Organized Christmas

Christmas Countdown Day 34: Record Holiday Memories!

   November 27, 2015 by Cynthia Ewer

Who says holiday traditions have to be "sweet"? Thinking about Christmas trees, I can't help but laugh at my childhood memories.

An Episcopalian home, our family kept a "good Advent". While we observed special Advent customs and decorations, no Christmas tree entered our home until December 24, the first day of the liturgical Christmas season. The tree then stayed up until Twelfth Night, and we'd make a little family party as we took it down on January 5th.

"Awwww!", I hear you say. Well, there was just one tiny little problem: our family lived in hot, dry Las Vegas, Nevada. Buying a once-fresh tree on December 24 was an ever-changing adventure!

Christmas Countdown Day 33: Give Thanks!

   November 26, 2015 by Cynthia Ewer

We are thankful! Today, America gathers for family, feasting and football. It's the purest of our holidays: a day set aside to be grateful.

Gratitude is an attitude. Psychologists have proved that Pollyanna was right: counting your blessings creates a blessed heart. Those who are grateful weather life's minor storms more easily.

So be thankful, America!

And our Canadian friends, and readers from throughout the world? You can be thankful, too--no assignments today on the Christmas Countdown!

Christmas Countdown Day 32: Prepare a Holiday House!

   November 25, 2015 by Cynthia Ewer

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!

Blizzard Bites In A Jar

   November 24, 2015 by Cynthia Ewer

Crunchy and sweet, this no-bake snack mix in a jar is easy to make and fun to give.

To make Blizzard Bites, you'll layer crunchy cereal, pretzels and peanuts with tangy dried cranberries and candied pineapple in a Mason jar or canning jar, then add meltable white-chocolate chips.

To make Blizzard Bites snack mix, recipients melt white chocolate chips and coat the snack mixture with a sweet holiday topping. It's simple ... and sweet!

A great gift for teachers, Secret Santa exchanges or 12 Days of Christmas activities. Make it easy with free printable gift tags!

Save on Decor: Frugal Holiday Decorating Tips

   November 24, 2015 by Cynthia Ewer

Nothing says "Christmas!" like a beautifully decorated home. Fragrant greens, twinkling lights, holiday centerpieces all set the stage for a merry holiday season.

But at what cost?

If you believe catalog vendors, department stores and florists, be prepared to lay down a bundle to create that holiday home. Each year sees a set of new colors, new images, new trends, all designed to part you from your holiday dollars.

Christmas Countdown Day 31: Decor Inventory!

   November 24, 2015 by Cynthia Ewer

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 Blessings Mix Recipe

   November 23, 2015 by Cynthia Ewer

Count your blessings with Christmas Blessings Mix! Small bags of snack mix, each ingredient reminds us of a holiday blessing.

Bagged in favor-sized gift bags and decorated with a holiday poem, Christmas Blessings Mix brings a festive touch to your Christmas celebrations.

Share them with church friends, co-workers or family for a meaningful gift.

Christmas Organizing Secret: Try A Tear File!

   November 23, 2015 by Cynthia Ewer

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.

Christmas Countdown Day 30: Trap Ideas With A Tearfile!

   November 23, 2015 by Cynthia Ewer

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.

Snowman Poop: Silly Stocking Stuffer to Print!

   November 22, 2015 by Cynthia Ewer

If good little boys and girls get Snowman Soup, what do the naughty ones deserve? Snowman Poop!

This inexpensive holiday gag gift is easy to make for office gifts, Secret Santa exchanges or stocking stuffers.

Naughty but sweet, it's sure to get a holiday giggle from family and friends.

A Perfect Christmas?

   November 22, 2015 by Cynthia Ewer

"Oh, to have a perfect Christmas!"

This potent illusion grabs us by the throat sometime in September. It lifts only on the afternoon of December 25, in concert with the 3 p.m. Christmas post-gift letdown. It's a fancy subscribed to by many well-meaning holiday planners. It sells one heck of a lot of Christmas magazines.

To my dismay, it may even have motivated you to join the Christmas Countdown!

House & Holidays Plan Week 13: Entry Space Week

   November 22, 2015 by Cynthia Ewer

America gives thanks this week, as Thanksgiving Day kicks off the holiday season.

In the House & Holidays Plan, we'll clean, declutter and prepare the entryway for Thanksgiving guests.

In holiday prep, we'll celebrate Thanksgiving, shop Black Friday bargains, and begin holiday decorating.

It's time to open the door to the holiday season!

Christmas Countdown Day 29: Decorate Week!

   November 22, 2015 by Cynthia Ewer

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!

Give Thanks: Last Minute Thanksgiving Craft Ideas

   November 21, 2015 by Cynthia Ewer

American families will gather this week to celebrate Thanksgiving. Spark your holiday with these last-minute gift and craft ideas!

With free printable gift tags and bag toppers, these Thanksgiving snack mix gifts are easy to make.

Share them with guests, bring them to the workplace, or use as table favors:

Christmas Countdown Day 28: Create a Baking Specialty!

   November 21, 2015 by Cynthia Ewer

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!

Lemon Sugar Cookies

   November 20, 2015 by Cynthia Ewer

A tasty basic sugar cookie dough, this recipe has been kid-tested by three generations of the Ewer family.

Sturdy enough for decorating, these lemon-flavored cookies have a crisp, light taste.

Try Lemon Sugar Cookies rolled and cut into frosted Christmas shapes, or just flattened with a glass and sprinkled with sugar.

To freeze, stack baked--but undecorated--cookies in single layers, separating each layer with sheets of waxed paper. Freeze for up to four weeks. Thaw and decorate as desired.

Holiday Survival Kit: Six Last-Minutes Additions For Your Shopping List

   November 20, 2015 by Cynthia Ewer

The holidays are here, with wall-to-wall shoppers at the supermarket. Who wants to have to join them?

Instead, assemble a holiday survival kit. Before you shop for the holiday meal, check supplies of these often-forgotten items for your holiday gathering.

Pencil these items into your regular shopping list--and save a last-minute trip. They'll keep the fun in the festivities!

  • Automatic Dishwasher Detergent. Hosting a holiday gathering means lots (and lots and LOTS) of dirty dishes. If you use an automatic dishwasher, be sure it's stocked and ready to roll!
  • Club Soda. It's the non-caloric drink of choice with a squeeze of lime ... but an extra bottle can be a cleaning lifesaver when applied to the inevitable spilled food. Use it to blot fresh wine, gravy or pie stains for tablecloth or carpet first aid.
  • Paper Towels. Unfamiliar cooking routines, helpers washing their hands and little-kid clean-ups can burn through a roll of paper towels in record time. Keep a backup waiting!
  • Toilet Paper. If it's "just us chickens", a missing roll is no big problem. Not so when you've got a house full. Avoid red faces with a fresh supply!
  • Camera Batteries. Don't make the family wait to dive into the feast (while the cameraman raids the childrens' toys for fresh batteries). Stock up or charge rechargeables now.
  • Sandwich Bread. What's the number-one reason for a Black Friday trip to the supermarket? "We're out of bread!" Grab a loaf today, and be ready for turkey sandwiches (and no cooking!) on Friday.

Christmas Countdown Day 27: Plan Holiday Baking!

   November 20, 2015 by Cynthia Ewer

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!

You've Been Elf-ed! Start A Neighborhood Holiday Tradition

   November 19, 2015 by Cynthia Ewer

Have you been Elf-ed? Join the fun with this Christmas version of the Halloween BOO game.

Sometimes called "You've Been Jingled", "You've Been Elf-ed!" is easy to play.

Sometime before Christmas, one neighbor starts the game, secretly leaving a basket of treats together with an Elf sign and Elf poem explaining how to play the game.

Ring the doorbell and run! It's the best part of You've Been Elf-ed!

Zebra Cookies

   November 19, 2015 by Cynthia Ewer

A black-and-white twist on the familiar Peanut Blossoms, Zebra Cookies are a chocolate holiday treat!

Fudgy chocolate cookie dough replaces the familiar peanut butter flavor, while a zebra chocolate kiss carries out the theme.

Finally, dough is rolled in powdered sugar for a fresh take on an old favorite.