After eighteen years I decided to spring for new Christmas stockings. I had originally purchased four embroidered stockings from Land's End in 1998...Sean, Nora, McIntosh and Meriwhether. Mine had an angel...which is the last thing I'd ever pick, but they only had four designs and I really liked the other three.
West Elm provided stockings 2016...along with a 20% discount and free embroidering and free shipping. Hard to beat that. And they were a cute striped wool felt with no angels anywhere (my apologies to people who like angels--you must be a much nicer person than I am). So now we have Sean, Nora, Mac (since he doesn't like McIntosh) and "dogs"...for Shamrock & Paddington.
The bonus is these stockings hold a lot more. The old ones would seriously hold maybe three little things, so anything bigger than a few inches would be piled on the fireplace. Now there is plenty of room for Santa to stuff my stocking full of craft supplies and chocolate.
For hostess gifts this year I used an idea I had seen before, but decided to add my own twist by including a little pot as part of the gift. That way all it needed was water for it to be ready to go and then the pot could be reused for other little simmering concoctions in the future.
I filled each pot about halfway with slices of orange peel, cranberries, cinnamon sticks, cloves, and sprigs of rosemary. Then I used a cellophane bag to slip over the pot and tied a big plaid bow. I used the leftovers to simmer in our house and oh my goodness did it smell delicious.
A few Christmas details...wrapped gifts finally piled until the tree. An ornament crafted up during this year's merry making activities. My nephew and nieces were super sweet on Christmas morning including the gifts they made for their parents. Speaking of my nephew and nieces, my mom knitted the cutest hats for them and after I commented on the colorful pom-poms a bunch of times she made a couple extra for my gift.
And then speaking of gift wrapping, we love that Mac always spends a little time making our gifts cute. And he picked out our favorite things...candles for Anthropologie for me and he designed custom Vans for Sean. He wrapped a photo since we did't realize it takes six weeks to be done and Mac and I ordered them in early December.
Now I have been fully embracing the post-holiday tasks of wearing fuzzy socks, eating Ruffles for breakfast, catching up on this season of Good Wife and drinking one too many jars of iced coffee. We may have discussed a possible idea with a can of paint but, other than that, I am keeping on track with a solid Christmas week schedule.
My mom moved from Chicago in 1978 (I think that's right) with one daughter, one on the way and two Norfolk Island Pines. They were houseplants until we moved into the house we grew up in and my mom planted them in the front yard. Santa Ana winds eventually knocked one down, but the other has been growing for almost 40 years.
For the last couple of years, though, my mom has talked about taking it down, since it was affecting her next door neighbor's roof. She mentioned taking it down at Christmas so one of us could use the top as a Christmas tree. She even hired a tree trimmer, specifically asking them to save the top. We also asked to save parts of the trunk for all four of us to keep. I joked that we probably were one of the most sentimental customers they have had.
The tree trimmer drove the top over to my house and it just took a few minutes to get it set up in the tree stand in front of the house. We put lights on it and, although it probably seemed random to my neighbors, it looked super cute.
Then some heavy breezes came and knocked it down. We moved it under the porch (it barely fit) and then some heavy breezes came and knocked it down there too. I hadn't gotten the picture I really wanted of it lit up at night in front of the house. That's how Sean ended up out there right before the progressive dinner party last weekend trying to get it to stand.
Except it wouldn't.
Sean dealt with my persistence (a.k.a. whining) about the tree saying his very last option would be nailing the stand into the tree. I told him as long as I got a picture then it could be laying on the ground at the front door as the neighbors arrived for all I cared. I just really wanted a darn picture.
He got it to stand for the photo...and it stood all night...and it remained standing right there all last week, even with more heavy breezes. We have joked it's a Christmas miracle.
And then this weekend a millimeter of rain fell and the tree fell over...and fell over again, so it was time. Sean started cutting it apart, but saved the final three feet and got it arranged into a planter box we had. So it is sitting in the corner of the front porch still barely hanging on for Christmas.
Oh maybe it really will be a Christmas miracle and start growing again.
I dug into the cabinet where I have been stuffing away gifts and got all of them wrapped. My mom set up her village for the first time in years...the ice-skaters on the the mirror pond were always my very favorite. And a blurry photo from last night when we went out late to see our favorite Christmas light neighborhood.
It's been a good week so far...
A few years ago, when I was stuck to my desk finishing my third semester of grad school (just seeing the lit review list written on the white board makes me shutter), I decorated around my desk to bring some holiday festiveness to my schoolwork. This year I took it even further and switched out the frames and took down my favorite painting to hang an unconventional wreath. It's like having a Christmas desk instead of a tree (except I actually have a tree up in the room too).
I used some deer wrapping paper in one frame and used a "Makers Gonna Make" free print in another (I changed the color to red and added a gold star background).
The hipster Santa pillow is possible my most ridiculous Christmas purchase ever, but I love it.
I figured, if I am going to be in here, I am bringing Christmas in with me.
Sean started with "Clarence" a couple of years ago now. And he's has had a pretty good time around here. Then last year I saw a bunch of sad little elves heaped in the clearance section at Target and couldn't resist bringing someone home to give Clarence some competition.
Because the only thing more ridiculous than full-grown adults having an elf on a shelf, is having two of them.
Sean knew someone would be arriving and teased me about being able to come up with good ideas.
All I said was, "Game on."
So please meet Lucretia. Lucretia Mott. She started the women's suffrage movement with Elizabeth Cady Stanton in Seneca Falls, New York on July 19, 1848. She brought a mini copy of the Declaration of Sentiments with her.
And she showed up with a gift. A David's Tea Advent calendar.
This shouldn't be so much fun...but it kind of really is.
Oh I love Christmas wrapping paper a little too much. This means every single year I cannot resist a new collection of colors and patterns.
This year I was doing okay. I got four (since it was buy one get one) rolls at Hallmark and only had two in my hand when I wandered around my ultimate wrapping paper heaven. But then I grabbed one more...and then one more and then...
I ended up filling my arms with all the good stuff, looked sheepishly at Sean and told him this is apparently what I went to grad school for...to support my own Christmas wrapping paper addiction.
Not my usual Christmas photo of the tree surrounded by gifts or a quick family photo before we head out for the night.
Tonight was filled with my mom's best friend's family and lots of really good food.
Then Sean and I stopped by Mac's dad's family's house (we had dropped Mac off there earlier) to open gifts, get an annual picture of Mac with his mom & dad and, apparently, to play some cup stacking game that involved lots of taunting. This photo is of Sean losing the game to Mac's dad and aunt.
Late tonight "It's a Wonderful Life" was on TV as I sat down at my desk for a minute to empty my camera card in preparation for tomorrow. I looked through the photos, like this blurry one, and cannot help but think, it really is a wonderful life.
Hope you have a Christmas that is filled with all kinds of wonderful too.
Our street had it's eleventh holiday progressive dinner last weekend and this time around we hosted the dessert house. I decided I had to use pretty much all the ideas on Pinterest and put together a hot chocolate bar. We hung snowflakes from the ceiling and put our table in front of the sliding door in the kitchen. I added a print and gathered everything I had in my kitchen that matched the colors...oh and I needed two little buckets from the Target dollar spot since they matched. I made a big crock-pot full of hot chocolate, a quart of fresh whipped cream (that we served in a bowl of ice to keep cool) and dipped marshmallows in white chocolate and peppermint. We also had chocolate cookie sticks, mini marshmallows, candy canes, mini peanut butter cups, fleur de sel, and more crushed peppermint. I covered english toffee syrup, caramel sauce and white chocolate sauce bottles in snowflake patterned paper with labels.
After three houses worth of food, everyone often gets to the dessert house stuffed, but thankfully a small cup of hot chocolate seemed to be a good little something sweet to end the night.
The three of us went to Disneyland yesterday using this past September's batch of free half-marathon volunteering passes, like we did last June. We watched the Christmas parade, rode Big Thunder Mountain and ate too many corn dogs.
I'm pretty sure I am too cynical to be at Disneyland in general, but even I was taken in by the Disney magic when everything was lit up at night.
It's back...my noncommital version of a Christmas countdown. Just some little activities, snacks, games or other traditions that are just wrapped up so that they are even more fun. I would go into more specifics, but occasionally there is one blog reader around here that I don't want to blow the surprises for. This year I came up with a dozen, but you can do any amount.
In addition to making some tags and raiding every green wrapping paper I have, I made a cheat sheet again so I remember what everything is and can roughly sketch out dates.
Last year two full-fledged adults got an elf on the shelf for no reason whatsoever...."he" did things like go on a train ride on my desk and take selfies with Mac and I while we were sleeping. This year he is off to a strong start...he hopped on top of the tree in my craft room and in the Christmas village downstairs.
He was waiting for me in the car yesterday morning as I left for work...too bad we couldn't take the carpool lane.
Then he was hanging out with the cold brew coffee in the bottom of the fridge drawer this morning.
Wonder where he'll be next...
This past weekend included yet another edition of my to-do list creating as a form of procrastination. This time it's a holiday version made with a free printable reindeer from Cathy Zeilske's newsletter and digital patterned papers I could not resist buying.
Here's a PDF in case you need a seasonal task list too... download Holiday To Do List
Those days are long since over. Somehow I will get to wrapping soon and, when I do, I took the time to organize a cabinet of holiday wrapping supplies.
So, as you can see, I use the time I do have very wisely.
I finished up our book this past week. It's simple, but filled with photos and memories. Sean's dad flew out from Iowa to stay with us for six days. He went from temperatures well below zero, to almost eighty degrees and with his feet in the ocean.
In addition to his train ride on my desk and the dogs holding him hostage in their kennel, Clarence the elf took selfies with Mac and I when we were asleep. We found them on our cell phones.
Can I tell a story please? Most of you know Mac is an identical twin, but his brother, Griffin, was stillborn. We live right down the street from my mom's house, the house I grew up in, which is on a street perpendicular to a cemetery. Griffin is buried there and, although we drive past it pretty much everyday, I am terrible about taking care of his grave. Except I always make sure we decorate it on Christmas. This year we weren't going to get there until Christmas Eve afternoon. When Sean went to get the decorations out of the garage, he realized that we had tossed them the summer before in a big clean out. We figured the decorations were old and falling apart, so we would get him new ones. And then we forgot.
I burst into tears for reaching an entirely new level of neglect. Sean was going to run out the door to buy anything he could find. And Mac offered the tree in his room. Before I let you think Mac is the kindest kid you've ever met (and granted he is pretty darn good) I should be honest and let you know that most grave Christmas decorating visits have included Mac complaining about why the heck we even have to do this. Regardless of his past annoyances with the tradition, Mac's offer made everything better. I decided to bring along a candle too. Not the safest thing, but living by the cemetery we knew people did it all the time and I liked the idea of the little light flickering, even if it didn't last long. So one of my Christmas wreath jar candles sat on his grave, along with Mac's tree.
That night we ended up with Santa Ana winds...it howls and shakes the house in the middle of the night as the gusts blow through. When I opened my eyes Christmas morning, I asked Sean if he would go gather Mac's tree. We guessed that it had blown away the night before and figured he'd be looking for wherever it ended up. Thankfully, it had just blown over, but not really taken off. And the candle? Sean told me when he got home that, despite the wind, the candle was still lit when he got there. I wish I had been there to see it myself.
That's the card we put in Mac's stocking...on the other side it said, "but we are getting you one for Christmas".
And that's my nephew at our family Christmas brunch making sure there weren't anymore gifts under the tree.
Since the first Christmas after were married, Sean and I have the tradition to open gifts from each other very last thing on Christmas night. And we write little hints and jokes on the gift tags, so I always save them.
And I enlarged the photo I took of the reflection of the three of us in an ornament on Mac's tree from Christmas Eve. Even though it occurred in a bit of a crisis mode, putting that tree up was definitely was my favorite holiday moment this year.
I finished the last batch of gift wrapping today. I can't believe Christmas is almost here!
I finished hostess gifts today too (I'll share them later this week after they've been given). Now the next Christmas crafting task is making thank you notes.
I'll be using these sheets to keep track...
You can download them here, Thank You Notes Planner Sheets, in case you need a place to keep a list too.
With a seventeen year old we have no official need for an Elf on the Shelf, but it's still fun to see the idea other people come up with.
When I saw this I sent the link to Sean who said, even though we don't have little kids, we should get one next year to hide around the house anyways. Then last week this version was sitting at Costco for twelve dollars, so it came home with me. I have been teasing Sean that, so far, his ideas haven't been too creative.
Then I walked into see my desk this morning. The elf, which Sean insists should be named "Clarence", apparently dug out Mac's old train set from the toy cabinet and used the little holiday forest that usually sits on top of my computer monitors this time of year.
Nicely done Clarence.
I have always hated glitter. Anything sparkly was kind of lost on me. Yet, somewhere in the midst of all this cheer mom stuff, I started to be drawn in...just a little. That's why our cards have a tree punched out of glitter paper.
Besides that detail, there is not much else. Super simple this year. I didn't even make my own labels. I ordered return address labels and hand wrote the addresses on gold envelopes. I was starting to regret that choice when I was intoxicated by sharpie marker fumes about halfway through the sixty I had to address.
These were all cranked out and in the mail last week. It's my favorite holiday task to get crossed off the list.
There are two administrative assistants in one of the Sociology Departments I work in that needed a good gift. They have gone above and beyond helping me out this semester, doing things like ordering thirteen books from various publishers so I can prepare for a class next semester or checking every week to see if they can move a classroom for me so I don't have to make a nearly impossible hike between classes.
I decided to combine a few little things to make a relaxation kit for when they are on Christmas break. I gathered a pair of fuzzy socks, some chocolate, a holiday candle and tea. I made a little tag to tie things together so the items didn't seem totally random. Then I packaged it in a gift box with tinsel as the padding.
You can right-click to save the tag in case you would like to put together a little relaxation kit for someone who has been extra good to you.
Then, over the holiday weekend, I sat down to flip through the old Christmas scrapbooks. There was our family Christmas card picture in 2002 and I wrote about that we chose the one we did because Mac threw his hand in the air like a cheerleader. That was the year he became completely enamoured with cheerleading. Somehow it's already eleven years later and he's the cheerleader he always wanted to be. Scrapbooking caught that little detail that's such a big part of our lives now.
That's why I really want to keep documenting...these little memories really can matter when you look back on them.
With my crazy, plan-ahead ways when it comes to Christmastime I have been known to be wrapping gifts in late October...definitely by November...and no matter what there are gifts to go under the tree once it's set up on Thanksgiving weekend.
This year the tree went up and there were no gifts to be found. Heck, the heaps holiday wrapping paper just came down from the attic a few days ago. I tried to be laid back about it. I tried to remind myself it's no big deal and the gifts will be under the tree at some point.
And then I lost my ever-crafty-loving mind and wrapped and made tags all weekend.
I also added a few Christmas catagories to the sidebar, in case you want to peek at all the gift wrapping from the years before when I actully did start wrapping way in advance.
My planner has a new section...
I made a divider for it like the other ones I have.
I also printed out a few extra things to make the section a little cuter. And then I made up some sheets to start getting organized.
You can Download Gift List 2013 too if you need to get organized. Or you can also just tear photos out of catalogs and stick them in there with washi tape. I did that too.
I am trying not to think about the fact that I am usually way more ahead with Christmas shopping by this time of year...instead I'll just be happy that I have some ideas written down for now.
Last year, before we went off to a couple holiday celebrations, I tried to come up with a useful little hostess gift since often every house is pretty good and stuffed with sugary treats by Christmas day.
It took me a little while to come up with another idea this year, but when I ran out of tape right before the holiday it occurred to me that it might be a good idea to help replenish the tape supply that surely gets depleted for everyone after lots of holiday wrapping. I simply used the insert in the tape dispenser as a template to make patterned paper covers for the tape.
All that was left to do was make up some tags with a cheesy saying and wrap up each little set.
Here is the tag I used at Christmas...Download Holly Hostess Tag. But now that the holidays are over I figured another design might be more useful... Download Chevron Hostess Tag. After all, a cute little supply of tape can come in handy year round.
We have been so lucky to get to have lots of 12 Days of Christmas fun so far. We have baked cookies, painted ornaments, purchased toys to donate and played a little game we came up with...
Considering we live a snow deprived existence here in Southern California, Sean really liked the idea of an indoor snowball fight with homemade yarn pompoms. As I went to gather supplies at the craft store last week I decided that my stack of coupons would instead be used on a few packs of time saving pre-made pom poms and a tin can to try to toss them into. Instead of a snowball fight, call it snowball toss and we've got ourselves a game. It was actually pretty challenging, but Mac and Sean were able to get several of the dozen snowballs into the can. I got all of one. I'll have to practice for a rematch.
It started tonight...12 days of family activities to celebrate the holiday season. We will tear into these each day to see what the plan will be...
There are also some extra supplies all wrapped up to go along with a few of the days...
As you can see, I had no fun whatsoever putting this all together. I really loved it when we did this back in 2010 and can't wait for another dozen nights of fun.
Cards went out in the mail this afternoon. Both Sean and Mac have Secret Santa's to surprise with little gifts. I am planning 12 days of Christmas activities. Treats for teachers need to be made for Mac's last day of school on Friday. And gifts are being wrapped...
I really love this time of year.
I mentioned the extra tree I just needed to have a couple weeks ago, but never shared it fully decorated. That's because I just finished it this past Friday. I decided in the absence of extra ornaments (although I did have the felt garland we made) I would turn the tree into a scrapbook of Christmas past...
I gathered a holiday photo from almost all of the fifteen years we've been a family, printed out a copy of each, punched some holes in the top and tied some twine. Super easy...or at least it was after I found all the photos.
Then a couple yards of some sweater-like fabric that I discovered on super sale was piled under as a tree skirt...
It was a bit of a challenge to come up with a way to easily decorate a tree, but it was fun to dig into old photos and create something that fits perfectly in our family room.
This year our holiday mantle is as simple as can be. The mismatched letters from the craft store got a coat of unifying red paint. I tried to put other things with them, but for some reason I liked them standing alone. I guess it's all the merry we need.
This weekend includes our neighborhood's annual holiday progressive dinner. Lots of cooking and cleaning will be taking place around here to get our house ready to host the main course. Then Sunday will be Christmas card assembly day. Hopefully I will have our stack of cards ready to drop off at the post office on Monday.
Hope your weekend is full of holiday fun too!
Are you mailing Christmas gifts to Iowa and Oklahoma? Did you challenge yourself to try to get useful, thoughtful, and fun gifts for numerous people that all fit into a flat rate box because $11.35 seems like more than plenty to spend on shipping?
Well, that has been what I have been trying to do...and today I finally figured out a way to help make it happen.
Wrap gifts in fabric bags. They won't get torn/scratched/wrinkled the way paper might when you are trying to squeeze everything in. It also really helps when you are trying to figure out how the heck to wrap a Bananagrams game for your seven year old sister.
Now off to the post office in the morning...
Sometimes I like to imagine I am a graphic designer...usually when I am making party invitations or a house project. I actually have little to no clue what I am doing, but it sure is fun to try. That's why when I needed a little something to hang up for the holidays I tried to make it myself.
And in case you think I'm a decent enough pretend graphic designer I thought I could share the PDF... Download Joy Love Peace Tree. Sean was pretty insistent that, since it was a tree, it needed a trunk so I tried making another version with one... Download Joy Love Peace Tree with Trunk.
I am a way better imaginary graphic designer than he is though.
Pretty much the entire weekend was spent decorating, getting wrapped gifts under the tree, finishing up some tags for class (it's still not too late to join), taking advantage of the sales, and plotting several new holiday crafts.
When it comes to making stuff, it really is the most wonderful time of the year.
Christmas decorations have never lasted as long as New Years Day around here...and they rarely get packed away uneventfully. Yesterday they were all tucked back in their storage boxes with no stress...I guess it was my first step in lightening up.
Hope you had a fantastic holiday. Around here today we'll be cleaning up and organizing all the new gifts we were lucky enough to receive. And speaking of cleaning, I thought I'd share the random little hostess gift we gave at the celebrations we were invited to over the holiday...
I figured that it's pretty common to end up with tons of candy and other goodies from all the festivities, so instead of bringing more I used peppermint castile soap to make up some small bottles of "Candy Cane Counter Spray". Told you it was a random gift, but hopefully it comes in handy in tackling all the wonderful holiday messiness.
If you want to make up some countertop spray too here is a PDF of the tags... Download Candy Cane Countertop Spray Tags.
However, this year's stack has me thinking that it might be the last. Fairly detailed, homemade cards almost put me over the edge this year. I figured out what I wanted to do in mid-November, but there was no time to really work on them until this past weekend. Just like the rest of the holidays, I want to get to enjoy the productivity instead of it being a major stress.
I discovered the other important aspect as I joyfully opened each envelope that we were lucky enough to receive this holiday. I really love the photo cards...I love the seeing our friends and families photos hanging together in our dining room and it helped me realize our little photos are tucked away hiding inside. Next year I'm thinking it will be the the first Griffin Family photo card...with at least one or maybe two homemade details. After all, it just has to be as cute as possible.
I figured if this year I could handle sixteen less strings of lights around the house or not being one of the hosts for our neighborhood holiday progressive dinner for the first time in seven years, then in 2012 I can figure out a couple more holiday simplifications.
Okay, too much talk not enough cards.
Is it possible that ideas like, "Hey, let's make our own striped trees out of tiny strips of cardstock" was part of what eventually sent me into a panic? It just looked so cute on that one card...surely it would work out for just over fifty of them.
Thanks for listening to my dose of reality along with this year's cards...no matter how crazy they may have seemed this time around it is always super fun to mail off a happy stack of envelopes.