Thursday, December 30, 2010

Well, that was a lovely Christmas. What now?

    Hello again and thank you for popping by and looking over my newest post. I hope you had a lovely and nearly stress-free Christmas. I'm sorry it's been three whole weeks since my last post, but I take my own advice and focussed on simplifying my busy December. That being said, it was a good one!
 My father's side of the family had their celebration together on the 19th. We skyped for a couple hours with my cousin serving in Afghanistan and played Bingo. It wasn't our traditional Christmas, but those of us at Uncle Arn and Auntie Susan's house had a really nice time. On Christmas Eve my mother's side of the family held it's annual White Dinner. Just as mentioned in a previous post, this is our formal celebration of the year. We tried to simplify it a little, but the food and personalities kept it a success. We even held a Yankee Swap and it was a blast!
 Christmas Day was held at our family home in New Hampshire. My mother had to work most of the day and my brother and his wife drove up in the early afternoon. Mom and I entertained ourselves by going to our neighbors' house for breakfast (an annual thing we do (We didn't crash their Christmas)) and returned home to realize we had to throw a Christmas Dinner together. Christmas Day is traditionally celebrated with Dad's side, so Mom and I were thrown off-guard. Luckily, we improvised and created a nice three course meal with stuffs from the freezer and pantry. It's fun to be creative!
 And so that was my Christmas. But what do I do now? New Year's Eve will come and go. Will I keep any resolution I proclaim to myself? I made the decision that I'll damn well try this year. You see 2010 was only an okay year for me. In January I was a college graduate working at the mall. The day before my birthday party I lost said mall job and that set the tone for my 2010. Granted, there have been some great times this year. Day trips and visiting friends, sleeping in a lot, having plenty of time to read, having time to help others, and finding some really great bargains while antiquing were all wonderful things. But 2010 found me depressed and looking for a career, but only finding temporary and menial work. In conclusion, this year has not been my finest. "These are hard times for everyone," is what I keep hearing and seeing everywhere I turn. I'm sure many of you reading this have noticed how things are.
 So where do we go from here? That's where a few realisitic resolutions will come into play. What are some things you want to change in your life? Feel free to make a list. They always help to clarify things. After much thought, I concluded that aside from finding some sort of career there are other things I'd like to change and accomplish in 2011 that will enrich my life.
 My advice to you is to set up three realistic goals to accomplish. If you try slightly you'll reach one of them this year. If you conciously try you'll reach and exceed all three. For example, I've decided that in addition to finding work, I'm going to add two fruits and a veggie to my diet everyday. Yes, in my time secluded from the working world I have turned to chips and sugary snacks too often. Not in 2011. I'll work on replacing some of these fattening and skin-diseasing treats (still delicious though) with foods that are good for me. Another goal I have is to actually exercise three to five times a week. I don't mean hit the gym and go nuts. I mean jogging in the warmer weather and lifting weights a few times a week. I'll feel so much better about myself come the beach weather! Finally, I'd like to improve my skills on the piano. In the Spring I gave into a longtime fascination and picked up a couple how-to guides on clearance and found a tinny keyboard at a yardsale. I've taught myself a little treble clef. My good friend Gabe gifted me his keyboard some time ago saying he'd rather see me use it than pack it and move it to New York. And with a more professional piece to play on I've been more goal oriented. But there's always room for improvement. And 2011 will be my year to imrpove on the keyboard.
 As you read, I have multiple goals. None of them are completely outlandish. I can add better things to my diet and I can get up off the couch. I know that somewhere there's gainful employment waiting for me. And bettering myself with the piano will be music to my ears! These goals with determination and conciousness, a little bit luck, some pressure from friends and family, and God's blessing, I can accomplish and I'll be the better man for it. 2011 is my year! I don't care who owns 2012. By then I'll be making money, be fitter, and tickling the keys so relentlessly that I won't care if my year is over.
 So to conclude, what are your goals for this coming year? 2010 was great for some of my friends and they wouldn't change a thing in their lives. But for most of us 2010 was a year of some trial and tribulation. What can we do to better ourselves next year? Like I said, little goals (baby steps) will yield some noticable results.
 Let me be one of the first to congratulate you and wish you a happy, healthy, and enrichening 2011!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

An Impromptu and Easy Holiday Gathering is a Great Thing

      "We all enjoy visiting with our loved ones. Many of us enjoy hosting them too. But everyone gets stressed when when putting together a big holiday To-Do!"
     Indeed, that is quite the poor rhyme, but you know it speaks the truth. And it's a rather sad truth really. People love to celebrate together, but those households that host celebrations often feel some serious strain the day of. We don't need to be stressed. We don't need to have everything just so. We do however crave companionship and our cravings are often the strongest around a holiday. So what is my point?
 Over the years my family had several Christmas time celebrations that we hosted or attended and these, while memorable and wonderful, could prove stressful indeed. A few of our formal occasions have lived through to today and we cherish them for it.
 Every year Mom's side of the family holds it's "White Dinner." This meal was originally known as the "Dinner of the Seven Fishes" and came over from Naples with my ancestors. This is our formal gathering of the year. We are, of course, our usual boisterous selves and smoke cigars on the front porch. But this yearly ritual is when ties are worn and the women dress up better than at Easter. We have lobster and baccala and delicacies we only treat ourselves to this one time a year. The "White Dinner" is sacred and I pray that when it's my generation's turn to lead the family my cousins, brother, and I don't screw up and allow this to fall by the wayside. Yet, the prep work and all the details of this can be overwhelming and when people are dressed we often loose part of the value of these things.
  That nearly brings me to my point. (The point being) It's wonderful to have formal traditions, but not every party or gathering you host needs to be your own "White Dinner." As a matter of fact some of the best parties or dinners I can think of are the impromptu kind. In her 1959 book on entertaining, Betty Crocker recommended Pot Lucks, Dessert Parties, and the like as informal and impromptu gatherings that people enjoy and don't have to stress the hostess (or the host (My how things have changed!)).
 We celebrate a little thing called "Conti Christmas" with my godmother and her family. This used to consist of a sitdown meal and piles of presents per person. My mother and godmother recently decided to simplify this annual pastime. This year (we hold this celebration in the late part of November or early December) we filled ourselves with appetizers and a few select desserts. Instead of going through piles of gifts, we held a "Yankee Swap." We had a blast! Little stress in setting up or shopping for our celebration, but maximum enjoyment being at ease and with stomachs full together.
  I myself am holding a pretty informal "Christmas Time Tea" this Sunday. Granted I'll use the silver "Twelve Days of Christmas" spoons and my fancy tea set from 1936. We won't however dress really formal. I told the girls to wear pearls as they are lovely and can be dressed up or down. We won't sit in the more formal living room where the tree is. Instead, my friends and I will sit in the family room where my Christmas vilage is set up. There will be carols on the radio and we'll eat things I've prepared and things from the market. There will also be a story telling contest. We may even decorate a tabletop tree to send to a friend in town! Yes, just a couple hours on a Sunday afternoon for friends to enjoy each others' company and relax in the middle of December. Such a thing is possible and I invite you to try it out yourselves.
 As always, thank you for reading my ramblings. I hope you find them somewhat entertaining, if not nearly helpful. Feel free to comment anytime. Enjoy your day and thanks again!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

There's Nothing Wrong with a Little You Time during Yuletide

   The holiday season is a blessing as well as a stress inducing period for most of us. With our lives full of work or school, household duties and errands, we're still expected to go to parties, host parties, go carolling, buy and wrap gifts, make dinner, decorate the house, attend plays and recitals, and shovel snow too; all during the single month long period known as Christmas time. Granted, most stores start their Christmas ads the day after Halloween now and you can buy most types of meals from a caterer or the La Carte department of your local supermarket, with all the joy of seeing friends and family and showing them a nice time we still get pretty stressed at points during this merry season. I guarantee at some point you'll be blessed with your own stress this holiday, but luckily there is a secret weapon that helps lessen and even alleviate some of the stress and allows you to "Keep Calm and Carry On" with your holiday plans.
  "You Time" is that wonderful period inwhich an individual has only for his/herself. This period is for you so you will be able to go on with the holiday season and all it's prep-work.  During this time you might read a magazine or part of a book. You might write out a list of To-Do's and To-Buy's as to make your days and excursions to the mall somewhat clearer and that less stressful. Maybe your "You Time" is sitting infront of the TV and wrapping a couple presents during commercial breaks, giving you one less To-Do and a little entertainment. You may take a 20 minute power nap or just sit in a big chair sipping tea, hot chocolate, coffee, or something stronger for a few quiet moments.
  I find that reading a short story or listening to an old radio comedy in the car puts me into a good mood during the holidays in between errands and work and cleaning and TRAFFIC. It's all a very Zen-ish thing really.
 This Christmas season take a litte time for yourself when you feel you need it. Whether it's a couple minutes a day or a couple times a week, you'll feel a little more energized with a clearer head and a better attitude. People like relaxed personalities more than wound-up hysterical sorts. And none of us wants to be the buzz kill at a gathering. It's not selfish at all to take five or ten minutes and escape to your bedroom to relax when entertaining, so long as the preparations are all made and your guests haven't arrived yet. Center yourselves. Refresh yourselves. And most importantly, enjoy yourselves this season.