Organized Christmas

Cutting Costs? Try These Christmas Cheats For Frugal Gifts

   November 13, 2015 by Cynthia Ewer

If the local newscast (egged on by local retail merchants) tells me one more time exactly how many "shopping days" are left until Christmas, I'll scream! No matter what the count, there are never enough days to shop for/buy/craft/bake gifts for family and friends--and this year of all years, disposable income is in short supply.

Christmas Countdown Day 20: Status Check!

   November 13, 2015 by Cynthia Ewer

Nearly half-way there: time to do a little status check on the progress of the Christmas Countdown.

I hope that most of us feel a bit more prepared, a bit better organized. We've met together for three weeks, and we've covered a lot of ground.

Still, it's natural to feel a bit of panic today. From here on out, time will fly with a vengeance. Rehearsals, parties, holiday activities will rain down upon us.

During the next three weeks, the Countdown slows the pace to match the season. Because we're doing more in other areas of our life, the Countdown will lighten the load.

Ahead lies Get Cooking Week, appropriately so as America begins to prepare for Thanksgiving Day. Beyond that, we'll Decorate, then prepare to Celebrate ... an organized Christmas.

Get ready to settle into a slower rhythm! Because ready or not, the holidays are nearly here. This year, though, we are riding relaxed and in control, prepared and ready for the best holiday season ever!

Mim's Texas Pralines

   November 12, 2015 by Cynthia Ewer

Creamy and delicious. this Texas treat dates from the days when Christmas memories had to be made with little more than some nuts from the backyard trees.

Traditionally sent to our family by my grandmother, Mim Miller, these pecan patties spell "Christmas" to me!

Includes both conventional and microwave directions.

Christmas Countdown Day 19: Simplify Handmade Gifts!

   November 12, 2015 by Cynthia Ewer

Ask any wife and mother what she needs most during the holiday season, and she'll tell you, "More time!"

Yet this same busy lady will fill her Christmas gift list with elaborate hand-crafted gifts, requiring substantial outlays of cash, time and skill.

Result? She careens into mid-December either (1) working nightly until 1 a.m. to finish the lot or (2) substituting last minute purchases for the unfinished gifts.

How to take charge of out-of-control crafting? Apply the Rule of Four!

Almond Pinecone Cheeseball

   November 11, 2015 by Cynthia Ewer

It's a pinecone? No, it's a savory cheese spread sparked with bacon, green onions and dill.

So pretty that guests are afraid to muss it, you'll need to dig into this creamy, pinecone-shaped cheeseball first! Add a sprig of artificial evergreen for an easy show-off holiday appetizer.

This Ewer favorite has been served in our family for over 30 years!

Set Up a Wrap and Mail Center

   November 11, 2015 by Cynthia Ewer

Wrapping gifts for the holidays? Repeat after me: "This year, I won't be wrapping gifts at midnight on Christmas Eve!"

If there's a single most-underestimated holiday chore, it's gift wrapping.

Supplies lie scattered throughout the house, while space and privacy are hard to come by.

Translation: late-night Christmas Eve wrapping sessions, grumbling your way through the job.

Christmas Countdown Day 18: Set Up a Wrap and Mail Center!

   November 11, 2015 by Cynthia Ewer

Wrapping holiday gifts can be one of the most-overlooked chores of the Christmas season. Too often, it takes "hind place" on the to-do list.

Then suddenly, it's Christmas Eve ... and there's a long evening ahead among the ribbons, gift tags and scissors. Assuming you can find them!

Not this year! To make it easier to wrap as we go, it's time to set up a wrap and mail center: a dedicated space to wrap gifts and prepare them for mailing.

With tools and supplies at hand, finding your "center" speeds the job--and keeps the joy!

Texas Cornbread Mix In A Jar

   November 10, 2015 by Cynthia Ewer

Golden and sweet, this cornbread mix is a perfect partner for Confetti Bean Soup! Packaged together in a pretty gift basket, they're perfect for thoughtful, frugal Christmas gifts.

Use free printable gift tags to decorate pint canning jars filled with Texas Cornbread Mix, or package the mix inside a holiday-colored paper bag. Instructions included for both packaging alternatives.

Includes free printable gift tags!

Christmas Countdown Day 17: Shop Online and Catalogs

   November 10, 2015 by Cynthia Ewer

Ready to shop for Christmas gifts? Between mall madness, high gas prices and lack of time, it can be the holiday season's greatest source of stress.

There's got to be an easier way!

Organized gift shoppers know there's an alternative to crowded malls and long lines at the checkstand: shop online or from catalogs!

We'll make it easy with online/catalog shopping tips and a printable order tracker to organize purchases.

Will you do this year's Christmas shopping from your easy chair? It's time to begin shopping catalogs and the Internet!

Gifting Guidelines: The Unwritten Rules of Gift-Giving

   November 9, 2015 by Cynthia Ewer

Christmas is coming! Do you understand the unwritten rules of gift-giving?

Each of us carries within ourselves a set of rules about gift-giving. Seldom acknowledged and rarely discussed, these rules determine what we give, how much we give, and to whom we give. Despite living only in our minds and expectations, the unwritten rules of gift-giving govern everything from the office Secret Santa exchange to the family's morning under the Christmas tree.

Christmas Countdown Day 16: Renegotiate Gift Exchanges!

   November 9, 2015 by Cynthia Ewer

Time, finances, or changing family circumstances sometimes require adjustments to the holiday gift list. Will this be the year you renegotiate gift exchanges?

Where has your gift-giving overstepped the bounds? Has an exchange with a friend or neighbor grown too expensive and elaborate over the years?

Perhaps it's over-elaborate expectations for adult family gifts, or an outgrown exchange with old school friends. Office gifts and "Secret Santa" exchanges can mushroom into an onerous obligation after a few years.

Will you be the brave soul who calls a halt?

In Praise of Simple Gifts

   November 8, 2015 by Cynthia Ewer

Gift. Say the word and many levels of meaning go through our minds! When preparing for the Christmas holidays, "gift" can be a loaded term, one that provokes equal parts of anxiety and joy.

In our consumer society, the idea of "gift" is no longer simple, no longer free. The forces of consumption have taken the pure and simple concept of "gift" and layered that concept with staggering traps.

House & Holidays Plan Week 11: Food Storage Week

   November 8, 2015 by Cynthia Ewer

American Thanksgiving reminds us to be grateful for our bounty--and in most homes, that blessing is most clearly seen in the larder.

In our homes, refrigerator, freezer and pantry hold a wealth of foodstuffs--and with holidays ahead, these food storage areas will be called into front-row service.

Christmas Countdown Day 15: Gifts and Giving Week!

   November 8, 2015 by Cynthia Ewer

For many families, gift-giving is among the most stressful aspects of preparing for the holiday season. Wonderful as the tradition can be, it has another side: where the rubber of our budget meets the road of our expectations.

Anxieties abound! Will our gifts be enough? Will we send the right message? Can we afford them? Will we find the year's hot toy ... or should we even try to look for it?

There's another, brighter side to gift-giving. Reading assignments this week will help us draw closer to the true meaning of the holiday season. Today's essay, In Praise of Simple Gifts, is intended to get us off to a good start, reminding us that holiday gifts and holiday giving are only pale reflections of the true gift of the season.

Ready? It's time to take on the gift list and get ready for Christmas with Gifts and Giving Week!

Whose House for the Holidays?

   November 7, 2015 by Cynthia Ewer

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.

Turkey Poop: Silly Thanksgiving Gag Gift

   November 7, 2015 by Cynthia Ewer

Looking for a silly treat for Thanksgiving? it's Turkey Poop!

Just right for a gag gift--or even Thanksgiving Day place cards--Turkey Poop is easy to make.

Place a handful of Milk Duds-brand candy, chocolate-covered raisins, or brown jelly beans in a small zipper food storage bag or seasonal cellophane gift bag.

Label with the Turkey Poop poem below or a free printable Turkey Poop gift tag or bag topper:

Christmas Countdown Day 14: Decor Declutter!

   November 7, 2015 by Cynthia Ewer

Who doesn't love the parade of autumn decorations?

From the first fallen leaves in September, through Halloween's jack o'lanterns, and on into Thanksgiving's cornucopia displays, it's glorious fun to mark the progress of the fall season with special decor items for our home.

But somebody better tell the retailers! This year marks the almost-complete extinction of Thanksgiving from the autumn progress.

At stores in my area, Halloween items were on clearance by mid-October and replaced with Christmas displays the weekend before Halloween. I stood in the decor aisles, shook my head and blinked rapidly as I realized that "Christmas creep" has finally overtaken Thanksgiving and eradicated it completely.

Not in my house! Thanksgiving is a beloved holiday, valued all the more because it's relatively isolated from commercial pressures. Yes, our family will roast a turkey, ice cut-out cookies in the shape of leaves and pumpkins, and display our cherished Turkey Toodles and Calico Cornucopia decorations.

Best of all? Our family will gather together three generations (and four dogs!) to give thanks for our many, many blessings. And if that's not worth celebrating, I don't know what is!

Gift Closet Guide: Get Organized for Frugal Gifts and Giving!

   November 6, 2015 by Cynthia Ewer

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.

State of the Closet: Pre-Holiday Wardrobe Check

   November 6, 2015 by Cynthia Ewer

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!"

Magic Elf Tradition: Will Santa's Magic Elf Visit Your Home?

   November 6, 2015 by Cynthia Ewer

What would happen if one of Santa's elves came to your house to visit?

He'd arrive sometime before the holidays began. Sent by Santa to check on good little girls and boys, he'd roam the house at night, popping up in the most unlikely places come morning.

Sometimes, elf mischief would take place--and he'd be caught red-handed! Finally, on Christmas Eve, he'd report to Santa and hitch a ride back to the North Pole ... until next year.

If you can imagine it, you can do it: meet Santa's Magic Elf!