12/29/2011

what we did for advent - part 1

So. I have had a little time to unscramble my brain. Let's try a post with more than just random lists of things.

~

We are enjoying our Christmastide, on the heals of a rich Advent season this year. It felt full, but not too full. We had a nice mix of sacred and silly of quiet and noisy. We got to try out some things that may become traditions for our family, and see how that worked. And I think we struck a nice balance of my Spazzy the Elf Christmas Traditions For Everything and MM's need for unstructured, spontaneous living. There's been lots of smiling (smiling's my favorite) and hugging and "thank you"ing - very grateful for every good and perfect gift, keenly aware of how blessed we are, and how painful this season can be when you are hungry, lonely, sick, or grieving.

And to capture this for the future, here's what we did for Advent:

Hanging of the Greens

I talked about this before. And then showed some pictures.

We intended to decorate Thanksgiving weekend and keep the stuff up til Twelfth Night, but our tree died. So, I took down the big tree, hauled it outside, and put up our tiny fake tree for the rest of the season. It is sparkly and festive in the corner of the dining room.



I also took a strand of lights from the big tree and wove them into the garland on the mantle.

Our heater blew out a couple days before Christmas, so we've been using the fireplace a lot, and its been so cozy and beautiful in our front room between the fire, candles, and colored twinkle lights. I don't have all the words for this, but more and more, I realize that the physical beauty of my space does something wonderful inside my heart. And for me, it was especially powerful to decorate together and create beauty together.

I imagine that next year, we'll figure out a game plan. This year we chose to emphasize blue for advent, and to only hang sentimental ornaments on our tree. Next year, we might do things differently. Maybe we'll go back to just the tiny tree. Or finally suck it up and put up lights outside.

Advent Devotional

We downloaded an advent devotional from a presbyterian church and every morning at breakfast we read that day's essay. Some were good. Some were lame. Some were "meh." But in all it was an interesting peak into a congregation's thoughts on this season of Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love. Originally, our house church was going to all do the same devotional, but we ended up doing different things in our households, which was cool too.

I'm thinking next year, we might go ahead and invest in a book of some sort. Something a little more than "meh." Like this.

Advent Calender

The other thing we did was get those 99 cent advent calenders from Trader Joes and eat a chocolate after reading our daily essay. Neither of us grew up with advent calenders, and we got a kick out of doing this.

The chocolates weren't particularly good, but that was part of the fun. Twice, we ended up with the same figurine on the same day, so we cheersed and hurrahed. Most of the time we couldn't figure out what the shapes actually were. "Cthulhu?" "A gremlin?" "Are these stockings? Or maybe caterpillars?"

I'm sure next year, we'll look for something with fair trade, slave-free, blah blah blah, super-delicious dark chocolate, but I will kind of miss our cheesy Trader Joe's calendars.

Eggnog

So, this may sound weird, but eggnog was kind of an advent thing for us. MM loves eggnog. Like, looooooves it. So much so that he has said, in public: "If I could figure out how to drink eggnog, non-stop, without having to breathe or pee, I would."

Instead, he wisely chose to limit eggnog consumption to one quart (of the very best from a local ice-creamery) a week, drunk one tiny, swanky swig at a time. We started on Thanksgiving, and will go til New Years. It's been fun to come out to breakfast to see little eggnogs. Chocolate and Eggnog for breakfast! Whoopie!

(We postponed our blood sugar and cholesterol tests til late January. Ahem.)

This worked well, but next year, we'll see where we are with our health goals and needs and figure out the right eggnog plan.This is an important part of Christmas for MM, and I hope to figure out ways to enjoy eggnog each year.

Advent Candles

Each night at dinner we'd light that week's advent candles, and keep them burning throughout the evening. On Christmas Eve we lit the Jesus candle, and have burned all of them every night since.

The plan is to keep burning them throughout Christmastide and into Epiphany til they burn out. Hope finally konked out on us last night, and we think Joy is next.

The giant pillars were perfect for us, so we'll probably do the same size next year, if we have the same furniture setup.

Next post I'll share a bit about our weekly gatherings and specific events and celebrations.

12/27/2011

Christmasing

This Christmas... I don't even have words. Well, I do. They're just tangled up in my heart at the moment. And we're still Christmasing! We're partying for all 12 days, finishing with an Epiphany party with our church on the 6th. (French toast and peach bellinis and a last hoorah.)

And its a new year. A new beginning. Yes. Words swirl. They'll land soon. This time of year sends me burrowing into my journal to scribble it all out.

In the meantime:

I'm heating spiced cider on the stove, and eating leftover ham and scalloped potatoes for lunch. (We had the best Boxing Day dinner!)

I'm rearranging the Christmas decorations so that our poor, droopy, dead Christmas tree can head to the curb.We'll take the rest of it down on the 5th or 6th, but that tree has to go now. Yowza! I think now may be the time to haul out our old tiny tree for the rest of the season. (Yay!)

I'm lighting candles from our advent wreath and enjoying my gifts from MM during my breaks from work and the regular routine.Classical music and candles are a soothing counterpart to all the cleaning and organizing for this time of year. And Santa left coloring books in my stocking. :D

I'm gathering with girlfriends this week for tea and lunch and ice skating and theater... I'm buying a few more gifts to buy for the final Christmas celebration on New Year's Day...I'm prepping for our Twelfth Night celebration...

Christmasing.

12/15/2011

Christmas at The Pink House

Hi! Thanks for stopping by. This is my first Tour of Homes. I'd offer you a gingersnap (I made them for the first time the other day), but I ate them all. Sorry.

So - if you are new here, the first thing you need to know is that our rental house is pink. I mean really pink. Pepto Bismol Barbie Pink. The second thing is tht I don't have a camera. Or an iphone. I have a blackberry, which I love b/c MM (my Amazing Semi-New Husband (married last year)) and I can message each other for free. We still send smoochy love notes with hearts and kisses and googly eyed emoticons, and no iphone can compare.

OK. So. Here's the front of the house.



See? Totally pink.

Now, don't let the garland fool you. There are no lights in there. We are the Anti-Griswolds. Here is our light display from last year.



So very sad.

Each day another hook would fall down, and by the end of the season, the lights were piled up in a ball beneath the coffee table.

When we hung them up, we spent a few minutes in our front yard laughing. Our neighbors (who had a lovely display (which they left up all year, but we didn't care, because it really was lovely*)) came out. The wife tried to compliment us, but the husband went for honest, "Well. Now, that's rather pathetic, isn't it?" (Imagine that sentence in a British accent. Very cool to be insulted with a British accent.)

We don't have British neighbors to insult us anymore** so we thought we'd put in a bit more effort this year, but we still weren't up for installing lights. (And really, you can see our house from space anyway, so who needs 'em.)

Also, notice how there are no decorations on the garlands. The plan was to decorate in blue and silver to match the wreath, but this side of town has been so windy the last few weeks that I was afraid the fancy doodads would fall off. So I left them empty. But as the wind blows leaves around, they get stuck in the garland. It's nature's decoration.



 

The first actual decorative thing you'll see is our wreath.


We chose blue as our Advent color, so I used blue glass ornaments and ribbon and silver jingle bells. And fake holly. In honor of the fake holly my mom would display every year in a plastic santa boot. That stuff was 20 years old when I was born, and she kind of hated it, but us kids would insist that the ratty old' holly be installed every year.

I put, like 12 big bells on this sucker, and I was hoping that the door would jingle as we went in and out. Alas, no jingle for us. (The neighbors were not kidding when they kept saying, "It's a quiet neighborhood."

When you walk in the door you see our fireplace.



Why they put the fireplace right in front of the door, I do not know. (The house is pink.) I'm super excited to have a fireplace no matter where it is, so who cares. We put a nativity on the mantle, and it was kind of depressing up there by itself, so I added white tealights and small pillars in mason jars and some Dollar Store garland (not like the fancy Big Lots Garland outside) to cheer things up a bit.

And, we still haven't gotten around to getting our wedding portrait printed and framed, so the wall above the creche needed something too. We printed and colored and glittered a bunch of the names of Jesus that appear in various parts of the Christmas story and taped them to the wall with painters tape.  Sort of like stars. (MM pointed out that, despite our best efforts at random placement, we basically have 4 columns with the Root of Jesse escaping.)



Hung by the chimney with care are our original tiny stockings. (When we first became a couple, I lived in a tiny studio apartment with a gold, spray-painted radiator (that I nicknamed Goldie). I hung my stocking on the old phone above the radiator, and when we became a couple, I made MM a stocking, and hung his there too.)



Our first married Christmas we just kept using the tiny stockings and tiny tree I'd had in my old place.



(MM was so excited about the gift he'd gotten me, he forgot to get stocking stuffers.) (It was a beautiful gift.)

I have two classy, velvet, full-sized stockings we can use, but these ones are so sweet and sentimental, I can't give them up.

And, there's our tree.

Which - sigh - I'd wanted to have the tree decorating go well. (MM doesn't like decorating trees; I do; I want to make the process as painless and fun as possible for him and not push him, but still decorate together, etc. etc. Newlyweds!) He had a blast (it was exciting to drive to Target in the fog), but I got all stressed out because we had light issues.

I don't like twinkling/blinking/flashing lights inside. It's too distracting to me. In my mad dash to grab lights, I grabbed twinkling lights. Had to run to target to get non-twinkling lights. Came home and discovered that we had too much tree and not enough lights. Went back, came home, and discovered that one of our strands of non-twinkling lights had a white cord. Arrgh!

Sigh.

Eventually we sorted it all out. A non-blinking, multi-colored and blue, green-corded light fantastic. Phew.

We decorated the tree in stages, and put the last of the ornaments on Monday night. We didn't have a theme or a plan. We just put on ornaments if they made us happy. MM has some from his childhood and that I've given him or that someone gave us together. And I've got tons (that whole tree thing) reflecting my entire life as a kid and single gal. Our tree is not "gourmet" but every inch of it is covered in memories, and that feels right.







(Got this for MM our first Christmas together. He wants this paint job on his next guitar.)



Presiding over all this stuff is Henri the Christmas Goat.

We bought him the day we officially became a couple (we had to go to IKEA to get a vase for the roses MM had brought when he'd picked me up at the airport the night before - swoon.) We took him home and Christened him Henri (pronounced onry, as in "onry ol' cuss") Maynard Ronald George, and plopped him on the dining room table to act as chaperone during our early courtship. ;)

I'm Swedish, but I don't really get the whole goat thing. They build goats out of straw and set them on fire. Cuz nothing says happy birthday Jesus quite like flaming goats. (MM would like me to point out that flaming goats are very Metal.) (I think Flaming Goats would be a great band name.) Anyway - Henri's fun and reminds me of our first Christmas together.



(From our first Christmas with Henri)

If you look to the right (standing in front of the door, still) you'll see the living area half of the room. On the piano we have a tiny violin, a framed sketch of John the Baptist and Jesus as kids, and a tiny play-doh nativity that I made as a kid.



It's a bit crumbly, but still intact, and MM wanted to put it up.



If you look to the left you'll see the dining area half of the room. (The pink house is tiny!) Anyway. On the table, just a simple table runner in blue to go with our Advent colors.



And! And! I am so stoked about that star.



Dude! It is so easy to make. I actually found the first DIY link from Nester, and then later found a few more. I'd always assumed these things were some complicated origami, foldy, accordiany thing, but they totally aren't. I can do these! So far, I've done just the one, but next year...

And in lieu of a wreath, we put candles along the credenza. (We love fire so much that tapers are of no use to us.)



We made the cards (printing, coloring, gluing, and glittering) using the same font as the words above the mantle, so it looks all cohesive and stuff. That was our version of the "Making the Advent Wreath" craft that we did on the first Sunday of Advent.

And that's about it. We kept things simple this year, just sort of feeling it out as we went along.

Looking back through photos of the last three Christmases made me happy and thankful. So thanks for the opportunity to remember all the goodness the last few years have brought. Have fun on the rest of the tour. Hopefully, your other hostesses did not eat all the snacks.




* If they saw us sitting on our front porch at night reading books or drinking wine, they'd turn their lights on to give us "mood lighting."

** We actually really like these neighbors and miss them a bunch.

12/13/2011

caramel

Something's different in the light today. Its amber and gold and slanting "just so". The kind of light I usually gush about in October. My gift today is how the light bathes the giant pile of leaves in front of my house. I wanted to dive in and swim in that caramel and honey beauty. MM and I both noticed it when I walked him to the door. "Wow. It's beautiful today. You should take a picture of this."

I've opened all the blinds and examined it from every room. Nothing else has changed. The sky is still pale winter blue. Bare branches still make winter lace against it. But man, that light is fantastic. Rich, warm, gooey light that does not match the frosty air at all.

If I had a camera with lenses and slrs and whatever else, I would charge around taking shots of this. But I don't, so instead I will look around and hope that I have eyes to see.

~ ~ ~
Participating in today's "Tuesdays Unwrapped" at Chatting at the Sky.

12/11/2011

peace+joy

What was going to be a quiet afternoon after attending my father-in-law's concert turned into "lets have folks come back to our place for a couple appetizers" turned into a houseful of loved ones nibbling, sipping, chatting, laughing, and connecting. The last of our guests took their weary selves home at 11 pm or so, and MM and I smiled our way to sleep. The week of Peace turned into the week of Joy, and who am I to argue.

But, as often is the case for me, my head and heart are filled to bursting. I need time to think and pray and write, figure out what I feel about it all. A week of absorbing, absorbing, absorbing without taking the time to process.

Now that the candles have caught up with us, I am hoping for an afternoon of sitting on the couch staring at the Christmas tree and doing the work of sorting myself out. But first there are dishes to wash, a salad to make, and friends to welcome for the eating of pizza, the sharing of stories, and the lighting of those lovely candles. (Its the weird one today!)

Hope, Peace, and Joy to you, Friends.

12/04/2011

thoughts on a week of hope

I have written so many posts this week. Random, silly ones to tell you that our comfortor covered in tiny flowers makes me feel like I live in Kathleen Kelly's apartment. Or that, though, our plan for now is to not have kids, if we do, and they are boys, MM wants to name them Beowolf and Zebedee, and refer to them as the Sons of Dawn. "That's so, freakin' metal!" :)

Serious ones, where I talk more about what's been going inside me as MM and I figure out how to do Christmas as a family. (I love decorating the tree; he doesn't - how do we figure out how to honor us both, as well as the things we're thinking about in terms of making the season meaningful and thoughtful.) And, how do we balance a calendar when we have two families and an army of friends that we love and only so many evenings in December that we can give away. And the complexities of setting boundaries and maintaining healthy relationships when this season often brings up the dark and painful parts of community.

Philosophical ones, about this week's theme of Hope. We've just finished our annual viewing of the Lord of the Rings, which is filled with the admonition to hope, in the movies, "There is always, Hope." "There's good in this world, and its worth fighting for!" "Some things are certain." And the books,

"There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach."

One's about how we're finding hope in the music of Flyleaf:

"... Sing to me about the end of the world
End of these hammers and needles for you
Hold on to the world we all remember fighting for
There's some strength left in us yet
Hold on to the world we all remember dying for
There's some hope left in it yet...
We'll cry tonight, but in the morning we are new
Stand in the sun, we'll dry your eyes...
Arise and be
All that you dreamed, all that you dreamed...


And in our advent readings:

"More than that, we rejoice in our suffering, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame..." ~ Romans 5:3-5

"I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living!
Wait for (hope in) the LORD;
Be strong,
and let your heart take courage;
Wait for (hope in) the LORD!" ~ Psalm 27


BUT - I didn't finish any of those posts. Instead I practiced baking Christmas treats and visited with good friends and prayed and held my husband tight and made memories and lit candles, thankful for hope.


Blessed hope.