Tag Archives: christmas

DIY time

We don’t have a real Christmas tree because we have a winter wood stove. The Spruce and Balsams dry out too quickly, even with constant watering. It’s a fire hazard. Instead, we have the store-bought unscented kind with bendable branches. Our fake tree is also a bit dated given today’s options. It isn’t prelit, so we add four strings of lights. The artificial tree also comes apart, in three sections, and the branches are coded like the alphabet and are hung one at a time. This Oh! Christmas tree puzzle fits into four boxes. The ornaments, stockings, house decor and holiday hand towels are another four Rubbermaid bins. It’s a festivus of moving and storage at Christmas time.

This year our tree went up late in the season because we waited for the girls to come home from college. Given all the invested setup time, we kept it up until after the New Year. I packed it all away after our college girls went on their way. Now we had eight buckets that needed to go down two flights of stairs back into cellar storage.

I enjoy the process of unpacking and packing each year. All the Christmas cards are saved from season to season and there are homemade ornaments from Girl Scout camps, high school and family gatherings. Going through the photos and crafts brings me down memory lane.

Hauling all those bins back where they belong is good exercise but after getting it all repacked, I was ready to ask for some help with my DIY Christmas undecorating routine. I carried one bin down the first flight and then asked my husband if he could bring the rest down after he finished watching his oil painting show? I probably could have finished moving them all before the episode was over but getting Richie involved, only after all the packing, was more than fair.

Instead, I used my time another way. I went back to the staircase to admire the memory lane our girls had created. The wall alongside now includes just the right photos of the four of us, silly moments and photos of both sets of grandparents. The beautiful new gallery includes vintage photos and eclectic frames. I couldn’t have displayed the family timeline better myself.

I already missed the family being together, so I decided to enjoy my down time with our pets. I put the dog’s pillow next to my rocker and put a cat in my lap. I literally rocked back and forth, wondered what the girls were doing and then picked up where I left off in the book I was reading.

Chapter 9 was soon interrupted by a thunderously loud crash.

I ran back to the staircase and thank God, Richie was okay.

My Christmas helper was standing against the wall with the end of one bin in his right hand and his coffee cup and book in the other. Evidently he didn’t recall that the bins were heavy and required two hands for his descent. He was still holding everything but had fallen against our new memory wall. Our two girls and ancestors were an avalanche of glass and broken frames at my feet.

My DIY packing project had packed a wallop.

I’d have to put the photo gallery back up but first we had to pack up all the jagged glass.

It was Christmas all over again as we wrapped and packed the glass into paper bags…and made plans to go shopping again, this time for glass. I swept the floor and pulled out the vacuum as Richie left to meet his Mom and brother for their weekly breakfast.

Now I was really by myself. I finished my original DIY project by bringing the rest of the bins into the cellar. After all, it’s not a DIY if you don’t do it Y. It had already taken me longer than if I had just finished it myself anyway.

The woodstove was burning, there were still Christmas pictures to look at and I had another DIY project ahead of me.

“Oh! Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree…of all the trees most lovely. Each year you bring me delight.”

You’re real to me.

Alexa my ass

With only two of us left in the house, the dynamics are split 50-50 between doing whatever we want after dinner and not listening to each other when we are in the same room. The way I feel about this flip-flops between marital bliss and frustrating madness. Tonight was worse than the latter because there was another woman.

I’ve been in denial about it since Christmas but tonight she inserted herself into every conversation:

Hubby and I were talking about our daughter that flew out of town this weekend.

“If she’s in Houston, what time zone is that?” my husband thought out loud.

“Texas is Central; she’s only one hour behind us”, I responded confidently based on my business travel days.

“Alexa. What time zone is Texas?”

The lady in the corner confirmed my response in her matter-of-fact tone.

That aside, we sat down to the nice chicken I had baked. On the counter was my clever attempt at, not apple pie, but little apple empanadas. Both dinner and dessert were kind of a big deal because my husband does most of the cooking.

“Why didn’t you look up an apple pie recipe?”

“Seriously, do you know how many fall apple pies I’ve made at this house down the street from an apple orchard?” A little hurt, I added, “The contents are the same. It just looks different. I wanted to try to make some individual ones.”

“Well, Alexa could have helped you with a recipe.”

The problem with that chick was she was just too easy.

I still had some of the little tarts left to bake now that we’d eaten dinner. I put them on a tray and popped them into the oven. My husband watched, I thought in anticipation of a vanilla ice cream pairing.

Rather, “Alexa. Timer. Ten minutes.”

That bitch in my house let my man know she’d do exactly what he asked.

I seethed until my reliable oven timer went off. Alexa could step off. I’ve managed this household just fine for over 25 years. We do not need her technological, electricity sucking, unnecessary two cents every time we do something. “Now that the pies are done, I am going to just go read a book and listen to some music.”

“Alexa. Play KISS.”

They could both kiss my ass. The marital interplay was maddening. I thought it best that we split up. With a grin on my face, I went into our unplugged living room to read – and it wasn’t a recipe book from Amazon.

Holiday exercise

All the step, fit-bit and workout conversations during the holidays is a drain on my psyche. I am not a regular fitness participant, can’t commit to a daily routine and even dole out punishment to myself for lack of motivation. Just yesterday I was kicking myself, instead of the punching bag, because I still make excuses for not exercising.

Today is a new day though.My outlook is more positive. I haven’t given myself enough credit. While I don’t have a gym membership or workout partner, I exercise plenty, especially during the holidays:

Weights – who carried up all the Christmas stocking holders from the basement? Those things aren’t light x the whole family x 2. That’s a set.

Speaking of which, add to that:

Stairs – cellar stairs are the original homemade elliptical. I AM a stair climber. I went up and down the stairs for eight buckets of tree limbs, ornaments and decorations. If you count the roasting pans, extra paper towels and added chairs I’ve also brought upstairs during the holidays, I may as well start training to climb Everest.

and climb I do:

Plank – the hot topic buzz word of the fitness world. No, I don’t lie on the floor and hold myself up with my elbows. What I did do was walk the planks of our second story, holding onto beam work, to wrap garland in all the right places.

Someone put out all the greenery, lights and presents. It wasn’t an elf.

Laps – I enjoy running and love to swim but don’t typically count laps. I need to participate in team sports where laps are just part of the process, not the actual goal. Given that, I’d say I completed a lot of laps shopping at the mall and walking parking lots in December.

…and I did it in high fashion:

Push-ups – I do not have the proper form for push-ups. Coaches have always told me to put my ass down and modified push-ups seem like cheating. The push-up bras I wore over the holidays allowed for a solution and whether you consider it cheating or not, those underwires gave me the proper form on a daily basis.

Add to that the form and beauty I adorn to all my packaging:

Curling – I took time to curl several times a week. Curling ribbon is one of my favorite holiday exercises. I only wish I knew how many miles I’d logged wrapping pretty gifts.

The last few exercises were when I really dug in:

Leg lifts – After every wrapping session, shopping excursion or meal planning event, I finished off with leg lifts. In a sitting position under a lit tree, I put a pillow on the coffee table and lifted my legs up to enjoy a hot beverage.

Holiday fitness includes the ultimate cool down as well:

Sit-ups – I did. I sat up at multiple tables to enjoy some delicious snacks, meals and desserts. Repetitions are key to the best sit-up results. Sometimes the sessions were so long, I was even sore afterwards.

Now I can add to the holiday fitness conversations. I am ready to give myself credit for all my hard work. To anyone that disagrees, I say,

“Step off.

I am a bit fit and

it works out for me.”

There for the taking

While I believe that Christmas is about the spirit of giving, I am also inglorious enough to admit that I will partake in free receiving at American retailers. Corporations are generous during the holidays, whether they know it or not:

Teavana – okay, they do know. We drink their new product varieties at the entrance. This company doles out free tea samples in the hope that a potential customer leaves with a tin of dried herbs at $32 an ounce. It’s all completely legal, their capitalism and my free consumption, as I walk past their emporium.

Lindt – I don’t think I’ve ever bought anything from their mall storefront. Lindt products are a better bargain at the grocery store. Regardless, a walk through the mall includes a trip through this premium candy store because they hand out free truffles.

Mobil Lube – I knew I needed air in my front tire the other night but it was 20 degrees out. Tired after work, I didn’t want to stop at a gas station at night or pull out our compressor when I got home. My solution was to pull into a drive-thru oil change company on the way home.

“I am not due for another oil change yet but can you check the air in my tires?” I inquired with a big smile.

No response.

I climbed out of my car and asked how the guys were doing without waiting for an answer. “My red pressure light is on and I still have a long drive ahead of me.” I waited for their reaction knowing my house was three miles away.

“Tires!” one yelled to his colleague inside.

He waved me into the bay and two minutes later, my warm tired self waved good-bye. I turned onto my street and took a breath of fresh air, knowing it was free.

Sears – this added freebie was unintended but I owned my lying behavior. I spent a legit $8 as I checked out at the register. When the key pad asked for my phone number, I started to enter it without thinking. As I got to the last four digits, I realized I don’t usually provide my number or email, to avoid spam. My second thought enabled me to enter four final made-up digits.

I wish the lottery was so easy. A woman’s name from town popped up on the kiosk as the cashier asked, “Would you like to use your Sears credit card today, so-and-so?”

“No, not today.” I too quickly responded. I figured the worst I could do was add loyalty points to her not-so-private account.

I paid with my debit that clearly didn’t match PTO lady’s account but there was no point-of-sale audit. I didn’t feel guilty or like a thief until the coupons started to print:

Let’s just say I bought my husband’s socks – from another register – before I left the store.

Clinique – While I wasn’t between a rock and a hard place, I have been almost out of my facial moisturizer between Thanksgiving and Christmas. In my mind, I had two choices. I could buy more, with disposable money I didn’t necessarily have, or I could wait until Christmas and hope a new bottle showed up in my stocking. I decided to hedge my bets, take the risk, and wait until Christmas…in a conservative, cheap-ass way.

I showed my face at the make-up counter at Macy’s.

“My girlfriend told me I should try your moisturizer for my dry skin.”

The esthetician’s are always more than willing to share their scientific training. “You’ll love it, yada yada, yada.”

“Do you have any samples I could try first?”, I continued, “See how my skin feels in a few hours and try it for a couple of days?”

“Well, yes. I would recommend it. We don’t have any sample tubes but I can make you some.” I continued our conversation as she started to pump out the $40 moisturizer, “That would be great. My girlfriend said I’d never use anything else.” She handed me two small round containers of moisturizer that will last me until Spring. For free.

During the remaining winter months, I am confident that I can take advantage of a lot more Corporate freebies. Before Easter rolls around, I’ll be sure one of them is confession.

Get the skinny

I don’t typically spend my time searching for Christmas presents this time of year. There are 11 other months to relinquish my money to just the right gifts for the people in my life. Regardless, I went shopping with the masses this past Saturday, December 16. I wanted to spend an afternoon with the man in my life. Despite the crowds, dining out and strolling through stores we don’t usually visit, is one of our holiday traditions.

We select one day each year to pick up a few stocking stuffers and go out for a holiday lunch. I know we are getting older but I sincerely think all the store personnel are younger and younger. Every storefront had managers more junior than our college age daughters. They went from getting their license to being in charge of my holiday commerce. This inexperienced personnel is running corporate America.

The example I had to share was at a major brand retailer:

“Would you like a gift receipt?”

“Yes, please.”

Said girl, with more jewelry in her face than I have in my jewelry box, proceeded to robotically finish her register input and hand me a receipt.

“Thank you but what about my gift receipt?”

She took the time to explain, “Oh, I hit the wrong button but you have your receipt. Same thing.”

I clarified also, “Actually it’s not. The gift receipt doesn’t show how much you spent unless they decide to return it.”

Chickie-poo acknowledged my request and concern by elaborating, “Well, if that’s all you’re worried about, just cross off the price with a black magic marker.”

“You’re serious? Is that my option?” I was in disbelief and just wanted to see how far she would take it.

She was attentive right up until someone walked up behind me. “Yeah, it’ll work.” “Trust me.” “Next.”

If my man wasn’t waiting in the hall and I wasn’t in the Christmas spirit, I would have had quite a bit more to say. December is such a busy time of year, I didn’t search for more answers. Nor did I relinquish the gift I purchased. I just went to find my husband. I wanted to keep our afternoon upbeat and get to the next store. After all, I needed to buy a marker.