Favorite Things: Christmas Edition! (And a Giveaway!)

Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before!
What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store.
What if Christmas...perhaps...
Means a little bit more!
//Dr. Seuss

Hello everyone! I hope you are all feeling the holiday buzz and getting into the Christmas spirit. I figured I would post some quick holiday cheer while I finish working on the rest of my Hawaii Posts. Although I really am not a winter person, there are some wonderful things about this time of year that I truly enjoy. Once Christmas is over, it's a whole other story, but up until the New Year there is so much fun stuff going on and things to look forward to. Here are a few of my FAVORITE things to do around Christmas time!

1. Family Traditions: This is by far my favorite aspect of Christmas time. I absolutely LOVE creating and partaking in family traditions. Granted they have somewhat changed over the years from when we were kids but we still do many things that are special and sacred to our family. When we were little, Christmas was oh so special and it was our most anticipated day of the year. Our advent calendar was set out on December 1st and we each would take turns opening the little door for that day and hanging the mini ornament that was inside it on our small wooden advent tree. Michael and I would be so excited and anxious to find out what Santa would bring us. When we were little we would leave out cookies and milk for Santa on Christmas Eve, along with carrots for the reindeer. My Dad would read us 'Twas the Night Before Christmas before bed and we would DIE laughing when he would say "Saint Dickolas" instead of "Saint Nicholas"(our dirty sense of humor started young!). It took everything in our power to stay in bed until at least 6am, but after that it was fair game. My Mom Santa would take our stockings off of the stair railing and they would be stuffed full and left at the bottom of the stairs so that we had to slowly creep allllll the way down the creaky wooden stairs to try and snag them without getting caught. If successful (usually unsuccessful thanks to a German Shepard and a Mom who sleeps with one eye open), we would bring them back upstairs and into my room and open all of our little stocking stuffers. My Mom would individually wrap every stocking present, no matter how small. It made the surprise and suspense of everything that much better! The stocking would hold us over for a bit but at 7am all bets were off and we would run downstairs to wake up Mom and Dad. After they got up and got coffee and made us painfully wait a little longer, we would all open presents in the living room by the tree, each person taking a turn to get to open one. After opening gifts, we would just be on a toy-filled high and Mom would always make her famous Monkey Bread for us for breakfast. We only ever had Monkey Bread on Christmas morning, so it made it a special tradition. We then spent the whole day visiting family and enjoying a big Christmas feast for dinner. As teenagers, a few things changed and new traditions formed as we would go to our Dads on Christmas Eve and spend Christmas day with Mom. Nowadays, we still do the same thing except there are new traditions such as drinking Cold Duck with Dad on Christmas Eve and having mimosas with Mom on Christmas morning! From decorating the house and the Christmas tree after Thanksgiving,  to Mom giving each kid a hand painted Li Bien ornament every year, we have so many holiday and Christmas traditions that make this time of year so nostalgic and special. As life continues I hope to keep old traditions and create new along the way. They give life meaning and create memories that we will cherish for a lifetime and pass on to future generations. What are some of your favorite traditions!? Here is our Christmas card from a few years ago, we used a picture of each of us as a baby from Christmas Morning! Top row is My Step Brother Sam, my Mom, and my brother Michael. Bottom row is me, my Step Dad, and Step Sister Emily!
And a few of our traditions... Monkey Bread and Cold Duck!
2. Christmas Music: Now hear me out.... I know that Christmas tunes can get old, VERY fast, especially if you work at a retail store or somewhere where you have to hear them all day long from Thanksgiving to New Years (been there done that so I know how it is!). But, if you are like me and try to limit how often you hear them, when you do listen to them it just puts you in the best mood and gets you feeling all jolly and festive! I always love to listen to them while decorating the house or putting up the Christmas tree. I also love listening to them while going on a night drive to see the neighborhood Christmas lights, and I especially like to hear them on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Its hard to pick favorites but I would have to say my top five are Rocking Around The Christmas Tree, Santa Baby, All I Want for Christmas, The Christmas Song, and Baby It's Cold Outside. Close contenders also include Wonderful Christmastime and Jingle Bell Rock. There are so many good ones it's hard to choose favorites! Also, big shout out to Raffi Christmas Tape... I am pretty sure Michael and I had this on blast repeat for 25 days straight from age 2 to 12.

3. Giving Gifts: I absolutely hands down LOVE giving presents. It is one of my most favorite things to do. I love taking the time to pick out thoughtful and meaningful gifts for whoever I am buying for, and I almost always go overboard and/or over the top. I could honestly care less if I got anything. I love brainstorming, I love shopping, I love wrapping, I love watching people open gifts... I just love it all start to finish! If budget allowed, I would be the person giving out Mercedes Benz's with big red bows on top. Since I haven't hit the lotto yet it's a bit more scaled down than that but bottom line is I love to give gifts to those I love! Here is a photo of what I did last weekend while Nick was away. I surprised him with an early Christmas present by painting a chalkboard wall in his kitchen. It was something he wanted but didn't have time to do so I did it for him as a surprise! He always give me the most thoughtful and meaningful gifts, so I wanted to do something special for him and get something off his to-do list.
4. Seeing old friends: Old friends are the best friends, there's no doubt about it. There is just something about the people that you grew up with and spent those crazy young/teenage years with that gives you an inseparable bond that will hopefully last a lifetime. I am so blessed to have a core group of AMAZING friends who are "lifers". Unfortunately we are all adults now and living our own busy lives, but Christmas is that one time a year where everyone comes HOME to celebrate. I crave and countdown to that one night out of the year where all my besties are home and we can get together and laugh the night the away reminiscing on old times. We always pick up right where we left off and it's like a day hasn't gone by without seeing each other even though sometimes it can be up to year! It is so important to me to make time for them during Christmas, even though it can be such a busy time with family and other activities. They definitely take priority and we ALWAYS make the time for each other. This year is no exception and I cannot wait to see them... Just one more week! We are called the Gamenight Crew and we have taken the same photo every year at Christmas since Freshman year of high school. Here is out first photo from 2002, and then a few from recent years!

4. Holiday Parties: Going somewhat hand in hand with seeing old friends comes all of the Holiday Parties that go along with it throughout December! Work parties, friend parties, family parties... they are all so fun and festive! Nothing better than getting together with a bunch of people and eating all kinds of holidays treats and drinking spiked eggnog. Ugly Sweater parties have gained popularity the past few years and we had one at our house a few years ago that was really fun. Yankee swaps and cookie exchange parties are also always fun ideas to get people together. I am in the market to think of a new holiday party idea, it just hasn't come to me yet...! This year I attended my work holiday party which was really fun, a big annual holiday party at my Godparents house that was a BLAST, and I still have two family parties for both Nicks family and mine, as well as our annual Gamenight get together. I am looking forward to all the laughs and holiday cheer with the people I care about the most.

5. Christmas Lights: Something about them just puts you in the best mood. Whether it is lights on the house or on the Christmas tree, I could stare at them for hours. I love the mood it sets and the look of twinkle lights will never get old to me. I also love taking drives through the neighborhood and neighboring towns to see what other people have done to decorate. There is a house in Wethersfield , CT that does a CRAZY light setup to music that I like to go to every year. There is also bigger attractions like the Holiday Light Fantasia in Hartford or the Bright Nights at Forest Park in Springfield that you can drive through. Part of me wishes they could stay up all year round, but then I guess over time that would take away from the specialness of it. Here is our tree this year all lit up and looking pretty! It just make the house feel so warm and inviting, I love it.

6. NYC Trip: If Christmas Spirit was graded, NYC would get at A+. Nobody does Christmas quite like New York City. From the huge tree in Rockefeller Center, to the ice skating rink, to the lights and wreaths and bows everywhere you look and all of the famous windows displays decked out to the nines in holiday cheer, there is no better place to be around Christmas! It is so fun to just walk around and take it all in. We have plans to head down for the day on Saturday and I can't wait! I have not been in a few years so I am overly due for a dose of NYC Christmas. Bundling up with your big coat, scarf, and mittens and strolling through the city streets makes it all feel so magical. I am hoping to ice skate and window shop and sip on some spiked hot chocolate. (Image credit)

7. Snow: I'm dreaming of a white Christmas! I know it has already technically snowed in CT, but I happened to be away in Hawaii during that time so for me the first snow fall has yet to happen. I love how everything looks right after a fresh snow, gleaming and glistening and the trees all covered in white. It's even more special if that happens to fall on Christmas Day! Chances are slim but I always hope for a nice white Christmas, it makes it feel even more Christmassy outside and makes you feel nice and cozy inside. Every winter I try to get outside at least once after a big snow storm to play around in the snow and sled or make a snow man. Nothing was better as a kid than heading outdoors with all of the neighbors to make snow forts and tunnels and have snowball fights and sled races. Now as an adult it usually means shoveling duty and a sore back, but every now and then it's nice to get out and have some fun!

8. Being Cozy by the Fire: Once it snows, one of my favorite things to do is to just cozy up in pajamas under a blanket all day on the couch. EVEN BETTER if you have a fireplace to sit by, but us unfortunate fireplaces-less people have to settle for the Yule Log Channel on TV. The smells of Christmas cookies baking and your fresh cut Christmas tree wafting through the air (for us fake tree people, try my all-time favorite holiday candle- Frasier Fir by Thymes Fragrances- it's AMAZING and smells just like a real tree).  I love to just spend a day relaxing and watching Christmas movies all day long. Some of my favorites and must-watch's are Frosty The Snowman, Rudolph, The Grinch, Miracle On 34th Street, It's a Wonderful Life, Love Actually, Elf, Jingle All The Way, The Family Stone, Home Alone, A Christmas Carol, A Christmas Story, and Charlie Brown! There are so many classics and good holiday movies it's hard to see them all each year but as long as I can at least watch a few I am alright. Did anyone else ever watch that really weird/creepy foreign Christmas movie as a kid called Here Comes Santa Claus..?? Where they go to Romania and the kids get lost and almost eaten by that Ogre? No??? I still have nightmares. Do yourself and your children a favor and never watch it.
(Watch Yule Log Here

9. Holiday Cheer and the Christmas Spirit: Everything on my list so far has to do with number 9! None of these things would even be on my list if it wasn't for the Christmas spirit! Sure it takes longer some years to feel it than others, but such is life. Good years and off years, I always try to get into holiday mode no matter what is going on in life and feel the magic and cheer that this season has to offer. The rest of the winter is terrible afterwards so I try to enjoy December as much as I can. Everyone is usually pretty happy and jolly and pleasant to deal with around this time. Work slows down and family time becomes more sacred and special. It's really a time to be thankful for everything we have and think back on the last year and everything that has happened. For those who often get stressed during the holiday season, a good thing that I always try to do (Thanks to Oprah years ago) is to write down the top 5 priorities in my life and keep them close by (usually on a post-it or note card kept in my purse or wallet). If everything is alright with those top 5 things, you are very lucky and blessed. All the other stresses and petty things in life seem to diminish and/or take a back seat during this time of year once I make that list. My list usually never changes and my top five are HEALTH, FAMILY, HAPPINESS, FRIENDS, ADVENTURE. And it always seems to calm me down to see that if I really think about the most important things in my life, money is not one of them, nor is work. This is not to say that if money or work are in your top five that it is a bad thing, not at all! Just for me, they are not in my top 5 and are often contributors of a lot of stress and worry, so if I can look at my list when I am feeling stressed and focus more energy on my top 5 it really helps! It gets you to prioritize and spend your time on what matters most in your life, espciecally around the holidays... try it! These next few weeks I plan to wear lots of red and green, listen to Christmas music, and spend lots of time with my family and friends. Here is another one of our recent family Xmas cards!
10. Hot Cocoa and Holiday Coffee Drinks: A Christmas staple! My favorite way to make hot cocoa is to melt 2-3 of Lindt's Lindor truffles in a mug in the microwave and then pour hot milk over them and stir. Then, as a bonus, I add a scoop of Fullernutter on top and a candy cane to garnish. Thank me later! Being a complete coffee fanatic and daily drinker, I also love going to Starbucks to indulge in all of their holiday drinks. My favorite is a peppermint java chip Frappucino! Tastes like a candy cane in a glass. As a thank-you for following along on my first year of blogging and in the spirit of giving I also wanted to do a little Christmas Giveaway! Leave a comment on this post letting me know one or more of your favorite things for Christmas or any other holiday you may celebrate. Please include your email or a way to contact you if you do not sign in with Google. A winner will be selected at random this Sunday, December 21st and will win a Starbucks Giftcard and a special holiday card from me! (Contest begins on 12/15/14 and ends 12/21/14 at 2:00pmEST. Winner will be selected at random using www.random.org) Image via
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! I hope you enjoy this season and everything it has to offer!


  1. Watching Love Actually and hot spiced cider with salted caramel vodka! Love your blog!

    1. That sounds like heaven! Thank you for reading and for the compliment, I appreciate it! Have a wonderful holiday!


    2. CONGRATS Lindsey! You are the giveaway winner. Please leave me your email so that I can be in touch to get you your gift card.

    3. lindseyhmcmorrow@gmail.com
      thank you!

  2. My favorite Christmas tradition is listening to Christmas music in my car starting on Thanksgiving all the way until Christmas. I don't ever get sick of Christmas music and I pity the fool who tries to change the station on me!

    1. So many good songs! I have been listening everyday to and from work and it's definitely gotten me into the holiday spirit! Have a very Merry Christmas!

  3. My favorite Christmas tradition is picking out the Christmas tree with my dad. We banter about which tree to get every year because he likes full trees and I like Charlie Brown trees - but we always come to a compromise in the end.

    1. I love small trees as well! They are so cute. I almost bought one for my bedroom this year.