December 23, 2010

seasons greetings

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December 22, 2010

home for christmas.

It's no secret that Mike and I love the quaint small town we live in here in Alabama. We are avid local business supports and as the holidays drew closer this year we decided to show them all how much we appreciated them. As a team we set out on a quest to purchase all of our Christmas gifts at neighborhood mom and pop stores. I'm happy to report that over 80% of our gifts were purchased locally. I enjoy knowing that we are stimulating our local economy and helping build upon our community.

I will be the first to admit that I failed when it came to purchasing Mike's gifts from local merchants - but to be fair the only things on his Christmas list were items that aren't made here in town. Literally if you looked at his list and held it up to a 13 year old boy's Christmas list, they would be identical. Lots of PS3 and XBox style items.  Everyone else on our list has received something purchased here from local stores, minus a gift card and one other gift which I can't mention due to the fact that the person may read this.

We avoided just about every bit of holiday stress by doing this. You want to know how many times we've made a trip to the mall since Thanksgiving, ZERO. That's right. We haven't stepped foot in the mall once this season for Christmas shopping. The only reason we went to the mall at all was when Mike needed a haircut before Thanksgiving, that's it. I can't begin to tell you how awesome that is. Trips to Target this season for holiday shopping? ONE! Mike may have ventured there on his own, so we could say TWO if need. Number of times I cussed people up and down in my head while shopping in our downtown area... ZERO. This to me is an amazing feeling in itself and almost like a gift we gave each other of a better over all feeling and well being for Christmas. Talk about having the Christmas Spirit, it's so much easier when you aren't feeling like you may need to strangle someone... when you don't have to wait in a long ass line to get two items... when you don't have to bash someone's cart out of your way... and when you actually have the owner of the store cater to you, and help you with all your questions, thoughts and concerns because they want to, not because corporate has told them they need to.

With all the local shopping we've had an overwhelming feeling of pride for our town and the owners of these stores are floored and excited when we told them about our game plan to buy all local. One merchant even gave me a discount on 2 items I purchased when she heard that come from our lips. She thanked me over and over and hoped we'd get our word out so more people would do the same. We have every possible big name store you could hope for around here, and even though our mall is a little sad it is a decent place to shop for a lot of people all at once - I by no means think everyone should do this, you may not have a selection of great local stores around your town like we do, but the next time you go out shopping for holidays, birthdays, or anything maybe take a few minutes to think about what treasures you may find in a non-chain store. And at the same time how you may be helping out a business owner in your community, one that doesn't have a huge backing financially but is full of heart and pride for their stores and their community.

Taking this hometown Christmas a step further, in order to help out our fellow man, and our planet we went with the whole, reduce, reuse and recycle theory to our gift wrap this year. We usually purchase all new wrapping paper every year, instead this year we are reusing a rustic snowflake paper we've had for at least two years. It's almost gone, and that's upsetting and exciting at the same time. To know that with the money I saved on wrapping paper I can put it toward stocking stuffers, is totally exciting. The roll being almost gone is what's upsetting, I really love the pattern. Since most of our gifts were purchased locally, we also received free gift wrapping! We let the gift wrap from the first store we shopped at dictate how our wrapping style would be for all our gifts [yes, I like to have a theme/style]. Basic craft wrap and beautiful ribbons were used on my gifts from Mike and some of the gifts we got his family. Most of the items were wrapped up and then placed in large craft bags with tons of tissue paper. I have taken it upon myself to deconstruct the bags, saving them to use for wrapping paper if needed, or bags for larger gifts and saved the tissue which has come in very handy for items that need to be boxed with tissue, and other re-used bags that we have received that fit this same color scheme. We haven't had to purchase one single bit of ribbon, we've only used left over, not a single bit of tissue, or gift bags yet. The only item I purchased new were some name tags. We had contemplated just writing the names on the bags, but then people couldn't reuse them and keep the cycle going so we opted for cheap, stick on tags from Rite Aid. It's only a few days until the big holiday and I don't think we will need anymore gift wrap, and we may even have some left over to reuse again next year. Thankfully at my job we use kraft wrap to fill boxes for transport. I've been able to snag a few scrap bits to wrap Mike's gifts before bringing them home - he not only has a list like a 13 year old, he snoops like one too.  I know that wrapping paper seems like such a little amount of money but when you add up the paper, the tissue, the tags the ribbons all that go together, at the end of the day it's a nice lump of money... money we saved, and by reusing items it's less in the landfill - at least on our end. [Don't think I won't be walking around trying to take back some of the bags we have used this year, they are REALLY cute and I would reuse them again and again].

I can honestly say I've never felt so happy about the holidays as I do this year. I am excited to know that most of the gifts we've chosen for our friends and family, aren't ones that will be found under everyone else's tree this year. We took time and choose each gift with that specific person in mind and it actually felt like it took less time this year than in years past. I think when you're in the mall or department chain you get so overwhelmed and over stimulated by the noise, the people, and the displays that you sometimes over spend or forget why you are there in the first place. I haven't had that overwhelmed feeling this year - safe for maybe my last trip to Target, and it's nice to feel so calm about the holidays coming up. My main panic thing right now is the cookies I need to bake! Regardless of where your gifts come from - I hope you were able to find all you needed for that special someone on your list!!! And most importantly that you have a very happy holiday!

How has your holiday shopping gone this year?

Don't forget to tell me your favorite Christmas memories! Read THIS post!

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December 21, 2010

christmas memories.

Here we are, staring down the last three full days until Christmas Eve. Where did the season go? The preparation I thought I would have? The gifts under the tree I thought would all be purchased and wrapped with pretty little bows. Where did all that go? Out the window I guess. I didn't even get a chance to get together Christmas cards for my friends and family. No, I haven't been all bah humbug, or even a Grinch in the least, I've just a very busy bee I guess. Busy with work, with life, with birthdays - oh MY the birthdays this time of year. In our immediate circle of friends and family alone there have been 7 birthdays between Thanksgiving and now. This tidbit alone is enough to make me feel OK about being a bit behind in finishing my Christmas shopping. It's difficult to get that finished while birthday shopping for others.

How are the rest of you fine ladies and gents doing with all your holiday plans? I know many of you have been blogging your hearts out about Christmas. I must say Shana has been on the ball over at her blog with her days of Christmas count down. Even Salt has popped her head in to keep us up to date on all her holiday cheer. Not to be out done Hotpants has given us the secrets to what her little babies will be finding under her tree and so many more of you have kept my Christmas Spirits high and my feeling like a slacker points right up there as well. All "letting it slide" aside, I've been rather jolly this year. For the first time in two years since my mother passed away I've felt semi normal during the holidays this year. That's not to say I haven't lost it a few times, but in the end I carry with me the memories that she always made possible this time of year. I thought what better way to blog about the holidays than to share memories that always make this time of year so special to me, and in turn ask you to share some of yours as well.

Christmas Memories
Wish big! • via

Some of my fondest memories of this season involve my mother, she was always so prepared. No matter how frazzled she may have been on the inside trying to give my father and I the perfect Christmas she rarely let it show.  It all started with the tree. We would walk for hours from tree farm to tree farm to find the perfect tree. Long needles and taller than all of us - it had to touch the ceiling and the "Christmas Chicken" [dove] had to have enough room to fit on top. My birthday is the 1st of December and many years into my teens we would celebrate with a tree decorating slumber party, those were memorable times but I think my most favorite and cherished thoughts were the years when she started to teach me how to decorate the tree. I will always blame my perfectionist ways with tree decorating on her. When I was young child the tree was a huge array of blue and silver hues. I can remember the Christmas balls like it was yesterday in the perfect shade of bright blue. Our lights were always white. ALWAYS white.

This ain't yo momma's tree • via

My mother hated multi colored strands, I used to be upset that our tree didn't blink, or have twinkles or different colors, but once I got a bit older I completely appreciated my mother's attention to not only detail but her taste as well. Never one to leave any detail out, my mother always made sure my yearly creations made it back on the tree. From the popsicle stick sled to the toilet paper tube drummer boy, they were always there, front and center. While many of these ornaments didn't survive over the years, a few did and they are ones I have since acquired and that mean the most to me. After I grew out of my crib, my mother transformed the mobile charms into ornaments. Holly Hobby like friends all hung around the tree each year and still do to this day at my home. I plan to hopefully carry on this tradition with my own children one day. Each year I can remember picking out different brass ornaments, having them engraved with my name and placing them on the tree. Bonus points go to the ones we have that actually have the date they were made on them. I like those the most.

Being an only child has it's perks. On Christmas day there was no waiting to see what each kid got around the tree - I could race down the steps, jump to the presents and rip them to shreds without worrying about what anyone else was doing. All eyes were on me. Mom and Dad had already exchanged gifts and it was my time to shine. Santa's gifts always came in different paper, after all why would Santa have the same paper as the grocery store, where my parents purchased theirs. And my stocking was always filled to the brim. There was always a small box or two, filled with sparkles from my father.  I soon learned these gifts came from him, and usually from the jewelry store he always shopped at, again the paper never matched anything else. I was a bit sad yesterday when my father called me to let me know I wouldn't be getting sparkles this year. Truth be told I really don't need anymore. And it wasn't the lack of sparkle that upset me. After 34 years of birthdays and Christmas, I've gained quite a collection of fine jewelry, but he informed me that the sweet man he used to shop with had passed away in October and his store was currently closed for mourning. It's sad to think that such an icon in our lives and my father's favorite shopping option for friends, family and loved ones was gone. He's been shopping there for over 30 years and I can trace just about every fine item of gold back to that man's store, his talent and his art. I had only met him once, and told him I was obsessed with unicorns. I can remember picking out a very small, dainty charm that was a Unicorn head made to look as if it was made of lace. I still have this charm. It's by far my favorite. Over the years, my father and this man became close friends and they had both always marveled over how my taste changed. From gold to white gold, from unicorns to dolphins and from dolphins to owls. I can trace my jewelry box and it's contents all the way back to my 2nd birthday, it's pretty amazing. It's sad to see he's gone, and that a Christmas tradition I always looked forward to will have to live in my memories.

I bet as a child you can remember your mom or grandmother or some family memeber going nuts over Christmas cookies and baking, can't you? I don't know if there are many mom's that went as nuts as my mom did. Thankfully she never had to bake for holiday parties at my school - I think that may have been the straw that would break the camels back on that. But cookies... my GOSH did she make a lot of cookies. Any kind you could imagine, I still don't know how she did it. Cookies for us, cookies for friends, cookies for my grandmothers and family and teachers and cousins. It was crazy how many cookies this woman would make every year. And even crazier how many I would eat ever year!!! She actually had to make extras of certain kinds because my father and I would eat them all! I make cookies each year, but I will never top my mother. After about 4 different recipes I loose my steam and I never carve out enough time to make them all. This year I have all the ingredients and they've been in the pantry for two weeks. I hope to make a dent in them this week, but it's hard to say - those last minute Christmas gifts are still looming over me.

nom, nom, nom • via

I have about a million more memories I could share, but I will leave you with one more, it's my favorite of all time....

Every Christmas, well until I was probably about 12 - 14 years old my mother would tuck me in. After all the lights were off, I had placed out cookies for Santa and all the animals [we had 2 dogs and 2 cats] were snuggled with me in bed, my mother would crack open my bedroom window from the top. She'd tell me goodnight and warned me not to stay up too late or Santa wouldn't come. She explained to me when I was younger that maybe if we left the window cracked I'd be able to hear Santa's sleigh bells coming and know to stay in my room and be quite so that he wouldn't leave without dropping off my gifts. Every year I would crank my ears to listen for bells, and I'm sure every year I would drift off after staying up way too late. I swear one year I heard the bells and it took all I had to say in my bed. I wanted to jump out of bed, run down the hall and scream for Santa, my parents and anyone else that was close enough to hear... but I didn't, I laid paralyzed in my bed, not moving a muscle until I thought the coast was clear.  This was also the year I started my own personal tradition... After I thought it was safe, I snuck down the hall on the creaking wood floors, down the steps and into the living room for my first sneak peek of my bounty for the year. It was awesome!!! The Christmas tree lights bounced off the bright paper and I remember the vision like it was yesterday. I figured I had already done too much by peeking son instead of shaking, rattling or breaking any gifts I ran back up stairs without touching a thing and waited for the sun to rise. I learned years before this night that 4 AM is not an acceptable time to wake two parents who had spent the evening drinking wine while I slept, celebrating their own Christmas together. After this year of my first "peek" - every year after that until my parents divorced I would sneak down to look at all my gifts and survey everything, and often times plan my attack on the gifts, which I would open first, if mom and dad said it was OK. You know how they like to leave the best for last and all.

I'm always dreaming of a white Chrsitmas • via

So tell me....
Do you have a favorite Christmas memory or a never ending tradition? Please share for all to read in the comments section!


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December 06, 2010

being a winner rocks!

I will start this post by saying that I rarely win anything, [the only other giveaway I've ever won via blog was the amazing one over at Saltwater Dreams - I'm still excited about that and it's been months!] so when I found out that I was among 150+ loyal followers of The Lil Bee to win the Apart Giveaway I was floored! The great people at Apart  are givers, seriously sweet, givers! They granted all who entered the contest the items we said we loved most. I was shocked and literally walked around the entire day with a smile on my face. I'd be lying if I said I didn't cry a little bit, because I did. I welled right up with joy, at work,  at the thought of winning an item from this amazing clothing line. Originally there was going to be one big winner and a few runners up, all of which would have won gift certificates to purchase the amazing clothing and accessories from the website [check it out here if you haven't already clicked the link above].

I think the main reason I welled up so much is because this gesture from the people at Apart was so grand in my eyes. I've never purchased any fine fashion items for myself, ever. Most of my clothing comes from clearance racks or places like Target, small places in the mall or were received as gifts from family members over the years. Where I live currently, fashion is very limited, to put it nicely. We have a few grand department stores in the mall locally and a few other side stores, otherwise I'm at the mercy of not only my slim pickin's but also my tiny wallet and budget.  I love that I am frugal but every once in a while it's nice to spoil yourself, or have others spoil you with a classic piece. I have to say I felt a bit like a princess in that moment and promptly emailed Melisa (of The Lil Bee fame) to thank her for having the giveaway and allowing me to add an amazing piece to my wardrobe. One I am sure I will wear for years to come. [Note: If you haven't visited Melisa @ The Lil Bee yet, you're missing out! Her blog is one of my must reads!]

I'm sure you're wondering what item I picked - well it was a tough choice but the item that called to me the most was one that Melisa featured in her giveaway blog. I'm a sucker for houndstooth, not just because of the University of Alabama (ROLL TIDE!) but because it's a great pattern. When I saw this image I was floored and thought "IT MUST ME MINE!"

via apart
Be sure to check out their other Houndstooth items if you love the pattern!
There is a dress that I swooned over and would DIE to add to my wardrobe!

My package arrived today [11/30/2010] - a day before my birthday. So needless to say I was excited. Happy Birthday to me! I wish I had the right accessories and items of clothing to pull together the perfect look for a night out on the town but I don't. This will have to be fixed ASAP because I can't wait to wear this item. I know this post is useless without images of myself but I have to say I'm truly sorry. I'm not lying when I say I have nothing in my possession that would do this skirt justice. As soon as I do I will model it for you no worries!

The skirt is amazing, you know how sometimes you purchase and item from a website and it doesn't live up to your expectations once it's in your hands, this is NOT the case with this skirt. I am head over heels in love with it. It's warm, frilly and lined with soft fabric - and looks exactly like it does on the website. I was actually thrilled and floored to discover that it fits me just right as well. I was fearful they wouldn't have my size, and since I started working out I was fearful I'd get it and not be able to fit into it. I'm not a model size, by any means and this skirt fit me like a dream! I really can't say enough about how much I am in love with this item and the chance to own it. Thank you again Melisa for having the giveaway and Amandine, from Apart for sponsoring and being so giving!

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December 03, 2010

fixation friday: holiday movies

Hello Lovelies! It's been a while. Not only was Fixation Friday on a break but I guess I was too. I'll try to be better about that but, when life starts tossing you lemons or limes you better make some kick ass mixed drinks and suffer the hangover because honestly how often does life toss you the perfect fruit to compliment vodka right? In not so many words I've been busy. Between Thanksgiving, my birthday and all the holidays that are coming up I'm lucky to have two minutes to myself, let alone time to bang out an awesome blog post. With that in mind I'm going to slightly recycle a post from last year but give it a bit of a tune up. I got to thinking about my favorite holiday movies again after reading Hotpants' post over at Handbags and Handguns.  She's pretty much nailed the holiday spirit in movies right on the head, but I had a few of my own I needed to add. So here are my favorite Christmas movies to date.

A Christmas Story 
Yes I could watch this over and over and over and over and over again and I do every year! It never gets old. I love Ralphie and the entire story! "I can't put my arms down!!!"

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation
Seriously - Christmas is not the same without this movie - LOVE! I come from a very small family and never truly experienced a holiday quite this chaotic until I started dating Mike. His family is huge and often times it feels like a scene from this movie during the holidays... or maybe from the beginning of THIS movie....

Home Alone
I adore this movie - I could watch it a million times. Mike had Home Alone 2 playing on tv the other night and it just didn't do the trick. #1 is #1! "I got the milk, eggs and fabric softener."

Die Hard
Yes, seriously!!! It's set during Christmas time and he saves the day!
"Ho, Ho, Ho... Now I have a machine gun."
Most girls may not agree but, care? Mike is happy that I enjoy this flick and consider it a holiday tradition, which works out great for us. I think I'll bake some cookies and watch this soon!

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
It's a classic and one that reminds me of being a kid.
Plain and simple!

My next choice is one I was reminded how much I loved last night when I watched it on TV. I own this movie and it just didn't dawn on me how touching this movie is to me until last night. In my opinion you can never go wrong when you put your entertainment trust in a man like Bill Murray.

LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this movie.  It's a comedic and touching adaptation of the classic Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, one of my favorite all time Christmas stories, out done only by the Gift of the Magi by O. Henry. That story always touches my heart.

The Family Stone
This movie is beyond touching and I love how real it is. It was tough for me to watch it the first few times, for personal reasons but in the end I realize how magical it really is. It quickly became a seasonal must for me and I will often times watch it in the middle of the summer just to get warm fuzzies!

Elf (SO adorable)
Bad Santa (while it's not family friend it's freaking funny!)
It's a Wonderful Life
Mean Girls (it has Christmas in it!)
A Charlie Brown Christmas
Four Christmases (We all know the deal with me and Vince)

I could go on and on - what are you favorite holiday movies?

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