Great Holiday Ideas Courtesy of my Pinterest Holiday Board

I’ll be spending the holidays away from home, so my normal minimal holiday decorating became NO holiday decorating. Fortunately, I can still “decorate” my Pinterest board.

I like this Christmas tree idea, even if it is Martha Stewart’s (meow):

I also love this smart Michael Johansson design:


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But truth be told, this chalkboard tree is more representative of me:

This is my favorite kind of Christmas tree:

 

This is why I love Pinterest–I certainly wouldn’t have four trees in my house! Plus, “de-decorating” is a breeze. :)

I’ve also pinned some gift wrap ideas. First, some repurposing of food containers for gift containers:

This would be cute for giving someone a 6-pack of craft beer, and you wouldn’t need much in the way of supplies:

I laughed out loud when I saw this gift wrap pack on NotontheHighStreet.com. Out of necessity, I crafted a similar gift bag a few years ago when I ran out of gift bags for baked gifts. I used a pencil eraser and white craft paint to make the dots and topped it with a gold or silver foil star I had from a work project. I’d forgotten about it until I saw this product.

 
Don’t I wish I’d thought to package that idea and sell it for $11.95! :)

To wrap things up (hah-hah, Christmas pun!), here’s a great idea I found just today via Mel’s Kitchen Cafe:

Instead of giving a package of holiday cookies to someone who might be overwhelmed with sugary goodness, why not freeze the cookie dough and put it in a freezer-safe container labeled with instructions on how to prepare later? Genius! Especially, since I am super time-crunched just now, and this will save baking/cooling time!

Wishing you all a very safe and happy holiday!

 

Make Yourself at Home: Practical Tips for Entertaining Overnight Guests

‘Tis the season for house guests. Not for me, mind you, since all my family is local, but I know that other people are suffering anticipating a houseful of company.

(Just for today, let’s pretend this is my guest room and not one I found on Houzz.)

As if the preparation for weekend (or longer) guests wasn’t exhausting enough, we’re bombarded with magazine stories and HGTV slideshows picturing “the perfect guest room” (like this one) along with tips to ensure our guests enjoy their stay. Some suggestions are very practical (like clean bedding and ample lighting), but quite often they include suggestions for items that are totally unnecessary. Over-the-top, even. Call me selfish, but if I don’t have a mini-fridge in my room, my guests aren’t getting one in theirs. Ditto their very own in-room coffee maker with a selection of gourmet coffees and a snack basket with nuts, cheese, chocolate and imported biscuits.

I prefer a much more practical approach to providing for my guests. These are my tips for making your guests comfortable:

  1. Yes, give the room a good cleaning, air the mattress, and add fresh linens.
  2. Remove any unnecessary items. For me, that would be the treadmill and my workout equipment.
  3. Put a few current magazines and books in the room.
  4. Pull out a season-appropriate extra quilt or blanket for the end of the bed.
  5. Forgo the room fridge, coffee maker, and snack baskets; instead, show your guests around the kitchen and encourage them to help themselves anytime, day or night.
  6. Keep a selection of extra toiletries in the top drawer of the bathroom vanity and let guests know where to find them.
  7. Locate (or have made) an extra key, in case your guests will be going out on their own. Area maps are also helpful.

Maybe I’m just fortunate, but anyone visiting me overnight is close enough to feel comfortable asking for anything they need. And with two grocery stores, a drug store, a Starbucks, and a dozen restaurants within a few blocks, we have easy access to anything I don’t have on hand.

A long, long time ago, I made myself crazy in the anticipation of guests. I scrubbed every inch of the house and fretted every stray crumb or bit of fluff the entire time they were in residence. One day while at an arts & crafts fair, I happened to see a little plaque that read something like this:

What a wake up moment for me (and a heads up for any unexpected visitors)! People were coming to visit ME, not my house! I still cleaned before scheduled visits, but I no longer worried (too much) about anything I might have missed. Instead, I concentrated on enjoying the visit. I think my guests enjoy the visit more, too. Andrea at Simple Organized Living had an interesting observation this week in her article, Why I’m Not Cleaning for Company Anymore: “[Guests] don’t like coming into a home that is perfectly clean. It’s less inviting, less people-friendly, less welcoming.”

I agree! I’m not sure I ever achieved perfection, but for a long time, I wasted a lot of time trying! Now, I just do my best to make it all comfy and inviting, and then I relax and enjoy the visit!

What do YOU do to make your guests feel at home?

Yeast Affection

Sorry, I couldn’t resist. :)

I’m new to the world of bread baking, and I still have a lot to learn. So far, this is my most successful result:

loaf of bread

I think my biggest problem with this loaf was that my yeast wasn’t fresh. I’d had it on the pantry shelf for ??? years, after all. I recently learned that yeast can be kept in the fridge or freezer. You just have to bring to room temp to use. Guess where my yeast is now?

Another thing I didn’t know how to do–or that I needed to do it, for that matter–was how to properly proof the yeast, or to “prove” that it was ready to do its thing. It’s actually easy, according to a friend who knows these things:
1) Prepare a measuring cup with 1 cup of warm-to-the-touch water (about 90-100 degrees).
2) Stir in 1 tablespoon of sugar to feed the yeast.
3) Add the yeast packet and stir.

In 5 minutes or so, you should see something that looks like this:

YeastMixture

With the holidays approaching, I’m looking forward to baking some more bread. Now that I know a little more about yeast, I should get better results!

Do you have any yeast tips for the newbie baker?

A Visit From Posts of Seasons Past

Holiday card set-upI love this photo by Revere J. This would definitely be my cat, if I had a cat. Or cookies. Or holiday decorations.

Anyway, the holiday season is getting into full swing, and I’ll have some tips to share in the weeks ahead. But first, I wanted to revisit a few posts from last season because I think they’re important. Think of it as a re-gifting, of sorts.

:)

Shop Safely During the Holidays (and Beyond)
These are good tips year round, but especially so at this time of year.

Christmas Tree Care and Maintenance
Tips for keeping your tree fresh, not to mention avoiding the tragedy of a fire.

Tips for Potluck Meal Success
Whether you’re the organizer or an attendee, this post contains tips to ensure that a successful meal doesn’t rely on luck alone.

Holiday Tipping Help
A little extra help during the holidays for people who provide us with great service could make a huge difference in their holiday experience. This post provides some general guidelines.

Give Generously…But Wisely
Charitable organizations depend on our help to do their good work, and the holiday season is all about giving. In this post, I shared some tips for selecting the organizations to which you contribute.

I’ll be sharing more holiday tips in the weeks ahead, but this is a good start. :)