Christmas Tips & Tricks


Christmas Gift Swap

This is a great idea if you have a group of about 10 or more people. Especially if you need to be careful of expenses this time of year. Each person brings a gift that would be suitable for anyone... male or female. A mininum amount for gift is given. We set it at $20 since you only buy one gift. A couple of things that went over great were gift certificates and an electronic dart board. When all gifts are under the tree each gift is then numbered 1 thru the amount of gifts you have.  Then the same amount of numbers are put in a bowl (1-?) and each person draws a number. Their number will match a number under the tree. The person who has #1 goes first; locates the present numbered #1 and opens it.  Then the person who has #2 can either open the present numbered #2... or "steal" the present from #1.  Then it's #3's turn.  Either "steal" the present from #1 or #2, or open the present numbered 3.  This continues until each person has a gift. At that time, the person who drew #1 will get the chance to either keep their gift or "steal" a gift from anyone else. You can also set a limit on how many times a gift can be "stolen" if you choose. (More fun that way) Our limit was that a gift could only be "stolen" 3 times and we had a group of about 16 people. HAPPY GIFT GIVING!!  Elizabeth

Fun For the Teens

With a house full of teenagers with opposite interests AND low on finances, I am always looking for ways to make less look and feel like MORE.  As a family, we all enjoy games so  often times I make a scavenger hunt part of the gift giving process.  For instance I might wrap a jar of jam, a plastic toe, and an arrow.  Christopher would then need to figure out that his real present was a game called Tojamminaro (Toe+ Jam + Arrow) or instead of wrapping a box game which he could easily guess - -I would just wrap the instructions and have him hunt for more clues to find the real present hidden in the clothes washer.  Also, I have taken a flannel shirt and put money in the pockets, sleeves etc. for an unexpected surprise hidden in an seemingly ordinary gift. Last year, the family didn't really like the game I had planned - but your family might.  There were several household items that I needed - -cheese slicer, nutcracker, potato peeler etc.  I creatively wrapped these items and  everyone gets to choose one of the wrapped gifts. The order of choice is determined by the throw of the dice.   Once everyone has a gift...they are advised that one of the gifts has a $20 bill hidden inside the package.  Some of the gifts have dollar bills, or $5. or $10 - - the idea is that everyone will get money -- but not everyone will get the  $20 bill.  The dice is thrown again - -and the highest gets to then trade their gift with someone else - - or exchange their gift for the extra present in the middle.  Last year I was secretly glad when no one wanted the hidden $20 gift and it was discarded - -that meant that I got the $20!!!  Maybe that was why my family didn't like the game???  Haven't figured out what we are going to this year -- and tomorrow is Christmas Eve! Happy Holidays to all..and I hope this gives you some ideas of how to add some light hearted fun.   Kirk

Hanging Lights

Use coffee cup hooks to hang outside lights above wooden window frames. With just a little pressure they will work their way into the wood with little or no damage,  mr wadding

Christmas Tags

 To make your own Christmas tags just take old Christmas cards and some pinking shears and cut out the pretty parts of the card.   Kim Allport

Photography Tips

How to Photograph Holiday Lights 

'Tis the season to be jolly! The season of lights - from Christmas trees to Hannukah candles to decorative house lighting. Lights...lights...lights to cheer up the long dark nights of winter. According to the New York Institute of Photography (NYI), the world's largest photography school, your pictures can capture the magic of this lighting if you apply just one simple professional "trick." 

For example, how can your pictures capture the colorful glow of the lights  on a Christmas tree? The "trick," according to NYI, is to turn off your  camera's strobe! That's the key: Turn off your strobe. Because otherwise the bright strobe light will overwhelm the subtle tree lights in your picture. Similarly, NYI recommends that you turn off your strobe whenever you want to capture any subtle light source - from Christmas trees to Menorah candles to decorative house lighting to those wonderful tree outlines produced by tiny white bulbs. 

Of course, certain things follow from this: When you turn off your strobe, you won't have enough light for split-second exposure. Your automatic camera will compensate by opening the shutter for a longer time - maybe a second or longer. Let your camera's built-in meter decide automatically. 

But a very long exposure will become blurry if either the camera moves or the tree-lights move, or both. To minimize this risk, NYI recommends two further steps: First, use fast film - for example, ISO 800. This will cut down the duration of the exposure. Second, steady your camera. Handholding just won't do. Use a tripod if possible. If not, place the camera on a solid surface, such as a tabletop, or brace it against a wall. 

For complete details and an array of great holiday photos, see the article on Holiday Lights in this month's Website of the New York Institute of Photography

 "Reprinted with permisssion from the New York Institute of Photography website.


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