Life By Kristen

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

Archive for the tag “holidays”


I won’t go on about how fast the year went by because I know many of you are saying the same thing! I still cannot believe Thanksgiving was last Thursday!

As the world around me gets into the flurry of the holidays, I’m really looking forward to the second year of no family gift giving and low-key holiday celebrations. I’ve already knocked the annual viewing of Charlie Brown’s Christmas off the list ( 50 years old this year!) and am looking forward to tonight’s showing of the original claymation Rudolph on CBS tonight. My work holiday party is in a few weeks, but this weekend we’ll be headed to a festive holiday dinner party that we’re very much looking forward to attending.

As far as decorations around the house go, we’ll see how much we end up doing. I put up our door wreath over the weekend and have been listening to Christmas music in the car on my commute home, so it’s not that I’m a Grinch about the holiday, but with the holiday being low-key, it seems like a lot of work to put everything out, especially since we will only have Little Man for one weekend before the holiday and a lot of the decoration and excitement is for him. I definitely will put out stockings and some other festive bits, but not so sure about the tree. I’m super allergic to pine so we have a fake tree, but it’s a bit bulky so requires moving around furniture and things to accommodate it, which always seems like so much work for one month. I think we’ll probably end up trolling the post-Christmas sales for a smaller, prelit tree since I don’t think we’ll be moving out of our place any time soon.

Other holiday fun things include annual cookie making extravaganza with Mom, cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning, and lots of holiday movie watching.

Of course, the second anniversary of Dad’s death is another hallmark of the month. After this year of change for everyone, it’s another bittersweet reminder of how much can happen in a short period of time and how life changes in an instant. It will only be my mother, Q, and me for the actual holiday and we’ll likely go to a family friend’s house for Christmas Eve and maybe just do something small for the three of us on Christmas Day. Unsure at moment which is an added bonus of the lowkey vibe- we’re just happy and thankful to spend time together.

Monday Musings: Holiday Edition

*I’m very behind on my holiday movie watching. I’ve watched my favorites ( White Christmas, Muppet Christmas Carol, and Christmas Vacation) and I’m going to make Q watch a few this week. The Christmas Story, of course, will be watched when it’s on marathon for Christmas( sort of tradition, plus it was my Dad’s favorite Christmas movie).

Here’s 2 random Christmas movies I enjoy that are somewhat rare: A Very Brady Christmas and The Christmas Toy ( a Henson production with cameos from Kermit the Frog). I used to own both on VHS; neither are on DVD, though ABC Family usually shows the Brady Christmas at the most random time during the holiday season. A quick Google search tells me I can watch it in its entirety on youTube. Who knew!

* It’s been both exciting/weird/relaxing to not being doing Christmas presents this year. We bought Little Man’s Santa gifts last week, but because he gave Q& me a very detailed list at his birthday, it was a relatively easy trip to the toy store. We were in and out in half hour. Since we aren’t seeing him until the 26th I haven’t even wrapped them yet. This really is the most low-key Christmas I could have imagined.

* In addition to not watching a whole lot of Christmas programming, I’ve barely listened to Christmas music. Between binge-listening to Serial and a few other audiobooks, my commute has been filled with people speaking to me, not the songs of 24/7 holiday tunes. It’s not so much that I’m not in the Christmas spirit this year, but it definitely is a bit more forced. I know a lot of that has to do with the tone of the month with Dad’s anniversary and being the first Christmas without him ( last year, we were still numb from his death). Some of it too I think is from not having any gifts to buy. But a large part of it is that it doesn’t feel like Christmas- weatherwise, lifewise. Definitely an odd holiday this year.

I’ll be back next week with a look at the year past as we ready for 2015, so I wish you all a very happy holiday season. No matter what you celebrate, I hope it is filled with love, laughter, and light.




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.

Wishing Away Time

If you follow me over on Twitter, you would have seen my tweet today about getting an email from a favorite restaurant about their New Year’s Eve party. Sent today, October 28th. Considering I haven’t even bought Halloween candy yet for trick or treat this Friday, clearly I have not a clue what I’ll be doing on New Year’s Eve ( though newsflash for any new readers- I don’t do New Year’s Eve.)

What is with this rushing to get to the next holiday business? Every year the creep of the holidays seems to happen earlier and earlier. I’ve seen people post about Christmas decorations in September. What ever happened to savoring time and each season before we’re rushing onto the next?

Of course, retailers are the ones to blame for this. I saw an article about how Macy’s is going to open on 6pm on Thanksgiving. SERIOUSLY!?! Is it so important that you leave family and friends ( never mind requiring people to work and leave their family and friends) to get some cheap cashmere sweater that night? I don’t get it. If you’re one of those people, please enlighten me on what the thrill or need is to get out on THANKSGIVING to do Christmas shopping. No sarcasm here- I really want to understand it!  I love a bargain as much as the next gal, but whatever happened to enjoying a day!

Why are we rushing away time always wanting to get the next thing? If losing my Dad taught me anything, it’s that you have to enjoy the here and now, living each day for what it is. Stop saving that special outfit for a night out and wear it! Don’t use the special plates once a year!


OK, off my soapbox now. And I guess I’d better remember to buy candy before Friday so my house doesn’t get egged….

Halloween Hater

I hate Halloween.

Ok, hate is a very strong word. I dislike it greatly.

I don’t like the costumes. I don’t like the pressure to come up with an awesome costume every year. My brother does Halloween really well- always has. But me, I wouldn’t mind if it never happened again.

Don’t get me wrong- I love seeing little kids all dressed up, especially babies dressed as animals ( this is one good thing about facebook this time of year- adorably dressed children!) I like handing out candy at my house and greeting the neighborhood kids dressed as witches, firemen, football players, and more. Last year there were three triplets, probably around 1 year old or so, dressed as the lion, the scarecrow, and the tin man from Wizard of Oz. I almost died from the cuteness.

But I never really cared for dressing up. As a kid, I always felt like there was an intense pressure to be something awesome. I also felt like I had to have multiple Halloween costumes for the various Halloween themed events throughout the month- the Girl Scout Halloween party, the school one, and an actual trick or treating costume that met my mother’s warmth/jacket requirement. In college and as an adult going to costume parties, I’ve tried to keep it as lowkey, inexpensive, and no fuss as possible. I think my best efforts in the recent past were Rosie the Riveter and when I went as “tickled pink” ( I wore all pink and had a feather to tickle people haha).

I dislike haunted houses ( I am better than I used to be, but I have had more than my fair share of panic attacks about going into one); I’m super allergic to hay so hayrides, even if not haunted, are not for me. I don’t like horror movies mostly because of the gore, but even the psychological thriller types scare the pants off me. Really, the only positive about Halloween is the discount candy on November 1, though since I’m on the weight loss wagon, I won’t be buying any this year either.

Halloween isn’t my least favorite “holiday” ( that belongs to Valentine’s Day), but it definitely is one I’d pass up, but I can’t even do that because I’d worry my house will get egged and toilet papered!

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?


Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, but for me, it’s about more than the food. For me, Christmas sometimes has a frenzied pace with the buying and trying to visit a lot of friends and family in two days. Thanksgiving has always felt so much more laid back without any pressure, even though I always push myself to make something new and different to bring to the table. Added to the fact that the entire day is about taking time to enjoy and savor- food, family, gratitude, and hands down it becomes the best thing of the year.

The other reason I love Thanksgiving is the traditions. Something about this holiday more than others makes me feel so connected to my family and loved ones in ways that the others don’t even come close to. The making of the Portuguese stuffing is a long held day before Thanksgiving ritual which I’ve taken part in since I was in high school. Many years it has been just me grandmother and I doing it together, others my aunt from California will join us for three generations making our famous Costa recipe. This year it will be just my aunt and I making it together since my grandma has been under the weather, but the tradition still remains.

As I’ve gotten older, some traditions like going to the high school football game have been pushed aside and others have come into the fold ( my family- immediate & extended- always play some raucous games of Cranium after the dinner). When I was growing up my grandparents were in charge of the Thanksgiving feast, but many years ago, my mom took over the duties and I became her sous chef. In the years when I lived at home, we would wake up early to prep the turkey with the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade in the background. My dad would make cinnamon rolls. Even though I’ve since moved into my own house, I still go over in the morning in my pajamas to help get everything ready for the big meal. I can’t imagine not being there with them to help with all the preparations.

This year I began my own new tradition of trying to find ways to give back. A year ago my marriage had ended and I was living on my own in a house I was not sure I could afford with a meager budget. Had it not been for my amazing support network of family and friends who helped in all the ways possible, I very easily could have been a person who needed assistance from strangers. While I haven’t hit the lottery, my financial situation is much healthier this year and I am so incredibly thankful for that. It’s such a small thing to do to buy $30 more in groceries to make a Thanksgiving care package for a family so they have the kind of holiday I love and always had growing up.

Regardless of whether you have a big family shindig or something small, I wish you and yours a very Happy Thanksgiving filled with gratitude & love. 


The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Happy November!

My favorite month starting on my favorite day of the week ( I have always loved Thursdays) seems like a double win.

I love November because it is the month of preparations for my favorite holiday of Thanksgiving, a month about family, food, and traditions, and a time to prepare for celebrations and reflection.

It’s also the start of my busy work season, my favorite museum conference, and time to break out the down comforters and flannel PJs.

This November is jampacked with activities and goals I want to accomplish including the big one of participating in NaNoWriMo- National Novel Writing Month. I cheated a bit and got going last night after trick or treaters left my house. I’m finally writing on some characters and a story I’ve been thinking about for over a year now- and that feels really awesome.

Wishing you all a wonderful eleventh month of the year!

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