Countdown Daily Messages

Christmas Countdown Day 28: Create a Baking Specialty!

Baking Specialty

As Get Cooking Week comes to a close, we look ahead to next week's Thanksgiving feast--and the kick-off to the holiday season.

Today's assignments wrap up final Get Cooking chores, preparing for busy December evenings, gathering hospitality supplies, and contemplating ways to simplify baking.

With today's reading assignment, we share the secret for simplifying holiday baking chores: developing a "specialty".

A simple strategy to streamline the holiday cook-a-thon, a baking specialty saves time and stress in the holiday kitchen.

Finally, we finish the week by thinking ahead to upcoming Black Friday / Cyber Monday sales. Ready? Get organized ... for a great holiday season!    Read More >>

Christmas Countdown Day 27: Plan Holiday Baking!

Plan holiday baking

Dreaming of holiday baking? For many of us, kitchen creations are integral to the holiday spirit.

We love the feeling of family connection as we tuck pie crust into grandmother's pie dish, or when we follow a candy recipe written in a great-grandmother's spidery hand.

But when is enough enough? It's too easy to take on more baking than we can handle!

Under the influence of Christmas magazines and over-the-top television cooking shows, grandmother's simple plate of pralines has exploded into six kinds of cookies, four kinds of candies and some powdered cocoa mix for good measure.

Holiday baking should be a pleasure, not a chore. Time to plan holiday baking with an eye to holiday simplicity! Can you shorten, simplify and de-stress the baking list without losing the joy?

You'll spare your teeth. You'll spare your waistline. Most of all, you'll give yourself the truest of all Christmas gifts: time and energy to experience the season without stress. Dare to downsize!    Read More >>

Christmas Countdown Day 26: Clean Out the Refrigerator!

Clean out the refrigerator

Brace yourselves! Holiday cooking season is upon us.

From now until after the New Year, busy kitchens are the norm, like it or not.

What better time for a quick refrigerator declutter? Clearing the decks in the big cold box will make room for holiday dishes--and a clean and gleaming refrigerator will energize the holiday cook in the days ahead.

Spray bottles ready? It's time to clean out the refrigerator.

Finally, we'll organize our favorite holiday recipes, noting page numbers or location for any recipes we'll need next week. No more last-minute games of "hunt the recipe"!    Read More >>

Christmas Countdown Day 25: Clean Out The Freezer!

organized Christmas countdown

The secret to a streamlined kitchen during the holiday season? A well-stocked, organized freezer!

Holding made-ahead entrees, side dishes, cookies and desserts, the freezer is a hard-working Santa's Elf for an organized Christmas.

Christmas cookie trays or gift baskets are easy to assemble from frozen assets, while stockpiled family dinners cut out straight to the "what's for dinner" chase during December's busy nights.

Today's the day to clean out the freezer in anticipation of holiday goodies and freezer meals to come.

A frugal bonus: eating from the freezer this week makes room in the food budget to stock up on low-priced holiday nonperishables.    Read More >>

Christmas Countdown Day 24: Inventory the Pantry

pantry tips

Thanksgiving is coming: hold onto your wallet!

No question, holiday meals can put an unexpected burden on the budget. Solution? Get organized, and shop at home first!

This week at the Christmas Countdown, we'll inventory pantry areas, refrigerator and freezer before we begin shopping for holiday foods.

Knowing exactly what we have and what we need to buy prevents that fuzzy "Oh, just throw in another can of olives!" mentality from setting on us at the grocery story--and keeps us from tossing stale food items months down the road.

A bountiful meal with no waste makes the best use of our food dollars--and time and energy!

Similarly, we'll check the spice rack today, assessing the freshness of seasonal staples. Will we have enough sage for our dressing? Has the pumpkin pie spice lost it's savor? Time to find out, when replacements are offered at the year's lowest prices at the market this week.    Read More >>

Christmas Countdown Day 23: Plan Holiday Meals

holiday menu planner

Holidays ahead ... and that means the feast is on us! Will you be ready to make memorable holiday meals?

Even experienced cooks can quail at the idea of cooking a holiday meal. Who hasn't run out of butter, curdled the gravy, or found themselves holding back an entire meal while waiting for one last item to finish cooking?

Not this year! The secrets to stress-free holiday meal preparation? Planning--and sharing the work!

Today's the day we break out our printable holiday meal planner forms, and organize those big dinners and festive brunches. Better, we'll consider ways to delegate and simplify holiday meal preparation ... for an organized Christmas.    Read More >>

Christmas Countdown Day 22: Get Cooking Week

ready for holiday cooking

Visited the supermarket recently? It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

With Thanksgiving Day coming soon in the USA, there's no better time to organize holiday meals, menus and baking. Welcome to Get Cooking week!

Assignments center on all things food at the Christmas Countdown this week. We'll clean and prepare food storage areas for the days ahead, plan holiday menus, stock the freezer and get organized for holiday baking.

Along the way, we'll learn ways to save on holiday meals and develop a baking specialty to save time in the holiday kitchen.

Tighten your corsets! We're going to Get Cooking ... for the most delicious holiday season ever!    Read More >>

Christmas Countdown Day 21: Give ... to Make a Difference!

Give to Make a Difference

Is your holiday giving only about "stuff"--or is it a reflection of your heart? To express your deepest holiday values, plan to make a gift of yourself this holiday season!

This week in the Christmas Countdown, we've focused on gifts and giving. 99% of the time, we've seen this effort in terms of "things." Stuff. Boxes and parcels and bags. Stocking stuffers. But have we considered making a true gift: a gift of ourselves?    Read More >>

Christmas Countdown Day 20: Status Check!

Check progress today

Nearly half-way there: time to do a little status check on the progress of the Christmas Countdown.

I hope that most of us feel a bit more prepared, a bit better organized. We've met together for three weeks, and we've covered a lot of ground.

Still, it's natural to feel a bit of panic today. From here on out, time will fly with a vengeance. Rehearsals, parties, holiday activities will rain down upon us.

During the next three weeks, the Countdown slows the pace to match the season. Because we're doing more in other areas of our life, the Countdown will lighten the load.

Ahead lies Get Cooking Week, appropriately so as America begins to prepare for Thanksgiving Day. Beyond that, we'll Decorate, then prepare to Celebrate ... an organized Christmas.

Get ready to settle into a slower rhythm! Because ready or not, the holidays are nearly here. This year, though, we are riding relaxed and in control, prepared and ready for the best holiday season ever!    Read More >>

Christmas Countdown Day 19: Simplify Handmade Gifts!

Simplify Handmade Gifts

Ask any wife and mother what she needs most during the holiday season, and she'll tell you, "More time!"

Yet this same busy lady will fill her Christmas gift list with elaborate hand-crafted gifts, requiring substantial outlays of cash, time and skill.

Result? She careens into mid-December either (1) working nightly until 1 a.m. to finish the lot or (2) substituting last minute purchases for the unfinished gifts.

How to take charge of out-of-control crafting? Apply the Rule of Four!    Read More >>

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