Friday, December 19, 2014

Christmas Traditions & Simplifying Gift Giving

I'm still here! Sorry for the lapse in blogging. Life happened and I was trying to keep up with things like school cello concerts, making Boy Scout wreaths, helping my grandma, getting the house decorated, shopping not to mention some fun holiday gatherings I've been lucky to be a part of. 

My cards got messed up this year in the printing, took forever to get fixed and just now got to me. When I will get those out is anyone guess... This week I also fit in a new kind of spin class -The Dailey Cycle that is opening soon in the Willow Glen area of San Jose. I'll write more about that fun experience in the next week or so.

 Speaking of Willow Glen, I love it this time of year, with it's trees and festive neighborhoods!

We took a night last week to do a special family dinner out in Willow Glen and see the lights. Willow Glen is one of the most charming areas to me as the streets still resemble the era they were built in, and they take pride in preserving the home size and neighborhoods as they originally were. It's a delight to drive through during the holidays since many streets choose a theme for their Christmas lights. This year we saw candy canes, arches, icicles, and snowflakes as street themes! It has become a tradition to have dinner there and then drive through with the Christmas tunes playing.

Love the big trees and how about those snowflakes? Sorry hard to photograph well!

You can see people go all out...

Today finally school is out! My boys are home and in jolly moods! We made a list of all our favorite Christmas movies we want to watch on my blackboard.

So far our list...

It's a Wonderful Life
The Christmas Story
A Christmas Carol (The George C. Scott version)
The Santa Clause
White Christmas
Rick Steve's European Christmas
Arthur's Christmas

I would love to hear your favorites if you could share!

One idea I'm trying to pass to my boys this year is that Christmas is special because of the rituals we love and not gifts. It's the movie nights, the baking and decorating cookies, get-togethers, special dinners, seeing the lights, advent calendars, playing board games and all that which makes it so fun.

My husband and I are trying to buy less this year as we usually go overboard each buying more than is even used and played with. I loved a recent article on Houzz about making Christmas simple and more meaningful. So many also left comments following the article about how they do it. One lovely idea that many do was using a formula to make the gifts for kids easier. My kids are teens, so we told them we are doing something you want, something you need, something that is a surprise, and something to read. They will also get a stocking with some very nice things and a little envelope with some money to shop after Christmas sales.

My oldest is 16 and he thought it was great. The 13 year old wasn't as crazy about it.  We may split a few of his gifts into two items. He says he prefers quantity. Oh brother. This is typical of these guys as Jackson is a minimalist and needs nothing ever, and Griffin is an active hoarder that we had to take off garbage duty as things kept showing back up in his room!

We shall see how this all goes, but it is making Christmas shopping a way easier and I am doing my best not to just grab things I see that aren't part of the plan.

We also made the guys do a charitable thing. Sacred Heart Community Service said one thing they really need is gifts for teenage boys as they get so little for that group. Bingo I thought! That is perfect for us. We are shopping tomorrow and each will pick a gift to give to another teen boy.

We did begin some baking with the Christmas Dream Drops from Sunset magazine. Always a hit and easy.

We got a few wreaths up. I love my bay wreath that Griffin my youngest made with Scouts. They even cut the foliage up in the mountains and spent many nights making these pretty wreaths. I hung a little sign on mine.

I also fell in love with this tinsel wreath I found and added this Eiffel Tower ribbon. I do like having wreaths on the French doors!

Much of the decorating has been just adding greenery and a lot of it stayed in the storage boxes this year. The house feels calmer and I like it.

The tree is up and nothing fancy, but smells amazing! All our little family ornaments and school ones are mixed with our travel keepsakes and mercury glass and the kid's personal ones. 

I'll be back with another fun post with decorating and wrapping ideas!
I hope it's not too late... Better late than never. :D Right?

May you find joy in simple things this season !

 Please comment if you have ways you do this during this season which can lose it's meaning in all the craziness!



  1. Aww - beautiful family! We have cut back and it is lovely!

    Hmm - I would add Holiday Inn with bing Crosby and Fred Astaire, which I think is a little but better than white Christmas (which I also love ) and one magical Christmas with Mary steenburgen, which I think is a really amazing (and at times dark) treatise on forgotten dreams and what's really important. Merry Christmas to you and yours - so glad I found your blog!

    1. Thank you so much. I am finding a weight has been lifted by focusing on fun activities rather than crazy shopping! You know I was thinking Holiday Inn would be fun too. It's been a long time and I forgot about it! Thanks for the Mary S idea. I'll have to look for One Magical Christmas! Wishing you a lovely Christmas too and I feel the same about you Wendy! xo

  2. Just greenery and garden bits here too, I like that sort of decorating.
    That looks like a really interesting area you visited, I'm always mesmerised by American Christmas lights. I love spinning, looking forward to hearing about the new class

    1. Tabitha, I love adding the greenery and I think this is a U.K. tradition that is becoming more popular here. In California it's great as we have so many redwoods and big conifers. Frankly it's a lot prettier than going overboard on decor as many Americans feel obligated to do. This area, Willow Glen is really a gem and you should see it if you get to Northern Cal again. xx

  3. I put a baubled wreath and a star in the house and that is it. I might do something completely nuts one day but the decorations and that culture in London isn't really strong. I wish you a mery xmas and a happy new year xx

    1. Naomi that sounds perfect and pretty! Happy holidays to you too! xx

  4. Merry Christmas Kim! I love your gift giving idea for your sons. I don't have any children, but I am also cutting down my list this year. I, unfortunately, am guilty of over decorating as I have a very small place and a lot of decorations that have sentimental meaning. I did go through all of my boxes last year and got rid of a lot of "stuff" that I hadn't put out in years. That felt great! Happy Holidays to you and your family!

    1. I also forgot to add a Christmas movie. Christmas in Connecticut is one of my favorites. In black and white, it stars Barbara Stanwyck.

  5. What wonderful yuletide decorations! I love the container with tennis rackets

  6. Fun holiday post and of course I LOVE the Willow Glen shout out! ;)
    Dawn Lucy

  7. this is such a lovely post my dear! I always love hearing about your real life! Your synopsis of your boys differences … made me laugh out loud! Isn't amazing how people raise in the same house … can be so different! I think we all come here ..with our own souls!

    I too have simplified my decor this year. As much as I love it … I am missing some of the over the top … and ornaments I normally do. So I will treasure this years simpler feeling … and know I will be so excited to open all those boxes once again next year!

    Wishing you and your a joyful and memorable Christmas!


  8. Good morning Kim! We hosted our big party here last night so I'm finally having time to drink my coffee and catch up with my blog reading. I always love stopping by your blog. I can almost hear your voice as you share your thoughts and wisdom. The holiday images are so pretty! It sounds like you have created some wonderful traditions with the boys. Your ideas for planning gift giving is brilliant. It sounds like it takes some of the 'frenzy' out of the whole shopping thing. So fun to hear about the boys and their very different personalities. I shared that with my husband and he laughed too! I'm so happy it's's lovely to be off for 2+ weeks. Enjoy your holiday festivities my dear friend! Merry, Merry! xx

  9. We did very little this year because we are spending the holidays at my Grandson's (my son and daughter-in- law happen to live there too:)
    Yours look beautiful Kim!
    Wishing you a loving, Merry Christmas!
    Much love,

  10. Happy Holidays. I love your front door. That is so lovely.

  11. SIMPLE.........NO.............NOT YET...........
    One thing you can do as the boys get older put one in charge of the stockings!Give him the money to shop for each member of the family!It's a hoot what they buy and will make you smile ear to ear.......wait a couple more years on this as your are still young and the MAGIC of CHRISTMAS needs to appear.........I find people give up on the MAGIC............just too lazy as I see it!MERRY MERRY!XOXO

  12. Elf and White Christmas are always top of my list! Lovely festive décor and ornaments and what a pretty bay wreath, more special as it was made by your son. A brilliant idea for the gifts too. Wishing you and your family a Merry Chridtmas and a Happy Nee Year too.