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Thursday, December 31, 2009

More Christmases

This was one of the best Christmases I can remember. Christmas is generally not at the top of my list of favorite holidays because I dislike what people turn it into, but this year it was unexpectedly pleasant and enjoyable. Our generous university president sent the staff home at noon on Wednesday, which allowed me some extra time to prepare for the impending festivities. We had a very white Christmas with record snowfalls in some parts of the state. Thankfully, we were blessed with safe travels throughout the storm. We enjoyed the company of relatives we rarely see and lots of relaxing leisure time on the days off work.

I suppose now would be a good time to introduce my boyfriend. It feels very strange to call an adult man my boyfriend, but manfriend sounds creepy, so boyfriend it is. He's very bashful and avoids attention whenever possible. He has, until this point, remained anonymous, but there would be lots of blank spots in this story if I left him out. I have lots of nicknames for him, but today I'll call him Blondie. Ladies might think that's cute, but men might think of Clint Eastwood as The Man With No Name. Either way, it works. Sometimes I might call him MT, how his heart felt without me (I kid); or I might call him The Vulcan, his favorite Star Trek species.

Blondie's family had originally planned their Christmas celebration for Christmas morning, but since I wouldn't be able to spend much time with them on that day, they so kindly rescheduled for Wednesday evening and Thursday morning. On Wednesday evening we enjoyed a delicious meal, served on Mrs. T's fancy china, crystal, and silver. Then Mr. T read the Christmas story and we opened gifts. I received a fluffy blanket from Blondie's parents and a light scarf from his sister. My favorite gift was a lovely pearl necklace, bracelet, and earrings from Mrs. T. She had met the jeweler at a conference and heard the meaningful story of how she equates the qualities of a pearl to the qualities people can use to strengthen their faith.

Blondie's sister (also a blondie, but she I've never seen her wear a crusty poncho) loves the tradition of opening stockings first thing in the morning, so on Christmas Eve morning, we all assembled for breakfast and stockings. The little surprises in Christmas stockings are always so much fun! The boys received butane lighters shaped like shotguns, which I'm sure will provide hours of fun. Everyone got a nifty little Scentsy car freshener. Mine was very appropriate for my personality: Clean Breeze. Blondie's was a good fit too: Simply Irresistible. Everyone also received very fancy athletic socks. I am sure that will help motivate me to stick with my exercise regimen throughout 2010!

When I was younger my immediate family always celebrated Christmas on Christmas Eve and then spent Christmas day with my mom's large family. Now that all of my cousins have grown up and most have families of their own, the schedule is more unpredictable. In recent years we have celebrated Christmas on New Year's Day after the madness of the days immediately surrounding Christmas has subsided. However, this year my uncle and his family from Colorado were able to visit on Christmas day and the day after, so my family made the trip to my granny's house for a very tasty lunch and a game of Dirty Santa.

My granny raised five children, so she doesn't know how to cook a small meal. I have never eaten there when there wasn't more than enough food for our family and all of the neighbors. Everyone has their favorite dish, and of course she tries to please everyone! Some people like the ham and noodles, others like the green beans and new potatoes, one likes the sauerkraut and Vienna Sausages, and Julie and I like the blackened okra. It's not just fried. It's breaded in cornmeal and blackened. You can't order that in a restaurant. If you ask them to burn your okra, they look at you like you're crazy.

After lunch we opened our presents from Granny and played Dirty Santa. This year all of the men received deerskin work gloves, which went over really well because many of them work outdoors and know the value of good gloves! Granny gave all of the ladies necklaces handmade by my very talented cousin. I now have several of her creations; all of them contain black and red beads...I wonder if I might be just a tad predictable!

Later that day I joined Blondie's family at his grandmother's house for the tail end of their Christmas celebration. I had missed lunch, but I didn't miss out on the finger foods and desserts that she put out for people to nibble on throughout the afternoon.

On the day after Christmas, my immediate family got together for brunch and a leisurely day of visiting and playing games. My mom is a very good cook and she made a delicious breakfast. Somehow, every timer she set that morning failed to remind her when things were done (one was my fault) and everything still turned out great. We always wear our pajamas to breakfast at my parents' house and Julie and Mom started a tradition last year of wearing silly socks for Christmas, and since I am defiantly not silly, Julie equipped me with a very silly pair of socks to wear for our silly sock photo. Again, I received lots of great gifts including an iron, an electric drill, and another Scentsy Clean Breeze car freshener. Predictable? Yes.

Earlier that day my dad had gone to do chores and stopped by the local coffee shop to catch up on the morning gossip. One of his friends asked what he had planned for the day and he told him that Santa was going to visit. His friend asked what he thought Santa might bring and my dad told him that he had a wife and two daughters: a vacuum for his wife, a drill for one daughter, and a hammer for the other. His friend warned him that there might be some very disappointed ladies at his house later in the day. My family is very practical, so I must say that Santa was spot on!

I am a big fan of neatly pressed attire and I am sure my current iron is about to bite the dust. I dropped it on my tile floor and busted a large chunk of the plastic off. It still works, but looks pretty rickety. My mom took my Christmas list seriously and got me a replacement. My dad got me a drill because I had borrowed his for long enough that he decided I needed my own. It will definitely be put to good use!

My mom was preparing a tasty looking lunch when Blondie and I had to leave, but we had more Christmas to celebrate! We spent the afternoon and evening with his other grandparents and extended family. I had never met some of these folks, and it was nice to get to know them. We had another good meal and more Dirty Santa, where I acquired a nifty Scentsy warmer, much to Blondie's chagrin. He is not a fan of good smelling things that might make him sneeze. I promised him I would not use any scents that offended his nostrils.

I would say that this has been the Christmas of Scentsy and scarves. Lots of Scentsy items were exchanged this year, and I gave two scarves and received one! I gave Blondie a new wallet to replace the disintegrating one that he has used for the past ten years. He threatened to revert back to the perfectly functional velcro wallet of his high school years when this one wore out and I just couldn't have that. I also gave him a much too large pair of relaxy pants and a very nerdy book. He gave me a lovely pair of cacti which accompanied a very nice note, as well as some curiously strong magnets. Apparently the precariously affixed photos on my refrigerator make him nervous and he thinks these heavy duty magnets will help him to avoid knocking things off. He also snuck a new toaster oven under the tree. It was made very clear that this was not a Christmas gift, but it was mysteriously disguised as one, sitting under my Christmas tree, wrapped in Christmas paper.

Thank you to everyone who made this Christmas wonderful (and worth writing an absurdly long blog about) and thank you to the Special One who gave us Christmas in the first place.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Four Christmases

I had a great Christmas this year! We were able to make it to all four of the Christmases, and still have one coming this weekend. I was starting to get a bit skeptical with the crazy blizzard, but we rearranged and managed to get everywhere we wanted to go.


We started our festivities at C.’s parents’ house on Christmas Eve. They only live about a mile away from us, so it was easy to make it there. We loaded up our little bundle of gifts into the pickup and carefully made our way to their house. The most dangerous part was making it up the steps to their house. But we made it! And we had a fun time. My mother-in-law got me Fiesta dishes. She got me two place settings and some adorable little fruit dishes. I’m not exactly sure what I will use them for, but they are cute and I’ll figure something out!

On Christmas Day we went to my Granny’s house. We loaded up our second little bundle of gifts into the pickup again, and drove along even more carefully. There is never a shortage of people there. We only had half of our group that day, but we had a good time anyway! Granny made an excellent lunch; there is never a shortage of food there, either! She has the best okra ever. Period.


We went to Mom and Daddy’s house on Saturday. One of our traditions there is to dress in our pajamas and wear festive socks. This is a good thing, because after Christmas dinner at Granny’s house, our regular pants are getting a little tight, and pajama pants are very forgiving. Mom knew I was very sad about not having a Christmas tree this year. We normally go on a Christmas tree hunt, and find one from a farm, but this year we got busy and never had time to find one. So she got me a tree! I put it up the day after Christmas, and it is still there. C. is probably going to make me take it down soon, but it’s so pretty I want to leave it there!


On Sunday we loaded up with C’s family and went to his aunt’s house for their Christmas get-together. The grandkids in this family always make gingerbread houses. We had so much fun seeing what kind of decorations we could come up with to make our houses beautiful. Ours had a marshmallow mailbox, complete with a Twizzler flag. I think his four-year-old cousin had the best time of any of us. His house was definitely the most festive.

We had a great time this year. It always makes me sad when Christmas is over. It is always stressful to figure out our schedule for Christmas, and it feels like we are driving all over the entire state, but it is worth it to see all of our family and friends. Now I’m looking forward to New Year’s this weekend. More friends, more food. What more could you ask for!?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Christmas Tour of Homes

I am participating in The Nester's Christmas Tour of Homes this year. She is a talented decorator who inspires me to nail holes in my walls, paint stuff (not white), and hot glue stuff to other stuff. That is so not in my nature, so it is a big deal for me to step out on a limb and just do it!


Standing inside my house and looking at my Christmas decorations, I think everything looks pretty nice. However, looking at the mediocre photos I took, I realize my Christmas decor looks a bit lame. But...that's what this blog is all about, so bring on the lame adventures!

The first photo is a picture of the outside of my house. Several of my neighbors have Christmas lights on their houses and the neighborhood looks really nice. I'm sure my across-the-street neighbors would be a little skeptical of me lurking in their yard while I photographed my house at night, but it is impossible to get a photo of my entire house without practically standing on their front porch. Then, I would end up with their mailbox in the foreground of my photo. I know this because I have done it...but not at night. I decided to forgo the whole house photo and not trespass. You get the idea. The rest of the house looks exactly like this, only...more.



Next is the cute little table in my kitchen nook. This nook really isn't large enough for anything useful, so I keep this table there "just for pretty," as Julie would say. This table was a wedding gift to my grandparents many years ago. My grandma used to have a large lamp on it in one of her bedrooms. It's not very sturdy, so I would never use it for anything very heavy. I put the green placemat here just for Christmas, but it complements my curtains, so I could leave it here all the time. I don't remember where the Thomas Kinkade book came from, but I won the red candle and bowl as a door prize at a luncheon a year or two ago. I keep the candle there all year, and since it's red it goes perfectly with my Christmas decor. I added the red and green frilly stuff as an afterthought. I think I found it in my Christmas wrapping supplies. Please ignore the fake green plant. I know the Nester would not approve.




Here you see my dining room. My living room is not large enough to accommodate my Christmas tree, so I always put it in the dining room. This works well because there are two windows in that corner, so when I open the blinds, you can see the lights from outside. It looks very festive! I have white candles in crystal candlesticks on the dining room table year round, but I added more candles for Christmas. More candles = fancy.



This is a close up of my sewing machine table, which is right next to the front door. My little teddy bears lean on my graduation photo year round, along with the dried eucalyptus from one of my grandma's funeral flower arrangements in the glass vase. Normally I cover this table with a tablecloth, but for the Christmas season, I replaced that with another green placemat. The photo on the left is of Julie and me with Santa Claus. My mom gave each of us framed copies of that photo for Christmas one year. There's another just-for-Christmas candle here, too. The bell ornament on the doorknob was also a gift from my mom.



For more, less lame, home tours visit The Nester! Merry Christmas!

Happy Birthday To Me!

Yesterday was my birthday and it was wonderful!

My granny’s birthday is actually on December 11, so some of our extended family got together at her house to celebrate on Saturday. Julie had baked a cake and some cupcakes…but the cupcakes didn’t make it. It was so windy when we picked her up at her house that three of the cupcakes blew away before she made it to the car! Here is a photo of Granny and me with our birthday cake:



Yesterday I went to the Christmas program at church, and then had lunch with my parents. Then I spent the afternoon making Pioneer Woman’s cinnamon rolls for a work meeting tomorrow. While I was baking the cinnamon rolls, I received an email from Jacky from The Sweetest Petunia telling me that I had won the exciting giveaway on her blog. I finished my cinnamon rolls just in time for my birthday dinner at my parents’ house.

I have been experimenting with wheat flour in my baking and it makes a very dense bread. I haven’t quite figured out how to completely substitute wheat flour for white flour. My cinnamon rolls were very tasty this time, so I think I’ve found a good ratio. I brought a batch to work this morning and most of them were gone by 9:30.

I am very excited about Jacky’s giveaway! I have never won an online giveaway, and since it was on my birthday it was even more special. My prize was a $30 store credit from Gussy’s Esty shop. Gussy makes adorable ruffled bags and I have been wishing for something from her shop for quite a while. I chose to spend my $30 credit, plus the $25 birthday money from my granny, on a Gus For Work.

I can’t wait until it arrives! I bought a new purse in July, and since it was so pricy, I promised myself I would not buy another purse for a whole year. However, this is not a purse, it is a bag. Plus, I only bought half of it. This is going to be just perfect for toting around all of those items that are just a little too big to fit in my purse.

My mom made a delicious dinner last night. She always cooks a special meal for our birthdays and last night she made hamburger steak with mashed potatoes and gravy. That is one of my favorite meals. She worked extra hard on a French vanilla birthday cake, too. She didn’t have quite enough candles, so I guess I will be 24 this year since that’s how many candles come in a package!

Mom also gave me a very cozy pair of slippers that I had been wishing for. They are just perfect for wearing around the house on my cold tile floor or going outside at night to feed the dog. I already threw away my cruddy old giraffe slippers.

Thank you to everyone who made my birthday so special! It really was a wonderful day.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Work With What Ya Got

Kelsie and I got in the Christmas spirit and did some decorating around the office today. Decorating the office can be dangerous sometimes because so many people have so many different opinions of what "pretty" consists of. I am of the opinion that just because the tacky bow is in the box does not mean you have to use the tacky bow. Notice there are no tacky bows in the photos. However all we had was a giant box of spizzerinctum, so we didn't have much to work with.


I started about a week ago with my desk. I love my little snowman box that I won in Dirty Santa last year. I really love the miniature mittens I found at K-mart this year. They are adorable. One pair is happily dangling from the corner of my computer monitor. It makes me feel festive.



Next Kelsie decided that he hallway needed to feel special. We never turn the lights on for some reason, and it needed some holiday cheer. So we lit it up. That's right, we zig-zagged the lights in the bathroom hallway. One of the ladies in my office said it looks like the entrance to a club. Maybe we should put disco balls in the bathrooms. That would be unexpected.


We also finally got the office Christmas tree put up. We first had to find a space to put it. Every corner of our office is already filled with cubicle walls, filing cabinets, tables, spare chairs, and any other piece of office equipment you can imagine, so finding a place for a Christmas tree was a challenge. We finally decided to leave the back branches off and shove it up against the other side of my cubicle (you can see my pretty decorations behind the wall). We had the pretty gold ornaments, and we decided to get candy canes, a bow, and the tree skirt at K-mart. The tree skirt is actually a pretty table cloth I found for half price, and I made the bow after looking at the pre-made ones and deciding it didn't look that hard. You should also take notice of the pretty silver and blue garland I made from things I found in the box of spizzerinctum.


Isn't my bow gorgeous?


We decided we could go into this Christmas decorating thing as a profession. We are going to call ourselves "Work With What Ya Got Christmas Decorating." I think we're going to make big bucks.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Cold!

It is freezing! According to my outside thermometer it is 11° F.

I am lying on the couch, wearing my flannel pajamas and wrapped in a fluffy blanket. Roscoe is curled up on the floor to my left and Maynard is sleeping on the back of the couch to my right.

Last night I let Roscoe sleep in the garage because it was so cold. He always gets excited when we go out to the garage because he thinks that means he is going to go somewhere in the car. I’m sure he was disappointed last night when I didn’t put him in the car.

This morning I did not want to put him back outside in the cold. Mainly because I didn’t want to have to go out in the cold myself!

When I went out to the garage to get Roscoe this morning, he was sound asleep in his cage (I keep it in the garage and there is a little rug and a toy in there, so he likes to go in there) and he came reluctantly when I called him inside.

He wasn’t very excited about going back outside. I had to give him fresh water because his was frozen, and it was frozen again this evening when I went out to bring him inside for the night.
I hope this frigid weather doesn’t last or Roscoe is going to get spoiled and I'm going to get frostbite!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Deck the Halls

I got in the Christmas spirit this weekend! I decided that it might be the last nice weekend to put up Christmas lights. And judging by the weather the past few days, it looks like I was right. C. was off working, so I crawled out the second floor window armed with lights and shingle clips and decked the house with lights. I think it turned out well.

I hope it turned out well. This year I’m going to win the radio station’s Christmas decoration contest. Last year I just knew I was going to win until a last minute entry who will remain unnamed took it all away from me. I risked my life by crawling around on our roof, while he just put some painted plywood decorations in his yard. There were hardly even any lights.

I think my light display might need something else. Maybe some evergreen garland around the porch poles with some big, red Christmas tree balls hanging from it. Possibly some gigantic gift bows or a festive wreath. Maybe I should paint some plywood. It needs more depth. But I’m cheap and not that crafty. Any suggestions?