Posts Tagged ‘holidays’

We got back very late Sunday night from a delightful Thanksgiving spent with family in Kansas. It was an adventure that involved a ticket (me) and buying a new-to-us car (Mr. Official.) Yeah, we really bought a car en route from Kansas to Tennessee. We don’t just take the road less traveled, we blaze a trail where no one else would ever think of going.

As soon as we pulled in the driveway, Swimmer Girl threw her bags in her Jeep, gave me a quick hug and a promise to call when she got back to school, and off she went. We unloaded luggage, shoved two HUGE grocery bags filled with frozen green chilies in my already stuffed deep freeze, and laid down our weary heads. My eyes didn’t close until I got a call from Swimmer Girl that assured me she had made it over Monteagle Mountain in the dead of a cold, rainy night and was safely ensconced in her warm dorm suite. (And you think a colicky baby can keep you awake.)

As I waited for her call, I mentally planned out my Monday: pick up the dogs from the kennel, get caught up on laundry (blissfully light thanks to doing a few loads courtesy of my mom’s washer and dryer before we returned home); plan dinner, call to schedule a plumber at our old house and a visit from the heat and air guys out here; and try to squeeze in a workout this evening.

The thought of that overstuffed and very frosty freezer kept nagging at me, and I knew before I dived into the holidays, I really needed to dethaw it (a perfectly acceptable term in Southern parlance). And the freezer in the kitchen was a frozen mess of this-n-that, too. It was high time to pull everything out, toss the frostbitten stuff, take a serious inventory and organize the contents of both freezers.

At first I told myself I would wait for a “good” time to tackle this thankless task. I looked at the extended forecast, hoping against hope a really cold day was on tap for this week, which does make it easier to keep the contents cold while I defrost the big freezer. No such luck. And honestly, do you ever find a GOOD time to defrost and clean out your freezer? Yeah, me either. So today’s overcast and cool day was as good as any other.

I didn’t get pictures of the messy “before” but here’s the afters…because it’s good to gloat I mean inspire others. One of these days, I’ll make good on my thread to hit the Container Store and get proper freezer bins. But for now…IMG_4549
my herbs and bread baking supplies are reunited and handy.

IMG_4552and I have a pretty good idea how much chicken and fish I need to use up sooner than later.

Out in the deep freezer, things improved as well.
My baking chips, nuts and dried fruit get top billing (yes, I really have an entire bin full of baking chips and another full of nuts and fruit) and all the cuts of pork and beef and cheese are handy.

IMG_4555I can even send Middle Son out to fetch frozen vegetables without sketching a diagram to follow.

IMG_4554My containers of homemade broth and those gotta-have quick-fix foods are fairly accessible (and you don’t need an ice pick to dislodge them.)

Defrosting a freezer, or even just organizing all those frozen foods is never a fun or fast job, but I’m pretty sure my efforts will reduce our grocery bills over the next several weeks as I use up items I had forgotten I had. And it will be much more pleasant to dive into either freezer and pull out whatever item I happen to need. Time to let the cooking and baking frenzy begin, starting with some bolognese sauce and spaghetti tonight.

Happy Monday,

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For those of us of a certain age, we remember Top Gun and the theme song, right? I mean, it’s on my running playlist, along with a few other Kenny Loggins tunes. Surely I’m not the only one who admits knowing this song.

Anyway, I have several projects I have delayed and deferred long enough. It’s crunch time. I work better under the pressure of a looming deadline. Even when I craft. Which is supposed to be for fun.

Here’s my to-do list:

1. Refinish our kitchen table and chairs. It is an uber-sturdy hand-crafted reproduction oak claw foot table with Windsor style chairs that have seen more family breakfasts and dinners than I can remember. Structurally sound, but in need of a facelift.

I’m going to attempt to update the chairs to look something like these:
2. Use a big honkin’ hook and extra-thick yarn to craft a big, soft chevron afghan for Swimmer Girl. Something like this:
And finally finish a new fall wreath, with the grapevine and burlap I bought earlier this year.

In my minds’ eye, I see something more spirited than this:

grapevine wreath
But not quite as in-your-face-I’m-a-vol-fan as this: tennesseewreath
To make sure I’m fully committed, I took several preliminary steps:

1. Ordered nutmeg- and java-colored gel stains through Amazon for the table chairs. Gulp. No turning back now.

2. Found the crochet pattern and yarn for the afghan. I’m sure I remember how to count, chain, skip and double-loop. Like riding a bike.

3. Stockpiled the wreath supplies in my closet. They stare soulfully at me every day when I cast about for clothes.

Most importantly, I’ve set a firm deadline for all three projects.
Yep. End of month. Three weekends and 15 weeknights.

I really do work best under pressure. I call it my crafting danger zone. Send good thoughts my way, and I’ll post pictures of my progress. I’ll try to keep the blistered and stained fingers out of the shots.

Happy Friday,

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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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I love knowing odd bits and pieces of history, especially in subjects that interest me most, but also random facts that have nothing to do with anything.  They are simply fun to share with others.  I mean, who refuses to smile if you tell them today is National Cookie Day? (It is, by the way.)

A very happy (if belated) birthday to Charles A. Pillsbury, flour magnate, born in New Hampshire on December 3, 1842.  (I wonder if he was the inspiration for the Pillsbury Doughboy?)1970 Sears Wish Book 001

And today back in 1884, the World’s Fair in New Orleans opened the Horticultural Exhibit, said to be the largest competitive exhibition of fruits in the world at that time.  Also today in 1854, Aaron Allen patented a folding chair.  Dinner hostesses everywhere owe a debt of gratitude.

On December 7, we can celebrate the anniversaries of a couple of patents:  one for Bakelite in 1909 and one for a household refrigerator cooled by sealed gas refrigerant, issued in 1926.  Where would we be without stove knobs and refrigerators?

And on the same day, we can wish a very happy birthday to Richard Warren Sears, who was born in 1863.  He would develop a mail-order jewelry biz into the Sears Roebuck & Company and eventually inspire countless children’s Christmas lists with his “Wish Book.”  It wasn’t the internet, but it brought the entire universe of toys to us in our homes, and that was pretty special.

And there you have it…a week’s worth of domestic trivia.  Share a cookie and a smile with someone today.

Happy Tuesday

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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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To borrow from Lewis Carroll’s “The Walrus and the Carpenter,” the time has come.

(Do you remember the poem, recited by Tweedledee and Tweedledum?  This is the one stanza that always sticks in my mind…)

“The time has come,” the Walrus said,
“To talk of many things: 
Of shoes–and ships–and sealing-wax– 
Of cabbages–and kings– 
And why the sea is boiling hot– 
And whether pigs have wings.” 

Because we measure time the way we do, we are preparing to greet a new year at midnight.  And with the new year comes a fresh, new start, at least to our way of thinking.

For some reason, each year we choose this particular point in time and grant it the power to change us.   There’s nothing magical about this spot on the calendar – a resolution can be made at any time, and should be made sooner than later when we see something in ourselves that could stand to be improved upon.

But most of us will resolve – either today or tomorrow – to stop some bad habits and/or develop new, better habits.

Gotta love Calvin and Hobbes…

Calvin’s view of himself aside, most of us long to improve some area of our life – usually to become healthier and happier in some meaningful, tangible way. But the statistics are discouraging:  the vast majority of resolutions made each year are doomed to fail – my past resolutions are certainly part of the disappointing majority.

Even the word “resolution” has some interesting and paradoxical meanings:  on one hand, it is the quality of being resolute or firm,  on the other it is the act of dissolving or separating something into its basic parts.  At its root is the Latin word resolvere, meaning to dissolve. So which will it be:  will my resolutions remain firm and determined, or will they dissolve like salt in a glass of water? 

Last year, I had the bright and novel idea (don’t snicker) of making monthly resolutions instead of annual ones.  I didn’t put it into practice – the months slipped by, and my good intentions sailed on the wind just like my past annual resolutions.

Suddenly, here I am again, at the threshold of another new year, fresh and bright with all its potential and promise.

My personal commitments for 2012 are much like those of past years – they represent areas of my life where I want to grow and mature.  “They” (those wise, anonymous people) say you shouldn’t make more than  one large or three small resolutions.  I say I have five fingers on one hand – surely I can remember – and work on – that many goals, so here are my 2012 resolutions:

1. Make time each day to cultivate a deeper prayer life (a new prayer journal is due)
2. Read the Bible through this year – no ifs, ands or buts.
3. Exercise at least 4 days a week and drop the last 15 pounds I want to lose.
4. Get my desk re-organized – and maintain it throughout the year.
5. Cultivate the fruit of the spirit in my life:  more love, peace, joy, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

That last one is less concrete and measurable, but my plan is to share each month a recap of my struggles and successes in these areas here with you, and I hope you’ll encourage me with your comments and input. What are you committed to changing this year?

I hope that each of us will take a few moments to ponder our progress over the past year and make a solemn promise to ourselves – even if it is basic, simple and small – to become better in some way in 2012.  Let’s be resolute and committed, so we can achieve our goals, however lofty or small.  And if/when we find ourselves standing at the brink of 2013, we can look back on this year and see where we made some positive strides. 

Happy new year,
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Saving Christmas: Now what?

The last two weeks have been just a little hectic.  My daily to-do’s frequently got jumbled and spilled over to the next day.  Even though I’m a pretty active person, the relentless pace of those days pushed me beyond my comfort zone.

Saturday’s shindig was small and intimate, but a lot of fun:  we seated nine for a festive sit-down dinner of prime rib, potatoes au gratin, cherry tomato crisp, green bean bundles, topped off by cheesecake.

Sunday was supposed to be a catch-up day, but it turned into a catch-up-on-sleep day and I took a much-needed nap.

So what remains to be done during the twelve days before Christmas?  This week’s list is blissfully light – the reward for cramming in so much during the last two weeks. 

Monday – mail the Christmas cards.  They’re going out about 10 days later than I had hoped, but that’s the way the Christmas cookie crumbles sometimes.

Tuesday – put the finishing touches on gift baskets for Mr. Official’s staff and wrap our own gifts (despite my good intentions, gift wrapping took a backseat to the other to-do’s.)

Wednesday – make up gift bags for my third grade Bible class students:  Christmas mugs filled with packets of hot cocoa mix and bags of homemade marshmallows.  It’s also my last day to finish up some last-minute baking (one red velvet roulade coming up!)

Thursday – finish packing for a weekend getaway and set my alarm for a really early wake-up.

Friday – our plane departs extremely early and will take us as far south as you can get without a passport.  We are reasonably confident the kids and pets and house will be fine while we’re gone.

Once we get back, we’ll be counting down the hours to Christmas Eve and the big day itself.  There will undoubtedly be a few last minute trips to town for this’n that, but all in all, it’s beginning to look a LOT like Christmas here.  I hope it is for you, too!

Happy holidays!

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