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Entries in family most important at holidays (4)

Monday
Dec032012

Celebrating Christmas with Intention

Last November, my husband lost his job.

It was unexpected and traumatic. We were facing the holiday season with two small children and very little money. Out of necessity, I created the series Christmas without Consuming. I traded in my Frasier fir for a fake tree from my mom. I emailed Christmas cards and made my own presents. I tried to celebrate a holiday dedicated to consuming without spending any money

It wasn’t easy but the support I received from all of you was amazing. The idea of scaling back and spending less definitely hit a nerve so much so I ended up in USA Today talking about my little experiment!

A year later, we face another Christmas season with very different lives. My husband has a new (and wonderful) job and I have a hobby that has turned into a career. In other words, we have income! Of course, we also have debt (apparently they still require you to pay back your law school loans even if you decide not to become a lawyer!) and a home and two cars and two children. In other words, we have expenses.

Still, I’m not prepared to celebrate the holiday without consuming completely. As you already know, it’s too late to email Christmas cards! Also, we’re hosting our annual holiday open house this year, which I really missed. 

And yet, I don’t want to fall back into my old ways. The holiday season is filled with high expectations, rising pressure, and emotional pitfalls. We all want our children to look like something out of a Norman Rockwell painting as we pass out Martha-Stewart-worthy sugar cookies in front of our straight-from-a-Pottery-Barn –catalog tree. But you know what? That’s how you end up with tears running down your flour-streaked face muttering under your breath about how YOU are the only one that understands the importance of Christmas.

Oh, was that just me?

Instead, I’m going to try to keep lessons I learned from last year while adding in a little less consumption. I still want to slow down and leave room for unexpected moments cuddling up for (one more) reading of The Polar Express. I still want to focus on the moments that matter to my family – finding the perfect tree or making homemade gifts – instead of collecting experiences everyone else says I “have” to have (I’m looking at you, Elf on a Shelf). I still want to enjoy Christmas instead of just tackling it.

I want to celebrate Christmas with INTENTION.

As is often the case, Sarah and I are on the same page. We are both dedicated to sharing our journeys through the holiday season with all of you in the hope we all learn something about slowing down, focusing in, and soaking up this precious time with our families ... even during the busiest time of the year.

~ Sarah Stewart Holland

What does your Christmas with Intention look like? As we start ticking off days on our advent calendars and receiving invitation after invitation in the mail, let's all share the moments we really don't want to miss this holiday season. 

Monday
Nov122012

Creating Calm & Avoiding The Holiday Storm

One week into November and the Christmas itch kicked in. Now, I do love me some holiday merriment and a good wreath. But I don’t feel the need to deck the halls minutes after Halloween or even the day after the turkey has become leftovers. Rather, I love to spend December relishing the moments—the hot chocolate and snuggles, hanging ornaments in just the right spot, watching Christmas Vacation, decorating our family’s favorite sugar cookies…. 

However, I can’t do these things in peace or at the (slow!) pace I like if I get swept up in the Christmas frenzy. So, to stay in the holiday spirit and truly enjoy the meaningful moments of the season I have to plan ahead and spread out my to-do list. In years past, this meant I would begin Christmas shopping in August and create handmade holiday cards in October. 

No surprise, this is no longer the case. I just don’t have the time to get a jump on anything. And there’s nothing like last minute everything to make me feel stressed out during the holidays.

That “itch”? It's an early sign of this stress, which is why I spent every night this weekend bookmarking gifts for family and friends. Still, it did little to make me feel that I’m approaching December with a completed checklist and an organized state of mind. So, when stuck in traffic I hatched a plan to restore my Christmas calm (yes, traffic is useful for meditative self-reflection, problem solving, and learning enough news from NPR to make witty cocktail talk).

The plan? This year, I’m going tell myself “No.”

No, I don’t have to prepare everything from scratch. I can cheat and use Trader Joe’s frozen mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving (just add extra salt and pepper…no one will know). I can order Christmas cards online instead of printing them myself. And I can bring a store-bought dessert or make it from a box without it reading that I don’t care. 

No, I don’t have to buy presents (or that many). I can stop worrying that everyone get a present—a personalized, heartfelt letter enclosed with my holiday card is enough. My toddler will equally love four or forty gifts, so I plan to simplify and follow the smart advice of giving something he wants, something he needs, something to wear, and something to read. I also can let go of finding THE perfect gift—it’s okay that I didn’t locate the vintage locket I imagined giving my best friend. And, while the idea of gift cards previously bothered me because they don’t feel personal, I realize that no one is judging me for my originality. Heck, I could get everyone a gift card to their fave store. Or, better yet, make a donation to a charity in another’s name!

No, I don’t have to say “yes” to every party or volunteer request. True, tis’ the season to be giving. But not to the extent I'm burning the candle from both ends. Give to yourself and your loved ones by being present the rest of this year.

Saying "no" to my old notions of the holidays and to myself is worth the extra time for more important memories that can't wait.

~ The Other Sarah

Friday
Dec232011

Happy Holidays!

We'd like to wish you a Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas, and joyful holiday!

We hope you celebrate the season by doing what makes you smile. For us, that includes enjoying everything with our little dudes, sugar cookies, some more sugar cookies, the movies, and not surprisingly sleep! To honor this special time of year with our families—some who have traveled many miles to be with us—Salt & Nectar will be taking a brief winter vacation for the next week (although we'll likely drop in to say hello now and again) and return with brand new content Monday, January 2nd. However, this "vacation" doesn't mean radio silence. We still plan to share things from this time last year and round ups of our Salt & Nectar favorites. Thanks for your continued reading and support. Looking forward to reconnecting in the new year!

Cheers,

The Sarahs

Wednesday
Dec142011

Christmas without Consuming: Missing Out



Maybe it's because I'm an only child. Maybe it's because I always felt left out in school. Maybe it's because I was young for my grade. Whatever the reason, I have perpetual fear of missing out.

I don't want to miss a great movie or a great book. I don't want to miss out on a fun party or even a decent get-together. Hell, I don't want to miss so much as a juicy piece of gossip. I want it all and I want it now.

And sacrifice? As in giving up something IMPORTANT to you? Nope. Not something I even recognized as a valid option in life...until recently. You don't really decide to celebrate capitalism's favorite holiday without spending money and manage to avoid self-sacrifice. I tried. I failed and it hasn't gotten any easier.

The first thing to go were the treats and, y'all, I LOVE treats. A gingerbread latte here, a holiday cookie there. It puts a smile on my face. However, I went back and looked at my checking account register to find out what my smiles were worth. I spent almost $50 last month on treats. Six hundred dollars a year on things that made me momentarily happy...and fat. I'll keep my $600 and avoid the calories. Thank you very much.

Next, I've had to give up my "life savers"—products I think are going to just save my life. Things I never knew I always wanted until I see a commercial or read a review and realize the ______ is going to revolutionize my life! I don't know how many things I have to buy to realize that an object has never and will never simplify my life. Period. What is even harder is thinking I've found the perfect "life saver" for someone else and realizing I can't buy it...especially if it's on sale. I can't even talk about sales yet. I'm not there emotionally.

Most importantly, I've had to give up my own ego (and control!) and realize sometimes I will miss out on things...or (even harder to accept) sometimes my children will miss out on things. We might have to skip a Christmas performance because the tickets are too expensive or ignore certain wish list requests if they are not within our budgets. It's hard but prioritizing, even sacrificing, is something I need to learn so I can teach my children.

Something about the holiday season puts all these lessons in stark relief. In some ways, it's harder. Every message I encounter seems to only reenforce the idea that by not spending money I am missing out. However, in other ways, it's easier. This is a special time of year. We spend more time with those we love. We focus on what is important in our lives. We look back on the year past and lessons learned.

Somehow in the midst of presents and decorations and consuming, it is easier to see the things of real value.

~ Sarah Stewart Holland