As the song says, it’s the most wonderful time of the year—and it only lasts for a few weeks. Avoid seasonal stress by staying organized and having reasonable expectations of what you can achieve. To help you make the most of the last month of the year, here are some tips.
Clean out the freezer: it’s so easy to let food accumulate in the freezer—and before long its too crowded to make room for more, but there are some items in the back that need to be thrown away. Set aside some time to organize your freezer before you fill it with holiday goodies.
Make a wreath: not only is a wreath on the front door inviting, but also it really makes a house a home. If you’ve got time, add a personal touch to your outdoor décor by making your own instead of buying one.
Get organized for gift wrapping: to save time during the hectic Christmas shopping season, set up a gift-wrapping station in an out-of-the-way spot in your home—it will make it easier to wrap gifts as you buy them, and you won’t be hunting around the house for the scissors, tape, or gift tags. If you don’t have the space for a separate gift-wrapping table, put all your supplies in baskets or containers or under the bed for easy access.
Decorate the kitchen: don’t limit your holiday accents to the living room and entry way—think about ways you can bring the spirit of the season into every room, even the kitchen. Try decorating the windowsill with candles and cedar boughs, putting a miniature Christmas tree on a shelf or draping doorways with garlands. For a finishing touch, simmer spices in water on the back of the stove to infuse your home with the comforting scent of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.
Cook up some appetizers: get ready for guests—whether expected or impromptu—by preparing a selection of appetizers ahead of time. Just pick recipes that can be made in advance and frozen, and you could have a season's worth of hors d'oeuvres ready in an afternoon.
Host a cookie exchange: rather than devoting hours of free time to baking each of your favourite holiday treats, arrange an exchange with friends and family. Organize it so that each person bakes a different type of cookie, enough to share around with everyone in the group. Don't forget to make a few extras to serve while everyone's exchanging the goods!
Hang some mistletoe: the custom of kissing under the mistletoe is said to come from an ancient Scandinavian tradition that when enemies met in the forest under mistletoe, they were to lay down their arms and observe a truce for the following day. Continue the tradition by hanging mistletoe in your home during the holiday season—and spread peace and goodwill among your guests.
Donate to the food bank: during this season of feasting, remember those who are less fortunate by bringing non-perishable food items or a monetary donation to your local food bank. Consider offering your time, as well, to help sort donations or perform other necessary tasks.
Let in the fresh air: it may be getting chilly outside, but that's no reason to keep the windows locked tight. Shutting up the house lets indoor pollutants accumulate, especially if it's fairly new and therefore airtight. Let in the cool, crisp air of early winter by opening the windows for a few minutes daily—longer if the weather is cooperating—and enjoy the fresh scent of a well aired home.
Make homemade eggnog: eggnog is so rich and sinfully delicious, it's probably a good thing we don't drink it all year round. So don't settle for eggnog in a carton -- it's easy to make your own, and the results are well worth the time spent.
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