5 Quick Things #312 🎄
Christmas stories, seed catalogs, Nordic saunas, & a sappy commercial
Today I’m baking several dozen cookies for our annual Cookie Swap with friends held at our house tomorrow morning, and later this evening we’re doing jolabokaflod (yes, it’s traditionally on Christmas Eve, but do what you gotta do—our family plans dictate that this year it’s on the 22nd). Tomorrow afternoon Kyle and I will embark on our traditional date wherein we go out to eat and then collect stocking stuffers for the clan. That evening, the kids are hanging with friends, so we’ll be wrapping gifts while the house is empty, probably while watching one of the many holiday movies on our list (on which we’ve barely made a dent so far). On Sunday we're going to Mass both morning and late afternoon, then going to my parents for Christmas Eve dinner and a late-night watching of It’s a Wonderful Life.
…All this to say: it must be almost Christmas!
I’ll start us off with the last two stanzas from GK Chesterton’s poem, “The House of Christmas,” and then we’ll move on to the last 5 Quick Things of the year:
This world is wild as an old wives' tale, And strange the plain things are, The earth is enough and the air is enough For our wonder and our war; But our rest is as far as the fire-drake swings And our peace is put in impossible things Where clashed and thundered unthinkable wings Round an incredible star. To an open house in the evening Home shall men come, To an older place than Eden And a taller town than Rome. To the end of the way of the wandering star, To the things that cannot be and that are, To the place where God was homeless And all men are at home.
5 Quick Things ☕️
1. New episode of A Drink With a Friend! In this final chat of the year, Seth and I work through a few of my end-of-the-year questions. They’re tougher than they initially seem…
2. Speaking of, in case you missed it: this year I’ve posted those questions early! I’ve included 20 questions, some New Year’s Day questions, a few questions for kids, and free downloadable PDFs for all of them so you can enjoy contemplating offline.
3. Our most beloved Christmas stories tell us that our ordinary lives are extraordinary and that life gives us second chances, again and again and again. I love’s simple reminder here: “Advent and Christmas is a time when the reality of our lives is made clear to us. For all the sentimentality of the season, there is an honesty in this - because life is truly very, very good.”
4. If you're looking for a once-all master “seed catalog” of ideas for how to make your life more analog,has you covered—here's her comprehensive list cultivated from a vast collection of reader comments. Great stuff here, especially if this is one of your goals for next year.
5. And finally, quite possibly the best storyteller on Substack,’s final installment of the year is another gem: “For my travels to the Nordic countries, I had made a mistake graver than only packing trainers. I had brought the wrong books with me – two books by the same author who I had never read before – huge, rookie mistake. Holiday reading is the best of all reading and to screw this up so fantastically was making me grumpy. I disliked the two books I brought so much that I left them in Finland. I won’t say who the author was, but it meant that I had to immediately find a bookshop to correct my wrongs (I will say that the author is dead so if you’re reading this, it’s not you. I love you. All of your writing is very good).”
Currently Reading, Watching, Listening 📻
My new Christmas Morning playlist
The Commonplace is a reader-supported publication. Become a subscriber:
“The world might have expected the Son of God to be born—if He was to be born at all—in an inn. A stable would be the last place in the world where one would have looked for Him. Divinity is always where one least expects to find it.”
Real or Artificial Tree? 🎄
For most of my life I’ve been a real-tree purist: I love the ritual, the smell, the authenticity, all of it. In fact, when we lived in Oregon we’d bundle up, traipse out into the country, buy a five-dollar permit, and literally go chop down our own tree (it’s legal). Not sure if that’s still a tradition up there, but it was lovely... But about five years ago we bought a really good, really authentic-looking artificial tree, and last year we finally recouped the costs (it was pricey, even with a half-off coupon). Because yeah... Real trees are so expensive now, at least here in Texas. I still miss it, and I miss the smell (my favorite Frasier Fir candle still doesn’t quite cut it). But artificial it is in our home, and probably will be for a long time.
Something Else: 6.5%
Find this week’s poll here.
Quick Links 🔗
Question(s) For You to Ponder… 🤔
In what ways did I grow the most in 2023?
Have a great rest of the year, and I'll see you here in January! I'm so grateful to have you here reading... Very thankful for each of you.