Christmas cards – why I don’t send them

Christmas cards

Despite loving Christmas, I don’t send Christmas cards.

It’s not that I hate sharing festive cheer and good wishes with my loved ones. I love the holiday spirit. Selecting the right gifts to give to people, spending time with family and friends during the winter, the message of love and joy… I love all of these.

But there are things I don’t love about Christmas cards.

Writing them takes forever!

I can’t be the only one who remembers long evenings in primary school sitting at the kitchen table writing out cards for everyone in school, can I? It took forever. And at least you didn’t have to address envelopes then. And you probably had a class list you could work from, whereas now it’s much harder. You have to try and remember whether your husband’s cousin Liz is married to Mark or Michael or Matthew. If you’re doing them for everyone in the office, was the new guy in IT Jake or Jack?

And all of this is on top of all of the other extra work Christmas brings for you. Yeah, that’s not happening.

Most people don’t really appreciate them.

I don’t mean that everyone is ungrateful. But how much can you really appreciate “Dear Mary, Merry Christmas, from John”? Especially knowing that John sent the exact same message to everyone else in the office?

I think most people would far rather have a nice chat with John where you talk about each other’s Christmas plans and maybe eat a mince pie or two. Obviously the two aren’t mutually exclusive, but if Mary is just going to look briefly at the card after John spent three hours writing them to everyone he’s ever met, then the effect seems disproportionate to the effort.

(I’m going to add in here that I do enjoy receiving Christmas cards. I like to know that people are thinking of us, and I appreciate the time taken to write them. But, as you can probably tell from this list, I’m also very much not offended if we don’t receive cards from people.)

What happens to all that paper and card?

In a lot of areas, “shiny” card and paper still can’t be recycled. While there are loads of craft opportunities to be had with old Christmas cards, I’m willing to bet that most people just throw them in the bin when they’re done. I know I’m guilty of this – except I usually keep them in a cupboard for weeks before doing this, promising myself that “this year, I will do something with them.”

Choosing the “right” cards can be a minefield.

I think this is a bigger issue across the pond. The “Merry Christmas”/”Happy Holidays” controversy is largely overstated, in my opinion. I’ve had (and given!) Merry Christmas cards to friends who are Sikh or Hindu and I’ve had Muslim friends wish me Eid Mubarak, and no one has been hideously offended.

But apparently the risk is there.

So how do you pick the “right” card? Do you go for something religious? I’m Catholic. Will that offend my atheist colleague, and will he think I’m trying to push my religion on him? Should I pick something funny? Well, my friend who’s a nun might prefer the religious card. Something that just talks about generic winter holidays so that my non-Christian friends don’t get offended? Do I have to buy different cards for each of these subgroups? Do I need to poll everyone in the office to find out who subscribes to what religion?

I suppose I could just take the “easy” way out and get photo cards made of the baby or the rabbits. The first year we were married, we did that with Ned and Gingee. But getting photo cards done is so expensive, and then you have to pay to post them all on top of that. It doesn’t seem worth it.

 

The money can be better spent elsewhere.

So I’m choosing not to spend anywhere between £50 and £100 (a rough guess) on pieces of folded paper, and putting it somewhere where it’ll make a difference instead.

In the past, we’ve donated to the Alzheimer’s SocietyGuide Dogs (we donate to them year round and sponsor a puppy) and Support Adoption for Pets (who looked after Barbara before she came to us). We’ve also given the money to people we see regularly who are homeless.

I haven’t yet decided where a donation would be best placed this year.

When we can spare more, I’d like to be able to set up a fund at either our vets or Ned’s specialist to help bunnies whose owners are struggling to afford necessary treatment. However, that can get pricey very quickly, so £50 is a drop in the ocean. But it’s on my ten-year plan!

Do you send Christmas cards? Why or why not?

Gluten free Christmas baking

gluten free

I find it really hard to buy presents for men. And, I admit, that includes men that I love dearly, like my husband and my dad. This year, I’ve decided to do a frugal and largely homemade Christmas, and as my dad eats a gluten free diet due to coeliac disease, I’m going to do some Christmas baking for him!

I hear that it’s much easier to make gluten free bread in a bread maker, but as an experiment, I’m going to try without. I’ll let you know how it goes!

Gluten free bread

I spent a long time looking online for different recipes here. A lot of gluten free bread recipes seem to use coconut flour, but my dad really hates coconut, so those ones were out. I’m also not very good at anything involving kneading (especially at the moment, when my tiny tyrant might call me away at any moment!), so I tried to go for something that was just pour and go.

I also preferred the idea of using a proper gluten free recipe, rather than just one that substituted bread flour with gluten free bread flour. So I’ve cobbled together a few different recipes and come up with this. We’ll see!

  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup of flaxseed
  • Half cup of ground almonds
  • 1tsp baking powder (gluten free, obviously)

Preheat oven to 200C.

Beat eggs together in one bowl. Mix the flaxseed, almonds and baking powder together in a second bowl. Add the beaten eggs in, and mix them all together thoroughly. It should have a slightly wet consistency, but not be too loose. (If you struggle to stir it together, add in a tablespoon or so of water, but I didn’t find that I needed this.)

Pour the mixture into a loaf tin, and pop it in the preheated oven for 20 minutes or so.

So… what was the verdict?

Um. Well. It looked quite good, although it didn’t really rise much. The texture was quite dense (maybe I should use some more baking powder next time), but the crumb did look like bread. It just tasted rather, well, rubbery.

My husband’s reaction? “It… has a slight taste of fish to it. Not in a bad way, though. It’ll be great covered in Marmite!”

Yeah. I may not gift this to my dad. I may have had more success using a breadmaker!

A bonus gluten free recipe: brownie cheesecake

Not knowing how the first one would turn out, I also decided to make something that I know works well. You can do this in gluten and gluten free versions – just substitute the gluten free flour for regular if you have a real hatred of free from products!

This is one of my favourite recipes ever. I’ve been making it for years – in fact, to check measurements and timings, I ended up looking at an old Facebook note from 2009! It’s easy and delicious, and tastes basically the same whether you use gluten free flour or regular.

The brownie 

  • 1 cup melted butter
  • 1.5 cups white sugar
  • 1.5 cups brown sugar (dark)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla essence
  • 4 eggs
  • 1.5 cups plain gluten free flour
  • 1 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 175C.

Mix melted butter, sugar, and vanilla. Beat in eggs one at a time. Add flour, cocoa powder and salt. Stir until well blended.

The cheesecake

  • 220g cream cheese
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • Chocolate chips

Whisk the cream cheese until it’s soft. Add sugar and vanilla essence. Whisk them together until smooth.

Spread brownie mixture into pan, smoothly. Dollop cheesecake on top, then swirl them together. Add chocolate chips.

Bake for around 35 minutes, until edges are puffy and centre is set. Try not to eat it all in one go!

*This is a sponsored post.

I’m dreaming of a cheap Christmas…

I'm dreaming of a cheap Christmas

I’m dreaming of a cheap Christmas 
Just like the ones I used to know… 

Wait, those aren’t the right lyrics, are they? But Christmases certainly weren’t so insanely expensive in the past, I’m sure of it.

My view might be a bit skewed as I’m reading so many blogs with “gift guides” right now. So many of those seem so expensive and it terrifies me!

Last Christmas and the one before, I think we went a little overboard with the spending – although still nothing compared to what I’ve seen others do.

This year, I’m cutting back drastically. (When I say “I”, I do of course mean “my husband and I”. It’s just that as the one at home right now, I’ll obviously be doing more of the work for it.)

I love to spoil my loved ones. Gift-giving is one of my biggest “love languages”, so this might be hard. But I think it’s important.

Why do we want a cheap Christmas?

Firstly, I’m the primary breadwinner in our family. But I’m on maternity leave right now. So, yeah, money’s going to be tight by the time I go back. I’m trying not to think about it. Despite this, we are committed to my taking a full year off. (Of course, as I started my maternity leave quite early, I’m already a fairly hefty portion of the way through!) But this does mean that we are going to have to cut back significantly. Christmas is a good place to start!

Secondly, we’re Catholic. To me, Christmas is about more than handing over a debit card or unwrapping gifts. It’s so easy to lose sight of that these days, but now that my daughter is here, it feels more important to try and refocus a bit. I don’t want her to grow up expecting Christmas to be a massively materialistic holiday. I want her to know its religious significance more than anything.

Wouldn’t it be lovely if she grew up and recognised Christmas as a religious festival, and also a time of year where we show and share love amongst our friends and family? Rather than a time of year where she starts demanding the latest plasticky crap? I want her to experience the joy of giving, but that doesn’t have to necessarily involve the Argos catalogue! It could be spending time on a nice painting or making some food for Grandad to show how much he means to her.

I know, at two weeks old, I can’t make plans for the rest of her life. But I can have aspirations for her!

Some of my plans for having a cheap Christmas:

  • I’m cutting back on who’s getting gifts. This sounds incredibly Scrooge-like, I know. But there are people that we never see, family members that actively dislike us, and every year there’s this pressure to still buy them some small trinket that they’ll probably open and then re-gift to someone else the next year. What is the point of that? I’m cutting them off the list.
  • On a similar note, if I won’t be seeing someone around Christmas time, they’re not getting anything. Yes, there are some people I always post to (mostly kids) and they’ll get something. But I’m not carting gifts around in my car for months on the off-chance I’ll see an old school friend.
  • I’m not buying for the sake of buying. Boots 3-for-2 deals are great. But it does mean that I feel the need to go there more often and always get things in multiples of three. The plan this year is to give things to the people we love that we think they’ll love. Not just buying something because it was on offer.
  • Homemade and crafty things! Lots of family members will be getting baby photo related gifts this year, I think. Food products will also probably feature quite highly.
  • Baby is having a really cheap Christmas. We’ll be giving her some things that technically she already has but just doesn’t know about! She’s only going to be a few weeks old; she has no idea what Christmas is. (But I do feel the pressure to make sure she has something to be photographed at least, so she has one fewer thing to complain to her therapist about in the future!)
  • The rabbits will be benefiting from the trick we learnt last year. They like boxes, so they’ll get boxes – the boxes from the humans’ gifts. They won’t mind that they’re re-gifted!
  • We’re vegetarian, so that cuts down on food costs. We are absolutely not offering to host anyone this year, either. A nice quite Christmas on our own is the plan.
  • I won’t be buying loads of new decorations this year. The past couple of years have been a bit more expensive than I’d like as we moved into our “new” house in 2015, so we’re still putting together our Christmas collection. We’re nearly there now, and if the house is a bit sparsely decorated this year, who cares? Baby dressed in a tiny elf outfit is going to be the best decoration of all!

I hope you all have a lovely cheap Christmas!

I think we can do it!

Am I the only one planning a cheap Christmas? (Some days it feels like it!) If you are too, how are you planning to do it?