Organized Christmas

Seven Tips for Sparkling Christmas Letters

Christmas is coming, holiday cards and letters fill the mailbox--and it's time to write your family's annual Christmas letter.

Want your letter to stand out from the crowd? Looking for ways to spice up the same-old, same-old Christmas greeting?

Try these seven tips for a sparkling holiday letter.

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Save on Decor: Frugal Holiday Decorating Tips

Nothing says "Christmas!" like a beautifully decorated home. Fragrant greens, twinkling lights, holiday centerpieces all set the stage for a merry holiday season.

But at what cost?

If you believe catalog vendors, department stores and florists, be prepared to lay down a bundle to create that holiday home. Each year sees a set of new colors, new images, new trends, all designed to part you from your holiday dollars.

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Blizzard Bites In A Jar

Crunchy and sweet, this no-bake snack mix in a jar is easy to make and fun to give.

To make Blizzard Bites, you'll layer crunchy cereal, pretzels and peanuts with tangy dried cranberries and candied pineapple in a Mason jar or canning jar, then add meltable white-chocolate chips.

To make Blizzard Bites snack mix, recipients melt white chocolate chips and coat the snack mixture with a sweet holiday topping. It's simple ... and sweet!

A great gift for teachers, Secret Santa exchanges or 12 Days of Christmas activities. Make it easy with free printable gift tags!

November Rudolph Club Meeting

Welcome to the Rudolph Club: your once-a-month meeting to simplify your holidays and get organized for Christmas!

At Organized Christmas, we know that the holiday season can be fast and furious. Solution? Take a day once each month throughout the year to plan and prepare for a more-organized holiday season.

On the 25th of each month, we'll bring simple assignments and easy tips to try now for a simpler, more joyous season. Over the year, you'll tackle planning and preparations to make the season lighter, brighter and less stressful come December.

November's meeting sets the stage for one final holiday prep chore: writing holiday letters.

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Easy Holiday Gift: Chocolate Coffee Spoons

A simple gift for the coffee lover in your life, Chocolate Coffee Spoons will give a sweet taste of mocha to the morning brew.

Wrap these chocolate-dipped spoons in holiday cellophane, add a pretty ribbon and stand several on-end in a new coffee mug for a quick, homemade gift ... that's sure to please.

Bundle them with a packet of Snowman Soup for an easy stocking stuffer!

Try these recipe variations:

Freezer Garlic Mashed Potatoes

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!

Christmas Organizing Secret: Try A Tear File!

Christmas magazines and catalogs are fabulous resources for seasonal decorating, gift ideas, and Christmas recipes—but en masse, they can become too much of a good thing.

When the piles avalanche from every side table, finding an article or a recipe that caught your eye a few weeks ago can be an impossible job.

How do you keep all that good information without being crushed by stacks or drowning in paper? Answer: a set of tear files.

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A Perfect Christmas?

"Oh, to have a perfect Christmas!"

This potent illusion grabs us by the throat sometime in September. It lifts only on the afternoon of December 25, in concert with the 3 p.m. Christmas post-gift letdown.

It's a fancy subscribed to by many well-meaning holiday planners. It sells one heck of a lot of Christmas magazines.

To my dismay, it may even have motivated you to join the Christmas Countdown!

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House and Holidays Plan Week 13: Entry Space

This week, America is thankful! Celebrated with family and friends, Thanksgiving Day marks the opening of the holiday season. It’s a week for food, family and fun.

In the Houseworks Holiday Plan, we’ll clean, declutter and prepare the entryway for holiday guests. Holiday prep centers on the Thanksgiving celebration: we’ll plan and prepare Thanksgiving dinner, shop for holiday gifts at the Black Friday sales, and begin to decorate for the holiday season.

It’s time to open the door to the holiday season!

Entry Space Week Assignments

Holiday Grand Plan Week 13: Dining Room

Deadline week! Week Thirteen, Dining Room Week, sees us move into the holiday season, and it's time for a reality check.

Thanksgiving Day falls on Thursday for our American friends and ushers in the holiday season, so this week's cleaning and organizing focus is the dining room. Holiday prep chores center on Thanksgiving and turn to planning the celebration ahead.

Ready? Let's get organized with Dining Room Week in the Holiday Grand Plan!

Dining Room Week at the Holiday Grand Plan

Mason Jar Recipes: Holiday Ideas for Gifts In A Jar

Gifts in a jar! These frugal consumable gifts feature bath salts, cookie ingredients, holiday beverage mixes, baking mixes or bean soup fixings layered in a glass canning jar, or Mason jar.

Mason jar recipes make easy homemade Christmas gifts. Topped with a colorful fabric circle and a free printable gift tag, they're a welcome holiday treat.

We've got all you need to know to make gifts in a jar. Get started with our instructions, tips and mason jar recipes for holiday giving. Printable gift tags make it easy to craft a special holiday gift!

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Save Time With Holiday Baking: Make It A Specialty!

Food and the holidays go hand-in-hand! Holiday cooking magazines are among the first signs of an approaching holiday season.

Sumptuous desserts, winsome cookies, glowing turkeys warm our images of Thanksgiving, Christmas and the New Year.

But oh! My aching feet! Even those of us who lead a Little Debbie life from January to November succumb to holiday baking madness. Cookies. Breads. Pies. Candy. It wouldn't be the holidays without them--but isn't there any way around the baking chores?

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Holiday Survival Kit: Six Last-Minutes Additions For Your Shopping List

The holidays are here, with wall-to-wall shoppers at the supermarket. Who wants to have to join them?

Instead, assemble a holiday survival kit. Before you shop for the holiday meal, check supplies of these often-forgotten items for your holiday gathering.

Pencil these items into your regular shopping list--and save a last-minute trip. They'll keep the fun in the festivities!

  • Automatic Dishwasher Detergent. Hosting a holiday gathering means lots (and lots and LOTS) of dirty dishes. If you use an automatic dishwasher, be sure it's stocked and ready to roll!
  • Club Soda. It's the non-caloric drink of choice with a squeeze of lime ... but an extra bottle can be a cleaning lifesaver when applied to the inevitable spilled food. Use it to blot fresh wine, gravy or pie stains for tablecloth or carpet first aid.
  • Paper Towels. Unfamiliar cooking routines, helpers washing their hands and little-kid clean-ups can burn through a roll of paper towels in record time. Keep a backup waiting!
  • Toilet Paper. If it's "just us chickens", a missing roll is no big problem. Not so when you've got a house full. Avoid red faces with a fresh supply!
  • Camera Batteries. Don't make the family wait to dive into the feast (while the cameraman raids the childrens' toys for fresh batteries). Stock up or charge rechargeables now.
  • Sandwich Bread. What's the number-one reason for a Black Friday trip to the supermarket? "We're out of bread!" Grab a loaf today, and be ready for turkey sandwiches (and no cooking!) on Friday.

Turkey Talk Hotlines: Call, Click or Tweet for Holiday Meal Help!

Has the upcoming Thanksgiving meal created chaos in the holiday kitchen? This year, get help--online, by phone or through Twitter--with all your Thanksgiving turkey problems!

Whether you need to know about thawing times, stuffing recommendations, cooking methods or problem solving, try these resources for holiday cooking questions:

By Phone:

  • The Foster Farms Turkey Helpline is staffed 24 hours a day through November 30. Call with your questions at 800-255-7227.
  • Get turkey cooking tips and solutions from the Butterball Hot Line at 800-288-8372. Staffers answer the phone from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays through December.
  • The Honeysuckle White Consumer Affairs Office offers turkey assistance weekdays, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. CST at 800-532-5756. Office will be closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.
  • Find answers to food safety questions at the U.S.D.A. Meat and Poultry Hotline, open 8 a.m to 2 p.m. EST on Thanksgiving Day, 888-674-6854

Online:

  • Check Butterball.com's Holiday Planning Guide for a wide range of cooking helps. Includes portion planners, shopping lists, cooking guidelines and leftover suggestions.
  • Get everything you need to know about your holiday turkey at Honeysuckle White's Turkey Basics site. Tips, frequently asked questions and food safety pointers.
  • Bring a gleaming bird to the table with Foster Farms Turkey Tips. Includes advice for cooking methods, carving and serving the holiday turkey.

Via Social Networking:

Save on Thanksgiving Dinner? Beat The Holiday Grocery Game

During the holiday season, department stores, catalog retailers and online sellers aren't the only businesses anxiously queuing up for a slice of the fourth-quarter pie, i.e. your holiday wallet. Been grocery shopping lately?

What a difference a few days makes! By November, Halloween's candy displays have given way to a maze of buy-me buy-me holiday foodstuffs.

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Give Thanks: Last Minute Thanksgiving Craft Ideas

American families will gather this week to celebrate Thanksgiving. Spark your holiday with these last-minute gift and craft ideas!

With free printable gift tags and bag toppers, these Thanksgiving snack mix gifts are easy to make.

Share them with guests, bring them to the workplace, or use as table favors:

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You've Been Elf-ed! Start A Neighborhood Holiday Tradition

Have you been Elf-ed? Join the fun with this Christmas version of the Halloween BOO game.

Sometimes called "You've Been Jingled", "You've Been Elf-ed!" is easy to play.

Sometime before Christmas, one neighbor starts the game, secretly leaving a basket of treats together with an Elf sign and Elf poem explaining how to play the game.

Ring the doorbell and run! It's the best part of You've Been Elf-ed!

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Blessings Mix Tutorial: Make Seasonal Gift Mix Treats

Have you shared your blessings with a Blessings Mix?

Small bags of snack mix with a seasonal theme, each ingredient in Blessings Mix reminds us of our blessings.

Inexpensive and easy to make, holiday Blessings Mix gifts have graced dinner tables, classrooms and offices the world around.

Use them as table favors, workplace gifts or party treats at Thanksgiving, Christmas, or to celebrate American holidays such as Independence Day or Veterans Day--and bring home the values that underlie each occasion.

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Whose House for the Holidays?

Judging from my e-mail, what's the single biggest holiday family conundrum? "Whose house for the holidays?" wins, hands down.

It's a universal dilemma for young parents. It's a universal dilemma for their own parents. Where will the "children" spend the holidays?

Shiny new parents of a baby or two yearn to create their own at-home holiday. Their own parents struggle to keep the family together, and preferably at their house.

My own chair sits smack dab in the middle. My children are grown, and I'm a grandmother of a young grandsons.

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