5 Things in my Holiday Survival Kit

I’ve had good intentions of wanting to blog this month, but have been distracted with the busyness that is typical of the holiday season. In the spirit of wanting to share some thoughts, I put together a top 5 list of things in my Holiday Survival Kit.

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A few things that make our holidays easier: Coffee, heated blanket (see snow & cold), Christmas lights.

Side note – I know we all have moments where we think about just “surviving” through the holidays. There is certainly a negative connotation with the word “survival.” Certainly we want to absorb, enjoy and relax in the company of loved ones during this special time of year instead of merely survive.  In other words, here are some things to make the holidays easier and more pleasant in my humble opinion:

  1. Coffee / select beverages: Late nights of wrapping gifts or celebrating too hard at holiday parties make coffee a necessity in my book! I discovered an organic coffee from a local roaster at our neighborhood Italian bakery. Love it! Other selected beverages in our house mean some apple cider, mulled cranberry juice / red wine (like we enjoyed at Austrian Christkindl markets), and a classic old fashioned mixed drink – make mine sweet with brandy.

    old fashioned mixed drink

    Old Fashioneds – a classic family get-together drink. Daddy O. makes the best ones!

  2. Gym Membership: After having a double header of Thanksgiving meals, I felt a little lethargic and lazy.  A few trips to the gym just make me feel and sleep better.
  3. Heated Blanket: It can get COLD in Wisconsin, so we love turning on our heated blanket to be cozy & warm and catch some needed Z’s!
  4. The Internet – This is one big old category, but it IS the BEST for shopping, streaming Netflix, and streaming variety of holiday tunes. What would we do without it?! Kids, ignore all of the boxes.
  5. Christmas Lights: There is something so peaceful about sitting in the glow of our lit Christmas tree. As a family we love looking at holiday lights, shouting, “lights out big sister’s / little brother’s side.”  It is pure joy seeing their excitement and sense of wonder at it all. Lights in general are an excellent reminder of the true spirit of Christmas.
enjoying our Christmas tree as a family

Last year I captured the magic of seeing our Christmas tree fully decorated. I just love these pictures!

The Light of Christmas 

It’s more than simply the lights that decorate our trees and homes. It’s the light we hold in our hearts and share with others not only at this time of year, but the entire year through. We need to be the “light” for one another, spreading joy, peace, hope, and love.

There are so many ways to share and care this time of year through giving of gifts, time, and money to so many causes. My kids and I shopped for presents to be given to the less fortunate in our area, and I was so impressed by the time and thought they put into selecting their gift to give away. There was no whining, complaining or fighting at the store, so this mom was quite pleased! This was one small way of giving back, and hopefully teaching my kids a little about being “light” for others.

The best cure for surviving the stress of the holidays is to look to the light.  Appreciate the season and reflect on its core meaning: peace, joy and love.

Wishing you all happiness this holiday season!

What helps you through the holidays? What traditions do you have to help spread or be the light?

Choosing our Holiday Card

I wrote about our holiday photo card in a few other posts already. I found a new website with some excellent card options called Minted.  In that first post back in October, I chose a few of my favorite cards….or so I thought.

Later that week I lamented that taking good pictures of my kids is a seemingly impossible feat. You can see my attempts here.

At big sister’s birthday party, we decided to take some more family pictures at a decidedly BAD time – at the end of the party. Here’s what we ended up with:

My kids' idea of a good picture.

This is my kids’ idea of a great picture!

It is kind of funny because it captures the energy and excitement of a three and five year old.  It also looks like I have a tail because I’m sitting on my food.  I don’t strive for perfection in my holiday photo card…just a few fun pictures that show our smiling faces will do fine in sending some holiday cheer to loved ones.

Initially these two card were my clear favorites.

When I spent some time on Minted’s site dropping in images, they just didn’t work well in the different sized fragments of the tree or heart.  When I showed Daddy O., he commented, “Why are you sending a broken heart Christmas card?” Hmm…I hadn’t looked at it that way.  These sample cards use similar pictures, all taken at once. I didn’t have such pictures at my disposal, so I needed a plan B.

In mixing different pictures taken throughout the year, another card format would work better for my family. Several photo slots, interesting font style, and color were some of my requirements. Without further ado, here is our card style:

Minted Holiday Collage Photo Card

A card with multiple pictures may work best for our family.

I ordered the cards and opted to have them delivered faster – without a printed proof.  I already received them and I loved how they were packaged with a handwritten note.

Thanks Tammy! The cards look great!

Thanks Tammy! The cards look great!

Do you have your holiday cards all set for this year? What type of format do you typically use? What other photo gifts do you create for family?  Personally I love creating cards and calendars every year. It gives me a chance to look back through pictures, remember many fun times, and count our many blessings.

Have a great week and lovely Thanksgiving!

Un-decking the Halls

Does taking down Christmas decorations leave you blue?  I can’t help but feel that way as a “un-deck” the halls at our house. We had a lovely, busy, and festive holiday season full of multiple family gatherings, delicious food – and some tasty leftovers, and many wonderful toys.  Now as I take everything down, I can’t get motivated to cram the last few things into the big green storage bin in our basement.  Instead it sits on my husband’s already cluttered tool bench (though I’m not getting any complaints there).

Growing up our artificial tree would be up for what seemed like MONTHS after Christmas!  My mom once dreamed it was March and the tree was still up.  I think she too struggled with putting everything away – something I may have inherited from her! We also had Christmas lights permanently mounted to the main window indoors.  All you had to do was flip a switch and cha-ching – instant holiday year-round!

Is putting everything away part of the realization that we’re just going back into our typical, non-festive routine – a long stretch of hibernating during winter and cold without any EXCITING holidays for some time?  Shouldn’t I still be feeling the hope and excitement of a New Year?  Sigh…I don’t know.

Little by little, everything will find its place, from the Christmas decorations to the newly received toys that are overflowing from toy bins as we speak. I will get re-organized and re-energized at some point.

I already found a few inspiring places for motivation and kid’s organization:

Small Potatoes

Merriment

Attempting Aloha

For today, I’ll hang out with my 3 year old, who is boycotting nap time. How is “un-decking the halls” going for you?

Squinting to see the Light

Our Christmas Tree with white lights 2012

Our Christmas Tree 2012

When I put the lights on our Christmas tree every year, I like to use what I call the “squint test.”  This means that I step back from the tree and squint my eyes once the lights are on to see if there are many points of white light to make our tree shiny and beautiful.

In the wake of yesterday’s shooting massacre, I find myself squinting to see the light again during this holiday season.  My heart aches with prayers for heaven’s newest angels, for their loved ones left behind, for all parents, and for everyone searching for answers in such a violent year full of too many tragedies.  Is it possible to squint real hard to see the light and have some hope?

Life is precious and delicate – a concept put beautifully by Little Miss Wordy in her post yesterday.   I had some rough parenting moments with my 3 year old yesterday, but I quickly got over it when I heard the news.  I feel so blessed as I hugged my children extra hard last night.

In reading friend’s posts on Facebook, everyone expressed their sorrow, pain, fear, sympathy, and love. It’s a scary world out there, and every day is so precious.  I thought this quote from Mr. Rogers helps us look for the light –

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things on the news, my mother would say, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.”

Praying for extra helpers to shine love & light….

– Cathy (Mama O.)