Tag Archives: christmas

A Christmas Gift for You

25 Dec

Merry Christmas, dearies. Here’s the best yule log ever. Use it wisely and often.

Oh, and make sure you turn up the sound. 

Kittens and sprinkles,

Jackie

 

Advertisements

A Premature Christmasgasm

7 Dec

christmasgasm

My apartment looks like I threw three elves in a blender and left the lid off.

Man, I love the holidays.

I’ve gone in depth about my Severe Holiday Disorder (SHDD) in the past when I opened up about my deep affection for using Excel spreadsheets to detail my Christmas gift giving (Christmas in Excel).  That’s just the tip of the iceburg.  I actually start that spreadsheet in August because I can’t possibly contain all the Christmas-related energy I start to muster once I feel the chill of Autumn.  And I put all my energy into that spreadsheet from August until the day after Thanksgiving, when I’m officially allowed to barf holiday cheer from one decked hall to the other. 

Dave has a rule that I can’t put my Christmas cheer on display in our dwelling place until after Thanksgiving has been officially sent off.

It’s a fair deal I suppose, but I know it just stems from his bah-humbugginess.  It isn’t that he’s a Grinch so much as he’s just notably devoid of holiday cheer.  You know that moment when you’re walking downtown and everything is lit up and everyone is wearing Christmas colors and it starts to snow and people are smiling at you instead of cursing at you and you feel like there could just be peace on earth if mankind would continue to sedate themselves with cookies and shopping for all eternity?   He doesn’t get that feeling. He just, you know, exists. I usually have to pull him kicking and screaming down to storage to get out all the holiday-related things I’ve collected or stolen from my mother’s house.  I always mark the weekend after Thanksgiving very clearly on our calendar so that he can see the entire day is reserved for PreChristmasing.  

But  not this year.  This year, things were different.

You see, this year Dave is a mailman.  And before Thanksgiving I received a cheery phone call from this modern-day Santa, who told me that he was delivering packages and saw all the lights on people’s houses and was feeling funny on his insides.  I explained that was his heart growing three sizes bigger and he exclaimed that he wanted to string lights throughout all the house.

THROUGHOUT ALL THE HOUSE!

It was a Christmas miracle.  And now the apartment has holiday cheer in every single corner.  Except the toilet.  I’ll admit I saw the appropriate toilet-covering decorations at the store and that I may have stopped briefly to examine their properties, but so help me sweet Baby Jesus I will not decorate my toilet.  I have boundaries.

Even the babies.  DECORATE THE BABIES.

Even the babies. DECORATE THE BABIES.

Every other corner, however, is filled to the brim.  I have totes full of things I use on a regular basis that had to be put into storage to make room for things that have no practical function whatsoever but to be glorious tidbits of holiday cheer.   Dave was so excited he even went online to find a Christmas project and made a fantastical DIY Christmas tree in addition to our regular one.

We now have three trees.  Three.  Like a holy Christmas Trinity.

There is, of course, a bit of a downside.  Dave started feeling all jolly back in mid-November, but since then the ten hour days of hauling parcels from one house to another in the icicle-booger-inducing-cold in the name of Christmas cheer has kind of gotten to him. I fear he’s had a somewhat premature Christmasgasm and now every time he comes home all he sees is work.

It’s hard to be Santa.

I’m trying to come up with solutions that help me with my Christmas fix while also allowing him a reprieve.  My top two ideas are to cover everything in white sheets when he gets home  or to take a note from his favorite holiday and do some sort of Christmas-Halloween blend.

Of course, Tim Burton already did that.  I guess option two could just be to play Nightmare Before Christmas on repeat every night.

I do feel bad for the guy.  Besides the fact that his job is naturally difficult year-round and that he’s part of a company that’s going publicly bankrupt, every holiday season when most other folks are complaining about going to too many awkward office holiday parties, he’s hauling enough sacks of mail and truckloads of parcels from Santa’s sleigh to make him want to assassinate the jolly bastard.

Before I do any of those things, though, I’m just going to go with my gut and spew my holiday cheer on him every day from sunrise to sunset in hopes that I can reach that part deep, deep inside of him where he once saw a few Christmas lights and felt warm and fuzzy.  I figure it will drive him very severely in one direction or the other, and quite frankly if he’s going to assassinate Santa it’s better we know now so that we can set up a counter strike. 

I hope all that holiday cheer spewing doesn’t mean I’ll run out of steam before the big day.  My spreadsheet is only half complete.  There’s so much more to do – I can’t possibly have a premature Christmasgasm too. I CAN’T.

I can do this.  I can.  I just downloaded the Andy Williams Christmas album this week.  That’ll keep me going for at least another seven days, right? Right!? Wish me luck.  I’m going in.

♫ ♪♪ ♫ ♫ It’s the moooost wonderful tiiiiiime of the year (ding! dong! ding! dong!)….♫♪ ♫  ♫ ♪ 

4 Notes on Better Gift Card Giving

26 Dec

I’m going to go ahead and venture into uncharted waters here.  I’m going to explore the unexplored – to encroach upon indecency.  I want to talk about gift card etiquette.

Let me start by saying that gift cards are a lovely thing.  They’re the perfect gift, if well-employed.  Being given a well-considered and well-delivered gift card for a special celebration can provoke a grown man to pee himself with glee (also known as Glee Pee or #gleepee).  In return for their generosity, the buyer typically receives discounts or a free gift card of a smaller amount at their favorite stores.  Thus, when properly employed, the gift card is the gift that keeps on giving.  When not properly employed, it’s a last-minute, lazy gift.  While still appreciated, it struggles to leave an impact.

So here are some of what I believe are useful gift card etiquette tips.  Somewhere out there, I’m sure there’s an incredibly official and highly lauded version of this already that the world has agreed on. If such a thing exists, I hereby declare my willful ignorance.  I am the original and only source for final consultation on these matters.

Be Sure to Notate the Amount on the Card. There are several ways to do this. You can simply write in a card what the amount is,

This is the look of grateful confusion.

along with a personal message.  You can write it in Sharpie on the back of the gift card itself.  Most stores have made this easy on you by setting up the world’s easiest Ad Lib so you can stop scratching your head on how to approach the issue.  “Happy Shopping from __________.  The amount on your card is _______________ and can be used in store or online.”  Or if you’re being totally awesome and shopping small business, you’re dealing in paper gift certificates and this is already handled for you (one more reason to shop small).  No matter which way you prefer, please don’t overlook this detail.  Though we’re thankful for any gift of any size, the difference between the way you thank someone for a $5 gift card and a $500 gift card are significantly different.   It’s like a piece of candy and a car, folks.  Give us a little guidance.

Do Your Homework. Now, I may be a little old school in this thinking, but I’m a firm believer that any gift that is given should be given with great thought.  There are some occasions which call for gifts of light and casual measure; hostess gifts, for example, are the kind that show appreciation for someone without making a personal commentary.  But when you’re buying birthday, anniversary, or holiday gifts, the occasion calls for some forethought.  You can say just as much with a gift card as with a hand-selected gift if you just put the same amount of thought into it.  Consider the stores your recipient likes to shop at.  Extra points if you pick a place the person would like to shop at, but doesn’t do so frequently because of the price points of that store.  If you give me a $50 gift card to a shop I usually can’t justify spending money in, you’ve just given me the best guilt-free shopping trip ever.  More bonus points if you check out the store’s price levels beforehand to gauge an appropriate amount.  a $10 gift card to a store that carries $250 shirts probably isn’t the best choice for a personal and impactful gift.

Get Creative. Consider grouping cards together or selecting a gift certificate for a  particularly great location.  For example, by purchasing a gift certificate for the movie theater and a gift certificate for a restaurant nearby, you’re giving someone the gift of an evening out.  Or if you give someone a voucher to a location near where they vacation or have always wanted to, you’ve just reminded them that you know what they love and given them a reason to go visit it.  Or even just coming up with clever labels for the way you give the gift (e.g. give them a gift card to a liquor store and a bake shop and label them “naughty” and “nice”).  Anything you can do to show that you didn’t just pick a gift card lazily off the kiosk is one step closer to a meaningful gift.

Be a Better Recipient. This is by no means required, but it sure does go a long way to show appreciation by sending the giver a text, call, or casual note mentioning a second thank you for the gift and what it was you just purchased with it.  I bought my brother and sister-in-law a gift certificate to an upscale restaurant for Christmas.  Ten months later, I got a text from him thanking me for a great anniversary dinner.  It’s a fantastic feeling to be thought of and to see how the person chose to use it.

So there you have it: four things I think everyone should bear in mind with gift cards.  I’d even go so far as to say that if you don’t want to consider the above when you’re giving a gift card or certificate, you might as well just stuff money in the card and scribble your name.

It will leave the same impact, but require less of you. 

Oatmeal and a Dream

25 Dec

My Christmas present this year came in the form of a dream.

Bear with me: I’ll be relatively brief.

I had been hired as an intern for an incredibly rude and demanding woman.  It was supposed to be an elite position – one that people fight to get.  So all the new hires were in her apartment, all dressed exactly the same, and all hanging on her every word.  After she dished out the first task, I was feeling pretty angsty and decided to go for a run in the hallway.

Please note: running has invaded my dreams.

But even running made me feel nervous inside, so instead I decided to prop myself up against a wall in the hallway and play with some sticky finger frogs.  Not sure where those came from – I think the kids toy fish pond at my family reunion when I was 8 years old.   I say outside the door and watched intern after intern rush out her apartment door all haggard and hurried, hoping for their lives that they wouldn’t make a mistake.

After I’d had enough of my finger frog fun, I ventured back into her apartment and slipped in unnoticed.  She whipped her head around, thinking of her next task and demanded that I carry it out.  I took a nice big breath, grabbed my stuff, and told her I’d rather not. She was confused and asked what exactly I thought I was doing.  I told her I decided this wasn’t for me and I was going to split.

And so I did.

It was epic.  It was like the end of The Devil Wears Prada, when Anne Hathaway decides that she wants to get back on track with her life and away from the pressure and stress from Meryl Streep.  Glorious indeed. 

I woke up feeling fantastic.  Today begins the first true day of vacation.  I have quit my job in my dreams and I have been liberated by my imagination.  Here’s to one full week of no stress, no angst, no pressure.

Merry Christmas, all.  May you find a way to escape your everyday stress and simply enjoy the day. 

Today’s chuckle shall be brought to you by The Oatmeal.  If you don’t follow The Oatmeal, or you think I’m talking about a food and not a web comic, you should consider changing your ways and forever brightening your life by paying it a visit.   So here’s a little Christmas cheer for one and all: http://theoatmeal.com/comics/christmas
 

Please Stop the Holiday Commercials. Please.

24 Dec

It's not Christmas until you get your kid a toy that makes them wet their pants

I’ve been away from television for quite some time.  But as it’s the holidays and most folks just sit around in front of the television until it’s time to carry out an obligatory tradition or two, I have no choice but be subjected to the doom tube.

Today I was introduced to the Wuggle Pets commercial.  Then some stupid dance Skechers that used ballerinas to sell what looks like a running shoe.  Then I saw a woman purposefully knock all her spices out of her cabinet so that the narrator could show me the solution to her intentional hand spasms. And then I gouged out my eyeballs with a dinner fork.

After you’ve been disconnected from the world of flashing lights and blaring voices, it’s a little shocking to be around it again.  There are all sorts of pop culture whosits and whatsists that I don’t understand and advertisements that are so incredibly stupid it makes me want to write a letter to corporate headquarters all over the nation.  Of course, this is really what I always wanted and the very reason I got rid of cable. For a while there, seeing a commercial for Wuggle Pets would have been ordinary to me.

Now it looks like certain death.

So I’m glad I’ve made that transition successfully.  The only unfortunate consequence is that now when I have to sit in other people’s living rooms for a significant amount of time, I get incredibly annoyed and upset by the yelling and screaming to buy products, the stupid reality shows that have people hooked (they’re scripted, people.  scripted.), and I mourn for the fact that I’m not doing anything constructive with my time. We could be playing board games or talking about life or going on an adventure together or volunteering in a soup kitchen or wrapping presents for kids in need or anything, really, except staring at a group of overexcited child actors freak out about a machine that lets them stuff their own stuffed animals. 

I know this is not a typical reaction.  I know.  I need to accept that Wuggle Pets are part of my reality and that turning a blind eye to them doesn’t mean they stop existing.  If I can just hold out for two more days, Christmas-oriented advertising will be off the playlist until next fall.

Breathe in.  Breathe out.  Try not to gouge out eyes with silverware. 

‘Tis the Season for Bad Decorations

23 Dec

‘Tis the season for white trash decorating!

One thing I love about Dave’s hometown is that  it’s almost exactly like my hometown except his is in New York and mine is in Pennsylvania.  It’s quite a bit more prosperous than mine was as well.  It’s kind of like his hometown is what mine would be if mine hadn’t shriveled up and died of weary old age years ago. It at least feels like home in a way, even when it’s not really home.  So on the way to his parents’ house for Christmas, I got a real dose of my own hometown loveliness: white trash decorating.

You know what I’m talking about.  Little random crap figures in the yard, Christmas lights that look like someone had a seizure in the middle of throwing them on the bush, and (Lord help us all), those huge, plastic, inflatable snow globe things.  Half of them have been there all year.   The other half are thrown in for good measure at Christmastime. 

Every time i see them, they’re only half-inflated and drowning in a sea of 10 others scattered about the sad, sad lawn.  

This is best case scenario here. Take half those bush lights and toss them to the wind, suck half the air out of the inflatables, and knock a few things over. Then we're in business.

Christmas spirit, indeed.

I’m not really sure why they bother.  Who looks out on a lawn of half blown up life-size snow globes, a few crooked cardboard stands, and a weathered sign that says “North Pole” and thinks they’re doing their part to spread Christmas spirit?   Of course, maybe it’s self-serving.  Maybe it’s a matter of tradition and they don’t think it looks  nice either but it’s what they grew up with so they keep doing it.  

Can you help me understand this?  Are you perhaps one of these people? Why do you do it?  Why do you lug all of that stuff out of your attic, basement, of what-else-have-you only to blow them up halfway with no semblance of order or preconceived strategy?  

I’ve thought about knocking on the door of one of these homes/shacks/trailers and asking why.  I’d be all sly about it and compliment them on the lovely job they’ve done. I’m sure they’re super happy with it and will be glad to tell me all about it.  Or maybe it will just be some guy in his underwear who complains about how his wife told him to do it so he just threw them all out there willy nilly like.  Maybe half-inflated snow globes are just a sign of struggling matrimony in small towns.

I think I probably cracked the code right there. 

‘Tis the Season for Work Holiday Parties

16 Dec

Work holiday parties. Amirite?

So, last time this year I had just gotten my feet wet in the ponds of the corporate jungle. (Are there ponds in jungles?  I digress.) I was new to my department and I was still hourly so I could get out of quite a few obligatory holiday party invitations.  Some happened at night and I couldn’t work overtime, some happened during the day but I only had so many hours to complete a specific amount of work, and so on and so forth until I wiggled my way out of every possible outing.

This year, the game has changed.

I’m salary now, and my feet are no longer wet.  I’m fully submerged and drowning in the awkwardness of obligatory holiday parties.  Office creatures love food.  They adore it – they are almost entirely sustained on meetings, lunches, coffee breaks, communal candy bowls, and impromptu snack suggestions.  So naturally, they take kindly to gatherings of any sort that are wrought with food.

Better yet: food that can be written off as a business expense.

I’ve been invited to no less than eight holiday gatherings so far and it isn’t even the week of Christmas.  I’ve been unable to get out of four of them.  I have a 50% dodge rate, which in the corporate forest, is pretty good odds.

There are creatures who thrive on the suggestion of simultaneous mingling and food chomping. “Networking”, they call it.  I’m not really into it.  I don’t really want people to know who I am or what I do.  In my experience, the more people who know you and your position, the more people call on you to do things.  Since I’m an assistant to a high-level executive, I don’t leave my corporate cave so that people don’t  ask me for an appointment or try to pick my brain for how to best navigate difficult subjects in a meeting.  There’s nothing relaxing or festive about being harassed about why I won’t put someone on her calendar just because we both got to the cookie plate at the same time.  

I’ve been looking for a sweater with croissant-wrapped mini wieners all over it so I can hover by the buffet table unnoticed.  Turns out you can’t buy everything on Amazon. 

And listen – crossaint-wrapped mini wieners are not cheap.  While corporate is usually all right with expensing one or two major functions, they aren’t about to foot the bill for every little get-together.  There’s your floor, your department, your building, your unit, and your actual company party to all worry about. That’s before your actual friends at work decide to throw get-togethers.  Each one has a different clothing policy: wear an ugly sweater, don’t wear an ugly sweater, pay 5 dollars to wear jeans, bring a can of food for a homeless shelter and sport a wacky hat.  Each one has a different gifting policy: white elephant, traditional gift exchange, everyone donate to charity instead, or sort it out amongst yourselves and cringe when the boss’s gift isn’t well-received.   

By the time I’ve filed all the details for each gathering and burned a fresh stack of cash to attend them, I’m actually wishing I could just do my regular work and be left alone.  Call me an office Grinch, but there’s only so many times I can make jokes about human resources people or whatever happened at the holiday party three years ago (that I wasn’t even at, by the way).

Maybe that’s their plan.  Maybe this has all already been thought out.  Since people tend to shut down once the month of December hits, companies encourage frequent holiday party planning so that we’re coaxed back into the idea of putting in a solid 8 hours.  In fact, we’re so thankful that we don’t have to have our day interrupted by fruit cake and bad potlucks that we almost smile while we work.  It’s brilliant! Twisted, but brilliant.

Touché, corporate.  Touché. 

How to Discreetly and Effectively Share Your Wish List

7 Dec

I’ve been so excited about particular products in the past (hefty trash bags, dyson vacuums) that I have been suspected of working for the companies that produce them.  Last night I entered the wonderful world of Pinterest and though I don’t work for them, I can’t help but share my enthusiasm with you.   Partly because it took over my entire night and is thus the only thing that happened to me yesterday, and partly because I have a beautiful plan for it. 

Well, it’s not the only thing that happened to me yesterday, but I don’t think making jokes about the holiday HR party for work is the best idea with regards to financial sustainability.

Anyway, here’s the deal.  Pinterest is a website that allows you to ‘pin’ your favorite things onto a virtual pinboard (essentially, like a profile page with just pictures and links but no personal information).  You can drag a little hot button into your toolbar while you browse and when you see something you like (ZOMG that kitten wearing armor and fighting a dog is sooooo cute!!!111!!!) you can click ‘pin’.  It will populate a few images you can use to represent that page/interest (select picture of kitten with mouth wide open, charging dog) and connects a URL to it.  So when I go to your Pinterest page, I see a bunch of pictures spread out on the page that link to the original sites and I’m all like oh man, that kitten is so cute. And I click it.  And see what you saw.

On the surface, it’s just another way to share things with people on the Interwebz that may or may not give a hoot about the sock bunny tutorial you thought was fantastically awesome or the failblog you read that morning.  But (and this is where my genius comes in) when you dig deeper, it’s a way to log all your desires into a wish list that you discreetly make available to family and friends.

Yeah, I’m going there.

Listen, everyone’s having babies and getting engaged and married and such (not necessarily in that order).  All of those life events are opportunities to have gifts given to you.  Now, I’m in my mid-20’s and at prime marrying/showering/engaging age, but I’m pretty happy and comfortable at the moment and in no rush whatsoever.  And by the time I do get around to any of those things, I’ll have already supplied myself with the items that one would deem appropriate for registries and general gift-giving.  Since I don’t have a socially acceptable reason to publicize a list of my product lusts, Pinterest can do it for me.

It’s a beautiful plan, folks.  Stay with me.  

On Pinterest, you can choose what to name the different pages in your profile.  That is, you can pin all your craft findings to a page called “ILOVEKRAFTSHAHAHA” and all your armored kittens to one called “Renaissance Cats Unite”.  So you make one called “Wish List” or “Product Lust” or “oh em jee buy me things” and pin your favorite products to that page.

Now, Pinterest is an invitation only community right now.  So you have to send an email invitation for someone to get a unique link allowing them to create a profile.  Which means that you will make yourself a page with your deepest desires on it, and out of the kindness of you heart, invite others to join the community (and also come check out all the things you really want).

No guilt, no pressure, no awkwardness.  Just a “hey, by the way if you want to get me something for just being in my mid-20’s, you can check out this page”.  Or a “hey if you don’t know what to get me for my birthday, I happen to have a constantly updated wish list available online”.   And because the pages are so pretty and well-organized, it’s almost like a treat for that person to browse and look through the things you pinned. Plus they get an invitation to a site they can’t join without your help.

It’s called a win-win, my friends, and it’s fantastic.

So go ahead; put out a request on your social media poison site of choice for a Pinterest invitation.  Make your Wish List, and spread the love and joy.  You might just find that the gifts you receive this year are beautifully tailored to your interests.   Or someone might get confused with which page is which and deliver a fully armored kitten to your doorstep.

Like I said: win – win. 

click image for original source/credits

Milking Christmas

25 Nov

You realize there will be Christmas music soon, don’t you?

Oh yes.  Oh yes it’s time.

I have this habit of just floating on through the month as if it will never end.  We have so much time, I think. Golly, December is oodles of days away!  Lies, all lies to the self.  Hideous, shameful denial.  December, my friends, is a mere six days away.

November is almost entirely consumed by Thanksgiving and plans for Thanksgiving and thoughts of Thanksgiving, which is immediately followed by Christmas and plans for Christmas, and thoughts of Christmas, and then before you know it, you’re shoveling down sauerkraut and hot dogs and singing Auld Lang Syne.

Or however you celebrate the new year.

Every year I tell myself to cherish every single day and every year the holiday decorations on shelves and Christmas music on the radio still slap me upside the head and rattle my brain around.  …Christmas? Already?! 

On one hand, I’m excited to get on with 2012.  After all, 2011 was a poop storm and it’d be great to close the books.  On the other hand, once Christmas if over there’s really nothing to look forward to until, oh, I don’t know – it’s not so cold that I wish I were dead?

I have a strategy for all this too-soon angst.  And it’s that this evening will be spent decking the halls of my apartment (or hall, rather) with boughs of holly.  I’ve never really known what those are but by golly I’m going to google it and make it happen.  I’m going to blast Christmas music and light candles that reek of wintertime.  I’m going to put up my Christmas tree in the front window and light it up proudly in my overwhelmingly Orthodox Jew neighborhood.

I want this kind of Christmas joy. Every single day.

And every day until Christmas I will stare at the decorations and smell the candles and yoink my cats out of the tree they will inevitably be hidden in and praise God for my favorite time of year.

Here’s to a slow and steady celebration.  May we all stay warm and bright. 

%d bloggers like this: