Wednesday, December 20, 2017

HAPPY HAPPY & MERRY MERRY: CHRISTMAS LOVE TO ALL!


Happy holidays, all!  We are on the edge of the eve of the biggest celebration in the world.  It's always a whirlwind of activity, isn't it?  I was all set to sit down here, squeeze in a post, when I know I have a zillion other things to do, and just complaaaaaaaain.  But I'm not.  There is nothing different in my crazy anxiety now than there was last year, and the year before, and so on.  But that's it.  I've switched to a lower gear.  I'm cruising.  Christmas is less than a week away, and I'm going to get excited about it instead of looking at my watch every minute.  It's so refreshing.  

The nice thing about having a blog is that its like a photo album which you can peruse when you want ideas, or just wonder how you decorated for a particular season or event in a previous year.  I think I'm on 10 years blogging, so I have a lot to look back at.  I smile when I see the same decorations being used over and over in different ways.  I'm so flexible that way. ;-)

This year I really needed to keep things minimal, as I'm hosting a big family celebration and I have no idea if it's going to work well with the number of people and the size of my house.  The less decorations I have, the less cluttered it will look.  I actually had my mantel decorated.  Christmas cards displayed around a door, my snowman collection set up on a sofa table, and holiday pillows and throws on every chair and couch.  This morning I took it all down and put most of it away.  I woke up with an eye that took in all the busyness, added about thirty people from young to old, and knew I was making a huge mistake.  I'm actually breathing easier.  Really, I walk from room to room and feel lighter.  


I think I did really well with my Christmas shopping.  I hit sales, and used promo codes and free shipping on just about everything I ordered online.  Pricing is so competitive during the Christmas holidays, maybe one year I'll tally up my savings.  In fact, if it were remotely possible to have any extra money when these sales start, I think it would be incredible to make purchases for future gifts or personal needs, especially if you've have been playing Mrs. Claus for 6 weeks.  





I'm pretty sure I found this pillow at Marshall's.  It's so subtle and cute-almost vintage like.  I found out my 2 friends down in Asheville, Penny and Penny, also bought the same pillow.  It tugs at my heart that I haven't been there for a year and a half.  I know if I sat down, blocked off The  Husband's work calendar, and planned it out, we could go in a month or two.  Right now I can't leave Milo.  Chemo is ongoing, but even after that's over, I'm not sure I want to go away for a week, 10 days, or more.  I have a great girl who house/dog sits, but I'm not going to upset his life like that.  He's fragile.  I won't be taking these risks after what we've been through these last few weeks.  Maybe we can grab a few days in the summer to just hang out down there.  Maybe.  I come second here.  




One of my biggest pleasures recently has been spending time with my niece, Tricia.  She came over and helped me decorate a good part of the house, had hot chocolate and wrapped gifts (the girl is good).  We went out for pizza, and to the mall.  We had a blast in Bath & Body Works smelling every candle there!  She's incredibly fun, polite, curious and sweet.  I hope she had as much fun as me.  :-D



This is a small section of monster mantel.  For the life of me, I can't bear to move that old window.  Are you like that with anything in your home?  I work it into ever mantelscape.  Maybe someday I'll laugh.  I've changed the whole thing around since I posted this photo on Instagram.  It was making me claustrophobic.  It doesn't help that I have gifts; wrapped and not wrapped, on tables and stacked on chairs.  I still have ornaments to put on the tree, and all of my baking supplies scattered on the counters, as I don't have extra space in my cabinets.  Oh, no--  I'm complaining.  Anyway, I simplified the mantel by removing the three little trees I had, and now I have the simple greenery, mini lights, and some silver and mercury glass candle holders.  Lots of sparkle.  Yes!



I did just a little on my wee front porch.  It looks a little messy, sometimes the decaying leaves make marks on the new concrete.  My urn still has soil from the pansies that survived right up until I switched it up with fresh evergreen.  I added some thin, white stems that I save from year to year, and a floral pick with a bow.  A red lantern with a white candle and gold bow sit next to it, and I have the same mat from Target from last year.  As you can see, I strive for absolute perfection when I style my porch.  Ahem. 



About a week ago I placed a little basket on the porch ledge with some bottled water and small bags of chips for our delivery people to help themselves to.  Emily saw something similar on Facebook, and I loved the idea.  I'd love to give our mail person a gift at Christmas, but we have a different one from day to day.  On days when I actually opened the door to deliveries, the compliments made me blush.   A man from Fed Ex said, "We really appreciate what you do for us."  It's the little things.  I'm still keeping an eye out for squirrels!


So many fun gatherings ahead.  I'm fighting a bit of a cold...the miserable sort where you don't want to get out of bed.  Then you do, have some coffee and a shower, feel better, and an hour later slump over, craving that warm bed again.  I actually ran out of Kleenex, and had to keep a roll of toilet paper next to me wherever I went.  Sadly, I had wads everywhere, and sometimes dragged them along with me.  Can it be more embarrassing?  In the ambition department for my party, I have cut myself some slack.  Four dozen cookies instead of eight.  Skip the bows on the presents, and shove the dog toys in the hall closet.  

We visited my sister in law, Meg, and her husband, Declan, Saturday night when brother in law, Jack was in from Vancouver.  His pretty girlfriend, Isabella, also came.  We met her when we were there about 2 years ago.  It was so fun, we had a nice crowd of close family.  Look at the spread of appetizers.  An array of cheeses, sausage, crackers, nuts, and nibbles.  Also an assortment of sweets.  It put me in the mood for more festivities.  

A sister in law on my husband's side of the family is having a little open house at the Irish pub she owns tomorrow night.  That will be fun and I'll be home early enough to get my minimum 12 hours of sleep.  I'm getting in gear, people.


I had to share Ms. Madelyn's 'Cutting Down the Christmas Tree' outfit.  It's very fitting; a little holiday sparkle in the skirt, a fur vest (Daniel Boone inspired?), a custom made scarf from Aunt Mary Beth, and her signature velvet bow.  She has a wardrobe that anyone would envy.  Classic.  On spot.  Spit up proof.  ;)

Tomorrow I'll be finishing up my Christmas cards, and getting them in the mail.  Thursday I'll start baking.  I like to make little boxes for the kid's in laws, and a few friends. I've gotten wise in making bar cookies, fudge, and chocolate dipped pretzels, big bang for the buck.  Then I add some store bought chocolate candies, and this year, some of Trader Joe's gingerbread men.  A nice treat.  I might make some spiced pecans if I have time.  They are so  popular.  The Husband drives over an hour into Indiana to get a package at Cabela's Sporting Goods.  What a trooper.  I get crazy just by tossing them in the oven every fifteen minutes.  

Our Christmas celebrations start on Saturday, the 23rd.  This year we are hosting a family gathering for a part of the family consisting of about thirty.  I said something about it earlier in my post.  My house isn't huge, but not small.  It's just a lot of boxy rooms.  Chip Gaines would take his sledge hammer and eliminate a lot of walls in a minute.  I know I've had big parties before, we'll have to see.

I lost my mind for about 4 milliseconds, and thought I could pull off doing the food myself.  Making a huge amount of food for twelve at Thanksgiving pretty much told me I didn't have the equipment or cold storage for a larger feast.  So we will cater.  I've mentioned this before in posts, and maybe it's a term we use around here that is misleading.  Catering does not mean people dressed in white shirts and aprons, carrying around trays of food and serving guests.  Well, yes, you might have that in a different scenario.  We use the term "cater' when we order large amounts of food from a restaurant, and have it delivered hot and ready to serve...yourself.  

We have an overabundance of Italian and Asian restaurants in my neighborhood.  Both are fantastic, and we use the Italian for a large group.  It's easy and economical to prepare, it's always filling, so you don't need a ton of it, and it's always loved.  We have some of the very best Italian food here on the Southside of Chicago.  

I spent  little time perusing restaurants and catering menus; prices and dishes.  I wanted something a little different.  I ended up with a place I've been to a few times, but the catering menu was nothing I've tried before, so it will be a make it or break it.  Tell me what you think:

Spinach Salad, with creamy bacon dressing
Quartered Chicken, brined, dry rubbed, and smoked
Cornbread
Sweet Potato Fries
Mac and Cheese
Roasted Vegetables
Cookies and Brownies

It sounds a little southern, I think, yet the restaurant is pretty much American--whatever that means.  I'll keep you posted.

I'm off now, into my land of simplicity and calmness.  The tree is twinkling in multi covered lights; don't you do just the best thinking alone in front of your lit tree?  The Husband has been snoring away for 4 hours with little Layla.  Milo, my Prednisone induced insomniac, is wandering around with a huge bone, positive he's going to hide it from a pack of wolves in one of the closets, or a clothes hamper.   Not sure who this dog is anymore, but he makes me laugh.  :))

Sending love and hugs to all of you for a wonderful and blessed Christmas!

Jane xxx




57 comments:

Marie Rayner said...

Your menu sounds delicious! I wish I was coming! Yum yum! Love the idea of catering. I got tired just reading this post. I don't know how you fit it all in! You are an amazing inspiration! Your wee little cutie pie with the velvet bow and her tree cutting outfit made me smile. God bless! xoxo

CJ said...

Simplicity and calmness is definitely the way to go. It sounds as though you've had fun with your niece. I love your mantel, especially the windowframe, it's really pretty there with a candle in front of it. I bet the FedEx men love you, you're very kind and thoughtful. Sorry you've had a horrible cold. I'm fighting one off at the moment. Not sure yet who is winning. I'm sending a big hug to Milo, dear little chap, and one to you too. CJ xx

Maria Elena said...

Looks like you are ready to enjoy this holiday season. We all have colds around here too. Miserable! Merry Christmas to you and you family, Jane! Lots of hugs! Maria

Marty@A Stroll Thru Life said...

Sounds like you have the right idea about keeping it simple. We are doing the same thing. We have 22 coming for a Christmas get together and that is about all I can handle. I am just doing a meat and cheese tray with tons of breads, dips, chips and veggies. Small sandwiches and finger foods is what will be happening here since I can't seat 22 at the tables. Your menu sounds fabulous. I wish you and your family a very Merry and Blessed Christmas.

Starting Over, Accepting Changes - Maybe said...

I love catering. It takes away about 50% of the stress. I hope you and your family have a wonderful holiday. Merry Christmas to all.

laurie said...

your life is so busy right now but I think you have a handle on it all!! Simple is better for me at Christmas too,, less is more sometimes lol,,, I would do the same thing you are doing if my fur babies were havng chemo,, poor Milo,, your niece is lovely and what a wonderful time you both had, when ever I see you have a new blog post come up it always makes me happy! Merry merry Christmas to you my friend, take care of that cold!!!

Mary said...

Dearest Jane - no time to reply to all but must just say this is a fabulous post and I can see why you are so busy! Hope Milo does well and that you and the family all have a wonderful Christmas. Wish we could join you at the Irish Pub!
Have a fabulous Christmas. Hope to see you both in 2018.
Love and hugs - M&B

Penny from Enjoying The Simple Things said...

You are always so busy!! Thanks for the shout out on the pillow :-). Have a wonderful Christmas Jane!

Katie Clooney said...

Love all your decorations! Madelyn looks so darling in her tree cutting outfit. Bet she was best dressed at the tree farm. Sounds like you have a lot on your plate. Loved your comment about Chip Gaines. I hope that you have a wonderful Christmas and I am so happy that I got to know you through blogging.

Vee said...

Sounds as if you have everything under control...kick that cold to the curb and it will be everything. Enjoy the family and the fun! Merry on...

Susie said...

Blondie, You sweet girl. Busy as usual. I love that styling baby girl. :):) Babies kind of look like miniature models anymore, not so much pink or blue babies. LOL Maybe it's the corn bread that makes it seem southern. I bet it's all good. I have never had bad food in Chicago. Blessings to you honey, and your wonderful family. Take a bit of time for yourself. Yes, you are a devoted mom and wife...you put yourself second...but it's okay to have a few breaks. Merry Christmas, xoxo, Susie

Linda said...

I’m hoping you get over that cold soon! Everything is easier when you feel well.
Just go with the flow! Take a chill pill! I pretty much know every party or gathering you’ve ever given has been a success. So do not doubt yourself. You’ve got this. Get plenty of rest and Party HEARTY!
MERRY Christmas, Jane!
Love and prayers from Texas!

It's me said...

Whishing you a merry merry Christmas...and a happy new year ....love love love Ria x❤️

JoAnne said...

Merry Christmas, Jane! The food you are planning sounds yummy but you are such a warm and welcoming hostess that I don’t think anyone would care in the least if the food wasn’t the best. I just know you make everyone feel comfortable and happy to be there. Madelyn is truly adorable and spending time with your niece sounds like so much fun. It’s always nice to have a little helper! Love the basket of goodies you set out for the fedex guys. I’ll have to remember that for next year. Happy Holidays to you and all of your loved ones!

podso said...

It all sounds very organized and its good you are making it easy on yourself. What a sweet photo of little Madelyn. Enjoy the holidays!

Lisa said...

Im loving that pillow!!! It has sort of a nautical look. Of course Im also a sucker for stripe.
Im fixing to get my house straightnd out. I will not be doing a big dinner until New Years but people will be stopping in for snacks and goodies before Christmas.
Lisa

Carla from The River said...

Merry Christmas Jane,
I think your planning sounds wonderful, I like your idea for what is on the menu. Yummy!
I love the idea for the delivery folks. What a great idea.
Madelyn, oh my!! SWEETHEART!!
Happy New Year my friend,
Carla

Scribbler said...

Although I no longer blog, I do treasure some of the other bloggers I became acquainted with while I did, especially you. I really enjoy your posts, and vicariously enjoy your large family celebrations especially as my own family is very small now.

I have not done a ton this year for the holidays, by my standards, anyway, but I got a very late start thanks to a family wedding down in New Orleans last weekend. You are smart to "hire out" some of the food, and I know that given where you live you will not be disappointed.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! I hope you keep writing for a long time.

Lynne said...

Merry Christmas Jane . . .
Enjoy your thirty guests, your scrumptious catered food . . .
Children, grands, family . . .
I am sure Little Maddelyn “fashionista” will keep everyone in smiles . . .

handmade by amalia said...

Looks like you are all set for the big day, Jane, and the menu sounds wonderful. Happy Holidays, my friend.
Amalia
xo

Vee said...

Thought of you, Jane, for doing this good thing...

https://youtu.be/gSOlY95tUFI

You should see how excited the UPS guy was to get a snack!

Jill said...

Merry Christmas to you too! I'm sure your party will be a great success!

Junkchiccottage said...

Hi Jane,
Smart girl to have your family gathering catered. That way you can enjoy your company too. Love the tree cutting outfit how adorable. Love the snack basket for the UPS, Mail person etc. So nice and sweet. I bet all the delivery guys and girls love delivering to your home. I wish you a very happy and Merry Christmas and wishing most of all peace, happiness and lots of great adventures in the new year. Enjoy your wonderful family. This is the best time of year for families to gather with each other. Glad Milo is hanging in there with the treatments.
xoxo
Kris

Debbie said...

It sounds like you have things under control for your big party, Jane. Having the food catered in is a splendid idea! That way, you can relax a little and enjoy your guests. Love the treat basket for the delivery people! How kind of you!
Have a wonderful Christmas, my dear....enjoy every moment.
Love to you.
Debbie
xo

Linda B said...

What time do the festivities begin? I'll be there for your catered meal, the menu looks delish. Merry Christmas to you and your loved ones!

Kim said...

Merry and Happy Jane...it all sounds wonderful! Enjoy that brood. I miss the big family party days!

bj said...

Hope your Christmas is blessed and lots of fun...Much love, hugs and kisses to you.

Rita C. said...

Oh Jane, you & I will be nearly in the same boat this Christmas! I'm hosting 32 of my family (siblings and theirs) on Christmas Eve, for a buffet dinner. I have a dish coming from each of two sisters, a niece and my daughter, and I'm making the rest. I follow a list I've kept for about 10 years, and feel a little better each time I check or cross something off. Yesterday I had to rearrange the sunroom to accommodate 6 littles under 6 yo. We'll see how it goes....
Madelyn is absolutely precious, and your niece helping is what I used to do for my older siblings - a fun memory :).
Your meal plan looks great, and I hope you enjoy your family time. Merry Christmas to you and yours!
XO,
Rita

~Lavender Dreamer~ said...

I showed the photo of the basket of goodies by the front door to my hubby! This is a super idea! I can't believe I've never thought of it! Love your holiday traditions! Merry Christmas! Holiday hugs, Diane

Kit said...

Whew, that sounds like quite the crowd. No thank you.....LOL That would send me over the edge. Lucky for me, I only have to make a party for the 4 of us. I just know you will pull it off and have a fun time. Have a very Merry Christmas! :) Kit

Rebecca said...

Girl, you are ready for it! Everything is wonderful. Wishing you a very Merry Christmas!

Karen (Back Road Journal) said...

It sounds like you have Christmas under control this year, good for you. We just had a party for 42 in our home and it was the first time I didn't do all the food. It was so nice to be able to enjoy all my friends instead of spending it in front of my oven. I hope you and your wonderful family have a lovely Christmas.

Mereknits said...

You sound ready my friend. Having gatherings and enjoying your family and friends is what matters, not decorations. Enjoy every second of your holiday. Wishing you and your family a wonderful Christmas.

SavoringTime in the Kitchen said...

Merry Christmas to you and your beautiful family ♥

Andrea Nine said...

Oh what a grand time you shall have! Your menu sounds super yummy. Oh friend, I have attempted a large menu and it's tough! You are one smart cookie! Madelyn is a doll!!!! Wishing you and yours a splendid Christmas! xo

Cheryl @ TFD said...

Merry Christmas to you and your family!

Penny said...

Too funny, that we all ended up with the same pillow. Merry Christmas Jane. Hope you come this way in 2018.

baili said...

i can see your passion for shopping dear Jane!

how sweet of you to drop gift for you airson
i adore your beautiful niece for her help in decorations your beautiful house,she is lovely young lady ,
Madelyn is tREASURE!!!

i can imagine your nervousness for hosting the grand family event and fear for much cold but i will pray with my heart that may all go fine and you will get much more appreciation for your brilliant job :)

wishing you and family a full of love an happiness christmas dear friend

Laurel Stephens said...

Wow! You have a lot going on! I hope you're over your cold by now. Merry Christmas!

Kathleen George said...

Catering is good thing and you can enjoy the gathering too:). Your little Granddaughter is very photogenic, a cutie! Chicken soup is good for your cold. Merry Christmas!
Kathleen in Az

NanaDiana said...

Love the picture of Little Miss getting her tree...what a cutie.

I hear you- The next party I have will be catered (I always say that and then do it myself)...lol....but it sounds like a good option with all you have going on.

Taking some stuff down before the party means that you won't have so much to pack away after the holidays.

Hope you have a blessed, Merry Christmas. xo Diana

Maggie said...

Sending love and best wishes to you and your wonderful family for a Christmas filled with joy!

roughterrain crane said...

Merry Christmas to you and your family.

AARON HARRIS said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Theresa said...

Oh dear friend, I am late wishing you a Merry Christmas! I hope you had the best one ever!
Great idea to leave a snack for the delivery people, I know they appreciated your kindness! Have a blessed day and a HAPPY NEW YEAR ahead! HUGS!

Dewena said...

Hello Jane, I hope your dinner was a great success, your menu sounds delicious. I'm going to try the catering way sometime. I think I will be a more relaxed guest at my own party if I do more of that.

I pray that dear Milo will continue to do well with the chemo and I sure understand your not wanting to leave him anytime soon. It does have to make a difference for him just having you near.

I wish you a very happy New Year, Jane,
Dewena

Silver Willow said...

Hope you had a wonderful Christmas! And hope your cold is almost gone by now.

We catered for Xmas too (also Italian), and it was a wonderful thing to do!

Your niece sounds like a sweetheart. Glad you goth got to share that special time together!

Stacey said...

I'm a little late Jane but I'm popping over to say Merry Christmas. ;)

Jacqueline said...

Sounds like you had a huge crowd - how funny and merry for everyone! I think the idea of ordering restaurant food is great. We have done that several times and it works out so well. I often make my own salad and provide the rolls and that way I get what I want at a great price.

Ms Madelyn is too gorgeous in her cut the tree outfit!
Sounds like you had a wonderful Christmas except for the cold. Mine came right after Thanksgiving and I have crossed my fingers as the kids have thrown up and had fevers - so far so good!

Annesphamily said...

Had to say a belated Merry CHRISTmas to you and yours!Love Madelyn in her cute outfit. What a sweet time for a little one. She is so adorable. Hope you have a wonderful and healthy New Year 2018. HUGS

Kathleen Grace said...

A belated Merry Christmas Jane! Maybe that's the best kind. I'm enjoying the days between Christmas and New Years with a well deserved rest and I hope you are doing the same. The pressure is off now, yay! I took the tree down today and will peck away at cleaning things up each day until it's all gone. Hope you had a good one :)

Debra Oliver said...

Oh I'm so sorry I missed wishing you a Merry Christmas. I had a yucky cold the week before Christmas and I'm still run-down because of it. Our older daughter was here, we all had so much fun we laughed till we were on the floor. Your Christmas sounds full, hope you're well, I'll just wish you a most Happy New Year! xoxo Deb

Beatrice Euphemie said...

Hi Jane, by the time you read this Christmas will be over and gone, but I hope it was a lovely one for you and your family. I also hope that they appreciate all that you do for them - you created a beautiful holiday for them all. It takes a special someone to host such a big gathering and attend to all the little details, including remembering the delivery people! Such a cute idea, by the way. And how cute is that little one all dressed up for her Christmas tree outing! When I heard your sis-in-law's husband's name (Declan), I was so excited - that is the name my daughter picked out for one of her unborn twins, and I've never heard of anyone with that name before. The other is Liam. Pure Irish.....They are due Feb. 1st. I heard that you are getting some very cold temperatures right now and I hope you are all safe and warm and indulging yourselves with all those holiday treats until the New Year when we all start our diet and exercise programs - haha! Hopefully that cold you had didn't get worse and you are relaxing in front of a fire or at least a warm heater. Here's to Christmas past and to Health, Happiness and Love for you and your family in 2018! xoxo Karen

Karen (Back Road Journal) said...

Just wanted to stop back by again to wish you and your family and healthy and happy New Year.

Deb from Frugal Little Bungalow said...

I hope that you had a wonderful Christmas and it all went off without a hitch. I love what you did for the delivery people! :)

Happy New Year to you and yours :)

Suzanne said...

I hope you had a wonderful Christmas! Happy New Year!

Jeanie said...

I loved your Christmas post. Great idea about the treats for delivery folk -- I always try to catch my mail person when I've been baking and let her stuff her pockets with cookies! This makes a little more sense! The menu sounded wonderful! Definitely adding blog lovin'~