Belated Christmas Cheer

For this post, I wanted to share pictures of some of the Christmas decorations I did for our house this year. This is our first Christmas in this house. I feel like I am still getting to know it and still figuring out what looks best where and what the house likes. This was also the first time in about 16 or 17 years that I was able to pull out all the stops and really decorate the heck out of things for Christmas. We decorated in our townhouse in Virginia, but there wasn’t as much room or opportunity for it due to space constraints and how our rooms were laid out in that house. Anyhow … Let’s just say I went a little “extra” this year. I should be ashamed, but I am NOT. (I bet you guys already knew that, right?)

So … let the post of many pics commence!

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Our Christmas tree falls into the category of “early marriage”, so it is about twenty years old. This is the last year we will be using it, as it sheds needles like crazy. Also, it used to be pre-lit, but none of the lights work any longer. We string colored lights on it every year. We found a great place to put it in our family room, and I think this tree is going out on a high note. It definitely makes our family room cozy on these cold and dark Illinois nights.

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We did net lights for the big bushes in front of our house. The funny thing is that we used to have tons of net lights when we lived in Texas. But, after living in Virginia for so long, we ended up giving them all away. We didn’t have anywhere to use them. This means we had to go out and buy brand new net lights this year. Womp-womp. Other than these and a wreath on the front door, we didn’t do much outside decor this year.

We’ve had snow a few times. I think the biggest snowfall so far was around two and a half or three inches. I thought the lights looked pretty under a blanket of snow.

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This was our entryway this year. Our front door opens right up to the back “wall” of our staircase. The stairs descend down into the family room, which is at the end of the hall to the left of this wall as you come into the house.

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This is above the previous picture. You can see this top banister as  you come into the house from the front door. I wrapped it in garland (fake, since I’m allergic to the real stuff) and lights. In our unpacking, I found some large paper lanterns that are star shaped. I didn’t put lights in them, but I hung them from the banister. The lights are pretty in the dark, and the paper stars are pretty in the daylight.

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The bulk of our Christmas decor was in the family room this year. I decorated the library, too, but I didn’t take many pictures of it. This is our mantel. I feel like I don’t have a ton of space for decorations along the top of the mantel because our TV takes up most of the room. I’m not too mad about this, as it’s a pretty fabulous TV. We spend a lot of time together watching movies or Netflix.

I hope to do a little more with the mantel next year, but I stayed kind of simple this year with just a few “Christmas Llamas” — because they crack me up. The silver deer actually stay there all year, but they feel festive, too. I wanted to put something fun and festive into the little vases, but I never figured out what I wanted to do. Next year, I shall tackle this conundrum!

It’s kind of hard to see in this picture, but I used a silver jingle bell garland for the front of the fireplace, topped off with a cranberry wreath, some Santa ornaments, and a “Noel” sign.

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I am enjoying the heck out of our built in bookcases! These are on either side of the fireplace, and I went a little bit overboard with them. I left a lot of the “everyday” stuff in place and tried to put Christmas decorations in and around them. This is the shelf on the left side of the fireplace, closest to the windows into the backyard and the Christmas tree.

Aaaand, a few detailed, up-close photos of the shelves:

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My daughter and I painted these little plaster buildings. We used to paint one each every year to add to our Christmas village. Sadly, I don’t think anyone makes them any longer. It has been a few years since I have been able to find them in stores, so I think our village is destined to remain small.

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Of course, this is a mix of old and new. I’ve had this blue glass ornament for about forever. When we lived in Virginia, I would consistently forget to put it away after the holidays, and it ended up living on the doorknob of my china cabinet. Hopefully, it will make it into the Christmas ornament box this year. The mirror stars are also old. I have had them packed away for ages, and it was fun to rediscover them this year. The little cardinals are new, and so are the round balls I scattered along the shelves.

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This is the shelving on the right side of the fireplace, closest to the double doors that lead into the library. It is harder for me to photograph, because that side of the room is consistently darker.

And, of course, some up-close photos of those shelves.

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The main thing I LOVED on this set of shelves was the little, wooden village. I find it so cute and kind of nostalgic. Parts of it light up with little battery-powered lanterns, and I could have run a string of white lights through the rest of the village. I chose not to fool with doing that this year, but I might next year. This little village was new for this year. We found it during our Thanksgiving trip to Virginia.

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I also love these little birds. They are fun for the holidays, but I like how they just feel “wintery”. I keep my holiday decor up all the way to the end of January, at least. Sometimes, I keep it up even longer than that! I like to have things that can be seasonal as well as festive. I feel like this makes it easier to stretch things out for at least an extra month.

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I’ll finish out with one last photo of the little village my daughter and I painted. It’s slightly out of order, but I wanted to try and show the whole village, because I was happy with how the different levels turned out. I bought new snow this year, and I really liked how fluffy it was. I think it is going to last for next year, too. Bonus!

I bet you guys know what I’m going to say already. Because I feel like I say this ALL THE TIME, and I sound like a broken record. But I’m going to say it, anyhow: December kicked my butt. Yep. Mark another one in the “win” column for Life and the month of December.

I had so many post ideas for the month. I had so much I wanted to say and share around the Christmas holidays. And yet, I did not do any of it. I was a little bit too busy enjoying the season to take time out for blogging. Maybe that can go into my “win” column …??

Whatever the case, we had a pretty good holiday. It was kind of wild and crazy at times, which will (hopefully) be a blog topic in the near future. We traveled a lot, and it was exhausting. Truthfully, I still feel exhausted from all of it. But I had some really great “family time” with my husband and daughter. That makes it worth every bit of feeling tired now.

 

 

A Christmassing We Will Go

See what I did there? I made up a whole new word. Hear me roar, Universe. Rawr!!

Okay,  yeah. I know, I know. It’s lame. But I’m still rollin’ with it.

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Thanksgiving in Virginia was a success. It was a long drive — 12 hours each way — so that was pretty exhausting. I didn’t even have to drive, luckily. I am such a wimp that I was exhausted and sore just from riding in the car. How dumb and goofy is that? My daughter and I passed a good bit of the drive entertaining ourselves with “Carrobics”. It’s a thing that we invented. I’m not sure yet how to spell it. I think I’ll have to keep working on it for the time being.

“Car-robics” (see what I’m doing there? testing out different spellings — ha!) is when  you jam out like a crazy person to the song that’s on the radio at the time. My husband loves to play dance music mixes when we are on the road. These tend to have a beat that gets right down to the bottom of your soul and refuses to let go. No matter how tired you are, it is nearly impossible to sit still when one of these songs is going. We jumped around and sang along, waving our arms and doing all kinds of crazy gestures. I bet we looked insane to every car and trucker that passed us on the highway. Hopefully we entertained them as much as we entertained ourselves!

Thanksgiving and the trip itself were delightful. We ate with friends who are like family to us. We have all missed them dearly. I was able to see another of my very close friends on the trip, too. And our daughter stacked her visits up on a tight schedule. I think she was the most successful of us all in the visiting department. Her friends even hosted a “Friendsgiving” in her honor. I think she had a great time, although she was sad to leave. We all were — a little bit.

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We are still getting used to our new town and our new house. It is our first Christmas here and our first Christmas in this house. I’ve been excited about decorating for all the seasons, but, in particular, for Christmas. I’m a little nervous about it, because I feel like I don’t yet know all the quirks and “ins & outs” of this house. But I am looking forward to getting to know it better as the years go by. It’s also been a while since I was really able to do things up for Christmas. I decorated when we lived in Virginia, but not that much; we were in a townhouse, which meant we didn’t have a lot of space to display or store decorations. This is another source of nerves for me. I mean, can I even remember how to “Christmas”?

Needless to say, I returned from our trip ready to get my jolly Christmas spirit going full force. And I have been working at it since Monday.

You guys … Like everything else with this move, this whole Christmas thing has turned into a process. A frustrating, maddening process. I feel like my holiday jollies are fighting me every step of the way this year.

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It all started out fairly simply. We bought this adorable little wooden village during our trip to Virginia. So I already knew I wanted to put that out. And I knew we had some decorations all ready to go in the basement. Unfortunately, the decorations that were readily available in the basement weren’t the ones we really wanted. In fact, they weren’t even the ones we use every year. I have a surplus of Christmas stuff. I tend to buy it on clearance because I love this holiday so much. And, over the years, people have given me different decorations and Christmas things. And, of course, there are sentimental family decorations in the mix, too. Most of this stuff has been stored away for the entire time we lived in Virginia. And these were the boxes we had in the basement.

It figures, right? You go into a task thinking it will be a breeze, only to find you don’t have what you need or want to accomplish it. And, then, you realize it’s going to take a lot longer than you planned or expected. Family grumbling happens. And then, an argument or two. Before you know it, no one feels like doing anything remotely holiday-related.

That about sums up what happened for me last night. I was all excited to decorate the tree and really get our holiday fun rolling. I was ready for Christmas music or, maybe, a movie, some yummy snacks, and some fun family time. Needless to say, it didn’t happen. My husband and I got into a huge fight because neither of us could remember where the lights were for the tree. Our tree came pre-lit, but it’s old, which means the “pre-lit” part doesn’t work any longer. Every year, I say we should replace it. And then, I look at the prices on new trees and decide we can use ours for at least another year. And, of course, it’s kind of sentimental for us now. I mean, it’s “early marriage”, after all.

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Anyhow, instead of fun family tree trimming, my husband and I ended up going through boxes in the garage. It was not fun. And it was not pretty. We were both mad at life and at each other. It kind of sucked all the fun out of Christmas for me.

Today, I resolved to recapture some of that Christmas fun and happiness for myself. Even though I didn’t want to go through the boxes in the garage last night, it’s a good thing that we did. It needed to be done. So that’s a positive. We found the ornaments and lights that started all the trouble, so we had those ready to go. All of this was a positive. And, no matter how mad we were at each other yesterday, we both apologized and feel better about stuff today.

So, once hubby was off to work and child was off to school, I put on some Christmas music. I started going through the older boxes. It was so much fun to rediscover treasures I had pretty much forgotten. I laughed. And, yes, I cried a little bit, too. There were some good memories in those boxes. I finally have a place where I can pull some of my beloved things out for display. I put up lights and garland. I put up jingle bells and ornaments. I hung the wreath on our front door. Tonight, after everyone got home, we ordered pizza and put the lights and ornaments on the tree.

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And you know what? It was a good day. And it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas over here. I am loving every moment, too!

Ghosts of Christmas Past (and a bunch of pictures, too!)

As in, just recently past. As expected, Christmas came and went in a whirl of activity. Remember how I posted about dreading our trip to Texas? I dragged my feet like the sulkiest toddler in the park. I dithered over getting things ready for our neighbor to take care of the pups. I dawdled over packing. I complained (to myself, silently — thank goodness!) all the way to the airport. I grumped through security. I pouted at the gate.

And guess what?

It was all for nothing! I was so silly about the entire thing, and it turned out to be a great and fun trip. We saw old friends. We laughed. We made memories. I had a really nice, albeit quick, visit with my parents. Even my mom seemed more upbeat than she has in quite a while. The only downer was that my husband got food poisoning on the last day we were in Austin, so we had to delay our trip to Kerrville for a half day. As bad as that was, he bounced back quickly. I was thankful for that! By the time we were preparing to come back home, he was feeling much better.

So, this is just a short post to give the universe a shout-out and say, “Okay, Universe! You were right! It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. And thanks for the memories.”

It was a good Christmas. And even a good New Year’s Day, too. I hope the same is true for all of you guys. I want to close out the post by showing a few of the pictures I grabbed of our tree and other things over the holiday — here and there.

SOME SCENES FROM HOME:

I thought our tree was particularly lovely this year. This is the second or third year we have used colored lights, and I love their soft and gentle glow. I can’t take any credit for the tree, as my daughter and her friend decorated the whole thing for us. I think this made it even more beautiful and special!

I’ve been trying to get in some extra “play time” with my macro lens. And the tree ornaments were willing subjects. My husband and I just celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary in October, but we have been together for around 28 years. And we have had some of these ornaments almost that long!

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THE TRIP!!

Of course, I had to grab at least one “on the plane” picture. Unfortunately, I had stashed my camera under the seat in front of me. I didn’t want to dig it out, so I had to make do with my phone camera. Still, I think it turned out okay. We left so early that we got to watch the sun rise as we flew across the sky. Pretty special!

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SOME AUSTIN SIGHTS:

We got to visit some of our old haunts in Austin. Weirdly enough, it happened to be raining during most of our visit. We checked the weather before leaving, and the forecast was for temperatures in the mid to upper 60s and sunny weather. That is not what happened AT ALL! We definitely packed all the wrong clothes. But it worked out okay, in the end.

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AND KERRVILLE, TOO!

I think I have mentioned before that my parents live in a small town in the Hill Country. Kerrville has a population somewhere around 23,000 people. I was really proud of myself that I managed to keep up with exercising on this trip. Of course, I ate a lot of terrible things that I would never eat at home. But that’s okay! It was the holidays! And vacation!!

I love to walk all around Kerrville when I visit. In the Summer, my daughter and I stay with my parents for around a month or month and a half. I generally walk every day, either in the early morning or the evening. It was fun to walk my same route on this trip, in the chilly dampness of a winter morning.

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And, really, that’s all I have for this post! I mostly wanted to touch base about our trip and share some pictures. I have thoughts on the New Year, which I hope to share in a post soon. I would like to get back on a more regular posting schedule with this blog in 2019. So I hope to see you guys again soon!

 

Holly Jolly Days

I do not feel “Christmas-y” or “Holiday-ish” or “Jolly” or … well, any of these things. I feel rushed and harried and harassed and hassled. I feel a little bit sad and beaten down by life. Really, I kind of feel surprised that it is almost Christmas. December feels like it has scooted by at lighting speed. It is roaring toward the end before I even got used to its beginning! I wonder if this means I am getting old. Or if it means I am not enjoying life as much as I should. Or if I am letting moments slip by me unnoticed amid my worries. Or, maybe, I am just stressed about things, overall.

Whatever the case, I have been trying to capture that “magic” of Christmas for myself. I’ve been reading favorite books, although none that are holiday-themed. I’ve been watching Christmas and holiday movies on Netflix. I’ve been listening to Christmas music in the car. I’ve been trying to do holiday-themed and festive nail art. We have had our tree up and decorated for a while, and I make sure it is lit every evening. I love sitting down next to a tree full of colorful lights. Today I sat down and wrapped gifts. That generally puts me in a festive mood. I love wrapping. And it did help a little bit.

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But, still, I have to confess I am more than a little bit in the doldrums. Even after all of my holly-jolly-making efforts. I’m just … tired. I think that’s what it is. My daughter’s schedule is crazy. My husband is still searching for a job. In many ways, we are no further along this Christmas than we were last Christmas. I had thought we would be in the midst of changes for the better by now. Or that we would be able to look forward to something new and exciting. But, really, I am looking forward to months of “just the same” coming at me. I think I am exhausted, both physically and mentally.

We are traveling this holiday season. My husband’s family wanted us to come to Texas for a birthday and anniversary celebration. We are going to spend a few days with my husband’s family. And then, my daughter and I will spend a few days with my parents. It means we get to see all the parents this year. And it means my husband gets to spend time with his siblings, which he enjoys. It’s a good plan, and I’m sure it will be nice.

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But … I’m dreading it. Does this make me a terrible person? Ugh. It probably does. But whatever. This is how I feel. I am dreading every bit of it. I’m dreading having to pack after spending weeks rushing from one appointment and school activity to another. I’m dreading having to get up in the wee hours of the morning to go to the airport for a 6 AM flight. I’m dreading having to go through security and talk to strangers. I’m dreading having to sit on a plane next to strangers. I’m dreading hearing my mom complain and feel sad about stuff. I’m dreading having to be around people who mean well but who ask questions I can’t answer. I’m dreading having to laugh and smile and pretend like everything is A-OK, when I feel like it is anything but.

Maybe I’m not capable of feeling jolly or festive this year? Or maybe I am just being a spoiled brat about the whole thing. It’s not like I would be happy sitting at home alone, either. At least, I think I wouldn’t be happy with that. Ugh. I don’t even know any more.

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And I guess that’s the thing: I don’t know what I want. I don’t know if I want to go or stay. I don’t know if I am happy or sad. I don’t know anything about anything any more. I just want to feel …

Festive
Happy
Excited
Relieved
Joyful
At Peace

I want to find the magic and happiness I used to feel during the Christmas season. But I have to figure out how to find all of that within myself. It’s still there, isn’t it? I think I can feel it, just there, around the edges.

The Day Before

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. Today was one of those days that feels like it is full of festive promise and excitement. School let out early. We are all looking forward to a nice, long, four-day weekend. My husband and I spent most of the morning running last-minute errands, which should have been annoying but wasn’t. We laughed together and enjoyed the time we had. My daughter’s evening activities were cancelled. She and I took advantage of the early school release time to eat lunch together and catch a movie. This was my little surprise to her; I purchased the tickets earlier today while we were out running the rest of our errands. I think it was a nice surprise, and it was a lovely way to spend a casual, easy afternoon.

Mostly, I’ve been thinking about my childhood today. I don’t feel like I usually wax nostalgic about holidays. But there have been a lot of changes in my family this year. Perhaps that’s why I feel a bit more sentimental than I have in years past. I have been remembering the feeling of freedom that came with knowing there was time off from school. And there was always giddy excitement over waiting for our family gathering. My family was big on gathering for all of the holidays. Our get-togethers were full of funny stories and loud laughter, wild domino matches, and an endless array of mouth-watering desserts.

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I grew up in a teeny-tiny house. We lived out in the country, and our house had four room. Not four bedrooms — four rooms, total, including the single bathroom. It was a cozy way to grow up; to this day, I prefer small spaces and tiny houses. My husband doesn’t share this preference, so I’ve had to get used to the feeling of a larger space around me. But that warm coziness stays with me, planted firmly in my childhood memories.

My favorite part of a holiday was going to bed the night before, full of the anticipation of what was to come, and then waking up the next morning. There would be a few moments, just after waking, when the world still felt fuzzy and new and my brain struggled to wake up and figure out just what was different about this day. I would lie in my bed and listen to the sounds of the house around me. I would hear my mom in the kitchen, the squeak of the floor marking her passage as she moved from sink to stove to table and back again. Sometimes, I would hear her talking with my dad. I would feel the mumble of their voices wash over me, the words indistinct, but the sound of it giving me a warm feeling deep in my heart. Sometimes, I would hear my mother singing as she cooked. Usually hymns. She only sings if she thinks no one can hear her, and the sound of her voice, perfectly imperfect, was beautiful to my ears. The memory of it is still sweet. As I came more awake, I would become more aware of the smells. My mom is the most amazing cook. She would be making a feast in our little kitchen: turkey, stuffing, cranberry, sweet potato casserole, mashed potatoes, buttermilk pie, pumpkin icebox pie, chocolate pie … and, I’m sure, several things I don’t remember at the moment. And the smells of those things cooking was like magic. It’s what love smells like: the scent and feeling of all the love my mother put into every moment of every dish. There is no better way to wake up than hearing your mama moving around in the kitchen and smelling the deliciousness of the meal that would come later in the day.

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In those moments, cuddled under my blankets against the chill in the house, listening to my mama work her magic in the kitchen, I felt happy. And safe. I knew who I was, and I knew, without a doubt, that I belonged somewhere. I BELONGED somewhere. As a kid,  you don’t realize what an amazing and wonderful thing this is: to know who you are and where you belong. This is the memory that stays with me the strongest. It is the memory that has come to me, again and again, today as I ran errands and sat down to figure out what I was going to take to our gathering tomorrow.

Tomorrow, my daughter will wake up in the morning. She will be huddled under her blankets. And she will hear me moving around in our kitchen, just down the stairs from her room. She will hear me walking the floor from stove to sink to table and back again. She will hear me talking to her father or to the dogs, because the dogs are always quick to help with kitchen tasks. Sometimes, I wish I was still a child. I wish that I could go back to those days when I was so sure of everything in my life, and when I felt safe, secure, and like I belonged somewhere. But I’m not a child. I’m the mama now. And tomorrow, I hope my own child hears the familiar sounds of home and holiday around her, and I hope they make her feel warm and safe. I hope she will know, in those moments, how very loved she is. I hope she will know that she belongs somewhere.