When you can’t find your Christmas Spirit

(An affiliate link is used in this post. If you purchase from this link, I will receive a small commission, at no cost to you) 

I love Christmas. I’ve said it before.

But last week, I found myself stressed out and absolutely not in the Christmas mood. I look forward to this time of year, all year, but I can try and cram too much into it, leaving me tired and pissy. Lol

I did an informal survey on my Facebook page asking how many had the Christmas Spirit and I was a little shocked by how many said they did not. 

It’s perfectly understandably, really. We have pretty high, pretty unrealistic expectations for this time of year and when the ‘holiday season’ doesn’t measure up, it can put us in a slump. All of this on top of the day to day duties that don’t go away just because it’s Christmas. 

When I was younger, I struggled with the ‘Winter blues.’ I absolutely LOVE the cold weather and all that comes with it but I would often get depressed. Maybe it was unmet expectations and maybe it was something else, but it was very real. 

I’m going to list below some ideas that help me when I can’t find my Christmas Spirit but I don’t want to gloss over the fact that for some, this is a very difficult time of the year. If that’s you, I want you to know, that I understand. 

I can remember one Christmas season, I was probably 21 or 22 at the time, I was lying in bed, looking up at my makeshift Christmas wreath on the wall of my tiny 300 sq.ft. studio apartment. This “wreath” was nothing more than tied-together pine tree scraps that I found somewhere then I wove an old strand of colored Christmas lights onto it. It was my Christmas tree, because I couldn’t afford one.

I was crying.

The room was dark, lit only by the tiny colored lights and it was quiet. My ears were filling up with my tears as I lay there. I was alone.

I was sad and I was exhausted. I was managing at McDonald’s at the time where it took me 45 minutes to get to work, on foot, every shift. 

In my little world, everywhere I looked, I saw pain and difficulty and hardship. I saw nothing to be happy about in that moment. 

Both my heart and the room were filled with heaviness, it was my favorite time of the year but my Christmas Spirit was nowhere to be found. 

 My husband and I have worked very hard to get where we are now and thankfully those sad days are few and far between. But sometimes when I’m lacking adequate rest or overwhelmed with life and not able to do all that I want to in the Christmas Season, I will slip back into Boo-ville, lol these are some of the things I recommend to ignite our Christmas Spirit:

Give a gift
This may feel cliché but the old saying – it’s better to give than to receive, is actually true! This gift doesn’t have to cost you a thing, it can be as simple as walking a neighbor’s dog for them, babysitting a single mom’s kids so she can get some shopping done or some much needed rest, taking your gently used clothing to a woman shelter, inviting someone over for a cup of coffee or a simple meal or just visiting an elderly neighbor. You absolutely will feel better when you give a “gift” to others. Try it!

Take some time to reflect on your blessings
My entire life I have battled the depression demon. I have to will myself to find the good in things because by default, I see the bad… and then wallow in it. lol
But I know this to be true, there is always good to be found, even in the darkest situation, we just have to train ourselves to look for it. When we choose to focus on all that we have vs all that we don’t, our entire outlook can shift. We are so blessed, every one of us. 

Crank up some old Christmas tunes that you love
One of my favorites from my childhood is Silver Bells by Bing Crosby and Carole Richards, it was old when I was young but it brings back so many fun memories. Another is O Holy Night by Mariah Carey and the beautiful Carol of the Bells by Pentatonix.
What are your favorites? How long has it been since you cranked them up, sang at the top of your lungs and danced around the house, if you felt like it? Music is powerful. Let it remind you of the beauty of the season.

Watch your favorite Christmas movie
When I have the Christmas/Winter blues I need to be reminded how good my life is. One of my favorites is the movie: One Magic Christmas

Copyright: Walt Disney Studio

Have you seen it? The young mom in the movie is completely stressed out and disillusioned with life and the season. She receives the “gift” of a great tragedy to make her realize how good her life was. I hope you’ll check it out, it’s a game changer! You can purchase it here on Amazon or possibly find a bootleg copy on youtube. :-) 

Remember the reason for the season
If you’re a person of faith (like I am), sometimes the only thing that will do the trick is to read The Story in Luke, chapter 2 to recalibrate our thinking. There IS a reason we celebrate Christmas and that is the birth of Jesus Christ. One of my all time favorite books to read during the Christmas season, especially if I’m in a slump, is An Angel’s Story by Max Lucado. 

Copyright: Max Lucado

It’s a short but fascinating, fictional account of what may have happened in the spiritual realm during the birth of Christ. It completely takes my mind off of what I may be dealing with and puts my focus on what really matters and that is the miracle birth of baby Jesus. You can purchase it here with my affiliate link from Amazon.com. Add it to your cart with all your other purchases and let me know what you thought of it, I’m sure it will become part of your Christmas tradition, too! 

I wish you all the best of this beautiful season, friends! Maybe do something you’ve never done before to receive a gift that you’ve never known before. :-)

Blessings on you and yours,
Catrina

Oh Christmas Tree!

Earlier this year, when Summer was giving way to Fall, l was suffering with insomnia. Night after night I was wide awake long after I had hoped to be asleep. At first, I was stressing about it, I knew how much work I had to do during the day and being sleepy all day was not part of the plan. After the first few nights I knew I had to switch my thinking, stress is not good for the body and it clearly wasn’t changing the situation.

So I started to think about Christmas. Without question, it’s my favorite time of the year. As a December baby, I feel most like myself in the cold winter months. (Everyone tells me that that doesn’t have anything to do with it, but I don’t care, I think it does. lol)
I began concocting elaborate decorations in my mind, trees decorated like I’ve never seen before using colors I’ve never seen on a tree. To pass the time (and not focus on the fact that I wasn’t sleeping) I dreamed up opulent garlands and wreaths loaded with fruit and flowers, they were amazing!

My insomnia finally passed and right after Halloween I began to see Christmas trees popping up on my instagram feed. Oh no, too soon, I thought! There seemed to be an unspoken contest to be the first to post their tree and decorations. Towards the middle of November, I was hard pressed to find a post that wasn’t Christmas related.

I started to notice, again, the overly styled photos, that looked an awful lot like all the photos before them. It was easy to spot the trends. It was easy because they were everywhere, in nearly every photo.

We got super busy in November, we had our 16th annual bowling tournament for our non profit, finished up a few bits with our kitchen renovation, hosted Thanksgiving and then my niece’s wedding. Before I knew it, it was time to decorate my own home for Christmas.

I confess, that for a moment I began to overthink the decorating of my own home. I feel in a small way that because I talk frequently about decorating and home decor that my tree and my home needs to be “picture perfect” and/or “share worthy”.
Foolishness, I know, but those thoughts ran through my mind.

Then I thought about all the millions of women who follow the trend setters, style makers and influencers who will never post a photo of their Christmas tree (that they love) because they don’t deem it “instagram worthy.”

How very, very sad.

I didn’t go with my opulent decorating plans. Somehow after the intense November that we had, I only wanted calm, traditional and predictable.

So my tree looks exactly like it did last year.

It has no particular color scheme.

It’s faux.

It’s not flocked.

It doesn’t have a fancy ruffle skirt or a trendy box.

It’s not share worthy.

Catrina-At-Home-Christmas-tree-2018.jpg

But I love her.

When I see her, I see ornaments that my nieces and nephews made me, ornaments that were gifts from friends, ornaments that I found at estate sales, one ornament that has survived since my childhood and ornaments that I made because there was no money to buy any.

This tree tells a story, our story. And like so many trees in so many homes across America  they will likely not receive any ooohs and aaahs from others but they will do what they were designed to do, bring a few days or weeks of joy to our homes and lives. And that friends, is what decorating should be about.

Maybe next year will be calmer and I can revive my dreams of opulent decor, or maybe not, who knows? What I hope more than anything is that we all have the courage to buck what is expected and pursue what is right for our families in this season. Because that’s what will make the season memorable! I don’t want the 2018 Christmas season to pass in hurry and stress, it’s too important to me.

If you haven’t already, I would LOVE for you to share your tree with our little community on Facebook! Just click here to post a photo of your tree in the comments and tell us why it’s special to you.

Blessings on your home this season,

Catrina

 

 

3 Ways to Instantly Improve Your Home for the Holidays

The holiday season is in full swing and I’m excited!

I was in one of the home decorating groups on Facebook recently and I saw a comment that a woman made on another lady’s Christmas decorations. The commenter was bummed and she said, “I’m not doing anything this year because I don’t have the money. Me and my house will be sad this year, but oh well.”

Her comment made ME sad!

I wanted to reach through the screen and say, “Don’t give up so easily! There is much you can do for your home to make it feel warm and cozy and someplace you want to be!”

So I put together this short list of  3 ways you can instantly improve your home for the holidays:

  1. Turn on some tunes!
    Music is transformative. It has the power to encourage, empower, brighten and lighten you and the mood of your home! Whether it’s Christmas music in your favorite style or by a favorite artist or music from your high school or college days or even a favorite movie soundtrack, don’t underestimate the power of some good tunes to change the mood in your home for the better. And best of all, even if you went to buy music from a music store, vs a download, it’s very affordable, definitely a good bang for the buck.

    close up photo of a woman listening to music

    Photo by bruce mars on Pexels.com

  2. Put on your favorite scent!
    Burning candles or incense is another way to instantly transform your home. When you or your guests walk into your home and it smells amazing, it’s an instant atmosphere shifter and mood lifter! Even the smallest, darkest space is brightened by a burning candle, there’s just something about it that says, comfort. Most of us have candles tucked away that we have forgotten about or just don’t use, I encourage you to pull them out and burn them often to lift the spirits of your home.

    burning candlelight candles container

    Photo by Adrianna Calvo on Pexels.com

  3. Smile!
    This may seem obvious or even simplistic but it’s probably the most important. Our smiles tell ourselves and others that we’re optimistic about the future, grateful for the present and happy to be here! What it doesn’t say is, everything is perfect, we have zero problems and thousands in the bank, etc.. Those things don’t have to be true to wear a smile on our faces. However humble our homes may be, however humble our Christmas may be, we can still live in gratitude and that will always change our attitude.
    A smile says, welcome! It also says, I’m choosing to focus on all that I have vs what I’m lacking this season. Trust me when I say that a friend would rather share a bowl of ramen noodle soup with you in a cheerful, welcoming home than an fine meal in a highly decorated, squeeky clean mansion where they feel unwelcome or unwanted.
    Your smile can transform your home.. and you!

    pasta dish

    Photo by Buenosia Carol on Pexels.com

So remember, it doesn’t take a lot of money or much effort to create a home that is cheery and inviting. We have got to resist the notion that is pushed on us from society that we need the latest and greatest things to have a nice home or a nice holiday. We don’t.

We are the makers and shapers of our homes. We set the pace and the priority.
We determine whether or not we have a good holiday. The choice is always ours!

 

Blessings on you and your home,

Catrina

Three Tips for the best Christmas ever!

Christmas is just days away and if you’re like me, you’re in serious planning/stressing/working mode and the internal tension is starting to build.

Will I be able to finish all the decorating in time for my party?

Will Uncle Joe start telling off color jokes again at Christmas dinner?

Will I have time to make my famous cookies that everyone loves?

Sooooo much going on right now, right?

Here are three tips to help you have the best Christmas ever:

Relationships: Let it go

The very best thing you can do to deal with family and relational issues is to not bring last years trash to this years festivities. Did someone offend you last year? Leave it in the past. Was someone rude, late, obnoxious, insulting, impatient or ungrateful? Leave it in the past. Don’t bring it (those hurt feelings and bad memories) to this years party. Is that easier said than done? Well, yeah, but it doesn’t make it any less effective. You have a choice here, don’t forget that. You can choose to hold on to resentment and bitterness or you can choose to forgive, wipe that slate clean and start fresh, to have a great holiday.

Perfectionism: Release it

We all have ideas in our heads on what would make the holidays PERFECT. If you’re like me you may struggle with wanting things to be a certain way and people to act a certain way, etc.. (Maybe you just want them to act like adults, that’s not too much to ask, is it?) This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, I know its popular to rag on perfectionists but the fact is- we need people with high standards in our world, we need goal setters and achievers. The question becomes, what lengths are we willing to go to, to achieve this illusive “perfection” and how do we respond when it is not achieved? Total transparency- I have struggled many times with not responding well. I want to get it ALL done and I want it ALL to be perfect! And in years past I have made myself sick with trying to DO IT ALL. And I have gotten upset with those who have messed up my plans.

Somewhere around 2010 I said, enough is enough. No more striving, no more doing things I don’t want to do, just to please others and no more killing myself to achieve my crazy standard of perfection. It’s been a process (I’m still working on it) but I can tell you, this has made the BIGGEST positive impact on my Christmas season. I have more joy in my heart when I’m not pursuing something that in truth, can never be achieved. I would encourage you to consider dropping your high expectations of yourself,  your family and your home decor this Christmas and embracing the ‘imperfections of reality’ for a happier holiday.

Focus: What is important?Best Christmas Ever CatrinaAtHome.com

We read and hear this all the time, right? Remember the “reason for the season” etc.      We KNOW what’s MOST important is the birth of Christ and spending time with family during the holidays but something happens… somehow our focus gets… off. We start striving to be admired for our cooking, our decorating, our Christmas card photo, our outfits, our perfect house, our gifts, our instagram photos, our blah, blah, blah and the “reason for the season” gets pushed down to 4th or 5th place (if it’s even on the chart). So how do we get back on track? How do we make this right? Does something terrible have to happen to a family member for us to recalibrate and remember whats REALLY important? Dear God, I hope not. But that will definitely do the trick. Somehow, when we have a near fatal car accident or we lose track of a child in a store for 10 seconds that everything that’s important rises to the top and all the other stuff fades away with lightening speed. Remember, you are the pace setter in your home, you determine what is important and what is trivial. You can choose to focus on family time over all the distractions of the season. Also, remember the little ones are watching, be the person you want them to grow up to be. Focus on what you want THEM to focus on.

Remembering what’s important this season and letting go of bitterness and perfection will help you have the best Christmas ever. I promise!!

Blessings to you and yours,

Catrina

 

Quick & Easy Christmas Cobbler

Christmas Cobbler- CatrinaAtHome.comI’ll be honest.. this recipe is really called DumpCake. I’ve used it for nearly 25 years and it’s a family favorite. But there’s just something about that name that turns folks off.. so I exercised some creative license.. and changed the name. Lol

This dessert is so easy to make, you may feel a little guilty for all the compliments you’re going to get from your people, just for making it. It’s that good. And it’s dang easy.

Ingredients List

1 box of yellow cake mix

1 can of cherry pie filling (20oz)

1 can of crushed pineapple (20oz)

2 sticks of butter (1/2 pound)

1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350°

Dump the cans of cherry pie filling and crushed pineapple into an ungreased 9×13 pan, mix together well and spread fruit over entire bottom of pan.

Dump entire bag/box of yellow cake mix unto the cherry/pineapple mixture, spread it out evenly.

Cut the two sticks of butter into slices and place on top of cake mix.

(Optional) Chop 1 cup of nuts and spread evenly over the butter slices.

Bake at 350° for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until top is golden brown. (The ideal time for me and my oven seems to be 55 minutes.)

Serve warm with vanilla ice cream (Or just by itself!)

-Store leftovers in fridge (You MAY need an accountability group if you have leftovers, because it will take the strength of Sampson to resist EATING IT ALL. Lol No lie. So… fair warning.)

Enjoy!

Catrina

 

 

 

 

3 Tips For a Brighter Christmas Tree

Have you ever noticed that some Christmas trees seem so much brighter than others? Well, if you’re wanting to know how to brighten your  tree, you’re in luck. I have three simple ways to brighten your Christmas tree.

1. Add more lights

This one may seem obvious, but have you tried it?

Even if you have a pre-lit tree, running a string of lights up the center of the tree will add dimension and back light your ornaments for a brighter tree. But unless you’re interested in removing all your ornaments and running another strings of lights on your tree, this tip would be best used as you’re setting your tree up. Have no fear, though, these next two tips can still save the day.

2. Remove light blockers

Too many solid ornaments, pinecones or thick ribbon on a tree will block the light and cause your tree to look dark. Either greatly minimize the solid ornaments etc. or play with the lights a little bit to intentionally bring light in front of these light blockers.      Take a look at your tree? If it’s too dark, is your tree heavy on the light blockers?

CatrinaAtHome Christmas tree3

3. Add reflectors

Adding reflectors is a great way to maximize the light you already have on your tree. I find my old fashioned tin reflectors at estate sales, garage sales and thrift stores. They fit right over the lights and instantly brighten the tree.  They can also be found on eBay.

A great cheat for this is to use plenty of light colored, shiny, reflective ornaments. If you’re not up for a potentially brassy look that can sometimes come with reflective ornaments, just intersperse them with your preferred ornaments, variety adds dimension and dimension creates interest. If you want solid, non-reflective ornaments on your tree, make sure to add in light colored solids to help keep the tree bright.

IMG_0925.JPG

 

Remember- Dark absorbs, light reflects.                                                                                   Dark objects absorb the light on your tree and light objects reflect the light. If your tree is too dark, add some more lights, remove the light blocking objects and add in reflectors or light ornaments.

Bonus tip: layer your ornaments one, two and three deep on your tree (depending on the size, of course). Put those inner branches to work for you. This is a great way to use up extra ornaments while giving your tree depth and dimension. 

CatrinaAtHome Christmas tree1

I hope these tips were helpful to you, let me know how your tree brightening efforts pan out!

Merry Christmas,

Catrina

 

 

 

 

 

 

Three Gorgeous Folded Dinner Napkins

The cloth dinner napkin has become not only a necessity on a finely dressed table but a serious contender for top billing as the most eye catching feature. And with its rise in popularity comes the quest for the hostess to find an interesting folding technique.

Only problem is, most folds are overly complicated and more importantly, take up a ton of your precious time. Here are three quick and easy folds for your Christmas/holiday dinner taught in simple, easy-to-follow steps.

 

If you’re looking to add in a little more creativity to your place setting, here’s some inspiration for the “pocket square” fold.

CatrinaAtHome Pocket square fold picks

Create your own picks for the pocket square fold.

Pocket fold napkin by CatrinaAtHome

Ruscus branches for the pocket square fold.

CatrinaAtHome Pocket square fold

Ribbon background for the pocket square fold.

CatrinaAtHome Pocket square fold

Velvet and frosted berries for the pocket square fold.

CatrinaAtHome Pocket square fold

Simple eucalyptus leaves for the pocket square fold.

CatrinaAtHome Pocket square fold

Red velvet leaf and greenery for the pocket square fold.

CatrinaAtHome Pocket square fold

Gingham check and frosted berry pick for the pocket square fold.

Of course, these folded napkins can be made with any napkin you choose! Just coordinate your napkins with your dinner ware and have fun!

If you use one of these folded napkin designs, I would love it if you sent me a photo of your place setting.

Merry Christmas!

Catrina

 

Three Quick and Easy Napkin Folds. CatrinaAtHome.com

 

Intentional Christmas

in·ten·tion·al

inˈten(t)SH(ə)n(ə)l/
adjective
          done on purpose; deliberate. Conscious, premeditated, preplanned.

Christmas living room ©CatrinaAtHome

If you’re like me, the Christmas season is a time you look forward to all year long! I mean, what’s not to love? Most people are in a better mood, everything is made prettier with lights and greenery… and most importantly, cookies.  Priorities, people. We rightly want to squeeze every little moment out of December that we can.
If you’re also like me, some years you wake up on December 26th a little bummed out that “it’s” over and you didn’t do all that you wanted to and you know it’s going to be 11 months before you can start celebrating again. (sniff, sniff) Stuff happens and life just gets in the way, sometimes.
The idea of an Intentional Christmas is simply this:
Decide in advance what you want the Christmas season to look like for you (and your family). 
Do you want a relaxed/laid back Christmas season or one packed with fun and adventure?
What will work best for you and your family?
What are the top five things (in order of importance) that you want to do or experience during the Christmas season?
What new traditions do you want to start for your family?
Here are a few things you might want to add to your list of intentions:
1. Have a Christmas movies ‘n’ jammies night (once or as often as you want).
2. Go see Christmas lights together.
 Outdoor christmas lights 1
3. Read the Christmas Story in Luke, together.
4. Make cookies and/or treats together.
IMG_9603
5. Do an Advent calendar.
6. Have mandatory rest nights, 1-2 nights a week.
7. Decorate a gingerbread house together to eat Christmas morning.
8. Attend a Christmas Eve service at a nearby church.
9. Make simple Christmas cards and send them to family and close friends.
Christmas cards ©CatrinaAtHome
10. Have one night where you eat snacks and make paper snowflakes and paper chain decorations as a family.
11. Go ice skating!
12. Get all Christmas shopping done before December 20th.
13. Decorate the Christmas tree together.
14. Sleep in and watch cartoons on Saturday morning.
15. Make a homemade Nativity.
Christmas Nativity ©CatrinaAtHome
Most of us don’t have trouble thinking of new things to do in the Christmas season but saying NO can be a little difficult. Sometimes it’s those last minute invites that cause the most stress, am I right? They don’t mean to, of course, but figuring out what you’re going to wear, finding a babysitter, picking up a hostess gift etc. etc… can stress a girl out!  The good thing is, if you have written intentions for your season ahead of time, you can just say- thanks for the invite but our family has plans to relax/make dinner together/watch It’s a Wonderful Life that night. (whew!)
Four Tips:
  • Try working on your Christmas Season Intentions together as a family and post it on your refrigerator when you’re finished.
  • Pull out the school calendar and the family calendar and decide what you’re going to add in and what you’re going to skip this season.
  • Don’t forget to plan one or two rest nights a week to help everyone rest, recover and bond.
  • If you have the energy for it, add in a Surprise Night where you do something unexpected and fun with the family. It doesn’t have to be expensive to be fun.
Most of all, I encourage you to be gracious to yourself and your family during this season. Sometimes stuff happens that is beyond your control. The ability to roll with those punches will help lower your stress and have a more peaceful season.
So tell me, what are a few of your Christmas intentions for this season? I would love to read about them in the comments.
And please, have a very merry intentional Christmas season!
-Catrina
Setting intentions for an awesome Christmas. CatrinaAtHome.com