Give And Let Give

If I had a dollar for every time someone that I know and love said to me, “I didn’t know what to get you—you’re so hard to buy for”, I’d have enough dollars to buy myself something that I really like. But I am NOT hard to buy for. Here are the things that I like: jewelry, perfume, make-up, clothes, fine leather goods, electronics, antiques, clocks, and alcohol. That’s a pretty comprehensive list. But Ken will tell you that within this list, there are only specific types of things that belong to each category, which is why he always approaches buying me gifts with a certain amount of dread. I think this is totally unfair, and it makes me feel really guilty. And I’m a very believable recipient—I always act terribly pleased, regardless of the gift, and no one but Ken ever knows if I’m not. This is part of the problem—I CAN’T FOOL KEN. He always knows when I’m not being sincere, because, unfortunately, Ken was my partner in crime when I taught Kate how to handle getting things she didn’t like, for example clothes instead of toys, which was to say “Thank you, it’s beautiful!” (this came out as “Tank you ids bootyful” when she was little and it was sooo adorable). Of course, now that Kate is much older, she doesn’t bother with the niceties. This was the conversation a couple of years ago on Christmas morning:

Kate: 2 more pairs of pajamas. Wow.
Me: But you said you needed pajamas.
Kate: No, YOU said I needed pajamas.
Me: Well, SOMEONE said you needed pajamas! Either way. Now you have lots of pajamas, and I don’t have to look at you in that pair you’re wearing right now with the knee ripped out.
Kate: Yes. Now I have a different pair for every day of the week. Thanks. Is there anything under the tree for me besides more pajamas?
Me: Um….
Kate: Again, wow.

While I might not be very imaginative when it comes to picking out gifts, the trouble with Ken is that he tries to be TOO imaginative. For example, one year right as we were about to open our stockings, Ken announced, “The gifts in your stocking this year are based on a THEME.” We all stopped what we were doing. Nobody spoke. Then Kate said, “I don’t see this ending well.” Because apparently the theme was “things you can use to cook my dinner with”.

The first stocking stuffer was a shaker of spices. I looked at it curiously, and Ken said, “You can use it to sprinkle on the potatoes when you roast them!” He was getting nervous. I smiled, and opened the next gift—a jar of pizza spice “for when you make homemade pizza.” This was followed by a grinder full of chipotle and pink Havana sea salt, and a selection of “peppercorns from around the world”. At this point the smiling kind of stopped. I didn’t know quite what to make of any of it, except that I had a lot of cooking ahead of me, and it was going to be very spicy. But that’s OK—I really like cooking, and in retrospect, they were pretty cool gifts with a lot of thought behind them (even if he did buy them all at Homesense on Christmas Eve). But the main point is that I don’t really care about presents all that much. At this time of year, I like to remember one of my favourite quotations: The best things in life aren’t things. The most awesome gift of all is having Ken and Kate (and her boyfriend) with me on Christmas morning. And like the Whos down in Whoville say, “Christmas day will always be/Just as long as we have we.” Plus this year, Ken got me the wine fridge that I asked for, two bottles of very good wine to go in it, and some other nice things, so I never once had to say “Thank you, it’s beautiful”.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah, Happy Kwanzaa, Peaceful Solstice, and all the joy of the season to you and yours.

Holiday Decorating Quiz Extravaganza

I adore decorating magazines, especially in December, because they have those fun quizzes in them, like the one I did this year on how to “Unwrap your signature holiday style”. I love it when anyone assumes that I actually HAVE a style to unwrap, like there’s a part of me just DYING to run into a forest and gather evergreen boughs and whatnot. The explanation under the headline was “If determining your home’s holiday look is your own personal nightmare before Christmas, fear not. We’re here to help.” Personal nightmare?! Aren’t we getting a little dramatic here? Because the nightmares I have focus on the house burning down or worldwide pandemics, not so much on whether people appreciate my decorating style. But the magazine thoughtfully provided a list of 10 questions to help me determine exactly how to discover my “festive style” by giving me four choices—A, B, C, or D, and then adding up the choices to correspond with a style. Here we go:

1) Which winter wreath would you hang?

I chose D, the “Feathery Evergreen”, except that I would forgo the peacock feathers and bow, and add twinkle lights. Now it looks just like the wreaths that Ken and I hang in our windows every year. We keep them in a closet under the stairs along with the twenty extension cords we need to make them light up.

2) Choose the prettiest gift wrap.

While “Snowflake Chic” and “Golden Glamour” were both very fetching, I myself am partial to “Last Year’s Leftovers” with a side of “”Scotch Tape and a Bit of Ribbon”.

3) What’s Your Must-Watch Christmas Movie?

I’d only seen one out of the 4 choices—A Christmas Story, which is so wonderfully random with the leg lamp and the pack of dogs that continually appear out of nowhere to wreak havoc. As for the other options, It’s a Wonderful Life is way too morbid, A Muppet Christmas is way too Muppet-y, and I’ve never actually seen Love Actually. MY must-watch movie is How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Not the live action film, which is ridiculously over the top, but the original animated classic, which I can recite almost verbatim, having watched it every year since I was old enough to remember. It’s tradition, and I don’t care if it messes up my style score. Also, Die Hard WASN’T on the list, which frankly is ridiculous because it’s the best Christmas movie of all time. Yippee Ki Yay indeed.

4) Which candles will you set out this season?

While “a selection of unscented tea lights and votives in mercury glass containers” sounds quite glam, I’m gonna go with NONE, because as I previously mentioned, one of my personal nightmares is having the house burn down, and candles are tiny fires that aspire to be bigger ones, in my book. Don’t get me wrong—I HAVE candles but I only use them when the power is out and I can see them in the dark.

5) Which wallpaper would you use for an accent wall?

What? Now I’m putting up wallpaper?! Go to hell.

6) Select a pair of holiday pajamas

OK, this I can get behind. I’m going to pick…a “monogrammed crisp white button-down nightshirt and matching pants”? Nooo. “A long sleep tee featuring a flamingo donning a Santa hat”? Nooo. Ok, these choices are NOT appealing to me. I shall choose the reindeer patterned flannel pants I bought last summer on sale, accented with a Joe Fresh tank top in “used to be crisp white but then I washed it with a black hoodie and now it’s kind of grey and I only wear it to bed”.

7) Your Yuletide tree is…

Whichever one is closest to where we parked the car at the tree farm. The magazine’s option D is “An imperfect long-needled pine, chopped fresh from the forest”, so I kind of won this one except that in recent years we’ve been buying small potted trees that we can replant in our yard in the spring rather than going into the forest, finding the biggest tree and chopping it down with…a herring (that’s your Monty Python reference for this post) . The best part of this question is option C, the picture of a “life-like” tree that you can buy from Canadian Tire for $500. I can get a whole decade’s worth of real trees for that price, imperfect though they may be.

8) Pick an ornament.

One of the choices is a felt ketchup bottle. It’s thirteen dollars. I can’t even. I’ve used the same vintage glass ornaments from the early twentieth century for the last twenty-ish years. I also make my own ornaments to give out to friends and family made from wood. On a more serious note, I choose a word each year to burn into them–this year’s word is HOPE because I think we all need a little bit of that.

9) Choose a Christmas card to send out.

I would if I could ever remember to actually send out Christmas cards in time for them to get to people. So while I love the “Paisley Reindeer Card” ($7, Hallmark. Yes, for ONE card), I usually end up buying a box of whatever’s left at the local convenience store, and taking them with me when we visit family. Nothing says “love” like hand-delivery, am I right?

10) How do you usually spend Christmas Eve?

None of the options seemed quite right, so I made up my own. Being with my family, enjoying good food and drink, listening to beautiful music, laughing and hugging, and being grateful that the house isn’t on fire.

When I tallied up my score, I’d gone rogue too many times to establish a Christmas style. I wasn’t “Formal Elegant”, “Colourful Eclectic”, “Fresh Contemporary”, OR “Rustic Country”. And I’m good with that, because all of these trappings of consumerism are not what Christmas is about anyway. To quote the Grinch:

“It came without ribbons! It came without tags!
It came without packages, boxes or bags!”
And he puzzled three hours, till his puzzler was sore.
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before!
“Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store.”
“Maybe Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!”

grinch

Have a wonderful Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa and anything else you celebrate in December even if you can’t be with the ones you love. Here’s some hope from me to you that next year will be better.