Tag Archives: christmas

Holiday Shopping vs. Holiday Spirit

You’ve heard it all before, right? Complaints about retailers who put up Christmas decorations by Halloween, the commercialization of a religious holiday, and the stress and exhaustion (and emptied checkbook) caused by hunting down “the perfect” holiday gifts.

I’m not sure how you handle it all, but I’ve tried different techniques to cope with the madness that is Christmas in America.

This is the time of year I inventory all the coats, boots, clothes, toys, and other gently used items in the house that would better benefit others in need. Not only is it freeing to purge the closets and drawers, but also it feels good to know that these donations will end up helping others less fortunate than me.

Another thing I’ve done in the past is ask my family not to send me gifts, but to take whatever money they might’ve spent on me and donate it to a charity (if they pick a charity of my choice, I match it). One year I was able to buy two new kitchen appliances for a shelter for abused women thanks to my family’s cooperation. I didn’t get a single gift, but it might be one of my favorite Christmases ever.

Thirdly, the older I get, the more I realize that the truly memorable things in my life revolve around things I’ve done rather than things I’ve owned. Therefore, now that my kids are teens, we’ve switched from buying “stuff” to buying a meaningful experience (a camp or lesson). Hopefully, later in life, they’ll appreciate that idea more than they do right now.

Finally, this year I also want my kids generate an idea of their own that is in the true spirit of giving (as opposed to “buying”). That reminds me, I need to check in with them to see if they’ve come up with something.

Care to share any special traditions you and your family have that showcase the real meaning of this holiday season?







Party Time

My favorite childhood memories of Christmas have nothing to do with presents and Santa, and everything to do with the parties. I grew up on the same street with three sets of cousins and one set of grandparents (all on my Italian father’s side of the family). My mother’s family all lived within five miles (and she had 100 cousins, so I’m talking about a lot of people). FullSizeRenderFullSizeRender

Beginning mid-day Christmas Eve day and continuing through Christmas night, the holiday was one endless party trail as we traveled to several houses, played with cousins, ate too many cookies, and sat down to a few good meals. All the grown-ups were too busy drinking and visiting to pay much attention to us kids, so we enjoyed unbridled freedom, which is probably why the memories are so good!

Really bad selfie!

Really bad selfie!

Now I live in Connecticut, away from most of my family. However, ironically, one of those cousins from the old ‘hood lives in my town, as does my best friend from high school, so I can recreate a little bit a of that family feeling for my kids. For a few years, I’ve hosted a small get-together on December 23rd. This year, we decided to open it up a bit and invite about ten families. I had so much fun (as did the kids), next year I’m determined to make it even bigger. The only downside is, as a grown-up, I’m stuck with the clean-up, too. But it is well worth it.

Mom and my Hubby

Mom and my Hubby

Hope you enjoy the few photos (that’s my mom dressed like a Nutcracker) of our little event. Do you have or attend holiday parties, or do you prefer to keep things quiet?

MERRY CHRISTMAS, and best wishes for a happy, healthy new year.

PS  My newsletter will be going out in early January, so if you want a sneak peek at Worth the Trouble, a chance to win an early review copy, and to vote on the charity I’ll be donating some of the sales proceeds to, please make sure you are signed up. It’s a two-step process, so make sure to respond to the verification email!



Holiday Baking…and Other Disasters

I knew before we started that my daughter’s and my plan to bake Christmas cookies would not become a blissful Betty Crocker memory. First, I’m not a baker. And when I do bake, I prefer to make brownies or cakes. You know–things that are less time intensive, require just one pass at the oven, and generally are difficult to burn.

FullSizeRender(1) But my daughter really wanted to make the pretty iced cookies she saw on the covers of every magazine at the checkout line, so I went along.

Within minutes, confectioner’s sugar had spilled all over the table, along with a container of green sprinkles. Greasy fingerprints and red gel icing dotted the counters. And the cute candy cane and wreath shaped FullSizeRender 2cookies we attempted to create ultimately spread and melted into blobs on the cookie sheets.

When we tried to ice one batch, we didn’t wait long enough, so that first smear of icing just tore off the top halves of the cookies. We burned the bottoms of another batch of chocolate cookies. My daughter tried to salvage what we didn’t destroy, but needless to say, they look nothing like intended. We can only hope they taste better than they appear.

I wish I could report that I rolled with the punches and giggled and laughed. Sadly, the perfectionist in me just got more disgusted with every mistake. My attempt to share a Christmas moment with my daughter went up in flames (much like that one batch of cookies).   In other words, major fail on my part, despite the smooth voice of Bing Crosby in the background.

Next year I vow to do a better job (assuming my daughter gives me another chance). If I stick to cupcakes and hot chocolate, perhaps I’ve got a shot.

Do you have a Christmas fail story to share?