Tag Archives: Christmas

A Big Year, a Small Christmas

Oh hey there.

A few notes up front: It is December 19, and we do not (yet) have a Christmas tree. I did not make Christmas cards, something I normally love. (I’m hoping for New Year’s cards.) We put no decorations on the outside of our house. We are not hosting a Christmas party.

One might think these are indications that we are just not into Christmas this year. While this is partially true – with a late Thanksgiving, Christmas has snuck up on me like woah – it’s mostly the result of me meeting the holiday where I am as a person, and where we are as a family. A friend sent around a lovely post about expectation vs. reality during the holiday season, and I found myself nodding along emphatically.

2019 has been a huge year. It was a year filled with travel, and new adventures in cooking, and the shedding of a few outgrown habits. Jason and I celebrated ten years of marriage. I turned 40. Hollyn is headed off to the University of North Florida in January. Tyler got his driver’s license. Hazel started kindergarten.

2019 has also been a year of lowering expectations. We did a few projects around the house, but most of our home improvement money was spent on un-fun things like tree removal and replacing duct work. I didn’t write much, here or anywhere else.

The most meaningful project we did was fixing the World’s Most Awkward Toilet. Our house has a tiny half bath on the first floor, and the placement of the toilet in that room was….a choice that an actual person made.

We got quotes from a few plumbers to rotate the toilet 90 degrees. The estimates ranged from NINE HUNDRED to ELEVEN HUNDRED DOLLARS. For that kind of money, I’ll sit side-saddle, thankyouverymuch.

Then, my brilliant and long-suffering husband had the idea to turn the toilet a mere 45 degrees, which not only makes it look very dashing, but only cost us the price of a new wax seal.

As a bonus, we get to keep the tile floor and walls, which are suddenly fashionable again.

2019 was the Year of Vehicles. Jason, who has patiently driven a selection of older hand-me-down cars for the last few years, finally met the car of his dreams, a three-year-old Subaru Outback. And after many years of faithful service, I was able to turn in my minivan for a gently used Honda Accord.

We also bought a camper. I know.

After years of complaining loudly about all the primitive tent camping we had to do with the Cub Scouts, I find myself the owner of a pop-up camper we bought off Craigslist. I call her the Dawn Treader. Her maiden voyage was last weekend, to Falling Water State Park, and it could not have been more different than the aforementioned tent camping. We were warm! And dry! And comfortable! How novel!

I am actually – gasp! – looking forward to camping again in the near future. Not as much as Hazel, though. She definitely has her father’s camping enthusiasm.

I hope that you are able to meet the holiday where you are, and not where you feel you ought to be.

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I’d love to be one of those writers who intentionally “takes time off” from blogging to “really enjoy the holiday season.” Truth be told, I just didn’t have time/energy/motivation to write over the break, and I’m OK with that.


(Jason refers to Christmas cards as “old-fashioned Facebook Likes.”)

We had all the kids for Christmas this year, which always carries the Potential for Disaster, or at least, Potential for Homicidal Urges. But it was fine! They got along well, and we have a big enough house where they can be physically caged, er, separated from each other in times of stress. I think they’re finally appreciative of the thoughtfulness of Christmas gifts, rather than just the volume, which is a tremendous relief. The biggest hit appears to be Settlers of Catan, which they played at least six times between Wednesday and Sunday. Ah, the sweet sounds of bickering over sheep and logs….


My mom and my brother came over for the holidays, and they seemed to have a nice time. (Yes, my brother is really, really tall.)


Right after Thanksgiving, I made an Epic Christmas Plan (no, seriously, I have a Google Doc with that title) and stuck to it. I listed two or three “big” projects each weekend, and smaller projects during the weeks leading up to Christmas. It made everything seem much more manageable and less overwhelming.


I listened to plenty of Pandora’s “Swinging Christmas” station, made ornaments with the kids, and spent a lot of time gazing at my tree. We also went to see the Hobbit movie, which I enjoyed.


(This goldfish is mesmerizing.)


By Saturday evening we had most of the Christmas decorations packed away in the attic, and on Sunday all the children decamped to spend the second half of winter break with their other parents.

A nice quiet has descended over our house. I have a list of projects to tackle in the week that the children are away, and I am mentally rubbing my hands together with glee at the prospect of crossing things off a list.

Mmmm… lists…..

I hope your holidays were festive.






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Amateur Sewing Night: Stockings Edition

I want to enjoy sewing, much in the same way that I want to enjoy running. But I find both activities very stressful, because I’m not naturally good at either of them. And yet I press on in both endeavors.

At least with the sewing I’m seeing some improvement.

Over the weekend I finally made everyone Christmas stockings. And when I say “finally” I mean “because I have intended to do so since Christmas 2007.” The problem was that I wanted to make everyone The Most Amazing Christmas Stockings of All Time, and yet lacked the time/skill/materials to do so. Once I scaled back my expectations, it was relatively easy. And, it turns out, free.

Back in 2004 I bought many, many yards a Waverly green toile and a Waverly green ticking stripe. I was going to “do something” with it, one day. Yes, this is the unofficial motto of hoarders everywhere. But now I’ve actually done something! Good thing I schlepped all that yardage through three moves.

I used this tutorial, which I found on Pinterest. I omitted the batting and the lining, because I didn’t have any. I decided to make the kids’ stockings with a stripe body and toile cuff, and the adults’ stockings the opposite.


The first one….. took some time. The cuff was way too big, and I had to rip out the seam and re-do it. But in about an hour, I had a reasonable-looking stocking. I used some red grosgrain ribbon I had on hand for the hanger.


The next four were comparatively easy, and I think I finished the last one in about fifteen minutes.


Then it was time to hang them up!


This would be a good time to go over the mantel I put together. I shamelessly stole, er, borrowed this idea (covering a foam board with holiday fabric) for displaying Christmas cards. Yes, that is more of the same green ticking fabric. The garland was free – a neighbor was getting rid of it, and I scooped it up. After wrapping it with a string of C7 lights I already had, I added a set of Christmas cookie cutters, purchased last year to make salt dough ornaments, and a tube of shatterproof shiny balls, purchased last year on clearance after Christmas.


I finished it by shopping my house, and came up with the candlesticks and a green pineapple finial. Total cost was $4.50 for the foam board.


It’s not mind-blowing, but it’s mine and it’s DONE.



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A Wreath of One’s Own

The first time I saw it, I knew it had to be mine.

I’m speaking, of course, of The Lima Bean Wreath.

I’m not sure why I was so drawn to it. Maybe because I knew it would look amazing against our black front door. The simplicity certainly appealed to me – I can’t tell you how many projects are billed as “easy and cheap” yet require you to have several hundred dollars’ worth of supplies “on hand.” Anyway, I was filled with burning lima bean conviction – I had to make it. I ran out of time in 2011, so I started early this year – in September, to be precise. I purchased a 16″ foam wreath form at Hobby Lobby (40% off) and two large bags o’ beans. Total cost: around $10.00. I already had a $5.00 glue gun and enough mini glue sticks to choke a goat.

My wreath form had squared-off edges, so before starting I asked Jason to round them a bit with his pocketknife. It took all of 5 minutes.

And one Sunday, while watching the Jacksonville Jaguars lose spectacularly to the Texans, I glued approximately a bajillion beans onto that wreath form. I started at kickoff:

By halftime, I was about 40% finished. Please note that Ron has moved to a chair on the other side of the room to continue his nap. This happened after the 54th time I accidentally touched the glue gun to my skin.

I completed the project around 5:00. For those of you playing along at home, that’s FOUR HOURS OF BEAN-GLUING.

Almost perfect. Since I was unable (ok, too lazy) to find a white wreath form, I pretty much guessed that I, like my All Things Thrifty predecessor, would be spray-painting this bad boy:

I had a can of antique white, and I applied two light coats. Frustratingly, the paint did not make it all the way to the green foam, but stuck to the beans.

Le sigh.

However, after extensive experimentation, I discovered that 1) you couldn’t tell from the street and 2) I didn’t actually care that much.

The wreath sat in my guest room until last night, when I finally hung it after mastering How To Tie A Bow:

My preeeeecioussssss.

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