Sunday, December 25, 2011

Elf in a ATree

and not on the shelf.   

One cold day while I was in school, my mother made her trip to our local 5 & 10. 
If you are much younger than I am, you might not know what a 5&10 is.  A 5&10 is yesteryears answer to today's dollar store, in which the items inside the store cost between 5 cents and 10 cents.  By the time I cam along in the 1960's, there were items that cost dollars and not just cents, but the majority of items cost less than a dollar and in my experience, were of good quality if not of excellent quality.   So on this cold day during the Advent season, my mom found an elf that looked similar to this little guy pictured, except that he was all in green and sat on a gold star.  A little gold cord loop let you hang him from something as a decoration.  My mom decided to hang him from our home's diningroom chandelier over the table. We all thought he was awfully cute, but mom didn't lead any of us to think that this little elf would be monitoring our activities and reporting them to Santa.  No, that was the job of the little elves that Santa dropped by our house in the dead of night.  None of us knew the night or the time the elves would be dropped off, so we better be good, because the elves were  watching and reporting to Santa!!                                                                                                                           
The facts were, we knew the difference between real elves which no one could see, and a plastic elf from the dime store!     
As time went on, I was able to find copies of my mom's elf at yard sales and I put them on my Christmas tree or around the house, but I never told my kids that the elves were real and making notes

of their behavior to report to Santa.  My kids knew these were just Christmas decorations that Mom

has as a kid, and really liked.  They knew, like my sibling and I knew years earlier, that the real elves were tiny and quick and were rarely if ever seen; just may-be their shadows would be glimpsed now and then.  The elves would be dropped off by Santa Clause on the first night of Advent, and would be making notes on my children's behaviors to be given to Santa on Christmas Eve, when they would be picked up and bought home to the North Pole.  I'm a bit more, okay, a lot more theatrical than my mother, so my kids would hear me occassionally shriek "STOP!! Oh my gosh, Matt! You almost stomped on that elf! Will you please be carefull!" and for a little while, my children would walk slowly, on tip toe, watching for elves.  They also would neatly fold Kleenex to make comfortable elf pillows and spread Kleenex over cotton balls to make comfortable elf beds.

Which is why I don't get today's children's craze of Elf on a Shelf.  I read up on the antics of this elf, and he does things like draw mustaches on photgraphs using markers (!), makes snow angels in flour he spills, leaves mini-marshmallows in a big mess on the floor after a fight at night when everyone is in bed.  What gives?
Our elves watched our family for behavior that would lead to a reduction on Christmas gifts, or even no Christmas gifts and a gifting of coal.  Today's elf watches the kids for bad behavior and then indulges in it at night himself?
Nope, I don't get it.
By the way, there is a very good Christmas Elf book that you might want to hunt down.  It is called "Santa Clause" and it is all about the Elves and Santa Clause working at the North Pole getting ready for Christmas.  It is written in rhyming prose, and came out in either the late 1960's, early seventies.  The illustrations are imaginative and charming.  Start looking for it now so that you are ready next Christmas.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Comments I don't want to see!

I love to get comments on my blog! If you want to comment, whether you agree or disagree with what I've written, please feel free to comment.

The comments I don't want to see our comments that are obviously spam. I get comments that praise me for my blog post, but don't refer to anything I've written. I get comments that contain HTML for their site. Sometimes they're selling a product, sometimes it's for a service and other times it is just plain porn.

Which is why it doesn't show up on my blog. I've been at this for too long to just let any comment, unmoderated on my blog.

There's been a swarm of spam to my blog in the last few months, which is why I am commenting now.

And while I'm at it let me remind you that when you do comment, please be polite! If you need to use cuss words, your post will either have them removed or not be published at all. You can think might post are stupid, whiny, prejudiced, or just plain boring and that is fine.

And now back to our regularly scheduled blog!

Thank you.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Giving Till it Doesn't Hurt, Part 2

In my last post, I discussed how to collect money for Holiday giving without an OUCH! factor.

Today I want to discuss another idea of how to give without there being an OUCH! factor. Today's idea is PURGE!

If you are like me, you probably have cleaned the house to supply material for the Churches White Elephant Sale, the Book Drive, and your own yard sale. Believe it or not, there probably is EVEN MORE that you can purge. You will be absolutely surprised at how many things work their way into your house without even realizing it!

The Criteria here is the things have to be new, and LOOK new. Impossible you say? Not so, I say.

First, look among the families toiletries. Often times we are given butters, creams, colognes, oils, shampoos, powders, soaps and bath bombs that we haven't used in the sixth months since we've been given the gift and probably won't ever use. They aren't part of our routine. These items would be great to give to a church or community group that assembles gift baskets for the less fortunate at Christmas.

How about looking on book shelves? You'll probably find books that were given to you or your children that you either once had an interest in and don't now, or never had an interest in and never will. As long as the cover isn't scuffed, the pages aren't bent or dirty, it would make a great thing to give for an organization to use as a gift or in it's Holiday Gift Shop for clients. You can do the same thing with DVD's. I was surprised at how many dvds we had that had never been opened.

Now look in your closets. I have found a still packaged, holiday table cloth in the size of a table that I no longer own, some stocking stuffers that I couldn't find after I bought them that are now no longer age appropriate for my family, floating candles and some still in the plastic card games. They might not be the "it" gift of the season, but they would still make nice gifts.

Lastly, look in your pantry. Remember the soup that sounded so delicious, but you couldn't finish the first bowl? It might not be your taste, but it might be someone elses. For example, I love Manhattan Clam Chowder, but I detest the New England Clam Chowder that my husband bought home. It was too much trouble to bring the one can back to the store. That can of soup got donated. The can of fried onions that I was going to use in a string bean casserole that my husband informed me he detested and I decided not to make. Donated. A can of salmon? Nice gift from a offspring I won't mention, but not trying it. Ditto the smoked sardines. The point here is that these foods are not my taste, but they might be someone elses taste. As long as the items are not near or past their due dates.

My dear cousin Bernadette, God rest her soul, did this, but in a different way. She would make up a grocery bag or two for the Holiday Community Kitchen. Bern would put in the essential things like peanut butter, but she'd also put in fun things like chocolate syrup and hot cocoa mix and a big bag of marshmallows. In this vein, another fun thing to put in would be all the ingredients to make a home made pumpkin pie. Things don't always have to be utilitarian or practical, in other words.

OUCH! factor for these ideas? Mostly zilch!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Giving Till It Doesn't Hurt, part 1

It's Advent, and you want to do something in order to prepare for Christmas. That's a commendable thought. So have you thought about what you want to do?

How about giving to charity?

I can hear you groan, shift your feet and even react a bit cynically. In the economy, who has money to give to anyone, no matter how needy? We're all familiar with the saying, "Give till it hurts!!" but may-be we hurt already. Or may-be we just finished hurting and we don't want to hurt at all.

I bet you've never heard this saying before, but how about giving till it doesn't hurt? I've been brainstorming some ideas about this, and I'd like to share it with you.

Before we begin though, let me ask you, when you do the giving, are you planning on trying to take a deduction on your taxes for your Christmas time giving? Because if you are, it is really, really, did I emphasize really enough? important that you keep good records of your giving. Keep receipts, and if you aren't given a receipt, you are going to have to insist on one that includes the name of the charity, the date and exactly what you have donated. Which makes this whole endeavor sound more like Scrooge than Santa, but what can you do?

So, how do you give without it hurting? First, promise yourself that no matter who gung ho! you are about this endeavor to begin with, you will not let it turn into an obsession and become a crusading super man or woman. That only leads to disappointment if you don't reach a certain goal, and then to disappointment.

My first no-pain idea is to wrap an empty coffee can with Christmas wrapping paper and put a slit in the flexible plastic top. If you have kids, they could decorate the can and make it look like a gift, or put words like "Donate" or "give" or "change" on a simply wrapped can. If the can is pleasing enough to the eye, then you can leave it in the family living space where it is noticeable and not easy to lose or forget about as the season goes on.

Now, what goes into the can, besides money that is? Well how about coupons that are for food pantry essentials like pasta, baby formula, disposable diapers, soups, meals in a can etc? Make sure the coupons don't expire until the very end of December at the soonest, January would be better. Now start saving for buying the items on the coupons.

So, where does that money come from? Well I have a few ideas on that also.

My first thought is, every bit of change in pockets, under seat cushions, in the car, on dresser tops etc goes into the can. You might be surprised at how much change you find this way, and the OUCH! factor is zero.

Okay, so you want to add more money to the can than loose change provided? How about the deposit money from returnable bottles and cans? May-be you and your family don't drink soft drinks enough to make this very lucrative, but a simple request made to neighbors or co workers by way of a cute note asking for a weeks worth of bottles and cans might bring in a few more dollars, without bothering anyone with a long term commitment. Another idea is to go on family walks and pick up bottles and cans along the road. How about knocking on the doors of people who have recycling bins in front of their houses and asking if you can take their returnables, of course never leaving a mess in your wake.

A last idea is to ask a area restaurant to save you their returnable bottles and cans for one weekend, which you will promptly pick up on Monday.

More ideas next time.


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