Tuesday, December 20, 2016

simplify the holidays || last minute, meaningful gift ideas

(i realize it's perhaps a bit late in the season to be sharing a post about simplifying the holidays, but on the off chance someone out there is feeling like they might light their hair on fire because of the overwhelming amount of things left on their to-do list - this post is for you.)

many years ago, i worked for an incredible ubran environmental non-profit organization in calgary. with a mandate to create healthy homes and communities, we advocated for and promoted concepts like minimalism, conscious consumerism, and the value of supporting local businesses. basically, all those buzzy trends right now that weren't a super popular way of thinking back then.

during this time, i came across a group called the center for a new american dream - a NGO doing meaningful work to emphasizes community, ecological sustainability, and the celebration of non-material values.

on of the most valuable resources that the center for a new american dream has created is their guide to simplifying the holidays - practical tips for reducing stress and increasing joy and personal fulfillment during the holiday season. it has ideas for deeply connecting with children and family, streamlining gift giving, creating new traditions, minimizing waste, and ultimately, creating a holiday season that everyone in your family will enjoy, love and remember for years to come.

over the years, their guide series has expanded to include additional resources such as the 'more fun, less stuff catalogue' (an alternative gift guide for those who want to wrap their holidays in more of what matters—meaning, connection, and joy), a template for a very cute DIY holiday coupon book (along with loads of great coupon ideas for all the most important people in your life) and a pinterest board full of ideas to help you simplify your holidays.

a few of my favourite gift giving ideas from their guides:

if you like to cook or bake, try your hand at making fresh salsa, pasta sauce, jam, or baked goods or prepare homemade soups or dinners that can be frozen for future use and include the recipe (my favourite soup recipes here. some awesome baking inspiration here)

give away the last great book you bought and enjoyed to someone with similar taste.

make and package up homemade green cleaning products (some great recipes here)

plant a tree or perform some other “random act of kindness” in your recipient’s honor.

put together a list of favorite family recipes.

have a “re-gift” swap. we all have gift-quality things in our closets that we don’t actually use (many still in the box from holidays past). get together with a few like-minded friends and trade them for items that fit your gift list.

celebrate your loved ones—write your friend or family member a letter listing all the qualities you admire most about them.

a monthly lunch date with an elderly relative or friend.

offer to teach a skill you possess, such as canning, photography, gardening, swing dancing, knitting, furniture making, or doing the butterfly stroke.

give tickets to a community theater or a membership to a museum.

buy renewable energy certificates to offset the carbon emissions of a friend.

set aside a few hours to volunteer in your community in honor of your friend or loved one.

vow to send a letter or postcard each month for the entire year to friend or family member in a different city (this is especially great for kids and grandparents!)

make a donation to charity or buy a giftcard to an organization like canada helps or kiva and let the recipient decide where to best allocate the funds (more ideas here)

this is of course just the smallest sampling of ideas shared in the guides- download both for more ideas and inspiration.

may your holiday be full of calm, quiet moments interspersed with beautiful memories created with family and dear friends, delicious food, and moments of pure delight.



Monday, December 5, 2016

oh christmas tree

for the past four christmases, we have ventured out toward lions bay to chop down a christmas tree. we usually end up around an area called brunswick beach - originally chosen on a whim as a nod to jeff's home province, brunswick beach is a beautiful little community just a moments drive from the sea to sky hi-way. it's quiet and still and probably not somewhere we are meant to forage a christmas tree from, but i am nothing if not a stickler for tradition, and this has somehow become a big one.

this year we were lucky to have jeff's mom and dad in tow- we managed to fend off the rain and soak up a few gentle moments at the beach - we watched otters wrestle over a crab they had pillaged from a near by crab trap, we watched ferry's slowly float by and disappear behind islands and low-laying clouds, we had a few perfect moments breathing in the damp, salty air and taking in the sounds of the waves coming in and out.

afterward we ventured to our special little spot on the side of a steep hill to find a perfect little 5 foot tree. now buried in lights and a few too many ornaments, it's the perfect addition to the winterscape that has slowly been taking over our living room.