1. Clean your candle holders, vases and other glass/ crystal
These items gather dust like the Boss, and just about every solid surface in our home displays two or three (or twelve) candles and other glass goodies during the holidays. To make them sparkle again, carefully place them on the top rack in the dishwasher and run them through a gentle cycle. Of course, make sure that they're dishwasher-friendly! Lots are! This is one of the easiest things to tackle ahead of time, and nothing twinkles quite like spot-free glass and crystal accessories. Plus, when you're elbow deep in tangled strings of lights and pine needles have found their way to every crevice, it feels so good to have this part already done.
This is also a great time to take inventory of candles, such as tea lights, tapers and pillars. Many are already on sale, and I've found that if I wait for those After-Holiday sales, it's pretty slim picking. Hot pink nativity candle, anyone? Yeah, me either.
2. Vacuum the corners of your ceilings and above door jambs
Not very glamorous, I know, but the holiday season gets so busy and hectic so quickly- no matter how hard I try to not let it!- and this is one thing I don't want to have to deal with during all that chaos. Dangling cobwebs were fine for Halloween. Not so much for Christmas.
Perfectly cleaned homes aren't necessary for friendly get-togethers and meals. We're human, and we have busy lives! Nobody should be judging you, but cobwebs are, well, gross. If you're a regular ceiling corner-vacuumer, then I suppose you've got this covered already. But I'm not so much anymore, until the thought of some poor guest looking up to find Charlotte and her family perched on my ceiling gives me just enough incentive to do it.
And once that chore is complete, then I can go make a mess in the kitchen with this cutie!
3. Decide on your recipes now and purchase as many ingredients as possible ahead of time (and stick to that list!)
So many recipes for cookies, tarts & pies, rolls & bread, plus festive main course meals, so little time! Pinterest never fails to tempt me with about 1,2000 new treats to try by the time we sit down to Christmas dinner, but choose I must! I have found it best (and less stressful) to plan meals, parties, and even gifts around our favorite standbys, and limit the newbies.
Of course I love to try new recipes, but I can't reinvent the cookie sheet every night! One or two new recipes throughout November and December is a good goal. Besides, in our family, Christmas just wouldn't be Christmas without our annual Chocolate Spiders or Chocolate-Dipped Mexican Wedding Cakes!
4. Plant your Paperwhites & other blooms
Okay, so technically these should have been planted last week to ensure blooms for Christmas, but I actually plant mine for New Year's, so phew! I'm safe. There are several varieties of plants and flowers on the shelves now- I swoon over Paperwhites so they're always my first choice- and most require at least 5-6 weeks to sprout and bloom. Plant them now, follow the directions given, and enjoy fresh, fragrant flowers throughout the season.
These Paperwhites are from WalMart and cost $5. All in one kits like this are available at home improvement stores, some drug stores, and other discount stores.
My little sickie thought that disc of dirt was the neatest thing to watch after adding the warm water!
We scooped out the soil and placed it in prettier pots, divvying up the bulbs as well. Some years I plant a few one day, skip a couple days, then plant the rest, but...this year it got done in one fell swoop. Or I was afraid it wasn't going to get done at all!
5. Decide what's most important to you and your family, make your plans, and mark your calendars
A little chaos at Christmas time can be exciting and fun; too much, and your body, mind and spirit suffer. Nobody wants to feel overwhelmed and overextended during this most Joyous of Seasons!
Decembers are especially crazy for us because we have two birthdays (the 12th and 15th) thrown in there! Good intentions aren't going to make things go smoothly...we need a plan! And I'm not talking just about attending or hosting parties. We mark our calendars for our annual Family Cookie-Decorating Day, special shopping trips with each of our children, and fun outings like ice skating or skiing. There's time for spontaneous things, too, but without a basic plan, I feel frazzled and unproductive, and those things that we enjoy feel more like boxes to be checked rather than memories in the making.
Furthermore, I'm finding that I need to be super specific about the times I devote to sewing for my shop, Rose & Ruffle, during the holiday rush (thank you, by the way!!!) because I just won't stop until every last order is finished. That can mean I'm tempted to pass on something we might do as a family- which is a horrible feeling-, and that I never have enough time to make special things for Isabelle Kate and the boys. Those things are integral to my daily joy, so I need a plan!
In our family, one of our most important and cherished tradition is the Prayer Basket. Each night during December we gather around the tree and take turns pulling out a name from the basket. Then we pray together for that person, family, school, or country, etc. Someone who didn't get to draw a name chooses a song to sing, and that's how we end our family time together, right before the youngest head off to bed. It's my absolute most favorite thing to do each year.
Taking the time to plan and prepare helps me enjoy things so much more. Like when you're a little kid and you're just bursting at the seams with the wonder and excitement of it all.
For additional ideas and inspiration, check out my boards:
My Christmas Pinterest Board
My Christmas Breakfast & Brunch Board
Other good Christmas-related reads:
Sarah, from Thrifty Decor Chick, wrote a great post about letting go of the guilt and stress and simply enjoying the season.
Sarah, from the Yellow Cape Cod, shared the secret to decorating your Christmas tree like a pro!
Michelle also wrote about preparing from the holidays on her wonderful blog, Iron & Twine.