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Non-Traditional Holiday Stuff

Sorry for the late post. Another migraine hit and made things move slower than usual around here.

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve written about the few Christmas traditions we have as a family. While on Twitter, I noticed some people mentioning their non-traditional holiday meal — cheeseburgers and tater tots. While I do a turkey dinner, it did get me thinking about what we do that is different. I put up a tree every year and the ornaments are mostly homemade ones from my kids’ years in school. There’s no uniformity of color or style (kind of like my wardrobe), but it suits us.

Here’s our tree:

Yes, that is a Santa Yoda on top. My husband loves Yoda. Every year, I get him something Yoda for under the tree. A couple of years ago, I found this tree topper at Target, so I had to get it, not for the tree, just to add to my husband’s Yoda collection. My brother had the same idea, so we ended up with 2 at our house. (Yes, I could’ve returned one, but I hate those after-Christmas return lines). This year, my kids wanted to use the extra one for the tree instead of an angel, so I let them. I added the Santa hat at their request.

For all of the baking I do, especially around the holidays, gingerbread is one I won’t do from scratch. I buy gingerbread house kits. I build and the kids each decorate a house. Even the gingerbread men came from a mix. A really tasty mix, so I can’t complain. We did make some traditional gingerbread men, but the others we made are Buzz Lightyear, rocket ships, and Little Green Men.

Last, but not least, I refuse to make a New Year’s resolution. I can’t remember if I ever have, but for me, it’s like setting myself up for failure (which is something I despise more than the after-Christmas return lines). I figure if it’s something I really want to work toward, I would’ve set the goal a long time ago, without the aid of a holiday to get me to do it. Why should I all of a sudden be motivated simply because I made a New Year’s resolution? The whole concept doesn’t make much sense to me.

This is not to knock it if it works for you. By all means if you use this day to set a goal and work toward it, good for you. I guess the idea of a new year means a fresh start, and maybe I never feel that way about the new year. My days are so steeped in routine that one day easily bleeds into another and I don’t have that feeling of newness.

If I want to achieve something, I set it as a goal and do what I can in smaller steps to reach it. The day of the year doesn’t matter.

What non-traditional things do you do around the holidays? Do you make a New Year’s resolution? How well does it work for you?


Holiday Traditions – Christmas Cookies

I grew up with very few holiday traditions. The ones we did have came from my grandparents more than my mom. My dad died when I was 4, so she was a single working mother and she did her best. She always did Christmas morning breakfast for the whole family. Christmas Eve was at her mom’s house and Christmas dinner at my paternal grandma’s house. At the grandparents’ houses, we had traditions, but at home, not so much.

When I was a teenager, my best friend and I decided to take a Sunday and bake Christmas cookies. Sunday was the only day off we both had, and we both enjoy baking. The first few years we did this, we baked at my house and my mom was very tolerant of the mess we made. She of course got plenty of cookies for putting up with us. We gave cookies to everyone we knew.

It became our tradition. Through husbands and pregnancies and children, we’ve baked together every year for the last 24 years. We still have people asking why we do it. We get looks like we’re crazy when people hear that we spend ALL day baking. Our answer: we love it. It’s a day we can spend together and just bake and talk and have a few laughs.

This shows most of this year's cookies - there are a few outside the shot

Our production has definitely increased over the years. On average, we make about 20 kinds of cookies. I don’t think we’ve ever kept track of how many dozens, but I’m sure it’s a scary large number. People have come to depend on our Christmas cookies because they’re so good. I’ve had fellow teachers wince when I quit working because they knew they would no longer get that tray or tin of cookies. (Yes, I’ve actually had colleagues ask if I would deliver cookies even though I no longer worked there.)

It’s a tradition that our kids expect too. They’ve all taken part in cookie baking. Whether they roll dough into balls or sprinkle powdered sugar or just taste test new recipes, they all participate. They like bringing the tin of cookies to school and letting their teachers know they helped bake.

I bake year round, but this is special baking. This is about friendship and love and sharing.

What traditions have you started for yourself or your family?

Friday Favorites – Mash-up of Fun

I’ve had a busy couple of weeks, especially with the holiday in there, but I did manage to find some awesome gems to read in my downtime. I hope you enjoy.

Since I didn’t do any kind of mash-up last week, I know I missed out on a bunch of Thanksgiving-related blogs.

Thankfully, Angela Peart did a Thanksgiving mash-up that offered me much to read.

Writing advice for the week —

Catie Rhodes talks about how to build characters through small traits. Great ideas. I think it’s the small things that make characters interesting and memorable.

Tawna Fenske describes how music lends itself to a writer’s process. I recently took a class with Lani Diane Rich that focused on the Discovery part of writing. The beginning stuff, where we get to know our characters. One of the assignments was to create a soundtrack for our WIPs. It wasn’t easy to create, but it definitely helps get me focused while writing. When listening to music does it influence how you writer?

Merry Farmer offers the only writing advice you’ll ever need. Mostly common sense, but we all need to hear it when we’re bombarded with conflicting advice daily.

Food and Drink–

With the holidays upon us, lots of food and alcoholic concoctions are consumed. Personally, I’m a baker. I cook for my family out of necessity, but I bake out of love.

Myndi Shafer offers her family’s cream cheese cookie recipe that I think I’m going to try.

To go along with those cookies, Jillian Dodd gives us the recipe for holiday-themed cocktails.

Just for Fun–

Over on the Bettyverse, Nan writes about the importance of childhood dreams and how they can have a lasting impact on our lives.

Tiffany White does a weekly roundup of good TV on her Worth a Watch Wednesday. As a fellow TV lover, I read her post every week. This week she talks about Unforgettable, yet another new show I tune into. Check out her previous weeks’ posts for recommendations and critiques.

Jenny Hansen has a great post on creative swearing. When my children were smaller, I tried not to swear, but I’ve pretty much abandoned that attempt. By child number 3, my thought is that I can do what I want because I’m an adult. Of course, that means that she can swear better than anyone.

Here’s a little blurb that shows the power of social networking and Twitter. Artists gather to record a song to raise money for charity.

And finally, a friend of mine had a book release this week. Marilyn Brant’s book A Summer in Europe is now on sale. To celebrate, she’s taking readers on a virtual European tour. Check her web site to follow her blogs on the journey.

Thanks for checking out my blog. Have fun visiting the sites I’ve linked to. With all the great advice I’ve listed, it’s hard to choose a favorite, but I think Jenny Hansen wins with her creative swearing. Between the list she gives and reading the comments, I had a heck of a laugh. How about you? How do you curb your potty mouth?