Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Cherished Clan Christmas Tradition

What Is Christmas? This is a glorious time of the year, simple in origin, deep in meaning, beautiful in tradition and custom, rich in memories, and charitable in spirit. ~President Thomas S. Monson


It feels so great to have a lot of down time this week. We got to sleep in til 8 in the morning and take afternoon naps with Princess Two. Quite difficult, especially when it's raining again, but this battle with inertia finally came to an end so here I am sharing with you our Christmas tradition as a clan.

This post has nothing to do with DIY nor decoration but I would like to document how we celebrate Christmas so when our young kids become grown-ups, they can look back and say, "My Christmases weren't that bad after all!"

All these years, excitement during Christmas Eve in our home has always registered overboard the maximum scale. This year was not in any way different because the girls had to prepare cookies and milk for Santa's arrival, then wonder if their coveted gifts will be there waiting for them the next day. They also looked forward to opening their Christmas stockings the next day, and after that, their much-awaited Christmas party with their cousins, aunts, and uncles in their Uncle C's house.

The big day finally came! We all gathered in their Uncle C's home and before we started the party, the kids took time to run around and release their pent up energy. Here are a few shots of the kids basking in the sunshine after more than a week of stormy weather.

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Princess One and Princess Two posed quickly for the camera.

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Princess Two enthusiastically ran towards her cousins.

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Here's the effect of being too cooped up due to rain - just one buzzing bee kept them all eager and thrilled.

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All kids were gathered inside to eat and get ready for the big event. After all the munching and drinking, the exchanges of presents began.

Please note that to preserve my family members' privacy, I'll give them pseudonyms instead of their real names. You might also notice some funny letters on the Christmas stockings and before you think that we mastered hieroglyphics, I'm bringing it out in the open that I simply blurred out their names. I created a collage of last year's picture with this year's picture to compare how much each kid has grown and how much younger the adults have become :)

Baby J is the latest addition in the clan so he had the privilege of being the first. Last year, his mom and sister helped him received and open his presents. This year, he was already involved that after his dad opened his presents, he quickly played with the ones that tickled his fancy.

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Princess Two got her air time next. Last year, she was so overwhelmed with all the cameras rolling and snapping each time she got a present that she retreated behind the Mickey Mouse cup. This year, she held up on her own pretty well due to the increased awareness of the day's significance.

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Girl J came next. Last year, the setup was Tween J, Girl J's sister, would help her receive and open her gifts. You can see in the first picture Princess One giving her gift to Girl J. This year, Princess One and Two in tandem gave the gifts to Girl J so during the group picture, she was flanked by these two princesses.

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Girl I waited patiently for her turn and she was greatly rewarded. Princess Two adores Girl I so in these two pictures, she made sure she's with Princess One to give her cousin the beloved Dora presents.

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Boy N has always been a gracious receiver. It is such a delight to hear him shout for joy for whatever gift he receives. Exactly the same thing happened this last Christmas.

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Princess One's turn came next. Look at this year's group picture and you pretty much can decipher who is close to who. In our gatherings, Girl J and Princess One are always inseparable, while Princess Two clings to Tween J like a magnet to a metal.

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Before Girl J and Princess Two were born, Princess One and Tween J have been the closest BFFs ever. Tween J has matured already and her interests have transcended the childhood stage so her type of presents also evolved with her.

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Teen A was the baby when I arrived here in California and now he is a fine young man. Quick growth spurts prompted us to gift him with clothes instead of the usual Wii games.

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Here's Teen C who used to be the only girl in the clan until Princess One and the rest of the girls were born. A high-achiever and college-bound soon, her parents are so proud of her.

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Young man C have joined the adult's Secret Santa pact a few years back. The clan's rule is 18 years and below will get presents from each family but after that, he or she is welcomed to the adults' club. Young and working, he gave the coolest gifts to his Secret Santa, mom, and Teen C who by the way celebrated her birthday the next day.

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Next came Aunt J. She is Tween J and Girl J's affectionate mom. This year, she received her sought-after Anaheim Angels sweatshirt from Uncle C.

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Here's Uncle J2, my husband's youngest brother, and Aunt J's husband. He wrote a pair of pants in his wish list and it was granted. (I just noticed that Aunt N2 picked his name twice in a row).

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Here's Aunt N2, Uncle C's wife, doting mom of Teen C, Teen A, and Boy N. She received a gift card to her favorite store - Macy's.

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Finally, it's my turn! In case you're interested, I got a staple hammer.

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Here's Aunt N1 receiving her prized crockpot! By the way, Aunt N1 is Baby J and Girl I's adoring mom.

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Uncle J1 followed his wife, Aunt N1. For added info, he is my husband's fraternal twin. So many times, Mr. Homemaker pretended to be Uncle J1 so he can coax Baby J to go with him, who, by the way won't let anybody hold him except his dad or mom.

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Here's my beloved hubby, Mr. Homemaker. He received a Home Depot gift card, which at this time of writing, has already been put to good emergency use (more on that on my next post).

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This is Aunt B, Young man C's mom. I got her name during the draw this year and her wish was to have a cardigan or a jacket. It seemed I chose well because of the happy look on her face :)

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Here's Uncle C, the oldest of the four brothers, and the yearly host of our Christmas party. Hubby dear got his name and he bought him tools.

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My mom is the oldest so she got the honors of being the finale of the show. According to her, "This is a super, super Christmas for me."

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Definitely Christmas is not all about gifts but for us as a clan, we use inexpensive gifts as our vehicle to build good memories among all of us, especially the kids.

How about you? What's your cherished Christmas tradition?

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Well-Thought Out Gift Presentation

Christmas won't be Christmas without any presents.
Louisa May Alcott


Hello, my dear bloggy friends! I'm sure presents from family and friends are now infiltrating your home. At this time of the year, Christmas seems really not complete without gift-buying and gift-giving. I've received thoughtful gifts already but can't help but appreciate the time and preparation devoted to this particular one I received yesterday.

This gift had me from this bag. Just this look already made me feel contented.

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Well, like in any song, that's just the intro, because there's more to it. How cute is this strawberry shaped reusable bag and this English party cracker?

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I tried popping the English party cracker last night with Princess One and Two (and I was told if I do it right, we'll hear a pop. Oh well, I guess I need more practice) to find a cute paper crown and a little paper checkers game. I dropped by at the grocery store this morning and this bag really came in handy.

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Going back to the contents of the gift bag. Here's a peppermint-scented candle that smells so delicious. Our home will really have the Christmas smell on Christmas day.

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When I thought all is done, my friend said, "Look underneath, there's one more." I squealed with delight to find a $50 gift certificate to South Coast Plaza (Crate and Barrel and Pottery Barn know has a way of luring me).

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This is a great lesson for me - that in giving a gift, presentation has a big impact. This doesn't discount in any way the other thoughtful presents I received and will receive. Definitely, the thought behind the gift, whether tangible or intangible, is the most important aspect of gift-giving. It's just one of those things that I filed in my mommy brain to apply next year when wrapping presents for family and friends.

I hope you all are savoring the joy of this season, recession or what not. Life is good!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Musical-themed Office Christmas Party

Generosity enacts the quality of non-greed; it is willingness to give, to share, to let go. We are inspired to give because of a loving feeling, and in the act of giving we feel more love. ~Joseph Goldstein


Tis the season of Christmas parties, and as much as we wanted to say YES to all invitations, we had to say NO so we can focus more on the gatherings that are more meaningful for us as a family and as individuals.

The one important Christmas party I attended this year was our musical-themed party at the office. As soon as the door became visible, the festive spirit became so contagious. Right off the bat, one can perceive that this party's theme was all about music because of the bells and ribbon designed with musical notes tied to the door's knob.

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Upon entering, the dessert area welcomed us with these sweet-smelling and appetizing treats. The dessert area has always been my favorite in any gathering and this setting brought justice to how Christmas should look like. Everybody can't help but notice that huge present hanging on the wall! The decorators told me that all they did was wrap the wall frames with Christmas wrappers. How simple is that?

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I'm so enamored with this combination of holiday candle, glass designed with frosted trees and stars, glass and gold beads, and poinsettia as a backdrop.

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Let me add that sprucing this combination with bells and festive drums made it an exceptional decoration.

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They have been strategically placed in different areas of the room, giving that organized and patterned look.

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Here is Mr. Snowman, lighting the way of all who wanted desserts. We don't have snow in this part of California (thank goodness!) so Mr. Snowman constantly appeared in all the decorations of parties I attended this year. Snow craving, you think?

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The plant beside Mr. Snowman got decked up, too. See the ribbon? Very musical indeed!

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Here's another wall picture that's been wrapped to look like a gift. I'm definitely going to steal this idea for next year's Christmas decorations at home.

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Here's our centerpiece on our long table. It's made of a long branch, painted white with sparkles, that brought in a natural element in the room. The notes dangling from the ceiling just drew our eyes up.

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I was mesmerized so I took more shots here

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and here.

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The succeeding pictures show the base of the centerpiece that's holding the branch. I'm impressed how these were all combined and turned out pleasing to the eye so I snapped the next pictures for my reference in the future.

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Mr. Snowman exuberantly played piano on the other side of the room where the colorful and delectable foods such as quiche, salad, barbecued ribs, and mashed potatoes were displayed.

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Mind you, those are battery-operated candles that look dandy on the eighth and sixteenth notes.

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Fancy schmancy, isn't it?

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This lantern was a heart-stopper.

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Very artfully done with a candle inside, drum ornaments, pine cone, ribbon, and a shell.

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Another close-up view and we're finished ogling the lantern.

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Finally, here's one festive tree, one of the witnesses to the fun we had during the white elephant exchange.

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