Thursday, November 17, 2022

The Christmas Spreadsheet

{First, a note: If you subscribe to this blog through Feedly or other feed reader, please click over to the actual blog website because I've noticed all of the photos don't come through the feed.}

I mentioned my Christmas spreadsheet in a comment on Elisabeth's blog, and Suzanne asked me to share more about it. Prepare to be blown away, folks...

As usual, other people can articulate my thoughts better than I can. Anne Helen Petersen's newsletter about sprawling holidays made me feel SEEN. Particularly this: "... commodification and consumption becomes the primary way that Christmas is expressed, is experienced. The primary affect is one of near-constant purchasing, unboxing, arranging — a vigilant doing — as opposed to periods of observation, contemplation, devotion, being." For the most part, as a family we've avoided a lot of the pressure to do more. I've seen several posts about making advent calendars for your kids (handmade of course), and the gift every day is an activity: make cookies, read Christmas-themed books, decorate, look at lights, sing songs, etc. Why anyone would bring this stress upon themselves is beyond me.

I know a lot of people like doing these things, and I don't judge them for it - go forth and have fun! But as a parent (and if you are one you KNOW) there is a lot of pressure to do things a certain way. To create a magical holiday experience. I decided several years ago that I would only do the holiday activities that I liked, and for me, that's decorating and baking. I don't really like shopping and gift-giving but I haven't figured out how to get of that one.

In an effort to lessen the constant nagging to-do list in my brain, several years ago I created a spreadsheet that outlines all of the Christmas tasks. I copy the previous year's sheet, which has the added benefit of telling me what I bought last year, because there is no way I would remember otherwise. The first section is everyone I need to buy gifts for. When the gift is purchased, it gets a "done". I also added a column for delivery method, so I can remember what I need to mail; when that's done it gets changed from red to green (isn't that festive?)


The second portion is the most valuable, because these are the things I always forget. I have several work events I need to plan for, as well as teachers and other non-family members I need to buy gifts for. During the pandemic years these thankfully were not relevant, but now we're back at it.


And that's it! It's not super fancy, but it works for me. 

Now for some pictures because this seems too much like work if I'm just posting screenshots of spreadsheets. Halloween happened, and there was pumpkin carving (mostly done by me) and seed roasting (me) and seed eating (me) and seed throwing away because they didn't get eaten and then they molded (me). Most kid activities are actually parent activities that kids watch you do. My mom asked me if she should get my kids a tie-dye kit, and I said, "Are you asking if I want a tie-dye kit, because let's be real here."


Jason and I continued our tradition of visiting a garden in the fall. This year we went to Ladew Topiary Gardens, 3 days before it closed for the season. If you are a rich person and you don't have a yard full of bushes carved into swans, you're doing it wrong.






There were some nice gardens, which probably looked better a few months ago in full bloom, but this wasn't my favorite garden (Longwood has that honor). The gardens are arranged in somewhat of a straight line, and are located right next to a busy road. It's hard to get that tranquil surrounded-by-nature feeling when subjected to constant traffic noise.

However, lunch. I would go back here just to eat. Museum/Garden cafes, at least in this metro area, are known for being overpriced and mediocre. You have to eat there because where else would you eat, so why should they make an effort? However, I ordered a salad with fruit, goat cheese, and candied walnuts, and a scone, and it was AMAZING. It also cost something like $14 total. The scone was one of the best I've ever had, and was so big it was enough for two people. It reminded me of my student days in Ireland where I would eat a scone and have tea for lunch, which is not really a thing you can easily do in the US.*



The picture below is for posterity, because it was a Saturday, I was watching a relaxing YouTube video, and knitting, and no one was bothering me.



One book because I can't have a post without a book. I read Thornyhold by Mary Stewart on the recommendation of Katie, who reads it every year (!!). After reading The Shell Seekers I was introduced to a whole world of cozy books that I hadn't known existed. I was on the waiting list for awhile because my library only had one copy**, and it turns out it's a first edition from 1988! Gilly Ramsey inherits her cousin's house in the English countryside, and with no other prospects, moves in. There are rumors that her cousin was a witch, the house filled with herbs and other natural remedies. There is a slight mystery, and a flat romance, but the cozy descriptions of the house and gardens are what made this a comfort read. 

I wasn't old enough to start reading adult literature until the mid-nineties, so I missed out on the popular books of the 80s. It's been pretty fun exploring these (if not cringey at times) and I'm contemplating doing a back-list reading challenge next year. I found this list of bestsellers that should be a good source to choose from.

*I suppose you could accomplish this at Starbucks, if you want a cup of water, an inadequate tea bag, and a scone that's actually cake.

**Every time my library doesn't have something, or owns only one copy, I'm shocked. I live in a county of over a million people. The library system has 22 branches. And you only have one copy of this book??

12 comments:

  1. I! love! a! spreadsheet! Thank you so much for posting yours. I am taking notes. I too wish I could find a way to get out of gift giving (I'd be fine giving up the getting!) and shopping. AND WRAPPING. I giggled at your description of roasting pumpkin seeds. While my kid really did nearly ALL of the pumpkin gutting/carving, and even rinsed the pumpkin seeds, I did the roasting and eating and putting away and throwing in the trash two days ago because no one had ever eaten more than the handful I had when they were warm.

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    1. (The above comment was from me. I got too excited and hit publish before I was ready.)

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    2. Agree, spreadsheets are the best! I end up throwing away so much moldy food (you probably do too) due to the fickle whims of children.

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  2. I went ahead and made a spreadsheet last week after you commented on my blog with that idea and it is AMAZING. I listed all our favourite Christmas foods, for example, and then all the high-impact ingredients I need. I've already purchased graham crack crumbs for our favourite cheesecake because these things can sell out and I don't regularly keep them in the house. I also have a list of recurrent to-do's (order photocards, write a Christmas letter, buy annual ornament). And then a whole other tab dedicated to Christmas gifts. We don't exchange with many people, but it's handy to keep a running tally of what I have for who). So a HUGE thanks for suggesting it and I see it being a game changer going forward.

    This: "I've seen several posts about making advent calendars for your kids (handmade of course), and the gift every day is an activity: make cookies, read Christmas-themed books, decorate, look at lights, sing songs, etc. Why anyone would bring this stress upon themselves is beyond me." This is something I label: Good Things I Don't Have To Do. I posted a bit more about this today!

    Also, I must be doing life wrong as I don't have swans (or any other birds for that matter) carved into bushes in my back yard.

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    1. Yay, I'm glad the spreadsheet is helpful! And next year will be even better because it will be all ready to go. I'm headed over to read your post now!

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  3. I always love a good spreadsheet - amazing! And this post was full of lovely things - especially the podcast and knitting picture. It looks like Heaven :) And that is a well-loved copy of Thornyhold, swoon! So glad you found it to be cozy and comforting. I don't know why I reread it every year, but it always feels worth picking up in September.

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    1. I love when the condition of the book matches the mood - the pages were soft and well-worn, and I imagined it being read hundreds of times. Getting to sit and relax during the day is something that hardly ever happens, so I had to make sure I documented it!

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  4. " Most kid activities are actually parent activities that kids watch you do." Preach, babe. That is exactly right.

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    1. Every time someone gives my kids a craft kit they get the death stare.

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  5. I have a paper equivalent of your spreadsheet, I keep them all in a folder, from one year to the next. I also have one for Christmas cards too, again I have years worth. I guess I am showing my age here as I do it on paper rather than on a computer, habit I guess as I started doing these lists in the days before I owned one!

    I love what you said about the tie dye kit, so very true. I get really frustrated when home ed groups are full of little children who are not remotely interested in doing the activity on offer but their parents have bought them as they want them to do it, they are usually far too young to have the skills required for said activity. The older kids stop coming to these groups as they find it hard to get a look in.

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  6. That scone is enormous and my hubby would be very happy to go anywhere if he were guaranteed a scone like that for his efforts:-)
    I'm more of a paper and pen list person myself but I can see how a spreadsheet would be good too. My IT skills are not that good but maybe my lovely daughter can encourage me to have a go.

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    1. Sorry, above comment was me - Beverley from Meandmysmallcorner

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