Category Archives: Christmas

How I'm Rolling Right now: the DC version

Ok, let me start with the obvious. I’m going to be in Washington, DC soon.

I am serving in the role of Hubs’ “plus one”. He has to be there for work. I am tagging along and will have the luxury of unsupervised time in our nation’s capital.

I am one lucky broad.

As I write this, I’m in the midst of what is best described as the “Holiday Gauntlet”. Hubs and I are going to be tremendously busy with wrapping Christmas presents, decorating the house, and baking cookies to send to friends and family far and wide, until we get on that airplane. The point is to wrap it all up before we go.

Thus begins the annual Christmas cookie baking and packaging extravaganza!

This means the time I have to create an itinerary for myself while in DC is a bit limited.

There are certainly some “must do’s” swirling in my head.

Here are but a few:

Visit the Newseum

Get myself a Snickerdoodle McFlurry from McDonald’s

Have dinner at Mrs. K’s Toll House

Visit the museum of American History

Visit the National Portrait Gallery

Shopping

Seeing a classic holiday movie at the AFI theater near the hotel we are staying at (Choices are “Holiday Affair” and “Miracle on 34th Street” neither of which I’ve actually seen). I am very open to your opinions on this btw.

I recognize that the above list is pretty random and maybe even a little tame. There’s a reason for that, beyond having the better part of 3 days to myself while I’m there. I’m using my guiding macronym here: Keep It Simple Sister. Because I rather like the idea of going at my own pace when I’m on my own in DC. Ensuring I’ve enough time to write. And sleep. And catch up on my reading. And use the earbuds I’ve had forever and a day and never used so I can listen to podcasts I downloaded on my cell phone.

My intention here is to ensure I’ve not overplanned myself so much that I don’t take notice of my surroundings. It’s DC, after all. For all I know I could be riding the Metro and end up sitting next to Bernie Sanders. Or Nancy Pelosi. Or the notorious RBG. Note to self: ponder what you might say and/or questions you might ask if this type of opportunity presents itself. One never knows, right? Maybe I’ll be sitting innocently in a coffee shop and overhear a private conversation between 3 Republican senators about how much they want to impeach Trump but they don’t have the guts. I could find myself being a fly on the wall who pulls out her handy dandy chromebook and captures the experience for this blog. Or better yet, the woman who appeals to their better angels and convinces them to do the right thing. Ha!

Or perhaps I accidentally become swallowed up in a swarm of protesters protesting against the Bullshitter-in-Chief. Now that would be an interesting blog piece, right?

So clearly I must keep my wits about me just in case.

I found my old metro cards from previous times I’ve been in DC, so I’m ready to do some exploring!

Let the merriment begin

 

Now that Christmas is a mere few days away, and the major tasks of purchasing gifts, sending out our Christmas cards, wrapping the gifts, and sending them on their way to their hopefully delighted recipients is over, I’ve got myself a minute to reflect. To share my thoughts and feelings about this crazy and magical time of year and why I love it so. 

Baking Christmas cookies and related treats is one of the few traditions I have maintained over the years. Mind you, I am no Martha Stewart (unlike an old co-worker who brought snowflake cookies to our holiday potluck that were decorated so exquisitely it felt wrong to consume them not like I didn’t anyway). I focus on simple cookies. Actually, several of them are the “no bake” kind. I think that’s a wise choice as I make a fricking ton of them. I send these Christmas treats in holiday themed tins purchased at the Dollar Store or my local thrift store to friends and family from northern Minnesota to Missouri. I shan’t ever end this tradition as at this point our loved ones expect them each and every year. I kind of set myself up for that.

But it’s all good. Baking cookies while listening to my favorite Christmas tunes puts me in the spirit. For several years, while still living in Wisconsin, I hosted a cookie baking party with 3 of my closest co-workers. The wine flowed, the kitchen was essentially destroyed, and much fun was had by all. Good times. 

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Christmas cookies, circa 2008 ish

Then there’s the music of this season. I’m not the type to turn on the Christmas music as soon as the Thanksgiving leftovers are stored in the fridge, but I do enjoy it quite a bit. I am a traditionalist, as I mostly prefer the classics, sung by the original artists. Though there are a few exceptions. Like this version of “Baby it’s Cold Outside” by “She and Him” (I will admit the video is not exactly what I expected).  I’m not going to get into the controversy over this particular song and how it is “rape-y” (I don’t exactly see it that way). I was delighted when I first saw the movie “Elf” and heard Zooey Deschanel’s pure and beautiful singing voice.  I was even more delighted when I discovered that there was a “She and Him” and that they had produced a sweet little cd covering classic Christmas tunes. I of course purchased this cd and enjoy listening to it every single Christmas since then. The only other two Christmas cd’s on repeat in our house this time of year are Michael Buble’s “Christmas” and the Carpenter’s “Christmas Portrait”.  The songs “All I want for Christmas” by Mariah Carey, “Feliz Navidad” by Jose Feliciano, and Bing Crosby’s “Mele Kalikimaka” always put a smile on my face when I hear them this time of year.

I’m excited that Hubs is working on “Mele Kalikimaka” on his yuke these days. With any luck, he and I will collaborate on this one and may even perform it via video for our daughter and grandson via videochat yet this season. Or next Christmas, at least.

The most arduous tasks for me during the Christmas season are 1) purchasing gifts, 2) wrapping said gifts (not my forte; thankfully Hubs has my back on this one), and 3) shipping all the packages to hither and yon. Yet, there’s such a great joy I feel inside when I find just the right gift for the right person. I don’t know that I’ll ever in my livelong life, however, create such excitement with my Christmas gift-giving as my sweet Hubs did for me one Christmas about 7 years ago. I could not have been more surprised. 

Here’s the story: we are at my sister and brother in law’s house way up in northern Minnesota, where we have spent many Christmases. We are in the middle of opening all of our gifts, a tad liquored up and sitting in the cozy family room by the beautiful Christmas tree. I open the shirt sized box, assuming it’s a new sweater or some other practical piece of clothing (which I was totally fine with). However, it’s a fancy black dress. I look at Hubs a bit quizzically, and assume in my head that this is a dress I’ll be wearing for a nice dinner out with him on New Year’s Eve. Wow, I’m thinking. So thoughtful and how fun is it that he’s planning to take me out on New Year’s (that doesn’t happen every year, you see). Then I see there’s a sheet of paper underneath. I open it up and it’s an ITINERARY. An itinerary, no less, for a New Year’s weekend in Chicago! An itinerary mapping out our Amtrak train ride, dinner reservations at a very chi-chi seafood place in downtown Chicago, a fancy hotel, and tickets to see “The Adams Family Musical”. I was, for once in my life, utterly speechless. I think I actually cried with joy. It ended up being the best New Year’s Eve (weekend) of our entire married life despite the massive hangover I foolishly gifted myself. 

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Our New Year’s Eve in Chicago circa 2011 ish

 

This year, I was given the opportunity to shop for a little girl. I haven’t had the opportunity to partake in this activity since my spawn were youngins. You see, instead of doing the “Secret Santa” thing at work (you know the one-where you rack your brain to figure out what to buy for that one person you don’t know as well as all the others), someone came up with the brilliant idea of doing “Secret Santa” for the offspring of our co-workers. I grabbed a “wish list” for the daughter of one of my co-workers, and proceeded to have a ball at Target finding things for this kiddo. I suspect she will be pleased that Santa stuffed her new shiny star-shaped purse with Snickers and a $10 bill. I know I would be!

I wish each and every one of you a blessed, joyful, fun-filled holiday season. May your stockings be full with all your favorite goodies, may your travels be safe, and may your hearts be full. 

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Photo by Jameel Hassan on Pexels.com

What’s your go to “Feel Good” movie?

I have always been a huge fan of watching movies. Whether it be in an actual theater with a bucket of artery clogging popcorn and a fresh pack of Twizzlers or lolling about on my comfy couch eating the infinitely healthier microwave popcorn and my favorite chocolate truffles, I find movie watching to be one of life’s greatest pleasures. 

I like a variety of genres: comedies, dramas, thrillers, bio-pics, westerns, and musicals. And I’m pretty open minded about what I will watch. Especially if it is included with my Amazon Prime or on Netflix, where I have the lovely option of simply turning a movie off if it totally sucks. This doesn’t happen very often, however. 

Because I’m such a movie nut, I can’t in good conscience just pick one movie and tell you all why I think it’s great and why you should absolutely positively watch it as soon as you possibly can. 

Depending on how this goes, I might make this a regular feature. I like that idea: a regular feature. I think I’ll put a pin in that one. 

I’ve just got so much to say about how I feel about so many movies

Think I’ll start with the type of movie I love the very most, “my favorite favorite”, as Barney, that goofy purple dinosaur used to say through the t.v. screen to my kiddos when they were small. 

This would be the “Feel Good” movie. Those movies that make me laugh and/or make me tear up (I’m not a big crier when it comes to movies, but now that I think of it, perhaps I ought to pen a post about those rare films that did actually make me cry-and not because I was laughing so hard I couldn’t help myself). Those movies that amaze and inspire me. Those movies that I actually can enjoy again and again and again. 

Movies like:

“Love, Actually”. If I absolutely had to pick one film that is my favorite this would be the one. It’s a movie full of good cheer and humor.  It tells several different love stories, with the characters in each story biologically related to and/or entwined in each other’s lives. Each of the main characters are lovable, albeit imperfect.  The soundtrack is great too.  It also takes place during the Christmas season, which to me adds much to the charm of this movie. And it’s set in England so there’s plenty of those lovely British accents to enjoy. And it has a very happy ending, one that assures you that everyone is going to be alright after the credits are over. 

“Mama Mia”. Oh, the music in this one. It amazes me that the songs of “Abba” could be used to tell the story of a soon-to-be-wed young woman, living in a resort in Greece with her mom, who is searching for her biological father. Her mom, Donna, had summer flings with three different young men 20 years prior, and became pregnant. Her daughter, Sophie, invites all three of these now older men to her wedding. Each of these men, fortunately, embrace the possibility that they could be her father. It is simply a joyful, fun, uplifting movie that I can’t resist. 

“As Good as it Gets” also ranks as one of my all time favorite “feel good” movies. It is an unlikely love story between a curmudgeon afflicted with a severe case of OCD, played by the one and only Jack Nicholson, and a young waitress, who is a single mom of a very ill son, played by Helen Hunt. The (IMHO) greatly underrated actor Greg Kinnear has a starring role as Simon,  as Melvin’s (Jack Nicholson) gay neighbor who becomes a victim of an assault and needs someone to care for his little dog (Verdell) while he recovers. Jack Nicholson’s character slowly bonds with the dog and over time his heart opens to the possibility of real love with Carol, Helen Hunt’s character. This movie is as much about the characters (maybe even a bit more) than the actual story. The scenes with Carol and Simon are especially heart-warming, as they form a special bond between them.  The scenes with Melvin and Verdell are quite precious as well. 

My hope is that you all are able to carve out some time for yourself during this busy, stressful, mentally taxing time of the year (aka the Christmas/Holiday season) to kick back and re-watch your favorite “feel good” movies. Or if you haven’t caught any of the three mentioned above, you’ll take my recommendations and rent, buy, or find one of them via your favorite streaming service. 

Christmases Past, Present, and Future

Merry Christmas, one and all! ‘Tis the season to reflect on Christmases past, enjoy Christmas present, and dream a bit about Christmas future.

Christmases past:

Every single Christmas during my childhood, I watched as my mom sprayed the (always real) Christmas tree with noxious white spray from a can. Lord only knows how many of her children’s brain cells were unknowingly killed over the years. But the tree always looked spectacular.

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Opening presents on Christmas Eve: Everyone at the same time. It was sheer, giddy, joyful, chaos.

Flash forward to my first Christmas with my in-laws, about 16 years later: Opening presents on Christmas morning. One person, one gift, at a time. This process took what felt like hours upon hours (that first year anyway). Especially with several in-laws who chose to open their gifts carefully to preserve the beautiful gift wrapping for future Christmases.

The funny thing about this, however, is that in the following years, on those Christmases when it was just the four of us at home (Hubs, me, and our two spawn), we chose to continue the Christmas morning gift opening, with one of playing “Santa”, tearing into each gift, one family member at a time.

Then there was that one Christmas spent at my in laws (about 2007?), who were living  in Iowa at the time, where we all gathered around the Christmas tree and listened to the tapes of Hubs and his younger sister that had been produced when they were kids for their grandparents who lived in Florida. Hubs and his sister told stories about what they were into at the time, like 4-H club and horses.  Listening to these tapes gave me precious insight into their childhoods and made me feel like a member of the Davis tribe. And we howled with laughter the whole time.

Christmas Present: Now we are two empty nesters winging it in a new state. Things are simpler, quieter, now. But we will make the very best of it nonetheless. We will be watching Christmas movies, making and eating high carb foods (we are currently in the throes of decimating a roasting pan of homemade Chex Mix) and (yahoo!) going out to the movies and out for dinner. And of course, missing our kiddos. And our almost 4 year old grandson. Like crazy.

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This year’s Christmas tree

 

Christmas Future: We will be warm and cozy together in our cabin in the woods. There will be lots of Christmas lights inside and out. Christmas music will play softly in the background. Every family member, young and old,  will be there that can be there, God willing. Our two dogs, one a little pipsqueak mutt and the other a black lab, will greet guests upon their arrival. There will be good cheer and laughter, catching up, playing games. Ice cream drinks and hot toddies and lots of fun appetizers will be served. As a group, we will watch Christmas Vacation. And later, travel into town in a caravan of cars to see all the holiday lights. Sounds lovely, doesn’t it? I’d say I can’t wait, but that would take away from enjoying Christmas present.

I hope that each and every one of you have the merriest of Christmases!

 

 

One Word Prompt: Enjoy

When I first started blogging, I often checked the daily word prompt, hoping for inspiration for a fresh and witty blog post. For the most part, I found myself coming up empty with the word of the day. So I would click for a new word. Ponder it for a moment. Nada. Then I’d clicked again, certain the next word would unleash the uber creative writer lurking inside of me. Bupkis. 

Having several sort of “meh” moments this week, it occurred to me that what I most need to do right now, in this moment, is to enjoy life. Savor it. Make the most of the ordinariness of it all. Laugh. Play. Enjoy. 

According to Merriam-Webster, the word “enjoy” is 1) to take pleasure in and 2) to keep, control, or experience as one’s own.

For my purposes this weekend, I’m going to focus on 1) what I’m enjoying, 2) who I’m enjoying it with and 3) how I’m enjoying my chosen subject of enjoyment. With the Christmas holiday upon us, this is surely not too complicated a task.

The what: Our church Christmas pageant rehearsal this afternoon. Hubs and I accepted a request from the mother of the writer/producer of this year’s production to play Mary and Joseph. I find this absolutely hilarious! Here we are, him just a couple of years and a few months from turning 50, and me, careening towards 51, playing Joseph (who I always presumed was in his 30’s when Jesus was born) and Mary (just a teen at the time). Hubs comment upon receiving this request was “I could see us playing Abraham and Sarah-but Joseph and Mary? Really?!”

More of the what: Watching Christmas movies. Eating good food plucked from our beloved crockpot. Making more Christmas cookies whilst jamming out to my favorite Christmas cd (Michael Buble). The simple things. Nothing fancy for this duo this weekend.

The Who: Hubs, of course. Duh. I intend to find that Santa hat he dons when he’s feeling especially merry during the holiday season. I’m going to insist he wear it for my enjoyment. He will tell me that his favorite Christmas song is “Silver and Gold” from “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer”. He, the only human in this family of four who doesn’t possess a sweet tooth, will tell me that his favorite Christmas cookies are the spritz ones. He will mimic the character’s lines while we watch Christmas Vacation, telling me his favorite one is at the end, when the policeman tells the grinchy old boss that good old cousin Eddie kidnapped and brought to the Griswold’s with a big red bow tied around his torso, “That’s pretty low, Mister, if I had a rubber hose…”.

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Santa Hubs, circa 2004

The How: With a joyful spirit. With music in the background. Dressed in comfortable clothes (wisdom of being 50 is that comfort trumps fashion). With a sense of playfulness.

What will you be enjoying this weekend? This Christmas season? As one of my Christmas wishes is to receive more comments on this blog, please share with me what you are or will be enjoying!

My Christmas Simplification Experiment

This past year, I’ve come to appreciate simplifying my life. Hubs and I have been operating on a smaller scale, financially, due to me taking my “Gap Year”, which has led me to forgo non-essential purchases I would have otherwise made. We’ve been more frugal when it comes to spending our “disposable” income by eating out much less frequently and taking advantage of any and all opportunities to save money (ex: Target red card: 5% off all purchases) on things we regularly purchase.

Bottom line: a benefit of my “Gap Year” is an increased mindfulness of how we spend our money. This is a good thing. Now, not only are we in a better position to start saving for important things like travel and eventually a plumb spot of land on a smallish but beautiful lake in Minnesota or Wisconsin where we will build our dream cabin, but we have much less stuff to care for and stress about. And now that I am gainfully employed I think it behooves us to continue our frugal ways.

That brings me to Christmas. In years past, I have spent as my mother would say a “pretty penny” not only on gifts, but also on ingredients to make a wide variety of Christmas cookies which I send to friends and family near and far. And the shipping costs for said cookies and gifts is nothing to sneeze at either.

This Christmas is going to be different. Though the cookie baking and shipping is still happening, because, well, I truly enjoy the process. One of my happiest of happy places is in the kitchen, baking and cooking my heart out with a variety of holiday and non-holiday tunes cranked up on my Bluetooth speaker. And the joy these treats brings to the recipients is so worth it. 

What’s going to be different this year is the gift-giving part of it all. I’ve come to the realization that the stress I put on myself not to mention the costs to purchase (whether on line or in actual stores) and ship just the right gift for each and every one of my lovely family members is simply no longer worth it.

I know, Bah-humbug, right? Rhonda has officially become the Grinch!

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Not so fast. I’ve decided that everyone-with perhaps 3 small exceptions-is getting gift cards. 

One could say that gift cards are impersonal. However, I have a different take on it. Every Christmas since like forever, my mom gives me a gift card to Victoria’s Secret (along with other actual gifts). I look forward to this particular gift every year, as this is a store I love but very infrequently shop at as I feel it’s overpriced and generally I am perfectly happy purchasing needed underthings on sale at Kohl’s thankyouverymuch. However, it’s such a treat to waltz into Victoria’s Secret, gift card in hand, with the ability to purchase at least one lovely thing or two with zero guilt.

You see, with gift cards, you are gifting your loved ones with both an experience and an actual thing. The opportunity to take yourself out to a restaurant or a store where you can not only obtain something you truly want, but also experience the joy of not paying for it with your own hard earned money, I think may trump the “thing” a gift-giver would have purchased that may or may not fit or may or may not have a good spot to place in your home, or may or may not be an item you would regularly use and enjoy.

So, delicious cookies and gift cards it is. I’m calling it my Christmas Simplification Experiment.  Please share your comments with me, as I am open to other ideas on how to simplify the holiday season this year!