Holiday Tree

No, this isn’t one of those politically correct “say holiday not Christmas” kind of posts. If you know me at all, then you know me better than that 😉

This year, instead of putting away all of our Christmas trees, we decided to keep one of the artificial ones up (we have a few artificial and this past year had 2 real trees). We kept the one in our dining room up – this is what it looked like at Christmas:
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We decided to make it a year-round holiday tree. It’s something I’ve always thought of doing while taking down our Christmas decorations each year, but never have. Well, this year we are! You might be asking, what does this have to do with Christmas? Well, besides the fact that it’s a Christmas tree – part of the reason I decided to do this was actually in consideration of Christmas 2013. This will be a rather busy Christmas for us, as since we are going to Disney the first week of December, we are essentially “losing” a week of December…not that it will be a loss by any means, but what I mean by that is we’re losing a week of decorating, shopping, baking, planning and wrapping time. During the crunch of the Christmas season, you know every day counts – which is why I am so focused on preparing ahead for this year’s Christmas, and ultimately why I started this blog. Anyway, back to the tree, I decided this would be the perfect year to implement our ‘holiday’ tree, because then at Christmas time that will be one less time-consuming task I have to accomplish. It takes seemingly forever to put the tree together, and fluff the branches to make it look good. Or passable…it is an old tree, and was one of the cheapest trees we could find back then – but it has served us well, and once you get all the pretty decorations on it looks beautiful anyway!

So this year instead of having a live tree, because of the time – and budget – constraints from taking a vacation so close to Christmas, we’ve decided to only put up our artificial trees. That means this particular tree will be moved into our family room, and our other smaller artificial tree will be put up in our living room. It also means no trees in the dining room or our bedroom – but that is a sacrifice I’ll have to deal with this year. Disney World is worth it 😉

I’ll try to show you our tree through the seasons…obviously I already missed Valentines, so here is a glimpse at what it looked like for the holiday of love:

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We skipped decorating it for St. Patrick’s Day. It was planned, but due to laziness Easter falling a little earlier this year than normal, we decided to skip it so that we wouldn’t have to rush to switch it over due to said laziness since Easter is only 2 weeks after St. Patrick’s Day. So without further ado, here is our Easter tree:

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So anyway, that’s the plan for our Holiday Tree! I’ll post photos as we change it out through the seasons and holidays. As long as it fares well through the year with kids bumping into it, cats trying to devour its branches, etc…we should only have to carry it into another room for Christmas, avoiding the 2-hour ritual of putting it together. Those 2 hours can mean a lot when I know we’ll be in a time-crunch in November to get ready not only for the Holidays but also packing for vacation!

Blessings,
Mariah

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Dusting Off the Old Husqvarna

First, I apologize for the lack of posts – February was a rough month for us. We had several things happen which kept me from blogging – from my father being hospitalized unexpectedly for a week and a half, to the unexpected death of another family member – let’s just say it’s a month I’m glad to be done with. Anyway…all is slowly getting back to normal, so back to our regularly scheduled programming!

Last year, I inherited a sewing machine. Actually to call it a “sewing machine” seems too common for this thing…it’s a marvel of sewing technology. It’s a Husqvarna (good thing I’m writing it and not required to pronounce it!)…it sews, embroiders…and I’m pretty sure it could run a small country if left to it’s own devices. It was handed down to me from my husband’s grandmother, Nonnie. She was a spectacular woman, whom I loved very dearly. She was like the grandmother I never had, even though I actually had 3 grandmothers of my own (what kind of lottery luck is that, that I get 3 grandmothers and through personality or distance didn’t really get a doting, grandmotherly figure until I married). She had 7 grandchildren of her own, 5 of which were girls (not including the ones who married into the family). You would have thought, or I did anyway, that the sewing machine would go to one of them…but Nonnie and I shared a bond for handmade items, we both loved making things for the people we love – whether it be cooking or baking or creating something with our hands. None of her natural granddaughters seemed to acquire that particular hobby. I feel like our bond actually went deeper than that though…I feel like we were sort of kindred spirits, like spending a day with her felt like I had known her my whole life. It was just comfortable…but that was Nonnie. Comfort and kindness. I’m getting off-track…easy to do when talking about her…she has been gone almost 2 years, and I miss her deeply.

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Although I have never been the seamstress she was – she made beautiful quilts, among other things – I always felt her pride in me in the things that I did do. Not to say I don’t know how to sew at all – but my skills are limited to the basics. The most advanced thing I ever made was a skirt for my daughter when she was a toddler! So after she passed, it was with both pride and sadness that I accepted the gift of her sewing machine. It was a big deal to me. Now, it is with complete sadness and shame that I tell you that since I received it late last summer, I have not even taken it out of the case. Part of it is time…I am a mother of 4 busy kids. Part of it, I think, is trepidation…I am overwhelmed by it’s complexity. Another part might just be that I know I will never live up to what she did and could have done with that machine, and I feel guilty that it is a gift that might be wasted on me, that I didn’t deserve it. But I have to open it. I have to take it out of its case. I have to learn to use it. I just have to. I got away with saying I hadn’t learned to use it yet last Christmas, because things were so busy and they had not found all the pieces to it until late fall. But now I have all the parts…and no more excuses.

I have set a goal for myself for this year…to learn to use Nonnie’s sewing machine. It is a goal that has many rewards. One being that I can stop feeling guilty…if I can learn to use it – then I might stop feeling as though I don’t deserve it. Also, if I learn to use it, it opens up a whole new bevy of potential homemade Christmas gift ideas (thus the reason for writing about it in a Christmas blog!). I could stop relying on my mom to stitch up rips in jeans or holes in shirts and do it myself. And if I learn it well…it could help my family financially by being able to make more handmade gifts, and potentially even boost our income a little if I could make things to sell. But that’s getting ahead of myself. My first goal is to learn the machine…then pick out a few projects I can make as gifts for this year, thereby helping to reach our goal of being better prepared for this Christmas. Wish me luck as I try to conquer this little beast 🙂

Blessings,

Mariah

A Little Late = A Lot Early

 

While we were organizing tubs and putting our Christmas decorations away, I came across some items I had purchased early in December for a few Christmas craft projects I wanted to make. Well, as was the theme of Christmas 2012 – plans changed. I ran out of time and these items just kind of sat in a box waiting for something to be done with them. For a split second I almost packed them away with the rest of the Christmas decorations thinking I’d get to them next Christmas. And then I thought better of it. I know exactly what would have happened if I did that – next year I would unpack the box, set them aside while I decorated the rest of the house, and then Christmas would get busy like it always does and I wouldn’t get to them again. And besides, the theme of Christmas 2013 is planning ahead (plus we’ll be going to Disney World over the first week of December, so we’ll have even less time than normal)! So I decided to go ahead and keep the box out and finish those projects this year, so that next year I could unpack the box of completed items to and use them immediately. Kind of a delayed-instant-gratification thing. That doesn’t make sense does it? Just go with it…

One such craft project was something I had seen on the Facebook page of a local craft resale/coffee shop (it’s an awesome place full of new and previously owned crafty items, comfy couches and chairs and delicious coffees). It was basically a door hanging comprised of wide satin ribbon and pinecones…simple but very pretty. They posted the photo along with a message that they had plenty of pinecones for sale in the store, and as I am too lazy to forage the woods for free pinecones, I high-tailed it over there and bought some huge, not-free-but-super-inexpensive pinecones. Which, as per our previous discussion, sat in a box for a long time, ignored.

Well, as my first official Christmas craft project of 2013 – those pinecones are no longer being ignored! It’s such a simple project, all it requires is a hot glue gun, a few yards of wide satin ribbon (how much really depends on how many pinecones you have and how far down you’d like it to fall on your door), and of course, pinecones. I like larger pinecones – but you could do this with small pinecones, but more of them, and slightly thinner ribbon and in my mind that would make a beautiful door hanging as well. How it would look in reality I just can’t say, since I have a tendency of having grand expectations of my imagination.

My method is probably not perfect, but since the photo I saw did not have instructions I had to kind of wing it.

First, I pre-cut one ribbon that I wanted to use as my “main” piece, which would end up creating the loop to hang it from. To do this I figured out how far I wanted the pinecones to hang for that piece, cut the ribbon double that length, and glued a pinecone on each end. I just used a large dollop of hot glue on the top of each pinecone, and carefully (it’s hot!) pressed the ribbon end into the glue. I pressed it pretty well – the top of a pinecone is not an even surface so I made sure to try to get it well-adhered. I repeated that step for all of the other lengths of ribbon, until all of my pinecones were attached to lengths of ribbon.

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Once I was ready to assemble everything, I tied a loop into the ribbon that was attached to 2 pinecones.

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Then, one at a time, I knotted the other lengths of ribbon under the loop, stacking them so they weren’t tied directly on top of each other (so it wouldn’t be too bulky). You can cut the loose ends if you’d like – I’d cut them as close as possible to the knot. I, however, left them hanging as I had made the ribbons pretty long, and thought it looked nice with the extra ribbons hanging. I notched the ends of those ribbons before I hung it, to make them look more ‘finished’.

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This method creates a rather ugly knotted section under the loop (remember I said my way is probably not the right way lol)……but I ended up covering that up with another length of ribbon that I tied into a loose bow.

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Actually, that’s not how I tried to cover it up at first. At first I tried to be really stupid  extra creative and hot-glue another pinecone on top of the ugly knots, to cover them up. But because I am not patient, I promptly hung it on the door so I could take a picture. Add gravity and…let’s just say I’m not sure it would have worked even if I had done it correctly and let it dry (and honestly I like the end result even better). After all, the side of a pinecone doesn’t have a really flat surface to work with. But in the 30 seconds it took me to get my camera from the other room, I came back to find the pinecone had fallen off. And had become glued to my floor. Thank goodness hot glue is relatively easy to peel off of a wood floor without damaging the finish as long as you’re being careful…I’m not sure how I would have explained that one to my husband! But then I decided that was not a smart idea anyway, and replaced it with the bow…and it turned out pretty well I think. I’m excited to hang it up next Christmas!IMG_8486

And there you have it. Fairly simple, inexpensive and a pretty accent to your Christmas decor. I’ll be sure and share my other projects as I get them done, too!

As an aside, I am trying to become a better “project” photographer…please bear with me! And please try not to pay attention to my ugly doors (or any other weird ugly thing you may see in our house). Our house is old, and has been a work-in-progress since we bought it a few years ago. The doors haven’t been something we have tackled yet, so they are still ugly, unpainted, plain doors. Looking at these photos makes me think that until we can replace them, I am definitely going to take the time to paint them this spring. Yuck!

Blessings,
Mariah

Deconstructing Christmas

I have a confession to make. I am one of those people. The people who leave Christmas decorations up until February…you probably couldn’t have guessed that! However this year, because of a multitude of things, Christmas just wasn’t the same as it usually is. I felt very melancholy through much of the season, although I tried my best to still enjoy it. In fact, the day after Christmas, I woke up and decided I was sick of the decorations – I wanted them gone!

Unfortunately, I worked the weekdays after Christmas, and we spent the following weekend about 3 hours from home at my mother-in-law’s house. I worked again on New Years Eve, and I couldn’t very well take it down on New Year’s Day, after all that day is for relaxing in your pajamas and watching countless hours of The Walking Dead on Netflix, right? So then, back to work after New Year’s and finally the next weekend I was able to start taking down the decorations (although I am just now, sadly, finishing that task…which means my house has been in chaos for far too long). Between Christmas and now, though, I had been contemplating starting – and then started – this blog, which while still wanting to wash my hands of this particular Christmas, made me refocus and reflect on the good parts of the season, so that now I am not feeling as down about it as I did a few weeks ago. Which is a good thing, because rather than just stuff everything into random storage tubs and boxes in a jumbled mess, ready to be rid of the sight of it, I have taken the time to organize the tubs and actually (gasp!) repair things that needed it.

This will make next Christmas so much easier – especially since I am actually planning on scaling back the décor for next year due to our Disney Christmas(!!) trip. This way I’ll be able to pull down only those decorations I’ll need and can leave the rest in the attic (for instance, I probably will not break out my bathroom or bedroom décor next year…main rooms only! At least…that’s the plan for now…).

I thought I would quickly share with you some photos of our decorations, before and after (including a few photos showing how I am organizing my Christmas decorations for storage).

Some before:

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Our Family Room

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No chimney to hang stockings by…but my quilt rack shelf works pretty well 🙂

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Our Dining Room

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I love these swirly trees and my pretty deer 🙂

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Our Living Room Tree

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My Kitchen Hutch (possibly my favorite piece of furniture)

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Our Bedroom (and another tree!)

And the aftermath:

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This is how my dining room table looks almost every year while taking down Christmas…!

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And the tubs! It exhausts me just looking at this picture!

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This is how I label my storage tubs – Duct Tape! It sticks well and takes writing like a dream – and yet it removes easily if I need to re-label it later! This is going to help so much when bringing these tubs down next year!

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The inside of one of my tubs…showing my obsession with padding and protecting my pretties with tissue paper! I got tons of this tissue paper at the Dollar Tree for…you guessed it…$1 for each pack!

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This is what I use for one of my other obsessions…packaging doo-dads (I know, so technical…sorry!). I absolutely love adding things to my packages…mini stockings, ornaments, ribbon, jingle bells…so a little storage container like this that snaps together yet lets me keep things sorted is perfect. I found this one for around $6 at Wal-Mart.

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The inside of my packaging storage set…I love the separate trays because it lets me be very OCD organized, by sorting them into colors!

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This has nothing to do with storage or organization…but I had to show them to you! I found these at Wal-Mart for 75% off at less than 50¢! I bought all 9 they had left, I can’t believe they had that many…I am planning on using these as gift tags by putting the recipients picture in them and attaching it to the gift 🙂 It’s a tag and another cute little gift all in one – love!

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This is one of the repairs that needed made this year (thanks kitty!). A few years back, I would have tossed this pretty tree (ok, it’s not pretty right now, but just wait…). What a waste! Fixing it now means decorating next Christmas will be a lot less stressful!

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And here it is, a few minutes (literally, maybe 5 minutes!) and a little hot glue later…all better!

Well…that was a peek into my Christmas, before and after! I know this comes a little late, but who knows? I know there are people out there that still have their decorations up…are you one of them? My goal is that by this weekend, everything will be put back to normal and then I can start focusing on real life again (and start working on my goals for next Christmas)!

Blessings,
Mariah

Making a List, and Checking it Twice

The Christmas card project is going very well. I’ve only been doing about 4 or 5 a day, but I’ve already knocked most of my list. I really love it, because I can actually add more people than I would normally send cards to (due to time or hand-cramp limitations). Now that time (and hand cramping) really isn’t an issue, I don’t feel like I have to pick and choose who is important enough to be included. Making more people feel loved + not feeling guilty for excluding people I care about = Happiness & Joy.

There has been one thing I’ve thought of while addressing these cards that might present an issue. Over the course of an entire year, there is a chance someone could move (new address), get married or divorced (new name), etc. I’ve decided that is just something I’ll have to deal with if it happens. The worst case scenario is that I’ve wasted an envelope or two, and possibly a stamp (although I’m trying to limit using my stamps at this point to only those who I am fairly sure will not change). I can live with that, especially when the payoff is less stress for me around the holidays.

In addition to addressing the cards, one other plan I’ve already put into action is keeping track of gift ideas. I have always had lofty goals of finding a gift someone truly would love – something they wanted or needed but wouldn’t buy for themselves – something special to let them know that I was thinking of them when I picked it out. Sometimes I have been successful, but more often than not the ‘mental notes’ I make about a specific item for that specific person…well they get lost in the chaos that is my brain. So inevitably every single Christmas a few people who are hard to buy for end up getting something generic like a nice candle or a pretty Christmas decoration (which I’m sure they loved and used, but it wasn’t personal to them), because I couldn’t remember that perfect gift I had thought of a few months before.

I had wanted to find something I could carry with me at all times, so that I could update it anytime I saw someone mooning over something, or heard someone mention something they love/want/need. I decided the easiest way to keep track of them is to create “notes” on my cell phone. My phone has a program called “Richnote” in which you can very easily create separate ‘note’ files, which works perfectly for what I have in mind. I have created a “wish list” for each member of my immediate family, and also a “friends list” and “family list” which will include everyone else. Currently I have an Android phone, but my old Blackberry had a program like it as well. I am sure most phones today do – so if you don’t know if yours does, explore it and see if there is a program you could use. If you don’t carry a cell phone or yours is one without note-taking capability, you could also just always keep a small notebook with you. You definitely don’t need anything fancy; they have just basic inexpensive little notebooks that are perfect for something like this. Once you have one that you carry with you at all times, then you can pull it out at a moment’s notice to jot down whenever you hear someone mention something that might make a good gift idea, or will help in choosing a gift (for instance it’s also a good place to note things like a person’s favorite color or size). I’m sure this tip is nothing new, I’ve been keeping gift idea lists in one form or another for years – usually on my computer – but it finally occurred to me that it makes it so much easier to remember to write things down if the list is always with me.

And another reason I find the note program on my cell phone so convenient? An advantage I just realized recently is that nobody ever realizes that I am taking notes about them – they really don’t even notice – they just think I’m checking Facebook or a text message or the weather! I love being sneaky! 😉

Blessings,

Mariah

Get Out Your Glitter Pens – It’s Christmas Card Time Again!

Christmas Cards

Christmas cards. They seem simple and innocent enough. They don’t seem like something that would require planning or even much organization. Well, let me tell you, they are misleading you! They are hand-cramping, time-consuming, tongue-paper-cutting (I mean seriously, card companies! Having to still lick envelopes?! It’s 2013 for crying out loud!), judgment-inducing little devils dressed up in pretty graphics and sentimental words.

But, as much as they are all of those things, they can also be a thoughtful way of brightening someone’s day. A way to let loved ones know you are thinking of them and care enough for them to take the time to send them a Christmas card. An actual hand-addressed, paper Christmas card – none of that mail-merged address labeling or e-card business here! I don’t know about you, but as much of a pain as it seems to send them out every year – I love opening my mail box and seeing those envelopes. I love displaying them and seeing all those charming little scenes that decorate the different cards. Reading the gushy sentiments that sometimes make me weepy, and sometimes even a hand-written update from someone I love. It brings me to a different time, slows me down and makes me thankful I have them in my life. So I know that I will continue to send my cards to my family and friends as well…because if I can make any of them feel like that, then it is worth it to me. Even if my tongue suffers in silent pain. It is worth it to make someone feel loved.

It is not, however, worth tear-stained envelopes and needing a glass of wine after returning from the post office. But that is how I felt this year, because I had carried around my cards and address list like a good little girl, planning to do a few here and there as I waited in the car to pick up kids from various sports, or in the waiting room of the doctor’s or orthodontist’s office. I carried those little babies around with me everywhere I went…I even managed to get a few done while my husband had a surgical procedure early in December. But then I got a call from my mother-in-law and that pretty much ate up the rest of my free time because sweet Lord, that woman can talk! And those few cards I got done that day…well that was it until I heard those horrible words on the radio the week before Christmas: “Today marks the final day to get those cards and packages in the mail, folks, if you want them delivered by Christmas!”…and I did! I did want them delivered by Christmas…so what did I do? Yep, I spent a frantic hour addressing and stuffing and licking and stamping. And crying. Because why?? Why did I have to make it so hard on myself??

So this year my first challenge to myself in getting ready for Christmas is to address my Christmas cards. Yep, you heard me right. I’ve updated my address list, and I am addressing my Christmas cards. In January…an entire 11 months before I will mail them. I am only addressing them and signing them – and stamping those that I can with my leftover Christmas stamps from this year. Then I will put them in a box and put them away until November, when I plan to write my personal notes in them. I always try and write something in each card to the person I am sending it to…I think that makes it a lot more meaningful than just signing and sending. So I will do that in November, then slide in our Christmas photo in December (we are going to Disney World the weekend after Thanksgiving, so I will be getting our family photo done there), seal those babies up and send them on their merry way. No tears, no wine (well ok, maybe some wine…but this time in celebration!) and hopefully not much pain. Heck, maybe I’ll invest in one of those new-fangled wet-sponge things this year!

What about you? Do you send Christmas cards…do they make you cry too? Or is that just me? Please, tell me it’s not just me. I’m insecure enough as it is, people!

Blessings,
Mariah

Crazy is the New Sane

Yesterday, after I explained my blog to the universe, I spent the rest of the evening sporadically feeling less-than-sane. Thoughts would invade my brain like “You know people are going to think your crazy taking an entire year to plan for a 1 day holiday, right?” and “Why are you making Christmas so complicated? I’m sure nobody back in the 50’s needed to think about their Christmas cards in January!”.

Well…maybe I am it is crazy. I do think Christmas should be much simpler…but the fact of the matter is – life, if not Christmas itself, has gotten more complicated. In most households now, more than any other generation, both parents work. The days of the stay-at-home mom being the rule rather than the exception are pretty much over. I wish that weren’t true – or at the very least I wish that every mom who wanted to stay home could, but that is just not the case for a lot of families – mine included.

I was at home with my oldest daughter for most of her childhood (my younger 3 children are adopted, and all came to us school age so it was never much of an issue). I loved it – it allowed me to be the mom, and wife, that I wanted to be. And Christmases then were much simpler. Well, for one, I only had one child! But besides that…it was easier to decorate, wrap gifts, send Christmas cards, and in general enjoy the season when I had time to do all of those things during the day. It all got done without really having to plan everything out to the last detail. But time and circumstances changed, and here I am today, a full-time working mother of 4 school-age children. Even though all of my kids are in school, I still wish I could be a stay-at-home mom/wife. There is so much involved in running a household, it is indeed a full-time job…which is why life is more complicated. I have more to do. My workload has basically doubled with the addition of full-time employment, but the day is not any longer. We are busier, too, around the holidays than we ever used to be. We are always gone on Thanksgiving – either to Michigan or central Indiana. Our boys are both in basketball, which starts around the same time – so we have 2 schools to run back and forth to almost daily with practices and games, and then there are the various Christmas programs. Our family also hosts 2 Christmas parties – a Cookie Exchange and a party for our extended family. And then in 2013 we’re throwing a December vacation into the mix!

And I know that our family is not alone in the busyness around the holidays – far from it! So it’s no wonder most of us moms (and probably most dads too – though thankfully mine usually keeps a level head and is very helpful!) are frazzled and stressed out at Christmas time. I know a few too many moms who have become very bah-humbug about it all…and I don’t want to become one of them, but this year, I felt like going Grinch a few times! So, to save my sanity and my love of Christmas – yes, Virginia, this Santa Claus is going to start celebrating in January – no matter how crazy it feels! Hopefully this little ‘experiment’ of mine will end up helping me to really enjoy Christmas again…I guess time will tell!

Tomorrow I will let you all in on my very first project for Christmas 2013.

Blessings,
Mariah