I am Santa (& You Can Be, too)

This year, I get to be Santa. That’s right, for the first time ever, I get to stay up late, hide presents under the tree, and eat the cookies that my little dude will leave out for the big man and his reindeer (if Barley doesn’t get to ’em first). If there was one moment I’ve been looking forward to since my tiny man arrived, it’s the look on his face on Christmas morning. I absolutely cannot wait.

However, recent events have shifted my enthusiasm for Christmas to concern for society. I’m not going to dive into opinion about laws that should or should not be changed or better ways to help the mentally ill. These discussions need to happen in a greater forum than this and need to produce results that I don’t feel we can accomplish here.

However, we can accomplish something.  Last year, I told you all that I still believe in Santa. And I believe in him because there is the potential within all of us to give selflessly to spread love and hope to others. We can all be Santa; even if we’re not financially able to give gifts, we can give kindness.

That said, I’ve seen a lot of people posting their plans to go forward with the 26 Random Acts of Kindness, which I think is a beautiful gesture to fill our aching society with snippets of love. I urge all of you who read this blog to consider participating in this activity and if you can’t commit to doing 26 different acts, please keep the spirit of this gesture in your heart and spread any number of random acts of kindness you can. You never know how just one simple act of kindness may help spread the love and peace our world so desperately needs.

And if you are in a position to give financially or to give your time and would like to give directly to those most affected in Sandy Hook and Newtown, CT, please visit this article. Found via one of my favorite blogs.

Last, please remember that there are many still suffering in the northeast due to Hurricane Sandy. For a list of resources to help them, I think this is a great article of information.

Give whatever you can – kindness, prayer, love, money, possessions, or time. And please encourage your children to do the same. We all have the power to be Santa this holiday season and in the many years to come.

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Image via Polish My Crown via 320 Sycamore

Classic Movie Review: Holiday Inn

It’s been awhile since I’ve critiqued a classic film (unless you count this annual post). And since Christmas is a short fourteen days away, it seemed appropriate to revisit this past hobby by telling you about one of my favorite yuletide classics: Holiday Inn.

Whilst perusing the internet for images of Bing & Fred, I stumbled upon this post on the Hairpin which basically said everything I was going to say … only better. But, if you didn’t click the link and are still reading (I love you), I don’t want to disappoint so here it goes.

Setting: Showbiz in the 1940’s. Who: Fred Astaire and Bing Crosby are a dynamic song-and-dance-duo and they’ve got a lovely brunette (Virginia Dale) who plays them up against each other in their act.

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Plot: Well, turns out she’s playing them in real life, too. She breaks Bing’s heart to run off with Fred. I don’t know what she was thinking … I’d take a doe-eyed crooner over a skinny male dancer any day. To each their own.

Bing moves to the countryside and leaves his life in the limelight behind. He decides to turn his country home into an establishment devoted solely to celebrating holidays (read: Holiday Inn). Dancers, singers, waiters, and busboys fill the inn to serve and entertain fancy folks in fabulous gowns. But one of the new staff stands out – a pretty blonde (Marjorie Reynolds). Sure enough, she and Bing are smitten for each other and, much like things were done back then, he proposes on the third date.

Well, wouldn’t you know it, good old Fred shows up with a fresh wound from the lovely brunette. He performs the best drunk dancing ever captured on film and falls in love in his stupor …. with the pretty blonde. Oh no!

So, does she run off with Fred, too?

But, what about Bing? What happens to the Inn?

Is there a fabulous housekeeper named Mamie who speaks in the third-person?

Cliff-hanger blog post!

I’m not going to ruin the ending for you.  If you haven’t seen the good old black and white holiday classic, I recommend you stream it asap. You’ll enjoy the original version of White Christmas as well as Bing Crosby singing to a turkey (you know how I feel about turkeys) and fabulous to-the-elbow gloves. (Who wears gloves like that now!? No one!)

Bonus: you get a sappy-sweet story about holidays, love and enduring (although damaging) friendships. AND you get to watch Bing Crosby sing and Fred Astaire dance …. do you need more reasons to watch?

Pour some egg nog, break out the Christmas cookies, and kick back to enjoy this holiday classic! Happy Holidays…bing bong bing!

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Images source.

To Do / To Stop

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas!

The spouse and I had a lot of fun exchanging gifts by the fire on Christmas Eve and watching our dogs get excited about their presents (they were ecstatic!). We spent the rest of the weekend visiting with family and friends. It was nice to catch up with so many people!

Alps, Germanyvia A Well Traveled Woman. Original on Flickr.

This week is a weird combo of back-to-the-grind and holiday-events-continued. I’m taking advantage of a quiet week at work to get caught up on all sorts of projects and finalize plans for my maternity leave. But the spouse and I are also looking forward to the weekend to see my Dad for a late Christmas and of course celebrate the arrival of 2012.

For blog posts, we have some catching up to do, too! I have a book report for you and photos from the baby shower my family hosted for me to share. And I’ve been working on wrapping up 2011 goals, making ‘Best of 2011’ lists, and contemplating 2012 New Year’s Resolutions. These will be making an appearance soon, too!

While in this list-making, catching-up, still-celebrating mode, I’ve stumbled across a couple of articles from Marc and Angel Hack Life that I thought were particularly fitting for this time of year. Hope they inspire you and this last few days of 2011 are productive and fun!

Happy Tuesday!

Thankful Thursday: A White Christmas

Happy Winter Solstice!

Today officially marks the first day of winter….and leaves us with the fewest hours of sunlight. Don’t be surprised when the day flashes by!

Mother Nature is certainly in a wintry mood here in Colorado. Last night, it snowed! I love the fresh-fallen, white, powdery snow (as I’ve mentioned once before). And now this beautiful white landscape is the perfect peaceful backdrop for the holiday celebrations ahead.

I’ve been anxiously anticipating Christmas for months (12 months to be exact) and as you know I’ve celebrated every step of the way with movies, music, shopping, food, holiday decor, and strong belief in the big man in red. But, in addition to all the glitz and glamor, Christmas holds a very special meaning for me spiritually as well. My personal beliefs mark Christmas as the day that Jesus was born and I’ll be celebrating His birth at church and through prayer this weekend.

I’m so very thankful for the peace and promise that Christmas represents. My holiday preparations are complete and today’s winter white world and limited hours of daytime remind me to slow down, thank Him for all I have, and celebrate the sanctity of this most special of holidays.

So, here’s to a White Christmas! Enjoy the sparkle, the simplicity, the magic, the spirituality, the giving, the memories, friends & family, and if you’re lucky, the snow.

Merry Christmas!

White Lights via lisa leonard blog.
Snow! from c-hristmas via {this is glamorous}
White paper packages tied up with string via You Are My Fave.
White Lights via lechuga verde.
White table setting via {this is glamorous}.
Winter via Julian Bialowas.
It’s a Wonderful Life via Design Mom.
Winter Wonderland from Oh, Pioneer! via ebb & flow.

Who Says Santa Doesn’t Exist?

Via The Saturday Evening Post. Art by Norman Rockwell.

This morning, I was sitting in the Starbucks drive-thru, humming along with Christmas carols, and excitedly waiting for my eggnog latte. When I pulled up to pay for my coffee and pumpkin bread, the barista informed me that the person in front of me already bought my breakfast! That’s now happened to me twice in the last month! The difference this time from the last was that there was no one behind me to reciprocate the generosity…so I scored a totally free breakfast.

My first thought was that I must look really poor in my very old and very rundown car and people are taking pity on me. This actually might be true but I shrugged it off (commuter car..meh). My second thought was how could I pay the good deed forward? As if to answer my internal question, (we’re talking, like, true cosmic forces at work here people) the DJ on the radio started talking about a 15 year-old girl who saved up her babysitting money, went to K-Mart, and paid off a stranger’s lay-a-way for them. Can you believe that? Instead of dropping her earnings on some lame teenage fad, that sweet girl selflessly helped a neighbor this holiday in a truly unique way.

I’d like to tell you I didn’t choke up with tears when I heard this, but my current state of “crazy pregnant lady” has me crying at the drop of a Santa hat. So, after I wiped away the mascara streaming down my cheeks and caught my breath from sobbing, I realized that all this anonymous giving has confirmed a belief I’ve held on to since I was little kid….there is a Santa Claus.

There seems to be a lot of discussion on parenting blogs lately asking if it’s okay to “lie” to your children about Santa Claus. Given my affinity for elf culture, I am appalled at the idea of children growing up without ol’ St. Nick but, in a way, I can see where parents are coming from. However, today I realized we’re focusing on the wrong aspects of the mystery and excitement that is “Santa.”

Getting lots of toys and treats isn’t what Kris Kringle is all about. Trying to get children to behave to be rewarded with goodies doesn’t really capture the magic of Christmas either. When we think of Santa, we all envision the red suit, a white fluffy beard, and a jolly old soul. Flying reindeer and tiny, toy-making elves add to the mystery. But this wonderful imagery and warm-and-fuzzy idea doesn’t fully portray the essence of the Claus.

Santa is all about selflessly giving to others to spread hope and happiness. It’s that simple. So, with each anonymous, generous, and selfless gift we give our neighbors and those in need this season, we’re reinforcing and proving that the spirit of Santa Claus does exist.

So, I believe in Santa Claus. Do you?

If so, go be someone’s Santa today.

Christmas Treats

There are only six days left until Christmas! SIX!!!!! My activities as of late have been holiday shopping, wrapping presents, planning a Christmas outfit, singing Christmas carols, decorating my house, and I’ve even had visions of sugar plums in my dreams. Let’s just say I’m full of holiday spirit.

I’ve also been indulging in one of my favorite aspects of Christmas….holiday treats!! Oh, how I LOVE Christmas-inspired foods (who doesn’t?). There are so many delectable goodies this time of year…it just seems wrong to have them any other time. Like, cheeseballs for instance. In the last nine days, I’ve jammed a cracker into an orange ball of port wine flavored creaminess and let my taste buds implode at the excitement of the salty, sweet Christmas classic not once…but TWICE. And you know why it’s okay? No…not because I’m pregnant (but that doesn’t hurt) but because it’s CHRISTMAS! When else is it acceptable to eat a ball of cheese?

Mmm. Or have pie for breakfast? Or drink eggnog? There are so many edible ways to celebrate Christmas. What are your favorite holiday goodies? For me, the list includes eggnog lattes, cheeseballs (duh), chocolate crackle cookies (heaven with a sprinkle of confectioner’s sugar), warm biscuits, walnut rolls, candy canes, sparkling cider (and every other year champagne tops the list), a whole Feast of Seven Fishes spread, fudge, and hot coffee by the tree on Christmas morning.

Note: My mouth is watering with joyful anticipation as hungrily type this post.

Tonight, I plan to bust out my baking pans and really get to work on some holiday cookies. And I plan to have an EGL every day this week! Hope you have a holly, jolly food-filled Monday!

Images Clockwise from Top Left: Tasty Kitchen, Savory Sweet LifeVintage Rose Garden, Katie Cakes.

Thankful Thursday: December!

I am thrilled that December is here! I have to admit this is my favorite month!

To kick off December on the right foot, Mother Nature treated Northern Colorado with quite a bit of snow this morning. It’s a frosty, winter wonderland out there today and it just adds to the magic feeling in the air!

I’m thankful for December because the very BEST day of the year, Christmas, is this month! I’ve been dreaming of sugar plums and gingerbread all year long, been knocking back egg nog lattes since November 4th, and have been listening to Christmas music for….well, longer than I should admit. Let’s just say, I’m ready for the season.

Even more, I love the holiday spirit that everyone seems to share. It’s so uplifting to see volunteers in Santa hats ringing bells to collect donations and the surge in food drives, coat drives and toy drives help so many in need. Seeing giving trees set up at every shopping center and church fills my heart with confidence that there are many, many good people in the world willing to help others.

And the holidays give everyone an excuse to get in touch. Spending time with family is a part of most traditions and holiday events bring together friends who may have lost touch over busy months. Holiday cards great you in the mail with smiling faces of children and Christmas letters recap what your friends have been up to all year (if they don’t have a blog and post all of the information about their lives daily, that is).

It’s just truly the best time of year and I couldn’t be any more thankful that it’s finally here!

Happy December & Happy Thankful Thursday!

Via Design Mom
via Pinterest
Advent Calendar Kit via Design Scouting / Original on Etsy
Holiday Cards via One Sydney Road
Light Decor Idea via Oh Happy Day
via Pinterest

Cyber Monday

Happy Monday!

I hope you all enjoyed a nice, long Thanksgiving break. We had a great break….I am now totally amp’d for Christmas! (As if I wasn’t before.) The front of our house is glittering with Christmas lights, I watched my favorite Christmas movies (again), I’ve been listening to Holiday tunes non-stop, and I did a little shopping this weekend. I’m feeling magic in the air!

Being that it’s Cyber Monday, the interwebs are buzzing with cheerful discounts today. I thought I’d share some of my favorite stores (and their deals) along with a few of my favorite blogs that are already bursting with holiday ideas.

via Pinterest.

Have a great week and enjoy the shopping!

  • My friend, Rene, is offering 25% off her Silpada site through Wednesday.
  • Super-cute DIY Holiday cards from {frolic!}.
  • J.Crew if offering 25% off with code SURPRISE.
  • The Gap is offering 30% off entire store with code HUGECYBER (includes Old Navy, Banana Republic, and Athleta. Piperlime is 20% off with the same code).

Thankful Week: A List

Happy Wednesday!

Is anyone else starting to crave turkey and stuffing? Excited for a day of food, football and thanks? I am! I can hardly concentrate at work today thinking of all the last minute prep we need to do before hosting Thanksgiving at our house tomorrow. I’m so excited!

Today, with all this holiday magic in the air, I can’t pinpoint just one thing I’m thankful for. So, I’ve decided to share a list. Weird…me make a list.

I am thankful for:

  • Our office closing at noon today. Oh, and my job. Thankful for the job.
  •  The egg nog I had with breakfast. (And the egg nog latte I’ll likely have with lunch.)
  • The little guy kicking me from inside.
(Me)
  • After tomorrow, people won’t judge me for listening to Christmas music.
  • A warm home with everything I need and more…even if sometimes it feels like it’s falling apart!
  • My dogs – who are currently barking in the backyard. Speaking of, ever wonder where pugs come from?
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  • Having a relatively easy pregnancy. Have you been following The Bump posts?
  • Warm, cozy blankets.
  • My spouse whose cookin’ up Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow.
(Me & the Spouse)
  • Shopping on Saturday at LOCAL shops.
  • A long Thanksgiving weekend to relax and plan for Christmas.
  • The trip I’m taking to NJ & NYC in December!
Rockefeller Tree
  • My mom & sister throwing me a baby shower (hence the trip to NJ!).
  • Picking out table decor for tomorrow’s feast (think cream, pinecones, and a little sparkle). Inspired by this.
  • The Muppets Movie comes out today. Check out this sweet Muppabet.
via
  • Family & friends to share the holidays with.
  • And finally….Christmas Movies!! (Which technically I started watching on November 4…but I am so very thankful for them!)

I hope you all have a long list of items to be thankful for this holiday season!

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Happy November 1st!

Today is a VERY special day. It’s NOVEMBER 1st! Which means the kick-off to Christmas can begin….Woot! Woot! Jingle-holla!

Typically on November 1st, I celebrate with some close friends by watching the ultimate Christmas movie, Christmas Vacation, preceded by my second-fave, Elf. Due to a scheduling conflict (read: me forced to be in TX against my will), our celebration had to be postponed until this Friday. However, today is still a very special day and while I can’t watch Clark Griswold affix twenty-five thousand imported italian twinkling lights to his house until later in the week, I’ll be celebrating in spirit all day. I also plan to listen to Christmas music and enjoy any holiday treats I can locate.

In honor of today, I thought I’d share a special little essay I was asked to write last year. Although I’ve already posted it once, I had to share again because it describes why today is so very important. Turn on some Christmas jingles, grab a glass of egg nog, and enjoy!

What Christmas Vacation Means to Me

Born in December as Stacey Connolly, I quickly realized two things about myself; I share a birth-month with Jesus (ha…..I’m totally getting into heaven) and I have the same initials as Santa Claus.

My memories of growing up in the Connolly household are full of fond, watercolor pictures of Arizona and Saturday mornings at home. I remember my parents blasting musical classics such as Sloop John B and Let me Sleep on It by the Beach Boys and Meatloaf, respectively. I also remember moving to Wyoming and being surprised to find it was not the forested wilderness I expected but a flat, treeless prairie instead.

I recall early viewings of Vacation and European Vacation; the song Holiday Road gives me goose bumps to this very day (I know cause I purposefully listen to it when I need to get excited). That being said, my appreciation for comedies and my admiration for the comedic genius of Chevy Chase sprouted at around age 8. But above all other childhood recollections, the one thing that really stands out in my early years is my father’s zealous and impassioned celebration of Christmas.

My awkward teenage years brought birthdays celebrated by blowing out the candles with Christmas lights twinkling in the background. Billy Squire’s Christmas is the Time to Say I Love You would play right after my family’s loud rendition of Happy Birthday. I learned to drive in empty parking lots next to cut-down Evergreen and Blue Spruce sales. And I received combo-gift after combo-gift from my girlfriends who were banking on my birthday’s proximity to December 25th.

My early associations with Jesus and the big S.C., impressionable teenage years intermixed with holiday décor and music, and my Dad’s celebratory devotion instilled within me a great love and passion for Christmas that I’ve found difficult to match. Its my most anticipated, celebrated, and hap, hap, happiest day of the year.

After this jolly childhood, I found my way off to college. My first visit to Laramie, WY landed me at the Sigma Chi house and I vividly remember the first time I met Sully. We were playing a card game called ‘Trapped’ and we became instant friends. I also met my future spouse and later met Jesse (future BFF and Sully’s future wife). Four years of college, two weddings, and six years of living close-by in Fort Collins have cultivated a pretty strong friendship.

The spouse, a lover of Fletch and Caddyshack but not as impassioned by Christmas as I, has always agreed to watch Christmas Vacation with me (and refuses to watch any other holiday film). Sharing this movie with my spouse while reminiscing over childhood memories of the original Vacation and my Dad’s holiday devotion earned Christmas Vacation a pretty high spot on my “favorite movie” list.

My excitement bubbles over just thinking about the cinematic masterpiece and did so one day while hanging out with the Sullivan’s. Over homebrew and football, Sully and I realized that we shared the same enthusiasm for the film, as well as all other things Christmas. I had met my match when it comes to Christmas cheer….we are, you might say, kindred spirits. (Cue Jesse and Spouse eye-roll).

Well, the discovery of this shared fervor led to excited talks of reindeer, jingle bells, caroling, and naturally, watching Christmas Vacation. Alarmed by the early arrival sugarplums, holly, and ol’ St. Nick, the spouse and Jesse quickly established the “No Christmas until November 1st” rule.

Ever since, on November 1st, the spouse and I jump in our old front-wheel drive sleigh and head on over to Sully’s to watch what has become the most important of Christmas symbols to me, Christmas Vacation. In recent years, we’ve expanded to a double-feature with Elf quickly becoming a group favorite. I now look forward to November 1st with the same anticipation, zeal and excitement that I used to hold only for Christmas.

To me, Christmas Vacation means it’s the second best day of the year and I get to spend it with my best friends. Although the movie is truly an American Classic for reasons far beyond this egocentric narrative, my own appreciation for the film has quadrupled thanks to our now-traditional celebration of November 1st. I think Clark Griswold said it best, “The most enjoying traditions of the season are best enjoyed in the warm embrace of kith and kin.”

Thith movie is a thymbol of the thpirit of the November 1st kick-off to Chrithmath.