Bright? Yes. Chaotic? Absolutely. Crafty? Of course. Colorful? Uh huh. White? A little bit. Serene? Vaguely. The only "dreaming of a white Christmas" that occurs around here are the clean, styled, orderly ones featured in holiday magazines, books, catalogs, and now blogs, too. I've officially given up hoping for one, at least not on the inside of the house. Outside, we're lucky enough to usually have snow or at least ice around the holidays.
More than the usual pretty, bright holiday pictures, this year I've enjoyed the pictures people have been posting of the messes that come with the holidays, like here at Posy and here at SouleMama. Just to be fair, you need to check out some of the beautiful pictures in their posts here, here, here, and Flickr pages here, here, here. Holidays and messes and peace and chaos seem to go hand in hand in hand for crafters, do-ers, parents, children, and makers of things. Maybe this holiday season will be the year remembered for it's messes. Likely next year will be, too, and the next year after that.
The pictures above are a jumble from the last few weeks. These notes will be just as jumbled: From-scratch marzipan snowmen. Applesause/cinnamon/white glue cut outs. No-bake tag board and glitter gingerbread houses. (Remember the broken oven?) Construction paper cards from an old 1940's dictionary with paper snowflakes and hole punched snowballs. Plaster of paris not-so-soft trees, molded in old florists' cones like these, only metal and then painted. R's felt bird perched in a twig tree stood up in modeling clay, similar to Calvin's. A wool felt and sequins tree ornament made by a friend of ours one day when she came to visit. The evergreen tree poster we made during November, each branch written with something we are thankful for. Knitted korknissen (Check out these cutie ones.) Beaded snowflakes on wires like these. (I could make a million of these.) Wrapping paper from the thrift store for a quarter that I loved so much I had to force myself to use it up.
Not included here are the the popsicle stick and yarn god's eyes, cut paper snowflakes, knit and felted snowballs, yarn pom pom snowballs, not to mention all the other planned and spontaneous projects made from pipecleaners, yarn, styrofoam balls, aluminum foil, etc.
Also, not included here are the dismantled bedrooms made into a wall-to-wall room of mattresses for sleepovers with a grandma and a cousin. Nor are the visitors' suitcases in the living room. Nor are the usual piles of laundry. Nor are the extra dishes, pots, and pans from all the feasting and sweets. Nor the piles of catalogs and holiday magazines. Nor the wheelbarrow full of boxes and wrapping paper scraps headed for the dumpsters and burn piles. Nor the recycling bins full of beer, wine, champagne, and kid-wine bottles. Nor the minivan full of packing materials waiting to be brought to the local shipping place for re-use. Not shown are all of new games, toys, books, and chemistry sets, etc. waiting to find their place in the house. That's most of the messes but the list could go on.
L and G in NY (or are you in Florida now?): You were SORELY missed during the fondue fountain feast on Christmas Eve! It didn't feel right to do it without you. We'll have to have a replay when you're back. Probably the biggest mess of all was the aftermath from this. It took most of the following day to get that contraption clean. (J and P gave it to
us the boys.) Maybe we could combine eating fruit and chocolate with the Readymade mag reading party? C's dad and his wife gave me my own subscription for Christmas this year but I still might like to borrow your back issues every now and again, OK? Thanks for letting me caretake them while you're away. They've been a little neglected in the mayhem around here. They miss you.
By the way, thanks for all the kind words over the last month and year, everyone.
Two different holiday seasons, Seattle, 1930's. My dad and his little brother, with their father and mother. More pictures of their Christmases past posted here last year.
Christmas, Seattle, 1966. Driving: the biggest of my two brothers, age 3. Seated: my dad, age 35. Standing: my uncle, my dad's little brother, his only sibling, age 31.
It's been a difficult Christmas, another one that will be remembered with sorrow. My grandfather, the father in the 1930's picture above, died one Christmas Eve before I was born. C's grandfather died a day or two after Christmas one year when we were back in St. Louis for the holidays. Now, this year, my closest uncle, the young man and littlest boy in these pictures above, the one I wrote about here last week (see #2), passed away on Tuesday evening, the day after Christmas. He went into the hospital after a few days without electricity in their house during the recent storms in Seattle. He went back home last Friday to be there with his family when he died. It wasn't exactly unexpected, just not nearly so soon.
Even though I was here with good friends and C's side of the family this year, I've felt terribly torn in two and disconnected from my own side of the family, wishing I could be there in Seattle, wishing I could say one last hello and goodbye to my uncle. I was there in spirit and thoughts over the last week and that will have to be enough. We saw eachother a few months ago in September. My brother flew in from NYC last weekend in time to see Bob, which I know was something very important to him.
This was where I chose to be, dark and early on Christmas morning, right here in our own house with our own family, our own two boys, and C's mom:
Any computer time lately has been spent scanning and emailing these pictures others to family.
1. Our "tree corner" through Holiday Specs. 2. Solstice bonfire farther up in the mountains with friends and lutefisk last night. 3. My own little outdoor candlelighting, after everyone was tucked into bed last night. Happy Solstice to all, whether it's summer or winter in your corner of the world.
Mouse over the picture to shake things up! Html trick here.
Left to right: mine, E's, R's.
Traditions are a part of the holidays, a wonderful part, and the expectations that come with them are, of course, an inherent part of traditions, and maybe that's where some troubles around the holidays begin. Trying to pull off all the holiday
expectations traditions, trying to remember and get to all the little details that are part of some of those traditions can lead to inordinate amounts of stress, at least for me, that is.
On the other hand, when I look back, the typical holidays where we did the same thing year after year all blur together into one. It is the years where traditions weren't followed that stand out from all the rest:
1. The year that my parents "couldn't find our stockings" to hang up on Christmas Eve, and then Santa brought us each a bean bag chair, leaving our presents on top of them.
2. The year that my uncle stopped by early Christmas morning and gave us an intricate jigsaw puzzle, telling us that if we could finish putting it together before he returned for Christmas dinner that evening, he'd give us each $20! We spent the entire day not playing with our new toys, but hunched over a table in the basement doing the puzzle, and we finished JUST in time to earn our prize.
3. The year when I was in my late teens and my oldest brother was in his early twenties. We were tired of never getting a White Christmas in Seattle so we drove an hour away up in to the mountains, filled the trunk of my dad's big American car with trash bags of snow, brought it home, and made a snowman on the front lawn.
4. My first year away from home at Christmas, determined to by free, single, and independent, celebrating with new friends and roommates, several states away from home. A couple of weeks before Christmas I met this guy with an honest and straightforward look in his eyes. We both had Christmas Day off of work and made plans to go cross country skiing that day along the edge of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison River. Due to a silly misunderstanding, it didn't happen. I went anyways with a co-worker of mine. Our first date should have been Christmas Day. Instead, it didn't happen until a couple of weeks later in January when we did laundry and played Gin Rummy together. Here we are, fifteen years later!
5. The first year we chose not to travel to be with our parents, to stay at home and have Christmas in our own house, with our own children, our own family, with our own new mix of old and new traditions.
6. Of course, there are also the holidays that stand out, marked with the sadness of funerals and people who aren't there with us that year. They become a part of our holiday remembrances as well.
Already, in the few years we've had our own holidays here with our kids, I feel like I've set my self up by doing the same things each and every year, setting the kids up for potential disappointment, setting myself up for trying to pull too much off and getting worn out and cranky. So, rather than worry about getting all the details of all the traditions "right" this year, I'm trying to not worry about it too much. Regardless, yes, a lot will be the same this year as other years.
Maybe we need to shake things up a little each year. What will THIS Christmas be remembered for? Probably not for the things that we didn't do or have, the things we didn't get to, but for the things that we did differently.
Maybe this will be the year that we'll remember, not because of of the cookies we can't bake at our own house due to a broken oven, but for the cookies we'll bake after the oven is fixed or else at somebody else's house, or maybe the new treats we figure out how to make in a pan on top of of the stove. We probably (hopefully) won't remember this as the year we didn't get Panda licorice ropes in our stockings (because they couldn't be found in the stores), but rather as the year we did get big Hammond's candy canes instead (because I could find those).
Maybe we'll remember this as the year we shook things up a little and made snowglobes out of thrifted and found things, the little bit of Sculpey clay we had on hand, a few jars, some glitter, paint, water, rocks, glue, and our imaginations (not that there weren't plenty of little details involved in pulling these off!).
What holidays do you remember as being a little different? What will you say when, looking back on this year's holiday season, you find yourself saying, "Remember the year when.....?"
What are your favorite, non-baked, holiday goodies? The oven won't be fixed (under warranty!) until after the first of the year. So much for those cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning. Oh well. Maybe next year, right?
1. Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate? Silk soy nog. Nice and light. And, Carnation Hot Cocoa, otherwise known, in this household, as "chocolate soup" unless it has marshmallows and then it's "chocolate soup with dumplings." :)
2. Does Santa wrap presents or just set them under the tree? Unwrapped, in this house. Wrapped, when I was a kid.
3. Colored lights on tree/house or white? I prefer only white but, since I wasn't in the mood to help put them up this year, there is a string of colored lights around the front doorway. Guess what? I think I like it! Blue ones are nice, as well. One year, we made a few colorful flowers in the style of the Bellevue Botanical Gardens' Garden d'lights show, dismantling them afterwards.
4. Do you hang mistletoe? No, though it would be fun!
5. When do you put your decorations up? The 8th of December, the day after E's birthday. O.K. I cheat a little, making and putting a few things out earlier.
6. What is your favorite holiday dish? I can't pick only one. Tins full of Gingerbread cookies. Candied grapefruit peel (another MS recipe, not online.) Boxes and boxes of mandarin oranges. My mom's Berlinerkranse cookies. The last one is the best, really.
7. Favorite Holiday memory as a child? Gosh. Again, only one? I guess, going to church at 11 pm on Christmas Eve, holding a lit candle while singing Silent night. Coming back home and lighting the real candles on the tree in the living room when we were old enough to stay awake that late. That, and going to see the Nutcracker at the Seattle Opera House every year with my mom and some years also with a friend and her mom, and then during intermission running madly round and round up and down the crazy-patterned, carpeted ramps until we were breathless and sweaty! God, I don't think I'd ever let my kids do that in the Opera House!
8 . When and how did you learn the truth about Santa? Can't remember. When my parents went out to Christmas parties my big brothers peeked in the shopping bags in my parents' closets. I, of course, followed along. I suppose I knew pretty early on.
9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve? Not now. Growing up, until our confirmation, we opened the gifts from our Bestemor in Norway, always good Norwegian chocolate and for me, a doll wearing a different Norwegian costume.
10. How do you decorate your Christmas Tree? With mostly homemade ornaments, along with a few storebought, some from friends and family, and a few from my childhood. Our tree is not an evergreen. It is an aspen branch (or branches) stuck into a metal bucket filled with rocks. See #17 below for more.
11. Snow! Love it or Dread it? Both.
12. Can you ice skate? Yes. Growing up, we went to a holiday skating party every year that a business associate of my father's held at a skating rink in Seattle somewhere. Now, we skate once or thrice each year outside on a lake.
13. Do you remember your favorite gift? Hmmm. Sure, I remember a couple. Seriously. I remember quite a lot about my childhood and I can only remember two Christmas presents aside from the ones from Norway. Just goes to show you how unimportant the gifts really are. The one gift that stands out, because it was so big was the dollhouse my dad made. I so need to get that dollhouse and bring it here to our house. I had NO IDEA at the time how very cool it really was. I'll blog about it some day.
14. What's your favorite thing(s) about the holidays? Family and friends. The special foods. Light! Christmas lights, candles, solstice fires, campfires, sunlight sparkling off the snow and sparkley ornaments, even green and red stoplights.
15. What is your favorite holiday dessert? See #7 above.
16. What is your favorite holiday tradition? Lit candles.
17. What tops your tree? A sewn linen moon that I made, then the stars are below that, then the birds and other ornaments, and the mushrooms are near the bottom, the way they happen outside in the world around us. (Please notice and then promptly ignore the galvanized bracket and unfinished trim in the picture at the top of this post. We'll get to it all someday.)
18. Which do you prefer, giving or receiving? I don't like the pressure of either one around the holidays. We're trying to cut back on it all this year. I hope.
19. What is your favorite Christmas song? O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.
20. What is your favorite holiday book? Richard Scarry's The Animals' Merry Christmas I just discovered this book last year. Good stories. Incredible illustrations. All the nephews are getting this book this year. Of course, there's always The Night Before Christmas, an Jan Brett's numerous holiday tales.
21. Candy canes yuck or yum? So pretty, but kind of yucky. Gotta eat them anyways.
21. What's number one on your Christmas list this year? 1. Peace for all. 2. Great, BIG hugs...all through the year. OK. And a few other little "things."
Woodlands softie pattern book. Only came across this site a little over a week ago and then this came in the mail last week. So far I've made the mushroom ornament and an owl. Next up, the deer and squirrel? I love it all so much.
Elfin folk. We've had these for a few years. They come out only around the holidays.
I set this soft tree scene up last weekend while the boys were away. Just for a little while, I wanted to shrink down and "disappear" into this little woodland wonderland, sitting around a cinnamon stick fire in a little circle of trees on a silken bed of snow. Of course, it immediately was altered and inundated with legos and plastic animals and playmobil and more, which was expected and intended really, as it is set up on a low table where it can all be played with. At least I could dream for a little while, right? The chaotic scene that it is now looks just as fun to be in.
We actually discovered a little spot like this on our place where the spruce trees grow so thick they are like walls, creating a little circle in the center like a room in the woods. Previous owners had a teepee set up there so there is a circle of stones with a firepit in the middle and a big fallen log that can serve like a couch. I may have to start spending more time there.