Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Enjoying the Holidays: Session 1

I'm excited to bring you 10 bloggers, together for the Holidays, as they share some of their favorite Holiday Memories and Tips with each of you!  

So imagine with me:  We've gathered together for a two day getaway, enjoying each other's company as these beautiful women I've come to admire in different ways answer five questions as we dig a little deeper into who they are this Holiday Season.

For our first day of our lovely two day getaway, I'm excited to share my "stage" with these five wonderful ladies...

Kel from Then There Were Five 
Michaela from Michaela Noelle
Courtney from Live Beautiful

1. What is your favorite Holiday Tradition?
KelWhen I was a little girl, my sister Erin and I used to share a room. EVERY Christmas before the house was awake (so we thought, my parents had been awake for hours), we would sneak down our steps from the attic room, sneak around the corner and tip toe our way to the top of the steps.  We would then just sit there least an hour GLARING at all the gifts under the tree.  We didn't get many gifts, but we LOVED seeing the shiny paper glisten off of the  twinkling lights on the tree.  To this day, I still take a peak all by my lonesome when everyone has gone to sleep, just to stare at the tree with shiny paper underneath.  My favorite holiday tradition..even though it's all by myself. :) hahaha.

Maura:  One of my favorite Holiday tradition's is getting our Christmas tree. Growing up we lived in a small house in the city so we didn't have a whole lot of room for a tree. My dad would wait until Christmas eve to go out and buy one. It was always really small and it would only stay up for a week at most. Now I'm lucky if I can wait until December before we head out to the tree farm in search of the perfect tree. I just love having it up the whole month filling our home with that fresh tree smell. It really gets me in the Holiday spirit.

MichaelaMy very favorite Holiday Tradition is decorating the tree with my mom.  It’s our thing; just her and me.  First, we turn on the Mariah Carey Christmas CD, followed by Steven Curtis Chapman and Amy Grant.  Then we get our tea and start with wrapping the tree in white lights.  Every year we have a tree theme.  Some past themes: gem tone colors, candy cane, and country christmas. Last year was “winter wonderland”, as we got the tree flocked.  This year we’re doing silver and gold with lots of glitter ornaments.  I’m thrilled, because I love me some glitter (: We have collected lots of standard ornaments over the years, so each year we just choose the ones we want, along with 6 or 7 of our individual favorite ornaments we’ve collected over past years.  My personal favorites are all the Precious Moments my grandma gives me each year.  I have one for every year since I’ve been that makes 20 now! 

MandyWell, since Philip and I have been married, we've been trying to start our own traditions! One that we've started, is that on Thanksgiving, while we're preparing our food... we put on the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. It's literally on ALL day long. I've always loved those movies, and something about having it on in the background is really comforting. Another one that I grew up with as a kid is that we're allowed to open one present on Christmas Eve. And I think I want to continue with our son.

Courtney:  As a child, making Christmas Candy and Holiday treats with my grandmother was one of my absolute favorite memories. We spent countless hours in the kitchen baking treats and putting them in containers to give to family and friends. Now that I have a family of my own, baking holiday goodies is something that I am trying to instill as a tradition in our home as well. Decorating the Christmas Tree the week of Thanksgiving, watching Holiday movies [specifically Miracle on 34th Street and Christmas Vacation] and decorating a Gingerbread house are also a few other holiday traditions I'm bringing into our little family. 

{2.} What is one money saving tip you live by during the Holiday Season?
KelDon't buy it! :) hahahaha. j/k...but my first money saving tip is to tell the grandparents what the kids REALLY want and then they will always come through on getting them what they want (my mother in law is a gift giver and she wants everyone to be SUPER excited to open HER gifts).  It's actually very cute.  The second is that we only give the kids one gift per child.  We don't want the kids to think that Christmas is all about the gifts.  We want them to know that Jesus was born...the Savior to the world.....that is the takeaway (not these pillow pets that are making their rounds this year in my children's minds) hahaha.

Maura:  I make all of our Christmas presents. Last year I was about 99% successful with this. I did buy a few things for William but other then that everyone got something homemade.

Michaela:  A great way to save money is to make your own gifts. I love giving gifts in which the recipient knows you spent time creating!  In the past I’ve made ornaments by buying clear glass ornaments and taking the top off.  I pour a mixture of glue and glitter inside the ball ornament and swish it around, making sure to cover the whole thing.  Then I set it upside down for it to drain out the excess.  They’re simple and cute! I’ve also made candles in mason jars.  I bought the candle kit at Michael’s and poured in the solution to the jar then dropped in candy canes for a festive look! Some other ideas may include taking and framing family photo’s or printing up and baking your favorite recipe and tying it with a Christmas ribbon!

MandyTry to make gifts meaningful. A lot of times it ends up being less expensive when you really put thought into a gift. I've really started getting "crafty" this season. Making things for people, that I know will mean more to them than something I can go out and buy. 

CourtneyI don't do "Black Friday" shopping because I hate the crowds and feel that the prices really aren't that great. I try to pick up little stocking stuffers and some of the smaller gifts starting around October so that I don't get swamped with holiday price increases and short supplies of those "must have" gifts. I also save and salvage as many Christmas Bags and as much tissue paper as I can. You would be AMAZED at how much money you can save if don't throw those bags away and hold onto them every year. Another fun and creative way to save, is to buy the large rolls of brown packing paper and let your children decorate the paper themselves, rather than buying multiple rolls of store paper. 

{3.} What is something you learned from the last Holiday Season that is changing your approach to this Season?  (can be something as simple as shopping earlier this year, to something more personal, its up to you)
KelMy approach this season is to shop early and be done with it.  I hate that stressed feeling of 'I need to pull SOMETHING together or I'll be the worst wife EVER'. :) I do like to be considerate of that, but like I said in 2, I want to focus on our King, not on the stuff.

Maura:  Last year was our first Christmas as parents and it was a real eye opener. I simply could not believe the amount of presents that William received. We couldn't fit everything in our car. This happened 3 times over, Christmas at my mom's, at my dad's, and then the grand finally with Michael's family. William was so overwhelmed by the end he was unwrapping gifts and just throwing them to the side without even looking at them and unwrapping the next. There are still so many toys from Christmas that have never been opened or played with. Last year people would ask me what William wanted and I felt weird giving people something specific to buy. This year I have been better about giving people ideas. We suggested that people that would normally go over board consider getting him a membership to the aquarium or the zoo. I would rather people invested in experiences with him then showered him with tons of toys that he is never going to play with. For smaller gifts we suggested things like sports equipment and art supplies. This is such a beautiful holiday and I really don't want to ruin it for him with this overwhelming desire to get things. I want him to think about Christmas and remember the time that we spent as a family together and the reason that we celebrate. 

Michaela:  Last year was my freshman year in college, so it was different and even a little weird having to come home for Christmas, living out of a suitcase in my own home.  I think what I learned last year through this time was not something specifically about the Holiday Season, but rather, how precious time with family is in general.  Last year around the Holidays I tried to soak up as much time with my mom and other family members as possible, because I missed them so much while I was away at school.  It’s something you don’t realize until you don’t have the luxury of walking down the hall to ask your mom a question or simply give her a hug.  So, this year I’m going to remember to spend time with family, laugh a lot, take lots of pictures, and make sweet memories I can look back on while I'm at school.

MandyI'd like to really approach the holidays this year with a giving spirit. I want to try harder to be more thankful, more charitable.... and less selfish. 

CourtneyOne thing I learned was to SHOP EARLIER. I got hit last season with waiting until the last minute to buy some of my gifts and didn't manage to get everything on my list. I also learned to spend my holidays with people that really matter. We all have distant family...those who are related to us that we see only on occasion [usually around the holidays]. And while that interaction is great, I prefer to spend my time with the family I am closest to.

{4.} What, if anything, does this time of year mean to you?
KelThis time of year always signifies family for me.  Even growing up, it was the time of year that we all got together to drink egg nog and catch up on what is going on in our lives.  Fortunately for me, my husbands family is the same.  They make it a point to fly/drive to wherever the little ones are (lucky for me, that's my house, I'm the only one with kids right now).  CO Christmas!!!!   It's also a time to appreciate who came to rescue the world.  To be the Savior.  To LOVE me, even when  I don't love myself.  This little baby......the King of the Heavens....tiny hands and feet who will touch and heal the lame on his journeys by foot.  Amazing right?  That's God and that's Christmas friends. :)

Maura:  I love everything about this time of year. I love the preparation. I love sitting around and making a million and one gifts. I love the feeling of community that comes with the Holiday season. I love getting mail that is not bills or junk. I love the time spent with family. And most importantly I love why we have Christmas, the birth of Jesus, the one that gave us the most wonderful gift of all.

Michaela:  Christmas is a time of celebration of Jesus’ birth!  In our family, we try to keep in mind the reason behind giving gifts is in remembrance of the most beautiful gift ever given, God’s own son.  Of course the hustle and bustle of cookie making, shopping, holiday parties, Santa’s, snowmen, and Starbucks’ Holiday cups are fun and exciting, but the most exciting part of Christmas is God’s gift of grace to all people, through sending his Son to save us from our sins.  When I was little, our family would bake a cake and sing “Happy Birthday” to Jesus on Christmas...because He deserves some cake and candles, too!  To me, Christmas means the gift of hope, grace, deliverance, family, and miracles.

MandyThis time of year means so much. It very much revolves around family, but also, it's important to remember the TRUE meaning of Christmas. Christmas is so much more than lights, gifts, trees, and candy. This year, more than ever - I want to focus on Christ and his birth. It's so easy to get lost in the festivities and not really appreciate our Savior's birth, and his life. I want my son to feel the spirit of Christ this year, through our celebration of Christmas. I hope he can grow up knowing the REAL reason why we celebrate Christmas, and keep that near his heart.

CourtneyThis time of year is about family and friendship. I always seem to view Christmas as a time to look back on the year and rejoice in the blessings that I've been given. The presents and the toys and the cards are all great and a fun way to enjoy the holidays, but if I had to choose, I would rather just be surrounded by husband and my son and our families laughing and enjoying life. We also always take the time to acknowledge, in depth, the true meaning of Christmas and the beautiful gift that was given to us all those years ago in a manger outside of an inn. 

{5.}  What's one way we can serve and extend love to another this Holiday Season?  

KelIt might sound cliche, but we are doing the shoebox gifts for people.  We are filling a shoebox with things that are needed for kids in Africa.  We have also thought of going to the hospital to just hang out with the kiddies, but the closest hospital like that to us is 3 hours away, so...might not make it this year, but I think it's important to show others that people care.  

MauraI recently read about a family that goes out on Christmas morning with a wagon filled with pancakes and hands them out to the homeless. We live in the intercity so I would like to do something similar this year with William. We did this with sandwiches a few months ago and it went really well. I want William to grow up knowing the blessing of giving  and what better time of year to teach that while we are celebrating God's greatest gift. We also plan to donate the mountain of toys that are unopened in our basement from last Christmas and his birthday. William is really excited about being able to share these with someone who might not have much under their tree this year.  

Michaela:  During the Christmas Season, my church does a fun series called “Taking Christmas Back”.  We learn about how the comercialism of Christmas over shadows the real meaning behind Christmas.  So one way we can serve and extend love is to give the gift of “presence” instead of merely giving “presents”.  Spend time at a old folks’ home, bake cookies for your neighbors, make Christmas dinner for a family who is less privileged than you, offer to help put up your grandma’s tree, take an old friend out to brunch, say I love you ( a lot!), or put together a goodie bag of a gift card, granola bar, and water for the homeless person you pass on your way to work.  There are multiple ways to get involved in your community and offer your love to others!  One of my favorite ways to spread Christ’s love this season is to smile.  Be a shining light to people who are in a hurry or who are seemingly becoming Scrooge.  You may make their day!

Mandy:  I think one of the best ways we can serve others is to love them unconditionally. It sounds simple, but it isn't simple at all. It's very difficult, because to love unconditionally means to accept people whole-heatedly, and refrain from judgment. It's not our place to judge other people and their situations, it's our duty to be there for them, to help in any way we can. Even if it means just donating a few dollars here and there to the Salvation Army. One of my favorite quotes is this: "Charity is the pure love of Christ". So true, and so important to remember.  

CourtneyTo give and to love. There are so many that are less fortunate than we are. My husband and I try to participate in the Shoe Box Project, Food Drives and/or adopt a child from the Angel Tree every year. We have been blessed beyond measure, and we both enjoy returning our blessings to those around us. We use Christmas as an opportunity to explain to our son [who still isn't really old enough to understand, but we try] who Saint Nicholas was and why we have Santa Claus. That's the Santa that he will be brought up to believe in. Cherish the friendships and the families in our lives and enjoy each and every moment and memory that is made. 

I love getting to know these ladies more, but guess what, we aren't finished yet...

Stay tuned for Enjoying the Holidays: Session 2 with five more Beautiful Bloggers with their Holiday Moments!
Amy from A Good Life
Chelsea from The Paper Mama
and... {ME}



  1. Oh my gosh! This is perfect. I loved reading all of these other ladies tips and traditions! It was great getting to know them!

  2. I have really enjoyed this - there are some super tips in here and we all seem to be on the same page. This was really a great idea Jhen. Thanks for hosting!

  3. This was so fun! I loved reading everyones idea's and I can't wait for part 2 :) I am getting so excited for Christmas!

  4. Ahh! This was such a great idea!! I'm so excited to have been featured and I LOVE reading everyone elses ideas and about their traditions! Great job love! :-)

  5. Thanks for featuring me, Jhen! You're great and I"m excited for part two, also!

  6. oh wow! This is so fun :) and even better..getting to meet new bloggers! THANKS!

  7. I am a follower of Maura's, so I headed over here to read what she had to say...and I'm so glad I did! The whole discussion was fabulous! I feel like I just spent a great time having coffee with a bunch of new friends! Nice meeting you all!