Apparently It's Almost 2018

These days, the holidays always seem to sneak up on me. 

In elementary school teachers spent weeks building anticipation for the holidays. In art class we'd make thumbprint trees and paint ornaments. In music class we sang carols. Even math gave a shout out to the season, with Santa and his reindeer watching encouragingly from the corners of the math-minute worksheet. 

In middle school (okay fine and some of high school) I would start watching Christmas movies in October, with almost weekly screenings of Elf as I sat on the couch sewing sequins onto a handmade Christmas stocking I'd been working on for months. While other kids were stealing vodka from their parents' liquor cabinet and holding hands with boys I was surrounded by red and green embroidery thread and seed beads, racing against the clock to finish my latest set of ornaments before the holidays.

When I wasn't crafting new Christmas decor or at ballet rehearsal I was likely in the kitchen whipping up some kind of holiday treat for the neighbors - peppermint bark or spice cake with cream cheese frosting - like the sweet old lady who lives a few doors down and collects the mail for you when you're out of town.

In college there was no shortage of ugly Christmas sweater parties or white elephant gift exchanges. In the weeks leading up to Christmas break my friends and I would find time to look at the Christmas lights in the neighborhoods near our campus. We'd hop in the back of a couple of pick up trucks (because Texas) and gawk at the excessive Christmas light displays on the homes of the 1% before swinging by Starbucks for an overpriced, upsettingly sweet holiday beverage.

But now the holiday season just shows up, seemingly out of the blue. Like that party in Brooklyn you said "yes" to weeks ago but forgot about until just hours before. And now you're scrambling to find something to bring but you only have $7 in your bank account so it's PBR for everyone, I guess. Just sneak it quickly into the fridge upon arrival so no one notices that it's from you. It's the thought that counts, right?

One day you're in shorts and sandals and hovering around the AC unit and then all of a sudden there are Christmas tree stands on the sidewalks and wreaths in every store window. The temperatures drop and the airfares increase and before you know it you're sitting at Christmas dinner, hoping that you remembered to get a gift for everyone on your list.

Maybe the reason I feel ambushed by the holidays is because time flies when you're having fun, and being an adult with responsibilities and bills and text conversations with friends about which credit card has the best interest rate is just so much fun.

But, more likely, it's because I'm so focused on what's next - whether that be a meeting later in the week, or a carefully crafted five year plan - that I rarely stop to fully enjoy the present.

It's been quite a year. News headlines and our country's changing identity aside, I've had many of my own ups and downs. I graduated from my masters program, got engaged, started a new job, found an apartment with actual closets and kitchen drawers (not to be taken for granted in New York). I've also lost an incredibly important person to cancer, another to a stroke, and watched people close to me suffer in ways I can't even understand.

And it's with all of these significant events from the past several months that I came into this holiday season with an even greater appreciation for living in the moment. Appreciating the beauty of the first snowfall in the city. Enjoying the cozy aroma of Trader Joe's $4 Balsam candle (of course I didn't buy 6 of them, what are you talking about).

This year I've done my best to take a page out of my middle school Christmas countdown book and allowed myself to give into the nostalgia of the holiday season. I bought my first real Christmas tree, hosted several solo screenings of Elf, listened exclusively to Christmas music playlists, and spent my weekends making winter soups and peppermint bark. I haven't quite gotten around to the homemade embroidered stockings or sequin ornaments - those may just have to wait until next year.

Green Barn Berry Farm

What's more American than picking fresh blueberries on Fourth of July weekend, you ask? 

Nothing. Not one thing.

This past Friday Joshua and I went with his parents to the Green Barn Berry Farm in Muncy, Pennsylvania and spent a warm, Summer evening picking blueberries. I've since decided to move away from New York City and live on a farm, where I can grow fresh fruits, veggies and herbs in my backyard, spend mornings sipping coffee on my front porch, and store my clothing in a closet instead of on a clothing rack in the middle of my apartment (wait, other people in New York have closets? oh...).

While I was picking (read: eating) blueberries I spent some time playing with my new camera. After almost 5 years with my trusty little Canon Rebel t3i - my very first DSLR - I finally upgraded to a Canon 7D and haven't put it down since. 

Two nights ago Joshua's mom made a delicious blueberry pie to kick off our Independence Day celebrations, and I think later this month I'll take a stab at my very first homemade blueberry jelly. But first, if anyone has a farm they aren't using just let me know. I'll be there in 5 minutes. 

Holiday Gift Guide

If you're like me, and you have no free time and only about $0.86 in change at the bottom of your purse, Christmas shopping can be stressful. In order to avoid panic-shopping on December 22nd, and last-minute DIY gift ideas that would inevitably be a disappointment, I've started my gift search much earlier than usual.

Whether you're shopping for your mom, grandpa, best friend, that co-worker you've never met but picked for Secret Santa, your soon-to-be in-laws who don't seem to like you very much, or your sister who always out-gifts you every year and frankly you're sick of it, here are a few of my favorite picks (and websites) for this years season of giving.

Also everything here is under $70, which means you'll still be able to afford groceries and your heating bill when you're done.

   BINU BINU SOAP  : $18-$20   PERFECT FOR : People who wash their faces and/or bodies. All-natural, fragrance-free soaps made with essential oils.   Binu Binu

BINU BINU SOAP: $18-$20

PERFECT FOR: People who wash their faces and/or bodies. All-natural, fragrance-free soaps made with essential oils.

Binu Binu

   CORD TACO  : $29 (for set of 5)   PERFECT FOR : Anyone with a phone (everyone). 100% leather, and 14 color options.   This Is Ground

CORD TACO: $29 (for set of 5)

PERFECT FOR: Anyone with a phone (everyone). 100% leather, and 14 color options.

This Is Ground

   COMBINATION TOOL  : $22   PERFECT FOR : People who have walls in their home. Made with tempered steel and solid brass.   Schoolhouse Electric & Supply Co.

COMBINATION TOOL: $22

PERFECT FOR: People who have walls in their home. Made with tempered steel and solid brass.

Schoolhouse Electric & Supply Co.

   AMBER & MOSS CANDLE  : $18   PERFECT FOR : Yourself, honestly. But also anyone who likes things to smell nice. Soy wax and a 40 hour burn time.   P.F. Candle Co. .

AMBER & MOSS CANDLE: $18

PERFECT FOR: Yourself, honestly. But also anyone who likes things to smell nice. Soy wax and a 40 hour burn time.

P.F. Candle Co..

   BOOK DARTS  : $10 (for set of 30)   PERFECT FOR : People who can read. Made of brass, and much better than folding down the corners of the page.   Schoolhouse Electric & Supply Co.

BOOK DARTS: $10 (for set of 30)

PERFECT FOR: People who can read. Made of brass, and much better than folding down the corners of the page.

Schoolhouse Electric & Supply Co.

   WOOD PHOTO CALENDAR  : $30   PERFECT FOR : Anyone using the Gregorian calendar. Made with reclaimed wood and your very own photos.   Artifact Uprising

WOOD PHOTO CALENDAR: $30

PERFECT FOR: Anyone using the Gregorian calendar. Made with reclaimed wood and your very own photos.

Artifact Uprising

   ENAMELWARE CUP  : $32 (set of 2)   PERFECT FOR : Your friend that loves camping and also everyone else. Enamelware steel, also comes in Teal.   Best Made Co.

ENAMELWARE CUP: $32 (set of 2)

PERFECT FOR: Your friend that loves camping and also everyone else. Enamelware steel, also comes in Teal.

Best Made Co.

   COPPER BODE CLOCK  : $70   PERFECT FOR : People who exist in linear time. It's minimalist, copper, and what else do you need, really?   Country Road

COPPER BODE CLOCK: $70

PERFECT FOR: People who exist in linear time. It's minimalist, copper, and what else do you need, really?

Country Road

   AEROPRESS BUNDLE  : $60   PERFECT FOR : The coffee lover in your life. Kit includes an  AeroPress  coffee maker, coffee filters, and a mug.    Able Brewing

AEROPRESS BUNDLE: $60

PERFECT FOR: The coffee lover in your life. Kit includes an AeroPress coffee maker, coffee filters, and a mug. 

Able Brewing

   RECYCLED WINE GLASSES  : $9-$10 ea.   PERFECT FOR : People who drink beverages. Choice of Olive or Clear and honestly you should just get one of each.   Schoolhouse Electric & Supply Co.

RECYCLED WINE GLASSES: $9-$10 ea.

PERFECT FOR: People who drink beverages. Choice of Olive or Clear and honestly you should just get one of each.

Schoolhouse Electric & Supply Co.

    K     INFOLK TABLE COOKBOOK  : $35   PERFECT FOR : People who like nice things and good food. Filled with 85 recipes, incredible photos, and stories.   Kinfolk

KINFOLK TABLE COOKBOOK: $35

PERFECT FOR: People who like nice things and good food. Filled with 85 recipes, incredible photos, and stories.

Kinfolk

   RAGG WOOL CAP  : $32   PERFECT FOR : Anyone with a head. Choice of two colors, and it's made in Colorado so you know it's warm.   Topo Designs

RAGG WOOL CAP: $32

PERFECT FOR: Anyone with a head. Choice of two colors, and it's made in Colorado so you know it's warm.

Topo Designs

Autumn, At Last

It's finally fall. A time for pumpkin-flavored things, mildly puffy coats, and premature Christmas decor aisles at a craft store near you.

I've been an Autumn Enthusiast for most of my life - a serious title that comes with serious responsibilities - and every year, as October approaches, I can't help but get childishly excited about the months ahead. A list of reasons behind my obsession with this particular quarter of the year, and, surprisingly, only one of them has to do with food.

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