Cultivating Mindfulness, Peace, and Joy

Month: December 2023

Magical Minimalist Christmas

I walked a fine line this year with Christmas. And I walked it well. 

A big part of my intention with the life change I’m going through is to reduce my participation in consumerism and to increase my satisfaction and gratitude for what is already here. I also am the parent of two children aged 7 and 5, and Christmas is still a most magical time for them. So the mission this year was to thread the needle of creating the conditions for magical moments from the perspective of my kids while executing this mission within my minimalist values. 

Here’s how that looked. 

What we did not do: 

  • Burn fuel and time traveling away from our home
  • Host guests
  • Go out for parades, events, and light shows
  • Wait in long lines to visit Santa
  • Elbow our way through crowded shopping centers
  • Deal with the project of getting a family photo taken, printing up cards, licking many stamps and updating everyone’s home addresses on the mailing label file. 
  • Purchase any decorations or wrapping paper

What we did do: 

  • Used the handful of Christmas items that we shipped down with our move to decorate the house: a small reusable tree made of recycled material, four stockings, and a pine-scented candle. 
  • Practiced and played holiday tunes on our keyboard.
  • Played family board games, including the game of Clue that Kristyn purchased with her own money when she was in third grade, which yes, made the trek with us to Costa Rica. 
  • In years passed, we used a giant roll of craft paper as our wrapping paper, which worked great because we could draw designs on the paper as an additional activity. Without the craft paper this year, we used any materials in the house we could find–mostly the extra reusable tote bags we hadn’t been using regularly and a few odd pillowcases. 
  • On Christmas Eve night, we set out our final two homemade cookies and carrots for Santa and his reindeer. 
  • To fill Kristyn and my stockings, instead of buying a bunch of useless junk or stressing about finding legitimately useful gifts (that we somehow haven’t needed to obtain until Christmas), I just put two cans of our favorite adult beverages in each stocking. When we pulled out the cans, the kids, who know I like beer, reacted as if I’d just won the lottery. “I knew you’d get beer! How happy are you, Dad?!”  
  • The kids each received a few gifts from us (socks, underwear, water bottles, books, and fresh art supplies) and one gift from Santa (a pair of Crocs (which were on the wish list) and a friction-powered toy truck). 
  • The Crocs were worn all day, the trucks whir was heard throughout the house, and many artistic creations were produced. 
  • Instead of buying cinnamon roll dough in a can, I made this Cinnamon Coffee Cake recipe from scratch on Christmas morning. The activity acted as a perfect speedbump to slow down the frantic pace of gift opening, which was especially fitting since there were only a few gifts under the tree. 
  • One of the gifts the kids received was the book Children Who Dance In The Rain, a beautiful tale about privilege, gratitude, and learning the joy of giving and of simply living. It felt so good for the kids to be reading a book about people who have so few possessions. I could see the gears of understanding and compassion turn in my eldest’s head as we read the book a second time. 
  • FaceTimed with the grandparents and sent messages out to our loved ones. 
  • Went for not one but two family swims. 
  • Ate leftovers from our Christmas Eve Fancy Toast feast for happy hour and made a simple pesto pasta for dinner in about 20 minutes. 
  • We ended the night with a family snuggle in bed and each took a turn reading a book for the family–even the five year old! 

I’m proud of how our family celebrated the holiday season this year. When the kids walked up to the tree on Christmas morning, it was just as magical for them as any other Christmas. Their eyes were big. Demeanors were giddy. They didn’t ask to watch any screens. And clean-up was a breeze! 

There was a moment as the sun was setting on Christmas day, when my family had gone out for a walk around the neighborhood and I was home alone, staring out to the gentle glow of the Costa Rican sunset, that I realized how much I enjoyed my day. I wasn’t stressed. I didn’t have twenty jobs to do. No one needed anything from me. I was at peace. 

I had given myself the ultimate Christmas present, and all I’d had to do was try to do as little as possible and weave in just a pinch of magic. 


How do you keep the holidays minimal and magical? I’d love to hear about it in the Comments! 

The Best Beaches and Beach Towns in Guanacaste, Costa Rica

What’s the best beach to visit in the Guanacaste province of Costa Rica? Which beach town is family friendly? Where is the best surf? All of these questions and more are answered below. 



The place to be in Guanacaste! Tamarindo is the most developed, highest traffic city in the area. It has the most restaurants, hotels, rentals, and bars, and thus it is the most visited area. 


The beach in Tamarindo is known for the surfing. It has reliable waves suitable for beginners and still plenty fun for more advanced surfers. Several surf shops offer lessons. 



The quiet sister to Tamarindo. It’s just a few minutes away from Tamarindo, so you can still enjoy all that “Tama” has to offer, but your stay will likely be a bit quieter with a little less nighttime noise. 


Playa Grande


“Grande” is a quiet surfer’s town. The RipJack Inn is an awesome hotel right near the beach with a restaurant, yoga studio, and a sand volleyball court. 


The surfer’s Mecca in Guanacaste. This is where the experienced surfers go to catch quality, consistent waves. Not recommended for first-time surfers. 


Potrero & Surf Side


The little town that has it all. Hot spots include Potrero Brewing and Hemingway’s. 


The surf can vary a bit at this beach, but it tends toward the calmer side for the beaches in the area. The water is not very clear, and the sand is fine and a bit darker (so it can get hot). The beach has easy public access. 




The town is very small and is mostly a town for the local Ticos; not many tourists stay here, although there are a few small hotels in town. There is a grassy parking area in front of the beach with a few sodas. Patagonia Del Mar boasts the town’s nicest restaurant view, and Masala serves up high quality Indian fare. 


The beach in Brasilito is not that great. The water isn’t very clear and there are very few trees or shady areas. The adjacent beach to the south, Playa Conchal, is known to be one of the nicest beaches in Guanacaste, and since Conchal has restricted access by vehicle (see Conchal below), people will often park at Brasilito and then walk across Brasilito Beach in order to access Conchal Beach. 




On one side of Flamingo you have the marina, and on the other side you have the beach. Marina Flamingo is a newly completed area with a large marina of boat slips and high-end shops on the mainland. It’s all quite posh. 


The beach is gorgeous, with mountain views on each side and fine white sand underfoot. The waves can be larger, not consistent for surfing. You will find several beach vendors offering crafts, massages, and even pina coladas served inside a pineapple! 



Conchal is a beautiful beach made of tiny white shells. The area around the beach is known as “Reserva Conchal” and is an exclusive, expensive place to get into. There is a golf course as well as a Westin hotel inside. You may be able to find a short term rental inside Reserva Conchal, but if you don’t have a tee time, a rental, or a room at the hotel, you won’t be able to get in. The other way to access the beach is by walking along the sand from Brasilito Beach, or by watercraft. 


Las Catalinas


Las Catalinas is a newer development that is quite unlike anything else in the area. It had a Mediterranean vibe, with brightly colored townhomes and walking-only paths. There are some spendy, trendy shops scattered throughout the development. There’s also a robust hiking trail system that starts at a trailhead in Las Catalinas, leading to various beach and mountain destinations. It’s a fun place for a day trip, and in general is a bit more expensive than other places in Guanacaste. 


Playa Danta is the nearby beach at Las Catalinas. It’s a beautiful beach. A moderate hike along the trails will take you to Playa Dantita, the little sister to Playa Danta, which is more quiet and secluded. Dantita is a gem if you’re looking to take a couple hike and picnic lunch on a beach. 



It takes a little effort to get there, but Playa Avellanas is a beautiful area. Lola’s is an awesome spot to post up for the day; it’s a beachfront restaurant with many different types of seating areas, included a lofted 2nd story dining area. 


It’s a pretty good surfing beach. Nice sand. 


Guanacaste has so many beaches and beach towns, and they all have their own character. Have a suggestion of another beach or beach town that should be in this article? Let us know in the comments! 

Now get out there and enjoy the surf! 


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