At the beginning of the month, we put out a call to the community to "spend less and give more" this time of year. To focus on the things that matter most: family, friends, love, laughter, good wishes and gratitude.
Let's keep the 30 days of #YerdleLove going strong. Instead of hitting the mall the day after Thanksgiving, we invite you to join the Black Friday "Buy Nothing" movement. What can you do instead of shopping on November 27? We just happen to have some ideas--27 of them to be exact.
1. Declare a Family Game Day
Break out the Boggle, sit down to Scrabble or fire up the Wii. It's on like Donkey Kong! Family game day is a great way to foster some friendly competition and enjoy time together. Team up (boys vs. girls, perhaps?) or make it about individual accomplishments. Play just for fun or keep a running tally of game scores throughout the day and award prizes at the end of the evening.
2. Have an all-day Pajama Party
If there's a better way to spend a day than in a flannel robe and fuzzy slippers, we can't think of it. The leisurely pace of a pajama day helps soothe away the stress of the holidays. If you want to liven things up, we suggest taking part in some classic pajama party rituals. Sing along to your favorite songs (don't forget the hairbrush "microphone"), play a round of "Truth or Dare," try out a new hairstyle and make a batch of brownies.
3. Settle in for a Movie Marathon
Choose a genre, a franchise or let everyone pick their favorite films and watch them back to back (to back to back). Big bowls of popcorn are a must and couch cushions on the floor are preferred seating. Poll the group after each flick--choose a "thumbs up/thumbs down" or "scale of 1-10" system--to determine the day's favorite. Re-enactments of the best scenes from each movie are strongly encouraged. Hand-out homemade Oscars for the best performances.
4. Create Holiday Crafts
Pull out your stash of craft supplies and have everyone pitch in to make handmade decorations for your home. Search online for projects that are age appropriate for your gang and that make use of the materials you have on hand. Be sure everyone signs and dates their creations and sets them out on display when they're done.
5. Tell Family Stories
Before pen and paper, typewriters, keyboards and social media, there was storytelling. Keep the tradition alive by setting up a story circle. Let Nona tell what happened the first time she met Papa (allow time for Papa's alternate version of the tale). Get Aunt Catherine to tell about the summer she worked as a White House page. Share stories silly and touching, inspiring and somber. Consider recording any story you want to be sure get passed on to future generations.
6. Throw a Dance Party
Invite the neighbors and fire up the iPod for a day-long dance party. Divide the day into genres (R&B, Disco, Rock, etc.) or decades (Now where did you put those MC Hammer harem pants?). Get inspired with Youtube videos of "Soul Train" dancers, Gangnam style and "The Evolution of Dance." Want to blow everyone away at the next block party? Get your gang together now to learn all the steps to "Thriller."
7. Make Music
Move over Sly and the Family Stone, here comes a new family band--yours! No instruments? No problem. Here are some great ideas and instructions for making instruments with craft supplies and common household items. Work out a few tunes and stage a concert in the living room or plan to accompany your carol group around the neighborhood. If ever there was a time of year to make a joyful noise, this is it.
8. Hold a Sandwich-Making Competition
Get creative with Thanksgiving leftovers and challenge everyone to come up with a one-of-a-kind sandwich. Set all the handheld masterpieces out for a blind taste test by an impartial panel of judges or by the participants themselves (no fair voting for your own creation). Can anyone top Dad's turkey and green bean on rye with mustard? Will Aunt Liz blow everyone away with her toasted stuffing panini with cranberry filling? No matter who takes the crown, consider yourself a winner as you watch everyone gobble up the leftovers with pleasure.
9. Take a Nature Walk
There's nothing like some time spent outside to restore a sense of serenity after a busy holiday celebration. If you have some trails or a nature preserve in the area, you've got the makings of a great day outdoors. If not, plan to take a walk through your local park or stroll around the neighborhood. Let the kids pick up pine cones, twigs and fallen leaves--we've got some great ways you can turn those into craft projects. Look for abandoned bird's nests or rabbit holes. Feed the ducks at the local pond. There's no wrong way to commune with the Earth. And this reminder from nature that all you have to do is "be" is what makes it such a powerful restorative.
10. Compete in a Family Olympics
Who's the fastest runner in your family? What member of your clan can claim to be "Toboggan Champ?" Hold a family Olympic competition and put everyone to the test. Conduct feats of strength, speed and endurance like the regular Olympics, or get creative and invent your own unique events. Who will take the gold in the "Egg Toss Tricycle Pairs Race?" Will this be Mom's year to dominate in the "Trampoline and Treadmill Biathlon?" Celebrate everyone's victories with homemade medals or certificates.
11. Take a Trip to the Library
Set everyone loose in your local library to find a few great reads. Settle in for a while and browse the magazines, join a story time circle or start (and maybe finish) reading a short story. Of course, no one would fault you if you just sat in a comfy chair and breathed in that one-of-a-kind library fragrance--just a few whiffs always makes us feel smarter and more content.
12. Be a Hometown Tourist
Most towns have a few must-see attractions, so make this the day to visit yours. Take time to find out whose likeness is on that plaque in the center of town. Stop by your local historical society if you have one. If there's an art museum, doll museum, classic car museum (you get the idea) in your area, put it on your "must visit" list. All that sightseeing is bound to make you hungry. Be sure to visit the best bakery, deli or diner in your neck of the woods.
13. Go Camping in Your Backyard
Make your yard, deck or screened-in porch your home away from home for the day. Set up a tent if there's room, pull out the sleeping bags and flashlights and take a break from your indoor routine. Let the kids drink out of canteens and practice their scouting skills to find true North, weave a sitting mat from newspaper or build a fire (outdoors only, of course). Cap things off with, what else--a round of s'mores.
14. Schedule a Stargazing Outing
You don't have to know your Canis major from your Canis minor to enjoy a sky full of stars. Just find a spot where you can view the open sky. Dress warmly and bring something comfortable to sit on. A telescope is not a necessity. If you have a pair of binoculars, bring them, but if not, there's plenty you can see with the naked eye. EarthSky offers some great tips you can use to make your night under the stars a fun and memorable one.
GET IT DONE
15. Bake a Batch of Holiday Gifts
Start now on your holiday baking, and you'll have gifts a'plenty this season. Make it easy on yourself and whip up multiple batches of your specialty cookie. Or bake a variety of treats to have something everyone on your list will love. Check out BHG's suggestions for cookies that freeze well and Martha Stewart's list of cookies that ship well. You can even transform Thanksgiving leftovers into holiday baked goods with Kitchen Treaty's recipe for leftover cranberry sauce muffins.
16. Set up a Home Recycling Station
You keep meaning to create a space where you can easily separate your recyclable items. Make this the day you get it done. Get bins that will accommodate the size items you typically discard and set them up in two places: the kitchen and in a storage space (garage, mudroom or deck, perhaps). This second set will serve as a holding area where you can store your kitchen-collected items until recycling day. Make and post a list of what can be recycled in your area so everyone knows what items to save. Not sure what kinds of items your municipality recycles? Find out at recyclingcenters.org.
17. Have a Family Fire Drill
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommends you have an escape plan in place to get everyone safely out of the house in case of a fire. The plan should include two escape routes out of each room and an outside meeting spot where everyone can gather for safety and a head count. Work this plan out on paper then have a few practice runs to ensure everyone knows what to do. If you've got little ones at home, take a look at the NFPA's "Sparky's Schoolhouse" site. While it's intended for teachers, there are lots of helpful lessons you can use to teach youngsters about fire safety.
18. Make Simple Wardrobe Repairs
Most of us have clothes we don't wear because they need a bit of mending or attention. Send everyone to search through closets and drawers to find these clothing items and deposit them in one place. Sort them into two piles. Garments that need sewing repairs (missing buttons, frayed hems, split seams) go over here. Clothes that need some laundry love (simple spots and stains) go over there. Tackle what you can on the spot. Create a final pile for clothes that need professional attention (zipper replaced, sleeves shortened or lengthened, waistbands let in or out). Everyone will enjoy an expanded wardrobe as all of these sidelined items make it back into circulation.
19. Up Your Energy Efficiency
Take time to tighten things up around the house to cut down on heating and electric bills this season. Assign someone to replace traditional incandescent light bulbs with halogen, CFL, LED or energy-efficient incandescent bulbs. Bulbs marked ENERGY STAR certified will save about $30-$80 in electricity costs over their lifetime. Send a team to caulk drafty windows and install weather stripping around exterior doors. Put someone else in charge of shutting off the desktop computer and unpluging any chargers that aren't being used. Have a family meeting to announce that the thermostat is being set to a lower temperature. Celebrate your new status as a more energy efficient household with a batch of microwave popcorn. (Microwave ovens use about 80% less energy than conventional ovens).
20. Make Scrapbooks
If time has taught you anything it's that that box of family photos, vacation souvenirs and other keepsakes is simply not going to organize itself. No problem. With everyone's help you can get all your memories and memorabilia pasted into scrapbooks and safely preserved in no time. Assign your team members pages to work on or let them pick a theme (birthdays, holidays and vacations are some natural choices). Decide on a format or color scheme or give the OK for each page to be different. Scrapbooks are special by nature. Scrapbooks made by the whole family achieve a whole new level of awesomeness.
21. Connect With Long Distance Family and Friends
Use this time to make good on your intentions to stay in touch with long-distance family and friends. We're talking to go Facebook's a great way to share How you connect is entirely up to you. What matters is making and taking the time to talk with, email, FaceTime or Skype the people you care about.
22. Organize Toys and Books
Holiday-at-home time is a great time to do a kid-centered clean-up. Have them go through their toys and create three piles: "Keep," "Fix" and "Yerdle." Ask them sort their books, too, and decide what they want to keep and what you can post. Once the sorting is through, organize the keepers on bookshelves, in plastic storage tubs, hall closets or family room cupboards. Choose a spot easily accessible but keeps clutter out of sight. Use this opportunity to help your children recognize their good fortune and to reassess any "must have" items they've put on their holiday wish lists.
LEND A HAND
23. Pack up Leftovers for Charity
Now that your holiday meal is over, go through your cupboards and pull out any leftovers. Did you buy too many cans of cranberry sauce or cream of mushroom soup? Did you end up with an extra box of stuffing mix or Bisquick? Bag it all up to donate to your local food bank. Check the Feeding America site to find the food bank nearest you. You can also reach out to your churches and community centers to see if they're accepting donations. Ask, too, if they accept gifts of already-prepared food; some states have regulations about donating leftovers due to sanitation reasons.
24. Feed the Birds
Not all birds fly south for the winter. American robins, bluebirds, finches, chickadees and owls are among the birds that stay put during the cold-weather months. Help your backyard birds survive the winter by making a bird feeder (or two) for your yard. It can be as simple as a pine cone spread with peanut butter, a shoe nailed to a tree or a cut-out milk carton with a dowel rod perch. We found lots of inspirational project photos and instructions at diyncrafts.com. When you're all done, fill the feeder with bird-friendly rations. The Humane Society suggests black-oil sunflower seeds, white proso millet, medium cracked corn and Nyjer seed for the winter months. Click into their site for lots of good tips for placing your feeders and creating a safe backyard habitat for your birds.
25. Help out a Shelter Pet
You may not be able to adopt a shelter dog or cat, but you can help make them more comfortable. Gather up your old blankets and towels to donate to your local animal shelter or pet rescue organization. Drop off any kennels or crates you no longer need. Even your old sweaters can be put to good use. Yerdle Pro Barb Reinart hipped us to a story about transforming old sweaters into warm coats for dogs. See easy, no-sew instructions for small dog sweaters from Becca at redefinedmom.com and check out Instructables' how-to's for making larger sweaters with just a few passes through your sewing machine.
26. Give a Caregiver a Break
Take care of the person who's always taking care of others today. Give an overwhelmed parent or a friend with an ailing relative some time to themselves by stepping in for a few hours. Ask for a checklist of things to do or know and any "In Case of Emergency" numbers you might need. Providing even a short respite can help restore the spirits of an overburdened friend.
27. Write a Holiday Cards for Soldiers and Seniors
Not everyone has the good fortune to be home for the holidays. And some folks don't have family and friends around for a shared celebration. That's especially true for the men and women in our armed forces and for seniors in nursing homes. Make these people the focus of a card-writing party held at your dining room table. Lay out paper, markers, envelopes, stickers, glitter and glue and let everyone go to town creating cards filled with heartfelt holiday greetings and warm wishes for the new year.
You can see a list of resources for sending mail to members of the military at operationwearehere.com. Check, too, with your local Red Cross chapter to see if they're taking part in the "Holiday Mail for Heroes" campaign. Contact local senior organizations in your area to find out how to mail in or drop off your cards.
How do you plan to spend Black Friday? Tell us all about it here.