Organized Christmas

Christmas Countdown: Decorate Week

   November 18, 2018 by Cynthia Ewer

American Thanksgiving arrives this week ... and we've reached Decorate Week at the Christmas Countdown.

Time to turn our attention to decorating for the fast-approaching holiday season.

This week, we'll discover secrets of frugal holiday decorating, take a quick decorations inventory, enjoy giving thanks with family and friends on Thanksgiving Day, and begin decorating for Christmas.

It's a busy week (and the holidays are here!) so let's decorate ... for a stress-free Christmas season!    Read More >>

Christmas Countdown Day 29: Decorate Week!

   November 18, 2018 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!    Read More >>

Gingerbread House Craft: Chocolate Kiss Trees

   November 17, 2018 by Cynthia Ewer

Brighten dark corners with a holiday tree made from foil-wrapped Hershey's brand chocolate kiss candies. Add them to your gingerbread house for a pretty forest effect!

Pretty to look at and simple to make, chocolate kiss trees are an easy, kid-friendly holiday craft.

Toothpicks anchor shiny Hersheys-brand kisses to styrofoam cones, while bright-colored foil makes it easy to create stripes or patterns.    Read More >>

Cynthia Ewer's Tangy Tri-Cities Biscotti

   November 17, 2018 by Cynthia Ewer

Twenty years ago, I was a newcomer to Washington State. With so many friends in other parts of the USA, I wanted to share some of the tastes of our new home. Result: this original recipe, now my holiday specialty.

These biscotti feature dried Washington cherries (you can substitute dried cranberries, too!) and local walnuts. Dipped in white chocolate, they're a tasty and elegant accompaniment to that other Washington State tradition, gourmet coffee.

Best, biscotti are easy to make and easy to pack. Stand a few on end in a latte mug, add a small bag of gourmet coffee beans, and you've scored a quick Christmas cheat!

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Christmas Countdown Day 28: Create a Baking Specialty!

   November 17, 2018 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!    Read More >>

Christmas Countdown Day 27: Plan Holiday Baking!

   November 16, 2018 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!    Read More >>

Save Time With Holiday Baking: Make It A Specialty!

   November 15, 2018 by Cynthia Ewer

Food and the holidays go hand-in-hand! Holiday cooking magazines are among the first signs of an approaching holiday season.

Sumptuous desserts, winsome cookies, glowing turkeys warm our images of Thanksgiving, Christmas and the New Year.

But oh! My aching feet! Even those of us who lead a Little Debbie life from January to November succumb to holiday baking madness. Cookies. Breads. Pies. Candy. It wouldn't be the holidays without them--but isn't there any way around the baking chores?    Read More >>

Christmas Countdown Day 26: Clean Out the Refrigerator!

   November 15, 2018 by Cynthia Ewer

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"!    Read More >>

Save on Thanksgiving Dinner: Beat The Holiday Grocery Game

   November 14, 2018 by Cynthia Ewer

During the holiday season, department stores, catalog retailers and online sellers aren't the only businesses anxiously queuing up for a slice of the fourth-quarter pie, i.e. your holiday wallet. Been grocery shopping lately?

What a difference a few days makes! By November, Halloween's candy displays have given way to a maze of buy-me buy-me holiday foodstuffs.    Read More >>

Christmas Countdown Day 25: Clean Out The Freezer!

   November 14, 2018 by Cynthia Ewer

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.    Read More >>

Print, Cut, Celebrate: Cupcake Pan Advent Calendar

   November 13, 2018 by Cynthia Ewer

Count down the days to Christmas with this easy printable craft: a cupcake pan Advent calendar!

Using a 24-count mini-cupcake pan as a base, colorful magnets printed on inkjet magnet sheets hide a treat for each December day before Christmas.

Best, free printable magnet designs make it easy to create this holiday craft project. Choose your favorite design to create a quick family tradition!

Our photo tutorial will have you crafting your cupcake pan advent calendar in record time. Print, cut and celebrate!    Read More >>

M&M Cookies In A Jar

   November 13, 2018 by Cynthia Ewer

Child-friendly, fun craft gift, M&M Cookies in a Jar is perfect for teacher gifts, Secret Santa or stocking stuffers! For a holiday touch, use M&M-brand chocolate candies in seasonal colors.

Our free printable gift tag carries out the M&M-brand theme! Bold and bright, this two-sided tag comes in three lively colors. Print and fold to create this colorful gift-in-a-jar.

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Christmas Countdown Day 24: Inventory the Pantry

   November 13, 2018 by Cynthia Ewer

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.    Read More >>

Aunt Bill's Brown Candy

   November 12, 2018 by Cynthia Ewer

Ready for a unique seasonal taste treat? It's Aunt Bill's Brown Candy!

With unforgettable caramel flavor and bursting with plump pecans, this old-fashioned cooked candy is a Sooner tradition in the state of Oklahoma--and it's been a family favorite in the Ewer household for five generations!

Not for the inexperienced candy-maker, but for those with a good knowledge of candy-cooking, it's a heavenly holiday treat.

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Christmas Countdown Day 23: Plan Holiday Meals

   November 12, 2018 by Cynthia Ewer

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.    Read More >>

Snowman Soup: Recipe For Warming Winter Gift

   November 11, 2018 by Cynthia Ewer

Warm the hearts of good little boys and girls with a packet of Snowman Soup!

Take a single-serving package of hot chocolate mix, chocolate candy kiss, marshmallows and candy cane, package in a mug or holiday-themed goody bag, then add a free printable gift tag or bag topper for a cheery winter gift.

Easy enough for children to make, Snowman Soup is perfect for stocking stuffers, office gifts, Secret Santa presents or 12 Days of Christmas gifts.    Read More >>

Frugal Feasts: Save Money on Holiday Meals

   November 11, 2018 by Cynthia Ewer

"Frugal" holiday meals? Something of a conundrum, isn't it? The very nature of holiday meals is to express the value of abundance. Finances, on the other hand, have definite limits--and never so much as during the holiday season.

Take heart! It's possible to serve bountiful--yet frugal--holiday meals with a bit of care and forethought. Consider these tips to plan holiday menus without breaking the bank:    Read More >>

Christmas Countdown: Get Cooking Week

   November 11, 2018 by Cynthia Ewer

We move to the kitchen, where it's all things cooking, as we swing into Get Cooking! week at the Christmas Countdown.

We'll plan holiday meals and menus, save money on holiday meals, prepare easy freezer entrees for busy December nights, and make holiday baking easier. Inventorying pantry and freezer means we'll have room to stock up on bargain-priced staples; a refrigerator clean-out sees us into Thanksgiving week with room to spare.

Goal: to clean up life in the kitchen, before the holiday rush begins.    Read More >>

Christmas Countdown Day 22: Get Cooking Week

   November 11, 2018 by Cynthia Ewer

Visited the supermarket recently? It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

With Thanksgiving Day coming soon in the USA, there's no better time to organize holiday meals, menus and baking. Welcome to Get Cooking week!

Assignments center on all things food at the Christmas Countdown this week. We'll clean and prepare food storage areas for the days ahead, plan holiday menus, stock the freezer and get organized for holiday baking.

Along the way, we'll learn ways to save on holiday meals and develop a baking specialty to save time in the holiday kitchen.

Tighten your corsets! We're going to Get Cooking ... for the most delicious holiday season ever!    Read More >>

Reindeer Chow Snack Mix

   November 10, 2018 by Cynthia Ewer

Looking for a last-minute stocking stuffer? It's Reindeer Chow! Sweet and crunchy, this seasonal snack mix is a favorite with kids, not just reindeer!

A simple concoction of cereals, pretzels, peanuts and M&Ms-brand seasonal candies sparked with a white chocolate coating, Reindeer Chow is a fast, last-minute snack mix recipe for holiday giving.

Package Reindeer Chow in zipper food storage bags or cellophane snack bags for an easy classroom treat or Secret Santa gift. Add a free printable Reindeer Chow bag topper to make an easy holiday gift.

For a fun and festive family gift, fill a pet dish (from the Dollar Store!) with Reindeer Chow. Inexpensive self-adhesive "foamie" letters spell out the name of your favorite reindeer!

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