1 Start early.
It's easy to get organized when you draw up your plans according to the tasks you must accomplish, such as menu planning and making lists of guests, decorations and supplies.

2 Homemade is a great recipe for holiday gifts.
If a gift is homemade, it says you care. Everyone will appreciate your effort, especially at the holidays. Streamline your holiday baking efforts. Assemble everything and everyone into a baking assembly line. Have one person measure all the ingredients. Another can do the mixing. Another can prepare the baking pans. And play holiday music to make it more fun.

3 Decide on a theme and invite guests.
Holiday gatherings are as individual as the people who host and attend them. Formal sit-down dinner? Casual buffet? Dessert party? Once you decide, draw up your guest list and mail out invitations early as everyone's holiday calendar tends to fill early. You may want to request guests RSVP and let you know if they have any special dietary needs.

4 Decorate to get everyone in the spirit.
Holiday decorations always make everyone feel more festive. In addition to your regular store-bought decorations, you may want to give the holiday the personal touch with homemade decorations.

5 Make a list — and check it twice.

  • • Once you've determined your menu, check your pantry to see which ingredients you already have on hand.
  • • When you make your grocery list, pay special attention to quantities as this is a time of year when recipes are often doubled or tripled.
  • • Shop well in advance of your gathering for non-perishable items — in addition to being convenient, it eases the stress on your budget. Then you’ll have a quick trip to pick up perishables a few days before your party.

6 Doublecheck details on the big day.
Devote your energies on the day of your Winter Holiday Gathering to finishing touches that make everyone feel special:

  • • Bake early — getting as much out of the way as early as possible means more fun for you later. You may want to invite a special guest or relative who also likes baking to arrive early to help you out.
  • • Make sure you have snacks on-hand — it's always nice to give guests something to munch on as they arrive.
  • • Set the table with place settings, and/or arrange the buffet line early in the day, while your recipes are baking. Make sure you have plenty of seating. If you are using candles, light them just before guests are due to arrive.
  • • A few moments before your guests arrive, take a minute to run through your house. How is the lighting? Are drinks and appetizers easily accessible? Is there anything else you need to do?
  • • The best step of all — relax, and enjoy your own party. You deserve it!

Bake for everyone on your list all at once. That way, you can buy ingredients in bulk and save a little money and time.

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