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Saturday, September 5, 2015

Building a Better Christmas - Organizing and Shopping Expectations

 How to have a more organized Christmas
Christmas planners
Holiday expectations
Holiday shopping strategy
Coffee themed craft projects
Mary and Carin were just settling into their regular corner table near the window. They waved me over. I placed my order at the counter, got my coffee, and joined them. "What's with the binder?"
 Christmas Card:
Mary placed a hand on the plain black binder in front of her. "I got to thinking about what you said last week. You know. About building a better Christmas?"
I looked at the binder. A piece of white copy paper had been slid under the clear plastic protector sleeve in front. The paper said, in large bold red letters DON'T PANIC, then in smaller letters it's only trigonometry. The word trigonometry was crossed out and under that was written Christmas. 
 I looked a little pained at the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy reference but remembered that Mary's youngest son is both smart and a sci-fi geek.
 Vintage Santa Christmas Card:
Mary opened the binder. Inside was a Cheerful Christmas Planner she had printed out at growingupgabel. 
 Christmas Planner image
  Carin reached into her bag and pulled out the cutest Victorian themed free Christmas Planner she found at Shabby Art Boutique . 
"It's the 2014 version but that's okay. I have a calendar. I just wanted the organization pages. I love the Victorian style. I love the design so I am more likely to keep using it "
Simply Christmas on
I looked in my bag and sighed. Six expired cat food coupons and a linty mint. No cute Christmas planner. I looked back at Carin and Mary's planners. They were looking at pages titled Gift List. Great. We were going to talk about Christmas Shopping.
 I don't understand the shopping angst. In my mind if you have the cash to buy someone a present, problem solved! I could feel the 'just be grateful and stop whining' rant bubbling up. An incipient panic attack stirred in the deep waters of my psyche. I looked at the big red letters. DON'T PANIC. Right. I dug around in my purse hoping to find a martini, or a tranquiler, or a Big Cookie. 
 Christmas grocery store display (Hughes Market, Los Angeles, 1960's):
"I find Christmas shopping stressful," Mary admitted. "I spend all this time wandering in circles,or waste hours online, overwhelmed by the choices or just waiting for the perfect gift to jump out at me.  Then I end up feeling hurt and disappointed if someone doesn't absolutely love their gift. And then I get resentful. The moment is ruined for me."
 1950s idealized illustration.  Not a crumb to be found.:   Carin nodded. "Unrealistic expectations. And you are making someone else responsible for your holiday joy."
Mary sighed."I hadn't really thought about it before but you are right. You know, thinking about it, a lot of the family seemed to most appreciate gift cards, and the teenagers seemed very thankful for even a small amount of cash in a card. I've resisted giving cash or gift cards so far because I think they are so impersonal. I like to give gifts." 
 I looked longingly at the pastry counter. Unfortunately the line was practically out the door.  "So what if you give the teens some cash," I said hunched over my purse searching for the mint.  I found it and started scraping off the lint. "Then, gift cards to those who harsh your gift giving mellow. What if you just shop for those who really seem to enjoy exchanging presents. What is the worse that could happen?"
"Well, that would be too easy!" Mary grinned.
 Carin added,"And it wouldn't fit your image of the perfect Christmas?"
Mary sipped her coffee."My unrealistic expectations of Christmas you mean." She sighed. "I'm sorry. You are right. But it's hard to give up."

 I squinted at the mint. It looked mostly lint free. "I'm going to qualify what I have to say; I agree with you in theory. I believe that when you take the time to give someone a gift they should appreciate the gesture if nothing else and be gracious, if not appreciative. But we all know it's not always that easy! 
And not to be mean, but things change. Sometimes we have to roll with it. So you give some cash and some gift cards. Big deal. How wonderful is it that your family can focus on wants rather than needs? 
Do you want to shop for people who like presents? Want to give a present that will be truly appreciated? Donate to Toys for Tots, or a  Salvation Army Angel Tree, look into Casa for Youth, maybe you know someone who works in child and family services." I popped the mint into my mouth. I could feel the red flush of embarrassment spread up my neck, over my face. "I apologize if I'm out of line. I'm not trying to say that your feelings and your problems don't matter. Of course they do. I'm just saying, well, maybe it's time to look at the big picture, and rethink what Christmas giving means to you." 


 Carin and Mary looked at one another, "She has a point," Carin said.
 "I know," Mary nodded. "You are right. I am  going to think hard about my giving and receiving expectations and what is realistic. And I am starting a journal in the back of this binder."
Carin said. "I am going to add a realistic expectation line item to every list."
"Where are you going to put it," I asked. I surreptitiously removed the mint from my mouth and folded it in my napkin. Now my teeth felt linty. Ick.
"Right after cost, and budget," Carin quipped. 

 "Excuse me for interrupting," said a soft voice. A woman at the next table leaned toward us. Her briefcase was propped on an extra chair. A laptop was open in front of her. She held out her hand. "My name is Lida."
We introduced ourselves then she continued. "I'm afraid I found myself listening to your conversation. I'd like to add a comment if you don't mind." 
We did not mind
 Vintage Christmas:  
"I love Christmas, and shopping, crafting, but for a variety reasons including time management and budget I have come up with a solution that works for me. I pick a gift giving theme, then combine gift cards with a little project I have created or purchased."
She gestured to her laptop. "For instance this year my theme is coffee related gifts.  I am having these cookies made and am including a gift card from a coffee shop.  For those who like a gift, I will make a gift bag up of coffees, maybe some nice kitchen towels, or some of those fancy holiday paper plates and napkins which are so fun to have on hand. There are many related items. Having a theme helps me feel inspired but stay focused. "

Check out Sarah's  great tutorial.
  We leaned forward and admired the adorable coffee-cup cookies. The thoughtful crafter/blogger even included a gift card topper.

 Christmas Cafe Lattes @klickitatstreet
"Cool," I said."These are awesome. And by having a theme you cut down on the decision making, which saves time." 
Lida beamed. "Exactly. I made of list of who I buy for, and the budget amount.  I have been buying gift cards one a week, or so, during the year." 

Mary nodded."You've been doing exactly what we've been talking about. Simplifying the process, but keeping what gives us joy."

Lida nodded."So you see it can be done. And you know, it seemed odd at first, changing my Christmas routine, but now I have time for some of the fun things I'd been skipping because I was so busy or tired.  Also I find it easier to stay within my budget. I don't always stick to the plan one hundred percent. But that's okay. One hundred percent adherence was never my goal."
We said goodbye and see you again to Lida. Before she had packed up her laptop Carin had pulled a tablet from her bag and was searching for coffee related craft ideas. 

She held out the tablet. "Look at this. Mini coffee cups, decorated, and then you place treats in them." Mary and I ohhh and ahhed. They were adorable. Soon we were checking out Mooglys' crocheted coffee cup sleeves

#Frayed Knot’s 15 min #Coffee #Sleeve - 13 Free Patterns for DIY Crochet Mug Cozies | GleamItUp:
Mooglyblog's Free Crochet Cup Sleeves Pattern

and a template for fabric cup sleeves at See Kate Sew.

DIY coffee cozy
Coffee Cozy Pattern

Mary found a project to do with the kids.
Sharpie Decorated Mugs by Who Needs a Cape?
Carin was writing busily on her gift list. "I think Lida's  theme gift idea will allow me to handle most of my list. I love to sew but never seem to make time for it. I would love to make some cozies. If I go with gift cards and skip all the shopping I could use that time to sew."

"That sounds like a great incentive."  
 vintage: Mary tapped her front teeth with her pen. "I'm not feeling the coffee theme, but there are a lot of gardeners and home owners in my circle of family and friend. I'm thinking home center gift cards. I bet I can find lots of inspiration for DIYer and gardener gifts."
Carin and I nodded in agreement. Mary continued. "Okay. I'm in with the theme Christmas present list!"
 Debbie Reynolds and Snowman Christmas in Old Hollywood photo:
 "So," Carin summarized. "We have some organizational tools. Our planners, our lists."
"Each other," Mary raised her coffee cup. Carin and I returned the salute.
"Each other," Carin echoed. "So far we have 
1.Examined our family and are thinking about better ways for dealing with difficult people at the holidays. 
2. Examined our expectations about Christmas shopping and
      a. To use present theme and gift cards to reduce the amount of time we spend on shopping.
b. To use some of the time we would have spent shopping on an holiday activity we enjoy."

Vintage Christmas Wrapping Paper:
"Well ladies, I think we are on our way to building ourselves a better Christmas." Mary shut her binder then looked at me. "You've been pretty quiet. Everything okay?"
 Vintage Gift Wrapping Paper - Santa Delivering Christmas Toys - Made by Dennison - 2 Unused Full Sheets:
I nodded. "Absolutely. I think you both, and Lida have some great ideas. It's just that before I make any shopping plans I want to have a heart to heart with my husband. My relatively NEW husband. We have very different expectations when it comes to the holidays and spending. Last year it led to a lot of unnecessary tension. I want to avoid that in the future."
Mary smiled. "That's right. I forgot you are a newlywed!"
"An old newlywed." I amended. "One with lots of built in assumptions and expectations."
"Here we are back to keeping our expectations realistic." Carin sighed. "Can I assume I'll see you girls here next week?"

The answer to that, of course, was yes!

Vintage Christmas Wrapping Paper:
Now I will tell you something Carin and Mary don't know. One of the kids asked for luggage for Christmas and I think it's a great idea for all of them! We have raised up some travelers.

Do you ever pick a theme for shopping and run with it? How do you feel about giving gift cards or cash as gifts? Let me know what you think.

I'll be linking up at the following parties
Submarine Sunday@ USS Crafty

Welcome to the Weekend

For more Christmas Awesomeness check out 

A Debbie Dabble Christmas

Debbie of Debbie-Dabble fame keeps the spirit of Christmas alive all year in her wonder blog A Debbie Dabble Christmas. Deb knows who she is and what she likes and she shares herself wholeheartedly. Even if you are not a Victorian decor enthusiast you will love everything about  A Debbie Dabble Christmas!

Creative Breathing - the Christmas Posts

Elizabeth Andrus the author of Creative Breathing is a talented and unique artist.  Her blog is a primer on excellence in blogging and crafting.   Any one who likes the work of Mary Engelbreit and Anna Lee dolls, will love Creative Breathing. 

1 comment:

  1. Eek Christmas is coming :):)

    Thanks for sharing at the weekend blog hop..


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