Life By Kristen

Go, and embrace your liberty. And see what wonderful things come of it. – Little Women

Archive for the tag “christmas”

Secret Santa Mug Swap

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Normally, I wouldn’t be up for adding more ‘stuff’ to life, but this one was too good to pass up! San had a great idea for a holiday gift giving between bloggers with a mug swap.

I sent this lovely mug to Maegan in California.

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And I received this amazing one from San! Along with some flavored coffees that we’ll be trying. I’m a fan of its size- -and so is Q, as he keeps using it for his regular cup on the weekend!

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How Not Buying Changes Christmas

After my Dad died, we spent a lot of time cleaning out STUFF. His, stuff my Mom wanted to get rid of, my grandmother’s house, and so on. So much ended up in trash, donated, or sold. Yard sale after yard sale, we watched gifts and random purchases go away, in an effort to simplify and downsize.

So three years ago we decided to stop doing presents for Christmas.  We are Santa for Little Man and sometimes do gifts with Q’s family, but overall, we pretty much are a buy nothing family for the holiday season. It’s totally changed the holiday season for us all.

We’re all adults and more Christmases than not, my brother and I were sending emails with links to specific things we wanted/needed to our family, using the holiday to be gifted the items we couldn’t afford or didn’t spoil ourselves with. The Christmas after my divorce, I was most excited about getting a toaster. The Christmas my father passed away, all I wanted was a dual urn/K-Cup coffeemaker. It sort of took some of the magic of the holiday away when the gifts were already known.

Q and I only gave gifts to each other on the first Christmas we were together, and once again, practicality took over. He bought me fancy olive oil, an expensive pillow ( which I still have and is amazing), and some jewelry. I got him some fancy grilling rub, a beer making class, and some special limited edition beer. After that Christmas, we decided to save the money for things we wanted to do together. This year, that extra money is going to pay off the new car ( romantic, I know).

Our no gifts policy extends to birthdays– we all go out for a nice dinner to celebrate the person instead of gifts. It takes a lot of pressure off, but also eliminates the random stuff of life that piles up and always ends up being donated.

Not giving gifts makes us think more about the season and doesn’t leave us with the frantic feeling of buying for everyone on the list. Even for Little Man last year, we didn’t even go get his gifts until the weekend before Christmas. For an A-type, to-do list maker like me, it’s nice to feel relaxed the entire holiday season. I try to make more charitable gifts at the end of the year anyway, and having some extra dollars for that instead of buying another mug or candle for my loved ones makes it a win-win.

I get that it’s not for everyone to forgo gifts with their family and friends, but it’s right for us and our family. It gives us the freedom to enjoy the season, the extra money going towards what we want, and the ability to only have things we want in the house– I think everyone should try it one year!

 

Christmas Tunes

While I’m not the type of person who will start listening to Christmas music well before Thanksgiving, I do enjoy Christmas tunes throughout the holiday season.

Here are a few of my favorites:

Silver Bells: I like several versions of the song, but this one by Bing Crosby is a favorite.

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, Barenaked Ladies and Sarah MacLachlan version

Christmas Wrapping, The Waitresses

Caroling, Caroling, Nat King Cole

O Holy Night: Also many gorgeous versions, but Josh Groban slays it for me

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas: I love this song, especially the original by Judy Garland, but the Carpenters version is lovely

Christmas in Killarney, Bing Crosby

Mistletoe and Holly, Frank Sinatra

The Man with the Bag, Kay Starr

Jingle Bells, Frank Sinatra

I Want a Hippopatamus For Christmas

 

Wishing you and yours a wonderful holiday!

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Holidays These Days

Thanksgiving has come and gone. The moments of sadness were there, but overall, it was a day filled with love and family, which is how it should be.

My Christmas spirit hasn’t quite kicked in yet. We’re waiting to decorate the house until Little Man is with us, which won’t be until the second weekend in December. My office mate is listening to Christmas music and decorated our office Christmas tree, but otherwise, there isn’t a lot of Christmas around me yet. I adopted a needy family from the local child and family services again this year, so have been doing some shopping, but mostly online. After our huge house cleanouts this past summer, we’ve all decided we have enough stuff so are not doing Christmas presents;, so the only shopping to be done is for Little Man.  I am looking forward to seeing the holiday through a child’s eyes , so decorating with him will be fun. I think we may even do gingerbread houses together, which I’ve never done before!

Last year, the shock of Dad’s death 9 days before Christmas was numbing. What was to be a quiet Christmas with my parents, Q, and me turned into everyone being home and  supporting each other through a devastating time. We spent Christmas Eve and Day at home all together, something that hadn’t happened in years- so while it was sad, there was this amazing feeling of love and support from so many people that really helped us get through.

This year will be quite different. It’s just Q, Mom, and I, with only a little bit of Christmas Eve with Little Man. So we’ll see some of Q’s family and spend Christmas Eve and Day with close friends of the family ( or as I like to call them, family by choice). I’m taking the day after Christmas off from work. Overall, I think the holiday will pass without a whole lot of fanfare, which I appreciate since in the last 5 years or so, I’ve always felt so frantic this time of year. I’m coming to accept that every holiday will bring changes in the next few years, which isn’t a bad thing. I’m hoping we can maintain some old traditions, while making new ones for our family as a whole, and my small family with Q & Little Man.

Mostly, I’m thinking about how fast the year went by, but probably not in the same sense that everyone else is. It’s hard to think it will be a year since we lost Dad on the 16th of this month- it is both amazing and shocking still that it happened, that it has been that long, and that there are still days when life gets busy that I forget for an instant that it happened at all. Grief is so strange at times.

In the midst of all of this emotion, we’re adding another level to all of the feelings with the sale of my grandmother’s house. It was tough over the summer as we cleaned it out, knowing the only reason it was all happening was because Dad was gone. Now that the house has finally sold and we emptied out the last of the things we wanted over Thanksgiving weekend, it didn’t feel as sad because the house was pretty bare bones and disheveled, so it almost helped it feel less like a home. Maybe that’s just my way of containing emotions in a very overwhelming time. It seems almost fitting that the sale coincides pretty close with the year anniversary of his death. Maybe with one less thing off of the family’s mind, we can all work a bit more on our new phases in life. I’m hopeful.

My Must Watch List of Christmas Movies

With the exception of number one ( which is one of my favorite movies of all time, Christmas or not), these are in random order.

1. White Christmas

2. Little Women ( Winona Ryder version is my favorite and the one I own, but I also like the one with Katharine Hepburn)

3. Muppet Christmas Carol 

4. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (“Lots of sap here!”)

5. Love Actually

6. It’s A Wonderful Life

7. Miracle on 34th Street ( the original with Natalie Wood and Maureen O’Hara, though the newer version with Dylan McDermott doesn’t completely suck)

8. Christmas Story ( but only when watched on the marathon on Christmas Eve to Christmas Day)

9. Charlie Brown Christmas

10. Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer ( clay mation version of course!)

 

What are some of yours?

 

Merry Christmas

It’s six pm on Christmas night and it feels more like ten to me. A few days if cookie making and merry making with family has me quite tired and working tomorrow!

I hope everyone had a fantastic holiday filled with lots of love and laughter and that Santa was god to you all! My Christmas was filled with an abundance of love and greatness– I’m writing this blog post from my new iPad!!

A Season of Giving

First off, I want to make clear my motives in telling this story are not to pat myself on the back or to boost myself up. I’m telling you this because it is something I think is important.

There have been a lot of news articles and blogs floating around about how not to rush the holiday season, make it less stressful, and so on. I even wrote about how I’m trying to not be so rushed and feel the pressure with gift giving. For me, I decided for myself in early November that I wanted the holiday season from Thanksgiving to Christmas to be special.  I am blessed with an abundance of love and gifts in my life– it is time I pay it forward.

Volunteering for a cause of some sort has been in my mind since August, but I’ve struggled to find a place that would fit my interests/abilities and my time schedule. I have not given up my hunt yet and it is one of my top priorities for 2013. So without a place to devote my time to, I went to the next best thing –donating goods.

I give frequently throughout the year to various charities, but never in big amounts- always a $20 here and there to friends doing fundraisers for marathons or swims across the bay, animal rescues, or the like. I am a dutiful subscriber to PBS and NPR. Well-loved books go to my local library; gently used clothes and household items go to Salvation Army. I’m not quite a bleeding heart, but I feel it is important to put some money and donations to things that are important to me, as well as to help out people who don’t have the opportunities that I do.  These things are great and I applaud everyone who does their small bit to give back, but to me they felt too passive.

On my 30×30 list is a desire to serve at a soup kitchen or food bank on a major holiday. I haven’t gotten that done yet either ( research in process for Christmas as we speak). It was important for me this holiday season to do something active to contribute and really put meaning behind the phrase “season of giving.”

At Thanksgiving, I made a holiday meal basket for a family in need. For Christmas, I adopted two families to play Santa for. While the early drop off deadline made me start my Christmas shopping a bit earlier than usual, it was so enjoyable to shop for people I did not know, especially since it involved two children. I haven’t bought fun toys and games in years. These kids are getting some really awesome games, Legos, and of course, necessities like jackets and hats.   I just dropped off the first family’s load of gifts this morning and the volunteers were so thankful. I can’t wait to do it again for the second family. On a side note, in each family, at least one of the children asked for either board games or puzzles. This makes my heart so so happy that there are still kids who don’t want everything electronic.

Again, my motives in writing this are not to sing my own praises and boost my ego. I am telling it more as a call to action because we are so caught up in our lives that we miss the opportunity to do a little good, even if in small ways. I certainly understand budgets being tight- with both families, I have only been able to purchase gifts because of deep holiday discounts and coupons, but it was important for me to set aside some time and money for this. It’s easy to make a contribution- so many businesses ask for a $1 donation at checkout to support local charities or to buy a toy for a needy child. Many businesses, churches, or libraries have “giving” trees where you take an ornament with a child’s name and one gift wish on it. It’s heartbreaking to me how many children ask for hats, gloves, and winter coats for Christmas. It’s sobering to think that being warm is their number one priority when they are at an age they should be playing and having fun.

So whether it be donating to a local soup kitchen, donating blood, or just dropping a $1 in the Salvation Army bucket at the grocery store, I hope you all can take a moment or two out of the busy holiday season and do something to give back. It will bring endless amounts of good to those in need and bring you endless light and joy that no material gift can match.

No Holiday Rush For Me!

There is some sort of holiday frenzy feeling that I get around Thanksgiving and it stays with me right up until Christmas. While this excitement for the season is always a wonderful feeling, it has, in the past, often left me feeling like Christmas Eve and Day are a bit, well, anti-climatic.

Part of it I think is the pressure to get the perfect gift or to have the house decorated in record time. Every year I try so hard to get a gift for my family and friends that encapsulates in one thing how much they mean to me and a huge thanks for all they have done in that year. It’s totally a self-imposed pressure to ooh and awe them. I can barely keep in my super awesome gifts to myself because since I’m a planner, I’ve usually decided by mid November what everyone will get. It really takes all I have to not blurt it out on Thanksgiving ( this by the way, is not limited to just Christmas- one year when I was little, I spilled the beans to my mom on her Mother’s Day surprise of a lobster dinner way before the day came around).

I’ve often wondered if this rush and frenzy to decorate, shop, etc. is something that is more a female problem than men. My dad and brother frequently do all their shopping in one day like a week or so before Christmas. My dad actually says he enjoys doing some shopping on Christmas Eve day ( PS that phrase has always made me chuckle since it’s sort of an oxymoron). The thought of waiting until the last minute makes me heart rate quicken ( control freak much!?!?)

I have a very small list to buy for this year and because I planned ahead, almost all of my shopping is done or will be before December 1st comes around. I haven’t decorated the house yet since I’ve wanted to enjoy some post Thanksgiving down time, but I anticipate doing it one night this week after work while watching a favorite Christmas movie. I want to have all my wrapping done early. This year I’m trying to simplify- the wrapping, the buying, the dozens of cookies my mother and I make. The frenzy may be part of the season, but I don’t want to partake this year. I want to savor the season and do a lot of the Christmas activities I haven’t done in years. Drive around to see Christmas lights. Go see a Christmas concert or find a group to go caroling with. Adopt a needy family so they have a better Christmas. Meet friends for drinks or coffee.  Maybe go take a picture with Santa. I want to enjoy the excitement, not wish it all away by crossing things off lists and freaking out that I haven’t bought the best gifts. I’m hoping this pre planning will help me relax and enjoy the joys of the season instead of worrying that I don’t have enough wrapping paper.

I’m determined to make this holiday season different & that this relaxed Kristen will help me ring in the New Year. Who’s with me?

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