All I want for Christmas

Editor’s Note: This is not another holiday gift guide. Or is it?

I used to love holiday shopping, heading out amidst the bustling crowds to find the perfect gift for a loved one.

I loved the challenge of the hunt, finding great deals while humming Christmas carols and wrapping each perfect prize in stunning packaging.

My joy on Christmas morning wasn’t about tearing open my own packages under the tree. I loved watching others open their gifts, to witness the joy on a loved one’s face when they unwrapped “the perfect gift.”

santaMe, J and Santa on Christmas Eve a few years back

Somewhere along the way, something changed. Don’t get me wrong, I still love to surprise my friends and family with gifts, particularly when they least expect it. Honestly, it’s such a great joy. But rather than buy my husband another kitchen gadget he doesn’t need, or get my father another book he won’t actually read (but will tell me he did), I’d rather spend time with my loved ones.

I’d rather travel to see them, or better yet, plan to travel somewhere together.

My sister and I stopped exchanging shortly after she moved to Australia. We gift each other when we get together, every few years. I still regularly buy food treats for my parents, as they no longer swap holiday gifts with each other.

I often find random prizes for Meri, and send them along a short time later. (Guess why? Shhh! I can’t keep a secret!) But for the past two Christmas seasons, Meri and I have given each other race entries — specifically entries to a destination race we then run together. In 2012, we headed to Florida for runDisney’s Princess Half Marathon, Meri’s first. And this year, we went to California, where we ran runDisney’s Tinkerbell Half Marathon. (Do we see a trend here?)

Last year, my hubs called a holiday gift-giving truce with his family a few weeks before Christmas. At first I was upset, as I’d already finished shopping for half of the family. Then, I realized, it wasn’t a bad idea.

We had started to focus too much on the gifts we open rather than the people we are blessed enough to have in our lives. In many cases, we were just exchanging gift cards, since we’d gotten busy or were at a loss of what to buy.

treeWhat do we put under the tree?

And often, we weren’t making time in our busy schedules to spend time together. So it all changed for 2013.

We’re not exchanging in my home. We don’t need more stuff. We’re going to enjoy each other, travel and experience life, together.

20131207-215953.jpgEnjoying the season at Rochester, NY’s holiday season kickoff last weekend

Do you love to shop at the holidays? What’s your gift-giving strategy?

Happy Fatsgiving

Thanksgiving is far and away my favorite holiday. It includes some of my favorite things; food, time with family and friends, food, watching the parade in my jammies, food.

Did I mention food? I like food.

While I love to cook, Thanksgiving is the one day of the year that I go full out. Calories be damned. While I think it’s important to be conscious of what you eat, and to try and make healthy modifications, there’s no health in my Thankgiving dojo. None.

*flings sticks of butter around the kitchen*

My guest list this year stands at twelve. Every year, I worry that everyone else will have made other plans and it will just be the four of us. Which, while it’s lovely to spend time with my husband and kids, I prefer Thanksgiving to be a full house. This year was no exception, but four quickly turned into six, which turned into nine, which turned into twelve. My little house will be packed full of family and I couldn’t be happier. (I also couldn’t be more worried that we won’t have enough pie.)

So what to feed all these people? This is my menu.

Do you think it's enough???

Do you think it’s enough???

Want to come over? We can totally make room.

The meal is always a blend of scratch-made (almost everything) and no so scratch-made (the crescent rolls). I like a LOT of sides. This is not the most over-the-top year, I promise. I’m considering adding more (something squash-y). But the star?

My bird. Twenty-five pounds of turkey that I will love up on in ways that are almost obscene. I make a fresh herb and citrus compound butter and I give that baby a full body massage, including getting up under the skin. And that’s it. I don’t brine. I don’t baste. I don’t fuss. I don’t need to.

I’ve perfected the art of making sure everything is ready at the same time. The key? Don’t drink until your dinner is served. I kid you not, there was an incident with me, a glass of spiked eggnog, my hand and a burner coil. I care to not repeated this experience.

Once we’ve fully glutted ourselves on dinner, the women folk clean up and the men folk watch football. It’s all very 1952. But honestly, I don’t mind at all. As much as the kitchen is my domain on most days, on Thanksgiving, don’t even step in there without an invite. I’ve got this thing wired, baby.

And then dessert. And coffee. With booze in it. I have a semi-illicit affair with a slice of Butterscotch Pecan Pie and then start scooting people’s doots right out the door.

I kid. If you want to hang around, it’s cool by me, but I’m changing into my sweaterpants and snuggling up on the couch. You’re welcome to snuggle next to me.

All in all, I expect it to be a great day. It always is. Food and family and fabulous food. What more could I ask for? I have a lot to be thankful for, Thanksgiving day and every day.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

How do you celebrate Thanksgiving? Do you host, or go visiting? What’s your ‘it’s not Thanksgiving without it’ dish? Tell us all about how you give thanks!