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The Christmas Book

Simple No Fail Step by Step Solution to a Magical Christmas 
(Worth The Time to Read)


With Labor Day a vague memory and ghosts and goblins on the horizon, it may be hard to believe that Thanksgiving is just around the corner. And the calendar says Christmas is a mere 91 days away. That sounds like plenty of time. In Mom time, Christmas is actually five minutes away.

Our shop’s slogan from the day we first opened ten years ago has been “Come Experience the Magic.” Christmas, in fact the entire holiday season, should be magical. It should not be a time of angst. It should be about joy. Warmth. Family. Friends. And yes, magic. We’ve learned how to create a simple, magical Christmas for once and for all. Try it.

The Christmas Book is for all out there who love Christmas. Who search for the elusive magic. And who have no time.

For those of you who are real deal planners, you already have most of your Christmas shopping finished, wrapped, labeled and alphabetically stored in a hermetically sealed closet. For 2012. Gift receipts are also categorized and reside neatly in their own hand engraved envelopes. You are collectively an 8th wonder of the world. I have met many of you. My hat is off to you. But this is not for you. The following is for the, well, er, uh, normal population.

The Christmas Book starts now. Today. Not in the mood for Christmas in autumn? I will wager that if you try our plan, you will become a believer. It is amazing what this plan does for the Christmas “spirit” as the holidays approach. Beginning the entire sequence of events now means it is early enough to make an enormous difference to the holiday season for you and your family. Step by step.


Let’s review. We all want the magical Christmas depicted in the glossy magazines at the check out counter. They’re everywhere. Festive tables heavily laden with scrumptious holiday treats, myriad cookie recipes, incredibly wrapped presents beneath the perfect tree. There are lovely Christmas decorations in every palette worthy of Macy’s Christmas Extravaganza. It is all so alluring. But, let’s review one more time. These professionally touched up and expensively lighted pictures are taken in the sweltering heat of summer with literally hundreds of minions (read elves) who contribute to this fantasy. No reality in sight. You would break a tooth on that scrumptious pumpkin pie, and that perfectly roasted turkey could sink a ship. We swoon, and we aspire to achieve the very same thing. All on our lonesome. We envision the perfect holiday in our own way, the stuff of childhood dreams. Christmas is about tradition. It is in large part about fantasy. It is about creating magic, as it was on the first Christmas in Bethlehem. It is why these magazines fly off the shelves. Reality need not apply.


Whether it is visions of sugarplums, the perfect Christmas tree, the scent of cinnamon and nutmeg, caroling followed by hot cocoa, or the annual cookie exchange, the energy to take care of daily life plus fit in all this magicis difficult to conjure. We make ourselves crazy trying to create the magic, but in the midst of a pressure cooker time crunch, we are exhausted and the end result comes up short.

Unless you have a full time staff, the problem is simply, Time. It is an absent luxury for most. And it does not stand still just because the holidays are upon us. Between the every day activities of work, appointments, commuting, school, homework, sports, after school activities, carpool, housework, and never ending laundry, can anyone squeeze one more thing into our jam packed day?


Super Moms can. Super Moms try to do it all. Moms are in the business of making magic. Come hell or high water. The price is exhaustion and dare I say, crankiness, by the time Christmas Eve rolls around. Racing out the door to make the Children’s Service on Christmas Eve leaves us rushed, stressed and not remotely done with our tasks. We are not able to enjoy our friends and family the way they seem to do in all those darn glossy Christmas issue magazines. Where everyone is perfectly coiffed, elegantly attired, and smiling with the peaceful joy of the season. Bah Humbug. The rest of us have barely sliced the Pillsbury Refrigerator dough and the only stick on bowsleft in the bag are a bizarre shade of magenta. The elusive scotch tape is lurking under a stack of those Christmas magazines. Oh. And the house is a mess. The entire family is coming for dinner, and the Christmas Morning brunch casseroles for 25 are not even prepared let alone marinating overnight. And what’s with the tablecloth? Where’s the iron? What on earth is wrong with this picture?


For many years as a young Mom, I was also commuting a minimum of four hours each day and with school, homework and all the activities, getting through the holiday season – my favorite time of the year—became an almost dreaded time. I got it all done, sort of. But at an enormous price. I longed to create the vision in the magazine. Colonial Homes was my favorite. I wish I knew then what I know now.


These days I have even less time. Or I have just slowed down. Our family has grown exponentially with the blessed addition of five grandchildren! Our farm and business are both seven day a week projects. Who has time for a magical Christmas? A last minute trip to a Big Box store, loading up the carts with the two essentials on the kids’ lists and tons of predictable but forgettable presents is a thing of my past. It is “nothing less than magic” these days. Here’s how.


“Ride into Christmas”

Is all about making the holiday season special. Magical. Not just for your family but for you, too. It is simply a common sense approach to the holidays that gets all of it done, step-by-step, starting now. Painlessly. No more frantic wrapping of presents on Christmas Eve, no more searching high and low for the last of the scotch tape or the gift cards. Or the right pen. No more scrambling for that last minute gift for fill in the blank. And your actual baking will be finished way in advance. Yes. Baking. With The Christmas Book, there is so much extra time as the holidays approach that there is time to bake that Yule Log you always wanted to try. Time to actually relax andenjoy the holidays with family and friends. Try it this year. See if it doesn’t change your life. And let us know how it worked for you!

Further along you will read actual feedback about our “Christmas Book” solution to a magical holiday season. It’s a “Divide and Conquer” approach and we know it works. Simply put, armed with a game plan (operative word, plan) you are in charge of your holiday. The holiday is not in charge of you.


Positively crucial to a great outcome. Even if you’re not normally a list maker, this holidayTO DO List with specific categories is your life saver.


Make a Christmas Book. Yes, a real book. A composition book will do, as long as the pages don’t fall out. The categories are unique to you. Examples are Entertaining. Shopping. Gifts. Baking. Tickets to The Nutcracker. Parties. School Holiday Events. Christmas CDs. Christmas Centerpieces. Etc. This is not a list on a post it note or on random pieces of paper stuck into your Day Planner or into the side pocket of your purse. It’s a special notebook. Divided into categories. I use mine from year to year.


My Christmas Book. I could not get through the holiday season without it. It is my own personal War Plan. My Operations and Procedures. Organization is my new best friend.


The first year I attempted this (skeptically, I might add) I did not allow enough room between categories and items for editing and crossing off as each task was accomplished. There is nothing more satisfying than crossing everything off your list, one by one. In October!


SHOPPING. The dreaded annual task for a list that seems to grow exponentially. No more. It is all about making it special. Of course there are toys and specific items that need to appear under the tree. But for everything else, I don’t care if you shop at garage sales, flea markets, antique shops to repurpose cool gifts, or online, at a big mall, in small boutiques, or all of the above, it is time to start. Think about the people for whom you shop, and make the gift personal. It’s easy to do when you are not pressured to get it done. Personal does not mean expensive. It means special and unique to that particular person.

Bag the underwear and socks routine. Ditch the ties, soaps and belts. Who was ever thrilled opening that? Talk about generic. Be on the alert wherever you go. Terrific Christmas gifts can be found virtually everywhere. Even in a grocery store. With time and a little desire and imagination, anyone can be creative. Look for shops that provide a gift-wrapping service. Some are even complementary! Some will even hold your beautifully gift wrapped items until closer to Christmas. Talk about perfect! And utilize the under utilized Layaway. Take advantage of layaway. It gets the job done painlessly and in this economy,that counts for a lot. As you leisurely find these treasures for all the lucky folks on your list, make a quick note in the Christmas Book and cross it off the list!

GFT WRAP. Again, it’s all about making it special. I am known for my custom wrapping and custom bows. It’s my trademark and I love doing it. I know. Who has time for this? If you love to be creative, this really is the time to do it. How do you fit it all in? By starting now. It really is so simple, just takes a plan. I make my bows in front of a crackling fire as we watch a movie on TV evenings in October and November. The end result is spectacular, the effort almost zero. Not a big creative type? Make your gifts special by attaching a small straw or wooden ornament or even a fat candy cane to the ribbon. Even if you are using some of the cheapest but in my view best wrapping paper made, white butcher paper, you can create Christmas magic. Add a $2 item that packs a big punch. It’s all about making magic.

Stock up on a ridiculous amount of tape, the all-important sharp scissors, (the orange handled scissors you find at a fabric shop seem to be best), colorful wrapping paper and lots of ribbon. Or twine. Or rope. Or fabric trim. You get the picture. I actually store all the wrapped gifts with the ribbons flattened and attached, and on Christmas Eve, out come the packages. I simply fluff up the flattened ribbon, and voila’! Each package has a splendid bow. Every single present I wrap gets “special treatment”. It is overwhelming if done all at once. The trick is to spread the time out. Rushing the job to get it all done days or even hours before Christmas takes all the fun out of it for both the presenter and the recipient. By the way. Christmas paper does not have to be expensive. Brown bag paper is gorgeous with a hand tied red ribbon and a big fat bow. Who doesn’t like receiving a beautifully wrapped present? ASK ABOUT OUR CUSTOM BOW MAKING CLASS EVENINGS IN OCTOBER AND NOVEMBER.


I used to try to wrap everything in two ridiculously long and trying evenings. One of those evenings was very very late on Christmas Eve. It was frenzied, never ending, backbreaking and not at all fun. Christmas mornings I was half comatose as I tried to enjoy the moment with my kids. Not anymore.


Starting in October, I literally wrap a little each day. My small piles of purchases to date turn into neat stacks of wrapped presents. It might be in the evening. Whenever I can fit it in. But fit it in I do. My personal goal is to wrap at least three gifts a day starting the first week of October. These wrapped and labeled packages store easily because special decorations or bows can be added when it is time to put them under the tree, or mail. I have a wrapping station that I keep up and running throughout October, November and December. That way, it’s all there when I need to add a present, or decorate further. These days, it is also a separate room with a door that closes. And locks. Don’t have this luxury of space? No problem. Simply find a good-sizedRubbermaid container that can fit all your paper, and a box that houses your scissors and tape and ribbon. Keep all wrapping in one place. Stick it in your garage or basement and take it out when needed. Have it handy with virtually everything you might need to make fantastic packages. Place it next to the other box with “miscellaneous small hostess gifts.” What on earth is that, you say? Easy. It is the small but charming individual gifts I pick up during September and October with no particular person in mind. These serve faithfully as neighbor, hostess, teacher, sitter, coach, scout leader, or housekeeper gifts. No last minute panic.


BAKING. Who has time to bake, you ask? Everyone loves baked goods. Pillsbury is wildly successful with their tubes of premade dough, just so we can feel as if we are baking by throwing a sprinkle on the sliced dough slices. And this is fine. But actual baking is more than possible. And beloved. Who doesn’t associate Christmas with the magical aroma of baking cookies? The trick is to bake ahead. With three different types of Christmas cookies and two different and simple holiday cakes, you will change your family’s Christmases forever. Trust me. And you can bake in October and take out in time for all the Christmas family gatherings and parties. It’s a cakewalk, no pun intended! And your family will love it. A tradition building block. I save one or two things to bake during Christmas week solely for the baking aroma that wafts through the house. Seriously. ASK ABOUT OUR RIDE INTO CHRISTMAS BAKING EVENINGS ON OUR FARM! OPEN TO MEN AND WOMEN!


ESTABLISH THE MENUES. Review those favorite holiday recipes, make a list of ingredients required, have your trusty list with you when you shop and then begin to bake and create one item on that list each week. Most baking creations lend themselves well to freezing if wrapped properly. So many of our scrumptious holiday side dishes may be baked and frozen ahead of time. If you make one a week, you will be done before the holidays hit. Seriously. It is for this reason that television-shopping networks do their best blockbuster sales with frozen holiday concoctions. In tin foil.

Before you know it, your cookies are baked, your cakes are ready for decoration or simply a dusting of powdered sugar, most of your holiday menu is complete, your house will smell divine, and oh, guess what? It is not even Thanksgiving. Hot mulled cider or a chilled glass of Pinot anyone? Put your feet up. Heaven.


Start stocking up on candles now. I tend to stick with a color scheme. Last year all my candles, whether tapers or pillars, blocks or multi wicked, were all bayberry. What a wonderful ambience. Candles can be expensive, so do it a little at a time. Nothing provides a warm and cozy mood like the glow of candlelight. And don’t be afraid to light them. After all, you have a healthy stash of candles now.


Between now and October, make your wreaths or candle circles or garland. It is so easy. The craft stores already have their unbelievably authentic artificial wreaths and garlands out. For many who don’t want to invest the time in gathering fresh greenery, these high quality artificial garlands are often impossible to tell from the real thing. There is also a Christmas spray that takes care of the aromatic scent of fresh as well. In the blink of an eye and with a hot glue gun and fresh red apples, you can create a stunning front door wreath that will carry you through Thanksgiving into Christmas. Lemons work too. Before you know it, the Christmas Season is here and you are finished.


You can now enjoy the Christmas holidays. I love fresh greenery. One of the fun things we do starting at around thanksgiving week is to gather the family together to collect boxwood and pine, spruce and fir and of course magnolia from our yard and pile it all into the house. We found cedar growing plentifully on the side of the road. We have a huge kitchen table. There with trusty pruning snippers and dense green florist wire available at any craft store, we create the most beautiful, thick, lush aromatic garlands for the house. Too much work? It’s not. It is an easy family activity that is fun, provides a feeling of family and accomplishment and oh yes, is spectacular to see. SIGN UP FOR OUR GARLAND AND WREATH MAKING CLASS NOW.


I set aside the weekend following Thanksgiving not as one of the millions out shopping frantically for gifts, but quietly and magically creating Christmas in and outside on our farm. The tree goes up, the carolers come out, the wreaths are hungon the house house and the barns, the garland adorns the mantles and the staircase, and there are candles in every window. Our farm is transformed and there is magic. By this point, you see, most if not all of the shopping is finished. It’s almost all just about wrapped. Seriously.

A a tiny sampling of commentary from folks who tried out system:

“Can’t tell you how your Simple Holiday Approach changed our Christmas season last year. We had so much done by Thanksgiving, that the rest of the time allowed for leisurely tree selection and decoration, and plain fun. I even made several of your scrumptious holiday recipes ahead and froze them. Our best Christmas ever! “

“The most relaxed holiday season in my life.”

“So simple, so sane. Just do it! You’llbe glad you did.”

“First time I as Mom truly enjoyed the Christmas season. Your plan took the stress out of getting it all done in time. “

“Hardest part was carrying down all those beautifully wrapped presents to place under the tree. That was honestly the most work of the whole season! But I’m not complaining. “

“Planning with a purpose is a countdown approach to the holiday season. Many of us in the family are now true converts.”

Seeing is believing. Start your own Christmas Book. Start your own personal lists. Start methodically shopping, wrapping, baking, freezing and decorating now. Watch as the holidays approach and for the first time, you have nothing to do but enjoy! You absolutely will not believe how much you will enjoy the holidays! And let us know of your success!


Linda Tripp Rausch
Dieter Rausch
The Christmas Sleigh, Inc.

The Christmas Book


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