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Holiday Countdown Calendar

First Week

Nov. 22

Make your gift list. Include a few small extras for hostess gifts or in case someone gives you an unanticipated present.

Are you sending cards? Get copies of the family photo if you plan to include one.

Order plenty of stamps online.

Gather the household to compare notes on vacation days, school events, planned trips or traditions and budgets.

Set up wrapping station, ready to wrap a bit as you buy or in marathon sessions. Near a TV is nice.

Shopping online? Check companies' shipping dates.

Be the first on your block to book babysitters for party nights. (Or for weekend days, so you can go shopping.)

If you love those glorious amaryllis bulbs, plant them now to aim for the holidays. To ensure a Christmas bloom, choose a bulb where the flower bud is showing an inch or two.

Second Week

Nov. 29

Planning a driving trip? Assembling a bag of crayons and playing cards now can keep children happy later.

If you're leaving a pet at home, line up a pet sitter now.

Mail holiday cards (Hallmark will personalize, address and mail cards for you.)

Deadlines for military and overseas mail are this week.

If you're envisioning a New Year's bash, it's not too early to nail down plans by sending out invitations or making reservations.

Buy batteries. Never enough batteries.

Third Week

Dec. 6

Mail gifts to friends and family who live out of state. You'll be glad you did.

Great time to bake cookies, to have them on hand.

If you're having a feast, check tablecloths and napkins, for ironing or sending out to the cleaners.

Have fun thinking about Christmas menus, then stock up on nonperishable items ahead of time.

If you're having overnight guests, where will you put them and what will they need? Be ready to welcome them.

Get your carving knives sharpened.

Fourth Week

Dec. 13

If you set your table with silver, now would be a good time to polish it.

Check supplies of sodas, chips, water, beer and other party nonperishables.

This is candle season. Do you have plenty? Need more?

Create a holiday playlist for your iPod.

If you're decorating a tree, check to see whether the lights work.

Eat (or toss) what's in the freezer to make room for holiday fare.

Fifth Week

Dec. 20

Make a list of major holiday meals (Christmas morning breakfast, New Year's supper) and finalize menus.

Writing out a feast-day timeline (turkey in by noon, potatoes started by 4) is a big help on such hectic days.

Planning to have place cards? Making them is a great job for kids.

Lay the fire for Christmas morning the night before.

If you'll be doing a lot of cooking, how is your supply of disposable containers for leftovers? (Resealable plastic baggies work perfectly for lots of things, even mashed potatoes).

Sixth Week

Dec. 27

Relax! Then, get organized for the new tax year by starting fresh files.

Donate any duplicate gifts or put them aside to re-gift at a later date.

Consider starting a holiday fund for next year in a piggy bank.

Get those thank-you notes out of the way now and pat yourself on the back for not procrastinating.

Recycle your tree.

Print holiday photos now and preserve them or put them in albums.

To prevent stains from setting, wash your holiday table linens or send them to the dry cleaner.

Make notes at the end of the season of what worked and didn't. It would be great to include some gift and menu ideas.

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