Organize Your Kitchen for the Holidays: Do This, Not That

Success is not always about getting everything just right.

Instead, success may be about doing the fewest things wrong.

My priest at Mass this weekend made this statement, referencing a recent high school football game where the winning team had fewer penalties than their opponents, and therefore more opportunities to score (In full disclosure, my husband had to explain to me – the football novice – why fewer penalties might lead to higher scoring).

This week’s blog topic was swirling in my head this weekend, too, and I realized that Organizing your Kitchen successfully (or anything else) can be about doing fewer things wrong, too.   And ‘doing fewer things wrong’ may feel more attainable than doing everything just right!

So if you are familiar with these Wrongs, we can make them right!

1.  Wrong: Starting an Organizing Project Without a Plan.

Right: The quickest way to derail a project is to start without a plan.  Assemble your kitchen organizing tools (garbage and recycling bags, your grocery list, some good music and a timer set for 30-60 minutes), and get started.  Pick a starting spot (like the fridge), systematically decide to keep or toss your items, put back the keepers, and then move on.  DO NOT just dive in or take everything out of every cabinet all at once!

2.  Wrong: Neither Knowing Nor Using What You Have.

Right:  Regularly check your cabinets and refrigerator, and use the food you have on hand before buying more. Always check before you shop!  Leave a shopping list on the fridge, and add items to the list as you run out.

3. Wrong: Procrastinating.

Right:  Well, procrastinating is almost always wrong, but it can cause unnecessary stress around the holidays, and we all know – the holidays are stressful enough!  Pull out the recipes now, start the Who’s-bringing-what conversations with family members now, and start stocking up on holiday specific foods now, just a few things every week.

4. Wrong: Re-Purchasing Something Because You Can’t Find The First One.

Right: Establish a home for certain types of items, so you can check your inventory.  Re-buying items wastes money and contributes to kitchen clutter.  Imagine – If all the canned goods always live on the same cabinet shelf, you can check your inventory at a glance. Establish homes, let everyone know where the home is, and make a habit of putting things AWAY.

5. Wrong: Buying Big Specialty Items That You Only Use Once a Year.

Right: Talk to your friends and family members now, or go on Facebook and find out who has chafing dishes / holiday cookie cutters / a really big turkey platter, and borrow it!  Do not clutter up your kitchen with these specialty items: borrow them, take really good care of them and then give them back!

6. Wrong: Having Stuff on Your Kitchen Counters.

Right: Kitchens are very personal spaces, but they also need to be functional spaces.  Keep your counters clear of stuff – all the time! With clear counters, everything – unpacking grocery bags, making dinner, baking cookies, cleaning up – becomes easier!

So, this week, the pressure is off.  You don’t have to do everything just right!  Doing fewer things wrong is progress enough!

My Brain Was Tired When I Got Home: Dealing with Re-Entry

Maybe it’s just me, but sometimes I struggle with what I call Re-Entry.

Travel Luggage Chest Clipart

We are very lucky that we get to travel often to visit with family out of state. And I’ve gotten really good at the getting-ready-and-packing / coming-home-and-unpacking process over the years. But with this weekend marking the unofficial start of summer, I’m out of practice, it seems, as my brain was total mush when we got home today.

So, my first hour home was spent reminding myself how to manage Re-Entry, after a weekend away. Here’s what works for us, maybe it will work for you to!  First things first (30 minutes):

  • (5 minutes) Unload dirty clothes and start a load of laundry. (We carry a dirty laundry bag when we travel, to facilitate that first load of laundry when we get home and also to keep any left-over clothes we’ve packed smelling fresh.)
  • (1 min) Drink a really big glass of cold water. I don’t know about you, but I always seem to arrive home from trips slightly dehydrated.
  • (5 – 10 minutes) Unload the car all the way. Yes, ALL THE WAY.
  • (10 minutes) Put away perishable food from the cooler, grab a snack or start dinner (or lunch or breakfast, depending on the clock).  Like the commercial says, You aren’t you when you’re hungry. I find it easier to manage the unloading / unpacking / putting away tasks when I’m not also famished.
  • (5 minutes) Check the snail mail box, and any voice mail messages.

The next 45-60 minutes:

  • (5 minutes) Clean up from your snack / meal.
  • (10-20 minutes) Unpack your suitcases / bags, put away clean, un-worn clothes, shoes and toiletries. Yes, AWAY.
  • (5 minutes) Put the bags / suitcases away. Yes, AWAY!
  • (10 minutes) Depending on how you manage your tech, check your emails and such, but just for emergencies.  This is not time to get work done, just to make sure there’s nothing that needs your immediate attention.
  • (10 minutes) Move that laundry through the process. I didn’t have time for cleaning on Friday, before we left town. So this afternoon, I had a mound of clean but unfolded laundry to tackle before I could move today’s laundry along.
  • Head to the grocery? That’s where I’m headed. I am loathe to get back in my car, but we need some staples for the work and school week ahead, so I’m off.
  • If you’ve been on a long road-trip, or if there was a beach involved, stop off at a car wash and give your car a wash and your rugs a vacuum.

So, there you go.  If you struggle with that first hour at home after a weekend trip, keep this list in mind. And if you happen to have helpers with the unpacking process, this list will help you delegate tasks!

Happy and Safe Travels!

Let’s Do Lunch This Week!

I’ve been tackling a project or habit every week this year so far – for example, last week I tweaked my website.  This week I am re-committing to eating a better lunch.  And for me, that means rebooting my Lunch Packing habit.

I’ve fallen into a bad habit of not packing my lunch when I am out of my office all day.  When I am out, I have three options:

  1. buy fast food wherever I happen to be;
  2. skip lunch until I get home, which usually leaves me feeling crummy; or
  3. settling for a Clif bar or granola bar, which are better than nothing but still not a solid lunch.

Not packing a lunch costs me money, can make me late for client appointments, and is unhealthy in lots of way.

Why is a Packed Lunch better?

  • It’s cheaper:  home-cooked food is almost always cheaper per meal than food we buy out at a restaurant.  In addition, packing a lunch allows us to use our leftovers well.
  • It’s more convenient:  Packing a lunch when I am out and about saves me the time of running in or waiting in line somewhere to buy something.
  • It’s healthier: Planning ahead lets us make healthier meals, with less fat and sodium, and better nutritional content. When I work from home, planning a healthy lunch keeps me from making unhealthy choices in my own kitchen!
  • It tastes better.  I’m a good cook, so my lunches are tastier than what I might buy while I’m out.

How To Make Packing Lunch Work:  Plan ahead, of course!

  • Start small, packing a lunch just one or two days a week at first, if that helps.
  • Invest a little money in a lunch bag and re-usable containers.  You may already have such items in your home.
  • Dedicate a lunch-zone in your kitchen for lunch packing,  Stock it with plastic utensils, napkins, lunch and sandwich bags or re-usable containers, fruit bowl, etc., to make your assembly easy.
  • When you’re at the grocery this week, make sure to pick up healthy lunch items.
  • Make extra for dinner tonight.  I warmed up a delicious leftover cheeseburger last week, and soup and chili are always great the next day.
  • Busy mornings?  Pack lunches at night, after dinner.  We easily forget in the morning, so having the bags packed and in the fridge make success likely!

What’s for lunch?

  • Be creative!  You know what you like, there is no reason that all the things you love can’t be packed in a lunch!
  • A variety of small items is great for me, as I drive between clients or meetings during the day. String cheese, fresh fruit, granola or clif bars, hardboiled eggs (already peeled, of course), pretzels, carrots and other veggie sticks all satisfy my need to snack but are also easily stored and consumed in bits and pieces.
  • If I know I will be seated somewhere as I eat my lunch, I’ll pack the tuna salad, sandwich or leftovers (I just made a batch of this today, for lunches all week).

So join me in a packed lunch this week, and save time and money while eating better!

A Better Way to Hang, for National Get Organized Month!

HANGERS:

Have I ever talked about Hangers?

023Since January is National Get Organized Month, I have worked on a number of closet projects recently, helping my clients organize their clothes and closets for the new year.  As I begin to write this, I have over $500 in hangers in my van, with a return order for one client, and Container Store order to install for another.

Using good quality hangers is worth the time and money.  Why?

  • Good hangers are better for your clothing than the disposable wire ones. They provide support and leave enough room on the closet rod for each item so your clothes are less likely to get crushed and wrinkled.
  • Good hangers put some space between your clothes. For example, a client invested in wooden suit hangers for her husband’s suits, and the width of the woods and curve of the hanger provide a little space between each suit, for protection and ventilation.
  • When used together, good hangers (heavyweight tubular plastic, flocked covered or wooden) create a great visual image when you open your closet. If you are a person impacted by what and how you see (most of us are), a calming visual in our closet can help us feel cool and confident as we get ready for the day.
  • Hanging up our clothes helps us see and use what we have better.

There is a Better Way to Hang!  Here’s What to Do:

  • As your professional organizer, I will always suggest reviewing your clothes and getting rid of anything you don’t need, use or love. This hanger project provides a great opportunity to look at your clothes and purge clutter.
  • Look around your home, you may already have some of the hangers you need. If not,
  • Invest in matching hangers: tubular plastic (cheapest), the snazzy flock covered one, or even wood (most expensive). This is one instance when I suggest you shop.  You can transition your clothes slowly to the new hangers, and spread out the expense.
  • Count your current hangers (after the review and purge!), and buy the new hangers you need and just a few more. Once all the hangers are full again, you have to purge before anything else can come in. And no cheating, you are only cheating yourself!
  • Another hanger tip I heard long ago suggests “At the beginning of a season, hang all your hangers from the back of the closet rod. Then, when you wear an item, hang it back up over the front. At the end of the season, you can see at a glance what really did not leave your closet this winter. Let those items go.”
  • Use different color hangers for different family members. In our home, my oldest son has green hangers, the middle has black, and the youngest has white. We parents have our own colors, too.  This makes sorting clean laundry a breeze, and helps us find what we need when we need it.
  • Invest in really nice sturdy wooden suit hangers for your coat closet. The matching wooden hangers create a pleasing visual image when a guest opens the closet door, and the wide wood keeps space between the items.
  • Break free of old wire hangers, and recycle them at your local dry cleaners.

Spend a little quality time in your closets this week, and perhaps a little time and money at your local retailer (Bed, Bath and Beyond or Target will have the hangers you need) or on-line.  Get a new view on hangers, and improve the state of your clothes, your closets and your brain!

P.S., a few additional thoughts posted a few weeks after:

Thanks for the great feedback! I have a few more things to add, about Kid clothes hangers:
  • Tubular plastic hangers (instead of the flock covered ones) are better for kids since they can easily slide their clothes off the smooth plastic.
  • No, you do not need to buy smaller child-sized hangers for your kids’ clothing. Save the money, and use regular ones since most baby clothes will fit even on the full sizd hangers, and if not, just fold the items over the pants bar on the hanger.  

Back to Normal, Only Better. Because I am Grateful.

For me, this week has been about getting Back to Normal.  Normal, only better.

Because I am grateful, and gratitude makes everything better.

Gratitude is central to getting organized.

Gratitude elevates even the everyday stuff to Better.

Gratitude helps us prioritize our time and efforts around the people and things that we value most.

Gratitude for what we have makes us want … less.  Less clutter, less drama, less stuff.   Gratitude helps us get organized when we can appreciate the stuff we have and purge the stuff we don’t need.

You see, while I love Advent, Christmas and New Years, I am also relieved as they draw to a close. We will keep our Nativity up until the Christmas Season’s official end on Sunday, January 11th with the Baptism of Our Lord, but we are getting back to Normal in most other areas.

And I am grateful. This Season was wonderful, and then I had the flu for a week.  I am just so thankful for our wonderful Christmas, and now to feel better, to have my family healthy and happy, to be able to do normal things again.

Expected house guests motivated me to thoroughly clean my house and get to the grocery, then the guests cancelled their plans.  So my house is clean and fully stocked, and I am grateful for our home and health, and ready for our guests when they reschedule!

I worked over the weekend, first with a wonderful coaching client and then with a new client as we reclaimed her second bedroom.  I am so grateful for what I do professionally!

As I put away our Christmas decorations, I spent a few extra minutes purging the old and broken ones, and fitting everything back in fewer storage bins.  I’ll be grateful next December that I cleaned up the decorations.

The boys went back to school, so we all returned to better routines.

I backed up, cleaned off and updated my IPhone and IPad.  And I am so grateful for technology, for keeping in touch and running a business from home.  And for making the flu a little more bearable, with downloadable books on my Kindle App, and movies via Amazon Prime.

So life is getting back to normal, only better.  Because I am grateful for normal.  We always should be grateful for all that we have, but sometimes we forget.

Today and this week and this month and this year, it’s your opportunity be grateful and to get back to normal-only-better. Be grateful for you what you have.  Let Gratitude help you focus on the important parts of your life.  Wrap around all the good things, and make room for more by letting go of clutter and want.

How To Get a Holiday Meal to the Table On Time!

During a recent kitchen organizing and menu planning appointment, a client asked “How do you get Christmas Dinner on the table all at once?”  So we came up with some Time and Project Management strategies to help with this challenge!  Here they are, maybe they’ll help you, too!

Keep some parts of the menu simple.  When planning your holiday meal menu, choose a complicated dish or two, if you want.  But not every dish!  Keep at least some parts of the meal simple, to make up for the time-consuming and complicated ones!  For example, pair a simple salad or veggie side dish with a more complicated dessert or entrée.  Better yet, accept guests’ offers to bring a menu item to share.

Prep as much as you can in advance. Hours and even days before your big meal, you can

  • Grate cheese
  • Dice vegetables
  • Make dessert
  • Assemble salads
  • Clean your serving dishes
  • Pre-make entire side dishes, per recipes (like these potatoes.)

Lay out your serving and cooking dishes in advance.  If you plan to serve your dinner buffet-style, lay out the serving 016dishes on your serving table, to ensure there are enough dishes and room for everything.  Use a post-it note or index cards (a friend uses her old business cards) to denote what goes in each dish, so it will be easy to direct your helpers to set up the buffet at mealtime.

Remember that your guests are gathered together for festivities and fellowship.  A complicated menu can be fun and delicious, but folks are together to be together first, and for a great meal second.

Mix your heat sources, and have a plan to keep food warm.  For example, plan to make some of your menu items in the oven, some on the stove top and some in a crock put.  Spreading things out means more space on the stove top or in the oven to get menu items ready to eat on time.  Also, with many menu items cooking at once, some may be ready ahead of your meal time.  Have a plan for keeping food warm until it’s served.

Leave a little wiggle room in your schedule.  Choose your meal time, then aim to have everything ready 20 minutes before that (because something is likely to get delayed!).

Use Project Management Ideas To Make Dinner Happen On-Time!  Let’s use a traditional Thanksgiving Dinner as an example.

  • Pick your Dinner Time, say, 4 pm.
  • Starting with your longest cooking item, like the turkey, determine when you need to start your prep and cooking to get everything on the table at the same time.
  • The turkey takes 5 hours, so start it 6 hours ahead of meal time.  This allows the turkey time to “rest”, and with the turkey out of the oven for that last hour before meal time, you’ll have more oven space for rolls or casseroles (and you can start on the gravy!).
  • Using your meal time of 4 (3:45) pm, work back from your deadline to determine when you need to start a certain task. Mashed potatoes are my example, but you can do this with any menu item:
    • Mashing the potatoes takes 10 minutes or less; boiling the potatoes takes 10-15 minutes; and peeling and dicing potatoes and boiling the water takes 15 minutes.  Plan for at least 30 minutes, start to finish, but 35-40 minutes may be more realistic.
    • If you have more than one dish to get in the oven at the same time, obviously you need to start your prep a little earlier!

Keep some of these ideas in mind the next time you host a big meal, to minimize stress and get the food to the table on time!

5-Weeks-‘Til-Christmas Survival Guide

A Client sent me the original notification of this article from November, 2012.  She was clearing out her in-box, but wanted to review this list for her own holiday planning.(I edited it for this week!). I have been working through my own copy myself, and you may benefit from it, too!  Take some time this week to chart your course for the next 5 or 6 weeks heading up to Christmas!

In my Holiday Planning Class, the most well received hand-out is the Holiday Planning Weekly Checklist. I’ve shared it with clients, and one said she couldn’t believe that preparing for the holidays could be that easy. I won’t say “easy”, but “simpler, less stressful and better prepared” sound pretty great.  Here are some suggestions to make your season better, tweak these suggestions to fit your life.

Week of November 17

  • Appreciate your friends and family members, and all the good things in your life. (We had a brunch for friends yesterday, and I am feeling so grateful today!)
  • Finalize Thanksgiving Menu
  • Pantry-shop to get rid of clutter, and stock up on cooking / baking  supplies
  • Hang outside lights, don’t turn them on
  • Plan Holiday Party:  dates, guests lists and menus, and choose invitation and RSVP deadlines
  • Buy multiples of your standard hostess gift, like nice wine or candles.  Make sure it’s something you use, in case you have extra left over
  • Encourage kids and adults to purge and donate
  • Heavy clean and de-clutter, or make some calls for assistance!

Week of November 24:

  • Stock up on gift certificates for teens, stocking stuffers, teachers etc.
  • Take a nice family picture at Thanksgiving, when everyone is a little dressed up. Use it for your Christmas Cards!
  • At Thanksgiving, tell or email family about upcoming Christmas concerts, children’s programs and parties.
  • Buy Stamps, while you can still get Holiday stamps!
  • Stock up on cooking and baking supplies
  • Complete your Christmas Card list, and confirm addresses (keep a copy for next year!)

Week of December 1:

  • Take out the “First Out” Box.  Our “First-Out” box is also our “Last In” box.  It contains the items that are used for the entire Advent and Christmas seasons for us, like our crèche, some children’s books, our Advent Wreath and candles, etc. Set up just a few decorations now.
  • Stock up on gift certificates, stamps, and cooking or baking supplies
  • Order your Christmas Cards, or start your letter
  • Plug in or turn on Christmas lights
  • Complete out-of-town shopping / wrapping
  • Start Christmas shopping for local recipients
  • Find and clean holiday dishes and tins

Week of December 8:

  • Continue to stock up on gift certificates, stamps and cooking and baking supplies (spread the costs out over several weeks)
  • Finish teacher gifts, like gift certificates and cards
  • Check decorations; donate any that will not be going up this year!
  • Assemble and address Christmas Cards
  • Ship all out-of-town packages
  • Complete Christmas Shopping
  • Holiday donations, service projects

Week of December 15:

  • Finalize Christmas Menu, who is bringing what
  • Decorate the house, and buy / set up the tree
  • Finish shopping and gift wrapping.  Load into labeled bags or boxes, one for each of your destinations
  • Start baking cookies
  • Mail out your Christmas Cards
  • Take a breath, and take a break.  The house is decorated, your gifts are bought and wrapped, cards are mailed, travel plans are completed, and donations are made.  Sit calmly in your living room, reveling in the beauty of your stress free holiday prep and beautiful decorations.  Go to a party or 2!

Week of December 22

  • Last minute baking / cooking for Christmas Eve
  • Last minute grocery shopping
  • Relax! Go see the Christmas lights, have some holiday fun!

December 24, Christmas Eve:

  • Family Christmas Eve traditions
  • Make ahead dishes for Christmas Dinner, if possible
  • Lay out outfits for Christmas morning Mass

Christmas:  Thursday, December 25:  Enjoy!!!

Week after Christmas:

  • Invest in some sale priced Rubbermaid or Sterilite storage containers
  • Put your decorations away by category and label the container
  • Remember to put your “Last In” away last, so you can grab it first next December!

Take steps now to make your holidays more peaceful and enjoyable!

Our Food Was All “Some Assembly Required”… Or “How I Spent My Sunday Afternoon”.

We are all back to school and routines now.  The calendar is full and busy, but manageable. I have to admit, though, the 013extra-long holiday weekend last week messed me up in one area – Dinner.

Don’t misunderstand me – an extra-long weekend is always a good thing!  I just felt unprepared for the week.  We had plenty of food, but as I discussed with my teenager, everything was “Some Assembly Required” food.  We often survive busy school nights on weekend left overs, so we got into trouble when there were NO weekend leftovers!

So I tried a new strategy yesterday, menu planning on a larger scale than ever before.  Considering this week’s menu plan and the contents of my kitchen, I wrote down 11 food items to make in one Sunday afternoon.  Here is the list:

  • Oatmeal-butterscotch-dried cherry cookies, for lunches and for care packages for two beloved college students004
  • Banana bread, also to eat and send away, and to use up the overripe bananas in the freezer
  • Peach and plum crisp, for Sunday dessert005
  • Hard boiled eggs, to peel and have on hand for snacks and quick breakfasts
  • Tuna salad – all protein for me for lunches this week
  • Egg casserole, for the high-schoolers to heat up in the morning before school
  • Bread crumbs, for the meatballs and to have on hand
  • Meatballs, for a new recipe later in the week
  • Pork Roast and broiled potatoes for Sunday dinner
  • New recipe, Cheddar and Bacon bread, because let’s face it – you can’t go wrong with cheese or bacon!
  • Browned ground beef, for taco casserole Tuesday.006

What I learned from this process:

  1. I enjoy cooking, and I’m so glad I dedicated some time to making delicious, convenient and nutritious food for all of us this week. However….
  2. Five hours in the kitchen was a VERY long afternoon, and then there were still dishes to do after dinner. Next time I will cut back on my expectations and the allotted time.
  3. Start with clean counters and an empty dishwasher. The clean counters are obvious, but the empty dishwasher would have saved me clean-up time.
  4. Line up everything needed on the counter, with recipes, pans and ingredients, to make sure you have everything you need.
  5. Make double batches. A double batch of anything is no more trouble than a single batch.
  6. In addition, double up your prep. I used my Cuisinart and chopped onions for 3 recipes all at once. Not one tear shed!  I used my food processor to shred 2 pounds of cheese and to pulverize the bread into crumbs, too.
  7. I will ask for more help, either with cutting / chopping, or with clean-up. 
  8. I am already thinking about what to make the next time I do this, probably in a couple of weeks.

007If your weeknights are busy, considering cooking meals on the weekend to eat during the week.  Make your plan, lay out your supplies, crank up your favorite Pandora channel and get cooking!

Get Baking for National Cookie Day!

toffee cookiesDid you know?  December 4th is National Cookie Day, so this week’s blog is all about Holiday Baking!  I carry wonderful memories of baking with my mom as a child, and now my kids and I do the same!

Before you bake the first cookie, examine your personal Christmas traditions and expectations.  Do your traditions add to or detract from your enjoyment of the holidays?  Do you have traditions that you love? Do you have any that are more trouble than they are worth?

An example:

My mom made frosted butter cookies every Christmas.  There was mixing, chilling and rolling of dough; frosting and sprinkles; assembly and display.  It was a lot of fun.

A few years ago, in addition to our annual favorites, I decided to add the butter cookies to our list.  Yikes, what a chore!  I quickly realized the secret is the time spent together in loving and creative ways, not the actual frosted butter cookies.  So we now stick with our specialties, I call and thank my mother, and I let others frost and sprinkle.

One meaningful family tradition that we keep is making lemon bars on Christmas Eve.  The story goes that I was making lemon bars on Christmas Eve 15 years ago when I realized I was in labor for our oldest son.  He loves that story, so the tradition stays.

After you examine your traditions, Create Your Plan!

Pick your cookies.  Keep the list reasonable, don’t go crazy.  Here are our favorites:

Look at your list, read all the directions and ask yourself some questions (my answers are listed, too):

  • When can I bake?
    • I realized  that baking on a weekday in addition to regular life is just too much, so  I’m sticking to weekends.
  • What  do you need / use the cookies for?
    • We give cookies as gifts, plus serve them at various parties.  The first party is December 16th.
  • What cookies freeze well?  Make those early.
    • Toffee cookies and biscotti.  So I will make those soon, bag them up and freeze them.
  • What dough requires chilling?
    • Magi’s turbans.  So I assemble that dough first on baking day and chill it while baking the others
  • What recipes tie up my pans for a long time?
    • toffee cookies tie up my cookies sheets for hours of cooling, so I make 4 pans all at once, and nothing else
  • What recipes use specialty pans (and free up the cookie sheets for other things)?
    • Peanut butter cup cookies require my mini muffin tins, so the cookie sheets are free for something else.  So I will probably make those on the same day as the biscotti or Magi’s turbans.

So, considering my answers, here is my plan:

  • Today      – toffee cookies (4 pans cooling on the counter right now)
  • 12/9 –      2 types of biscotti, peanut butter cup cookies
  • 12/15      – magi’s turbans and just-for-fun cookies
  • Oreo      truffles are optional for the day after Christmas for a late-in-December party

Other tips:

  • Share specialty spices, supplies or baking dishes with friends or family to defray baking costs.
  • Enlist Aid.  Most of our specialty cookies require some type of candy.  My sons are great about helping with assembly and un-wrapping, and we all enjoy the time spent together.
  • Assemble cookies all the way to placing the balls on cookie sheets.  Instead of baking them, put the cookie      sheets in the freezer and freeze the balls.  Store them in a freezer bag, and when you want fresh cookies, make a dozen or two as needed.  No need to defrost, the dough can go straight to the oven!
  • Don’t store peanut butter cookies or mint cookies with anything else, or everything will taste like peanut butter or mint.
  • Try a cookie exchange:  Plan an event with 5 or more friends.  Have each attendee bring many dozens of their specialty cookie, and then swap at the cookie exchange.  Everyone goes home with a variety of yummy homemade cookies, and you can concentrate on one type you make really well.

Enjoy your baking, check out my friend Kate’s blog, www.CookingwithChefKate.wordpress.com, for baking ideas, and have a great Christmas season.  As for me, I need to go clean out my freezer to make room for the first batches of cookies!