Thanksgiving Timeline

One of the best, surest solutions for busy people on a busy week like the days before Thanksgiving is to use a timeline and/or a checklist. So I’ve come up with the Thanksgiving Countdown to help you navigate through last-minute details and help you make sense of everything that needs to be done.

The Countdown includes essential tasks from shopping to homekeeping for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, and then a full-blown hour-by-hour schedule for Thanksgiving Day. Plus, get turkey roasting times!

My goal is to help you arrive at your own Thanksgiving dinner table a little less stressed and filled with gratitude for the gathering of family and friends. Download your copy of the Thanksgiving Countdown here:Thanksgiving Countdown

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Holiday Shopping Tips

Today is National Clean Out Your Pantry Day! It’s the perfect time to clear out the expired, dried out and simply unidentifiable things in your pantry and the fridge. With Thanksgiving just 9 days away, we’ll need the extra storage space to lay in holiday staples and to get a jump on grocery shopping for turkey day.

Yesterday I was chatting with my produce guy at the local supermarket and he congratulated me for getting an early start on some Thanksgiving Day essentials. He said that last year the store ran out of many items, including carrots and sweet potatoes. I personally know they ran out of pie crust and pumpkin days before Thanksgiving!

So this year it’s essential to get started now on that holiday grocery list. Thankfully, most stores already have Thanksgiving staples on sale. Here are a few tips to help make your way through the aisles – and hopefully eliminate the need for return trips!1. Make your list based on actual recipes, not what’s in your head. Sure, you may remember that pumpkin pie has pumpkin in it, but does it use condensed milk or evaporated milk?

2. Divide your list into perishable items and non-perishable items, or things with a longer life. Shop for the non-perishable, long life items now to get the best selection. Things like refrigerated pie crusts, canned pumpkin, nuts, frozen veggies, spices and root veggies all fall into this category. Then, schedule time next week Monday or Tuesday to purchase those perishable items like a fresh turkey and fresh herbs.

3. Decide what items you may purchase in generic or store brands, and what items must be your favorite brand. My local store is stocking more and more store brand items and squeezing out national brands. Prices may be a bit lower, and some things are totally comparable. Others, like nuts and veggies, are not the quality I prefer. For ingredients that are the “star” of a dish, I have chosen not to compromise the taste and quality. I may spend a little more on pecans for my pecan pie, but I know I will not be disappointed to serve it to my friends. I’ll go for what’s less expensive for supporting role ingredients.

4. Buy a carton of whipping cream. It lasts for weeks and you never know when you’ll need it.

5. Just in case you forget something, check with your store to see if it will be open on Thanksgiving Day. This way, you’re not scrounging the shelves of a convenience store looking for those crispy fried onions …. (Yes, that was experience speaking.) Photo © Matty Symons – fotolia.com

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Just Charming

How to Make Custom Wine Charms in Minutes!

The perfect accompaniment to the perfect wine pairing is a set of wine charms to help your guests distinguish their glasses. (I’m assuming here that your guests won’t be writing their names on plastic cups with a Sharpie® marker.)

If you don’t have a set of wine charms, or not enough, or don’t know where to buy them, never fear! With a few craft supplies you can create custom wine charms for Thanksgiving or any occasion. The possibilities are endless. Here I’m using a paper punch and some left over paper and cardstock from other projects. (I happen to have a wine bottle punch, but use what you have!) Or, how about using vintage buttons, or charms from your travels that never quite made it on to your charm bracelet? A set of wine charms also makes a great holiday gift for the hostess on your list. The hoop earring findings may be purchased for a few dollars at craft stores; look in the jewelry making section. I’ve found that ¾ inch hoops are the ideal size.

Supplies

-Hoop earring findings

– Beads

– Paper punch

– Cardstock, artist paper, scrapbooking paper in a variety of colors and patterns

– Small hole punch

-Needle-nosed pliers

1. Punch shapes for the charms from the papers. Each charm should be unique, so that each guest can easily identify his or her glass.

2. Punch a small hole near the top of each shape.

3. Layer a bead (or two), the punched-out shape and another bead (or two) onto a hoop.

4. Holding the hoop with one hand, with your thumb close to the end of the wire, position the pliers about 1/8 of an inch from the end of the wire and bend the wire up at a 90 degree angle. When placed through the loop on the other end of the earring hoop, the wine charm will stay on the glass.

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How to Make Twig Votives

Candles are such a great addition to your home any time of year, but particularly at the holidays. Some of the most versatile candle holders I have are simple glass votives. They’re about 3 inches high with straight sides, just large enough to hold a votive candle or a tea light. The best part about them: they can be temporarily embellished for any holiday in a variety of ways. By having a set of these simple votives that I can recycle season after season, I can cut down on expenses (a few craft supplies are infinitely cheaper than buying new candle holders every season) and on storage space (one set of candle holders takes less space than 4 or 5).

For a rustic Thanksgiving look, try this simple method to embellish any glass candleholder. For safety, use a tea light candle and make sure to keep the flame away from the twigs.Supplies:

– Glass votive cups

– Twigs from a tree or sturdy shrub

– Heavy craft paper

– Double-sided tape

– Hot glue

– Hemp twine1

. Go outside and look for any twigs that have fallen on the ground. If needed, look for dead or low-lying small branches in the trees in your yard. Gather the twigs and cut to the approximate height of your candle cups. (Hint: Use pruning shears or a small hack saw for a clean cut.) You’ll need a lot of twig pieces! For the small votive holder shown, I used about 40 pieces.

2. Measure around the candle holder and add one inch (for overlap). Transfer that measurement to the craft paper and cut a one-inch wide strip to length. I used a leftover piece of scrapbooking paper, but you could also use artist paper, cardstock or even grosgrain ribbon.

3. Attach the strip of paper to the candle cup with the double-sided tape. Use hot glue to secure the overlapping piece to the paper.

4. Using hot glue, attach the twigs to the candle cup, securing the twig to the paper strip. (This makes the embellishment completely removable and reusable by simple removing the strip.) Make the first layer of twigs out of thicker pieces and layer on slimmer pieces to achieve a full look. Keep the bottom of the twigs even with the bottom of the votive cup. If desired, trim the tops of the twigs when you’re finished.

5. Wrap the finished piece several times with the hemp twine and tie in a bow.

Tip: Use this technique to embellish inexpensive charger plates by gluing twig pieces along the border of the charger.

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A Holiday Plan that POPS!

Do you ever feel like you’re slingshot at warp speed into the holidays after Halloween? Sometimes it seems like one minute we’re closing the door on the last trick-or-treater and the next minute we’re popping the cork for New Year’s, doesn’t it? And everything in between is a blur.

The first couple weeks of October are the ideal time to begin making plans for Halloween and beyond. This will take the speed and the stress out of the holiday equation, and make for more memorable and thoughtful times with family and friends.

An ideal plan – whether it’s for an entire holiday season, a home decorating project or a party – is one that POPS. It’s just 4 simple steps:

  • Plan
  • Organize
  • Prioritize
  • Schedule

Let’s look at this method on a macro level – the whole season – first. Then you can break it down into more manageable chunks for each particular holiday. The Ultimate Planning Guides for Thanksgiving and Christmas are both excellent for keeping track of meal planning, shopping lists, activities and gifts. Download them here.

Plan

What would you like to accomplish this holiday season? Take out a piece of paper and a pen and write down your goals for each holiday: Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas/Hanukkah. Or, better yet, download my Holiday Planning Guide worksheet. Here are some questions to get you started.

Budget: How much do you plan to spend on Halloween costumes, candy, entertaining and decorations? The Thanksgiving meal? Do you plan to travel? How much do you plan to spend on gifts for family and friends? Have you started setting money aside, or have you identified sources of extra income, such as a holiday bonus at work or those items you’ve been meaning to put on e-bay?

Decorations (outdoor): Do you want to decorate the house for Halloween/autumn? What outdoor decorations would you like to put up? Are you trimming the house with lights for Christmas?

Home décor: Are there summer accessories that need to be put away in favor of more autumnal tones? What Halloween accessories will you display this year? Will you follow a central theme?

Home projects: Is there a room in the house that needs attention (such as decluttering or redecorating) before holiday guests arrive? Are there smaller “honey do” projects that need to be tackled before the weather turns cold? What needs to be done? What is the budget?

Entertaining: Would you like to throw a Halloween party this year? For kids, adults or both? Are you hosting the Thanksgiving dinner? For how many? Is a holiday party in your future, such as a tree-trimming party, cookie exchange, or full-on Christmas dinner?

Organize

Once you know what you’d like to get done, it’s time to figure out where and how. (We’ll get to “when” in a moment.)Do you know where the Halloween decorations are? Where the china for special occasions is stored? What will you need to buy for home improvement projects and holiday meals? Do you have a safe zone to keep Christmas gifts as you purchase them? (Hint: Keep track of gift-giving on a guide such as my Ultimate Christmas Planning Guide.)

Get a 3-ring binder and make tabs for Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas or Hanukkah, and any other topic that makes sense for your plans. Maybe you’ll want a section for home improvement or party planning. Keep your task lists, receipts, shopping lists and Ultimate Planning Guides in the binder.Personally, there have been times where I search for something – a document, my keys, a cookie tray I just know I have somewhere – for what seems like hours, getting more frustrated with each passing minute. But when you know what you need and where to find it, changing out seasonal accessories, setting the table for dinner or decorating the tree are all a snap. Take time now to assess how your seasonal items are stored and organized and if it’s an area that needs improvement, do it now.

Prioritize

Time for a reality check. No matter what the occasion or event – from getting ready for work in the morning to cleaning the house before your mom comes to visit, there are usually things that are left undone. And yet the world doesn’t end. Yes, we’d like to do everything on our lists, but sometimes it’s just not realistic. When you can learn to do the most impactful and important things first, and work your way down to the least important things – and then let them go if need be – everything in life will be more joyful and less stressful and frustrating.Look at your “plan” list. What on that list is the most important thing for each holiday? What is indispensable for your family’s celebration? What “makes” the holiday? Rank that #1 – that is the element that you will do first. And if nothing else gets done, you will have the keystone of your holiday in place. Then think what would be nice, but it’s not going to ruin the holiday. Maybe it’s carving pumpkins or putting holiday sheets on the beds. Rank that last – you’ll do it if you have the time and the energy.

Schedule

This is perhaps the most important step aside from actually putting your plan into action. But without a written schedule, it is less likely that your plan will come to fruition.If creating special holiday experiences for your loved ones is important, then the tasks associated with those experiences are important, too. Just as important as an appointment with a client, or a hair appointment or a child’s doctor’s appointment. We write those down and block off the time and make the time. And so it is with holiday tasks. Get each task on your calendar – block off time and adhere to it just as you would a business schedule. Literally pick a day to purchase Halloween candy, trim the tree, order the turkey – whatever is on your plan. Start with your #1 priority for each holiday and work your way through the list, being realistic as to the time it will take to complete a task. While you’ve got your planner out and ready, be sure to schedule some down time as well – a pedicure or a massage will do wonders right around December 12.

So there you have it! Take some time to think about these questions now, put it all on paper, and you’ll have a holiday season that POPS!

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