Gradually Improving Holiday Spirit

Okay, okay, things are going a little better now. My mom and I went out shopping yesterday, and seeing all the pretty holiday stuff in the stores put me much more firmly into the right state of mind. I bought some nice wrapping paper I absolutely don’t need at all, and four bags of a jalapeno kettle corn I’ve been keeping an eye out for (so far I’ve found it at HomeGoods and at Marshalls), and we had lunch at Wendy’s, and perhaps we are all going to make it through this season of joy after all.

so weird, so good

so weird, so good

I did NOT take a picture of the kids as planned, because I forgot Rob and William had an after-school thing, and the Rob and I got snippy in the car on the way home, and so anyway let’s just postpone that into the full-on panic zone. It helped to think about what would I tell someone else in the same situation: I’d say, “Well, if people don’t get a photo in the cards this year, or if you don’t even send out cards at all, or if you send out, say, the half-dozen most important ones and no others, that’s really not a huge deal. You’d just do it next year and probably most people wouldn’t even notice or care. Your mechanic is not waiting by the mailbox for the Thistle Christmas card.”

I DID, however, put all the candy canes and chocolate ornaments on the tree (I did some while waiting for it to be time to pick up my mom to go shopping, and some while waiting for my coffee to reheat in the microwave) and, when combined with the few ornaments the kids have made at school, and the few ornaments I’d bought since last year so hadn’t packed away in the Christmas box, to my surprise the tree looks pretty much decorated. It’s sparse, and I still do want to bring up the box of ornaments and do some more, but we went from Sad Undecorated Tree to Pretty Much Decorated Tree in about five minutes.


The chocolate ornaments, by the way, are not exactly a CHEAP treat (I found a bag of them at HomeGoods for $10), but I plan to do them EVERY YEAR FOREVER. I bought them last year for the first time, on a shopping trip in which I was in exactly the right mood to spring for them, and I felt like they gave a lot of holiday bang for the buck. Every day after school I let the kids choose one thing (candy cane or chocolate ornament) from the tree, and it’s an easy way to do something festive. I wish I’d saved the package so I could show you what to look for, and so I’d know how MANY were in a bag, but it’s…a few dozen, I think, in a clear bag with a paper label stapling the top closed. And they look like this:


The package contains some silver ornaments, some red, some gold. At HomeGoods, they were in with the special holiday treats—all the fancier-looking foods you might give as gifts. They had a smaller bag, too, for $4, if you do not have QUITE so many people in your household.

Oh, for something else I can tell you about but have issues trying to link to, I highly recommend this Advent/countdown-to-Christmas tree by Melissa & Doug:

(image from

(image from

I mean, I DID just link to it, but (1) it’s not in stock on Amazon until December 14th, which I think we can all agree is A LITTLE LATE IN THE GAME, and (2) it’s more expensive on Amazon than I paid. I found it at HomeGoods for $14.99. It’s a magnetic wooden tree, and the base is a little bin that holds 24 assorted magnetic wooden ornaments and a magnetic wooden star for the top. It works out nicely at our house (24 ornaments + 1 star = 25, 25 divides evenly by 5 children), except that then I never get to choose the day’s ornament, and I REALLY want to. Next year I think we will do something like 24 ornaments divided by 5 children plus 1 mother = 4 ornaments each, and then Paul can do the star.

ALSO, I remembered my Christmas EARRINGS! I can’t believe I’d forgotten them! Today I’m wearing the little metallic gift-bow stud earrings I bought at Claire’s last year in a multi-pack of assorted colors: PERFECT for work, since I’m not supposed to wear dangling earrings. If you want to spend a little more and/or want something for your wish list, may I recommend these?

(image from

(image from

Sienna Sky Car & Tree Earrings. They are my top-favorite holiday earrings, especially since they feel right any time after Thanksgiving, and because “cars carrying home trees” is one of my favorite holiday-season sightings. They are rather SMALL and LIGHT; that’s either a warning or a selling point, depending on your preferences.

34 thoughts on “Gradually Improving Holiday Spirit

  1. Tracy

    I realize this is an idea that can be either loved or hated…

    But when it doesn’t work out for me to get a good family picture or kids-only picture around the holidays, I look through my pictures from the past 6 months, and use whichever I feel is best. This of course doesn’t work quite well if you have very young children who do look different now than they did in July. Mine are 10, 12, and 14 (but the pic is from when they were 9, 12 and 13). I used a nice pic of the 5 of us on the beach this past summer. One less thing to stress about!

    (Of course I’ve purchased the photo cards, and they’ve been in my house for 10 days, but I’ve yet to address and stuff the envelopes! Tonight… drops in the bucket.)

    1. Rayne of Terror

      I used mother’s day photos for the front of the card this year to just GET IT DONE. Yes, the kids have grown in 6 months but most of my cards are going to people who don’t see them that often. Then on the backside I just scrolled through my Facebook & instagram photos for this year and picked a selection that got all of us included in mostly equal amounts of pictures.

    2. Elisabeth

      Yep. We’re using a family picture from my sister-in-law’s wedding this past August. Granted, I haven’t ordered cards or anything else, but I know which picture we are using!

    3. Maureen

      I think this is what I did for the majority of our Christmas cards-pick out the best picture I could find-and send it off. Really need to get on the cards this weekend-might need a little glass of champagne to help me with the task :)

  2. Tessie

    Every time I see or read about HomeGoods I mentally add the phrase “NOT A GROCERY STORE!!” so thanks for that. HAHAHA.

        1. Swistle Post author

          I had BROUGHT THE COUPON WITH ME! From OUTSIDE THE STORE! Like some sort of weird, scammy person!

      1. Jaime

        I once tried using a $2 bill at a Taco Bell. Neither the cashier nor the manager had seen one before, and they acted like I was some master counterfeiter (I was a teenager at the time too).

  3. Shawna

    “Every day after school I let the kids choose one thing (candy cane or chocolate ornament) from the tree.” I like this idea and am sure my kids would be behind it 100% because it means candy every day, but it seems to me that your tree gradually gets un-decorated. If I enacted this I think I’d keep a box of ornaments out (a nice-looking box, not the ratty cardboard box that normally houses my ornaments) by the tree and let the kids swap a non-edible ornament for an edible one every day. Plus it would be easy to just swing by the tree and add a couple of ornaments when I had a minute or so and decorate gradually.

    1. Shawna

      On the other hand, if I used nothing but edible ornaments, the task of taking the tree down would be easy if I let the number of ornaments diminish daily throughout the holidays. Hmm…

  4. Val

    Yes, yes, yes. It has been one of the most interesting things to me to realize as I get older just how helpful the What-/How-would-you-advise-a-friend way of framing my own issues and stressors is. As is probably true for all of us, I am so much harder on myself and so much more critical of myself than I ever would be of anyone else, and it helps me so much to remind myself of that. I decided this morning that since I haven’t bought any new Christmas cards this year, I’m just going to use up all the mismatched leftover ones in my stash from Christmases past–because I don’t have the energy to worry about it this year, and I doubt anyone really remembers cards they receive from one year to the next anyway unless they were really super-stand-out-unique cards. I’d tell anyone else stressing over this “issue”/worry that “No one really cares, so if it makes things easier and more pleasant for you, then by all means, send the mismatched leftover cards,” so I’m taking my own advice here.

  5. Erin

    My MIL sent my son that advent calendar this year and we all love it. It was exactly what I was looking for (reusable year after year, but not enormous or expensive). Anyway, after we got this one we got a second one in the mail from my husband’s grandmother. Initially I thought they were exactly the same, but on closer inspection I saw that a couple of the ornaments on the second one were religious themed (angels, baby Jesus), while the ones on the first one were not (Santa, reindeer). Just a note in case this is meaningful info to some people. I had both calendars unopened for about 2 weeks before I noticed the difference, and I didn’t see anything on the packaging that indicates that there’s a difference other than the ornaments themselves.

  6. JMV

    Love the chocolate ornament thing. My grandmother did every year when her kids were young, in a less expensive way. She took chocolate (brand of your liking) and candy (whatever was individually wrapped and the kids liked), then wrapped it with tin foil. She Crinkled up some red ribbon in the foil and then tied it to the tree. Lots of cheap, kid friendly silver ornaments.

  7. Elizabeth

    I seem to recall that you like to read Maeve Binchy’s Christmas stories every year. If you need another mood booster maybe you can institute the ritual of doing one small drop-in-the-bucket holiday task every evening and then sitting by your pretty tree, drinking hot chocolate out of your Christmas mug and reading Maeve.

    Re. cards: some people I know send out New Years or Valentines cards. You could switch it up this year if sending cards now is just one thing too much. Or skip it entirely, like you said.

    Love your posts. THANK YOU!

    1. Swistle Post author

      Oh, YES, this sounds good! Do The Task, and then have a story, maybe add a little something to the hot chocolate…

  8. Alice

    I am still in the Overwhelmed and I Will Never Get This Done so Why Bother stage. Will someone go buy a tree and stand it up in my living room for me? I think I could handle slowly decorating it at that point.

    1. Karen L

      I bet someone WOULD buy a tree and stand it up in your living room for you. or for me. I wonder how much they might charge.

  9. Kati

    Swistle, I bought myself those earrings last week because they have been on my wish list since you first posted them, but no one had bought them for me. So, early Christmas present for me! And they’ve been helping me get into the spirit this year, so thank you!

  10. el-e-e

    Christmas jewelry does help! I have a little charm bracelet. And today I did a little shopping for stocking stuffers. Even though it’s just TicTacs (did you know they have black cherry/cola flavored?? Neither do my kids and it will be a FUN surprise!) and small hand sanitizer, it’s a drop IN!

  11. Nicole Boyhouse

    For what it’s worth…

    Your “drops in the bucket” is something I think about a lot. My old boss used to call it “chipping away at it” when we had a big position or something. I really like it. When things seem crazy or overwhelming, I think “drops IN the bucket” and get one thing done at a time. So, in addition to always being entertaining and informative, you’ve also improved my life in that way.

    I said to my friend the other day, when she was worrying about getting cards out on time, that New Year’s cards are nice too and extend the season! If I get a card late, I am just as happy as when one comes in December.

    I have never had jalapeno kettle corn but now I want some!

  12. Lisa

    I actually enjoy cards that come in January been if it says Merry Christmas. It’s a nice post-holiday pick -me-up.

    1. sooboo

      My brother and his wife live overseas and I’m always late sending their gifts (I send a box around Dec 15th or so but it can take a month to get there). He says they love it because January can be so bleak. There’s something to be said for being tardy.

  13. Gigi

    Regarding the photo thing…usually I buy a new ornament every year. And usually, I buy the type that has a place for you to place a photo of your family. A few years ago, I bought the ornament but when I looked back through our pictures I couldn’t find one picture of all of us together – it was a rough year – to be honest there were very few photos of any of us that year. So for the past couple of years, I’ve just been hanging the ornament on the tree with the stock photo that was provided….yes, I’ve had strangers hanging on my tree for the last few years! Finally, this year, I went back through the few photos from that year and somehow cobbled together a teeny-tiny collage of us for that ornament. This year? This year I bought an ornament that just states the year – no picture needed.

    And yes, I echo a few other commenters up there – I’ve done New Year’s cards before. I think it is nice to receive a card out of the blue after all the Christmas hubbub has died down.

  14. Rah

    Not sweating the details: A friend had a rubber stamp made that says “This is NOT late! There are twelve days of Christmas.” And I always enjoy his Christmas cards more than others because they tend to come about Jan. 2 and there’s more time to enjoy them.

    1. Jenny

      Ha….I am very invested in the idea of the 12 days of Christmas. And I refuse to consider taking my decorations down until after the 12 days are done. Of course, that meant that last year I still had a Christmas tree up around January 15th.

  15. British American

    Good to know about the chocolate ornaments. I love to have them because my Nanna would always buy them for us when I was a kid in England. At ALDI they have them in a bag and for $3 you get about 9 ornaments, 2 little chocolate Santas and a big chocolate Santa. I ate the Santas before the kids saw them. I could use more than 9 ornaments though, since I want to eat those too. They end up stressful at our house though, as I get tired of the kids asking for them all the time. I told them not to ask me for candy canes again and then they will be surprised when I offer them one!

  16. Lindsay

    One of my favorite Christmas traditions is enjoying your blog and the comments over Christmas. And I too think of drops in the bucket (or Ann Lamont’s ‘bird by bird’) on the regular.

    Attempting Christmas cards today. Keeping them simple, and throwing in a pic of the babe, but not a Christmas one.

  17. Joyce

    A note on Chocolate ornaments:
    We got chocolate ornaments last year at Aldi ($1.99). The kids loved them. BUT we kept finding the litter of foil wrappers, more than their one a day. And when the lower ones were gone, the 2 year old tried to scale the tree to get them all. CRASH! Also, our dog got one that was hung too low.

    We will do them again, but closer to Christmas Day, and I will keep an eye on them.

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