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My favorite part of the holidays

christmas cookiesOne of my favorite holiday traditions has always been baking Christmas goodies with my brother, sister, and mom. Growing up, one of the first weekends in December, we’d totally take over the kitchen (which wasn’t that huge to begin with) to do a marathon two-day baking event that turned out yummy treats that would last us the rest of the holidays, including giving plenty of goodie baskets away to neighbors, friends, and family.

Recently, my brother and sister and I have started transferring this tradition to my sister’s house. We pick one weekend early in December, and my brother (home from break) and I go over to my sister’s lovely, roomy suburban kitchen with the big island and lots of counter space. My mom comes too, of course, but she largely spends a lot of time telling us how to do things while she “samples” our results. (The benefit of having grownup children, I guess! She certainly earned it with all those years she helmed the baking.)

My little niece and nephew love pitching in (as much as they can). Right now, that consists of super-easy tasks like pouring chocolate chips into cookie batter and pressing cutouts into dough. But soon enough, they’ll be able to really roll up their sleeves and pitch in, and I can’t wait to watch the next generation start to learn all the cookies and candies we learned to make grown up. (Probably adding in some new ones of their own.)

For me, this is one of the best parts of the holidays, because I get to enjoy that great family get-together feeling without all the stress of dressing up, cleaning, decorating, and hosting. We wear whatever we don’t mind getting floury, usually go into giggle fits several times, and blast the cheesiest Christmas music we can all weekend long. It reminds me of all the great times we had growing up, and it creates new memories for the future. As much as I love seeing my family on Christmas itself, this is always one of my favorite times of the season because it’s just plain fun and we all get to relax and just be silly.

So, I wanted to challenge you to find your favorite, non-Christmas-day part of the holidays. Is it putting up the tree? Watching those Claymation Christmas specials? (They totally make me feel like a kid again.) Driving around the neighborhood looking at all the lights? There are so many lovely parts of the holidays that we tend to overlook because we’re so focused on getting to the big day. But instead of the whole month of December being one big race to Christmas, how can you find ways to enjoy the whole month, and all the great things that go with it?

Let’s enjoy the journey and not just the destination!

What’s your favorite part of the holidays? What do you love about it?

 

~Heart,

Em

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photo credit: Rebecca

Yeah, I Buy Travel Insurance (Sometimes)

cruise ship[The following is a guest post from Crystal at Budgeting in the Fun Stuff.  That’s where she writes about her bills, saving for the future, and making sure that they fit in fun stuff along the way.]

In our early 20’s, my husband and I never “splurged” on travel insurance…ever.  We thought that we made plans and there was no way we’d ever need to change them.

At least we have been smart enough to learn a little since then…

When Travel Insurance Makes Sense

We didn’t actually jump on the travel insurance train until we signed up for our first cruise in 2009.  A few months before we bought our tickets, our in-laws were stuck on a cruise of their own for 3 extra days thanks to a hurricane.  We made a mental note that weather happens.

Then one of my husband’s grandparents had a mini-stroke just a few weeks later and ended up in the hospital for more than a week.  My in-laws were there most of that time, but we all mentioned that it was lucky this didn’t happen before their cruise.  My in-laws pointed out that they could have skipped the cruise and got a refund thanks to their travel insurance.

Hmmm, two indications that travel insurance would be a good idea.  We paid the extra $25 per person to make sure that we’d be covered for a ton of what-ifs.  Worth it to protect $1500 in cruise tickets.  And although we ended up not using it, we’ve spent the $20-$40 insurance fee for every cruise since then too.  We used the policies pointed out by our travel agent, but you can find travel insurance online at quite a few places like Bupa.

It Can Go Too Far

All of that said, you do need to weigh the benefits of the travel insurance with what it will cost.  Also, remember to pay attention to what it covers.

Earlier this year, I bought a plane ticket to visit a blogging buddy.  The travel insurance for the $250 ticket was $40, and the trip was just 3 weeks away, so I passed.  A few days later, my friend let me know that he would have to leave the country unexpectedly.  I called the airline and was told that it would cost $200 to change the flight.  I was also told I should have bought a refundable ticket.

Well, let’s look at the options.  First, I could have bought travel insurance, but it would not have helped in that specific situation.  Or I could have bought a refundable ticket at $600 instead of $250, but that’s more expensive than just buying another ticket.  Lastly, I could pay the $200 and change my ticket.  That actually would have been my only logical choice if I decided to postpone my trip.

Instead, I just visited my friend’s family instead.   It was a pretty good trip.  Overall, travel insurance would not have helped me and the refundable option was illogical.  So remember to think out your decisions when making backup plans.

Have you ever bought travel insurance?  Ever needed to use it?

Blog Roundup (12-6-13)

I always love sharing my favorite blogs with people, so each week I’ll be giving you guys a roundup of the posts I’ve really enjoyed reading.

If you like them, make sure to subscribe and follow these great bloggers on Twitter and Facebook to share the love!

~Heart,

Em

Are there any great posts you came across recently? Share them with us in the comments!

Give the gift of experience

Gift Giving Just Around the Corner:-)This year, The Hubby and I are trying something different for our gift giving: whenever we can, we’re going to try to give people the gift of an experience instead of just another piece of stuff that will clutter up their house.

Ever since we realize how many toys our niece and nephew get that they’ll never really appreciate, we realized that we’re the same way with adults on holidays and birthdays. We try to show how much we care about people by giving them things, when sometimes the best gift you can give is a memory or an experience they’ll always be able to treasure.

So, we’ve been trying to brainstorm some experiences we can give to the different people on our shopping lists, and so far, we’ve came up with the following:

  • A massage or spa package.
  • A mani/pedi gift certificate.
  • Tickets to a musical playing in our city.
  • Tickets to a local football or baseball game.
  • A movie and dinner gift certificate bundle.
  • Cooking lessons.
  • A wine tasting trip.
  • Cookie kits or hot cocoa kits, where you put all the ingredients into a mason jar with a cute spoon.
  • I.O.U.’s for a few nights of babysitting so new parents can have some alone time.
  • Skydiving lessons. (We have some adventurous friends!)
  • Certificates to a local photo studio so our families can finally update those family photos that show us all 10 years ago. (Good thing my family doesn’t know about this blog!) :)

Have you given (or received) a great experience before? What other suggestions would you add to the list?

 

~Heart,

Em

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photo credit: Kasia