Tuesday, December 27, 2011

How I Spent My Christmas "Vacation"

 How I Spent My Christmas "Vacation"
an essay for Jamie

(The scene opens, and Libby is standing before a classroom full of her peers. She holds her handwritten essay before her and starts her reading aloud in a shaky stammery voice but after about three sentences she catches her flow and suddenly you're watching a feature film play out before you and you don't remember that this is a kid telling a story until the middle when they cut-to a kid in the class asking if he can be excused to go to the bathroom.)

I don't know if it's just a part of getting older or if it's my absolute obsession with gratitude this past year--but 2011 was the year of excellent gifts. Let us not forget the incredible birthday haul I made. And then only a few months later, Christmas! Any time someone asked me what I wanted for Christmas, I was totally honest. I am a woman in want of naught. And it didn't seem fair since birthday was so recent. I am really too overwhelmed with love to expect/ want/ fully appreciate presents on top of it all. But in true Christmas form--it happened anyway.

Santa Libby hands out lens wipes
and candy canes. Everyone takes
the candy canes.
Mostly I didn't want to share what I got for Christmas because it seemed self-involved and show-offy but then I thought to myself, what could possibly be more self-involved and show-offy than mine own blog where I talk endlessly about myself? Plus, my favorite part of gift-giving traditions is seeing what other people get for one another. Why would I keep you from such a treat? I like hearing the little inside stories or seeing how much someone really understands their friend or family member. Or, better yet, seeing the look on one person's face while another, erroneously believes that they did such a great job. No one will let my older brother live down the time, ten years ago, when our friend Tish gave him something for his birthday and his immediate response was, "Hey! Do you still have the receipt?" Classic Brother.

For me, Christmassy season began the Saturday before when we were preparing to attend the annual I Heard a Lion Christmas party. I made various almond barks and these cheese straws that I keep seeing on Pinterest. I tell you, they could not possibly be any easier (that is--if you pay attention to the instructions on the box of puff pastry dough that say, "let thaw for 40 minutes". Just because you think it can't hurt to thaw for three hours doesn't mean you're right. Trust me. (Side note: what do I love about Pinterest? Finding new crafty/ foodie blogs. Shutterbean is precious.)
The party was totally fun even if 1/2 of the guests were flu-infested. I can respect the dedication enough to not care that I'm about to get sick. We had the party at Doug and Staci's house. Their house, if you haven't seen it, is freaking brilliant. Check out Staci's blog a little bit and you'll realize that you want to chill out there, too. I didn't expect to get presents at all but I really didn't expect to get such great presents. Jamie, I'm posting this photo because I know you're going to love everything about this scarf that Rusty and Kellory (and probably Abbey, too) picked out for me. I found out that Adam reads my blog when I opened up a huge box containing three boxes of Quaker Oat Squares. I laughed a whole lot. And then Doug and Staci gave Ryan and I a gift certificate to eat lunch at Amic's (which is where I take all of my friends who come to visit/ would love hummus).  The El Greco, she is a simple sandwich but she is my favorite.
Ryan and I used another recipe from Shutterbean to make homemade Amaretto for everyone. It was really fun to make and it's such a shame that there's so much leftover. We have a New Year's Party coming up. I'll be sipping African Queens all night. It'll get used. It'll get used. If I do say so, myself, it's delicious.

We had family time on Monday night! Adam and Arryn were taking the kids (via Amtrak) to New Mexico up into the mountains for a memorable week of holidays with Arryn's side of the family. The pictures are always incredible. I'll bet they had the best time.
Monday night, I got off work at 8 and rushed home to open gifts with them before they took off (at 1:00 am that night). When I got there, Amos greeted me with, "we can open presents, now!?!" But Arryn was still in the shower so we had to sit around and wait a little bit longer. Genesis, you could tell, tried so hard to keep herself contained. Walking around like she was cool with everything like she wasn't a six-year-old about to open presents after waiting all day long. Amos was this little jittery ball of energy not running around a lot but sort of vibrating all over the place. And he did everything you told him to--ensuring that nothing would get in the way of opening presents. Arryn told the kids to have a seat while she handed out gifts and I snapped this picture. I think it's perfect. Amos' eyes focused. His body quiet but not calm.


I gave my sisters my favorite gifts. For Arryn, one night when I was babysitting the kids, we took profile photos. It's not easy to get a fifteen month old to stand still. I printed their photos, traced them onto some canvas and painted in the lines. It was terribly easy for as adorable as they turned out. I took this photo with my phone and didn't style it at all so--big whoop. You get the idea. I left them unframed because I knew Arryn would come up with a creative way to display them.
I took to Etsy for Sarah. I got her something to remind her of home while she and her husband adventure down to Texas--courtesy of the U.S. Army. Sarah's from Kansas, obviously. Scott is from Minnesota. They are a good team. I got them these vintage-dictionary screen prints and framed them. Then I threw in a bunch of chocolate--complete with a Terry's orange. Turns out that when I framed them, I did not choose the type with mounting hardware--doy. So they're going to need new frames. Oh well, you can't win them all.

Oh yeah! And a few months ago I commissioned a family of Cyclops hats from the lovely and talented Katie Hurl! Look at all of these guys that she made for Sarah's kids!


Arryn actually got me a very similar gift from a different seller on etsy. A vintage dictionary page--but this one has a color print of two ticket stubs. From another etsy seller, she got me a pair of darling earrings constructed of hardware and buttons. Genesis helped pick them out. Listen to this--Arryn said that she knows I like owls but that I might be getting over it a little bit (she's not wrong). Genesis, who is six, mentioned that these earrings are sort of like owls in certain ways and not like owls in other ways and also because they are ivory and brass, I can wear them with lots of different outfits. She all but said, "it's a neutral homage to owls--befitting your collection and the majority of your wardrobe." She has also helped me in deciding which purse to buy, "well, you already wear a lot of yellow--do you really need a yellow purse? Get a blue one." The rationality you'd expect from at least an eight year old. The rationality that had not so much occurred to me. That girl is an artist--a stylist in the making. She's also learning to play the piano. I've got high, artistic hopes for the girl. But I will keep them to myself so as not to push her... I'm just letting you know.

December 23 (the day of Festivus), Ed and Ange had a party at their place, too. It was super low-key and fun. We ate homemade chicken and noodles and also chili and Rhode's cinnamon rolls. So delicious. We sat around talking and hanging out. Angie gave me a bottle of lotion (I'd borrowed hers once and raved about how it didn't react with my extra-sensitive, wintertime skin) that smells like lemon cookies and a bottle of homemade vanilla extract. I can't wait to make use of this in the spring time when the flavor has totally infused. My mind is already racing with ways to highlight the vanilla flavor itself. I'm feeling maybe a simple vanilla cake? Oh well, there's time to think about it. She packaged it so gorgeously, too. I got her a gift but I ordered it from Etsy. I definitely ordered it in enough time--if it was being shipped in the United States and I'm just ethnocentric enough to assume that it was. But it wasn't. Woops. I'm learning to check that.


The week of Christmas, I worked a lot so that the guys in my department could spend time with their families. As a result (and thanks to a lovely Walmart policy that closes the stores on Christmas Day), my only day off was the day of Christmas itself. It wasn't so bad at all. Ryan's family celebrates the Saturday after Christmas so he was around. I was around. We just hung out all day. I made biscuits and gravy for breakfast and we opened presents. I had decided, maybe a month ago to make him a quilt. A few weeks ago it was becoming apparent that I was in over my head. I got the top finished in time for Christmas. All it needs now is a backing and to be tacked down. I was really upset that it wouldn't be done in time but after a good, old-fashioned panic attack, I got myself together. The holidays wouldn't be complete without one, you know? He doesn't mind. I think he likes it. So far. I also got him a copy of Bridesmaids, also, so there was at least one gift fit for immediate use. He really won at Christmas this year, though, when I opened up an espresso maker and all the trimmings along with the Adele Live at Royal Hall CD/DVD combo (the last big was something for which I shamelessly begged). We spent the entire day in pajamas, watching movies and Christmas episodes of Seinfeld and The Office and figuring out how to work my new toy machine. Favorite latte so far? Two ounces espresso, 1/2 ounce amaretto, steamed milk and 1/2 a hand-full of white chocolate chips. Usually, though, I just put a little maple syrup in the bottom of my cup and throw in the espresso and milk. I'm getting better at frothing. It's been a while since I got paid to do it.
For dinner, we made meatloaf (following a legitimate recipe, this time--makes all the difference) and mashed potatoes and watched Home Alone while Little Sister and Little Brother came over for a chit-chat.


I know it's December 27th but the Holiday Season isn't over, yet. There's still all the fun on Saturday--Christmas with Ryan's family and after that, the Happy New Year/ Bon Voyage, Kasey party!! I was going to clean my house in preparation for that... Fine. I'll get started.


All in all I think I'm learning that, for me, hand-made things are totally the way to go. It forces me to really consider things rather than just running out and grabbing something. Etsy counts. Commissioning a fleet of hats from a friend counts.

What was your favorite gift to give/ receive this year? #firstworldquestions

3 comments:

myfriendstaci said...

My, my. I got so many wonderful and unexpected things this year! It's hard to choose something. My favorite gift was actually for Mosey--you see, buying dog toys for someone else is the gift that keeps on giving. I love buying dog toys but they are so gol durn expensive! My sister got him these very "classy" tennis balls with a crest on them. Probably the classiest toys he will ever have.

I surely hope you'll make me an African Queen on Saturday :)

The Foreigners said...

Its probaLy fairly obvi what my fav. Present to give/receive is. Spoiled me has this whole week off before we leave, and I'm complaining about not being there yet;) I'm VERY excited to get to tell you all about it! Other than that, I got my niece a sock monkey winter hat, and I quite enjoyed giving that...though I don't think she liked it as much as I was hoping. Teenagers...;)

I like your essay. It makes me a little bit jealous of your life. You're so surrounded by love and feeling content. I dig you.

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