Ho, ho, ho! Where have you been, Jane? Well, Christmas prep is rearing its ugly head. I'm running here and yonder, ordering gifts online, unpacking and wrapping gifts, planning the menu, shopping for our Christmas morning brunch, and...making sweets to bring to family gatherings. Deep breaths.
I am now applauding, and I mean out~of~my~seat applauding you savvy ladies who start everything right after Thanksgiving. The other day I had an incredible light bulb moment. I thought to myself, "Self, you have 5 more days until Christmas. You are good. You are fine. The decorating is almost done and you are nearing the finish line in wrapping presents. All is good, Self." And then I nearly keeled over with the realization that I was actually happy to finish decorating by Christmas day. What? This is a real Dickens nightmare come true. What happened to enjoying your festive home before Christmas? That day I packed up the remains of my sporadic holiday decorating and brought it all downstairs. I swept up the glitter and organized all of my present trimmings; the bows and ribbon and excessive rolls of Scotch tape. Christmas enjoyment has officially begun.
I want to laugh (in a small way). All of those tips I wrote about and shared with you a few weeks ago. I posted them on this blog partly because I was so swamped I could barely write a post! But things are moving along now. I've lowered the expectations as many of you recommended. What a sigh of relief that is. I sometimes wonder why some of us push and push to make things so perfect to the point of exhausting ourselves. Well, I have a very wise friend who tells me we sometimes feel that something so good, like a sweet treat or a beautifully decorated room, will be even more spectacular with more, much more. We never seem to know when to say, "Enough." Wise words...they didn't fall on deaf ears.
I apologize for the color quality of these photos. Night time pictures are always difficult for me to edit with zero natural lighting. I believe 2017 will be the year to get better acquainted with my faithful old camera.
After I last wrote I went to my favorite nursery for our tree. I've written about this place many times over the years. I go here to get my trees, my spring flowers and fall pumpkins and mums. And I've been doing it since my kids were babies. It's a bit different now...I get a little more anxious to get the tree in time to let the branches fall a bit before decorating. The Husband sometimes doesn't get home from work until 7:00 p.m. And then he is in charge of hauling that baby in and making room for it in our tiny living room. This year our tree (seen above) is the smallest I've ever bought. It actually looks bigger than it is in this picture...maybe it's the glowing lights.
The Husband has been making fires non stop but then again I suppose you know about our cold Chicago winter thus far. He likes to go to bed early so I continue to stoke it gently for the heat until my eyes are heavy. It's also a good excuse to bask in the glow of the tree and reflect, dream and plan.
I had these stockings custom made a few years ago. The Husband cut out wood rounds from his enormous pile of firewood at the lake, drilled holes in them to hang, and I stamped the names of our kids on each round. And no, new dear readers, we do not have 8 children (although I shockingly came from a family of 7!), they are my kid's husbands and wives/partners. With no additional room I have granddaughters Elsie and Madelyn's stockings hanging off a shelf out of view.
Emily helps me with the lights. Her motto is, "No branch should be without lights." It works for me. And I love my tree jam packed with a mish mash of ornaments. I have such an abundance. My favorite is that replica of a shopping bag from Marshall Field & Co. If I'm boring longtime blog readers...sorry. My best memories are the three years I worked in downtown Chicago (about ten years ago) and my desk faced a window on the 8th floor of our building looking out over Washington and State St. Right smack in front of me was Marshall Field and the iconic clock. I still remember that incredible sadness when Macy's took it over. This bag is a little remembrance and yes, I bought it there the last Christmas Fields was Fields. Sniff, sniff.
I mentioned in one of my last posts that I like to decorate cheap dollar store bags to fill with gifts. I've been using this cute little reindeer for a long time. I buy the white and craft paper bags~~~they are sold in large and small and they are a $1 for two. Yes! I have a few fun stamps, and you can go simple like this or all out. This year I was a little feverish about having enough bags so I think I may need to look for some stamps for other occasions. ;-D
This is actually Layla's chair in the den but every once in a while Milo steals it. She is clearly not happy about that as evidenced in this photo. She spends a lot of time under my bed close to the radiators along the wall. These floors are so cold, I know. I've taken to wearing woolly socks and I really do not like socks at all. She has gotten so fat...er, has outgrown her sweater so I picked up another at HomeGoods. Blasted dog was out of it in about a minute.
It seems the cold affected the whole country as well as Canada. We were below zero a few days and nights. I really treasure a day when I know I have no where to be and no errands to run and that just happened to be this past Monday and as the fates would have it, a -5 degree day. I stayed in my PJ's and got a lot done including some reading...yay! Yesterday I had a list a mile long and as I ran in and out of every place, I said a few thanks that it was 19 degrees and not -5. It really makes a difference. Yeah, yeah, yeah...she's boasting about how the Midwesterners are of such hearty stock. Well, I'll tell you where I totally cave. We dress in layers; a long sleeve shirt, a heavy sweater or sweatshirt, warm pants, thick socks and insulted boots (I like Northface) as well as a hat, scarf and mittens. All bases covered, right? Well, what usually follows is you are in a store or the post office or wherever, and after you thaw out you sort of start to feel warm and the wool is now scratching your skin. Soon your layers have turned into a sort of sauna and you are yanking at your scarf and using it to wipe your brow. If the snow, rain or wind didn't get to your hair, the sweat is now making it hang limp or in my case, frizz up. Sheet. That cold air really invigorates you when you finally step outside...19 degrees is heavenly.
I have a few more gifts to wrap and I'm going to start my baking. This year I'm making fudge, just the recipe on the back the Tollhouse chocolate chip bag. It's been years and I just don't want to search THE BEST FUDGE recipe on Google or Pinterest. I make pretzels dipped in almond bark every year as well as sugar cookies. This year I have a great recipe from Doreen at Fox Den Road where you spread raspberry jam on the cookie after baking and top it with another cookie in which you have punched holes with a straw. You can then see the bright red of the jam. They are so pretty! And I also have a new bar cookie recipe which involves graham crackers, a 'from scratch toffee', chocolate and chopped pecans...all in layers. I'm gaining weight just thinking about them. I'll take pictures and include links to the recipes if, and only IF they turn out!
I know I won't have a minute to post in the next few days...lots of festivities and parties. I'm so looking forward to Christmas morning when all of our kids are here laughing, opening gifts, finding a few things we knew they needed and many surprises. Elsie is at the perfect age, 22 months, to really go gaga over the presents and fun. Having our precious 6 week old Madelyn is the icing on the cake. I have two pregnant daughter in laws and I feel my heart swell when I truly stop to think of it all. It trumps all of the time we put into making the holidays perfect. We gather together, smile, hug and laugh. We eat and drink and get really merry (!!!), and we forget our problems for awhile.
So in ending, I'm wishing all of you a wonderful and blessed Christmas. Your friendship means so much to me. Thanks so much for all of your support in my new writing endeavors this year and for continuing to follow when my posts are so erratic. I promise to get better.
Fa la la la la
...and a partridge in a pear tree!