Category Archives: Shopping

Crunch Day! 10 Things for Your To-Do List on the Last Day of School Before Break

Okay, folks, this is IT! This is the last and best day to get ready for Christmas.

Why? Why today? I’m telling you why. In case this day sneaked up on you.

  • If you have kids, this is likely the last day they are in school until January 3. And then, and then, parents, it is two whole weeks of togetherness.
  • If you don’t have kids, this is the last day you will have any semblance of peace while shopping in a relatively child-free store until January 3.

Photo by Kristina Paukshtite on

So, here is my checklist of 10 Must-Do Things for today. Hopefully, this will help you get ready for Christmas and New Year’s Eve this year.

First of all, today is Ugly Sweater Day, so break out that Ugly Christmas or Hanukkah sweater because today is going to be a busy day!

  1. If you have done everything already, congratulations to you for being so organized! Treat yourself! Enjoy a day of uninterrupted work, play, self-care or relaxation! 
  2. Send in or drop off teacher presents. If you can’t manage a present, send a card.
  3. Tip your helpers, including childcare workers, house cleaners, pet sitters and groomers, hair stylists, etc. Give an extra amount of tip to servers working this week.
  4. Stock up on supplies. Folks are home longer than usual, so you’ll use up stuff more quickly. Buy extra toilet paper, hand soap, kleenex, paper towels, printer paper and ink, face masks, cough drops, snacks and groceries. 
  5. Finish your Christmas shopping — gifts and stocking stuffers. If you don’t have one already, you might want to get a 2023 calendar or planner for yourself. Don’t forget tape for gift wrapping!
  6. Wrap your presents. Hide them, if needed. 
  7. Mail Packages and greeting cards because today is really the last sane day to go to the post office.
  8. Finalize your plans for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve. See the Cool Yule Calendar for ideas! Make restaurant and hotel reservations, if needed.
  9. Decide what you’ll wear for special days (like worship services, holiday parties and New Year’s) and see if anything needs ironing or cleaning. 
  10. Book your babysitters and petsitters for dates through January 3 (and beyond).



Black Friday Plans A and B

Happy Black Friday! I have two plans for your consideration: A and B.

Plan A. Shop Until You Drop.

I know there are some of you out there who are going to go shopping today. You’re up already; that’s why I am publishing this at 4 a.m.! And there are reasons for your readiness, Plan A crew. You might have a special high-ticket gift idea in mind that would absolutely make someone’s Christmas and it would truly save you money to buy it today. Or, today happens to do one of few days you have available to shop and you have a lot of presents to buy in a short amount of time. Or maybe you just couldn’t think of anything else to do on the day after Thanksgiving.

Now, me, I’m a Plan B kind of person. More about that later. This is for the A group:

  1. Make a budget and stick to it.
  2. Wear comfy shoes.
  3. Hydrate.
  4. Resolve to be nice and polite to others, no matter what.

Early opening schedules:

  • 5 a.m. – Best Buy, J C Penney, Walmart
  • 6 a.m. – Bath and Bodyworks, Bed Bath and Beyond, Big Lots, Home Depot, Kohl’s, Lowe’s, Macy’s, Sears, Ulta
  • 7 a.m. – DSW, GameStop, Michael’s, PetSmart
  • 8 a.m. – Barnes & Noble

Listen to what Garrett Le Chic has to say about Black Friday bargains…and good luck!

Plan B. Get off the Crazy Train.

Photo by Taryn Elliott on

That’s right. My plan B friends, you are ready to take the day after Thanksgiving back!  We are talking about sleeping in, making pancakes or waffles, spending time with loved ones, taking long walks, making turkey sandwiches with leftovers, and doing anything, but anything else, except trying to find a parking space, standing in line and not even saving that much money.

After all there are at least 20 more shopping days until Christmas, am I right?

Today is full of fun possibilities. At the top of the list is the charming Reston Town Center Parade, which travels down Market Street in Reston, VA at 11 am.

Check out the Calendar for all the light displays that are open today.There are also 3 tree lightings today.

  • Reston Town Center. In front of the ice skating pavilion on Market Street. 6 pm with Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus.
  • Mosaic District Tree Lighting. 4:30 pm – 8:30 pm. Fairfax. Outdoor screening of How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Fire Truck parade with Santa Claus. Free parking.
  • Old Town Alexandria Tree Lighting. 6 pm – 8 pm. City Hall Town Square, King Street. Features holiday performance.

    Whatever you decide, I hope your Black Friday is the kind of day you wished for.

The Three Present Rule

There’s a guideline I have used that I think could make the lives of parents who celebrate Christmas a lot easier. That guideline involves setting some limits around Christmas presents.

I’ve always believed that Christmas is more than presents. There are so many wonderful things to celebrate about Christmas — Advent, music, cards, food, stories, good works, donations, movies, lights, decorations, the tree, church. Presents are nice but only a small part of the celebration.

But if you’re not careful, commercialism can take over your Christmas. And you definitely don’t want to pass down a legacy of commericalism to your impressionable children. So consider the three-present rule this Christmas.

  1. It is tempting to buy your children a lot of presents because you love them, or maybe you feel guilty for not spending more time with them. However, consider that no one with more “stuff” is happier for it. Remember the number one thing children want from their parents is their time: their love and attention. Don’t buy your chlld $200 worth of “stuff” at Christmas. Take walks with them. Bake cookies together. Teach them how to do things. Build snowmen. Color pictures. Volunteer. Pray. Snuggle and read together.
  2. The key to contentment is moderation. Exercise some restraint over your personal holiday spending and limit Santa’s contributions to three presents, maximum, per child. My son received three presents from Santa Claus. I did not make a big point about it. That’s just what he got. It was manageable for shopping and manageable for Christmas morning. Usually there was one “big” wish present and two more, less expensive ones. So, if your child receives a bike, guitar or dollhouse from Santa, the other gifts might be a board game, book or teddy bear. The stocking might contain a few small trinkets in addition to the candy.
  3. Teach your children to ask for one to three presents from Santa Claus, early in life, especially when they go to see Santa Claus. Some children make lists of many presents. If you want your child to grow up to grateful, gracious, balanced and generous, you must teach them also what greed looks like and to not be greedy.
  4. In addition to the Santa presents, my son also got a present from his Mom. The single present practice is a wise one for any family with school-age children. One present from a parent/parents and three presents from Santa. Mom gets one present from the child. One present from Grandma would also be a good rule to curb holiday excess. If you choose to exchange gifts with adult relatives, you might put a limt on it, like nothing over $25 or just one present.
  5. Home-made presents are very special. Show your child how to make home-made presents and give some yourself.
  6. Don’t choose necessities, like clothing or socks, for Santa presents or parent presents for children under 12. Choose games, toys, sports equipment, music, craft supplies and books, instead.
  7. Purchase gifts you can pay for in cash. Avoid going into debt for Christmas presents. If you are on a budget, your children will the acquire the value of living within your means from your example. Used toy trains and bikes play the same.
  8. Turn off the commercials. Children’s television programming markets to children. Naturally, they will want what they see on television. There is one really good way to get around this dilemma. Teach your children how to read, play games and do imaginative play. Get rid of your television. I am serious! My son did not have a television in my house growing up. We were SO happy without it. We were healthier without it. Otherwise, limit your child’s exposure to television. My elementary school students routinely report watching R-rated programming on television at home. If they could not see it legally in a movie theater, they should not be watching it at home. Your family will not be deprived without cable television. It is a terrible babysitter and an even worse teacher. You can watch Rudolph online or with a DVD player. Invest in YouTube premium for PBS programming (Sesame Street, etc).
  9. Make your house a video-game free zone. My son did not grow up with video games and he turned out just fine. Not only are videogames and the players expensive, but they make terrible babysitters. I teach children who do not do their homework or study because they play video games every day. There is some research that says video games teach problem-solving. That may be true but so does everything else in life. Fortnite, for example, is a violently bloody, technological plague for children. It is recommended for teens because of the violence yet it is actively marketed to young children, who play it. I did not have an elementary school student who did not play Fortnite. There is nothing remotely Christmasy about combat video games. You say they want them? Children should not get everything they want, especially if if it is not good for them. Would you give your children candy for breakfast, if they wanted that? Your children will not be deprived in your video-game-free home. They will find ways to play video games at the homes of their friends. If your teen wants them, your teen can work at a job and buy their own video games. But do yourself a favor and keep them off your holiday list.

Do you practice the three-present rule in your family? How do you teach your children to be content and grateful with what they receive and what they have?


Support area nonprofits with holiday shopping on Nonprofit Sunday!

Wait, you haven’t heard of Nonprofit Sunday? I’m sure you’ve heard of Black Friday…and Small Business Saturday…and Cyber Monday! Are you telling me you haven’t yet heard of Nonprofit Sunday?

Well, maybe that’s because I just made it up.

It’s a natural extension of the theme, though, on the busiest shopping weekend of the year. Think about it. Where can you find the most unique, high quality gifts, at very good prices, in historic or aesthetically beautiful settings, and know that the money you spend is going for a good cause? At our area museums, national parks, and historic sites, of course!

Here are two nonprofit sites where you can find amazing gifts at wonderful prices — and all the proceeds go to further historic preservation and education.

The Gate House Gift Shop at Claude Moore Colonial Farm Park

6310 Georgeown Pike, McLean, VA 22101 (703) 442-5577 Hours: Wed – Sun 10 am – 5 pm

The Claude Moore Colonial Farm Park is a National Park and a true local treasure. All of the proceeds from sales in the shop fund quality educational programs. Shopping in the beautifully decorated Gate House Gift Shop is a real holiday experience.

Among the many terrific gifts, you will find a selection of new and antique books, farm-produced honey and preserves, exquisite soaps and bath items from France, Scandinavia, and around the world, beautiful jewelry, vintage linens in immaculate condition, wonderful children’s toys, crafts and games that don’t need batteries, a selection of unique boxes, compasses, and other items that would appeal to the man or boy in your life, as well as Christmas ornaments.

Don’t miss the special Book Sale on Saturday, December 1.

The Freeman Store and Museum

131 Church Street NE, Vienna, VA 22180 (703) 938-5187 Hours: Wed – Sun 12 Noon to 4 p.m.

This ante-bellum historic site is maintained by the Historic Society of Vienna. Shopping in the store feels like you are stepping back in time. The store sells a number of historically inspired gifts, including cast iron penny banks, as well as a wide assortment of “Made in Virginia” items, such as Graves Mountain preserves and jellies, soaps, afghans, pillows, candles, prints, and cards. You will also find a terrific variety of quality toys, puzzles, books, and candies.

On Monday, November 26, the Freeman Store will be open for additional hours for the Church Street Holiday Stroll and tree lighting from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Area choral groups will perform and Santa will visit at 6:15 p.m. Santa visits the Freeman Store on Sunday, December 2 and Saturday, December 8 from 1 pm to 3 pm.