Posted in Holidays, Timely Tips

Timely Tips, Holiday Edition, Vol. II

As the pace of the holiday season picks up, your time might be getting used up fast, too. From the archives, here are some suggestions to save some time, and maybe some sanity, too.

  • Retire the family newsletter. With so many people using social media these days, the “old-school” annual recap may be redundant now.
  • Bake in bulk. Make a big batch of sugar cookies now. You can freeze the dough or even baked cookies. (Thaw overnight at room temperature.)
  • Reconsider crystal. Do you have delicate (hand-wash-only) glassware that you’d like to use? Maybe skip it during this most hectic of seasons, and use it some other time. Instead, your nicest dishwasher-safe glassware will make life easier, both before and after a celebration.
  • Skip the party playlist. Delegate DJ-ing to a music streaming service, like Pandora. You can choose from multiple preprogrammed channels or customize a mix.

For a laugh, from Erma Bombeck’s column, At Wit’s End, in October 1987. “My theory on housework is, if the item doesn’t multiply, smell, catch fire, or block the refrigerator door, let it be. No one else cares. Why should you?” (Of course, I don’t agree with this, but I did laugh out loud when reading it recently. Here’s hoping you did, too.)

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Posted in Holidays, Timely Tips

Three Powerful Words

Reduce, reuse, recycle. They are suggestions we hear often. Some people groan, while others take them to heart, with gestures both large and small, benefitting us all. Please consider the following recommendations for the holidays and at other times of year. They provide a different twist on those three powerful words.

Reduce. Americans gain an average of seven pounds during the holidays. Would it be possible to decrease your food and drink intake by some percentage, to make the scale’s upward creep less challenging? Stepping onto the scale on January 2nd might be a little less unpleasant.

This is not a grumpy curmudgeon’s instruction to only chew on carrot sticks and celery stalks at parties. Maybe reconsider the last glass of red wine and/or piece of dark chocolate. (They are reported to be good for the heart. Even so, that’s tough for me, too, since I consider them to be basic food groups!) Instead, you might drink an extra glass of water. Your body will be grateful, even if it can’t voice its appreciation.

Chatting with a swimming buddy about these three powerful words, Nina shared the following Tibetan proverb – The secret to living well and longer: eat half, walk double, laugh triple and love without measure.

Reuse. If you exchange holiday presents, what to do with all of that newly-used wrapping paper? While it’s certainly responsible to recycle it, you also can use it again. How, since it might look less-than-wonderful now? If you have access to a shredder, run it through, then save it for padding when storing fragile ornaments. Or, if you’ll have to send boxed gifts in the near future, you might bag it for package padding when the time comes.

Another good reuse – unmatched socks. How does that happen, anyway? Does the washer eat a sock? Does the dryer hide one? Use unmatched socks as padding when packing delicate objects for shipping. Put fragile ornaments inside them for storage. Lastly, you also might wear unmatched socks together, even if only at home. Bonus points – it could make you laugh. (Think about the Tibetan proverb!)

Recycle – yourself, by donating blood. As written previously, donation centers experience drops in contributions at this time of year, though the need remains constant. Even if you can’t stand needles, it’s not all that bad. It normally takes about an hour, and you’ll feel good for having done it – like voting! The Red Cross will be grateful for your help.

Happy holidays! May they bring you, and those dear to you, all that you wish, and more. Cheers!

Posted in Holidays, Timely Tips

Timely Tips, Holiday Edition, Vol. I

As the holiday season quickly approaches, here are a few tips to save time now, and maybe a bit of sanity, too. From the archives –

  • Find any gifts bought spontaneously through the year and stored who-knows-where.
  • Add all holiday events into a shared family digital calendar – every party, cookie swap, caroling event, concert.
  • If needed, drop off fancy holiday outfits at the dry cleaner’s.
  • Shop for non-perishable groceries and booze before stores get crazy, and place orders for any in-demand specialty foods that might be in shorter supply later.
  • Order any specialty clothes, pajamas, etc., that might need to be monogrammed now, in November, before a supplier’s production staff gets very busy.
Posted in Timely Tips

More Seemingly Random Organizing Tips

From the archives, here are some professional organizer’s tips.

  • To remember to use coupons and also to get them out of the kitchen junk drawer, store them in an envelope or photo flip book. Keep it in the car or, if you have one, a reusable shopping bag.
  • Items to store in a clear-pocket shoe bag (besides shoes!) – cleaning products, first-aid supplies, crafts materials, scarves and belts, toy action figures.
  • Your home has storage spaces that you may not have considered. One is space above doors. In the bathroom, a shelf with brackets can store spare towels. In the kitchen, hang blender or mixer attachments on the inside of a cupboard door, using command hooks.
Posted in Holidays, Timely Tips

October Holiday Decorating

These days, there’s some conjecture about whether or not Halloween has become the second-most decorated holiday. Who really cares? It gives us opportunities to be creative and maybe also a bit outrageous.

Here’s a fun and incredibly inexpensive idea, from Amy Sedaris’s book
I like you: hospitality under the influence. The book is funny, creative and “spicy.” (Read: over-the-top and sassy.)

To make the Nosey Tissue Ghost, you’ll need two sheets of facial tissue. Lay one out flat, then ball up the other one and place it in the center of the flattened sheet. Use monofilament (clear fishing) line to tie the head off at the neck. Dot with a felt tipped pen to mark eyes. Using clear tape, attach some more line to the top of the head.

Where to hang it? From a tree, from a front porch ceiling, anywhere where it could cause a stir. Clear fishing line is especially good, because it’s strong and will help to make the ghost look like it’s flying through the air. The local hardware store sells 500 yards for $3.00. (Once added to your craft supplies stash, it’s likely to come in handy for other uses, too.)

A few hung together could be even better. Boo!

Posted in Suggestions, Timely Tips

Set Boundaries to Control Clutter

Leafing through a magazine while getting the car’s oil changed recently, I read some interesting tips. A few are worth sharing.

Set boundaries to control clutter.

  • If you can, consider open storage. Closed cabinets and lidded boxes make it temptingly easy to stash new stuff.
  • Limit collections, like craft supplies or memorabilia, to one drawer or bin. Once full, purge. If you can, resist the temptation to fill another bin.
  • Unsure about how much you really use an item? Place a removable dot sticker on it, with the date. If not used for several months, it might be time to donate or give it away, as long as you’re not adding to someone else’s clutter.
Posted in Gardening, Seasons, Timely Tips

Season Transition Plant Care

This Timely Tip first appeared in late September of last year. It’s that time again!

Now that summer’s officially over, you’ll want to care for outdoor plants. Here are some suggestions found online.

1. You’ll want to move your plants indoors when temperatures regularly drop below 60, and definitely before they get as low as 45 degrees F. If you can, plan to gradually transition your plants indoors, putting them in a shady spot for a few weeks before bringing them inside.

2. Decide where the plants will go in advance. Try to match the conditions outdoors, putting plants that were in bright sunlight in south-facing windows. If not possible, at least try to gradually move plants to lower-light areas over a few days or weeks. They may still lose leaves in response to the reduced light, but you can try to minimize the loss.

Note: Without any windows in the way, plants get more sun outdoors than they do inside. Use this as inspiration to wash your windows (both inside and out, if possible). Your plants will appreciate it and, if it’s been a long time since their last cleaning, so will you!

3. Inspect your plants to see if any have outgrown their pots and need to be repotted. If they do, be sure to choose a pot with drainage holes, and the appropriate new potting soil. Lightly prune plants that have gotten leggy while outside.

4. It’s really important to inspect your plants for pests and problems before you bring them indoors. Soak the pot in a tub of lukewarm water for 15 minutes to force any pests out in search of air. Drain thoroughly before bringing indoors. If you want to be extra sure that you’re not bringing in any uninvited guests with your plants, you may even want to quarantine them in a room separate from other plants for a few days.

5. Once you’ve got your plants transitioned indoors for the season, be sure not to overwater. For most plants, that means letting the soil dry to the touch before watering. You may find that the dry indoor air from your heat source(s) means that plants need nearly as much water in the winter as they do in the summer. Since they’ll grow less in response to less light, fertilizing monthly or bi-monthly during the winter should be sufficient.

Happy gardening and transition from summer to fall!

Posted in Timely Tips

School Year Sanity – for Parents and the Students in their Lives

Now that the school year is well underway, are you getting stuck and/or frustrated by some of its organizational aspects? From the archives, here are some suggestions for school year sanity.

• Paper, paper, paper. To manage health forms, reports and other papers from school, use an app to snap a photo with your phone. It becomes a PDF. Possibilities – ScanSnap or Tiny Scanner.

If you’d rather not use technology, a bin for each student might help. Clear plastic, a foot or so long and a foot high, should do it. Check it daily for tasks; empty as needed. Be disciplined!

Another option – a cardboard sorter, with a slot for each member of the family. Assign each student the task of placing in it any papers with needed parental action, and ask him/her to always tell you about them.

• Phone notices and apps. Enter into its calendar school days off, early dismissals, and events (games, concerts, etc.); into its contacts the main office, nurse and guidance counselor. Add to the contacts list the names of parents and their linked activities. It could help if you have to send texts.

Posted in Timely Tips

To Welcome Fall with Taste and Smell

Sometimes, September seems to be the nicest month here in Vermont. This year is a prime example. It’s been warm and sunny, with more of the same predicted. Even so, the season is changing to fall. Among other signs, leaves are turning, and some valleys are blanketed with morning fog.

If, like me, you’re always sad about the end of summer, here are some suggestions from a local food coop which, to my mind, might ease the seasonal transition. If you drink coffee, you might add a shake or two of pumpkin pie spice to your cup. Mine, from a national discount grocer, includes cinnamon, ginger, lemon peel, nutmeg, cloves and cardamom. Sure to tickle your taste buds, it’s yummy!

Next, here’s a way to delight your nose. Suggested by a local food coop, it’s about “brewing” a batch of stovetop potpourri to make your home smell like a fresh fall harvest. Mix water, a spice and slices of one or two fruits in a saucepan, simmer, and the scents will fill your home. Apple slices and cinnamon sticks will be fall-like. To remind you of the woods, use limes and pine. For the holidays, you might try oranges, cloves and vanilla. The bulk spice bins at your local coop might have what you want, and you can get the exact amounts needed for stovetop magic.

Posted in Clever Re-Uses, Clothing, Suggestions, Timely Tips

How to Solve the Dilemma of Unmatched Socks

It happens to most of us. Somehow, a pair of socks isn’t a pair anymore. Does the washer eat one? Does the dryer hide one? It’s a mystery, but we sometimes end up with unmatched socks.

Now that summer is transitioning to fall and some of us are wearing socks again for the first time in months, the dilemma of unmatched socks is back. Some suggestions –
• Wear them with others whose “mates” have disappeared
• Use them as padding in packages
• Use them as storage for delicate holiday decorations
• Use them as dust rags
• Use them for craft projects, including as hand puppets
• Turn them into pet toys, like filled with catnip