Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year!

The passing of one year, and the beginning of a new one, is always a time of reflection for me. The new year brings a fresh start, new possibilities, and potential opportunities. My greatest hope for 2012 is that I find the courage to act on the many dreams I have harbored for so long. What George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans) said many years ago is still true today.

"It is never too late to be who you might have been."

Happy New Year! Blessings to you and yours in 2012. May this be the year we discover who we might have been.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

My Special Christmas Gift

Christmas is over. All the anticipation and waiting is past. Today I will take down all the decorations, and the trees we so carefully chose will go to the curb. That always seems so sad to me. They look so lonely out there, after being so beautifully garbed, standing as the focal points of our home for over a month.

Before moving on, I wanted to share a very special gift I received from my youngest daughter. She used some fabric I had stashed away, and embroidered my blog header, adding buttons to match the theme. 

I was so surprised and touched by her thoughtfulness and creativity. Isn't it cute? I plan to put it in a shadow box frame and display it proudly.

I call her my Chicken Little, and she will start sharing her thoughts and creativity on her own blog on January 1. I'll send you the link once she puts up her first post. I think you'll enjoy it!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Let the Countdown Begin!

Only 3 days until Christmas, and boy do I have a lot to get accomplished before then! So tonight I thought I'd just share some random pictures of Christmas decorations in our home. 

My daughter made the collage with vintage cards

My kids made these when they were younger

From our house to yours,

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A Very Vintage Christmas

It may be a little late for this year, but if you want to take a nostalgic look at Christmases past, you should look for Susan Waggoner's vintage-inspired books.

It's a Wonderful Christmas celebrates Christmas traditions from 1940 to 1965.

Under the Tree focuses on toys and gifts from 1930 to 1970 (Easy Bake Oven, anyone? I sure wish I still had mine!).

And Christmas Memories presents holiday styles from the 1920s to1960s.

Her newest book is Have Yourself a Very Vintage Christmas. It just came out in November, so I don't have a picture of it (in other words, I haven't been able to buy it yet!). I did check it out from our library, and it's a fun book full of vintage-inspired Christmas crafts.

Looking through these books, which are filled with wonderful, old-fashioned images, takes me back to a simpler time. If you like A Christmas Story, It's a Wonderful Life, and White Christmas, these books are for you! Put on your favorite Bing Crosby Christmas CD and let the memories begin.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Joy To the World

Every year, after Christmas is over, I tell myself that next year, I'm going to simplify things, slow down, and put less pressure on myself to create the "perfect Christmas." In all the busyness of this season, it's easy to lose the true focus of our celebration. Don't get me wrong, I love my Santa collection, and singing about Rudolph and Frosty. But the wonder of Christmas, and what brings peace during this season, is preparing for the birth of Jesus. 

Today's tradition turns to the sacred side of Christmas. To help us slow down and focus on the wondrous expectation of the season, our family celebrates Advent on the four Sundays before Christmas. We quiet our hearts (that's hard to do these days, isn't it?), read a devotion, and light that week's candle.

Each year, I try to find a book to read that will help me focus on the true meaning of Christmas and to use during our devotions. This year, I am using two books. The first is The Journey, by Adam Hamilton. This fascinating book takes us on Mary and Joseph's journey to Bethlehem, and provides fresh insights into a familiar story. I highly recommend it. 

We are also using the book Come Thou Long-Expected Jesus, by Paul Wesley Chilcote, which is a book of Advent and Christmas devotions based on the wonderful hymns of Charles Wesley.

In past years we have read Advent Conspiracy, which talks about replacing consumerism with compassion during the Christmas season. I also enjoyed Immanuel: A Daily Guide to Reclaiming Christmas.

As we head into the week before Christmas, I hope you all find moments to slow down, quiet your hearts, and experience the true joy of the season.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

How Lovely Are Your Branches

Our living room Christmas tree is in the stand and ready to be decorated. The boxes of ornaments are stacked up and the music is on. Tradition number two is what we have for refreshments while we decorate. Every year I have to go out and buy Fruit Juicy Red Hawaiian Punch and Sprite and those round containers of Christmas cookies they sell at Walmart for around $4.00. It's high class all the way at our house! We mix the Hawaiian Punch and Sprite together, and serve it in the Christmas glasses my brother bought for us over 25 years ago. If you've never tried the cookies, you should. They are delicious little tea cookies and to us they taste like Christmas. Of course we make all kinds of cookies and candies of our own, but we keep buying these for tree-decorating. There were years where I had to run all over town to try to find them, but Walmart has carried them regularly for quite awhile now, thank goodness!

Our tree never looks like the trees you see in magazines, but we're okay with that. The ornaments that hang on our tree have meaning to us. Each of my three has a small pair of mittens we bought the year they were born. Those are what they look for first.

My favorites are two worn and dirty white bears. One is missing its eyes, and I have no idea what happened to the third one. One year when I was a child, my mom let us choose an ornament at the Woolworth's store downtown. I chose the three bears that came all together in one package (I'm always looking for the best deal!). Now it's just the two, but they will always be my favorites. I've looked all over to try to find a complete set, but no luck. I guess they wouldn't be the same anyway. 

Aren't they a sad-looking pair?  But I love them anyway. They represent childhood Christmases to me.

So this is where you're supposed to see the big reveal, right? The beautifully decorated Christmas tree in all its glory. The results of our hours of work, every ornament in just the right place. The colorful lights glowing and the red beads shimmering. 

Oh, but did I mention that we have two kittens in our home this Christmas season? Here's what our tree looks like most of the time:

And here's why...

So here's the reveal. It's the best I can do.

We think it's pretty, even if it's a little light on ornaments at the bottom. And in the end, it's the time we spend together, and the memories that we share, that make our tree more special to us than any perfectly decorated magazine tree could ever be. 

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Christmas Traditions

It's only two weeks until Christmas, so I thought I'd use this time to share some of our family's traditions. My "children" are 21, 23 and 26, but they still want things done the same way every year. Many of our traditions were started by my mom when I was a child, and I'm guessing that my children will pass some of them on to their children someday. I hope they will add some of their own new traditions as well.

The season begins when we drive to Cassens Tree Farm to choose and cut down our Christmas tree (or trees this year!). As a background to the festivities, we play our family's favorite Christmas CD, Amy Grant's The Christmas Collection. The rule is it can't be played until after Thanksgiving, so we can really appreciate it. So on the day after Thanksgiving this year, Amy made her yearly debut as we made the drive. 

Some years, it's cold and snowy and my kids hide between trees and pelt each other with snowballs. This year was warm and sunny, so they had to make do by swatting each other with dried weeds.

After a short search, we found a tree that everyone could agree on.

It didn't take long to find a second, smaller tree. Why is it that it takes forever when it's bitterly cold outside, but on a warm, sunny day we found our trees in record time?

And while my husband pays for the trees, we visit another favorite, the stuffed bear that sits inside the barn, year in and year out. 

Both trees are nestled all tight in the bed...

And we head home with Amy Grant singing It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year. And it is!

Friday, December 09, 2011

Abby's New Apron

My niece, Abby, and I have a new tradition. She is 8 years old and has a real interest in sewing. During a summer visit, we made a pillow together. She, her mom and dad, and her two younger brothers were with us over Thanksgiving, which gave us the perfect opportunity to work on a new project. We looked through my fabric stash and she chose some cheerful cherry fabric that matched her new earrings. We found some fun embellishments, and with no pattern, worked together to create an apron for her to wear at home. She has a steady hand at the machine (my hands were right there guiding hers), a real eye for detail, and can envision what the finished project will look like. Here is the result of our time together:

Doesn't she look cute? My sister told me that when Abby got home she changed her list for Santa. Now she's hoping for a sewing machine, fabric and thread. I'm so happy she has discovered sewing as a way to use her creative gifts. Before I know it, she'll be teaching me!