I’ll be totally honest — year-round, I am kind of a Grinch. I can be serious sarcastic and kind of tough. But I’ll let you in on a little secret of mine: as soon as late November/early December rolls around, all the iciness around my heart melts a great deal.
I’m huge on holidays, which I fully attribute to my mom’s awesome commitment to tradition and memory-making growing up, along with my year-round watching of "A Christmas Story" from ages 4 to 7 (really). As we grow older, I find my friends and I relating and lamenting about how it just doesn’t feel like the holidays anymore. Between the soul-crushing timing of fall semester finals week to working for the holidays, the magic kind of fades away.
But not this year! This year has kicked me while I was down in more ways than one. And if that’s not truly the sign of growing up, I don’t know what is. Therefore, I’m extra determined to have a great, cheesy, memorable holiday season and here’s my guide to how I encourage you to also do so.
1. Walk your local Christmas Tree Lane.
Ah, an oldie but goodie and costs nothing. Skip residential traffic and take an Uber with your best friends. Ogle pretty lights and over-the-top decorations. Sip a tumbler full of cider and make inappropriate jokes — bonding is kind of what the season is all about. Speaking of cider…
2. Spike your own drink.
We’re adults now! Creepy, thick eggnog is instantly made better with brandy. Have a cold? Make a hot toddy and sleep it out. Going to a get-together and want to seem oh-so-proper? Throw together mulled wine! It’s easy and smells soooo good.
3. Perfect a hot chocolate recipe.
If alcohol isn’t really your deal, get to work on making the best mug of hot chocolate ever. I like heating up chocolate almond milk, adding an instant packet hot chocolate powder, some cinnamon and then topping with a ridiculous amount of marshmallows and a candy cane (former barista lifestyle obvi shining through here). Or you can get super duper fancy and use real chocolate. Go wild.
4. Make your living space festive.
Whether it’s with a tree or not, making your home cozier and cuter is always a plus (for any season, let’s be real). Light candles, play jazz and put up some decorations. Go to the dollar store, fire up a hot glue gun and get crafty. Or if you’re not sure, cover everything in tinsel. Trust me.
5. Buy a snazzy piece of outerwear.
I’m honestly a little bitter that ugly Christmas sweaters are now a thing made on purpose! I vividly remember scouring thrift stores and my local Goodwill in high school on multiple occasions to buy one as joke gifts and having zero luck. Now major chains like Forever 21 and Urban Outfitters mass produce them. How ironic, no? Now that we are adults with (supposedly) refined taste, buy a really nice beanie, scarf, or my personal new obsession: capes.
6. Go ice-skating.
I was born and raised in Southern California, so the concept of a white Christmas is super foreign to me. In fact, I live in the land where people start driving 10 miles below the speed limit when it starts to drizzle (no joke). Since our weather rarely dips below 50 degrees, we have to actively seek out ways to have fun, cold-weather type stuff. This year, for me personally, doesn’t permit a trip to Big Bear or Lake Tahoe, so I’ll do the next best thing: ice-skate in a local pop-up outdoor rink. So cute, so cheesy.
7. Learn how to bake something.
Ladies and gents, don’t leave baking stuff up to your family. Hit up Google, find something delicious and just make it! Like these delicious and easy Hershey's kiss peanut butter cookies that are practically impossible to mess up. Make your kitchen smell nice and develop a new skill. Surprise someone out of the kindness of your heart, like your grandma, your coworkers or send ‘em in a care package to make a far-away somebody’s day.
8. Express your gratitude.
Seriously, you guys — please be doing this on the regular. Like I said in my Black Friday post, gratitude is a year round kind of thing. But hey, life happens and sometimes we get really caught up in ourselves. Make it a point to touch base with each of your loved ones, volunteer your time and donate to those in need. You should always aim to leave the world around you a better place and make the people around you better, too. Then, make it a top-notch New Year’s resolution to do that at least once a month. Thank me later.
9. Get out of town.
I’m a huge fan of daycations and my most favorite one to take during the winter season is to Solvang, a little Dutch-style city in the Santa Ynez Valley that is equal parts kitschy and magical. There are bakeries, shops, horse-drawn carriages, pretty lights and spots selling abeslkiver on every corner. I try to visit Solvang each winter, but my next goal is Julian, California, an hour outside of San Diego. Because apple orchards and pie. Mmmm yes.
10. Top off the year with an epic NYE.
Whether it’s making tons of finger foods, going out to a soiree or traveling to some landmark-y place, you have to celebrate the year with some style and appreciation: you made it to another year! My best memory was heading into 2015 and making super last-minute, high impulse plans to visit my best friends in San Francisco. We bought a ton of giant-sized confetti poppers, had a pretty huge bash and at midnight, I stole someone’s bottle of cheap champagne to shake over the party crowd, rap music video style. We woke up to tons of confetti glued to the hardwood floor as a result of the poppers and my poppin'. I missed my bus home the next evening, almost got my car towed from an L.A. lot and showed up to my work shift early the next day with more confetti still in my hair. New Year’s Eve is the time to go big or go home.
(I definitely went harder than Drake, so here's a little pro tip: Wash any parts of your body that are exposed to champagne super thoroughly. I don’t have sensitive skin by any means, but I learned the hard way that it will literally burn you. Ouch. Drink -- and shake -- responsibly!)
There's so many ways to celebrate and my list is surely one of many. I tried to keep each option as holiday-neutral as possible so that you can tailor for your own personal celebrations and create new traditions, too. I also really wanted to celebrate my favorite time of year and the fact that California's gnarliest heat wave is over.