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1. Get a meal planner/grocery list app for your computer and phone. With just a little bit of time and effort upfront ( a few hours), you can download recipes from the internet or type in your favorites. This incredible app takes your recipe and with the click of a button, you have a grocery list (printed or on your phone) where you can delete items you already have. You can make a recipe plan for the week or month. Not only will it make your holidays more stress-free but you can stay organized all year doing this!
2. Make your house smell good with a Trapps Orange Clove candle or Thymes Frazier Fir diffuser or candle. My absolute favorites for the holidays!!! The comforting smell of either one of these candles instantly puts everyone at ease when they walk in the door.
3. Shop for Christmas starting ahead of time. At least two months ahead really puts you at ease, but any amount of early shopping is better than last minute! Keep a running list in your phone for easy access and compare year to year what your past gifts have been.
4. Get your music ready at home whether you’re still using cd’s or Pandora or your own holiday playlist. Play it in the car and on your computer to get in the spirit!
5. Buy paper white bulbs and put in a box or other container with Spanish moss and watch them sprout and grow just in time for Christmas, lasting even when the decorations are taken down, for a feeling of renewal. Store in a cool, dry place until time to plant. Put at least one inch of sand in a pot with no drain hole. Top the sand with a covering of charcoal chips. Fill the pot with loose soil and place the paper white bulbs securely into the soil. Cover the bulbs with soil almost to the top of the bulbs and water them well. Keep the pot moist as the bulbs grow. When stems are about three inches high, give the bulbs a cocktail - half a jigger of vodka (or another clear liquor) mixed with an equal amount of water. This will stunt the growth so that the plants do not get too tall and stringy. As they get taller, decorating with bare branches and evergreens helps stabilize the stems and flowers. Paperwhites will bloom about four to six weeks after planting, so plan accordingly if you want flowers for the holidays. For continuous bloom throughout the winter, plant bulbs every two weeks from late fall through February.
Photo: Longfield Gardens
6. Repurpose old ornaments you don’t use anymore as toppers for Christmas packages. Give the ones that are in good shape to friends and family will love gently used older ones that bring fond memories.
7. Repurpose old Christmas cards by using them for "To" and "From" labels on gifts. This is one of my sister's favorite traditions at the holidays, and it gives her packages such a personal flair that really communicates the thought she put into it.
8. Have your Christmas TV Schedule ready! TV is full of the old favorite traditional shows as well as new ones appearing on channels such as Hallmark. If you don't get the schedule ahead of time, you might miss them!
9. Get your children's old Christmas books out and sit them in a basket by the fire. Even if your kids are grown, they still love to hear those old stories and so do we! Grandkids love them too!
10. Get your cards out by the end of November so that you can enjoy the month of December. Or at least start addressing and stamping them or get your list updated in November.
11. Make a fire in the fireplace every night! It keeps your house cozy, warm and inviting - an instant “Welcome!” to any guest.
12. Make Christmas cookies - all kinds and freeze ahead of time so that you can cheer up a friend or new neighbor with an impromptu homemade gift right when they need it! The family will love having special Christmas cookies for dessert all month long.
13. Get a good Advent book to read with your family each night. The ADVENTure of Christmas by Lisa Welchel is our favorite to read before dinner during Advent. It's amazing how much we have learned about the symbolism and meaning of Christmas by doing this.
14. Don’t miss church during Advent!!! It prepares your heart for the Season and reminds you what the real reason for Christmas is.
15. Keep up your exercise routine as much as you can or begin one to relieve stress and work off those irresistible Christmas goodies. (I know, I’m not good at this one, but hey it’s a goal, okay?)
16. Breathe, get sleep and when tensions are high, as my husband and the Disney song says, “Let it go!”