If you're getting ribbing you're knitting the knits and purling the purls. When you turn your work after casting on the new stitch, look at the 2nd stitch, the one just after the new cast on. If it's a knit, then you'll knit your first stitch and purl the 2nd. If it's a purl, you'll purl the 1st stitch and knit the 2nd. That will put you back in pattern...or keep you there.
Depending on their size, these would make adorable coasters.
I understand about starting early. I intend to do my Christmas sewing during the summer.