Happy 4th of July to my readers from the USA!!!
Lee Teter’s “Reflections” bleeds heroism and loss.
Please just use this moment to think or remember.
My pet sitting schedule this week is nutballs. My grandma was back in the hospital and now both of my grandparents transferred to a skilled nursing facility. My allergies are either kicking my butt or I’m getting sick. And I am still recovering from a major sunburn (despite using and reapplying sunscreen) from last weekend’s Texas Paw Party.
Good news is that pet sitting will be paying for a cruise in April. I’m able to visit my grandparents frequently now that they are closer to me. Ibuprofen and a hot shower has made me feel 75% better. AND The Texas Paw Party had its best year ever – we raised $12,700 for 11 local animal rescues!!!
All of that said:
I’ve hired my friend and huge blog supporter, SherryH, as an occasional staff writer here at BFS. SherryH lives near the coast of North Carolina. Her family consists of her husband, their two adult sons, and the requisite writer’s cats. In 2013, Sherry survived a brain tumor that destroyed her eyesight. She’s determined not to let that slow her down. She recently started blogging at http://www.blindnotinvisible.wordpress.com/.
Christmas when I was growing up was a time of plenty. My parents were careful with their money, but they were solidly upper-middle class. And my mom liked to make sure there was plenty to fill our stockings and the space under the Christmas tree.
When we weren’t stationed overseas, we’d make the drive from Massachusetts to Michigan to spend the holidays with family, and after my dad retired from the Army and we moved to Michigan, the family frequently drove to visit us. With my grandpa, aunts, uncles, and cousins on my dad’s side, we could easily have a crowd of twenty eating Christmas dinner, and nearly as many when we drove to my aunt’s for our celebration with my mom’s family.
There was always plenty of good food to eat, dinner, and treats to enjoy before and after, lots of soda and – for the adults – alcohol.
Even then, our celebrations had some frugal aspects. Everyone would bring dishes to pass around for dinner, and the adults drew names for the gift exchange, though kids usually got a gift from each family. We felt so grown up when we finally got to draw names with the adults!
Every year, my sister and I received a Christmas ornament from my parents, and when we grew up and left home, our ornaments, each carefully marked with our initials, went along.
Things weren’t quite as comfortable when my own kids were as young. I didn’t work for the first few years after the kids were born – daycare would have eaten up almost everything I made – and we managed to get into quite a bit of debt. We didn’t have to worry about putting Christmas on the credit cards, because for a lot of years, we didn’t have credit cards at all!
We didn’t get to enjoy most of the family celebrations, because we couldn’t afford the trip. I do remember a couple of years where we made the trip with my parents’ help, but mostly Christmas was a celebration for the four of us, like the overseas Christmases of my childhood.
Even so, I remember those past holidays as a time of joy and plenty.
Every year, my parents would send a Christmas check. When the kids were very young, we bought presents for them to unwrap, but as they got older, we each got a little bit of money from Grandma and Grandpa to spend on ourselves. Other relatives sent money too.
Some of the money was intended for a family present, and we put it to good use. For many years, part of my parent’s gift to us was our annual Sam’s Club membership. I’d renew the membership on our usual monthly trip, and pick up a couple of extras, chocolate chips and walnuts, that our monthly budget didn’t generally stretch to cover.
For many years, we made a ritual of Black Friday shopping. Wal-Mart would generally have a sale on shoes – buy one, get one free or half off. So every year, on the day after Thanksgiving, the four of us would get up late, stroll into the store, and take our time browsing the shoe aisles to find just the right pairs while frenzied shoppers rushed to and fro all around us.
We’d often make time to visit the toy aisle so the boys could spend their Christmas loot – or window shop for purchases to make after Christmas, when the toys were likely to be discounted. They’d carefully peruse every shelf, weighing the merits of each possible selection. Sometimes I think they enjoyed shopping as much as they enjoyed the toys they eventually bought!
I did a lot of shopping after Christmas too – that was when I bought wrapping paper, cards for the next year, and sometimes ornaments.
There were always good things to eat around the holidays. I did a lot of baking, both for economic reasons and because our younger son was gluten intolerant. Pumpkin pie was a favorite, either crustless or made with crumbs I’d prepared in advance.
Frequently someone MrH worked for – either a boss or a client, depending on the year – would give us a ham. If not, I’d find a good sale price on either ham or turkey for our Christmas feast.
Though we didn’t have a lot of money, we didn’t lack for Christmas traditions.
We liked to look at Christmas lights and decorations, whether on a special trip or on our way to somewhere else. There were lighted ornaments hung on all the light poles on the Atlantic Beach Causeway. The lights were all white, except that the last reindeer before you started up the bridge had a red bulb for his nose. The kids always shouted, “There’s Rudolph!” when we spotted him.
Every year we’d pay the $5 donation to walk through the Festival of Trees at the local Civic Center. The trees were sponsored by local businesses or organizations and decorated by various organizations and schools. All proceeds went to the local hospice. And for the three or four days of the Festival, various groups such as high school bands or local choral ensembles would play music or sing for the Festival-goers. It was always magical to walk slowly among the trees, admiring the different styles and themes, looking out for our ornaments when we came to one that had been decorated by the kids’ school or their 4-H group.
It was a dazzling display, well worth the price of admission.
Another year, we went to a Christmas concert put on by a local artist. Though we didn’t have a lot to spare, we managed to buy one of her tapes, and it still occupies a special slot in our collection.
Every year on the weekend before Christmas, the local Fire and Rescue Department would bring “Santa” to visit the local neighborhoods. He’d ride in on the back of a fire truck, the sirens would whir, and kids would start streaming out of their houses to congregate around the truck. Santa or one of his firefighter helpers would give each kid a paper sack with an apple, an orange, and a few pieces of candy. It was a small thing, but always a highlight of that pre-Christmas weekend.
There were occasional Christmas parties with various friends as well.
We Did Spend Money
I’m making it sound as though we didn’t spend any money, and that definitely wasn’t the case. Every year, we bought presents for the boys to find under the tree and in their stockings. We bought and made special foods and spent money to do activities we enjoyed. But by and large, we were frugal, working to get the most out of what we had.
And you know what? As I look back on those frugal Christmases past, I remember going places together, eating together, spending time together. I remember laughter and joy. I remember cookies and carols, construction paper ornaments, the cat who liked to climb up and snooze amid the branches of the Christmas tree.
I don’t remember feeling poor or deprived, but rich beyond measure.
What holiday traditions do you enjoy?
Our annual Halloween board gaming potluck party was fun yet again. 🙂 And this one had something for everyone.
On all of the emails for Halloween potlucks, I put something along the lines of “costumes requested but not required”. Some of our friends just don’t enjoy dressing up, but we ended up with at least 14 costumed guests out of the 20+ that showed up. Yay!!!
I really enjoyed putting together my post-apocalypse outfit that will also be coming in handy for Board Game Geek in a couple of weeks. Here’s a look at the whole costume and the cost breakdown is below it:
As for cost, here’s the breakdown:
- Goggles – $4
- Vidal Sassoon London Luxe in London Lilac Hair Dye (looks brighter with purple and red undertones in real life) – $8
- Face Makeup – $1
- Dog collar – borrowed
- Tank top – $2
- Corset – $21
- Gloves – $2
- Utility Belt – $8
- Gun holster – $8
- Airsoft Gun – $5
- Knife – $10
- Neon purple tights – $4
- Black leggings – $6
- Boots – gift from friend
- TOTAL = $79
I actually already had the utility belt too from my Black Widow and Cat Woman costumes and several of the things I bought like the weapons will be going into those costumes as well.
A special thanks to Amy from http://aprilfire.blogspot.ca/ for the London Luxe in London Lilac hair dye recommendation. I’ll let you all know if this one actually lasts vibrantly longer than 2 weeks, which has been the norm for all of the more temporary dyes I have tried so far. This one has developer involved, so hopefully it’ll last nice and bright for 6+ weeks!
Handing Out Candy
My favorite part of the evening was sitting in the front yard with about 10 of my closest friends and handing out candy to the trick-or-treaters. We had jello shots, tons of candy, and 10 different costumes for the kids to check out/be scared of, which was cool and funny. My friend, B, was in all black with a zen tai suit to boot and really freaked out the little kiddies just by standing there holding a candy bucket. Hillary’s whited-out eyes caused a few pauses too.
A few neighbors actually went out of their way to mention that they have appreciated my Halloween decorations since we moved in. That was so sweet.
If you aren’t into costumes, you would have probably at least liked the potluck offerings! I chose a “finger food” theme and we had all sorts of yumminess show up or be served! The highlights were the skeleton made out of cupcakes that my mother-in-law bakes every year, homemade popcorn balls, a broccoli bacon salad, deviled eggs, my witches fingers cookies, taquitos, mini-corn dogs, nuggets, fries, roasted vegetables, this cheese and cracker thing from Tader Joe’s that I’m in love with, and lots of other candy and general yumminess that I’m forgetting right now.
Mr. BFS and I supplied the chicken nuggets, seasoned fries, and the witches fingers for a total of about $20.
Our group plays board games and this potluck was no different. Costumed or not, people were enjoying all sorts of games like Puerto Rico, Vasco de Gama, Tichu, Codenames, etc. There were even video games going on in the media room. We geeks know how to party! 😉
Overall, it was 14 hours of awesome!!!
How was your Halloween 2015?
You have to love a nation that celebrates its independence every July 4th, not with a parade of guns, tanks, and soldiers who file by the White House in a show of strength and muscle, but with family picnics where kids throw Frisbees, the potato salad gets iffy, and the flies die from happiness. You may think you have overeaten, but it is patriotism. — Erma Bombeck