Yay! You got orders, and you successfully made it to the temporary lodging facility (TLF) at your new home base. You know (with like 97 percent certainty) your orders won’t change at this point. All you need now is a place to live so you can start feeling settled — no biggie, right? But wait! It’s October, November, or December. It’s that time of year when you usually have holiday things on the brain — costume making, cookie decorating, turkey roasting. How are you going to pull off holidays in a TLF?
Paper is a beautiful thing. In the kids’ craft aisle, there are rolls of coloring sheets now that are blank on the back! You can draw your own Christmas tree! You can draw your own pumpkin and then “carve” a face on it because you didn’t PCS with a Halloween carving kit, and you know you don’t need another one when you have a perfectly good one in a box somewhere (sure, they’re only $2.99, but it’s the principle).
Get creative with decorations. Chances are you brought coloring sheets, crayons, colored pencils, and the like to entertain your kids in transit. Whip up some snowflakes or banners. Let Pinterest be your guide. Miss that cozy fireside feeling? Let YouTube take you home with a digital fireplace scene.
The beautiful thing about American grocery stores, commissaries included, is the prepared food aisle. Maybe you don’t have an oven in the kitchenette, but you might be able to track down prepared family favorites — even full meals! If you’re spending the holidays in a TLF, make sure you’re tuned in to base events. Especially overseas, there’s a good chance a base organization has something planned for a holiday meal. Need a silver lining? No cleanup!
Thankfully, many TLFs have an outdoor grilling space. The weather may not cooperate everywhere during the fall and winter months, but if you can swing it all bundled up, maybe you can try out a grilled holiday dinner! Now is the time to experiment and try new recipes! Maybe it will become a family favorite.
Thanks to Pandora and Spotify, you can find a playlist for any occasion no matter where you are. So, crank up the “Monster Mash” and dance around your living room/kitchenette/second bedroom!
If you are in a TLF for Halloween, chances are the hotel staff will create something fun for the kids because they get it. If not, trick-or-treat around the base with an easy DIY costume. If you’re low on costume motivation, create a scavenger hunt for your kids! Set up little treat stations around the hotel, and give the kids clues on where to find them. It will be a creative trick-or-treat that won’t soon be forgotten. In fact, they may even ask for it again next year.
This one can be a little tricky in TLF because you are living out of your suitcases. But there are so many clever ways to make a costume without actually purchasing one. Pinterest has a bevy of ideas that will work in a pinch. Or, you can wear all your clothes and be a laundry pile or Joey from “Friends.”
If you grew up in the South, then you probably are missing your holiday linens for the special holiday meal. But packing them to move with you in the TLF is just not an option. Here’s an option that won’t be another heavy thing to lug around: Draw your own placemats! It gets the kids involved; they can write what they are thankful for or what they enjoy about the holiday season. Even better, they will fit on any side table or kitchen counter that you are eating on at TLF. Plus, they are recyclable when the mess is all done.
The beauty of TLF is that the dishes are plain — clear or white plates and bowls, and you can use clear mixing bowls for serving bowls. Embrace the style and go with the minimalist look!
OK, so what about the long list of movies you have to watch every year? If you were unable to convert the movies you like to digital before the move, there’s still hope! Netflix usually has quite a few holiday favorites available. If you aren’t a subscriber, get a free trial! You can also scope out your new library to see if they have any holiday films available to watch (but check your TLF to make sure it has a DVD, Blu-ray, or — gasp — VHS player first).
Create New Traditions
Part of the Semper Gumby (always flexible) military lifestyle is that life is not always so traditional. Sometimes, you have to celebrate Christmas in July or Easter in February. Embrace it. Create your own traditions. Maybe it is decorating a paper Christmas tree that is taped to the TLF wall with stickers. Maybe it is decorating store-bought cookies (stand down, Martha Stewart). Maybe it is trying a new local favorite dish for the holiday you are celebrating. Who knows, maybe you and your family will like it so much that you want to keep that tradition and do it the next year too!
Photo Credits: Pixabay