Spectacular Holiday Giveaway: Clutter Be Gone

How do we accumulate so much stuff, when, I swear, we never buy anything? We do our best to follow the one-in, one-out rule. My kids are actually pretty good about giving up their old toys (they have a knack for expressing contempt and disdain for most of the things in their lives). And yet, my closets look like booby traps for unsuspecting fools who might attempt to open them. They are so packed with...I don't know what.

Cleaning up, to us, means moving everything from the surface of the place we want to be clean to some other surface that is as far from that one as possible. I dream of making it my life's work to make our home a sanctuary where every place you rest your eyes is a perfect picture of tranquility and beauty. Hahahhaha. Well, maybe in another life, the one where I'm not scrambling from one thing to the next every waking minute of the day.

But wouldn't it be nice to have someone just come in and take care of these things. Even just a little facelift before our homes are over-run and picked over by relatives over the Holidays. A little nip here and a tuck here to get our apartments organized. I Thought so.

Shopping Locally: Craft Fairs, Sample Sales and Holiday Shopping Events

200812020310.jpgBuying local is the hip new thing, but beyond just being trendy and "supporting local businesses," buying local is important to us because it builds community and sustains what we love most about NYC: its cool, eclectic mix of unique, small shops and walkable city streets.

There are several Holiday shopping events that make shopping locally into fun, outings. Plus we've got a round-up of sample sales.

Win Big in our Week of Holiday Giveaways!: Today, $300 in Toys

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This week to promote our Holiday Guide, we're doing a whole week of fabulous giveaways. This is by far the best line-up of giveaways we've ever done on the site, with well over $1000 in awesome prizes.

We're kicking it off with two awesome giveaways of Mattel's best selling toys for boys and girls. Each prize is worth $150. and will make you the most loved parent ever on Christmas or Chanukah. Check out what you get:

Linkin B'logs: Being Thankful, News on Nut Allergies, X-Mas Tree Dilemmas and More

As the leftovers wind down, I once again find myself wondering why we have to wait another year for stuffing, turkey and cranberry sauce.  I mean, why can't we eat this delicious combo of food more often?  I know, I know, it's just the way it is, but even if the food is purely annual, there are some other things about Thanksgiving worth keeping.

Though I never grew up with the tradition of holding hands before a meal and taking a moment to say thanks (and probably would have thought it was totally lame as a teenager), my two year old has latched onto it and I've got to admit that I'm lovin' it.  Sometimes she says "thanks for the dark" or "thanks for animals" and each time it reminds me of how amazing it is to be a parent; which in turn brings up another thanksgiving tradition worth keeping, being thankful.

But enough of the sappy holiday stuff, posts this week include more sappy holiday stuff, like interfaith couples figuring out what to do about the tree, new news on peanut allergies, all you ever wanted to know about gestational surogacy and more.

Countdown to Christmas: 5 Advent Calendar Ideas

At the zoo today my friend was telling me how her daughter is already having anxiety about Christmas being over. She said they were even thinking of celebrating Chanukah this year just to spread it out a little and avoid the whole ONE BIG DAY thing. It made me think about the genius of advent calendars for spreading out the fun of the Holidays over a longer period of time.

Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, the advent calendar is really a perfect thing. They are beautiful, creative and hold tiny little treats in them that get to be opened one-a-day, working up to Christmas. What could be better than that? Some people put candies or small presents in their advent calendars, but the really great thing about them is you can create your own advent calendar tradition. You can also make an advent calendar out of just about anything. I've seen some really beautiful and cool home-made advent calendars.

Here are my best ideas both for advent calendars you can make and what to put inside them:

Free Play: November 28-30, 2008, Holiday Activities, National Day of Listening, Winter's Eve Festival and more

Picture 34.pngThe Turkey's back in the fridge waiting to be pulled out for sandwiches, the family's in a tryptophan-induced stupor. OK, time to figure out what we're doing for the rest of the weekend!

This weekend will be a bunch of Christmas Tree lightings and Santas will be ready to hear children's wishes. In our Holiday Guide you'll also find lots of other holiday activities like visiting the Department Store Holiday Windows and Holiday Train Shows. Plus there's the opening festival of the new Children's Center at the 42nd St Library.

Here are some other interesting events and activities to do with the kids this weekend:

New Children's Library Center at Main 42nd St Branch

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When I was a kid I basically lived at the Jefferson Market Library. We climbed on the bronze oxen sculpture (the things we let kids do in the 70s), watched movies in their little viewing room and worked my way through the books, literally, starting from A. It's a great children's library. But, there are shamefully few great children's libraries in New York City and last year they closed the main children's center at the Donnell Library which was a double shame. But I'm super excited to hear that they are opening a beautiful, new Children's Library Center at the 42nd St. main library. WOW!

How to volunteer with your children in NYC

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We have more up-to-date posts about volunteering with kids in NYC in our Holiday Guide.

Reader, Susan, asked me if I knew of any places for families to volunteer around the Holiday time. Her idea was to get a couple of families together in her neighborhood to all volunteer together. That sounds like a great way to teach children about the importance of helping others and making it a fun community activity at the same time.

There are always so many opportunities around the city--even I find it overwhelming, but there are actually some great resources and websites that make it easy to find a good program to fit your location, child's age and interests to do some holiday giving.

Thankgsgiving Day Updates: See the ballloons up close without the crowds

Two last-minute updates I wanted to share:

South Street Seaport Ice Skating Rink, which was supposed to open tomorrow, Friday, November 28th has been postponed. The rink is not set up yet. I'll keep you posted.

Also, I got a great tip from my friend, Jonathan, last night on how to see the giant Thanksgiving Day Parade balloons up close without the crowds of the inflation station.

X-Siting News: Holiday Guide, Browse by Map, Big Giveaways, Holiday Tipping Poll, Sale Mail

poll.gifThere's so much new stuff going on, I just wanted to interrupt our regularly scheduled programming with this brief message explaining some of the happenings:

Story Maps
You may have noticed the NYC map added to our left sidebar. It's not just any map, it's actually a very cool tool created by local news site Outside.In that let's you search for our stories by map. Each marker on the map represents a place we have written about. Click on the marker and you'll get a pop-up of every post we've written about that place. Just click on the story title to go to the article. It's pretty cool. You can zoom in to the part of the city you want to find places or events and find stories from as far back as 6 months ago by changing the time-frame at the top of the map (which is set by default to one week). I'm testing this feature out and want to know if you all find it useful or not, so please shoot me an email and let me know if you'd like to see more mapping tools like this.

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