Every year I aspire to be one of those homemakers who prepares for the holidays all year long. And every year, I do nothing about this time of year until August. In August I start to worry and roll ideas around in my head. But mostly I worry. Then I blink, and Halloween passes. Now it’s November, and I know it’s time to get serious.

What kind of planner are you? If, like me, you’re starting now, let’s travel this road together. I’ll share some of my ideas and process over the next six weeks (yep, that’s it!) and you can share some of yours in the comments.

First, thank you for your wonderful comments left this week during my contest. There’s still plenty of time! I’m leaving them open until Sunday night at 9pm PST. Please add your thoughts about preparing a Beautiful and Simple December and enter a chance to win some spicy Cathy’s Chai tea.

Second, I am beginning to plan our holidays in two tangible ways today. I will attend Afternoon to Remember’s Open House this afternoon so I can see the table settings, the decorations, and Christmas-themed tea gifts. Maybe your local tea room can provide you some inspiration as well.

And on the practical side, I signed up to participate in a tele-class tonight with an online organizer, Simplify101. I just found out about it yesterday, or I would have let you know about it ahead of time. It might not be too late if you want to join us! Pop on over and consider investing in help to form a plan for your holiday.

Now that the children are older, one of my first steps is to ask them and Plays with Fire how THEY want to celebrate. Every year they tell me the same thing. They desire:

  • time with extended family.
  • time with friends.
  • lots of great food.
  • lots of great decorations (any excuse to get on the roof!).

I, on the other hand, want cleanliness, quiet, a Christ-centered Christmas Eve, and plenty of time to sit in my living room to stare at the Christmas tree lights. It’s a challenge to find a balance between all our wishes. But that’s another post.

I keep a file folder called “Party Planning” filled with ripped-out magazine pages of inspiration. Today I sat down to thumb through it and pull ideas for food. Here are six of my favorite holiday finds to help inspire your menus.

Plays with Fire’s Favorite Appetizer is Pepperidge Farm’s Mediterranean Palmiers. We can’t pronounce them, but sure can eat them! And they will make your house smell fantastic.

Tea Party Girl’s Favorite Condiment is Whole-Berry Cranberry Sauce. I can eat it straight.

Tea Party Girl’s Favorite Low-fat Christmas Treats are Rachel Ray’s Peppermint Meringue Kisses. They are easy to make, and work well in tea parties for two hundred or two. Myself, I will eat them with a cup of tea while staring at the Christmas tree lights. Maybe I’ll invite someone to join me.

Tea Party Girl’s Easiest Appetizers to Make are Apple Butter Cheesecake Bites. So simple and SO good. We served these at our dinner party last Saturday night and they were a snap to make. These are NOT low-fat, but a bite can taste as good as a whole slice, don’t you think?

Tea Party Girl’s Most Nostalgic Holiday Dessert is Grasshopper Pie. I’ve never made it since Plays with Fire hates mint. But we’ve been married fourteen years so I think it’s time to do it anyway. The children will love it.

Last, I recently received my holiday Tea Time Magazine. While I can always credit them with beautiful ideas, I cannot always promote them for SIMPLE ideas. However, this month they do offer holiday ideas that include both beauty and simplicity for tea party food. Examples are Butter Pecan Shortbread and Lemon Curd Tartlets (sorry, no links). The magazine might be worth picking up as well for pictures of the Snowflake Truffle Topiaries. One can dream, can’t they?

What food will you include in your holiday events without fail? Let us know in the comments below. Or better yet, write a post about it on your blog, linking to this one!