Saturday, December 18, 2010

More Christmas Goodness

Clearly, the theme for my blog this month, when I am not ignoring it, is Christmas. I love this time of year, and I still think it's possible to get through with less stress and more fun. I grew up with some great holiday traditions, and I have managed to add a few more as an adult. So, here are my favorite things to do between Thanksgiving and New Years

Enjoy Decorating: I love getting out the ornaments and remembering where I got them or who gave them to me. When I was young, I used to do this with my mom every year. I look forward to doing the same with my kids one day. I also love Angela's comment on my last post- she giving ornaments as gifts this year. Even better, she bought them from an organization that supports people with developmental disabilities. I think that counts as "Giving Presence!"

Have a Party: I have done something really casual the last few years- I make a big pot of mulled cider and bake a few treats. It gives me the chance to show off my decorated house and my baking skills. I think you could also throw a party in lieu of giving gifts to some of your friends. They will probably enjoy the evening more than another knickknack anyway!

Cook or Bake Something Special: There are a few treats (cheese and sausage balls, Snickerdoodles, fudge) that I only make at this time of year. They are very decadent, so I look forward to them at Christmas time and don't really eat them the rest of the year.

Play Some Christmas Music: I have created a play list on my iPod of some really great holiday tunes, and I love the day in November when I load them back onto my Nano. I play them when I put up the decorations, when I'm baking, during my party, and while I wrap gifts. I have a fantasy of being in one of those movie scene parties where someone plays carols on the piano and everyone sings. Sadly, I don't have a piano and don't sing that well, so the iPod has to suffice. Here are a few of my favorites-

Linus and Lucy- Vince Girabaldi
Baby Its Cold Outside- Dean Martin
O Holy Night- Faith Hill
Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas- James Taylor
The Nutcracker Suite- The Brian Setzer Orchestra
Walkin' in a Winter Wonderland- Dolly Paron
Carol of the Bells- Straight No Chaser

What are some of your favorite holiday traditions? I would love to hear!

Happy Holidays and KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid)

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Advent Conspiracy

Sometimes it's weird how things come together. Less than 24 hours after my last post (about giving fewer gifts and spending a little less this season), I found myself sitting in Church with Beth listening to a presentation about Advent Conspiracy. This is a movement that asks us to spend a little less on material gifts this year and donate the money to a better cause.

The presentation said this: each year, Americans spend $450 billion on Christmas. The cost to drill enough fresh water wells to solve the world's water problems would be $10 billion.

So the congregation was challenged to buy just one less gift this year, and instead use the money to support the Advent Conspiracy movement.  Here is a link to the website if you're interested: I hope that you check it out and feel moved to "Give Presence" this season!

See, it's not so revolutionary! Just remember to KISS (keep it simple stupid).

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Does Anyone Really Need More Stuff?

The  holiday season is where my desire for simplicity goes to war with my traditional belief that more is better when it comes to Christmas. Truly, I love the decorations, the parties, the plans to see family members who are far away, and especially the tasty treats. But there is one place I like to be a little Stoogy: the gifts.

Before you unfriend me on Facebook and un-invite me from your holiday party, hear me out, okay? What I'm saying is, who do you know that really needs more stuff? And, do you ever get through Christmas even remotely on budget? And, when you watch your young relatives opening piles of presents, don't you ever notice that in the end they only really love one or two of the presents?

I am not, by any means, saying that we should stop giving gifts altogether. Actually, Leo Babauta is saying that in this post (  I very interested in hearing about how he explains this position to his six children. What I do propose is that we take a less is more approach to holiday shopping. Here are some thoughts:

My co-worker is a single mother of five children. She says that each child receives only 2-3 larger gifts at Christmas, rather than a pile of small presents. Her perspective is: "I don't like to pick up toys!" She finds that when she works Christmas this way, the gifts are better quality and the children enjoy the presents more and for longer.

Most of us struggle with where to put more "things." I really try to give gifts that aren't things- magazine subscriptions are some of my favorite gifts. I also like to give restaurant gift cards and fancy foods (Omaha steaks and Harry and David baskets are my favorites).  These are gifts that get used up, instead of hanging around the house collecting dust.

Everyone LOVES gift cards- don't feel bad that they are not personal. They allow the recipient to pick something really that he or she really wants in the perfect size and color.

I really don't mind if people return gifts I give them, and I show this by including a gift receipt whenever possible. Lots of people feel too guilty to get rid of an unwanted gift, so it hangs around until the inconvenience outweighs the guilt. I don't want one of my gifts doing this.

It really is the thought, not the cost, that counts.

Very few of us will give or receive many "perfect" gifts in our lifetime. Good enough is good enough. Just don't forget the gift receipt.

Just some thoughts for holiday shopping sanity. Feel free to post your own tips for preventing "Holidaze." Goodbye for now and KISS (keep it simple stupid).
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