Saturday, December 14, 2013

Week 15

Congratulations!  You have made it through to the end of the journey.  Hopefully, you have been successful and have learned some things along the way.  Make note of things that worked for you and any goals you may have for next year.  In a few months, you'll forget all about them.  Write them down while they are fresh so you can implement them next year.  As for our "to do" list for the week, it is simple.

  • Mail packages and cards
  • Wrap and label any remaining gifts
  • Prepare teacher gifts
  • Enjoy the fruits of your labor- drive around looking at Christmas lights, plan an evening out with friends, find a sitter and enjoy a much needed date night, read a book by the Christmas tree, make a cup of tea and snuggle in front of the fireplace. Savor the season!
  • Above all, have a wonderful Christmas and a blessed New Year!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Week 14

I certainly hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving and found that it was much more relaxing than it may have been in years past.  If you're like me, you have spent the last few days eating and shopping until you're ready to drop.  What a fantastic way to kick of the Christmas season.  For those of us who have been chomping at the bit to put up our Christmas trees but couldn't bear to do so before Thanksgiving, our time has come!

Let's begin!

  • Decorate your house and yard
  • Finish the last of your shopping and wrapping
  • Prepare all packages for mailing.  Be sure to utilize if possible to buy postage and arrange for pick up of your packages.
  • Mail overseas cards
  • Plan caroling or a family movie night.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Week 13

Happy week of Thanksgiving!  We are really getting down to the wire.  In just a couple of weeks, we will be finished and relishing in the Christmas season.  This is, by far, my favorite week of the year.  There is so much to look forward to.  I can't wait to get started!

This week:
  • Get everything out for Thanksgiving.
  • Double check your shopping list and pick up any remaining items as soon as possible.  Do not wait until Wednesday!
  • Prepare what can be done ahead of time
  • Stock bathrooms- have extra toilet paper and hand soap on hand.  Also remember to check your first aid kid and band aid supply if you are expecting additional children to visit this week.
  • It's deadline week- If homemade gifts/crafts are not completed, put them away until next year and buy gifts in their place.  Be realistic and let yourself off the hook.
  • Wednesday- Use a freezer meal, buy a bagged salad if necessary

Enjoy your week and have a blessed Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Week 12

Is November really half over? *sheds tear* I just cannot believe it.  Each month seems to come and go faster than the one before.  But, every time I turn the page on the calendar, I am more and more grateful that I have been preparing step by step for the last few months.  Thanksgiving is next week and, instead of that thought throwing me into complete panic, I am actually looking forward to it.  There is a busy week of preparations ahead, so let's get started!

  • Make a batch of holiday goodies.  This will be your last baking week, so make sure to squeeze in the one treat your family cannot live without.  Grocery store shelves are well stocked with all kinds of Christmas sprinkles, fruits, and nuts.  If you already have enough goodies in your freezer, consider making a batch of sugar cookies to decorate with your kids closer to Christmas.  You can freeze those as well and pull them out for a party or fun afternoon later.
  • Make a freezer meal.  If you have run out of ideas, consider running to  your local warehouse club and buying a frozen entrée to keep on hand.  You can never have too many ready-made meals so don't skip this step.  You can always use those remaining meals the week after Christmas too.  I mean, who wants to cook then?
  • Buy at least one gift
  • Wrap and label packages
  • Work on homemade crafts or gifts
  • Make place cards for Thanksgiving
  • Clean serving dishes.  If they are like mine, they have collected a half inch of dust in the last few months.
  • Borrow any additional pieces.  Don't be afraid to ask family, friends, and neighbors.  Do not add to the expense of the holiday purchasing serving pieces right now.  Keep a list of what you don't have on hand and snatch them up during Black Friday sales or in January when retailers are clearing their inventory.
  • Check, clean, and iron your linens.
  • Work on centerpiece.  Check your candles and clean any silk flowers you may be planning to use.
  • Make a 3x5 card for each serving dish and tape it to the dish itself.  Include what goes in it, when it can be filled, and silverware needed for serving. This is invaluable when your kitchen is filled with family and friends all asking what they can do to help.  Plus, it makes your meal preparation a no-brainer and keeps you from scrambling in the heat of the moment.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Week 11

It's about this time every year that I wish time would slow down.  The holidays are rapidly approaching and I don't want them to pass too quickly.  I hope you are finding time to savor the season and enjoy your preparations.  If you can, light a candle and turn on some Christmas music (you won't find any judgment here) while you work.

Here goes:

  • Make a batch of holiday goodies
  • Make one freezer meal.  We are nearing the end of our baking and freezer meal preparation. If you need to double up on a few extra meals this week, do it.  Next week we will finish up.
  • Buy at least one gift.  Yesterday, I purchased my children's ornaments.  It felt a little odd considering it was 86 degrees outside.  But, I sure was nice that everything was in stock!  Take advantage while store shelves are full.  They won't be much longer!
  • Wrap and label packages.  Wrapping paper, gift bags, and tags are now readily available in practically every major retailer.  Save yourself some time by buying them now and getting your presents wrapped.  The amount of money you may save waiting for sales won't be worth the time you will end up spending if you save all your wrapping for the last minute.  Time will be at a premium soon.  Wrap as much as you can now.
  • Work on homemade gifts/crafts
  • Review and revise your Thanksgiving menu.
  • Plan table setting
  • Plan centerpiece
  • Reserve items that need to be borrowed- serving dishes, linens, chairs, etc.
  • Purchase, clean, and iron holiday clothing
  • Send invites for Thanksgiving
  • Address Christmas cards

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Week 10

As I clear away our Halloween decorations, I can't help but think about how much I LOVE this time of year.  There's something about the cooler air and the anticipation of Christmas that I love almost as much as the holiday itself.  Now that the rest of the world is catching up to us, it really begins to feel good to have such a handle on our holiday planning.

Now it's time for some confessions.  Confession #1- I have some catching up to do.  Life has been particularly busy this year, for some reason I can't explain, so I have a couple meals and baked goods to knock out.  Confession #2- I cannot bring myself to put up my Christmas tree. *hangs head in shame*  I know so many people who have jumped into the Christmas season with both feet and I'm so proud of them for deciding to enjoy it as long as possible.  I really do wish it was longer than a month.  But there is just something about the experience of putting it up, that I just can't let go of. 

One of my favorite holiday memories is watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and seeing Christmas commercials air for the first time all year.  Those days are long gone, but the kid in me still revels in the fact that Santa's arrival in Herald Square ushers in the Christmas season.  Then and only then can the Christmas music play and the tree go up.  It's tradition.

Until then, I'll enjoy the sights and sounds that are already all around me and enjoy the anticipation.  In the meantime, let's not forget Thanksgiving!  It is a major production for those of us hosting, so don't let it fall through the cracks.  Retailers may not realize there's a holiday in between Halloween and Christmas, but there is and it is one of the BEST!

Here is our list to tackle this week.  Let's hit it!

  • Make a batch of holiday goodies (or two, if you're like me this year)
  • Make one freezer meal (or...well, you know)
  • Buy at least one gift. We are getting down to crunch time.  If you can knock out more than one, go for it.  Store's are well stocked right now, but won't be for long.  You don't have to wait until Black Friday to get a good deal.  Check your paper and the web.  Take advantage of coupons while you can and while stores have inventory.  Beat everyone to the punch!
  • Wrap and label your packages.  Wrapping paper is readily available.  If you haven't had any hanging around from last Christmas, head out a.s.a.p. and grab some rolls.  Wrapping gifts is the thing that sneaks up on us.  Just remember, even when you've finished your shopping, each of those gifts need to be wrapped.  Don't save it all for the last week before Christmas!
  • Work on homemade crafts or gifts
  • Polish silver and clean your glassware. 
  • Clear out your Halloween décor
  • Put up Thanksgiving décor if you have any.  If you want to put your tree up and your husband won't shame you (LOL) then GO FOR IT!
  • Clear out your hall closet and make room for guests coats (unless you live where we do and your Thanksgiving temperatures are generally in the 80s). 
*Special note- Do NOT shampoo your carpets.  It is common this time of year to want to have a spotless house for guests.  But consider all the foot traffic your carpet will see over the next two months.  Your newly cleaned carpet won't last long.  Instead, get a good spray cleaner from the store and spot clean your carpet.  Save the expense of having it professionally cleaned until the holidays are over. 

I found a recipe on Pinterest for homemade carpet cleaner and it is, by far, the best one I've ever used.  Incidentally, it also cleans upholstery beautifully and has effectively pre-treated laundry stains for me.  Here is the recipe:

1 tsp clear dish soap
1 C warm water
1 tsp baking soda
1 Tbsp white vinegar
1 tsp lemon juice
Mix the dish soap with the warm water first, so that it dissolves better.  Then add the rest of the ingredients and pour into a spray bottle.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Week 9

We are well past the half way mark!  It's hard to believe November is around the corner.  Be proud of yourself for making it this far and making so much progress.  Keep up the great work!
  • Make a batch of holiday goodies
  • Make a freezer meal- running out of ideas?  Try this:
  • Buy canned food- if you have already purchased all necessary items from your long-term shopping list.  Grab a can or two to donate.
  • Buy at least one gift.  Wrap and label it.
  • Work on homemade gifts.
  • Start addressing Christmas cards
  • Buy stamps.
  • Check your candy inventory for trick-or-treaters.  Stock up if you need more!
  • Send invites for Thanksgiving.  These do not need to be formal.  Feel free to email, text, or call friends and family to give them a heads up on your plans or to coordinate schedules.
  • Buy extra batteries for gifts and décor.  There is nothing worse than unpacking holiday decorations only to find their batteries are dead.
  • Purchase your Turkey- if they are available in your area.  They might not be the most inexpensive, but the benefit of purchasing early is that you are guaranteed the size that you want.  I cannot begin to tell you how many times I've been left with 20+ lb turkeys to feed our small family.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Week 8

I just saw a post on Facebook that said there are only 10 Wednesdays left until Christmas.  I have to admit that, I did have slight heart palpitations.  I can't even imagine how much that would stress me out if I wasn't as prepared as I am.  This year, it has been difficult to stick with the plan in light of some unexpected events and illnesses.  But, having said that, I still feel like I've got a decent handle on things.  I hope you are feeling the same way.  Do not get discouraged if you aren't where you'd like to be.  Just remember, you are much better off than most.  Keep plugging along.  Your hard work and determination will all pay off...sooner than you think!

Without further adieu, let's get busy!

  • Make a batch of holiday goodies
  • Make 1 freezer meal
  • Buy 2 canned foods- one from your long-term shopping list and one to donate
  • Buy at least 1 gift- if you can knock out two, go for it!  Also, don't forget to start picking up small items for "white elephant" exchanges and/or stocking stuffers.
  • Wrap and label gifts
  • Check your progress and adjust.  If those crafts aren't coming along as planned, consider setting them aside until next year and buying a gift in their place.  Do you need to double up on a holiday goody or freezer meal? 
  • Buy pumpkins
  • Review plans for Halloween costumes
  • Make a Halloween treat.  It may seem silly to have this on the list, but there are far too many times that the season passes and I wish I would have made a fun treat for my kids or neighbors.  This year, I'm trying these Peanut Butter Butterscotch Haystacks.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Week 7

Keep on keepin' on!  You're doing great!

Week of October 12th - 18th

  • Make a batch of holiday goodies

  • Make one freezer meal

  • Buy 2 canned foods (if needed)

  • Buy 1 or 2 gifts

  • Wrap and label packages

  • Work on holiday crafts/gifts

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Week 6

I am so very jealous as I see friends and family posting pictures of beautiful Fall days and brightly colored leaves.  I love Fall and mourn every year that we don't get to experience one here.  So, as I light my mulled cider candle and stare out at palm trees waving by the pool, I bring you week #6.

Week of October 5th - 11th

  • Make a batch of holiday goodies

  • Make a freezer meal

  • Buy 2 canned food items (if necessary)- You should have quite the collection growing.

  • Buy at least 1 or 2 Christmas gifts

  • Wrap and label your packages

  • Work on homemade gifts

  • Sort out your kid's clothes/toys to donate or sell at a garage sale.

  • Make a list of toys/books that your kids would like and that fit in their rooms- I always get a little push back about this item but I feel it's one of the most helpful.  You know what your kids will play with and what you have room to store.  While it is incredibly generous of your great-Aunt Jennie to want to buy your children a trampoline, is it really something that will be useful?  To you have the space for it without having to do a complete home makeover?  Try to approach it from the standpoint of, "Here are a few ideas if you're stuck on what to get the kids.  We are a little limited on space and these are things they love and have been asking for."  Rather than, "Here is the list of permissible items for you to buy my children.  All other gifts are unacceptable."  Remember, these are gifts.  Graciously accept whatever your great-Aunt Jennie gives them.  But hopefully, this will keep you from having to sell her gift on Craigslist as soon as she leaves town.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Week 5

We've been at this well over a month now!  Your gift list should be getting smaller and you should see quite the collection of ready-made meals and holiday goodies filling your freezer.  I'm just happy that there is finally a noticeable change in temperature here in the desert!  It's hard to think "Christmas" in the midst of triple digit heat.  But it hasn't stopped us!  So, let's get busy-

Here is your task list for this week:

Week of September 28th - October 4th

  • Make a batch of holiday goodies

  • Make one extra freezer meal

  • Buy 2 canned food items

  • Buy 1 or 2 of your gifts

  • Wrap and label your packages

  • Work on homemade gifts

This should be becoming part of your routine.  Feel free to throw in an extra meal or baked good if you have time.  No one says you have to stop at one!

Happy prepping!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Week 4

I hope you are feeling a sense of accomplishment.  You are making small strides that will save you large amounts of time later.  If you feel like you are not making a dent, just remember it will all pay off in the end.   Here goes!

Week of September 21st - 27th
  • Make one batch of holiday goodies

  • Make one freezer meal- If the idea of making an extra meal is daunting.  Consider buying a frozen lasagna or pre-made meal that you can store for a busy day.  Even some frozen hamburger patties can be purchased and saved for the holidays.  Don't put too much pressure on yourself to make something from scratch.  Think outside the box.

  • Buy 2 canned food items

  • Buy 1/8  of your gifts- This generally amounts to one or two, depending on how large your list of recipients is.  My goal is to buy one or two each week.  The key is to spread out the cost of shopping for so many people.  Even if you are purchasing one gift per pay period, you'll be amazed at how much is done by the time the season rolls around.

  • Work 1 hour on homemade gifts/crafts

  • List any linens that need replacing- Consider table linens as well as towels and sheets if you are expecting out of town guests.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Week 3

This week's task list is simple and will change little for the next several weeks.  Let's jump right in!

Week of September 14th - 20th

  • Make one batch of holiday goodies

  • Make one freezer meal

  • Buy 2 canned foods- These can be off of your holiday menu shopping list or purchased and stored for canned food drives later on.

  • Buy supplies for homemade gifts

  • Buy camera batteries, blank video discs, anything you might need to capture your holiday memories.  Store them somewhere safe and jot their location down in your notebook so you can find them later.  If you have a device with rechargeable batteries, pencil in a date or dates on your calendar to charge them.  It will be a good reminder and you insure that you have a fully charged battery for that holiday recital or concert. 

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Week 2

I hope your first week was a success and helped to clear your head of the oh so many holiday details that you will take care of over the next several weeks.  Now that you've got them down on paper, you need not think about them until it's time to tackle them!  Let's get down to business this week!
Week of September 7th- 13th
  • Finish up any lists you weren't able to- Sometimes you need the input of others to make final decisions regarding menus and gift lists.  Do the best you can.  If you receive smirks and eye rolls when you broach the subject of Christmas in September, like I have, it's okay to wait until a more publicly acceptable time to discuss it with friends and family.  Jot something down, but be sure to use pencil so you can make necessary adjustments later. Remember, that not everyone is as organized and proactive as you are. :-)

  • Make a long-term shopping list for your holiday meals if you didn't get around to it.  This list is extremely important.  Keep it in your wallet or use an app on your smartphone to create it so that it is always with you.  Each week you will buy 1 or two canned items from this list.  This helps to cut down the outrageous grocery bills you will encounter in November and December.  If you have a chance, you can add your freezer meal ingredients to this list.  Remember, canned foods don't have to be in a can.  Feel free to stock up on boxed and packaged items such as pasta or dip mixes (while you can find them).  I keep my master list on the inside of my pantry door so that when it comes time to head to the grocery store, I can see right away what I need to pick up.  Those items get added to my weekly list before I head out to do shopping.

  • Buy extra flour, sugar, butter (which freezes beautifully).  Don't forget more obscure baking essentials.  Check your inventory of baking soda, baking powder, vanilla extract, yeast, shortening, vegetable oil, and spices.  Also, invest in some plastic containers and heavy duty tin foil to store and freeze your holiday goodies.  The dollar store is a great source for plastic containers!

  • Make one freezer meal- Consider doubling the recipe for a meal on your weekly menu.  Meatloaf freezes really well!  Pinterest and Allrecipes are helpful resources if you're short on freezer meal ideas.

  • Develop ideas for gifts/décor- This is your chance to be creative.  If there is a craft you are anxious to try or make as a gift idea, you now have time to make it a reality.  Also, begin considering what you might purchase for others.  If you are stuck, consider searching for  a phrase like "gifts for brothers" online.  You'll be surprised at what you find.  Do as much exploring online as you can.  It will save you hours of traipsing around the mall later.  Keep a master gift list, a list of online orders, and a list of gift ideas.  As you make purchases, continue listing what you have purchased on your master gift list.

  • Order Christmas cards- It may seem too early to do this, but I can't even begin to express how relieved you will be to have this piece over and done with.  If you like to order photo cards, consider using a photo from your summer vacation rather than a holiday picture.  Or, don't be afraid to turn your air conditioner down, throw on a sweater and have someone snap a shot of your family in winter attire now.  Since cards are something you don't usually get a smoking deal on, rejoice in the fact that the task and expense are behind you.

Saturday, August 31, 2013


It's that time of year and we are hitting the pavement running!  I have to admit, I started my planning yesterday with my mom and boy was it fun. It was a welcome break from the monotony of blazing summer heat.  I'm eternally grateful for things like Pandora that will pipe Christmas music, be it ever so slightly, through my home while we plan and my Christmas candles that I can light and set on the table next to us.  The sounds and smells of Christmas help me to get into planning mode and make the triple digit temperatures outside seem not quite so unbearable.

Hopefully you were able to get a binder for yourself or dig up a notebook.  Either way is fine. It's really just a matter of personal preference and what will make it easier for you.  If you haven't already, divide your notebook into the following sections-

Calendar (unless you prefer to use your wall calendar or Outlook)
To Do Lists

These are the three most basic sections and encompass most of your planning needs.  If you have extra sections, you might consider the following:

Christmas Cards

The sections should be pretty self-explanatory with the exception of "Housekeeping".  I use this section to keep track of wardrobe needs, any linens I might need to purchase or replace, and/or any repairs or items I need to purchase specifically for the holidays (i.e. wreath hangers, outdoor lights, etc)

If you have all of those sections designated, you are ready to go!  Here is your to do list for the week.

Week of August 31st- September 6th

Make the following lists:
  • Gifts to give/recipients
  • Christmas Card list
  • Visits/Trips
  • Parties/Entertaining
  • Menus- Include, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years and any other events you may celebrate in between
  • Goodies for sharing/gifts
  • Favorite meals to freeze
  • Long term shopping list- start this list according to what you plan for each of your holiday meals.  It helps to have a separate list for each holiday and one for your freezer meals.
This is your brainstorming week and your chance to make a road map for the next few months.  So, light that candle, play some Christmas tunes, and enjoy!

Monday, August 26, 2013

On Your Mark, Get Set

It's so hard for me to believe that we are here again, already.  I could swear that we just rang in the new year.  How is it possible that the holiday planning season is already upon us.  Where has 2013 gone?

Well, like it or not, it's time to get started.  If the next few months go half as fast as the past 8, we will be eternally grateful we started early.

Our Christmas planning schedule will begin this Saturday, August 31st.  Here are a few things to prepare before we get going.

*Dig out your holiday planner from last year and clear out what you no longer need. If you didn't have a chance to get one, head out and snatch up a few things from the back to school shelves.  You will need:
  • a 3 ring binder
  • subject dividers
  • notebook filler paper
  • pencil zipper pouch
  • pens and pencils
If that is too involved, just remember a spiral notebook will be sufficient.  Just make sure you have something to help you keep all your planning tools together.

*Take some time to look up some holiday recipes or crafts you might like to try.  The good part of starting your planning early is that it enables you to let your creative juices flow and try something new.  Sometimes we get stuck in a holiday rut.  Explore and see what new and fun things are worth trying!

*Put your holiday hat on.  Now that summer vacations are over and kids have started back to school, hopefully there's some room for you to start thinking about other things.  As you wander through the store, take stock of what is on sale or on clearance.  Start thinking about gift ideas.  You might be surprised what you can accomplish already.  Don't forget to grab some of those cheap crayons or markers for stocking stuffers.

Time to get busy.  See you on the 31st!