Saturday, November 16, 2013

Free and cheap stuff to do for the holidays!

Once again, I am aghast at the prices being charged for festive holiday events in and around the Seattle area. So, as a public service (haha), I am providing this list of free and fun stuff to do with families. Enjoy!

Country Village Santa Arrival and Tree Lighting. Check out the information here. We used to go to this every year. My kids are a little old for it (and tired of it) now, but it's really fun for the little ones. Santa actually arrives from the sky! (Ignore the cable). One year, Santa crash-landed and almost fell into the pond! Another year, "Santa" was a war vet who told too many stories of his time in Vietnam. It was entertaining if not altogether confusing for the children. Seriously though, this is a fun one, and there are festive Dickens-inspired carolers, roasted chestnuts, and thousands of sparkling lights.

I haven't been to this but it sounds pretty cool - like a variety show of holiday merriment at Shorecrest Performing Arts Center. Supporting local theater is a great way to see shows for less dough, and give a nod of approval for up and coming talent. Click here for details!

Hey! Why not support your local high school? Never underestimate the magnificence of performances through the local high school. I've seen some incredible plays and musicals (and I'm not a bit biased because my kids were in them!). Now, I think I should support the music program, too! Nothing gets you in the holiday spirit like listening to holiday music, right? Bothell High School Instrumental Holiday program is Dec. 4. Click here for details. Plus, the very next night, you can hear these holiday songs sung by the BHS choir, along with a dessert auction. Perfect! Click here for details on the Bothell High School Vocal Holiday Concert.

Or, go support Woodinville High School at their Holiday Bazaar. If you like craft shows, performances, pictures with Santa, and supporting local high school students, this would be a fun one to attend. Click here for info.

Some people can't imagine Christmas without a showing of The Nutcracker. I've been to the Pacific Northwest Ballet version four times and it's just as magical each time. However, that particular one can set you back a few bucks so I searched for some other versions that wouldn't break the bank. The Emerald City Ballet is doing the Nutcracker at Northshore Performing Arts Center and it's moderately priced. Here is the information. Olympic Ballet does several Nutcracker performances in Everett - you can find out about those here.

The Bellevue Youth Theater has performances of "It's a Wonderful Life" and "Twas The Night Before Christmas" and tickets are $12/$10 or $8 if you go with a group of ten or more! Their information is here. In fact, this is part of the Bellevue Magic Season, which hosts a variety of events, including ice skating (we've been, it's fun), Garden d' Lights at the Bellevue Botanical Gardens (definitely worth the visit!), Snowflake Lane (a holiday parade and "snow" every evening) and theatre performances at the Meydenbaur Center. You can get the scoop here.

There are a myriad of activities in downtown Seattle, most of them priced for kings and queens, but there are some fun, free things to do, like visit the Teddy Bear suite at the Fairmont Olympic hotel, or check out the AMAZING gingerbread houses (huge!) at The Sheraton (donations benefit Juvenile Diabetes research). There's even a Christmas Carnival at The Westin with a festival of trees exquisitely decorated to be auctioned off. You might not have enough money to win the Jimi Hendrix-inspired purple jeweled tree, but you can look for free! Check it out here.

If you don't want to spend a dime, but just want to be surrounded by holiday finery, don't forget about local nurseries such as Molbak's in Woodinville and Wight's in Lynnwood - both are decorated to the hilt and provide fun photo opportunities. Even the local Fred Meyer stores often have cake and cookie decorating events to get you in the spirit.

And, of course, no holiday post about free and cheap would be complete without mentioning the things you don't even need to leave home for. ABC family has "25 Days of Christmas" shows on starting November 20 (I know, that's 36 days, I don't get it either). You can buy Christmas DVDs relatively cheap (we still have the classics on VHS, rockin' it old school) and sip hot chocolate by the fire while cozying up to a favorite holiday show. Baking cookies and other goodies is also a great way to get in the spirit. Or try some old-fashioned crafting. I'm currently in that "I'm going to make EVERYTHING homemade this year" phase, which should peter out in a week or two when I end up frantically buying things I had originally intended to make, and picking up pre-decorated cookies at the bakery on the way to a holiday event. But I can dream, right? So can you.

Happy Holi-daze!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Purse envy......

I bought a new purse the other day. It was on sale for $17.99 at Payless shoes and I had a coupon so the grand total was just under fifteen bucks. My old purse is cute, but it's getting worn out and I can't stand the look of a worn-out, tacky purse. So, I just bought a new one.

Many of my female counterparts sport fancy handbags from Coach and the like. Purses that cost hundreds of dollars and last forever. And therein lies the problem.

I do not WANT my purse to last forever!

I get bored of my purse. Sometimes I like to carry a bag so big I can fit everything I need plus a water bottle and snacks in case of the zombie apocalypse. Other times, I want to pare down to something small, compact and cute - but inevitably wind up buying a bigger bag because the small and cute one does not meet my minimum requirements.

What are those minimum requirements? Glad you asked. My purse must:
1. Be big enough for my "August to August" calendar that I buy at Barnes and Noble every year because it makes sense - my life runs on school time so why not have a calendar that complies with the school year and summer? Whatever, it works for me. This calendar is the size of a standard book.
2. Fit my coupon organizer. I take it with me everywhere. Don't worry, I'm not the crazy coupon lady but if I can save $1 off Pillsbury Crescent Rolls, I'm down. And if I don't carry the coupons with me, I'll never use them.
3. Also fit my checkbook (which I almost never use), my wallet, and my bag of "car makeup" which is entirely different from "home makeup" and which I almost never use but I'm always glad I have when I leave the house with no mascara on.
4. Have two pockets in it - one for holding my garage door opener (yes, it's supposed to be ON my keychain, but it got slammed in the trunk once and broke - not my fault - so now I just carry the key fob in my purse pocket) and my mail key. The other pocket is for other random stuff, like my pink pocket knife. Don't fuck with me. I carry a blade.
5. Have a pocket somewhere on the side where I can drop my keys and quickly relocate them. I've had entirely too many crazy screaming banshee fits over not being able to find my keys only to discover they've been hiding in the depths of my purse right next to the gum wrappers.
6. Have just enough extra room to carry someone else's wallet and keys, or random shit the kids ask me to carry, so I don't have to carry it all in my hands when someone says "hold this a sec."
7. Have a handle long enough to go over my shoulder and not fall down when my arms are full, but not so long that it hits me below my ribcage.
8. Be made of a material that I can wipe down with a Clorox wipe after I watch a news report about how much fecal matter a common purse carries. Gross.

So, I mean, it's not like I'm super picky or anything......but.

I do not want to spend $100 on a purse that I feel obligated to carry forever. I get BORED of my purse and need to change it up once in a while. I once picked up a purse for $20 at Target in a dark turquoise color. I got more compliments on that purse than any before. Everyone loved that purse. I actually brought it out of retirement because the relationship I was having with my current purse was rocky at best. But, alas, old turquoise was just too used-up for me. It was starting to look shabby and the last thing I want to do is be THAT girl carrying the ratchet purse.

I bought a substitute turquoise purse but it was neither the right shade, nor had the right requirements and so, although I carried it for quite a while, the break-up was inevitable, and truth be told, doomed from the start. Plus, the shabbiness was showing so it was time to kick that trashy girl to the curb.

Finding a replacement is never easy, but this time I told myself I WOULD find something in the hour and a half I had to shop while the kid was at gymnastics. I perused TJ Maxx, Target, and finally, in the final 15 minutes, Payless Shoes, which - who even knew they had purses? But there it was, on sale and everything. It's not like it was love at first sight - it was more like: she had the requirements, she was black (it's winter - black purses rule - plus once you go black.....), and she was a bargain. I guess at a certain point, you start to look past the flaws and love the one you're with.

My kids rolled their eyes. "Mom, you ALWAYS buy new purses!" Partially true - I do buy a new purse once or twice a year. But variety is the spice of life, man. And my new girl fits just right. Until I kick her to the curb. I'm ruthless like that.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Keeping the humor..........

In less than a month, we've had a lot of challenges in our family. Two hospitalizations, one surgery, one concussion, four wisdom teeth removed, one ER visit, a major school change, $1400 worth of car repairs, a cancelled trip to Hawaii. The past year has been full of challenges including hospitalizations, at least five ER visits, kids growing up (and the challenges therein), kids moving on, and just a lot of really sucky things. Recently, I've had some friends ask me "How do you keep your sense of humor through all of this?"

And my answer is simple. What else is there?

When everything around you is crumbling, why crumble too? Most of us don't have the luxury of dissolving into a puddle of tears on the floor - at least not for very long. We still have jobs to do, bills to pay, dinner to make. We still have to clean up the dog shit off the floor, sweep up the cat treats from the bag the kittens chewed a hole in, take a kid to school because he missed the bus, and drive....everywhere. Checking out is not an option.

At least in my world.

As many days as I'd like to just say "nope" and crawl back under the covers, I know I must keep going if for no other reason than it's my job to take care of shit. So I just do. And after the first few Really Bad Things happen to you, it actually gets a lot easier to deal with the other Bad Things that don't seem as bad once you've been slapped in the face with a few really crappy happenings. And mixed in there, somewhere, with all of the chaos and craziness of your life when things are crummy, are the Little Things.

Only they're not so little.

Things like everyone hanging out in the family room watching a TV show and just lounging. Even if it's only for a half an hour. Things like laughing at dinner. Someone baking chocolate chip cookies. The kids breaking into spontaneous song, or doing something hilarious that makes me break out my phone to record it forever. Waking up every morning and thinking "I am so lucky."

Lucky because I have a beautiful family and a really nice, big house and an old dog and a weird reclusive cat and two kittens that cause trouble more than they're worth. Lucky because I have a six-year-old minivan with a big dent in the side (my fault) that serves as my home on wheels and in which I inexplicably transport a backpack full of warm gloves among other "just in case" items. Lucky because when I'm really tired and don't feel like doing anything, everyone is ok with cereal for dinner.

And because life is funny.

"Fuck 'em if they can't take a joke" is my mantra. Or one of them, anyway. I love making people laugh and not taking life too seriously. Trust me, I can get caught up in the drama and panic as well as anyone. I've been known to have a freak-out or two (hundred). I've screamed, railed against the gods, thought "why me?" and yes, dissolved in a puddle of tears a time or two. But in the end, I still need to go buy toilet paper and milk. I can't stay on the floor because there's Shit To Do.

And people have it worse. Way worse. If you ever forget that, just watch the news. Things suck everywhere. Way more than you can ever imagine. No matter what is happening to you right NOW, it will change. Nothing stays forever. And if you can step outside your head for just a second and crack a joke, you might just feel better. Humor is healing. And sick and twisted sometimes, but laughing is a whole lot more fun than crying. Crying is pretty much ugly, I don't care who you are.

But sometimes, you just can't take it another second.

So, you have to help yourself. Or, let others help you (I'm still working on that one!). It's ok to make yourself happy and to treat yourself when you're feeling down. Even though I had to drive to the hospital every day, there was a Starbucks in the lobby and I got a peppermint mocha in a holiday cup every single day I was there. ER visits are no fun, but you'd be surprised how amusing a surgical glove balloon can be when you're SO bored. There's NOTHING fun about having a huge financial setback - medical bills, car repairs, replacing an appliance - but "it's just money" has gotten us through a lot. I mean, we're blessed to still be working so we're still getting paid, right? More where that came from. Even if it means cutting back somewhere else.

Being grateful for what you have helps you find the funny in every day life.

So, how do I keep my sense of humor? By appreciating everything I DO have, knowing that life is fragile and broken and messy, but full of so many tiny little blessings that more than make up for the Big Stuff that bogs you down. By surrounding myself with upbeat people who can take a joke, speak my brand of sarcasm, and allow me to complain relentlessly before silencing me with fruity cocktails.

Life is funny. Except when it's not. Then, it's funnier.

Keep your chin up.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Things I don't understand............

Here, in no particular order, are things I do NOT understand:

1. Making your own marshmallows. WHAT? Who even cares? They're marshmallows. They're accessories. They don't even need to taste better, so that's not a good excuse. Moreover, why would you make your own marshmallow peeps? Peeps are disgusting from the store - homemade is NOT going to improve them.

2. Getting your nails done. I'm talking those acrylic, unnatural-looking nails that you have to get "filled" and/or done in a theme. I don't even paint my nails. Ever. Not because I don't think it's pretty, but because I chip my nails seconds after I get a manicure. So, why bother? I don't live a pretty nails lifestyle. Acrylics last longer? Good to know, but I cannot add another maintenance routine to my life. My nail care routine is this: grow nails, be impressed at how long I let them grow, have an episode of anxiety, bite all nails off, repeat.

3. Desserts that involve fruit. Fruit is not dessert. Cobblers, crisps, pie, etc. All not dessert. The only acceptable version of this is apple pie and then it better have a lot of cinnamon and sugar involved. And, of course, the crust, which is what give it its redeeming quality. It especially pains me this time of year when all the holiday desserts come out and everything involves cranberries. Cranberries aren't even sweet! Chocolate is dessert. Donuts are dessert (not jelly-filled). Ice cream is dessert (not fruit ice cream). I wish I could understand people's love for fruity desserts but I cannot. I just....can't.

4. Wine. I hate wine. I wish I liked wine, but only because I feel like such a misfit for NOT liking wine. It's like I'm a social pariah because I hate wine. Don't get me wrong. I enjoy drinking alcoholic beverages and I do not enjoy it NEARLY as often as I should/need to. But give me a fruity mixed drink, a margarita, or even a beer before you ply me with wine. Furthermore, why are there "wine walks" but not "beer walks" or "Mai Tai walks"? Must society discriminate against those of us who would enjoy walking with our girlfriends at an artsy-fartsy event, but do not like the single beverage offered? It's discrimination in its most abhorrent form and I detest it. And maybe this is why I don't have a lot of girlfriends?

5. Frozen yogurt. I'm on the fence with yogurt as it is, and I commend whoever decided to freeze it, because we all know things are more excellent frozen - Swiss cake rolls, Hershey bars - but freezing yogurt sadly does not take away that signature sour yogurt taste and topping it with fruity or candy-coated toppings cannot mask the flavor. Plus, you have to pay by the pound. And they only give you ginormous cups so that you eat half your body weight in yogurt and think it's healthy. Give me a break! It's dessert (but it's really not - see above). My whole family loves this frozen treat and it makes me sad. And I feel cheated when we go to a frozen yogurt joint for dessert. Apparently, they frown upon filling the cup/vat with just chopped Reese's peanut butter cups.

6. Interior decorating. I mean, I often wish I could afford one, because my house has absolutely no theme and nothing goes with anything else. But I simply cannot understand paying $24 for a sisal ball that does nothing but sit, clustered in a giant pottery bowl, to create a table scape when I have a perfectly adorable blue plastic pig my son made in a mom-and-me crafts class at age three that I display on a shelf. The point is, with four kids, having an interior decorator-inspired home is both fruitless and leaves no room for all the weird stuff they bring home which I must display. Sure, it's more "thrift store" than "Pottery Barn" but I live with absolutely no fear of breaking the $144 porcelain elephant that serves no other purpose than to give my room an "Eastern" feel.

I'm sure I could go on forever. But that's enough to ponder for one night.