Growing & Learning During the Holidays

This past weekend my fiancee and I had our first vegan Thanksgiving with both of our families at separate events. And I’m proud to say that it honestly went a lot better than expected on multiple accounts.

To start, our families were both quite supportive, though we did catch a bit of flak here and there from certain family members that we wanted to avoid conversation with altogether. Nonetheless, it could’ve been a lot worse or annoying, so that was great. But we also were able to completely fill our plates and get multiple helpings of food, so there was no shortage of legit Thanksgiving comfort food made vegan by either us or our moms. I think that was the most surprising part: that we had so much good food to eat and it didn’t feel like we missed out on taste or being full enough (like many people think happens).

So, this already gives me hope for our trips home for Christmas. There’s always cardboard boxes filled with gifts to make us excited for going back home during the winter holidays, but it’s great that our dinners with family will continue to be great for them and great for us without missing out on anything good. (Though I must say that those very cardboard boxes disguised as colorful wrapping are my favorite still, even though I’m no longer a kid.)

This is encouraging not only for us and our future holidays with family, but it’s also great for our families to see that we’re just the same old people hanging out with the same old family and doing the same old traditions. I feel like some people let things that are new or different than them scare them into not wanting that thing around them. But if they just learned to embrace those things or at least the people who like/do those things, everything would be fine.

So, I just wanted to share how great it felt to go forward with something new but yet stay bold on our decision to do so. Sometimes when people go home to family, they compromise on some of their ideals or beliefs just to fit in with the family and not stir the pot. But sometimes bucking the system and traditions can be a very valuable thing for a family. Change is important to developing a relationship, and yet so many families remain unhappy because their relationships within the family didn’t evolve and grow for the better. And that growth was stunted because of a lack of change and new experiences.

Post Party Cleanup

Over the past weekend, I had an absolute blast celebrating the birthday of one of my buddies. You always know it’s bound to be a good time when multiple friends can make it over for some late gaming, good food, and a great selection of craft beers.

And in fact, that’s exactly what transpired at our place. What made it so great in particular was that we were able to have a lot of fun with a new video game that just released last Friday. Considering it was something that we all had never played before, we were all on a similar footing and were able to navigate the world of the game together, often doing raids with one another thanks to wireless play.

Of course, once the weekend was over, there was a bit of work to be done. I’m never a fan of hosting mini get-togethers since it inevitably means cleaning up after your guests. Nonetheless, I tried to predict this and avoid messes, left out dishes, and other similar things so that the mess would be manageable after everyone happened to leave. To my surprise, there were just a few cardboard boxes to pick up, electronics to put back where they belong, and just a handful of craft beer cans that were still in the basement. I’d chock that up as a win.

It’s times like these with close friends that make me realize I need to do it much more often. It’s not that I need to (or even want to!) meet up with them every single weekend, or even every other weekend. But being able to hang out like that once every month or two would sincerely make me feel closer with my friends while also being able to kick back and truly enjoy myself from time to time.

Of course, doing so means more cleanup after I have them over, but the great thing is picking up cardboard boxes and empty cans is a fantastically simple chore compared to mopping up actual messes from “parties” that people like to get pretty wild at. I’m the type of person to go with a much more mellow and chill gathering rather than force something you’d only experience while in college. The fact that some of my friends still like to do such partying blows my mind, but I suppose that’s a part of aging and realizing what you enjoy in life and what you don’t.

Celebrating Birthdays

I always love it when November rolls around, if only because it signals two things: my birthday and the upcoming winter holidays.

I’ve always been a fan of my birthday landing in the middle of November simply because it starts off a great sequence of holidays and days off of relaxing and lounging. In fact, it’s the perfect way to “wind down” the remainder of the year before starting it back up again in full force when January rolls around.

So for next week when I have buddies over, I plan to pretty much play video games in my basement with them on 3 different TVs. This will be the perfect setup for gaming and hanging out all weekend, and we won’t have to bother my partner who will most likely remain upstairs the majority of the time. It works for us and it works for her.

But one thing I know I’ll have to take care of prior to my birthday weekend is cleaning up the basement. It’s not necessarily that it’s a “mess”, per se. Rather, there just happens to be extra folded laundry down there (since that’s where our laundry appliances are) as well as a lot of old cardboard boxes full of belongings that are being kept in storage. If I can put all the laundry away, consolidate the storage boxes, and do a quick sweep through of loose items and whatever else needs picked up, it’ll be ready to go.

There’s also the fact that I’ll want to have multiple televisions set up down there. Unfortunately for me, my basement only has one outlet, so I’m forced to rig up multiple extension cords and drop cords to be able to run multiple TVs. While this sounds super crammed at first, it’s really not that bad thanks to the multiple cords spread out along the basement (in a manner that won’t cause anyone to trip, of course).

From there, it’s just configuring the table and my small home entertainment stand to make sure all TVs face the couch and none of those aforementioned cardboard boxes full of things are in the way. Throw in a thorough sweeping and dusting and I’ll have brought the basement together quite nicely so that everything is ready to go ahead of time.

I’m sure a lot of people don’t spend their birthday this way, but it’s what I prefer to do this year (and it helps that a new game is dropping on the day after my birthday, so it only makes sense to enjoy the weekend appropriately).

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.

Having Friends Over for a Get Together

Little kickbacks are nice to host at your home from time to time, even if you do end up dreading the work involved in getting ready, preparing food, making sure everyone is comfortable and having a good time, and then cleaning up after the event (the least fun part!). But the good thing is that you don’t have to drive anywhere. AND you can hang out in the comfort of your own home.

If you’re going to be throwing little parties or events this holiday season, preparation really is a major part of the party itself. If you aren’t prepared for the numerous guests coming, the food and drinks situation can be a disaster. If you don’t plan out parking, that can also cause headaches for guests and yourself. With that said, here are a few things you can keep in mind when prepping for your next kick back.

Set out a few different treats and prepare some dishes.

Everyone loves surprises at events they end up at. I’ve always enjoyed the idea of setting out candy boxes as placeholders for your guests at the table. It’s cool to personalize their little gifts by knowing who likes what candy.

And whether you prefer doing finger foods or full on meals, it’s probably standard to provide at least a few different options for food. Your guests will likely be more than happy to bring dishes as well, but as the host, it’s somewhat of an expectation to have a few options for snacking. And guess what? If they start to know you like putting out little gifts at their seats (like the candy boxes above), they’ll be more likely than not to start bringing their own things to your events!

Get your seasonal decoration on.

Whether you’re simply cleaning up the place and putting out a few candles or going all out with fall or Halloween decor, making sure your place is nice and cozy is key. Just make sure you spruce the place up to match the season or upcoming holiday and everyone will realize you made a solid effort in hosting the event!

Have everyone bring their own drinks.

Trying to cut down the costs of hosting a party? You should make sure everyone brings their own drinks. Trying to satisfy the thirst of many guests who might be getting a bit rowdy late into the night is not something you should have to worry about. The good thing is that BYOB is pretty much the standard when it comes to get togethers and kickbacks. Take the stress off of yourself and your wallet by letting others know it’s fine to drink but ONLY if they bring their own.