1. Order or buy your holiday cards. There are tons of options for photo cards (the best kind in my opinion!), from fancy pants places like Tiny Prints to your local drugstore. You can also sign up for Kodak Gallery or Shutterfly and get 50 free photos just for signing up, which you could stick inside regular store-bought cards. Just do something! It's an inexpensive way to keep in touch and spread cheer! Hand addressing is nice and of course more traditional, but I print address labels on Office Depot brand labels and just stick them on the envelopes. Most of the big-name labels have instructions for downloading the label templates on their website. Go ahead and get your label templates made now so all you have to do it print them out when the cards arrive. Also, get your stamps NOW! The pretty Christmas ones sell out! I did my labels and ordered my cards on November 1. PHEW! CHECK!
2. Use your computer (or pen and paper!) to make a spreadsheet of everyone for whom you want to buy/make a present or give a holiday tip (hairdresser, babysitter, trainer, etc.). Brainstorm ideas for gifts -- look at those holiday shopping guides on the websites for your favorite magazines and stores. Check out the Etsy gift guides. See if your giftees have Amazon wish lists. Surreptitiously ask for suggestions from the giftee's spouse or close friends. Your list should have several colums: Name, Gift Idea, Gift Purchased, Wrapped, Delivered. Just check off as you go.
3. Plan your FOOD! What events will require you to make/bake something? A school party? Open house? Family dinner? Plates of goodies for your neighbors or office? Make a list of what needs to be made and the deadline for doing so. Gather all your recipes in one place and start gathering your non-perishable ingredients every time you go out. Figure out what can be made in advance and frozen (like undecorated sugar cookies and shortbread). Most important: once you've decided, consider not adding in other treats that you see in magazines, blogs, etc.! You'll get too bogged down! Save them for next year!
4. Make a plan for decorating. Even write out or sketch your thoughts for how the outside of your house and each room will look. Determine whether you need to buy anything and go ahead and order it now before everything is picked over. Also, places like Hobby Lobby already have Christmas stuff for 50 percent off. Or use your Michael's coupon! Look at catalogs for decorating inspiration -- one of my favorites is Ballard Designs. Don't forget to check out thrift shops and consignment stores for decorations. Lots of places save this stuff in the back and then haul it out onto the sales floor before the holidays.
5. Get your schedule in order NOW! Make a list of every event you want to attend, such as family gatherings, parties, open houses, holiday concerts, church events, lights displays, caroling, living nativities, artist markets, Santa visits, etc. If you don't have a big calendar that lays flat, tape several pieces of scrap paper together and draw a big November and December calendar and write in all the events. Make sure you have plenty of time for these activities by getting all your shopping/decoration planning/etc. done early! Like asap!
I'll be back later with some more holiday stuff! Also One Pretty Thing has up what appears to be the FIRST CHRISTMAS POST of craft ideas (including my faux-quilted stocking tutorial). I want to make everything on there! Thanks for including me again Rachel!