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Etiquette, Weddings, Holidays, and Buying Local

A Tip for Future Brides:

If you’re going to have a seating chart/schematic (which you don’t have to do, by the way– most guests at a wedding are grown-ups who can decide for themselves who to sit with), it is perfectly acceptable to have an odd number of guests at a single table. When the caterer tells you that the table “seats 8,” that doesn’t mean that you have to seat 8 people there– you can seat 7, especially if you have 3 pairs of married friends and one single girlfriend who isn’t bringing a date. You can even have the table set with only 7 place settings, so there’s extra room and the single girl doesn’t feel so acutely the lack of a date.

How to Have a Low-Cost Christmas

And a day late for Black Friday, but hopefully not for the rest of the holiday season, I’d like to offer the following suggestions for a low-cost Christmas:

  • Use tissue paper for wrapping paper. John and I have been doing this for years. The tissue costs about $2 for 100 sheets of white paper. Decorate it up with string, twine, yarn, or ribbon (if you’re feeling expansive). Use 2 sheets to wrap if you want the tissue to be opaque. Each person can have their own color of yarn tying the present together. Or, use brown butcher paper and string– it’s a classic look that your recipients will appreciate.
  • Do not buy any Christmas ornaments this year. Ornaments are overpriced. If you don’t have any ornaments left from last year, see what you can make-do with at home. Cut out some snowflakes from white paper and string them on some yarn as ornaments (tip: iron the snowflakes after cutting so they lie flat). String popcorn on a thread for garland– this classic look really impresses people when they visit you, though it’s not recommended if you have dogs or popcorn-loving cats. You want a theme for your ornaments? The paper is white, the popcorn is white, snow is white– what more do you need?
  • Take all the candles you currently own, put them out in safe candle holders, and light them for your lights in the evenings. If you don’t have candles, some inexpensive votives or tea lights (I can usually find a bag of 100 unscented tea lights for about $5) is safe and effective.
  • If you really love decorating in color for the holidays, put out the red and white stuff. You can leave them up until Valentine’s Day.
  • Find a mantle or book-case and tape or string all your Christmas cards on it. It looks festive, it honors those who have sent you cards, and at the end of the season, you don’t feel like you need to hold onto the Christmas cards– you can throw them out!
  • You don’t need a tree. I will repeat this, in case you missed it: You. Don’t. Need. A. Tree. One year, John and I taped a strand of lights in a vaguely tree-like shape as our Christmas tree. We haven’t had a tree for the past 2 years. If you need a tree, go to an arboretum and visit one. Or stop in any store, anywhere– they’ve all had their trees up for weeks.
  • If you have cable TV, chances are you have some “all music” stations. Put on the Holiday channel for an hour or so at night if you absolutely have to. OR put on the classical channel. It “feels” like Christmas music without annoying you with retail flashbacks. Your local public radio station probably plays classical music as well, if you’re without cable.
  • Print out your own calligraphy-font gift tags onto heavy paper (20 lb. stock) and cut them out to attach to the presents you give out.
  • Don’t give presents. Again, John and I have done this for a couple of years now. We donate to Heifer.org and PlanUSA as gifts to the adults in our lives, and then save our spending for the dozen nieces and nephews.
  • Little kids love to open presents, but…. have you noticed that little kids are often more generous than adults? Consider sponsoring an animal at a wildlife charity, for example– sponsorships often come with a certificate and a stuffed animal, which most kids are happy to receive as their present, and knowing the rest went to something meaningful is great, too. In fact, sometimes, kids are just not into the thing inside the present so much as they’re all about the act of opening it. You can set up an entire treasure hunt for the kid just to find the present to be opened.
  • Participate in holiday potlucks. Every time someone invites you to a holiday potluck, go. Bring a dish, or don’t– if there’s more than 8 people coming, there will be enough food to accommodate an extra (mooching only works if you don’t bring guests with you, and you should only do it one out of every 5 or 6 parties). On December 25th, stay home and make a normal meal. Since you’ve been eating ham, turkey, cranberries, stuffings, and all the trimmings at all the potlucks all month, you just won’t miss them on the 25th.
  • Correlating to the above item: go grocery shopping 4 days before the holiday, and stock up. Then don’t go until 2 days after the holiday. Your sanity will thank you.
  • Coordinate with your family and do a name-draw Christmas. Everyone draws one name and buys the presents for that person. I would love for my family to start doing this (perhaps next year). It would be less expensive for all of us, and we could make the rule something like “everyone over the age of 15” or something, so the kids still have the fun of opening stuff. Maybe organize a separate one for the kids, too, so each kid draws another kid’s name and they don’t have to buy or make presents for Mom, Dad, siblings, and cousins.
  • Do not neglect birthdays at Christmas. Better to spend $20 on a birthday present and $20 on a separate Christmas present than to spend $40 on one combined present. That $40 item is probably overpriced anyway. Wrap birthday presents in non-holiday paper (this is, again, why tissue paper is so helpful!)
  • And for those who are thinking of giving me a present for Christmas, here is a final cost-saving tip: don’t. I don’t need anything, honest. I bought my work clothes already, and we’re not moving for a while, so we still won’t have any space. See the above links for charitable donations, if you’re really inclined to spend money on me. Or make me a snowflake and send it early in the season so I can hang it on my RV. You don’t even have to iron it– send it folded so it fits in a standard envelope. I would love to hang a bunch of snowflakes on the RV this year– I put all my holiday ornaments into storage last year, and I don’t want to buy any. Also, please note that my cat doesn’t need Christmas presents (my sister is thinking of making dried banana chips for him, and that’s plenty of present for him, believe me). And John is also extremely zen about gifts and holidays. You really want to make his holiday season fantastic? Donate whatever you thought about spending on him to the ACLU. I am not kidding– he would love that gift. His favorite T-shirt is the one with the Bill of Rights on it.

Updated Contact Info

My mailing address, for snowflakes, letters, Christmas Cards, or just any correspondence you need to send to me is now:

Stephanie Bryant
848 N. Rainbow Blvd. #685
Las Vegas, NV 89107

This replaces the South Dakota address. I have no fear putting this on the Internet. It’s my business address, essentially a mail box forwarding place, so nobody stalking me is going to endanger me by going there. Just don’t send flowers, please– they don’t re-mail very well, and we don’t pick up the mail very often.

Yesterday Was Buy Nothing Day

Yesterday, I failed at Buy Nothing Day, but I felt I remained true to the spirit. I went to the local yarn shop and bought yarn (it’s still 2009). I ran out of yarn for some hats I’m making for some of the aforementioned nieces and nephews for the holidays, and there were specific colors I wanted, because I found a great hat for my nephew, who is 16 today). I went out to a LYS (local yarn shop), one I haven’t been to before. The owner was very helpful– really, too helpful; if I’d never knitted before, I would have really appreciated the help and advice, but mostly, I was just looking for a map or some suggestions about how the shop was organized. At one point in the conversation, she suggested that Michael’s might carry the kind of yarn I was looking for (washable wool). I explained that I wasn’t really interested in shopping at Michael’s. I don’t like their selection of yarns.

What I did not say was that Michael’s always smells like tacky plastic to my nose. Everything there is made in China, and it smells like it. I have this same problem at Target.

I did not say that I always feel like they want you to buy uncreative assembly kits rather than actual crafting supplies. They don’t even carry eyes– what kind of crafting store doesn’t have eyes! How am I supposed to make toys without proper safety eyes? Oh, yes, I know. I’m not supposed to. Instead, I’m supposed to buy a doll or teddy bear from Michael’s, and then dress it up in stuff bought at Michael’s. Lame.

I did not point out that if I shop at Michael’s, all but a tiny fraction of my money goes to corporate HQ. If I buy from the local yarn shop, the local yarn shop owner gets my money to spend in the community. I know Las Vegas doesn’t have the same Main Street America problems with our money not staying here, but I think the principle of shopping local is still a valid one. Plus, as overblown and chained-out as Vegas is, people really do come here in part for a unique experience. You can now gamble in most of the United States, so when people go to Las Vegas, they are going for something they don’t get at home. They won’t get that if everything is walmartized.

Also, John bought some butter yesterday. But we needed it for the popcorn.

Edit to add: Germane to this post is this bit of yarn-shopping advice from the Crochet Liberation Front.

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