Did you feel that?
There's a chill *just* starting to settle in the air.
Typically, that means I write a recipe post dedicated to some form of stew or some variety of pumpkin sugar-this-or-that, but this year we're going to kick off fall a bit differently.
CUE THE CHRISTMAS MUSIC!
Just kidding. But really- doesn't it seem like the holiday season creeps up faster and faster each year? One minute I'm debating whether or not it's time to pack up my shorts for the season, and the next minute I'm mulling over options for Ugly Sweater parties.
So, before you're caught off guard by Jingle Bells playing in a department store while you're shopping for a Halloween costume, let me help you get a jump on the most wonderful time of the year.
Here are six things you could (and should!) do before November 1 in order to have a holly, jolly holiday season.
1. Start Making a List (checking it twice can come later)
This is really something I do year-round, but better late than never! I keep a list on my phone of anything that gets mentioned as a "want". Sister posts some ridiculous beauty product on Facebook that she OMG TOTALLY WANTS? Check. Friend longingly mentions a kitchen accessory she's always wanted? Amazon & Save For Later. Little Bro mentions a new show he's obsessed with? Jot it down and start researching fan-gear. Hubs says it would be "really cool" to have a random gadget that you've never heard of? Put it on the list and Google it later. Do you have to get the stuff that people mention? No, but at least this way you have a running list of hobbies and interests that should give you a good starting point for gift-giving. (P.S. This list is useful year round for birthdays, anniversaries, or rando-gifting!)
2. Make Some Bomb-Ass Eggnog
Did you know you can age eggnog? Yeah. Last year for Christmas I made Alton Brown's Aged Eggnog and holy cow was that stuff divine. Ours only matured for a week or two before it magically disappeared. Now would be the perfect time to whip up a batch and stash it in the back of the fridge. Come holiday time you'll have a great cocktail for tree-trimming or spontaneous guests. You could even portion it out into mason jars and give out some holiday cheer to friends and neighbors.
3. Determine Your Travel Plans
This might be difficult in September, but doable by October. Figure out if you're headed to Aunt Mildred's for Thanksgiving, or if your whole family is cruising around the Caribbean for Christmas. The sooner you know where things are happening, the sooner you can schedule time off work, make travel plans, and settle any other arrangements. If you have pets and need to board them over the holidays, you should already know that kennels fill up fast and that setting up a reservation now will guarantee you an easy, breezy, beautiful holiday.
Spring cleaning is for fools. Fall de-clutter is the real deal. Think about it....Thanksgiving leftovers, Black Friday loot, Season's Greetings cards from friends and family, Christmas Cookie swaps, presents, wrapping paper from said presents....the holidays do a number on storage space. Take some time to clean out the fridge (you've gotta make room for that eggnog, anyhow!), donate clothes, throw out junk, and organize that random pile of stuff that's been sitting on your dining room table since March.
5. Get Addresses
If you're planning on sending out Christmas cards, you're going to discover that you need actual, physical addresses. The USPS does not, to my knowledge, accept e-mail address or cell numbers as a valid delivery address. Sorry. Now is the time to start harassing your mother for Great Uncle Skippy's address, and to begin pestering your friends for theirs. People will forget and need to be reminded, so give yourself the buffer time. And please, for your sanity, SAVE these addresses for next year. (Note: if you're doing this step, you might as well also start to figure out your Christmas cards/pictures/etc)
6. Nail Down Your Holiday Recipe/s
Contrary to what most women's magazines say, rich food is a huge part of the holiday season. So please- don't be that person that brings a salad to Thanksgiving, or brings raisins to the holiday cookie swap. This is the time of year for butter, sugar and flavor. Set yourself up with one or two awesome recipes that you can whip up to share- preferably one savory appetizer/side-dish and something sweet. Need some inspiration?
Blue Cheese Crostinis (apologies for the picture quality- those were the dark days of camera phones)
Slow Cooker Cranberry Meatballs
Bacon Balsamic Brussels Sprouts
Burgundy Mushrooms - bonus, these will make your house smell AMAZING all day
Cinnamon Sugar Pecans - perfect for gift giving, or to keep in a snack dish for munching
Chewy Ginger Molasses Cookies - the best cookie I've ever made
My parting words with #6? If mashed potatoes are your responsibility, make them taste delicious with or without gravy. Don't skimp on salt, pepper, garlic powder, butter, cream cheese (yes! trust me!) and heavy cream (alright, alright- half and half OR whole milk. Touch the skim and I'll ex-communicate you from the holidays.)