Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Wednesday Weigh In

We are half way through our first week.  It's time to check in and see what kind of progress we've made.  This is "list week" so it requires more brain power than anything  will and we all know that sometimes that's the hardest thing to muster.  If you find you just can't get to all of your lists, just start with one or two.  For me, it was tackling our menus.  Christmas and Thanksgiving menus are set, with room for minor changes here and there (and by that I mean discovering that my brother has an intolerance for yet another entire food group).  Tomorrow and the next day, I've got to get to my gift lists.  But those generally flow a little faster.

If you are planning to join me in preparing your freezer meals for the busy holiday season,  I suggest you concentrate on that list.  Preparation begins next week.  Find some favorite family recipes that you know you can freeze for a couple months or weeks and make a list of the ingredients needed to make them.  Feel free to plan one of these into your weekly menu now to avoid extra cooking.  All you have to do is double your recipe one night.  Then, eat one portion, freeze the other. While you're out and about, stop by your local dollar store and stock up on some tin foil, tin pans, and plastic containers to avoid emptying your every day supply.

Over the next few days, I'll be sharing some of my family's favorites.  Hopefully that will give you some good ideas and help to jumpstart your food prep.

If you've yet to begin your list making, it's not too late.  One list a day for the next few days and you'll be well on your way.  Don't focus on what you haven't done.  Focus on what you can still do.  Remember, any progress will make your holidays easier!  Happy list making!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Week 1

August 26th - September 1st

It's that time! Here we go.  This is probably the single most important week of preparation for the holidays.  It's list week.  For those of you following the Holiday Grand plan, you can find a more detailed task list here.  But if you are just looking to get your feet wet and get a little ahead of the game, these lists will be all you need to get started. 

If possible, find 20 minutes or so of alone time this week.  For some of us that will only be found in the early morning hours or late at night.  Being alone will allow you to focus your attention on the task at hand without distraction and you'll be amazed at how much you can accomplish.  So, grab a pen, some paper, and let's roll!

Make the following lists:
  • Gifts to be given
  • Christmas card recipients
  • Trips planned or company expected
  • Parties/Entertaining
  • Menus for Thanksgiving/Christmas
  • Goodies for sharing/gifts
  • Favorite meals to freeze
  • Baking you plan to do

If possible, start a running list of things you need to shop for:
canned food
perishables per holiday
decorations, etc

Congratulations!  You are ahead of the game and already well on your way to making the holidays stress-free.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Gear Up Week

Our Countdown to Christmas starts on Sunday so here are a few tips to help get you prepared. And just in case you were wondering, these are exactly the things I am working on the next few days. Better late than never!

Prep your holiday planning notebook. Whether it's a 3 ring binder or a simple spiral notebook, get it ready to go. My suggestion? Grab a simple 3 ring binder (before the back to school supplies are gone), get some divider tabs, and a pack of paper, grab a zipper pouch so you can keep your pens handy, and you're ready to go.

Print monthly calenders. You can get them directly from Organized Christmas or look online for a template that works for you. Remember, this is YOUR plan. Use what will make this the easiest for you. Whatever style you choose, make sure you have one for August-January. As soon as you can, jot down any family birthdays, events, vacations, holidays, or business trips that might derail your progress. If you have family birthdays in the coming months, don't postpone your holiday preparations until after they are done. The key is to plan simultaneously, a little at a time, to avoid the feeling of insanity come December.

Create some deadlines on your calendar. These can certainly change over the next few months, but keeping these goals in mind will help you focus on accomplishing them. Consider when you need to mail packages (especially if you are sending some overseas), have your photos taken, send your greeting cards, departure dates (if you're traveling), arrival dates (if you're expecting guests), party dates, school functions, church functions, office functions, etc. You may not know the specifics yet, but pencil them in the best you can. If you know your kid's school has a program the last week before break, jot it down. You can fill in specifics later. At least you'll know what you are working around as more and more activities vie for time on your calendar.

Designate the following necessary sections in your planner:
  • Calendars
  • To Do Lists
  • Gifts
  • Food
You may find it easier to break down your planning into smaller sections, but these are the key components and are more than adequate.

Start pulling recipes for freezer meals and your favorite holiday goodies. You'll need these sooner than you think! Get a new cookbook in the past year with some holiday recipes you're dying to try? Copy or clip them and get them in the binder now.

Stock up on butter, flour, sugar, cans of pumpkin, and other baking supplies. Sprinkles are a valuable commodity in November and December. Buy what you need over the next few weeks so you're not scrambling to find those illusive silver nonpareils when the rest of the world is too!

Last but DEFINITELY not least, ask your family for input. They may look at you like you're crazy, as my own husband did last night. "You're asking me to think about December in August?" Why, yes, as a matter of fact, I am. But let's be honest. Ultimately, you're doing all of this for them. Find out if there's anything they are particularly looking forward too or perhaps something they could do without. It may just end up making life a little easier for you. If your husband's favorite Christmas cookies are the one's his nana used to make. Find that recipe! If you're kids hate Christmas caroling to the neighbors, maybe you can find another way to "bless" your neighbors this holiday season.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

On Your Mark...Get Set...

The Holiday Grand Plan starts on Sunday.  Yes, you heard me correctly.  This Sunday, August 26th, launches the start of the holiday planning season in our home.  It's hard to imagine it has already arrived, especially in light of the fact that we have had record breaking high temperatures here lately.  I don't think my brain has had a chance to switch gears.  But, ready or not, here it comes!  Hope you'll join in on the fun!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Jump Start

It's August!  Can you believe it?  I'm not a huge fan of summers around here, but I can't help but ask, "where did my summer go?".  In just one week, our kids head back to school and the daily grind begins again for many mothers.  In this last week of school supply shopping and readjusting sleep schedules, Christmas is the last thing on the minds of most people.  But, we are not most people!

The Holiday Grand Plan begins on August 26th and there is much we can do to prepare for it (or any other holiday plan you might choose to follow) in the coming weeks.   Here are a few ideas to help jump start your holiday preparations:

  • Take advantage of back to school sales- Stock up now on tape, glue, sticks, & pens for all that wrapping and labeling you will need to do.  Grab a few stacks of sticky notes to label your gifts, since you'll be wrapping them well ahead of time.
  • If you haven't created your holiday planner, now is a great time to get a smokin' deal on a three ring binder and printer paper.  Grab them now and I'll tell you what to do with them later! :)
  • Stock up on crayons, markers, pencils, and assorted goodies for stocking stuffers.
  • Buy disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer while they are on sale.  Be prepared to wipe out germs that make your family sick during the holiday season!
  • If you like to give gifts "in a jar", now is the time to purchase your canning jars.  They are readily available and may not be closer to Christmas.
  • Find great deals on gifts by taking advantage of sales on socks, underwear, and back to school clothes.
  • Summer clearance means great deals on Christmas gifts!  Look for special discounts on outdoor toys and home decor items as stores clear out their inventory in time.
  • If you already have a holiday planner from last year, pull it out and glance through it.  Clear out any old catalogs or lists you no longer need.  Reprint your planning pages so that you are ready to roll!  If you are new to this and haven't used a holiday planner before, I'll introduce you to some and help you make the best choice in the next few weeks.