Thursday, December 16, 2010

Christmas home tour

Earlier this week the Nester hosted a Christmas home tour and although I am not joining in I decided to join the fun even if my decor is a little lame this year.
Vintage juice glasses I picked up this summer in Iowa.  Lovely any time of year.

Fresh flowers(I only buy the managers special at a very discounted price-usually out on Tuesdays) always a must have when it's a little gloomy outside.
Our Christmas book collection.  They are my favorite items to get out of the storage bins.  Packing these books up every year is worth unpacking them for Christmas when I see the  kids dance around like an old friend has just arrived for a visit.

This wreath fits every season.  I actually like it best in February as it  has a romantic feel all it's own, but it has the perfect tucking spots for all holidays.

Priceless pics.  I love to study the range of emotions caught in these photos.  A fun family tradition(even after I threw Santa under the bus).

Can't have too many white lights.  I like to keep them lit through February, it's just a cozy glow long after the Christmas tree is down.

Talk about some emotion.  My favorite Christmas card picture.  The more things change, the more they stay the same:)

Now I'm headed down the hall to rearrange something.  It's the third snow day of the week, Todd is traveling, I think I might be crazy...

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

snow day: part two

One good thing about snow days is the forced resignation of your to do list.  No running to finish your Christmas shopping and mail packages, time to wear your jammie pants and relax. It is frustrating at first, but them I embrace.  Cleaning the house crossed my mind, doing laundry is what I would have been doing if I had a dryer that worked, wrapping presents would have been good, but instead we made cookies, played in the snow, and drank hot chocolate.  The perfect winter day, and when they called school off for the second day, we did it all over again. 

For a long time I never thought about making these peanut butter balls because I didn't have my grandmother's recipe.  While living in Cincinnati, my friend Kristi made me some for my birthday.  Geez, why didn't I ever think about that. Since then they have been on my Christmas have-to-have-cookie list. 

Chocolate Peanut Butter Balls:

2 Cups Peanut Butter
1/2 cup butter
Melt peanut butter and butter on low until it melts, blend together.
4 Cups powdered sugar
Add sugar to melted mixture, a combine well.  I stir it then end up using my hands to get it all Incorporated well. However, wait until it has cooled a little.
Make the mixture into 1 inch balls, place onto a cookie sheet and refrigerate about 1 hour.  Sometimes I make the balls, stack them in a large container and freeze them until I'm ready for the next step.  You could probably keep them in the freezer for a week or two before covering them with chocolate.
Melt 1 1/2 to 2 bags of semi-sweet chocolate.
 I usually just melt chocolate in a saucepan on low, but the recipe suggests a double boiler. Dip the balls in the melted chocolate.  I use two forks to roll it around and then place it back on a cookie sheet covered with parchment or foil.  I put them back into the fridge to set the chocolate and then move them to a Christmas tin that I store in the fridge because I think they taste better chilled.

Somebody is liking himself the left overs. Yummers!

Monday, December 13, 2010

snow day

Schools cancelled, I think all of Knoxville has shut down, and the Christmas music was on by 7am this morning, it's a snow day! 

I was so happy to see some white stuff last night. I was a little concerned the boys wouldn't get a chance to play in the snow this year.  No worries, a few inches and they are happy little campers.  There is nothing like a little snow to bring a neighborhood a little closer together.  We actually saw kids out playing this morning we never get the opportunity to play with, basically because I think they are locked away playing video games on any ordinary day.  Holden was so happy to see some lively faces.

I know, what kind of mother lets her kids sled down the middle of the street?! Just a couple of passes, and then it's back to the our little hill in the back.

Painting our bedroom was the project I had planned to work on this weekend. Instead, we spent the entire weekend shopping for appliances.  On Friday morning the dishwasher stopped working.  On Friday afternoon our dryer broke. Things break in threes you say?  On Sunday night the electronic thermostat(that we recently installed), flew off the wall and broke into a zillion pieces(that means no heat people).  I was excited to buy a new dishwasher, a little giddy(before the bill comes)to get a new washer and dryer.  I cried after the thermostat shattered. The bedroom will hopefully get done this upcoming weekend, granted the refrigerator and garage doors don't burst into flames.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

trying to give gift cards some presence

Hey there! It's me.  The chic who can't get away from using, twine, cardboard, stamps and book pages. I consider these things my trademark materials, but really, even I am bored with my look.  Unfortunately, this year with all the other changes that have been going on, I am forced to stick to my true blue crafting self but I promise(with all my heart) next year I will have a new look.

I love giving gift cards, probably because I love to get them. The problem is they don't exactly require a lot of thought on presentation, which is one of my favorite parts to giving a gift. The answer for me is tags and ribbon...yep,always tags and ribbon.  After tearing up one of my most beloved books of poetry(by Brian Andres) with a previous project, I decided I needed to use as much of as I can.  He writes beautiful whimsical poems that bring me to tears.  If you knew my niece, you would know how appropriate this poem is for her.

Oh cardboard how I love thee.

 Chalking the edges with this little stamp pad is a must

 This set of stamps is worn out.  Boy have they brought me lots of joy.

 Adding a ornament makes it a little more special. These are from Pottery Barn.

I think they will look pretty under the tree. 

Monday, December 6, 2010

wire hanger wreath

Last year I admired a wreath that several bloggers were doing at Christmas and decided I would try it this year.  I am about a year behind most trends.  Blame it on my Iowa roots :) 

 I bought all the bulbs from the dollar store because there is NO way I'm spending a fortune on these craft things don't you know.  If you're a good after Christmas shopper(to which I am not) this is a wreath that could support nicer bulbs. He recommends 80 in various sizes.  My wreath is small so I used about 50. Other than the bulbs, all you need is a wire hanger,  wire cutters and needle nose pliers to secure the end when done. Oh, and don't forget your glue gun.
 I tried to skip this step, but two bulbs in I realized you really do need to hot glue the ends to the bulbs.
 Just string the bulbs onto the wire.  Really, that's it.  Pay attention to what order you place them , as I found  a pattern seemed to work the best in filling in the spaces and evening out the colors.
 the last step is ribbon.  I think a wide ribbon would be pretty...
 I just did a rag-a-muffin ribbon because that was all I had.  For this year it works, I'll consider changing it next.
My wall of wreaths is complete. Now I am just on a mission for a sparkly bird ornament for the wool wreath.  Next year I will work on two more for the other grates to have something on them.  A great thing about this wire hanger wreath is you can unfasten the wire, unstring the bulbs and use them for something else next year.  brilliant.

note: the bulbs are very shiftable after you hang the wreath.  You can move one here or another one there to stand out more, which I just realized I need to do after looking at this picture.

Friday, December 3, 2010

on memories and simplifying

Last night I went to a MOPS meeting where the Pastor spoke on simplifying Christmas.  At the time I didn't share too much in the large group, I was busy stuffing the desserts into my mouth, but it got me thinking about my favorite memories from Christmas, what I want my house to feel like on Christmas, and what I would like my children to take with them when they have families.

My Favorite Christmas Memories:

My Grandmother Gregorich would send a huge box of homemade candies, cookies and cakes mid-December.  She must have cooked for weeks and from what I understand, without a single written recipe.  In the box were tins of gingersnaps and waffle cookies, chocolate peanut butter balls, anise candy, divinity, peanut brittle and so much more.  My mother would put the tins in the garage(I'm from the Midwest, that's where you put things in the winter to stay fresh and frozen), and I would sneak out and take part of all the goodness, and then some more.  My all time favorite, the chocolate peanut butter balls.

The Advent calendar.  Just the cheap paper ones, shaped like a gingerbread house. I loved opening up the flap to see the little chocolate inside.

Paper Chains.  The anticipation of the whole event was usually the very best part.

These are simple memories, nothing to do with the gifts.  The most vivid memory I have of the actual day was when I was probably seven years old and my sister had me in a complete spass Christmas Eve because I wasn't in bed when Santa's sleigh was on the news weather map over the state of Iowa. She had me nearly peeing my pants because I was certain he had flown over our house because I was still up.  The last year I believed. Devastating.

How old do I sound when I say that was a different time.  We all know how crazy the world has gotten.  I feel manipulated most of the year by the media, by department stores, by Target. This time of year is even worse.  This is how I try to stay sane.


I order a lot of gifts on-line.  Time is money(and as Asher likes to remind me-I don't get an allowance every week). I get crabby when I have to go to 50 thousand stores for one toy.

I really try not to leave my house.  I don't want to sound like a crazy recluse, but do you ever look around at all the people shopping?  I feel very "affected" by them.  I wonder where their money comes from, why are they buying gifts for great uncle Jim and second cousin once removed Joyce.   You can't pay me to walk into Walmart from November 1st to January 1st.  I mean it hurts my heart.

I don't buy for that many people.  Like a lot of families, we have really stopped buying for anyone other then our kids and nieces and nephews.  My side of the family concentrates more on  birthday gifts than Christmas ones.

We dispelled Santa Claus. We sat down with the kids this year and told them there was not a Santa Claus.  For the past couple of years I have really had a hard time making any sense of the relationship between Santa and the birth of Jesus.  I like St. Nick, but lets be honest, he is a tad misrepresented in Santa Claus.  We decided that in order for us to celebrate Christmas with a completely joyous heart we had to kick the big red guy to the curb.  Don't get me wrong. He is still a fun part of Christmas.  Like Batman is a fun part to Saturday morning cartoons.  I just can no longer justify telling the boys that Santa is watching, and that they need to make the "good" list and that he will come down the chimney and tip toe through the house while they are asleep. We didn't want to take the "magic" of Christmas away from them.  We just want to give them more "magic" to the season for years to come.  Starting more sooner than later seemed to make sense.

We keep what we spend on ourselves in balance to what we give to others.  I know parents walk away from Christmas feeling beat up and abused.  I understand the guilt that people feel after the party is over and they are left with the bill. Yuck.  Everyone I know is trying the best they can to give more to others.  One thing we did a few years ago was sponsor a little girl in Africa.  The yearly payment we give comes due in December and it's a good reminder to stay grounded with my own children's gifts and strive to give charities even more than the year before.

I want my kids to remember the carefree joy of being a child at Christmas.  I want them to talk about my chocolate peanut butter balls for years after I am gone.  I want them to remember what it feels like to get exactly what they asked for, because their mom cared enough to listen.  I eventually want them to really understand  how much better it feels to give than to receive.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

let the count down begin

The holiday season doesn't start at this house until December 1st.  That's when I pull out the Advent calendar and embrace the craziness.  I think this is one of the boys favorite traditions.  They can't wait to see what is inside every afternoon(I used to do morning, but that's not working anymore with early morning school), and they jump around like little elves in excitement. 

 I use the Advent calendar as a way to organize all the things we want to do for Christmas.  I put little notes and special treats inside the compartments. Things like visit the live reindeer down the street, visit Santa at the Zoo, make cookies for the neighbors, a new Christmas book or movie, buy a toy for a needy child and on and on...

So many wreaths, so little space.  I am making this area my wreath wall.  I have one more I want to make this year-more on that later.

I'm slowly working on the rest of the house.  Sometimes it's fun to decorate a "new to you" house for the holidays, but I must admit that I'm not loving this one.  I can't figure out where to put the tree and wouldn't you know it, I kinda want those dreaded shelves back we had in our old house. You know, the ones I always complained about ;)  My reindeer moss wreath from last year has held up really well.  It's really strange how much I love to hang things over frames.

{Trucker on my lovely new rug only hours before he nearly ruined my day}

I came home today to find that the dog pooped in several areas of the house-what the heck!? I think it's pay backs for leaving him at the kennel for 5 days.  Luckily(if there could be a bright spot in doggie diarrhea), he avoided my new rug. 

We finally bought a rug for the family and it is starting to feel more homey and way less dust bunnyish.  I fell in love with Brandon, headed to the store to buy Hayden, and ended up with Webster.  Who are these rug namers at Pottery Barn anyways?