Saturday, December 31, 2011


As 2011 dwindles down to mere hours, I thought I would take a minute and look back over the year that was. I'm going try to just hit the high spots.

Grandad had yet another cardiac ablation last January. It has taken all year, but the good news is that finally, after so many procedures I've just about lost count, his heart has healed. He's feeling tons better. Now we just have to work on his stamina and endurance. Our kids got us new bicycles for Christmas, so we'll start with those and move on to walking.

Grandad assembling the new wagon while OLP strikes a pose. He would not have been able to do this a year ago.
In April we welcomed the newest member of our growing family, June Frances. Named after two of her great grandmothers, she came into the world on Monday, April 11, while I ate lunch. Seriously, I left the labor unit and went downstairs to get a sandwich for me and for Travis. While I was gone, Katy delivered her without the benefit of an epidural. It seems the doctor "missed" when he injected the medication.

Katy with June Frances ... Her Highness ... Kid Destructo ... can't really settle on the nickname
In June our daughter-in-law, Marie, received the sacrament of confirmation. We spent the weekend in Houston to witness to this beautiful ceremony. It was held in a beautiful new church in the Diocese of Houston where the ministers dressed in traditional Philippine vestments. We were delighted to see Marie finish this step in her faith formation.

Nick & Marie at her confirmation
At the end of June, we traveled to North Carolina for the wedding of my niece, Andrea in Charlotte. We went a couple of days early and visited the Biltmore Estate in Asheville. I had long wanted to visit the Biltmore Estate and it did not disappoint. I was amazed at its size and grandeur. The gardens were spectacular! Well worth the trip.

Andrea & Louis
Grandad and I have made a concerted effort to enjoy living in Corpus Christi. We saw the 4th of July fireworks over Corpus Christi Bay, we attended the annual free performance of Handel's Messiah, Katy, Travis and I walked across the Harbor Bridge, we've attended several local theater performances, and we took Our Little Princess to the Texas State Aquarium. Corpus Christi really is a great place to live so we've decided to embrace living here.

Our Little Princess at the Texas State Aquarium
Late summer was a time for reunions. In August we gathered with members of the Morgan Avenue Baptist Church Youth Group from the 1970s. It was great to reconnect with old friends ... so much better than a high school reunion. In September we gathered with the Skelton Family for our second annual reunion. Getting to know these cousins has really been a blessing. It's kind of funny how alike we are even though we haven't seen each other for years.

Around the first of October I launched my Etsy shop. It's been more successful than I expected. I've sold all but one of the dresses I started with and I have an order for quite a few more. Stock is very low right now, but I expect to have more dresses for sale soon.

I've been working hard to de-clutter and reorganize my house. It's a much bigger job than I expected, but we had a fairly successful garage sale earlier this month and hope to have another one in the next couple of months. We also packed up quite of few boxes of "stuff" that our kids left here when they moved out and delivered them to their houses. I reclaimed both of their closets and am in the process of organizing my sewing and crafts utilizing the newly reclaimed space.

We have been blessed with good health for our children and grandchildren. It's been a tough year for some of our dear friends. We have two friends who have children who have serious illness. My good friend Sandy's 6-year-old grandson Liam is now in hospice care. And my friend and neighbor Deanna's 16-year-old grandson Jack has had relapse of Hodgkin's Lymphoma. He's already beat it once and is now fighting it for the second time. Both of these families are on our hearts and minds daily.

Christmas was wonderful and we're ending the year with Grams and Pop-Pop's Rockin' Toddler New Year's Eve. It's the first year and will hopefully become a family tradition. We're keeping the kids this weekend while their parents enjoy a weekend without kids, culminating in New Year's Eve celebrations. We've had a lot of fun so far. The weather has been perfect. We've toured the neighborhood in the new wagon we got the girls for Christmas. Today we went to the park for playtime. And we finished up tonight with a trip over the Corpus Christi Harbor Bridge. Our Little Princess has named it "the rainbow bridge." We'll take them to church and breakfast tomorrow morning. Sometime tomorrow afternoon, we'll meet Katy and Travis in Three Rivers and make the exchange.

New Year's Eve with Our Little Princess and Her Highness

I mentioned "the rainbow bridge" above. It is Our Little Princess' favorite Christmas thing in Corpus Christi. It was lit with a partnership between the Texas Department of Transportation, the City of Corpus Christi, the Port of Corpus Christi Authority and American Bank. It is spectacular. Every night Our Little Princess asks Grandad if we can drive across the rainbow bridge. I took a few photos with my cell phone. They don't do it justice, but you'll get the idea.The entire show takes about 15 minutes to watch.

Corpus Christi Harbor Bridge - Our Little Princess' Rainbow Bridge

It's about 11:10 p.m. and both girls are finally sleeping, almost time to pop the cork on the bubbly and toast the new year. There are fireworks going off very nearby even though there is a burn ban in almost every county in Texas. Burn ban or not, if they wake up our babies I'm going out to kick some serious butt.

Here's wishing you a Happy New Year, a safe and fun celebration tonight, and a prosperous, healthy, and happy 2012.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Ten Moments from Christmas 2011

Christmas 2011 was wonderful. Grams and Grandad like nothing better than having our house full of children and grandchildren. We had a wonderful weekend together. They were all here before dinner on Friday. Katy and Travis came in early Friday afternoon and stayed until Monday morning. Nick and Marie got here in time for dinner on Friday evening and had to be at the airport before noon on Christmas Day for a flight to El Paso to visit her family.

As I think about it, I realize that I will remember this Christmas in moments.

Moment Number One
Since we knew that Nick and Marie had to leave early Christmas Day, we decided to serve brunch instead of our traditional roast beef lunch. We always stay at my mother-in-law's house late on Christmas Eve playing cards and celebrating. So we prepped everything for brunch early. That included frying up two pounds of bacon so all we would need to do on Christmas morning is warm it up. I would just pop it in the oven with the baked french toast and it would be warmed at the same time.

Now, we knew there was a risk involved in cooking the bacon ahead of time. You see, our kids LOVE bacon. There has never, never, never been any leftover bacon in our house. NEVER! If we fried ten pounds of it, they would eat ten pounds of it and ask if there was more. So we waited until they went to the movies on Christmas Eve and fried it. Then we hid it in the refrigerator in an opaque Tupperware container. We only had to keep it hidden less than 24 hours. We thought we would be safe.

After we came home on Christmas Eve, I was sitting at the dining room table checking my email when the kids got hungry. In their words, they wanted "real food," not any of the sweets that were everywhere. They went to the refrigerator searching. I had made a big pot of stew on Friday and the leftovers were right in the front of the refrigerator. I thought they would take it out, warm it up, and snack away. Instead they decided to see what else was in there. They started moving things around and looking in containers and they knocked the bacon container out of the refrigerator. Katy caught it in mid-air before it hit the floor. She opened it and they both looked inside. Then came one of those moments in life where I would have given anything to have had my camera in my hand. As they peeked inside, the looks on their faces resembled the rapture of angels at the nativity. They both looked as though they actually heard angels singing alleluias. They turned as one and looked at me beseechingly. I informed them that it was for Christmas brunch. They both reached in and said "only one piece." I didn't have the heart to refuse them. Oh how I wish there had been a camera handy.

Moment Number Two
We were getting dressed for the six o'clock mass on Christmas Eve. The family royalty (Our Little Princess and Her Highness) were last. When we put Our Little Princess' dress on, the front seam unraveled. We took her to church in a red dress held together with safety pins and ribbon. She still looked gorgeous, if I do say so myself. I made both dresses.

Our Little Princess & Her Highness under Me-Maw's tree

Moment Number Three
This led to moment number three. We arrived at church in the rain and cold to discover that there was no power. The candles were lit and people in the pews were holding cell phone flashlights. We squeezed into the family pew and realized that we had lost one of Her Highness' beautiful new red velvet shoes. No chance of finding it in the dark. Then, just as the nativity play was about to start, the lights came on. Divine intervention? I think so. Every Christmas Eve, the children of our very small parish present "Las Posadas," a reenactment of Mary and Joseph going from house-to-house searching for a room. Liberty, our eight-year-old niece, was an angel this year. Again, I didn't have my camera. This one is from my sister-in-law's cell phone. That's Libby on the right.

Libby is the angel on the right

Moment Number 4
On December 17, our nephew Chase, graduated with a fine arts degree from North Texas State University. Katy and Travis had expressed interest in buying one of the paintings that were part of his senior show. When we were opening gifts on Christmas Eve, everyone was very surprised when he gave them one as a gift. Katy was actually moved to tears. His paintings are beautiful and valuable. It was quite a gift and they will treasure it always.

Travis with painting from Chase

Moment Number 5
Watching the young men in the family open their gifts in their annual weapon's exchange. That's right, they exchange weapons. After all, this is Texas ... they hunt, they fish, they kill things ... Merry Christmas!

The Annual Weapons Exchange - Clockwise from left Casey & Chase, Dustin & Nick, Nick and McKenzie

Moment Number 6
Watching Our Little Princess opening presents and checking out her stocking. This is the first year she's really old enough to understand opening presents and we had as much fun watching her as she did opening gifts.

Our Little Princess

Moment Number 7
Playing cards with family and having my nephew Casey ask me if I'm one of those "tree hugging, save the world, liberals." To which I replied with a smile "Why yes! Yes I am!"

Chase & Casey

Moment Number 8
Seeing how comfortably Nick and Marie handle the baby girls. It shows me that they will be wonderful parents to their own children.

Marie & Nick both with Her Highness

Moment Number 9
Looking up as we waited to start opening gifts at my Mother-In-Law's on Christmas Eve and realizing that both mother and daughter were having a bottle.

Katy & Her Highness both enjoy a bottle

Moment Number 10
Having the entire family together for Christmas ... truly priceless and the best gift of all! Not only did we have our entire family at home, my Mother-In-Law had her entire family right down to the great-grandchildren ... every single family member was there on Christmas Eve. It was a rare treasure.

Travis, Katy holding Our Little Princess, Grams holding Her Highness, Grandad, Nick & Marie
 Grandad's family.

Clockwise from left  -- Danny, Patrick (Grandad), Ruth, Gary, Janelle, Laurie

Unfortunately it was raining and cold outside and there was no place we could get a group picture of everyone together. Maybe next time.

So that's how our Christmas was. Not big and not spectacular, but full of excellent moments. It's the small moments that make life grand and this holiday was made up of many moments. And all these moments made up a wonderful holiday.

The Vanecek Christmas Party

The Vanecek Christmas Party is an annual family tradition. My mother-in-law's maiden name is Vanecek. There are four Vanecek siblings who were raised mostly by their father, Pete, in San Patricio County in Texas. Aunt Estelle lives in Sinton, Aunt Marilyn lives in College Station, Uncle Peter and Aunt Margaret live in College Station, and Ruth (my mother-in-law) lives in Corpus Christi. They get together every December, usually the weekend before Christmas, for the Vanecek Christmas Party.

This year we gathered at Joejoe and Brooke's home. Joejoe is Aunt Estelle's grandson. They have a lovely home with a huge great room that will hold The Vanecek siblings and their descendents.

Sometimes it's been a year since we've seen each other, so the party starts with friendly greetings.

Then, while the adults visit and talk, the kids play.

Joejoe and Brooke prepared chicken and beef fajitas as the main course. We always have tamales too. Each family brings a covered dish or two. There is always plenty of food and lots of leftovers.

The highlight of the party is always the gift exchange. We play "Dirty Santa." Every adult brings a gift for the exchange. Years ago, we originally started out with "white elephant gifts" but we have evolved over the years. Most gifts are valued between $10 and $20 and often include wine, small appliances, gift cards, etc. Usually "gag" gifts are accompanied by a modest gift card, so most people feel like they got something good.

I think everyone knows how to play "dirty Santa" but, basically, everyone draws a number. The game starts with number 1 choosing and opening a gift. Number 2 can then either choose another gift or take the one that number 1 chose. If number 2 takes number 1's gift, number 1 gets to choose another gift. It goes on until everyone has chosen. The third person who gets a gift gets to keep it.

One other note, children are not included in "Dirty Santa" because most of the items exchanged would not be appropriate for children. Since there are quite a few children who attend the party, each child's family brings a small inexpensive gift for them to open. They don't exchange gifts, they get to open whatever their parents or grandparents bring for them.

This year, as in most years, there was a gift left over at the end of the exchange. (I'm pretty sure that Aunt Marilyn always brings an extra gift.) It was clear to everyone that it was a stick horse. So our eight year old niece, Libby, opened it and handed it off to one of the little boys. I'm not sure who had it first, but I thought you would enjoy the video of the ensuing fight. Jaxon and Junior are first cousins. Suffice it to say, they didn't exactly agree on possession of the stick horse.

In spite of this little incident (wink, wink) between the cousins, everyone had a good time. It's so good to gather with family and catch up on what everyone is doing this year. Thanks to Joejoe and Brooke for hosting a lovely family gathering.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Coming Home for Christmas

Grams and Grandad have had a busy week. For the first time in a few years, we'll get to have both kids home at the same time for Christmas. They both always come home at some time around Christmas, but they also take turns with their in-laws, so they don't always get here at the same time.

Katy and Travis are coming from San Antonio and should arrive somewhat early in the day, probably in time for lunch. Although you know how it is when traveling with toddlers. Even the two hour drive from San Antonio to Corpus Christi can turn eventful and require several stops. But sometimes you get lucky and they nap all the way here.

Nick and Marie will be a little later. It's about a four and half hour drive from the north side of Houston to our home. And with Christmas traffic in Houston, just getting across town can take an extra hour some days. And I don't expect them to leave early. Marie didn't get to Houston until sometime after midnight.

If there was a prize for longest trip to visit your in-laws for Christmas, Marie would definitely be in the running this year. Last summer Exxon-Mobil reassigned her to an offshore rig in the North Sea. She is stationed out of Stavanger, Norway. She was scheduled to be helicoptered off of the platform early Wednesday morning where she would then spend the night in Stavanger and fly home Thursday morning. The weather in the North Sea did not cooperate and the helicopters could not fly on Wednesday. But they were able to get her off the platform early Thursday morning. And the folks at the Exxon travel office were able to re-arrange her flights to get her home in time for Christmas. She flew from Stavanger to Chicago to Houston. That's approximately 5,000 miles of air travel in a 24 hour period. That much air travel is daunting any time, but during this busy travel week it is sure to be challenging. I was up late finishing my gift wrapping when I saw her post on Facebook that she had made it to Houston sometime around 12:30 this morning. I was so relieved. I know that Nick's Christmas would not be complete until she made it home. Plus, it will be good to have everyone home together.

After this year, we will begin a rotating schedule where we should have all the kids every other year for Christmas. They will spend the other years with their in-laws. If it actually works out that way, I'm thinking we may take a cruise or other trip in the years they don't come home. Grandad is decidedly not on board with this yet and probably won't be as long as his mother is living. Time will tell.

While I'm on the subject of Christmas, let me climb up on this soapbox. I'm dismayed at the number of businesses that are open very late on Christmas Eve and even open on Christmas Day. It bothered me when I saw businesses opening on Thanksgiving Day and I steadfastly did not go shopping that afternoon. The fact that some will be open on Christmas Day bothers me even more.

When stores and shops open on holidays, that means their employees have to work. I saw an ad that announced that Toys R Us will be open 24 hours on Christmas Eve. Really people? Midnight on Christmas Eve? If you're shopping then, somebody will be working then.

I also noticed signs at all our local Starbucks announcing that they will be open on Christmas Day. Now you know how I love my Starbucks, but I'd definitely be willing to do without a trip to my favorite coffee shop so their employees could have the day with their families. Come on people, it's one day and everyone deserves Christmas Day off.

It's December 23rd and the kids are on their way. I'm off to the kitchen to put on a pot of stew. I'll keep it simmering so everyone can eat whenever they arrive. Then I'm baking three kinds of peanut butter cookie cups ... one with Reese's Cup centers and chocolate frosting ... one with Snickers centers ... and one with salted caramel filling. If they turn out good, I'll post the recipes.

Tonight we're going out for Japanese food and to look at Christmas lights. The packages are all wrapped, the house is clean, the oven is warming, the kids are on their way home ... all is right with the world.

Safe travels to all who are traveling today. I hope you all get home safely for Christmas.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Learn Something, Make Something, Love Someone

I am unspeakably sad. I've been trying to decide whether or not to write this post for several days now.

I have a very good friend who is going through great sorrow this holiday season. Sandy and I have been friends for a very long time. We're about the same age. Her son, Matt, and my daughter, Katy, are the same age. And her daughter, Abby, and my son, Nick, are also the same age. Sandy and I worked together for many years at our local United Way. We actually tried to get our kids to date, but they were friends who hung out together while their moms worked together. When Matt and Katy graduated, our friends had a celebration for Sandy and me, complete with cake and tissues, because we were pretty emotional about our firstborn children graduating.

Sandy and I have a lot in common. We both love coffee and books. We're both still married to our original husbands. And we both love our children and grandchildren to the point of distraction. We can go for months without seeing each other and then just pick up like it was only yesterday. I love her like a sister.

Matt was the first of our children to marry and he and his lovely wife, Amy, had children right away. So Sandy was a grandmother before me. Yes, I was very jealous! You can read about Sandy on her Grilled Grandma feature over at Grandma's Briefs.

Just over a year ago, Sandy's eldest grandchild, Liam, was diagnosed with leukemia. He received a bone marrow transplant from his little sister Mary which put him in remission for a while. When he relapsed last summer, he was moved to St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital in Memphis where he received another transplant. Last week, Liam and his family returned home to Abilene where Liam began hospice care. Liam's parents have taken their six year old home for the last time. They are spending this holiday season making a different kind of preparations. No one should ever have to endure what this lovely and caring family is enduring.

They've asked for friends to respect their privacy and their need to be together as a family. They've been keeping us up to date with a Caring Bridge site since he was first diagnosed. I marvel at their ability to communicate at all during this time. And I know that their friends in Abilene are taking good care of them. I wish I could be there to help.

Liam is a remarkable child who is full of life and love for the whole world. His parents, Matt and Amy, have done such an amazing job with their family. When Liam relapsed several months ago, they decided that every day in the hospital they should "learn something, make something, and love someone."

As part of loving someone, Liam learned about how many people around the world don't have access to clean water. As a result, he launched a project to build wells in Africa. The project is known as Liam's Wells. Liam's friends and family have funded two wells that have already been built in Kenya. But more people want to help, so Liam's Wells is a continuing project.

If you can make a charitable donation during this holiday season, please consider donating to Liam's Wells. Grams and her family have already contributed. We invite you to help Liam "learn something, make something, and love someone," by joining us. Click here to go to the donation page.

And please remember this family in your prayers. Then give your children an extra big hug and remember what is really important. We all need a little help with perspective at this time of year.

Hold your children a little tighter this Christmas and be a little more patient and tolerant. Be gentle with them when they're cranky and overtired or overstimulated. Remember what is important and what is not. So what if you can't get them everything they've asked Santa for. Take a break from wrapping presents and wrap your arms around your children. That's what really matters.

Celebrate everything! Messes and mistakes and good grades and bad grades are part of life and life should be celebrated. Slow down and spend time with them. In the grand scheme of things, it won't matter if you bake one more batch of Christmas cookies or not. Sometimes let go of the chores and read a book with them. Your housework will wait, but your children won't.

Make a commitment to follow in Liam's footsteps this holiday season ... learn something, make something, and love someone ... every day!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Things To Do and Fruit Loops

Grams is feeling the pressure of my Christmas to-do list. I am determined to finish my gift shopping today. That leaves tomorrow for finishing Our Little Princess' Christmas dress and buying groceries. Then on Wednesday, I'll wrap gifts in a marathon session. I'm turning the cleaning over to Grandad for the next few days. I'm lucky that way. He's ready and willing to help. I simply have to direct him.

Now that you know that I really don't have time to blog, I just thought I'd show you my little Fruit Loops.

I can't wait for them to arrive on Friday. Christmas is going to be so much fun!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Scented Memories

Grams rarely wears perfume or cologne. My sense of smell varies greatly. Some days I smell everything much too acutely and some days I can't smell much of anything at all. If I happen to be wearing scent on one of those "hyper smell" days, I smell it all day long and it eventually gives me a headache. So, except for now and then on special occasions, I avoid wearing scent at all.

I also have an issue with those plug-in aroma warmer thingies. While I really like the way some of them smell, some of them trigger an allergic reaction and my head gets so stopped up that it takes weeks to go away. That allergic reaction happens even though I take two allergy medications every day, just to be able to breathe in South Texas. It is really a problem for me when I substitute in a classroom where the teacher has a plug-in scent. I usually unplug them and set them aside while I'm there. I try to remember to plug them back in at the end of the day when I'm leaving, but sometimes I forget. I suspect that it ticks some of them off.

In my experience, the olfactory sense is the quickest way to bring back pleasant memories. The smell of pine and cedar takes me right back to my childhood in the piney woods of Northeast Texas. Eucalyptus reminds me of my sister-in-law Nancy's house which is always cozy and welcoming. Fresh cut grass reminds me of summertime mornings spent lying in the damp grass watching clouds go by. Aqua Velva, Lectric Shave, and Old Spice will always be associated with how my Dad smelled after his afternoon bath. Fresh-baked cornbread has a strong association with my Mom's kitchen. And a whiff of Aramis men's fragrance has me recalling that first boyfriend back in the 1970s.

A couple of weeks ago we attended our community's free performance of Handel's Messiah at First United Methodist Church. It was wonderful. I can't say enough how much I love this annual gift to the community. This is an all volunteer chorus that gets together annually just to do this one performance. I've attended many years.

Grandad and I are in our late fifties. Suffice it to say that we were among the youngsters in the audience at this performance. We were surrounded by a crowd that I would say were mostly in their seventies. There was a definite prevailing scent of "little old lady" cologne. I don't know exactly what that scent is, but it's distinct and consistent. Anywhere there are lots of older ladies, there is that scent. It's not unpleasant, but in large quantities and closed spaces it can be overwhelming.

I use scented candles to add a pleasant aroma to our home. I keep one in each bathroom and one in either the living room or dining room. The living room and dining room are really the same room. Our house was built in the 80s and has a great room. I vary the scent according to the season. Right now I have apricot in one room, acorn and fig in one room, and marshmallow fireside in one room. Before the family arrives for Christmas, I'll switch the one in the living room for fresh balsam. It smells like a Christmas tree and, since we use an artificial tree and garlands, lends the scent of Christmas to the house. I think the marshmallow fireside and fresh balsam will be a great combination in the great room.

Where was I going with this post? Oh yeah, now I remember! Last year for Christmas, the kids gave me a Kindle electronic book reader. I love and adore it. As of today I am carrying 92 books in my purse all the time. I can take it out and read any time and any where. It even marks my place automatically and when I'm at school I can password protect it so teenagers don't read it when I'm distracted. (They've been known to do that.) I've really grown attached to my Kindle. At first I had to adjust to not holding a book and not turning pages. But those adjustments came pretty easily. I got used to the lack of heft and stopped missing the tactile element of books. The only thing I really miss is the smell of a book. The scent of a book carries with it a real sense of anticipation: the joy of meeting new characters, of understanding their lives, of traveling on their life's journeys with them for a while. You just don't get that with a Kindle. I actually noticed that someone is marketing an "areosol e-book enhancer" called The Smell of Books. It comes in several variations including New Book Smell, Classic Musty, Eau You Have Cats, Scent of Sensibility, and Crunchy Bacon Scent. I have to say, some of those fall in the category of disgusting for me, but to each his own. And, no, I won't be buying any aerosol book enhancers.

I recently received a copy of Best Kept Secret by Amy Hatvany. It's the January choice for the Great Books Book Club and they gave away a few copies. I was thrilled to be one of the recipients. When it came in the mail I opened the package and was immediately drawn in by the scent of a freshly printed book. It smelled of paper, ink, and glue. For me, that smell brings with it the hope of an interesting story that promises to transport me to another place or another time when I read it. I found myself sitting and hugging this book to my chest as I inhaled it's essence.

With the exception of a few leather-bound volumes and a couple of autographed copies, I don't save books. The subtropical climate we live in makes them get musty and smell of mold and dust. This is just one more allergen I don't need. Plus, I sell them at Half Price Books and use the money to buy books for Our Little Princess and Her Highness.  It's a good deal for me and a treat for them.

I hope your holiday season is full of pleasant scents and wonderful memories.

Christmas Decor Done

Grams spent yesterday cleaning house and finishing up my Christmas decorating. By the end of the day, both knees and hips were hurting. When it was time to make dinner, all that was left was sweeping and vacuuming. I didn't get those finished so, those, along with laundry, are on today's agenda. I'm also planning to spend some time sewing a Christmas dress for Our Little Princess. That seems like an ambitious to-do list. We'll see how far I get.

Here is a short recap of the Christmas decor. I added a wreath to the front door. I think it was just the right finishing touch. The glittered "joy" was purchased at an after-Christmas sale last year it's just chipboard and glitter. I paid one dollar for it and it also included two glittery Christmas trees.

Our Christmas tree is quite an undertaking. I've collected ornaments for our entire married life so there are hundreds of ornaments. Grandad helped me decorate it this year. We put White Christmas on while we decorate and sang along with all the familiar songs. Decorating the tree has definitely become more of a challenge for me in recent years. At 5'1" decorating the top of the tree requires a stepladder for me. Grandad decorated the top of the tree while I unwrapped the ornaments and decorated the bottom of the tree.

I photographed the tree with three different kinds of lighting and camera settings. I'm such a novice photographer, but the photos are each very different and I think they give you a pretty good idea of the way the tree looks.

Then I tackled the fireplace. I made two big poofy bows with the metallic netting that was leftover from the front door. I covered the top of the mantle with an artificial pine garland that I use every year and added the bows to each end. I used a removable decal on the front and I nestled a wreath upcycled from felted sweaters. The glittery Christmas trees were in the same package as the glittered "joy" that's on the wreath that's on the front door. Right next to the fireplace is our back door which has a window. I replaced its usual curtain with a folded tablecloth in Christmas colors and added another glittered chipboard purchase from last year's after-Christmas sales. It says "Happy Holidays" and also came with the two snowflakes that you'll see in the picture. All the glittered pieces are hung with fishing line so it's invisible.

I feel so much more prepared for Christmas now that I'm done with the decorating. Tomorrow Grandad starts his vacation. He'll be off until the day after Christmas. He and I will do a marathon shopping day tomorrow.

For today, I need to go start my laundry and make my second cup of coffee.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

My Pinterest Inspired Christmas Door

Grams is hooked on Pinterest. I know that I'm not alone in this. Katy and I were discussing it today and she said "it's kind of like peeking in on someone else's style." I think she's right. We also agreed that it can be a huge time suck. Probably more than, dare I say it, Facebook. When I start looking around Pinterest, I'll look up and suddenly hours have gone by.

I've seen a few Pinterest Challenge posts around the blogosphere. The one that I can remember was by Sherry over at Young House Love. She made the cutest Christmas ornaments during the Fall Pinterest Challenge.

When I found this door on Pinterest, I knew I wanted to do something similar.

I wanted to replicate it, so I started shopping for the elements. I found the mesh at Hobby Lobby. It was affordable but I couldn't find a print like the one in the picture. Instead I bought a roll of white metallic mesh (which came from the bridal department) and a roll of red metallic mesh. The white mesh is 21 inches wide and 30 feet long and cost $9.99. The red is 5 1/2 inches wide by 30 feet long and cost $4.99. I used one roll of each.

I looked for the oversize ornaments in a lot of places in both Corpus Christi and Houston. Unfortunately, the only oversized ornaments I could find were from $4 to $12 each. I didn't want to spend that much so I started looking for an alternative. I considered several things and had decided on the idea of wiring a group of 5 or 7 ornaments in a cluster to use in place of the oversize ornaments.

Then I went to Dollar Tree where I found these beautiful glittery bells. In case you don't have a Dollar Tree where you live or if you've never been there, everything at Dollar Tree is $1. Seriously! I love Dollar Tree. So I bought three of each color and spent a total of $9 on the bells.

The red ribbon with green glitter polka dots is left over from my Christmas tree garland. I bought it three years ago. It cost me nothing this year.

I also used one value-size package of 3M Command small wire hooks. There are 9 in a package; and I used 7 of them. They cost approximately $8 at Wal-Mart. The Command hooks are awesome. It's the first product I've found that works on our vinyl siding without any damage. I will be buying some larger ones for hanging wreaths and other decor on the exterior of our house.

The only other expense was a package of chenille stems (previously known as pipe cleaners) which cost less than $2 for 100 stems at Wal-Mart.

Here's my finished front door. I'm pretty satisfied with how it looks; not identical to the Pinterest door, but inspired by it.

Total cost ... less than $35. Not too bad.

I was not compensated in any way by any one for this post. I paid for all the materials used in this project.

I'm linking this post the the Pinterest Make Me Challenge Weekly Link Up at Mummy To Five.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Pop-Pop Effect

Grams and Grandad have had a busy morning. We moved our old entertainment center out of the family room into the garage and put a for sale sign on it. We also finished getting our new television and components set up in our new tv stand. We still need to put a safety strap on the television, but I assure you it will be done before Our Little Princess and Her Highness arrive in a couple of weeks. Neither of use tends to climb on the furniture, so I'm pretty sure it'll be okay for a couple of days.

Anyway, when we sat down the recuperate from moving a very, very heavy piece of furniture, I spent my time browsing through photos. In doing so, I notice what I'm calling "the Pop-Pop effect." We seem to have a large number of pictures of Grandad holding sleeping babies. He's big, he's cuddly, and he's warm. Just kind of makes me want to curl up and sleep too.

Happy Saturday everyone. I hope you have a chance to cuddle up with someone you love for a nap.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

A Sweater Dress for Our Little Princess

A few weeks ago Grams was doing what Grams does almost every evening. While Grandad watches television, I keep one eye on the television while I surf the web. On this particular evening, I ran across this tutorial, from Make It and Love It, for upcycling an adult sweater into a child's sweater dress. When I saw this dress, I knew I had to make one for Our Little Princess.

As luck would have it, I had exactly the same sweater in the stack of stuff I had set aside for my garage sale. So I went out to the garage, dug the sweater out, followed the directions, and produced the cutest little sweater dress. The tutorial calls for beautiful little satin flowers. That was the only thing I changed. Instead, I made rolled felt roses which are pinned on and can be removed for washing. Our Little Princess insisted on wearing all three roses at the same time.

The roses are super simple to make and will be for sale soon in my Etsy shop.

If I make another upcycled sweater dress, I'll make it a little wider through the hips. She wasn't nearby for measuring so I had to eyeball it. I think it'll be okay once she gives up her pull-ups for panties, which will hopefully be soon.

While we're on the subject of pull-ups and panties, Katy is looking for any constructive advice you might have about potty training. Our Little Princess will be three years old in February and is not in the least bit interested in using the potty. Please share any advice you might have in the comment section and I'll pass it on.