Prepare Yourself to Survive the Holidays

It is hard to believe another year is almost over and that another holiday season is closing in on us.  Whether you celebrate a specific holiday or just enjoy the season, you might be interested in keeping these handy websites bookmarked to save time and your sanity.  Note that most of the sites feature information that can be used all year, as the content on each is updated to reflect the season or holiday.

First, take a look at two guides that are geared toward making sure you keep yourself, your family and even your pets healthy amid the festivities.  Health and Real Simple magazines both have Holiday Survival Guides on their websites.  Each one features articles, how-tos and tips for avoiding illness, stress, weight gain and child or pet hazards of the holidays.

If you need comprehensive guides to holiday information, there are a few websites to look into regardless of subject – so take your pick of the following for everything from a quick recipe to decorating tips to gift ideas.  Better Homes and Gardens runs a holiday guide all-year round and provides craft, decorating, recipes and ideas for kids activities for all the major holidays from New Year’s Day to Christmas.  If you have a student looking for information about a holiday for a report, or are just curious about the origins of different holidays and traditions, turn to the History Channel’s website and delve into the background of more than two dozen holidays.  Getting back to decorating and entertaining, do not forget about Martha Stewart, whose blog-style website features articles, videos and photos to match the season.  Another blog site, Organized Home, has a section called Organized Christmas, which actually features more than just Christmas-related holiday tips.  The holiday website carries over the main website’s theme of trying to keep everything organized and simple to save time, money and headaches.  The site has a nice collection of printable planners, calendars and checklists so you can make sure you have everything covered at your Thanksgiving potluck.  Finally, you can return to Real Simple for their holiday guides and get more ideas that are meant to be easy in order to keep you festive but still have time to enjoy time with family and friends.

For the crafters out there, turn to Crafts ‘n Things for handmade decorations and gifts.  You will need to sign up for a free account to get details on how to make the crafts, but the account lets you save crafts to your online sewing basket.  Two other sites to turn to for craft and decorating ideas are run by HGTV – HGTV Holidays and DIY Made + Remade.  The main HGTV site organizes holidays by season so you get a full fall and winter selection and not just the big days.  The New Year’s Eve photo booth with props is sure to liven up any party and one can look ahead to the heart-shaped red velvet cake for February.  The DIY spin-off site is full of really cool ideas for those who like to recycle and come up with new ways to use everyday objects, like turning that leftover jack o’ lantern into a planter.  If you are looking for kids crafts and activities, turn to the Disney-run Spoonful site.  The site is great if you are looking for stuff to do in a pinch, with ready-to-print coloring pages, games, and paper crafts plus kid-centered crafts and recipes.  Some have a Disney twist, but not all of them.

What are holidays without food and drink?  There are plenty of food sites out there with recipes, but the following do a good job of keeping the holiday information all in one place.  You can start with two standards, Food Network and Epicurious.  The former features recipes from the chefs featured on the cable network and the latter is the eponymous of the magazine.  Both arrange their holiday section as guides, giving a complete appetizer to dessert treatment.  Also look for videos showing you how to make the dishes and articles about dressing the table or other food-related holiday topics.  Next up, surf over to Cooks and make sure to check out the tools as well as the recipes.  In addition to a handy meat timer guide to help you fend off an undercooked turkey, there are conversion charts, how-tos, and a searchable nutritional database.  Of course, there are plenty of recipes on the site, as well as holiday guides.  Finally, look to the biggest recipe sharing site on the internet, All Recipes.  In addition to the user-submitted recipes, there are menu planners and shopping lists.  If you have Windows 8 or 8.1, do download the free All Recipes app since there are a lot of extra features including the ability to search by ingredient or exclude certain ingredients to get the perfect recipe.  Smartphone users can download the All Recipes Dinner Spinner, which lets you plug in ingredients and dietary restrictions to come up with a recipe to match, very hand at the grocery store.  All of the All Recipes options come with perhaps the handiest tool for a cook planning a meal for many – the ability to enter the number of servings needed and the site will recalculate the recipe for you.  Note all the food websites offer free accounts so you can save favorite recipes in an online recipe box.

Finally, there is gift giving.  Amazon has a hidden gift guide section, where you can search for gift suggestions based on gender, age, or even your relationship to the gift recipient.  Many websites also run gift guides that fit their typical readers, such as the tech suggestions on c|net, so make sure to look at websites the recipient may visit to see if there is a gift guide that might help you out.  Lastly, head over to Gifts and see what they suggest.  The set-up is similar to Amazon, but there are a lot more categories to choose from and they also have themed suggestion lists, so you can easily find a gift for that zombie lover you know.

- Laura N.


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