By Michele E. Buttelman
As the calendar counts down to the end of the year it’s easy to feel overwhelmed knowing the inevitable approach of the holiday “crush.”
Meal planning, travel arrangements, entertainment, decorating, baking, gift buying, gift wrapping… Just thinking about it can be exhausting.
This year take charge of the holidays by crafting a can’t miss holiday plan.
Thanksgiving is Thursday, Nov. 23.
Hanukkah is Thursday, Dec. 7-Friday, Dec. 15.
Festivus is Saturday, Dec. 23.
Christmas Eve is Sunday, Dec. 24.
Christmas Day is Monday, Dec. 25.
Kwanza is Tuesday, Dec. 26-Monday, Jan. 1.
New Years Eve is Sunday, Dec. 31.
New Year’s Day is Monday, Jan. 1.
First Things First
The most important planning tools are a calendar and a way to organize your lists.
Use the method which makes you most comfortable either “old school” hand written lists and calendars, “new school” digital lists and calendars, or a mix of both.
I find posting a hard copy of my monthly calendar on my refrigerator with deadlines for different tasks helps me start each day with a daily plan of what needs to be accomplished.
For computer users Google docs or Evernote are great programs to keep your lists organized.
You may prefer an Excel spreadsheet for some projects, as well.
Start your planning with a list of priorities.
What really needs to be addressed immediately?
If you haven’t made plans with family for the holidays now is the time to contact out of town family to determine who is hosting what, when and where.
Ideally, airplane travel should have been booked two months ago for the best rates. However, every day you wait, availability dwindles and prices increase. The same is true for rental cars and hotel rooms.
Use Your Calendar
It’s easy to plug in information on a calendar, it is not as easy to remember to look at your calendar. Try setting an alarm to look at your calendar each day, or place a copy of the calendar in several places (such as the refrigerator, nightstand and coffee table) where you will see it every day.
Be sure to keep your calendar updated. During the holidays it is important to keep track of important dates such as parties, entertainment events, school functions, gift wrapping, baking and travel dates.
Begin holiday shopping now. Savy holiday shoppers usually begin shopping for the holidays the day after last Christmas and buy gifts throughout the year.
For the rest of us be aware of these dates:
Black Friday: Friday, Nov. 24.
Small Business Saturday: Saturday, Nov. 25.
Cyber Monday: Monday, Nov. 27.
Giving Tuesday: Tuesday, Nov. 28.
United States Post Office mailing deadlines for the lower 48 states:
USPS Ground Advantage: Saturday, Dec. 16.
First-Class Mail (including greeting cards): Saturday, Dec. 16.
Priority Mail: Monday, Dec. 18.
Priority Mail Express: Wednesday, Dec. 20.
A beautiful holiday table doesn’t need a fancy centerpiece or expensive décor.
To an autumn themed tablecloth add some colorful fall leaves, a few gourds, multi-colored ears of corn and a small squash, or two, for a beautiful Thanksgiving table.
For the December holidays a garland and a few holiday ornaments make for a festive table.
Schedule holiday light hanging and tree trimming days with your family.
If hiring a professional light hanging service don’t hesitate to book your time now, many sought-after hanging companies are already booked for this year.
If you plan to eat out this year, find a restaurant and make a reservation as soon as possible.
If you decide to order a premade Thanksgiving feast, make sure to ger your order in well in advance to the restaurant or store offering the meal. Be sure to put the pickup day and time on your calendar.
If you are computer savvy, a spreadsheet is a great way to plan your holiday meals with cooking times for each item, as well as a way to keep a list of menu items and who is responsible preparation.
Don’t assume that Aunt Linda, who always brings her famous pumpkin pie, is actually going to follow through this year, call her and confirm.
Plan to order your fresh Thanksgiving turkey now, as quantities may be limited this year.
If you buy a frozen turkey, be sure to schedule enough time to defrost the bird in the refrigerator. Allow one day for every four to six pounds of frozen turkey. A 16lb. bird should defrost in four days. However, it is important to monitor your turkey to make sure it is defrosting correctly. Unwrap your turkey at least 24 hours in advance of roasting to season and make sure it has defrosted.
Schedule as many meal prep tasks for the day before Thanksgiving when possible.
Don’t forget to order your holiday roasts and hams well in advance, as well.
To complete your holiday baking on schedule it is important to make sure your pantry is stocked with all your baking needs before you start your baking projects. Take inventory and schedule your baking dates on your calendar.
Make a list, or spreadsheet, of all your baking projects. Give yourself adequate time for each batch of goodies.
Schedule a day to clean out your refrigerator in advance of the holiday season. You want plenty of room available to defrost your Thanksgiving turkey and to store leftovers.
Plan extra room in the refrigerator for storing meal components in advance such as mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce and pies.
Make sure to schedule carpet cleaning, or a professional home cleaning service as soon as possible. Don’t wait, many companies get booked early for the holidays.