Things I Love Thursday – Christmas Edition

Its just DAYS before Christmas, and it is by far my favorite time of the year! Nothing is more magical and more amazing than this time of the year, look around! Look at the children, look at how excited they are! I LOVE Christmas!

This week there are lots of things I love! Lets start with these photos… two of my FAVORITE!

Nothing is more special to me than a capturing the magic that only kids can see and feel. I took this photo last year of one of my husbands cousins… so cute!

This is my father in law and one of his great nieces. My father in law is a SUCKER for kids, and as you can tell, they are a sucker for him too! Every time I see this photo I think of the classic childrens story, ‘If you give a mouse a cookie.’ Isn’t she adorable?!

Other things I am loving this week: Cheesy Potato Soup. My mother in law makes it every year for a family party, and we always get to take home leftovers! Yum!

Cookies! We have so many different kinds of cookies at our house right now. Snickerdoodles. Sugar Cookies. Chocolate Chip. Maple Bars. Christmas is definitley not for the healthy eaters, or the diabetics!

Ethnic Christmases! This year we are celebrating Scottish/Irish on Friday and German on Saturday (my Oma’s is always German, and always wonderful! Irish will be an adventure!). I am so excited that we do this each year and am excited to include my baby in these traditions next year.

What do you love this week?

 

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Last Minute Decor Ideas!

I have been pinning and loving all the holiday decor ideas on Pintrest! Here are the links so that you can check them out and make them (most take less than 30 minutes!) in time for the holidays!

To Make: http://pinterest.com/emtdani/to-make/

Holiday Odds and Ends: http://pinterest.com/emtdani/christmas-misc/

 

Music Monday

Christmas Decor Inspiration

Grandma’s Ethnic Christmases

My grandmother is a special woman, she is very cultured, very “high class” so to speak. Growing up, Grandma wasn’t into the whole traditional grandmother scene. She didn’t bake us chocolate chip cookies and take us to the park to play. Grandma took us to the museum, to art galleries, to the opera and symphony.

So it’s not that shocking that she refused to do a traditional all-American Christmas. Grandma did ETHNIC Christmases.

What exactly is an ethnic Christmas?

An ethnic Christmas is where we place all sorts of countries in a bowl and draw one out. Then, depending on the country that we drew we would serve food from that country, read traditional stories from that country, share artwork and receive gifts that would be traditional for that country.

Grandma isn’t popular with my dad and uncle when it comes to gifts; she gives boxes of rice and bags of oranges. In her defense, I probably would give them oranges over a bad tie any day too. When it came to ethnic Christmases they were definitely not big fans, but they did provide hilarious commentary.

We did this for quite a few years, the countries we drew out were Canadian (yes, they have different traditions than us apparently!), German (not a huge one for me since I am 75% German anyways and celebrate a traditional German Christmas yearly), Swedish, Nordic, Spanish and English. When we drew out France my grandpa put an end to this tradition, he refused to eat anything French, no matter how good or bad it was.

At first it was dull, and I really struggled to appreciate it. I wanted a NORMAL Christmas, but Grandma wanted her family to be well educated and appreciative of what we have. So we went with it. The first year wasn’t so bad, nor was the second year, and frankly, I didn’t appreciate it until we got to the third year, our Swedish Christmas.

This was the year that Grandma found ornaments from that country. This was the one I received, and as odd as it looks, I really liked it. We had Swedish meatballs for dinner and joked about how we should’ve had a family field trip to Ikea to help celebrate the season. From there on, it just kept getting more interesting.

The next year my Grandma shared stories from Norway, their traditions, beliefs and values. We learned about the vikings, about the mythology of the Vikings and how they celebrated Christmas. The next Christmas was a Spanish Christmas, and I was so excited to learn more about people. For whatever reason, people fascinated me.

Spanish Christmas came with rice, beans, and chips. My Uncle suggested we go to Cafe Rio instead of Grandma’s for Christmas dinner, my dad joked about how we could’ve hired a hispanic to cook for us. We listened to Feliz Navidad and for the first time, we all got into it. Our stockings were filled with Rice again and cans of beans. We laughed it off.

The last ethnic Christmas we had was an English Christmas. This was a big one for Grandma, who is big into our family history. She told us all about our ancestors and how they celebrated Christmases in England. We listened to Christmas carols sung with a Geordie accent. We got ornaments and knock-off Burberry scarves.

That next year, when Grandpa drew the line for the French Christmas was also the last healthy Christmas Grandma had. Her other kidney started to fail her and it was difficult for her to get into the holiday season. She ordered pizzas the next year for dinner, we listened to traditional music, Grandpa fell asleep watching the nightly news and we got notebooks and journals for Christmas. I miss those ethnic Christmases. I miss learning about people, and most of all I miss Grandma’s eyes light up as we all sat in her living room, listening to her and Grandpa read the stories and mythology she researched.

If you ever have a chance to have an ethnic Christmas, I highly recommend it. Even if it is just for one year, it is very unique and very fun.

Music Monday: My Holiday Playlist

When it comes to the holidays, there is LOTS of music, and all of it is so good! How could I possibly list all those great tunes in just a few short weeks? Easy! Post my playlist here! Here it is ladies and gentlemen …

We Need A Little Christmas – Glee Cast

Silent Night – Sara Ramirez

Where are you Christmas – Faith Hill

Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree – Brenda Lee

Winter Wonderland – Darius Rucker

Christmas Dreams – Trans-Siberian Orchestra

All I Want for Christmas is You – Mariah Carey

Christmases when you were Mine – Taylor Swift

Carol of the Bells – Mormon Tabernacle Choir

 

What are some songs on your holiday playlist?

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Cut Down on Holiday Stress

Originally, I wanted to write my own article on how to cut down on Holiday stress. After some googling and lots of consideration, I decided that this article says exactly what I wanted to say, and then some.

Here is the original article link, published in Psychology Today. (Medical junkies, I reccomend this magazine/newsletter. It’s fantastic!) I own none of this article!

10 Common Holiday Stresses and How to Cope with Them

Tips for managing the anxiety of the season.
Published on November 12, 2011 by Pamela Wiegartz, Ph.D. in In the Age of Anxiety

The holidays can be demanding for many reasons, but if you’re prone to anxiety they can be downright overwhelming.   The gifts, the parties, the baking, the family—or perhaps the absence of these things—can make the season stressful, chaotic or just plain lonely.

But even in the midst of all this holiday hubbub, you can take control of your anxiety.  With some practical strategies for managing the stress of this season, you may even end up enjoying this frenetic time of year.  Look for these common holiday complaints in your life and use the tips below to find peace and joy in this year’s holiday season:

1.) I can’t get it all done! The entertaining, shopping, travel and myriad other tasks that accompany the holidays can just feel like too much on top of an already-packed schedule.  If you are feeling pulled in too many different directions, take a moment to slow down.  Take the opportunity to plan menus and consider gift ideas ahead of time.  Make lists of the items you will need and then give yourself a few days to add anything you may have forgotten before heading out to brave the crowds.  By organizing, prioritizing and grouping tasks together, you can minimize the stress of multiple trips to the grocery store or mall and avoid last minute scrambling.

2.) I can’t afford this! Beginning in September (or maybe even August!) we are bombarded with television and magazine ads depicting holiday tables overflowing with food and gifts stockpiled under beautifully decorated fir trees.  It is easy to overspend in an attempt to reach these holiday expectations.  Set a budget and avoid the temptation to stray.  When you are making your gift lists, determine how much you can spend on each person and stick with it!  Consider pooling resources to buy group gifts for friends.  Draw names from a hat and buy gifts for one family member rather than all of them.  Think about handmade gifts like baked goods, ornaments or a recipe book or photo album.  Or give the gift of time by babysitting for a friend or helping your grandmother clean her attic-it’s free and often the most thoughtful present you can give.

3.) This isn’t how I thought it would be! The holidays come packed with high expectations.  Norman Rockwell and Martha Stewart have irreversibly colored our visions of what the holiday season “should” be, making it difficult to not be disappointed by reality.  Lower your expectations.  Try for a “good enough” holiday season.  By keeping expectations realistic and focusing on what’s really important to you, you may just find that your “good enough” holiday turns out to be “pretty great” after all.

4.) I can’t stand my family! This is the time of year when families feel compelled to come together in peaceful, loving harmony—whether they like it or not!  If your family is truly abusive, unpleasant or unhealthy for you, know that you have the choice to decline spending time with them.  If like most families, however, they are just mildly irritating, boastful, opinionated or hypercritical, use this opportunity to practice your coping and communication skills.  Pick your battles—do you really want to argue about politics or ancient slights over turkey and stuffing with the whole family witnessing?  Let it go for one day.  Walk away and take a break if that works best.  If you need to sort through personal and ideologic differences, find another time when you can discuss these things privately.  Set the tone by doing your best to not criticize others and to accept your family for who they are-likely imperfect and often times annoying-but family nonetheless.

5.) I’m lonely! On the flip side, this season can often be a time when the absence of family or social connections becomes highlighted.  If you are far from family, try creative ways to connect with them like email, videos or Skype.  If you find yourself feeling alone, look for local holiday concerts or community events to attend.  Find out if any co-workers may also be far from family or without holiday plans and have a potluck.  Consider spending your time giving to someone else in need.  Volunteer at a local soup kitchen or food pantry or distribute gifts to needy children. Helping someone else makes you feel good and can broaden your social relationships.

6.) I hate crowds! I recall being stuck in an hours-long traffic jam one Thanksgiving Eve while my car radio blared Andy Williams’ The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.  The irony was not lost on me.  Sometimes you just have to laugh.  The traffic, crowds and interminably long lines are, unfortunately, as much a part of the season as cranberry sauce and candy canes.  But instead of frustration or anger, try humor, kindness or mindfulness.  If you’re stuck in traffic, use the time to call an old friend and catch up.  If you’re waiting in line, strike up a conversation with someone else waiting.  If the crowds are rattling your nerves, take the opportunity to notice the sights and sounds around you.  Take deep breaths and try to relax, accept that this is an inevitable part of the season but only a temporary inconvenience.

7.) I have too many parties! The holiday season is packed with cookie exchanges, work parties and school plays.  It can be entirely overstimulating.  Remember that it’s okay to say “no” to some things.  Choose wisely.  Don’t spend your time at a party with people whose company you don’t really enjoy when you could be home with your family or making a dent in your holiday shopping.   Friends and family will understand if you can’t attend every social gathering.

8.) I’m exhausted! The late-night parties, alcohol and over-indulgence in holiday sweets can leave you feeling tired, sluggish and guilty.    Make a pledge to have a fun but healthy holiday season.  Be sure to get plenty of rest during this stressful time.  Be mindful of your alcohol consumption.  Watch the carbs-have one cookie instead of three, don’t go back for a second helping of mashed potatoes and gravy.  And, as best you can, try to maintain an exercise schedule during these busy months.  Take the time to take care of yourself and you’ll have more energy to enjoy all that the holidays have to offer. 9.) I haven’t accomplished anything this year! As the New Year nears, we begin to take stock of the past months and may feel down over unmet goals.  Perhaps you didn’t lose the weight or didn’t get that promotion at work or the garage remains a mess or your files disorganized.   It’s great to set goals for yourself, but it’s a reality that they are not always met within the timeframe we had hoped. Rather than feeling down about what you didn’t do last year, take this time to re-evaluate.  Why didn’t these things get done?  Are these goals still important to you?  If so, what could you do differently in the New Year to meet them? Regroup and reenergize by focusing on the future, not ruminating on the past!

10.) It’s just too much. If you find that you just can’t cope with your anxiety or sadness, be sure to get the help you need.  The holidays can be a very difficult time.  If you are feeling overwhelmed by your feelings, talk to your doctor or find a mental health professional.  This is the time to make resolutions for the New Year and now is the perfect time to address any issues with anxiety or depression that have been plaguing you.  If you need assistance finding a mental health provider, talk to your doctor, look at the find-a-therapist section on this website or go to www.academyofct.org, www.adaa.org or www.abct.org for help.

Best wishes for a peaceful and joyous holiday season and a calm and happy New Year!

Things I Love Thursday

  • My new (read: fixed and finally able to use) desk chair! Hubs got it from work for $20, it’s really nice, but was missing a wheel, making it very dangerous to sit in. We finally got it fixed in time for my blog launch!
  • Christmas stations on Pandora!
  • Super-soft socks
  • My bunny and his obsession with paper- he loves it. Shredding it, tossing it, organizing it. He’s a happy little man.
  • People who have no relation to you treating you like family.
  • Craft ideas from Tumblr and Stumbleupon!
  • Homemade Broccoli-Cheese Soup made by my mother-in-law (and brought over! How sweet is she?!)
  • Glitter nail polish!

5 Holiday Specials I Won’t Be Watching

The one thing I love about the holidays is the cute holiday specials. Peanuts and Charlie Brown, Lifetime movies, Hallmark channel is full of them. However, there are a few specials I WON’T be watching. . . (and a short summary of what to expect in this waste of television air time)

1. A Very Kardashian Christmas – Kim will do a photo shoot of some kind. Momma Kardashian will whine about her age and how upset she is about it. Bruce will sleep on the couch. Kourtney and Khole will get in a fight over one of the boys being an asshole. Rob will show off his DWTS moves and make Kim angry, resulting in an all-out family brawl over Christmas dinner.

2. Snooki’s Snowday Adventure– This “little person” sized Jersey Shore star will travel to the mountains of Aspen Colorado, where she will get ridiculed, people will try to ditch her on the top of the mountain, and a good hour will be spent listening to her bitch about how cold her ass is.

3. Desperate Housewives – The Black Friday Experience – The Desperate Housewives will add oomph to their final season by adding this special to their lineup, where during a Black Friday brawl they kill another person in a K-Mart- over the new Modern warfare 3 game for Xbox. This time, the cops will come and arrest them and place them in jail, ending the series.

4.. Toddlers and Tiaras: The Christmas Pageant – As if the meltdowns and drama wasn’t already silly enough, now they’re taking pageantry to a whole new level with a Pageant on Christmas Eve. Between families begging the parents not to do it, toddler meltdowns and very risqué dresses (if you could call the outfits that), the competition is stiff. Or hopped up on Pixie Sticks and Redbull again. Either way. Santa does make an appearance for the toddlers, but the only Santa they could find is boozed out- resulting in traumatic memories for all the girls involved.

5. True Life: I still believe in Santa: In this MTV special, they focus on two 55-year-old men who still live at home with their mothers, believe in Santa Claus and their adventures during the holiday season. (These men do not have any mental disabilities either). These adventures include but are not limited to, visiting Santa at the mall, writing a letter to the North Pole and going to a reindeer ranch to feed Donner and Blitzen. At the end of the special their mothers will have to tell them the truth, resulting in a “gut wrenching finale.”

*Note: None of these actually exist to the best of my knowledge.