Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Jump Start next Christmas

Go ahead and buy Christmas Cards for next year. They're on sale now!

Save yourself time next year by attaching return address labels (if you're reasonable sure you won't be moving.) and writing the names of the recipients on the envelopes.

By the time next December rolls around, all you need to do is sign, seal, stamp and address.

Put you box of cards on the top of your Christmas Decorations so it'll be the first thing you see next year.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Earthy friendly shipping

When it comes time to send those holiday gifts, don't forget to look for biodegradable peanuts. A few years ago I found these. They melt when they get wet. So they're super easy to get rid of and won't fill up the landfill.

Also, if you get a lot of packages, you may have noticed maybe places using air-bags to cushion the contents. If you have room to save that type of thing, it'd be a great recycling project come Christmas.

If you get packages each December (we get gifts from clients, family, friends) consider stacking the boxes in the garage and using them to send your gifts to others. And if they come with packing material, even better.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Email Management: A Necessary Evil

Today is a great day to organize your email. Seriously. Tackling this before the new year will let you start 2009 on the right foot, free and clear of email clutter.

In my quest to organize my accounts (yes, accounts...plural) I came across this blog post: The Monster Blog: Trying to Organize Your Email? Keep it Simple. I really, really like the idea of having only three folders to organize. Currently I have a dozen or more including to do, follow-up, saved, etc.

Yearly Folders

One thing that I've done for the last three years that I like is to have yearly folders. Sometimes I just need to clear out the ol inbox and stare at a clear blank box for a while...something about that sooths my mind, even if I have 10 items in my to do box. I really do try to keep clutter to a minimum though.

What is email clutter?

Subscriptions to magazines, ezines, catalogs, yahoogroups or anything that you get on a regular basis that you've read or haven't read or just don't intend to read. This is different from spam because you may have read the last issue, but just don't have time or interest to read this one.

Email clutter also comes in the forms of auto responses. Some services like PayPpal send autoresponses (though they're cutting down in 2009).

When you see email clutter just delete. But if you're not sure if you'll need it again, consider leaving/archiving/saving it.

More Tips

Here's an article with 10 more tips for conquering your inbox.

4 Tips from Microsoft about email organization

Five more tips including make decisions quickly and pick up the phone.

More to come

Obviously there are lots of other things you can do to be more efficient via email: using your email client to its full potential, plugins and extras that make life easier, an organized address book, signatures, etc. I'll talk about those more in 2009.


Today, concentrate on deleting the old, organizing and archiving and respondng to the new. Then clean out the inbox (by archiving or using a 2008 folder) and take a moment to breath easy. You're ready (at least until that next email comes in) for the New Year.

Green Wrapping

I'm still thinking of ways to be green in the coming year, especially next Christmas.

Instead of wrapping paper, I'm thinking of using newspaper. Black and white, with a minimum of pictures would look really lovely with a big red bow and some special little pick (both of which are reusable again the next year.)

Or craft paper, which would go into a compost pile. Again, big bow and perhaps a sprig of greenery or berries.

Or consider not wrapping at all. There are a variety of beautiful, sturdy boxes available these days that you can use year after year. Some simple need a lovely ribbon, others have ribbons built in. And best of all, these sturdy boxes make great storage during the rest of the year. Cherished ornaments, breakables, and ribbons will be well protected.

I found a blog that indicates it's okay to compost your wrapping paper, so that sounds like a good idea to me. Read it here. Don't forget to remove tape and any plastic ribbons and bows.

Speaking of ribbons and bows, it's raffia biodegradable? That'd be a great "garnish" for your gifts next year. Or any paper ribbon. Otherwise, recycle plastic, satin, or wired ribbons by using them again the following year.

Friday, December 26, 2008

What to do with tissue paper

It's about this time each year when I look around and wonder what to do with the wrapping paper, boxes, and bags. Boxes and bags are usually recycled (as in stored and used next year). And wrapping paper, we ball it up, shoot hoops into the which point it fills up a landfill.

Thinking of being Green this year made me wonder if there isn't something else I can do with the tissue paper that's used to fill boxes and bags.

Turns out there is. I can put it in my compost heap. This is great news as my family loves bags and every box has tissue paper in it as well.

I'll probably tear it into strips and layer it in with other stuff from the kitchen and yard scraps. I'm actually excited to see how the compost turns out and equally excited to be recycling wrapping waste.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Product Review: St. Ives Olive Scrub

Rating: 4.5

I've been meaning to try this Olive scrub for a while now and recently found a good deal on it so I snapped it up. Overall, I really like it. It's smooth yet scrubby. I find some scrubs a little too abrasive. In other words, I want clean and exfoliating while leaving the skin on my face. The only reason I didn't give it a five is I have to wonder how much it cleans because it feels like putting a wonderful lotion on my skin. But I've only been using it for about a week.


Friday, December 19, 2008


Jasmine, our middle cat, was very interested in our Gingerbread house.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Our Tree

My parents came over this weekend and brought a few new ornaments (which I need to take a picture of...) But here's a picture me and the garland and our dining room.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Note to future new moms...

Early in your pregnancy write out a list of important names and phone numbers and stick it on the fridge, this way you won't forget to call people when important milestones happen, like say when you find our the gender of the baby or go into labor. I mean, you wouldn't want to forget to call your twin brother would you?! ;)

Friday, December 12, 2008

Time to Build a little Village

Or at the very least, a house...

I'm so excited to have time, energy and ingredients to build a gingerbread house this weekend.

Isn't that marvelous!? I just love the simplicity and cuteness.

As I was double checking what I'll need I thought I'd compile a list in case anyone else is searching.

Here's a photo gallery for inspiration.
And here's a step by step guide for building these mini cottages.

A royal icing recipe (so you can stick it all together):


* 1 3/4 cups powdered sugar
* 4 1/2 teaspoons meringue powder*
* 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
* 1/4 cup warm water
* 1/2 teaspoon vanilla


In a large bowl, stir together powdered sugar, meringue powder, and cream of tartar. Add warm water and vanilla. Beat with an electric mixer on low speed until combined. Beat on high speed for 7 to 10 minutes or until mixture is very stiff. Makes about 2-1/2 cups icing.

*Test Kitchen Tip: Meringue powder is a mixture of pasteurized dried egg whites, sugar, and edible gums. Look for it in the baking aisle of your supermarket or at a specialty food store.

In case you need more inspiration, here's another beautiful gallery.

Gingerbread recipe:


* 1 cup shortening
* 1 cup sugar
* 2 teaspoons baking powder
* 2 teaspoons ground ginger
* 1 teaspoon baking soda
* 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
* 1 teaspoon ground cloves
* 1 cup molasses
* 2 eggs
* 2 tablespoons vinegar
* 5 cups all-purpose flour
* 6 16x12-inch pieces parchment paper
* Purchased canned white frostings
* Assorted purchased candies


1. In a very large mixing bowl beat shortening with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add the sugar, baking powder, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, and cloves. Beat until combined, scraping bowl.

2. Beat in molasses, eggs, and vinegar until combined. Beat in as much flour as you can with mixer. Stir in remaining flour. Divide dough in thirds. Cover; chill 3 hours.

3. Cut a 16x12-inch piece parchment paper in half crosswise. Place one of parchment halves on pastry cloth. Sprinkle parchment with flour.

4. Divide each piece of dough in half (you should have six). Place one piece of dough on parchment; roll to 1/8-inch thick. Using 8x5-1/2-inch cutter, cut into shape. Remove scraps; set aside. Lift dough and parchment; place on cookie sheet.

5. Bake in 375 degree F oven 7 to 9 minutes or until edges are browned. Slide cookie and parchment onto rack. Cool. Repeat with remaining dough and parchment, gathering cookie scraps together and rerolling.

6. When cool enough to handle, peel cookies from parchment paper. Decorate using frosting to attach candies. Makes 12 cookies.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Best Laid Plans...

You know what they say...

I so wanted to get my Christmas cards out the door by early December... it's the 10th, and i haven't even purchased/made them yet. I've been in bed since Dec. 1st with a terrible cold. I'm terribly behind. I hope I can get rid of this stupid bug soon so I can get some stuff done... my decorations are half up, thanks to hubby. Other than that..... blah...