Monday, December 31, 2012

Twinkle Little Christmas Lights

Shining on the tree...

The theme song for December is Christmas and we’re at the last verse. It’s a bit sad for me to see the trees, cast aside on the edge of the road with a bit of tinsel still attached and blowing in the wind, or packed away, branch by numbered branch, in a box to be stored on a shelf until next year. The other decorations, hung with care months ago, are quickly extinguished and removed, stuffed onto shelves in dusty garages and warehouses, waiting for the next season.

A park with a light display. All the pictures are from there.
The opening arch.
The last thing to come down is usually the lights. I adore the lights. Growing up, we never had lights on our house that I remember. But my grandparents did. After many tiring miles of highway, the lights would twinkle a warm welcome to us weary travelers. Grandmother would meet us at the door with her customary, “Christmas Eve Gift” greeting.

A train.
All the presents were wrapped with care...
The lights were standard old time big bulb Christmas lights. Granddaddy climbed a ladder to hang them evenly along the edge of the roof. After the holiday he would climb that same ladder to take them back down. And in between, if a light bulb happened to go out, the ladder was ascended again. But it was imperative for them to come down. It was a big faux pas to leave Christmas lights up all year, even if you lived in the country!
Get the star on top!
A stocking full of goodies!
I’d be content for the lights to stay hung and lit all the time. It makes things seem more cheerful somehow. They disguise ugly buildings and light up bland, lifeless towns. They add a welcome glow to the doors and windows of common people, binding them together, regardless of beliefs, for one round of the hour glass. Lights celebrating Christmas have been a tradition for a long time. Originally candles were fastened to tree branches with a bit of melted wax or later, a candle holder. Eventually it became conventional to use electric lights as decorations, unattached to the tree, outside and inside of homes. Cities and towns, regardless of size, often have a central Christmas tree or at the least hanging decorations lining their streets with a cheerful glow. One of those silly holiday movies I like to watch said that it was a way to welcome home WWII veterans from their tours of duty. I don’t know but it sounds nice.
A nativity scene. This is the only part I could get in but it was complete.

When we go to the mountains we often see lights outlining storefronts and houses, regardless of the time of year, hanging down in a fake icicle configuration and glimmering in the wind. It’s both welcome and welcoming. It’s hard to describe but it just seems to add something.
A sugarplum cottage.
Old man winter? The only snow happening here!
Things change as the years progress. Personalities develop and relationships transform. Gone are the carefree children who played together and loved one another unconditionally. Gone are strong family connections. Gone is the gratitude for the season. The Christmas lights are going out, one at a time, slowly. But surely.
Beautiful arches.

We’ll pack up our decorations in a few days and take down the tree and store the pretty lights. But I think I’ll leave some out this year. I’ll string them across the mantle and leave them on as a welcome, for me. I’ll be reminded of Christmas past and remember the good times. And I’ll have faith for the good to come.

Never seem to shine so bright...

Christmas knitting wasn’t too stressful this year. I have a couple of things left to finish but they weren’t really presents so it doesn’t matter. I did finish a Gaptastic cowl, in a rainbow color, for my daughter-in-law. She liked it I know!
Gaptastic for Jenni.

The glow of love is all around us.
So twinkle on Christmas time...

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Pretty Paper

Pretty paper, pretty ribbons of blue… 

Have you ever played one of those ‘dirty Santa’ games at Christmas? You know, the kind where you can pick a gift then someone has the option to take it away if they like it? I don’t even think its fun. In fact, they can become brutal!

All the presents are there, waiting for the first person to pick. After serious scrutiny, the package that is wrapped the prettiest is chosen. But unwrapped, the gift inside is less than ideal.

There have actually been studies showing that nicely wrapped gifts set high expectations and magnify disappointment when the gift is less than perfect. It’s even been recommended that unexceptional wrapping can improve the joy of receiving even a wonderful gift because the wrapping won’t build up any false hope. Who knew? I’ve been wrapping correctly for years!

A long time ago we actually thought it was fun to go shopping the day after Christmas. We seldom had a specific article in mind but rather went for the amusement of finding a bargain. One of the things we usually picked up was wrapping paper. There was some kind of warped thrill in finding $4.00 a roll wrapping paper for fifty cents.

One year we found “Space Jam” paper at an after Christmas sale. “Space Jam” was one of those movies that combined cartoon characters with real people. Bugs Bunny and Michael Jordan were the stars. By the time we got around to using it, “Space Jam” was available on tape (back then) and the kids didn’t even know who the man with Bugs was on that paper!
So you’ve probably gathered, I don’t spend a lot of time and money on the outside of the gift. But it’s not a bad thing, especially since it becomes trash the minute the present is opened! Not only do I usually not have the time but I don’t have the skill. Enter one of the best ideas ever. Besides my odd collection of wrapping paper, I now pick up gift bags and printed boxes on sale! It’s the greatest thing yet! Put whatever you want inside, stuff in or wrap tissue paper around and voila! It’s done!

Next time you get your choice of the wrapped presents don’t turn up your nose at the one that’s mediocre looking. It might be the paramount of surprises!

Wrap your presents to your darling from you…

I told you about the knitting Secret Santa exchange. I finally got all mine together and got it sent off. She liked it! Here’s what she said: 
"My box included Stephanie Pearl-McPhee's Free-Range Knitting, Mary Beth Temple's The Secret Language of Knitters, a skein of Manos del Uruguay in the most wonderful variegated reds with a little purple and brown. You could not have picked a better color to send me if I'd been with you when you bought it. I also found note cards, a list pad and cupcake cups from Mary & Co., a lovely tape measure from Vintage Impressions in an antique silver finish, a clip-on OttLite with 12 LED's with a peacock feather in purple on the cover, 3 patterns for fingerless mittens, a hat pattern, and the tiniest sweater from Lantern Moon...a key chain. There was also a lovely pumpkin spice candle which I know we will enjoy. Every item was wrapped in glittery tissue paper and tied with red ribbon." 

Secret Santa package going out.

It was fun and sounds like a lot more when it’s listed, but I’ll have to admit I went overboard. Did you notice she said every item was wrapped? ;)

Pretty paper, pretty ribbons of blue.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Back to December

And I go back to December all the time…

Well, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas! And it has been since before Halloween. It sure seems to come around fast these days. And here I am, with all the good intentions I had almost 364 days ago still in the planning stage or forgotten altogether.

One of these days when we come back to December, I’ll have an advent calendar ready. Of course I guess it will just be for Alan, but I’ll still have it ready. I did that once when the kids were little. Yes, you read it right; Once. And that once they really enjoyed it. It was just a little set of cardboard drawers I'd ordered from the Current catalog. Because there were three of them I wrote little poems and clues and put those in the drawers. At a certain time they would gather, receive the clue orally, and proceed to explore until the treasures were found. I didn’t think about it making an impression, but to this day all three of them still speak of the great fun they had with that project.
I saved it for next time, if that time ever comes!

There was a time I had all Christmas presents purchased and sometimes even wrapped in October. Possibly there were a couple of items left but the majority of things were done. Done. DONE! I didn’t know then how good that would feel today. I have started the gift shopping but nothing is wrapped. I did stock up on bags and pre-printed boxes. I know that’s probably cheating but it’s a life saver this time of year. But one of these days I’ll wrap everything and have it all under the tree BEFORE anyone gets to the house. Yes, one of these days.
One year all the presents were wrapped!

Baking and cooking is something I like to do. It’s also something I’m good at. I don’t do anything fantastic looking like what my daughter Callye does with her cookies but at least it tastes good, regardless. Most of the time anyway! I would scour my cookbook collection looking for something easy and good to bake. I’d come up with cakes, cookies, pies and breads. And they would all be ready to sample after stepping in the door. Not now. I’ll have plenty and nobody will be hungry, but it won’t be nearly the spread it has been in previous years. Maybe it will happen again, one of these days.
Yum! Buttermilk pie. My favorite!
Dinner fit for a family!

In the past I had more time. Seriously, more time off. And I had more energy to use that time in a productive manner. This year the last day of work before holiday break is December 21. That gives no days until the guests arrive on December 22. Granted, I don’t go back to work until January 3. That’s a good thing. But I could use more time up front to get things ready.

Maybe, if I start planning now, I can be ready for next year. Because before you know it we’ll be back to December. 

I go back to December, turn around and make it alright.

I’m in an online group of knitters. Every year we have a Secret Santa exchange. It’s so much fun! This year I got a wonderful package from mine, Carrie. She loaded a great project bag with yarn, stitch markers, a handmade Christmas dish cloth, and some Scentsy! A very nice December surprise indeed!
What fun!!

I go back to December all the time, all the time...