Monday, November 5, 2012

Preparing for the holidays

It might seem a little early to post about preparing for the holidays but the whole point of preparing is to do it early.  I don't believe in stressing for Thanksgiving or Christmas.  That's missing the point of both holidays.  I'm also starting my Christmas decorating so in this and future blog posts, I may be including shots of some of my favorite Christmas ornaments.  I've been collecting ornaments since I was in high school so there aren't enough posts to include all the pictures but I'll show some of my favorites.
A fellow ornament collector, Linda, was kind enough to gift me with this Christmas cupcake ornament

My stress-avoidance means doing a lot of stuff ahead of time so when the big day(s) arrive, I can enjoy it.  By that I don't mean just stocking up on cookie doughs for the freezer, ready to be baked at a moment's notice when I need a gift or to go to a party.  Although that is one tip/trick I do every year.  But this is also the time of year to do other kinds of prep.

Stocking your pantry:
Buy bananas early and give them time to ripen
As the holidays approach, many ingredients go on sale.  Keep an eye out but don't necessarily wait for it either if you can find something already at a good price.  A 10-lb bag of granulated sugar at Costco is $5.29.  If I see a 5-lb bag selling for half that or less, I'll stock up but right now, the Costco price is the most competitive.  There's already 20 lbs sitting in my pantry, ready for the holiday baking season.  A 72-ounce bag of Nestle semisweet chocolate chips went on sale, also at Costco, for $8.74.  That translates into $1.46 for a normal 12-ounce bag.  A price I never see, even with a good sale elsewhere.  144 ounces of chocolate chips are also now in my pantry.  Stocking up early on ingredients ensures I don't run out of anything at a crucial moment and, since I'm buying the stuff when I'm normally already out, I don't waste time or gas making any special trips to the store for something I need later on.  Oh, and if you plan to bake anything with bananas like banana bread, cake, muffins, cupcakes, etc for Thanksgiving or Christmas, I would highly advise you buy your bananas now and give them plenty of time to overripen.  If they get too ripe before you need them, peel them, plastic them in freezer bags and put them in your freezer until you're ready to use them.

Packaging items:
You know those 40%-50% off coupons from Michaels that come out pretty much every week?  I use those throughout the year to get parchment paper and plain treat bags.  As the holidays approach, I also use them to start buying holiday-themed packaging items like Christmas cellophane treat bags, cupcake liners, and decorated treat boxes.  The best time to buy that stuff is as soon as your store stocks them, not when the holiday is actually getting nearer.  Once we're full swing into holiday season, those items go on sale but at less than a 40% discount so you're better off when it's regular price and you can use a 40% off coupon for it.  Plus early on is when you get the best selection.

Thanksgiving is fast approaching - 'tis the season for pumpkin pie
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday but Christmas is the one I decorate all out for.  (Yes, I'm one of those people.)  I used to alternate between decorating big one year for Halloween and more modestly at Christmas and vice versa the following year.  Then it got to be too much in too short a timeframe and now I alternate between decorating with 50% of my Christmas stuff and decorating with almost 100% of it.  Halloween got back burnered.  But before I decorate, my house has to be clean.  And I mean clean.  As in, for a couple of October weekends, I moved furniture and vacuumed and swept underneath them, hands-and-knees-on-the-floor scrubbing, dusting all the way down to the baseboards, cleaning blinds and shutters slat by slat with an actual cleaner, and spiders fleeing in terror as any hint of a cobweb was aggressively dusted out of existence.  That kind of clean.  And while I'm at it, I'm decluttering stuff I don't need to give away to Goodwill, gathering excess jackets to give away to One Warm Coat as the weather cools, and thinning out my embarrassingly large collection of books to give the ones I'll never reread to the library.  Freaky-obsessive fall housecleaning time is also when I put away picture frames and knick knacks that have been out all year so I can clear display space for my Christmas decorations.  It's a 2-weekend project and one I strive to complete in October so I give myself enough time to finish decorating by Thanksgiving.  Because all I do in my free time between Thanksgiving and Christmas is bake and socialize.  I don't want to spend it deep cleaning so I get it out of the way first thing.

One of my new additions this year - "tiramisu"
There was a point in time where I actually enjoyed shopping.  As in I made a near-weekly trip to the mall every Saturday just to browse even if I didn't have anything I had to buy.  Not that that stopped me from buying stuff since, you know, I was already there anyway.  Then, some years ago, I went through a major decluttering phase and I haven't stopped decluttering since.  Now I only go to the mall if I absolutely have to - meaning I can't buy something online or my clothes are threadbare rags that need to be replaced.  Otherwise I'd rather spend my downtime baking or reading or working out or poking my eye out rather than braving the throngs at the mall.  It's worse during the holiday season because the novice shoppers are out.  You know the ones that I mean: the dawdlers who aren't aware there's a tide of people behind them but they're in the way, the baffled-looking ones who actually want assistance from the store clerks but can't find any, the impatient ones who can't believe there are this many people in line at the store but when it's their turn at the cash register, they pull out their checkbook and then start writing a check.  I like people but not all of them in a confined space.  So no malls for me in the weeks leading up to Christmas.

Which means I either shop online (Cyber Monday is superior to Black Friday), I bake my gifts, or I buy stuff way ahead of time.  Throughout the year when I do buy something, I ask for a box, whether it's for a gift or not.  So when December comes, I already have a stockpile of boxes to use if I need them - which beats standing in line at the store in December to ask for a box for a gift I just bought.  Usually I don't even need boxes anymore as lately I've been giving more gift cards and service-oriented items.

Ultimately, you have to do what works for you - some people love the last-minute frenzy (I'm not one of them), some people enjoy a minimalist holiday so the spirit doesn't get lost in the letter, and others believe in letting it all hang out as their expression of enjoying what they love about the holidays (that would be me in case it's not obvious).  Whichever type of person you are, do what you love and share with those you love.

1 comment:

  1. I need you to come to my house and clean!!! I love the food ornaments! Especially the Tiramisu!!