Planning For Vacation

Tomorrow I leave on a vacation to Ocean City, Maryland. This is the first vacation to somewhere new, that I’m doing all the planning for by myself. Our other vacations have been to places we’ve been before, like Cape Cod- I’ve been going there every year for about 15 years, so planning that trip wasn’t particularly stressful. I hope this one goes just as smoothly. 
I found the perfect hotel, reasonably priced, right on the beach and about two blocks past the end of the boardwalk (hopefully that’ll make it a bit less crowded). It’s across the street from an amusement park and a couple of seafood restaurants. Seems like an ideal location but I’ll keep my fingers crossed! 
I did some research and planned an outing to Assateague Island for a day. I went there with my family when I was 15, on the way back from Virginia Beach, but we never saw any of the wild horses. I hope this time we have better luck. 
I also want to check out the Fenwick Island Lighthouse and the nearby Mason-Dixon Line marker. On the way home from vacation, I want to swing by Rehoboth Beach, Delaware to check out a few unique stores. 
Other than that I want to leave the plan open to hanging on the beach, strolling the boardwalk, and visiting any attractions we might happen upon. 

To prepare for this fun and relaxing vacation, I’ve made like a million lists, googled activities and restaurant reviews, and made or purchased some supplies. 
I went to my local Christmas Tree Shop and purchased a large green tote bag with a zippered top for $3.99. I figured that would make an excellent and cheap beach bag but it seemed to be missing something. My monogram! Rather than hand embroidering something so large (it would take forever!), I decided to design it out of a festive fabric. I found some green, yellow and orange citrus printed fabric that was perfect for the job. I traced my monogram on the fabric, cut out the letters, ironed them, sewed them on, and voilà! 


I tied a strip of the fabric to the zipper to bring it all together and complete the look. 
Since the fabric was something I already had on hand, the total project cost was only $3.99 plus tax! Quite a good deal for a totally customized bag!

Another great find was a beach cabana/sun hut from the Christmas Tree Shop. For $16.99 you get a space big enough for two beach chairs, three adults just sitting on beach towels, or four or five small children. It creates a breeze-free area to enjoy a picnic on the sand, and a place to take a break from the sun. 


We probably won’t spend all day on the beach, but at that price, it’s worth grabbing just in case. I saw ones at other stores that had a front flap that zipped up to create a changing area for an extra $20 or so, but we’ll be only a short walk from our hotel room so I can’t imagine we’d actually use it. 

I’m also making sure we have all the basics. Sunblock. I got two kinds- 50 spf lotion and 30 spf spray. Plus an aloe cream for the inevitable sunburn. Two bathing suits per person. No one wants to wear a wet bathing suit if they don’t dry before the next swim, and you never know if you might tear it or something. Two beach towels- same reason. Water proof containers and pouches for cell phones, keys, etc. At least two pairs of flip flops per person for the beach. I have the worst luck and it seems I always break a pair, so this time I’m bringing a brand new, super durable pair, and a couple others, plus some brand new sandals. A first aid kit just in case. Sleepwear that is appropriate in case someone needs to get something from the car or go to the hotel office, etc. Everyone’s regular medicines, and extra just in case. I plan to bring a few extra migraine pills because I’d rather take an extra pill than miss out on enjoying my vacation.
In my opinion, you should plan as if everyone is going to need a lot of everything. Not one band aid in case someone gets a cut, but several because you might get the misfortune of several scrapes. Not just a couple tums in case you get a sour stomach, but a bottle of them in case it lasts for days or you’re not the only one. 
I know that most things you could just run out to a store for, but if you plan that way, you could end up spending a lot of your vacation time shopping for supplies, and you’ll most likely end up spending more money than you would have if you’d planned ahead. 

Anyway, I’m super excited! I have most of my packing done and just have to pack the car and make a quick trip to the store. I’m going to try to get myself to bed early so I can hopefully head out by 5:00am tomorrow morning. I’ll try to make time to post some pictures and an update about my trip so you can share in the fun! 


Preparing Your Home For Thanksgiving: The Third Stage

When the day finally arrives, you’ll be racing around trying to get everything done in time. With so much to do, you wouldn’t want to forget anything.

The best way to keep track of what you need to do is to make a list. When it comes to cooking the food, it would be easier to make some sort of time chart.

Figure out how long each item on the menu will take to cook and try to make your best guess of how long it will take you to prepare it for the oven. You can do some of the prep work first thing in the morning or the night before to save time. Write down the time you will have to start each dish in order to have it ready on time for dinner. Your times may vary if you have a way to keep the dishes warm until the meal. Keep the time chart on hand during the day so you don’t fall behind. You could even set an alarm on your cell phone to remind you when to start each dish.

There are a few other things to do besides the meal, including touch-up cleaning, before your guests arrive. If you have help, decide on a job for each person. I made a check list in case you are worried you might forget.

-sweep the porch
-make sure no toys, shoes etc. have been left out from the night before
-fluff and straighten out any pillows on the couch
-take out the garbage(check every bin)
-put out your guest towels
-do a quick once over with the vacuum
-double check that the toilets and sinks are still clean
-spot mop any floors that need it
-empty the cat litter pan if you have one
-spray an air freshener or fabric refresher any where it’s needed
-make ice
-put wine in the fridge the night before or first thing in the morning

You may want to keep a broom and dust pan handy so you can clean up any messes you make while cooking, without disturbing your guests.

If you have pets, don’t forget about them! Make sure you take the dog out before your guests arrive so he’s not waiting at the door while you’re trying to enjoy your dinner. If your pets are skittish, make sure they have a comfortable spot to go to get away from all the activity. If your dog tends to beg at the table while you are eating, put him in another room or put up a pet gate to block the dining area. Remember, as much as you love your pets, you want to make sure your guests are comfortable and you don’t want them to feel annoyed by your pet. You can give your dog a special treat or toy so he doesn’t feel like he’s missing out on the fun.

You’ll be pinched for time so save some of that time by trying some cooking shortcuts.

Instead of peeling and boiling potatoes whole (which can take forever), peel them the night before or early in the morning. Chop them into small pieces of similar size to save at least ten minutes on the stove. I’ve seen shortcuts telling you to boil whole potatoes first, then just wipe the skin off. This does save time on peeling (though you could peel them several hours earlier) but may take thirty minutes to boil through and won’t boil your potatoes as evenly, which may result in lumpy mashed potatoes.

Peel and chop your vegetables the night before. Put them in an airtight container so they stay fresh. This could save you another ten minutes on the day of.

Make your stuffing the day before. Just mix everything together and put it in the fridge to keep it fresh. The next day you’ll just stuff it in the turkey and pop it in the oven. This is especially helpful if you are waking up super early just to start the turkey.

Set the kitchen up the night before so you don’t have to waste time looking for pots and pans or utensils. Keep the sink filled with hot soapy water throughout the day so you can wash dishes quickly if you’ll need to reuse them.

Make sure you keep your cell phone charged and on hand throughout the day so guests can get in touch with you. It’s easy to get so busy you forget where you left your phone, but a guest may call if they get lost, are running late, or need to be picked up from the airport, train or bus station.

I hope these little reminders help you to have a stress-free holiday. Relax and try not to worry too much. Enjoy your company and have a Happy Thanksgiving!


Preparing Your Home For Thanksgiving: The First Stage

Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to get together with friends and family and celebrate the blessings you received throughout the year. It’s a time to catch up with those you haven’t seen in awhile, reminisce about the good ol’ days and create new memories.
For a day like this, it shouldn’t have to be so stressful!
This year, I have the honor of hosting Thanksgiving at my house. As soon as my husband and I decided we wanted to host it, I raced to call everyone and invite them before anyone else decided to host. We were both so excited when the last call was made and we found out that Thanksgiving would be ours this year!
Hosting is a big responsibility and a lot of work, but it can also be a lot of fun and a great motivator to get things done!
Before I even think about planning the menu or decorating the house, I want to make sure that the house is ready to host guests. It’s important to make sure everything is clean, organized and working properly well before your guests are to arrive.

I have a little checklist for anyone feeling overwhelmed or just unsure of what they should do to prepare:

1. Check your bathrooms
•fix leaky faucets if possible
•unclog/clean sink and shower drains
•tighten loose towel racks
•clean the tub/shower
-if it’s not too bad you can get one of those no scrub cleaners to just take the water spots and shampoo drippings off
-shine up the faucets, knobs, shower head, and drain. A stainless steel or silver polish will keep them from getting spotty until your guests arrive.
-if you have a shower curtain and the liner is faded or just not so clean, replace it. The Dollar Tree sells liners for $1 and stores like Walmart also have a similar price. I always keep an extra one on hand because it seems to make more sense than cleaning it.
•make sure the shower curtain, bath mat, and any window curtains are clean
•scrub your toilet bowl, toilet seat, and all the way down the base where the dust loves to collect
•wipe down moldings
•scrub sink and any countertops
-you can use polish on these faucets also
•clean windows, mirrors and glass
•dust like crazy
•wipe down the walls and ceiling (I use a stick mop to reach the high places)
•vacuum and mop (I use a brush to get any gunk in the corners)
•make sure you have enough towels for all your guests and there’s a hamper for dirty towels
•put shampoo, conditioner, soap, toothpaste, toothbrushes, floss, razors, or whatever you’d like to offer your guests (someone’s going to forget something) in the shower/cabinet
•leave a spray air freshener in an obvious spot for your guests to use

2. Check your guest room(s)
•make sure it’s accessible (many people use a guest room for extra storage)
-this is a great time to move things into the attic/basement/garage if you don’t need them in the house
-if your guest is staying for several nights, you’ll want to make sure there’s a place for them to put their clothes and personal items. Clear out a drawer or two in a dresser for them and insure there is a spot to set things such as hairbrushes, perfume/cologne etc.
•make sure there’s an available outlet to charge a phone
•if you don’t already have one, put an alarm clock in the room
•wash the curtains if needed
•wipe down mirrors and windows
•dust, dust, dust!

3. Check hallways and entryways
•if you have an elderly or disabled guest, you’ll want to be sure they can get from room to room
-move shoes, boot trays, etc. (anyone could trip over something while walking to the bathroom in the dark)

4. Check the kitchen/dining room
•make sure your counters are clear so you have enough room to cook the big feast
•make sure you have room in your fridge for leftovers and anything your guests might bring for the meal (most of your cooking will probably be done the day of, and not need storage, but your guests’ dishes will probably need to be put away for awhile)
•use wood polish to freshen up the table
•dig out the extra chairs if you’ll be needing them
•if you have special dishes or glasses you use only for such occasions, wash them a few days before (they’ve been collecting dust all year)
•a few days before, clean your oven, and then be prepared to clean it again after your guests have left (it’s going to get a lot of use for one day)
•clean the hood over your stove (you’ll probably have the stove on for a very, very long time, and the longer it’s on, the hotter it gets, and the more the grease splatter on the hood will melt and drip into whatever your cooking)
•scrub the cabinet doors (even if you do this regularly, somehow they always get dirty)
•refill salt and pepper shakers the day before

5. Check your living room
•clean any area rugs
•vacuum chairs and the sofa, especially if you have pets
•if you do not have enough seating for everyone, pull out some blankets or pillows so the children or younger guests can sit comfortably on the floor
•if anyone will be bringing a baby, make sure you have room for the play pen
•clean the ceiling fan if you have one
•organize your entertainment center
•clean the curtains
•wipe the windows

6. Check your yard
•rake up the leaves/sticks
•pull out any dead annuals left in your flower beds
•replace any walkway lighting that is no longer working
•plan the parking for your guests
-one of the worst things would be finding out your guest has arrived but has nowhere to park
-figure out the maximum number of cars you can fit and you could even use chalk to mark out parking spots to optimize the space
-if you have a small driveway, try to organize a carpool, pick up a guest who lives nearby, or perhaps if you are friendly with a neighbor, you could ask to use their driveway if they are going away (that might get complicated though if they plan to come home before your guests leave)

I wanted to write up this list as early as possible so that everyone has time to get everything done. I know it’s a crazy long list, and of course not everyone will need or want to do everything on the list but hopefully it will take some of the stress away by being reminded of something we may have forgotten to do. Not everything needs to be done in just one day or saved until the day before. Areas that only the guests will really use can be dealt with today, tomorrow or as soon as possible without needing to be re cleaned (as no one else will regularly use them) and then you’ll have the next few weeks to focus on the areas you use everyday. Like many of you, I don’t want to have to do everything the day before the guests arrive, so if we start now, and pace ourselves, we won’t have to race around last minute.

I’ll be doing a series of Thanksgiving prep blog entries so please check back if you are interested in any more ideas or would like to share some yourself. If I’ve forgotten anything, please let me know so I can add it to the list (and I can link it to your blog if you’d like).
Happy Autumn!