Slow Down

Friday I woke to a dusting of snow on the ground with a steady stream of flakes falling. In the Seattle area, that usually means one thing–slow down. For me it meant, no school, no lunch to make, no volunteering in the student store, and no rushing around all morning.

Snowfall

I was happy for the chance to relax a little after scrambling to catch up from our mini-vacation, but then I sat down to write my blog and a weird little box with a cranky face showed up when I tried to connect to the internet. Suddenly, this enforced slow down was becoming a problem. Maybe spending time with my family was more important than imparting pearls of wisdom to the world.

So today, with the snow replaced by rain and last minute presents on the schedule, I’m going to spend some time with my sweet girls who are far from little and will be making homes of their own in a few years.

The Girls on the Beach

With that in mind, I’m taking a few days off to enjoy Christmas with my family. May the joy of the season fill your hearts from Baby Girl, the MR, Sweet Miss, and me–and some almost naked man in fancy garb from Mexico–we’re suckers for those silly photos.

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Thank you for joining us at the Big White House on the Hill; see you in the new year.

Merry Christmas!

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Taking a Break

While I love the Christmas season and all it entails, sometimes I get overwhelmed with the hustle and bustle, the shopping and parties, the decorations and lights, the cooking and cleaning, the presents and cards–it all gets to be a little much. That’s why when the MR suggested taking a few days off, I jumped at the chance.

Last year, Sweet Miss had tests and Baby Girl was in Paris, so we took off to sunny Cabo San Lucas, just the two of us. This year, Sweet Miss left snow and the chaos of finals week and Baby Girl missed a few days of school, so we could get away as a family to the same sunny locale. We haven’t traveled with only our immediate family in years.

While me and the MR were content to lounge on the beach last year, the girls were a little more ambitious. So during our short stay, we wound up on a sunset cruise and an ATV tour.

Getting Started

Baby Girl is sporting the bandito look and “smizing”–that’s smiling with her eyes according the to the girls and America’s Next Top Model.

In Mexico, you never know what will happen. First we’re walking by cases filled with snakes, then we’re getting our picture taken behind a giant lizard, and then they tell us to hold out our hands.

Birds Everywhere

Sweet Miss has trust issues, so she refused, while the rest of us blinding followed directions. I love how we have birds in our hands, on our heads, and flying wildly about. After these extras, it was finally time for the main event. Somehow our side-by-side buggies turned into ATV’s, but we had a great time zooming past ancient cactus and racing along the dunes.

ATV Collage

Now are my Christmas cards out? Presents wrapped? PJ’s made? Menus planned? Shopping done? The answer to all is a big no, but I’m so glad we took some time out as a family for a little fun. We’re talking about making this an annual trip. Perhaps I’ll have to have all my holiday preparations together before December starts.

Meanwhile, the MR is back at work, Baby Girl is back at school, and Sweet Miss and I have some shopping to do.

Hope you’re taking a break and making some memories this holiday season.

Unexpected Gifts

When you’re open to life, who knows where you’ll end up or what you’ll end up with. A couple of weeks ago, the nice lady who cleans my house a few times a month mentioned her sister was planning a remodel and needed a place for some plants. The demise of our giant dracaena–while totally welcome–left a bit of a hole in the corner between the den and the powder room.

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So I told her that of course I’d be interested in some tall plants. We have great light, lots of space, and I like that lush tropical feel. Last week, she came bearing gifts.

New Corn plants

The corn plants were well-sealed in plastic for transport, so I unwrapped them, watered them, and got them situated. They need new pots, but they certainly add height and interest.

Cornplants 2

While new plants are exciting, they’re not the only gift I received this month. A friend and I had a fabulous day of pampering and shopping on the schedule. When she arrived at my door to whisk me away, she came bearing gifts. A co-worker was getting rid of a few nutcrackers, and she told her that she knew just the right home… Well, one looked like santa, and one was a firefighter, but one was more traditional and found his home here. I love that wild, sticking-out hair–it reminds me of a baby I once knew.

new nutcracker 3

If I hadn’t been open or crazy enough to tell the world that I had visions of nutcrackers marching down the walls, I’d never have received a message on Facebook directing me to a fabulous source, and I’d never have had friends bringing me nutcrackers. I’d still have the one lonely guy all by himself. Even if I look silly sometimes, it pays to share your hopes and dreams with others.

I’m thankful for good friends and unexpected gifts.

Have you received any surprises lately?

The Hanging of the Greens

When the girls were little, we attended a church that always celebrated the beginning of advent with “The Hanging of the Greens.” Families would gather on a Saturday night to decorate the church with pine boughs, eat lots of cookies, and finish the evening with a round of carols. The decorating may not have been perfect, but it sure was fun.

While we always enjoy a “real” tree, I don’t usually scatter greenery about. But this year, Baby Girl and the local FFA (Future Farmers of America) were selling centerpieces and wreaths. Well the local garden club had a wreath making party, so I decided to order some centerpieces. Sweet BG carefully made them to order and brought home three beautifully shaped decorations. While they were quite cute as is, I decided they needed a little extra pizzazz. So BG got busy making bows.

BG adding bows

And I went through my craft supplies looking for some floral picks.

picks

These little green sticks with wires attached made it super simple to add some sparkle to the greens.

ornament on pick

When your going for the most sparkle and shine, you can run low on supplies. FYI: some toothpicks and wire will work in a pinch. So after all three centerpieces were covered in ornaments and bows, I put them on the china hutch and stood back and smiled.

buffet

They look so festive.

centerpiece

While I really liked the poinsettias I had on the china hutch last year, I did have a problem remembering to water them. Droopy plants, dropping their leaves really lose their festive impact. And I love supporting our local schools and clubs.

The two hours I spent making wreaths last Saturday were totally worth it. The 14-inch wreaths were just $7 a piece, a friend supplied the holly and evergreen branches. There is a learning curve. I could probably have gotten by with the 10-inch rings, bigger bundles would have been better since the boughs shrink with time, and holly takes on funny shapes. Oh well, they still look good flanking the front door.

Doorway

I would really love to have hung them on the actual doors rather than the sidelights, but with custom etched glass, it’s safer to keep it clear. The MR nixed nailing anything into the stucco-type wall, so I used 3M hooks on the actual glass. They’ll remove easily at the end of the season, or maybe I’ll just leave them up forever–after all I never got rid of the pumpkins. It’s time Kim.

Here they are in a little more detail.

Wreath Collage

Have you been hanging the greens or singing any carols at your house?

Baby It’s Cold Outside

I know the rest of the country has been dealing with ice storms and power outages, so I have nothing to complain about. But let’s be real, lows in the teens and highs in the 20’s and low 30’s is cold around here.

While we haven’t had any snow, Sweet Miss had her last day of classes canceled and the first day of finals postponed because of the snow and ice that hit Oregon. While it causes a lot of headaches, all that bad weather sure can be pretty. The deck just sparkles in the mornings.

Frosty Deck

Our mailbox is in the shade and froze up last week. I have a silly love for the mail. The MR thinks it’s all just bills and junk, but this time of year, I know we’ll be getting packages and Christmas cards. He very kindly stopped on the way home from church the other day; and with the judicious application of the blow torch, he had our mail freed. While he was right about bills and junk, I was also right about packages and cards, plus a few catalogs and a magazine. Now I have even more things to fuel my creativity.

Hope you are staying safe and warm. Maybe it’s time for some hot cocoa.

How has the cold weather affected your day?

The Stockings Were Hung By the Chimney with Care

I’m finally ready to reveal the Christmas fireplace. Who knew having a mantel would be such work?

For the first 20 years of our marriage, we didn’t have a mantel. I’ve longed for that extra bit of wood to finish off the fireplace and make it look special–a place to decorate and add some charm and personality. Oh Kim, be careful what you wish for. I now have over 11 feet of mantel to call my own plus two flanking walls to decorate. When it rains, it pours.

Thanksgiving weekend, we got out all our Christmas decorations, and I brought out the nutcrackers and arranged them along the flanking walls. Just looking at them made me smile. And then I turned to the very lackluster mantel.

Mantel old 2

And this is where I left you last week. Staring at bland, barren, and blah. So Monday, I went to Target, and Tuesday I went to Ross, and Wednesday I finished up at the Dollar Store. Just by the by, the Dollar Store in the town best known for its fancy wineries is garbage compared to the Dollar Store in the town best known for its maximum security prison. I guess upscale is not your friend when it comes to cheap.

Last year, I filled a hurricane with sparkly ornaments and was quite pleased with the effect. So this year, I decided to go with a silver and red theme. I added a few more containers, a few more ornaments, a little more shine, and see what happened.

Almost Festive

While this was definitely an improvement, wouldn’t it be better if the containers on the side were filled to overflowing? I thought maybe it would be fun to cover the bump out section with wrapping paper, so it would look like a giant present, but wrapping that section on a ladder over very hard tile gave me pause. I knew I needed some height and something to tie it all together.

Growing up, we always had garland on our Christmas tree; but when I got married, I was informed that garland was tacky. I was willing to give it up for marital harmony, but recently I’d purchased a few packs for a craft project that never materialized, and then at the Dollar Store I saw some sparkly silver garland–27 feet for $3 was a deal I couldn’t pass up. I spent another $3 on silver spray-painted eucalyptus and brought it all home. With a little finissing here and there, I came up with this.

Festive Mantel 13

I’ll take a few steps back so you can see the full effect with all those lovely nutcrackers.

The Whole Shebang

I know, the couch needs a little holiday spirit. Don’t worry; I’m getting there. You’ll be so amazed. Maybe that’s overstating things, but you’re going to like it.

I thought about two fake trees in white for the side areas and bought a bunch of mini ornaments for the garland, but sometimes you need a little restraint. Who knows, maybe next year I’ll pull out the wrapping paper and a big bow. I’m glad Christmas decorating isn’t set in stone.

And now let’s take a look at that big, old tree we put up. When I was on the virtual house tour checking out all the bloggers lovely homes, I noticed some large, overstated ornaments, and figured at 10-foot plus our tree could carry it off. Now if you remember last year, we had a bit of an issue.

Fallen Tree

Trees falling at my feet make me very, very sad as do broken ornaments. It kind of kills the joy of buying pretty expensive decorations. So I decided giant, Dollar Store ornaments were the way to go and bought a bunch of big old snow flakes. The MR is a good guy, but after a week of climbing ladders and reaching all the high spots, his patience is running thin; and as you know, my guy has a lot of projects of his own. So I used a length of PVC pipe to reach the tall spots.

Hanging Snowflakes Collage

In all honesty, I wouldn’t recommend this method for really expensive, heavy ornaments; but for cheap, plastic, snowflakes, it was perfect. While our tree sports a lot of crewel ornaments I made in the 70’s, and fun foam and finger-painted ornaments the girls made growing up, and cast-offs from family we received over the years, I love it. It’s imperfect, and real, and makes me happy.

Christmas Tree Collage

Wishing you some holiday sparkle.

Do you have a theme tree or a hodgepodge of ornaments? How is your holiday mantel shaping up?

Getting Into the Holiday Spirit

This week I’ve been shocked, in awe, amazed at all the bloggers that have it all together. Their tree is up, their mantel decorated, their table is set, and their house is bedecked in lights. Wow, I am so not together.

When the girls were little, we had a tape of Broadway songs for kids. The girls would dance crazily while singers belted out songs from classic musicals. One of them was “We Need a Little Christmas”. In this happy, chipper voice, they’d sing:

Haul out the holly 
Put up the tree before my spirit falls again 
Fill up the stocking 
I may be rushing things, but deck the halls again now 
For we need a little Christmas 
Right this very minute 
Candles in the window 
Carols at the spinet 
Yes, we need a little Christmas 
Right this very minute 
It hasn’t snowed a single flurry 
But Santa, dear, we’re in a hurry

The thing is Santa, I’m not in a hurry. I like to enjoy life and eventually everything will come together. Our tradition is to cut down the tree the weekend after Thanksgiving, and we went to the tree farm and cut away. We even had help from Sweet Miss’ fellow and his buddy.

Tree Cutting(119)

We brought it home, set it up, and spent 20 minutes rearranging furniture. I don’t know if you’ve ever had a Christmas tree that tops out over 10-feet, but it takes a while to decorate. Let’s be honest, me and Baby Girl were adding decorations yesterday. We had it together enough for a family Christmas photo before Sweet Miss and her friends headed back to school, but it’s still not quite done.

I’m into enjoying the process. This is only our second Christmas here, and we’re still trying to figure things out. Some traditions die hard. I used to hang the girls’ art work on the kitchen cabinets and as they got older, I’d pull out their holiday art and hang it each season. Last year, we hung it up in their kitchen upstairs, but this year Sweet Miss insisted that it belongs downstairs. The childish drawings and silly rhymes my sweet girls made when they were so little bring a smile to my face. It’s not slick and fancy or cool, but it’s heartwarming and real–more like us.

So I know it’s been a week, and I haven’t found the perfect place for the nativity set my mom and dad made as newlyweds 50 years ago, and the mantel still needs some work, but I will share a little of our decorating gems. I am pleased as punch with my collection of nutcrackers. I love how some of them look frightened while others look frightening.

Nutcracker Right

Check out the little guy all in white, he’s scared to death.

Nutcrackers Left

They have so much character. One looks like he’s been getting a spray tan and another is permanently red-cheeked. With all these handsome nutcrackers flanking the fireplace, the mantel itself was looking a little lackluster.

Mantel old 2

So I’ve been shopping and rearranging and trying to come up with something. We’re about halfway there, but it’s going to take another day or two to figure things out. Here’s a hint of what’s to come.

Christmas 019

Meanwhile, I’m helping get the rest of the house into the holiday spirit with something as simple as a new tray and some holiday tissues.

Tray 2

And I’m enjoying taking my time putting it all together. I’ll sing along with the song, but I’m not rushing things…

How’s your Christmas decorating coming along?