Christmas Planning

2 Nov

Do you cringe when you hear the C word even when its whispered or talked about quietly among friends. Me to, especially at this time of the year. I am talking about Christmas…what C word did you think I was talking about??

When do you start planning for the Holiday Season? I try to start about now but since I am a single mom, I have to start saving sometime about mid-year to be able to afford this time of the year. I start planning the gifts I will be buying (my family knows I will be nagging them for their list of what they would like) and the baking I will be doing so that I can keep an eye out for sales. This is also about the time of year that I plan what my wrapping theme will be for the presents. I try to pick a different theme every year. I love the brightly colored foil wrapping paper but unfortunately, it is not recyclable in our area so I always opt for paper that is recyclable as it seems wasteful to me to use so much paper for one day of the year for it to only be thrown in the garbage.

My family doesn’t expect anything fancy or expensive. In fact we prefer handmade gifts that are made from the heart with love. Eventhough my son is a teenager, I am proud to say that he doesn’t expect tons of gifts. A lot of people have the perception that the younger generation gets or expects too much. In some aspects that may be true but my son usually has a very short list and he is ok if he doesn’t get everything on his list. The older he gets the more expensive the items become it seems. I am usually nagging him for his list up until just before Christmas and even then I may get a text with a couple of ideas. It is amazing how hard it is to buy for a teenager – they are ultra picky. Clothes are completely out of the question. Heaven forbid I buy something with the wrong logo or the wrong brand. If that happened the clothes would sit in his closet like grandma’s relics in her china cabinet collecting dust.

I like to choose one or two homemade gifts. This year, I am thinking of making vanilla. It seems like a pretty simplistic recipe and it can be dressed up with pretty cool bottles and ribbons.

For baking, it has become tradition for me to make Big Batch Kris Kringle Cookies. These cookies taste awesome and the recipe makes a lot so there is plenty to share with everyone or for you to hide and eat later in peace when no one is around. For me, I tend to eat a lot of the cookie dough so my batch doesn’t bake nearly as many as it should. I know, I know you are thinking…she eats RAW cookie dough!! You bet I do, and I am more than ok with it, I am willing to take my chances.  I actually eat so much of the dough that I can hardly even eat the cookies after they are baked.  You know when you’ve eaten so much of one thing, you can’t bear to eat anymore of it.

Besides those cookies I always choose 2 to 3 other items to bake. This year I am going to make Peanut Butter Marshmallow Bars because they are pretty easy to make, Thick and Chewy M&M Cookie Bars and a simple Low Fat Pumpkin Bread. These recipes tend to take a lot of chocolate and candy and I can see you all judging my shopping cart when I have copious amounts of chocolate tucked away in the corner of my cart.  Just because I am shopping in my workout clothes doesn’t mean that eat carrot and celery sticks everyday…a person’s gotta live a little.  I know that the peanut butter marshmallow bars are a throw back to the 80’s but I bust out my Michael Jackson Thriller soundtrack and I am ok with my retro bars and I seem to still know all of the words to all of the songs like it was 1983.  I pack away the baking carefully into containers and put them in the freezer.  Last year I had tons of baking done and the time came to start putting it out for family to enjoy and the first couple of containers I chose from the freezer seemed pretty light.  I put them on the counter and opened the lids and they were empty.  No baking anywhere to be found, just some crumbs.  Now I know it wasn’t me and it wasn’t the house hippo that supposedly lives somewhere in my house, not the cats or the dogs……that only leaves one culprit….the teenager!!  He literally ate more than half of the baking at some point between me packing it away in the freezer and the three weeks leading up to Christmas.  I go to his room and ask him about it and oddly enough it seems that it wasn’t him and it is a mystery as to where the bars may have disappeared to.  Has your teenager ever done this??

I always have lists for everything. Maybe I am odd but even my lists have lists so Christmas planning is no different. I make a master list and then create smaller more manageable lists from there.  This also makes it easier for shopping as well.  I know exactly what I need to get at the various stores that I shop at.

I am the kind of person that tends to worry about the small details instead of the big picture, so I buy the stocking stuffers, the doo-dads, magazines and cards…you know the things that you are running around looking for last-minute when the stores are jam-packed, you are completely sick of shopping and you literally want to throat punch people and the weather sucks. I know it seems backwards but I can’t tell you how many times I have been so glad that I had all of those things ahead of time especially when I am completely done all of my wrapping.

For my wrapping theme, I like to choose something simple. My favorite is brown paper with natural bows and embellishments like a wooden Christmas decoration or a pinecone or something like that. A roll of brown paper is very inexpensive, can be recycled and looks really traditional against a beautifully decorated Christmas tree.

One of my favorite parts about Christmas is decorating the tree, well except for dragging up the decorations from the basement. That is a big ordeal. If you have read my previous post about my craft supplies in the basement, then you will understand what an issue this is.

I pick an evening that my son and I are both free and I make hot chocolate and we have some appetizers and I put out a plate of Christmas baking. We set-up the tree (yes I have a fake tree) and we start decorating. Since I have a son, his interest in decorating isn’t really all that apparent. It is met with a lot of eye rolling and sighs but I think deep down he somewhat enjoys it. He places decorations here there and everywhere. This makes my OCD twinge a bit….ok a LOT. I like my decorations placed a certain way and with certain ones grouped together. I fight against my OCD as I don’t want him to feel like I don’t want his help. I do want his help but, I want it done my way. I wonder to myself if I am a horrible mom because I think this way or if other moms have this same issue?

I have to put all of my fancy, breakable decorations at the top of the tree and all of my non-breakable ones at the bottom of the tree. I have cats…and all of you cat people out there understand my struggle. They are ok during the day when I am there sitting by the tree however, at night as soon as I get all snuggled into my cozy bed, the cat shenanigans start. I swear that it is a cat conspiracy. It is as if they all get together and plan it out.  As I am about to nod off into sleep land, I hear it. The tree and the decorations shaking. I get out of bed and shoe them away from the tree eventhough, I know that this is really a futile attempt at getting them to stop….when have you ever known a cat to listen?? They run away and hide and honestly, I am sure they are secretly laughing to themselves.   As I get back into bed again, get all warm and ready to nod off, they are at it again. I can hear the decorations jingling and the tree limbs are being batted around. WTF, I angrily get out of bed and chase them away again, threatening to pack them all up and take them to the shelter (not that I ever would but this somehow makes me feel like I have adequately threatened them enough to get them to stop). I only put my tree up for a couple of weeks because this is a nightly ritual when you have cats and Christmas trees. Then there is always the one cat that needs to be the martyr of the group and it must climb to the top of the tree.  Sigh, we always lose a few decorations every year.  The struggle is real, who can relate to pets and Christmas trees?

We have the tradition of opening 1 gift on Christmas Eve while we sit around visiting with family and snacking on various appetizers and goodies. My two favorite things on Christmas morning are watching my son’s eyes light up with anticipation of what he is about to unwrap and opening my stocking. Seeing what is inside my stocking has always been my most memorable moments. It’s not because there was ever anything expensive or fancy in it but for some reason it was what I have always looked forward to.

We open presents slowly and enjoy the morning sipping on coffee, indulging in the chocolates that were in our stockings (surely chocolate early in the morning is allowed on Christmas mornings…Right?)

I then make a big breakfast and afterwards, the all day eating commences with anticipation of the big family feast later in the day.

What is your favorite part about Christmas?