10 Ways to Prep for the Holidays

Don't let your to-do list steal your holiday spirit. Here are 10 ways to simplify and enrich the season for you and your family.

Make-Ahead Snacks

Give party nuts a holiday twist by roasting them and choosing one of four flavors: Cocoa-Sugared Mix, Curry-Spiced Mix, Barbecue-Seasoned Mix, and Asian Five-Spiced Mix. This prepare-ahead staple makes entertaining easier -- or it can be a simple, tasteful gift for neighbors or colleagues.

Cookie Showstoppers

Shave cookie-prep time by using store-bought dough, and invite some friends to a cookie decorating party. Use simple circle cutters in different sizes to create easy-to-work-with bases for your creations. Then top these holiday treats with tinted frosting, colored sugars, and pretty candies.

Simple Centerpiece

Paint a peat pot and let it dry. Put the poinsettia into a plastic sandwich bag and place it in the peat pot. Cover the top of the exposed soil with shaved soap or purchased coconut. Place the pot under a large, bell-shape jar decked with ribbon.

Holiday Countdown

Build kids' holiday anticipation with a countdown project that tucks a chocolate kiss and a slip of paper into 12 wrapped and numbered gift boxes. On each slip of paper, write a reason why you love them.

Tree Topper

Make your own tree topper. Simply trace five diamond shapes onto card stock and cut. Score pieces down the center and assemble into a star shape. Fasten together with clear tape and glue in place. Roll a small tube of paper, and glue it to the back side of the star.

Share Some Scents

Make your friends a set of spice bags for simmering. Place star anise, cinnamon sticks, cloves, and orange peel in empty tea bags. Trim the tops of the bags with pinking shears, then tie them closed. Place in boxes dotted with paper snowflakes.

Santa's Cookies

Santa doesn't care if they're homemade or store-bought. So humor him and marvel at the crumbs left behind. Don't forget handwritten wish lists. They make great keepsakes for your new scrapbook.

Display Cards as Art

We've all opened holiday cards with gusto, then watched them clutter our kitchen tables. This year, turn those cheery images into decor. Use medium- and large-size hole punches from crafts supply stores to create paper circles, then arrange them, overlapping, on a wooden wreath form. Glue them in place; dot with pom-poms. Ribbon glued to the back of the wreath helps with hanging.

Kid-Friendly Wrapping Paper

Get children involved in holiday gift-giving by offering them plain wrapping paper to decorate with drawings, cutouts, stamps, glued-on pom-poms, and scrawled letters.

Take Time to Rest

The shopping, baking, wrapping, and entertaining can wait. Surround yourself with fuzzy blankets and soft pillows. Read a book. Listen to music. Turn off the phone. Nap. Just remember, resting curbs holiday stress.

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