Christmas is a season that stresses people out. I know why but I still don’t get it. Christmas is such a happy time. Seasonal decorations. Seasonal music. Seasonal food. Australia doesn’t get the whole seasons thing so Christmas is the ultimate time of year – the one season we all love to hate. I particularly love Christmas. I flourish on the very things that stress other people, particularly the mother that I live with. The family dinners, the barbeques with friends, the cooking, the shopping, the gifts, the wrapping, the cleaning, the decorations, the constant sweeping under the Christmas tree to pick up the dropped pine needles. What’s not to love? People, generosity, food, the Christmas smell? This morning I went to Aldi and Woolworths with my mother for “a few last minute things” we apparently couldn’t get two days ago when we were also at the supermarket. Usually I would volunteer to drive, but at the last minute I couldn’t be bothered walking upstairs to get my wallet. I relinquished the control and experienced the other way to do Christmas. I love my mum but we look at situations very differently. For all its generalisations, the Type A/Type B personality is an appropriate example. I’m the former; mum’s the latter. While circling the carpark she decided in less than 30 seconds, parking in a side street more than a 500metre walk from the shops entrance was her game plan. I tried to share my car parking tips. Her response, **brake!** “Do you want to drive?!” Alas, we found a park within 5 minutes (actually we found one in two minutes but some dick literally stole it. Think reverse park undertake. Yeah, not cool. I said some words and leant over from the passenger seat to slam the horn to which my mother said, “Melanie, language please.”) I know my approach is a little different to others and probably sounds like a nightmare to most. I’d like to experience a less rigid, less haste way to do Christmas but all I see is stress or Christmas Eve Eve 24-hour shopping. In the words of a dear friend, I know “We’re not all Melanie Pennington,” but seriously what other game plans are out there?   Here’s Christmas the Melanie Pennington Type A way: Plan and do it early. Don’t procrastinate. Christmas shopping in the week of Christmas is not planning. Deciding what to get someone at the shops is not planning. Going to the shops is not planning. (Online shopping is where it’s at. They deliver it to your house/workplace for cheap-cheap-cheap or even free!!). Don’t guess what your loved ones would like. Yes, you could ask them (or in my case get them to give you a list, see below), but better yet – listen to them. If they’re forward they’ll tell you, but I prefer to jot down their gripes from about September onwards. “I never have any tops to wear.” “My favourite perfume is about to run out.” “You have so many nice necklaces.” “Wow, check out this super speedy top of the range computer-y thing.” Boom, Christmas present decided. Write a list – for everything! A Christmas wish list (from September onwards, if I think of something I need, it goes on the list), the Christmas gift list for everyone else, the menu, the decorations. A list means you won’t forget anything. Budget for it. Work out how much gifts will cost you and then spread it out across the year. In my annual budget I allocated $10 per week or about $50 a month to Christmas and Birthday gifts. I don’t have a credit card choosing to live in the present not the future. “Oh budget, smudget,” I hear you say. Here’s why: when your employer tells you they’ve screwed up your contract and you won’t get paid throughout December until Christmas Eve, you can say “okay” and not completely freak out. (Note: I didn’t. I told them a lot less friendly words before confirming because of my organisation I wouldn’t need to scour dumpsters for food for the month.) Tackle a carpark like it’s a game. To win is to find a park – a close one and quickly. To lose is to drive in circles aimlessly. Game plan: Pray. Drive towards where the people on foot are entering the carpark. Follow. Pounce. Job done. Thank God. Move like you’re on a mission. At the supermarket, if the list has more items than you can hold without probably dropping the strawberries, grab a trolley. If you think you probably can hold it all do it. Baskets are for sissys. People will avoid a trolley on a mission or poor girl holding the last minute shampoo grab with her chin. If you move around with speed and purpose, other people will move. The old lady with a trolley is primed to be overtaken mid-aisle. Supermarket aisles are wide enough for 3 trolleys. You will fit between the two idiots old friends, catching up beside the tomato relish. At Westfield, plot out your route. Take short cuts through the multi-entrance stores, use the escalators inside department stores or the stairs halfway between the main centre ones. If you walk fast, you avoid those semi-familiar peopel from high school or your mother’s friend who wants an update on your entire family. Ie. They’ll inconvenience you to make you stop. (Note: downside, you’ll also walk straight past your best friend unless they are bold enough to yell your name out.) Set a time limit. Shopping isn’t meant to take all day. The aim is to be inside the shops not circling in the carpark. Tackling the shops prior to a social outing gives you a deadline. We all work better with a deadline. With a time limit your better placed to move yo’ butt faster, not fret over which brand of sliced almonds are cheaper (unit pricing FTW!) and to choose the quick aisle. There’s a lot riding on it. Fail at sticking to the time limit and you’ll be late to your next activity. Keep a well-stocked gift drawer. Throughout the year, keep your eyes out for bargains. My favourite markdowns are usually at Kikki K, Sussan, Typo, Lovisa, Witchery, David Jones food section. My reward cards tell me so. The extra item here and there don’t break the budget (in fact they’re budgeted for each month in ‘miscellaneous’) and when you find yourself heading off to a party with another Secret Santa and you’ve already re-gifted that weird mug from your colleague/aunt, grab something from the drawer. The friend you’ve failed to catch up with since last Christmas hands you an unexpected gift, grab the pre-wrapped gift from your handbag. No stress. Disaster averted. (Goes without saying, a gift drawer is paired with a wrapping box with ribbon, doilies and cards for every occasion.)   And so here I am sitting in my room on Christmas Eve with all my gifts purchased and wrapped, food items purchased and the time to prepare them scheduled. My leftover paper, doilies and ribbons are with my sister as she wraps her boyfriend’s parents’ gift. My gifts for my sister and brother-in-law living 4000km away under their tree (thanks to Express Post. I may have left it one day too long for Australia Post to guarantee its delivery and an extra day for my sister to likely need to pick it up from the post office because she wasn’t home). There are homemade Christmas bunting flags fluttering in the wind outside and a Santa snowman is at home on the inside our front door. I wish I could say I have Christmas carols playing, but I’d be lying. I like to think I’ve mastered Christmas. I like to think I’ve won at Christmas season. But there’s my Type A talking. Wondering if there’s a downside, check out ‘10 reasons you should be glad you’re Type B’. (In short, be happy because I’ve got nothing but heart attacks and heart ache coming my way).   I’m completely aware this article reads very self-absorbed. If you saw me writing it, you would see the little smirk on my face – the kind of smirk my friend Kimjeng would like. With all the above out in the open, I completely appreciate my mother does things differently, yet also gets the job done – just less efficiently! Care to share?Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)
There were many a time when I’d think of 18 December and wonder if this day ever going to arrive. It was the long days. The days clients would ignore your consultation, the days they’d have just another small (read: at least 10) change to the publication due to print 3 days ago and the days you just wanted a sleep in. Today is the day. From tomorrow I have 18 mornings to sleep in (past 6am!) and go to bed late (after 10pm). Eighteen full days before I need to wake up, wash my hair, dry it, slap makeup on my face, concealer under my eyes and wear proper clothes and make the hour commute to work again. It’s the longest break I’ve had since, well, 12 months ago! Earlier this week I received some Hershey’s kisses as part of my ‘Brainchild Award’ for the office decorating competition. I put them in my bag in the afternoon much to the dismay of my colleagues. I assured them to I’d return them in a different form. They rolled their eyes. Today I arrived with Christmas superfood cookies. They were happy. My team pod has been overly concerned about nutrition of late so I assured them they were a superfood in an email to my larger team. I’d love to share the recipe with with you but I kind of made it up… Here it is in loose terms: 140g butter, softened 1 egg 1 cup icing sugar 1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence Beat until fluffy. Add: 1 1/2 cup plain flour 1 teaspoon baking powder Sift into the butter mixture and mix. Meanwhile, unwrap a handful of candy canes. Throw in food processor or get out a trusty rolling pin. Crush/process into fine dust. Add most to to cookie mix. Roll into inch wide balls. Roll in fine excess candy cane dust. Bake for 10 mins on 180 degrees. Push a Hershey kiss in each cookie immediately upon removal from oven. Put cookies in freezer ASAP to prevent the kiss melting. Give to someone to enjoy!   Care to share?Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)
**If you just want to look at the pretty pictures, scroll to the bottom** A few years ago I made the decision to embrace seasons – Christmas being the best and most important of all. From commandeering tree and house decorating to playing Christmas carols at any opportunity (from 25 November onwards!), I love Christmas. With my first full year at work nearly under my belt and feeling fairly confident in the office, I was unashamed in love of Christmas during the 9-to-5 humdrum. I decided it was time to spread the Christmas cheer. Here’s a how to guide for a festive office: 1. Table a ‘Christmas office decorating competition’  I was chairing a meeting of representatives from the various marketing teams in the University. After running through the various other items on the agenda, I opened the meeting for AOB. A largely nominal agenda item, with much enthusiasm I brought up the competition. Apart from a political correction to make it the ‘festive office decorating competition,’ it was met with resounding positivity. I recruited another person to the cause. The planning begun – both for the competition and my teams creation. I had high expectations! 2. Send unexpected jovial email to break up the constant dreariness of requests that usually fill out inboxes 2.1  Create competition visual identity – because EVERYTHING needs a logo. ‘Twas the end of November, when all across campus Not a space was merry, and we started to get anxious. The tinsel was hung around the poles with haste In hopes that would be considered good taste. The workers were all slumped over their desks, While the visions of the jolly afternoon took its effects. Whole new worlds were built to mask the pain, The dull throb of too many bottles of champagne.  When out in [building name] there arose such a clatter We sprung from our chairs to see what was the matter. Away to the corner we raced only to stop in shock The reality of the action dropped like a sedimentary rock. The lights hanging from the roof in a line, The teams should have read it like a sign. When, what to our wondering eyes should appear, The two spaces decorated exactly the same – oh dear!  With a little chuckle, we knew what was at stake, Their little hiccup was our chance to overtake. It’s bigger than the world cup and fueled with action: The Marcomms festive office decorating competition! Yes, all you grinches, you heard it right, our offices are getting a transformation. From Cumberland to Engineering to [building name],  we’re all getting into the festive season. It’s no secret there are many in Marcomms who love a good competition so a breakdown of the rules are below (and attached). May the most festive team win!  3. Create terms and conditions like any good marketing specialist Details Competition Marketing and Communications is celebrating the end of the year and the beginning of the festive season with a decorating competition. How to enter Teams can enter by: Staking out your space with those around them Decorating to your heart’s content Posting photos or a video of your space on Yammer. Prize(s)Three edible prizes will be given awayCompetition periodDecorating can commence Friday 28 November, with the exhibition period 1 December – 18 December.Who may enterEntry is only open to persons who, during the competition period are: part of Marketing and Communications ready for a jolly good time prepared for solid competition willing to take down any office Grinches Maximum number of entries per individual entrantEach Marcomms team member should be part of only one teamAdditional entry instructionsAny disagreements or contests should be resolved with a public sagacious match of scissors, paper, rock.Judging process[CMO’s EA] will tour the spaces in the final week of exhibition and determine the winners.Judging criteria3 categories: Originality and creativity of theme Extensiveness of decorations Quality of execution Judging dateJudging and winner announcements will occur in the week of 15 December.Winner notificationWinners will be notified via Yammer, email and cheers across the officeClaiming your prizePrizes will be distributed in the office. Winners should be cautious of their seagull-like colleagues hovering ready to pounce.Special conditionsThe judges decision is final. Bragging rights can last as long as your colleagues allow them to. 4. Encourage and participate in trash talk, both on and offline No sooner did the email go out when the trash talk began. Persistent and untamed. Feeding wrong information (re: theme) to the enemy, interrogating drunk colleagues at the Christmas party. 5. Start small and build suspense to the big reveal It was a slow start but slowly the decorations went up. Brown paper over hideous yellow walls, a spot of tinsel and strings of fairy lights. 6. Send reminder email about judging Worried about the slow take-up, I took pen to paper again: A reminder email went out: Judgingement day is coming – Monday 15 December Jingle bells, jingle bells. Jingle all the way. Oh what fun it is to work In a festive office now! Dashing through the snow, Is the student marcoms team. Over fields they go, Their efforts are a scream. Santa’s Media team have moved in, To make our spirits bright. What fun they have to write and spin, The news from the land of all things white. Jingle bells, jingle bells. Jingle all the way. Oh what fun it’s gonna be To see the winners announced! Details Post a photo/s of your entry on Yammer to be included in the competition. The competition is in no way limited to central Marketing space. We look forward to seeing the festivities from all over campus. Our judge will tour the spaces (she’ll lock in a time for the divisional teams) on the afternoon of Monday 15 December I have it on good authority that the judge cannot be swayed with chocolate…although wine is a different story! 7. Organise award ceremony  My boss arrange a Christmas bake-off  for judging day (yes, another competition!). And the entries posted on Yammer (read: institutional social networking site). 8. Eat food and (playfully!) question the final decision! Sadly my team didn’t win. I think we went out to strong to early. A colleague compared us to Will McAvoy and ACN’s Newsnight. A strong second, but then slowly dropped down the ranks (of course, his team was first!). Others said we were robbed. Alas, I’ll be sure to include a ‘people’s choice’ next year. We definitely would have won that. 9. Create certificate and add ‘annual’ on the sly  A very good use of time, certificates were created and printed (not before having to reprint them after spelling decorating ‘decorating’!). I was sure to slip in ‘inaugural annual’ competition to build 10. Enjoy the amazement of visitors to the office The faces of visitors to the office was priceless. Employees from other areas, our ad agency and clients alike. Festivity was widespread and appreciated. Overall I was quite surprised by the investment in the competition. Going in with low expectations for pickup, it was super fun to get competitive and loosen up at the end of a long year – despite the work seeming as constant as the 11 months previous! Sadly my team didn’t win, but as a pick-me-up from my team’s loss, my colleagues awarded me the ‘brain-child award,’ an award practically akin to a school  ‘Encouragement Award.’ Alas, I also received a packet of Hershey kisses which will feature on this blog in due course! But without further ado, here are some of the entries. Enjoy. This slideshow requires JavaScript.   Care to share?Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)