Monday, November 4, 2013

Preparing For The Holidays

By now we’ve all started thinking about the coming holidays – Thanksgiving and Christmas – and may already be feeling a bit overwhelmed by all there is to do. Organization and planning are the keys to an enjoyable, relaxing holiday season.

Start with a big calendar that has space for writing, as well as a note pad. Fill in events, appointments, parties, etc. on the calendar. Write everything that you need to do on the note pad. Then prioritize that list. Space chores so that there’s time for fun and rest!

First on the horizon is Thanksgiving. If you prepare the meal, whether it’s your first time or you’ve done it for years, you know there is a lot of work to be done before the actual cooking itself. After today you have 23 days to pull it all together. You can do it! Here are a few tips that might help.


Cleaning:

You’ll want the house to look nice for your visitors, but there’s no need to go to extremes. After all, they’ve come to see you and enjoy the festivities – not to see your house.

1) Put away excess “stuff”. Take out old newspapers and magazines. Clear off the kitchen counters (you’ll need that space!). If children are coming, put away precious breakables.

2) If the carpets are dirty, now is the time to have them cleaned or to spot-clean them yourself. Don’t wait until the last minute.

3) If you use fabric tablecloths and napkins, go ahead and wash them, then press. A good way to store them without fold marks is to roll them around gift wrap or paper towel tubes.

4) This is a good time to polish the silver if you use it.

5) Plan your table decorations. If you serve buffet style, you have much more room to decorate the table lavishly. Be sure the centerpiece is low enough that folks at the table can see each other. Let the kids pitch in to make the place cards – they’ll feel part of the special day.

If these things are done ahead of time, all you’ll have to do is touch-up the bathrooms, dust and clean the floors. And, of course, the cooking.

Organization:

1) Get started selecting the recipes you’ll use, then make your shopping lists.

2) Break down each recipe, listing tasks and planning when to do them. Much of the work can be done a day ahead, such as chopping vegetables, preparing gelatin salads, etc. Most casseroles can be prepared up to the point of being put into the baking dishes, then covered and chilled. Salad dressings can be made ahead. Plan desserts that don’t require last-minute preparations.

3) I keep the recipe together with non-perishable ingredients for each dish to be prepared. That way I don’t forget anything!

4) A timetable will help when it comes to finally baking casseroles and all the other dishes. Much of the time you’ll have dishes that need to bake at different temperatures for different amounts of time and, if you are like me, you have just one oven. Write down this information, then figure an “average” temperature for them all. Baking times can be adjusted to fit the new temperature. Just make sure everything is fully cooked. Of course, temperatures for some things like breads can’t be adjusted, so casseroles should be baked first and removed to keep warm while the bread bakes. Last year I roasted the turkey the day before and baked the ham in an electric roaster. That saved lots of time and dish-wrangling!

Most of all, enjoy the day and be thankful!

My son had an interesting suggestion: Find a good friend who is cooking and invite yourself for dinner! Well, that might be a good idea, but where are the leftovers?
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“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”
(John Fitzgerald Kennedy)
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In preparation for Christmas…..

1) Pull out your Christmas card list and add/remove names as needed. Buy your cards and start addressing a few each night while watching television. Make sure you have stamps on hand.

2) Make a master list of gifts, parties, shopping, and all the things you need to do. Start organizing and prioritizing that list.

3) Start gathering your Christmas movies and music so they’ll be ready when you want to enjoy them.

4) Buy gift wrap, ribbons, tags, etc. And don’t forget the cellophane tape.
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“Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful.”
(Norman Vincent Peale)
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Your comments and suggestions are always welcome. Thanks for reading!

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