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November notebook Prepare your home and family for cold months ahead

Point to the warm weather -- some potted geraniums are still in bloom -- but November has arrived as a bit of a shock.

Sure, frost killed off the basil in gardens this week, and Christmas trees are on display in stores.

But it's hard to believe that Thanksgiving is less than three weeks away when there still are flip-flops by the back door and sand in the sandbox.

When it comes to preparing for winter, "people are getting a late start this year," said Linda Groat, a professional local organizer and mother of two.

"I was looking at the garage today and thinking we need to sweep it out and make sure everything is back in its place or put to bed for the winter," she said, realizing that space has to be cleared for two cars during the winter months.

That means storing away summer things such as the trampoline and moving the hockey equipment within reach. And switching the lawnmower for the snow-blower, of course.

On one hand, there are household tasks such as furnace inspections and chimney cleanings to be done (see accompanying story).

In addition, early November also is a good time to get a jump start on all the planning and activities that come with the holidays and winter months.

>Here are 10 suggestions to do now:

* Have all growing bodies try on last year's winter coats and boots to check fit. Groat said her own children, ages 12 and 9, recently tried on some things -- "on a very hot day" she laughed -- and realized they had outgrown items.

* Put hats, gloves and boots in an accessible place before the snow flies.

"The cold weather takes you by surprise," she said.

* Gather and clean gently used blankets, sheets, coats, gloves and other clothing. Keep your eye open for collection drives at local schools, work, places of worship and community events. Or donate directly to organizations.

* Line up baby-sitters for November and December events you will be attending. Make hair appointments early before your favorite stylist gets booked.

* Get a jump start on holiday celebrations you are hosting by laundering and pressing table linens now. This way, you will not find yourself at the ironing board Thanksgiving Eve -- when ideally the table should already be set so you can concentrate on making the cranberry sauce.

* Clear the coat closet of summer toys and clothing. Clean out and make room for winter wraps -- before Thanksgiving guests arrive and you realize you have no hanging space or extra hangers.

* Clean your oven in preparation for holiday cooking. Review where you have stashed platters, electric knife, roasting pan, baster.

* Buy/order your holiday cards early and update your address book. Don't be afraid to downsize considerably -- or even decide not to send cards this year.

* Dust/polish the chandelier (which may have taken a hiatus during the summer months) and replace burned-out bulbs. Do the same with exterior fixtures.

Finally, check out upcoming craft shows. It's a fun, smart way to get a jump start on holiday gift-buying.

"Christmas in the Country," ranked one of the top five artisan shows in North America over the last decade, opened Thursday and continues through Sunday at the Hamburg Fairgrounds, for example.

Hours are 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. today; 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $7, adult; children under 12 are free.

And the Rochester Folk Art Guild's "Holiday Festival of Crafts" opens from 4 to 8 p.m. today at the Center For Tomorrow, University at Buffalo North Campus, Amherst. It continues from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $2.

Check Gusto (under "Special Events") and other calendar listings for other upcoming shows.

There will be plenty to attend. In between raking all those leaves, that is.


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