* Inspect and wash linens– table linens if you are hosting Thanksgiving dinner, and sheets/pillowcases/duvet covers if you are having overnight guests. Save the ironing until a few days before to avoid creases. Martha suggests only ironing the top part of sheets; your guests will never notice the bottoms aren’t ironed. I say that if my guests are looking to see if my sheets are ironed then they are officially uninvited. 🙂 Just kidding. Sorta.
* Plan your holiday gift list. Write each person to whom you are giving gifts, a budget, and ideas. As you find them (hopefully on sale since you are so prepared!) write down what you got and how much you spent.
* Find recipes and plan holiday meals. This is the fun part. By November 1st I have the Thanksgiving menu planned so we can stock up throughout the month. Also, I’m going to try to make as much of it in advance as possible so I can cut down on the chaos of the day and spend my time with family.
* Clear out fridge and pantry. I just did a major fridge cleanout last month, but this is the time of year it gets the most use so I do a moderate cleanout once a month to make room for goodies. Clean out those cabinets/pantries and check your stock of sugar, flour, and other baking goods– it’s frustrating to discover you don’t have a needed item in the middle of a recipe.
* Start scoping food sales and stocking up on basic supplies. I’ve already noticed grocery store displays with Turkey Day fixings, and sales on baking items and pantry items like stuffing. They are competing for your business by offering killer sales on these items. If you check the circulars, clip your coupons and match them with the best sales you’ll be able to eat like a king for very little money. If the price is right, don’t forget to stock up on sugar, flour, oil, and spices for your Christmas baking!
* Pre-order turkeys and pies. After two almost-disastrous turkey thawing incidents I vowed to never buy a frozen turkey again. Use the money you save using coupons and shopping sales to put toward the fresh turkey. We get ours from a local organic farm were you can also order pies and rolls if you need them. Plus, it supports smaller farms and that’s good for everyone.
* Stock your cold and flu kit. Sad to say, but ’tis the season. Having your supplies ready means no last minute runs to CVS. Noodle has already suffered her first illness and it lasted 3 weeks. Thankfully we had just bought a new Exergen thermometer and love it– so much better than the ear thermometer we used for years. Have plenty of tissues, Pedialyte, fever reducer, and some new stickers/coloring books as treats for your under-the-weather little sweetie.
* If you plan to clean the oven, do it well in advance of the big day. Learn the lesson from my mom who set the oven to self-clean on Christmas Eve morning (hours before our big dinner) and it got stuck on that setting. Thank goodness for dear neighbors who also happen to be Jewish– they weren’t making a big dinner that night so we were able to use their oven as needed.
* Stock the bar. I shared my October favorites and loved reading yours, so here’s my Thanksgiving musts: in honor of my Uncle John, Frangelico in front of the fireplace (even better if it’s slightly warmed), a few sips of Port after the meal, and a bottle my new favorite wine– Muscato d’Asti. It’s light and bubbly and oh so yummy! It’s gotten rave reviews from those I’ve forced to try it as well. Try the Yellow Tail Muscato, you won’t be disappointed. If you are local, Chadd’s Ford makes a delish spiced apple wine that can be served warm or chilled.
* Order Christmas cards. That way, I can address them at my leisure and possibly get them out before January. Possibly.
* Buy a cute holiday outfit. You deserve it. If you look now you’ll avoid the last minute rush and splurges. I bought my holiday dress at Banana Republic for 40% off in September!
* Mulch leaves for your garden beds. Go over a pile of leaves with a mower and blanket your garden with them. The smaller size allows them to break down into rich compost for next season.
* Make sure you have snow supplies. Haha. Usually you should stock up in November before it snows, but apparently the new norm is October with our recent Snow-A-Ween. Actually, September if you want to get a jump on it. Check your shovel, salt, and sand supplies so you aren’t running out and encountering empty shelves before the next storm. Is it time to move south yet?
* Clean your gutters. We have ours professionally cleaned, but if you don’t call now the waiting list goes until January or February. Just make sure they don’t break your light fixture– but that’s a story for another day.
* Put away garden hoses. Yeah, I know. Most of you have already done that. We’re a little slow here at my house, and as a result have ruined more garden hoses than I care to admit.
* Scout the garden for late season stunners. My husband picked these hydrangea for me on Thanksgiving day last year. Love that man!
Most importantly, we are heading into a season that can feel hectic and chaotic. Be sure to take some time for yourself. Remember that holidays are about JOY, so if you find yourself getting overwhelmed take a deep breath and find a quiet moment to reflect. Splurge on a Starbucks latte, hot bath, good book, or pedicure.
My life used to be one giant ball of stress until Noodle was born and I realized the other peripheral things don’t matter. Stress takes on a different meaning when it comes to facing dire health situations with your child. It took our difficult journey for me to realize that life (and the holidays) became immensely more enjoyable by following these three guidelines:
Christmas cards mailed by New Years? Good enough. Clean, non-ironed sheets? Good enough. Family all arriving safely to celebrate the season? Perfection.