"Dull November brings the blast, Then the leaves are whirling fast"*. The leaves are off the trees, the wood stove has been in full swing, and winter will soon be here. With the holidays just around the corner, and visits from family and friends bound to increase, it's time to get the house ready for their arrival.
1. Give the gift of yourself. We all wish we had more time to give, but know that even if you wait until the month of November, your time is greatly appreciated. Consider working at a soup kitchen, volunteer at a food pantry, or participate in a food drive. Help organize or assemble holiday packages for our troops. Bake a little bit extra for a neighbor or bring over a big pot of stew. Run in a charity race. It's the one month out of the year that we should all reflect on just how thankful, grateful, and blessed we are. What a better way to do that than to give back in some way.
2. Safety first. Now that the clocks have changed (Do you like Daylight Saving Time? I'm not a huge fan.), there are a few more things you should do before winter sets in. If you're unsure of what to put in an emergency kit, read through my list of ideas and a few from Women's Day magazine.
3. Deep clean your kitchen. There are two times a year that I deep clean my home—spring and fall. But there's always something that gets overlooked. So before company arrives and you start to roast that turkey....clean your oven, vacuum those refrigerator coils, clean out that refrigerator, dust the tops of cabinets, clean out the pantry, take inventory of all you need and ways to store it, and don't forget the light fixtures and ceiling. Everything wants in this time of year and for some reason they head straight for the lights or light-colored surfaces.
4. Be holiday ready. Yes, I've already started Christmas shopping, Yes, I've already stocked my pantry with holiday foods. Of course there's more that needs to be done, but I like to enjoy the holidays instead of rushing around and fighting the crowds. Make your lists and check them twice. Order or purchase holiday cards and stamps (as soon as they become available). Plan your holiday menu. One year, I had 16 unexpected guests sleepover because of a snowstorm. Get your home company-ready and clean musty linens. Once I've done this, I like storing them in space bags with a few fabric fresheners. There's no need to buy new china and silver. Beg and borrow from neighbors and friends (who says everything has to match anyway?), or invest in some plain white china dishes like these from Pottery Barn. (Psst. They're having a sale!) This guide from Real Simple should help, too.
5. Jump in a pile of leaves. Sure there are chores to be done, things to be bought, and foods to make, but don't forget to have a little fun while you're at it. Run through a corn maze, go on a hayride, have a bonfire, drink lots of apple cider, eat pie, hike in the woods, play football, get outside!
6. Go through your family photos. This isn't just a lesson in organization, it's a lesson in remembering. One year, I gathered a grouping of about 25 family photos and placed them in a bowl. On Thanksgiving day, we passed the photos around and told stories, shared memories, and laughed until we cried. Make more memories by making sure you have enough space on whatever device you're using to take pictures and videos—lots of them.
7. Take some time for yourself. We give and give and give; it's okay to take a little time for yourself. Enjoy reading by the fire. Take a long, leisurely bath. Go out for a treat. Go to a movie. Make a date with yourself when you know no one will be home and take this time to do whatever you want in the comfort of your own home. Anything except clean, organize, or cook.
8. Cook more less often. Since there is more than enough of this activity planned for the month, give yourself a break and plan non-cooking nights. Let someone else do it or prepare foods in advance so you have plenty of leftovers to re-heat. Soups, salads, and sandwiches work well, too.
9. Get a jump on holiday decorating. I start decorating for Christmas the day after Thanksgiving, but over the years I've learned to start even earlier. If you love to string lights outdoors, do it this month while the weather is still cooperating. David and I started doing this a few years ago and it makes such a difference. We now string lights around our pergola and trees while the sun in shining and when we can still feel our fingers. I know, you can see them, but you don't have to turn them on until you want to.
10. Participate in NaNoWriMo—National Novel Writing Month. Every November, you can to join the tens of thousands of people who take part in the challenge of writing a novel in just one month! You get to track your progress, get tips and support, and interact with fellow writers. It's not too late to sign up.
Bonus: Read my blog this month. Home and family mean the world to me and over the next couple of months, I will be concentrating my posts on how to enjoy these two very special things.
*From The Months poem by Sara Coleridge