Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Sips and Snacks on the High Seas

We interrupt these winter holiday festivities to bring you thoughts about the tropical paradise that awaits me in a mere five months!

It's no secret that I love to eat. In fact, it is often one of the highlights of my vacation (which is probably part of my problem, but let's not go there!) And one of the "advantages" of taking a cruise is that it is "all-inclusive" and your meals are already factored into the price of your ticket. Not just three meals a day, but pretty much all you can eat. There are a few exceptions that are optional, but if you want, you never have to pay for anything to eat or drink, and you generally will not be left wanting!

The first (and most obvious) of these exceptions is alcohol. Obviously, this is not a necessity. If you want it, it is there. And you don't have to carry cash because everything goes on your onboard account. This is very handy when you're out by the pool and someone has a large tray of fruity concoctions and all it requires is a signature. But they do add up quickly. There are some opportunities for free drinks, such as the Captain's Cocktail Party or the previous cruisers' reception. And you are allowed to bring 1 bottle of wine per person in your carry on. I haven't ever brought wine with me, but I'm thinking I will this time. Technically you aren't allowed to bring hard liquor on with you. If you buy any, it is supposed to be held until the end of the cruise. Of course, I have noticed that everyone seems to need their Costco-sized bottles of Listerine when they cruise. Also, the bottle of peroxide and rubbing alcohol. Hmm...

Another expense that seems rather unfortunate to me is that of sodas! You can get tea or some juices or water, but not sodas. Not even one! And on some level that seems unfortunate for kids, because the adults who want it can get at least a little bit of free booze, but there are no free sodas at all for kids. Now, if you really need a carbonated beverage fix there are a few options. First, you can bring a few of your own. That to me is the least convenient option because it takes up space in your bag. Or you can wait until you get off the boat in a port and get something there. This is usually not any better than your third option, which is buying them on the boat. Now there are two ways to do this. You can either buy them as you order them. Or you can shell out for an unlimited soda card. I have read where it is no longer a separate card they give you, but a sticker for your sail and sign card. Either way, this entitles you to as many sodas as your little self can drink. Technically it's only supposed to be for the one person whose name is on it, but I know that sharing does take place. Even if I didn't want to share with my loving husband, he has a bad habit of not ordering a soda if he wants one, then waiting until I set mine down and promptly downing half of it! I figured it up, and given the average price of a soda on the ship, if you drink at least 3 a day, you do slightly better than break even. Any more than that, and you're ahead. They aren't huge, so I can pretty easily go through three in all the time hanging out between about 5:30 pm and bedtime. This doesn't count any down time in the afternoons (or the fact that I drink them instead of coffee in the mornings!), so to me it's a very worthwhile investment.

One new-ish thing on some of the larger ships is the steakhouse. Some people swear it's great and some don't think it's worth it. I'm planning to try it for myself, so I will make up my mind after that. There is an extra charge of $30 per person, and unlike the main dining room, you can't get as many of whatever that you want. The food is supposed to be better. For me, I think the atmosphere would be worth it. You can get a table for two (a very rare thing in a main dining room!) and I'm assuming the waiter's don't sing and dance and it's a much more formal atmosphere. Maybe I'm old fashioned and a stick in the mud, but a conga line at dinner is simply not appropriate! It's the one thing about the cruises that I really dislike! I'll reflect more on my past experiences as time goes on, and also do a full review after the cruise is over.

For those with more exotic tastes, there are things like the Sushi Bar. Some of the larger boats have more "specialized" restaurant offerings as well. All have the 24 hour pizza place, as well as ice cream and some other goodies. There are also the late-night buffets which can be a lot of fun. To me, half the fun of these is looking at them! There is some serious artistry that goes into these things and it's really interesting to see what some very talented people can do!

Then of course there is room service. The room service menu is pretty limited, but it is an option, and it isn't bad. That is the one "tip" that isn't included, and one of the few reasons you would need/want cash on the boat! There is no charge, but you are asked to tip the person that delivers the room service. To me, it's just as easy to go up to the Lido deck and grab something, but there are times of day when the only thing available is pizza or nothing sounds good and the room service is a nice option to have.

As far as this cruise goes, there isn't anything food-wise that I am just yearning for. If you have any favorites, let me know!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

A Family Tradition

One of my most beloved family traditions that is relatively recent in its evolution (like, within the last ten years) is that of playing dominoes. Not only at holidays, but any time we get together for a meal and want to kill some time afterwards. We started with Mexican Train, but soon moved on to Chicken Foot.

Chicken Foot is actually a very simple game, but it requires a certain amount of strategy.

Every player starts with several dominos (for argument's sake I'm going to say 7, but a lot of this depends on the number of people you have playing and the size of your set)

You put a double in the middle, usually the highest number you have. Before anything else can be played, the two "chicken feet" need to be built off of this double. Think about a chicken foot and how it has three toes. Well, you have to build three toes off of either side of this double. See the double nine (the pink dots) in the picture? That's where you start and how you build two chicken feet!

Once the feet have been built, you can play anything you want.

If someone plays another double, you must build a chicken foot (three toes) off of that double before anything else can be played. In the picture, that's the double six (red dots).

If you can't play anything on your turn, you have to draw. That means if you're mid-foot and you can't put something on the foot but you can play somewhere else, you still have to draw because nobody can play anything else until the foot is constructed!

Keep going until someone goes out (doesn't have any more dominos left). Everyone else counts up the number of dots they have left. The goal is to have a low score.

If you get left with a double blank, that is 100 points, so you don't want to get stuck with that (but you don't want your opponents to be able to play it, either!)

In my family, we had an "extra" rule - every person had to have a "chicken domino name." We always fought over who got to be Nugget. My grandmother was always the Domiclucker. One favorite that came out of sheer madness was "Chicken Lil' Kim". Don't ask, because I have no idea!

What are some of your favorite family traditions surrounding holidays or get togethers?

Friday, November 26, 2010

Friday Five - Pie-ola

Today's Friday Five has us thinking about and discussing one of my favorite topics - FOOD! And not just any food, but holiday food. And not just any holiday food, but PIE! While I am not much of a baker, especially when it comes to complex stuff like pies, I am definitely a consumer. However, in my family we absolutely don't do pumpkin pie. Nobody eats it! We aren't huge fans of apple, cherry, or other fruits either! Pecan pie we will eat, but I haven't ever tried to make one from scratch. However, I am developing a few favorite recipes for no-bake pies that have almost become my "family signatures" so we'll see what happens in the days and weeks to come. Stay tuned as I share a few of those recipes if you think you might be interested in super-simple yumminess like Peanut Butter, Chocolate Truffle, Caramel, and Key Lime pies! (And no, the photo isn't mine, but it's so stinking cute I may have to start doing that with some of my creations!)

1) Are pies an important part of a holiday meal? Well, I won't speak for everyone, but as far as MY holiday meals I will say they are nice, but I wouldn't say they are essential. As tasty and fantastic as they are, I wouldn't be heartbroken if there wasn't a pie present! I like making my no-bake pies because it's something easy and tasty to contribute, and of course I welcome the pies of others, but I'm just as happy with cookies or cake or a bowl of ice cream!

2) Men prefer pie, Women prefer cake. Discuss. I don't know how true this is, again because of my limited experience. My dad is not a big dessert person but he actually really loves my great-aunt's Lane Cake. My husband will eat whatever it is he can get to on the dessert table! My brother is not as big a fan of sweets as he one was, but he will usually partake in a little something! My aunt probably prefers chocolate pie to just about anything, but likes chocolate anything over fruit anything. And me? Well, It's pretty hard to turn down a red velvet cake, but if there is a chocolate or key lime pie on the table I might just have to do it! We're a mixed bag all the way around.

3) Cherries - do they belong in a pie? I honestly couldn't tell you because I've never had a cherry pie. I'm typically not a fruit pie person, but I am learning! Now cherries on TOP of the pie, absolutely! But that's probably just because my pies are usually topped with whipped cream!

4) Meringue - is it best on lemon or chocolate? In terms of general family preference, I would absolutely say chocolate. But recently I have had a hankering for citrus desserts, and a lemon pie sounds really awesome, even though I don't think I have ever had a lemon meringue pie before in my 25 years!

5) In a chicken pie, what are the most compatible vegetables? Anything you don't like to find in a chicken pie? I am not a vegetable eater, but I do like potatoes in chicken pie. However, that's it! Anything green (except herbs) or orange or yellow I would rather not see! When I make chicken pie for my husband (which isn't all that often, but I will do it occasionally) I usually include peas, carrots, and corn. Occasionally broccoli will sneak in if we have just a little bit left in the freezer, but I still pick around all of it!

Thursday, November 25, 2010


Yes, I am very thankful for lots of things in my life. But I also recognize that I forget to be thankful a lot more often than I remember (or am reminded) to be. I take a lot of things for granted. We all do. And even when we do try to make a list of the things we are thankful for that we probably do take for granted, I don't think we sit back and reflect on exactly what it means for us to have those things in our life or to be thankful for them.

I have intentionally avoided all the exercises on facebook and whatnot about listing something you are thankful for every day in November (or whatever it may be). It's not that I'm not thankful for things, because I am. But I think that exercise is lacking something really important. Because anyone can come up with a list of things they are thankful for. You start with the "elementary school answers" - family, friends, a home, pets, health, safety, religious/spiritual things, experiences. Then you usually move on to modern conveniences or good things that happen each day. But do you ever stop and think about WHY you are thankful for these things? Do you ever consider what it means for you to have these things and what thankfulness looks like in your life. Even more importantly, do you admit that you often take these things for granted and make a concerted effort to not take them for granted but to be intentionally more thankful in your lifestyle, rather than for just a few extra weeks?

I agree that a month of giving thanks is better than a single day, but what about a lifetime? Wouldn't that be the best thing possible?

Today my challenge to you is not to share things you are thankful for, but to really reflect on (and perhaps share) the things that you take for granted in your life. Think about why that is, what it means to have them in your life, and what thankfulness looks like. Then think about what you are going to do in the coming year to be more thankful, not just for these things you take for granted (although that's a great place to start!) but in all the areas of your life!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Don't forget to count your blessings and enjoy some family time!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Friday Five - Unexpected Thanks

Ok, I really haven't been as much of a slacker as it appears. My internet has simply not wanted to cooperate today, but I have been marinating on the topic for a few hours. Today's Friday Five invites us to consider the things that have been unplanned/unexpected blessings in our lives. It's probably no surprise to many that I am a little bit of a control freak. I don't like the unexpected or the unknown. But I have been very fortunate to have been given some blessings I was not planning for, in spite of my best efforts to avoid them! So here is my list of five for which I am very thankful!

OneWed Forums - I found this little grouping of message boards as I was planning my wedding. I stumbled across several as I searched for advice, but this is the first one I found where people were polite in spite of differing opinions and seemed genuinely interested in helping one another, not proving that "my way is best." So I joined up, asked a few questions, and started answering others. Pretty soon I had a journal, was playing along with stuff totally not wedding related and getting very close to some of these amazing ladies. I was not at all expecting to find long-term friends in the planning of my wedding, but a year and a half later I still feel like my day is incomplete if I don't check in with "my girls"!

My CPE Group - I was very nervous going into my residency because I had absolutely no idea who my companions were going to be on this journey. I am so incredibly thankful for the group in which I have found myself. Although this is probably not a group I would have chosen for myself, it has proven to be incredibly helpful and supportive, even in the short time we have been together so far. I am more thankful for this group of colleagues than I will probably ever be able to say!

Patches - I was never a big dog person. Or at least I never thought I was a big dog person. We weren't even thinking about a new pet when we got the phone call from Jeff's mother to come see the puppies someone had brought to her office. But I really am totally in love with this guy, even if he did eat way too much of my stuff last year. His sweet eyes and funny antics make my life and my family so much richer! I am so thankful for him, even if I tend to forget that when he wants to go out at 6am!

In-Laws - I never expected to have a fabulous set of in-laws. I always kind of figured they were sort of like one of those little make up gifts with purchase. There may be one or two things in the package that you really like, and the rest of it you don't care much about but it's there and you just kind of deal with it one way or the other. But despite our "getting-to-know-you" bumps in the road, my in-laws have been really fantastic. I'm especially blessed that not only do I have lots of fabulous relatives by marriage, I also have some great "friends-in-law" too that came as a part of my relationship with Jeff. All the way around, it has been an unexpected blessing!

Rosemary - Yes, I am talking about the herb here. I love the taste, the smell, and the plant on my back porch! I have no idea how or where this came into my life, but I do know that it has sparked all kinds of creative endeavors that have been incredibly fun and educational and I'm sure I wouldn't have had any of them if it weren't for this one little plant!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Gray Matters

It is an amazing and powerful thing when all of creation seems to mimic and magnify our thoughts and feelings. But with power, comes danger. I experience a lot of this a little more closely than I would like on gray and gloomy days. The truth is, I often experience lots of uncomfortable thoughts and emotions on these days. Just as when images are magnified they are brought into sharper, clearer focus so are emotions and memories and experiences.

Too often I try to shy away from the gray and gloomy parts of my self. I try to only show and share the bright and sunny parts. But the truth is, there are lots of gray, gloomy, rainy parts of my heart and soul and spirit. And just like the beauty of flowers and trees need the rain and darkness just as much as they need the warmth and sun, my spirit needs the gray parts too.

I've been struggling with lots of things for lots of months. For the most part life is grand and glorious. But there are some things that are not so grand and glorious. Many of you know that my dad has had cancer for several years and he has recently started to decline pretty steadily. I know what is happening. I know what is coming. But I still don't like it. I don't like where we are, I don't like where we're going, and I don't like the space between here and there. I'm not really crazy about the space on the other side of "there" either.

I am determined, in this time, to not be my dad's chaplain. To not be his pastor. To not be his caregiver at all. I will simply be his daughter. But I'm not really sure what that will look like for either of us. And I'm afraid it may be too late when I figure it out. But that doesn't mean I'm not going to try.

And if the gray start to becomes too dark, I have lots of wonderful lights in my life to help make it a little less scary!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Cute As A Button Jewelry

I really don't know where to start in describing this fabulous jewelry. Let's start with the obvious - it's absolutely precious! It's simple and beautiful and absolutely unique. It is totally customizable. There is no "store" because everything is custom made! The only limit is your imagination (and maybe your credit limit!)

Although there are so beautiful pieces shown, you can pretty much order anything your little heart desires! Pick your number of discs, washers, or shapes in whatever combination you love. Pick what you want it to say and if there are any images you'd like stamped in. Pick any stones or charms you'd like to have added. And before you know it, you have a beautiful and amazing gift for someone that is both attractive and meaningful!

Also, because it's all custom stuff, you can use it to show off or promote anything you want. Have a special cause that is close to your heart but can't find any cute jewelry to support it? Make your own! Show off your business or even share something special with friends. The possibilities are endless!

I have seen lots of precious custom jewelry that is very similar to this, and this stuff is about half the price of what other people/places charge (and they usually don't have nearly as many options or let you have as much creative freedom!)

The only down side is that these are not an acceptable "last minute" option (unless you want to go the gift certificate route). You might want to get your orders placed pretty quickly so there is time to get them all done!

I want to get one for myself, but they're all so stinkin' cute that I don't know what to do! What do we think about one that says "Rev. Bodean"?

Friday, November 12, 2010

Friday Five - Winter's on the Way

Today's Friday Five invites participants to consider the things that come with cold and snow. It's a little bit harder for me to get into a "winter" frame of mind. The high for today is still in the low 70s (which is absolutely perfect to me!) I'm wearing my flip flops and actually spending today out on the lake. I don't know if we'll go out in the boat, but it'll still be great. Snow is a rarity around here, so winter is a very different experience for me. Fortunately, I enjoy the change and I like dreaming about "real" winter, so although my experience may be a little less severe than that of others, I still want to share it!

What is your favorite movie to watch curled up under a wooly blanket? Generally, winter movies are synonymous with Christmas movies to me. I don't have a particular favorite, it just kind of depends on my mood!

Likewise, what book? Any book I can get my hand on. My current favorite authors are Jan Karon, Janet Evanovich, and Joanne Fluke.

What foods do you tend to eat/cook when it gets cold? My all-time favorite is chicken and dumplings, but I also love hot cider and hot chocolate.

What do you like to do when you get a "snow day"? True snow days are a very rare thing around here, but snow days based on the threat of snow are pretty common. I usually do some of the same things, but generally I just stay in and watch tv and drink hot chocolate!

Do you like winter sports and outdoor activities or do you prefer to be inside? I definitely prefer to be inside. It is still fun to get out and try to make a little snowman or something, but most of the time I would rather be warm and dry! Puzzles and movies and checkers are always fun!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

More Goats!

In honor of the fact that I'm spending some family time in Cullman right now, I thought I would share a few more photos from Cabrito Farms!
Edward says hello! He wants to make sure nobody forgets about him!

Wait a minute, you're not my momma!

Nom nom!

Donkey talk!

The babies like to go through the gaps in the fence. They can fit for now, but once their horns start coming in, they'll get stuck!

Lots of goats!

Lunch time!

The triplets. Obviously not identical!

Look at the sibling sweetness!

Momma keeping an eye on her little ones!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Sweet On A Cure

What's better than eating a yummy dessert? Well, how about eating a yummy dessert and knowing that you are also helping a very worthwhile cause? This week there is a very special promotion going on all around Birmingham in which lots of local restaurants are designating particular sweets from their menu and then donating 100 percent of the proceeds to the new Comprehensive Cancer Center at UAB!

Yes, I am an incredibly biased employee who thinks that UAB is an awesome hospital doing some amazing things. But I am also a very grateful family member!

I'm sure lots of my readers know this, but there are probably some that don't - My mom was a cancer patient at UAB for almost four years. And in those four years she had some of the best care I could have ever dreamed of or hoped for her to have. I am more grateful than words can say for all the care that those doctors and nurses and lab techs and PCTs and even the housekeepers and escorts and everyone else took of her and of us that were there with her. And although my mom lost her battle with cancer four years ago, I know that the care she received helped us have time with her we wouldn't have gotten otherwise, and I know that they are doing all kinds of great things for people.

I am so very excited about the new Cancer Center and hope that you will join me in supporting a really great cause and having a little treat to celebrate the sweetness of life!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Tough Stuff

CPE has officially entered the "tough stuff" phase. I am eternally grateful that our group had some time to "live into" what it would mean to share this space and this role for the next year. That we were able to take some time to build relationships and build trust before being thrust into some of these very difficult situations. I feel a special, although different, connection with each person and it has been helpful in understanding myself and my group.

But now that the introduction is over, the tough stuff has arrived. And some folks are having a harder time than others. I am having a really hard time with getting attached. I haven't had quite the same issues I had in the past with establishing my role or building relationships with people, which has been a little bit surprising. On the one hand it has been great that, not only can I see myself as a chaplain without any strings attached, but that others can see me and accept me in that role. But that has also been a painful thing to have happen. Because, although losing any patient is difficult, losing one with whom you have a relationship can be especially hard.

I never thought I would enjoy working in an emergency room or in a unit that is constantly in and out like surgery. I always thought that the constant in and out, the stacks of initial visits with very few follow-ups would be frustrating. And I'm sure it is. But I feel that there is a certain amount of safe distance that is automatic in some of these settings. I know that everything I am facing is helping me to learn and to grow. And it really is very good learning and growing that is happening. But it still stinking hurts!

I still love working with children and families. I still feel a special connection to pediatrics and want to learn, grow, and explore in that area. But I'm not sure if cardiology is what I want to do. At the same time, I hear all my peers expressing similar frustrations with their units, and I'm not sure what would be better! Maybe it's simply the newness of it all. I know there isn't a perfect situation that will be without difficulties and frustrations, but it still makes it hard when we are trying to figure out where/how we want our careers to go/grow!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Friday Five - My Soul

Today's Friday Five invites us to consider our lives and the things that seem to make everything right in the world as we enjoy them.

My Bed - more specifically, my bed exactly the way it is made now, with the super-soft sheets and the big, fluffy comforter. It's a lovely end to the day!

Chocolate Milk - I don't think I will ever get tired of drinking chocolate milk, and I don't think it will ever NOT make me extremely happy!

My Puppy - Having that precious little ball of fur curling into my lap or laying her head on my arm seems to make everything better!

Planning a vacation - I have said it before but I'll say it again - I sometimes think I enjoy planning a vacation even more than I enjoy actually taking the vacation. I think because the planning lasts so much longer and it's a little mental escape that I can take for 20 minutes if I need it or for hours if I want!

Arts and crafts - I especially love arts and crafts fairs and festivals. It makes me so excited to bask in the creative genius of others and it often inspires a little creativity of my own!

What makes things right with your soul? Please share a few of your favorites!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Shula's Steak House

I was very fortunate to get to finally try Shula's steakhouse! On a Thursday after work of all times! It really was a fantastic way to end the day! There were six of us at dinner and it was pretty stinking awesome.

We started dinner with appetizers. We decided we couldn't decide, and got the sampler for six. This included blackened beef tenderloin tips, crab cakes, and the signature barbecued shrimp. The shrimp were stuffed with basil, wrapped in applewood smoked bacon, and then basted and broiled in barbeque sauce. The three salads people got were the wedge, the classic caesar, and the beefsteak tomato with gorgonzola. I wish I had tried the french onion soup while everyone else had salad, but didn't think about it. Perhaps next time!

Then, it was on to the main attraction - the MEAT! Several of us got the special, Steak Mary Anne, which was two filet medallions with peppercorn sauce. There were also a filet mignon, porterhouse, and NY strip scattered around the table. Everything was cooked perfectly and absolutely delicious. Sides were huge and decadent. We had double baked potatoes, lobster mashed potatoes, crab mac and cheese, steak fries, and broccoli with hollandaise.

Of course, we had to also get desert, but I was very grateful we were able to share these. We got a chocolate lava cake and a creme brulee. I'm almost ashamed to admit it, but that was my first ever creme brulee! I am definitely a fan!

The thing that was my LEAST favorite about the whole evening was the menu! Not the selections, but the actual way everything was presented. The various steaks are printed on the side of a football, which seems more like a gimmick for a different kind of place. I assumed they would also be printed on a menu somewhere, but I was mistaken. The presentation of all the steaks on a tray was nice, but the server was talking so quickly and there wasn't anything to look at to keep up with the different cuts so it kind of felt like a test after he left - "wait, what size was that again?" "which one was that?" The rest of the dinner menu was printed rather small in a menu booklet that was 1 page food and 4 pages alcoholic beverages!

It was fantastic, and I'm hopeful I will get to go again, but I'm not going to count on it happening anytime soon!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

My Favorite Things - p.43

Because I am always exploring and my tastes are always changing, I thought I would do another feature on a few of my new (or newer) favorites.

Sharpie Pens - These things rock my world! Felt tip, don't bleed, and they're the clicky kind so I don't have to keep up with lids. This is especially helpful when I'm trying to write and walk in the hospital and whatnot. Feel free to put some of these in my stocking this year!

Key Lime Pie - I've never been a huge fan of fruity desserts, especially citrus stuff, but recently lemon and lime things have found a special place in my heart (and stomach!) I actually put back chocolate ice cream the other night at the grocery store in favor of a slice of key lime pie! So worth it! I'm working on a no-bake recipe, stay tuned!

Bedtime - Maybe it's getting up before the butt-crack of dawn so I can be out the door by 6am, but I am getting to the point that I really love bed time!

Motts Apple-Strawberry Juice - I read a study somewhere that said apple juice does a better job of getting you going in the mornings than coffee. I don't drink coffee so I can't test that theory for myself, but these juice boxes are a pretty nice way to start the day!

Christmas Music - Yes, I know it's early, but I can't help it! I'm already getting into the spirit of things!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Jambalaya Mix

This is a recipe I developed several years ago as a gift for family. It went over very well and it's not only a great gift, but a great quick dinner! To me, it's better than the mixes in a box! I throw it in little baggies and keep in the pantry, but for gift giving small jars are a nice touch.

1 cup rice
1 packet onion soup mix (or you can make your own)
1 bay leaf
1 Tbsp dried parsley
1/2 tsp. thyme
1/2 tsp. garlic powder (can leave this out if using fresh garlic)
1/4 tsp. cayenne

Cooking instructions:
Combine mix with 2 1/2 c. water, 1 (14 oz) can diced tomatoes, 1 (8 oz) can tomato sauce, 1 lb chicken or sausage.
Bring everything to a boil, then simmer 20-25 minutes. If using shrimp, add in the last 5-7 minutes of cooking.
Pull out the bay leaf before serving!

Hints: If you like it a little spicier, use a can of Rotel in place of the diced tomatoes.

Monday, November 1, 2010

A Personal Best

Working in retail for a few years (particularly during the holiday season) taught me some important lessons. One of those was to get your holiday shopping done ASAP! Don't wait until the last minute, and for the love of all that is holy, don't go to the mall after halloween if you can help it!

Halloween has usually been my goal for having most of my shopping done. I rarely meet that goal. A much more realistic goal is to have the majority of it done before the end of November or the first week in December. And I generally have pretty good luck at doing this! But this year I started extra early and have shattered my own record for holiday shopping.

I had all my gifts (or ideas for gifts) picked out even before my birthday (mid-August). And while I was at it I went ahead and found extras. A few people had birthdays between August and December, and a few have birthdays within about six weeks of Christmas. And before I knew it I had all the major gift shopping done that I would need to do for almost a year! Almost everything was purchased or ordered, received, and wrapped before the end of September. I can count on one hand the number of things I had to get after that time, and they were done very quickly.

The one disclaimer to this is time-sensitive gifts. I won't reveal too much, but I will use the example of candy for the stocking. Obviously this hasn't been stockpiled and will be purchased closer to Christmas day. However, this does not require any trip that is additional to the normal errands that can't be avoided like buying groceries!

How in the heck did I do it? And did I spend a fortune on this little "project"? Well, here are my helpful hints.
  • Keep a running list of people you need to shop for and things they mention or that you see. (This is a good year-round habit to start)
  • Pick a budget and stick with it. You won't have to pay more than you're comfortable spending simply because you're in a time crunch.
  • Shop around. You can often find better deals, coupons, etc. for the same thing from different places.
  • Take advantage of where you are. If you see something you want to get and you can, snatch it up then and there. It saves "special" trips later.
  • Combine gift orders with "regular" stuff. It was very easy for me to slip a book that's a gift in with other books I was ordering for CPE. This also helps save on shipping!
  • Do your homework and buy something that is meaningful to the recipient.
  • Always ask for a box and take advantage of store gift-wrapping. If you're going to have to stack your gifts for a while, ask them to leave off the ribbon so you can add it later. That way it won't get smushed or yucky!
  • Wrap and tag things as you get them. It makes them easier to hide/conceal and it's one less thing to do later. Put a little sticky note with the gift contents in case you have multiple gifts for the same person. And if you're buying for multiple holidays at once and aren't sure which gift will be for which holiday, use bags. They're easier to change!
I probably spent less than normal doing it this way, because I had time to reflect on making one or two purchases at a time and I wasn't doing lots of impulse buying. I could also consolidate orders for multiple people from the same place and save on shipping. And it wasn't quite as much money being spent at once, so it wasn't a huge shock to our bank account!

Stay tuned as I share some of my favorite gift ideas and places to shop over the next several weeks.