Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Can you have Christmas without Cookies?

Would it still be Christmas without cookies? Well, I guess the answer is yes. "Times they are a changin'!" With all of the healthy eating everyone is doing these days, we can't have too many Christmas cookies. Then there is our tradition of "family baking day." I guess it's time to let that go too. This year, I asked the girls what they wanted to do. They opted for just my chocolate chip cookies. I took it upon myself to add the pecan balls because they are Butch's favorite. Still, I'll miss my grandma's peanut butter oatmeal recipe, frosted sugar cookies, snickerdoodles, oatmeal scotchies and countless others.

I did all of my baking today. It was a rainy day---good for staying home. I made the spinach balls yesterday and rolled them at 5 a.m. this morning. And that's it. All the goodies for the holidays that I'm making this year are done.

I already put the chocolate chip cookies in the freezer---keeping two out for each of us. Guess who already ate theirs?

That reminds me of another Christmas without cookies.

I was about 7, Ronnie 6 and the twins 5. My mom was the most organized person you'd ever want to meet. With 7 kids, she had to be! Anyway, she always started baking her holiday cookies early and put them in the freezer.

It was 1959. We kids played in the basement. It was unfinished--just a concrete floor with open rafters for a ceiling---great for roller skating. The furnace was down there along with the washer and dryer. The big freezer was down there too. It was the chest type, but it was HUGE! Think of a refrigerator on it's side---but even a bit bigger than that. This particular year, we kids discovered the treasure trove of Christmas cookies in the freezer. There were tins and tins of them. It started so innocently---we had just a cookie each (that makes 4---Jeanne was too little. Matt and Joyce weren't even born yet). Then the next day we had 2 each and so on. We had chocolate chip, peanut butter, crescent moons, sugar cookies and those colorful press cookies with sprinkles and those little silver "bb's." We ate them all until the only cookies left were the Italian ones that we all hated. They weren't sweet at all. To this day, I do not like those dry Italian cookies.

Anyway, Christmas arrived. Mom went to retrieve the cookies she'd so painstakingly made since October. They were ALL GONE!!! OMGosh! We were in big trouble. My parents were the spanking type. Honestly, I can't really remember getting spanked for this. At least we were all in it together.
As you can see, we still had Christmas. Look how innocent we are! Believe me, looks are deceiving!

Notice the tape on Janice's shoes? That's how mom marked hers so she could tell her shoes apart from Jennifer's. To tell you the truth, I don't know why it mattered since they matched anyway.

I guess, Christmas will always come---with or without cookies.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

It's the Simple Things

Have I ever told you about my Christmas closet? Well, it was one of my favorite things about this house when we were looking at it 21 years ago.
 Dig that mauve--1980's carpet!
 Pillows hauled up to make way for the Christmas ones.
It's really the closet where all seasonal decor is stored. But, it's mostly Christmas. It's a far cry from the pull-down attic space we had before. I love having it, but, you know, just like kids, you are never satisfied. You have something awesome but then want more. My thoughts these days: "there's still ALL that hauling up and down the stairs"---and---"if only I could just slide the tree fully decorated in to the closet." And don't think I haven't been figuring out ways to get it up there! Really, there are none. I do have the card table closet (yes, there is such a thing) in the downstairs hallway that might work? Hmm, I'll have to think about that. This Christmas decorating thing is getting to be a chore. There are certain things I like to do and others I'd rather not. I guess we all feel like that.
I didn't even get these wreaths down this year. Still, I'm fortunate and grateful for this closet. It's a simple thing.
I actually enjoy washing up the Christmas stuff in preparation for the holidays. It gets me in the mood. I look forward to champagne in pretty flutes. Those glasses in front were a gift from Connie about 25 years ago. They have been my favorite. Sadly, this year, I discovered that one of them had a crack. And then there were seven. A simple thing.
 This is one of my favorite decorations. Stephanie made it for me quite a few years ago.
 It's hard to see since I didn't do a close-up, but there are tiny pictures on it besides the little ornaments. It's a simple thing.
That same year, Sandy made me this photo tray. I have never actually used it as a tray. It stays here year-round as a permanent decor piece. A simple thing.
 Ornaments in an old muffin tin---a simple thing.
 Ornaments in an old jar--a simple thing.
 A giant spice tin and a half stick of butter---simple things.
 A little tree nestled in more ornaments in another old pan---a simple thing.
 Glass Christmas candies in a little dish---a simple thing.
 Our family button tree project from a few years ago---a simple thing.
Purchased mantle scarf with branches from the magnolia trees in the yard--a simple thing.
Having my tea in front of the fireplace--the simplest thing of all.

What are the simple things that make you happy?

Friday, December 2, 2016

What's Happenin'

I guess the biggest news is that we are getting ready to start our major remodeling job. Since we've decided to stay put, Butch and I sat down together and laid out a three year plan. 

So far, we've done several of the outside things that needed immediate attention:
*Repaired the brick steps up to the house---many were loose and in our opinion, dangerous. DONE.
Now when you walk upon the newly repaired steps, you are greeted by these winter boxes that Sara (my garden girl) made for me. They are gorgeous and will look like this all winter.

*I had the arborist out to do some much needed tree trimming. We had what I thought were two trees that needed removing. The Golden Rain Tree in the back might be saved with some pruning, so we left it. I used to have Aaron (my arborist) come out every year to take care of my trees. That was just part of the home maintenance I had done along with window washing, boxwood spraying and driveway sealing. 

We've had a few "un-fun" things crop up. Our furnace went out. That turned out to be a major ordeal with one thing leading to another. We've been without heat on 3 separate occasions for a few days in a row each time. You wouldn't think 61 degrees is all that cold, but in this house it is. I have a friend who keeps her thermostat this low ALL the time. Anyway, the furnace guy was back out yesterday and it's working again. Let's hope for good this time.

*Mounting the tv on the wall was something I wanted to do to get rid of the big tv stand. Butch didn't really care one way or the other. Neither of us were sure we'd like looking "up" at the tv. It took me some getting used to as I got a "crick" in my neck the first day from trying to do my needlepoint and watch tv at the same time. I'm used to it now.
I really like how it looks now. The only problem---well, two things: 1. Butch didn't like how it wasn't centered on the wall. We had the guys back out. Turns out that the bracket had to be mounted on the studs. Long story short--we're getting a new bracket---yes, more bucks. One thing always leads to another. And problem #2.
I can't seem to have things nice for very long. Cleaning out the aquarium is a two day job. I've gotten to where I hate the aquarium. It's a mossy, ugly mess. 

If this were my job, I'd do it before Margarita came to clean. NOT the day after! Did I mention how much I hate messes? I just want things nice. ALL. THE. TIME.
 When the aquarium is all clean, it looks really good. Now to get more fish...

Moving on. Also part of the first year of our three year plan is to:
*Remodel the master bathroom. There's a structural issue that we've known about that needs to be dealt with. This is going to be a full "gut" job. I'll share "before" photos soon. 

*Remodel the powder room. We're doing this first since it's a smaller job. I like the idea of seeing something finished while waiting for the month long job to complete. 

*Replacing the last two toilets. I love our new toilets. The pool bath is not getting remodeled until year 3. Still we're changing out that toilet now.

All of the work is starting right after the first of the year. I'm really excited as I have a clear idea of what I want. Now, it doesn't quite jive with what Butch wants---and he admits (as with the rec room) he can't "see" my vision. As we were discussing details, he said he wants to do something with this window.
What?? I LOVE this window looking out in to the garden. It's really not a privacy issue as the house next door is pretty far away. You do not even see the house when you walk in to the bathroom. 
You just see the outside---trees, garden and yard. Plus, there is only one window on that side of the house next door. I have never seen a light in it, so I don't really know what part of their house it is. Sorry for the bad photo, but it's just starting to get light at 6:30 a.m. Okay, you have to actually step in to the tub to see the garden.

The window is staying and will not be covered by stained glass. I "gave" on the clawfoot tub. Butch didn't like that idea at all. But then, when Christy (our designer) was here, he agreed he was okay with it since she said he could still have a jacuzzi in it. Anyway, as it turns out, I've nixed it after all. It's going to stand 29 1/2" tall. That's going to be a step these short, chubby legs will not be able to make safely! I had a better idea that I'm really excitedly about anyway! 

I'm meeting Christy today to pick out fixtures, tub, tile, and the lighting. I'm not giving too much away yet, but will soon! So excited!

When Butch and I were discussing everything, I asked him, "now are we going to fight through this whole project too?" You might recall that we fought through the rec room remodel a couple years ago. He just wants way more input than I think necessary. When he was working, he didn't care what I did. Now that he's home, all of a sudden, he has opinions! 

He answered my question with, "probably!" 

And there you have it. It could be a rough couple of months!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

My Christmas Table 2016

Continuing on with Christmas today. I did update my post from yesterday to include the pictures of Connie's rug and gallery wall.

I had book club on Monday night. There's nothing like having a party to motivate you to get everything done.

Using my own advice, I considered how many times I would actually be using my dining room this holiday season. Other than book club, I have nothing else planned until Christmas Eve. Well, I'm having a couple gatherings, but nothing that will be a meal in the dining room. So, I decided to use a tablecloth with a vintage one layered on top as the start of my tablescape.
Although the vintage tablecloth is not a family heirloom (I found it at an antique mall), I remember them from the 1950's and 1960's. It's funny how you don't really pay any attention to things like that when you are a kid. Now I love them! 

Tablecloths---that's an entire post of its own. I'm still trying to decide if I can post it since the "hubs" reads the blog. You know I have a multiples problem. I'll leave it at that (no need to give him any extra ammunition)!
All you have to do for tables like theses is just to gather a bunch of your stuff: books, figurines, ornaments, salt & pepper shakers, candle holders, greenery, and knick knacks you can turn in to Christmas decorations. The glitter keys are from Hobby Lobby. It's a pack of ornaments. I used a couple on Connie's table too. Cheap at half price.
I've had the clock ornaments for years but have always used them for decorations rather than putting them on the tree. What's more simple than a candle on a plate surrounded by glass ornaments? The elf is by Mark Roberts.
View from the other end of the room. I purposely left a space in the middle for my soup tureen. I made vegetable soup for my book club. In all the years I've owned it--25+--this was probably the first time I used the soup tureen.
The ornaments on the left are actually salt and pepper shakers. The glittery feathers are also from Hobby Lobby. They have a huge selection of glittery ornaments. It was hard to choose. I almost went for musical instruments but settled on the feathers and keys instead.
The elf clock is by Katherine. I love the "peace" scrabble ornament. We are a Scrabble loving family and I come from a long line of Scrabble players. Hint: think ornament exchange! The little ladies are vintage bells. We had similar ones growing up. I don't have anything from my childhood, so I buy things from the antique stores that remind me of mine.
The red and green Christmas tree is Murano glass from Italy. I've collected quite a few years ago---buying them half price after Christmas---they were pricey. When we went to Venice and then toured a Murano glass factory, I had planned ahead that one of those trees would be my souvenir. Not only could I NOT find them, the people I asked had no idea what I was talking about. I'll be sharing my collection in another post.
You can see another of the Murano trees here---it's the white one with the Murano red sticker on it. The bells are Fitz and Floyd salt and pepper shakers.
The button trees---I saw them at Archivers about 10 years ago. I immediately came home and made some for myself. All you need is a styrofoam cone, buttons and pins to attach them. Add a little ribbon to fill in the gaps.

The sprigs of greenery with the red ornaments also came from Hobby Lobby.
I guess that's about it. Just gather a bunch of stuff and group it together. It makes for something interesting to look at.

Want to be featured on my blog? Send me your table pictures---or anything else interesting you do at Christmas.

PS Book club was fun and we had a good discussion. If you haven't read it, Tattoos on the Heart is really good. It will open your eyes to what's happening in the gang world. The author, Gregory Boyle is a Jesuit priest and writes of his experiences. It is---by far---the MOST beautifully written book I have EVER read. I cannot think of anyone who comes close. Maybe Shakepeare---just maybe, but this writing is far easier to understand.

Anyway, after everyone left, I found this on the floor.
Hmmm. A little blue pill. All of my book club friends are women. Isn't this for...no, surely not!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Movin' on...

...to Christmas! Let's start with family and friends.
 My favorite cousin, Chrissy, sent me these pictures of her Christmas plates.
 She does them all a little different. I love the greens and ornaments. The snowflakes make perfect napkin holders.

Chrissy made this wreath for me last year. I love the earth-y-ness of it with the little owl, pinecones and little birds. The big feather is just perfect and the finishing touch! I have it hanging on the pantry door.

Moving on to Connie's house. She emailed me before Thanksgiving and said, "I have a favor to ask you. If you don't want to do it, that's okay. But if you do, I'll buy you lunch. Would you decorate my table?"

OMGosh! This is how I responded, "OMGosh! I would LOVE to do your table. In fact, I'll take YOU to lunch for letting me!" We set it up for Saturday after Thanksgiving---when we got back from Charlotte. I was excited and looking forward to it all week long. We touched down at 10:30 and I was at her house by noon! She said she didn't want to spend a lot of money. We spent nothing!! I used just what she already had. The results:
I started with asking her how many "events" she was going to have where she would be using her dining room table this holiday season. You would not want a table setting like this if you have to move it a lot to change the tablecloth. If you do plan several "dining room" meals, then you can just use your table with placemats---no cloth that needs replacing.
 She has a lot of really cool and interesting things. I love using books to make "levels."

I had to use this needlepoint---one of my favorites. When I finished this one for her last year, I told her I enjoyed it just as much the second time around! We had started this one as a class in 2009. She said she couldn't finish it because she hated the beading. Well, anyone who knows me, knows that if you whine long enough, I'll do it for you! Here's the thing---she tricked me in to thinking all she had left was the beading. She had barely started it! It was really fun to stitch. And now I was glad to have it to use in her tablescape.

 I try to make sure that it's interesting from all angles.
I put her needlepoint train on the mantle to fill the blank spot from where I took the books. I think it  is so awesome to have a fireplace in the dining room.
I have loved her wallpaper forever! Too bad I didn't take a picture of her rug. I've actually had dreams about that!

*Update: I had Connie send me a photo of her rug. I still love it. I'd say we found it about 18 or 19 years ago. It still looks like new:
 I'm not big in to "oriental rugs" so this type is more to my taste.

So, one thing leads to another. I noticed two gorgeous---huge---cross-stitch framed pictures. One is an angel and the other is a bride. They were gifts to Connie's daughter, Malinda---made by Connie's sister. Malinda had them in a closet, so Connie took them. She didn't know what to do with them. I suggested that we re-arrange the pictures in her hallway to accommodate them. We did. They look great! I'll get a picture.
And here is a long shot of what will become a gallery wall. The other side has some of her grandchildren's pictures that we re-arranged and moved. With the exception of the christening gown (that also belonged to Jack) the rest is needlework.

Get ready, more Christmas to come!