Monday, November 17, 2008

Happy Holiday Mania...don’t panic (yet)

by April Garza

Okay, you may have noticed that right after Halloween a strange, but annual phenomenon began: time seems to be speeding up. Oh, it has nothing to do with daylight savings time messing up our senses or any theory of relativity, simple or otherwise, bless little Albert E. and his overactive brain. It’s a simple fact we are in the holiday time-crunch. We’re all counting down the days till Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Winter Solstice, New Year’s Eve or a combination thereof, and coming up short on time to get everything done.

Never fear. We’ll get through this together. And (as long as the coffee, tea and hot chocolate lasts) we’ll find the energy once again to make merry during these darkening late fall and winter evenings.

First, take a deep breath and remember that if you took my tips for Fall and Halloween decorating, you’re already ahead of the game. (Not that I am. My army of cat, ghost and pumpkin people figurines is still scattered through the house. I can dish out the advice, but I don’t necessarily abide by it myself. At least I converted the outside so it’s just fall decor!)

If you have boxed up the Halloween specific items, you can leave things as they are or add a few small touches here and there to take you through Thanksgiving dinner. Dust off the Pilgrim and turkey figurines or candles if you’ve got them; add a wicker cornucopia to the table; put a “Happy Thanksgiving” or “Happy Harvest” sign on the door. Don’t go overboard because most of it’s getting packed away in a few days anyhow.

What’s next? Well, it’s too early to start baking the turkey and pumpkin pies, but it’s not too soon to start thinking ahead for the holiday after Thanksgiving. For me, it’s preparing for that “most wonderful time of the year” (and busiest, too!) — Christmas.

My apologies to those of you who celebrate another of the winter festivals, but I’ve got to stick to what I know for most of my decorating advice. If you celebrate one of the others, please add some comments to give your decorating tips. It would be great to learn about them!

Shall we get into the decorations? Not yet. I’ll have several new posts soon to cover decking out your halls, but for now, we need to concentrate on...


Step 1: Time to make the gift list.
It’s simple, but very important. Take a minute at lunch or break or during TV commercials at home and write out a list of all the people you need to have a gift for this season. Keep the list in your purse or wallet from this moment on, along with a pen, and keep it updated. Whenever you’re in a store and have the urge to buy something, look at it to be sure that you need to buy gift for that person or if you’ve already finished with them. If you find a good bargain, the same gift might work for two or three people; your list can help figure that out, too. It saves time and helps you take advantage of sales.
I suggest dividing your list into categories: family, close friends, business associates and others (kids’ teachers, the mailman and such). List the name and leave a space for notes. Write down any gifts you’re thinking of for that person and any you’ve already bought. If you’re like me, you’ve been picking them up throughout the year as you found them, so...

Step 2: Go through the gifts you’ve already picked up through the year.
Yep. You need to do this so you don’t over buy. I have no doubt you saw something in a store this year and bought it thinking, “I know this is perfect for....” Then you put it in a closet or drawer somewhere. Find these things now and add them to your list. You may already be half done with your shopping and not realize it!
By the way, if you don’t have a box designated for storing gifts, pick one up as you shop this year (or at the after holiday sales). I’ve got a cardboard storage that has a holly print on the outside. I keep it front and forward in one of my closets and whenever I buy a gift, I pop it inside. (Unfortunately I’m not organized enough to update a gift list year round; therefore I always have to remember to do step 2 sometime in November.)

Step 3: Don’t forget the holiday birthdays.
I have quite a few loved ones who have birthdays around this time of year. One, whose birthday is on the 25th, finds she gets short changed a lot by people who think one gift for Christmas is enough. That’s just not fair at all in my book or hers! Remember to add this category to your list. Again, it helps you to take advantage of sales.

Step 4: Get your Christmas cards out now.
For me, that means hunting up the cards I bought last year at the after Christmas sales. If you didn’t do that, move this to step 1: go out and buy your cards now!
No, I’m not one of those people whose cards are done and delivered by the weekend after Thanksgiving. Kudos to those who do that, but where do you find the time? No, really, it’s not a rhetorical question; I’m asking. I can never seem to get that ultra-organized so please, give us your tips so I can use them next year!
If you do your cards, envelopes, “what we did this year” letters, etc. on the computer, I suppose you’ll have to set aside an afternoon or evening to get them done. I do mine the old fashioned way though.
If you’re like me, handwritten messages not only get me into the spirit of the season but also seem more personal—at least, I always fell special when I get a handwritten note in a card. Lunch breaks and TV commercial breaks come in handy again. I sit down with my address book and label all the envelopes first, then sort them out into piles according to how much I’m going to write in each one. Some get just a signature, some a short note, and then there’s the five or six people who get a long letter inside. Those take time, so I usually leave them for last.

Step 5: Get a list of the deadlines for mailing out packages
Yes, you can wait till the week before and pay the extra to rush delivery, but why? Just get the dates and mark them on your calendar. Set your reminders for a few days before the deadline, so you’ll be sure to get the gifts wrapped, boxed, and labeled for dropping them off at the post office—or have them picked up—and save some money for other holiday spending.

That’s it for now. It’s certainly enough to think about while planning your turkey day! And speaking of that, have you seen the contest we’re running about favorite holiday treats? It’d be great if you’d enter and give us some recipe ideas to use in upcoming weeks!

No comments: