If you are planning a family celebration this year, keep the kids busy until the ball drops by doing these fun (and easy) DIY activities:
New Year’s Eve Noise Makers via Make and Takes
Empty toilet paper rolls or paper towel rolls
Wax paper—cut 4×4 square for each
Markers, stickers, crayons
- On one end of each roll, punch a hole about 1 inch in from the edge. Now on the same end, fold over a square cut piece of wax paper over the opening. Use the rubber band to hold it in place.
- Make sure the paper is on tight over the end. It won’t make a good sound unless the paper is on tight. Now on the open end, say “Do Do Do Do” into your tube to test out the sound. It should sound kind of like a kazoo.
- Decorate your noise maker with your markers, stickers, and crayons and you’re set for Midnight!
Tin Can Wind Chimes via Kiwi Magazine
Hammer and nail
9 clean metal cans (vegetable cans are great!)
String or twine
Large plastic lid
- Use the hammer and nail to pound a hole through the bottom of each can.
- Paint cans different colors (including bottoms). While the paint is wet, sprinkle glitter on cans and then let dry (bottom side-up).
- Cut a 20-inch piece of string. With can bottom facing up, run string through the hole of one can, leaving 8 inches of string hanging out. Tie a knot in the string in the inside of the can. Then, on the same string, tie two more cans in the same way to make a tin can chime. Repeat with remaining cans and string.
- Poke three holes near the edges of the plastic lid. Run string from each chime through one of the lid holes and knot to secure.
- Poke four holes into the lid corners. Cut two 25-inch strings. Run the first string up through two diagonally-opposing holes so the ends meet at the top. Repeat with other string. Tie string ends into a knot.
Water Bottle Penguins via Candle in the Night
An empty (DRY) water bottle
About 40-50 cotton balls
Googly eyes or buttons
Yellow or orange pipe cleaner (you only need a small piece)
- Have each child stuff the cotton balls inside the empty (and DRY!) water bottles until full.
- While they are stuffing, cut two wings, the feet piece and a strip that will wrap around the lid to make the head from the black felt.
- Cut the beak piece from the pipe cleaner.
- Have your child glue the face (beak and eyes) on to the middle of the head piece. Then, have them glue the wings and feet onto the water bottle.
- When the face is dry, glue the black strip into a ring. Measure to be sure the ring will fit over the water bottle lid. Have your child pinch the ring shut while the glue dries a bit. After a couple minutes, they can put it on the water bottle lid to finish drying.
Talk to us: How do you celebrate the New Year with your children?
Getting ready to ring in the New Year with family and friends? In order to avoid starting 2016 with a less than sparkling home, here are our tips for cleaning the top 5 biggest New Year’s Eve party stains:
Red Wine on the Sofa
Upholstered furniture fibers absorb liquids quickly so you have to move fast when your best friend spills that glass of cabernet on your new cream-colored couch. Pour salt over the stain while it is still wet and let it sit until it begins to turn pinkish. Discard the excess salt and then, using a solution of equal parts detergent and peroxide, blot the stain until it has vanished.
Chocolate on the Chair
Who doesn’t love to indulge in chocolate during a party? If chocolate lands on your furniture or clothing, rub the stain in a circular motion with warm, soapy water or a borax solution. Rinse with cold water.
Glitter on the Floor
Although your party guests may have left the building after midnight, they’ve left a trail of glitter behind them. Once you vacuum up as much glitter as you can, try this tip from AllYou.com: Roll some Play-Doh over the mess to pick up the remaining sparkles.
Glass Rings on the Wood Table
Those guests who refuse to use coasters may literally be leaving their mark on your furniture. We love this idea from LifeHacker: Put a piece of wax paper over the stain and lay a towel on top. Next, iron the towel over the stain on medium heat (don’t steam!), making sure not to let the iron sit too long in one place. Lift the towel and wax paper every 30 seconds to check your progress. Keep working on it until the stain is gone.
Candle Wax on the Countertops
Nothing casts a New Year glow on your home better than some well-placed candles (and it saves on electricity), but don’t let candle wax sit on your table for long. Once the wax has cooled and hardened, use a dull knife or paint scraper to remove it from the surface. If the wax has unfortunately dripped onto the carpet, cover the spot with several layers of paper towels and press with a warm iron. Follow up by blotting with rubbing alcohol.
Talk to us: Where will you be ringing in the New Year?
image courtesy of flickr CC/Gunnar Grimnes
What better way to reduce your holiday baking stress than to host a good old-fashioned cookie exchange. Not only will you have some beautiful and delicious goodies to share with your family throughout the entire holiday season, but you will be hosting a festive event for your friends. Here are tips for making your holiday cookie swap an eco-friendly success:
Choose Your Cookies
Each guest (including YOU) should make a dozen cookies for every person at the party along with an extra dozen just for nibbling during the evening. “Decide who will make what, coordinating ahead of time to avoid duplicates,” suggests Martha Stewart. Ask guests to bring along copies of their recipe to distribute along with their samples. Sturdy cookies are best for an exchange (they pack better), so try some of these great recipes from MarthaStewart.com.
Display the Goods
Clear two tables in your home—one for sampling and one for swapping. For both tables, gather your cake stands and cookie towers to add height and additional space along with name cards for each cookie, listing any ingredients that may be an issue for those with allergies. You may also want to clear an extra table for packaging—this will allow guests to flow and mingle with ease and not feel rushed as they carefully package their holiday treats.
Create Your Own Container
The easiest way to host a cookie exchange is to have guests bring their own reusable containers. However, you may want to have some containers on hand just in case. You can stock up on reusable cookie tins and purchase small gift boxes made from recycled materials or look for items you already have at home such as coffee cans and chip containers. You can also purchase inexpensive, reusable plates or colorful paper plates (great sustainable options from Susty Party) for guests to pile high with their holiday treats. Provide tissue paper, ribbons and twine for guests to use when packaging their cookies.
Offer More than Cookies
While the cookies are certainly the focus, be sure to have additional food and beverage on hand as well. BonAppetit.com suggests having more savory foods like dips, cheeses and olives as well as beverages that compliment your offerings like tea, coffee and a festive punch. “And a glass of either cold milk or hot chocolate is a cookie’s best friend at any time of day,” writes the BonAppetit.com blog.
Clean It Up
Before the party even begins, start thinking clean up. Make sure the dishwasher is empty, use tablecloths, provide coasters and make sure trash and recycling receptacles are easily accessible to guests. When the last guest has left, focus on the big items right away—picking up food and drink, pre-treating stains to let them soak, storing leftovers, putting plates and glasses in the dishwasher and taking out the trash. Let other items—such as putting away decorations—slide until the morning.
Talk to us: What is your favorite holiday cookie to make?
image courtesy of flickr CC/Connor Lesniak
Whether your holiday shopping is already finished or hasn’t even started, there is a moment of Christmas truth getting ready to happen: you have to wrap all of your purchases. Nothing can take the holly and jolly out of your holiday spirit more than looking around your home at the mess and chaos caused by wrapping presents. This year, try some of these tips for keeping things organized and neat.
Stock Up on Supplies
Before you even begin to think about your next wrapping adventure, make sure you have all the supplies you need. This simple step not only helps you have things you need on hand, but eliminates the opportunity for you to overbuy supplies. In addition to the basics—wrapping paper, ribbon and tape—The Container Store also suggests you invest in quality scissors, gift boxes, tissue paper and gift bags. “Gift wrapping pros will tell you—you’re only as good as the materials you’re working with.” We also suggest stocking up on gift tags and pens—holiday wrapping is usually done in high-quantities and gifts should be tagged as soon as they are wrapped.
Use Old Furniture
We love this idea from Real Simple: use an old dresser. Dedicate one drawer to rolls of giftwrap, one to tissue paper and packing material and one to gift bags and small gifts you want to save. Smaller drawers house ribbon, gift cards, tape and scissors. If you don’t have an old dresser to use, consider using an old toy bin or trunk—all of these items will fit nicely in a large closet when not in use.
Those great over-the-door storage units are perfect for keeping wrapping supplies handy, but also out of site. According to bhg.com, you should line up spools of ribbon by size or color on the top shelf and store frequently used tools like scissors and tape on the middle shelf. Then, drape tissue paper over the bar of the shelf and store wrapping paper rolls and gift bags at the bottom. Viola!
Put It in a Hamper
Those beautiful (and often inexpensive) wicker hampers you see are not just for clothes. They are the perfect size for fitting multiple rolls of wrapping paper. Hang hooks on the outside to keep ribbon and gift bags organized and use a pencil pouch to house scissors, gift tags and tape. This is a great option if your wrapping space is mobile—you can simply move the hamper from the kitchen table to the bedroom without having to re-organize supplies.
Talk to us: What is your strategy for keeping wrapping paper organized during the holidays?
image courtesy of flickr CC/Personal Creations
Top 4 Eco-Friendly Hostess Gifts
‘Tis the season for holiday parties. Before you head into your next celebration, consider coming in the front door with a unique and eco-friendly gift that will leave your party host/hostess singing your gift-giving praises all season long.
When you visit the local flea market, stock up on unique vintage corkscrews. When you pair one of your finds with a delicious local or organic wine (you’ll find a great selection from the Brooklyn Wine Exchange), it becomes a memorable gift that will keep on giving throughout the holidays.
As it states on the Williams-Sonoma website, “fresh home-grown rosemary is a cook’s dream.” This little tree of herbs is not only something your host/hostess will use, but it looks and smells like Christmas. Look for rosemary trees at local farmers markets or grocery stores or visit the Williams-Sonoma website.
Eco Picnic Box
While you may not be thinking picnic during the cold winter months, gifting your party host with an eco-friendly picnic basket from Brookstone is a great reminder that warmer days are ahead. With a set of bamboo plates and utensils as well as recycled glass wine goblets, your host/hostess may be inspired to enjoy an indoor picnic under the Christmas tree.
Pair a warm loaf of bread or pastry (we are fond of vegan and organic Brooklyn-based Clementine Bakery) with a chic breadboard made from sustainable materials such as these from Green Building Supply and this thoughtful gift becomes part of the party.
Talk to us: What is your favorite host/hostess gift to give or receive?
image courtesy of flickr CC/Lennart Tange
Soon your home will be brimming with the jolly sounds of company—are you ready? If not, don’t worry—we have 5 things you should clean that will instantly give your home a holiday lift, making your guests feel welcome and comfortable during their visit.
Your porch and entryway are the very first impression guests get of your home so don’t skimp on spending time getting the space clean and organized. Wipe down glass doors and light fixtures as well as vacuum or sweep the floors. Next, get rid of coats, shoes and backpacks and add a small bench or table with a vase of fresh sprigs of evergreen. Be considerate of guests bearing heavy winter coats and boots by making sure you have a place for them to put their winter wear and have a clean, fresh doormat at every entrance. Not only will this be a nice display of holiday hospitality, but it will help minimize guests bringing outside elements into your home.
Ceiling Fans, Light Fixtures and Cabinets, Oh My
In addition to making your home instantly bright, dusting these often forgotten surfaces goes a long way towards improving the overall air quality of your home. Using a microfiber cloth, quickly dust all lights, ceiling fans and cabinets—paying special attention to those rooms where guests will gather. Click here for tips on cleaning ceiling fans and here for cleaning light fixtures. For stubborn stains—like grease on kitchen cabinets–pour diluted vinegar into a spray bottle and apply to the greased area. Wipe clean after 5-10 minutes. Be sure to vacuum each room after you have finished your dusting.
Bottom and Inside of Refrigerator
Your kitchen is going to get an extra workout this holiday season and a messy (and smelly) fridge can instantly kill the festive vibe of your home. Wipe down the bottom and inside of your fridge, pulling out drawers and discarding spoiled produce and other expired content. Once the drawers are pulled out, wash them in soapy water and wipe the area BENEATH the drawers—this is the one spot where crumbs and spills seem to congregate. Grab your bottle of diluted vinegar to spray on tough, greasy spots. Keep odors at bay by having an open box of baking soda inside the fridge.
Nothing says winter comfort like a warm blanket. Unfortunately, many of us forget to give these wonderful throw blankets a regular wash. Do a quick walk through your home and grab all your blankets—from couches to beds. Shake each blanket to release dust and dirt and hang outside for at least 30 minutes. Then, follow the cleaning instructions on each tag. If you have a wool blanket, use this great tip from Apartment Therapy on cleaning it with snow. Yes, snow.
Trash and Recycling Bins
Even if you regularly use trash bags, you still need to clean your trashcans every two months, suggests BrightNest.com. After you have emptied the trash itself, take the cans outside and spray with a hose (if you don’t have access to an outdoor hose, use your shower or bathtub). Spritz with vinegar to absorb odors and wash the inside with a scrub-brush. Let air dry outside if possible–sunlight will help kill any additional mold.
Talk to us: What is the one thing you clean before guests arrive?
image courtesy of flickr CC/Fabrice Florin