Visions of sugarplums and Christmas wishes are dancing in my head today. My boys and I are venturing out tomorrow night to see National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation at the theater, then doing our Christmas shopping on Saturday. I’ve been thinking a lot about the things I want for my friends and loved ones, and for myself too! Here is my wish list for this year:
1. – A DSLR camera! The one thing on my dream list for myself is a new camera…which I already bought and it arrived last Sunday! When I first started the draft of this post, it was still just a daydream. But I found an amazing price on a model from 2013 that would make for a perfect beginner camera. I guess what I need to add to my wish list now is an SD card, because I forgot to buy one with the camera! I have an old one with enough free space to take about five pictures, so I’ve been using it to take practice shots.
I love writing to you all, and taking photos to share with you in my blog posts and on Instagram. But my sad little iPhone camera struggles to meet my demands. In anything less than bright daylight, the photos come out grainy and dark and require lots of editing. And I hate that the aperture can’t be changed so it’s almost impossible to take a photo that blurs the background and focuses only on the subject. There have been so many things I wanted to capture but couldn’t, because the lighting was too dim for it to turn out. I’ve been dreaming of a good camera for a year since I started this blog, so I decided to stop dreaming about it and take the plunge to celebrate the one-year anniversary of Letters from Loren. Now to learn photography…
2. – Small Business Saturday Shopping. I’m not a Black Friday kind of gal. I went out on Black Friday one time, more than a decade ago, just to pick up some craft items from Hobby Lobby…and I will never do it again! It was chaos, and I prefer to be calm and happy on the holidays! However, I saw the first mentions of Small Business Saturday in Downtown Cape Girardeau, and it sounded perfect. Our downtown is beautiful at Christmastime, I have a passion for small business and several of our downtown small businesses are SBA customers of ours. A day full of exploring downtown, shopping with friends, and lunch at Gabriel’s was a must for my list.
3. – Christmas Shopping with my Boys. I usually do 90% of my shopping on Amazon and let it all be delivered to my house via USPS or FedEx. This year I just really felt the pull to get out to the stores, take in all of the Christmas music, decorations, pretty lights and people, and buy gifts for each person on a whim. I love the idea of spotting something and thinking, “that would be perfect for ____”, then taking it straight home, wrapping it and putting it under the tree. No gift cards this year either – everyone is getting something to open!
This might be the thing I’m most looking forward to this year. My boys still love spending time with me, but I know that will probably be changing in the next couple of years. So I want to soak this in and make memories while I can.
4. – Watch The Nutcracker. I’ve always wanted to see The Nutcracker and have never made it around to doing it. I thought this year would be the year. The ballet was being performed at the SEMO River Campus this year, but I instead ended up spending the money I would have otherwise allotted to a ticket for the show, on a beer pairing dinner with friends at Gabriel’s…and I have zero regrets because that dinner was incredible! In The Fabulous Bouvier Sisters, I read about Rudolf Nureyev’s version of The Nutcracker, which was claimed to be the greatest Nutcracker Ballet ever in production. And wouldn’t you know that it’s on YouTube? I saved it to watch sometime this Christmas season…probably next weekend when the boys are gone to their dad’s again.
5. – Christmas Movie Marathon. Home Alone. It’s a Wonderful Life. Charlie Brown Christmas. Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. Frosty the Snowman. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (which will be playing at the local theater). A Christmas Story. Elf. Polar Express. The weekend before Christmas will be movie time while we prepare to host the family at our house on Christmas Eve. I saw Home Alone in the theater last weekend with a friend, and it was super cool seeing it on the big screen. Since National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation is playing at the theater tomorrow night, we’re going to kick off our weekend with a 7pm showing!
6. – Charitable Giving. What better time of year than this to give selflessly to others! As a single mom on a budget, I’m not able to do near as much as I would like to do. But I’m doing what I can. We kicked off the charitable giving right before Thanksgiving by picking up some items for the Veteran’s Home. Annie Laurie’s, a local antique store, was collecting for them so the boys and I bought some items and dropped them off.
At work, we participate in the adopt-a-family program and each of us picks up a few things to buy for a family. While we’re out doing our shopping on Saturday I will be picking up items for the family I’m buying for, and as an added bonus we’re going to pick up a toy to donate for the toys-for-tots drive. Another small thing I’m doing is putting a dollar or two in the Salvation Army bucket every time I pass one on my way into a store.
7. – Advent Candle-Lighting and Going to Mass. Before I moved to my current town, I lived four blocks from my church. I was in the choir (technically I still am, I just don’t go much anymore because I’m 30 miles away), so I was at church on Thursday nights for practice and at 9:00 mass every Sunday morning. My connection to my church was strong, and the Advent season was an important part of Christmas for us.
Last year was our first Christmas in our new town, and we were feeling a little divided from our church. I put out the Advent wreath and bought candles…but I only remembered to light them once or twice a week. This year it is my goal to make sure the candles are lit every night, at least for a little while. I’m also trying to do the daily readings to go with it. But most importantly, I’m making sure we get to mass every weekend throughout Advent to celebrate the season and sing with my choir.
8. – Christmas Parties. I hosted a Christmas Cookie Swap Party last year and wanted to make it an annual thing, but this year I hosted a Friends-warming party in October (basically a party to honor all of my friends) and didn’t feel like throwing another big shin-dig just two months later. So this year I’m taking a reprieve from hosting, and my friend Aaron is having an Ugly Christmas Sweater Party at his house instead. He’s been trying to find a weekend to host a party at his house since early October but hasn’t been able to find one where everyone was available until now.
He’s asking each of us to bring something, so I’m going to make cookies since I’m foregoing the cookie swap! I’m making my favorite – chocolate chip, and his favorite – oatmeal. I might even throw in a small batch of shortbread stained glass cookies, since I’m planning to make them for Christmas and would like to do a trial run. And for my ugly Christmas sweater–I have a Grinch onesie ready to go!
9. – Christmas Light Displays. I’ve been seeing so many events on Facebook for Christmas light displays and open holiday open houses, most of them in the St Louis area, and we have to make it to at least one of them this year! In all honesty I don’t know how or when we’ll get to do this, since this weekend is Christmas shopping, next weekend the boys are gone, and the weekend after that is the last weekend before Christmas. But we do have a pretty good display right here in town at the county park, and another one on the road to their dad’s at a park in the small Illinois town of Coulterville. If we can’t make it to St Louis, we will at least make those!
10. – Cooking, Baking & Menu Planning. I love creating new recipes and trying out fun new foods, especially during the holidays. I have the basics for our Christmas Eve menu every year–kettle-style roast beef, mashed potatoes, green beans and biscuits, with chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin, and sugar cookies for dessert. But I like to mix it up and throw in a fun little dish or two to go with it. I’ve been testing some new recipes, and have a new rosemary garlic biscuit recipe down so far.
I also came up with a really yummy apple, cranberry and goat cheese stuffing for a pork loin. I’ll probably buy a smaller pork tenderloin since we’ll already have the roast. I have an idea for beet and spinach salad with feta cheese and walnuts for a side, but need to do a trial run to see if it makes the cut. I’m also going to make some raspberry stained glass shortbread cookies to mix in with the others. The icing on the cake, figuratively speaking, is a snowflake cake that I found in the Taste of Home Magazine. I will do a post soon with my final Christmas Eve menu!
11. – Happiness for my Friends and Family. The greatest wish on my list this year, is that all of those I love are filled with joy and happiness. I’m spending as much time with my group of friends as I can, exploring the town with my boys, and spending more time with my grandparents since I don’t see them as much as I used to before moving. They’ve been dropping not-so-subtle hints that they miss me, and I know the time I have left with them is growing shorter by the day. I guess that is true for everyone in my life, but with them it is especially so.
For me, material gifts matter less and less each year. Life is so much more about the experiences than it is the things, and experiencing life with friends and loved ones means more than material gifts ever could.
Bonus – Handbag, Anyone? Although, I wouldn’t turn down a black leather Kate Spade or Coach handbag, either!
Here’s to hoping you get everything that’s on your wish list this year. Merry Christmas!