Monday, November 26, 2007

Christmas Decorating Traditions

Since we just came off a long weekend of traditional Christmas preparation, I thought I’d share some of our holiday rituals with you. You didn’t know it was your lucky day, did you?

This is truly my favorite time of year! I love to make our home feel “Christmas-y”. I love the smell of the Balsam perched in our family room. I love to re-study the ornaments packed away so many months ago. I love the warm, cozy feeling I get being surrounded by my family amidst plastic tubs of greenery, lights and pinecones.

As long as I can remember, we’ve always spent Thanksgiving weekend readying our home for Christmas. Forget about shopping, I’m not into crowds and lines. Usually the only reason I venture out into retail world in the days following Thanksgiving is to buy another string of lights or extra package of bulbs.

So, here’s a few shots from last weekend…

Here we are, just like Santa's elves - ready to "make Christmas"!

Yeah, I know. I have a lot of stuff stored away in our basement. But, really - it is pretty organized according to seasons. And I know right where everything is.

Well, kind of.

So, after only 19 trips up and down the basement stairs, Maddie and I had it ready to go.

Maddie? Maddie? Where are you?

While little helper-Maddie was sweating and grunting and hauling heavy boxes around the is where we found Will.

Typical man...

These railings are usually my first project every year. It's time-consuming and messy. But I love the outcome. Stay tuned...

So, after pulling Will away from Cartoon Network, we started with the artificial tree assembly. The kids pretty much did this on their own this year with a few friendly reminders to "make them fluffy!" from me once in a while. They thought the color-coded branch system was pretty cool.

This is a tree-skirt that my Dad made for me as a Christmas gift the year Bill and I got married. This is definitely one of the most precious Christmas treasures that I have. It took him a really long time to make and it has amazingly beautiful detail.

Thanks, Dad!

My girl. It's really hard for her to pass up a photo opportunity.

Here is the almost-finished fake tree. You may notice that it is in a different place now than when we started. Yeah...that wasn't easy.

I'm not a big fan of artificial trees, but we bought this several years ago when we were in home-transition. I figure as long as I have the stuff to decorate it with as well as the time to put it together - we'll continue to put it up.

I guess this one is more of a "decoration tree". We do not put presents under this one, it just displays my dad's tree skirt. It holds the gold ornaments that I have collected throughout the past 15 years from different locations (Maine, Florida, Las Vegas, New York, etc...) along with various other gold/silver ornaments and all white lights.

Here is Maddie in action. We like to spread the mess throughout the whole, entire house. It makes it much easier to see things that way.

And it gives me an great chance to vacuum up those fake pine needles and sticky gold glittery things in each room as well.

I got this plate from my Aunt Debbie many years ago, I think maybe even before I was married. It has served Santa and his reindeer cookies and carrots every Christmas Eve for the past 9 years.

Between all the decorating, it's very important to find some time to sneak in a Christmas story or two. These are our favorites...

Now, its finally time for the real deal. Here are the kids ready to go tree-hunting in the parking lot. We've cut our own a few times before, but honestly...I just don't like to be in the cold that much. These little tree-lots suit our family just fine!

I know it may seem strange to have 2 trees. But it's just the way we do it.

I only managed to snap this one quick picture before I got the Please!!-do-you-have-to-take-that-damn-camera-everywhere-we-go look from my dear husband.

You can just see it in his face, can't you?

Sorry, honey! I just couldn't resist these cute little action shots...

I love to pick a tree that is at least 8-12 inches taller than we really need. I take all the branches removed from the bottom and cut them into manageable sizes to place with a red berry-garland for my fireplace mantle.

Almost every year, however, I panic that Bill cuts too many branches off the tree. He's been known to do that before. You should see the trees in our backyard...'s finally coming together.

But wait...time for a Target run. The decorating day just wouldn't be complete without one of those. also wouldn't be complete without a little cocoa to warm us up...

The following Hallmark collectible ornaments are one of my very favorite traditions that my mom started for us years ago. Since she's been gone, my sisters have kept up with this tradition every year for our anniversary gift. Each ornament coincides with something that has happened in our lives the past year. For example:

This is from the year we bought our minivan...

And this is from the year we moved into our current home...

This is just from this past anniversary in anticipation of our upcoming Christmas-Florida vacation.

This one is from the year that Bill bought his motorcycle. They didn't have any Triumph's, so we settled for the Harley...

This is from the year that we did a bunch of landscaping and installed a firepit complete with a set of Adirondack chairs in our backyard.

This tiny nondescript ornament is a kind of a test I like to give myself. Every year I hang this ornament on our real tree and then see if I can actually find it again come January and time for clean-up. Trust me. It's a lot harder than it sounds. Once when we were still living in Kansas City, I actually finally found it in the tree while it was lying on the curb.

Whew...close call.

You gotta have a kissing ball by the front door...

So, here's the completed tree in our family room...

...and the completed fireplace.

These stockings were made by my great Aunt Loretta. Mine (which is the old yellowed one on the far left) is from when I was a kid - probably from about 1976. She knitted one for Bill after we were married and then a couple more for the kids as baby gifts.

...and the tree in the living room...

...and the entry...

...and front door...

The sled is one that we used as kids, and the ice skates are my mother-in-laws.

And so to wrap up this decorating session, we decided that we would bake some cookies.

Er...I guess we decided that I would bake some cookies.

Whew...are you as exhausted as I am?

So, that's just a touch of our Christmas decorating traditions. Now, I have to go since a warm cup of hot chocolate, a cozy blanket, the Grinch-book and my kids are calling my name from the family room. Happy Holidays!

Friday, November 23, 2007

I'm still full...

I hope you all had a nice Thanksgiving!

Bill's mom and dad hosted dinner at their house this year. We all contributed a couple of dishes for a sort of turkey-n-fixin's-pot-luck. We had a great day filled with good family, good food, fun games, and another amazing Packer victory.

What more could you want?

Doesn't she look thrilled to be at the "kid's table"?

Sisters Judy and Jan

Evan, Brian, Finnegan and Katherine

Nicole and Bill

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Swimmer Will

I think I need to give my little man some kudos after his swim meet last weekend. He got his first "C" time in the 50 Freestyle. He's doing really great considering he has only been swimming competitively for 3 months!

When I found him after the session, he was in the midst of a little "I'm going to C-finals, I'm going to C-finals..." song and dance.

Unfortunately I did not get that on video.

Now, that would have been good...

(This video isn't actually the one...but I forgot my video camera that day...)

Merry Christhanksgivingmas!

Where has Thanksgiving gone? Sometimes I feel like this poor holiday is just getting squeezed right out of the picture and overcome by excessive Halloween décor and much-too-early Christmas décor. Every holiday deserves a fair chance, right?

And really, I don’t mean to rant, but why do people have Christmas lights on already? I truly understand the whole thing about putting the lights up early so you don’t have to do it in the cold... and I’m supportive of that. I have a cold-weather-phobia as much as the next guy. But, do you have to actually turn them on?

Yes, I do love Christmas lights and Christmas decorations and all things affiliated with my all time favorite holiday. But don’t you feel like Thanksgiving is being robbed? Like we don’t even need or want it? Like we’re trying to rush right through it? Whatever happened to the cornstalks, hay bales and horns of plenty?

Oh, poor Thanksgiving…

Opinions please! Help me understand!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Freudian Slip

Madison was just finishing her spelling homework packet today when she walked over to me with a chuckle and said, "Mom! Did you know that Brother is a synonym of Annoy? Isn't that funny? Here look, it's even written in two places!"

Upon closer inspection, the word was actually Bother.

Now, that really is funny...

101 Things

I thought I’d nab this idea from Leah, Sara and Jenny. I realize it may be a little too much information – so feel free to close your browser or vomit.

I totally understand.

1. I was born and raised in a very small town in SD
2. I had 24 kids in my 1988 graduating class
3. I’ve been married 12 years
4. I arrange all the canned goods in my cupboards so the labels face front
5. I have 2 younger sisters
6. I gave birth to twins in 1998
7. I have never taken fertility drugs
8. I got just over half-way done with my Master’s in Nursing degree when I got pregnant and quit the program
9. I can’t sleep when skin is touching skin – even my own
10. I could eat pizza and ice cream every day
11. I gain and lose the same 30 lbs every year
12. I love watching my kids swim
13. I wish I could have been a swimmer as a kid
14. Every day for the last 6 months I have had oatmeal, Danactive, a huge glass of water, a multivitamin and 2 fish oils capsules for breakfast
15. I have taken 9 years of piano lessons
16. I played piano better in 5th grade than I do now
17. I know the correct technique for eating crawfish
18. I don’t like Indian food
19. I love Thai food
20. I once worked as a waitress at Perkins
21. I’ve always wanted to be an interior designer
22. I’m very organized
23. I’ve been in a bookclub for 4 years
24. I’ve walked 60 miles to raise awareness for breast cancer - 3 times
25. My mom died of inflammatory breast cancer
26. I live in fear of getting breast cancer myself
27. I had my first mammogram a few weeks ago and it was OK
28. I know all the words to “The Devil Went Down to Georgia”
29. I’m a TV addict
30. I’m a computer addict
31. I kick butt in Zuma (MSN games)
32. I’ve figured out how to write some HTML through my blog
33. I sometimes use a calculator to check my kids’ 3rd grade math homework
34. I hate math
35. If I won the lottery I would put enough money away to make our future comfortable and then spend the rest of travel
36. Oh, and I’d put a swimming pool in my backyard
37. I have my motorcycle license
38. But I’m too afraid to actually ride my own
39. I think it’s because I’m a trauma nurse
40. I’ve seen more people die than I can count
41. And that makes me very sad
42. I’m spending Christmas in Florida with my family, my sisters and my dad
43. The perfect gift for me would be a Target gift card
44. I love Target
45. I was a church organist back when I was a teenager
46. I love to make lists
47. I’m disgusted by cigarette smoke
48. I’ve never smoked anything
49. I don’t like domesticated animals
50. My favorite color is red
51. I have a huge crush on Brett Favre
52. I can’t make up my mind between Hillary and Obama
53. I really like politics
54. George W. Bush raises my blood pressure
55. I play Bunco with my neighbors every month
56. I love my neighborhood
57. I have torn ACLs in each knee
58. I’ve had 2 knee surgeries in the past
59. I drive a minivan
60. My dream car is a blue hybrid Toyota Highlander with third-row seats
61. I was chosen for the All-Conference basketball team when I was a senior in high school
62. I was a football and boys basketball cheerleader
63. Anesthesia makes me terribly sick
64. I want to learn how to play the violin
65. I like to do landscaping and gardening
66. I like to mow the lawn
67. I don’t understand insurance
68. I don’t understand investments
69. I had a minor-consumption when I was 17
70. I can drive a stick-shift
71. I love to entertain and have parties at my house
72. I miss my sisters and hope they move back to MN someday
73. I like to write
74. I want to get better at photography
75. I don’t have the patience for scrapbooking
76. I still have my Weekly Readers from grade school in a box in my basement
77. I know how to hang drywall
78. I know how to use a drill, a miter saw, a nail gun and a router
79. I’m afraid of mice and frogs but not snakes
80. I was homecoming queen in 1987
81. Holy cow – I’m running out of stuff to say…
82. I love my blog
83. I love other people’s blogs
84. I think everyone should own a Sonicare toothbrush and a rice cooker. Life changing.
85. I listen to girl-talk-radio in the car at all times
86. I wash clothes every freakin’ day
87. I like to read
88. I love a good thunderstorm
89. I like winter if I don’t have to go outside
90. I bite my nails
91. I wear size 10 shoes
92. I cry when I watch every episode of Brothers & Sisters
93. I love watching my kids when they don’t know I’m watching
94. I wish I could wear flip flops every day
95. I have plantar fasciitis as a result of #24
96. I wish I liked to eat fish – but I don’t
97. I never remember my dreams
98. My parents named me after a 1957 song by Debbie Reynolds
99. I’ve gone white-water rafting in West Virginia
100. I would never, ever, in a million years, sky-dive
101. Wow…are you as sick of me as I am right now?

Friday, November 09, 2007

DIY Facial

Q: What do you get when you cross a 'tween, a 'tween magazine, honey and oatmeal?

A: Unbelievable stickiness covering your counters and floors. Oh, and in the silverware drawer, on the kitchen table centerpiece, on the pile of unread mail, and on one lone flip-flop on the laundry room floor.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Apple Orchard

Dad and Marva were here for a visit this weekend. Both mornings were spent at the pool, but we did find some time Saturday afternoon for a trip to AppleJack Orchard. There weren't many apple varieties to pick anymore, but it was a beautiful day and we still found plenty of things to do.

We wandered through the corn maze...

Checked out some giant pumpkins.Who knew pumpkin guts could be so interesting...

I'll just call this one "Attitude Adjustment"...

A little family photo...

Marva and Dad one of the corn maze bridges overseeing a great game of hide-n-seek...

A perfect photo-op near the Crow River...

Sea Devils Home Meet

We're all recovering today from a long weekend of swimming and volunteering. The Sea Devils had their first home meet of the season. They did great and had a blast!

The Macarena during warm-ups

Maddie cheering for Will in the 50 Breast

Will's 100 Breast

Maddie's 100 Back

Both Will & Maddie had good meets. This is Will's first season swimming and only his second swim meet. It's amazing to see the improvement and the decreased times already. He's come a long way in his breathing and his starting dives. And he didn't swim one race without his goggles this time! He's decided that the Backstroke and Freestyle are his favorites. I think that when he gets the hang of the Breaststroke, he's really gonna rock! My videographer-husband hasn't yet edited Will's race video, but I'll get some posted in the next week or so.

Maddie is definitely making some improvements as well and is reaching outside her comfort zone a bit by swimming some more difficult events. Last week she swam the 200 Free and today she swam the 100 Butterfly for the first time. Despite a few pre-race tears and high emotions, she finished that grueling Fly just fine. I was so proud of her, my eyes fill up and I get a lump in my throat thinking about it.

My pictures are getting better. I've kinda figured out the's really hard in the fluorescent-lighted-pool-environment. Now all I need is PhotoShop and a Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G IF-ED AF-S VR.

I'm thinking of writing a letter to Santa...