Monday, December 22, 2014

Christmas 2014... and a look back at the best Christmas surprise

Hello!  Hello!  Merry Christmas, everyone!  I hope you all are enjoying your holiday merry-making!

We're doing well, not much excitement going on, keeping things steady (as far as we are able).  I don't usually have much hustle and bustle going on right before Christmas, and this year is no different, so I thought I'd take a few minutes to wish you well and give you a short tour around the house.

I don't do much decorating so the tour won't last long!  I really admire people who have a flair for it, like my Aunt Betty.  You should visit her blog.  She has a talent for decorating that just makes me say "Wow!" sometimes.  And there is my friend, Cheryl.  Her farmhouse style is warm and cozy, and her home is full of family and faith. 

This year we decided to weed out some of our less-than-treasured Christmas baubles.  We make the same decision every year, but this year we finally did it.  We sent a few things to our daughter (who will not be able to come home for the holidays  FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER!!) and set aside a few things that we knew our son might like to have.  Other things we either pitched out or put in a box for donation.

In the kitchen
This is the first time I've ever had a Christmas tree in the kitchen.  When our children were little they each had a tree of their own to decorate in their rooms.  They didn't take them with them when they moved from home, neither of them wanted them, so I thought "Why not?!?"

I call these little birds my Whimsies. They kinda make me grin.

That quizzical expression never leaves their face...

My house smelled so festive when I was making these clove-studded cinnamon stars.

My husband brought in a couple bags-full of pinecones last year.  I made a swag with some and piled the rest in an old wooden bowl.  I saved them for this year so that I wouldn't have to deal with the critters that come with bringing nature indoors.  I was knocking down spider webs in my kitchen for *days* last year.  And the pine sap?  I had no idea that I would react like I did.  Even this year it affected me and I barely touched them!  I still like them, though.


In the dining room

The tree that convinced my husband that artificial didn't have to look fake...  This tree is decorated in gold and maroon.  There is no real sentimental attachment to anything here so I'd be happy to part with it, save for one thing.  The garland.  The fabric isn't special.  It is just strips cut from curtains I bought for a dollar at a thrift store.  The sentimental thing is that my Mom and I made it together the first Christmas after my Dad passed away.  So until I find a different use for it, the tree stays!

A candle holder that my husband made from a cedar tree that fell when Hurricane Isabel hit us pretty hard.  One side is for tapers, the other holds votives.  The greenery is artificial but it is very convincing!

In the living room
This is my husband's tree.  It is decorated with (mostly) old-fashioned  Santas.  This half of the "we" isn't overly fond of the whole Santa thing, but I am quite fond of my husband, so it is as he likes it. 
There are other things on this tree besides the fat man, like some cute glass mittens and brass jinglebells from the dollar store, a lacy star from an aunt who thought of us on her travels, and these precious 2 peas in a pod that we got the year our daughter-in-law expecting twins.

Instead of a traditional topper, I found a wooden sleigh at a craft store that my husband painted.  He added a post to the bottom to help keep it upright. 

A Christmas ball wreath.  I made 3 of them one year after I hit the 90% off sale at Michael's. 

Christmas stockings that my Mom made for us close to 20 years ago...

And the ones we've added as our family grows... (I wish I could say that I made them but I didn't so I won't)

One last thing
You know how most children have baby dolls or teddy bears as their special cuddle toys?  Well, I had a Santa (I know, I know!  I don't like Santa now.  I'm an enigma.  What can I say?)  His name was Junior.  I have no idea where I got him or how he got his name.  Somewhere along the way, I lost track of Junior, but told my husband and children about him several times over the years.  Junior had a plastic face with a red velveteen-ish plush body and white trim around his hood.
One year a few months before Christmas I was telling my Mom about a Christmas display that I wanted to make using something that looked like a treasure chest but that everything I had seen was out of my price range.  She recalled having an old chest out in her garage and said that I could have it if it was what I needed.  So I found the trunk, opened it, and to my surprise, there was Junior!  He was moth-eaten and in tatters, but recognizable. 
I was beyond excited!!! 
I took Junior home with me to show my husband and children (oh, and the trunk, too, but it is way down on the list of importance at this point in the story).  They were somewhat taken aback at how ugly this beloved toy actually was.  And it wasn't that he was raggedy.  His face was sort of frightening.  But it was really nice to be able to show them something that I thought was lost forever.  My husband asked me what I wanted to do with him.  I said that we might as well just pitch him because he was literally crumbling.  And that was the last of Junior.
Or so I thought...
My husband could never be a poker player.  That man cannot NOT show on his face what he is feeling.  He has never been able to surprise me with a gift.  And I don't go snooping!  Really, I don't. 
So it was 2007.  My Mom was very sick.  She had been diagnosed with bladder cancer earlier in the year.  She was tired and weak.  I was not looking forward to concealing my sorrow so that she could maintain her hope. (I'd not make a very good poker player either.) 
It was Mom's custom to give us money instead of gifts.  She really didn't like shopping and she didn't want to give us something that we didn't like, so money was her answer.  Occasionally she would have some sort of token gift for us that she had picked up along the way.  Those were usually practical things.  Like a frying pan.  So I wasn't surprised to see a gift for me to unwrap.  I have no memory of what I gave her, or what anyone gave to anyone else.
When I unwrapped my gift, I turned into a sobbing mess.  My husband and children had snuck Junior back to Mom somehow, and she and her sister, Oneida, had made a new body for him! 
It was the best Christmas surprise! 

Look at that ugly, precious face!!!!

This is the first Christmas that my grandsons are really noticing things.  I thought they might be a bit afraid of Junior.  Somebody (ehem) obviously did some artwork on him before there was such a thing as washable markers.  But, no, my thoughts were completely unfounded.  To quote Liam, "Dat Junior HoHo?  I luff him!  I sit on his yap."  And for the rest of the evening he and Levi took turns hugging him. 

Full circle moments.  They never get old.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Easy Trunk or Treat Display

Our church fellowship hosts a Trunk-or-Treat activity each year but this is the first time that we've participated.  Not sure what to expect, I decided to do something very quick and fairly easy.  I'm all about easy-peasy projects!   This plan is for 40 participants. 
Materials List
wooden board (4'x4' luan plywood)
black paint (exterior flat)
orange disposable cups (40)
orange tissue paper (2 packs)
rubber bands (40)
super glue
candy (lots!)
Paint your board black and let dry...
 Fill cups with candy...

Cut tissue paper into squares large enough to overlap tops of cups... (I used a double layer.  I recommend using a single layer.)

Cover cups with tissue paper and fasten with rubber bands...

Apply super glue to bottom edge of cup...

Position cups in an irregular circle and fluff out edges of tissue paper to fill in gaps... 

Paint a stem, vine, and leaf...


Party-goers then choose their circle, punch through the tissue paper, and retrieve all the candy! 

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Goodbye, 45!

I turned 46 a couple days ago.  I've never minded getting older.  Perhaps because the preceding years didn't seem like all that much fun.

You couldn't pay me enough money to be a teenager again even if it were possible.

My twenties and thirties were a blur of "What in the world am I doing here?!?" and the first half of my forties seemed to be spent in re-grouping from one life-shifting event to another.  One face-plant after another. 

So, no, I've never minded getting older even though I haven't done it very gracefully.

But 45 was a different kind of year.  A really good kind of different, even though I don't know precisely how it happened.

I'm really looking forward to the year of being 46.  It looks promising!!

P.S.  My baby turned 23 today!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Pumpkin Babies 2014

So, technically, they aren't babies anymore, but I just can't resist calling them babies now and then.  It's a grandmother's prerogative to do so. 

When our children were young I resisted establishing traditions but I've since come to understand that there is a sense of belonging, groundedness, that can come from simple traditions if they are done with a spirit of gratitude.  So we decided that one tradition we want to establish with our grandchildren is taking a trip to the pumpkin patch each October.  You can see our visits in 2012 HERE and 2013 HERE.

Levi and Liam had already been to the pumpkin patch this year with their Mommy and Daddy but as my daughter-in-law said, when we asked if they were free to go with us...

"Everything is more fun with Grandma and Grandpa!"

Yes, indeed, it is!!

The boys spent the previous night with us and ran errands with us in the morning.  After a VERY brief nap in the car after lunch, we arrived at our destination.  They were totally unimpressed. Ha!  Nah, they were just super tired.  They worked out their grumpies by running around and gettin' dirty.

Grandpa providing a lift...

Levi refusing to look at the camera...

Helping set the scene...

Liam getting ready while Levi went looking for another pumpkin...

Levi still didn't want to look at the camera...

He decided to look after Liam got bored with the whole thing...

Running, running, running far ahead...

Picking up their own treasures...

Levi didn't want to carry his...

Classic Liam...

There's that precious face...

Liam very concerned that something was broken...

Happy Fall, Y'All!!!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Make It New Monday 10/6/14 {Where'd It Go?}

One of my favorite types of projects is Make It New.  It really is!  There is something very satisfying in taking an object and giving it some sort of face lift.  Perhaps there is a deeper meaning there.  {grin}

So if I enjoy it so much, where did the series go? 

That old saying "If it's not one thing, it's another," has really come into play in the last couple months.  And those of you who know me well know that I do not multi-task at all.  I'm like a deer in the headlights when I have too much input.  I freeze.

So right now, I'm a bit frozen.

And to top it all off, MY CAMERA IS NOT WORKING PROPERLY!  {I know you can hear the desperation in my voice}

I did have a really cute project in mind for October but it will have to wait for next year!

The good news is that my craft room is all ready to be set up!  WooHoo!  I love, love, love to organize so I'll be happy as a pig in mud for the next few days.

Since I have every intention of reviving the series, get your projects ready to link up, okay?  I really do like it when you join in!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Free Food! Volunteer Squash

This past spring my husband and I started a small garden in our back yard. We didn't plant much since it was our first joint effort in gardening, planning to expand little by little over the next few years.

No need to get in over our heads, right?

Our plan was to only plant bell pepper, zucchini, yellow squash, and Seminole squash.  We ended up adding black raspberries, strawberries, concord grapes, onions, and bok choy. 

Some of the plants produced very well.  Others, nothing at all. 

One thing we didn't plant was butternut squash, but we grew it anyway.  It volunteered out of our compost pile.  Free food, y'all!

At first we didn't know what it was.  Well, we could tell it was some sort of squash, but we didn't know what kind specifically.

So we waited to see what would happen.  Another plant joined it, and together they camouflaged what was a potential eyesore.

Finally, the vine produced something that we recognized and we were able to harvest...

Notice anything strange?  The seeds are in the neck of the squash rather than the bulbous part!  As far as I know, that is not normal. 

I continued cutting it into cubes, hoping that the mutation wasn't poisonous or anything.  (It wasn't.  We both survived.)

As you can see, it gave us quite a lot of squash.


I haven't been very adventurous with cooking butternut squash, or any other winter squash for that matter.  I've roasted them, baked them, and made soup with them.  All with decent-to-delicious results.  
What is your favorite way to prepare and eat butternut squash? 
Linking to The Journey Back.  Join the fall linky party!