(The real reason) Why I am So Excited About Christmas

This is the first year I can say, with 100% honesty, that I am not excited about Christmas presents.

But I am excited. I’m up at 5 am with a tinsel-tinted adrenaline rush, and I feel like I should explain why.

– – –

I’m excited for a big family breakfast. For cheesy Christmas specials on DVD. For rum and eggnog at 12:00 sharp.  I’m all warm and fuzzy about the fact the family dog is sharing my makeshift mattress on mom’s office floor and that’s cool, puppy, my feet can hang off the bed. Really.

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Really, really.
I can’t wait to see little Mikey’s new haircut with bedhead. I will probably force a selfie upon him, if it’s particularly magnificent. And my father will probably photobomb it, because he’s hyped. We’re all hyped. We’re buzzing with the unspoken amazement that this year, finally, we’re all happy and healthy for the holidays.

Finally.   

I’m excited for the tacky, blurry photo evidence.

I’m excited about the snow, now that it’s not threatening my commute home.  About a real day off.  About my new discovery that singing a loud, off-key version of “Wrecking Ball” on my ukelele can pretty much persuade my brothers to do anything I want because “SHAUNA. STOP. PLEASE.” 

I’m excited for the beautiful weirdness of love looking like a family sitting around a souped-up tree.  I look forward to trading symbols of “I CARE ABOUT YOU AND YOUR INTERESTS,” I suppose. But that’s all they are. They’re symbols this year, and not particularly necessary ones. They’re excuses to hug people and to appreciate people, and that’s all. That’s all.

I’m excited for the hugs, too.

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Snapshot from the train ride home.

I don’t have too many expectations for Christmas 2013. I’m sure our poorly-mixed drinks will spill, often. People will disappear for naps, cutting well-intended board games off prematurely. There will be chipped nail polish, CDs that skip, and burnt food (because our oven is a menace). The zoo that is our family home–four kids, one dog, two hamsters, a bird, a snake, and an open door policy–will need tending to.

And, as always, I’m going suggest that we read the biblical version of the Christmas story.  And everyone is going to agree that this is an okay idea, I guess, but it’s not going to happen because we’re a little busy laughing right now.

And that’s okay, too, because we’ll write our own version.

We will tell it through awful puns and funny faces, through unseemly snapshots and battle cries of “YOU’RE SO ANNOYING” and “THAT’S SO AWESOME.” It’s the story about what happens when perfect love pays a visit to an imperfect world, and we’ll tell it. We always do. 

chive-merry-christmas-funny-40

And that is what I’m excited for this year. 

Merry Christmas, everyone!

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Why “Marveling” Matters

The water is going to freeze. Soon.

My bus passed by the river this morning, like it always does. And I accidentally sat on the wrong side of the bus, like I always do (…sorry, person-who-thinks-I’m-staring-at-them, I’m just being a daydreamy little kid over here). Inflated arms brushed against each other, with thick jackets filling the space between passengers. Canadian human contact. Winter is coming.

(I don’t like winter, just to be clear. It makes me get all cold, and pale, and poetic. Not the productive kind of poetic; the sad, useless, shitty songwriting kind.)

Despite my usual distaste for winter, looking out at that ready-to-freeze water made me feel peaceful, even happy. I marveled at how the leaves were totally just on those trees a week ago, what even. And, light snow looks really pretty. And, of course, the water is going to freeze. Soon.

I guess it’s hard to be upset when you’re “marveling” at anything. I smiled (which person-who-thinks-I’m-staring-at-them probably found all kinds of weird). I got completely caught up in the season change, how cool it was, how it affected the water and the trees and the sun. My vendetta against the chillier months was momentarily forgotten.

Photo by Samantha Polzin
(Photo by Samantha Polzin)

I think maintaining a sense of wonder is one of the healthiest things in the world. You could talk to me all day about why, why, why winter exists—scientifically, mythologically, whatever. And I could talk to you all day about how it makes me feel, the endless pros and cons of snowy weather. But none of those answers will fulfill that sudden need to just sit back and go “Woah. The world changes like crazy every single year, regardless of how we feel about it. Look at it, it’s changing right now.”

Maybe there’s a super profound lesson or two in this. Maybe. I’ll leave that up to the sermons and short stories to decide. My only lesson, if I can call it that, is that having a sense of wonder about nature can override discomfort about nature. And that being a daydreamy little kid looking out the window isn’t a half bad way to view the world.

As long as you’re looking, that is.

What Kind of Woman Do I Want To Be?

Easter is always a major time of reflection for me.

…Okay.  By “always,” what I really mean is “Well, uh, it’s been a thing for the last couple of years?”  Being a young adult is sometimes like that, though. I’m quick to declare things part of my identity.

Easter weekend has played a major role in that identity, so it stays sacred.

I like the idea of rebirth. I like spring. The whole vibe that comes with things getting warmer/more colourful/livelier makes for a very positive, spiritual occasion.  I do a lot of “resolution”-type thinking around Easter. What burdens do I need to emerge from, butterfly-style? Who do I want to become?

“Stop worrying about finding the right person. Start working on becoming the right person.”

I read that the other day, and it stuck.  I agreed with the idea, but it made me wonder: what does the “right person” look like?

What kind of woman do I want to be?

woman

I want to be the kind of woman who writes thank you cards. Who lets managers know when she gets good service. Who writes appreciative reviews for small businesses.  Who lets artists know when they have touched her life, and lets politicians know when they have done the “right thing.” I want to be the kind of woman who wholeheartedly recognizes little miracles—and who approaches those miracles, if they have a face and a name.Who lives through gratitude, and means it. Who has a whiteboard on the wall, with a constantly revolving list of people to notify; ‘Hey, you. You’re alllllright.’

Celebrate people

I want to be the kind of woman whose gratitude is a constantly distributed gift, an open bar; not an investment with an expected return.  Accessible. Unconditional. Loving.   I want to be the kind of woman who is thankful day by day, step by step. Whose thank yous aren’t loaded attempts to control the future, nor quiet warnings of her standards.   She will never say ‘This is good. If I am grateful for this step, can the next step be just as good, please?’.   No; I want to be the kind of woman who is grateful because it is just who she is.  And when she says thank you, she simply means to say, That step was good. You helped make it good. Grazie, gracias, merci. 

I want to be the kind of woman with an open-door policy. Who knows her neighbours by name, aim, and favourite food…if they let her. I want to be that obnoxiously sweet lady-two-doors-down, the one who makes lots of casseroles. Funeral? Casserole. Moving day? Casserole. I could be that woman, I think. That would be a good woman to be.

(Unless the neighbours aren’t into casseroles. I am also open to making cookies.

…Dream big, right?)

I want to be the kind of woman with lots and lots of stories. I never, ever want to be boring. I don’t suppose anyone does want to be boring, but…if I’m aiming to be casserole-lady, I would prefer to be fun-casserole-lady. IMG_0102I want to be the kind of woman who was there for that thing. Who has the scars, tattoos, pictures, friendships, and memories to prove it.  I want to be the kind of woman with guitar-bred finger calluses, with laugh lines and dimples, with sun-kissed shoulders and tired, blistered feet.

I want to be the kind of woman who has mastered the art of witty retorts. Who laughs a lot, and who swears every now and then–because honestly, cursing sometimes makes the punchline better. Sometimes. Not always. And not in mixed company, I guess. Hopefully, though, I can be the kind of woman who mostly keeps company which can handle crazy stories and cursing.

IMG_0070I want to be the kind of woman who exercises. I’m TOTALLY NOT that woman right now, but I would like to be.  Or at least, I want to be the kind of woman who goes for walks, and can throw a ball around with her friends/family. I won’t aspire to be good at sports, or to be anything  other than clumsy and awkward when I play outside…but I do want to be the kind of woman who plays outside.

(Besides, I hear it’s “good for you.”)

I want to be the kind of woman who dresses up for Halloween.  And who puts up Christmas lights.  Who plays pranks on April Fool’s Day–and sometimes on other days, too (’cause she’s funny, remember?).    I want to be the kind of woman who has mastered the art of appetizers, conversation and corny holidays.  Who knows how to make a good martini.IMG_0849 Who has a solid supply of not-so-secret recipes and crowd-pleasing playlists.

(I know, I know, all of this costs money. And I know that money may not always be there.  Hopefully, I can be the kind of woman that is okay with that, too.)

I would like very much to say “I want to be a woman of faith,” but I don’t know if that’s fair. I don’t know that someone should aspire to believe anything, least of all anything supernatural. I would like very much to be a woman of faith–because I currently am, bibleand it serves me well. But again, not a fair goal. I would much rather be a woman who constantly uses the brain God gave her–even if that means that her idea of “God” has to change as she learns things.

What I do want to be is a woman of grace–you know, that thing that happens when personal values meet interpersonal compassion.  I want to be the kind of woman who can hold herself to a code of loyalty, honesty, and kindness, but who uses those things to Love better–not to be condescending or proud.

Right now, I describe that as being “Christian”.  I can’t imagine grace is confined to “WWJD”, though.

So, grace. Lots of grace.  I want to be the kind of woman who is radically patient with people and with herself.  Who has the courage to love the world, even when it seems particularly cruel. I want to be the kind of woman who can (gracefully, gracefully) step in and help someone who is hurting, and understands that “help” and “hurting” have many different faces.

I want to be the kind of woman who is continually educated and insatiably curious. Who speaks a couple languages, who knows her geography, and who travels lots and lots. I want to be the kind of woman who knows enough to be aware of the fact that she knows nothing.  Who has about 10 questions for every answer.  No, I don’t want to be the kind of woman who puts her job and education before family–family should always, always come first.  But I do want to be the kind of woman who brings the family (and the edgy jokes, and the free spirit) along for the ride–and makes sure the ride involves lots and lots of learning.  I want to be the kind of woman who lights up when she talks and hears about the world, and whose curiosity is infectious.

Yes; That’s the kind of woman I want to be.

What about you?

(Happy Easter/Joyeuses Pâques, everyone!)

– – –

A Semi-Informed Guide to Surviving (or maybe even enjoying) Young Adulthood
A Semi-Informed Guide to Surviving (or maybe even enjoying) Young Adulthood
Hey Christmas, Did you lose weight? You look different this year.
Hey Christmas, Did you lose weight? You look different this year.
Jealousy has a stage name. It’s called Inspiration.
Jealousy has a stage name. It’s called Inspiration.

20 Reasons Valentine’s Day Actually DOESN’T Suck. (Really. Seriously.)

Who the heck likes Valentine’s Day? You know, the most commercial, AND emotionally loaded, AND consistantly disappointing, AND painfully corny of all “holidays.”

I know I didn’t. I didn’t like it at all. When I was a single teenager, I found it stupid.  When I was a coupled young adult, I found it stupider. But these last few years as a single young adult? WELL. That’s a different story.

Now, I proudly enjoy Valentine’s Day. Here’s why you should, too:

  1. If you want to watch something romantic and cheesy, you’re TOTALLY ALLOWED. In fact, it’s festive.
  2. If you want to watch a kickass action film, you can to that too. In fact, you’ll look pretty ironic and awesome.
  3. Your excuse to host a fondue party IS RIGHT NOW.
  4. Valentine’s Day memes are fantastic.

    Puritan Valentine's Day cards. The internet wins this round.
    The internet wins this round.
  5. You can dress cutesy. Or sexy. Or wear red/pink/purple/hearts in the most shameless way possible and YOU’RE JUST CELEBRATING, GUYS.
  6. Chocolate goes on sale tomorrow
  7. Lingerie goes on sale tomorrow.
  8. So-cute-it’s-almost-offensive teddy bears go on sale tomorrow (early Christmas shopping, anyone?).
  9. Showing affection is good.

    Pictured here: Affection.
    Pictured here: Affection.
  10. Oh, and if you say you don’t enjoy those silly ten cent Valentine’s “cards”…you’re lying.
  11. Observing how other couples roll (or refuse to roll) through this day is fascinating. I’ll bring the popcorn.
  12. You can make all your food heart-shaped! Think of the possibilities! (…I have hobbies, I promise.)
  13. Flowers are beautiful and alive and they smell good. If there are more flowers in your general vicinity because of this day (even if it’s just cuz your co-worker has an admirer or two), be grateful for it. Being indoors with no visible symbol of growth around isn’t healthy. Life & colour, resulting from the celebration of love? Score.
  14. And, yes, flowers will also be on sale tomorrow.
  15. If you work in an office, let’s be honest…someone will probably bring in candy. Hit the kitchen, kids.
  16. I guarantee you that your single friends will want to hang out.
  17. These:
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  18. You DON’T HAVE TO CARE about this day. Seriously. Everyone kinda thinks it’s stupid. Just roll with it and have fun. Genuine “caring” not required.
  19. Valentine’s Day breeds bitterness. Bitterness breeds good comedy. Your funny friends will probably be funnier today.
  20. Smithsonian Folkways’ “Happy Valentine’s Day” playlist alone makes the day worth it. [You can jam out with the playlist for free on Spotify and Rhapsody, along with Rdio and MOG]

…and, if you’re still not convinced? *sigh* Okay, then. This is for you:

images

 

6 Great Gift Ideas for Guys

I have three little brothers.

If you’re a regular reader who didn’t already know that, this might give you a case of the “OH! That explains so much!” because…yeah.  Living in a male-dominated household has had more than one effect on me.  Sometimes I laugh at jokes that are less-than ladylike.  I can’t host Super Bowl parties, because I give up on actually hosting once the game comes on (confirmed: ability to run for beers between downs).  Last night, I went to Django Unchained–when Terantino comes around, Les Mis will just have to wait.  And although I never got too into cars or video games, I can pretend to care like a boss.

BUT AT LEAST I DRESS CLASSY LIKE THIS. Right?
AT LEAST I DRESS CLASSY LIKE THIS. Right?
(okay, so this is more accurate)
(yeah, this is more accurate)

Perhaps this would have happened without the male influences–my mom has a tomboy streak herself (though she also had 6 brothers growing up).

For the little brothers, Christmas and birthdays are a time for me to drop the “pretending to care” and, you know, show that I actually care—maybe not about Halo, but definitely about the boys themselves. Typically, this is done with a present.

Yikes.

Buying gifts for dudes sucks. In the weeks leading up to Christmas, my HUGE blessing of having so many fantastic men in my life became a serious curse. They’re so different:  The youngest and I will talk on the phone for hours about football standings and lockout drama.  The oldest is a minimalist and gamer who just moved out (the “strong but silent” type, let’s say). The middle brother is outdoorsy, social, hilarious, and looks too much like Justin Bieber to be up to any good.  They’re all wonderful, and funny, and I could legitimately brag about them ALL DAY.   But I cannot figure out what to buy for them, at least not without a solid dose of creativity or inspiration. And even though they’re always like “Dude. Timmy’s card. It’s really not that hard, Shauna,” I feel like I need to…not do that. Because my siblings are a huge blessing, and I want to do my best to show them that.

Though a Timmy’s card is a pretty great gift, too.

This Christmas, the boys (my three brothers and dad alike) did pretty well, despite how painful the picking was. Between each other, myself, my mother (and the dog, for some reason) we ended up figuring it out. And since I know what a pain it can be, I thought I’d  share with you some of my favourite gifts for guys that came out from under our tree:

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Christmas DIY: Holiday Season Earrings

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This year, I decided to add a couple things to my holiday season closet. First on the list was a red cocktail dress. It came to my attention earlier this month that my only dress appropriate for any sort of big-kid-party is…well, it fit me in Grade 10? Yeah. Living the dream.

I may need to get rid of some of this high school stuff.

I found the dress (which I will post ALL about soon, dun’worry), and decided was time I put together some Christmas season jewelry. So last night, after mashing up “99 Problems” and “Where’d You Go?” on my keyboard and eating chicken that I’m 80% sure was properly cooked (you know, typical lifestyle choices), I pulled out the old craft supplies.  When my roommate walked in to see my wire, glue, pliers, and bead organizers laid out on across kitchen table, he looked slightly confused.

“I didn’t know you made jewelry.  This explains so much. Like why there are always single earrings lying around.”  He paused. “But it still doesn’t explain why they are always on the first step of the front porch.”

(I promise I’m a good roommate. I think.)

I hadn’t made earrings in far too long, so I put together some simple pieces to start:

Basic beaded earrings
Basic beaded earrings
Red & green chains (the result of a painstaking 20 minutes spent struggling with beading pliers)
Red & green chains
Christmas tree studs
Christmas tree studs

Next, I found some old unused holiday trinkets lying around, like small ornaments and decals.  Using wire & glue, it’s easy to add some earring hooks to just about anything:

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These are the smallest bulbs from a set of ornaments I bought last year. Facial expression gets the same justification as the first image.
These are the smallest bulbs from a set of ornaments I bought last year.

(Note: Blame the facial expressions and general headspace on the fact that I had just finished “rapping” to my broken keyboard when this picture was taken.  Because that’s what all the cool kids do.  And this is the face all the cool kids make.)

I also decided that this year, I wanted to have some jewelry that connected me to my spirituality–I feel like the usual cross symbol doesn’t really fit the whole birthday theme.  I decided to snip some of bits of the birth story out of the New Testament to make this necklace and earrings:

Matthew on the earrings (1:22-23 and 2:11-12)
Matthew on the earrings (1:22-23 and 2:11-12)
Luke 2:10-15 on the necklace. Pretty sure Charlie Brown and Linus would be down with this one. ;)
Luke 2:10-15 on the necklace. Pretty sure Linus and the rest of the Charlie Brown Christmas crew would be down with this piece. 😉

I’m thinking that’s enough creativity (and patience-testing meddling with wire) for today!  Between the red dress and the Christmas-themed jewelry, I am all set to go for my holiday season shindigs!

[Note:  I ever use the term “holiday season shindigs” in real life just…make me leave.]

Counting Down: CD Case Advent Calendar

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Alright, brace yourselves.  Here’s a confession for you.  Ready?

…I don’t really like chocolate.

Maaan, it feels so much better to just SAY it.

I don’t really like chocolate, but I do like tradition.  I like family.  And my childlike excitement in December is still ever-present, even if my sweet tooth is long gone.

After moving out, I tried to continue with the advent calendar thing. It didn’t really work.  Every year, I would buy a chocolate advent calendar at the grocery store. And every year, I would neglect this calendar. My roommates would end up taking it over after the first few days. Why?  Because I don’t really like chocolate, guys. It sucks.

This year, I decided to do something different. I decided to make an advent calendar.  The specifications were simple:

1) What went inside the advent calendar would have to reflect what was important to me about even having one: family, tradition, and just having something to smile about in the morning.
2) No spending money, especially not on 24 cutesy boxes. If the project was going to cost anything, it couldn’t cost more than the cheesy inexpensive chocolate calendars from the grocery store.
3) It would have to be awesome.

I looked around the apartment for inspiration. Do I have 24 of any sort of container? How can I make this work?  The answer, it seems was right outside my bedroom door:

And for my second confession of the day...yes, I own the Dirty Dancing soundtrack.
And for my second confession of the day…yes, I own the Dirty Dancing soundtrack.

Oh right! Music! There’s something that I’m…well, marginally obsessed with, actually. This means that I have a ton of CDs–we’re talking boxes in the back room full, along with this sample.  I have a ton of CD cases, too. CD cases can hold notes. Notes can be awesome. Wheels are turning now.

I called my parents and the siblings who still live at home, Mike and Adam, to ask if they were up for the creative task.  I told them the notes could be anything, as long as they could fit in a CD case and were folded/enveloped.  My friend Caitlin jumped in and put together the first few, just in case my family contributions didn’t show up in the mail by December 1st. And, of course, I sent out a request to my two favourite little artists.

The notes could be anything, really:

  • Recipes
  • Doodles, drawings
  • Comics
  • Photographs
  • Articles cut out of magazines/newspapers
  • Warm fuzzies
  • Quotes
  • Project ideas/inspiration
  • Challenges or reminders (random act of kindness, call me, etc)
  • Memories
  • Little haikus or poems

That took care of the inside of the advent calendar. Now, I just had to get my CD cases in seasonal shape to make for a cute display.

Using seasonal paper to ready the CD cases!
Using seasonal paper to ready the CD cases!
You can use old cards, wrapping paper, or decorative seasonal paper for the covers.
You can use old cards, wrapping paper, or decorative seasonal paper for the covers.
All about the music!
All about the music!
The CD cases, ready to be stuffed with notes!
The CD cases, ready to be stuffed with notes!
Searching for the right number every day is part of the fun, so  I mixed the numbers up a bit,
Searching for the right number every day is part of the fun, so I mixed them up a bit.

There you have it! I will definitely keep you updated on how the notes turn out. Knowing how my crazy brothers greet these challenges, I’m sure they will be anything but boring.

Let’s do this thing, December.

I Don’t Know What “Home” Means…But I Think it Involves Dollar Store Tinsel

One of my friends/readers tweeted me some really great blog requests for December:


Her bonus points didn’t last long. The suggestions were rad, of course, but I soon realized that she had spelled #shaunanagins wrong. And that I had spelled #shaunanagins wrong. I’m not going to even point out the irony in that.

The reason these were really great requests, besides that they fit into the student-sized Homestyle portion of this blog, is because I totally know this stuff. I love this stuff. I’m all over the gift-giving and decorations, especially in the homemade/reasonably priced department. This is something my requesting friend knows well. It’s something that You probably know well, too, if You’ve been reading the blog for awhile.

Okay, that’s nice and all, but…WHY? Why am I so into this stuff? Am I  really a future Pinterest mom?  I crash on couches!  I take the bus!  I crave chicken wings! I wear my scarves as shirts! I’m wearing mismatched Green Bay Packers socks RIGHT NOW, and the classiest thing I’ve done all month is *try* to walk in stilettos.

This is what the kids call “swag,” right?

All that may be true. But it’s also true that I love red lipstick and wedding shows and lingerie. I make a mean homemade lasagna.  I wear my scarves as shirts (yes, this fits into both categories). I have personally hosted a fondue party. And, of course, I have a blog that shares recipes and decoration tips on a weekly basis.

I have no kids to keep alive. Does this mean I have time to make soap?

I actually relate to both of the women on this meme.  There probably will be a day where my mismatched NFL socks and I will attempt to make soap.  It will probably be very messy. Reindeer-shaped treats are on the December agenda, but this will DEFINITELY be messy. And, no surprise, my friend/reader wants me to blog about homemade gifts and decor. Messy or not, she knows exactly how down Shaunanagins is for that kind of content.

But WHY?

I think I need to address why decorating and getting into the season is so important. I know that it can be regarded as materialistic, or frivolous–after all, having “stuff” that you don’t technically need to survive is involved, which at least makes it a luxury. I get that. But despite my many, many flaws (recall: *trying* to walk in stilettos), I do not think my desire to decorate is one of them. It’s not a bad thing. Or even a frivolous thing, really.  It’s creative and it brings people together–if it’s done right, at least.

Decoration isn’t a status symbol. It’s not a red, green, and gold announcement that I shopped at The Bay last boxing day.  It’s not even a red, green, and gold announcement that I got a little crazy at the dollar store.  It’s a red, green, and gold announcement that my house is a home, and that You’re invited to take part in whatever that means for this time of year. It’s the homemaking equivalent of making eye contact and smiling at people as you walk down the street. Some of my inherited decorations are painfully gaudy, cheesy, or just plain unnecessary. But I’ve made memories with them, and I want to continue making memories with them.

At age six, I met a girl whose family, following her father’s job, had moved to Canada for a few months. Because they were only here for a short time, they had very little with them from England. Upon hearing about the temporary bareness of their home and unfamiliarity with Canadian Christmas, my parents immediately set their hospitality into overdrive. My new friend’s family came with us to see the lights at Waterloo Park. They joined our family tradition of skating at City Hall. And, most importantly, my parents showed up at their door in December with a box of spare decorations to fill some of the otherwise empty space.

I didn’t know this story until a couple years ago. I’ve remained close with that girl–we never lost contact, and her family moved back to Canada a few years later.  When her mother recounted the story to me over a decade later, she still had the most amazingly touched look in her eyes.  My neighbors overheard us talking about my parents’ decoration donation and quickly joined the conversation.  They recalled their first Christmas in the neighborhood, far from their extended family and without traditions to stand on. They, too, were incredibly touched by the holiday season they were always invited to next door.  I don’t mean we had a cool one-night Christmas party–I don’t remember us ever having a “Christmas party.” But we had a decorated house, a full fridge, a schedule of the TV Christmas specials, and an open door policy.

A decorated home with an open door policy is the best. It’s amazing to live in. It’s amazing fill with people. And, now that I’m a big kid, it’s amazing for me to be able to make one for myself. A couple years ago, my parents’ box of spare decorations ended up on another bare doorstep: mine. The box was filled with tacky, cheap, memory-filled Christmas stuff.  Just stuff, really. But I fully teared up with joy while putting everything up.  My roommate and I spent hours with eggnog and a weird Christmas trivia book found in the box. It made a difference. There’s no doubt about it.

Last year, I ended up hosting my three brothers and parents in Ottawa for Christmas.  I knew what to do. I had learned from the best. We didn’t need decorations to have a good Christmas, but it sure helped make the place feel like…well, like “home.” I don’t know exactly what “home” is, but I think that (for me, at least) there’s a month a year where it involves tinsel.

When I post about homemade gifts and ornaments and silly-looking wreaths and warm recipes…I guess someone could be cynical and see it as a cutesy, first-world-esque response to a commercialized holiday. But I want You to know it’s coming from a very real place: A place that has brought a lot of people together.  A place that, during some of the harder years, has helped keep me together. And a place that, because I’m the coolest kid in town, got me procrastinating by making these the other day:

It’s also possible that I just really like stickers.

…okay, now I’m just showing off my cut & paste skillz. But that’s for another post.

Let the games begin!

Giving Squared: Stocking Stuffers that Support Charity

Christmas time is coming, and we all want to show that we care. We want to buy the best gifts, to help those in need, to give as much as we can.

In related news, we’re all ridiculously broke.

Luckily, there are some  affordable gifts which offer the best of both worlds: products that return profits to charity. Yes,  it would be great if we could just donate to charity directly. We should donate to charity directly. But, right or wrong, that look on a loved one’s face when they receive the perfect gift Christmas morning often takes precedent. Shopping for the perfect gift with charity in mind, however, can end with a major win-win.

I only posted products that give at LEAST 100% of net profits to charity (some products, like the Charity Pots, actually cover production costs and donate every cent of the sale). Note, of course, that a lot of these products are sustainable or fair trade, so overhead costs may be higher–for good reason.

(note: the pictures on my blog almost always belong to me, but the pictures used in this post were taken from vendors’ websites)

Sold by: Caring & Sharing Ottawa (in cooperation with Hallmark)
Cost:
$15
Charity: Caring & Sharing Ottawa

The ornament features a backing of copper that once covered the roofs of Canada’s Parliament Buildings. Very cool piece of Canadian history!

Sold By: Lush
Price:
$22.95
Charity: Variety of grassroots organizations (pick your favourite to support!)

Every cents (before taxes) that you spend on this product goes directly to the grassroots charity you choose. Also, it smells SO GOOD.

Sold by: Global Benefit Coffee Company
Price:
$13.95-$20.00, plus shipping & handling
Charity: The Water Project–profits will help build more wells in Rwanda

I’ve mentioned how much I love coffee before, right?

 

Sold by: Philosophy
Price: $20
Charity: The Rainforest Foundation
Also check out: “to believe” cranberry currant shampoo/shower gel/bubble bath, which supports WhyHunger

Mmmm…pear. I like your style.

 

Sold by: www.joanhornig.com
Price: Ranges from $30 (notepads, bookmarks, small bracelets) to several thousand dollars. My personal recommendation is to check out the necklaces and earrings in the silver collection, which start from $46.
Charity: Your choice!

It’s like wearing global citizenship around your neck.

 

Sold by: MAC cosmetics
Price: $18
Charity: MAC AIDS Fund

Ricki Martin is just excited because every cent of the sale (before taxes) goes to the MAC AIDS Fund.

Sold by: Theory11
Price: $5
Charity: charity: water

A beautiful and affordable deck of cards for a great cause. Every stocking should have one!

 

Sold by: http://shop.pottermore.com/
Price: $6.35
Charity: Children’s charity Lumos

 

More Giving²:

Causeshoppe.com — A great resource to learn about and buy some of the best philanthropic goods on the market.

Peacekeeper Cause-Metics  — vegan make up and nail polish.  Puts 100% of profits towards women’s human rights causes and organizations.

Give Something Back Office Supplies — Known for it’s high corporate donor status, Give Something Back sells everything for the office, from furniture to coffee to recycled paper.

Don’t forget to look into tickets to events that support charity, too! Most sports teams have special charity games, while entertainment venues can house special shows for charity throughout the year–the National Arts Center’s annual Cracking up the Capital for Mental Health is a personal favourite!

Happy giving season, everyone!!

Foodie Gift Idea for the New Mom

“And so it begins!”

It has started, my friends. I had my first-ever trek to the maternity ward to visit a post-C section friend. My former manager Melannie just gave birth to an amazing baby boy, and my sidekick Caitlin and I were beyond excited to head down to Ottawa General and welcome him into the world.

Babies, you guys. Oh man. My ovaries pretty much exploded.

(Also…does anyone else get REALLY nervous when holding a baby? I mean, sometimes I can throw enough PR spin on my clumsiness to make it charming, but I don’t think there is anything “charming” about dropping a newborn. Holding the kid was amazing [recall: ovaries exploding] but also completely and totally terrifying. Yet another “how do nurses do this?! They must be wizards.” moment.)

The reason I write about this for a Home-style post is to share the gift that Caitlin and I came up with for this lovely momma.

Melannie is a foodie hailing from the East coast, so it wasn’t surprising that she openly missed some of the foods that are unsafe for baby-carrying. Think about it: seafood, cured meats, cheeses, alcohol, eggs…it’s all a no-can-do for the cautious pregnant woman. And for the cautious foodie pregnant woman, that makes for a pretty long nine months.

….actually, I think the whole “carrying another human being around in your stomach” thing also makes for a long nine months, but for the sake of this post: THINK OF THE CHEESE!!

So Caitlin and I set to work on a gift basket of foods that she had avoided for so long, but could now enjoy post-pregnancy.

Here are all the foods Melannie had to avoid during her pregnancy:

Certain cheeses, like feta, goat, camembert, and brie, can carry listeria. Not great for baby.
Pregnant women are supposed to avoid raw or soft-boiled eggs. Also, we had to get quail eggs because…they’re a thing you can get.
I don’t think a pregnant women is supposed to eat this dude, either…
…so we picked up a sample. Sort of.

Of course, we grabbed some celebratory wine and Guinness, the ever-classic Momma’s milk.

There were two major challenges in the making of this gift:

1) How do we openly discuss which foods to NOT give a pregnant woman, then purchase said foods, without looking like we are trying to damage a pregnant woman?

2) How do we wrap this stuff up in the middle of the mall, armed with only ribbon and cello from the dollar store?

(The answer to #2 is by being as awkward and resourceful as humanly possible. Fun fact: cursing out quail eggs DOES in fact make you look like a crazy person.)

Photo creds to Caitlin here, who documented me wrestling with the gift basket game.
Using keys for scissor works. Or at least, it works…well enough. Ish.
This is what dealing with well enough-ish cut cellophane looks like.

But in the end, of course, we had an awesome foodie gift basket and were set to welcome a new little man into the world…and make sure his momma didn’t have to go one more day without some good Guinness and salmon!

Happy birthday, newbie!