Category Archives: christmas

Manners Monday: Reclaiming the fine art of the Thank You note

Ah. The day after Christmas. Boxing Day if you are in a Boxing Day country. Personally I think Boxing Day is a great idea… why don’t we have Boxing Day? Or just celebrate St. Stephen’s Day? I know, it’s just an excuse to go out and shop, but the extra bank holiday might be appreciated by some. Anyway…

Gifts have been unwrapped and put away. Paper and packaging has been cleared away. New play-doh that came out of the can in such vibrant colors are now a sad shade of beige. What’s next to do? Thank You Notes. Time to write the Thank You notes.

What?! You may think that Thank You notes are antiquated and a throwback to the dark ages before we had stuff like email and unlimited minutes and instant gratification but that is what makes Thank You notes (or letter writing and manners in general) is fine art that transcends all social and class lines. It really can be the great equalizer!

Writing a note by hand allows you to put to paper human emotions: joy, sorrow, gratitude, love, nostalgia. And if you think about it, those (and anger) are among the first emotions we learn to articulate verbally.

Before sitting down to write your notes, gather your supplies:

Pen

Paper

Envelopes

Address Book

List of gifts and their givers (if needed)

According to Margaret Shepherd, author of The Art of the Handwritten Note,  your Thank You Note should have five characteristics. It should be: generous, specific, prompt, succinct and personal.

Generous. Send the note even if you’ve already thanked the giver in another way.

Specific. Mention the gift but thank them for the THOUGHT behind it.

Prompt. Send the note right away, but don’t let lateness stop you from writing at all.

Succinct. Keep it short by writing about any unrelated matters in a separate note.

Personal. Write it by hand. No form letters, printouts or greeting cards.

Things to say:

Thank you so much.

It’s just what I’ve wanted

How did you guess I wanted a [the gift]

I am enjoying wearing, playing with, looking at, eating, listening to, reading [the gift]

You were so thoughtful, kind, generous

Things to avoid:

Thank you for the gift [this may imply to the giver that you have forgotten what they gave you or that you lost the gift. EXCEPTION: when the gift is money in some form. In that case, thank them for the “gift” but then be sure to tell them what you are planning to do with the gift.]

You shouldn’t have 

Thank you for dinner. [Was the rest of the evening just awful?]

I’m exchanging it. [Wow.]

IT’S THE BEST GIFT EVER!! [makes you sound a bit insincere.]

Now some of you, like me, are parents. And since you are a parent, that means you have children. If you have taught your kids to say “thank you,” you can teach them to write thank you notes! When it comes to kids, you have a new options. For the first five years, or so, you can write on your child’s behalf. I, personally, write in the child’s voice. For an older preschooler, they could dictate to you what to write or copy a few lines down that you have written for them (if they can write their letters) or they can write their name at the end of the note.

For older children, help them enjoy writing notes by employing some of the following tactics:

Schedule time together to write. We all know how kids fare better when they know what to expect and when, so set aside, in advance, a set an hour or so on a specific day to write notes

Support your child. Give your child their very own stationery and special pen. Make sure your child has all of the needed addresses or address the envelopes for them as they write the note.

Personalize it. If you child likes glitter, stickers, stamps, or the like, let them add the embellishments to their note.

Model. Your child will not want to write thank you notes if they do not see you writing notes. Just as your child sees you saying “Thank You” in person, let them see how that gratitude is translated into a thank you note. Make sure your child sees how enjoyable RECEIVING thank-you notes is by reading the notes you receive aloud and posting them.

Join them. Sit down with your child and write something as well: your own thank-you notes, journal, a letter, etc. If nothing else, it’s helpful for your child for you to be there, to offer support with spelling, advice and phrasing.

Have the gift at the ready. Kids are concrete. They remember the here and now, so it might be helpful for to have the gift in front of your child when they write. Ask your child how they felt when they received the gift. If they were not too keen on the gift, ask them to imagine how happy Auntie was picking out the gift for them.

Reciprocity. Help your child understand the pleasure people get from being thanked by making sure they know what it feels like to give a gift and then receive a thank-you note. If you write a thank-you note to your child, it is a concrete example of how thank-you notes make people feel. And how cool is it, as a child, to receive a thank-you note from a grown-up?!

I hope this takes some of the scare out of writing thank-you notes and encourages you to start a new tradition of your own!

____________________________________________________________________


3 Comments

Filed under christmas, etiquette, family, gifts, holidays, manners, monday, mothering, toddler

Seven Quick Takes Friday (Vol. 18)

1.

A few weeks ago, I contemplated wearing a head covering everyday when I went out, rather than just at Mass. The thought being, if we are called to pray without ceasing, and since woman is called to cover her head when praying, then it follows that (a modest) woman should consider covering her head at all time. Right now it’s still hit or miss with me and it makes a great option when one is having a not so good hair day. (No worries, I do realize that the state of one’s hair should not be a factor.)

2.

Grandma sent this gift to the girls. They will absolutely love it, but I don’t think that the phrase “Pop N’ Lock” was meant to be used in this manner.

3.

One of the first friends I met here in Pasadena happens to be a hair stylist. I took DD1 in for a haircut and DD2 decided that she wanted her hair done too. So here she is, getting her first blowout:

4.

Pardon the blurriness… one of my handmade Christmas gifts to give. It was inspired by something I saw on Pinterest.

5.

Wednesday I talked about my favorite secular Christmas song. My favorite religious Christmas songs are: “Mary, did you know?” “Adeste Fideles” “O Holy Night” and “Hark! The Herald Angels sing.”

6.

Yesterday, my hubs surprised us by coming home at 2:30p. He had us all get ready to go out because he had a surprise for us. This is where we headed and we had a blast!

Seeing the girls on ice skates for the first time was pretty funny. They have these walker-thingies for the little non-skaters to use. I can tell you, I was really glad I took that ice skating class in Grad School!

7.

This is the photo that was chosen for our Christmas Card this year. I wish you all have a very Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Joyous Kwanzaa and Happy Winter’s Solstice!

Be sure to head over to Conversion Diary to read more Seven Quick Takes!


3 Comments

Filed under 7 Quick Takes, christmas, family, Friday

My new favorite secular Christmas song

I usually do not play Christmas music in the house until after Gaudate Sunday, mostly because: A) It allows at least 2 weeks to focus solely on Advent and B) it keeps me from wanting to pull my hair out at the endless looping of the same songs.

This is challenging because, everyone else starts playing Christmas music the day after Thanksgiving! (Or earlier in some cases…) Now that I am playing Christmas Music in my house, I’ve decided that I have a new favorite secular Christmas song.

Past title holders have been:

Silver Bells

What are you doing New Year’s Eve?

(It must’ve been) Ol’ Santa Claus (Harry Connick, Jr.)

Sleigh Ride

The Christmas Song

White Christmas

The Christmas Waltz

Usually, how it works, is that the favorites tend to get replayed over and over and over again. And, in an odd move by this ESTJ, I pick the song based on how it makes me feel! So this years’ favorite?

Baby, It’s cold outside!

 

I know, I know… I’ve heard it called the “date rape” song too, but come on! To me, it’s a cute, flirty song sung between a courting pair, back in the days of  gentlemen, ladies and scotch.

I love how she sings that her mother will worry and her father will be pacing the floor and sure it gets a little weird when she asks what he put in the drink and kind of funny that she’ll stay for cigarette more. And he lays on the flatter thickly: “Man, your lips look delicious” is repeated at least twice in some versions!

So, in my Christmas Playlist I have three versions:

Dino (Dean Martin)

Ella Fitzgerald

Kurt and Blaine from the Glee episode last year (2010)

 

So that’s it. Maybe it’s my song this year because here in Pasadena… It’s not so cold outside!

_______________________________________________________________________

6 Comments

Filed under christmas, music

Saturday’s Holiday Shopping Guide: Homemade Gifts

We are down to  2 Saturdays until Christmas! I am hopping a plane back to the midwest to attend a baptism in a few hours leaving Daddy and Daughters home for a little Daddy-Daughters weekend, in which they will be taking the Christmas Card Picture (hint… The Wisconsin Badgers will have something to do with the picture!) and possibly getting the tree. I am a little sad to miss out on the tree hunt, but I am very excited for my Godson, Cazimir’s, baptism.

So far, we’ve covered ladiesgentlemen and those-hard-to-shop-for ; this week… easy-peasy homemade gifts for even the most non-crafty! I’ll admit right at the outset… some of these ideas came from Pinterest. Pinterest is a crafty and non-crafty girls’ dream! But beware… it can be addicting. You’ve been warned.

Fleece-Tie Blanket.

This is an easy craft that doesn’t take that much time. You need two pieces of fleece, both the same length. Lay one piece on top of the other and make continuous cuts around the outside, 2″ (5cm) in length. Once all of the cuts are made, tie one fringe from fleece #1 to one fringe of fleece #2 all around, using square knots. Once you’ve finished, you have a great, practical gift for anyone! One key thing to keep in mind, make sure your shears are sharp because fleece is very dulling.

Gifts-In-A-Jar

I personally love gifts in jars. They are pretty to look at. They store well and when you are done with them, you have a new jar! For most food-based gifts-in-jars, you will need a 1-QT Mason Jar with lid. You can jazz the jar up with some scrap fabric, ribbons and a hot glue gun. For bath/ beauty gifts-in-jars, the Pint Sized Mason Jar should suffice.

Chocolate Holiday Cookies (from Taste of Home)

1.5 c. All Purpose Flour

0.5t baking soda

0.25t salt

0.5 c Dark Cocoa

0.75c sugar

0.3 c baked brown sugar

1.25c red and green M&M’s

0.3c white baking chips

1. In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking soda and salt. In a 1 QT jar, layer (in order) the flour mixture, cocoa, sugar, brown sugar, M&Ms and baking chips. Cover and store in a cool, dry place for up to one month. (Makes 36 cookies)

To the jar, add the following directions:

This recipe makes 3 dozen cookies. Store the mix in a cool, dry place for up to 1 month. To make these festive cookies, you will need:

0.75 c butter (softened)

1 egg

1.5 t vanilla extract

1. In a large bowl, beat the butter, egg and vanilla until well-blended. Add contents of jar and stir until combined.

2. Drop by rounded tablespoons 2 in apart onto an ungreased baking pan. Bake at 350 for 12-14 minutes or until set. Remove to wire racks to cool. Store in airtight container.

Mmm-Good Pasta Soup (from Taste of Home)

0.5 c. dried split peas

2T chicken bouillon granules

0.5 c dried lentils

2T dried minced onion

1t dried basil

1t dried parsley flakes

1 envelope vegetable soup mix

2c uncooked tricolor spiral pasta

1. In a 1QT jar, layer the first seven ingredients in the order listed. Place the pasta in a 1QT resealable plastic bag; add to the jar. Seal tightly, store in a cool dry place for up to 1 year. (makes 3.5 QTs soup.)

To the jar, add the following directions:

This will make 3.5 quarts of a delicious soup… enough to feed 14 people! You will need:

Contents of your soup jar

10 cups water

3 cups cubed cooked chicken

1 can diced tomatoes, undrained.

1. Remove pasta from top of jar and set aside. Place water in a Dutch Oven; stir in soup mix. Bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 45 minutes.

2. Add the chicken, tomatoes, and pasta. Cover and simmer 15-20 min longer or until pasta, peas and lentils are tender.

Bath Seeds

1 c. baking soda

0.5 c citric acid (order online)

0.5 c cornstarch

2T plus 1t oil (almond, sunflower, coconut, mineral, canola or baby)

2t water

1-2t essential oil (order online)

0.25 t Borax

food coloring

Mix baking soda, citric acid and cornstarch. Mix the wet ingredients and the Borax and slowly add to the dry ingredients, mixing constantly. Mix SLOWLY or you will get bubbles. Pour into a 1 QT jar and add the following to the label:

Homemade Bath Seeds

Use 2-4 Tablespoons per bath

And now, from Pinterest!

Reindeer Thumbprint Ornament from Little Bit Funky

Memory Ornaments from InMyOwnStyle

T-shirt Shag Rug by Rags by Sock Monkey

Crayon Monogram by Chic and Chic Nursery (great for teachers!)

________________________________________________________________________________________________
Hope this will help a bit in your holiday shopping! This has been a fun series and I hope that you have enjoyed reading it as much as I have enjoyed writing it!


1 Comment

Filed under christmas, crafts, family, gifts, hanukkah, holidays, saturday

Saturday’s Holiday Shopping Guide: Hard-To-Shop-For

We are down to  5 Saturdays until Christmas! In our family we really value not celebrating/ decorating Christmas until after Thanksgiving (although I would prefer waiting until after ADVENT, but we compromise.) But that’s not so say that the shopping portion can not be completed earlier!

Sometimes it’s really hard to find great gifts for people, ones that are functional but also pleasant, so I thought that I would offer some unsolicited advice on what I would consider great gifts. So far, we’ve covered ladies and gentlemen; this week… those who are hard-to-shop-for/ “have everything” in your life! These are the people who tend to receive cash or gift cards or something just as generic. So, this year, lets change it up a bit and consider Charitable Donations!

These can be a bit on the tricky side. The key to giving a charitable donation is to keep your recipient and their stance on issues in mind. Your gift is supposed to be one of appreciation and kindness and should not start an ideological war. The list below is not a comprehensive list and you can of course look to local agencies, but consider this a starting point!

To fight hunger/ aid disaster relief

American Red Cross

-Feeding America

Share Our Strength

The Salvation Army

For the Animal Lover 

ASPCA

Best Friends Animal Society

-Local Animal Rescues

For the educators

Donors Choose

For non-cash charitable donations

These are kind of neat because you can use your cash to buy a gift in someone’s name which is then donated to a family. Some examples of the gifts are: cows, goats, honeybees, fish for a fish pond, micro finance, etc.

Samaritan’s Purse (Christian Organization)

Heifer International

Kiva (micro finance for men and women)

Accion (heavier emphasis on financing women)

_________________________________________________________________________________________________
Hope this will help a bit in your holiday shopping! Next week, we’ll talk about some easy-peasy handmade gifts that even the non-crafy among us can make and give!! And of course, if you know of other charities or other great gifts, please leave a comment below!


4 Comments

Filed under christmas, family, gentlemen, gifts, hanukkah, holidays, ladies, saturday

Saturday’s Holiday Shopping Guide: Gentleman

We are down to  6 Saturdays until Christmas! In our family we really value not celebrating/ decorating Christmas until after Thanksgiving (although I would prefer waiting until after ADVENT, but we compromise.) But that’s not so say that the shopping portion can not be completed earlier!

Sometimes it’s really hard to find great gifts for people, ones that are functional but also pleasant, so I thought that I would offer some unsolicited advice on what I would consider great gifts. Last week, we talked about the ladies; this week… the men in your life!

For the gentleman:

Pocket Handkerchief/ Pocket Square

Now I know what you are thinking… ewww. But I will tell you, both my husband and his father swear by their pocket handkerchiefs. They always have one on them and they are not just for blowing noses. A gentleman can use his handkerchief as a small bandage or tourniquet, or to carry small treasures as they are found. Maybe you aren’t too keen on the hygiene part of the handkerchief? Maybe consider a patterned pocket square for his suits.

Cuff Links and Collar Stays

If your gent is wearing a French Cuff suit, he will need a great set of links. You can find links at all price points and all materials. In addition, unless your gents’ shirts have button-down collar points, he might appreciate collar stays. Just like cuff links, you can find collar stays in all sorts of material, but my hubs swears by his brass ones.


These engraved collar stays can be found at Collar Bars

Stove-top Espresso Machine
What a way to start the morning! If your guy loves his espresso, but not the hit on his wallet by stopping at LCS (local coffeeshop) every morning, consider a MokaPot. Priced very competitively it is a handsome addition to your kitchen… just like your gent!

Splurge:
A classy timepiece. And he can never claim to not know what time it is!

For the Outdoorsman:

A Rugged Wallet
Even though one is out of doors, you still need a wallet to keep everything together!

A Bowie Knife

Your guy could take this gift one of two ways… hopefully he will look at your giving him a great survival tool.

Starbucks Via

This is not your mother’s instant coffee! I am a huge fan of Starbucks VIA and I always have a stash here at home when just don’t feel like making a Press full of coffee. All your guy would need for a cuppa-joe on the go is fresh, clean water and a heating source.

Splurge:
A trip to Yellowstone National Forest (or another equivalent) so he can live out all of his outdoorsy dreams!

For the techie guy:

Computer Bag
Lots of pockets and a space for his laptop, a computer bag will keep your guy organized and ready for anything!

Arcade Cabinet for the iPad

If your guy spent a lot of time at the arcade as a kid, or thinks arcades are just cool and this current generation is missing out… here you go!

iPhone Case Bottle Opener

Never be without a bottle opener again.

Splurge:
A New Computer

Find out what he is looking for, or take him along to buy a new computer and surprise him by footing the bill.


______________________________________________________________________________________________________
Hope this will help a bit in your holiday shopping! Next week, we’ll talk about those who have “everything” in your life!!


Many of the bags shown can be ordered at my Thirty-One webstore.

2 Comments

Filed under christmas, gentlemen, gifts, hanukkah, holidays, saturday

Saturday’s Holiday Shopping Guide: Ladies

Looking at my calendar this morning, I’ve realized that there are (including today) 7 Saturdays until Christmas! Shopping is not my favorite past time, but if I have a plan, then it’s more bearable.

Sometimes it’s really hard to find great gifts for people, ones that are functional but also pleasant, so I thought that I would offer some unsolicited advice on what I would consider great gifts. For the next 5 weeks, I will offer some gift ideas for the people in your life. This week… let’s start with the ladies!

For the crafty gal:
-Fingerless mitts are great for keeping her palms and wrists warm, but still giving her the dexterity for working her craft. For some reason, knitting/ crocheting/ sewing tends to make your hands cold!

-A new craft bag with lots of pockets so she can keep all of her must haves in place

– Luxe Hand Lotion. When working with natural fibers, like wool, it can really dry out your hands. Surprise her with a great hand cream in a travel size so she can tuck it into her craft bag.

– SPLURGE: an iPad 2 works fantastically for storing patterns and scrapbook templates. Plus, now with iCloud, all of those files can be stored “in the Cloud” and shared across platforms.

For the Classy Gal:
-The new edition of Emily Post’s Etiquitte. Timeless, classic and always handy.

-Fine writing paper. These tend to be heavier weight with natural fibers and they are a dream to write on. Complete the gift with a fountain pen with a fun ink color.

A small mirrored or silver tray, perfect for her dresser with an assortment of nail polish in neutral shades.

-SPLURGE: classic earring studs. Something simple in diamond or pearl

For the trendsetter:
– Infinity scarves. These scarves are essentially one large loop of material, but can be styled in multiple ways. If you are a knitter, grab your size 50 needles and some super chunky yarn and make one out of a giant I-cord!

-A fun wristlet. Wristlets are great because they can double as wallets, plus they make a cute little handbag for girls’ night out.

-Head back to the nail polish section and pick up some fun shades: teal, gunmetal, taupe, magenta, enclose it with a gift certificate for a mani/pedi and pack it into a cute bag!

-SPLURGE: the new iPhone 4S, if she doesn’t have one already!

For the gal who loves to cook:

– Grab some local apples, a bamboo spoon, a few spices and your favorite recipe for apple pie and tuck it into a handy tote!

-A great infused vinegar or olive oil

-A retro inspired apron

-SPLURGE: A high quality French Oven

For your hairdresser/child’s teacher/personal trainer:
– coffee mug, assortment of teas and a gift card all tucked in a small bag

– personalized thermal lunch bag

______________________________________________________________________________________________________
Hope this will help a bit in your holiday shopping! Next week, we’ll talk about the men in your life!!


Many of the bags shown can be ordered at my Thirty-One webstore.

4 Comments

Filed under christmas, gifts, hanukkah, holidays, ladies, saturday