Christmas 2015: Let’s get ready!

We’re ramping up for an all new 100-day countdown to Christmas! Lots of great ideas and hot items to discover this year!

This list is hand-picked by me. Every day will feature quality content, not a bunch of spammy links, so bookmark this site and share with your friends!

What’s hot this year? Star Wars, LEGO, board games, Frozen, robots, quadcopters, science, gender neutral, cooking, knitting, and general geekery!

I love to read your comments, so please feel free to add what you like about an activity or item and give your recommendations!

If we start preparing for Christmas now, we will be able to relax and enjoy the festivities with our friends and family instead of out shopping or in the kitchen.

98: Christmas Cookie Overview

Do you bake the same cookies every year? In preparation for the big cookie baking season ahead, take some time today and look through your cookbooks for recipes you’ve always wanted to try. This is the time to get those out and do a test run. You don’t want to wait until the week you need 12 dozen cookies for the cookie swap! You need an opportunity to tweak it and make sure it’s going to work for you. Here are ten of my favorite holiday cookies:

  1. Snickerdoodles
  2. Shortbread
  3. Thumbprints
  4. Bourbon Balls
  5. Rum Balls
  6. Buckeyes
  7. Haystacks
  8. Gingerbread
  9. Lemon Snowflakes
  10. Turkish Delight (this is a 4-pack from Amazon, and my favorite brand!!! Authentic and delicious!)

Make a note of all of the cookies you want to try, print them out or copy them, and put them in a 3-ring notebook inside page protectors. This is a cheap and easy way to make your own personalized cookbook. For even more fun, you can make up your own cover page, or decorate the notebook as you like! Enjoy!

99: To host or not to host

If you are hosting Christmas, do everyone a favor and give them some direction, but not too much direction. I can only imagine what situations might have caused Thanksgiving hostess Marney to pen this letter! With a little planning, you should avoid most of those and do it gracefully.

People appreciate knowing your expectations ahead of time. Invitations don’t have to be fancy, but they do need to be informational.

Guests want to know:

  • Arrival time
  • What to bring (ex. green vegetable side dish for 12, BYOB, etc.)
  • If there be a gift exchange, and  house rules
  • Time food will be served
  • Where they can park
  • What time the event ends
  • What to wear – is this a formal dinner, or are we eating off paper plates and swimming?
You should ask:
  • Does anyone in your guest’s party have life threatening food allergies or other dietary requirements. Let them know in advance if you can or cannot accommodate them, so they can plan ahead.
  • Ask for an RSVP and give them a deadline.
Most of the time, people are willing to go the extra mile if you have something very specific in mind. If you are planning to get a coordinated extended family photo during the gathering and you want everyone to wear black and red, let everyone know in plenty of time so they can pull their wardrobe together.  If you don’t mind that Uncle Eddie will show up in his plaid pants, then don’t worry about advance notice.
All of this knowledge before the event helps everyone with kids plan a successful and enjoyable day for their families, which in turn, is enjoyable for everyone else.
If you’re not a host, but are a guest, I think it’s reasonable to call you host and get all of your questions answered, especially if you have kids. I hate showing up to something that I think is obviously kid-friendly or family-friendly in my mind, and the reality of it is that everyone has gotten a babysitter and it’s an adult-only sit-down dinner. That is a incredibly awkward for everyone involved. Nobody intended it, but there it is.

50: Day Fifty Checkup

Today, let’s take some time to check our progress. How are you doing with the first 50 days of preparation for Christmas? Do you know where you’re spending Christmas this year, or are you playing host/ess? Menu? Guests?

Have you scheduled a family portrait sitting and selected/ordered Christmas cards?

Are you handmaking gifts this year? Knitting projects? Soap? Exploding cards?

Have you tried at least one new cookie recipe? Please say that you have! Everyone loves cookies!

Make your lists and check them twice! Put them all in one place: a notebook/planner or PDA/smartphone. Stay on top of it this year and don’t be caught by surprise a month from now.

Photo courtesy of Adam Smith

64: Tablescapes

Now that you’ve decided to host Christmas dinner at your place this year, it’s time to think about your tablescape. A great tablescape adds a lot to the atmosphere of your dinner when done well.

My favorite way to serve the food for a big dinner is buffet style. If you choose to do that, it’s another opportunity to stage your food in an interesting presentation on the buffet, and you can still have a great dinner table. The key to staging your buffet is varying heights. Use a variety of pedestal stands and candelsticks and you’re halfway there! (TIP: When using candles in a food setting, make sure they are unscented.)

Other additions to your table or buffet could be silk flowers and foliage, themed dishes, wired ribbon, food identification cards and place cards, small ornaments or balls, confetti, tablecloths and runners. On the dining table, make sure your tablescape is low enough so that guests can see one another across the table. Centerpieces should not interfere with conversation. If you are using fresh flowers, make sure the scent doesn’t overwhelm diners. If the arrangement is very fragrant, remove it from the table during dinner.

Before the big day, determine your menu and get out all of your serving dishes you will be using. Arrange your table and buffet area with everything and take a picture of it, once you’re happy with it. Keep this in your planning notebook for Christmas so you don’t have to figure it out again.

Photo courtesy of Liz Lawley

96: Wrapping Paper Inventory

Today is easy. Get your box of wrapping paper down and take a quick inventory. This is a great job for the kids!

I have an inventory sheet for you and it’s available in 2 formats. Choose one below and print.

Remember, this is not rocket science! It’s giftwrap! This is just a quick check to see how much you really need to buy when they start filling the stores in the next few weeks. I ought to do this every once in a while with everything I have so I don’t overbuy. Haven’t you ever bought a case of something because you needed it, then not long after you bought another case because you couldn’t remember what you had, or you’d needed the item for so long that you automatically think, “Hey, we always need paper towels!” That’s when I end up having to store 2 cases of paper towels!

Make a note of what you really need, and keep it with you in your PDA, purse, planner, smartphone, etc., and refer to it when running into pre-season sales. You can also use this for all of your other holiday wrapping. Some things you need all the time like tape, scissors, tissue paper, boxes, etc. Keep stocked up so you don’t end up spending $10 on an emergency wrapping job. Being smart about this gives you more money to spend on the gifts or other goodies! Have fun!