Anna Claus Holiday Must Haves

When you stop believing in Santa you get underwear.  –unknown

Okay, so I’m not really a member of the official Santa Claus family, but Christmas is my FAVORITE time of the year!  I am well versed in all the songs of the season, know the “Code of Elves” verbatim and I’ve successfully completed several Christmas-themed Buzzfeed quizzes.  So OBVIOUSLY I’m practically an adopted member of the Claus household 🙂 and as a self-appointed Christmas authority I feel obligated to share these 12 little goodies with the planet to ensure you and yours experience your best Christmas yet!  In no particular order, I present to you Anna Claus Holiday Must Haves….

  • Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris.  I read this collection of short, satirical (and politically incorrect) stories every December for many, many reasons.  Mostly because who doesn’t love the escapades of a grown man parading around Macy’s as an Elf, the unlikeliest Christmas Eve houseguest EVER and the snarkiest review of children’s Christmas pageants you’ll ever read?  Nothing gets me in the holiday mood quite like this fun (and funny) book.  Complete brain candy, it is good for continuous laughs.
  • Ella Wishes You a Swinging Christmas  If you love jazzy, upbeat Christmas music this album is for you!  The 60s style jazz offerings are traditional yet they possess that special “zing.”  CAUTION:  The “cool cat” vibe this album induces may cause scatting!  Wonderful background music for doing just about anything holiday related.
  • Candy Canes  Nothing says Christmas like candy canes.  Sweet and pepperminty I try to consume as many as possible.  Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s it’s not unusual to find these tasty treats (and their tiny crumbs) in my purse, in my pockets or in my mouth!
  • IMG_2064Pandora’s Swingin’ Christmas Radio Station  This is the ONLY internet radio station I listen to during the holidays.  On the computer and on my phone this is my go-to background music for the holiday season.  Here you’ll find everything from the Rat Pack Christmas album and Louis Armstrong offerings to Michael Buble and everyone in between.
  • Santa Hat (Reindeer Antlers optional)  My all time hat of choice, the Santa hat comes out right after Thanksgiving and lives among the coats all Christmas season long.  This year I’ve decided to add reindeer antlers to the list of approved December head-gear.  Very festive!
  • Starbucks Christmas Blend and Peet’s Holiday Blend Warm, sweet and spicy…this is what Christmas tastes like!  For a coffee lover like myself this is a terrific blend that gets the day going…also serves as the perfect addition to an evening dessert.  Would I like another cup?  Of course!
  • Nativity  Nativities set the scene for a Christ-centered holiday.  Our family nativity is my all-time favorite and I love to share the story about how we acquired such a unique set.  I also love visiting the homes of family and friends and seeing their nativity displays.  Most times it leads to another wonderful story as well.
  • Cookie Baking  I am probably guilty of too much cookie baking during this time of the year, but I love it!!!  I wish we could live off Christmas cookies, but I’m afraid of what we might look like if I got my wish.  Too many favorite cookies to name, I especially love making treats to give away to family and friends.
  • Holiday Movies  The Christmas season would not be complete without holiday movies.  My all time favorite is It’s a Wonderful Life.  Watching the Charlie Brown Christmas is a must.  I also like to sprinkle in a little Christmas with the Kranks, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, A Christmas Story and Elf among others.
  • Christmas Cards  I love the tradition of Christmas Cards, but I’ve noticed that this tradition is fading.  Sigh.  As someone who has lived in several states and many cities (towns) over the years, this is one of the best ways I know of to catch up with far away friends and family.  Be sure to throw in a zany family photo or funny Christmas letter!
  • Christmas Lights Tour This is a tradition that goes way, way back for me.  I can remember piling up in the car as a child and checking out the Christmas lights in my little hometown.  Today, my husband and I continue to take (drag) our children out to look at the lights.  This year we cranked our adventure up a notch with a Holiday Lights Scavenger Hunt.  Great fun!
  • Snow Never a guarantee, but snow really makes it all perfect.  It seems that whenever it snows the world seems to slow down a bit…offering us a moment to take in and savor everything around us.  The holidays typically fly by…I need a little snow to take it all in.

A few honorable mentions to my list:  cocoa, caroling and Christmas parades!  They don’t call it the most wonderful time of the year for nothing.  Wishing you the Merriest Christmas!

 

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A Few of My Favorite Things (2014 in Review)

My favorite things often have a story behind them….  –Amy Sedaris

As 2014 winds down the countdown to New Year’s Day 2015 begins.  It’s at this time every year that we’re all subjected to the top news stories, songs, movies, television shows, etc. of the past twelve months (just in case we forgot.)  We’re also treated to the “best of” and “worst of” inventories for just about every subject under the sun.  And since we’ve already suffered through the roll call of Oprah and Ellen’s favorite things, I thought it was time that I got into the act with a list of my own (never mind the fact that I’m not a talk show host or a celebrity!)  So enjoy (or is it endure?) a few of MY favorite things from 2014 🙂

  • Favorite Song:  “Best Day of My Life” by American Authors  This upbeat song hit my radar this spring and really spoke to me as a call to approach each day as an amazing blessing.  I wrote about this song in a previous blog post and labeled it my personal “walk up song” for 2014.  This fun little anthem encourages one to be young, to see each day as a new opportunity, and to wholeheartedly believe in the limitless possibilities of good and joy in this life.  It’s a toe-tapping, high energy, nonsensical call to be AWESOME each and every day.
  • book
    “Sundays in America” by Suzanne Strempek Shea

    Favorite Book I Read:  “Sundays in America” by Suzanne Strempek Shea  I came upon this book by accident or sheer laziness (you decide.)  My daughter and I happened to be at the local library during an unusually heavy downpour.  We had already finished up in the children’s book section, when the thought of facing the rain seemed idiotic (a lifelong Kansan…I knew it would let up in 5-10 minutes.)  So rather than get drenched, we moseyed over to the religion section of the library and this little goodie caught my eye.  It was the subtitle that really sold me:  A Yearlong Road Trip in Search of Christian Faith.  In journal form, the author offers up insight as she sets out to visit a different church every Sunday for a year.  Her journey takes her across every region of the country, including Hawaii.  As a self-proclaimed “Church Nerd,” I found this book to be very eye-opening, offering up moments of hope and reflection while inciting a few sad and squeamish realizations about the Christian faith and how it is received and perceived.  An easy read…fellow “Church Nerds” should make it a point to check this book out.

  • Favorite Item Purchased:  Fire Pit  Let me start by saying that I am both equally terrified and mesmerized by fire!  Yet nothing soothes my spirit like hanging out around a fire pit.  Watching the flames dance around under a star-filled sky is my ultimate idea of relaxation.  No item that we have purchased in the last year has brought this much excitement to every member of our family.  While the kiddos have enjoyed having friends over to share in the fun, they seem to be just as content to hang out with their Dad and I.  And I’m all for anything that brings everyone together for an evening (with minimal bickering, of course!)
  • sue drinks coffeeFavorite TV Show:  “The Middle”  The kiddos first stumbled upon this show in reruns and I wasn’t exactly hooked (at first.)  In fact, I was more insulted than anything.  Somehow, my children got it into their little brains that our family was just like the fictitious Hecks and that as “Mom” I was relegated to the “Frankie” character.  This scatter-brained, (often times) sad excuse for a mother was supposedly me?  No way!  I refused to accept such a role and couldn’t believe my kiddos could put me in the same category.  Yet, over time I came to appreciate this TV family.  In their own unique way, the Hecks love each other, look after each other, and in so many ways this imperfect family is absolutely relatable on a number of levels.  I would be lying if I didn’t say that I still find the “Frankie” reference insulting (let the record show that Sue is my favorite character,) but 2014 has brought about a new appreciation for “Frankie” and this dysfunctional (yet adorable) family sitcom.  You can find it in reruns on a variety of channels, or for new episodes check out ABC on Wednesday nights.
  • Favorite Snack:  S’mores  Okay, since we now have a fire pit, s’mores have earned the top spot for favorite snack of 2014.  While traditionally I am a nachos kind of person, s’mores have gained prominence as the treat of choice.  Funny thing is, that while I could probably eat a pound of nachos…I generally just want one s’more.  Maybe that’s another reason to eat more s’mores!  One little tidbit of advice that I will offer up…we’ve discovered that regular size marshmallows work best.  They toast quickly and provide the right proportion of marshmallow to chocolate to graham cracker ratio.  After experimenting with campfire (extra-large sized) marshmallows and marshmallow squares, we’ve discovered that these varieties seriously affect the ratios.  TIP:  If you just want toasted marshmallows go BIG or square, otherwise for traditional s’mores regular-sized marshmallows are best.  Yummy 🙂
  • Favorite Product to Hit the Supermarket Shelf: Peet’s Coffee  As a coffee lover I am pretty much Starbucks all the time.  However, whenever I visit the San Francisco Bay Area, for me it has to be Peet’s Coffee.  Later, when I found out that they sold Peet’s at the supermarkets in Northern Cali…well I just had to have that AND buy enough to bring some home to Kansas after a trip.  Now…you won’t believe what I found on the supermarket shelf?  Peet’s Coffee in KANSAS!  People, this is exciting!!!  This coffee is so amazing…strong, rich, full flavor…perfect 🙂  I went through a bag in a blink and I can’t wait to buy more–locally!  Hooray, hooray…such a happy day!  Jump on to their website for supermarket locations near you.  http://www.peets.com/
  • Favorite Podcast: Freakonomics  My husband first introduced me to Freakonomics a few years ago.  He came across the documentary on Netflix.  Later I found out about the book and the blog.  Finally, I discovered the podcast!  For “News Nerds” like me this is awesome!  Freakonomics is the product of a journalist and an economist.  Together, they uncover the hidden side of everything (their tagline, not mine.)  Both educational and extremely entertaining this is my weekly go-to for information and insight.  Each podcast is about 40-45 minutes long and they cover a variety of topics.  A little something for everyone.
  • Favorite Place to Shop:  Ulta  I have loved playing with make-up since I was a teenager.  So as I near 40, you would think that I would be over it.  NOT!  Enter Ulta, the make-up mega store.  It has just about every make-up product known to (wo)man, in every shade imaginable, and at prices to fit all budgets.  I could spend hours in there.  As far as make-up goes I’m pretty traditional and extremely conservative, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t like to look.  Orange lipstick, green eyeliner, purple fingernails…yes, I am intrigued (even if I’d never have the guts to wear any of it!)
  • IMG_0622
    Snapped this photo while cleaning the kitchen! With the Tadaa SLR app your photo can go from “cleaning up” to looking all “cleaned up” with just a few tweaks. Love this app!

    Favorite iPhone App:  Tadaa SLR  I’m pretty sure everyone on the planet knows that I love to take photos.  Now that our phones are our cameras, this makes taking pictures easy and a full-time hobby without all the gear.  I have tried and use a lot of photo apps on my iPhone, but this year’s stand out is Tadaa SLR.  With features that let you adjust the focus and depth, blur with precision (it also includes all the standard editing features) this app makes me feel like a professional photographer (even if it’s only in my head!)  Seriously, at only $2 this is definitely an app worth having and it’s so easy you’ll wonder what you ever did without it!  HONORABLE MENTION:  Wal-mart Savings Catcher because I am a mother on a budget!

  • Favorite Lesson Learned:  GOD’S CONSTANT PROVISION.  I could write a whole book about this line alone!  Going into 2014 I knew there would be one big hurdle for our family life.  (In fact, I heard that little voice as early as December 2013.)  And just as surely as I had been warned, these things came to be.  Without going into too much detail, let me say that God has provided time and time again.  And He has provided in ways and with means that I would never have expected and all in His perfect timing.  Whenever I should have been stressed out and overcome with worry/fear I knew and felt God’s presence.  I’m sure it was maddening for those around me to see that I wasn’t worried (heaven knows I found other things to worry about!)  But let me tell you that we always had what we needed exactly when we needed it!  Friends, God is good–all the time!  I won’t pretend to know God’s plans or why I needed to learn the lesson of provision, but I am grateful for it and I know that it serves a larger purpose in our family’s faith walk.

That pretty much sums it up!  Like the popular song from the Sound of Music…these are a few of my favorite things.  Well, 10 of my favorite things anyway 🙂  Would love to hear about some of your “best of” or “worst of” items from this past year.

Looking forward to learning, growing and discovering new things in 2015!