

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I’m in Love!

February 19, 2009

Yep, you read that right.  I’m in love.  Head over heels, in fact.  But don’t start planning the wedding yet, SisMama.  The object of my affection is not tall, dark and handsome but instead is short, clear and square!  I’m in love with these OXO Good Grips POP Storage Containers that I found!

Oh.  My.  Gosh.  I know that I live in Picky Town, and that I have a bad case of Martha Stewart Flu, but these things are seriously off the chart.  I’ve been looking for a new pantry organization system for a while.  I know, it’s borderline pathetic that I just uttered that phrase, but bear with me.  I’ve been using this “system” for my baking ingredients.

Before...

Before...

It seemed messy and unorganized to me, and it certainly wouldn’t withstand a swarm of locusts or any other kind of varmint infestation that might befall my kitchen.  You never know, it could happen!  At the very least, a family of weevils could move into my pantry, so I ended up keeping the open bags of flours in the freezer, and my little freezer doesn’t have space for that.  It barely has room for all the bags of nuts and baking chocolates I keep in there, not to mention food for BigSis and the furkids.  So, I determined that I needed canisters that were 1) clear, 2) square or rectangular to be more space efficient and easy to scoop out of, and 3) airtight for freshness and bug-free-ness (if that’s a word).

Enter the OXO Pop Containers.  I bought 4 as a test to see how they worked out, and here’s the result:

...After!

...After!

Ahhhh.  Do you hear angels singing?  I do. These make me so happy!  The good news: I love these!  I almost had to smoke a cigarette after I got them filled and labeled, and I don’t even smoke!  The bad news: these are pricey little buggers!  I rewarded myself with these because I had a yukky doctor’s appointment the other day, and I always get myself a treat if I’ve been a big girl and not whined or cried about doing something I REALLY REALLY didn’t want to do.  I’d love a pizza reward, but that would kind of defeat the purpose of working my fanny off at the gym 5 days a week and trying to eat well, right?  So, my treat was the little pantry project.  The big 4 quart ones ($16.95)  hold a 5 pound bag of flour or sugar, and the smaller 1.5 quart ones ($9.99) hold just almost 2 pounds of flour.

Now.  I have many more items in my pantry that need to be tucked away inside these lovely little containers…cocoa, brown sugar, demerara sugar, pastry flour, bread flour, and so on.  Just imagine how beautiful my pantry would be!  I just need about $500 to finish the project! It gives me something to look forward to, right?

~BigSis

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