“We all know that Christmas is a big commercial racket. It’s run by a big Eastern syndicate you know.”

As much as history repeats itself, so does the stories in the news, particularly around the holidays. Next to the “Milk and Bread!” announcements with some low-level news anchor standing next to the empty rack where shovels used to be in Home Depot , the most notable winter-time holiday news stories include that of people trampling each other at your local Wal-Mart. Ah, Black Friday..the one gem of the American holiday season. I once tried explaining this truly American holiday tradition to a German friend of mine, who simply could not understand the reasoning behind people getting into physical altercations to get televisions as if there was a global shortage, but alas.. one of the many mysteries of life.

While Black Friday has come and gone, the holiday season is still well upon us. I recently read this article discussing “Christmas Gluttony”, as some would say. Growing up, it almost seemed the norm with my friends and I what we would get—a few toys, an outfit or two,  and maybe a book or holiday themed movie that we had particularly wanted. Nothing really that over the top; it was also expected that amidst the Christmas season we would give back to those around us in some capacity, regardless of our age–whether it be delivering excess cookies to a homeless shelter or helping an elderly neighbor out with her shoveling. The concept of how families vastly differ in their internal gift-giving has only something that I really have recently paid attention to as an adult. Granted, this of course, largely varies on parent’s values as well as economic abilities, but a lot of the underlying principles behind it still stand.

charlie-brown-tree

I’m personally a fan of practical gift-giving. Most of the gifts I purchase are something a person can wear in some capacity, or eat, or a high quality version of something rather useful that they need/planned to buy anyway (ie:part of my mother’s gift is a new curling iron..SHH!!). I also have siblings who were born ON Christmas Day, so really, when it looks like I’m buying them an array of gifts, it’s really just Christmas and Birthday combined–so not all that bad.

Last year, I overheard the story of 5 year old who, when prompted by their aunt on what he would like for Christmas, replied with a list of 3-4 items, none of which that had a price tag of under $200. Aside from the extreme specificity of the gifts (and the entire spirit of Christmas and giving being entirely lost here), to further worsen the matters, when the gift-giver told him that she could not afford his pricey selections he simply replied with “Why not? It’s ONLY $200, and it IS Christmas!”.

Charlie-Brown-620

While I would have received a swift swat on my derriere from my parents for being such a (insert adjective of your choice here) child, the point I’m trying to make is that Charlie Brown did have it right-Christmas is being commercialized! Whether you celebrate the religious significance of the day, or simply enjoy the concept of a holiday to be spent with your loved ones with the potential exchange of gifts ‘just because’, keep in mind that it’s not about the actual gifts, but rather the thoughts behind them. I’m (clearly) not an expert on parenting, but instilling the value of giving rather than receiving is something that Christmas should highlight. Avoiding talking about what the spirit of this season truly means  only feeds into the effect of future generations further commercializing the season.

 

What was your favorite gift-giving practice for children based on the list? Should these concepts be applied to all this season?

 

As for what I want this holiday season?

Real estate 😉

xo SA

Advertisements

Three french hens, two turtle doves…

And a roasted duck that tastes love-lyyyyyyyy!

Sorry, had to finish the song hehe.

So at my Friends-giving (the better alternative to Thanksgiving, of course) this year, I assisted my masterful chef friend in making duck for the first time. We followed the instructions to a T, and well, the final product can be seen below. While it takes about a million and two hours to complete (and may not be the best choice for those on a tight schedule with the potential to get hangry–yes, hunger+anger), it’s a great alternative to fancy up your meal if you’re having a few friends over for a relaxing dinner. The recipe she used can be found here.

IMG_1635

Not too greasy, totally moist, and really a great first-time-you’ve-tried-duck experience for the more squeamish eaters. Bottom line, it tastes amazing. Just make it!

IMG_1634

Have you tried to make duck before? Did you like how it came out? Would you try this recipe for a dinner party?

Happy Eating!

xo SA

 

That ONE thing

What is your one go-to holiday decoration? You know, the one that the seasonal decorating is incomplete without? I have a couple of ornaments for the tree that, without them, it would be incomplete.. but my #1…

IMG_1621

 

Yup, you guessed right. Mistletoe, of course! I finally purchased a ‘kissing ball’ after a few years of searching without many quality options (note, if you’re looking, I’d recommend Amazon!).

According to Wikipedia (the most accurate reference of all),

European mistletoe, Viscum album, figured prominently in Greek mythology, and is believed to be The Golden Bough ofAeneas, ancestor of the Romans. According to the 13th century Prose Edda, because of the scheming of Loki, the god Baldr was killed by his brother, the blind god Höðr, by way of a mistletoe projectile, despite the attempts of Baldr’s mother, the goddess Frigg, to have all living things and inanimate objects swear an oath not to hurt Baldr after Baldr had troubling dreams of his death. Frigg was unable to get an oath from mistletoe, because “it seemed too young” to demand an oath from. In the Gesta Danorum version of the story, Baldr and Höðr are rival suitors, and Höðr kills Baldr with a sword named Mistilteinn (Old Norse “mistletoe”). In addition, a sword by the same name appears in various other Norse legends.

In cultures across pre-Christian Europe, mistletoe was seen as a representation of divine male essence (and thus romance, fertility and vitality). According to Pliny the Elder, the Celts considered it a remedy for barrenness in animals and an antidote to poison.

When Christianity became widespread in Europe after the third century AD, the religious or mystical respect for the mistletoe plant was integrated to an extent into the new religion. In some way that is not presently understood, this may have led to the widespread custom of kissing under the mistletoe plant during the Christmas season. The earliest documented case of kissing under the mistletoe dates from 16th century England, a custom that was apparently very popular at that time.

Whatever the origins of this custom, I’m on board. Now to just make sure a cutie lands under my doorway this holiday season….

What’s your favorite decoration for the house during the holiday season?

xo SA

To kick off the holiday season…

So obviously if you ask us, the best part of the holiday season would have to be the parties and the crafts. I mean, yeah yeah, gifts/Santa/snow/traveling a million miles to see your family.. all dandy of course. But let’s get in to the truly fun stuff…

So I’ve seen this recipe on about a half million blogs, but alas, had to try for myself and possibly add a bit of a spin to it. Here’s the general gist of the recipe, though, to be honest I know I just kept adding each ingredient until the stupid thing stuck together.

Cinnamon Dough

  • 1c applesauce
  • 1c cinnamon
  • 2 tbps white glue

For a full tutorial on the dough you can check this video out here. You basically need it to be study enough to have it somewhat resemble cookie dough so that you can roll it out. I also threw in a bit of nutmeg and ground clove to make it smell especially wonderful.

IMG_1624

Warning: Nobody tells you that your hands HURT after rolling out a million and two of these guys! There’s a reason they say cinnamon is quite the exfoliant. If you’re making about 4 dozen of these guys like I did, I suggest checking out a Costco/Sam’s Club for cinnamon in bulk. Pretty easy to find this time of year and MUCH cheaper than the grocery store’s little containers.

IMG_1648

I had to leave mine out for a few more days to dry to ensure they were totally stable, but afterwards I just threw on a thick layer of gold shimmery paint and strung red glittery ribbon through the hole to complete it. Once the paint is dry you can also totally take a sharpie or paint pen and write on it.. I’ve contemplated putting the year or people’s names on some of them.

IMG_1655

Aside from gifts and the obvious tree ornaments, I’m giving them out as party favors for an upcoming birthday/holiday extravaganza. More details on that to follow…

Happy Holiday crafting!

xo SA

IMG_1638