Category Archives: Christmas

December Memories, January Goals

This was the thirstiest Christmas tree I’ve ever had. It drank 0.5 to 1.0 liters of water every day and is still supes healthy one week into January. Such a good, pretty tree. I hate to give it up.

Happy New Year! How is it already January 9th? Don’t tell anyone, but my Christmas decorations are still up.  😉  December was lovely and I’m looking forward to January!

The Good

  • My mother received a clean bill of health after a year of aggressive medical treatment.
  • I had a wonderful Christmas season full of family, good vibes, and abundant, delicious food.
  • I took my family and a friend to see The Nutcracker. It was their first time going to a ballet performance and I think they really enjoyed it (“I’ve never seen a ballerina in real life before! I knew they danced on their toes, but I didn’t think they would do that here!”). A golden retriever even had a brief cameo onstage!
  • I had extra quality time with my family, including some one-on-one time.
  • I better managed my holiday stress than in past years. I dialed down the ol’ expectations (of myself), accepted lots of help from others, and made enjoyment/relaxation my goal, not perfection.

The Bad

  • A dear great aunt passed away. She was always so sweet and generous to me and to so many others. Losing her is bad enough, yet it somehow also feels like another mini-loss of my late grandparents. My aunt’s passing is the loss of another of the fragile, dwindling threads of worldly connection to my grandparents.

The Ugly

  • I engaged in a little bit of the ol’ comparison game (“How does she do all that? Why can’t I do all that?  Why don’t I want to do all that, too?”).

January Goals

  • Put away Christmas décor, but leave up a few items for winter décor.
  • Declutter personal belongings (craft items, décor items, clothing and accessories, etc.).
  • Enjoy the many good things about the winter, even though the holidays are over (snow days, sweaters, warm drinks, a couple of long weekends, etc.!).
  • Brainstorm resolutions and “guiding words” for the year.

Did you have a happy holiday season? Is your new year off to a good start? I hope so!


We List You a Merry Christmas!

“Booze” is on my shopping list as a noun and on my task list as a verb.

Christmas is almost here!  I’m wrapping up at work today for a short vacation at my parents’ house out-of-state, and I’m laughing at the number of lists tucked into my little pink planner (which is like the control center for my life).

Here’s a list of my current lists:

  • My list of tasks to do at work before I leave today
  • My list of tasks to do at home before I leave town
  • My list of things to pack for my trip
  • My list of things to remember to bring back from my trip
  • My list of things I’ve received as gifts this year
  • My list of tasks to do in January – personal
  • My list of tasks to do in January – work

There were many other lists earlier this month, too, that I’ve already worked through:

  • My list of people for whom I’d like to buy gifts
  • My list of gift ideas for the people for whom I’d like to buy gifts
  • My various lists of things to buy, by category and/or by location (groceries, stocking stuffers, gifts, special treats)
  • My list of gifts to wrap
  • My various lists of errands and tasks
  • My wish list to share with others if they ask for gift ideas for me

Does your Christmas celebration happen via a bazillion lists, too?  Or am I crazy?

Merry Christmas!

— Angela

Little Lanterns


I’ve noticed a trend this year in Christmas décor: tiny three-dimensional scenes displayed inside glass lanterns and jars. They are so cute and charming.

Here is an example from Valerie Parr Hill at  This lantern is available in three styles–“Cottage,” “Church,” and “Santa”–and they light up. They’re very cute but also overpriced, I think:



Here is a nightlight/air freshener version from Bath and Body Works. It’s sold out online and I’m kicking myself for not ordering one.  It looks so cute:

Bath and Body Works

Here is something similar, too, from Chip and Joanna Gaines’s Hearth and Hand line at Target:


I decided to make my own version this year.  I have this IKEA lantern and I made a cozy scene with some mini bottlebrush trees, a barn ornament, some white tissue paper (for snow), and a string of lights behind.  Yay or nay?

My DIY lantern scene!

Did you DIY any decorations this year?  Have you noticed the little lantern trend?


The Busy Season

It snowed last night in Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp!

A friend texted me an invite last week to play one of her favorite phone games. I felt really bad, but I had to text back and tell her that I simply don’t have the time to play it right now.  It’s Christmastime, and I’m already up to my ears in crafting, shopping, visiting, and gift-giving…in my own favorite phone games (ahem).

Whew. Managing these phone games during the holiday season is like having a second job.  I’m grinding like whoa in Happy Street, Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp, and Tsum Tsum to take full advantage of all the limited-edition holiday content.

I have major FOMO.  I don’t want to miss the window of opportunity to get all the limited-time things, so I have to regularly visit all my virtual friends, collect and send gifts left and right, and carefully plan my virtual schedules and budgets to maximize my goodies. I also have to attend to a few similar things IRL, too: crafting, shopping, visiting, gift-giving…  😉

I’m making good progress. I’ve already gotten one of each limited-time Christmas décor item in ACPC; I’d like to get multiples of a few things.  My Happy Street Christmas tree is on level of 3 of 4 and I’ve remembered to open the Advent calendar every day. Tsum Tsum is driving me nuts with its snowflake game this year. You have to play so much–hundreds and hundreds of times–to finish the challenges.  It’s boring but I don’t want to miss the little pin/medal for completing the game.

Please tell me I’m not the only adult woman who is stressing over her phone games this month.  Please?


Tiny Christmas Treats

Illustration by Kanako Kuno.

There are the BIG Christmas efforts, of course (the tree, the meals, the events), but it’s fun to layer in tiny hints of Christmas in your life, too. Here are some ideas for little festive touches that are easy, inexpensive, and not too wasteful:

  1. Eat a candy cane. The taste and smell of peppermint reminds me of winter, Christmas, and my late grandmother, who always kept a well-stocked jar of hard candy in her den.
  2. Sprinkle cinnamon on your latte, oatmeal, or toast.
  3. Change the wallpaper on your phone, tablet, and computer screens to something festive.
  4. Hang some string lights on your desk at the office.
  5. Buy and load a seasonal Starbucks gift card to your app. Every time I open my app to pay, I see a cozy, wintry scene.
  6. Flag the Christmas chapters in your favorite books and display them in a basket for easy browsing.
  7. Do you have any Christmas (or Christmas-esque) jewelry? Find it, polish it, and wear it.
  8. Play a YouTube video of a crackling, popping fireplace on your smart TV.
  9. Gather and display pine cones.
  10. Use all of your “minty” or “piney” personal care items: lip balm, foot lotion, soap, shampoo, body wash, etc.
  11. Light and enjoy your candles. What are you saving them for?
  12. Wear your favorite perfume every day. Again, what are you saving it for? It’s a treat for you and for everyone you hug this season!
  13. Wear your coziest knit clothes. No thin, scratchy polyester allowed.
  14. Paint your nails a cheery red. Add sparkles.
  15. Feed the birds.
  16. Clean out your pantry and donate the good stuff to the food bank, or mail them a check.
  17. Take extra time with your makeup, grooming, and skincare. You’ll feel confident and ready for whatever the season will bring—unexpected guests, last-minute invitations and errands, etc.!
  18. Bundle up and take a walk in the brisk air. Enjoy your neighbors’ decorations.
  19. Use your very best things: china, silver, crystal, tablecloths, bath towels, etc.
  20. Turn off the TV.
  21. Buy and enjoy a special Christmas drink at home: apple cider, hot chocolate, flavored coffee or creamer, red wine, etc.
  22. Change your ring tone to something festive: church bells, harps, carols, etc.
  23. Choose a “signature” wrapping paper to use for all your gifts this year.
  24. Pull out your Scrabble game and use the tiles and holders to dot happy little words among your decorations, like family, gather, thankful, friends, merry, sparkle, twinkle, etc.
  25. Update your apps. Many games have free seasonal content, and many other apps will “decorate” their icons or interfaces for the season.

Yet Another Post about Advent Calendars

Illustration by Kanako Kuno.

It’s finally December 1st! It’s time to crack into my Advent calendars!

This year, I have *four* Advent calendars to enjoy. Whoo-hoo! It’s an embarrassment of riches.

I have:

A Literary Advent Calendar. I’m not very organized about this, but I did gather several of the books and passages I mentioned in this post. I’m enjoying reading bits and pieces as the mood strikes. I bought two new (used) books for my Christmas library: Volumes I and II of A Little House Christmas, which is a compilation of all the Christmas chapters in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books, including several original illustrations by Garth Williams. They are precious books.

An Ol’ Skool Chocolate Advent Calendar. A sweet friend at work gave me a classic chocolate Advent calendar—the kind with a piece of chocolate hidden behind each punch-out door (like these). I’m keeping it on my desk to enjoy each day.

A “12 Days of Beauty” Advent Calendar. I love the many beauty Advent calendars for sale each year, but most are too costly for the value for me, as they often contain many items that I don’t think I would use or enjoy. I liked and bought this Target one because it was inexpensive and included a mix of products that I would actually use (more skincare products than hair stuff, for example). I do wish it had 25 gifts, though. I can’t decide whether to start it on December 11th as a countdown to the day I leave for my parents’ house for Christmas, or if I should start it on the 26th as a way to extend the fun of Christmas. In the meantime, I’m trying to forget what’s in it so I’m surprised each day.

The Happy Street Advent Calendar. The Happy Street developers released their annual Christmas update! You can collect daily items from an Advent calendar and more gifts on Christmas Day if you level up your Christmas tree. Many items repeat from year to year, but sometimes the developers throw in some new stuff for us veterans. I started playing Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp, too, and I hope there are lots of virtual holiday goodies in that game as well.

Bonus: I also ordered a Danish-style Advent taper candle this year (a kalenderlys). I read about these in The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living. Families burn the candle a little bit each day as a way to mark time until the 25th.

Did you get or make an Advent calendar for yourself or your family this year? Tell me all about it!


November Memories, December Goals

My “autumnal tableau.” Also pictured: YouTube fireplace.

November was a quiet, thoughtful month for me. Autumn finally arrived to the mid-Atlantic region and I love driving among all the yellow, red, and orange leaves.

I’ve written down some November memories below.

The Good:

  • A family member’s surgery went well.
  • We hosted family and friends at our house for a relaxing Thanksgiving weekend.
  • Lots of reading and writing.
  • We went to our city’s annual Christmas parade.

The Bad:

  • The unexpected passing of a friend. He was the father to a beautiful, spunky little girl and I pray that she is showered with love and support.

The Ugly:

  • Prince Harry is off the market.
  • The Florida Gators football team continued to shock and disappoint. We got a new coach, though, after the abysmal season. Here’s to a fresh start!

For this December and Christmas, my mantra is Cozy, Classic, and Simple. I want to:

  • Catch up on household tasks after a leisurely Thanksgiving; put away autumn decorations.
  • Decorate for Christmas!
  • Book tickets for one or more holiday events: the Nutcracker ballet, a Christmas tea party, a tour of decorated houses in a local historic district, a Vienna Choir Boys concert, etc.
  • Bake and decorate tiny gingerbread houses.
  • Don’t fret re: Christmas gifts, food, etc. Make a decision and stick with it. Baby suits!
  • Host a local Christmas gathering.
  • Travel to my parents’ house for Christmas.

How was your November? What are your plans and goals for the busy, wonderful month of December?


A Literary Advent Calendar

Illustrated by Haddon Sundblom for the Coca-Cola Company.

I started reading Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. So far, Ol’ Scrooge has been visited by the ghost of his deceased business partner, Marley, and warned that he must change his selfish ways. I don’t believe I’ve ever read the actual story before; I’ve just seen a bazillion movie and cartoon renditions. The prose isn’t difficult to understand and it’s pretty spare for Victorian literature. The descriptions of the hauntings are surprisingly spooky and creepy. Dickens is always good for hopelessness and despair, I suppose.

Anyway, I cracked open A Christmas Carol because, as I mentioned in this post, I like the idea of organizing a literary Advent calendar for yourself or your family. It doesn’t have to be fancy: just a list of favorite Christmas- or winter-related passages to read for a few minutes every day in December leading up to the 25th. It would be fun to read your daily bit with your morning coffee or before you drift off to sleep.

It might seem early, but now is probably the best time to make your list and begin to gather your material from the library, your bookshelves, etc. I’ve included some ideas below. Some of these are novels or essay collections and some are individual stories, chapters, picture books, or poems. The longer books can be divided across multiple days, of course:

  • A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (free Kindle book)
  • Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris
  • The American Girl historical character Christmas books: A Surprise for Felicity/Kirsten/Addy/Samantha/Molly, etc.
  • The Christmas chapters in Ramona and Her Father by Beverly Cleary
  • The Christmas chapters in each Laura Ingalls Wilder book (Little House on the Prairie, The Long Winter, etc.). Here’s a handy compilation of many of the Christmas chapters.
  • “The Little Match Girl” by Hans Christian Andersen (text can be found online)
  • The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis
  • The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg
  • “The Gift of the Magi” by O. Henry
  • The first few chapters of Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (free Kindle book)
  • How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss
  • The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats (did you see these stamps?!)
  • “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” by Clement Clarke Moore (text can be found online)
  • The Bible (Book of Luke, etc. describing the birth of Jesus)

There are so many other Christmas books and stories, too, especially for kids. Almost every book/television/toy series has one or more Christmas books: Bernstein Bears, Little Critter, Pete the Cat, Llama Llama, Sesame Street, Richard Scarry, etc.

Would you consider creating your own literary Advent calendar? What passages would you include?


Literary Gifts

Beezus helps her beloved Aunt Beatrice bring in packages from her cool car. Illustration by Louis Darling in Beverly Cleary’s Beezus and Ramona.

I found a charming blog called A Lovely Inconsequence via Fiona Ferris’s How to Be Chic blog. Donna MacDonald is the writer behind A Lovely Inconsequence and she has a post or two that discusses how much fun it is to read about gift-giving in favorite old books.

I never thought about it, but I love those passages in books, too—the gifts that characters give or receive in different eras and places in the world.

In this post, MacDonald recalls the gifts that the March girls give their mother for Christmas in Little Women. Christmas falls during the Civil War, when their father is away at war, money is tight, and Marmee is exhausted after caring for a poor family in the neighborhood. The girls pool their modest savings and present Marmee with the best, most thoughtful gifts they can muster:

“I’ll tell you what we’ll do,” said Beth, “let’s each get her something for Christmas, and not get anything for ourselves.”

“That’s just like you, dear! What will we get?” exclaimed Jo.

Everything thought soberly for a minute, then Meg announced, as if the idea was suggested by the sight of her own pretty hands, “I shall give her a nice pair of gloves.”

“Army shoes, best to be had,” cried Jo.

“Some handkerchiefs, all hemmed,” said Beth.

“I’ll get a little bottle of cologne. She likes it, and it won’t cost much, so I’ll have some left to buy my pencils,” added Amy. [She later exchanges the small bottle for a larger one that uses all of her money.]

In turn, Marmee secretly places small devotional books (or maybe New Testament Bibles?) under the girls’ pillows on Christmas Eve, each bound in a different color: a green one for Meg, a crimson one for Jo, a dove-colored one for Beth, and a blue one for Amy.

I also love the gifts that Mary and Laura Ingalls receive in Little House on the Prairie, when their “bachelor” neighbor Mr. Edwards meets Santa Claus and brings gifts to the girls on Santa’s behalf.

I don’t have the book handy, but I think I remember the gifts each girl received: a peppermint stick, a shiny penny, a small cake made with prized white sugar, and a tin cup. The girls were so bedazzled and enchanted by the extravagant (!) gifts and Mr. Edwards’s encounter with the real Santa!

I also recently re-read Beverly Cleary’s Beezus and Ramona, which I believe is set in 1950’s/1960’s Oregon, and I love the descriptions of Beezus’s gifts for her tenth birthday. At breakfast, Beezus finds “a new dress to wear to school” and some “birthday books,” including 202 Things to Do on a Rainy Afternoon. Her beloved young aunt comes for dinner and brings more surprises, including a cake from a fancy bakery (naughty little sister Ramona had ruined TWO homemade cakes earlier in the day):

Aunt Beatrice always brought such beautiful packages, wrapped in fancy paper and tied with big, fluffy bows.


“Oh, Aunt Beatrice,” exclaimed Beezus, as she opened her first package. It was a real grown-up sewing box. It had two sizes of scissors, a fat red pincushion that looked like a ripe strawberry, and a tape measure that pulled out a shiny box. When Beezus pushed the button the box, the tape measure snapped back inside. The box also had needles, pins, and a thimble. Beezus never wore a thimble, but she thought it would be nice to have one in case she ever wanted to use one.

I love the description of this sewing box. I imagine each item has its own special compartment and that Beezus will have so much fun arranging and re-arranging the items. I also love how wise, cool Aunt Beatrice thoughtfully gives such a sophisticated, flattering present to a growing girl.

In all of these examples, the author perfectly captures the character and spirit of the giver, the recipient, and the time and place in which they live—and so efficiently and charmingly. I love that. In fact, I think that would be a good thought exercise for creative writers: What gift would your character love to receive? What would your character give as a gift to another character?

Do you recall any favorite holidays or birthdays in your own life, or favorite gifts that you’ve received? Do you have any favorite gift-giving passages in books you’ve read?


P.S. When I was writing this post, I also thought about the Christmas gifts exchanged in O. Henry’s “The Gift of the Magi,” and the wonderful Christmas and birthday stories in the American Girl historical character books. Wouldn’t a literary Advent calendar be fun? Like, you read the Christmas passages from different books each day in December leading up to Christmas Day? Hmm…

Remembering Miss Melinda

Miss Melinda

Miss Melinda was a dear family friend. She passed away unexpectedly two weeks ago. It feels strange and sad to write about her in the past tense.

I’ve been thinking about her a lot.

There was always something glamorous about Miss Melinda. Everything about her was big and bold and bright. She had big hair, big eyeglasses, big jewelry, and big cursive handwriting. But it all worked perfectly for her, and was proportionate to her big, warm personality. Miss Melinda was always very put-together, very Southern, in her appearance and demeanor. She gave the impression of some kind of large, regal, maternal bird, one plumped and fluffed and coiffed and sitting tall on its nest, holding court and watching over everyone.

And Miss Melinda loved Christmas. She decorated every inch of her home with beautiful trees, ornaments, and lights. Her house was how I imagine a rabbit’s warren to be: long, low, and dim inside, and completely warm and snug. She had big, comfortable furniture and cozy circles of lamplight everywhere.

As a child, I remember being so impressed by the way Miss Melinda displayed a hardcover copy of The Polar Express as part of her Christmas decorations. It always stuck with me as a classy, creative thing to do. As an adult, I got my own copy of the book years ago with the same intention, but I always forget to set it out at Christmastime. I hope I remember to do so this December, as a little way to remember Miss Melinda.

It’s no surprise that Miss Melinda would decorate with books: She was a high school English teacher and she loved books and writing, especially all the classic young adult novels taught in school. As a kid, I always had a bit of a romantic, idealized view of Miss Melinda’s life, one with her spending her days reading and discussing good books, and then coming home at night to a cozy house and decadent meal, and then waking up the next day to do it all over again in another fabulous outfit. As an adult, I laugh at the idea of Miss Melinda living a life of ease. Being a teacher is hardly a cakewalk, plus Miss Melinda was raising two boys and often caring for seriously ill family members, including her mother and first husband.

But Miss Melinda always managed to keep it all together—her family, her home, her appearance, her thoughtfulness. She never arrived for a visit to our house empty-handed, and she never let you leave her house empty-handed. She always had gifts (books, journals), food, and a piece of décor (a potted poinsettia, a set of Christmas tree ornaments) to give.

But if you ever marveled at Miss Melinda’s prowess, or complimented her on her fabulous outfit, beautiful home, delicious cooking, or thoughtful gifts, she would just laugh with surprise and demur, with total self-deprecation. “Oh, Lordy,” I can just imagine her saying. “This poor deprived child doesn’t even know what she’s talking about, thinking that this is anything but a big ol’ mess.” Miss Melinda had a chuckle-y voice, with a kind of low, reverberating timbre, and she spoke with looooong, slow vowels and looooong, slow words.

And it’s funny the random things you will remember about a person. Miss Melinda once gave me a “Bridges of Madison County” book full of photographs of historic covered bridges in picturesque landscapes. (Why would a bridge be covered? To keep livestock from falling into the water? Ah—I just looked it up. The cover protects the structure from the weather and extends the bridge’s life.) It was an ambitious, flattering gift for a young girl, but I was not yet mature enough to appreciate it. And I remember that once Miss Melinda rented a house to a family of tenants and they completely destroyed the interior. The children drew on the walls and the family removed the wooden trim inside the house (baseboards, window and door frames) and burned them as firewood. Can you imagine?! And I remember that Miss Melinda always had the best party food, with every imaginable nibblet of every kind: cocktail meatballs in a tangy sauce, cheese straws, sugar cookies, etc. And I remember that once Miss Melinda’s storage shed of prized Christmas decorations caught fire and burned down, and she lost everything—her huge collection of beautiful decorations gathered over decades. She began to collect again, but she said it was harder to find things of same quality. I’m not sure if I would have the heart to start all over again, but Miss Melinda did.

I will miss and remember her.