Celebrating the Holidays Near and Far

Snowy Trees in Munich by Natalie Parker

It’s our third Christmas away from home.  Way WAY away from home.  If you’d asked me even five years ago about this I’d have said you were crazy.

Taking these trips has been an amazing privilege for us that we may not have in the future.  Even though we weren’t sitting around a tree, I will remember the last two Christmases as precious.  Two years ago Mr. P and I were on a boat in Antarctica with one of our best friends toasting the end of a very long journey.  Last year he and I were in a rented apartment in Munich, soaking up German Christmas traditions.

I hope whatever is in store for us this year is just as memorable.  Wherever you are across the world and whatever you celebrate, I wish you nothing but peace and happiness.


When to Buy Gifts When Traveling

Tea and Jewelry in Istanbul by Natalie Parker

It’s the season of giving.  It’s also the season of traveling (for me at least).  When do we buy gifts for people back home during a trip?  I’ll explain our philosophy.

We don’t have a must by for list.  In other words, we don’t have to buy anything for anyone.  Think about it.  It’s very freeing.  The first couple of trips we took, we felt we had to buy things for all our family members.  It turned travel time into stressful hunts for things that might be okay and people ended up getting mass produced things from souvenir shops, not anything special at all.  I’ve realized that people aren’t going to appreciate that random thing you bought that was made in China just so you could buy them something.

We only buy if we see something perfect for someone.  This is the fun part.  By not having a set list, we are free to wander without obligation.  If we see something that we know someone would really like, we buy it.  They’re usually little somethings, not too huge.  I knew my corgi-owning friend would love a corgi Christmas ornament from Buckingham Palace.  No brainer there.

Even if it’s for an acquaintance, finding the perfect something can make their day.  I have a friend I don’t keep in touch with as often as I’d like.  Mr. P and I were in a bead store in Istanbul last year and had some necklaces made (pictured above).  They had little black skull beads that I knew this friend would absolutely adore.  I thought about it for a while and went for it.  She loved it.

Buying birthday and Christmas gifts ahead of time is a win-win.  If we’re in a country where it might cost a bit more to get something, but it’s for someone who we buy birthday or Christmas gifts for, we stock up.  We bought lots of little things for family members in China.  But we also loaded up on custom pearl necklaces that we saved until Christmas.

Packing up and shipping our little finds is my favorite activity when we get home.  I use my vintage stamp collection and make Weasley-style mail.  I love surprising people and I love it when they love what we found.

What about you?  Do you like buying gifts while traveling?

This Year’s Travel Ornaments

Travel Ornaments by Natalie Parker

Mr. P and I always pick up a Christmas ornament on our travels.  We had a really fun time collecting them this year.  Sometimes they are actual Christmas ornaments, sometimes they’re keychains or tchotchkes I attach a hook to.

This year we’re trending more toward actual ornaments!

Ireland: Guinness Christmas Tree.  Yes we bought this during the crazy-merchandised Guinness visit that I didn’t love.  Yes, we overpaid for it.  But how can you resist a gold tree made out of harps and little pints?  That’s right, you can’t.

Munich: Snowflake, Penguin, Christmas Scene.  This was last year technically.  But since we were traveling for Christmas, we didn’t get a chance to hang these on our own tree until this year.  And since we were visiting the Munich Christmas Markets, ummmm, several ornaments were purchased.  Several.

Italy: Venetian Carnenvale Mask.  I popped into a carnevale mask store to buy a souvenir for a friend of mine and ended up walking out with a Christmas ornament for myself.   The shop owner let me pick out a mask and then turned it into an ornament.

Austria: Keychain.  Super touristy, yep.  The poor shopkeeper seemed a bit miffed that we didn’t want one of the huge hand painted ornaments.  Since I already had a generic Christmas scene painted on an ornament (see above), I wanted something that said “Austria” a bit more.  The keychain has a bunch of the major Innsbruck sites, plus an edelweiss!  I was sold.

See past travel ornaments here: 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011.

Scrapbook Layout: Christmas Ornaments

Christmas Scrapbook Layout by Natalie ParkerChristmas Scrapbook Layout by Natalie ParkerChristmas Scrapbook Layout by Natalie ParkerChristmas Scrapbook Layout by Natalie ParkerChristmas Scrapbook Layout by Natalie Parker

The Story: Showing the new ornaments we got for our Christmas tree in 2006.  This was the year we got married, so we had some special ones.  The Sleeping Beauty ornament came out that year — it was totally meant to be.  He proposed to me at Sleeping Beauty’s castle in Disneyland and we had Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty Waltz played during our wedding ceremony.  Did I mention that her dress changes color and the ornament plays the song?  It’s pretty epic.

Just tree pictures? Yep.  I didn’t grow up in a family of holiday picture-takers so it’s only been recently (especially now that I have an adorable niece and nephew) that I’ve been documenting holidays.  It doesn’t bother me too much.  Some years I’ll just show ornaments, other years will be more detailed.

Cataloging Ornaments: I didn’t take these pictures in 2006 but am using this process to slowly photograph our ornament collection for my scrapbook.

Careful when using translucent paper: The gold paper with the Christmas headline is translucent.  It’s really hard to glue it down and not show the glue (or tape).  Duh.  *smacks head*

Previously: See my holiday layouts from previous years including 2003 (in college), 2004 Christmas and ornaments, and our 2005 ornaments and theatre trip.

Christmas Scrapbook Layout by Natalie Parker

Fonts: Pacifico, Ostrich Sans | Tools: Silhouette SD (headline, snowflake), Epson Stylus R2000 (photos) | Supplies: Pioneer SJ-100 Jumbo Scrapbook (scrapbook & pages), Epson Semigloss Photo Paper (photos), Fancy Pants Designs/All My Heart (patterned paper) | Ephemera Included: none.

2013 Travel Christmas Ornament

Kangaroo Ornament by Natalie Parker

Here’s this year’s travel memento for our Christmas tree!

To recap, we pick up an ornament to represent each of our travels.  I was in Australia twice this year, once for work and once for school.  We actually haven’t had our big vacation trip of 2013 yet.

Sometimes with these ornaments, I love a piece of local art.  Sometimes, it just feels right to go with straight up kitsch.  How could I say no to the kangaroo?

Earlier: 2011 – Camel from Egypt, 2012 – Great Wall from China & Double Decker from London.

My 2012 Christmas Card

2012 Christmas Card

Hi, it’s me over here – the person who my friends describe as crafty – with my non-homemade, non-customized Christmas cards.

I love being crafty, but I still buy my cards every year.  There’s something about getting out 70 of them that prevents me from making them myself 🙂  Sure, I could design a photo card, many do, but it’s not my thing.*

Disclaimer: I think twice about blogging about Christmas cards because any time I share what I do, people think that I don’t like what they do.  It’s okay, I just do my own thing.

I really prefer to find a pretty card and devote my efforts to writing a message inside.  It’s not much, but I like thinking about the person I’m sending it to.  This usually results in “hey, I need to have dinner with them!  And Them!  And them too!”

That’s what I think it’s about in the end – getting a chance to connect with people in a non-social media form.

*I reserve the right to change my opinion after I have kids.

This Year’s Travel Ornaments

2012 Travel Christmas Ornaments

We put our tree up recently and one of the most fun parts is taking out the new ornaments I’ve been saving from our trips this year!

We like having an ornament on our tree for each place we’ve traveled.  Last year it was a little camel from Egypt.

From London, we have this tiny little double-decker bus.  It’s only about an inch tall!

In China, we picked up this cool red and gold design.

They’re both keychains, in case you were wondering!  Christmas ornaments can get expensive, very large, or even difficult to find in some places.  Getting a keychain really opens the possibilities!  I remove the key ring part, add a hook and it’s done!

What about you?  Any special new ornaments or travel traditions from this year?

Holiday Idea Roundup

The holiday season is upon us and somehow I don’t feel as prepared as I did last year!  I’m also still operating under the illusion I have every year that I’ll be able to do lots of scrapbooking during the holidays.  We’ll see how that turns out.

Since I’m trying to get my holiday wits about me, it’s a good time to take a look back for ideas.  Here are my best holiday posts to get your holiday creative juices flowing:

  1. How to Make a Bow out of Wrapping Paper
  2. Repurposing a Department Store Gift Box
  3. Simple Christmas Decorations
  4. Making a Stocking from Pajama Pants
  5. Earthquake/Toddler-proofing Holiday Decorations
  6. On Buying Christmas Cards at after-Christmas Sales
  7. Easy Christmas Card Display
  8. Making Gift Tags out of Christmas Cards
  9. How to Make Your Own Basket Stuffing
  10. Our Tradition of Buying a Travel Ornament for our Tree
  11. Using Cable or Speaker Wire as Ribbon

I hope these help give you ideas!

Cable as Ribbon

Cable as gift wrap ribbonHas someone special to you asked for a new HDMI or digital cable for Christmas?  Cables can be hard to wrap.  Why not take the cable out of the package and use it as ribbon?

That’s what my little sister did last year with a gift for my husband.  He needed a new digital optical cable for our TV, so she bought one and wrapped his gift with it.  I think it looks really cool!

This Little Camel Came Home with Us

Camel bone Christmas ornament from Egypt

Meet the little camel.  He’s one of our newest Christmas ornaments.

Several months ago, I talked about our trip to the Middle East and our tradition of buying a piece of street art on big trips.  We also buy a Christmas ornament on all of our travels, dating back to 2005 when we picked up a New York ornament on the top of the Empire State Building.

The hunt for an ornament is always really fun.  Sometimes we don’t buy a traditional ornament.  On a trip to Philadelphia, we bought a keychain and turned it into an ornament because all the Christmas ornaments we saw were too big and bulky.

Our little camel is actually a figurine carved out of camel bone.  Camel bone figurines are a popular tourist purchase in Egypt.  The store we went to also had angels, stars and other traditional Christmas ornaments carved out of camel bone.

We had to have the camel, it was too cute to pass up.  Do you have any Christmas ornament traditions?