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December 2012

12 (Blog) Days of Christmas: On the Fifth Day

On the Fifth Day of Christmas . . . I bring you my calendar.

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Not that bad.  (There were far worse years when my kids were busy high schoolers with concerts and parties and games thrown in.)  But still.

It's a jam-packed few days.

Parties and a tea and working my once-a-month gig at the yarn shop and the frenzy of activity that only the holidays can bring.  (And, of course, there're also some real-work-related deadlines on an entirely different calendar that I need to meet . . . so I can take a break between Christmas and New Year's Day.)

Most things on my calendar are things I really look forward to, though.  So . . . even though I'm busy this weekend . . . and even though it almost surely means I won't finish my little Christmas knitting projects on time . . . I'm going to enjoy spending my weekend dressing up a little and celebrating the season with friends!

How about YOU?  Busy weekend ahead?


12 (Blog) Days of Christmas: On the Fourth Day

On the Fourth Day of Christmas. . . I bring you my stockings!

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When I was growing up, I used to wish-oh-wish-oh-wish that we had a fireplace at our house . . . so we could hang our stockings on Christmas Eve.

But we didn't.

Now I have TWO fireplaces in my house -- and I still get a kick out of hanging stockings.

In our family, we have a fun stocking tradition that started when the kids grew out of the whole Santa thing:  We fill each other's stockings! 

The tradition works like this:  Our group of 10 family members (Tom and I, Brian, Erin and Keith, my parents, and my sister, her husband, and my niece) each buys and wraps ONE little stocking stuffer for each other member of the family.  Then, everyone delivers (or ships) their stocking stuffers to me (the Stocking Clearinghouse), and I repackage and send them back out to each family member.

Then, no matter where we celebrate, we all share the fun of opening family stocking stuffers. . . essentially, together!  For most of us, this is the best part of Christmas morning!  Sometimes the little gifts are practical; sometimes tasty; and sometimes (the "cane butler" comes to mind here) . . . just plain hilarious.

We have a lot of fun with our stocking stuffers in my family. 

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How about YOU?  Are stockings part of your family holiday celebration?

 


12 (Blog) Days of Christmas: On the Third Day

On the Third Day of Christmas . . . I bring you my Bird Tree.

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A few years ago, I noted that I had a lot of bird ornaments on my Christmas tree.  I'd been slowly collecting them over the decades, and I really loved seeing them on the tree each year.

But then. . . I had a thought.  What if I created a special tree . . . just for my birds?

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At first, I tried to use a bare branch from one of the trees in my yard.  I stuck the branch in a big pot and strung lights on it.  Not quite what I had in mind.  At all. 

Then, I was shopping at Target, and I found a rather cheezy-looking little pre-lit tree for $24.99 . . . and I thought - cheap as it looks - it just might work!  I brought it home, floofed (it's a word) the branches, and covered the ugly plastic base with some fabric and a bow.  And . . . Voilà!  Bird tree!*

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Now, it's one of my favorite holiday decorations.  It brings light to my kitchen, and looks out over my garden . . . and the real birds visiting my feeders.

Some of the birds have special memories attached. . . like this new addition that I bought in Finland last summer.

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Or this one . . . my very first bird ornament, purchased way back in our Colorado days when "real" ornaments were scarce on our Christmas tree.

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Most, though are just whimsical reminders of Christmases past.

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My bird tree . . . brings light and joy and happy memories to my Christmas celebrations.

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* As a special surprise . . . when I opened the (surprisingly tiny) box holding my rather cheezy-looking, $24.99, pre-lit, decorative tree from Target, I was astonished to find it actually held a SET OF TWO, matching rather cheezy-looking, $12.50, pre-lit, decorative trees!  A matched set.  So. . . I also have a Star Tree.  (Maybe I'll show that one on another day.)


Bonus Tuesday: Two Posts in One!

12 (Blog) Days of Christmas:  On the Second Day

On the Second (blog) Day of Christmas . . . I give you my shopping!

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This is what one corner of my sewing room looks like right now.  Boxes.  Bags.  Wrapping supplies.

I like to shop . . . given the right circumstances.  I can shop for days, say, on the Miracle Mile in Chicago.  Or at charming little shops in charming little towns on the lake.  Or, oh, at yarn shops!  But. I really am not a fan of the Christmas shopping.  I don't like the mall -- especially when it's crowded with harried shoppers (in droves) and those little kiosks selling everything from jigsaw puzzles to home spas to hideous, giant animal slippers.  I do most of my shopping on the Internet, with only occasional forays out into the mall.

I officially finished my shopping yesterday.  (At the mall. . .)

Phew!

(Also. . . look what I found . . . and couldn't resist . . . when I was at the Yankee Candle Store in the mall.  What knitter could pass this by?)

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Ten on Tuesday:  Visions of Sugar Plums

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This week, Carole has us thinking about our Ten Favorite Christmas Cookies!

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It's a bit on the early side for me to start my Christmas cookie baking, but I have certainly started thinking about it.  Here are my favorites:

  1. Pepparkakor - a family favorite and annual tradition
  2. Swedish Spritz - buttery goodness with just a light sprinkle of colored sugar (besides. . . who doesn't need that annual fight with the cookie press?)
  3. Shortbread - one of Tom's specialties and oh-so-fabulous
  4. Double Chocolate Kiss Cookies - another of Tom's fabulous contributions; this one is chocolate shortbread wrapped around a Hershey kiss, with a sprinkle of powdered sugar on the baked -- but still-warm! -- cookie; perfection, I tell ya!
  5. Peanut Blossoms - those charming little morsels with the just-softened Hershey kiss stuck on top
  6. Magic Bars - some people call them "7-layer bars", but in our family they are Magic Bars (and for some inexplicable reason, my Mom's taste a whole lot better than mine, despite our using the same, exact recipe!)
  7. Mincemeat Bars - I'm sort of alone in my love of the mincemeat in my family (all the more for me!)
  8. Sugar Cookies - I love the charm of the cut-and-decorated sugar cookie, but, alas, I just make mine in flattened balls to save time
  9. Peppermint Brownies -- my regular brownie recipe . . . with a layer of York Peppermint Patties layered in the center; like Girl Scout Thin Mints . . . only more decadent
  10. Chocolate Fudge -- not too sweet - and with plenty of nuts, please

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How about YOU?  What are your favorite Christmas cookies?

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Join the fun!  Sign up for Ten on Tuesday here.

 


12 (Blog) Days of Christmas: On the First Day

On the First (blog) Day of Christmas. . . I give you my Advent calendar!

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I've always loved Advent calendars during December.  When I was a little girl, my Mom used to tape one to the refrigerator, and my sister and I eagerly took turns opening the little windows each day.  (We had a System.  One of us had odd-numbered days, and one of us even.  There was a "benefit" either way:  If you were the odd-numbered sister, you got the coveted "first open". . . and if you were the even-numbered sister, you got the coveted "double-window open" on Christmas Eve.  It worked out.)

My sister sent me this Advent calendar earlier this fall.  It's such a wonderful reminder of our time together this past summer . . . when we were in St. Petersburg.

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I couldn't wait to start opening the windows on December 1.   (And this year, I get to open ALL the windows - odd AND even!)

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How about YOU?  Are Advent calendars part of your holiday traditions?

 


Dark Days . . . Light Nights

It's so dark!

The sun doesn't rise until nearly 8:00 am this morning; it will set at 5:10 pm.  That's only 9 hours of daylight.   A long work day.  And that's all.

In my ongoing efforts to create light . . .

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I'm letting twinkle lights. . .

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and candle light. . .

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and Christmas cheer . . .

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bring light . . . to the darkness.

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That makes all the difference in these dark and dreary days of December.

 


On the Mend

It's been a week since Jenny's surgery, so I thought I'd give you a quick update.

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Jenny is doing amazingly well, actually.  Especially considering  this nasty incision!

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Yeah.  She has a pretty funky haircut at the moment.  It's kind of a cross between a poodle and a punk rocker . . . but only on her left side.

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She's getting around very well, and already putting weight on her leg (which, according to the vet is exceptional and a very good sign).  She is allowed free roam of the house, although she can't do stairs without a leash  . . . and she can't crawl up in her favorite chair or the special corner of "her" couch for the time being.  She can only be outside when nature calls (and I don't mean the squirrels!), and only on a leash.  (No running or jumping.)

Jenny will get her stitches out in a week, and then we can begin doggy-physical-therapy, which sounds like a lot of walks . . . with intention!  I can't wait; I have missed our walks for a very long time.

For now, Jenny just wants to get back to her treat!  She's basking in our love and attention.

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Soundtrack of Christmas

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As I was decking the halls this weekend, I broke out the Christmas tunes (via my iPod, of course). . . just in time for Carole's Ten on Tuesday topic this week. . . our Ten Favorite Holiday Albums.

 

 

1.  Sting - If On A Winter's Night - Beautiful take on winter/holiday music; Very Sting. . . if you know what I mean.

 

 

2.  James Taylor - At Christmas -- Oh, James.  I will love your voice forever and ever.  Amen.

 

 

3.  Straight No Chaser - Holiday Spirits -- Their take on The Twelve Days of Christmas will always be my absolute favorite!

 

 

4.  Rod Stewart - Merry Christmas, Baby! -- This is a new album, just released this season.  Rod Stewart is perfect mood-music at Christmas.  (Who knew Maggie Mae would grow up to do standard ballads and Christmas tunes???)

 

 

5.  Joan Osborne - Christmas Means Love -- Christmas music with heart and soul. . . as only Joan can muster.  Oh, yeah, baby.

 

 

6.  Diana Krall - Christmas Songs -- Just perfect.  Really.

 

 

7.  The Rat Pack - Christmas With The Rat Pack -- Fun!  Nostalgia!  Delightful!

 

 

8.  Sonos - December Songs -- Beautiful.  Enough said.

 

 

9.  Pink Martini - Joy to the World -- Great renditions of classic carols, all with textures, sounds, and beat of "world music."

 

 

10.  Bela Fleck and the Flecktones - Jingle All the Way  -- Tom and I saw Bela and the guys in concert during the holidays a couple of years ago.  Love them; love this album!

Now I'm really in the holiday spirit!

What's YOUR favorite holiday album?

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Join the fun!  Sign up for Ten on Tuesday here.

 


'Tis the Season

As I was sorting through and organizing my closets and drawers this fall, I stumbled upon these. . .

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Boxes and boxes of Christmas cards.  Leftovers from years gone by.

Which got me thinking about the whole concept of Christmas cards.  I usually send them -- with a newsy family note and some photos.  (But I often get really grumpy about it.)

I like getting cards at the holiday, though, and especially from friends I don't see very often (and especially when they include newsy family notes and some photos).

But this year, I'm feeling a bit dragged down by the whole card thing.

I'm interested in what YOU think about holiday cards!  What do YOU do?  Do you send them?  Do you like receiving them?  What do you do with them once the holiday is over? 

Help me sort out my "card conundrum" . . .  please share your thoughts and stories today in the comment.