Holidailies Prompt: Describe the top three scents or flavors that always evoke holidays for you.

A few years ago, I bought two candles from Bath and Body Works in a scent called Winterberry.  I am not sure what this scent all entails, but it is a spicy, evergreen scent.  The candles aren’t produced anymore, so I am a bit stingy about lighting the one that I have left, but one whiff of that candle reminds me of the holidays.  

I haven’t had a real Christmas tree for years, but walking past the Christmas trees and the wreaths for sale at the store always reminds me of the holidays.  I love the smell of the fresh greens and remember the days when we used to go out to the apple farm to pick out our Christmas tree (no, we didn’t have an apple tree in the house, the farm did Christmas trees as well).  While a fake tree is so much easier to deal with during the holidays, there’s just something about the scent of real evergreen.

The third smell is more a combination of smells – it’s the smell that comes from the kitchen while Christmas Eve dinner is cooking.  It’s usually turkey and potatoes and some sort of pie and cookies and baked rolls.  It’s a delicious combination.  It makes me hungry already.

Holiday bargains

Holidailies Prompt – Tell us about an experience with someone else’s holiday traditions.

Our holiday traditions have this tendency to evolve with time as the family grows and changes, so we’re always bringing in a little bit of someone else’s traditions.  Christmas dinner is a bit of an orphans dinner, and involves some of our family, some other families, and whoever else happens to drop by.  I don’t really know of anytime where I participated in someone’s Christmas holiday traditions that were so far from mine.

Last year, however, I got to experience Mary Beth’s family Thanksgiving traditions.  That was a trip.  The meal was tasty, of course, but the adventure came in the shopping.  Yes, that’s right, we went shopping after Thanksgiving.  Immediately.  We hit the outlet malls at midnight and then went back out to a few more stores around 6 am.  This is something they do every year, but it’s definitely not something I plan to do every year.  Or maybe not ever again.  It’s not that it was a bad time, of course.  I just really love sleep and really hate giving up sleep to go outside and stand in the cold.  I do like bargains.  But I think I still like sleep better.

A Season of Giving

Today’s Holidailies prompt is simply “A Season of Giving.”

During the holidays, there are always a million ways to give, from volunteering to small financial donations to very large financial donations.  We have one Salvation Army bell ringer at the grocery store I pass everyday on my way home who sings Christmas music while ringing his bell.  I always make a point of stopping and dropping a few coins into his kettle (Side note: what’s up with these new plastic kettles?  The act of dropping the coins in is somehow less satisfying.)

The holiday season is a time of great generosity and a time of great need.  Plus it’s also the end of the year, so people are looking to increase their tax breaks.  Sure, it might not be the most generous reason to give, but the end result is the same.

The tough part is deciding where to give.  There are families to adopt for the holidays and toys to donate to local charities.  Food banks around the country are asking for donations due to the increased number of clients.  Charities all across the globe are working to feed the hungry and provide homes and clean water and prevent violence.  And then there are the charities for the animals, from abandoned and abused pets to endangered species.  Another concern is the environment.

One person can’t give to every cause.  It’s just not possible.  So how do you choose?  And how can you bring that into your holiday giving?

One way to do so is to give gifts of giving.  At both Kiva and Network for Good, you can give a giftcard for a donation.  It’s a very cool idea, especially for the person who has everything and wants nothing, but for whom you still want to buy a little something.  You can also give a gift through an organization like Heifer International.  “Here, brother, I bought you a goat for Christmas.”  And you can always make a donation in someone’s name.  I like the idea of giving a donation gift card though, because it allows the recipient to play a part and choose where the money goes.  Two acts of giving for the price of one.

Not so traditional

Holidailies Prompt:  Tell us about unique/beloved holiday traditions in your part of the world.

I don’t really know that I live in an area with any sort of unique holiday traditions.  D.C. has a giant Christmas tree that is actually pretty gaudy if you take a good look at it.  It’s pretty from far away though.  I’ve been too lazy/busy to go see it this year, but I’m assuming each state also has a small tree surrounding the big tree, and that’s kind of a neat tradition.  Except that I haven’t bothered to see it yet.  We’ll just assume it continues to be a neat tradition.

I’m having trouble with just how quickly Christmas is coming this year.  My shopping is done, my wrapping is not.  This year, I was smart and shipped all of my gifts directly to my parents’ house so that I didn’t have to deal with packing them in my suitcase.  Of course, even then, I couldn’t wrap the presents, as airport security has every right to unwrap a package during inspection.  Mom promised to save me some wrapping paper, which is always a challenge, as part of her personal tradition is to wrap everything.  Don’t tell Mom you need soap or deodorant before Christmas.  It will get wrapped and put under the tree. 

I sort of feel like I haven’t had a chance to enjoy the season, and I’m not sure why.  I think things have just been a little bit too busy and a little bit too stressful for me to have the chance to sit back and enjoy.  This weekend is filled with holiday concerts, which might help with the seasonal sprit, but that means that next week is a mess of cleaning and getting ready to fly home on Friday and putting out fires at work.  It’s just hectic.  I’m sure that being at my parents’ house will help, especially since it looks like Christmas threw up there.  Plus I’ll finally get a chance to relax, which I am very much looking forward to.

In non-holiday news, last night was the first meeting of our book club.  We read Mary, Queen of Scotland and the Isles.  It was interesting, but it was way too long for a book club book.  850+ pages.  Long.  And heavy.  Very few people in the book club actually finished the book.  Personally, I got 15 pages from the end and gave up.  I knew how it ended after all.

Gonna Eat for Christmas

Holidailies Prompt: Share a favorite recipe that you like to make (or persuade someone to make for you) at this time of year.

My method of cooking for the holidays is buying a bottle of wine and going to someone else’s house so that they can cook for me.  And then I offer to help with dishes.

I have been requested to make one recipe this year.  I discovered an amazing recipe for Salty Oat Cookies that everyone must try.  These cookies are a delicious blend of salty and sweet and are a little dangerous if you’re trying to not eat too many.  They’re easy to make too, which is my favorite part.

I’m not sure I have a favorite traditional holiday recipe.  I love cookies, but I don’t think there’s anything specific that we make that is only done at Christmas.  We do have a giant Christmas morning breakfast where Mom practically pours mimosas down our throats.  That’s something that only happens on Christmas, but I would be okay with copious amounts of alcohol for breakfast more often than once a year.  Perhaps I will propose that. 

All this talk of food reminds me that I have just over a week to lose a pound or five so that I have room to gain it back while staying with my parents.  I think that my family believes there is no food in D.C.  Or they think I can’t cook (I can, but I rarely do) and feel the need to feed me as much as possible before I go back.  Sure, I could try to turn them down, but when Grandma says she made something special just because she knows I like it, I can’t say no!