Tips for Getting Organized To Send Holiday Cards

Whether you send cards to family, friends, business associates, or clients between Thanksgiving and New Years, being organized will streamline this important task.

  1. Enter the names and addresses of the people to whom you send a card in a database program. You may already have such a list, and keeping it updated is an important task to maintain through the year.
  2. Don’t hand address each card. Use your computer to print out the mailing addresses on label paper.
  3. Order your holiday cards with your message and/or photo already on it to save time writing an individual message or attaching/inserting a photo on every card.
  4. To save even more of your precious time, don’t wait in line at the post office. Go to and order your stamps.
  5. Finally, don’t beat yourself up if you don’t get around to sending holiday cards this year; rather, resolve to begin inputting your contact information now so that it is ready for you next year.

When you have the addresses printed out on labels, cards with message and/or photo, and stamps, it will be a cinch to get your cards in the mail!

Photo: Pixabay

The Semi-Annual Clothes Swap

If you live in a climate where summer and winter vary enough to require you to have two sets of clothing, then it’s that time again for the semi-annual clothes swap! Here are some tips to help you finish this task.

For some of you, it may be the happiest time of the year when you can bring out your favorite turtlenecks and sweaters, putting away the sleeveless tops and sandals. For others, it is a very sad time knowing you will be forced to be bundled up in order to keep warm. Regardless, it is a necessary evil that we all must face two times a year.

Clean Clothes – Make sure all your summer clothes are clean before putting them away. Food or body odor attracts critters, and you don’t want your clothes ruined. Take inventory of any item that needs to go to the dry cleaner and run them over while washing all remaining summer clothes.

Decisions – Before just putting your clothes all away till next summer, look at what you have and decide what you really don’t like anymore and what doesn’t fit, or is stained. Letting go of such garments now will allow you to be able to grab what you want next season. Why store items that don’t make you happy?

Storage – Where your clothes are being stored will determine the best storage container. To keep your clothes dust free, they need to be in a covered container. Cardboard boxes are OK but plastic bins are better. They are can be sealed tighter to keep out critters and dust. Please label what is in each container to make it easy to grab items if you need certain clothes or shoes earlier than others.

If you are fortunate enough to have a closet or drawer space that allows you to keep all your clothes out year long, that is terrific. You may only need to swap the placement of in season clothes to allow for easy access.

Happy swapping!

Photo: Pixabay

How to Have a Great Halloween

Halloween is one of my favorite days of the year. Children come out dressed in colorful costumes. Parents walk along with them from house to house in the crisp fall leaves. Everyone seems to be in a truly generous, happy mood. Trick or Treating is truly a fantastic way to kick off the entire upcoming holiday season. Going door to door in even a neighborhood you know well isn’t without its safety risks, however. Here are some tips to a healthy, happy, and above all safe trick or treat night, “witch”-ever side of the door you are on.

  • Stay in Your Own Neighborhood. Trick or treating on the street or in the development you live is safer and more fun for everyone. Your neighbors get to delight in seeing all the kids they know dressed up, and the kids get a boost of confidence from their compliments and kind words. You also know, for the most part, where every piece of candy your child collects, has come from. Don’t try to do every house. For younger kids, just a few houses, or a single street, is enough.
  • Don’t Demand the Kids Say “Trick or Treat.” Many children are shy. Others have disabilities, such as Autism, cause them to be non-verbal. “Oooh” and “Ahhh” over every child that comes to your door and hand out one treat to every child. When you are out of treats, it is okay to close your door and not answer. Do not leave the house and leave a bowl of treats on your porch. This poses a potential safety risk to yourself, and the kids coming to your door.
  • Trick or Treat With Your Kids, In Broad Daylight. Never send younger kids, or those with disabilities, out trick or treating on their own, or even with an older sibling. Go with them. Stand at the foot of the walkway and notice who opens the door. Never go out trick or treating with your kids, or allow them to go out, after dark. Even the most reflective Halloween costume can be missed by a driver, particularly at dusk. A child alone, or even with an older sibling, cannot adequately protect themselves from a potential predator even in broad daylight.
  • Remember that Trick or Treaters Come in All Ages, Stages, and Sizes. We typically expect Trick or Treaters to be younger kids, no older than 13 or 14. Many types of Intellectual Disabilities cause the individuals who have them to act and function at a much younger age level than they are chronologically. If someone comes who appears older comes to your door, before opening the door check through a window or peep hole to confirm there is a parent or responsible adult nearby and if so, hand them a treat.
  • Set a Hard Rule that All Candy Must be Checked First. Make sure your kids understand that no candy is to be eaten while they are trick or treating, and that even after they get home, all candy is to be checked by you before they try it. Check each piece of candy a child receives and toss anything that seems questionable. If your child has any food allergies, read the ingredients on each label to confirm there are no “hidden” ingredients or that the candy wasn’t produced in the same factory that produces the food your child is allergic to.
  • Stick with Sealed Candy. Many people like to hand out fruit, homemade treats, or wrapped candy such as lollipops and Tootsie Rolls, or Sweet Tarts for Halloween. Unfortunately, these types of goodies often get thrown away by parents because they are not “factory sealed.” Better yet, head to Party City and get a bag of non-candy treats such as pencils, fidget spinners, funny erasers, cheap sunglasses and the like and hand those out instead.  It will cost about the same, all children can enjoy them, and make a better investment for everyone.

Do you have a Trick or Treat tip that you think will make Halloween great? Share it in the comments!

Photo Licensed from Adobe Stock

Today’s blog is from:

Cristina M. Miller, CP APMP

Writer and Copyeditor

I’ll Put Words To Work For You!

How to Keep Your Home Safe

In a few weeks most of the US will be turning our clocks back. That is a great time to change and check your smoke detector batteries. What else can we do to make sure our house is safe?

Fire Extinguishers – A fire extinguisher should be placed in the kitchen, of course, but also on every floor in your home. If you barbeque outside, you should also have one nearby in case flames get out of hand. The other important point to make is to not only have them on hand but to also know how to use them. Did you know that there is an expiration date on fire extinguishers? Make note of this by clearly labeling the expiration date with a black marker.

Carbon Monoxide and Smoke Detectors – Check with your fire department to find out where these detectors need to be located in your home. Know the difference between the sound of each detector so that when they go off you are aware if the alarm signals fire or carbon monoxide. Not only should you check the batteries, but also clean the grille, if your unit has one, of dust for optimum detection.

Burglarproofing – Is your home safe when you aren’t there? Do you have a sturdy deadbolt on all the doors leading to the outside? For those of you that have an alarm system, do you have signs advertising you are using an alarm system? Look at your landscaping and make sure shrubs and bushes are trimmed and not blocking windows. Make sure tree limbs aren’t too close to an upper floor window to act as a ladder to that window. When you are away, set timers on lamps so that the house isn’t dark all the time. And stop mail delivery, keep lawns mowed and driveways plowed when you are traveling.

These may seem obvious, but are you doing all you can to keep your house safe?

Photo: Pixabay

Five Alternatives to Halloween Candy

Halloween is right around the corner. What are some alternatives to Halloween candy that you can give out to trick or treaters this year? With so many allergies to be concerned about, why risk throwing your money away with candy that may just end up in the trash? Here are a few suggestions for non-candy ideas to give out this year.

  1. Stickers – What child doesn’t love to have stickers to put on their notebooks or papers?
  2. Pencils or pencil erasers – If you are handing out pencils, don’t buy the ones that are already sharpened. We want the children to be safe and not poked with the sharpened points.
  3. Bouncy small balls – Lots of hours of fun will be had while playing with these balls.
  4. Washable tattoos – Children like putting these on and parents love that they are not permanent.
  5. Mini flashlights – They can attach them to their backpacks. Keep your children safe.

There are many more non-candy ideas. These are just a few to get you thinking. What will you be handing out this Halloween?

Photo: Pixabay

The Importance of Getting a Flu Shot and Other Preventative Medical Care

Not making time for preventative health care, including an annual flu shot, can cost you money, time, and stress, as well as potentially creating a health crisis later. Save money and stay healthy by making time for and understanding the importance of getting a flu shot and other preventative medical care.

This is the time of year when doctor’s offices and pharmacies are advertising that they have flu shots available. I am not a doctor, but I highly recommend that you get a flu shot this year. From personal experience, I have faithfully gotten a flu shot every year for as long as I can remember. My mother, on the other hand, has refused to get one. Last year she got the flu in January and then again in early June. She is now, after all these years, going to get a flu shot this fall.

Unfortunately, it may take a health crisis to realize the importance of being on top of preventative care for yourself and your loved ones. I also know a business colleague of mine who last March, in the middle of an extremely busy work cycle, got hit with the flu and had to work from home, lost contact with her husband, an accountant, and missed out on numerous volunteer events all because she forgot to get her flu shot.

How can we avoid these unfortunate situations? I often talk about the importance of using a calendar. This is another instance when scheduling preventative medical care ties into the use of a calendar.

Pull out your calendar now and see if you have a doctor’s appointment already scheduled in October or November. If not, can you call and schedule one for the specific purpose of getting a flu shot? See if your town offers flu shot clinics or just stop into a pharmacy and get your flu shot there. I just looked at my calendar and see that I have an appointment with my primary care doctor in early November. I now know that this is when I will get my flu shot. If they are out of them when I am there, I will then go to my local pharmacy and get it there.

There is other preventative medical care that you can be on top of such as bi-annual dental cleanings, annual physicals, and mammograms. I find that once I have scheduled these, as soon as I am checking out from that appointment, I am making the next one. I find that if I leave the doctor/dentist office without a next appointment, I will either keep forgetting to call, or keep pushing the call off due to my busy schedule. If you haven’t had any of the annual appointments in a while, may I challenge you to pick up the phone and schedule them?

I know too many ladies who, if they had not been faithfully getting annual mammograms, would have had much more advanced breast cancers. Once you hear of these jarring events, I would hope that it would encourage you to run to your phone and schedule an important annual exam.

Being in control of your health related appointments really will help save you time and money. More importantly, it may save your life!


Grocery Shopping and Delivery Services

Have you explored the use of grocery shopping and delivery services yet? How do you get the best value from services like Instacart, Amazon Subscribe and Save, Prime Pantry, Peapod, and other grocery shopping services?

Grocery shopping and delivery services – even online “order and pick it up at the customer service counter rather than walking through the store and waiting in line at the check-out” services – are gaining in popularity, but are they really worth it? Here’s how to quickly decide if using a shopping and delivery service such as Instacart (Groceries), Amazon Subscribe and Save (Household items), Amazon Prime Pantry (Groceries), and Peapod (Groceries) are worth the money.

Costs – There are several factors that go into determining if these services are worth your money. Considerations include your gas and car mileage to go to and from a store to buy your items. What about your time? How much is it worth? If you are a person who likes to compare prices, how much time are you spending determining if buying in bulk at a Costco or BJ’s is less expensive than ordering online at one of these shopping services?

You also need to factor in the cost if you frequently do take out for dinner or eat out for a number of meals. Those costs really add up, and it may be that the extra dollars you will be spending on delivery fees make sense. Plus, the added bonus is by eating at home, you are more than likely eating healthier.

When you shop, if you buy items that are not on your shopping list, you may really benefit from using online shopping services so that you only purchase what you need and aren’t tempted as you walk through the store. You won’t be able to smell yummy bakery items in their ovens tempting you to buy baked goods just because it smells great and you are hungry.

If you live in rural areas and you forget a few items, these services really are a valuable resource. Just the gas alone to have to run back out and pick up the items you forgot will be a no brainer in using delivery services.

Timing – You may find that there are times when these services can be a life saver such as when you are sick and can’t get to a store. Or what about when you are traveling? A client was just telling me how she uses Instacart when she and her family travel. Her daughter has two small children that are still in diapers. Rather than packing 2 weeks’ worth of diapers or having to locate a store when they arrive, she has the diapers and other bulky items shipped to her at her travel destination. Moreover, if you are in a really busy phase of your life, these services can be a true life saver. The delivery fee, if any, is well worth it for peace of mind!

Timing may also be an issue when choosing a delivery time. Will you be home to bring your groceries in your house? It may not matter if your order doesn’t include perishables. However, if you are ordering items that have to be refrigerated, having someone at home to accept the delivery is a must. If you can be more flexible with the delivery window, you may be able to save some money.

There are definitely pros and cons to using these services. You need to evaluate your situation to see if they will work for you. Let me know your experience with using grocery shopping and delivery services.


Celebrating Back to School

The kids are back to school, family summer vacations are over, and the house is at peace again. Here’s to celebrating back to school with your children, including your teenager, so that they all get off to a great start.

Night before prep – To avoid running around during the morning, what activities can you accomplish the night before? May I suggest preparing lunches so all you have to do is gather any refrigerated items and add to lunch bags/boxes? Wouldn’t it be helpful to have your children make sure their backpacks are loaded and ready to grab on the way out the door? Can you or your children pick out their clothes and have them ready to put on?

You might also consider having the breakfast table set and ready with anything you are able to lay out for breakfast the night before. Talking with your children to make sure they don’t have any permission slips or papers to sign the night before will avoid last minute panic. Do they need gym clothes or anything special for the next day?

These tricks will speed up the morning activities and perhaps allow a few more minutes of precious snooze time.

Calendar – How does your family communicate and stay on track? Do you use a digital family calendar like Google calendar or iCalendar? Or do you use a paper calendar? Regardless of the method, are you and your family making sure all your activities are on the same calendar? It is so easy to assume everyone knows that dance class is on Tuesday at 6pm but having it on one calendar that the entire family can see will avoid double booking or missing an activity. Seeing all events in one place will allow better planning of transportation and meals. Even color coding each member of the family will make it easy to know which person is doing what each day of the week.

Shopping Lists – This time of year as school begins seems to be the time that you may feel as if you are at the store every day picking up a last minute school supply for your children. How do you organize and coordinate your shopping lists? Is there a central place for all members of your family to list items that they need? Alternatively, do you use a digital shopping list that everyone has access to? Sharing the list will allow everyone to add items they need; therefore, when you are out and about and near a given store, it is easier to grab the item instead of going all the way home, only having to run out to that store.

Some of these tips may already be in place in your household but if not, I am hoping that at least one of them will help make your school year a more enjoyable experience at your home. What are some other ways you create a successful school year?

Image by A3DigitalStudio from Pixabay 

How to Work From Home

It’s summertime and the kids need you home to take them places, but you need to work. Here’s how to work from home successfully.

Boundaries – Now more than ever is the work/life boundary important. You still need to work, but you are at home so other family members may see you as available. You also have to get in the mindset of working from home and not be tempted to do the laundry or wash dishes when you should be working. How do you establish that? It works better if you have a dedicated room in which to set up shop so you can, hopefully, close a door to life outside of your work. If not, you will need to be creative by telling others and yourself that you need to work from x to y and that you can’t be disturbed. Using a timer may help you all know when you are on and off work time. The same goes for your workmates. They will need to know when you are available for calls, meetings, and consultations, to name but a few.

Work Space – How can you set yourself up to be successful? What tools are needed to duplicate what you are accustomed to having around you when you work outside of your home? Make sure you do have everything you need so you can seamlessly do your job. If your office requires you to work on an encrypted computer, have the IT person verify that you can log into your email and other programs when you are away from the office.

Approval Process – Sometimes you have an emergency at home or are sick and your doctor doesn’t want you to infect others, so working at home needs to be approved by your boss or HR. What is the culture of your office? Do they allow employees to work from home? How do you go about setting this up? More and more companies are allowing employees the flexibility to work from home, but don’t just assume this is your decision alone.

It really does take discipline to work from home, but you can be so much more productive when you have fewer interruptions from co-workers or the noise of the office. Being properly set up will be the key to your success whenever you will work from home.

Photo: Pixabay

College Dorm Planning Tips

Everywhere you look there are trendy dorm room accessories and “must have’s” for teenagers heading off to college. Here are some helpful planning tips for your college-bound teenager and his/her home away from home during the school year.

Furniture – Most college dorm rooms are typically furnished with a bed, dresser, and a desk. Any other piece of furniture you add needs to be multi-functional as square footage is at a premium. For example, if you want to add seating, you should make sure it can also act as additional storage so think ottomans or a trunk.

College Checklist – I am not going to recreate what has already been done. Here is a great checklistthat you can customize for your student.

The next few are for the would-be-student:

Pack Wisely – You will want to personalize your room but don’t bring your entire bedroom with you as you are sharing space with a roommate. Also, do you really want to risk losing a family heirloom? Keep it safe at home. If you are attending school in a climate that has different seasons, you can always bring the other season’s clothes back with you when you go home on break. Take a few cold/warm weather items as temps do change quickly, and you want to be prepared. Or have your parents send you a care package with items you need later in your first semester.

Study space – If you plan to study in your room you will want to have a comfy spot to read and work on your computer. If a desk isn’t your style, you may want to have a compact lap desk such as this oneor this is another stylethat can double as a lap table when eating in bed or while watching tv. Depending on your style there are a number of chairsthat would not only fit in your room, but would also be comfortable to lounge in.

Communication – It goes without saying that you will be sharing a dorm room. Take the time to reach out to your roommate to get to know him/her a bit before living together. See what items you will both be bringing so you don’t end up with 2 microwaves! You don’t have to be best friends with this person, but you will be spending time with him/her, so embrace the experience.

Starting college can be a really fun time, but with it comes a lot of stress over the newness of everything all at once. Being prepared and having a room set up before you begin classes will take a lot of pressure off you, and you will be able to settle in sooner to begin this exciting new phase of your life.

Photo: Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash