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December 8, 2006

Christmas on the cheap?

I love ya'll and the fact that you are so happy I am actually stringing a light or two this holiday season. Of course, you have not seen the War Of Christmas which is occurring on my street, and so my attempts to cheer up Chez Dust Ball are really feeble and frankly just quaint compared to what is happening on my street.

My neighbors are insane.

It started on November 17th -- a week BEFORE Thanksgiving -- when I arrived home after work to find that my neighbors a few doors down, we'll call them the Jones family, had strung up eleventy hundred lights on every outdoor surface of their yard.

Then, the folks across the street from them who we will call the Keeping Up Withs family, spent all day on Thanksgiving outfitting their house with inflatable stuff, like a giant inflatable nativity set, plus a santa and something that looks like Paul Bunyan, I have no idea. It might be an ethnic snowman. Or an inflatable sherpa.

So the Joneses saw what was happening over the the Keeping Up Withs house, and before December arrived they had retaken the torch by placing a big lighted train with wheels that spin around on their ROOFTOP. The Keeping Up Withs then plastered their whole yard and gate and tree with lights. So the Joneses bought a herd of anamatronic reindeer, and then other neighbors got into the mix and before long I looked out on my street and it appeared Santa himself had come to my neck of the woods and vomited Christmas all over the place.

It's very competitive here at Encino-adjacent. Someone might lose a reindeer if they aren't careful.

Me? I had purchased one (1) string of icicle lights and one (1) small front door wreath. I took the lights back because my participation would have just been pathetic by any standard, and now I just let people see my beautiful tiny tree from the windows at the front of the house.

It's a small contribution, yes, but then again, I have been the crazy cat lady recluse who never decorates or says "Hi!" to anyone, except the cute gardeners, and so people will about fall over in shock that I celebrate something other than Wine From 7-11 Day. That's how I see it anyway.

Now, Christmas is hard on people for all sorts of reasons, and one of them is of course of a financial nature. And dear reader Vicki had mentioned in the comments the other day, because we love also dear reader Risha, how she had some ideas on keeping the holidays manageable from a budgetary perspective. Vicki wrote:

To RishaMoonshadow

I'm so sorry for the troubling time you're going through. I know what you're feeling because I've been through it too. My husband's been out of work twice in the last 10 years, once for 1 year exactly and once for 15 months. Both times covered the Christmas season. But we made it through and so will you.

You're right to tighten your belt and stay on a strict budget but here are some things I did that might help you find a little Christmas spirit.

Do what decorating you can with things you already have to make the house look festive. Be creative and use things like toys to make little holiday vignettes. For example, one of the things I made was a sleighing scene. I made a cardboard sleigh and leather shoestring harness and used them with an old Barbie doll and Breyer horse, decorated it with bits and pieces of stuff I could find around the house and set it on a book case. Pull out stuffed animals or anything that you can turn into a decoration.

Play any Christmas music you have or find a radio station that's featuring holiday music. And watch all of the holiday movies on TV that you can as a family.

I still hosted my family get together but we made it a potluck, I just provided the place. My family knew what a hard time we were having and were glad to help after I was straight with them about our situation. We also agreed to just enjoy each other's company and not exchange gifts.

I made a few easy gifts for my husband and children and gave I.O.U's for fun things to do together.

This was all easier for me than for you because my children were older, in their teens, and were more understanding, less disappointed. But perhaps you could do some special things with your child like bake and decorate a batch of cookies together, curl up and read seasonal books together, etc.

Good luck! I hope you can find a little holiday spirit even though I know how worried and depressed you must be. I'll be holding you in my thoughts.

Vicki, those were very good ideas! And Lord I do not know how on earth you ladies with children manage to do it, manage to make it through all the holidays and so on when sometimes you want to be alone in a room with a bottle of wine and a very strong pie.

So, I thought maybe we could all share some good ideas for decorating and gift-giving and general happy-making that are either very cheap or very free. (And by "we" I mean "you all.") I myself would find such ideas very useful, as I am always two days and sixty-two dollars short. Well, currently I am a full $3.50 richer, which is the money I got for returning my one (1) strand of icicle lights.

Also, if you have any ideas for co-worker gifts, um. Some of us would be very appreciative. I've been working some late hours and shopping has been way down on my list of to-dos. Especially because everything is closed by the time I get home at half-past hideous.

But I cannot bemoan coming home so late. My street is really safe to walk on at midnight with the BRIGHTNESS and all. It is so festive and cheerful and crazy, and full of lighted reindeers that bob up and down all night long. Of course, if there are rolling blackouts in the Valley come Christmas Eve, you can be pretty sure Encino-Adjacent is to blame.

I really hope the 7-11 with the good wine is on a different power grid than my street.

Not the actual nativity scene from my neighborhood, but eerily close.

Posted by laurie at December 8, 2006 10:19 AM