Jana Says

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Tag Archive: holidays

My Christmas not to-do list

December is a weird, expensive month for my family. Between Christmas and Hanukkah and the child’s birthday, all of our money goes away. We manage it the best we can but still. See you in January, cash, along with my sanity, organization, and clean(ish) house. 

That said, we do have some holiday traditions that, thankfully, are free or mostly free. Driving around to look at lights, decorating gingerbread houses (from a kit, usually purchased a Michael’s with a coupon. Please do not think I’m ambitious enough to make that shit from scratch), and watching The Muppets Christmas Carol. In fact, here’s our full list. It’s pretty much remained the same in the two years since I wrote it. 

But since I like balance, let’s talk about all the thing I do not do at Christmastime. 


  • Employ The Elf on the Shelf. First of all, it’s fucking creepy. Second of all, I’m way too lazy to remember to move the thing. Third, why am I going to make messes and projects that I’m going to have to clean up? 
  • Drink from Starbucks red cups. I hate Starbucks coffee. It’s disgusting. I’m not a fan of their hot chocolate either. And why am I going to pay $9 for a cup of hot tea simply because it’s in a red cup? Or spend 48 minutes in line waiting to spend $9 on tea in a red cup? I’m not. So I drink my candy cane tea from my Muppets mug instead and I don’t even have to leave my house. See also: eggnog. Why does it exist?
  • Send holiday cards. This is one of those “one day I’ll do it” things and finally I realized that no fucking way is it ever going to happen because I’m too forgetful and I lose addresses and like with the creeper Elf, lazy. I’m sorry, friends. I love you but no cards from me. 
  • Watch Love Actually. Confession: I’ve never seen it. I’m not really sure I care to. Don’t even know where to find it if I did want to watch it. See also: all the other Hallmark/Lifetime type Christmas movies. 
  • Wear holiday manicures. The closest I’ll come is some sparkly red nail polish I have. But snowmen or Santa hats or whatever the hell else ambitious people get painted on their nails? No and no.
  • Listen to Christmas music. This where it gets tricky. While I LOATHE most Christmas music, some of the nontraditional songs are pretty fun. My husband, however, enjoys all the songs so we compromise. I made a playlist mixed with both types and we listen to it on only two days: gingerbread house day and Christmas day. 
  • Attend an ugly sweater party. This implies that I’m going to attend a party and I’m 100% confident that is not going to happen. 
  • Have a cookie baking day. I make 3 ingredient microwave fudge and one type of cookie. It takes 20 minutes. That’s all I’m willing to spend. Besides, I work from home and I shouldn’t be left alone with peanut butter fudge and the husband works with 5 other people and last year, all the stuff I sent to his work got thrown away so fuck them. 
  • Encourage my child to wake up at 5AM to open presents. Mama needs her sleep. Don’t mess with that. 

I’m sure there more things that I don’t do and I’m sure I’ll think of it later. That’s pretty much the story of this time of year. 

How about you guys? Is there anything you don’t or won’t do around the holidays?


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The return of #inthedrawer: Holiday Instagram fun

Hey there! Just popping in from my turkey coma/readcation to bring you a special announcement. 

Remember last year when Nadine and I did the Instagram challenge #inthedrawer? It was based on this picture (and also a little bit my hatred of the Elf on the Shelf): 


Well, we decided that since we had so much fun with it (and also we both shit the bed on our own challenge, mid-challenge) we’re going to do it again. All you need to do is find a Barbie doll (or any doll, really. Even a stuffed animal is fine. No stuffed animal or Barbie in the house? You can buy one for about $5 or $6, or even $1 at a dollar store, and use it. Then, when you’re done, if you don’t want to keep it, donate it to a homeless shelter or battered women’s shelter or group home) and follow the prompts. Nadine will have a linkup every Friday on her blog so you can share what you’ve done.

Also, make sure you follow both of us on Instagram (I’m @saysjana, she’s @lifebynadine) and tag your pictures #inthedrawer. Don’t use the word “whore”. We don’t want to cause any kinds of trouble (or bring about weirdos and creepers). 

Here’s the prompts:


Do your best. Be creative. Don’t feel pressure to do them all. But we hope you do!

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Our family Christmas to-do list

I’ve discussed my favorite things about Christmas (recently, in fact. You can check that out here if you’d like). I’ll admit there are a few things I’m kind of Grinchy about, like Christmas music and the whole Santa thing is still weird to me (although I’m pretty good about it I have a confession: I can’t wait until my daughter is old enough to know better because keeping up the charade is exhausting) and by this time of year, I’m 87% sick of Christmas movies but I do my best to fake it until December 25th because of the child. It’s still magical and awesome to her and I have found that a little bit of faking it goes a long way in retaining the Christmas spirit when really all I want to do is punch an elf in the face. 

For myself, I try to focus on things like the smell of Christmas scented candles, 24 hours of A Christmas Story (another confession: we never actually get through a full showing of the movie. Over the 24 hours, we watch the whole thing. Just not actually at once), working on projects and crafts with my daughter, and enjoying the fact that my husband actually has some time off from work. And then there’s the little part about opening presents because, let’s face it, that’s pretty awesome. 

In addition to all that, we have a whole family to-do. Here it is:

Christmas list



We try hard to get everything on our list done each year, and while I’d like to say that it evolves every year, it doesn’t. However, for next year, I’m going to attempt to add “mail holiday cards” to the list. I’m horrible about it, my husband is even worse than I am, and while we always intend to send cards, we never actually do. But it’s the thought that counts, right?

For those who are interested, you can find how we make elf donuts here and how we grow candy canes here* (it is this time of year, I send an extra big thank you to Pinterest because I would not know what I’d do without it).

Also, here’s a song that’s on our Christmas playlist. This is the kind of song I can get behind.


*note about the candy canes: in the link, she grows cookie pops from tic tacs. I use green and red jelly beans, and buy the mini candy canes for the “in-between” stage before they grow to full sized ones. It takes a few extra days but it’s fun for the kid. Also, I don’t use the poem. 

**There’s a typo in the to-do list image. The correct title is The Muppet Christmas Carol. My bad. #toolazytofixit

What’s on your Christmas to-do list?

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Linking up with Megan and friends for Music MondaysMusic_Monday_Button_02

Friday favorites: Child’s birthday edition

We have a special guest poster today. She’s not a blogger, although she has posted before and she often makes an appearance in my posts because without her, my source material drops by about 50%. She’s also lucky she’s cute because if she wasn’t, there’s no way I’d endure the endless drives to cheer practice, the endless loop of Nickelodeon shows, and the constant barrage of questions at inconvenient times. 

Then again, I probably would because she’s my daughter and I love her and I really don’t know how I got so lucky to have such a great kid. 

Having a kid with a birthday in December presents a whole host of challenges. Some of them are financial (I once talked about how we deal with that, although I probably should go back and update that post); some of them are logistic. It’s hard to organize a party in the middle of everyone’s holiday plans and it’s even more difficult to get people to remember her birthday is a completely separate entity from Hanukkah and Christmas. Given all of that, we make sure we do everything we possibly can to let her know her birthday is important to us and on that day (which, this year, falls on 12/13/14 and she thinks that is just the coolest thing ever), we make it all about her, even if it intersects with Hanukkah (which, this year, it does not. Last year, either. So that’s been nice). 

As part of that, I’m letting her share with you some of her favorites rather than me droning on for another week. FYI: she thought my additions were hysterical and had a phenomenal time reading the sentence that has the word “shit” in it repeatedly.

Favorite part of December

Erica says: My birthday!!!

Jana says: I was glad when she was born, too. Mostly because being pregnant sucked. But the end result was pretty good.

Favorite birthday present

Erica says: My American Girl doll!

Jana says: No shit. It’s all she’s talked about for the last two months.

Favorite family birthday tradition

Erica says: Getting to choose everything!

Jana says: I regret the day we instituted this as a family birthday rule. Although her taste is getting slightly better. And pizza is delicious. 

Favorite part of Hanukkah

Erica says: Getting the gifts!

Jana says: That’s my favorite part, too. Lighting the candles is merely an exercise in how not to set myself on fire; the symbolic and tradition part of it has become secondary.

Favorite Christmas food

Erica says: Turkey!

Jana says: There’s cookies, fudge, candy canes, hot chocolate, and all kinds of stuff filled with sugar. And my child picks turkey? What the hell? How have I failed so badly?

Favorite Christmas movie

Erica says: Charlie Brown Christmas.

Jana says: She should have responded with “A Muppet Christmas Carol”. I clearly have work to do. I blame my husband for this response.

Favorite family Christmas tradition

Erica says: Baking stuff for Santa.

Jana says: It is fun. I’ll agree with her on that one. 

Favorite part of Christmas break

Erica says: Not having to get up early!

Jana says: That’s nice, as is not having to pack lunch every day. Or snack. Or remembering to fill a water bottle. Or even getting dressed.

I’m going to end this post by sharing a few pictures of the child. They have been approved and endorsed by her.

Erica collage

Thanks for hanging out with my daughter today! She’s glad you stopped by so you could learn a little bit about her. She wants you to have a great weekend and come back and visit her mommy on Monday.

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Linking up with AmandaFriday Favorites

Creative ways to give back during the holidays (and all year)

giving backWith the holidays being in full swing, there’s a major push to give back. And that’s not a bad thing at all. Giving back, being charitable, helping those who are less fortunate is always good and keeps with the spirit of the season. Doing so at the end of the year means that those organizations can start the new year with (hopefully) all they need. If you’re unsure of what you can do or if you need ideas, Lynsey over at Eternally Wanderlyn listed 10 ways you can give back. But if nothing on her list seems like something you can or want to do, here’s a few alternatives, not just around the holidays but throughout the year:

Workplace donations

This is one of the easiest ways to give back throughout the year. If your workplace participates in a United Way campaign, consider having money pulled from your paycheck each payday and have it sent directly to an organization of your choosing. I did this when I worked and I truly didn’t miss the $10 per pay. Sure, it wasn’t a huge amount, but it was something and it was literally the easiest way to help an agency whose mission I believed in throughout the year. 

If your job hosts a food drive or coat drive or something similar, consider bringing in a donation. You have to show up to work anyway. Taking along a can or two of food or an extra coat to drop off isn’t a big inconvenience. 

Use your skills

Everyone is good at something and every organization can use someone who has a specific skill set. For instance, if you can sew, consider sewing pillowcases for the 1 Million Pillowcase Challenge. If you’re good with money, consider working with an agency that helps people learn to budget. Maybe social media is your thing. Find out if a local organization needs help managing their Facebook or Twitter. If you blog, use your platform to bring attention to a disease or cause. There are dozens of ways to use what you’re good at to help.


This can fall under the scope of volunteering but rather than just showing up somewhere and helping wherever you’re needed, you’ll work directly with a person or a small group of people. You can do this anywhere–at work, in a school, at your place of worship, at a shelter for pregnant teens, or any number of places where there might be others who can benefit from your guidance. If you think you don’t have any special insight to offer, trust me when I say that you do. There are plenty of people who can learn from what you know. And sometimes, they just want someone who won’t judge them to talk to and spend time with. You can do that.

Event based volunteering

I think many people are put off by the idea of volunteering because of the time commitment. And they have a point. But what if you gave your time every now and then, and you gave your time to causes that have a special meaning to you? For instance, you can offer your time at a Meals on Wheels event, taking tickets or staffing an auction table. Or you can organize a Relay for Life team or spend some time helping at Habitat for Humanity or find something in your area that gives back to local organizations. Where I live, we have something called Big Ball. It’s a 24 hour softball/kickball marathon and all the money raised goes towards helping people in our area. It’s only once a year and from what I hear, it’s crazy fun, too. Consider something like that. 

Be creative

My girl Kerry has lots of ideas for how you can give back creatively; you can check out her ideas for inspiration. But really, when it comes to giving back and helping, it’s all about what you can do. And if you can’t do much, well, that’s okay, too. Maybe funds are tight and you don’t have a ton of discretionary money but you find a few dollars and use them to buy a bag of food for the local animal shelter. While you’re at it, why not go through your towels and sheets. If you’ve got any you want to get rid of, bring those to the shelter along with the food. It might not seem like much to you but to them, it’s a lot. 

It’s the little things that make the biggest difference.

Whatever you decide to do, make sure you keep the giving spirit you have now throughout the year. Because it’s the middle of the year when nonprofits and charities need it the most.

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What do you guys do to give back?


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