Byline: Raina Kelley
The reason we loved holidays is kids isn’t just because we got all those presents. It’s because we didn’t have to do anything! Children don’t have to stay up writing cards while baking 12 dozen cookies for 13 different social events and wrapping gifts between batches. But neither do you. We’re not going to tell that our Holiday Countdown is all-inclusive or a surefire way to take the stress out of getting your chores done, but it will help you get a little done every day and still have time to watch ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ one more time. We start with decorating and holiday cards, then gently move you into gift shopping and entertaining, and just when most people are panicking, you’ll be checking your list twice and ordering your goose online. And in case you’ve forgotten the true meaning of the holidays, we’ve thrown in some charity suggestions and a little extra family time. SO calm down, take it day by day and have a Happy, Merry, Joyous Everything!
24 Happy Thanksgiving! Catch a football doubleheader while the bird cooks: the Atlanta Falcons play the Detroit Lions; the Denver Broncos go against the Dallas Cowboys. ^ TRIVIA: Dallas and Detroit are the only NFL teams that play every turkey day.
25 Got turkey? Go to foodtv.com for recipes. We like the Luxurious Turkey Tetrazzini by Michele Urvater; it doesn’t even taste like leftovers. Skip the Black Friday madness and look for deals online, like L.L. Bean’s pre-lit Maine Balsam wreath ($39.50; llbean.com).
26 Start saving time now! Buy Holiday Cookie stamps online at usps.com/shop. Get in the spirit with holiday music from iTunes. Make a mix from Bing Crosby to Britney Spears. Even if you don’t have an iPod, you can burn your playlist onto a CD and print labels (itunes.com).
27 Try moma.org for the Holiday Air Stream card ($16 for eight). Or get Multiple Choice notes at knockknock.biz, and check sentiments like best wishes for a “Felicitous Kwanzaa” or “Depressed Drunken Binge” ($14 for 12). Design personalized cards at cardstore.com ($3 each, plus stamp).
28Holiday weekends fill up fast, so send a save-the-date e-mail for your party at evite.com. Then get some perspective by buying “Every Person on the Planet,” a hilarious book about a holiday party where every member of the human race is invited–and shows up ($12; simonsays.com).
29 “March of the Penguins” comes out on DVD… perfect for the whole list. Buy a copy for yourself, and be grateful you don’t spend Christmas in Antarctica. Stock up on batteries. Energizer e2 disposable lithium batteries last seven times longer than alkaline (energizer.com for stores).
30 Have your carpets cleaned (searsclean.com for estimates and stores), or get your house cleaned ($150 an hour; maids.com). The Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular has shows in 10 cities (tickets vary from $22 in Minneapolis to $50 in N.Y.C.; ticketmaster.com).
1 Each one of us is expected to blow $681 on gifts this year. Stay out of debt by making a budget with Quicken personal-finance software ($50; quicken.com). Then spend your dough on the new Fiorucci collection at Target. Get the gold hobo bag ($35; target.com).
2 Order your tree. Go with the Fraser fir from homedepot.com ($90 for 5 to 6.5 feet), or get the totally mod tinsel tree in silver, blue or gold from West Elm ($39; westelm.com). If you decide to chop down your own, don’t forget to make a fresh cut before you put it in the tree stand.
3 Dig out your holiday decorations, take an inventory of busted ornaments and get Star-burst Holiday Boxes ($20; containerstore.com). Then decorate the outside of your house. Try lowes.com for ideas; go to christmasdepot.com for bubble lights ($16.50) or snowball lights ($23).
4 Holiday parties are starting, so gather some hostess gifts. How about peppermint bark ($22.50; williams-sonoma.com), a money tree ($38; redenvelope.com) or a bottle of Codorniu Brut Cava (a Spanish sparkler rated 85 by Wine Spectator; $9) in a swank neoprene BYO Bag ($15; builtny.com)?
5 Order specialty cuts from your local butcher; try smithfield ham.com (an 11-13lb. ham is $73) or go to dartagnan.com for a goose ($66 for 8-10lb.). Order baking spices like Vietnamese Cassia Cinnamon, Minced Lemon Peel and Anise Seeds from Penzey’s (penzeys.com).
6 Make your holiday invitations at the Crane & Co. print center (crane.com). Make mailing labels and print two sets: one for your invites and one for Christmas cards (save the file). Now take a break! “S Is for Silence” by Sue Grafton hits bookshelves ($19; bn.com).
7 It’s Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day –go to www.usocares.org and send a personalized care package to a U.S. soldier abroad ($25) or send a calling card via operationuplink.org. ^ TIP: The Department of Defense can no longer accept mail addressed to “Any Service Member.”
8 Order gift baskets for your dentist or hairdresser (try the Holiday Jingle Basket, $50 from mrsbeasleys.com, or the Eight Nights of Hanukkah, $40 from harryanddavid.com). Write out a gift-recipient list. Making a plan now will keep you from overspending at the last minute.
9 Send out your holiday cards. Try getting a family holiday photo before the stampede. JCPenney still does it, and still offers funky backgrounds (jcpportraits.com for studios, pricing and coupons). ^ TIP: The Smiles by Wire program lets you post pictures for family members to order.
10 Order a cookie press that really works from surlatable.com (Wilton Cordless Cookie Press; $35). Need recipes? Try “The All-American Dessert Book” by Nancy Baggett ($21; amazon.com). ^ TIP: Form dough into balls, freeze and then put in a freezer bag for drop cookies any time.
11 Trim the tree. Short on ornaments? Dash out to Kmart or Target for a great selection. ^ TIP: For a great Christmas tree, lights first, then garlands and then ornaments. Use themed ornaments like birds or icicles. And don’t forget to decorate the inside and the tips of the tree for depth.
12 Order cut flowers from flowerbud.com (choose your own delivery date). And then, why not get hors d’oeuvres from Appetizers to Go for your party? The new Coney Island Combo includes everything from knishes to pigs in a blanket ($65; appetizers togo.com).
13 Santa Lucia Day, honoring the Swedish Queen of Lights. Order candles for a holiday glow (16 filled glass votives in white or ivory, $24; potterybarn.com). We also like the Good Tidings Candles from Red Envelope ($30 for HOPE, WISH, PEACE and LOVE; redenvelope.com).
14 Even the fanciest dinner can seem slapped together if it’s served out of pots and pans. If you need serving pieces, go to surlatable.com for a 2.5-quart warming dish ($30), or get the Be Merry platter from Target ($18; target.com for stores). It’s a perfect cheese plate.
15 Full moon. Get that wrapping paper together. Order prewrapped gift boxes from holdeverything.com ($22 for three), or go out to the Container Store or Kmart for cool paper at great prices. ^ TIP: Don’t wait until the 24th. Wrap two gifts every night after the family’s asleep.
16Stop at your local Starbucks and donate a toy to its Holiday Angels joy drive. Or order some S.O.S. (Spicy Old Southern-Style Hot) pickles; proceeds go to Gulf Coast Hospitality Workers Disaster Relief ($120 for a case of 12 jars; southernfood ways.com).
17 Take another look at your spending: keep close track of budget busters like stocking stuffers, end-of-year tips, shipping costs and hostess gifts. Run out of express-shipping money? Today is the last day to order from Amazon using free Super Saver Shipping.
18Take a walk or a drive. Look at the lights and get back in the spirit of the holidays. Put “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas” on your Netflix list. Roasting chestnuts in the oven just isn’t the same–get your fireplace blazing with fatwood kindling from L.L. Bean ($14.50; llbean.com).
19 Make “busy bags” for the kids’ table so you can eat your holiday dinner in peace. Print activity pages and buy crayons, washable markers and stickers from crayola.com. ^ TIP: Last day to send Express Mail to military personnel stationed overseas (usps.com).
20 Order silver favor boxes from Crate & Barrel ($3; crateandbarrel.com), fill with red and green M&Ms or your favorite candy, tie on a place card (25 for $26; smythson.com) and voila, you now have a festive name card and favor for everyone at your holiday table.
21 First day of winter. Send a bulb-forcing kit to a distant relative who won’t be able to join you for the holidays, like the paperwhites in a bird’s nest fromSmith & Hawken ($24; smithandhawken.com) or the Grand Trumpet Amaryllis Trio ($50; jacksonandperkins.com).
22 UPS deadline for overnight mail by Christmas Eve (ups.com). Need something about Chanukah with more meaning than that Adam Sandler song? Pick up “Stars of David: Prominent Jews Talk About Being Jewish” by Abigail Pogrebin ($15; borders.com).
23 Set the table for dinner, bake Santa’s cookies, stuff the stockings and take a break! Still have a Hula Hoop and a hamster to wrap? Call the Scotch-tape wrapping hot line for tips (877-8-SCOTCH). ^ TIP: If you run out of gift wrap, a paper grocery bag with a pretty ribbon will work.
24 National Egg Nog Day. Buy some–we like the Southern Comfort brand–and play games with the family. Try Pick Two Deluxe ($40; beehive.com.sg), Yahtzee Texas Hold ‘Em ($16; boardgames.com) or the Can You Beat Ken Trivia Game ($20; amazon.com).