Reclaiming Christmas

Pruning with Purpose

During the holiday season, there are some things that I DO . . . only because I feel some sense of obligation.  But there are other things . . . that I really LOVE doing.  Decorating my house, for example.  I love that!  But, over the years, things have gotten a bit out of hand when it comes to my decorating.

Like . . . I've amassed a quite overwhelming inventory of decor items over the years.

And . . . It typically takes me days to convert my house into a Christmas Wonderland.

Sure . . . It's a bit overwhelming.  And kind of stressful.

But . . .  It always looks great when I'm finished.  And it's do-able. (Because I put the same things in the same places every.single.year.)  (And how hard can that be?  Right????)

Then . . . this year . . . I asked myself WHY????  And decided to rethink my holiday decor plan.  (Just because it's DO-able, it doesn't mean you have to DO it.)  (Or that you can't DO it . . . differently.)

Something a little different

I decided a little PRUNING was in order.

First, I pruned my decor items themselves.  I went from five crates of decor . . . to one.  And it was easy.  I just applied KonMari principles:  I unwrapped each item and held it.  I asked, "Do you bring me joy?"  And . . . for the most part . . . I found that, No.  You don't bring me joy.  (Although you did at one time.  And for that I am grateful.)

Pruning with purpose

Then, I went outside and did some actual pruning.  I walked through my garden and pruned things to use inside for decorating.  Red-twig dogwood.  Cedar branches.  Boxwood.  Mugo pine. Beauty berry.

Then . . . the real fun began!

I used boxwood clippings to create little window swags. 

Boxwood in the window

And I used cedar clippings on mantle and in a small arrangement on the hearth.

Mantle village

Boxwood in the window

And I created several arrangements using various pieces of my garden.

Boxwood burning
Boxwood burning
Boxwood burning

It's much more . . . low-key . . . in my house this holiday season.  But you know what?  I'm really happy.  It's simple and festive and lovely . . . in a way that reflects my style -- inside and out.

I love a little . . . pruning with purpose!



That Gingerbread Time of Year

If you've been reading my blog for awhile, you might recall that we decorate gingerbread houses on Thanksgiving evening -- once all the plates are cleared away.

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I always bake the gingerbread house pieces about a week before Thanksgiving.  It's a rather tedious process.  I use a Pampered Chef mold (that I bought back in 1992), and I have to fill the mold twice for each house.  (We're up to four now -- so that's a lot of baking.)


After the roof cave-in disaster a couple years ago, I actually construct the houses in advance now.  I find I'm much more patient when I know I'm not going to start gluing candy to it right away!  


When it's time to decorate, we organize the candy offerings -- and let our imaginations run free!*


This year, Erin was inspired by some Little Monster birthday candles. . .


leading to one of the more colorful gingerbread houses in recent history!


Lauren opted for a more simple and traditional look for her house.


My Mom worked a peppermint theme.


And I tried something completely new (for us).  I used a can of cake decorating frosting and went crazy on the roof.  (It took almost a week to dry.)


As always, decorating gingerbread houses with my family is the BEST way to kick off the Christmas season!


* In putting together this post, I realized that I never took "finished" photos of our houses (except mine); all the shots are "in progress."  Oh, well.  Imagine them all Even More Wonderful!

Right Now . . . December 2014

It's one of my favorite times of year . . . After-Christmas-But-Before-New-Year's.  Break time.  Kickin' back time.  No-agenda time!


What's happening . . . RIGHT NOW?

Watching . . . We tend to go to a lot of movies during "Christmas break."  So far, we've seen Into the Woods (not bad!) and The Interview (oh, brother. . .), and tomorrow we have reservations to see Wild.  (We went to see The Inteview out of "cultural curiosity," and because . . . well . . . because we could!  It's definitely not my kind of movie, but Tom offered to buy me "as many beers as it took" to get me through.)  I've also been iPad binge-watching Midsomer Murders, which I do from time to time.  (There are enough episodes that I can indulge in periodic binges.)

Reading . . . I just finished We Are Not Ourselves (Matthew Thomas), which was a bit of a slog (although the last 4 chapters pretty much redeemed the whole thing).  (This title is not to be confused with a book I read in November that was MUCH better - We Are All Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler.)  For Christmas I received (and immediately devoured) Mary Oliver's latest poetry volume, Blue Horses.  Excellent; I highly recommend it.  I'm now reading the second book in the Richard Monk, Victorian-detective-with-amnesia series, A Dangerous Mourning (Anne Perry) and diving into How to be Both (Ali Smith) which is intriguing and unique and completely unlike anything else I've ever read.


Knitting . . . It's still All Hats All The Time for me.  As I binge-watch Midsomer Murders, I'm binge-knitting this hat.  (Easy and quick with a great fit.)  They aren't exactly Christmas gifts (although a couple of them were), but I'm sort of thinking that pretty much everyone in my family Needs A Hat.  (One more to go . . . after finishing the one in the photo that is 80% done . . . and I'll be Fed Up with Hats and ready to move on.)

Listening to . . . Anything but Christmas music.  (Please.)


Dreading . . .  Running the One-One-Run on New Year's Day.  Not because it's going to be really cold.  (It is.)  (But this year I have appropriate cold-weather-running clothing!)  Not because of all the tu-tu-wearing, reindeer-antler-sporting, goofy-attention-seeking runners.  (Although they are a pain.)  No.  I'm dreading the running simply because I have a cold, and cannot breathe . . .

Needing to . . . Finish the laundry.  (It's reached That Point . . . where I'm actually wearing the itchy, flower-explosion bra AND my awful cheetah-print panties.  Now you know the truth of it.)


Drinking . . . Orange juice laced with EmergenC.  And tea.  (Plenty of tea.)

Planning . . .  After all of the holiday planning, I decided to take a Reprieve From All Things Planning for at least a week.  So far, so good . . . although various ideas creep in once in a while.

Humming . . .  (I WILL SPARE YOU ALL!!!)  Firework by Katy Perry.  (If you've seen The Inteview, you will totally understand.)


Wondering . . .  If it will ever snow again???  After a wild, snowy November, we had an unseasonably mild December.  (See that hideous scene above?  Christmas morning.  Green. Brown.  Dreary.  And SO not like usual.)  (Made even more . . . sad . . . by the tempting photos each of my children are posting from their holiday adventures down in Florida.)  (They are there separately, and in different beach locations.)

Itching to . . .  Knit a sweater!  I've been spending way too much time on Ravelry, looking at sweaters.  So far, I seem to be drawn to simple pullovers.  Maybe this one?  Or this one?

Organizing . . .  Nothing.  But after I "put away Christmas," I'll be tackling my sewing room.  And then, I need to get into the rooms that Brian is vacating (as he moves into his new apartment).


Delighted by . . .  My new yarn bowl!  (A gift from my sister.)  (I'm just charmed.)

Inspired by . . .  Turning over the fresh pages of a new calendar.  Welcome 2015!

Celebrating . . .  Happy New Year!  I wish you all the best for the coming year.


How about YOU?  What's going on for you . . . right now?



Countdown to Christmas


I am nearly ready for Christmas festivities this week.


I've . . . Shopped.  Decorated.  Wrapped.  Shipped.  Partied.  Mailed.

What's left on my To-Do List?


Baking and cooking and getting ready to eat!

Here's what I'll be doing today:

  1. Swedish meatballs
  2. Rice pudding
  3. Pepparkakor
  4. Cardamon bread
  5. Lingonberry sauce
  6. Shortbread
  7. Digging out my recipe for glögg
  8. Sending Tom out for liquor
  9. Setting the table
  10. Assembling the smörgåsbord 

(Now I'm hungry!)

How about YOU?  What's on your to-do list today?


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Bringing Light to the Darkness

Last night was Winter Solstice . . . the darkest night of the year.  


To celebrate, Tom and I lit candles and turned on our Christmas twinkle lights.


Then, we went in search of Christmas lights in Kalamazoo.  First we found this house . . .


Bright.  A bit over-the-top.  But kind of charming.

Then, we found this one . . . 


It's hard to capture the . . . experience . . . of this home light display with a mere iPhone camera.  Because there is animation.  And flickering.  Lots of twinkle.  3-D everywhere.  And music.

Also . . . this is only part of the display.  Here's the rest . . . 


Now THAT is bringing light to the darkness!


Random Stuff on a Friday

My blog posts this week have been rather . . . meager.  (It's a busy time of year, and I'm pretty much winging it in every corner of my life at the moment, truth be told.)  I've collected a whole-lotta-random this week, though, so I thought I'd share it all with you today.

Here goes some RANDOM on a Friday:


Tom was visiting Mumbai last week.  When he's there, he always has a driver to get him where he needs to be (and if you've ever seen traffic move in Mumbai, you'd totally understand why a driver is a necessity).  This time, Tom took a photo for me -- of this sign in his car:


(Right.  Doesn't everyone need a . . . hammer. . . in their car????) (Such luxury!)


I got a little going-away gift from the folks in my office today.  It looks like some sort of . . . handbag.  Or maybe a piccolo case.  Round.  Hard-sided.  LOTS more sparkly than the photo shows.


Any guesses????


Yep.  It's a wine-bottle-purse!  It holds one bottle of wine AND a corkscrew.  Perfectly.


Earlier this fall, I ordered my sister and I a special Venice advent calendar.


It's been great fun to open the various windows -- because it's a perfect reminder of our trip last September.  It's so cool to open a window . . . 


and say, "HEY! I saw that!!!"




It's time to sign up for One Little Word 2015 . . .


If you've been thinking about joining the One Little Word adventure, I just want to let you know that sign-ups are open for 2015.  Just click here to learn more about the year-long project -- and take advantage of a temporary class fee discount.  


And that's a wrap. . .

Happy Friday!



Christmases Long Long Ago: Dear Santa

Not long ago, as I was going through some files, I found this . . . 


Erin's letter to Santa dated December 2, 1995!  Erin was in first grade that Christmas -- missing her front teeth and everything.

Copy of First Grade

Lucky Girlie!  Santa delivered -- and Erin found Kirsten under the tree on Christmas morning. 
(And, really . . . how could he resist, since she "bin good" and all???)