January 14, 2014

Christmas. Oh that beautiful two-edged sword. So magical and warm, yet comes with the sting of family drama, stress, broke bank account, and let’s not forget the inevitable weight gain. These hardships have converted me to the naughty listed side. No more spending months finding and putting together the perfect gifts. No more staying up till 3am to make amazing treats and desserts. No more spending hours decorating a beautiful live tree. No Xmas. 

Come next Christmas everyone will be lucky to get one gift. And it won’t be a meaningful hand-made gift that spent hours creating. It will be store bought, with the gift receipt included. Forget that. Just gift cards. Target gift cards for everyone. I will not be making white chocolate chip macadamia nut cookies, or dark chocolate orange French macaroons, or cute reindeer hot chocolate packets with homemade peppermint marshmallows. Everyone can have one Hershey’s kiss. The normal kind, not the cute red and white ones that come out during the holidays. Next year I’m not going to decorate a Douglas Fir tree with festive lights, coordinated ornaments, and tinsel. Charlie Brown’s tree will look like it belongs in a Macy’s day parade compared to the branch I’ll bring home that I’ve found in the parking lot of Home Depot. My friends won’t need to check their mail for a Christmas cards because instead of cute self-designed cards I’ll just send a mass text… “To Everyone: Bah Humbug”. What will I be bringing to the holiday feast? Well not a homemade Gingerbread Eggnog Pumpkin Pie like last year. (oh and I made the gingerbread crust from scratch) 

Instead of slaving away in the kitchen I’ll be swinging by 7eleven to pick up some ice… and maybe milk. I don’t know why we never have enough milk.

Why you might ask am I going from Cindy Lou Who to The Grinch? Well because I’m tired of ruining my holidays stressing myself out by doing everything I can to create the perfect Christmas. I’m tired of putting out so much effort for gifts that are either under appreciated or reciprocated with a big nothing…. I mean even naughty kids get coal. So I’m exorcising my holiday spirit for some good ol’ fashion me time next Christmas up into the mountains to veg on store-bought goodies. Ew that’s a lie I’ll stick bake my way to death.

Now to be honest I don’t want to give up on my holiday festivities, but I can’t survive another year acting like Santa’s Superhero Elf. Movie idea? You heard it here first. I want to enjoy the holidays stress free. Stress is just part of the holidays you say, chill out you say, it’s just Christmas. Well you probably are the person who shops last-minute, brings carrot cake to a party, and then drinks too much spiked eggnog leaving your friends and family having to drive you home. So rude. ***So what am I to do? How do I enjoy the holidays without overdoing it? How can I tone down my stress without killing Buddy the Elf inside? Damn you Pinterest! 

Before I let lil Timmy freeze in the cold as I microwave my turkey dinner I must first brag about how awesome my last Christmas adventure was… by that I mean how awesome I was. I’d like to start it off by saying that I did wait till after Thanksgiving to get my tree; even though it was a late Thanksgiving this year. When the tree was up I quickly realized that the lights I bought at a thrift store didn’t hold out like I expected so I guilted my boyfriend into a late night run to target. I must mention that he continued to buy lights to go around the inside of our place. By the end of the night our tree looked magical. Gabe even bought a nice expensive tree topper to finish it off.

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Later that week I put icicle lights around our living room, dressed up like an elf (sexy elf if I must say), made hot chocolate, tried to teach our dog to sit and stay with her Rudolf nose and antlers on, and set out my boyfriend’s Santa costume. When he came home he was pleasantly (phew) surprised and excited to take pictures for our Christmas card. Only two hours later after story-boarding, taking hundreds of pix, giving Rudog too many treats, were our pictures perfect. 

Serious best Christmas cards you’d ever seen. We even made a nice version of the card because our card could be considered a little scandalous based on the Elf code of conduct (featured in section 231 paragraph 4 line 27, which states that no elf shall fraternize with Santa in any way, including hugging, holding hands, and definitely not sitting on Santa’s lap…  or anything else that happened afterwards) Bad Santa. 

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The next week I then proceeded to find all the Christmas Market,
“Weinnachtsmarkt” as the German’s would say in the East Bay. I was able to find some amazing non-refundable gifts, but mostly just sightseeing and awesome food. This one place called the Crucible was incredible. They featured almost every kind of art medium; from woodwork, ceramics, glass blowing, welding, leather works. It was so cool to be around creative people who made unique items that were too expensive to risk buying them as a non-returnable gift.

Now if I give up everything holiday related I would still have to keep this one thing: The Charles Dickens Christmas Fair. I found this fair online about two months before Christmas and I convinced my mom to join me when she visited in December. I didn’t know exactly what it would be like other than it was a Christmas Market with a Victorian theme. Well when we arrived I felt like we had stepped into another era during the happiest time of the year. Everyone… and I mean 70 percent of the people were dressed up in the traditional garb. You walked in the door and it smelled of roasting chestnuts and the sounds of old Christmas tunes along with silly accents and laughing filled the room. There were all different kinds of shops from corsets fitting, to elaborate masks, crowns, hats, and beautiful dresses and suits. As we walked through this new old world there were all kinds of shows going on throughout the day. There was the sing-a-long with the sailors, burlesque dancers, ballrooms dancing, Christmas Carol play, plus everything you could have imagined and more… so much more. Next year my mom and I and hopefully some more family members are gonna go as burlesque girls. If you decide to go try not to go too close to Christmas. It was all good fun, but there were way too many people.


So next on the Christmas agenda was to finish making and buying my gifts. My goal was to come home with all my gifts wrapped and ready for under the tree delivery. Of course, that never happened because some people are too damn hard to shop for and I was tired of using target paper bags as wrapping paper (my mom just has way too much every year. So why waste money?). Now before I tell you about the thoughtful creative gifts I got I first need to quote the wonderful, smart, funny fictional character Leslie Knope from “Parks and Rec” to encompass how I feel about gift giving 

Giving Christmas gifts is like a sport to me, finding or making the perfect something.  It’s also like a sport to me because I always win.”   

When I heard this I thought that is exactly how I feel. However, this is the end of the quote which has never applied to me.  “This year, though?  My friends won.  In fact, I got my ass handed to me.”  

This year my best gift would have to be the photo books I made my mom and boyfriend. I made my boyfriend’s gift in October before I moved in with him in November. My mom’s book was of our trip to Italy and Greece a couple years back. Unfortunately, my hard drive power cable broke so I had to hurry and transfer all the pictures in 15 second intervals to my desk top because it kept crashing. I ordered a new cable, but it was late and I had to get the rest of the pictures off Facebook in order to finish the book in time. Other than the misspelling of Zurick I mean Zurich on the first page it was a success. Here you can take a look at the awesomeness I have created. I didn’t get any tears like I did when I made my sister’s book, but… well no but…. I want my damn tears. 



Click here to view this photo book larger

On to the next one. So for my sister I made a silk screen in my printmaking class. It took me forever to do the 4 color print. It also too forever to find the perfect frame. I actually drove 50 minutes into another city to pick it up the last frame around… I mean I was heading there to pick up my sister from the airport, but still the agony. I even traded one of my art pieces for a lipstick silkscreen a girl in my class did that went perfect with my sister’s gift. Sometimes I give gifts that I wish I had kept for myself. Or maybe I end up wanting to keep them because they end up being the best gifts. If every year we had white elephant gift exchanges I’d always pick my gift. 

Next up is my dad. Now my dad, like most dads, is the most difficult to shop for. He is the simple don’t need anything kinda dad. I mean I have got him some excellent gifts, but he doesn’t always use them. One year I got him a flying lesson. Never used it. Good for one train ride. Never took me up on it. Fishing license 2 years in a row. Happy safe fishes. So this year I stuck with something simply, but classy. He got a new motorcycle shop so I got him a motorcycle decal to put on the wall. Simple. My mom gave me her copper ware that her and dad got as a wedding present 30 years ago. He complained about seeing it go even though they never used it so I got him a nice copper mug with a brass handle. Classy. Also, he is a foodie so I got him so nice olive oil and vinegar kit from a local olive orchard company. Simple and classy. 

Now for the in-laws. For Gabe’s mom we put pictures in a cute frame. For his sis I got her some lotion and a candle. Safe bets. Her fiance we got beers around the world. For my sister’s husband I found these neat coke bottles turned into glasses. He loves cream soda so I got him one made from a cream soda bottle. 

Now for the boyfriend. We decided that we would do events instead of gifts. So we did a Cosmic run in Candlestick Park, which was so much crazy fun. Then we went to Not So Silent Night and saw Phoenix, Alt-J, Lorde, Arcade Fire, Bastille, and The Neighborhood perform, which was eargasmic. Our favorite was Phoenix. If you can you must see them perform. 


We decided that we were still going to give each other little gifts. I gave Gabe a photo book of 2012 for our anniversary and then some small gifts for Christmas like a Swiss Army pocket knife and a Frisbee that lights up at night… small, but awesome gifts. I won’t tell you want he got me because then you will resent him forever. He is slowly redeeming himself. This could be a major reason why I’m cutting back next year. Or cutting him out of my life… it’s kind of a toss up right now. I mean what has Christmas ever done to me. Why am I punishing Christmas? 


Now Christmas is more than what you can just give… but you know that awesome getting presents thing is pretty cool as well. My obsession with giving gifts is from my mom. She always goes big on Christmas. She has a whole shed designated for Christmas decorations. Most years we run out of time to put them all up. We have to be pretty cheerful to attempt the Christmas curtain. Yep they exist and she made them herself. This year my mom asked me exactly what I wanted. Usually everyone just guesses and tends to get it right. I’m not that picky, but I did tell everyone that I did not want clothes or anything fashion related, not because they don’t pick out awesome threads, but because my tiny closet can’t handle anymore cotton intruders.

What I did get was way more thoughtful than skinny jeans. My mom got Gabe and I tickets to see Cirque Du Soliel Amaluna show in S.F. It was jaw-dropping. I can’t believe what the human body is capable of. She also gave us money to renew our passport and a snazzy wallet to put it in. I’m big into fitness so I also got a Garmin watch that has a GPS. 

My sister got me a gift certificate to a tattoo parlor to get sister tattoos. I know it is drastic and I was pretty shocked myself, which unfortunately, took away some of the joy from her face, but I loved it. It was thoughtful and we had talked about doing sister tattoos a long time ago. We will eventually get them, but ink free skin is a little nervous. I mean I can’t handle buying shampoos in big bottles in case I don’t like them. Maybe we will start with temporary ones. 

To Infinity: And Beyond    

My dad always gets the most unique gifts. Last year I got an old Coca Cola ice chest. This year I got a vintage food storage that you use for camping. I also got lots more of useful and delightful gifts from mine and Gabe’s family. I mean who doesn’t love Starbucks gift cards. Set for the next 2 months.

Next up. The treats. Oh those amazing delicious goodies. Well for the past couple years Gabe and I have given the gift of gluten and diabetes to our friends and family. We finally narrowed it down to 4 holiday decadents. Chocolate chip cookies, white chocolate chip macadamia nuts, cake pops, and hot chocolate reindeer with homemade peppermint marshmallows. We had made the cookie batter two nights before we left home for his families holiday gathering, but left everything else till the night before. However, the day before we left I had work in the city and he agreed to meet me in the city for a Union Square Christmas Tree viewing and a pizza dinner. By the time we got home it was 9:30pm and we had lots of work to do. We blasted Frank Sinatra till Gabe couldn’t take it and it was so late that we needed something with more of a beat to keep us awake. At midnight we had finished all the cookies, and were half-way through the cake pops. 

Luckily, one of us had packed earlier in the week. Moi. Next on the list was the hot chocolate reindeer whose damn red noses wouldn’t stay glued on. By 1am we had scratched making the marshmallows until another day. We went to bed at 3am exhausted, but exhilarated.  We woke up 2.5 hours later at 5:30am to pack the car and our dog and head home for the holidays. Well not before we left some cake pops and a note for all the neighbors on our street. An hour from the Christmas party Gabe’s grandparents called to tell him that the party has been pushed back on hour. We get an amazing nap so we were able to enjoy the next 8 hours with his family. I mean a nap and alcohol made that possible. 

I think that might be one of my favorite Christmas memories. Looking back I had a lot of amazing memories. I was stressful, but fun and I think I wouldn’t change a thing. I mean I could definitely buy and make less presents, but everything else was so much fun. I love Christmas and I can’t wait to do it all again next year. Buddy is Back!

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