Friday, December 31, 2010

Christmas Kitty

Whiskers loves the Christmas season, because it gives her some very lovely surroundings in which to take her morning, afternoon, and evening naps.


Eating for Good Luck

Eating for good luck.  Now that's a superstition I can sign up for!  Actually, when I think about it, I think I only have one "good luck" tradition that involves food, and it's on New Year's Day.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Resolutions? or Intentions?

I've been thinking some about whether or not to make any New Year's resolutions.  It's not been a habit of mine.  For one, it seems artificial to me to just make a lot of promises to myself just because the earth happened to drift to the same place along its orbit as the last time we made a big list of promises.  There are other times during the year that seem more appropriate to make changes or improvements in my life - back to school time, birthdays, etc.  And also, I'm not all that great about keeping up with promises to change the way I do things.  Turns out my habits have been formed and it's hard to change that.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A Look Back on 2010

Taking a moment to look back on this year, I'm remembering the highs and lows, the joys and challenges.  Taking all the good with the bad, it turns out that I'm blessed beyond my wildest imagination!  What a joyous feeling!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Eat What You Want Night

On New Year's Eve, our family has a somewhat odd tradition for our dinner.  Rather than have an extravagant holiday meal, or hosting or attending a party, our tradition is to have an "Eat What You Want" night.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Top Ten Reasons To Love the Week After Christmas

Here we are, two days after Christmas, and I'm guessing many folks are battling the "post-holiday let-down" that can hit us right about now.  But surprisingly, I've not been affected this year.  I'm still loving this holiday season!

So here are my "Top Ten" reasons why I'm enjoying this week after Christmas:

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas Eve Table

Welcome to our home for Christmas Eve dinner.  I know, it's the day after Christmas, but heck, things were too busy to post this on Christmas Eve!

Rather than cook a big meal on Christmas Day, we always make our big Christmas meal on Christmas Eve.  That way the cooks (usually me and my husband) can spend Christmas Day with the rest of the family, relaxing and enjoying our new "toys" and each other's company.  This year, we celebrated Christmas at home with just my husband, our son, our daughter, and me, we had no other family visiting with us this year. So it was a quiet Christmas Eve dinner in our dining room.  

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Day 2010

We had a very happy Christmas morning, with plentiful blessings  - which always leads to a messy house.  Just keeping it real, folks.  All things considered, this is a beautiful sight this morning...


I hope everyone enjoyed a Merry Christmas today!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas!

On this Christmas Eve, I wish you peace and love and happiness...

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Poll: Thoughts on the "Read More" feature

As I've been wandering around blogland, I've been gathering ideas for how to design a good blog.  I'm noticing features that I like, and am noticing some features that kind of bother me.  I've only been blogging for a little over a month so far, so I'm still not sure what is going to work best for me, and more importantly, for you, the readers.

I've made a design choice for my blog that I'm noticing is not very often used by others.  When you go to the home page of my blog, each blog post is shown only for the first paragraph and maybe the first photograph, then there's a link that says "Read More >>".  If you want to read the rest of the article, you have to click on that link.  I chose this style because my blog posts tend to be long with lots of photographs.  I feel that if I let the entire post show on the blog home page, then readers who are looking for additional content beyond that first article might have to scroll a really long way.

But I'm wondering if readers might not want to click to see more in the article.  Maybe you want to have the articles scroll down the page, and you can just read them all together.  This would be the more typical approach.

I wonder, what is your reading preference?

Over on the side bar, I've put a poll. I'd love to have your input.  Would you mind taking the poll to let me know what you think?

And just for grins, I've put this whole post on my blog front page - no need to click the "Read More" link for this one.  ;-)

Our Family Christmas Tree

Though we have four Christmas trees in our home, there is really only one that we consider our "Family Christmas tree", and that's the one in the family room next to the fireplace.  This is the only real tree in the house.  This is the one that holds all of our precious family ornaments that have been collected as mementoes over the years.  This is the one that is surrounded by gifts, and the one that Santa visits on Christmas Eve.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Simple and Fun Vignettes

I'm having a party at our home tonight, and so I've been spending the day mostly cleaning up, but also putting little touches of Christmas cheer here and there.  Thought I'd share some of the little vignettes I put together today... Hope you enjoy!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

December Makes Me Feel This Way

I'm taking a quiet moment this evening to be still.  The Christmas season is coming to its peak, and the hustle and bustle is in full swing.  But tonight I am still. Listening.  Being.

The Christmas season is such a special, magical time, it's hard to put into words. More than any time of the year, the season reminds me of God's wonder, of God In Us.  There's a little known song by jazz artist Dave Koz that captures the simple magic of the season in a way that few other songs do, at least for me.  I hope you enjoy this song and that it reminds you of the Spirit of the season.

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Chocolate Christmas Candy

I had a big day of making chocolate candy this weekend.  Each year I make a dozen or so different types of hand-dipped chocolate treats, usually spread out over the course of 6 or 8 weekday evenings in December.  But this year, I had a couple of good friends come over to spend the day, and we knocked out a lot of it all at once!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

US Capitol In The Snow

Today the Washington DC area received its first snowfall of the year, and lucky me, I had occasion to be down on the National Mall in the early evening.  What a pretty sight it was!  Thought I'd share some views of the US Capitol in the early evening snow.  I'll just let you enjoy the photos, no narration necessary.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Singing About Town

Tonight I had an opportunity to sing with my chorus, the Harbor City Music Company Show Chorus, at the Mormon Temple in Washington DC.  The Visitor Center at the Temple is a beautiful facility, with a lovely amphitheater-style auditorium and beautiful Christmas decorations.  There are 1/2 million LED lights strung in trees around the grounds.  It makes for a magical, beautiful sight.  Thought I'd share some snapshots of the evening...

What could be better?

There's nothing like relaxing on an evening in December, turning the Christmas lights on, pour a glass of wine, light the candles, and put your feet up.  Just basking in the glow of the house, soaking in the spirit of the season.  Sometimes I listen to Christmas music, sometimes we watch TV.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Easy Pretzel Kisses

Here's a really easy recipe for making a Christmas treat that is yummy and pretty and takes no culinary skills.  In my house, these are all good things!  I call these "Pretzel Kisses".  I don't know what the real name might be, but it really doesn't matter, because they taste yummy no matter what you call them!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Twinkle Bear

One Christmas season, a long time ago when our kids were very small, Twinkle Bear came to live with us.  He told me that he was Santa's special helper, and he lived at the North Pole.  He was sent to live with us in December, because Santa needed his help to see if our son and daughter were being naughty or nice.  Each night in December, Twinkle Bear would magically go home to the North Pole to give Santa a recap of the day's events.  Then he would arrive back at our house before morning, always landing in a different spot.  There he would sit all the next day, watching the kids play, and then he would go home again that night to give another recap of the day.

Our kids with Twinkle Bear, about 12 years ago

Christmas 2010 Tour of Our Home

I've been posting here and there all month long with photos of our home and our Christmas decorations.   In preparation for The Nester's Christmas 2010 Tour Of Homes party, I've put together this launching point so you can see all the various things we've done this year.  Hope you enjoy!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Peppermint Kitchen

Last weekend we finished decorating the house, including the kitchen, which is in a peppermint theme this year.  I posted earlier about our kitchen tree and other decorations, and also about creating an easy and cheap table runner.  Today I'm sharing the rest of the kitchen, which is the easy and low-stress centerpiece, and the gingerbread houses.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Sounds of the Season

Last night we had the pleasure of hearing our daughter and her friends play in a trombone quartet at a local bookstore, as part of a fundraising event for our high school music department.  This performance was really special in a number of ways.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

German Smoker Santas

Fifteen years ago, I had the fantastic opportunity to travel for my job quite a bit.  I often found myself in Germany, and sometimes at Christmas time.  Germany is a beautiful country, with lots of wonderful people, food and customs.  In particular, Christmas time in Germany is lovely, with so many traditions that resonate with me and my family.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

My Best Decorating Trick This Year

This year I found a new trick for putting together our Christmas decorations this year.  It all began when I read a post on Tinsel & Co's blog about how to decorate a tree.  She recommended using green pipe cleaners to hang ornaments, so that you don't end up with stringy-looking wires all over your tree.  After having read that tip, but before I started decorating, I found a cool thing at the Dollar Tree.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Welcome To Our Home

We have finally finished our Christmas decorating for this year, and everything has been cleaned up and put away.  I thought I'd share the view of our home from the front door vantage point.

Entering the front door, looking to the left is our dining room.  I wrote about the tree in a previous post.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Fa la la la la!

Am just settling into a nice evening at home after a weekend full of singing with my quartet and chorus.  Friday night, Saturday morning, and Sunday afternoon were all filled with performances of Christmas music.  What a great way to spend the holidays!

Dining Room Tree

Sharing our new Dining Room tree with you today.  You might remember that I previously shared photos of last year's tree, which was a table top tree with a "sugared fruits" theme.  I have been imagining a full height but slim tree in this corner of the dining room for quite a few years, and now it's here!

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Christmas Tree Farm

Last weekend before our son went back to college for the rest of the semester, we drove out into the country a little way to a Christmas Tree farm.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Not-Quite-Finished Holiday Tablescape

Despite my best intentions, I am not really finished with my Christmas decorating.  In fact, I'm not even finished with my fall un-decorating yet.  So my beautifully imagined but not yet executed Christmas dining room tablescape is still just a figment of my imagination, and my reality is quite a bit more chaotic and messy.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Family Room Mantel

I'm not sure why, but it took me a really long time to decide how to decorate the mantel this year.  I spent probably 2 hours on this, and about 1 hour 45 minutes of that was in fussing with various items!  The whole thing really only took about 15 minutes once I decided what to do!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Living Room "Santa" Tree

This year our living room tree is themed as a "Santa" tree.  I thought this would be a great way to showcase all of our Santa ornaments that we've collected over the years.  I also picked up a couple new ornaments this year, just a few that caught my eye for one reason or another, nothing extravagant.  And last year in the "after Christmas" sales at Michael's, I had picked up a few Santa ornaments then.  So I figured we'd have plenty to do a whole tree.

Straight No Chaser - 12 Days of Christmas

In other parts of my life, I sing in a barbershop quartet. I love a cappella music! Here is a top notch example of some awesome a cappella music, though not in the barbershop style. Straight No Chaser is taking the nation by storm, all because of a YouTube video that appeared on the scene a few years ago.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Thank you! "Stylish Blogger" Award

I'm humbled and surprised to receive a "Stylish Blogger" award from Mandie, of the Whispering Christmas Dreams blog.  You're very sweet to think of me.  Thank you so much!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Kitchen in Peppermint

Yesterday I finished decorating the kitchen for Christmas.  In years past, I've used themes of red apples, cinnamon and gingerbread for the kitchen. Last year I expanded that to include more of a "candy" theme, by simply adding a garland of fake sugared candies on the small tree, and a few candy-themed ornaments.  This year walking through the crafts store, I saw cute little floral picks made of peppermint candies (fake of course), and saw cute peppermint stripe ribbon, and this year's theme idea was born!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Holiday Traditions - courtesy of TodaysMama and GameStop

TodaysMama and GameStop are giving away a sleighful of gifts this holiday season and to enter I’m sharing this meme with you.
1. What is your holiday wish for your family?
For my local family and my extended family across the country, I wish the blessings of good health, love and prosperity.  These times can be tough on folks, and I wish everyone an easier road ahead in 2011.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Christmas Village Display How-To

Thought I'd show how I set up the foundation for the Christmas village display.  This is something I learned from Martha Stewart about 10-15 years ago when she still had her TV show.

Christmas Village Display

Our Christmas village display is a bit different from most.  It is not from Dept. 56, or from any other collectible manufacturer.  It is a hand-painted village, painted by my husband and I long ago, early in our marriage.

A Grateful Heart

I woke up early this morning, earlier than usual, earlier than the rest of the house.  The skies outside are grey and damp, hiding the sun that is trying to rise.  I can see that the yard is wet and the trees are dripping from last night's cold rain.  The house is quiet but for the quiet hum of the furnace and the soft, insistent meowing of the cat awaiting her breakfast.  This is a magical time of the day, one that comes rarely for this so-not-a-morning-person, and I want to capture it, hold on to it, and remember it forever.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving Tablescape

I'm new to the concept of "tablescaping" as it's found here in blog-land.  However, I do enjoy putting together a pretty table using what I have on hand.  I don't have much of a collection of dishes or table ware, as compared to others I've seen, but what I have, I enjoy using.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Christmas Mantel Idea - Frames with Seasonal Images

A few years ago I saw a magazine spread that featured gold frames arranged on a mantel with seasonal photos, and thought we could pull that off in our house.   I've looked around my house in all my stashes to see if I can find the original idea photo to share with you as an "inspiration" photo, but no such luck.    But I do have photos of our version from a couple of years ago.

My husband and I went to Michael's craft store and picked out a variety of gold frames to use for this project.

Monday, November 22, 2010

2008 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

Back in 2008, we had the delightful opportunity to travel to New York City to see our son, then a high school senior, march in the Macy's Great American Marching Band in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.  Our son was one of 3 representatives from our state of Maryland who were invited to participate.

Our adventure started on the Saturday before Thanksgiving, when we all rode the train up to NYC together.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

New Dining Room Tree On The Way!

I'm excited to report that I've splurged and ordered a 7' slim pre-lit Christmas tree for our dining room.  As noted in an earlier post, I was debating whether or not to do this.  I've been thinking of it for a couple of years now, but was holding out for a good price.

Table Runner Craft Project

I am planning this year to decorate the kitchen in a "peppermint" theme.  Every year when I choose a theme, I try to do it in a way that doesn't break the bank.  Who can spend a ton of cash just to change things up every year?  Not me!

So to start off my peppermint theme kitchen, I decided to make a table runner.  Well, that's not really how it happened.  I was wandering the aisles of Walmart last week, and found this vinyl tablecloth that was peppermint striped, and I thought "Hey! I can use that in the kitchen!"  But then I thought that a whole table full of peppermint stripes might be visually overwhelming.  So then I thought "why not cut it apart and make a table runner?" Bingo!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Here Comes Santa Claus

In other parts of my life, I sing barbershop music in Sweet Adelines International. I sing with a chorus of 65 women (Harbor City Music Company), and I sing in a quartet (Lustre). The hobby is wonderful as a creative outlet, and my membership in the chorus and quartet have turned into real, true family experiences.

Along about November, we start to bring out the Christmas music and dust it off. Between Thanksgiving and Christmas we have a flurry of performances all related to Christmas caroling. It's one of the most fun aspects of the holiday season for me!

I don't have any "authorized" recordings of my quartet or chorus doing any Christmas music, so I thought I'd share this. I think it's awesome, hope you do too!

Friday, November 19, 2010

"Vintage" Santa

I have what I loosely call a "collection" of Santa figures as a major part of my Christmas decorations.  About 15 years ago, I attended a local craft fair, found three or four Santa figures, and declared that I was going to collect Santas.  Never mind the fact that at the time we had no money, and I had no idea how to make a real "collection."

My collection does not contain anything of any monetary value.  Mostly I just purchased Santas that caught my eye, sometimes while traveling to commemorate a special trip.  Often my family gives me Santas that they think I would enjoy.  My father has hand-carved some caricature Santas, and those are especially wonderful.  But as far as "value" goes, I don't think I'd get much if I sold most of my Santas.

This Santa is a case in point.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Christmas Decorating Outside

In years past, we have done a variety of types of decorating outside - everything from a simple, minimalist wreath on the front door, all the way up to stringing mini white lights all around the outline of the front of the house.

We have settled into a groove lately.  For the last few years, we have had:
  • wreaths on the windows and front door, with red bows
  • one electric candle in the base of each set of front windows
  • a lighted garland around the front door
  • lighted artificial trees in planters on the front porch, with red "berry" balls
  • spot lights on the front of the house at night, and
  • small wreaths on the garden shed in the back yard.
Here are some photos from years past.  The snowy pictures were from the winter of 2009, when our area received record breaking snow fall amounts.  These pictures were taken in mid December, when we got about two feet of snow.  Later in February 2010 we would receive three more big storms in a row, for a grand total of 80 inches of snow this winter!  We usually get 12 inches or less per year, so this was a big deal!

This is how the house looks most of December in a normal year.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Dining Room "Sugared Fruits" Tree

Last year (2009) was the first year I've put a Christmas tree in the dining room.  See, I have this empty corner, where I think it's just crying out to have a tall, slim-line Christmas tree there.  It would be so pretty, you know, with luxurious ribbon and delicate gold ornaments.  I could theme it from year to year with various food-related themes - "vineyard" one year, "sugar plums" one year, and so on.  Lovely idea, yes?

The problem with this plan is that I already do a 12' live tree, a 9' artificial tree, and a 4' table top tree in other parts of the house.  And one year we had a 6' artificial tree in the basement too.  So the idea of, first, purchasing another tree, and then, second, decorating another tree was not appealing.  Well, it was kind of appealing in theory, but in practice it was unrealistic.  

So I struck a compromise.  I found a 3' pre-lit table top tree on sale at Walmart for $20.  Score!  And then I put it on an old round accent table in the sad, empty corner.  Once I decorated it to match the chandelier, the room was now beginning to really feel festive!

The tree was pretty simple to decorate.

Dining Room "Sugared Fruits" Chandelier

From year to year, I like to decorate our house in different ways, mostly re-using the stash of supplies I already have, but sometimes adding in a small purchase of new themed items.  Case in point:  our dining room.  In previous years, I had simply done a nice centerpiece and called it done.  But in 2009, I decided to add a little more to the mix, and play up this pretty room.

Christmas Decor Storage

It's almost time to begin pulling the Christmas decorations out of storage.  Here's a peek at how we store our large collection of holiday decor.  These photos show the boxes last year, after they were pulled out of the basement storage room.  At last count, we had about 25 boxes of varying sizes and types.

Welcome to the Harris Home

Hi there!  Thanks for being one of the first visitors to my new blog.  I hope to share decorating ideas, holiday planning ideas, and whatever else pops into my head.  I hope you'll visit often, and share your ideas too.

Happy Holidays!