The True Meaning of Christmas

Christmastime is my favorite time of the year!  The romantic snow, the homemade Christmas cookies, the family get-togethers, the holiday food, the plaid!  Everyone is cheerful and gives thoughtful gifts to show friendship or appreciation and people gather to celebrate with hugs and gifts.

I do tend to get caught up in the shopping and gifting, wanting to show my love or communicate how much I care for someone through gifts.  I guess you could say my love language is giving gifts!  I find that I’ve bought too much when I start wrapping, most of the presents under the tree are from me!

Last year I decided to experience Christmas in a different way. I committed to a 25 Days of Kindness- starting December 1st, I volunteered or gave back to one charity each day through Christmas day.  I played games with children at the Crisis Nursery, rang the bell for Salvation Army, packed blessing bags for homeless teens, and donated toys to the Children’s Hospital to name a few.  On Christmas Eve, my family and I made fleece blankets and drove downtown to hand them out to the homeless in zero degree weather.  This experience gave me a gift of appreciation- to be grateful for what I have and to give a small piece of happiness or importance to someone else.

This year I thought, “why not have a 5 Days of Kindness at Evine where employees can work together as a team and give back to others while having fun in the process?!”

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Day 1 we all wrote cards to those serving overseas for our military with “Holidays for Heroes”- over 100 cards were sent!

 

 

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Day 2 we made sandwiches for the homeless for The Sandwich Project, created by a former teacher and he literally feeds the homeless every night! Captain Sig Hansen even made a few!

 

 

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Day 3: Everyone donated over 100 toys for Toys For Tots for needy children in our area. The 3 Amigos had fun being a part by donating presents on air.

 

 

 

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Day 4: Employees of Evine chose a senior or a child to buy a gift for with “Be an Angel” project and all 80 names were pulled right away!  We will have to find more names to choose next year!

 

 

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Day 5: Over 50 fleece blankets were made and donated through “Project Linus” which distributes the blankets to children in local hospitals.

 

 

Color all of this giving with a sense of loss of a friend and former host, Connie Kunkle at 58 years old, and it makes me reflect upon the true meaning of life–what we spend our time doing.  We hear it said over and over again—life is about relationships and making an impact in others’ lives.  I hope we have done that this year through the ‘5 Days of Kindness,’ that we have inspired you to give your time to someone in need and in turn, to feel a sense of purpose and community.

I wish you all gratitude for what you have in your lives, and to show your appreciation by making a difference in another’s life who may need it most, that is what the holiday season is all about.

Merry Christmas and Happy Hannukah!

With Gratitude,

Wendi Russo

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Deck the Halls!

For me the sounds of Christmas from my childhood are my sister Kate excitedly clapping because she can’t sleep or the sound of my Little Nanny whispering to both of us as we cuddled up on the sofa and she told us how Christmas would begin; who would arrive, what they would bring. The clapping isn’t something my sister does anymore – as she’s a full grown woman with two kids. But I do. I love Christmas so much that I can’t help but clap spontaneously at the thought of it and every Christmas starts with decorating. I love nothing more than getting up when it’s still dark and gazing at the magic and beauty of the twinkling lights.

One of the most exciting things about spending my first holiday season here in the US is how many people but up their decorations right after Thanksgiving. I usually wait until the 1st of December – mainly because I like a real tree and I want it to still look good come New Year’s Eve (we used to have some epic parties in London!) but as any of my former flatmates would attest, I continue to decorate and add more every day until then. It’s basically like living with Buddy from the movie Elf.

This year is my first year alone at Christmas time. Usually I get to trim my tree with my flatmates and then my family. We ice gingerbread cookies with our names on them and trim the tree together. I once went full Elf and made popcorn garlands – it took me all night to make one that only went once around the tree and then the whole house smelled like a stale cinema – #christmasfail.

The last real tree we had was called Eric. My flatmate Rowls and I got up early to go and get the best tree in the whole of London. As we stepped out of our apartment building we were greeted by two rather worse-for-wear elves selling Christmas trees right outside the pub at the end of our street. We got the best tree we’ve ever had for a steal of a price but the Elves insisted we name him, so he became Eric. If you’ve ever had a real tree you’ll know, some don’t drop down, or they’re too wide at the bottom or too tall and skinny at the top. One dark night I bought a tree that was so lopsided I had to decorate every night because it would always fall over whilst we were out at work. Eric was, and will for ever be, the best Christmas tree ever. In fact, I’ve just realised I haven’t had a real tree since then.

He was perfection!

My Mum and Dad always wait for me to come home for Christmas for me to trim their tree.

We put on Johnny Mathis ‘When A Child is Born’ which has been THE Christmas album all our lives and it’s like I’m five years old again. Last year was really emotional because I knew that I wouldn’t get to spend Christmas with them next year. I decorated the dining room but made it my mission to use every single decoration in the box. It was an awesome Christmas grotto by the time I’d finished. Christmas is the one time of year when more is more!

When I moved to Minnesota at the end of January this year every house was covered in snow and still had their decorations and lights up. It was like touching down in the North Pole! So this year I’ve decided to keep my theme generic and seasonal (so I can keep it up for as long as possible!;) I’ve decorated my balcony with a swag and Mother nature herself has gifted me icicles.

Inside I’ve kept my theme festive but versatile so I can keep it up for New Year and beyond into 2017.  I’m off to the UK in January and I’ll be too excited to spend a belated Christmas with my family to be putting the decorations away. I’ll be listening to Johnny Mathis and looking forward to eating mince pies!

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Here’s my quick guide to creating a seasonal theme that will last all winter:

The message of the season

Peace, love and joy. Signs that capture the spirit of the season work all year and remind you what’s it all about!

img_0707Be bold!

If you want to create a contemporary theme that extends beyond December 25th step away from the red and green. I LOVE pink! Think outside the box and embrace your favourite colours. I just used some spare glass jars I had in the kitchen to create this look.

 


Stars & snowflakes

They are an easy way to create a theme that gives a Winter Wonderland feel for the whole season and that you can add to easily.

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Metallics & holographics

Metallics maximise your lighting to create more magic and are perfect for parties.

 

 

Poundshop, dollar stores and party stores

Some of the most effective decorations are the cheapest. Ikea are great for fun pieces that won’t break the bank and party stores for ceiling decorations you can re-use every year.

img_0701Fruits of the season

Pine cones, cinnamon sticks, oranges slices and berries are a feast for the eyes and fill your home with a wonderful, welcoming smell. This is an easy how-to guide I found online that I used to make these orange slices.

 

Lights and candles

Twinkling lights look magical all year-round. I have a timer on my balcony lights so I don’t have to brave the cold and it’s lovely to come home to.

Keep it safe with battery operated candles. These are great value at 6 for less than $20 and are remote controlled!

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Family and Friends at the Table

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!  My husband Lewis and I are so fortunate to have such a beautiful family and amazing friends, and we love spending time with them.  We enjoy entertaining throughout the year but there is something about November and December that is so very special.

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We have been collecting Waterford Crystal for over 20 years and we have quite the collection… and we use it!  We love entertaining with Waterford Crystal. There is something so supremely elegant about seeing it on the table and the way the light enhances its beauty.  I also notice how people react when they hold a stunning champagne flute, or a beautifully cut double old fashioned… it is special.  We really do believe in living your best life and we want to bless our family and treat them well when they are in our home.

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I think it starts the moment you greet them at the door and we see the smile on their faces as they glance over at the table to see how it is set…whether it is a casual gathering or a formal affair.  The anticipation of an incredible dinner begins right then and there, and the smell coming from Lewis’s kitchen just excites everyone.

The wonderful thing about using Waterford Crystal is that it easily compliments existing pieces…family heirlooms, estate sale finds, or your Grandmother’s china, all can be used to create a unique and stunning table.

We wish you a joyous and beautiful season….surrounded by family and friends gathered at the table enjoying life and making sweet memories.

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