Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’

Auld lang syne.  Days gone by.

It’s that time…when we look ahead to a new year with anticipation, and look back on the last year, wondering where the time went and why it goes so fast.  As we begin the traditional countdown of the final hours and minutes of 2012, here’s a quick peek back at the holiday season my family and I enjoyed here in middle Tennessee.

We took advantage of one of the last warm days of 2012 to put up our outdoor lights.  It’s kind of weird to put up Christmas lights when it’s close to 70 degrees outside, but that’s life in the south.IMG_2907

As the sun began to set, the lights glowed, creating a pretty look from inside the porch…and from the yard, too.


Peeking inside, I decorated the dining room in a cool gray/white/blue scheme thanks to decorations from IKEA that I think blended nicely with plates and decorations I already had on hand.  Even better, once the Christmas trees are tucked away, the rest of the decorations can hold their own until winter loosens its hold…which could be in a few days, or a few months.

Holiday Dining Room

The Christmas village grew by one house this year…one from “It’s a Wonderful Life”  It’s behind the arbor and picket fence.  Fortunately, I think this collection is limited by the size of this hutch.  Unless I ever decide to tuck away the dishes and use the shelves for additional display space. Nooooooooo…….


The mantel this year was similar to last year’s, but I changed it up a little with a different garland and a woodsy theme.  They’re hard to see in this picture, but a trio of beaded birch candles from Pottery Barn inspired a woodsy, rustic “Father Christmas” feel.  I snagged the candles at a PB outlet last October, but if I had seen this DIY tutorial, I probably would have tried making my own for even cheaper.


On to the rest of the den.  Kindly ignore the cords.  (WHERE did they come from, anyway???  And how do I manage to overlook them every time I sit and watch TV?  Corralling them is a sure-fire to-do for 2013.)

Instead, focus on the nutcrackers.  Counting several others tucked in higher in the bookcase, there were 26 pairs of eyes staring at us every time we watched TV.  Displaying them all together was kind of cool, kind of freaky, and a whole lot of overwhelming.  Part of me says, “More nutcrackers!”  The rest of me says that’s nutsy.  We’ll see.  I hear there’s a whole set of Wizard of Oz characters. That would be pretty neat, right?  Anyhoo.

In the foreground is an oil-rubbed bronze trough filled with twine and twig balls (all scrounged from my attic), into which I nestled a trio of scented candles, another find on my fall trip to Atlanta and IKEA.


The tree this year was in the same spot as last year’s. The only real change (besides slipping in a few more ornaments) is the star on top.  It’s a heavy paper star with a Scandinavian feel, also from….you guessed it:  IKEA.  I had been looking for something traditional like this for several years and latched onto it when I spotted it. And it was cheap, to boot.  Yes, it *should* have had a light inside, but I kept forgetting to pick up the specific bulb it requires.  Good thing it folds flat for storage.  I’m sure I’ll remember to get a bulb for it next year.


And finally, my kitchen…and kitchen tree.  I went on a baking and candy-making spree (some new recipes are coming soon), then bundled up plates to take to the neighbors before Christmas.
The kitchen tree is similar to last year’s, but with a few more Fiesta ornaments I snagged on clearance at Macy’s on our New York trip.

And that’s it.  Thanks for strolling through our house and 2012 holiday memories with me.  I hope your look back on auld lang syne is full of fond recollections, too.  And may your hopes and wishes for the days ahead all come true.

Happy Monday,

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Why did Adam Lanza shoot 26 people in Newtown, Connecticut?

Why did he target children with whom he had no known connection?

This question is on every person’s mind and lips in the aftermath.  If we knew WHY, we could perhaps prevent the next tragedy, right?

No one will ever know for sure why he entered Sandy Hook Elementary and killed so many people before he took his own life.  But we can hazard some guesses.

Some will say it’s guns.  But guns have been part of our culture since our country began. And it’s not just assault weapons. Case in point?  Switzerland requires every adult male to have a military-issued assault rifle, and they train them on using it as part of their national militia.  And their gun crime rate is much smaller than ours. So we can’t lay it solely at the feet of the availability of assault weapons, although many people rightfully question whether citizens really *need* unfettered access to weapons that are intended for the sole purpose of killing other humans.

Some will say it’s symptomatic of our broken healthcare system.  But arguably, no healthcare system in the world or history has ever effectively tackled the challenges of mental health.  If somiething was never perfect, it can’t be broken.  Maybe the perfect system has yet to be invented, but we have countless high-functioning autistic members of society, as well as countless who suffer from anxiety, depression and serious mental illness.  Many of whom do not and will never pose a threat to anyone. So it’s not simply the lack of healthcare…which is available, albeit not free.

Some will say that it’s the proliferation of violent video games, movies and rap lyrics that have led us to view killing with jaded eyes.  That issue warrants further exploration, but the same people who champion limiting our Second Amendment right to bear arms are “up in arms” when anyone breathes a word about limiting their First Amendment right to free speech, even though that right was clearly intended to allow us free speech against our rulers; nothing more, nothing less.

Some will say it’s because we’ve removed God from schools and society. It is apparent that turning our backs on godly principles has made us less moral and respectful in the years since we acquiesced to the demands of those who reject Him in their own lives.  However, I’d say God is right where He wishes to be, whether we acknowledge Him or ignore Him or refuse to believe in Him.

We can cast about all we want, and will probably never come to a consensus on an answer to the question of “Why?”

As a society, we cannot shoulder responsibility for Adam Lanza’s actions that dreadful day.  Regardless of what factored into his life and worldview, he alone chose his path.  And we cannot legislate enough rules or laws that will guarantee another person doesn’t follow the same path, whether it’s with guns, bombs, poison gas or any other tool they choose to carry out a horrific plan.

At the same time, as individuals, we cannot continue to ignore our responsibility to love God and love our neighbor as ourselves.  If we all followed that simple but oh-so-hard-to-live principle, these issues would vanish without any need for legislation or rules.

Guns would be viewed as a lethal responsibility of those who sell and buy them.

Mental health would become a personal responsibility for everyone, and a family responsibility when an individual is too fractured to make choices for their well-being.  We would have to accept the need for institutions and we would provide humane and dignified treatment of those who need to be in that environment for their safety and ours.

Violent movies, games and songs would wither on the vine because people would simply choose to not buy, look or listen to them. The economic forces would efficiently deal them out of society.

And our children, whether they are 6-week-old fetuses or 6-year-old first graders, would not be harmed by anyone.

So I guess there is an answer to the question, “Why?”  It’s just not an answer that all are willing to hear or accept.

I pray – fervently – that on this eve of the day the world acknowledges that Jesus entered the world, that we would all ask ourselves why we don’t strive harder to live this simple truth?  And why don’t we share the good news of Jesus’ teachings with others?

Happy pondering,

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Before Thanksgiving, I was gung-ho:  this year, by virtue of calendar “magic” we had an extra week between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and I was determined to take full advantage of it.  Alas, it has simply allowed me to procrastinate by another several days.  I should have known better.

We worked on perfecting our “exterior illumination” skills a couple weekends ago and wound up with twinkling lights all twinkling.  Which wasn’t easy as we thought it would be…apparently there is high demand for LED outdoor lights, so we had to regroup, reconnoiter and strategize our lighting with the hodgepodge of cool and warm lights we could scrounge up.  (Note to self:  next year, we go hunting for lights before Thanksgiving.)IMG_2918

Last Saturday, Mr. Official and I raced to see who could deck their tree in the quickest twinkling of an eye.  I tackled the kitchen tree while he took on his UT tree.  And he did a smashing job – in fact, I think he might have found himself a new annual job.

This week, I have a few major to-do’s on my list before family arrives and we settle in to enjoy the holidays together:

Baking and candy-making today.
Last big shopping/wrapping push tomorrow.
Last decorating push to finish the dining room and other little nooks and crannies on Wednesday.

I think part of my procrastination has stemmed from a desire to uncomplicate Christmas.  I love all the hoopla and festivities that surround the holidays, but I’m also coming to appreciate that sometimes less IS more.  So now that we’re down to the last few days, only the most important (to me) to-do’s are going to get done. The rest was arguably just not that important.  It should make the take-down and stowing away a little easier at least!

Happy Monday

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Not THAT list…I leave those calls to the big guy in the red suit.  This is my Christmas confectionary list.  I’ve always loved eating and making sweet treats, so this is the most wonderful time of the year, for me anyway.

This year’s list is a little more ambitious than last, which centered around the tried-and-true recipes of Christmases past.

A few of the standards, like apple cider caramels, pralines, chocolate walnut fudge, toffee for Middle Son and divinity (weather permitting), along with the must-make almond crescents have made the annual cut.  But several new recipes are on my radar (Pinterest) screen, like

Shortbread, both traditional for Swimmer Girl and Double Dark Chocolate
Hidden Treasure Cookies
Apricot Bars
Sugar Cookie Bars with Peppermint Frosting
Sweet ‘n Salty Peanut Butter Cookies
Caramel Shortbread Bars
Red Velvet Peppermint Crinkles
Cinnabon Fudge

All-told, about a baker’s dozen different treats will be making their way into freezer containers and eventually piled onto trays for neighbors, Mr. Official’s work group, and a few friends.  The rest will get eaten by us…some will undoubtedly get filched out of the freezer by sneaky eaters, while others will be served at the end of family dinners.

So what’s on YOUR Christmas list this year?

Happy baking!

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I will go on record saying that I positively, absolutely, 100% ADORE Thanksgiving.

It is my favorite holiday for several reasons, namely because the retailers have never figured out how to commercialize it, and because we travel to my parents for the holiday, so my mom orchestrates the culinary extravaganza, and I simply work under her direction. This year, I managed to drag a croupy cough and cold along with me, so I steered clear of food prep and volunteered for more dish duty than usual. Her efforts yielded a fantastic Thanksgiving feast, and many delicious meals before and after, most notably an Apple Pancake I’m going to post this week.

We traveled home yesterday, and as is our custom, the driver gets to choose the radio station.  Me?  I break out the holiday songs.  I’m always surprised that “Spirit of Christmas” doesn’t get more (any?) airplay, even though it was featured in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.  Here’s it is if you need a memory jog.

Now that another Thanksgiving is in the books, it’s time to set my sights on Christmas.  As usual, I feel I’m starting out at a disadvantage. Unlike my friends who put up their tree last weekend, and those super-organized women who already have their cards addressed, I feel like I should be scrambling to get “caught up.”   I am a conscientious objector to the bedlam we call “Black Friday,” but I did manage to buy a few gifts over the weekend. But I am not among the warriors who declare their shopping complete.

But after some consideration, I think I’m going to take things a bit slower this year – after all, we have an “extra” week because of the early Thanksgiving. This week I’ll get the trees out, buy the cards, and select my Christmas cookie and candy recipes (some new, some old.)  We’ll get the holiday lights up soon…although not on the level of Clark Griswold.

During the upcoming weeks, I’ll post my progress and the holiday recipes that make the cut.  So let’s stay calm and head for Christmas at a leisurely pace. And I hope you do the same.

Happy Monday,

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Just like the old Blood Sweat & Tears song and Newton’s law of gravity, the Christmas decorations that go up must eventually come down.

When do you take yours down?  I have friends who have them down in the twinkling of an eye, pretty much as soon as Christmas dinner is finished. 

As for me, I let mine linger a bit.  We start our decorating later than most, and I’m just not ready to put it all away on December 26.  But I do make sure it’s down shortly after we’ve ushered in the new year.

Every year for several years, I have vowed to go through all the Christmas bins and straighten them out.  This year, I made good on that promise.  No excuses – the walk-in attic is adjacent to our bonus room, so I had the perfect staging area to spread out all my tubs and really organize them.  I also did a little “Santa’s Workshop” repair on a few items that needed re-gluing.

Today marks the 12th day of Christmas (see note), and I’m happy to say my decorations are down and tucked away, and I’ve even made a little headway on decorating the dining room for the winter months.  Den and foyer are next.

There were two distinct approaches I could take to stowing away my Christmas decorations:

1. Room-by-room (kitchen, dining room, UT stuff for the bonus room….)
2. Like-goes-with-like (garlands, ornaments, lights, nutcrackers, Christmas village…)

I chose…both.

For example, the kitchen tub contains everything I need to set up my kitchen for Christmas:  tree decorations, Christmas mugs and linens, even my party paper goods (of which I have enough to last the next 30 years.  Okay, maybe just the next two or three, but it seems like a lot.)  Next to it is the box with next year’s gift mugs for my 3rd graders.  I picked them up on clearance, and it’s one less thing to worry about.

Yes, the caroler’s book is upside down

On the other hand, my nutcracker collection stays together (albeit in one large tub and two wine boxes – they are the perfect size for storing them.)  I store them as a group even though some go to the sunroom, some to the kitchen, some to the den and some to the foyer.  I always shuffle them up, so each year I can pull them out and decide who-goes-where.  Ditto for the garlands and wreaths.  But the light strands and ornaments are separated in tubs for specific trees: dining room, big tree, UT tree.

I also tucked in some reminders for next year to make decorating easier – you know, those things you tell yourself, “next year, I’ll do it this way instead” and next year, you remember it too late?  Yeah, me too.  Maybe my notes will help next year – we’ll see.)

Of the stuff I didn’t use this year, I designated one tub for Santa Claus decorations, and another for snowmen and the cream/gold ornaments. When I get the urge to switch from silver to gold, or do a Santa or snowman theme, I can “shop” from my own inventory first.

After everything was in tubs and I had tossed all the irreparable, melted, discolored or otherwise unusable stuff, there remained two large bags of “haven’t-used-in-forever” (or maybe never) stuff.  I’ll take pity on the Goodwill folks who are dealing with the year-end glut, and keep them until early next fall to drop off. They’re set aside in one corner, visibly marked for their final destination.

The only remaining to-do is to get some shelving up in the attic so when I need the tub on the bottom of the stack (isn’t that always the one you need?) I don’t have to offload all the other tubs to fetch it. But that’s a task that can wait for a warm Saturday so we don’t get frostbite in the process.

Even though Christmas is officially over and the decorations are down, I think I’m going to be vacuuming up glitter and pine needles for a very long time….

Happy cleaning,

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P.S.   A big thank-you to Mr. Kurek for setting me straight on how to count the twelve days of Christmas. I’m just glad I was a day ahead, instead of a day behind!

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Buying off eBay can be fun and exciting.  And with some discipline, it can be a fairly (cough) inexpensive means of acquiring items that you want, especially those that are no longer readily available in stores.  Like my Fiesta dishes.  And my violet china.  And my Christmas village pieces.

But as the saying goes, occasionally, there’s a fly in the ointment.  And this past year, I had two ointment incidents – and my guess is they were equally frustrating for the sellers.  The first involved my “lucky #7 red bowl.”  Well, it wasn’t so lucky.  When the USPS driver handed the box to me, it rattled.  I told him it shouldn’t rattle.  We opened it then and there, to find shards and chips rattling around what was left of the cracked bowl. The seller graciously and promptly refunded my money, but that meant I was – and am – still short the seventh bowl.  One of these days, another one in good quality at a good price will come up and I’ll snag it, but sometimes you’re ready for the hunt to be over, and I was at that point.

More recently, the UPS driver left a box at my door that also rattled ominously when I picked it up.  It was supposed to be the Granville house from “It’s a Wonderful Life.”  Well, apparently UPS’ aim was better than George’s – they not only broke out a window, but busted up the whole place. All the kings horses and men couldn’t put this thing back together again.  Like the Fiesta bowl, it’s disappointing for all concerned. In the big scheme of things, it’s a minor tempest in a tiny little teacup, but once again, I’m left without the item that I had really hoped to have and display.

So why am I writing this?  To vent, yes. And to caution sellers of one-of-a-kind items to take extra precautions when preparing them for shipment.  An extra layer or two of bubble wrap, snugged up nice and tight, can mean the difference between a successful transaction and one that leaves everyone feeling the pain.

I’d lump in the drivers and package sorters into my little list of transgressors, but to be honest, those guys do a tremendous job, day in and day out.  I can’t expect them to treat every package like they’re carrying afternoon tea to the Queen.

And I guess I will make it a point from here on out to remind/plead for extra-careful packaging on any future eBay wins.  Then cross my fingers that the box doesn’t make a clink when it shouldn’t.

Happy (?) collecting,

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