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Top 10 Tips for Beautiful Christmas Photos

How to have beautiful Christmas photos with all the magic of the holidays using these 10 top tips from Sony superusers.

top 10 tips for beautiful Christmas photos

Infographic courtesy of Sony



  • Use the continuous/burst mode & a high shutter speed to take photos of gift opening
  • Take photos at dusk for best outdoor Christmas light photos
  • Use a tripod for outdoor or still photos
  • Use white balance setting for outdoor photos with snow
  • Take bokeh effect photos for decorations & food. (See more about bokeh here.)


Hand-Painted Holiday Luminaries

hand painted holiday luminariesIt’s an Irish tradition to place lit candles in windows. Let this quaint holiday custom add warmth and joy to your home. Glass containers with hand-painted designs and flameless candles look welcoming in windows or on a table.

Depending on your own artistic ability, they can be as colorful and decorative as you want. Even the simplest design is festive.

Skill Level: No experience necessary
Crafting Time: 1 to 2 hours

Supplies and Tools

Black marker
White computer paper
Computer and printer
Provided templates
Square, Tall and rectangular glass containers
Enamel paint: red, green and white
Flat brush
Detail brush
Flameless or wax candles


Create templates using a black marker to draw snowflakes and other decorative holiday motifs on paper or use Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores Hand Painted Holiday Luminaries to create the luminaries shown above. Cut the templates to fit inside the desired glass containers.

Tape templates securely to the inside of glass container with design facing out. This will act as a guide when painting.

Using enamel paint colors, paint over template designs on glass surface. Create snowflakes, trees, words, deer, etc. It may take several coats of paint to attain desired coverage. Let paint dry between coats.

When finished, let the painted design dry completely. Remove templates from the inside of containers. Fill the container with flameless or wax candles to display. Note: If using wax candles, do not leave burning candles unattended.

Instructions & templates courtesy Jo-An Fabric & Craft Stores via Family Features

Candles at Table Place Setting

The luminaries can be place on the mantle, windowsill, as a holiday decoration on a table – but small ones at each place setting is gorgeous and can be a gift for guests.

christmas luminaries at table place setting

Don’t want to paint your luminaries? Use craft decals!

Here’s how:

Want More?

paper bag with candle inside
Every holiday we go for a drive to see the Christmas lights. Up on the hill there are huge, gorgeous houses and almost all of them have their outdoor lights up so we usually go there. (My hubby calls it “mortgage row” – LOL)

There is one street where someone – maybe everyone – sets out paper bags with flameless candles in them every few feet along the street. It is so simple, yet so heartwarming. (I always tell my husband that I’d like to move to that street!)

Aren’t the luminaries gorgeous? They also make great hostess gifts when you visit family and friends this holiday season.

Handy Holiday Reminders

christmas shopping listSanta makes a list and checks it twice so he doesn’t forget anything. Do you?

There are a few things that people forget during the holidays so you might want to double check your own to-do list, just to be sure that everyone’s holiday can be jolly.


Many forget to get batteries for the gifts they buy. There’s nothing more frustrating than not being able to use a gift right away because there are no batteries.

When you buy an electronic gift make sure you put the right size batteries in the cart before you check out.

Stock up on some of the more common sizes in case someone else forgets the batteries for your children’s gifts, too.

Accessories for Gifts

Don’t forget the accessories to your gift such as carrying cases, battery chargers, headphones or cleaning kits. If you’re not sure what kind of accessories your gift should have, you can always include a gift card so that the recipient can buy just what they need later on.

Hostess Gifts

The holidays are filled with parties and special occasions so keep a little stash of ready-to-go gifts such as gourmet cocoas or coffees, boxed chocolates or scented candles so you have something handy for even the most last-minute events.

Another great idea is to stop off at a local grocery store and buy flowers on your way to the party. Many are open 24 hours now and their flower prices are reasonable.

Receipts and Return Options

Sure you want to buy that perfect gift for everyone on your list but sometimes, despite your best efforts, a gift just doesn’t work out. Make it easy for the recipient to return it by asking for a gift receipt along with your regular receipt.

Whether you’re shopping online or at a store, find out what the site’s return policies are. Print up any documentation for the gift and make it available to the recipient should they need it.

Thank You Notes

Many people say they forget to write a note of thanks for a gift. Stock up on thank you cards early – then put a “Thank You Day” on the calendar between Christmas and New Year’s so that everyone can take care of this important task before too much time goes by.

Sometimes in the flurry of opening gifts we forget who gave us which present. Grab a pen and the gift tag off each present as it’s opened and write on the back of the tag what was received (and the recipient if you have several children.) You can keep all the tags ready to go on Thank You Day so you don’t forget who gave what and all presents have a corresponding thank you note.

Free Printable Thank You Cards for Kids

free printable thank you cards for kids

See our free printable thank you cards for kids with tips on how to get your kids to take the time to fill out the thank you cards.

Courtesy of Radio Shack

Taking care of these little things make the holidays go more smoothly which increases your enjoyment too.

Get Your Gifts Home for the Holidays With These Shipping Tips

UPS delivering christmas presentsWith families spread out all over the country, shipping holiday gifts to loved ones is a part of the season’s traditions.

And while Santa has done an admirable job of delivering holiday cheer for many seasons, he often gets an assist from helpers like Bill Yelle, a UPS driver for more than 16 years.

“I might not have a long white beard and wear a bright red suit,” says Yelle, “but it’s always fun to see the smile on a customer’s face when I arrive with packages during the holidays. And I don’t want to brag, but I think the children like the big brown truck as much as Santa’s sleigh.”

To help your special gifts arrive intact and on time, there are a few simple things you can do.

Use the Right Packing Materials

Use what the professionals use – sturdy, corrugated boxes, foam packaging peanuts and bubble pack – to protect your gifts. Leave enough space between items in the box, and wrap individual items with double cushioning if necessary. Allow at least two inches on all sides of the items being packed, including the bottom and the top. Place the item in the center of the box and fill the remaining space with additional packaging material.

Check With the Experts

If you have fragile or unusually shaped items to ship, or you just don’t have the time to get your packing and shipping done, it can pay to turn to the pros.

“I love this time of year,” says The UPS Store owner Mary Hart. “We put so much effort into helping our customers ship their holiday gifts that we share their sense of excitement. We firmly believe the same care should go into shipping gifts as into selecting them.”

Holiday Shipping DOs and DON’Ts

DO include an address label on the inside of the package with both the destination and return addresses.
DO use a shipping option which provides a package-tracking number.
DO take batteries out of toys, electronics, etc., before shipping.
DO ship wrapped presents ahead to your destination, especially if traveling by air.
DON’T wrap boxes in brown paper or tie with string.
DON’T use materials like newspaper or real popcorn to cushion items.
DON’T use old boxes or gift boxes for shipping items.
DON’T use duct tape, masking tape or cellophane tape to seal your boxes for shipping.
DON’T ship perfume or cologne since they are considered hazardous materials.

Hart has had to perform a package intervention or two during her 25 years in the business. “People should never be embarrassed to ask for help,” she says. “We’re specially trained and certified packing professionals. We can handle any shipping job.”

One other essential thing to do – be an early bird. Waiting too long to ship packages can jeopardize their timely arrival and cost you a lot more money. Having to ship items via air takes a lot more out of your wallet, so plan ahead.

For more packing tips and to find a The UPS Store near you, visit

Print Up Holiday Cheer

For extra help printing your holiday newsletters, visit Upload your file, proof it, select paper and/or binding options and you’re ready to print up holiday cheer for everyone on your list.

Did You Know?

  • This year, there are 28 shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas … but only 19 shipping days.
  • Monday is the busiest shipping day of the week.
  • The busiest shipping week of the season is expected to be December 14 to 18.
  • You can ship as late as December 23 for delivery on December 24.
  • Participating The UPS Store locations offer the Pack & Ship Promise, which reimburses customers in the event a center-packed item shipped via UPS is lost or damaged.*
  • You can recycle your leftover packaging peanuts at participating The UPS Store locations.

*Details are available at The UPS Store.

Key Dates for Holiday Shipping

Most ground shipping requires 5 days or less to reach its destination, but if you’re shipping coast to coast it may take longer.

December 21st – Ship 3 Day Select for delivery on the 24th.

December 22nd – Ship UPS 2nd Day Air for delivery on the 24th.

December 23rd – Ship UPS Next Day Air for delivery on the 24th.

If you are shipping internationally or to military personnel overseas, contact the UPS Store location nearest you to determine the best date to ensure on-time delivery.

With family spread out all over the world, it is important to be very organized to ensure that gifts are shipped in time for Christmas, but there always seems to be those last minute things every year – doesn’t there?

Holiday Travel with Ease

For many travel is as essential to holiday festivities as for Santa himself. Heeding the advice of seasoned travel pros can help take the headache and hassle out of your holiday travel this year.

Saving time and finding travel options to fit your budget are especially important this time of year. Fortunately, websites and mobile apps, such as Hipmunk, can help by comparing travel sites to show the perfect flight, hotel or vacation rental at the cheapest price.

From timing your ticket purchases right to alternative options when it comes to lodging, the experts at Hipmunk offer these tips to help you tackle this year’s travel planning with a smart strategy.

Know when to buy airfare and book hotels. Book flights early, but wait on hotels. Flight prices steadily increase as the holiday grows near, while hotel prices decrease in the months leading up to the holiday. Book Thanksgiving hotels in November and Christmas hotels in December.

Use specialty filters to organize your flight options. At Hipmunk, you can use an “agony” filter to sort flights by price, duration and number of layovers so you can easily identify the most convenient one.

senior using laptop computer at airportAvoid delays by taking the first flight out in the morning. The plane should already be at the airport, so there’s less chance of a delay due to cleaning, de-boarding or a late incoming flight.

Purchase a day pass to an airport lounge. If you do experience significant delays or cancelled flights, a lounge will let you avoid the insanity of the terminals. Most offer a comfortable and quiet place to de-stress with complimentary snacks, beverages, wi-fi and even showers. Passes typically cost about $50.

If traveling with your family or a group of friends, consider a vacation rental. You’ll have the comforts of home (washer/dryer, refrigerator, microwave, etc.), which could save your sanity and even a few bucks. Hipmunk shows Airbnb and Homeaway vacation rentals in hotel searches so you can easily see which option is best for you.

If traveling regionally, consider traveling by train. Train stations are often less hectic than airports, and you still get the convenience of not having to drive yourself. Flight searches using Hipmunk will show you Amtrak options in areas where you can get to your destination by train.

seniors in airport

Most dilemmas can be solved online. Whether you need to get directions, book a rental car or download last minute reading material, your phone is your best resource on the road. Stay charged with external batteries (remember to charge them the night before) and book flights on planes that feature power outlets.

For more travel resources and information, visit

Knowing how to pack will save time and hassles going through security checks.

packing guidelines

Packing Guidelines courtesy of Travel Insurance
Hipmunk information courtesy Family Features

May you have a safe and hassle-free holiday travel season this year!

A Christmas Appetizer Party: All the Fun for Less

christmas appetizer party table

If finances are tight this year, celebrate the holidays by hosting an appetizer party where everyone can get together to have fun without breaking the bank.

Party Tips
appetizer party
If your party is for a group of good friends, you can ask each guest to bring an appetizer and a bottle of wine or non-alcoholic drink. They don’t mind – they’re just excited to get together.

The great thing about an appetizer party is that it can be short, about 2 hours in duration, so you can mix different groups of people together for a festive evening that you wouldn’t dream of doing for a sit-down dinner. Everyone can mingle and move around the room.

With a collection of nibbles and libations, you’re ready to party.

christmas party

candleSet a festive mood. Pillar candles, strings of lights, evergreens and holiday music will create a merry atmosphere at a nominal cost.

For an elegant tone, use china plates and wine glasses if you have them. Small plates are trendy because people love to sample little bites and taste a variety of dishes. They are also easier to balance as you walk around the room and chat with other guests.

Don’t forget to decorate the bathroom! Every guest will likely visit at least once during the party, so keep it shiny clean and festive too.

Food Stations Encourage Mingling
  • Set up separate stations for food and wine to keep traffic moving.
  • Several small food stations to encourage people to move around the room and mingle.
  • Each food station can have a separate Christmas theme so you can mix and match patterns to use up old napkins and mismatched plates.
  • Have extra platters and serving utensils available in case someone forgets to bring them.
  • Clear off kitchen counters so guests can prep their dishes.
  • Instead of an open bar consider offering a selection of wines that will appeal to different tastes. Set up a wine bar and let guests serve themselves. Provide sparkling water or punch as a refreshing non-alcoholic option. Have lemon slices on the side.
  • christmas punch

  • Purchase a few extra bottles of wine and non-alcoholic drinks to start the party off and to ensure there is enough to drink if guests forget. Only open as needed, an use unopened bottles to take to your next party.
  • Calculate that you will need one bottle of wine for every 2 guests
  • Have a few seats available for the cuties in their high heels to have a bit of break, but scatter them in corners of the room with the food and drink tables more in the center to encourage mingling.
  • Plan your station for hot food to be right next to the kitchen, and consider how you’re going to keep these items hot. You may need access to several electrical outlets for warmers, crockpots, etc. so make sure you have an extension cord accessible before the party begins. You don’t want to be digging through drawers and closets to find one!
  • Another alternative for serving hot foods is to keep them in the kitchen and put them out on small platters in “doses”. The drawback is that you have to keep your eye on how quickly they disappear or get cold.
  • Plan what you want your guests to do with the dirty dishes and used glasses. Do you really want them all going into the kitchen? (Because if they do you’ll have a crowd talking in there too while you’re dealing with food.) Setting up a drop off table with a discreet sign works well. Keep it near the kitchen for easy clean up.
  • Have a trash can near the drop off table to encourage people to clean off their plates themselves. (I hate that part the most! If I can get them to clean up themselves, I’m a happy girl.)
  • Cocktail napkins are the perfect size for an appetizer party, but make sure there are enough. No one likes to carry around a soiled napkin! Plan on providing 5 napkins per guest.
  • White cloth napkins are more elegant, easy to wash and more economical if you have many parties. They also signal that you’re eco-friendly.
  • Be careful when using colored napkins. One Christmas I used gorgeous burgundy paper napkins. My uncle was warm, wiped the sweat from his brow and ended up with a gorgeous burgundy streak across his forehead! Who’d a thunk paper napkins aren’t colorfast?


Cheese board with fresh fruit and chutneyThe buffet will grow as guests arrive, but to provide for the first guests, have a cheese board and vegetable platter ready. It takes no time to prep and they are always popular.

Include easy but filling finger foods as well such as bread sticks, nuts and a pickle dish.

Plan the appetizers to include both hot and cold foods and foods with different flavors. Not everyone likes or can digest spicy food, others adore it. (You get the picture.)

If you are including seafood, make one separate food station just for seafood so those who have allergies can steer clear and feel comfortable.

Don’t forget to supply some appetizers for the vegetarians in the group. My daughter is a vegetarian and we are surprised at how many restaurants and catered parties still don’t think of offering a vegetarian dish.

Serve some Christmas cookies or small desserts to serve at the end. It allows the guest to leave with sweetness on their taste buds and also signals that the party is ending soon.

christmas cookie platter

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