A Valentine’s Surprise

People all across the United States are already making reservations for February 14. They are buying little gifts, pre-ordering flowers, and purchasing new outfits for their little date night. It does not matter if this is your 2nd date or your 20th year of marriage, most people really get excited for Valentine’s Day and what it means to them.

Valentine’s Day is not an important holiday for my partner and me. We value showing our love every day rather than picking a few days a year to show our love to each other. Little things matter more to us than anything else. My partner shows me love by doing the dishes even when it is not their turn. Taking the dog out alone when I do not want to bundle up and join. He does my laundry when he knows I am running low on work clothes for the week.

Big, fancy dinners do not excited us. Actually, we would rather prepare our own meals at home because we really enjoy cooking together. Food is a big part of our lives together. We have completely changed our diets to better fit our ideals and beliefs. One surprise I have considered for Valentine’s Day is candy boxes of chocolate. We really enjoy chocolate, but have to hunt to find chocolate we can actually eat. So loading up on candy boxes for a few months would definitely be worth it.

But the best plan we have come up with is waiting until AFTER Valentine’s Day to purchase our candy. Fifty percent off candy for getting it one day later? Absolutely. It really helps that Valentine’s Day falls on a Friday this year. The candy will go on sale on the weekend! Just in time for our weekly trip to the grocery store. We just have to be sure to be quick because I’m sure everyone else has the same idea we do.

There are so many different ways to show someone you love them. Do not get sucked into society’s way of thinking that only specific days are for showing love. Little trinkets or meaningful notes are nice on Valentine’s Day, but they are more appreciated on a random Wednesday in May. We should value our time together no matter what time of year it is. I say get the discounted candy the weekend after, order some take-out (or cook your own meal), and just enjoy your time together.

The Year of Fifty Boxes

Every year my mom has nine Christmas trees up before December even comes around. I guess you could say Christmas is her absolute favorite holiday. Each tree is a different size, shape, color, theme, and even position. That’s right. She has an upside-down Christmas tree. Well, actually, that one is just a year around a tree that is displayed all year long. The decorations just change according to the holiday: Valentine’s Day, 4th of July, Halloween, etc.

It brings her unrivaled joy to decorate her entire house. And seeing her with that joy plastered on her face brings me unrivaled joy. I’ve learned from her to feel for others’ emotions more than I ever have before in life. And because of that, I can experience her joy with absolutely no effort at all.

But I digress (and often!). With all of those trees come along cardboard boxes to store all of the ornaments. Oftentimes, people don’t think about the effort needed in putting up amazing holiday decor. Not only do you have to dedicate time to put it up (and when I say time, I mean like at least two weekends for my mom)–you have to dedicate just as much time to take it all down once January rolls around!

There are some hobbies out there that I just can’t get into, but for whatever reason, decorating for the holidays isn’t one of them. Perhaps it’s because my mom instilled a love in me for the holidays. Or maybe I see her work so hard during the winter to make her house look pretty, and it just inspires me to put forth effort in my own life. I’m not really sure what to make of it, but it’s one of those qualities you find in yourself (of your parents) that you end up loving more than you’d ever realize. Why would anyone want to truly spend their time working on their house in their free time in the freezing cold?

Because they want to, of course! Whether it’s the gorgeous and shiny ornaments you think of when you hear the word “Christmas” or all the cardboard boxes associated with storage, there’s something beautiful about people finding exactly what it is they love to do and going hard at it. You can’t fault anyone in life for pursuing a passion of theirs. Because no matter how they got there or why they love something, the fact of the matter is that they love it.

Does Anyone Truly Like Wrapping Gifts?

Wrapping gifts is one of those tasks that everyone sort of knows how to do, yet only a few truly enjoy the process. I mean, even if you went around and asked everyone you knew if they enjoyed wrapping gifts, the majority may say they like it, but their answer is always tied to liking it because they like giving gifts. Conflating the two usually means they wouldn’t just go out of their way to wrap gifts for fun unless there was a gift inside, meaning that enjoying the process is typically dependent on giving the gift.

And trust me, I’m one of those people who will flat out tell you that I’m not a fan of wrapping gifts. In fact, my partner and I decided this year for the holidays that we would just go out on a mini shopping adventure together and get things we thought the home needed. And I put emphasis on the word need here, because we’re trying to cut back on our expenses of gifts and things that are considered extra.

Still, I understand that I’ll still be wrapping some gifts that we got for my parents and her parents this year. And so, the dreaded process still looms.

I have noticed, though, that wrapping things is so much easier when you’ve got quality packaging supplies. If you choose to skimp on the materials, however, you’ll be met with a poor attempt at wrapping simply because the tape doesn’t stick well or your scissors weren’t sharp enough to make a straight cut.

So, if I had any advice to impart on you about wrapping gifts, it’s to go out and get some top notch packaging supplies. It may seem like a decent amount of money spent only on wrapping, which can be discouraging, but if you think about how you’ll get years of use out of your supplies, the expenses almost seem negligible.

Make sure to get things you know you’ll use, though. If you end up picking out different colored sharpies and fancy scissors that cut a certain pattern, reevaluate if you’ll actually use them. There’s no point in having much else outside of strong, adhesive packaging tape, a solid black magic marker, sharp and reliable scissors, and the best boxes around. (Of course, the boxes can be grabbed up for free depending on where you look. Just be sure to say no to weak, old boxes that look like they’re falling apart.)

Halloween Handout Alternatives

As society moves forward, we’re beginning to learn more and more about different diets, food allergies, and other dietary restrictions in kids, adults, and seniors. This means that restaurants have a heightened awareness of food labels and labeling their own menus, and it also means taking specific orders very seriously and to the exact point. Any single mess up could mean the business is sued or worse: a patron could become severely ill or even die from mishandled food.

A lot of people have taken up arms in this new era, considering some of these dietary restrictions as needless or extra, and they’re quick to point the finger at political correctness. Whatever it is, being PC has caused scores of people to get offended by having to be more careful about what they say and how they say it. I’m guessing it’s because everyone seems to hate change, and having to change up the way they speak for the sake of others (oh the horror!) has caused them some sort of distress.

Nonetheless, back to dietary restrictions. With Halloween here, I told my partner that it would be great to offer some sort of alternative to handouts given on Halloween night. Since so many different candy boxes are full of too much sugar or have dairy products or even tree nuts in them, it’s better to err on the side of caution and hand out little crafts or stickers instead. Since nonfood items can still be enjoyed, there’s no worrying about what kids may have certain allergies to certain foods.

So, instead of handing out jawbreakers and milk chocolate bars and an assortment of candy boxes, I think we’re going to be content buying a hodge podge of little stickers online off Etsy, and we may even knit our own little spooky ghost figures or bats. I know a lot of kids look forward to the sweets they get on October 31st, but considering they’ll get plenty of candy from other neighbors, I feel better knowing I didn’t cause some unwanted food reaction while also handing out something memorable to the kids.

See, being aware of food allergens and dietary restrictions isn’t hard at all. All it takes is some thoughtfulness and willingness to switch up the norms to accommodate others. I don’t see why this is such a big deal to so many people, but I have a sneaking suspicion it all rides on having to go out of your way to help out another person. And that, for some reason, is too hard to do.

Reusing Your Cardboard

I’ve always been a huge fan of holding on to things (especially supplies and materials) that you think you no longer need. This is especially so for anything that’s often regarded as trash or mere packaging. For example, think of all the cardboard boxes you’ve ever had in your life. Now try to imagine the percentage of those you could’ve broken down and stored away for future use but are instead somewhere in a landfill, taking up space for no reason?

For as versatile and eco-friendly as cardboard is, we have a habit of throwing it straight in the trash instead of using it around the house for storage, recycling it, or even using it for mulch or composting. Why is it that we are always so obsessed with throwing things away?

The short answer is because we’re lazy. The long answer? Because the landfill system has made gathering trash and tossing it in a hole in the ground far easier than alternative methods. So, with a system made for us to be lazy, we’re all going to be lazy and choose the laziest option. Why would it have turned out any other way?

I try to do my part, though, in holding onto cardboard from packaging instead of tossing it straight in the trash. In fact, the last option I choose is recycling it. And I only resort to that if I don’t have use for it, don’t end up burning it, or can’t use it in organic matter, such as mulch and composting. (Yes, you can do both of these if you take the time to learn the process and do it on your own.)

Ultimately, we have to learn to start taking responsibility for our actions, and that includes everyday actions like tossing things in the trash.

If you happen to think of it, refuse to throw your cardboard boxes away the next time you get something in the mail from online. Heck, even if you got it from the store and it’s packaged in cardboard, make the conscious effort to break it down and store it away. And if you already have a huge amount of cardboard because you’ve been doing this, choose to recycle instead of trash it! It cannot be understated how much reducing your trash and reusing things from packaging helps to benefit the environmental state of the world. If only everyone would take the time to recycle one piece of cardboard once a week, things wouldn’t look so bleak.