Category: Coffee and Confessions

Let’s Be Ultra Friends!

Oh man guys! I been rocking and rolling with Pokémon Go, it’s bad, the last time I was this obsessed with a game it was when NASCAR team racing came out for the original PlayStation but this week was spectacular! My friend Pete and I hit Ultra Friend status during Pokémon Go’s friendship event last weekend.

What’s so great about Ultra Friends and WHY do you want one? Keep reading to find out!

What you gain:

1) 30,000 XP

2) Medium (0.92x) Stardust discount on Trading

3) Medium (1.07x) Gym and Raid attack bonus

4)+2 Raid capture balls

What you need to do:

I work a full time job AND manage a blog so giving of gifts to my buddies was virtually the only way to boost my friendships level (sorry all I’m a busy gal). In sending a gift once a day though to all of your friends, it will increase your friendship score each day. Here’s a useful tip though passed on to me by a friend though, try to alternate opening gifts each day with your friend. If you see a blue halo around their icon you’ve already gotten interaction credit for the day as pictured here:

As stated above, the blue halo means you received credit for interacting with that friend for the day and you should wait till the next day to open their gift. Please keep in mind it will take you 30 days to get to the Ultra friend level so patience is a virtue. The more friends you get the more you will need to spin Poké Stops to collect gifts —oh and you can only hold 10 gifts at a time so if you have lots of friends you’ll need to spin a lot of stops — but it is the tried and tested method. I feel like I should be obligated to note that Poké Stops are not always forthcoming with gifts so just keep at it and you’ll get to the level you need to be.

Gift giving is the only way to become Ultra friends with your Poké Pals from across the globe, I got friends in England, Switzerland, and Japan respectively. The key to upping our friendship level is by sending gifts cause darn oceans have to ruin everything 😉. Just by being persistent with giving and receiving gifts you will eventually reach the Ultra level and you and your friends will be able to battle remotely across the pond.

Battling remotely really is as good as it sounds but until you get to Ultra Friend level you’ll need to up the ante of your friend score through combat, in person. All you need to do is battle your friends at least once a day. I found that battling once a day effectively reduces the time it takes to become Ultra friends by half, meaning it’ll take you 15 days instead of 30, all the while racking up those prizes and getting in a lot of practice for when you start fighting in the leagues.

The final way to increase your friend level quickly is to join together to battle in gyms and raids. I love these experiences because there’s nothing like bonding with people from different walks of life over your love for a game. If you work together once a day you can get a boost to your friend level with each person you are in a Raid or gym battle with. Of course, they have to be your friends to start with, so use your QR code to become friends before you battle.

It should go without saying that this only works with friends you are close to locally but it has the advantage that it works in bulk. A lot of local towns by me have chat groups on Facebook messenger where we plan things so finding your towns chat group is key. If you’ve got six of your friends in a raid with you then all 6 of you will receive a boost to your friend levels. This means you can work together en masse to reach Ultra friend status and get to battling remotely from the comfort of your couch.

The End Game & My Only Gripe

If you do all three of these things, every day, you can dramatically reduce the time it takes to become Ultra friends in Pokemon Go. In doing two of these activities every day, you reduce the amount of time it takes to become Ultra friends to 15 days. By doing three of them every day, you reduce the amount of time it takes to become Ultra Friends to just 10 days. Now get out there and start making some friends!

That’s a huge time saver that will get your fighting with your friends remotely in no time! My only gripe is the only being able to hold ten gifts at a time, as a woman with 55 friends and not the most giving local Poké Stops it would be nice to be able to carry 30 gifts at a time but alas I’m just the peanut gallery. By the way if you haven’t added me-you need to!

Love you. Mean it.



8 Features You Shouldn’t Ignore That Have Been Added Since the Pokémon Go Launch

I haven’t gone to confession in a number of years but but I have a confession. I haven’t played Pokemon Go in 2 and half years. See, after the initial hype died down I felt no longer challenged and at times at a disadvantage because of NOT living in a city environment. I deleted the game and went on with life until a number of my close friends convinced me to give it a go and I must say I’m glad I did. Since the time that I’ve played, there were a lot of exciting features that have helped transform it into a more well-rounded game than I initially realized.

From PVP (player vs player) to trading and even in-game effects caused by the weather in the real world around you, Niantic has turned Pokemon Go into everything envisioned in the original announcement trailer, and in some ways even exceeded it.

As a 90s kid who grew up with Pokémon it is my pleasure to discuss a few of the most exciting features to come to Pokemon Go in the last two and a half years since I played.

1) Friends, Gifts, and Trading

Since my last foray into the popular AR game , Pokemon Go added its first true social media like feature: friends! Every player has their own friend code that you can share with other players. While I only have 9 (add me if you’d like!) I’m told you can add up to 200 friends to your friend list.

Once you’ve exchanged codes and accepted a request, you’ll be able to see your friend’s most recently caught Pokemon, and their stats regarding how many battles they’ve won, how far they’ve walked in the game, and how many Pokemon they’ve caught in total.

Once you’ve added a friend, you’ll be able to achieve one of four Friendship Levels: Good Friend, Great Friend, Ultra Friend, and Best Friend. Raising your friendship level will offer various rewards in the game, including lower Stardust costs for trades, extra damage during gym battles alongside a friend, and additional Premiere Balls during raids alongside a friend (nothing is more enriching then taking part in a raid with your best friends).

You can increase your friendship level with a particular friend by sending gifts (see below), trading, and participating in gym battles or raid battles together. Your friendship level can only increase once per day per friend, and this is how long I’ve been told by my friend Pete it takes to achieve each level:

• Good friend: 1 day

• Great friend: 7 days

• Ultra friend: 30 days

• Best friend: 90 days

You can only send ONE GIFT per day but I found if you send a gift at 11:59 PM you can also send another to the same friend at 12:00 AM (God, I love loopholes!).

2) Gift Giving

So you’re probably wondering what I mean by gifts right? Well, PokeStops will now occasionally drop Gifts, which you can send to friends on your list. Gifts will include a “postcard” from the PokeStop where you picked up the gift, as well as a various items such as: stardust, pokeballs, eggs, revive, and potions. Gifts usually also contain a special egg containing some rare Pokemon, depending where in the country or world you’re receiving them from you may get a real gem.

Gifts can also contain bonus Stardust, and don’t worry if you have not enough room in your bag but too many gifts you can delete unsent ones from your inventory (I haven’t, I sent those suckers). Did I mention you’ll also receive 200 XP for each gift you send a friend!?!

3) Trading Pokémon

Along with friends, Pokemon Go also added one of its most-requested features since launch: trading! Only catch is you can only trade with players on your friends list, and you have to be within 200 meters of each other to trade.

Players receive candy bonuses depending on the original catch location of the Pokemon being traded. If the Pokemon were caught far apart, you’ll receive extra candy for the Pokemon you’re trading.

Finally, the HP and CP of Pokemon traded to friends will be reset, resulting in random new stats for the Pokemon you receive. The range of possible HP and CP outcomes can be extremely wide or extremely narrow depending on your friendship levels, with Best Friends much more likely to receive stronger Pokemon.

4) PVP Trainer Battles

If you’ve been away for a super long time, like me, it’s not just trading you’re missing out on! Pokemon Go added its other most requested feature: PVP (Player vs. Player) Trainer Battles.

Starting a trainer battle is pretty easy you just scan a Battle Code. In the ‘Nearby’ menu in the lower right corner of the screen (which normally shows Pokemon and Raids in your area), a new Battle tab allows you to view a Battle Code, which is essentially a QR code featuring your trainer’s avatar.

A player standing close to you can scan your code (or you can scan theirs) in order to initiate a battle. This means you’ll need to be standing directly next to anyone you’re hoping to battle, with one major exception: you’ll be able to battle against your Ultra or Best Friends remotely over the internet.

Pokemon Go Trainer Battles are 1 v. 1, and each player uses a team of three Pokemon. A set of Pokemon will be recommended to you (based on CP and HP levels) but you don’t have to pick what they recommend. Pokémon can be replaced manually, or you can select from one of your pre-made Battle Parties prepared ahead of time.

5) You Can Now Select Your Pokemon and League

Before you can choose your team of Pokemon, you’ll need to decide which League you want to battle in. Trainer Battles will let you decide between three Leagues:

• Great League: Where each Pokemon must be 1,500 CP or under

• Ultra League: Where each Pokemon must be 2,500 CP or under

• Master League: Where each Pokemon have no CP limits

Once the battle begins, it’ll be familiar to anyone who’s tried Raid or Gym battles in the past. You’ll tap to use your Pokemon’s Fast Move, which will build up energy and eventually allow you to use a more powerful Charge Move. In battle, you’ll be able to choose which Charge Move you want to use once you’ve built up enough energy, then you’ll have an additional few seconds to charge it up even more.

During that window, the opposing player will have the option to use a Protect Shield. Each player only gets two of these to use for the entire battle, so you’ll need to be careful in deciding which Pokemon and which attacks to use them against.

At the end of a battle, both players will receive prizes regardless of whether they win or lose, which include the possibility of Stardust or Sinnoh Stones, which allow you to evolve some Generation 4 Pokemon. You can earn these rewards three times per day by battling other players. Battling against a player is also a new option for your once-per-day friendship increase.

Players can also train by fighting against AI-controlled versions of the three Team Leaders (Blanche, Candela, and Spark), which are also accessible via the Battle tab in the Nearby menu. Once per day, players can also earn rewards from this method of training (with the same potential prizes as battles against real players).

6) Dynamic Weather and Pokemon Spawns

Looking at the main screen when you boot up Pokemon Go, the logo in the top right represents the current weather. Weather in Pokemon Go is dynamic and corresponds with the actual real-world weather around you, and it changes every hour.

Eight weather states are currently available in Pokemon Go: rain, wind, snow, fog, sun (daytime), clear (nighttime), cloudy, and partly cloudy.

The in-game weather will affect the Pokemon spawns around you, with certain types more likely to appear in certain conditions and the attack power of certain moves boosted during battles.

Weather has been one of the most significant changes to Go since it launched, completely changing what appears around you and potentially making your neighborhood have different Pokemon day to day. If you could only find Pidgey, Rattata, and Zubat in your house back at launch, you might be surprised by how diverse the Pokemon population has become.

7) Field Research and Special Research

Back on the main screen, you’ll see the pair of binoculars in the bottom right which are how you access Research.

There are two types of research. First, “field” research is something you can complete multiple times per day. These are basic tasks (hatch an egg, catch 10 Pokemon, etc.) that you’ll generally complete during typical play anyway. You can obtain new tasks by spinning any PokeStop, and you can hold up to three at a time (or trash the ones you don’t want). The tasks will either give you items or an encounter with a Pokemon as a reward, with better rewards for harder tasks.

Once per day, the first research task you complete will give you a daily stamp. For every seven stamps you get, you’ll have the chance to open a Research Breakthrough Box, which awards you with an encounter with a rare or legendary Pokemon. Each month gets a different Pokemon, so if you get your seventh stamp on October 31, you’ll get October’s Pokemon if you open the box immediately, or November’s if you wait until the next day.

The second type of research is “special” research, which is the closest thing Pokemon Go has to a story mode. Special research gives you a mission and a series of multiple tasks to complete for a unique reward. Special Research tasks so far have included A Mythical Discovery, which entails completing various sets of tasks in order to encounter Mew, as well as A Ripple in Time to obtain the Mythical Pokemon Celebi, and the Halloween-themed A Spooky Message, which offered the Ghost-type Pokemon Spiritomb.

These missions are peppered with appearances from Professor Willow, who will appear in cut scenes at the end of each step to share some new information and assure you you’re on the right path.

You can hold multiple special research tasks at once, and they’ll never expire, meaning you can start the game right now and begin your quest for Mew or Celebi if you haven’t already, and you’ll still be able to start it even once new special research appears. Each player can only obtain a single Mew and Celebi, and you won’t be able to transfer or trade them, so don’t worry about accidentally losing yours!

8) You Can Participate In Raid Battles and Level Up Quicker Using Lucky Eggs

As you walk through the world, you may see messages pop up periodically that a battle is about to begin nearby, or you may see timers on top of gyms. Both of these are part of the raid battle system that Pokemon Go added since their launch.

If you find a raid before it’s begun, you’ll see an egg on top of a gym with a time countdown to when that egg will eventually hatch into a raid boss. There are five tiers of raids, and the color of the egg corresponds to the difficulty of the Pokemon inside.

Tier one and two raids are in pink eggs, which are the easiest type of raid. You can totally win these alone or with one other person. These are also the levels I recommend you start off with (unlike me who tried taking on a four tier boss alone and it was ugly).

Tier three and four raids are in yellow eggs, which have a wide range of difficulty. In almost every case, a level three raid can be beaten solo by a high level player, but may require the help of a few others depending on your battle party. Tier four raids can be more difficult, but can generally be beaten by five or six players at most.

I’ve read about (but have not see first hand) the Dark eggs which represent legendary raids, from what I gather these are the most difficult to complete. Some legendary Pokemon are easier to battle than others, with high level players able to take down some with just two players, or others requiring closer to a dozen players to defeat. In general, 10 players is a good rule of thumb, especially across a range of different experience levels, and if you have a full raid lobby of 20 players you should have no trouble at all.

The actual process of battling a raid boss will be much, much easier if you take the time to understand attack types. For example, knowing that a water-type Pokemon does super effective damage to a fire-type since fire is weak to water may sound simple, but there are extra factors that can help you do even more damage. STAB (or Same Type Attack Bonus) means that a Pokemon will do extra damage if they’re using moves that match their own type, and understanding movesets and damage output is important if you want to defeat a raid boss with a small group.

After you beat a raid boss, you’ll get a few raid items, then have a chance at a bonus challenge, which allows you to try to capture the Pokemon you just fought. Depending on how much damage you did and which team currently controls the gym where you battled, you’ll receive a set number of Premiere Balls at the end of the raid, and these are the only balls you’ll be able to use to catch the Pokemon. If you run out of balls, the Pokemon will flee, or if you catch it with extra balls leftover, you won’t get to keep your extras.

If you want to try out a raid, you get ONE free raid pass a day by visiting any gym. Otherwise it’s invitation only. If you’re trying to level up, raids are also one of the fastest way to gain XP in the game, so if you have any Lucky Eggs (which double all of the XP you earn for 30 minutes) in your inventory, I highly recommend you use them!

Overall from what I have gathered Pokémon Go has made drastic improvements which have made playing so much more easier and fun. If you, like me, have been away from the game for a while then I highly recommend re-downloading it and giving it another try.

Love you. Mean it.



Tom and I’s NFC and AFC Predictions…

Well, while my Carolina Panthers’ season ended weeks ago, four teams still remain. By the end of Sunday, we’ll know which two teams will contest Super Bowl LIII. The Kansas City Chiefs are set to host the New England Patriots for the right to represent the AFC. While the New Orleans Saints, will host the Los Angeles Rams for the right to represent the NFC.

Both games are rematches from the regular season, which both teams were evenly matched and should be wildly entertaining.

It’s got an E! True Hollywood Story vibe these 2019 edition of the conference championships. It’s a quarterback duel between a seasoned vet and a young stud with something to prove in each matchup. Tom Brady versus Patrick Mahomes will be phenomenal. I would love to see the young and humble Mahomes deflate the oversized ego of Cry Brady. On the other hand, I would also love to see my nemesis Drew Brees find his kryptonite in Jared Goff and the Los Angeles Rams’ defense. Whichever we get in the NFL’s final game is going to be exciting and yes slightly disappointing-I wish my Panthers were there again.

As I sit here and ponder exactly what the outcome of these games will be (in my 2015 NFC Conference Championship t-shirt thank you VERY much) here are my predictions of what will go down.

Game 1: Los Angeles Rams VS New Orleans Saints

Tom and I’s Prediction: 31-24 LA Rams

Keys to Rams success: Having Donald and Suh get pressure on Brees and being disruptive. Stopping both Kamara and Thomas. Limiting the big plays by the Saints and not turning the ball over, as a Panthers fan who sees the Saints twice a season I know more then anyone how they are known for converting turnovers to points and also swinging the moment quickly. Rams have to establish the run game with Gurley and Anderson early. By doing this they can have long drives and keep Brees on the sideline. The longer Brees is over there the better the Rams chances of winning are.

Game 2: New England Patriots VS Kansas City Chiefs

Tom and I’s Prediction: 38-35 KC Chiefs

Keys to Chiefs success: The play of Patrick Mahomes. Mahomes has been the Chiefs rock all year with his dynamic play making ability and he needs to be is the best version of himself. The offensive line can help him out by protecting him and giving him time. They also can’t forget the run game, much like the Rams against the Saints, the Chiefs need to keep Tom Brady on the sidelines for as long as they can. Getting the run game going early will help this greatly. The Chiefs also need to make the most of their opportunities. If they force the Patriots to a 3 and out or get a turnover, they need to make something out of it and get points. Against Tom Brady those are far and few in between, and I wouldn’t want to go score for score with Brady and the Patriots. Lord knows if there’s 0:09 left on the clock in the 4th, Brady and the Patriots offense can and WILL send this game into victory or at the very least overtime.

Either way it’ll be a knock out, drag out between four contending teams, one I intend on getting a pint of Halo ice cream and enjoying as much-as a football fan who’s team is also watching from their couch-can.

What are your predictions? Leave a comment below and Keep Pounding!

Love you. Mean it.



Walking Your Way To A Healthier Life

Today I walked 12.07 miles, took 25,827 steps and hit another personal goal for the New Year. Two years ago, even four years ago I would’ve never dreamed that I could accomplish this goal. On a good day, if I walked 2-4 miles that was an accomplishment in and of itself but today to hit this milestone is both self-inspiring and amazing.

Those of you who’ve followed my blog since the beginning know I’ve struggled mightily on my anxiety, weight and stress. It’s a very real and very unglamorous part of life, however walking has helped me so much. I have even suffered from less panic attacks then I did since changing my diet. In addition to this, I can better maintain my weight and control how much extra calories/ carbs I burn that allow me to indulge here and there. Finally in addition to my job as a secretary which is so much less stressful then being a preschool teacher, I sleep so much better and through the night. Walking has transformed my body, mind, spirit and endurance so much so that I wanted to share three tips to help jumpstart you on your own journey of walking (if that’s what I’d like to do).

1. Start off small and don’t get discouraged

Beginning my journey I started to feel the burn after 3 miles. I set little goal for myself, my first month I agreed to walk 3 miles a day. As my endurance built I added one extra mile to each day a month. Before I had my treadmill, I was at the mercy of the weather and worked my endurance up to 6 miles a day but after I got that missing piece of the puzzle the sky has been my limit. Building endurance is important especially in the early phases of conditioning your muscles to avoid tears, start off small and at the next month add one extra mile to your routine. Before you know it you’ll be up to ten miles a day which brings me to my next point…

2. Alternate between high intensity days and low intensity days

Your muscles do need time to heal especially after a strenuous walk, jog or run. While walking is so much less strain on your muscles and joints, taking breaks are equally as important to give your body time to recover. If you walk 10-12 miles in one day, aim for 5-6 the next day. Alternating your routine will give your body time to recover between high intensity workouts. Sometimes it’s best to give yourself a full and honest break, if you’re like me and can’t sit still there are other options. For instance, if you have another hobby (like yoga) it’s good to do this on a low intensity day to keep you remaining active but not over exerting yourself, which brings me to my final point to make…

3. Stay hydrated

Drinking lots of water should be a part of any great and healthy workout regiment. As a staple I stop every 15-20 minutes to drink 16 ounces of water, not only does this keep my body hydrated it keeps my muscles from cramping up. If dehydration in athletes is a serious thing which leads to muscle injury imagine what it would do to any ordinary person with no to little conditioning. That’s why it’s always important to drink plenty of water to help your body heal.

If you follow these three tips you’ll be off to a great start and able to follow through with your New Years resolution of staying active and fit. You don’t need a local gym, all you really need is a treadmill or a nice day outdoors and the drive to push yourself.

Happy and Healthy New Year to all my readers!

Love you. Mean it.



2018 is coming to a close

“For I know the plans that I have for you,’ says the LORD, ‘plans for your welfare, and not for calamity, to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

Things In Which We Are Grateful For This Year:

Tom and I are grateful to be celebrating our 3rd year married and our 11th year together (it’ll be 11 years March of 2019) of being each other’s soulmates, best friends and greatest blessing in life. The fact we are surrounded by the unconditional love and support of our families and dearest friends will always mean the absolute world to us. We are grateful for our big boy five year old fur baby, Draco, who brings so much joy and sunshine to our lives each day. We’re grateful for our home which we’ve now lived in for four and half years and our jobs which allow us the opportunity to live comfortably and also have some extras to focus on our plans for the future (stay tuned with that). Most of all we’re grateful to every single one of you, who’ve touched and enriched our lives in some way, shape or form… In case Tom and I do not get to say it at Midnight, we pray that the LORD grant unto you (our family and dearest friends) a happy, healthy and successful 2019. We pray also for your families and friends whose paths we haven’t crossed yet that they too have a happy, healthy and successful 2019. We pray that your struggles and sorrows are so few, that it’s quadrupled by your laughter and happiness. We pray that may you live each day with trust in the LORD GOD that he will guide you where you are meant to be and we ask that you pray for us too.

Thank you to everyone who helped share, promote or read ‘Are You There Friday? It’s Me Brittany’

Happy New Year to each and every one of you! See you in 2019!!’

Love you. Mean it.



December 2018: Looking forward while reflecting back.

Hello my dearest fan friends!

Being that the Christmas weekend is upon us I just wanted to use this post for the week to wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas from my family and I.

I really have so much to be grateful for as this blog has grown exponentially in the last seven months that I am really blessed with the direction that it is going in. 2019 is going to be a awesome year for this site I’m going to be opening up about very real issues that people sweep under the rug, reviewing some really awesome low-carb alcoholic alternatives, introducing some new DIY’s and showcasing some of my artwork. I will also be posting on Fridays and on Sundays during 2019 (with Sunday’s focus being on my NHL and NFL picks of the week). I really love sports and any of my friends who know me personally outside of this blog knows that I’m very passionate about hockey and football so I definitely do not want to neglect my love for sports and what better way to implement that then on Sundays?

November 28 I celebrated one year low carb and gluten free and I must say I am incredibly healthier and happier. I weigh less than I did my sophomore year of high school and I couldn’t be proud of how much more active I’ve become not only in exercising but in finding recipes to accommodate my new lifestyle so I can showcase them on this blog. Hearing about people trying them at home and not feeling like they’re missing out anymore is the whole reason I dedicated an entire section of this blog to low carb recipes. You can expect 2019 to have a lot more low carb recipes to share.

Being a writer in the age of the Internet where so many topics have already been explored is very tough and through it all I’ve had some really amazing people in my corner that had been really pushing me on this journey. I would like to also take this moment to give a very special shout out to my family both near and far especially: Tom, Draco-Sirius, Mom, Dad, Joseph, Joe, Mike, Sarah, Allison, Carol, Otto and my nieces and nephews (Elsie, Ben, Olivia and soon to be nephew number 4). I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention my Aunts Maureen and Katie, my awesome Uncle Louie and cousins John, Arlene, James, Monica, Marybeth, Keith, Kathleen, Shannon, and Lisa for always be interested in what I’m writing about and sharing my work often and relentlessly. Honorable mentions go out to: Michael, Sean, Jamesey, Luke and Katie who are technically my cousins’ children but they’re more like my first set of nieces and nephews and they’re brutally honest with me if they think a topic is good or trash. Supporting the family writer isn’t always cookies and cream but having a wonderful support system to bounce ideas off of and read back what I wrote to is really essential and I’m really blessed that I have that.

That said, I would be extremely remiss if I failed to mention the family that I chose and those are my friends who’ve relentlessly shared and liked my Facebook page. These people have really inspired me as a person and also helped me grow as a writer. I value them and their opinions as much as I value my blood family members. In all ways and for all intents and purposes the following people are my family whether we technically share blood or not so at this moment I’d like to give a special shout out to: Jen (down since day one), Alex C (please check out his podcast Sports Opinions Podcast it’s incredible and you won’t regret it), David, Nate, Nino B (an up and coming rapper), Alex TV, Sachi, James C, Andrew (my cousin), Jim S, Joey O, Angry Joe, Todd, Justin C, Jessica S, Marisa, Rob and Alice C, Bobbie, & last but never least Ashley (Who is also an amazing writer and spends a tremendous amount of time proofreading my side projects and I don’t know what I’d do without her).

I hope your Christmas is incredibly special, next Friday I will be counting down my top five favorite posts of 2018 which will definitely be hard but I hope you join me on this journey by commenting below and letting me know which posts you liked seeing best so that I can implement them more in 2019.

Love you. Mean it.



To Card OR Not to Card; That Is The Question!

Our Card on picture paper (L) and tan card stock (R)

Are you sending holiday greeting cards this year? I am, but not in the traditional sense. Holiday/Christmas cards from friends and relatives are always a bright spot in the weeks leading up to Christmas. Whether it be seeing how much our friends’ kids have grown, seeing relatives from out of state posing happily in dressy attire, or family/friends’ pets wearing Santa hats, I love receiving these cards. As tempted as I am to “return the favor” the cost of stamps is really a dampener in my getting in the holiday spirit. In the four years I’ve been “adulting” or living on my own with my husband though we haven’t actually mailed a holiday card. No, we’re not the Grinch family — really we’re not. In fact, Tom and I truly love the holiday season.

But coupled with the expenses with gifts during the holiday season we DO have a thing about spending time and money on holiday greeting cards. I’m totally aware that I’m in the minority. Hallmark reports Christmas is the largest card-sending holiday in the United States with approximately 1.5 billion cards sent every year! Find that hard to believe? Well, according to The U.S. Census Bureau roughly about 2 billion cards will be mailed and delivered during the holiday season, with the heaviest period occurring the week before Christmas.

Before you judge me in my protest of sending a card via the US Postal Service, let me explain my issue. Greeting cards can be expensive, and it takes a lot of time to sign and address each one. At 50 cents a stamp, if I were to send out 150 cards to friends and relatives that would be $75.00. Yep, $75.00 for a card that will end up tossed in a keepsake box and forgotten about OR thrown out. That’s a lot of money for an item that probably is barely read and then tossed in a holiday card holder.

Sure, it’s nice to open a card and realize someone was thoughtful enough to think of you this year. I particularly like the “let me catch you up” newsletters which are super interesting when you haven’t seen someone in a while. I get so many cards each year and didn’t want to seem like a stiff so began my holiday conundrum: how do I send a card without breaking bank to do so?

The answer came to me while at work, checking my email: why can’t we accomplish the same thing with an emailed holiday greeting? Service providers like Shutterfly offer multiple holiday templates that you can personalize with images, videos, and messages that will reflect your business or organization. If it’s appropriate, you can also link to photo albums that are hosted on sites like Flickr or the Kodak Gallery. I love seeing photos online. In fact, I’m more likely to keep digital photos than I am hard copies.

Finally, e-cards don’t kill trees. I’m not an avid environmentalist, but I do think it makes very little sense to use a natural resource for a card that has limited impact. Certainly, there are cards made from recycled products, but how many people choose to use them?

There are, of course, a few exceptions to my “no holiday card” sentiments, and that’s people who have not yet embraced technology. For example, I could never send an e-card to my Father-in-law, Otto, because he doesn’t have and is adamantly against getting email address. So, of course, he’ll be getting our card printed out on Kodak picture paper and handed to him by us this year.

I know what you’re thinking, sounds good but how do I do this? As mentioned above there are plenty of service providers online that could provide you with templates to use that will fit your own individual style for you and your family. I, however, took a very basic route:

Beginning with a blank Microsoft Word 2003 document, I carefully crafted a “Year In Review” style Christmas card. It was simply designed and to the point. I chose TWO of my favorite pictures from the year and added each of our ‘Top Moments of the Year’. The pictures I picked were of Draco and of us at our mutual Top Moment of the Year (which was attending a friend’s wedding). Then I broke it down into three sections: Draco’s, Tom’s and Myself’s top three moments of the year.

I’m one to keep things short, sweet, and to the point, no need to tell you ALL the details of my entire year it’s not necessary and it’s time consuming. The top three helps give friends and relatives a glimpse into your life without giving away TMI.

Next, I created a Facebook status explaining to friends and family that I’d like to e-mail them our holiday card from this point forward. Then, I emailed each person our card and explained to them in the body of the email that they can print out the card from the comfort of their home, which won’t cost them anything but ink which they already have on their computer. Those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind!

Ultimately every family is different and what I did this year and every year going forward is ultimately what is best and most cost-efficient for my family. I will close this post with an open question to my readers: What do you think of Christmas Cards? Do you have plans to send one this year, either through regular mail or email?

Please share your thoughts in the comments below, I LOVE hearing from you!

Love you. Mean it.