December 1, 2014

10 Things to do in December

I can certainly believe December is here. We got a nice reminder that winter has indeed arrived last Wednesday. This is a photo of the trees in my backyard. Those pines always look beautiful in the snow and since I start decorating for Christmas the day after Thanksgiving, it was feeling very Christmassy here in the woods when the ornaments were finally hung on the tree. If I had my way, the snow would stay on the trees and it would continue to snow every day (just a bit) to keep it white and pretty all season long. Then we'd have the entire month off to enjoy the festivities! And since we all need a break from reality every now and again, this month's 10 Things is focused on enjoyment.

1. Enjoy the snow. If you're lucky enough to have snow in December, you should take full advantage of it. Build a snowman, build a snow fort, have a snowball fight. Sled, ski, snowshoe....make snow angels! Take a drive down a country road and enjoy the view. If you don't happen to have snow in your backyard, go find some!

2. Plan a skating party. We're fortunate to have an outdoor skating rink in town and a pond that (when frozen properly) allows us to skate as much as we'd like. If we're lucky enough to have a snow day, then the majority of my family would choose to ski, but sometimes skating is more fun (and cheaper and faster and easier). We also love to skate on the Frog Pond in Boston so we'll try to fit some skating time into one of our trips this month. Here's some tips for a real skating party.

3. Go caroling. I don't think you need to actually plan thisit's just you and the music. Pick a neighborhood or head into town and go and have fun! Here's how it's done. Singing carols in the car or in the shower is also acceptable.

4. Keep decorating simple. There's no need to spend a lot of money on fancy decorations, inside or out. Let nature stand in for sparkle and shine (although glitter can go a long way if it's in the right hands). Dress your fireplace mantle with a dozen or so white candles. String simple white lights through miles of greenery. Clip that greenery and fashion wreaths and swags with twine. Decorate a small tree with jingle bells, pine cones, or gold and silver balls. Be inspired. Now you can use that free time to do something extra special.

5. Write a letter to Santa. I did this last year and it was a lot of fun. Instead of asking Santa for things, I thanked him for all I had. This might be a good tradition to start with children too. Ask them to write their usual letter, but have them write a thank you note as well. Take a peek at mine.

6. Make a little extra. You might have to do a little more work, but your neighbors and friends will think you're an angel. If you're baking this season or even making dinner, why not make a double batch and deliver it to someone you know could use a break. There is so much to do this time of year that if someone dropped off dinner at my door, I think I would burst into tears. It's such a simple act of kindness.

7. Perform simple acts of kindness. (Nice segue, right?) My girls and I started volunteering at the food pantry last year. I don't do it as often as I'd like, but when I can, it feels so good. Not only to help, but to be reminded that no matter what may be going on in my life, I am blessed. I don't care what kind of mood I'm in, I will plaster on a smile on my face all December long because I'm constantly reminding myself what the season is all aboutpeace, gratitude, faith, and love. I will thank the rude person in line. I will wish a Merry Christmas to shopkeepers regardless of the service. I will hold open doors, pay for someone's coffee, donate an extra dollar, and hum Christmas carols aloud. Watch the smiles grow.

8. Catch up. Years ago, I stopped sending birthday cards out to my many relatives and made phone calls instead. It was good to catch up, hear the person's voice, and find out what's really going on in their lives, even if all I received was the condensed version. In the time it takes you to buy a card, address the envelope, and place a stamp on it, you could have been chatting. Schedule a call once a month with someone you love just to hear their voice, and even if you still send birthday cards.

9. Have a PJ Holiday. During Thanksgiving dinner, we sat around to discuss what was happening when this holiday season. Then we started to talk about past holidaysthe disasters and the successesand we all agreed that our most favorite Christmas was the one where we didn't get out of our PJs all day. We let the house get messy, we pulled out as many blankets and pillows as we could into the living room, and then we ate and talked and laughed and sang and danced the day away. It all ended with all of us in our favorite seats stuffed and sated watching Santa Claus 2. I highly recommend it.

10. New Year's Eve for two. Some day I might make it to Times Square, but I've done the get-all-dressed-up-and-attend-a-party thing. It can be fun, but now I'm more likely to snuggle up on the sofa with my dogs, my girls, my husband, or just a blanket and some good TV. Sound boring? Not if you don't let it be. It's all in the planning. Don a party hat, wear silk pajamas or a ballgown if you want, get out the noisemakers, and then surround yourself in all of your favorites—music, food—whatever you'd like. Toast the year ahead and go outside in the crisp, cool air and wish upon a star. (Here's a recipe you might enjoy for your party for two.)