Countdown Daily Messages

Christmas Countdown Day 32: Prepare a Holiday House!

There's something special about a holiday house!

This weekend sees a long standing Ewer family Thanksgiving tradition: on Black Friday, my husband and I will scour the storage room, drag out the boxes, and begin decorating for Christmas.

Lighted garlands, fresh poinsettias, bright bows will change the entire feeling of our home. "It's such a merry, cheery holiday house, Sweetie!" Dr. Steve is sure to remark.

Yes, my dear husband loves the holiday season. So much so that he'll spend 30 minutes poring over the professionally-installed holiday lighting on a neighbor's home and laying plans for the coming weekend.

Will he do our neighbors one better? Only the Home Depot knows for sure!

Christmas Countdown Day 31: Decor Inventory!

Check holiday decorations

It's a race!

Watching our neighborhood over the past weekend, I had to smile. First one, then three, then an even dozen of our neighbors mounted their entries for the year's holiday light show.

Fads and fashions come and go. Last year, a few "early adopters" outlined their houses with the newest lighting fad, strings of light that race along the trim and roofline--and the year also saw the arrival of giant inflatable snowmen, Santas and reindeer on neighborhood front lawns.

What will be this year's holiday decor must-have?

Christmas Countdown Day 30: Trap Ideas With A Tearfile!

trap ideas with tear files

Been to the mailbox lately? If your house is anything like mine, the Christmas catalogs are here!

That's not to mention the holiday issues of my favorite magazines, which seem to dive into my supermarket shopping cart whenever I'm not looking.

Christmas magazines and catalogs are fabulous resources for seasonal decorating, gift ideas, and Christmas recipes—but en masse, they can become too much of a good thing.

When the piles avalanche from every side table, finding an article or a recipe that caught your eye a few weeks ago can be an impossible job.

How do you keep all that good information without being crushed by stacks or drowning in paper? Answer: a set of tear files. It's the "Pinterest" solution for old-school idea files.

Christmas Countdown Day 29: Decorate Week!

Decorate for Christmas

Thanksgiving's arrived, and we're on the home stretch to the Christmas season: welcome to Decorate Week!

Today, it's time to take stock of all we've achieved, and chart a course for the remainder of the Organized Christmas Countdown.

Where are you with your holiday preparations? Ahead of the game this year? Congratulations!

And everyone else ... including me? No matter what we've managed to accomplish, many of us still feel more than a bit behind. Thanksgiving gives everyone a shove toward reality: the holidays are here, ready or not.

To quell any feeling of "behind", take a look back! Along the Countdown, we've clarified our values, begun gift lists, built a budget and gotten a head start on holiday cards or letters. Gift giving is underway, and the kitchen is stocked and ready for holiday meals ahead.

Are our preparations "perfect"? Of course not! Because, as explained in today's essay, there's no such thing as a perfect Christmas--one thing to keep close in our minds as we complete our preparations for the holiday ahead.

Ready? Set? Decorate ... for an organized Christmas!

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!

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!

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"!

Christmas Countdown Day 25: Clean Out The Freezer!

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.

Christmas Countdown Day 24: Inventory the Pantry!

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.

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.

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