Saturday, November 5, 2011

Prep for the Holidays

Easy Invites

By November 1st, if you haven’t already done so, send out Thanksgiving dinner invitations. Design your own, or search online for customizable options -- including e-mail invites.

Gift List

It's not too early to start planning Christmas present ideas and budgets. Check online for sales, and consider time-saving options such as gift cards and magazine subscriptions.

Can Do

Preserve fruits and vegetables at the peak of freshness to enjoy later or give as gifts. Seek out unique recipes such as pickled green beans or cinnamon-ginger pears.

Bundled Up

As the weather cools, take stock of winter clothing. Donate outgrown garments, discard stained items and mismatched mittens and socks, and organize the rest neatly in closets and bureaus.

Warm Glow

Flickering candles set the scene for cozy evenings during the holidays. Set out a variety of styles around your home, such as on mantels and side tables, to instantly impart warmth and light.

Nature's Bounty

Decorate your home for the harvest season with all-natural elements. Set out a dish brimming with pinecones, berries, and moss, or fill a vase with twigs and dried flowers.

Kitchen Decluttered

’Tis the season to cook holiday feasts and bake endless treats. Ease the process by organizing kitchen items -- including baking trays, utensils, and dishes -- to keep what you need at hand.

Squeaky Clean

Let the autumn sun shine in. Wipe all your windows thoroughly with a natural cleanser or with vinegar. Then, dust your blinds and shades, and launder your curtains.

Order Restored

Welcome holiday visitors with an organized entry. Incorporate a bench for guests to sit on while removing shoes, a table for dropping off belongings, and extra hooks for coats and wraps.

Fresh Picked

Do you miss summer gardening? Plant a variety of potted herbs indoors. You can use these fragrant beauties in holiday recipes or as drink garnishes, as well as in crafts and centerpieces.

Turkey Talk

It's time to plan your Thanksgiving menu. Consider guests' dietary needs or allergies, balance heavier fare with fresh vegetables, and don't be afraid to ask family and friends to bring a dish.

Sitting Pretty

Reorganize your living room furniture for the holidays. Arrange chairs in a circle to encourage conversation among guests, and carve out a special space for your Christmas tree.

Get Ahead

Spend a day or two preparing and freezing some of your family's favorite meals. During the holiday rush, you can pop a casserole in the oven rather than cook dinner from scratch.

Freshen Up

Dress up your powder room for holiday visitors. Set out pretty hand towels in harvest colors, a variety of scented soaps, and fragrant candles or potpourri.

Table Dressing

Don't wait until Thanksgiving Day to discover that last year's tablecloth has a gravy stain! Take inventory of your tablecloths, napkins, and napkin rings, and replace items as needed.

Space Savvy

If you're short on space and hosting a large gathering, take heart. Covered with a pretty cloth, any furniture with a flat surface (such as a desk) can double as a bar area or serving buffet.

Kids' Zone

Set up a kids-only table for Thanksgiving. Spread a white paper table covering with plenty of crayons, set out unbreakable tableware, and add a special edible centerpiece and party favors.

Stunning Centerpiece

Create a showstopping centerpiece for Thanksgiving. Go for a harvest theme with colorful produce, arrange several flickering candles, or set out an armful of colorful flowers.

Clean Sweep

Before you cook the turkey and bake the pies, you should thoroughly clean the kitchen. Clear off the countertops, and carefully wipe down all prep areas to ensure optimal food safety.

Wash Up

Once your guests leave, make life easier with a quick post-Thanksgiving cleanup. Toss tablecloths and napkins in the washer before stains set, soak cookware, and load the dishwasher.

Ms. Fix-It

Banish wardrobe mishaps this holiday season by compiling a clothing emergency kit to keep in the closet. Include a lint roller, scissors, safety pins, wrinkle-release spray, needles, and thread.

That's A Wrap

Set up a gift-wrapping station in your home office or craft area. Stock up on Christmas as well as generic paper, or try your hand at creating your own designs with stencils and embellishments.

Cozy Covers

Achieve a warm and festive feel instantly by adding red slipcovers to chairs or sofas. You can pull out the covers again for Valentine’s Day parties and 4th of July celebrations.

Tree Time

Spend time as a family trimming the tree. Consider unique adornments, such as all-natural materials, homemade ornaments, or old costume jewelry and mismatched earrings.

Bright Lights

Add holiday pizzazz to your home’s exterior by stringing up lights and decorating existing elements such as trees, bird baths, and window boxes. Finish off with a lighted window display.

Quick Gifts

Stock up on simple gifts for party hosts or unexpected guests. Pick up items with universal appeal, such as a nice bottle of olive oil, a pretty candle, or a small tin of holiday treats.

Instant Art

Create holiday artwork to hang on the wall without spending much time or money. Simply frame pretty wrapping paper or greeting cards, and hang in attractive groupings throughout the house.

Cookie Craft

Gather the kids and their friends to make a delicious decoration. Build a traditional gingerbread house, make an eye-catching cookie tree, or simply adorn sugar cookies with icing and candies

Shine On

Enjoy the beauty of nature with a touch of glitz. Spray-paint pine cones and evergreen branches in shimmery red, silver, or gold, and arrange them in a bowl or vase.

Holiday Aroma

Delight all the senses by imbuing your home with a delightful holiday aroma. Simmer mulled apple cider and cinnamon sticks, burn scented candles, or heat essential oils in a diffuser.

Made With Love

You have lots of recipients on your gift list. Keep costs down, and make homemade gifts for teachers, neighbors, and acquaintances. Consider spiced nuts, handmade ornaments, or cookies

Room Service

If you'll be hosting holiday visitors, prepare your guest room. Incorporate special touches to help them feel at home, such as fresh flowers, snacks and beverages, and fluffy towels and robes.

Food for Thought

Christmas dinner's coming soon! If your oven will be full, consider cooking the turkey outdoors on the grill or in the smoker or fryer. Also, test your small appliances to be sure they're in tiptop shape.

Bath Haven

When you're decking the halls, don't forget the guest bath or powder room. Add Christmas cheer with red or green towels, a bowl of sparkling ornaments, or holiday soaps.

Fridge Space

Before the big day, remove condiments and beverages from the refrigerator, and place them in an ice-filled cooler. This will free up space for the turkey, as well as other dishes and goodies.

Table Flair

When setting the table for Christmas, incorporate whimsy and creativity. Mix and match dishes, add fun place cards, and use holiday-shaped cookie cutters or bright ribbons as napkin rings.

Soap Up

Minimize after-dinner cleanup with one simple step: Fill your largest sink, bowl, or cooler with soapy water, and add pots, pans, cutlery, and dishes as they are emptied.

New Year's Buffett

Keep costs down and guests mingling by setting up a New Year's buffet in favor of a sit-down meal. Use cake stands and tiered trays to elevate foods at varying heights for an appealing visual.

Fabulous Favor

Send New Year's Eve guests home with a unique party favor. Some fun ideas include a lottery ticket with special numbers selected, a mixed CD, or personalized cookies or candies.

Got Game

Whatever the size of your New Year's celebration: break the ice with a game. Have each guest write down a fact about himself and play guess who, or lead a rousing round of charades.

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