Is there anything more infuriating than trying to open one of those space age ultra sealed packages that all toys and electronics seem to be sold in now (with no scissors to be found)? Or opening a new gift to find that it needs 2 AA batteries that conveniently were not included by the manufacturer? What about going to take photos of your loved ones opening their gifts on Christmas morning only to find that your camera is dead or the card is full?

christmas-morning-morning-survival-kit
That’s where the Christmas Morning Survival Kit comes in handy! I’ve loaded up this basket with all the supplies you may need on Christmas morning. No more digging around in your junk drawer looking for a pair of scissors or scrambling for tape after you find your dog has started to unwrap one of the gifts for you.

christmas-morning-morning-survival-kit

Here is what I put into our Christmas Morning Survival Kit basket:

  1. Batteries of various sizes (AA, AAA and D-cell batteries for toys, audio equipment, etc)
  2. Garbage Bags (for collecting garbage and recycling)
  3. Clear Adhesive Tape
  4. Camera (with an extra charged battery and memory card)
  5. Scissors
  6. Needle-Nose Pilers
  7. Box Cutter
  8. Screwdrivers (flat and phillips)
  9. Matches (for candles and the fireplace)

christmas-morning-morning-survival-kit
Gather up all these supplies around the house and tuck this basket somewhere safe (away from children and pets) until the big morning. You’ll be glad you have it all at arms reach when Christmas morning comes around!

Want to make Christmas morning even easier? Try making my family’s favourite strata (from the movie The Family Stone) the night before so you can pop it in the oven when you wake up. Set out a bowl of fruit and load up the coffee maker so you’re ready to go!

Check out the Holiday Recipes in my Holiday Guide for more Christmas Morning Brunch ideas.

A couple of weeks ago, Garrett and I looked at our calendar and realized that it was filling up pretty quickly with fun events with family and friends, but we wanted to plan something for just the two of us. We picked a weeknight to do some Christmas shopping on Main Street in Newmarket, Ontario and have dinner together in a cozy little restaurant.

main-street-newmarket-snow
Last Thursday we had a wicked snow storm in Southern Ontario, but it didn’t stop Garrett and I from heading out for that date night. If anything, the snow made it feel all the more festive!

main-street-newmarket-lights
The Town of Newmarket always puts up a lovely display of Christmas lights in the River Commons behind Main Street.

main-street-newmarket-ice-lounge
They’ve even set up an Ice Lounge by the outdoor skating rink with big recliner chairs, glowing lights and a fire pit. It was a little chilly to sit out there (and everything was covered in a foot of snow), but I could see how nice it would be to sit out here for a break from skating.

main-street-newmarket-the-goulash-house
Our walk through the snow helped us work up an appetite, so we stopped in for some hot comfort food at The Goulash House.

main-street-newmarket-the-goulash-house
We ordered perogies, a kettle of beef goulash and my favourite – chicken paprikash with spätzle. Thankfully there were tons of leftovers for us to take home for lunches the next day.

main-street-newmarket-haven-store
With full bellies, we decided to walk along Main Street and visit some of the shops all decorated up for Christmas. Haven Decor always has the best window displays.

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Happy Friday! Earlier this week I was wishing for a white Christmas and it looks like all this snow may just stay around long enough for that to happen. Fingers crossed! I know there are so many people out there who don’t get snow at Christmas, but I just can’t picture the holidays without it. Of course there have been years that we didn’t get it, but there is something about all that white fluffy stuff that makes us want to huddle up with family indoors and celebrate!

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Can you believe there are only 12 days until Christmas?!? I feel like the last two weeks just happened in the blink of an eye. I’m trying to be more mindful of stopping to enjoy all the celebrations of this season and focus on being in the present. It’s so easy to get thinking about the next thing that’s coming up or the next thing I need to do, when there are so many good things happening NOW.

Last Saturday, Garrett and I went to the Main Street Christmas events in Schomberg. I drove through the town in the fall and loved it, so when we heard about all the festive activities they had lined up, we thought we’d stop by. This is the same house that I commented on how nice it was decorated for Halloween…and I’m glad to see they put up some lights and garlands for Christmas too. It seemed like just about every house in their downtown area was all dressed up!

We went to the craft market, sipped on hot peppermint tea and popped into a few of the shops on Main Street. The streets were backed with people everywhere and there was music live music playing all along the way.

They even had big fires in metal drums, to huddle around to keep warm while we waited for the parade.

The parade put on by the local farmers is all farming equipment covered in lights and displays.

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christmas-simmer

It’s beginning to smell a lot like Christmas! Christmas Simmer is a lovely way to make your home smell warm and inviting, especially during the holiday season. It also makes an easy inexpensive gift for friends, neighbors, teachers and co-workers. I printed the instructions directly onto the bag and dressed them up with ribbon and cinnamon sticks. (Tutorial at the bottom of the post).

Christmas Simmer

  • 3 dried orange slices
  • 3 sticks cinnamon
  • 3 small bay leaves
  • 1 tbsp whole cloves
  • A bit of grated nutmeg

Put all the ingredients into a saucepan.  Fill pan with water.  Place on the stove on the smallest burner, on the lowest setting.  Top up water as needed. This also helps humidify the home a bit too! You can refrigerate it for up to one week and use it daily.

Caution: Set your timer for 30 minutes so you remember to top up with water. You don’t want the pot burning dry. Do not leave the house with this left heating on the stove.

There are lots of different ingredients that you can use to create your simmer. You can even save orange, lemon and lime peels or apple skins (dry them out first before storing in a container) and add those in too. Experiment to find your favorite aromas!

  • cinnamon sticks
  • dried orange slices or rinds
  • dried lemon slices or rinds
  • whole cloves
  • dried apple peels
  • apple juice
  • vanilla (a few drops)
  • sprigs evergreen or handful pine needles
  • bay leaves
  • star anise
  • ground nutmeg
  • dried lavender
  • fresh rosemary

While I was slicing oranges for our Dried Orange Slice Ornaments last month, I made a few extra for these Christmas simmer bags.

I added the slices in a single layer on each tray on our dehydrator. Follow your dehydrator’s instructions but for ours I was able to dry slices from three oranges (more than enough for the tree) in about 9-10 hours. I rotated the trays and flipped over the slices every 2-3 hours.

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Do you send out Christmas cards? I starting doing them years ago when I lived on my own and I wanted a way to send out a holiday greeting to my family and university friends who lived far away. The idea that the recipient would get a nice card in the mail (when snail mail is so rare these days) was something that I hoped would add to their Christmas spirit. I’m glad it’s a tradition that I’ve continued on throughout the years. Usually I try to address and stamp my cards the last week of November and then mail them out in the beginning of December.

christmas-card-basket

Despite the fact that the basket of cards has been sitting by the tree for three weeks now, I just got started on them last night. It’s been crazy around here lately and writing our Christmas Cards kept getting pushed farther down the list, so I finally sat down and started last night after dinner.

It got me thinking that there may be others out there who think that it’s too late to start writing Christmas cards or don’t know where to even start. Here are ten tips that I hope make this fun holiday activity easier, especially when we’re all stretched for time these days. If you have any more tips, leave them in the comments! I’d love to hear them!

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1. Make Your List: Putting together a list of everyone you’re going to send cards to may take some time, but once you’ve done it one year, you can keep using it every year afterwards. I shared an easy-to-use digital version in my Online Holiday Planner. You can use it on your computer or your smartphone, and update it throughout the year.

christmas-card-list-spreadsheet
The Christmas Card List is one of the files that I use all year round. Whenever I hear about someone changing their address, I can instantly change it in my list. I’ve also added a section at the end where you can check off if you sent or received a card from your recipients.

christmas-card-tiny-prints

2. Look at Online Options: There are so many great online options for getting your cards printed. Storebought cards are great, but I love getting personalized picture cards from friends and family we don’t get to see very often. Tiny Prints has some great designs and there’s still time to place a rush order and get your cards out quickly!

Tiny Prints are also offering one of four free gifts to all customers. You can choose from a free photo magnet, a free personalized coffee mug, or a free personalized notepad. You can also choose to get $16.99 off personalized home decor. Just click here and use promo code CHOOSEGIFT when you check out to get it free. Shipping will run you less than $10 in most locations.

P.S. – This is also the last day of their sitewide sale. All orders get 30% off and orders of $99+ get 40% off with promo code 40SWSALE. And, if your total order is more than $49, you get free shipping (use code FREESHIP49).

christmas-card-us-stamp

3. Stock Up on Supplies: Make sure you have enough stamps, envelopes, cards and working pens. Once you get going, you don’t want to stop because you’ve run out of something. Make sure to grab an envelope sealer too, so you don’t have to lick all those envelopes. Even a glass of water and a small paint brush will work in a pinch.

christmas-card-station-basket

4. Set up a Christmas Card Station: It doesn’t have to be much – just a basket with your cards and supplies – but having it all at the ready is much easier than digging them out every time you need to send a card. Whenever I’m ready to write some more cards, or work on the ones I started, I grab the basket and head to the table. Clean up is easier too – just tuck it all back in the basket for the next card writing session!

the-family-stone-christmas-movie

5. Keep It Jolly: If you approach it less like a chore and more like a fun holiday activity, it will go by quickly! I like to put on my favourite Christmas music or pick a beloved Christmas movie. I’m planning to watch The Family Stone tonight with a glass of wine while I finish ours up. That movie always gets me in the holiday mood, and I know it so well that I can focus on the task at hand while it’s on in the background.

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