Monday, November 28, 2011

From Gobbles to Gifts - Advent is here

We have many unbreakables on our tree.
This practice is a holdover from having toddlers
 and pets climbing our tree.
Every year, the first time I hear Christmas music in stores catches me by surprise. "Already?" I think to myself. But Christmas is big business, so of course they play it up.

We've barely got Thanksgiving boxed up, and we're inundated with sales fliers. Deals abound everywhere. Need sweaters, boots, or a party outfit? How about stuff for hunting or boating?One of the three dozen or so sales inserts from the Saturday paper will direct you to a bargain.

Anything you can't find locally is just a click away on the internet. Easy, right? Only if you're made of money. Most of us are pinching pennies, trying to stretch what we have to make it last.

Usually I start hyperventilating about now. There are Christmas cards to find and address. Letters to write. Cookies to bake. Trees to decorate. Christmas sweaters tucked away in my closet-where'd I put those things? Invitations to consider. Visits to schedule. And of course, gifts to buy.

Angels are a special favorite of mine.
I don't know what this says about me, but my gift-giving list shrinks each year. I buy for my family, of course, for my choir, and my best friends. One of my favorite events of the season is our First Coast Romance Writers holiday party where we have a blind ornament exchange.

The name for the swap is politically incorrect, but basically, when its your turn you select a wrapped package or "steal" from someone else. Once an item is stolen three times, its frozen and that person gets to take it home. Some years the hot item is a sparkly Cinderella stilleto, other years it's an angel or a purse. The catch is that the gift can't cost more than five dollars. I'm just bursting with the need to tell someone what my gift is, but I don't want to spoil the surprise. All I'll say is that he started life as a key chain fob. Now he's being repurposed as the stuff of our dreams.

This tree is from Christmas past.
 I haven't dragged everything down from the attic yet
 this year. Maybe in a week or so.
Let's talk decorating for a minute. Two of my neighbors are ready to go. One home has soft blue lights on a fence and multi-colored lights on the house. Another neighbor has bright red lights wrap candy cane style up the trunk of her palm trees. Lots of bows and swags on the house lights over there. I wonder if they'll adopt me or at least my yard.

Each year we discuss the pros and cons of decorating more than our tree. This year we'll put white lights on the fence because we have a daughter and her family visiting. We don't want to appear to be deadbeats.

Question: who do you decorate for? Yourself? Your family? Your community? Or do you enjoy looking at everyone else's decorations? I love riding around and seeing what others have done to their homes and yards - do you?

Happy Advent, everyone!

Maggie Toussaint
coming in 2012: Death, Island Style and Murder in the Buff


  1. I love the fact that other people go to town when it comes to decorating their houses for Christmas, but I have to admit, my own decorations are quite minimal. I have a tree, of course, but much more than that and I start to feel there's too much clutter. I do absolutely love Christmas though. I do the whole baking thing, have a lucky dip sack from which anyone and everyone who visits the house has to pick something and the Christmas CD is constantly playing... I'm getting excited just thinking about it x

  2. Every year, I want to decorate less and less. I put some lights up outside, drag out my snowmen collection and put up a small tree. This year, with writing and editing deadlines looming, those little pre-decorated trees look better and better. With our grown children living across the globe, only hubs, the cat and I will see whatever I put up.

  3. Hi Suzie,
    Thanks for dropping in and sharing your thoughts about Christmas decorations. I adore your idea of a lucky dip sack. What a wonderful tradition.

  4. I hear you, Vonnie. I often question the return on effort as well. I always joke with my family that I want a tree I once saw on a Dr. Seuss special where they boink a fake tree in the ground and it fluffs out like an umbrella, fully decorated. Afterwards, I could collapse it and store it in the broom closet. Sounds great, eh?

  5. Great post Maggie. Now I mostly just decorate for myself. i live alone, and I don't get a lot of visitors over the holiday, but I do have my annual tree triming party for my neices and nephews. Now it has changed over the last number of years. I usally have it the firat weekend in December, but this year my tree went up this past weekend. I had a friend here for the weekend and she usually comes for a weekend every December. We shop and have a few laughts, not make that a lot of laughs. Go out for dinner and maybe a movie. And I always have my tree and my home decorated by the time she comes. But this year schedules were re-arranged and we had to do it a little earlier. So she helped me with the tree this year. It was fun, and I even put on Christmas music, which for me listening to Christmas music before December 1st is unheard of. But like I said things change... But I have a lot of beautiful and meaningful decorations that need to be appriciated if even just once a year... And this year my Christmas spirit is lacking, we lost my mother this year and I am feeling her loss so much more this time of year. But she loved Christmas, because it was the one time of year she had all her family together,so hor her I will try my best...

  6. Maggie,
    I love riding around and looking at Christmas lights. It's timeless and brings back so many memories. Like you, I love baking gifts. May your holidays be filled with friendship and laughter. I'm blessed by your friendship! *Hugs*

  7. Kathleen O, I'm heartened by the great friendship you have with your Christmas pal. Those bonds carry so much meaning. I'm sorry to hear about your mom. I lost my mom last Thanksgiving and we are all slowly coming around to life-after-mom. Give yourself some time to grieve fro your mom. Being around loving friends and family helps ease the pain. Hugs.

  8. Diana, Thanks for swinging by. I know how slammed you are right now. What fun it would be to drop in at your place and share a Christmas treat. Happy holidays to you, my friend.

  9. Oh, man, Maggie - you've made my chest tight. I am not ready for the big hubub about to get underway (it already has!)
    I lit the first Advent candle last night, and will do my best to focus on that instead of the craziness of this season.
    I decorate the house for me. Our neighbors are so creative, I couldn't begin to keep up with them. A simple string of colored lights along the roof makes me happy. What matters most to me is what is inside - our warm and cozy home with decorations that have lasted for years and years (plus a new one or two each year). It says Christmas for me.
    Gosh, I guess it's time to fish out the Christmas CDs!
    thanks for a fun blog.

  10. My Christmas tree is two-foot high and sit on a sidetable. Because I live in a partment there's no room for big trees. This year I set my decorations a week before Thanksgiving. My granddaughters were visiting. It was raining. To keep them busy I asked for help getting the Christmas decorations set. We had a lot of fun. Even the Christmas tablecloth was spread over the dining table. My living room is so cheery.

  11. Maggie, I decorate for myself. I always decorate the whole house, then I'll sit in the semidarkness and just enough the lights. It's so dark this time of year, I crave the light.

  12. I decorate for myself, or I have my husband do the yard for me. We have grandkids, so I can use them as an excuse. I am always disappointed in the number of people who don't decorate. They come off to me as Scrooge. You know that not all those people are NOT celebrating the holidays. We do lights on house and some bushes and have a few yard things. In the house, I do the bathroom in Santa and Snowmen. Also, my writer's group does a gift exchange, too, similar to yours. We don't restrict it to ornaments, but it can't cost more than $15 dollars.

  13. I've barely gotten over Thanksgiving myself.
    I like giving books to children and adults as gifts since writing and reading are so much a part of my life. I like the fact that this is a joyful time of the year. Two years ago, December 2009, a short story I wrote about the holidays was published in The Kids' Reading Room section of the Los Angeles Times. It's fiction--sort of-- written for my granddaughter Ella and called "Ella's Eyes." For me, it conveys my sense of what's best about the holiday season.

  14. Hi Lynne, I like your keep it simple philosophy. Focusing on an Advent candle does bring one back to center.

    Congratulations to Mona for having all her decorating done already, even though she had help! I think I might pull down the attic stairs and start tummaging around in the Christmas boxes.

  15. Keena,
    I like sitting in semi-darkness like that as well. I find it helps quiet my thoughts. Troubles that seemed overwhelming suddenly seem lighter, more manageable.

    Anna Katherine, Welcome to mudpies! I'm glad you encourage folks to decorate. I'll get to it, but don't judge me by this week's efforts, LOL.

    Hey Jacqueline, I agree. Books are the absolute best gifts to buy. I can't tell you how heartwarming it is to know that both my grandsons (and they are both under age 2) recognize books and enjoy stories. We have to keep growing readers. That's important folks!

  16. Well, at least I read my Advent devotional yesterday...and went to church.
    I saw a photo on FB--two houses side-by-side. One decorated to the nth degree, covered in lights, and stuff covering the yard, all lit up. The house next door had a big sign made of duct tape on the garage door that read, "Ditto." That just cracked me up.
    Oh, and you make a good Andy Rooney.

  17. I love Christmas lights, but I'm sorry to say that I'm a deadbeat -- and getting worse every year. You'd think it would be the opposite, that since I love looking at them so much that I would want to have tons of lights of my own, but I just don't seem to have the decorating knack. What I would REALLY like to do is decorate the two big blue spruces in our front yard, but they are too tall.

  18. I love Christmas and all the hysteria that it creates. I love Christmas music, Christmas food, and the family rituals.
    I love to decorate, especially now that my girls are older. They're a tremendous help!

  19. I keep my outdoor decorations to a minimum but love to look at the decorations others display this time of year. Crazy, I know. I used to always take my son on a yard decoration hunt car ride, but one year we did it on foot. You get a totally different experience that way. More time to gawk - lol! We loved it.

  20. Hey Celia, What a funny story about those two houses. What's even funnier is that in the next few years I could be the person with the cardboard "ditto" sign. Thanks for the Andy Rooney compliment. He was always a personal favorite of mine.

    Gail!!! We used to decorate the blue spruce in our Maryland front yard. The first five to eight years it was doable, but then it shot waaaaay up and we kept having to double the amount of lights we needed. We stopped decorating it, but I was always sad about that.

  21. Carlajo, Welcome to the blog. I love your name! It's perfect for my books. To me it implies a person who adores their family and home, someone who would be a great best friend.

    Charlie, I love the idea of a yard decoration hunt. I'm guessing its like a scavenger hunt, which would be loads of fun. Looking forward to our FCRW party! Thanks for stopping by.

  22. Maggie, happy Advent! Loved your post - ditto - Thanksgiving is barely in the bag and the holidays hit full force! I decorate for my kids. They have a blast and I love watching how their eyes light up. Mind you the last 2 years I've had no energy to decorate, but somehow I always manage to pull through.

    In fact, today and my husband are getting the house ready. We're rearranging the furniture and pulling down the Christmas boxes.

    When it comes to gifts, I've cut down a lot too. I might give a family calendar, Bath & Body, Wine, Wolferman's, Yankee Candles, and gift cards! Thank God for gift cards. I'll also give a book or two. They're fun.



  23. Three days before Halloween, stores were consolidating Halloween merchandise and setting up the Christmas aisles. So it goes. And still, I procrastinate buying gifts until the last minute. Don't know why.

    I love your tree ornaments. :) Christmas decorations make me happy. Putting them away does not. Where's the maid when you need one???


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