Sunday, November 30, 2014

Christmas Countdown to an Organized Christmas - Day 13 - Holiday Wardrobe Check

Article and Photo Courtesy of Organized Christmas

Caution: holiday parties ahead! What's the state of your family's wardrobe?

Even if you trend to the casual the other months of the year, chances are, you'll get gussied up at some point during the holiday season.

Posing for holiday photos, attending special worship services, or partying away December's Saturday nights, the Christmas season makes a special claim on the family wardrobe.

Will you be ready? The time to check closets for holiday outfits ... is now!

To Do Today

Print and check family wardrobes on holiday wardrobe planner

Will your family be ready to dress for holiday dinners, church services or a trip to the ballet? Today, evaluate family wardrobe needs for the coming special events.

Moving room by room, check wardrobe needs for each family member. Yes, that may mean stuffing reluctant children into holiday finery--but better to learn today that the pretty little shoes are two sizes too small, than to have to cope with the knowledge on the night of the big event.

Add a printable Holiday Wardrobe Planner to the Christmas planner to record notes, and add any needed or replacement items to the shopping list. You'll find a better selection in stores if you start replacing needed items early, instead of waiting until the last minute.
You'll be ready ... and standing tall!

Inventory the Gift Closet

If you keep a dedicated area for gift items--and we hope you do!--take inventory today. Print the Gift Closet Inventory form to track your stash. Shop at home, first!

State of the Closet: Make a Pre-Holiday Wardrobe Check

We’ve all experienced this seasonal panic: it's the night of the office holiday party and a spouse’s good white shirt has gone missing!

Calm the chaos with a pre-holiday wardrobe check!

Assessing the State of the Closet for all family members before the holiday begins means never having to say, "It's in the wash!"

To sort out whether each family member has well-fitting and appropriate holiday-season clothing, use a lined blank page in the Christmas planner, or print a free Wardrobe Planner form to track your progress.

Add a name for each family member to the form, click it into the Christmas Notebook, then check the calendar to focus on the clothing needs the season will bring.

What events will your family attend? Will you attend casual gatherings in the home of your friends? "Nice/casual" gets an entry.

Does your church congregation hold a traditional Midnight Mass? Write “dressy” next to all names old enough to stay up until 2 a.m.

If an appearance is a must at the black-tie Noel Ball, adult names get a "formal" entry—and if studio photos of the children go in the Christmas card, add “photo outfit” to the list for the short stuff.

Next to each entry, match up an outfit. Mom will wear a velvet skirt to the Ball, a favorite Christmas sweater to the neighbor’s open house. Dad’s dark suit will do double-duty for party and church. Small fry have bright sweatshirts for the photo session, and dressy outfits for dinner at Grandma’s house.

Moving from closet to closet, check the condition of each outfit on the list. Check shoes, studs, and hair accessories--all the special touches needed for dressy occasions. Wrangle growing children into last year's finery to check for fit. Note any needed purchases on the shopping list, and plan to buy replacements early for best selection.

Sound like overkill? Tell that to a woman faced with three family members dressing for a formal dinner, each one of them missing some essential item. Having survived that situation, I will tell you: a pre-holiday wardrobe check will send you out the door calm and confident, all the season long.

Check those closets . . . and get ready for Christmas!

Gift Closet Guide: Get Organized for Frugal Gifts and Giving

We should all have a friend like my friend Joyce. No matter what the occasion, she comes up with the perfect gift--even at short notice.

Her wrapped packages are lavish and lovely, her cards are sweet and well-chosen--and she does it on a budget and without last-minute dashes to the shopping mall. Her secret?

A gift closet.

It's a concept we love here at Organized Christmas: a dedicated space in the household to store gift items, gift wrap and cards. A gift closet holds a stockpile of gift items and everything needed to wrap and present them.

Why bother? Two words: time and money. A surprise child's birthday party invitation won't wreck the budget at month's end when a nice selection of age-appropriate gifts are tucked away in the gift closet. Baby shower invitations and graduation announcements are easy to answer with the help of stockpiled gifts. Shopping sales and catalog clearance items cuts the cost of Christmas gifts; holiday shopping is simple when the "store" lies at the end of the hall.

Ready to set up a gift closet in your organized home? Try these tips to save money and time on holiday gifts:

1. Select storage space
Don't let the word "closet" fool you; a gift closet can live in any storage space, so long as it is secure and accessible.

Tuck gifts into under-bed storage units in the master bedroom, or stash them in a sealed plastic storage tub in the attic or garage. Clear a shelf in a high bathroom cupboard, or stow gifts in a large bureau drawer.

Households with children will require the exercise of ingenuity, however. Whether it's the "hide in plain sight" method of stacking the gift closet container in between two identical tubs of stored clothing, or sneakier strategies, such as consigning gifts to locked suitcases, parents of young children will need to prevent premature ransacking of stored gifts.

2. Track your treasures
From time to time, I'll get a negative reaction to the gift closet concept, along the lines of, "A gift closet? Oh, I tried that--but I never knew what I had in there, and couldn't find it when I did!" The problem? Ignoring the second--and most important--gift closet principle: the inventory.

It's easy to acquire gift items here and there, and easier still to lose track of them. The solution: a gift closet inventory. This simple inventory form brings the gift closet into high, visible relief: you know what you have and where it is. Period.

Whether you keep a written record, use our gift closet inventory, or keep an electronic record on computer or smart phone, the gift closet inventory is the go-to source for gift-giving information.

Don't stop there! A companion powerhouse is the master gift list: a record of occasions, recipients and gift items. Working in tandem with the gift closet inventory, the master gift list brings gift-giving specifics to the process. You'll know the who, what and when of any gift-giving occasion.

3. Shop at home first
With space at the ready and a road map in hand, it's time to assemble closet candidates. First source: your home!

Shopping at home first means gathering all likely gift items from their respective hiding places about the house. Whether it's never-used re-gifting candidates, treasures found at flea markets or crafts fairs, or designated gifts that were overlooked or forgotten, assemble and inventory any existing gift closet candidates. Chances are, you'll have a good start on closet contents from your very own in-home store!

Similarly, gather gift wrap, ribbons and cards into a central location. Note what you have, what you need on a separate page; it'll guide you when shopping.

4. Shop smart, shop sales!
Once in place, the gift closet shines when it comes to year-round gift-buying. Whether it's the after-Christmas sales, seasonal merchandise clearances after each holiday, or summer inventory reductions, be on the lookout for gift closet candidates. They'll build your stock of give-able items at rock-bottom prices.

5. Buy in bulk
Into each life, many birthdays, bridal showers and high school graduations must fall--and who says you need to give a different gift for each one? Stock up on favorite gifts for each category when you find them on sale--and save time and energy.

In the Ewer household, new parents receive paired "for my child" journals for Mom and Dad, while bright jewelry sets make welcome birthday gifts for friends. High school grads enjoy gift cards from the iTunes music store when inserted in a funny musical card holder.

Stocking standard "occasions" gifts is a smart time- and money-saving strategy that turns gift-giving into a pleasure.

6. Stock up on stocking stuffers
A gift closet isn't just for "big" gifts; it's a perfect place to stockpile stocking stuffers throughout the year. Shop back-to-school sales for loss leaders on crayons, markers and art supplies; hit the summer clearance aisle for small toys like jacks and jump rope.

After each seasonal holiday, stocking stuffer candidates are marked down, so don't miss post-Easter and after-Halloween clear-away events. You'll help Santa fill stockings well--cheap and easy!

7. Bring on the baskets
Presented in a pretty gift basket and nestled in colorful Easter grass, a simple loaf of nut bread gets a gift-pizzazz promotion. Use the gift closet to collect containers, filler, wrappings and bows for gift baskets.

Look for discounted raffia shreds and Easter grass in April, and buy baskets at yard sales or on the clearance table at the crafts store.

Assemble the makings as you find them, and it's easy to punch up presentation with a pretty gift basket.

8. Wrap it up
Finally, make room for gift wrap, ribbons, bows and cards in the gift closet. Make it a one-shop stop for gifts and giving, to save time and money around the year.

A bonus organizing tip: store gift wrap in commercial gift wrap holders designed to hang from a closet rod. Even hung on an over-the-door hook, it'll keep gift wrap organized and close at hand.

A gift closet? No organized holiday home should be without it!

Today's Recipe

freezer mashed potatoes recipe

Save time during the season with make-ahead freezer side dishes! Make-ahead recipes let you cook at your leisure, freeze and reheat for easier holiday meals.

This recipe for Freezer Garlic Mashed Potatoes is so flavorful that no gravy is required. Make it ahead and freeze in holiday-sized portions to save time in the Christmas kitchen.

Timesaving tip: make this recipe fresh for Thanksgiving dinner, but double quantities, then tuck an extra pan into the freezer to speed cooking the Christmas meal!

A little-known trick to calm holiday cooking stress? Make-ahead dishes for the freezer. Cooked and stored ahead of time, freezer side dishes free up time for the holiday cook.

But can you get perfect creamy texture ... from frozen potatoes? Potatoes look watery before freezing, but the water will be absorbed as they bake.

While it is possible to substitute russet potatoes, Yukon Gold potatoes yield a more flavorful dish. A Ewer family favorite!

5 pounds potatoes,yukon gold
1 1⁄2 cupmilk, low-fat
2 packages boursin spiced cheese, garlic-flavored

Peel potatoes and cut into 2-inch chunks. Place in 5- to 6-quart pan.

Add water to cover, bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low. Simmer until the potatoes are very tender, about 20 to 25 minutes. Drain and return potatoes to the pan.

Mash potatoes with a potato masher until light and dry. Stir in cheese and milk. Mash until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Cool potatoes to room temperature. Divide potatoes into 8- to 9-inch oven safe casserole dishes. Cover with foil; freeze.

Reheat covered at 375 degrees, 40 minutes for thawed potatoes, 90 minutes straight from freezer.

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