Category Archives: Holidays

Not wasting my vacation

I think that it’s very important to get out of your rut–I mean, routine–on your vacation week. This is especially challenging, of course, if you are taking (yet another) staycation. Having part of your time off fall during the holidays can make it a little easier to break out…as in the  “Hel-lo? What day is it?” situation in which I found myself just after Christmas. Still, the gym on Tuesday and Thursday, food shopping on Saturday line up could definitely stand some tweaking.

Sunday: Christmas. ‘Nuf said.

Monday: Clean up the house, rest up from the holiday, dinner at Olive Garden. Happily, I found the $4 off dinner coupon prior to paying and then remembered to use it.

Tuesday: Friends came over to make home-made, authentic egg rolls. Last time we made chicken and shrimp. This year, to change it up some (hey, it is vacation!) we made a third version: spicy pork, which ended up being a hit.

Wednesday: Pirates game (a present for the fam) after dinner at Binga’s Wingas (a present for Dad).

Thursday: Friends day. Lunch with former colleague for our rescheduled gift exchange, then scrapbooking for the first time in a year and a half, with more friends. The understanding kind that are not shocked that, despite your good intentions, you did not remember to organize your stuff and print out the Christmas pictures to use that day. Hey, it’s all about friends, right? UPDATE: This event did not actually happen and will be rescheduled. Instead, I went to Kohl’s and bought some cute things on clearance. Yay!

Friday: Shopping at the mall with my tween with her gift cards. Got an $89.50 fur-lined hoodie at Aeropostle for $10!!!  This was followed by eating w/reckless disregard for the future at the Buffet of Gorging and Obscene Excess at the mall. Then we saw We Bought a Zoo at the movies. May I just say: Go. See. It. It was excellent. We both loved it. Movie watching was accompanied by popcorn and Peanut M+Ms (aka “the devil”).

Saturday: New Year’s Eve. Chinese buffet at East and Just Dance 3 on the Wii to work (some of ) it off. Yoga first thing in the morning.

Sunday: New Year’s Day: Pajama day! Read stack of books and magazines that have been piling up. Went for a walk. More Wii. And…let the healthy eating begin!!!! Egg whites, soup, salad were on the menu. Really.

One of the best vacations ever. 🙂


National Cupcake Day

I just got this in under the wire…I can’t believe that I didn’t know it was National Cupcake Day today! I must be pretty darned distracted to miss this. I’m not even in any position right now to bake or obtain a cupcake to consume, so I must celebrate vicariously through Thoughts of Cupcakes Past.

Look what Jen is serving up at her bakery, Somethin’ Sweet in Sanford~sweet snowman cupcakes! They are just the cutest things ever! Of course, all of the cupcakes and treats here are amazing, so I hope you were able to get over there to buy some cupcakes to celebrate today.

If  you missed the boat (or had to work) like me, consider tomorrow a “Do-Over”!  At your earliest possible convenience, buy or bake yourself (and your family, and your friends….) some cupcakes to celebrate the day. After all, cupcakes make any day just that much nicer.

Consider placing an order for lovely baked goods for Christmas while you are there. Jen will be open on Christmas Eve (morning only, 9AM-12N) for pick-ups and last minute impulse (the best k ind of) buys.


Stocking stuffers for the kids

Just in case the edict “Write what you know” is true, I thought that just maybe it’s cousin, “Buy what you know,” may also be true. In this post, I’ll do both; it will be in relation to teens and tweens stocking stuffers. Okay, so my teen is recently promoted to “twenty-something”, but I still have a good solid history of stuffing that particular stocking for all of the years intervening from tween to twenty.

Here’s what’s worked for me in years gone by, in no particular order:

  1. Nail polish and remover; maybe a little manicure implement set (girls).
  2. Their favorite candy.
  3. Their favorite gum.
  4. iTunes gift cards: you can get the $10 ones in a multi-pack and split them up, maybe save some for upcoming birthdays.
  5. A game for their favorite handheld device (can you say Nintendo 3DS?).
  6. Boys: Beef Jerky; but make sure it’s the right flavor (P.S. Good luck with that!); in my house it’s Black Pepper. I think. Oh, shoot!
  7. Girls: Anything from Bath and Body Works (come to think of it, this would be good for Mom, too).
  8. An ornament: maybe something themed that fits in with an activity that they were interested in this past year: cheering, sports teams, favorite movie.
  9. (Speaking of movies…): Movie passes.
  10. Gloves, socks, hats, mittens, T-shirts, underwear…rolled up to fill the toe of the stocking if you’re getting short on cash and long on empty space that needs a-fillin’.
  11. Brand new Crayolas, fun pens, colored twisty pencils, purple glue sticks that dry clear.
  12. Post it notes shaped like hearts or stars or that say “BFF” on them.
  13. SD cards for their cameras, memory sticks for their data.
  14. You can get purse-sized planners from the  Christmas Tree Shop and the Dollar Tree for (you guessed it) a buck.
  15. A new CD (Now That’s What I Call Music 40).  Anyone? Anyone?
  16. Decent ear buds for their iPods/mp3’s/any audio/video/gaming device that you don’t feel like listening to 24/7…is that wrong??
  17. A Tide Pen. You’ll just have to trust me on this one.
  18. Books: The Eat This Not That 2012, or for the tweens there’s a kids version.
  19. Cute shoe laces: Kohl’s has neon colors, zebra prints, all kids of fun in the shoe department.
  20. Moms: troll your jewelry box for your tween girls. There must be something in there that you haven’t worn in a dog’s age that could be spiffed up for your t(w)een.
  21. Vitamin Water, lemonade zero calorie flavor. I don’t know why. For the tween girl. These are good because you can usually get them for about a buck and because they take up lots of space (see #10).

Of course, some of these are pricey enough to be wrapped up as bona fide presents. Do with these suggestions as you see fit.

I hope this helps! 😀

Alternative Christmas Songs

*I am republishing this list from last year. I haven’t heard any songs in 2011 that I feel compelled to add to it. Enjoy!

  1. The Waitresses: Christmas Wrapping
  2. The Killers: Don’t Shoot Me Santa
  3. Adam Sandler: The Hanukkah Song
  4. Sarah Silverman: Give the Jew Girl Toys
  5. Bob Rivers: The 12 Pains of Christmas
  6. Bob and Doug: The 12 Days of Christmas
  7. Blink 182: Won’t be Home for Christmas
  8. Ramones: Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight)
  9. The Kinks: Father Christmas
  10. John Mellencamp: I saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus

Why this list? Because sometimes, you just can’t stand even one more Mariah Carey song.

Full disclosure: my husband was a strong influence in the compilation of this list. 🙂

Christmas Music and other minutiae

Since I’m feeling all Christmas-y at the moment, and since (more importantly) I have a huge leg up on my Christmas shopping (and wrapping) this year, I decided to write a little more about Christmas.  Here are some random thoughts:

  1. When I was wrapping up the gifts I’d bought so far this year, I had the presence of mind (for once) to get out the Christmas CD’s and play a little mood music. My favorite is the one that my son made for my husband for his birthday last year, “Alternative Christmas Songs“. Best. Christmas. CD. EVER. Consider breaking out your own Christmas music this year…you know, before Christmas is over.
  2. Nothing beats a cup of mulled cider while you’re wrapping, unless it’s a cup of hot chocolate with tons of whipped cream crammed into the cup. If it’s evening and you’re done driving for the day, consider putting a shot of Amaretto in your hot chocolate…yay!
  3. What to buy? For me, this year is (essentially) a Gift Card Christmas. Yep; I gave the issue of gifting enormous thought and then decided that most people want either a) money or b) the equivalent thereof. How do I know this? Scientific research. Everyone that I asked said they wanted either money or a gift card to (fill in the blank). Be honest. That’s what you really want too, right?
  4. FOR YOUR KIDS:  Apart from the gift card strategy, which I am applying to (almost) all of the people for whom I am shopping, I have a sort of a formula that I use for buying for my two kids. After all: gift cards under the tree, even if it’s several hundred dollars worth (note to husband: It’s not! It’s not!) doesn’t look very impressive or generate much excitement on Christmas morn. Here’s my basic formula for the kids: a book, a new set of pajama’s, a new outfit, a game (for Wii, Nintendo 3DS, or whatever they have). 
  5. I like to have one joint gift for the kids to open on Christmas Eve, sort of a family gift, like tickets to an event, or a game that everyone (hopefully) will like. 🙂

Also this year: I am trying to just use what I have already for gift bags and wrapping paper. I have a roll of pink Santa paper that I bought to wrap my daughter’s presents and blue Santa paper to (you guessed it!) wrap my son’s years ago. Using this eliminates the need for name tags.

Making Gingerbread Houses

I admit it: prior to yesterday I was a Gingerbread House Virgin. Through twenty-plus years of motherhood, I’d managed to avoid ever baking, never mind decorating, a gingerbread house. The desire just was not there. I couldn’t have been less interested.

Then something incredible happened: I wanted to make one.  Something shifted inside me and I really wanted to do it…and then…

I got lucky.


Tip: do it for the first time with someone who knows what they are doing!

Okay, enough double entendre. My friend Kristen (see her blog here) is a fabulous baker and she invited my daughter and me to be part of her (tenth, I think) annual ritual of baking and decorating a Gingerbread House with her son, something I’d never done with my own son in his childhood (but hey, we did make dozens—dozens!–of Christmas cookies over the years! Just sayin’.).

Our jobs were to bring something flat to put the house on the day prior, and to buy some candy to contribute to the stash of building supplies.
Oh, and to show up. 🙂

The end result? Amazing. The ideas the kids came up with were so creative–it was just wonderful to watch their minds working. Plus, my friend and I got to chat virtually uninterrupted for at least an hour.

This is definitely an activity I would like to do again next year.

The irony? My son was making his first Gingerbread House at the same time at his girlfriend’s house with her family. Go figure.

Watch the slideshow that follows to see what we used for materials. 🙂

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Mother’s monkey mind

On a recent episode of The Middle, the mom Frankie got it wrong. For mother’s day, she thought she wanted the entire day to herself, free of husband and children, to do whatever she wanted to. This was a classic episode of “be careful what you wish for” because all she managed to do that day was fix things that were broken, defrosting things that were frozen, clean things that were dirty. By the time she finally sat down on the couch with her magazine and her baked goods, the fam came home.  The day was over. Frankie was bereft.

Frankie got it wrong because having the whole day off when you never have the whole day to yourself is just too overwhelming to be fully appreciated without some advance planning. She was not given enough notice and did not give the day enough forethought to do it right. I am completely familiar with this phenomenon. I routinely screw up unscheduled blocks of time that I unexpectedly have to myself because…because there are just so many things that I want to do that I don’t have the time for in everyday, workaday life!

Have the gift of an unscheduled block of time? Enter the monkey mind, and all can be lost in a heartbeat. This monkey mind mayhem can be wreaked on any special day, not just Mother’s Day. Just thinking about all of the things I want to do: read? Write? Knit? Practice a little yoga? Bake a batch of cupcakes/brownies/cookies? Work in the garden? Sometimes it becomes like diagnosing an illness: a ruling out process that takes so long that by the time an activity is decided upon the time you had in which to engage in it has passed (like what happened to Frankie).

The truth is this: when our family members are not with us, we may have a small undercurrent of worry (What are they doing? Are they safe?), or at least of distraction that gets in the way.

In the end, she got it right. She did want her family around, just (barely) within earshot and eyeshot in the next room, working on a puzzle together, getting along with each other. They had strict instructions not to talk to her or try to engage her in any way whatsoever.

She had the best couple of hours ever.