Monday, December 15, 2014

Our Country Casa Christmas...

TLC is our Christmas Addict. I attribute that to the way she grew up and our determination to always make it a special time of the year for her and our sons. My Sweet Hubby (MSH)—for years and years—subjected himself to pain and stress putting thousands of little white twinkle lights up in the trees in our front yard. For TLC. (The boys? Could have cared less…especially since they sometimes had to help!) MSH would dread, beginning at the first of November!, this job. As it got close to the time to bring down the lights from the attic? He'd be a teensy bit cranky. I didn't really blame him. They’d be tangled. Even though each year he did his best to pack them so that the next year they wouldn’t be the awful, frustrating mess they’d always end up being. Many wouldn’t work. He’d go to the store several times during this 2-to 3-day process. (This is when we lived in town and a trek to Hellmart didn’t take an hour—roundtrip. Like it does now.) He did this for TLC. 

When we moved to the country, 14 ½ years ago, our Christmas Traditions/Routines/Decorating changed significantly. For one thing, there are no more lights outside. TLC was, at the time of our move, a teenager. Very willing to let her Dad off the hook when it came to outside lights. (He does put up at least ten Christmas wreaths—simple green ones with red bows—all over our place. At our gate. Along the road and up the hill to our home. On the wellhouse. Over at the Barn apartment. I love each and every one of the them.) We do put out a few Christmas decos around our front and back porch and in the garden.

Y’all know—the more you put up? The more you have to pack up. We always “undo” Christmas the day after New Year’s Day. As we age (one of us is 70!), we find this job gets harder and harder. I’ve given away a lot of our Christmas decorations in the past ten years. (After checking first with TLC, of course.) For what’s left? I’ve gotten much better about my organization of it all. TLC has inspired me with her OCDness.

Two years ago, I was being slow on getting our tree up. Then Sandy Hook happened. The shock, pain, and grief was simply too overwhelming. I felt sick. And tired. Hopeless. Guilty. I bought a tiny tree and put it on a table in front of our bookshelf. I had a small string of lights and an ornament for each child and adult who lost their life that day. It seemed respectful. Little Leighton (LL) was only about six months old. It was, for me, enough.

This Christmas Day, we’re going to TLC’s home. No other grandkids will be able to come for a visit. They’re too far away. We’re not having a Christmas party. I approached MSH with the idea of putting up our little tree this year. He was appalled. Because LL will be here this week. And a few days after Christmas. He believes it’s important that she see our big tree. That she build her memories of Christmas at Grammy and Pa-Pa’s with excitement and wonder. It is absolutely true: Christmas/Jesus’ Birthday and Santa are beginning to make a little sense to her. So there you go. The “big” tree was up the Sunday after Thanksgiving. 

Every year I do our tree differently! I use most of the same ornaments. Still, it’s never the same. And I usually add a few (very few) new trinkets to it. Sadly it’s not a “real” tree. When TLC was about six years old, I had to insist we get an artificial tree. I’d spent too many Decembers very sick and eventually realized it was caused by allergies to said “real” trees. TLC was heartbroken. Still is. Although she, too, has an artificial tree. For the same reason. It is what it is and, fortunately, artificial trees have come a long, long way, right?

Here, now, are eight pictures I’ve taken around our home. Things we love. Things that help us remember what matters to our family at this most amazing/incredible/special time of the year. Hope you’ll be patient as I share some explanations about each!

This first picture is my new outdoor doormat! It’s from Target! We have four doors that lead to our front, back and/or side porches. Each holiday season I need at least one new doormat, as, after a year or two of Morty the Cat, sun, snow, ice and/or rain, the doormats get cruddy looking.

We always put a little sign like this at the sidewalk one would take to come to our front door from the driveway. This is my third sign in fifteen Country Christmases. Since we live on a (biggish) hill, I’ve especially loved this one.

I don’t do much at the Barn apartment if we’re not expecting company, but I do always put out a “Santa” flag. Hubby puts up a couple of his wreaths (I'm sorry that you can barely see the one he put up over the rocking chair. The light was not great.). Morty the Cat always insists on participating when we’re doing things over at his “place.”

I adore our bookshelves in our Great Room. Have since we built our home. I’m quite certain I have them too full of trinkets and treasures. TLC tries to encourage me to keep them a little more “sparse.” Can’t do it. When December comes along, I have fun adding our sweet/oldish/important-to-us ornaments/pictures/tchotchkes on the different shelves. (It also forces me to dust said shelves—something I do NOT enjoy!) On the lower right is a picture of TLC with Santa. She was about to be 6. (Yes. She played “innocent” about Santa for a bit longer than most kids—she’d figured out it wasn’t quite the same if Santa didn’t come to your house.) The little reindeer on the left? His antlers are LL’s hands! TLC made this for us last year. It’ll always be cherished.

This next one is a “Bear” Nutcracker (Clearly a nod to our "Royal" heritage since it looks like a Guard at Buckingham Palace.) and a Santa I’ve had for years and years. If I’ve never shared with y’all my passion for all things “Bear,” now is a good time to confess I LOVE BEARS. I always have. But when TLC was born, MSH started calling her “Sugar Bear.” When she was 9 years old, she told her Daddy he had to stop calling her that nickname. He’d just yelled it out at a Rec Hall basketball game she was in and she became quite mortified—looking up at him, in the stands, with a hugely embarrassed look. As we got in our car to leave, at the conclusion of the game, she said: “Daddy, I don’t want you to call me Sugar Bear any more. I’m too big for that.” MSH thought for a minute, then said: “Okay. What can I call you?” TLC was quiet for a few moments. “Just Bear. Just call me Bear.” Our hearts melted. For so many, many reasons. For the past five years, as we’ve tried to purge ourselves of stuff/junk/unnecessary items stored in every nook and cranny at our home and over at the barn, I’ve forced myself not to purchase any more Bears. I’m not going to lie—it’s a challenge.

Took a picture of our tree the other night. (Buddy Bear is kind of hard to see!) MSH and I are like little kids sometimes, I'll admit. We can’t wait for 5:00 p.m.—when we can turn the lights on! On cloudy days? Yep. One of us plugs ‘em in with glee.

The Three Little Santas. All Hallmark ornaments. All 25-30 years old. Of course, you know from our blog pictures, I love, love, LOVE those silly mustache/Groucho Marx glasses! The middle Santa says: "Kiss the Claus!" That’s for MSH. The Cook at our home. The third Santa is fishing. This is also a “theme” in our home/life. MSH adores fishing. Always has. Always will. These Santas make me smile.

Here’s a closeup of this year’s addition to our tree: Animal print ornaments! Found them at Hobby Lobby. Bought twelve. (MSH hasn’t even noticed yet. He has, though, told me that this year he thinks our tree looks the best it has in a long time. I’m not quite sure how to take that. I decided to take it as the compliment I think he means it to be.) Yes, you’re also seeing last year’s Christmas picture of LL—right by her “handprint” dough ornament TLC made for us. Be still my heart…)

I’m officially in the mood for Christmas!!!

Thank you for your time and patience, Sweet Friends…Hope you had a Marvelous Monday!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

our singing reindeer!

I know I promised y'all a "NOLA: Part Two," (don't give up hope--it's next on the docket!) but I wanted to share these pictures of my Sweet Little Leighton:

Today was her Christmas Music Program at the church preschool she attends. She wanted to wear a pretty dress and big bow and leopard print shoes (okay, okay, I probably had some influence in that). In all honesty, I don't think she had any clue she would be performing, though she had been gleefully practicing her songs for several weeks.

Grammy ELC and Pa-Pa made an extra early (and extra long--thanks to the terrible DFW morning traffic) trip up North to our little suburb to see her musical debut. LL was so surprised when she walked onto the stage and saw us (Daddy included!): her adoring fans! They sang several songs--"Jingle Bells" (accompanied by actual jingle bells!), "Away in the Manager," "We wish you a Merry Christmas," and her most favourite: The Reindeer Pokey. As ELC said, she "turned herself about with charm and enthusiasm!" We were all so proud.

It was such a fun and special morning. LL is filled with the Christmas Spirit this year. I adore every. single. second.

Have a holly, jolly Wednesday!

Saturday, December 6, 2014

A Sugar Cookie Yeehaw!

Not. It's tea!

TLC gifted me this cute box of tea a couple of weeks ago. (And, funny story, I had given her a sack—the very same day—with some goodies in it, including a “Candy Cane” tea! Great minds think alike, apparently…)

Anyway, this tea is beyond YUMMO. It absolutely, positively tastes like a sugar cookie. (How’d they do that?)

Since it’s decaf, it’s perfect for those nights in front of the telly (Hallmark Channel has the BEST Christmas movies EVER!) when you want something sweet but you really, truly shouldn’t have those peppermint Hershey's Kisses or M&Ms that seem to be calling your name. I put one Truvia packet in a cup of this deliciousness. (I’m sure Ms. “I’m-Not-As-Addicted-To-Sugar-As-My-MamaELC” TLC would leave sweeteners out. Although, she might use a teensy bit of honey. Good for her! For moi? The sweeter the better. No apologies.)

Try this some cold night soon…I’m betting you’ll like it!

Love and Smooches and Hugs, Sweet Friends Everywhere…Happy Weekend...

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

nola, part one

As ELC mentioned, My Hubby (MH) and I were able to escape to New Orleans the weekend before Thanksgiving. It was a fabulous getaway, filled with food, food and MORE food. I tried to save up as many calories as I could before we left so I could splurge! After Little Leighton's Celiac diagnosis, we eat gluten-free (GF) with her as much as possible, so she never feels left-out or "different" with us. Because we knew Grammy and Pa-Pa had filled their cupboards with extra yummy GF treats for Our Girl (they always take such good care of her!), we thought it would be okay to eat "gluten-full" on our trip. (And we were able to really relax, knowing LL was having the BEST time bein' a "country gal!")

As ELC also mentioned, we traveled via Southwest Airlines. I firmly believe they are the BEST. They are efficient. Clean. Consistently on-time. And Love Field in Dallas is, well, just LOVELY! (Tee hee hee.)

Once we arrived in NOLA, we immediately hopped in a cab and sped to our hotel--the Omni Royal in the French Quarter. The location was prime--within walking distance to (almost) everything we wanted to see, tour and eat. The destinations we couldn't walk to? We took a cab (and only thought our lives were truly at risk once). After we checked in, we freshened up and headed down the block to the Carousel Bar at the Hotel Monteleone. We knew this particular place was quite tourist-y, yet also a can't-miss. Guess what? We loved it! It was quite crowded, filled with people of all ages, though our favourite acquaintances that evening happened to be two sweet cousins (maybe 75ish?) from the North--both ladies were precious. (One of them was a HUGE Patriots fan, but sweetly obliged me as I lamented my frustrations regarding Tom Brady, his first Baby Mama and Giselle. She told me she was certain his parents were very disappointed in the way he handled his relationship with Bridget.) Though I wish I would have snapped more photos, this is the only one I have from there:

Yes, that's my reflection, taking a semi-selfie in the spinning (yes, spinning! hence "carousel!") bar. YIPPEE!

After that, we skipped down to Acme Oyster House for the most scrumptious charbroiled oysters. Buttery. Garlicky. DELISH. At the end of our trip, we both agreed that we wished we would have gone back there for another dozen.

The next morning, we slept "late" (ahem, 7:45!) and quickly dressed to beat the long line at Cafe du Monde for their WORLD FAMOUS beignets. They are fluffy, little, fried pillows of dough, doused in powdered sugar. You have to make sure you don't exhale as you're taking a bite because the sugar will go flyin' all over you, your black jeans and purse. (Obviously that happened to me. Three times. Oops!)

After breakfast, we strolled around Jackson Square and the French Market. Then it was time to eat again! HA! This time it was a muffuletta at Central Grocery for lunch. MH and I split a whole sandwich, and, I kid you not, it was larger than my head. Tasty, nonetheless! The olive "salad" they use to top the muffuletta? Divine!

After a long nap at the hotel (what a treat!), we gussied up and headed to dinner at Peche. I had heard their "fish sticks" were not to be missed. They weren't! MH and I also shared crab claws in a tangy chili pepper vinegar "sauce" for an appetizer. I could have guzzled the vinegar. Straight up. We also each had a green salad--though simple in design, it was topped with, hands down, the best, most creamiest (redundant?) feta cheese I have ever tasted. Feta is easily my favourite cheese. I nearly fainted! To accompany my fancy beer-battered fish sticks, I had pan-fried Brussels sprouts in the same insanely good chili vinegar. MH ordered the smothered catfish and a side of white beans. The white beans were PHENOMENAL. I would have happily ordered a second "helping" so I wouldn't have had to share. Because we both clearly hadn't consumed enough (HA!), we ordered dessert--a pineapple rum cake with homemade caramel ice cream. It was then that I wished I owned a fancier pair of yoga pants I could have worn that would have allowed for lots o' stretch.

Stay tuned for Part TWO!