Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas Family Photo Tips

Empty box, but so pretty!
Take family photos early in the day when everyone is fresh and alert.

Shots at a festival of trees -  pose with the beautiful (and empty) packages on display. :-)

Sweatshirts are comfy, but they look bulky and sloppy in photos. The fewer who wear them for photos, the better.

Don’t make everyone pose in matching outfits—though coordinating colors is nice—and keep prints to a minimum. A photo where you see polka dots, stripes, flowers, and plaid is a photo that causes eye strain. ;-)

Coordinating or matching pajamas make a fun shot. One of my favorite family photos has my husband in a red bathrobe (over pajamas) sitting in front of the tree, while our daughter and I wore red plaid flannel gowns and our son wore plaid pajamas and settled in around him.

Do not hide behind the camera. I don't care how much you fret about your weight, hair, or aging face. You are more than your outsides. Your family loves you for who you are inside, and depriving them of family photos because of your dissatisfaction with your reflection in the mirror is selfish. That’s right, I said it! Our families, for the most part, see us through eyes of love; they don't see all the flaws that make us cringe. Look. Someday, you’ll be gone. Those photos will be a comfort to your loved ones only if you are IN them.

You can't threaten someone into looking relaxed and happy. If someone is taking a photo of kids, try jingling a bell to get their attention. If you use a timer, decide where you would like the group to look, and place a wrapped gift there. Tell the kids that once you get some good pictures, you will open the gift. Ask them if they think Frosty the Snowman's magic hat is in the box. Fill the box with something that everyone can share, like candy, snack mix, or little party trinkets.

Think about taking silly pictures first. People are often more relaxed and natural after that, so you may get a better normal shot. Of course, if you have a child who would be wound up and unable to stop being silly, save the silly pics for last, letting the child know that after you get a "good" group shot, you will take a silly shot.

Distract children who don't want their picture taken by giving them a small toy. They may not look at the camera, but they also won't pout or cry and ruin the shot.

That’s all for now! Christmas breakfast is calling my name. May you all have a warm and wonderful family Christmas.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Dealing with Difficult Relatives

I have been fortunate that, in my extended family, there are no “problem people” to make the holidays difficult. However, there was a couple in my distant past with whom I couldn’t spend a weekend without getting a sick headache that was followed by “tossing my cookies.” Fortunately, I don’t have to deal with that kind of stress anymore, but I can sympathize with those who still do. That’s why I want to share this blog post I found: 8 tips for dealing with difficult relatives during the holiday season.

My coping advice is to smile, nod, and say nothing when someone brings up a controversial topic. My nodding has less to do with agreeing than the fact that yes, I hear where you are coming from.

How do you handle difficult people during the holidays?

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Easy Centerpiece Idea

I love table centerpieces, and I have an assortment to suit the changing seasons. When there are just two or three of us at the table, none of those centerpieces obstruct our view of each other, but with a large gathering, a big centerpiece can make conversation across the table difficult.  I remember one year when I hosted Thanksgiving dinner, and my brother-in-law suddenly hoisted my big autumn flower arrangement (a gift from my father’s funeral) in the air and sat it on the floor behind him! He had no interest in craning his neck to see family members around the table!

Has that ever happened to you? It’s funny now, but I was flustered and embarrassed then. You want your table to be festive, but at the same time, you want your dinner guests to feel comfortable at the table. As I was glancing through some old Christmas snow photos this morning, I realized I was looking at a creative centerpiece idea that will solve both problems for your December entertaining.

You lay a wreath in the middle of your table and pile ornaments in the center. Ta-dah! You now have a low-lying centerpiece that won’t block anyone’s view around the table. (If you still want a bit of height, add a candlestick to the center and pile the ornaments around it.)

I have a collection of wreaths in traditional greenery, grapevine, and shimmering tinsel. You can choose whatever suits your decor or personal style. Your ornaments may be elegant or fun, one color or a kaleidoscope of colors, plastic or glass. For a dinner party, you might invite guests to choose an ornament from the centerpiece to take home!

Centerpieces don’t have to be towering monuments to the Christmas spirit, and they don’t have to break your budget. Play with what you already have, visit a thrift or consignment store if you must, and enjoy an easy holiday centerpiece at every meal served at your table.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Preparation for Company, or Gift Idea -- Books on Organization

Preparation for Company, or Gift Idea? You decide!

I’m very familiar with the following three books and wrote about them on another blog. For my Christmas blog, I am proposing that you might consider one of these as either a way to help you prepare for Christmas (just 3 weeks away) or as a gift for a practical friend or family member who has talked about needing help/motivation to get organized. (This would not be the gift to give to someone looking for something romantic under the tree! Also, I don’t advise you to use a tool like one of these books as a hint that someone’s organizational skills don’t meet your expectations. That plan could backfire in a horrible way!)

Organizing from the Heart: Change Your Mindset, Conquer Your Challenges by Baker, Beutler, and Whisnant

Total Home Makeover: Renewing Your Space & Spirit by Renee Metzler

Declutter Now! Uncovering the Hidden Joy and Freedom in Your Life by Lindon and Sherry Gareis 

Each book has a different way of presenting the material, so readers can choose from among them which style best suits them. (If you believe that reading about organization will prevent you from starting, choose a book with worksheets or charts and daily goals. Those might provide the motivation you lack.)

Organizing from the Heart is the shortest book at 119 pages. (It can be purchased for download if you are in a hurry to use it yourself!) It offers a fun organizing personality quiz; short chapters that include a small amount of story in addition to introducing a concept linked to Scripture and a reflection, action, and inspiration; space for journaling, and a leader’s guide in the appendix for use in small groups if desired (with 12 chapters, the book lends itself to use in a quarterly study). The authors suggest that getting organized can be an act of worship—an intriguing idea. If you like variety, you will enjoy this book. You can check it out at their blog:

Total Home Makeover is 222 pages long and offers a 20-day planner with a short daily devotional and space for journaling, followed by coaching sessions, to-do’s, anecdotes, worksheets, and ideas for rewarding ourselves each week for following the plan. The purpose of this book is to transform you, your family, and your home. If you like charts and worksheets, this book is for you! You can check it out at

At 248 pages, Declutter Now! is the longest and perhaps most intensive book. The authors are certified Christian life coaches. Not only do they discuss decluttering your home but also your heart, mind, body, and soul. There are no charts or worksheets; if you prefer to read without the pressure of journaling or filling out worksheets and charts, you’ll want to get this book. You can check it out at

Disclosure of Material Connection: I am an editor at Ambassador International, the company that published two of these three books. Of those two, I was the editor for one. The third book, I edited freelance. No one asked me to review these books. I only recommend books that I have personally read and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”