Don't Forget Your Girlfriends for Christmas 2011!

1930's Spun Glass Angel Tree Topper

ORNAMENTS AREN’T JUST ORNAMENTS!

So  “that” time of year is now over. You’re either “over it” or you’re having the post Christmas blues. If you’re having the post Christmas blues, planning  ahead for next Christmas may help reduce your  post Christmas funk.

After becoming a mom and meeting other moms, I’ve realized that we tend to neglect our old and new friends because we are so focused on our own families. Lets not forget our girlfriends! Its easy to forget your girlfriend’s birthdays and forget them for holidays. Remember when you would all get together for drinks for birthdays? Then kids came along and that all went out the window. Now you’re booking your child’s parties, making cup cakes and goody bags. Its hard shopping for friends when you’re adults. Chances are, most of your friends probably have everything and don’t really need another picture frame or cookbook.

What can you do that doesn’t break the bank, is fun and won’t get in the way of our busy schedules?

START AN ANNUAL ORNAMENT EXCHANGE!

SET A DATE EARLY IN THE FALL! It seems like everyone’s households get chaotic right about Halloween time. Just when you’ve caught your breath from the kids starting school, the holidays jump at you! Instead of just setting a date, I begin by emailing my friends my availability for “November” for instance. Ask everyone to figure out what dates they are available for a few hours. When everyone can agree on a date, then you can narrow it down to “where”.
GIVE YOURSELF A BREAK! Although you may be the “planner”, don’t add to the stress by hosting it yourself at your own home. If its “November”, chances are, you have pumpkins out and aren’t quite ready to pull out the Christmas decor just yet. So think of some places that you and the girls can all enjoy. Send out an email asking where everyone would like to meet. Figuring out what time of day or night can be done much later. Maybe do a Sunday Brunch while the hubby can watch the kiddos. Try an “Early” Saturday night dinner to avoid messing up your nightly routine at home too much.

AVOID AWKWARDNESS! We have all had this happen. You’re out with the girlfriends and the check comes. Faces that were smiling change to blank stares. Its the “awkward” moment of the evening. “Do we all pay on one check and just split it up?” or “Do we all pay separate?”. We all know there’s going to be someone that had more drinks than the next girl or the one who wanted an appetizer that you didn’t want to eat. It changes the mood when money is the topic. Make is clear to the waitstaff that you want separate checks. It may be a pain for the waiter, but everyone will be held accountable for their own meal, drinks and tip and there’s no “awkwardness”.

SHOPPING FOR FRIENDS. There are plenty of places online that have sales on their ornaments in the summer and fall.  In southeast Texas, its hot here till Halloween, sometimes even on Thanksgiving. Its hard to get into the Christmas spirit if its 88 degrees outside! So shop online instead. You don’t have to drag the kids out with you all over the place looking for ornaments. Tell your friends about the sites you’ve found. They may not know where to go to get ornaments pre-season.  Date the ornaments if possible “From Suzy 2011” with a Sharpie. Some sites will personalize your ornaments.

Every year that your friends unpack their ornaments, they’ll see what you got them from the year before. They may have already forgotten about them. It really is a gift that keeps on giving year after year. You can do this with your friends that live far away from you.  Christmas cards are nice, but they get tossed. They may hang around for a while if there’s a picture on the card, but eventually it ends up in the trash.

I love cookies just as much as the next person, but cookies get eaten. You may receive the recipe for them, but its not as special as an ornament.

SHOPPING FOR FRIEND’S KIDS. Remembering your friend’s kids is important as well. Maybe your kids don’t play together but she’s still your friend and you love their kid too. Shopping for toys can be stressful. First, you have to find out what they’re into, then find the item but stay within budget. The kids will get plenty of toys for Christmas, why not get them an ornament. They may not appreciate it quite as much now as they will later.
KIDS, GETTING OLDER & CHRISTMAS.  My personal experience with Christmas is that of happy memories as a young child, then sort of blah “Who cares” attitude as a teen, to liking it again…but now I love it! I regret not appreciating my grandmother’s ornaments. Her ornaments spanned the decades of the 1930’s-70’s. A mix match of themes, but it all worked somehow. I was in “Awe” as a child, then as a teen, I really didn’t care. I just wanted to get “cool” gifts and get back on the rotary phone to call my friends.

Years have passed and I didn’t give much thought to my grandmother’s Christmases. I didn’t think much about the effort she put into making everything  “Merry and bright”.  I’ve long forgotten about the gifts I received year after year. But what I do remember are the decorations and all the hard work she put into making Christmas happen. The big retro multi-colored lights on the porch. The mercury reflective ornaments on the tree. The Christmas nick knacks all over the tiny house. Then, the mother of them all…the 1930’s spun glass and tinsel angel topper. I was lucky to find one that looked just like hers on Ebay. I put it up on my tree this past Christmas. She’s a little damaged because she’s been used, but its vintage and reminds me of what I should of appreciated before.

I know my kids will grow out of the “Awe” stage when it comes to Christmas. They won’t be as excited about the decorations and the twinkling lights. They’ll probably only care about getting “cool” gifts when they’re teens. They will probably blow off Christmas as young adults. I know at some point in their adult lives, maybe after they start their own families, they’ll appreciate the Christmases they had as children. They will have the ornaments I bought for them. I will make sure they get passed down whether they get hung or not.

A sad comment was made by someone I know. She said that she loves to decorate for the holidays, but that her sons said that they really didn’t care that she did or didn’t. Her sons are in their teens and early 20’s. They’re at that “I want cool gifts/I don’t care” age. It hurt her feelings.

I told her my experience. How I had that attitude as well, but now that I have my own kids, I really appreciate what my grandmother and my mother did for me for Christmases. I told her that when her sons have their own families, they’ll remember Christmas, when it was magical and exciting. They’ll want that same feeling of warmth for their own kids. The grand kids will appreciate the decorating at “grandma’s” house. They too will make memories.

How I wished my mother would of kept the ornaments on my childhood Christmas trees! I would of loved to have them now.

I love my friends dearly and I really love to see the ornaments they’ve given to me of year’s past on my tree.

We all need to remember our friends. Most of them were probably around before your spouse came into the picture. They probably have seen you at your best and at your worst. Taking some time out of our busy schedules to appreciate them is important.

So start planning ahead girls! Make time for yourselves and make time for each other!

I did an ornament exchange in September this year with my cousins. It was really early and our other family members thought we were nuts. We had to because three of them were going to be traveling at different times during the months of October, November and December. We all met for drinks and dinner.

We let the waiter know right from the start that we wanted separate checks so there’s no awkwardness when the bill comes. We all know the bill never gets broken up evenly when there’s more than 2 people at the table.  We exchanged our ornaments and had fun doing so. We later send each other pictures of how the ornaments look on our trees. Date the ornament if you can with the giver’s name. Its a gift that gives each year. Everyone will forget about the ornament after its packed up, but it’ll put a smile on your face when you bring it out again. The only thing we did differently this year is that we all pitched in to get one of the girls a small artificial Christmas tree. She had started her life over and didn’t have any of her Christmas decorations from before. We couldn’t let her receive ornaments and not have a tree!

I had another ornament exchange with my friends. We made a day of it. We had to plan way ahead for this one since we also bought tickets to see “A Christmas Carol”. We had brunch, exchanged ornaments, went to see the play and had dinner. We did more than we normally do this year, but we planned way ahead for it and it worked out.

Ornaments are also a great gift idea for your friend’s kids that you won’t necessarily be seeing during the month of December. Personalized ornaments are a great idea! I like “www.personalizationmall.com and “www.RussellRhodes.com. Have one made up and have it shipped. You won’t be adding to the clutter of toys they may already have. Kids get bored and forget about the Christmas gifts they get. Who knows if someone else will give them the very same gift. Mom’s love keepsakes! Its a gift that will give every December.

I ordered 3 “Baby’s First Christmas” ornaments this season! I haven’t seen the babies in ages. I have no clue as to what they have and they’re too young to have preferences. I ordered personalized ornaments for all of my son’s teachers as well.  All on sale and all with coupons on top of that.

I didn’t break the bank with any of these ornaments.  I watched the ornaments on  http://www.personalizationmall.com all summer to see if any would go on sale. When they did, I bought them. I even was able to use a http://www.retailmenot.com coupon as well. I haven’t been able to use one on http://www.RussellRhodes.com.
Since I’ve been Christmas shopping all year round, I don’t get quite as stressed out during the holidays. I started keeping track of lists of gifts on Google Documents. Whenever I get an idea for someone, I’ll type it in. My husband also logs on to add suggestions.  Start your Christmas stash as soon as Christmas ends. Keep it all in one spot, labeled and document it on some kind of spread sheet.

BAKING

Baking gifts isn’t anything new, but its one of my favorite things to receive and to give for Christmas. When do you have time with work and kids? I don’t have much time, so I start preparing early. I make a list of who I’ll be baking for and how many each friend will need. Some of my friends have families and some don’t.  I buy my ingredients in bulk the first week of December.  I make batches of doughs and store it in the freezer or fridge, depending on how quickly I can start baking. PARCHMENT PAPER! I can’t believe I discovered this beautiful product only about 7years ago while watching Martha Stewart baking. No clean up! No sticky mess on your baking sheets and no artificial chemicals to keep your baked goods from sticking.  I plan out when I’ll be seeing the people I’m baking for.  This insures a fresh product and you’re not going out of your way either. My neighbors usually get their cookies first. Then teachers, coworkers for my work and my husband’s, the hairdresser and manicurist when I see them for my appointments, my chiropractor who I see often and the wonderful lawn mowing guys.

I bought some cute personalized baking tag from Personalizationmall.com for my baking this year. You can get them in a sticker label or a hanging tag.


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