Gift of Experience

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Christmas 2012 has come and gone. We spent the month of December hiking, playing, reading books by firelight, skiing, and creating new family rituals that we will hopefully continue for many years to come. One of my favorite traditions is giving the gift of experience.

"Campfire in a Bag"

“Campfire in a Bag”

A few years ago we found ourselves at a loss as to what to get our nieces and nephews for Christmas. Do they really need another piece of molded plastic or some small trinket that will quickly end up at the bottom of a toy bin? Since they had never been camping we decided to give them the gift of a family camping trip. We made reservations at a state park and then made invites, a “campfire in a bag,” and treasure maps to unwrap on Christmas day. Our trips have turned into such a success that this summer will be our 4th annual camping trip. Any gift we would have given them would by now be long forgotten. However, I am certain they’ll never forget playing in the woods with their cousins or watching Uncle Brian cook breakfast over the campfire on the “big daddy” frying pan.

Brian cooking breakfast on the "Big Daddy" frying pan.

Brian cooking breakfast on the “Big Daddy” frying pan.

This year we expanded our gifts of experience. My oldest son has been asking to try backpacking, so this year we splurged and bought the kids backpacks. To go with I decoupaged a shoe box with pictures from Backpacker Magazine and filled it with maps and hiking books for places we intend to travel to in 2013: Porcupine Mountains in Michigan, the Desert Southwest, and various state parks around Wisconsin. I also threw in a few other books for places on our bucket list, such as the John Muir trail and returning to Alaska.

Wrapping adventure-based gifts.

Wrapping adventure-based gifts.

For my parents, who happen to both be celebrating a significant birthday this year, we made reservations for 4 nights at two different backcountry cabins up in the Porcupine Mountains for a giant family adventure. As for my siblings, we decided to forget gifts to each other and instead got a babysitter and went out for a relaxed dinner together at a favorite restaurant. The same goes for my husband’s family–we have plans to meet up at one of the museums in Chicago (or the planetarium or the aquarium… so hard to decide). Overall it made for a much more enjoyable holiday–we have fun gatherings to look forward to in the future and we didn’t have to stress out as much about holiday shopping.

When is our first adventure?!

When is our first adventure?!

Adventure box full of maps, books, and brochures.

Adventure box full of maps, books, and brochures.

The tradition of giving experiences is one that we plan to continue for now on. By doing so we are putting more emphasis on the importance of spending time together as a family (instead of accumulating stuff), and creating memories that will last well beyond any toy or trinket.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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This is beautiful.

Real Housewife of Cleveland County

I am not really a major cryer. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I cry–when it’s appropriate to do so.  Funerals. The occasional wedding if it’s particularly beautiful or meaningful. Schindler’s List. Things that normal people cry at. I am definitely not an over-cryer. I don’t cry at commercials or cheesy Hallmark movies or at the drop of a hat. And, when I do cry, there’s usually a beginning and an end. I cry. I get it out. I stop. Normal crying.

However, since I first started to understand the magnitude of what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Friday morning, I have cried a lot. I cried when I heard the terrible news. I cried when I went to pick my son up early from school. I cried when I told my husband what had happened. I cried when I talked to my girlfriends about it. I cried…

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What to wear (or not)

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Wilson, Eric. “Six Easy Pieces, 31 Challenging Days.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 22 July 2010. Web. 05 Dec. 2012. <http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/22/fashion/22SIXERS.html&gt;.

A couple of years ago for the CRAVE/REHUGO project I explored the idea of simplicity. I’d read a New York TImes article that summer on the Six Items or Fewer project and decided to try it out. Just like the subject of the above linked article, no one noticed. The article summarizes a web challenge from 2010 called Six Items or Less, the website of which is now defunct. The idea is that you choose six items in your wardrobe that you create outfits out of in an effort to buy less, save more, and actually wear what you have in your closet.

The project is an interesting one and I’d like to revisit it. It requires that you are thoughtful about what you already own (I have several black dresses) and more creative with accessories. It’s also interesting because you realize that you dress for yourself more than you dress to please others. Getting dressed up and putting together outfits is really a way of boosting your own self-esteem rather than asking other people happy. I know that what you wear can create a positive or negative impression but that the details of what comprises your outfit don’t usually stick with others.

I’m currently participating in Dressember (there’s also a Skirtember) on Facebook, where participants make an effort to wear a dress every day in December. But it creates in me this uncontrollable desire to BUY MORE DRESSES. They are pretty simple to wear and accessorize but I miss the extraordinary simplicity of creating outfits out of only six pieces.

NYTimes video blog