Green Christmas Cards


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Ah, Christmas cards.

It’s that time of year again.

In the past I’ve written a Christmas letter telling all about our previous year, or sent photos of the boys in Santa hats, or sent just plain ol’ traditional cards with a nativity and a verse from Luke chapter 2.

One year I mailed no cards at all and sent Christmas wishes via Facebook.

The list of people I mail cards to has kinda shrunk over the years, as I stay more in touch with folks via social media and only mail cards to those who live states away or who aren’t on social media.

This year, though, I’m SUPER excited about my cards.

I ordered them from St. Jude’s Ranch Recycled Card Program, which takes used cards and turns them into new. The old cards are re-made by young people at the ranch.

St. Jude’s Ranch is not affilated with St. Jude’s Children Hospital, for children with cancer. This is St. Jude’s Ranch for Children, a program that works with abused, abandoned, neglected or homeless children, teens and families. Read their about page here.

Earlier this year I mailed to the ranch used Christmas and birthday cards from years past, and this week I received an order of Christmas cards to send out this year. I wondered if any of the ones I sent in made it back to me in my packets of re-made cards.

The fronts of the old Christmas cards are cut to size and glued to the front of a new, blank card. The back of the card says it was made at St. Jude’s Ranch and it’s signed by the person who made it.

How special is that?

It’s probably not too late for you to order your Christmas cards for this year from St. Jude’s, if you’re looking for cards and want to do something a little different.

They also sell packages of cards for birthdays, thank you, all occasion, etc.

And of course after the holidays when you’re looking for what to do with all the Christmas cards you received, consider donating them to St. Jude’s.

All the info to order or donate can be found here.

 

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O Christmas Tree: Part Two


The rest of the story

When the boys and I went to get our real Christmas tree, it didn’t go exactly as I’d thought.

20120107-062912.jpgFirst, when we got to the farm, the kind man who greeted us showed us four different types of trees. He then gave me directions around his lot on where I could find the different types, handed me a measuring stick to measure the heights of the trees, and gave me a saw. Wait. A saw? I thought they were going to cut down for me. No … no … apparently I was going to cut it down.

So, off we went. I recall thinking to myself: Can I actually cut down a tree? What if I can’t? Oh, you can do this. It’s just a tree. How hard can it be?

Well, not that bad actually. We found the type we wanted, and then found the tree we wanted. Then I went to sawing it down. The boys thought I needed help, but I eventually got it. My knees got muddy and my hands were rubbed (a little) raw, but I succeeded in felling the tree and was quite proud of myself for doing a new, hard thing and for (hopefully) impressing the boys.

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We all helped drag our tree to the truck. I carried into the house. I strung it with lights, and the boys added ornaments.

It seemed tall at the lot, but compared to our 9 foot artificial tree of years past, it really wasn’t that large. It held less than half of the ornaments we usually display.

It smelled wonderful, and was kinda nice just to do something new and different.

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O Christmas Tree


Boys in front of the Christmas tree, 2009

I’ve decided to get a real Christmas tree this year, rather than put up our fake one. I want the boys to experience a real tree at least once and to see what we think about it as a possible tradition.

Getting a real Christmas tree isn’t just about the tree itself but about the tree-acquiring experience.

When their father and I lived in Indiana we had a real tree twice.  There was snow all around up there, so it felt very Christmas-y to go to the Christmas tree farm. The farm had a small shop with ornaments for sale, a fire in the fireplace, and hot cocoa. It just felt like Christmas when you were there.

While I very much enjoyed getting the real tree, getting rid of it after the holidays wasn’t as easy. The trees come all neatly and tightly bundled and thus pretty easy to get in. But once you cut the cord and the branches poof out, it’s a bigger task to get the tree out.

The first year we lived in an upstairs apartment and once we were done with it we threw it over the balcony to the ground below. A friend picked it up and took to his father’s pond.

The next year we were in a house. It was weeks past Christmas, and I decided to take the tree out. I could’ve dragged it out the back door and around the house to the front curb. But doing that in the snow seemed like more than I wanted to do. So I decided to drag it out the front door, which meant I had to take it down a small corridor between the dining room and the front foyer. The dry pine branches and needles were not very gentle to the corridor walls, and the walls were badly scratched. The walls had to eventually be repainted.

That night, I woke up to an extremely hot house. It felt like a sauna. I went to the thermostat, which was in the corridor where I had taken the tree earlier that day, and it was 90+ degrees in the house. I removed the cheap plastic cover and inside where pine needles that had lodged in the shut-off mechanism and weren’t allowing the heater to regulate off and on; it was just running constantly. I removed the needles and turned on the A/C. I also went outside in the 30-degree weather and left the front door wide open to cool me (and the house) down.

It wasn’t funny at the time, but I’m able to laugh at it now.

So no more real trees after that year. We bought a 9-foot after-Christmas clearance special, and that’s been our tree for the last 10 years. It’s starting to show it’s wear, and I should’ve shopped for a replacement after Christmas last year. It’s also such a big hassle to put on all the limbs and fold out each branch.

So far the boys aren’t too thrilled about going to get a real tree. I hope things will be better once we actually get to the farm, pick our tree, watch it be hacked down, bundled up and bring it in our home. Certainly they’ll think the axe they’ll use to cut it will be cool, right? Can I get some coolness points for that at least?

Keurig Barista


For Christmas and my birthday, my mom and sister got me a single-cup Keurig coffee maker with all the fixin’s — coffee and creams and cups and a storage drawer for all the little coffee flavors, even a few bags of Starbucks caramel-flavored coffee (mmmm) and the attachment where you can brew your own coffee instead of using the prepackaged cups.

I set it up at my desk at work this week since that’s the place I’m most likely to want just one cup, and it’s been all the buzz among my co-workers. At one point four people were in my government-issued cubicle discussing flavors and storage containers and how much hot chocolate to add to coffee to make it a mocha.

The review: It’s a cute little coffee maker. It’s definitely quick and the coffee is hot! It makes a little bit of noise but for less than a minute, so hopefully I’m not being too bad of a cube mate with it. The greater concern with office etiquette is probably the smell of fresh-brewed coffee after I make a cup. Mmmm. Fresh-brewed vanilla coffee makes my office smell deliciously good and jolts me awake.

Oh, and my little Starbucks mug is pretty, don’tcha think? It makes for pretty decoration when not in use.

Here’s to another cup!

The Biggest Loser


At last night’s Bunco Christmas party our leader, Stephanie, surprised us with a new prize: the prize for the most losses in one game. See, back in March I sat down at Table 3 and I lost. And then lost again. And again. And again. After losing an entire round (six games) I probably thought something like, “Wow, that must be a record or something, that’s probably never happened before.”

But then I continued to lose. And lose. And lose. And lost every game the whole next round as well. Now keep in mind, when you lose you stay at the same table, so I’m still in Tracy’s sun room just watching players rotate through over and over again and enjoying a good laugh as people circle through exclaiming “You’re still here! Hahaha!”

At some point I embraced the losing and started telling people when they came to the table, “Choose your partner carefully because I’m in it to lose.” Because really, at this point I needed to be trying to lose to get the prize for Most Losses. I wanted to keep my streak going, even a streak as sorry as losing. I was going for the perfect, losing game.

And as you can see from the above photo (from my 365 project that day), I did not roll a perfect game but, much to my and all my Bunco girls’ disappointment, won the last round.

I had forgotten all about this but Stephanie, in going through her scorecards for end of the year awards, saw my losing streak and thought it fun to recognize me for my (lack of) accomplishment. My prize? A black and white photo frame. Cute on its own. But inside the frame? My losing game card from that night. I love it! We all cracked up laughing. What a special memory and memento. Thanks Stephanie!

Winterluded Out


I went to my 5th Winterlude the other night, and while I highly anticipate it every year this is the second year in a row that I left rather disappointed. And really the year before that I left feeling bad too but that was because I had a migraine.

Now don’t get me wrong, the piano playing was spectacular. Of the selections played, the performers played amazingly well. I took piano off and on for 8 years and during that time played a few duets so I can appreciate how much talent and practice came into play for the musicians.

But  — and please forgive me if I sound a little whiny — they didnt play my favorite songs. Last year, they didn’t play like 1 or 2 of my favorites. This year they didn’t play like 4 or 5 of my favorites. In fact, no song they played this year had I “wanted” to hear. I know they can’t cater the performance to me, but the songs missing are classic Christmas songs and ones they played the first two or three years I went. That’s how they became my favorites because I heard them at Winterlude and oohed an ahhed over them then.

On the way home after the concert I told this to David who was like, “So what songs didn’t you hear that you wanted to hear?” “The Snoopy song (The Peanuts theme), Carol of the Bells, Gloria, Jesu Joy of Man’s Desire, …” and I was just getting started. So he sweetly pulled the Snoopy song up on his iPhone and played it for us. We laughed, and it was a fun moment.

We met David’s parents and one of his brothers at the concert, which was nice to interact with them again and for them to get to know me and the boys better. After the performance, we were leaving and I went to walk past David’s mom at the same time she went to walk and we bumped into each other. She turned around, “Oh, so sorry, glad it was you and not someone else.” That’s a little thing but it made me happy that even with what little interaction we’ve had that I’m not just “anyone” to her but someone she is comfortable enough with to not be embarrassed bumping into.