Holiday

Get Started....Now

Photo via Pavan Trikutam

Photo via Pavan Trikutam

Phew, the holiday rush is over. Thank goodness all of the Christmas cookies are gone. Life can get back to, well, relatively normal.

I've learned something over the years that makes Christmas easier. I start now. 

Every year I buy next year's Christmas cards right after Christmas. 

Whenever I see a little something for someone on my list I buy it and tuck it away. I only had a couple of last minute gifts to buy. 

I save gift bags and ribbons throughout the year to use at Christmas time. 

You may have noticed but there weren't any holiday how to's or tutorials on this here blog (there was that one post where I said get some greens, which was about the extent of it). I did say 'hey-take it easy'. There also weren't any holiday gift guides because a) I try to buy local or handmade b) I try to make stuff for people and c) I'm buying my gifts all year. 

I was catching up on some blog reading and I kept coming across some great holiday tutorials, like hand painting fabric,  making an advent calendar, or making ornaments and I was thinking when was I supposed to find the time to do all these things. Yet, if I were to start doing these things now, then maybe I'd get it done in time. Knowing me I probably won't so I should probably just walk away from the glue gun. Sigh. 

I deliberately chose peace this holiday season but I had to let go of some stuff in order to make it happen. I let go of hand making all of the gifts. I didn't make cookies. I hosted no holiday parties. And I was happier because of it. 

It's almost a year away, but I would argue that if you set your holiday intentions now for peace and harmony, then plan for it and make it so. 

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Happy Holidays

I think over the years I have stopped buying into the holiday hype. I've also stopped being such a control freak (which helps). So, this holiday season has been relatively chill. I usually buy presents throughout the year and I only had a couple of gifts to find this week. In some cases I'm giving my time and expertise instead of gifts, which makes it even easier.

Letting go of so much of the pressure I put on myself to make the holidays perfect has meant that I'm actually able to enjoy spending time with people.

The photo above is a little bittersweet because it was an undeveloped roll of film that I found in my grandfather's camera after he died.  Sometimes the holidays can be extra hard when you miss someone you love. I'm going to enjoy spending time with my family and I hope you do too. 

 

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Making it Green

I used to always put up a live Christmas tree, but one year I found a vintage 1950's aluminum tree and well, pine needles and I parted ways. I've missed having that bit of green and the smell of a Christmas tree, so I brought it in through a different way. 

This isn't quite a 'how to' but more of a guide on gathering up your greens. I went to Gethsemane nursery in Andersonville and picked up some boxwood branches, red berry sprigs, juniper greens and flowering eucalyptus. 

My apartment isn't very big so I didn't want to buy any of the big pre-made garland (even though it was gorgeous). My next house will have a sweeping staircase and a wide entry way (kind of like Tara in Gone With the Wind) and then I'll be piling on the greenery. 

For the entryway that divides my living room and dining room I hung larger lights and clipped some juniper and red berry's to the lights. That was it. My only warning is tape will not hold this thing up (not that I'm speaking from experience!). Make sure you have the lights hung securely before you start adding the greens. 

I loved that it was quick and easy plus it smells delicious. 

My mantle needed some Christmas spirit. For my first attempt I lay down some boxwood and berries. I also added a couple of things I picked up from Target. I couldn't resist the wee tree and owl. My first attempt was very underwhelming. It definitely needed more...something. 

I took everything off and looped some lights all over the mantle. I used the bigger white lights again, but small lights would work just as well. I lay the boxwood and berries down and added the flowering eucalyptus to the mix and it felt much more lush.  

I still had some boxwood left and so I laid a couple of branches stem to stem and taped them up. I added some red berries to hide the tape (you could also wrap it in some ribbon). I looped some picture hanging wire around it and hung it on a nail over the entrance way to my kitchen. 

My apartment is now in the Christmas spirit. This is the first year I've splurged and brought home fresh cuttings. Having that bit of nature just feels good. Plus it smells incredible. 

P.S. You only see a glimpse of it, but that amazing piece of art on my mantle was done by my friend Doug Birkenheuer who is a gifted photographer. 

 

 

 

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Holiday Gift Guide

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So I am like the worst blogger ever (or would that be evah with a valley girl accent?!) because I don't really do holiday gift guides. If you want to go out and buy stuff then go for it. There are tons of holiday gift guides for your man or that special lady. I would say if you need to do some shopping then check out that super cool store in your neighborhood because you never know what you are going to find. 

I am actually trying not to buy things for people this year, but instead to have experiences. For example, I just got two tickets to King Spa to have a lady date with one of my favorite friends. We'll spend the day hanging out in the spa, catching up on life and maybe even taking a nap. Best day evah! 

Dabble has a ton of great classes. I teach Interior Design 101 and it is a fun class to give as a gift. It's also a great class for couples. I've had lots of gentlemen come with their partners. 

Lillstreet is another place that has a ton of amazing classes. They also have some great one day creative retreats. I took a drawing class there and it was a lot of fun. 

Go to the Sunday Dinner Club. They have a rotating menu and often really delicious drink pairings. 

Make a date to explore a new neighborhood in Chicago. Part of what makes this city so fabulous are the different neighborhoods that each have their own flavor. I was down in Bridgeport recently and man did I have fun. 

Make someone brunch or dinner. Or do something for them that they have been putting off because they don't have the time or the skills. Shhh don't tell my grandma but she asked me to make curtains (which I really don't like doing), but since it is the season of giving I'm going to make the curtains. 

Enjoy your holidays. Don't let them take over your life. Here are a few tips to help you make it through the holiday season. 

Are you giving any alternative gifts? 

 

 

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5 tips to make it through the holidays

Want to know how to have a stress free holiday season? The secret is less. Do less, buy less and eat less. 

If the holidays make you irritable, cranky and worn out, then it's time to reevaluate what you are doing. 

  1. If you have too many parties to go to and you just can't take anymore, then review the list and say yes only to the invites that make you want to say 'Hell Yes!'. Going to a party should not feel like an obligation. 
     
  2. Stop with the shopping madness. I remember as a kid driving to my grandparent's house on Christmas morning and nothing was open. Not even the local gas station. I was wrapped up in a cozy cocoon in the car and there was this sublime hush as the tires crunched over newly fallen snow. Unless you are saving babies, you shouldn't have to work on Thanksgiving or Christmas.
     
  3. Buy less. Cut your shopping list in half. It means you have to spend less time and less money shopping. Christmas should not put you in debt. My mom would set aside cash all year in envelopes for each person in the family. When she was shopping the cash in the envelope dictated what she could spend. Nothing went on credit cards. I have a friend who made a decision to buy each child four things. Something they want, something they need, something to wear and something to read. She pointed out they already have so many toys they don't use. Another way to save money, and the environment, is to not buy wrapping paper (plus where do you store this stuff!). I save packing paper throughout the year and use that to wrap my presents. 
     
  4. Give something different. I teach sewing and am an interior decorator and sometimes I give away lessons or design work as presents. I'll make presents using upcycled materials or materials I have on hand. Since I am on a pretty tight budget right now I was thinking of making dinner for a couple of friends instead of buying presents. If you need to get some shopping done then shop local. You'll support your community and find unique presents for the people in your life. 
     
  5. Give yourself permission to say no. If there are traditions that are no longer working for your family then rework them. If there are obligations that you can no longer make then don't do them. Keep yourself happy and sane this holiday season. 

I can practically hear you scoffing, but try the things I've mentioned. Yes, someone may be upset with you because you didn't fulfill their needs, but what about your needs? What about being a pleasant person to be around and being there for your friends and families because you aren't stressed out so much that you've checked out of the conversation? What would it look like if you had time to spend with loved ones? 

This holiday season you may not see me much because I'll be enjoying myself. 

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