How To Keep Your Calm When the Postal Service Kills Christmas

RAGEOUT

Maybe — for once — you get your Christmas cards together before January. You feel good about yourself! You want to ship your holiday cheer out immediately!

You decide to go with Harry Potter stamps. This is when things begin to go downhill. 

HP-STAMPS

1. When your local post office does not carry this line of stamps, keep calm and carry on. These Potter stamps are worth a little inconvenience. Say to yourself: “Okay. This is still doable. I will simply order the stamps from USPS.com.” 

2. When USPS.com charges you for shipping, do not blow your wad. Isn’t the whole point of this service, in and of itself, shipping? How crazy is this? Say to yourself, “Okay. I will pay this dollar. Fine. Everything is fine.”

3. When you don’t receive a tracking number from USPS for an entire week, eat a cookie. It’s okay. Eat two. Begin to hand out cards in person, wherever possible. 

USPS-NoStamps

4. Three days later, when your tracking number still indicates your stamps haven’t even left USPS.com, calmly separate out your piles of mail into “Harry Potter fans” and “people who don’t give a shit what stamps they get.” You will see why in a moment.

5. Go to the post office. When you have to wait in a really long line, play Candy Crush. The graphics will remind you of sweets. You cannot eat those yet. Wait until the next step.

USPS_Pixar_stamps

6. Purchase Pixar stamps. Affix these to your pile of “people who don’t give a shit what stamps they get.” Pixar is awesome. Throw this pile in a blue box and promptly forget about it. It feels nice to have this done, right? Reward yourself with another cookie. You will find enormous piles of sweets on any break table at any workplace in the country.

USPS-DAMMIT

7. When it’s days later and you still have no effing idea where your HP swag is, decide everyone’s just going to have to love Pixar. Sorry, Potter fans. Those cards are causing sleep loss.

8. Go back to the post office. Wait in another long line. Buy more Pixar stamps. Mail the rest. Then eat another cookie. You’re done until next year when you — for some reason — do it all over again.

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9. Update! Post in your blog about your tragedies, and have one of your friends come through with some extras! Thank her profusely and publicly on said blog. You know how you should thank her? Cookies. Go for the cookie jar again. It’s Christmas.

Christmas Suggestion For Difficult People: Bullet Jewelry

Can we all get together and agree, as a society, that Christmas shopping isn’t the most pleasurable? Like, what do you get someone who already has everything, or someone who has various interests and styles?

Today’s Christmas Suggestion For Difficult People is: bullet jewelry.

It’s weird. It straddles that line between “country person who kills deer” and “girly girl.” You’d think that line would be a mile wide, right? But it’s not.

Even the anti-violence hippie among us might like the irony of a deactivated bullet transformed into a flower.

bullets

1. Owls by Jectz (currently out of stock, but they have a lot of other awesome stuff).

2. Flower pendants by Jenuinely Jeni (on Etsy here), starting at $32

3. With ornate silver around the bullets, by Laura Lynns, $20-30ish

4. “Kiss My Brass” bracelet by BlingItOnBulletDZign, $85

5. “Big Bang” bracelet by RahyaJewelryDesigns, $175

6. Jewelry by Bullet Designs, LLC (this bracelet currently out of stock)

More suggestions to come in future posts! Enjoy!

Photos from the past few weeks!

January and February are the months I’m basically hot-glued to my desk designing shirts for a charity dance marathon, but that doesn’t mean I’m dead. In the past month, for example, I have:

Gotten fillings replaced! Turns out the dentist I hated as a child screwed up my fillings. They were coming up, and there was a likelihood that icky stuff would crawl under them, nest, and cause under-filling cavities.
I knew that my childhood dentist was up to no good. He was way too cheerful about my pain. He was totally golfing with Dark Lord Beelzebub on the weekends.

Walked my dog in the snow! Nothing tests “waterproof” boots like sludgy Central Pennsylvania weather. (In case you were wondering, only about 50% of waterproof boots actually live up to their claim. North Face: doing it correctly. Thanks, North Face.)

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Went to a graphic designer mixer, despite being anxious about not knowing anyone there! I wound up talking to a girl who has a miniature dachshund that she puts into geisha outfits. I’m awesome; therefore, I constantly come across people with bizarre tales like that. I don’t know if everyone has weird stuff about them, and I inspire them to tell me; or if I just happen to be a magnet for people who do that sort of thing. Either way, I emerge triumphant from social events like that almost every time.

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Spent quality time with other people’s children! You know how, in depictions of the Old West, “nothing happening” is depicted as a tumbleweed rolling across the screen? Right. That’s my uterus. Absolute nada. (This on purpose. Don’t feel bad for me.) So I borrow other people’s kids to make kid-friendly how-tos. All of my friend’ kids are really bright and charming. I don’t know how they do it. My hat is off.

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Taken pictures! I finally left Instagram. I’ve been experimenting with different faux-vintage iPhone photography software. Those techniques have been used on all the pictures in this post.

Caught up with family! I’ve been with the man who’s now my husband for almost a decade, and I’m still adjusting to the fact that his enormous clan is now also mine. There are approximately one million people in his family. They live in the same town; they work together; and they’re always wandering in and out of each other’s houses. His family wears Christmas hats on Christmas eve, puts their dogs in clothing, and exchanges silly gifts. I never had a cousin before, and I like his ours. (See below: one of his our cousins wearing a Batman snuggie.)

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Played with this blog! Oh dear. Super Starling! is a huge time-suck.

But it’s not like, if I didn’t have this blog, I’d be doing something really constructive with my time. I’d be on Facebook, telling my friends their pets were cute; or I’d be on People.com, deciding whether last’s night look was a Hit or a Miss. (If the outfit is borderline, I decide based on how much I like the person wearing it. Anne Hathaway, when on the fence, is always a Hit. Adele, too. I just wanted you to know.) Or I’d be on Pinterest, not using it as a portfolio (what a good idea), but just scrolling. And scrolling. And scrolling.

I have an Internet problem — not so much that I spend a lot of time on it (which, um, I do), but that I rarely do anything constructive on it. This blog is sort of — almost — constructive. At the very least, it’s amusing my friends and family while they’re supposed to be working. It’s (marginally) better for both my self-esteem and the Universe than playing solitaire again and again. I’ll take it.

Started planning ahead! This weekend alone, I have plans for a party with the ‘mos and a quilting fest with Dana (of Simply Walking On This Earth). What kind of life includes gay dance parties and mellow crafting? Mine. Which I dig.

Hope you’re enjoying your weekend, Internet!

How To Decorate A Sweet-Ass Broke-Ass Last-Minute Christmas Tree

Before you get started, it’s best to have a tree.

Or a friend.

Troy-Abed-Tree

But probably a tree.

If you’re a total n00b on tree acquisition, it’s okay, I’ve made a handy how-to guide that explains that process, except for the practical bits about how to actually cut the thing down or transport it, because that’s what my friends are for.

Anyway, now that you’ve procured your tree and named it (ours is “Elvis”), it’s time to think of your visual motif.

Are you going for:

  • All white and silver ornaments? (Or another color scheme)?
  • Lots of balls (heh, heh)?
  • Handmade?
  • Tinsel?
  • Something Martha Stewart recommended, because it seems like she has it more together than you do?

Well, that’s something you should have considered last month, lazypants.

If you were rich, you’d have paid someone to do this by now, so we’re going to assume you’re starting from ground zero and panicked.

Now is the time to crack open your boxes and craft your theme around what you have. If you seem to have soft ornaments, make more soft ornaments. Balls? Sparkles? What’s your starting point, and, more importantly, what can you humanly produce before your relatives arrive?

Here are a few resources if you want to make your own ornaments: 

My tree’s theme is “characters.” Most of our ornaments are figures. We used to have a mix of balls (heh once more), candy canes, little gifts, and a few figurines, but we’ve gradually realized we like having what’s essentially a tree of toys on strings. It’s a joyous clusterfuck.

If you want a tree that looks like ours, go to the Goodwill or Dollar store. Purchase a shit-ton of cheap toys, ribbon, and a hot glue-gun. Hot-glue the ribbon to the toys. Hang.

And now for show-and-tell. Behold: Elvis’ Greatest Hits. 

Ornaments-Top

1. The top: the highest life forms — ancient aliens. My parents picked us up the UFO; we found the coordinating alien at Target. They are up high because they are visiting us from space. Obviously.

2. The bottom: the extinct life forms — dinosaurs. Now, we all know that the ancient aliens killed the dinosaurs to make room for the human race — so they could visit us, enlighten us, and tamper with our DNA. So… top and bottom of the tree it is.

Ornaments-Bottom

3. At least one ornament that looks unhappy to be there. I bought this sad Christmas bear ages before Grumpy Cat was a thing, but it’s the same idea. Schadenfreude = giggles. 

4. At least one ornament that depicts each member of your family. A purple fish and an orange seahorse symbolized me and my husband in our wedding stationery suite. These guys are perfect. We also have several ornaments that look like our dog.

5. At least one cute couple of destiny. When coincidences spring up (wow! two robots!), tree traditionalists will tell you to spread that shit out across the tree for an “even appearance.”

Those people can sit and spin.

Why would you separate these two robots? It’s obvious that they’re in love. They’re like Romeo and Juliet without all the teenage angst. They want nothing more than to be together, and I refuse to stand in the way of their beautiful relationship.

Your shitty handmade ornaments will last you for years.

It’s like when you own a pair of Ray-Bans and a pair of dollar-store sunglasses — of course you lose the Ray-Bans on vacation. Those dollar-store sunglasses are impervious to dropping them, leaving them in direct sunlight all summer, your dog chewing on them, loss, theft, and friends borrowing them and constantly forgetting to return them.

Your other ornaments will be shattered, smashed, decomposed, mysteriously lost, etc; but these will stay with you like dog poop embedded in the treads of your sneakers. And you’ll love them, sometimes in spite of what they are, but usually because of who you were. 

So get your hot glue gun ready — and go to town.

How to Procure Your Perfect Christmahannukwanzika-Winterfest-Festivus Tree

Regardless of your religion or lack thereof, you are completely welcome to join in the annual Evergreen Massacre. Holiday trees are fun and pretty and smell nice in your house.

But this isn’t a process for n00bs or wusses. Here are a few tips to help get you started.

1. If you’re meticulous, you should research the types of trees available beforehand. Some are prickly; some are weak; some smell nice; some are really expensive for some reason. If you like a game plan, here are a few resources, including one from the National Christmas Tree Association (who knew?). I’m a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of girl, but the couple we were with knew beforehand they wanted a Frasier Fir. So we got one too. Pictured above is our Frasier Fir of choice, quivering in fear because, let’s face it, my husband looks really creepy here.

2. Take a second to consider the blending of cultures involved here — which is why you can join the party without guilt no matter which religion you are. The Christians blended Pagan rituals into their holidays to help recruit them. It’s not like Jesus sat down and said, “It’s my birthday! Let’s hack down an evergreen and put some decorations on it.” Evergreens, I’m fairly certain, aren’t in the Middle East at all. Pagans had the tree thing because it was Solstice. So if you’re a Christian or a Jew or a Muslim or an atheist — who cares? Trees smell nice; you put funny decorations on them; and they add an extra light source to your living room. Hubs and I are big ol’ atheists but we love the heck out of Christmas trees!

3. Release your OCD. You’re going to be finding needles in your car and house for ages, no matter how much you vacuum. Your pets and/or children are going to break a few ornaments. The lights will be tangled, no matter how carefully you put them away last year. The sap will get all up in your business. If you are getting a Christmas tree, you need to be in it to win it. Accept the consequences. Go forth boldly.

4. Size does matter. The perfect tree will speak to you. It doesn’t matter if it’s fat or lumpy or lopsided — suddenly, it will become yours. The only gun you should stick to is size: do not select a tree that’s bigger than your home can accommodate. Smaller is okay. Bigger is red-hot mess.

This sounds obvious, but I vividly remember a time my brother and I went to IKEA and bought too much stuff to fit in the car. We had to turn around and return half of it right then and there. It was one of the most stupid things we’ve ever done. I realize this is not a story about a tree per se, but it’s relevant to the issue of size.

5. Keep the extra branches from the bottom so you can make a wreath. We actually put my wreath-branches next to the car, but in all the mayhem, we forgot them. I will not be making a wreath this year — but Special K (pictured above holding her extra branches), who is better at this sort of thing, will.

6. Get yourself and your kids/pets in costume. You can get your tree in a hoodie and sweatpants, but why would you? Cheesy outfits make you popular. Children kept running up to Penny and Polly (the dogs pictured above) because their outfits were swizzle. We called them “Santa Paws.”

Here’s a look I compiled on Etsy loosely based on what I was wearing (which was mostly thrifted):

Christmas tree procuring outfit which includes Ugly Christmas Sweater

Chevron scarf ($22), Ugly Christmas hoodie ($23); Long plaid shirt ($58), & Black boots with brown toes ($42)

(The boots aren’t really right — who would wear heels to something like this? — but it’s really hard to find pictures of stuff that looks like my boots. My boots are a men’s shoe from NYC Chinatown.)

(Long version of that story: I was trapped in Chinatown, in ruined shoes, so I went into a ladies’ shoe store in Chinatown to get new ones. The ladies’ store’s employees sent me to the men’s store because my feet were too big to fit into their shoes. The men’s store employees were really polite and helped me find the perfect shoes. They even gave me socks for free. So now I have these really great black and brown boots with Chinese symbols in them that I’ve had for years and years. I still remember the wonderful men that worked in that store, and I’m still grateful to them.)

7. Take an ominous photo. Okay, you don’t really have to do this. My husband was really into the saw thing. If it’s later revealed he’s a serial killer, people will go, “We all knew. Did you see that creepy saw-kissing photo?

and finally…

8. Spend some time with your nude tree.  I’ll have to eventually post pictures of the tree decorated and lit up, but we haven’t actually done that yet. It’s just hanging out, in its stand, au naturel, while I sit on the computer and he plays a video game.

There’s only so much holiday energy one can expend in a 24-hour period.