Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Just catching up

I've been taking a breather for the past few days, getting ready for another big celebration. My daughter's birthday is on New Year's Eve and this year she turns 13! It's a milestone for both of us. She will be a teenager, and as the youngest of our three children, it means no more little ones in the household. It makes me feel suddenly older. That, and the fact that I'm long overdue for some highlights. In fact, not long ago, Emily noted that my hair is now growing some "natural" highlights. That would be the gray!

Tonight she is having some friends over for a sleepover. While she and her friends and her brothers and her dad! all go play laser tag, I'll be making a big batch of tacos for when they return. Later, there'll be ice cream cake and movies and video games. So different from the sleepovers that I remember at that age, when we played records and painted our nails and ate pizza.

Our tree is still hanging in there, a bit dry in places, but it should last until the weekend. Typically we leave it up until Epiphany, but I don't think it's going to make it that long this year.

Speaking of Christmas, one of my favorite gifts this year is the DVD set for the t.v. series, thirtysomething. It was my favorite show and I was so sad when it went off the air. It was a late gift, just arrived in the mail today. I'm going to have to pace myself when I start watching it.

I enjoy the week between Christmas and New Year's, when it still feels like a holiday, but it's a lot less hectic. Tea and Christmas cookies in the afternoons. The calm of the tree, all lit up at night and we have the time to enjoy it. It's been so cold that the snow that fell before Christmas is still on the ground. All the more reason for being home and keeping the home fires going. Tomorrow will be a low key new year's eve, with our birthday celebration going on tonight.

What about you, is this week a time of rest and renewal? Making big plans for New Year's Eve? However you choose to spend it, may you be blessed in 2010!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Moments

We're all wrapped and baked and decorated around here. We might bake some more today, just for fun, and so that Dan gets his Magic Cookie Bars. Tomorrow evening we'll have some of my family over and on Christmas Day we're going to Dan's brother's house to spend the day with his side of the family. We'll do my family's "big celebration" on New Year's Day at my dad's house. It just makes more sense for my brothers who have to travel to get here and for the one who is delivering packages along with Santa until the wee hours on Christmas Eve.

Last night, I met some girlfriends for dinner. The small, cozy restaurant was packed when we got there, and by the time we had finished dinner, exchanged gifts and talked for a couple hours, there were only a few tables still occupied. As we got up to put on our coats, a little boy about 5 years old, ran up to one of the windows to peer out, then turned and called out to the few groups left in the restaurant, "Look! It's snowing!" Big flakes were coming down outside the window which was framed in chintz curtains. We walked out into the snow with all the other late night diners, and it was so festive and perfect and like the final scene in White Christmas.

Late last night, Emily and I stayed up to watch a Christmas movie until neither of us could keep our eyes open any longer. Thank goodness for technology. We decided to just "record the rest" and we'll catch it later today.

My 16-year-old did his Christmas shopping at the mall on Tuesday. I received a few phone calls during his two hour excursion, for questions like, "Does Joe have a . . . " and "Do you think Dad would like. . . " Then he came home, wrapped everything up and had it under the tree in about 30 minutes. I wish I could be as efficient in my shopping!

My 20-year old suggested we save a few gifts to open the day after Christmas. Hmmm. He's making all of his gifts this year and has been squirreled away in his room the last couple nights.

Yesterday, I was out running errands and stopped at the church for a breather. The building was especially quiet since the school kids are on break. A janitor worked quietly in the back of the church as I sat for a few minutes in the silence, in front of the creche, the manger empty and waiting for the arrival of the Christ child figure that will be placed there at the Christmas Eve children's mass.

One of my favorite moments of Christmas is singing the final hymn at Christmas Day mass, Joy to the World. It always brings tears to my eyes. The quiet, empty church yesterday was a sharp contrast to the fullness of a Christmas Day mass. Yet it fills me just the same. The soft glow of vigil prayer candles and the glow of the eucharist candle, indicating that the True Presence is in the tabernacle. The church is decked out in evergreen and pointsettias, the wood pews polished and shined, everything at its best for Christmas. In contrast, I feel a bit tired and bedraggled, worn and weary, rushing about trying to get every little detail in place for the big day. How comforting to come to this quiet refuge, in all my imperfection, and know that He welcomes me just as I am. It's humbling.

Merry Christmas to all of my blogging friends and those who read this blog. May you all be blessed this Christmas and in the new year!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A Christmas meme

I'm playing along with this meme that Diane, Sunshine On My Shoulders, posted this morning. Let me know if you play. I'd like to know what your Christmas looks like.

1. Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate? I like both. Our milkman has the best eggnog, and we always have some in the fridge this time of year.

2. Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree? If they're easily wrappable, they're wrapped. Otherwise they get a bow and a tag.

3. Colored lights on tree/house or white? Our display is an odd assortment of lights of from our "old house". Colored lights on the house, white lights on the shrubs, and a lighted deer that keeps falling over. I told my husband we should just stick an arrow in him and call it good. It would probably be kinder to find something to anchor him down, but we just haven't gotten around to it.

4. Do you hang mistletoe? No. My daughter would freak out.

5. When do you put your decorations up? The village goes up the weekend after Thanksgiving, the rest early in December.

6. What is your favorite Christmas dish? Our Christmas menu varies from year to year, and I can't say that I have a favorite.

7. Favorite Christmas memory as a child? The Christmas I got my Betsy-Wetsy doll and baby carriage.

8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa? I don't really remember. I held on to believing for a long time.

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve? No. I offered the idea to my family one year, and they didn't want to! We save all the excitement for Christmas morning.

10. How do you decorate your Christmas tree? With ornaments collected through the years, and with different kinds of "glass" ornaments, very inexpensive. I like the sparkle and old fashioned look that they give the tree.

11. Snow! Love it or dread it? Love it!

12. Can you ice skate? Yes. Forwards and backwards;)

13. Do you remember your favorite gift? As an adult, my husband gave me diamond earrings for our first Christmas. It was a complete surprise.

14. What’s the most important thing about Christmas for you? That we're celebrating the birth of Christ. The love and warm feelings that flow during this time of year. Giving presents, receiving and sending cards and letters and photos.

15. What is your favorite holiday dessert? Russian teacakes and tea.

16. What is your favorite holiday tradition? Cutting our Christmas tree.

17. What tops your tree? A cornhusk angel with gold wings and streams of fine gold ribbon, holding a small evergreen wreath. I bought her at a craft sale years ago. I like the combination of simplicity and elegance.

18. Which do you prefer, giving or receiving? Giving... but, I like getting presents, too!

19. Candy Canes? I love the way they look, but don't eat them.

20. Favorite Christmas Show? My recent most favorite movie is The Holiday. It came out a couple years ago.

21. Saddest Christmas Song? "The Little Boy That Santa Claus Forgot" by Nat King Cole. It just chokes me up.

22. What is your favorite Christmas Song? O Holy Night, sung by Ronnie Milsap.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Christmas Village, part 2

As promised, here are some pictures of the rest of my Christmas village. This part of the village is nestled in some bookcases upstairs in our loft. It makes it nice and cozy, sitting up there with a book and a cup of tea, sometimes a kid or two doing homework, with a pleasant little Christmas scene nearby. Don't forget to click on each photo with your mouse, if you want to enlarge it and see more details.

This is the music teacher's house. Isn't the snowman with the violin cute? This house reminds me a little bit of the house I grew up in in -- the gabled roof and the one car garage.
This is one of my earlier buildings. It's actually a renovation of one of an earlier version. Snow Village put on an addition and -- isn't that clever?
The birdwatchers . . .

The very first building that started our collection . . .

It's part of a little rural scene with a barn. . .

And some kids out behind the barn, roasting marshmallows over a campfire. The campfire actually lights up!Cute little calf. . .

The village greenhouse. . . And finally, a skating rink. See the kids making snow angels? I pick up the little figurines anywhere and everywhere. . . It doesn't matter if they exactly match the village, the more the merrier!
That's it! I tell you, these things are addictive. But it's just so much fun and having them out for just a month or so out of the year, makes it seem brand new each year when I pull it all out and set it up. I just make a day of it and try not to sweat too many of the details, letting some of the cords fall where they may. I have a lot of fun with it, and it brings smiles to lots of faces which is really the best part.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Christmas Village

In this post, I mentioned that Dan made a shelf for our Christmas village. Several of you were interested in how it was done, so I thought I'd post some pictures. I've been collecting pieces from Dept 56 Snow Village for years. The pieces are bigger than a lot of the Christmas villages you see, so if you have one with smaller pieces, you would have a lot more flexibility in arranging your "town." As it is, I wanted something that would keep my pieces safe, and still within easy view. So, I asked my handyman if he could put in a shelf, just behind the sofa, something that we could take down after the holidays. It was really quite simple for us him to do. We bought a piece of shelving and three shelf brackets. . .

Here's a peek at the back. The brackets are put in with anchors, and since the couch is typically pushed up against the wall, the anchors won't show after the holidays. And they're just "little holes," so no big deal.

It looks pretty all lit up! This picture just doesn't do it justice.
Here's a closer look. (Be sure to click on the photos with your mouse to see the enlarged pictures. Lots of fun details!) The village Christmas tree and a Christmas house (I added the pink caddie this year -- an ebay find). . .
The Secret Garden Florist and a Christmas Shoppe. The little Starbucks cart, a gift from my brother, is one of my favorites
The red brick building is the Pet Store and I should have gotten a close up of the front window. It's filled with puppies! Next door is the Super Suds Laundromat and a bookstore and cafe. The guy selling poinsettias is another ebay find. And the boy walking all the dogs. I think the people are as much fun to collect as the buildings.
Here is St. Luke's Cathedral -- a gift from my mom the year that our Luke was born. Next door is one of my favorites, the Hope Chest Consignment Store.
At the end of the block is a tree lot and used car lot.
The boy selling wreaths is actually part of a set that includes a greenhouse. Which is upstairs . . . with the rest of my village! Embarrassing, I know. I have to set it up in two places:/ But, I've loved collecting the pieces over the years. Stay tuned for part 2!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

How NOT to water a Christmas Tree

Or.. . "How to Make a Battery Out of a Christmas Tree"

So, we brought our Christmas tree home last Sunday and immediately my darling husband set about putting it in the stand and concocting his "special" formula for feeding the tree.

A few days later, we were all trying to sniff out the fresh pine smell, but instead were overwhelmed by another odor. To me, it smelled sweet and pungent, like an over-ripe banana. We went sniffing around the living room and finally realized it was the tree. Being the "let's treat the symptoms" type, I set to burning every balsam scented candle in the house, and sent my husband to buy a pine-scented car freshener to hang on the tree among the ornaments. Worse yet, the lower branches of the tree were as brittle as if they were a month old. My husband, being the "let's find the cause" type, set about trying to solve the mystery. It didn't take him long.

The formula for keeping the tree fresh involves a concoction that includes Epsom salts and a bar of iron. When we set the tree up, we couldn't find the bar of iron from last year (surprise) so we were going to do without. In the meantime, we needed something to keep the tree raised up in the stand so that water could get into the freshly cut trunk. Dan found a couple pieces of galvanized steel washers, so he used those. As we were decorating, lo and behold, I found the iron bars, so we threw those in, too.

So, between the two different kinds of metal and the low-level acid in the Epsom salts, Dan thinks we created a battery. (Does that mean we could have put the end of the lights in the water, added a whole new meaning to a pre-lit Christmas tree?) He didn't think so. But the corrosion of the tin let off a very strange odor. I was too chicken to stick around and watch Hubs and our strapping 16-year-old lift the 8-foot decorated tree out of the stand, to empty the water and the gross stuff, and refill the stand.

Now, two days later, we have a sweet smelling tree. Just as a Christmas tree should smell.

Friday, December 11, 2009

It's Friday!

Favorite moments and favorite things from this week:

1. Yesterday, I was finishing up my Christmas shopping at the mall. As I was leaving one of the stores, a man was coming in, frantically motioning to one of the sales girls to "come here." When she got to the entrance of the store, he pointed down the mall. "See that woman? The one pushing the blue baby stroller?" Yes, the sales girl nodded. To which the man replied, "I need a pair of pajamas that fit her."

I love watching men shop.

2. One of my favorite things -- these to-go cups. I found them at T*rget. The temps have been below 0 this week, so I've been sending my kids out the door to school in the mornings with one of these, loaded with hot chocolate and whipped cream. And, yes, chocolate sprinkles on top. Makes the drive to school a lot warmer!

3. You asked for it. Here's our Charlie Brown tree. Now, don't laugh!
4. On Wednesday, my book club had its Christmas meeting. We went out to eat at an Indian restaurant (I had the coconut lamb and it was delicious) and then exchanged books. This is the one I got to bring home:
5. One of my favorite things this week was putting out all our Christmas decorations, but especially all of the lovingly made ones from the kids when they were little. I always put these pictures somewhere in my kitchen, where I can see them as I'm making dinner or washing dishes. Luke and Joe made the frames for theirs -- Luke was never artistic and I love how there are just a couple of brushings of paint on his. I can hear him saying, "That's good enough." Joe's is macaroni pasted on a cardboard frame, the spray painted gold. Such a treasure. Emily never made a frame, but her picture in front of the tree, in her overalls. . . those are the memories that just warm a mom's heart.
14 more days 'til Christmas! How's everybody doing? Are you ready, almost ready, never gonna get there?

Here's the link for Friday's Fave Five.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Little Christmas Tree (insert Nat King Cole singing this song here)

On Saturday, we drove up to the mountains, over Berthoud Pass, to cut our Christmas tree.

Oops, wrong picture. That one is about 150 years old. Here's our photo. It was late afternoon when we got up there, so the sun was just setting.
Saturday night we stayed with our friends, Connie and Tony, in their cabin just outside of Fraser. Walking into their home was like walking into a Christmas card. A beautiful Christmas tree all lit up to greet us, fire going in the fireplace, stockings hung, the smell of chili and cornbread cooking. It was so lovely.

On Sunday morning, bright and early we drove up to the designated "tree cutting area." It was a bit of a hike to find the "perfect tree."
A beautiful view of the town below.
Sorry, there's a break in the photo story here, as I was busy traipsing through knee-deep snow to find the perfect tree. Then, I had to chop it down, because I'm the strongest of the bunch and that's why they bring me along on these excursions. I did manage to get one of the yahoos to drag the tree out of the forest.
But, not before getting a picture of them.
'Tis a beautiful tree. You'll have to take my word for it, because if I post the picture I have of it, in our living room in all it's glory, you would laugh. It needed a lot of TLC, but it is our little Christmas tree and we love it. And the weekend away from home, up in the hills, in the crisp mountain air with my group of yahoos made it all worthwhile:)

Friday, December 4, 2009

Friday's Fave Five

One) I found a new blog that I just love. Karla Dornacher is an artist and author. She has the cutest Christmas ornaments and tags to download and print.
Italic Two) Gingersnap cookies for breakfast. This morning, I woke up and found a plate of freshly baked gingersnaps in the kitchen. I thought the little elves had been by last night, but it was my 5'10" oldest son who was looking for a midnight snack and couldn't find anything, so he whipped up some cookies. ("It was from a mix," he told me, apologetically). As if it matters! What a treat:)

Three)Dan made a shelf so I could put my Snow Village up this year. We skipped it last year, so it seems all new again. I'll post more pictures later. Four) Deep freeze. The temperatures have been below freezing all this week. The light snow that we got over the weekend still covers the ground. The roads are icy, but it's great weather for hot tea and a fire in the fireplace.

Five) So many other favorites this week, it's hard to choose just five! Leftover turkey is a favorite, and the last of it is gone. Ooooh, some of us miss it soooo. . .

Susanne at Living to Tell the Story is the hostess Friday's Fave Five. Join us, it's a great way to wrap up the week!