Friday, December 19, 2008

20 Things I Love About Christmas

Well, I'm all snowed in with the first real blizzard of the year, enjoying a quiet cup of coffee, waiting for the kids to get up so I can start the mixer & bake all day! Yum!

I figured it's a great time to get my list of 20 things together to join in the fun over at The Inspired Room.

In no particular order:

1. Twinkle lights. Hung merrily on trees, laced through garlands, looped among mantle decorations, gathered in glassware.

2. Harry Connick Jr. All 3 cd's full of Holiday tunes, & even better, live & in person this year! What a treat!

3. Christmas lists. Not so much the shopping, but thinking of wonderful surprises. To tuck in stockings, or wrap in packages, to bring a smile on Christmas morning. It really IS the thought that counts.

4. Hot chocolate. With tiny marshmallows. In the special "only to be used for hot chocolate" mug.

5. Fresh fallen snow that sparkles like diamonds in the moonlight.

6. Cookies. Special Holiday cookies. Made once a year from recipes handed down from a great-grandma whose name I don't even know. That somehow managed to cross the ocean with Grandma (who died before I was born) back at the turn of the century. From a tiny village up in the Trentian Mountains in the former Austro-Hungarian Empire.

7. Candy Canes. The chocolate mint ones.

8. Piling everyone in the car to drive around for hours looking at all the gorgeous light displays.

9. Making sure the tree is up for our Christmas baby. Her brother remarked, "It's just not her birthday without the tree!!"

10. Christmas cactus. A new tradition. A "must have" for when the college son returns from the desert.

11. Wassail. Here we come a wassailing. The smell of the spices filling the air.

12. Merry greetings from friends far & away.

13. The Muppet Christmas Carol. At least twice.

14. Sitting in front of the tree on Christmas Eve. All the other house lights off. The kids tucked snuggly with visions of sugar plums. Remembering Christmas past.

15. The Nutcracker, preferably the Baryshnikov version.

16. Taking the time to stop & do something kind for a stranger in all the hustle & bustle. Making someone smile.

17. Tamales. They just taste better this time of year!

18. The Christmas Waltz. My very favorite song.

19. The magic of Christmas morning.

20. Family. All of them. Nuts & all!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A Faerie Crown

Since I had the jewelry stuff out due to the snow day & a little time on my hands, I decided to make a crown for the Christmas Faerie. She looked a little bare with just the berries & ornaments. Especially after her festive Fall array.

So, I set about with wire & rhinestones & a few freshwater pearls. I twisted & twined, baubled & bent; and eventually had a crown fit for a Queen.

A Faerie Queen, that is!

And since we've had nothing but snow for a couple weeks now, I decided to move the Halloween/Thanksgiving/Christmas/etc tree down to the hearth for the season. Gone are the orange lights, & the red & white fits nicely into the rest of the scheme!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

A Snow Day & Crystal Icicles

Well, we are officially in the midst of our first Winter Storm. We've had some good snowfalls already this season, but this one is a doozy! It started with freezing rain that coated the roads, & now we have 6-10 inches of heavy snow.

I didn't even consider attempting the drive to work.

Instead, I stayed warm & snug, twinkle lights lit & Christmas music playing. I have been toying with the idea of making some crystal icicles for the tree, given our new theme this year. I know somewhere in the jewelry jumble there is a stash of unused Czech crystal in just the right hue.

I poured another cup of coffee, popped in a new CD & got to work.

I used stretch cord instead of wire so that nothing interfered with the sparkle.

I tied a double knot in the end, & set to stringing.

I looped the stretch cord back through the last big aqua bead & knotted it firmly. (Sorry, the photo turned out very, very blurry. Maybe I shouldn't have had that extra coffee!)

As soon as the roads are clear, I need to get some Super Glue to dab on all the knots to secure them. I don't want beads all over the house if the big kitten gets hold of them!

Don't forget to stop by The Inspired Room to see everyone's great ideas!

Monday, December 8, 2008

I'll Have a Blue Christmas...

With the bold new look we gave the Great Room, our old traditional decorations didn't blend so well. So, I hit Michael's again (& now my husband knows what I am up to when I go visit "Mike" so often!)

I stripped the old garlands & added blue & sliver & lots of sparkle!

I decked the halls & sang along with Harry as I did. (Harry Connick Jr is maybe my favorite Christmas music.)

And the results:

We like it so much we may forgo the memory ornament collection this year & redo the tree as well!

Don't forget to stop by The Inspired Room

I've also just joined the fun over at Smiling Sally's Blue Monday

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Waiting for Ole St. Nick

I'm a little ahead of the game this year.

Usually, I am rummaging around in the closet, boxes falling on my head, in a last minute attempt to get the stockings hung with care in time for St. Nick to arrive.

But not this year.

I attribute it to all the wonderful ideas I have been coming across in blogland.

First, the mantle:

And the faerie got something different to ponder:

The stockings were hung...

With a wreath to light up the evenings in front of the fire:

And a certain kitten was quite excited this morning!

Advent Wreath

I added a little jingle to the Advent Wreath this year as I was revamping the main floor decorations.

Just a silver ball here and there...

And it dressed it up nicely.


For more holiday ideas, visit all the great links at The Inspired Room

Monday, December 1, 2008

North Pole Memories

I haven't thought of it in forever.

My favorite Christmas decoration as a kid.

It was this tableletop scene of the North Pole. Or as least my vision of it.

It was ancient. I was the last of 6 kids with an 18 year span, & it was probably purchased in my parents early years.

It was also very likely an extreme fire hazard. (Most of my mom's house still is.)

It was the first box I would go for every year when the decorating go-ahead was given. All alone, I would struggle to get this beat up cardboard box, too big for a kid my size, out of the coal cellar (no, we didn't use coal anymore, it was the all purpose "throw it in the coal cellar" storage area) & up the steep flight of slippery stairs. I slipped all the way down one year, but kept my precious box intact.

I would place that box on the floor next to the end table where it was traditionally displayed. Then I would pile up the magazines, odd bits of paper, school photos (Depression era people, my parents never threw anything out. Anything!) and dust off the place of honor. (My mom never dusted either.)

I would carefully pull back the tattered flaps of the box and just sit & look at it for a while. I would gently reach in & touch the different pieces of the scene, as if to make sure they all survived the year in the dank recesses of the basement.

Then, I would carefully place both hands under the base, stand up, & raise my prize out of its box and set it on its table.

Then, I would just sit back on my heels and admire every inch.

First, the forest of "snow" encrusted pine trees. Various sizes, all covered in a prickly white substance that was a bit yellow with age.

Then, the path the wound through the display to the North Pole. Like the lamp post in Narnia. Buried in its forest of pine. Complete with the glitter sprinkled globe on top.

And lastly, the reindeer standing at the base of the pole, looking up in wonder. He had to be Rudolph. At least to me he was. The plastic antlers were a bit the worse for wear, a prong or two missing, & his fuzzy coat a bit worn in spots. The reindeer of my era looked vaguely like the white tailed deer in my back yard, & not the proper caribou appearance of today.

I had to touch each element, as if making sure they were all really still there.
Only then, would I risk life & limb, reach down, & plug in the power cord. There was always a little spark when it slid into the outlet. (See, I have a history of making sparks for the Holidays.) The ritual continued as I jiggled the glitter globe to make the light turn on...and spin.

That was the magic of it all.

The entire piece hummed & whirred in an effort to turn the globe & flash is beacon of red light about a small corner of the room. I would just sit, mesmerized, drawn in.

Some small memory seems to remember a song playing as the light spun. That part is a bit hazy.
One year, my mom simply could not stand the piece anymore. I was ordered to box it up & take it back to the dark little corner it came from. I don't think it has been moved from the spot since, except maybe to be pushed further back into the memories of childhood.

A lot of my growing up is like that.

Part of me wants to go rescue my North Pole & see if it still works.

But I think the memory is better served as is.

The magic will always be there.

For more holiday happenings, visit Melissa at The Inspired Room

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A "Charming" Addition to the Table

This year, I am dressing up the Thanksgiving table a bit.

I needed new wine glasses anyway (the last set has met their demise stem by stem), so I decided to finally take the time to make a set of wine charms.

Now, I've always thought these were a great idea, especially since I have a habit of setting my glass down & forgetting where I put it.

I headed off to Michaels to pick up a few things with an "autumn" flair. I've been spending so much time there lately my husband is starting to wonder who this "Michael" guy is!

I also dug around in the jewelry supply stash & pulled out the Swarovski.

Nothing says "Celebrate the Holidays" like a little sparkle!

I decided to keep with an Autumn color scheme that will also complement the table; olivine, smoke black, topaz...

It was easy enough to bend up the corners of the earring wires so I didn't have crystals running amok to try & search down once the festivities were over.

I'm almost thinking of running back & picking up another set of the leaf charms so I can make extra charms in case my guests would like to take one home! I have a hard time parting with some of the things I create!

And my daughter liked them so much, she informed me I need to pick up a bottle of sparkling cider so she can have her own glass & charm!!

Visit Melissa at The Inspired Room for more great ideas!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Bucket List

I don't usually cross-post from my My Space blog, but I took the challenge from Maven & here's what I came up with :

The Bucket List. You know...the things you want to do before you "kick the bucket."

Mave challenged her reader's to compile their list, and I'm not one to back down from a challenge.

Last year while Christmas shopping, I came across the book "2001 Things to do Before You Die" which was written along the same lines. The author provided a list as inspiration to get you to think about the things you would really want to do or try in your lifetime.

I was laughing out loud at B&N, which I do lots.

But I also sing in public.

Yep, to know me is to love me.

Anyway....I stood in the bargain aisle reading the list of things I should do, & realizing I had already done an awful lot of them.

And, yes, some of them are a bit risque & will not be put into print here.

It IS a family page after all. My daughter drops in sometimes. And so do her friends.

And lord knows I embarrass her enough as it is. (See "sing in public" comment.)

My head was still ringing last night from the Edgar Winter concert (which was quite fab by the way) & I couldn't get to sleep, so I started thinking about my list.

It's silly, but on the top of the list is to have someone write a song about me. A song that you happen on while listening to the radio & go, "Dear god, that's me!" and smile.

Now, to be honest, I did have a song written sorta about me once. And performed in public an awful lot. And running into the guitarist (& co-writer) last night jogged the memory. But, it wasn't exactly the type of song I had in mind. Let's just say it contained the lyrics "Little Miss Twister, that's your little sister, Little Miss Twister, she's a dancin' fool."

Singing in public is not all I used to do.

A lot.

I also want to visit Stonehenge. At Winter Solstice.

Except, now they have that blasted fence around it to preserve it. So, it kinda wrecks the effect.

Now, I have been to a dolman in Ireland, a druids' alter & grave entrance. We drove all over the burren looking for the silly thing & would have driven right past had my son not spotted it in the distance. It was near the Vernal Equinox as luck would have it.

All the travel books make it look so impressive & huge. We almost missed it because it was probably only 5 feet high.

But, it was still pretty cool.

I want to travel the Great Ocean Road in Oz.

There is just something so inviting about it.

And, I want to retake the family castle.

Or at least spend the night there. Along with the ghosts.

And, I want to go horseback riding on the beach.

On a desert isle.

On the Black Stallion.


And I want to be considered an artist & author.


I'm working on that one at the moment.

Oh, & just once, I want to make risotto.

When I think of the things I've already managed to accomplish on my "looking back at the things I want to do" list, it's pretty impressive. And most of it was accidental. You know, "life along the way" sort of things. Which probably makes them that more special.

I've met some cool people, been some very neat places, & had some amazing experiences.

And, hopefully, there is a lot more ahead.

I think maybe my bucket list is filled more with just wanting to enjoy the life I'm living, take it all in, & pass it along to others more than actually wanting to "do" anything.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Yes, Virginia, There Is A Thanksgiving Tree

Thanksgiving is less than three weeks away. The abandoned son is returning from the desert for the feast this year. This makes for a much happier mom, that's for sure.

In fact, we've actually started decorating, for the first time ever.

Most of the Halloween/Harvest decor is still around; I just took down the stripey stockings. They are safely tucked away for next year.

The little Halloween tree received a wee make-over today as I added a string of red lights.

It started out as a silly little idea really, but we are now planning to keep it up all year round, changing the lights to match the season. I stocked up on different colors when I ran an errand today.

It's amazing what a little light will do to create some atmosphere!

We also had our first little snowfall of the year. It was really only flurries, which makes it pretty to watch, but not at all a hassle to drive in.

It makes me very thankful indeed that I don't live in the western Dakotas right now!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Spiced Cafe Mocha Cookies & Dragonlings

Sundays just seem to be good days to experiment.

I'm still trying to decide on cookie recipes for the big Chorus fundraiser coming up. Chalk it up to my competitive steak, but I'm not going to settle for a simple pan of brownies when it is supposed to be a caberet themed affair

The Italian Lemon Cookies from a couple weeks ago were a hit.

Today's mission was to find something equally delicious, yet complimentary.

I decided on a little Cafe Mocha inspiration. With spices. And you can never go wrong with chocolate.

The results? A very nice blend of spices & coffee flavor amid the chocolate. You know you've found a good combination when the cookies start disappearing while they are still hot!

I'll try & get the recipe up on Stuff We Eat by tomorrow.

After one mess was cleaned up, I decided to play with polymer. Sculpy is pretty much the grown-up version of Playdoh. I had done a bit of sculpting a while back, & figured I might as well use up some of the material I had left. I've been cruising the Elfwood site & settled on attempting a dragonling.

Never ceases to amaze me how a tiny little craft can yield a bigger mess than 5 dozen glazed cookies! I think I'll be cleaning up mica powder for a week!

Monday, October 27, 2008

A Little Autumn Decorating

I had a few things left over from my rainy afternoon the other week. I decided to add a few more inexpensive items to the mix & see what I could come up with.

I spread everything out, sized it up, & started arranging. And rearranging.

We've had a bit of a cold snap lately, so I brought in the mums & the pumpkins.

And the faerie.

The boys weren't quite sure what to make of her.

After a while, the lounge started to shape up.

My daughter & I got a bit silly at the store, & thought adding some stripey "Halloween" stockings would be a fun idea. The orange twinkle lights added a nice touch.

Here are some close-ups of the details:

There was an extra string of twinkle lights left over, so we dragged out the little tree that sits near the fireplace. The front porch had been looking a little sad & lonely once the mums & faerie had a new home, but not any more!

And the nice thing is that most of the decorating will carry over until Thanksgiving, so part of my prep for the big day is taken care of already!