You Better Watch Out! You Better Not Cry!
Summer’s over and I’m telling you why.
Santa Claus is coming to town.

Well, we gave you some valid early-season suggestions about how to avoid some holiday stress by getting your Christmas shopping done while you were spending quality time at flea markets, art fairs and eBay. Now here it is Fall and there’s still time to follow up on some of them, anyway – so give them a try.

Meanwhile, here are some more things to do that are best done now that it’s closer to December.

Lights (again)
Think about getting some exterior LED Christmas lights (or, hopefully, you got some on clearance last year) and put them up now. Why wait for snow to inspire you? Or Halloween? Maybe the icicles hanging from the gutters might be a bit much for right now, but the lights on the bushes and some of the others could easily go up now. On the other hand… make sure you take them down before Spring. You wouldn’t want to be trimming those bushes with your electric hedge trimmer and… you get the picture.

Cards
Go online and check out the Christmas card selection. Find just the card you want and order a bunch. Think about personalizing it – well, getting your name printed anyway – you can then actually personalize them with handwritten notes. You could go to a discount store such as T. J. Maxx and get something from a few years ago but aren’t you beyond that? Even if you don’t get the cards personalized, get some personalized ornaments. You can give them as gifts or even add them to a package as a decoration. They’re just a click away, right up there where it says “View Catalog.”

You could also think of donating your stash of leftover cards from years gone by to a nonprofit organization that could use them for craft projects or other things.

Stamps
Ever thought about getting your Christmas stamps online? Once the Post Office announces that their selection is available you can go to www.USPS.com (no, not .gov – remember, they’re only a quasi-governmental agency) and you can order your stamps and your mail carrier will even deliver them for you. Sure beats standing in line only to discover the stamp you wanted was sold to the lady ahead of you who bought 500 of them and they won’t be reordering them at your branch post office and no, they don’t know where else you can find them.

Power
Elsewhere we suggested you make sure you have enough batteries for all of the electronic stuff you have or are giving as Christmas presents. Time to ‘fess up. You’ve used at least a couple of them because the flashlight gave out when the power went and then the kids’ portable DVD player needed some and… So, time to double check your supply and restock if you have to.


Polish
How’s the silverware? Those candlesticks and serving bowls and Grandma’s flatware that you inherited? How does it look? Maybe a tad tarnished? How about doing that now while you’re watching HGTV or a football game? The experts says that the best way to avoid tarnish on flatware anyway is to use it – a lot. And who do you know does that? Anyway, here are a couple of tips on keeping it tarnish-less once you’ve polished it:

Get some of that flannel-looking silverware cloth and keep the silver in it. Or, keep the flatware in that nice old wooden box that came from Grandma as well.

Don’t use plastic wrap or plastic zip bags or newspaper or anything else like that that you might have seen recommended in a newspaper article sometime a few years ago. That stuff actually can cause tarnish.

Supposedly it’s okay to wash silverware in the dishwasher, though frankly, we’ve never done that. If you do, don’t wash silver and stainless together.Do them separately. The reason has something to do with a high school chemistry class we must have napped through.

Don’t use dishwasher detergent with lemon added. It doesn’t make the dishes taste better and it’s certainly not good for silverware.

Best idea is to hand wash the flatware (and the rest of the silver) right after use. Especially if you’ve used salt in, or with, the meal because salt can put little pits in your silverware that won’t come out. If all else fails and you really want to get to the presents or it’s too late and you’re exhausted, fill a Pyrex loaf pan with hot water and a gentle dish soap and keep the silverware in that until you have time to finish the job. (Don’t tell the silverware industry folks but that could be the next morning.)

Practice
Now that Christmas (and Thanksgiving, depending on when you read this) is getting closer and you’re looking forward to giving parties and entertaining guests – and dazzling them with your culinary expertise – remember to try those new recipes out on your family beforehand. Did you read the recipe right? Does it actually work with your oven (remember those dreaded words “baking time may vary depending on your oven)? Does the recipe make the right amount or do you need to adjust it because Uncle Matt and his family always eat everything that’s put before them and then ask for seconds (nicely, but they still ask anyway)? How easy is it to get the ingredients? They may be easy to get now but what about closer to the Big Day? Should you think about stocking up on non-perishables?

Are you really hip and trendy and an early adopter? Have an iPad or a Kindle that you’re planning on downloading recipes to? Did you know you can put it in a plastic zip bag (unless your iPad or Kindle is silverplated – see above) to keep it safe from floured fingers and splashed sauces? It still will work as intended, only for much longer without getting gummed up as you cook. Your guests who always hang around the kitchen while you’re trying to cook and then don’t lift a finger to help will be très impressed.

That’s it for now Gentle Reader. Please feel free
to send us a note if you find fault with our tips
or if you have others you want to add.

Written by Dianne Weller

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