Sunday, November 30, 2014

Christmas Countdown to an Organized Christmas - Day 3 - Set Up a Holiday Calendar

Article and Photo Courtesy of Organized Christmas

What's the number-one way to cut Christmas stress? Keep a careful eye on the calendar!

No doubt about it, December days can be busy. Keeping track of commitments, events and activities keeps the season real. If you know where the family must go, it's easier to get there--and to say "No!" to too many obligations.

Does a family calendar guide your holiday plans? It should ... if the goal is an organized Christmas!

To Do Today

1. Print your family holiday calendar 

Even the most organized among us can stub a toe when the madness of the holiday season descends! With family members participating in special seasonal activities, upended schedules and general holiday hubbub, the holiday season is no time to rely on memory or sticky notes.

Print or designate monthly calendar pages just for the holiday season, and post them in a public place. Then enter all holiday appointments and events out front, where you can see them.

Want to get fancy? Color-code entries by family member, or by category. Make it even simpler to know who must go where, when--so you can make good decisions as the season progresses.

Seldom acknowledged but often felt, time pressure creates a unique stressor during the Christmas season.

Holiday events, school functions and holiday parties crowd December days; service projects, travel and worship activities double. To keep holiday stress at bay, a calendar is a must-have tool for an organized Christmas.

Even if you never rely on a family calendar the other eleven months of the year, December's busy days call for a dedicated calendar for smooth sailing.

Take back your time--and find calm amidst the chaos--with a holiday family calendar. Try these tips to calendar your way to stress-free holidays:

Dump the data!

Next, ransack your desk for club bulletins, school newsletters, fund-raiser invitations and concert programs. Block out any travel plans, and note every seasonal commitment, large or small, in bright-colored ink on the Christmas calendars.

Larger families find it helpful to color-code events by family member; transportation issues are simpler to solve when the rainbow tells you who must be where each day.

As the season progresses, open your mail near the Christmas calendar. Note activities on the calendar as invitations arrive, and you’ll never again miss an open house or the Festival of Trees.

Schedule Smart for Stress Free Holidays

More than simply recording dates and events, a Christmas calendar operates as a good check against over-commitment. As the calendar brings you face-to-face with competing holiday events, let excitement be tempered with reality.

Accept the guidance your Christmas calendar will provide. A December Saturday with evening invitations signals that parents of young children need to call and reserve a baby-sitter. If you’re directing the Nativity Play on Sunday, decline the invitation to provide twelve dozen cookies for the school Choir Sing the following day.

When in doubt, under-schedule. Yes, every bazaar and party and concert celebrates the season in a special way, but stay grounded! Three parties in one evening? Tempting as it is to try to drop in all three, that's a sure recipe for Christmas stress. Are children double-booked for big events on two consecutive weekend days? Time to blow the whistle for some family time out.

Practice saying, "No!" But if you must say, "Yes!” a Christmas calendar gives you the information you need to say so intelligently.

You'll save tears. You'll save stress. You'll keep the meaning, rhythm and pace of a joyous holiday, not a hurried one. Do less ... and enjoy it more as you get ready for Christmas!

When you think about Christmas from a few weeks away, there’s a luxurious feeling of “plenty of time”, but as December draws near, the season’s pace quickens exponentially. Where did the time go?

Time takes on a slippery quality as the holiday season approaches.

Being proactive--and early--saves time and stress as the season's pace quickens.

Take major action against the seasonal time crunch with a pre-season scheduling session. The goal: to arrange for all those little appointments that slip the mind so easily.

With the Christmas calendar as a guide, consider scheduling these important pre-season tasks:

Carpet cleaning
Delay until November, and you’ll have to fight your way onto the carpet cleaner’s list. Clean carpets early—or postpone the cleaning until season’s end. Who needs to deal with damp carpeting during the holidays?

Haircuts and personal care
The night of the big Christmas bash is no time to repair a chipped pedicure--and salon appointment books fill up quickly as the season approaches. Make appointments for haircuts, manicures and pedicures early, to beat the rush.

 Family photo session
Whether it means a studio appointment or a do-it-yourself session with a tripod, set a date to snap the annual Christmas card photo. You’ll have prints in plenty of time to include in this year’s cards.

Chimney inspection / fireplace cleaning
“Chestnuts roasting on an open fire” isn’t quite the experience it ought to be when the season’s first fire reveals a blocked flue or a year’s worth of old ashes. Schedule chimney inspections early, and clean out the fireplace before you bring in the Yule Log.

Furnace / AC checkup
Early birds don’t just get the worm, they get the appreciation of the furnace guy when they schedule pre-season heating and cooling tune-ups. Scheduled well before the first cold snap, you’ll have the technician’s full attention—and no waiting list.

2. Make travel arrangements and schedule seasonal appointments

Will your family travel during the holiday season? Make travel plans and reservations this week; early birds score better prices and flexible options.

Will you host houseguests? Make arrangements for any overnight guests.

Arrange for family photo sessions for holiday giving or photo Christmas cards

Schedule carpet cleaning now! As the holidays approach, business picks up. Call now for your choice of appointment times.

To Make:

Today's Recipe
Brownies in a jar. What's a great consumable Christmas gift? Gifts in a jar!

Sand Art Brownies are easy to make and oh, so pretty! Layered cocoa, brown sugar, chocolate chips and pecans make this jar gift recipe extra-special.

Welcome a neighbor, thank a teacher or give a homemade Christmas gift with this layered cookie-in-a-jar recipe.

Our recipe makes 12 gift jars at a cost approximately $3 per jar, and includes printable gift tags to make assembling your Sand Art Brownies a breeze!

Sand Art Brownies

1 wide-mouth quart (4-cup) canning jar
2⁄3 teaspoonssalt
1 1⁄8 cupsifted flour, all purpose, divided
1⁄3 cupcocoa powder
2⁄3 cupsbrown sugar
2⁄3 cupssugar
1⁄2 cupchocolate chips
1⁄2 cupwhite chocolate chips
1⁄2 cupwalnuts or pecans

1. Wash, rinse and dry canning jars.

2. Sift flour before measuring. Layer ingredients as follows:

2/3 t. salt
5/8 c. flour
1/3 c. cocoa powder
1/2 c. flour
2/3 c. brown sugar
2/3 c. sugar
1/2 c. chocolate chips
1/2 c. white chocolate chips
1/2 c. walnuts

3. Close jars with lids and rings.[Hint for FoodSaver brand vacuum sealer owners: use the jar sealing attachment to seal jars for longer storage.]

4. Cut appropriate amount of 7-inch circles from cotton fabric. Top each jar with fabric circle, and tie with ribbon.

5. Attach a printable gift tag, or create your own tag using the recipe below.

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease one 9x9 baking pan.

2. Pour the contents of the jar into a large bowl and mix well.

3. Stir in 1 teaspoon vanilla, 2/3 cup vegetable oil and 3 eggs. Beat until just combined.

4. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25

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