Archive for the ‘Holiday’ Category

Another Valentines Day is fast approaching filled with candy hearts, boxes of chocolate and red roses–the symbols of the romantic season.  If you’re like us, and you prefer to seek out alternative symbols of affection to give this holiday new life, take a look at some of our favorite Valentine crafts and activities, DIY style!
Here are a few kid-friendly activities:

These Heart Stamps by Rust and Sunshine are the perfect activity for even the littlest valentine in your life.  All you need is a toilet paper roll, a scotch tape, red paint, and paper in order to make a home-made sweet surprise for any family member!
For the older kids, these Valentines Day Mad Libs by My Sisters Suitcase can be a fun gift to exchange at school.
If your honey has a sweet tooth, try these printables to make the occasion unique:
DIY Valentine Treat Bags by Twig and Thistle
For the more rustic Valentine, check out the You and Me and a Carved Tree idea from The Dating Divas.  It’s a romantic, yet “manly” way to show your affections!We also came across some wine cork art to stimulate your crafty side!

Wine Cork Heart from My Uncommon Slice of Suburbia
Wine Cork Heart The Corner Apartment.  The nifty thing about this collection of corks is that they didn’t require any paint!  The purple progression comes from the natural tint of the variety of wines that stained them.  If you don’t already have a collection going, maybe you can start stocking up corks for next year!Valentines Day doesn’t have to be cliche…spice it up this year!

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January is New Year’s Resolution time!  January also happens to be National Get Organized Month, which makes 2013 the perfect time to make your organized home a reality!  You might also need a little extra room for those new Christmas items.  JCL has a few favorite reminders to achieve your goals without getting overwhelmed and quitting early.  One room at a time.  You might be super excited about clearing your entire house of clutter in one whirlwind day, but its likely you will end up overwhelmed!  Finish one room before starting on the next.  This will ensure you complete each project and also give you a sense of accomplishment and motivation to continue on.Act like you’re moving.  As you sift through your belongings to decide what to keep, pretend you’re moving out of your house!  Ask yourself if you would bother keeping three sets of cheese knives or eight sets of black dress pants.  Sell or donate the excess!

Identify your “Prime Real Estate”.  Whatever room you’re dealing with (closet, garage, office, etc.) determine your “prime real estate,” ie. the drawer closest to the sink, or the most accessible area in your closet.  Be vigilant about what you allow in those areas of the room in order to organize successfully and strategically.  For example, your evening gowns most likely do not belong in “prime real estate”–move them to the “burbs”!

Keep it simple.  If walking through the Container Store feels like you’ve reached your own personal Mecca, we understand!  But be wary of fancy label sets and excessive storage solutions.  If you need something so elaborate as to remodel one side of your bedroom to fit a fancy wall of shelving units, it is likely you need to pare down the excess, not store it all.  Not only will you save money on shelves, but you can sell the extra and have some cash left over!

Stick to these guidelines and watch your resolution come to fruition!  Happy Organizing!

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January is National Get Organized Month!  By this time, you’re probably buried in the post-holiday carnage wondering what to tackle first. First things first–storing your decorations safely and labeling them clearly for next year.  Here are a few helpful tips to get you started.First off, you need an organized system for storing your Christmas lights.  Martha Stewart suggests wrapping the lights around pieces of cardboard for easy storage without the tangle.

Store the cardboard in clear, labeled bins.
Also, keep the old cardboard tubes that gift-wrap comes wound around to store large, loose sheets of paper.  You can save some money and store the extra without it getting shoved into a bin somewhere and forgotten.For ornament storage use egg cartons for the smaller items and plastic cups stored in clear bins.
When storing the rest of your Christmas decorations, you should always use clear bins so you can see what is inside.  That goes for all your storage bins.Lastly, you need to make room for all your new holiday goodies.  If you didn’t do a pre-holiday clutter clean of your child’s old toys, go through their room and see what can be donated or sold to consignment.  Don’t forget to go through your own room and closet to clear out extra clothing and clutter.  You may even make a few bucks selling through a consignment store.

For some extra pointers on how to make organizing your 2013 goal, check out our New Year’s Organizing Tips blog.

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Everyone loves holiday parties: the friends, the decorations, the FOOD.  Oh my, the food.  A holiday bash is a dangerous place for those watching their waistlines this season.  And if you are the one throwing the party, you don’t want to serve your guests rice cakes and club soda.  Thankfully, we found a few things you can do to lower the calories without taking the fun out of the party…and your guests won’t even notice!
Offer no or lower-calorie drinks

  • Holiday Tea
  • Diet Soda
  • Mineral Water
  • Coffee
  • Light beer and wine spritzers made with club soda
  • Holiday punch made with light or diet soda (ginger ale or lemon-lime soda or cranberry juice)

Go heavy on the fruits and veggies

  • Make sure your table is covered with 50% fruit and veggies
  • Be as colorful and diverse as you can with the produce: jicama, cherry tomatoes, pineapple, and sugar snap peas are often forgotten.
  • Be careful to use lighter dips (fat-free or non-fat) with the produce as not to negate their healthy appeal.

Make dishes dense with healthy ingredients

  • Use beans in your dishes whenever possible to add fiber and make your guests feel more full.  Try a bean dip with fat-free refried beans and low fat sour cream.
  • Substitute whole wheat flour in cookies and pastries for richness and health.

Serve lean meats and fish

  • Shrimp with cocktail sauce
  • Lean sliced turkey or ham
  • Broiled salmon on whole wheat crackers

Make your dishes smaller

  • Offer desserts in smaller two bite portions–bake them in small cupcake tins to encourage smaller portions.  And the petite sizes are more elegant and unique!
  • Put out salad plates for people to load their plates.  There will still be the occasional guest piling their plate high, but most people will stick to the plate size.

Shrimp cocktail, a wine spritzer and some dancing sounds like a delicious and healthy way to party this year!  If you’re running low on recipe ideas, there are thousands of ideas online including the Mayo Clinic’s Appetizer List,  featuring grilled pineapple, shrimp spring rolls, smoked trout spread, and fresh tomato crostini.  Delicious!

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October can be a “midway month” that may yield everything from boiling hot summer temps, to your first cold snap.  It’s a transitional period for you to finish yard work and store some of your supplies.  If you have a garden or even just a lawn, there are few things to transition your outdoors before the real winter arrives.

As for your lawn, there can be a few things to transition:

  • Disconnect garden hoses and store them inside so they don’t crack in freezing temperatures.  Extend the life of your hoses by taking the time to unhook, coil, and store them away.
  • Empty dirt from planters.  Dirt can expand in freezing temperatures and crack flowerpots and planters, so clean them out and turn them upside down or store them.  Some plants can be wintered inside the house if they are in a sunny place.
  • Ready yard equipment for storage.  Leaving fuel in the tanks of gas-powered mowers and edgers can gum up the carburetor of a gasoline tool.  Brush dead cut grass from the blades before storing it.
  • Have your automatic sprinkler system turned off.  The entire system should be drained of water to prevent freezing, which is usually done by blowing compressed air through the system.

As you may have noticed already, ‘tis the season for falling leaves!

The timing for raking leaves is always tricky since the trees don’t drop all the leaves at once, and oak leaves hold on through the winter.  But don’t wait to clean up the leaves that have fallen; piled up leaves are more difficult to blow or rake, particularly if it rains or sleets.  Clean up the leaves after the first fall, then a couple more times as the season progresses.  

  • If you have a leaf pickup service, bag the leaves in sturdy leaf bags, unless the town instructs otherwise and leave them on the curb.  If you plan to burn them, be sure you have a permit.  Although consider an alternative to burning them (even legally) to avoid sending particulate matter and irritants in the air.
  • If you don’t have a leaf pickup service, consider chopping the leaves up with your lawn mower and adding them to a compost pile.  If you don’t have a compost pile, perhaps you can donate to your neighbor’s pile (share the love!)?  Bag the rest and take them to the dump.  Be sure and check your dump regulations since limited space has led to ban on leaves and yard trimmings. If you have the space on your property, dispose of the leaves there, but be aware of winds that may blow them into the cleared areas.

Don’t wait!  It is great to get these things done before the first frost to prevent rushing around, and not to mention the various things that can crack or break from the temperatures.

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It is officially Fall!  If you forgot what weather in the 60s actually felt like, join the rest of us in an autumn celebration…of clothing!  As always, you do not have to celebrate into credit card debt to transition your wardrobe into fall.  Use what you have and have a little fun with it!
  1. Fashion show!  Your only audience may only be the cat, but you may have forgotten what’s been in storage the last six months.  If you haven’t pulled out your warmer fall clothing, do so now to test the fit.  If it is too small, donate to your local thrift store or charity organization.  A comprehensive list of choices to donate in the DC Metro Area can be found here.  Whatever is too large can be brought to a tailor and modified.
  1. DIY Modify.  Brighten your button-up sweater or peacoat by replacing drab buttons with  sassy new ones–rhinestone, metal, or large colored enamel styles can accent any piece.

  1. Accessorize.  If you are searching for a new fall look, a good scarf or belt may be all you need.  The key is to build accent colors on your neutral outfits and layer for the fall temperatures.  Add a rich, orange scarf to your gray work ensemble or add turquoise earrings to your little black dress and sassy boots.  Find a sale at Tj Maxx or Target and buy bright autumn colors that “pop” without buying entire outfits.
  1. Shoe Clips.  Skip buying a new pair of shoes by accenting your current kicks with shoe clips.  We found our favorites at AbsolutelyAudrey.com with styles ranging casual to vintage to evening wear!

Rust pink Betty Shoe Clips from Absolutely Audrey

Get creative this Autumn and have a little fun with your existing wardrobe!

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Happy New Year!  Happy New (Organized) You!  You might be itching to clean those closets and get to work on your New Year’s Resolution to get organized.  And why not?  2012 marks the 11th annual official “Get Organized” Month, named by the National Association of Professional Organizers.  As enthusiastic and determined as you might feel, consider a few tips before jumping right into things this month.  Recent studies have shown that 75% of people give up on their resolutions within the first few weeks.  Instead of scrapping your whole plan by February, let JCL Services help you see your goals through.  Whether you have a date with the treadmill or the Container Store, these tips can help you sustain your motivation throughout the year!

Maria Gracia, founder of the organizing website, Get Organized Now! has a way to make your resolutions S-M-A-R-T:

SPECIFIC:  Gracia reminds us resolutions must be specific. For example, saying that you’d like to spend more time with your kids in the New Year is too general. Avoid generalities like, “I want to get in shape”, and replace them with something exact like, “I plan to exercise for thirty minutes Mondays and Fridays after work”.

MEASURABLE:  Resolutions that are worked on and achieved, Gracia reminds us, are those that can be measured and tracked. When you think of making a resolution, think in terms of numbers in order to track your progress. Perhaps you’d like to take a vacation in August.  By setting a specific monetary goal for each pay period to track your savings, you will know exactly how much you have saved.

ATTAINABLE: You can certainly make challenging resolutions, but don’t make them so difficult that they’re going to be almost impossible to achieve. If your goal is to eat better, lose 50 pounds, and work out every day, you may want to pare that down into specific monthly goals.  Such as January: introduce veggies into each meal.  February: Exercise for 30 minutes every other day.  By March, you will be surprised how much weight you have lost by simply sticking to your monthly goal.

REALISTIC: You might want to have your entire house cleaned and organized in a week, but as Gracia reminds us, this resolution is going to be unrealistic and unattainable. Instead, set more realistic goals, such as taking one room at a time.  You may want to consider hiring a Professional Organizer to help you prioritize and meet your long-term goals with realistic steps along the way.

TIMELY: Resolutions with no start or end date in mind never get accomplished. Be sure all of your resolutions have both a deadline, and a starting date, Gracia says. For example, you might say you’d like to change your job. Your deadline might be March, 2012, and your start date could be next week.

New Years Resolutions were never meant to be cumbersome chores, gnawing at your mind throughout January until they’re scrapped by February.  By formulating a step-by-step plan, we can make them attainable and fun!  We at JCL Services wish you a brighter and more organized 2012!

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