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Entries in holidays (2)

Thursday
Dec222011

Simple, Really? A Gingerbread 'Masterpiece'

I was really inspired by Jamie Weitl's guest post last month about how she was creating an experience-based Advent Calendar to make sure she spent the season making memories with her three young chlidren.

So I did the same. Well, almost. OK. Sorta.

I didn't make those darling red-and-green circle tags like Jamie did. I just scrawled dates and ideas on scrap paper I tore up into rectangles. Some of our "experiences" were pretty basic, like printing out free Christmas coloring pages and then coloring them together. After my daughter and her friends took apart the Advent Calendar I was using for the paper scraps -- and one of the "drawers" went missing for several days -- I just piled the rest of the pieces on my desk. And some days our plans changed last minute: We never did make it to any of the holiday-themed library storytimes in Batavia or Aurora that sounded like such fun.

It is truly amazing how closely this resembles the photo on the box.But I made sure my 3-year-old daughter and I did something holiday-themed each day. That definitely eased my anxiety about Christmas getting away from me, as it has in years past, especially before I became a mom.

On Tuesday night, our holiday-themed something was to make a gingerbread house. 

Don't worry: I didn't bake one from scratch. Ours was just a kit from Williams-Sonoma, purchased mostly because it promised a "building tray for foolproof construction." It also claimed everything my "young builder" would need to "create a masterpiece" and said she would have a "blast" customizing her creation with decorations including "festive red-and-white peppermint pinwheels" and shredded coconut "snow." Hmmm. The peppermints looked pretty standard to me.

The gingerbread house was indeed easy to put together, especially with my husband present to point out that I was about to place the roof into the slot for the side wall.

But I couldn't help getting frustrated that the icing didn't come out in those darling little scallop puffs like on the cover of the box. My "wreath" looked nothing like the photo, and how on earth was I supposed to outline the windows with any precision using an icing bag with a hole cut in it? And when my daughter wasn't trying to sneak the "whimsical" decorations into her mouth, I found myself telling her: "No! Not there!" or "Those candy beads are supposed to be the snowman's buttons -- not the roof's shingles!" 

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Monday
Dec062010

Simple, Really? The art of gift giving

When I was 16 or 17 years old, I took a job over the holidays working at the perfume counter of a department store in our local mall.

Photo by mysza831 on Flickr.Our business during those last couple of weeks before Christmas was nearly exclusively men who were buying perfume for their wives, girlfriends, moms or sisters. And I could not believe how many of them came in and said something along the lines of: “She told me what perfume she likes, but I forgot the name … Can you name some perfumes for me?” “She wrote down a list of suggestions, but I lost it. What do you recommend?” Or, my favorite: “You smell pretty. What are you wearing? I'll just buy the perfume you have on.”

I was dismayed that these men – and some women, too – seemed to have a certain dollar amount in mind, and perfume was an easy way to check off a mental box in their head. (Remember, they lost the actual list!) One guy obviously wanted to spend about $300 and so he upgraded to Chanel perfume from “eau de toilette.” That was a nerve-wracking and particularly tough purchase to gift wrap – I still remember how awkwardly the box was shaped!

I was a somewhat idealistic teenager at this point, and that Christmas was the most depressing one of my life – even compared to years when I actually worked on Christmas Day! I just could not get over how little thought those customers put into their holiday gifts.

I think about my month as a shopgirl every year at this time, especially when I struggle to find the “perfect” gift for everyone on my list. Of course I realize there is no perfect gift.

But I do find I jump through a lot of hoops when thinking about what to purchase:

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