Wednesday, December 28, 2011

My Favorite Christmas Moment

This year the girls' Christmas lists looked something like this:


Maybe a bed for my AG Doll
Maybe some clothes
Maybe some make-up
Maybe some books

(She's always been like this...very rarely outright says she wants something...kind of difficult to buy for!)


An American Girl Doll piano

(Yep. That's it.)


A Littlest Pet Shop
A Bed for Lainie
A Barbie
A Monkey Blanket
A Snow Globe
An iPad

(Very funny, Sophia!)

We had been saving up for the AG stuff we knew they wanted so badly and Santa was all set to deliver the goods. Until one day when I was out shopping for stocking stuffers. While I was walking around the store I thought about how I wasn't sure of Bria's belief in Santa Claus. Then I thought about how I found a note that Chloe wrote to herself that said she wasn't sure if there's a Santa or not. Then I thought about how the only other gifts they were getting from us were a book for each of them and one other small thing (jeans for Bria, Mancala for Chloe and the monkey blanket for Sophia) and I decided that I didn't want Santa to get all the credit for the American Girl stuff. Maybe that's weird, but I went through a thought process right there in ShopKo which included the fact that I have been downplaying Santa this year anyway in trying to keep the focus of Christmas on Christ, and I made a decision. So, I texted Joel my thoughts, bought some other gifts from Santa, and went on my merry way.

I knew that I'd still need to put together the piano and the beds before Christmas, so we weren't trying to do that on Christmas morning. Besides, the impact is always so much more fun when it's all ready to go, don't you think? So, Joel and I decided to do a treasure hunt. On Christmas Eve, after the girls were all sleeping, we went down and began the fun.

The girls had gone to sleep with their dolls (as usual), but we took them and put each one on her new bed or piano, which were all set up in Sophia's closet. I was hoping the girls wouldn't notice that the dolls were missing on Christmas morning in the midst of all the excitement, but "Where's my doll?" was the first thing to come out of Bria's mouth when she woke up. Joel and I just shrugged our shoulders and said we had no idea where the dolls had gone...

We went down to see what Santa had brought, and while they were happy with their gifts, there was a little bit of disappointment that the doll furniture was nowhere to be found. Chloe began to open her stocking and tried to maintain a super happy attitude by saying, "It's okay that I didn't get the piano." I know she knew it wasn't under the tree, because she is the kid that goes through and shakes, sorts and resorts every gift a hundred times before Christmas.

All was well, though, because lots of wonderful things were under the tree. My parents had given them each several American Girl outfits for their dolls (they are so addicted) and that was awesome. They enjoyed all of the other gifts they received from us and others and it was a wonderful Christmas morning. There really wasn't any more hint of disappointment regarding the hoped-for furniture.

Which was all part of the plan! The last gift to be brought out was a tiny little box that said

"To: All the Girls, From: Mom & Dad."

In it was a clue which sent them to the door where all the Christmas Cards are hung. There they found another clue which sent them to my bedroom mirror. And upstairs to the bathroom. Back down to the kitchen...

This video starts while reading the clue they found under the kitchen table. It's the last clue, and they have some sense of that, so it's pretty funny when they all start running upstairs to Sophia's room. The moment when they open the door to the closet is DEFINITELY my favorite moment of the entire year. And I have to admit, I kind of like getting the credit. As much as I love Santa, it's nice for the girls to know that Mom & Dad really will get them the things that they want so badly, and that we absolutely love doing it.

Oh, and, don't worry about Sophia. We got up super early and she had been sick. I think things were just really overwhelming for her right then. 20 minutes later, when we were already at church (we cut it super close!) she was completely out and snoring on my lap. When we got home, she was excited to get Lainie in her pajamas and played with the new bed for a few hours.

Maybe next year I'll give Santa back the glory, but I have to say that this was kind of addicting....

Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas Present, Already Past

Merry Christmas! I hope you all had a beautiful day surrounded by loved ones and spent making treasured memories. We certainly did.
Christmas Card 2011
Christmas really did sneak up on me this year. Maybe that's why I didn't really document it so well this time. Or maybe I'm just not on good terms with my camera at the moment. Or something. Whatever the reason, I took a very measly amount of photographs this year. Thank goodness for Joel and his phone, because I think he documented Christmas morning fairly well. Maybe I'll steal some of his photo/video later, but for is a bit of what I documented in the week or so before Christmas.

We had our visit with Santa at the local children's museum.

Chloe and SantaBria, Santa and Daddy
I know that last year I had been pretty sure Bria wouldn't still believe by this year, but I think she is holding on for all she's worth. And she hasn't asked. So, we had another year in which she (perhaps) believed. And even so, she still won't sit on Santa's lap by herself. She's never done it once in her life...always has to have a sister or a parent with her. Love that.
Gingerbread life saving station
Also at the museum was a gingerbread display of our area. This is added to each year, and this year Sophia and her Daisy troop made some of the pieces. The one she is standing in front of is the Eagle Harbor life saving station, and she and her friend Elizabeth did it together. She was very proud to see her name on it. (Also, notice her haircut. Her cute.)

Our main traditions for the year begin on Christmas Adam (do your kids use this term? I always used to call it Christmas Eve Eve, myself). Just before bedtime, we watch George C. Scott's A Christmas Carol, which is our favorite rendition (not that the girls know any different). Unfortunately, this year we had gotten rid of the DVD portion on our Netflix account, and it isn't on instant streaming. So, I got to open a special gift from Chloe on December 23rd, and now we will always have the DVD available to watch when the time comes. Also, in July if I feel like it.
Christmas ADam
The girls wore their silly Christmas socks and some silly pajamas to watch. I love how they understand more and more of the story each year. It's such a wonderful way to really understand the spirit of Christmas and the reasons we celebrate.

Christmas Eve was spent playing together and getting ready for the big day. Doing some cleaning and cooking, etc. Then we headed over to our good friends' home for a wonderful Christmas Eve dinner, nativity play (I was a sheep) and plain old fun. After eating ourselves into near oblivion and having a fantastic time in all other ways, it was time to head home and begin our own Christmas Eve Traditions.
Christmas Jammies!
First, the girls open their Christmas Pajamas. Sometimes Joel and I get some, too, but this year wasn't the year for that--we don't grow quite as quickly as the girls do! After jammies are donned, we drag some mattresses into the playroom, make up our Christmas Eve beds and cuddle up together to listen to Amahl and the Night Visitors, a short opera that is about the birth of Christ. I do think this is one of my favorite traditions, and I LOVE listening to the girls sing the melodies on Christmas morning. And I love that they look forward to it, as well.

Christmas morning came early this year, since we had church. Speaking of traditions, Bria was devastated that we might have to wait until after church to open our gifts. Not because she didn't want to wait, but because they wouldn't be in their PJs. Apparently you absolutely cannot open gifts once you are dressed. So, knowing how important "traditions" are (even when they aren't necessarily intended to be a tradition!), we obliged and got up much earlier than we might have.

And I didn't take a single picture of Christmas morning, but I will say that the girls had a lovely time, and so did Joel and I. I think Joel has a fun video on his phone that I may post later. I make no promises.

We then went to church, where we had a lovely service. The steroids I'd been taking allowed my laryngitis-riddled voice to work well enough to sing O Holy Night, and Joel gave a lovely talk about the importance of Christ's birth.

Then we came home and the turkey went into the oven, for we were hosting Christmas dinner. We have a great group of friends with whom we have shared Christmas dinner every year since moving here (this is the third year so it's official tradition now, right?).
Christmas TableSetting
I had lots of fun setting the table and Joel had fun cooking, and I only had to help him a little bit. We miss being with our families on Christmas/Christmas Eve, but it is so wonderful to have so many friends with whom we can share, too. It's our family away from family.

And that, in a nutshell, was our Christmas. Gone as quickly as it came. But wonderful just the same.

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

What Think Ye of Christmas?

This year, I have felt a bit like Mr. Scrooge and The Grinch. Not so much that I don't like Christmas, but I have certainly felt too rushed, too obligated, and too busy to really enjoy it. I'm not really sure what it was about this year, but my goodness, we've been going at the speed of light around here!

We did our Christmas baking. Now that we're on our third Christmas here (which is as many Christmases as we've spent anywhere), our list of those on the receiving end has grown exponentially. And Chloe had to bake 7 dozen cookies for her Brownie troop cookie exchange (which meant we got 7 dozen cookies in return...). On Sunday, the whole family worked together to get it all done. Isn't it purdy?

pretty baking

Oh, but don't let that picture fool you. This is what holiday baking with three children and two adults in a small galley kitchen really looks like:

not-so-pretty baking

We've done Christmas concerts. And concerts and recitals and more concerts and recitals. I think when it was all said and done, we had 8 or 9 concerts and recitals that somebody in the family was participating in. And I don't have pictures of any of them because I was probably being Scrooge-y about it all.

I sent out our Christmas cards. It was a process this year, and they went out rather late. The picture-taking, the card-making, the address-tracking, (it felt like over half of my list moved this year) (and most of them to Texas) the husband-bugging (to write the letter that all look forward to), the husband-bugging (it took him a long time this year), the letter-copying, the letter-folding, the envelope-licking-stamping-addressing. A process.

I've done my best to stay on top of the shopping and the wrapping and the planning and the cleaning and the running and the erranding and the mailing, and I have officially run myself ragged. Yesterday was the last day of school for my girls, and Sophia and I both woke up with a cough, laryngitis and a bit of a fever. Oh, and cold-sores. But, because Sophia would be devastated to miss it, I let her go to sing her Kindergarten Christmas program and give her gifts to her teachers. And then I went to sing "O Holy Night" for an audience at another school. On sick vocal cords. Because I had promised, and because I was hoping to get rid of my inner Grinch, and singing for people usually does that. Instead, Sophia and I were even sicker when we woke up this morning. And then Joel took us to the doctor.

One of the only things that we have been doing this year that reminds me of the reason for the season, is reading a book together every night. We have several good ones, but this year we added a new one to the collection, thanks to its talented illustrator, Jana Parkin. I was blessed enough to win a copy of What Think Ye of Christmas? (as well as several other copies to give away to my friends)(and while I have many more friends than books, I hope those that received one love it as much as I do). Not only are Jana's stunning watercolors beautiful, but the message that the author, Ester Rasband, delivers is beautiful as well.

The book is filled with the symbols of Christmas, and reminders of how we can keep it Christ-centered. And how so much of our celebrating is Christ-centered if we look for it.

As I read if for the first time to my children and came upon the page that says

And being busy.
We musn't let frustration harass us, but should let it remind us instead that
It takes all our time and effort to strive toward being what Christ can someday make of us.
Boy did I ever need to ponder on those particular words. It's a lesson I learn most every December, and I always hope I can learn it well enough so that it will stick. So that I can make room for Christ in my overstuffed life for the entire season. I know the busy part will not go away, but I can certainly learn to approach it all differently.

And so I will. Because the good news is, that even Mr. Scrooge and Mr. Grinch learned to do it. Surely I can, too.

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 16, 2011

A Playroom Miracle

When I first walked through this house while on my house-hunting trip, I was a little puzzled by the gigantic, low-ceilinged room upstairs. It was billed as a bedroom, and I suppose it could be used as one, but it was not your normal bedroom. However, I knew that it would make a perfect playroom for little people if we bought the house. And so a playroom it became.

There were the usual problems: Ugly carpet and old paint. After two years of living here, the playroom finally took priority on the list of home improvements. I painstakingly chose a paint color in September and painted the entire room in early October (along with the living room--I was on a roll!). In late October we worked on painting the existing trim, and the first week in November the new carpet was installed. The week before Thanksgiving, Joel worked on painting the baseboards (which we found in the closet, never having been put up) and the day before Thanksgiving, he and I did our best to nail the baseboards up, which is much more difficult than it looks! The girls and I then went through all of the toys, gave a healthy amount to the Goodwill pile and finally put the room back together. And then I baked pies.

Do you want to see the before/after? I have meant to do this for weeks, but I keep not remembering to take pictures of the after. So, tonight, after dark, in the worst lighting possible, I finally went up to take them. They'll have to do.


Like much of my house--especially the upstairs portion--this room hadn't seen much TLC in a good decade or more. The carpet was in okay shape, but it was pink and stained. The wall was an awful steel blue color, and even worse, it had been painted with impossible-to-clean flat paint. Ugh. And then there are the stencils. So much to fix.

This is the view from standing in the doorway. The first third of the room is normal ceiling height, and then we have a lovely stenciled support beam which I can stand under with a little more than an inch to spare (I'm 5'9") and the ceilings just get lower and lower from there. Which is perfect for a playroom inhabited by little people.
IMG_1675 playroom before
We had a lot of toys and books on those shelves. A LOT. And it could get pretty scary in this room when several kids came over (or sometimes even just my three) and pulled every single thing out of the shelves and dumped them onto the floor. It could take hours to clean up. I just had to tell myself that this is why we had a playroom. I could always shut the door if I couldn't deal with it. And I did (shut the door, that is).
IMG_1674 playroom before
This is a view from the front right. That door leads to a really large closet which has a twin closet on the other side of the room. This one we use for storage: luggage, the crib, winter clothing, blankets, etc. The radiator was painted the same blue color as the walls (why?), and that's my exercise bike, which I do try to use daily.
IMG_1676 playroom before
The view if you are on the exercise bike. More stencils. (Even more in the hallway there...those are the only ones left in the house you remember the ones in the girls' room?). A television. A door.
IMG_1677 playroom before
We kept the dollhouse in the taller part of the room, because the roof didn't fit against the short walls. And that's my vacuum. Sometimes I even use it.
IMG_1678 playroom before
And there's the other closet. This one we have always kept empty. The girls did enjoy using it for a place to play, and that tent had recently been dragged in there for a secret fort or something that Chloe and her friend built. Which gave me a great idea...but before we get to that, do you want to see the miraculous transformation of our playroom?


The color I painstakingly chose for the paint is Sherwin-Williams Tiger Eye. It's a pumpkin-pie kind of color and I just love it. I have come to the realization that I only like autumn colors in my home (with the exception of the girls' bedrooms--they can have their bright pinks and greens). Knowing my "color personality" or whatever you want to call it makes things a lot easier and did I mention I love the results?
IMG_2760 playroom after
The carpet didn't photograph well, but it's a taupe color with flecks of green and brown and it's that loopy shaggy kind of pile. It kind of looks like Berber in the pictures, but I can assure you that it isn't.
IMG_2761 playroom after
While I was painting, I had put all of the furniture into the empty closet (which is so big that everything fit!). One day, I was trying to get something out of the closet and I reached over the bookshelves and lost my balance. They are flimsy, crappy shelves so when I fell on one it completely decimated itself. Plus gave me a nasty bruise. Anyway, all that to say that I only have three shelves now, which was the perfect impetus to get rid of stuff. The shelves that are in the corner there hold mainly books. Also puzzles and the few Legos (Lego?) we own.
IMG_2762 playroom after
Like I mentioned before, Joel and I put up the baseboard together. It was a tough job, and we are not professionals. However, I am proud of us. It's not like our 100-year-old house is very easy to work with, either. It's kind of lopsided and stuff. But we still love it. And, also, I painted the radiator white. It looks much better now.
IMG_2763 playroom after
The TV. And the kids' Christmas tree. I've always wanted a skinny pencil tree, so I got one this year. It holds all of the girls' homemade/schoolmade ornaments. I have started to hang things on the wall, but haven't quite decided about everything yet, so they're still a bit bare.
IMG_2764 playroom after
The outlet plates had also been painted blue, and since I didn't really want to buy new ones, I covered them with patterned paper and mod podge. Turned out pretty cool (thank you Pinterest!) even though the actual outlets are still blue. The frame up there holds a quote by Dieter F. Uchtdorf, who is a member of the First Presidency of the LDS Church. It says:
"Be strong and of good courage. You are truly royal spirit daughters of Almighty God. You are princesses, destined to become queens. Your own wondrous story has already begun. Your 'once upon a time' is now."
As the mother of girls, I had to buy it to hang in their playroom.

Which isn't so much a playroom anymore, you may be thinking. Well, let's just open that closet door and see what we find inside, shall we?
IMG_2767 playroom after
Aha! There are all the toys!
IMG_2768 playroom after
Since the girls and I were able to get rid of so many toys, and they had enjoyed playing in the closet anyway, we decided that the closet is now the offical "playroom" and the playroom is maybe more of a family room. We kept the pink carpet in the closets because it was in better shape in there, and the closets are so big it would have been an extra $600 to recarpet them. Maybe someday.
IMG_2769 playroom after
I did buy paint to do this closet a lovely cerulean blue, and I thought I'd paint clouds and some trees. Maybe I'll get to it over Christmas break.

I must say that having the toys in the closet has made a huge difference in the cleanliness of the playroom. Part of it could be that Sophia is now in Kindergarten and isn't up there as much as she has been in the past, but I say having fewer toys and confining them to the closet has helped. This is not to say that they don't bring the Barbies out of the closet, stuff their clothes with toilet paper, change Ken's name to "Bob Harper" and re-enact challenges with them while watching The Biggest Loser on Netflix.

Because they do that all the time (I love how creative my children are). But there is no longer any arbitrary dumping.

And I love our new playroom.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Not a Snow Day

The view from my front porch this morning after the sun was finally up. The vent thing in the lower left is on my garage roof, which is strange, but we live on a steep hill, so my porch is much higher than the roof of the garage. I do love the view we have of the ski hill.

The town was abuzz yesterday about the weather forecast. Maybe we'd get our first snow day of the year, or at least a delay. I, personally, thought that would be wonderful. Getting up before the sun rises and getting everyone out the door to school is not my favorite activity. I would so much prefer staying all warm and snug in my bed--at least until the sun is up.

I heard the wind blowing hard last night, and I smiled to myself and thought they'd call the snow day for sure. With that thought, I cuddled up in my comforter and fell blissfully to sleep.

At 6:00 am, I heard violin scales being played in the distance. But they were only incorporated into my dream, which was about Peanuts. Peanuts of the Charlie Brown and Snoopy variety. Soon, Bria was standing next to Linus and asking me which song she should play next on her violin.

"Woodstock," I answered.


"Play the Woodstock song," I told her. In my dream state, the Woodstock song was obviously a Seitz concerto. I couldn't understand why she didn't realize this.

"But, I don't have any songs called Woodstock."

And then I came to, out of my dream. I corrected myself and as she began to play the first notes of the Seitz, I drifted back to sleep wondering what she was doing practicing so early anyway. Didn't she know it was a snow day?

At 6:55, I finally woke up for real. I looked out the window. Lots of snow, for sure, but probably not enough for the school to call the day. Darn it. I grabbed my phone and checked my email anyway, but wasn't surprised to find that school would be going on as usual today.

And so began the race to get the girls up and dressed, fed and bundled, and out the door. Joel walked them to the bus stop, and even though I had to teach an early lesson, I headed back to bed. Just to pretend it was a snow day for another half-hour or so. Because who wants to be up in the snow and cold before the sun is up?

Certainly not I.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Love & Laughter

All you need in the world is love and laughter. That's all anybody needs. To have love in one hand and laughter in the other.
August Wilson

IMG_2695 Girls webIMG_2688 Girls webIMG_2699 girls webIMG_2680 Girls webIMG_2693 girls web
I haven't had a half decent photoshoot with all three of my offspring in a really long time. Like, maybe not since Easter 2010? I love how much they love and laugh together. It does a mother's heart good. Especially when the shrieking starts...

PS None of these pictures is featured on our Christmas card, so hopefully I'm not spoiling too much!

PPS I know I say it every time, but I really think this is the absolute last time I can get away with dressing them identically. It breaks my heart a little bit so I will make them wear these dresses to the ground this season!

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Pray Always

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...with lots of fake berries and leaves!

Last week I found myself in need of a new wreath for my front door. The one I made a couple years ago was pretty much destroyed in a windstorm last year, and I didn't see any way to fix it. Nor did I feel much like making something else. The thought of not having a wreath on my front door for Christmas was just too much to take, so I quickly ordered an inexpensive one online. I figure it will do for this year, and if I have it in me next year I'll make one. Or buy a nicer one. Or something.

But I digress.

This past Thursday, after the insanity that Thursdays bring, I plopped down at the computer to catch up on all the stuff one does on a computer. I have been expecting quite a few packages (it is, after all, Christmastime), so I started to check tracking numbers. All the packages were still en route, but my wreath had supposedly been delivered that day around noon with the note that it was left on the front porch. I hadn't noticed any package on the inside front porch or on the front steps. So, I got up from my computer and took another look. Nada. It had been snowing most of the day, so I even went as far as to dig a bit in the snow next to my front steps to see if it had fallen and been subsequently buried, even though that would have kind of been ridiculous because it was sure to be a fairly large package and we hadn't had that much snow.

And then I started to freak out. This is what I do when something turns up missing. I freak out. A lot. (I'm working on it.) What happened to my wreath? FedEx said they delivered it. Did they deliver to the wrong house? Should I start knocking on my neighbors' doors? I don't even know most of my neighbors, though! What if it was stolen off of my porch? Who do I call about that? Do I call FedEx or do I call Amazon? What should I do? Where is my wreath? Freak, freak, freak.

I decided that calling FedEx should be my first course of action, so I went back to my computer and started looking up the number. Here is where I found out that we live in such a remote area (okay, so I knew that part) that the FedEx drivers actually come in from three hours away every day. Wow. It took me a while to even find the number, and just as I was about to dial, Bria came into my office holding a package that could only be my wreath.

"Mommy, did you just say a prayer about finding this?"

I was in shock. Because, yes. Yes I had just said a prayer about being able to find the wreath (and to be able to stop with the freaking out—it's just a wreath). And then in walked Bria.

Bria had answered the front door and some man (I'll assume it was one of those neighbors I don't know) handed her the box and said, "I think this belongs to you."

Talk about a prayer answered at warp speed.

This week's goal in Project Walking into a Hug is Pray Always. To make prayer a priority for ourselves and for our families. I think we do pretty okay with this. The fact that the first thing Bria asked when she brought the wreath to me was whether or not I had said a prayer about it tells me that we have taught her about prayer.

However, there are always things to work on, and this week we will be focusing on making our prayers better, whether that be more sincere, more reverent or more often.  And we can always improve upon the morning prayer as we are rushing out the door.  We are quite proficient at saying it in the car on the way to church, for instance.  And we are the world champions at saying a quick one at the front door before the mad dash to the bus each morning, often while the girls are still trying to put on boots, hats and mittens.  How's that for reverent and respectful?

At least they know it's important enough to us that we do it anyway, but we will work on that...

Sunday, December 04, 2011

A December Saturday

The majority of our Saturday was spent getting the girls bathed, dressed, and then doing their hair. Because, guess what? I finally got around to taking photos of the girls for my Christmas cards, yesterday. This is one of them, but it isn't "the one," in case you're wondering. I really wanted to recreate this picture, but my girls (especially Bria) were just not having any of it. And then my memory card was full and that was the end of that. No way were they going to stay nice and content while I ran to get another one. They were barely holding it together as it was. I kind of like how it turned out, though. Maybe I'll try again and put that part at the beginning of a photo session instead of at the end. Maybe.

Never you worry, though. I got plenty of good ones for the Christmas card. I even managed to make the card, upload and order it by 1:30 in the morning (no wonder I was falling asleep in church today...), so as long as The Maestro gets his letter written in the next couple days people will actually get their cards by Christmas Eve. A Christmas miracle!

Speaking of The Maestro, I was thankful to him for traipsing all over in the snow to help me with the photo shoot, even though it was a concert day for him yesterday. Of course, I had to pay him back by going to his favorite restaurant for lunch. Besides, the girls deserved a treat, too. After all, they got all prettied up on a Saturday afternoon when they would have much preferred lying around watching TV.
Although, I think that they had plenty of fun traipsing around in the snow. They were especially enamored with the itty-bitty Christmas tree they discovered. That's the thing about girls...itty-bitty cute little things make them squeal and love the world more than just about anything else. Why do you think that Littlest Pet Shops are on every girl's Christmas list?
IMG_2750 itty Christmas tree web
Later, Bria and I went to the orchestra concert together and Joel conducted it. The thing about being married to The Maestro is I never actually have a date for these things, so I'm so glad my girls are always willing to go with me.
On second thought, I don't mind so much that I never have a date. I sure love watching my Maestro.
So after a lovely concert full of Dvorak, Mozart, Verdi, Liszt and Tchaikovsky I came home to work on the Christmas card until the wee hours of the morning. But I told you that already.


I don't know about you, but I'm off to take that Sunday nap I've been looking forward to all week...

Friday, December 02, 2011

The CHICK-tionary

We girls have an entire vernacular that is all our own, and the males in the room often have no idea what we are talking about when we pull it out. Just ask my poor husband, who lives in a household full of girls who, young as they are, have already come a long way towards fluency in girl-speak.

Enter The CHICK-tionary, Anna Lefler's new resource guide which includes 450+ words no woman can live without (though I must say I could live without a few of the more crass words/definitions included). To be honest, I'm not totally sure if the book is meant for women or for men, but I think both would enjoy reading it.

In fact, The Maestro and I both had a few laughs by randomly opening it and reading definitions on topics from fashion to relationships and everything in between. He learned a lot and maybe he'll understand all of his girls a bit better now. Plus, did I mention we laughed a lot?

Here is the very first entry in the book:

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

How to Decorate Your Christmas Tree: Part 5

Here is my "finished" tree. I am not having a good light year apparently, though, because this morning, half a strand of lights decided to go out. It bothers me greatly, and I'm tempted to somehow fix it, but that would involve undecorating and redecorating, so I guess I will just live with it.

How to Decorate Your Christmas Tree: Part 1 (Getting started, choosing a theme, adding lights and floral accents)
How to Decorate Your Christmas Tree: Part 2 (Putting up large and specialty ornaments)
How to Decorate Your Christmas Tree: Part 3 (Putting up ball ornaments)
How to Decorate Your Christmas Tree: Part 4 (Putting on the ribbon and/or garland)

I was realizing today that I probably should have titled this little series "How to Decorate MY Christmas Tree." Because I know that there are millions of ways to do it, and I certainly don't think everyone should do it my way. It's just how I do it, and what works for me. Apparently, I like my Christmas trees the same way I like my life: Overstuffed. You might be way more minimalistic where your tree is concerned, and that's totally cool because it's your tree. At the very least, I hope that if you read this little series I was able to help you have some ideas and vision for your own tree.

Okay, so now that the ribbon is on, we just have a few little finishing touches to deal with. The first is adding the twirly twiggy thingies (if anybody out there knows a more precise name for these, I'd love to know it!).
Twirly Twigs and Feathers
These things are twirly twigs. You can get them just about anywhere that has a floral decorating department. I've purchased them at the Dollar Store, WalMart and various craft stores. They're never very expensive and I think they are a perfect finishing touch for a tree. You might also try some that have berry sprays or feathers. There are tons of fun things like this to choose from.

I just take groups of 2 or 3 of the twirly twigs and stick them down into the branches, leaving plenty to stick out from the tree.
Twirly TwigTwirly Twigs
After those are all in, it's time for the most important finishing touch--the topper. You can use something specially made to be a tree topper (I have an angel), or you could just do a big bow or something. Whatever you like.

This year it was Chloe's turn to help put the angel in her place of honor.
Once the angel is placed, I make sure to tuck all the ribbon under her and then put the golden feathers around her.
Feather things
And with that, the tree decorating is FINITO!

Here's a picture of the finished tree without lights, since it is easier to see how things are placed.
Lights off
Again, I like to see lots of stuff and very little tree. You might be the opposite--the important thing is that you really love it.

But hold on, because we're not finished yet! We need a tree skirt! And guess what? I don't even have one. I use a round tablecloth that is kind of goldish in color because all of the tree skirts I like are way too expensive.
Tree skirt/tablecloth
I keep thinking that maybe I'll get around to making one, but so far that hasn't happened. I really like this one, and if I get around to it this is what I'll make. Isn't it pretty?

But anyway, don't feel like you have to spend hundreds of dollars (and I wish that weren't an exaggeration) on a tree skirt. Just use something you like to cover up the tree stand. Fabric remnants and tablecloths work really well.

Now all you need to do is sit back and enjoy your masterpiece. Get some hot cocoa, turn on the Christmas tunes and turn off the lights and bask in the glow of the season. That's why we have these Christmas trees anyway.

Merry Christmas!


PS: Here is a website with some pretty cool Christmas tree inspiration. They tend toward the overdone, even by my standards, but I think there are a lot of good color and theme ideas.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

How to Decorate Your Christmas Tree: Part 4

How to Decorate Your Christmas Tree: Part 1 (Getting started, choosing a theme, adding lights and floral accents)
How to Decorate Your Christmas Tree: Part 2 (Putting up large and specialty ornaments)
How to Decorate Your Christmas Tree: Part 3 (Putting up the ball ornaments)

How you deal with the ribbon/garland can seriously make or break the tree. And I know I'm a tree snob, but I'm totally serious.

The most common mistakes with the ribbon/garland are 1) putting it on before anything else, and 2) just wrapping it around the tree.

We've already discussed the order of things thus far, and obviously ribbon is almost last, so let's discuss how we get it on the tree.
This is my ribbon. The larger, gold roll is un-wired craft ribbon I bought at Costco several years ago. The whole thing easily does my entire tree (all rolled up it maybe has an 8" diameter?). The other five rolls of ribbon are wired craft ribbon that I bought 12 years ago! They're still in amazingly great shape, which is good, because I love the pattern.

I use both types of ribbon differently, so let's start with the gold ribbon.
See how it kind of curls if you let it unroll by itself? We want to capitalize on this curliness. Start at the top of your tree, secure one end of the ribbon somewhere in the branches (I like to do this in the back of the tree where it can't be seen) and let it naturally unroll as you wind it around the tree. Resist the urge to pull it tight and "wrap" the tree, just let it kind of cascade down, and tuck it into the branches every now and then so it is secure.

I am thinking I should have shot a video, because that wasn't so easy to explain. Here's another picture:

Overstuffed Tree
Just keep going around the tree, letting the ribbon fall where it may, and gently tucking it in here and there. I do admit to pulling it tight in the back if I feel like I am going to run out of ribbon before I get to the entire bottom of the tree.

If you use beads or another type of garland which won't curl by itself like the ribbon does, just kind of drape them generously. I used to use gold beads and I had a lot of fun dripping them all over the tree randomly. Random is always the key.

After I do the gold ribbon, I do my patterned ribbon. It's wired, so it's a little bit different to work with, but I still use its own curl from being rolled up in the box for a year.

Balsam Hill

For this ribbon, I secure a piece at the very tippy top of the tree (where the topper will eventually hide it) and cascade it straight down, tucking it in every so often. Like so:
I continue doing this with all five ribbons until my tree kind of starts to remind me of a wedding cake. It doesn't matter how messy the top gets with all the ribbon ends because the topper will hide it. But only you know what your topper is capable of hiding, so do your ribbon accordingly. Mine is an angel with a full skirt that can hide lots and lots of ribbon.

Here is what our tree is looking like now:
So close...
(I added the birds after all the ribbon was put on--they are the ornaments saved for very, very last.)

Only one more part to go...just a few finishing touches, and then you can sit back with some hot cocoa and enjoy your masterpiece.

Click here for Part 5: Finishing Touches