holiday minimalism challenge

Hi guys! I hope your¬†week is off to a marvelous start! Our little apartment is officially beginning to look like the holidays. We strung up some colorful lights, hung a wreath on the door, and even got this adorable mini Christmas tree! It’s a potted pine, so we’re planning to keep it out on our balcony after the holidays are over. It’s leaning over a little bit and we can’t seem to figure out a way to make¬†it straight… but I think that just adds to its Charlie Brown charm, don’t you? ūüėČ

our-first-xmas-tree

This holiday season, I’m trying out a new challenge for myself. During the span of time between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I am aiming to get rid of one item every day. {For those of you counting, that would be 31 items in total!} During this infamously busy time of year, my minimalism¬†challenge is making me feel energized. In a season of more-more-more, it is a way of¬†centering and reminding myself what truly matters. It is a way for me to practice gratitude for the abundance in my life. It is a way for me to physically clear out some clutter and make some space in my life.

Plus, I love the idea of someone else being able to benefit from something I no longer use, need or want. That is why I am donating all of these items, rather than throwing anything away. However, you could also use this type of challenge to recycle paper clutter, or even to clean out your pantry/fridge!

Here is my donation tally right now:
-5 books
-1 journal
-1 ornament
-2 shirts
-1 candle
Total so far: 10 items {approximately 1/3 of the way there!}

I will keep you posted on my progress!

An Intentional Holiday Season

Allyn and I are making minimalism a cornerstone of our holiday season in other ways, too. How? By trying to make intentional decisions. I think it is a fun challenge to make do and be creative with what we already have, instead of immediately running out to buy more stuff.

Christmas Ornaments

Since this is our first Christmas together, Allyn and I did not have too many ornaments to decorate our tree. {Part of why we opted for a small tree this year!} We like to buy a Christmas ornament as a souvenir on trips we take, so we had beautiful ornaments from our summer trip to Hawaii, our honeymoon to Yosemite, and our recent Thanksgiving trip to New Orleans. We also had an ornament I bought a long time ago on a trip to Belgium, and two ornaments I ordered as Christmas gifts to myself last year: a photo ornament of me and my sweetie, and one of me, Holly and Céline from college. {Hanging this ornament on the tree made me feel a little teary. Love you and miss you, Céline!}

celine-ornament

Still, that left us with a lot of bare tree! Rather than going out and buying ornaments that were not meaningful to us, I looked around at what we had to see if I could make any. I found a few paper gift tags we had saved from Christmas gifts we received last year, of adorable elves. They made great ornaments! I also found some miniature foam surfboards that had been used as place cards at a wedding we attended — all I had to do was attach ornament hooks and up onto the tree they went. I love these as ornaments because they bring to mind¬†my beachy hometown. We strung some Mardi Gras beads from our New Orleans trip around the tree, along with some pretty ribbon. Also, I had a couple pendant necklaces lingering in my jewelry box with broken chains that I’ve been meaning to get fixed one day. All I had to do was loop a bit of ribbon or an ornament hook through the pendants, and they morphed into lovely ornaments.

Wrapping Gifts

We are using up paper, ribbon, gift bags and tissue paper we already have {a lot of it saved from gifts we have previously received} rather than buying more wrapping supplies. It makes me happy to think of these supplies getting a “second life” rather than just being tossed into our trash can. Yes, some of the wrapping paper is a bit wrinkled, and not all of it is really holiday-themed, but in my opinion that doesn’t matter. I still think our hodge-podge gifts look pretty!

wrapped gifts recycled paper

Gifting Consumables + Experiences

We are also making an effort to gift consumables this year, such as homemade baked goods, granola, and spiced nuts. {Here is a favorite spiced nut recipe¬†that I recently made — so yum!} One thing I love about gifting homemade consumables is that you can reuse glass jars or other containers to “wrap” them in: looks nice, costs you nothing, and is eco-friendly. Win-win-win! I personally love receiving homemade gifts because they seem extra special and filled with love. When I bake something with the intention of giving it to someone else, the entire process becomes one of intentional joy and warmth.¬†I pour loving thoughts about the person into whatever I am making for them. It is a wonderful gratitude practice!

glass containers

Gifting experiences is another fantastic way to celebrate the holidays minimalist-style. Instead of spending our time at the mall shopping sales, Allyn and I are making an effort to spend as much time celebrating with the people we love. For example, for Christmas we are giving my grandparents a gift to the theater: we bought them tickets to see “A Christmas Carol” with us in a few weeks, an annual local performance¬†that my Grandpap has always wanted to see but has never gotten around to before. The gift is extra-special because we get to enjoy it with them. I can’t wait!

Questions of the day:

  • How are you being intentional and slowing down this holiday season?
  • What are your favorite holiday traditions?

goals + cookie recipes for the week of 12/15

Happy Sunday! I can’t believe it’s the beginning of another week … and that Christmas is only ten days away! I hope that your holiday season has an abundance of joy and laughter, and a minimum of stress.

I’m back home with my family for the holidays and it is soooo nice! On Friday night I went with my mom to her office holiday party, and we had a blast. They set up a “casino night” and we spent a large chunk of the evening playing black jack. It was my first time playing black jack, but luckily the dealer was very sweet and gave me hints about what I should do. {Apparently that doesn’t happen in Vegas! Haha.}

me and mama xmas

I’ve been busy preparing for my cousin Julie’s bridal shower next weekend. Longtime blog readers might be experiencing deja vu: last Christmas I threw a bridal shower for Julie’s sister, my cousin Amanda. That party turned out beautifully and a lot of fun was had by all. This year, it’s Julie’s turn!

me and cuzes

The rest of the weekend has been spent running errands, wrapping presents, baking, decorating the house for Christmas, watching made-for-TV holiday movies, and goofing around with Mr. Murdog.

me and murray

Hope you’re having a productive and/or relaxing weekend! Now, on to goals …

weekly goals

Here’s how I did on my goals for the week of 12/1:
write 15 pages of new material
prepare for Steinbeck Center reading on Wedsnesday
–¬†exercise at least twice
–¬†finish reading¬†Girls in White Dresses {this book is aaaamazing!}
– order holiday cards
publicize Winter Writing Camp
connect with two friends

Here are my goals for the week of 12/15:
– write 10 pages of new material
take cookies & cards to the nursing home
–¬†exercise at least twice
–¬†finish reading The Tea Rose
– order holiday cards
– teach a fantastic Winter Writing Camp
– throw a wonderful bridal shower for my cousin Julie
– connect with two friends

And here are some of my favorite holiday treat recipes!
aunt elaine’s peanut butter blossoms
mom’s classic chocolate chip cookies
eggnog cookies w/buttercream frosting
gluten-free oatmeal chocolate chip cookies
gramps’ favorite lemon bars
reeses pb cup brownies
chocolate-covered popcorn
white chocolate pretzels

Questions for the day:

  • What are you thankful for this holiday season
  • What are your favorite holiday cookie recipes?
  • What are your goals for this upcoming week?

upcycled gift containers

holiday masterpiece

This holiday season, I am making an effort to produce the least amount of waste possible, in particular with gift bags, gift boxes, wrapping paper, etc. During the crazy-busy holiday season, being kind to the environment often falls down low on our radar. I mean, it is so easy to pop into the store and buy a brand new gift bag and reams of tissue paper. I cringe to think of the trash bags filled with crumpled up wrapping paper I’ve thrown away in the past. It seems so unnecessarily wasteful!

Then I started thinking about the concept of upcycling {which is defined on Wikipedia as “the process of converting waste materials or useless products into new materials or products of better quality or for better environmental value.”} It is even better than recycling because it is giving old products or materials new life! This seems like the perfect way to approach gift-wrapping this holiday season.

When I finished the last of my oatmeal a few mornings ago, I knew just what I wanted to do with the empty container:

oatmeal container

Upcycle it!

I wiped out the inside, wrapped it in some pretty paper, added a shiny red bow, and hooray — a lovely homemade gift container!

wrapped container

I filled it with a batch of homemade chocolate-covered popcorn and it made the perfect gift for a coworker of mine who has been especially helpful to me this semester.

I also have plans in the works to re-use metal tea canisters when making homemade chai tea latte mix for some of my friends. {Look for the recipe in an upcoming post!}

What are some of your favorite upcycling and environmentally friendly gift-wrapping ideas?

Hope your week is going great!
-Dallas