Tuesday, November 17, 2015

December Look Ahead -- Cards, Shopping and Wrapping (Part One)

I'm all for one to not ring in the Christmas/Winter holidays before Thanksgiving is over. OK, the day after Thanksgiving, everything comes out! But some things can be prepped ahead of time and we should at least be thinking of them, so here's an early December Look Ahead!

This is the first of several posts, starting with the things we can do the earliest -- cards, shopping and wrapping.

But before we start, I should say that I know everyone has their own way of doing the December holidays. And those holidays aren't all the same. There's Solstice, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and the ever-popular New Year's Eve. Some of us do more than one, others give it all a pass. (Or as Seinfeld would say, "There's Festivus for the Rest of Us.")

And while I do some of these, I don't do all, so if I leave out ideas or traditions that work for your celebrations, please add them in the comments!


November is a great time to get started on your holiday cards -- unless you want to spend the busiest part of the busy season looking up addresses. (And if you're making them or ordering them, it's absolutely essential!)

Now, I know a lot of people do e-cards and email letters, sometimes for the convenience, sometimes for the cost. Postage is pricey. And I'm glad to hear from anyone in any way they choose to communicate.

But there's something magical about anticipating what might be in the mailbox, seeing a hand written (or computer printed) envelope and open up a pretty card, a newsy note or photo!

Unique cards are fun for special people! Here is part of our recent sale -- some of my cards and my friend Kate's calendars!

My cousin David is a master at writing the tongue in cheek Christmas spoof letter. Everything is true -- and profoundly honest -- and they are always a hoot. This is a skill he inherited from his dad, my uncle Marty, and I'm glad to see the tradition continues. Meanwhile, his sister Mutty and her family always do a creative photo card riffing off of some current event. (I nearly killed them the year they did a take on the Bush-Gore indecision and included a confetti full of "hanging chads" in the envelope! But the card was great!)

So what can you do now? Well, you might not be ready to write your all-inclusive holiday letter, but you can address those envelopes (or look up those email addresses). Word on the street is that there are mighty cute Charlie Brown stamps this year, and getting those in November might save you a chunk of change in December!

And if all else fails, think "New Year's Cards!"

Gifts and Shopping

Here's another thing where everyone differs. I try hard to be done with shopping early in the month, picking up things off and on throughout the year. (And I've never been full-on done till maybe a week before Christmas!) It may not technically save money but it does save shopping angst in the crowds!

Rick, on the other hand, manages to drag me to my least favorite place in the world, the mall, the weekend before Christmas -- or later. These jaunts don't usually yield much except sore feet and a less than Christmassy feeling, but I have to admit I kind of like them. (Not the mall so much, but the doing it together at the festive time, sharing a pizza or whatever we might enjoy that night.)

At our recent sale, Jane had wonderful jewelry. Supporting local artists is always a priority for me.

You may be the Black Friday shopper (not for me!) or the Shop Local person (this is something I try to do) or a Support Your Favorite Local Artist (my favorite way to shop). But here are a few hints to make it a bit easier.

  • Comfy shoes! Whether you are walking the mall or the concrete sidewalks, be comfy. You'll go longer and be much less snarky when you get home!
  • Plan Ahead! I'm always willing to change my mind if I see something on my shopping trip that overrides my plan, but at least I'm not wandering (the mall, like we do before Christmas!). Make the list and check it twice!
  • Keep track of what you already have! How many times have I bought for someone I already "finished?" Too many to count.
  • What are you making? When looking at your list, remember what gifts you might be making for someone. Sometimes you are farther along than you think.
  • Check for gift card deals. If you are giving multiple gift cards, certain spots (especially restaurants) might throw in a bonus incentive (for which you will be most grateful after walking the mall).


Guess what! If you are relatively organized and have your shopping under control, you can start wrapping now! I swear I am going to do that this year! Believe me, it's the last thing you want to do as the clock ticks down, especially if there is a lot of it. (And remember -- not everything needs to be wrapped!)

Not everything needs to be wrapped! Display can be just as impressive!

If you have a separate area -- guest room, an area out of the way -- you can set up a wrapping station. In most cases, I try to go with a basic color palette so it's easy to match up the ribbons and not keep digging for things. My favorite supplies are tulle (which makes a great bow) and is relatively inexpensive and in lots of colors, generally in the bridal section at a craft store. Wired ribbon is terrific too!

Gypsy was pretty good with presents but Jack, our Jack Russell predecessor was not. We used to embellish packages with Hershey kisses. When only the wrappers were left and no human would 'fess up, we knew Jack, our resident chocoholic, had been at work.

You can also go with the all-brown Kraft paper or white paper and take it from there! The kids can stamp or finger paint on the paper and you can use any ribbon or even something dimensional in place of a bow.

If you have wrapping helpers, remember to keep tabs on the stringier ribbon or items that might get swallowed, wrapped around an intestine and bring you a fortune in vet bills. This did not happen to me, but it did happen to someone I knew once. The cat was OK end the end. The budget after surgery was not.

Gypsy was one for tissue paper and ribbons. If your pet is into this, you've probably already discovered the advantages of keeping it off the floor!

My friend Susan used to always have a wrapping party. Come when you can, bring what you like or need to wrap. She'd have cider, cookies and snacks and we'd have fun while actually getting something done. We brought our own paper but if you're hosting and have some overstock, it's a great way to get rid of it!

Remember, things that need to be mailed should be wrapped first -- get them out of the house as soon as you can so you have more room for the incoming! And you will save a boatload if you get those mailed early and avoid the fed-ex charges! (And yes, I once spent more on mailing than I did on the contents to get them to arrive on time!)

My favorite "toppings" for mailing packages are very simple bows -- a simply tied grosgrain ribbon, twine, or even un-bowed but with a flat embellishment on top. (Old Christmas cards or outdoor naturals are great for this. Just use plain paper and the card image becomes your "bow.") These flat toppings pack well.

In our olden days family Christmases, we used to wrap anything not tied down. It wasn't unusual to find a pair of socks in two packages! Looking under the tree at the abundance of gifts looked almost embarrassing (until you thought about the double wrapping!).

Patty, Mutty, David, me and our pals Gus and Jack-the-Chocoholic, early 1970s. We were big on wrapping anything!

In fact, one of the traditions we used to have was wrapping a gift in an original fashion. Patty (above) once dripped candle wax all over a small square box so it looked like a candle. Aunt Iris hollowed out a green pepper, enclosed earrings and tied it off with a bow. When Mom got on her gingerboy kick (see last photo), Dad made her a giant gingerman and tucked jewelry in a seam (he won!). Everyone did something and we'd vote for small prizes. I miss that!

Time can change things. Time and being "the responsible one." If wrapping isn't your thing, there are a couple of great alternatives -- the ever-popular bags, which are cute and fun and the multiple wrap. A nice big box, some cute tissue and two or three presents that fit and you are doing three in one!

There will always be last minute wrapping (and assembling!) but it's a lot less stressful if most of the work is out of the way. It leaves you time for some fun things, the unexpected moment.

My mother said that my dad offered a most colorful commentary as he was trying to assemble a difficult dollhouse after midnight on Christmas Eve when I was about three or four. I suspect it was probably rated R!

My unexpected wrapping moment came about in 1995 when my neighbor invited me over on Christmas Eve. After dinner and church with friends, I went down the street where he greeted me with a big pile of presents on the table, a mess of wrapping paper and scissors and a frantic look in his eyes. We worked quietly, laughing and smiling while two tousled heads were sleeping in the next room, placed the gifts under the tree and then enjoyed some champagne and Christmas music and a good talk. Twenty years later, Rick and I are still wrapping, stuffing Christmas socks and enjoying the sounds of Christmas. It's one of my favorite Christmas memories.

I've gone on way too long! It's your turn! Share your favorite card/wrapping/shopping tips.

Coming up: Decorating!


Lisa from Lisa's Yarns said...

Aw, I love your memory from 1995! That is so sweet! I am sure he was very thankful to have your help that night - and over the 20 years since they!

I am starting to get ready for Christmas as well as I can already tell that my weekends are filling up. I have my shopping list ready so that I can buy all the books for my nieces and nephews on Black Friday when book stores tend to have great sales. We already ordered my parents gift, too. So the bulk of my shopping is planned or done. I just have to figure out what to get Phil... although we might forgo Christmas gifts this year, or do stocking stuffers, and go on a winter getaway as neither of us really wants or needs anything!

I feel like Christmas is going to come especially fast this year as this year is going by faster than ever it seems!! It's a wonderful time of year, though, so I am looking forward to it. I just wish time would slow down!!

Anonymous said...

You are better than me, as I am not a good gift wrapper.
That Gypsy cat was so pretty with that colorful fur.

Joyful said...

I'm all for being as prepared as possible as early as possible with the presents. That said, I am often doing last minute things too. Doing a little here and there saves on the holiday stress and we're blessed in Canada to have Thanksgiving in October. I find it nice to have that 6 week space between major holidays.

Your ideas as all good ones. I've employed most of them, if not all of them at one time or another.

Enjoy the season ahead.

Deb said...

What a fun post, Jeanie. You are getting us all in the Christmas spirit. :) I LOVE wrapping gifts. It's always been very important to me to make the wrapping interesting and beautiful. And I do start early to get the wrapping done. I'm having cards made this year so will have to wait for them to be delivered or I'd be at them now. lol I love your photos of Christmas past. It's obvious your family loved the Christmas season. And look at Gypsy, how handsome he looked with his little heart nose. I'm sure you think of him a lot during this time. Sending a hug, Deb

Deb said...

I forgot to mention that wired ribbon makes wrapping a joy.

Marilyn Miller said...

Wow! I think you have it covered. I do tend to be the kraft brown paper wrapper with pretty ribbons. Not fond of bags unless needed. I try to have cards ready to send by Thanksgiving and a high percentage of gifts purchased, but wait until the last week to wrap. I love being able to mainly concentrate on the celebrations, decorating, and baking in December. Those are the things that make me happy.

Bella Rum said...

A nice combination of memories and good holiday advice. I've gotten some of my shopping finished, but I have more to do. I haven't wrapped anything yet, and I must hide all of it before the kids get here this weekend. I do have my Christmas cards, but I haven't written and addressed them yet. Still lots to do. I guess we'll all be in full holiday mode as soon as our Thanksgiving turkey has digested.

Castles Crowns and Cottages said...

teeehehe......oh the Christmas memories my friend! How lucky you are to have this photo of your dad....it reminds me of a hilarious story a British blogger once told about SANTA. As a child, she heard the lumbering footsteps of SANTA on Christmas, only to hear a THUMP and some expletives pierce the morning air...she looked to get a gander at SANTA, and what does she see? Her father in his underwear, putting her gifts under the tree. teeheheeee

GYPSY sure was CUTE!

shoreacres said...

My favorite photo is the one of Gypsy with the tissue. Of course that's Dixie Rose's year-around treat, but I always make sure she has some Christmas tissue to play with!

Dr. Kathy McCoy said...

LOVED seeing the pictures of the Gypsy! What a beautiful cat he was! And so special....

I absolutely love Christmas cards! That's my favorite part of the whole season!! It's so nice to hear from friends I might not have much contact with the rest of the year, to enjoy that connection. And with personal letters and cards a rare thing throughout the year, in this age of email and texting, all that mail is such a thrill.

I have an ongoing list I keep current throughout the year in my address book and then start deciding who gets what card -- I have animal rescue organization cards for most, but for some of my friends who are very religious, I like to honor their beliefs with more spiritual cards. So I usually have two different kinds to send and mark which one each person gets by their name on the list. Then I address the envelopes, usually before Thanksgiving, and write notes and letters to insert in the week or two after Thanksgiving. I try to have most of my cards done by December 10.

It may be a challenge this year as I have a January 4 book deadline (as I did two years ago with Purr Therapy) but sending holiday cards to friends and getting cards means so much to me that it is still a top priority despite the book deadline!

We don't do gifts all that much, except for the small children in our family. I've done all my shopping for them online this year. I look for things over the year based on their interests instead of trying frantically to find just the right gift in the holiday shopping season. (My niece and nephew live most of the time in Thailand and so are not aware of the "hot" gifts of the season. My niece is happy with anything relating to "Frozen" or "The Wizard of Oz.")

I'll look forward to your posts leading up to Christmas!!

Victoria Zigler said...

I have to start thinking about gifts now, because almost everything has to be mailed, since we don't live near any of our family. So, we sort everyone else first, and then worry about making sure we have something for each other.

We had a cat who liked to unwrap things, plus one who liked to sleep on the gifts for some reason (it was Megan who slept on the gifts... She was a strange cat, with strange habits, and more fur than sense as a rule). We ended up buying a cloth Santa sack to put the stuff in while we had those cats, just so we didn't wake up to find most of the gifts unwrapped (accidentally by Megan while sleeping on them, intentially by Sakura). The rest of the year, the sack doubled as a bag to store some of the smaller holiday decorations in.

Joanne Huffman said...

I had a very similar doll house many years ago. You have such a rich library of photos; you're very lucky. My mother told me years ago that we had very few family photos because we were all there and we would remember. I have few photos, but lots of happy memories.

Geraldine said...

what an enchanting post (and blog) you have! Stopping in via Beate's blog. I noted your kitties pic, looks so much like our lovely Mr. Cheddar, I had just had to click through.

Have a wonderful holiday! G

bj said...

Well, dear one, with such a large family (we are very blessed), I Christmas shop all year long, starting with the Jan. Clearance sSales.
I already have most of my shopping done and in gift bags for this Christmas. I wrap very few gifts, using cute bags and tissue paper....
I have a few long time friends that I don't see often and I send them cards but not many.
I love to decorate for Christmas...the whole house takes on a different personality...everything warm and bright and so colorful...
oh, how I love it all...

Angelsdoor * Penny said...

Oh Jeanie, such beautiful Christmas memories... Love the family photos.
One year my dad bought my mom a ring.. He sat this huge box down next to her and she started to unwrap.. There were about a dozen boxes inside, smaller and smaller, until she got to the tiny box.. What fun that was to watch..
Thank you so much for visiting.. Wishing you a beautiful week.

Jemma@athomewithjemma said...

Oh what lovely memories and photos! I love walking down memory lane and I look forward to being reunited with all of my photo albums! I do so remember wrapping single items, I even laugh to think of it now! Trying to increase the unwrapping frenzy, what were we thinking of!
I too shop ahead, I pick this and that up during the year and stow it away. I also make lists of what I have purchased and for who-so I do not have to paw my way through the goods. I suppose another tip I do, is wrap ahead as well. I remember waiting to wrap, not by choice, but because of these 4 children! There were many Christmas Eve's that I was still wrapping at 2 a.m.!

Betsy@My Salvaged Treasures said...

You're so far ahead of me with just thinking about shopping and wrapping. I used to be good about having it all done by Thanksgiving, but that went out the window several years ago. We've cut way back on presents for the extended family, but the ones we exchange with get one of my junky creations, lol.

psychelyn said...

I love reading your blog. I learn a lot and enjoy much. It's like reading a "feel-good" book :)

I actually miss Christmas cards...that is both sending and receiving. I grew up with grandparents who had a tradition of sending cards to all family and friends, wrapping presents for everyone who's expected to be arou d on Christmas day. I participated in all these buying and mailing cards, gift wrapping. It's a fond memory now.

Barb said...

I just loved reading this post, Jeanie, and sharing in your memories. The photos of good times past made me smile. I'm fervently hoping I don't have to set foot inside a mall before Christmas. I bought all my grandchildren's gifts on-line this year, and I'm pretty much finished with my shopping. My little trick is shipping them right to my kids' houses so I don't have to wrap them either. (Yes, I know - bad!) We'll be in Denver several days before Christmas, coming back to the mountains late Christmas Day after watching Grandchildren in two families open gifts. When we had the Denver house, we'd get up at 5 AM to be at one son's house before the kids got up. Now that we stay at the Four Seasons, we have a leisurely brunch before heading to the first son's house. We tell the families to open all but our gifts so they don't have to wait for us to arrive. Bob asked if I wanted some of my Christmas decorations brought out this year, and I said "yes" - I have a huge Santa collection from when our kids were little, and I love to see some of them make an appearance in our great room year after year. I'll put them out right after Thanksgiving so I have a chance to enjoy them before we leave for Denver. Have a great Thanksgiving, Jeanie!

Susie said...

Jeanie, I loved your cards and oh those photos...especially the older ones. I love seeing family pics. Wishing you a glorious Thanksgiving. Blessings, xoxo,Susie

Nancy/BLissed-Out Grandma said...

A great post to get me thinking. One year my daughter and I decided that reusable cloth gift bags were a good alternative to using all that paper. I bought several Christmas fabrics and made up a couple of dozen bags in various sizes. We trade them back and forth with whatever gifts fit in them. I think it's time to make a few more, in large sizes for giant Lego sets.

Jennifer Richardson said...

You:):):) I love the way you think!
This gave me such a whoosh of joy:)
Thanks for the beautiful share.
I like thinking ahead and taking small bites, too.
It makes the days more celebrate-able!
Happy hours,

Jenny Woolf said...

Ah, it is nice to see your devoted Dad slaving away on the dolls house despite the fact that he might have preferred to be doing other things on Christmas eve! What our parents do for us...
What beautiful wrappings. I never manage to make my gifts look half as nice.

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