Christmas

My Xmas Gifts Were (Mostly) Made in Chicago

I haven’t been to the mall for any of my Christmas shopping (I did purchase a few things on Amazon though, not going to lie).

Actually, most of it got done at the Chicago Plumbers Hall…

…which is where the Made in Chicago Market is held.

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Everything there was handmade in Chicago, so it made picking out gifts super easy because I knew where they were coming from. They were not shipped over from China. They were painstakingly made by hand by artisans in my own city.

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After an initial lap, I started to formulate gift ideas in my head. Of course, I cannot discuss any of my purchases here because some of my most dedicated readers are the recipients!

This season, not only did I find unique items, but my purchases helped an individual maybe make ends meet, or provided the capital for improvements to their business.

It is a win-win situation.

If you missed the Made in Chicago market, there are still plenty of Chicago holiday markets running from now until Christmas. Which ones will you go to?

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No Need for Pretty Wrapping Paper

You won’t find rolls of pretty wrapping paper in this house.

Wrapping paper and gift wrap for me include a pile of the Trib’s comics section.

the funnies

And a bag full of gift bags and tissue paper that was previously given to me.

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If I am handing you a present in a gift bag,  there is a 100% chance that it was given to me by someone else.

It is just silly to pay for something that is going to get ripped up and thrown out! Thus why I ranted about it last Christmas too.

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I get it. That cohesive look of presents wrapped in a glossy wrapping is Pinterest worthy.

But what I do not get is why anyone would throw out a perfectly good gift bag. They can be used infinitely until they rip!

I keep every single one I receive. And every one will be used again. And hopefully again (I am looking at you people I am giving gifts to! Do your duty!).

Our Xmas Tree was Up Until 1/19/17

Our beauty of a real Christmas tree had been up since the day after Thanksgiving and was somehow still going strong despite not having been watered since Jesus’s birthday.

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Once the new year passed, we were absolutely ready for the tree to come down. All the ornaments got packed away first, then it was a tree with just lights for a few days (or weeks). Eventually, the lights came down and we just had a plain pine tree hanging out in our living room.

The City’s Christmas tree recycling program (which collected over 19,000 trees last year) did not start until January 3rd and ran through January 21st, which became our deadline of when the tree had to be down.

But the tree still looked so fantastic!  We weren’t ready to haul it to be chipped into mulch just yet!

You still got a whiff of pine scent when you walked by just like the day we brought it home, and anyone who came over immediately thought we still had our artificial tree up.

Nope, it’s real and yes, we are kind of lazy.

Just like the pumpkin that stayed around for a long time post-Thanksgiving, maybe this tree could have become a Valentines tree?! Sadly, not.

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Two days before the deadline, the tree came down and was loaded into my car.

One day before the deadline, I brought it over to Lincoln Park and added it to the pile of trees. Luckily our tree was not the only one there.

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As I rolled up my car window, I waved bye to our lovely tree laying in a pile of other wet, muddy trees.

Soon they will become mulch and be spread onto people’s gardens and lawns come spring.

 

The Wrapping Paper Aftermath

When you are trying to reduce your waste and consumption, it is important to remember that everyone is not always going to be on the same page as you.

For example, I received Bee’s Wrap as an alternative to plastic wrap and my older brother just couldn’t understand why I would want that, let alone ask for it for Christmas.

So after all the presents have been opened, I always take it upon myself to make sure each piece of wrapping ends up in the proper place and not just all into the landfill.

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First, I sort out all that can be reused for another holiday season. That includes:

  • tissue paper
  • bows
  • ribbon
  • gift bags
  • gift boxes

As I sat there Christmas morning folding up tissue paper, I couldn’t help but be reminded of my grandmother who used to iron wrapping paper to use it again. Ripped up tissue paper can serve a purpose too. I plan on using that to wrap up my ornaments and fragile Christmas decorations when I pack them away.

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Second, I divided up all the packaging that could be recycled. Since fancy wrapping paper usually cannot be recycled, only a small portion of paper wrapping was able to go into the blue bin. Foil and glitter wrapping paper, on the other hand, cannot.

As for that Amazon box, I may use it to send some stuff to Goodwill through the Give Back Box program.

Everything else, unfortunately, had to be thrown away. 😦

 

 

The Beauty in the Handmade, Secondhand, and Hand-me-downs

Originally, I had zero intentions of doing a post specifically on how I decorated for the holidays. I am not an interior designer.

But, the below picture changed my mind.

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Yesterday, some family got together to bake our traditional Christmas dessert, linzer torte. I was so proud of my work that I wanted to document its beauty.  Looking at this picture reminded me of all the beauty of the decorations I have found secondhand, made with my own hands, or were handed down to me from loved ones.

The Dining Room*

*It’s not really a dining room, I just don’t know what else to call it

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I scored this beautiful glass jar from a garage sale long ago and knew it would come in handy. My original plan was to fill it with seashells from K’s hometown in Massachusetts, but I have yet to acquire more than one. So now the jar gets to be seasonal! It currently holds my collection of cookie cutters. They are too pretty to hide away in a drawer.

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Christmas M&M’s were a staple in my house growing up. After picking some up, I realized I had nothing to put them in! Luckily, I took home a bunch of these mason jar mugs that were wedding favors at a friend’s big day. I couldn’t bare to see any left behind!

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Yes, there is a pumpkin in this picture. He didn’t make it into last month’s compost pick up, so I have been holding on to him until the next. I figured I would have some fun with it and have him wear an elf hat. Why not?!

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This enamel tray was found at an antique market in Northern Illinois and I knew it would be perfect for my kitchen table. The pinecones have stuck around since the fall, and all I had to do was add some festive ornaments.

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Over our closet is a vintage paddle we hung up to pay homage to K’s love of fishing and boating. Since I had an extra string of garland, the paddle got to be decorated too! Next year, I am thinking of wrapping it in lights.

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On our door hangs the newest edition in handmade decorations. You can read all about it here.

Living Room

 

Christkindlmarket is a big deal in Chicago. It is a traditional open-aired German Christmas market right in the middle of downtown. If you are brave enough to battle the crowds, you can get a delicious pretzel and some hot mulled wine, called glühwein, in a souvenir boot mug! I have gone many times with friends and family and displaying the mugs on our bar makes perfect sense.

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Bet you don’t realize our thermostat is in the middle of that picture right? It is usually a blank space on the wall, but now it is home to our Christmas card collection. The delightfully tacky Christmas banner was my parents and I have fallen in love with it over the years and ended up claiming it as my own.

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Last fall, my friends and I spent an evening crafting blanket ladders in a garage. It was such a blast, and I am so glad this piece provides me with memories that one bought from a store could not.

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K had this awful red IKEA pillow that he brought with him when we moved in together. It’s obnoxiously crinkly so it had been banned to the giveaway box in the basement. That was until I decided to give it some new life by turning it into a Christmas pillow. I already had the green and brown felt, so I stitched us a whole new decoration.

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This is the first year I have actually had my own Christmas tree, so that means I had nothing for it. A tree skirt is often common practice, but I saw no reason to waste any money on such an item. We had a red and black plaid blanket that works perfectly wrapped around the tree.

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Knit bunting is now my new favorite decoration. I made one for fall and now one for Christmas!

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No vintage Christmas collection is complete without a creepy Santa Claus! I found him at a garage sale and just couldn’t pass him up. You better watch out! He’s watching you!

How To: Gracious Gifting

My Christmas gifts are all finished, and they have been for awhile. If you pay attention to the people you are giving to throughout the year, it is fairly easy to come up with something. For example, I keep a note in my phone with gift ideas for my friends and family.

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Giving and getting experiences is by far the best type of gift. Even if that isn’t an option, I want to be able to give something that truly has meaning to the receiver, is a need, and stimulates the local economy at the same time. Sorry, department store Christmas commercials, I will not be buying people random sweaters for the holidays.

Here is what you can do to be a conscious gifter:

Go Local

Help a small, local business out and get your gifts from them. To avoid a physical gift, gift cards to a favorite restaurant are always a good option.

Go High Quality

Make your purchase worth it. Going handmade and local usually means it’s going to be of higher quality compared to store brand. Go for brands that have lifetime satisfaction guarantees like LL Bean, Eddie Bauer, or anything on Buy Me Once.

Make It

The most memorable gifts I have ever given have been ones I have made with my own hands. One Christmas I spent countless hours knitting my dad a cable knit scarf and he wears it ALL THE TIME.

Have Someone Else Make It

Sometimes the thing we want to give others is beyond our own ability. If so, employ a local artist or someone from Etsy to help get your message across. I have sent get well cookies to sick friends and personalized flower vases for newly married couples.

Wrap It (Or Don’t Wrap it)

Wrapping paper is a huge waste. I refuse to buy it ever again, especially when we are daily subscribers to the Chicago Tribune. That provides plenty of newspaper to be used for wrapping. Additionally, I save every gift bag and bow I receive so I can pull those out if necessary.

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DIY:Leftover Yarn Christmas Wreath

This weekend, Chicago is getting smacked with a good snowstorm. The grocery store was packed as everyone prepared to huddle inside. On top of the weather, I am also sick, so basically that means I sat on the couch all weekend watching Christmas movies under 3 blankets.

I wanted to be somewhat productive, though, so I did some minimal effort crafting. With a bunch of red, green, and white yarn leftover from this previous project and a few others, I decided to put together my own pom pom Christmas wreath.

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I made 3 different sized poms, large, medium, and small, using different weights of yarn for added texture. Hours later, the floor was covered in yarn fuzz, and I had a pile of varying size multi-colored yarn balls.

I needed something to affix them to, so I headed to the basement where I happened to keep this gigantic Target box. I knew it would come in handy! I used an Exacto knife to cut a wreath shape and then wrapped it in what was left of the green yarn.

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After arranging the pom poms into a decently looking order, I tied them to the green yarn that I had wrapped around the cardboard. To help keep the poms attached, I used some hot glue as well.

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I popped it on our door and admired my handiwork. Not bad for some sickly crafting from the couch.

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DIY: Knit Bunting Volume 2

Back in the fall season, I made, what I thought, was a super cute knit bunting. I loved it so much that I wanted to make one for Christmas as well. I followed the same pattern I used for the previous one, but changed colors and motifs.

I wanted to stay pretty generic so I went with a star, tree, and stocking. The buttons were reused from my grandmother’s button box. Did your grandmother/mother have one of those too? Our tin is overflowing to the point that it has to be rubberbanded to keep the lid on!

It turned out so cute! It isn’t perfect, but I like that it has imperfections, and know that it was handmade with love.

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Real Christmas Tree= Real Benefits

We have surpassed Thanksgiving. Now it is finally acceptable to enjoy anything Christmas.

Since K and I now live together we had the very adult discussion about artificial vs. real Christmas trees. K’s family has historically gone with real trees, while my family has pretty much always went the fake route.

From an environmental standpoint which is better?

 

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Our Michigan grown Fraser Fir

 

Both have their own pros and cons.

Artificial Tree Pros

  • Don’t have to buy a new tree year after year, cheap
  • Convenience: can come pre-lit, no needles

Artificial Tree Cons

  • Will eventually be disposed of in a landfill
  • Not made from environmentally friendly or recyclable materials (such as PVC)
  • Most likely made in China (guessing here)

Real Tree Pros

  • Can be composted and mulched up
  • Local, grown in the USA
  • Bolsters local, small business economies
  • Smells awesome

Real Tree Cons

  • Water, land, and resources used on Christmas tree farms
  • Most likely grown with harmful pesticides
  • Needles

So which wins?

Again, both have pros and cons, but overall, a real tree at least provides some environmental benefit while it is maturing, such as CO2 removal and wildlife habitat. It is most likely trucked from less distance than an artificial tree and can be returned to the Earth when the season is over.

The life cycle of an artificial tree provides much less benefit and any fake tree that has ever been thrown out is currently sitting in a landfill right now. Just saying.

Additional Resources:

 

 

 

 

Black Friday, I’ll Pass

I used to like Black Friday.

That was back when the deals were only available at early hours on the Friday after Thanksgiving. That is when you marveled at hearing about someone go to the mall at 4:30 AM. My mom and I would go sometimes, but never for those obnoxiously early doorbusters.

As the years have gone by, Black Friday and the idea of turning Thanksgiving and the surrounding days into a mass over-consumption mess has snowballed out of control. Who needs Black Friday when you can get Black Friday all week or even all month long!? Don’t forget Cyber Monday! And the fact that stores are open on Thanksgiving just so people can continue to consume products they most likely don’t even need!

Of course, that <insert literally any type of purchase here> sounds enticing because it is advertised as 50% off, or buy one and get one free, but do you really need those things, though?

Now that Black Friday has escalated into this “crazy-must-buy-all-of-the-things” extended period of time, I am no longer interested.

So I won’t be doing any shopping come Friday.

I do plan on joining REI in their effort to #OptOutside, then I will come inside and warm up with family and Thanksgiving leftovers. Sounds perfect (and free) to me.

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