Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Things to Do Now to cut the crazy out of Christmas

I was planning to discontinue this page due to lack of interest (mine). And then my daughter, Becky, sent me an email with a link to a Christmas planning list from PureWow .com with a list titled, "28 Things You Can Do Now to Get Ready for the Holidays." Reading the list reminded me of a handout that Norma and I gave to our students at our classes (many years ago). I dug it out and it sparked that excitement for planning Christmas that I've always had. Here's the handout with my hope that it will also help you. I'm going to dig through my old Christmas planning files and when I find something that inspires me, I'll post the info on the Cut the Crazy Out of Christmas FB page. I'd love to hear what you're doing too!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

post-Christmas list

I'm compiling a list of things that went well for Christmas and things I didn't like. Next year, I'll open my planner (binder) and say, "Oh yeah, I really wish I'd have done THAT differently." And then I'll fix it. There's always something to fix. And there's always something to repeat - like dinner on the day after Christmas when we went out for yummy hamburgers at Morty's. Becky's husband offered to stay with the kids so we could eat at Mike and Sierra's favorite local burger place. It was awesome just to relax and be together. 
The one thing that didn't need fixing this year was our weather. It was wonderful. Sparkling days with deep blue skies and fluffy white snow. Sunshine that echoed (and often created) everyone's joy. 

Thursday, January 1, 2015

the longest song that ever was

I'm undecorating the Christmas tree and listening to my favorite Christmas songs for probably the last time until next December. My all-time favorite Christmas song is O Holy Night. I have loved that song since I was a young child. My favorite performance of O Holy Night is by Il Divo - everything about it is amazing. Also, one of my "most embarrassing moments" is centered on the song.

When I was in sixth grade, two friends and I prepared O Holy Night to sing for our sixth grade class at school. My friend sang soprano, I sang alto, and our other friend played the piano. We practiced and practiced. We dressed in our best dresses (we only wore dresses to school then - until I was a senior in high school, actually). It wasn't a school program we were singing for, just a little volunteer thing that we thought would be nice for our class. We told our teacher, Mr. Watterson, about it and he said we could sing at the end of the day. And then he forgot...which is understandable for a teacher on the last day before Christmas vacation. I'm not sure why we didn't keep reminding him. So, our classmates were running out the door...finally free...and Mr. Watterson made them all come back into the room and listen to us perform. Well, if you ever thought the song O Holy Night was a long song, on the day I sang it for my upset sixth grade classmates, it was the longest song that ever was.

I still love the song. I have seven versions on my iTunes playlist. One of my favorites is the one used in the soundtrack of the movie Home Alone. The best country version is by Chris Young (I don't know him otherwise). Celine Dion's rendition is the top seller on iTunes. A group called Point of Grace sings one with an extra-lovely arrangement. There's a group called The Isaacs who sing it in a medley with Silent Night that's gorgeous. I also have Susan Boyle and Reba McEntire...and of course, MoTab.

So I guess my sixth grade humiliation didn't impact me too terribly or I would have never listened to O Holy Night again - kind of like how I feel about other Christmas songs that I had to listen to over and over when I worked at WalMart. (You didn't know I worked at WalMart? That's another story.)

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Christmas 2014

Christmas 2014 was joy-filled because of family and babies and snow outside.

This little 15 month old was adorable.

This was one of our funniest moments - when the teenager and grandpa compared their Converse shoes. She wanted white Converse and got them. Grandpa pulled out his white Converse from when he was a teen - yes, we think they're nearly 50 years old. And comparing them inch by inch - they're nearly exactly alike. To the colored lines and airholes in the sides. It was amazing.

She knew just how an angel stands thanks to a storybook at home.

Cousins are the best part of Christmas. Especially for Grammy and Grandpa.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

be calm

One of the best bits of advice I ever received was:

    "If you're in a hurry, slow down." 

     I'm passing this on to you today as we all start into the "final stretch." 

Winter Village Scene Print Pillow Cover benefiting Give a Little Hope campaign

image from Pottery Barn

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

ideas galore!

I've always loved the Hallmark company, and now they have a blog so I can enjoy them even more! I remember buying their red plaid wrapping paper in the eighties, their Christmas plates for cookies, and their decorated stationery for Christmas letters. They STILL have red plaid wrapping paper...I regret I didn't buy a roll last month when I saw it. I love their company theme which is "Life Is a Special Occasion."
Christmas stocking stuffer ideas #Hallmark #HallmarkIdeas
The website has tips for Christmas activities like "Ten Easy Stocking Stuffer Ideas"- here and how to write great newsletters - here .
Their blog has a fun post today called "Getting Festive with Felt." It's filled with photos of a dozen cute holiday felt creations which were designed and made by their creative artists.
Hot chocolate bar ideas #Hallmark #HallmarkIdeas
It's fun to explore the Hallmark website - but I'm going to have to wait until January! No time for web-surfing right now. OK...one more click. Here is their page on how to set up a Hot Chocolate Bar. I liked the recipes for traditional hot chocolate and white hot chocolate. Yummmy.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

* taKe joy *

"Take joy." 
I love this concept.
I can choose to take stress, or take frustration, or take offense, or take apathy.
Instead, I choose to take joy. 

Photo: "Take Joy." I love this concept...I can choose to take stress, or take frustration, or take offense, or take apathy. Instead, I choose to take joy. #favoritedecoration #practicethistoday
Of all my much-loved Christmas decorations, this little pillow is my favorite!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

five tips for easy decorating

Whether you have two boxes of Christmas decorations or twenty, you can follow these strategies to decorate your house quickly and easily. It all starts with your after-Christmas putting-away process, but I'm going to post these ideas before Christmas so you can be thinking about them! These tips were developed by my co-Cut the Crazy teacher, Norma Olsen, and were loved by everyone she taught them to. As you read this list, you'll see that these strategies make so much sense.
1. Pack your boxes by room or area. 
Instead of packing all your lights in one box and all your greenery in another, organize your storage containers by area. Depending on the extent of your collection, you may have an upstairs box and a downstairs box. Or maybe a family room box and Christmas tree box. As you get more decorations, it will get more specific, like a fireplace mantle box, a kitchen box, and an outdoors box. 
2. Decorate one section at a time.
The beauty of organizing your decorations this way, is that you can decorate your house in segments. You don't have to pull out all of your boxes at once - instead, you take the mantle box (especially if your time is limited) and decorate the mantle. You'll minimize mess and stress!
3. Label and explain.
Sometimes you'll remember where everything goes and how to place it. But if you really want to streamline your decorating process, put notes on your decorations that tell you where they belong. Most of mine have notes on the back and I don't even have to think - I just thrown them where they go! If I want to go back and edit and refine later, I can.  
4. Use photo reminders.
Again, this is something you will put in place for next year. As you decorate, it helps to have photos of how you decorated last year. This works best if you print your photos and place them in your boxes, so you won't spend time searching your phone or computer for last year's photos. These photos will guide you so you won't have to spend any time with the just-right placement. 

Cut the Crazy Out of Christmas suggests that you "let go of the need to do everything yourself." If you have your decorations in dedicated boxes with a photo on top or taped to the lid, you can hand the box to your spouse, child, or friend, and they can decorate the front door or back entry just the way you want it to look. 
5. Notice what you have and what you need.
As you unpack your decorations and remember how your decorated last year (because you have those photos), evaluate what you'd like to add, subtract or change. Make a list in your planner of things you'd like to purchase at a store, gather from your outdoor adventures (like pinecones), or search for at yard sales and antique shops. Enjoy the process and most importantly, love your decorations.  

Thursday, November 20, 2014

holiday planners abound!

OrganizedHome.com is a commercial website that's filled with ideas for any and every organizing need. The internet is a gold mine of holiday planners and organizing ideas, but sifting through it all is time consuming and exhausting. I've looked around for several years, and I think Organized Home offers excellent weekly suggestions. Their Christmas planning guide is awesome and worth a look. Free printables everywhere! Here's the link:

Sunday, November 16, 2014

what December looks like

I've been working on my December calendar today - which involves making phone calls and sending texts and emails. I'm trying to firm up some dates for family events, my husband's office party, a concert I want to go to, some church events, all the university basketball games, Christmas programs for grandkids, and on and on. I don't have everything on my calendar - but I'm getting close. I always feel a sense of relief when I have a clear view of the events for the next six weeks. By keeping my calendar updated, I know what December looks like - and that feels good. 

Here's the Cut the Crazy Out of Christmas way of using your calendar: First, fill in everything you HAVE TO DO in December. These are the things for which you have no choice - the life events and inevitable obligations that come with the season. Things like work, appointments, family dinners, your sister-in-law's cookie exchange, basketball games, kids' concerts, school events, etc.

Next, choose some open dates and add the things you WANT TO DO - the things that will make Christmas more meaningful or fun for you and your family. They might include watching a Christmas special on TV or favorite old movie with family or friends. How about visits to lonely neighbors or shopping for Sub for Santa? What things have you always wanted to do at Christmas, but never had time for?

When December comes, make yourself a promise that as you check your calendar and plan your schedule, you will place as much value on the WANT TO DO activities as you do on the HAVE TO DO ones...and do them!

Also important to the Cut the Crazy method is sharing your calendar with the rest of the family, so they can have some input and know what's going on! 

*Note:  These calendar ideas were developed by Norma Olsen and me over the past 20 years - but we also read similar ideas in the book "Unplug the Christmas Machine," page 112, and adapted their ideas.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

shop 'til you drop!

Have you noticed ALL the sales right now? Now's the time to shop and save (as they all say). But it's really true - I read an article that said the best sales are before Thanksgiving. Specifically, the best price cuts last year came on the Monday before Thanksgiving - not the day after as we're led to believe. The article was in the Wall Street Journal last week - here's the link...and the claims are backed up by online data collection by Adobe. In addition to better prices, the selection is better and the crowds are fewer.  

If you're arguing that you have no time or money right now, I'll argue back that it won't be any different on Dec. 20 - except then you'll be more stressed. 

 I've done quite a bit of shopping. I'm actually surprised at how many items are checked off my list. It feels good to tell myself, "You're on a roll - keep going!" I've also tried to simplify my gifting plans - everyone is getting less this year :) 

One of  the best tactics I've ever heard about shopping is to pretend that you're going on a cruise on Dec. 1st...a three-week cruise that ends a few days before Christmas. In order to enjoy the cruise, you have to have all your holiday preparations finished before you leave. I learned this from Flylady - an online organizing expert with lots of great tactics. (Fly stands for Finally Loving Yourself.) Here's her Holiday Control Journal that you can browse through for some great tips and philosophy. You can download it if you'd like. 

When I'm trying to decide on a gift, I try to let go of perfectionism and just make the decision and be DONE with it. This is new for me. I usually love to shop and shop and shop in December. But this year, I'm trying to listen to my own advice - and I'm happy to report, I'm doing it. 

I'll see you onboard that cruise ship!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

don't be a Grinch

While visiting our daughter and her family in Las Vegas, we spent an evening exploring the City Center area which is filled with window-shopping-only designer shops and the gorgeous Aria hotel and casino. In the Aria, we found a little crepe and pastry shop with this fabulous life-size Grinch created from chocolate, fondant and candies.

We talked about the impact the Grinch story has had on Christmas attitudes. Here are a few of the Grinch's best lines...so well-written and cleverly funny:

The Grinch: "The nerve of those Whos. Inviting me down there - on such short notice! Even if I wanted to go my schedule wouldn't allow it. 4:00, wallow in self pity; 4:30, stare into the abyss; 5:00, solve world hunger, tell no one; 5:30, jazzercize; 6:30, dinner with me - I can't cancel that again; 7:00, wrestle with my self-loathing... I'm booked. Of course, if I bump the loathing to 9, I could still be done in time to lay in bed, stare at the ceiling and slip slowly into madness. But what would I wear?"

The Grinch is a seemingly hopeless pessimist. Snarky and calloused. We all get this way at times. Some of us are frustrated by busy schedules. Crowds. Pointless traditions. Uncontrolled spending. Extra travel. Boring parties. (My list is sounding like a Grinch list, but it's important to identify what makes us grinchy.)

This leads me to mention one of Cut the Crazy's most important principles:

A change of attitude is as important as a change of action. 

In other words, during the Christmas season, there are many things we can't change. Stop and think for a minute about the things that are unchangeable.

So, the best "Cut the Crazy"approach is to change the way we VIEW things. It's that simple. (And sometimes hard.) Change our attitude, our view, our perspective.

Monday, November 3, 2014

to do now: lists!

It’s time to talk about our Christmas To-Do lists. The best thing to do RIGHT NOW is to start making lists and keep them front and center in your kitchen and in your mind. I’m also using “notes” in my iPhone for a Christmas To-Do list while I’m on the go. But for me, putting pen to paper is the best way to plan.

After thinking about last year and focusing on what went right, I sat down with my new box of peppermint Junior Mints, my pretty Staedtler pens (in red and green of course), and several sheets of paper. Once I was writing, the ideas just kept coming. I realized I needed to use several sheets of paper that were divided into categories. It became a brain dump as I remembered lots and lots of things to do for gift giving, menu planning, housecleaning, decorating, party planning, etc.

Now I have three sheets of paper each divided into two sections. The lists in each section vary from five tasks to twenty. I really broke the tasks down into detailed pieces. (I learned to do that by listening to podcasts about making lists in Getting Things Done by David Allen. GTD says that the more you write on paper, the less you have on your mind.) 

Since I've been teaching this class for many years, I’m not alarmed by the huge numbers of tasks on my lists. It’s good to be realistic and face the fact that there’s a lot to do for Christmas AND it is all in addition to our already-busy lives. That’s why writing lists is the best thing we can do right now! And while writing, we can mentally edit our celebration and think about eliminating a few things that don't seem that important compared to other things on our lists. 
Here are a few items on my lists:
  • Talk to both sides of the family about dates for family Christmas parties.
  • Purchase Christmas stamps at post office this week while the selection is good or order online.
  • Re-write nativity script to include an innkeeper. Also try to have one less song.
  • Gather music for nativity and put songs in a spiral-bound notebook.
  • Buy amaryllis bulbs and start forcing now so they’ll blossom in mid-December.
This is fun to do and a great way to organize and prepare for Christmas!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

learning from the past

I followed my own advice! While driving, grocery shopping, and even while doing dishes, I've been thinking about last year. To get the memories rolling, I found my December 2013 wall calendar. (I always save my calendars.) I noticed that the evenings were packed in the first two weeks of the month - then it eased up. Knowing that, I can plan better this year. Next, I sat at my desktop computer and looked at my 2013 photos on Picasa. Ohhh, we did have fun last year. But ohhh,there were bad memories too. I'm not going to tell about those because we're thinking positive this week. SO here is one of my BEST memories from last year.
It was the Christmas concert by the local chorale and orchestra. I purchased tickets early - they were wonderful seats - close to the front. We invited Mike and Sierra (our son and d-i-l). It was so much fun to be with them. Sierra was finishing up her student teaching, and it made me happy to see both of them relax and enjoy the wonderful music.

Just looking at our pictures has helped me start a list of the things I want to do this year. And because I am typing this blogpost, I just paused and went to the concert website and bought my tickets for the Christmas concert. It's a good thing I did because they're almost sold out. This year, we'll be sitting in the balcony.

I encourage you to remember the best times from past holidays and incorporate what worked into this year's celebration.

Monday, October 27, 2014

what went right...last year

In the midst of fall clean-up and Halloween preparations, we all can pause for a minute and think about Christmas. I know, lots of us don't want to think about it right now. It bothers some people. I'll never forget...years ago...going to a home show (Parade of Homes) in the month of September. One of the homes had a holiday theme and was completely decked out with Christmas decorations including Christmas music playing on the outdoor speakers. I giggle when I remember the woman who stood on the porch and refused to go in...saying loudly, "I'm getting a headache. I can't stand Christmas right now. Waahhh waahhh." If you feel that way, you're not alone. But, in the spirit of "cut the crazy," we need to focus on a few small Christmas-y things today, in October. Like...what worked last year and what didn't. Let's think about the positive today. What was the best thing about your Christmas celebration last year? Try to remember...even if you have to go to your last year's photos or Instagram feed for December 2013...try to remember what was wonderful, peaceful, organized, fulfilling. If you're using a planner, journal, or 'notes' in your phone to cut the crazy this year, go to a blank page and write your thoughts. You can write a full page of memories, a detailed list, or just a quick reminder. Just take a minute to remember the good times.  

Saturday, October 25, 2014


It’s time to get back to blogging! Today is October 25, and we all know how crazy the next two months will be. Halloween is almost here, then Thanksgiving (it’s late this year, on November 27). Three short days later, and we turn the calendar to December!
I’m breathless…how about you? I know many of you are well into your holiday planning. Some have even FINISHED THEIR CHRISTMAS SHOPPING. I love it when I hear someone utter those famous (triumphant) words, “I’m done.” I just smile, because I know when I’ll be “done,” and I’m not ashamed to admit that it’ll be about noon on Christmas Eve. Others haven’t given holiday planning a thought. Most are somewhere in between.

The point of Cut the Crazy Out of Christmas isn’t to have all your shopping finished early or to be the most organized or best decorated. The point is to figure out a way (that works for you) to create a celebration that has heart and meaning.

To have a plan. To make lists. To use a calendar. To communicate with each other. To search for the things that bring joy.

We’re going to give you some encouragement and ideas on this blog. We’ve got strategies, and we’re going to share them. We want to have some fun this year with challenges and lots of interaction on Facebook. We hope you’ll join us in our quest to Cut the Crazy.

Tomorrow, I’ll tell you where we start!

*The amaryllis (from theGraphicsFairy.com) is to to remind us that now is the time to plant bulbs if we want them in full bloom for holiday decorating. That's what Martha said in her magazine, so it must be right! 

Thursday, January 2, 2014

after party...Ice Skating

We used to be tired and grumpy on the day after Christmas. About five years ago, we started a tradition of ice skating and lunch. It got us out of the house and away from the toys and treats for a little while. We love it. This year I sent an email inviting lots of families, and the turn out was awesome! The Eccles Ice Arena, our local (indoor) rink, provides "walkers" for the kids to skate with, plus they let you take strollers on the ice. So everyone from babies to toddlers to oldies can enjoy the skating. 
This little sweetie is only two years and a couple of months.
And Suzie, Winston and Lizzie are from Las Vegas where they don't do ice!
Go Brookelyn!
That's Carter in the front - he was skating on his own after an hour. 
My sister and his son and family came from out of town!
Three generations on the ice. 
Mike and Sierra missed the ice skating last year because they were on their honeymoon. 
Look at the size of our group - and it's not even everyone!
Cute granddaughters.
Becky and Emmett - he wanted to wear his helmet - they're cool now and that's neat!
Emmett and dad watching the zamboni groom the ice after the two-hour skate session.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

today's treat!

Excellent and appropriate-for-Christmas words from Seth Godin, a favorite blogger* and marketing whiz:

A productivity gap

You'd think that with all the iPad productivity apps, smartphone productivity apps, productivity blogs and techniques and discussions... that we'd be more productive as a result.
Are you more productive? How much more?
I wonder how much productivity comes from new techniques, and how much comes from merely getting sick of non-productivity and deciding to do something that matters, right now.
Isaac Asimov wrote more than 400 books, on a manual typewriter, with no access to modern productivity tools. I find it hard to imagine they would have helped him write 400 more.
Sure, habits matter. So does getting out of your way. But if you want to hide, really want to hide, you'll find a way.
The instinct to produce great work doesn't require a fancy notebook.

*I get his blog posts in my email inbox every day (he's prolific), and I always feel "brain-fed" by his whizziness. Sign up for emails on his website.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

cooKies for Christmas

Today is National Cookie Day. I have no idea who designated this day (and they're not very good at publicizing it), but I heard it on TV this morning, so it must be true. Christmas and cookies go hand in hand....fueled by the holiday cookie exchanges and cookie swaps that lots of people participate in. I'm sure that this very week invitations are circulating, cookies are baking (gorgeous cookies, for sure), and adorable tags, tables, and take-home boxes are in the making. One look at Pinterest confirms that cookie exchanges have been elevated to cookie extravaganzas!

Here are a few favorite invitations with links:

source: Minted

Next are some suggestions (from Martha Stewart, of course, and others) for how to make your cookie exchange wonderful:

You can just set the cookies out and let your guests fill their plates or boxes. Or....

You can kick it up a notch and set the cookies on lovely serving trays with label cards.

Include a packaging station so the guests can take their cookies home in style.
source: Martha Stewart

source: Southern Living

FInally, from the wonderful Kraft website, here's a step-by-step plan that you can start tomorrow! 

Hosting a cookie exchange

About A Week Ahead:

About A Week Ahead
  • When you know how many people will be participating, you can figure out how many cookies each person will need to bring. For instance, if you want people to go home with 1 dozen of each cookie type, and you are having 5 people plus yourself (6 people total) over for the exchange, guests will have to bring 6 dozen of their cookie. Let guests know the amount they will need to bring.
  • If the number of people participating in the exchange gets too high and let’s say 10 dozen cookies sounds like too much for people to bake and bring, you could cut it down to each person getting 1/2 dozen of each cookie to take home instead of a full dozen. This cuts down on the amount of baking.
  • Search our recipes for easy and delicious make ahead snack recipes to serve your guests. Some ideas are: Feta-Spinach DipBacon, Cheese & Fruit BitesHealthy Living, or Zesty Shrimp Spread.
  • When celebrating the Holiday Season, it's nice to remember the less fortunate. One way is when speaking with guests, ask them if they would like to bring a non-perishable food item that the group could use in creating a food basket to donate to a local charity.

A Day or two Ahead:

A Day or two Ahead
  • Remind folks to bring large containers to collect and take their cookies home in. When they get home they can divide and wrap up their “stash” to give out as they please.
  • Bake your own cookies and store them in airtight containers or freeze them.
  • Try and have your house clean the day before the party so that on the day of the exchange, you can just tidy and turn on carols.
  • Spend a few minutes decorating and preparing an area to display the cookies. This could mean clearing off the dining room table, or setting up a large folding table in the living room. Where ever space allows!
  • Have large platters or even clean box bottoms ready for cookies to be displayed in on the display area.
  • Direct guests to our Guidelines for Storing, Packing and Mailing Cookies for helpful hints about what to do with the cookies once they are home.
  • Have a selection of coffee, tea, hot chocolate, sparkling water, fruit juices or other refreshing beverages to enjoy.


  • As guests arrive have them place their cookies on a platter or in a box you have set up in your display area.
  • Place copies of the recipes along side each cookie.
  • Enjoy some holiday music, delicious food and each other’s company.
  • Then, each person takes their large container they brought with them and walks around the table and takes their fair share of cookies, whether it is 1/2 dozen of each type or 1 dozen of each type.
  • Everyone goes home with a great assortment of home-baked cookies for the holiday season! And all they had to do is bake one kind!
After all is said and done, you may have just started a wonderful holiday tradition! Twists to this idea are endless. You could have a group of mothers and daughters get together. Or a group of coworkers could get together after work one evening. Or perhaps a set of neighbors joining forces on a Saturday afternoon.
Regardless of who or where, the idea of “many hands make light work” surely applies when it comes to a cookie exchange!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

jingle & mingle

Just had to add one more post about freebies from Crate and Barrel.

Crate and Barrel has teamed up with Paperless Post to offer some free invitations. The link is here. They aren't sending free paper invitations, of course, but we can download the online versions like the Jingle and Mingle below and digitally send them to guests we want to invite to our holiday parties. I'm happy when I get e-vites...no paper to process except to write the date and details on my calendar. I love the design of the houses in the first invitation, and the others are equally as appealing.

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