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Let nothing you dismay

By JUDY STARK, Times Staff Writer
Published December 24, 2005

[Times photo: Patty Yablonski]
It doesn’t get easier than this: Stuff a strand of lights inside a hurricane lantern and you’re decorated. Use mini-LED lights, which don’t get hot.

The long-awaited day is finally here. It's Christmas Eve.

Perhaps no day on the calendar is more fraught with performance pressure, the sense of "now or never, do or die." Relax. Christmas is a forgiving kind of holiday. Whatever doesn't happen on Christmas can happen the day after.

That said, we offer a last-minute rundown to avoid the avoidable, help you remember the things you can, and deter disappointment.

As you make your rounds today, take note of the holiday hours at stores you patronize. Knowing that a nearby drugstore or grocery is open even for limited hours on Christmas Day can go a long way toward reducing stress.

For today, act like Santa: Make your list, check it twice, accomplish what you can, and remind yourself that the goal here is "merry and bright." This is the most wonderful time of the year!

In the kitchen

- Check on the basics: milk, coffee, garbage bags, dishwasher detergent.

- Review your holiday menus and make sure you have what you need: Any last-minute perishables? Where is that can of cranberry sauce?

- Storage: plastic wrap, aluminum foil, plastic bags, disposable containers for leftovers and food gifts.

- Pet food.

- Ice.

- Wine, beer, spirits; snack foods if you expect guests.

- If others are contributing dishes for the big meal, do a last-minute phone check to be sure all are clear on what they're bringing and when dinner will be served.

All through the house

- Toilet paper.

- Over-the-counter medications: something for upset stomachs, colds, headaches, first-aid items.

- Check prescription medications, and if you're due for a refill, get to the drugstore now.

- Diapers and other baby needs.

Holiday dressing

- What is everybody wearing tonight and on Christmas Day? Do you know where it is? Is it clean and ready to go? If not, hit the washer and dryer early in the day, or get last-minute purchases on your "gotta-do" list (white tights for the girls, run-free pantyhose for Mom).

- Check the Christmas tie and sweater for spots.

- Check table linens too: tablecloth and napkins clean and ready?

- Do you need to run a load of laundry? How are you fixed for kitchen towels?

Gift list

- Batteries and more batteries. (AA is the most popular size for kids' toys.)

- Memory cards for digital cameras, film for the old-fashioned kind.

- Blank videotape for the camcorder.

- Blank audio cassettes if you plan to record the festivities and send a tape to someone far away.

- iTunes cards for the iPods people will unwrap under the tree.

- Anything else you need to make gift items work. An extension cord? A bag of espresso-ground coffee so your sister can try out the espresso machine you're giving her?

- Will you be embarrassed if someone gives you a gift and you have nothing to give in return? Pick up a couple of generic gifts you can have wrapped and ready, or gift cards to restaurants or coffee shops.

- Consider cash: A couple of crisp $10 or $20 bills and a few of those cash-holder cards can bail you out.

- Do a mental check: (a) Have you remembered everyone on your gift list? (b) Do you remember where you stashed those gifts weeks ago? Search for them now, not at 10 p.m.

Really last minute

- Haven't finished wrapping? (Haven't started wrapping?!) Paper, tape, tags, bows.

- Backup strand of lights for the tree.

- Check the candle supply.

- Where are the luminaria bags? (And the sand or cat-box filler to weight them down, the tea lights, and the long matches to light them.)

Under the tree

- Have a trash bag ready for stowing the wrappings.

- Have scissors, a box cutter and a wire cutter handy for opening the blister packs in which toys are packaged and a screwdriver for instant assembly.

- Keep a pad and pencil at treeside to jot down who gave what. It makes thank-you notes easier.

Spreading the cheer

- Planning to call faraway friends or family members? Where are their phone numbers? If they live in a different time zone, have you figured out when to call them?

Another celebration

- Tomorrow is the first night of Hanukkah, the eight-day Jewish Festival of Lights. Pick up candles for the menorah, chocolate coins for Hanukkah gelt.

- Don't forget the potatoes and oil for the latkes.

- Information from Times staff writers and the Washington Post was used in this report.

[Last modified December 23, 2005, 09:59:07]

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