Happy New Year

Well, the holidays have come and gone. In general, they were lovely with a few bumps. I had a very good friend die suddenly right before Christmas which was devastating, but I seem to be in full denial mode which works for now. My great-uncle also died but he was of advanced age and had his family around him so it was a peaceful departure. We drove into Eastern Oregon for the service and had a bit of weather to contend with on the roads. We did get a chance to go by family landmarks such as my great grandfather’s church where he was a minister for 40 years. Most of us were baptized or married there so it was really fun to see it again.

I didn’t post anything in December on purpose. I was working really hard to stay in the moment and interact with my family and friends. I was taking pictures as I came across little vignettes that made me smile and made me feel holiday-happy.

At one point I noticed that my brother had tucked some new water bottles in my purse. He works for this company and always makes sure to hook me up. But this was sweet because he didn’t say anything about it, just made sure I had them.

As I looked over the pictures later I notice that they all seem to have messy in common.

Area well used and well loved!

But that was what I loved. That warm, snuggly, feeling as we cuddled with a dog, or snuck a cookie.

Looks like Joe isn’t getting home with all of his cookies!

We not only had people visiting but we had dogs visiting too! This scamp slept in my room and thought that the best place to sleep one night was on a twin bed with me on my legs. And why not? They are warm and soft!

I am glad it is all over and we are getting back to our normal routine.

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Halloween Decorations for 48 Hours

I just had so much going on this year, what with all the conferences and going to jail and all, that I didn’t get around to decorating for Halloween until Halloween day. Which means my beloved decorations go up and down faster than something fast on something faster (fill in the blanks).

I had a little Halloween lunch for the family. As Chief Quality Officer, Scarlet was all over (literally) the table to make sure things were up to snuff. Apparently, in her opinion, the napkins are better in my bathroom (I have retrieved three of the four so far from my bathroom. Don’t worry, this was after we ate lunch.), at least half of the individual salt and pepper shakers should be knocked over, and the leaves of the bouquet should be well chewed.

Not to mention what I consider straight for runners and placemats and what she considers straight.

I’m disappointed I have to take the decorations down so soon. Some of them I’d love to leave up year-round. I love the little, tin, haunted house and it is hard to see, but there is a crow in the second from the left, top cubby. He’s peeking out just like a crow would if he was hanging out with me in the family room. It’s made me jump a few times.

The bookshelves are new this year and have proved to be a great addition. They aren’t quite what I wanted or what I would want on a permanent basis but they are really good for an interim solution until I have the money to hire a carpenter to build permanent “built-ins.” The cubbies aren’t all filled yet. I’m taking my time and thoughtfully putting in books and accessories I want there as I come across them in other places of the house. It could be really easy to make them junky so I’m being careful. Those bright corners are lamps. They aren’t really that bright in person, they just look that way in the picture. Those are probably the best improvement because this is a really dark room. Even in the summer, the porch roof outside the sliding glass door in this room cuts out all light. This means I need to artificially light the room year-round. These lamps in these corners help a LOT in making the room brighter (that’s not the smartest thing I’ve ever said).

The dogs and I have very different ideas of how their blankets should be on their beds. I straighten them out and three seconds later they’ve done this. Also that rug moves around the room a lot. It is really annoying and I’m looking for a more permanent replacement. Something that can endure the mud and dirt we get in here most of the year.

I turned off the lights so you can see the lamps (sort of) in the corners and get an idea of what the room looks like, in full sunlight, without them on. Ugh. This is with a lamp on across the room and the kitchen light on so it just how dark that half of the room gets.

The lamps are modern-looking leucite lamps which is really a change for me. I love them.

Because I hate traveling around a room to turn off and on lamps (especially when I have to step over dog beds and toys) I found this simple remote system. By plugging the lamps into a receiver, I can turn them both on and off with this remote. It is one of those little things things that makes everyone happy when they get to turn the lamps on and off.

Never underestimate how fun people will find it to have the “power” to turn on a light from across the room.

It’s an inexpensive option for remote lighting. I saw a kit the other day where you put special lightbulbs in the lamp and then you can control them with your phone. That was tempting (because I do love the gadgets) but if you have to buy special bulbs every time they burn out, that could get expensive (and annoying because I’m all about the Costco multi-paks for convenience). I’d rather just tuck these remotes around the house.

So Halloween has come and gone and I have to put away the skeletons that were in the yard, I’m trying to look forward to the next holiday now. Considering how long it is taking me to get things decorated for a holiday, I’m thinking I should start decorating for Christmas today.

Winding Down

Days of excitement and activity. Every thing we do is special, exciting, and cherished by me. My nephews may have some vague recollection of this Christmas holiday but I know it will stay with me. They are older, have opinions, hold conversations with me that are interesting and funny. They have become little people and I like them! I’ve always loved them but now I genuinely enjoy being around them and doing things together. They are still young enough that everything is magic. Which means it is magic for me.

But I’m home now and unpacking.

Face piles of laundry…

I’m emptying pockets of all the detritus that accumulate with fun.

I brought home leftovers which means I can remain in a lump for a day or so as needed.

The Christmas decorations are still pretty but beginning to look like a chore on the To Do list. They shall come down soon.

The kitty is so happy to see me she can’t let me out of her sight. I’m happy to see her too.

The dogs are sleeping off the holiday. Some of them still attached to their Christmas toys.

All is good.

Avoiding Reality

Breakfasts have been conquered.

Much Wii has been played.

To avoid another epic dish-washing session, we all went out to dinner. While we were gone, one of the dogs opened the door to the room they were closed up in and the room another dog was in. Then, one of the dogs got into the Christmas cookies. It must have been quite a doggie party!

Turning Moments into Memories

The day is chaotic the moment I open my eyes. There is always something to do and that still needs to be done. There are conversations and activities and I want to take part in them all. There are hurt feelings I want to smooth over, worries I want to ease, laughter I want to join in, and more chats I want to have. I can’t seem to get enough chats in. I want to catch up. This is what I’ve been doing. This happened. This is what I want for the future. What have you been doing? What do you want? How can we stay this connected? This in-touch.

The nephews and I invent Hockey Golf. Then we invent Hockey Golf Baseball. Rules and points are decided. Champions emerge.

The food is a constant. Making it. Eating it. Cleaning it up. The cycle doesn’t end until it is dark and we are all drooping. Even then, something is always left to the next day. We can’t fit it all in.

Presents are unwrapped. Joy! Disappointment! Kids will tell you everything. “This was only a book.” “I’m so happy!”

The lighting is soft and colorful. As the day wanes, we adults are more affectionate as we recognize the preciousness of these moments. We don’t get to do this often. We may never get to do it again. Not with everyone who is here now.

The day ends as it should. By conquering countries and waging battle with dice. I shall have Asia.

Happy holidays everyone. May your days contain precious moments that you can cherish forever.

Christmas Memories

Thinking back on Christmas memories from when I was a child, moments stand out. I don’t think they stand out because they were the best moments or the favorite gifts or anything, but for some reason, those moments have stayed with me.

The year I got the motorcycle stunt action figure. It was purple, I wasn’t expecting it and my brother broke it within hours. I’m still bitter about that.

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I swear mine was purple. But I remember the bike specifically so it made an impression.

The year I opened some Christmas presents before Christmas unbeknownst to my Mom. I hid the evidence behind my bedroom door. You know, because no one would ever think to look there. I was not allowed to keep that Avon perfume brooch. That was my punishment for the offense. Better the pin than the remote control helicopter my brothers opened early and never got to keep.

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The year I had Christmas presents for my family that I bought for them in Europe. My first trip abroad. I was so please and proud and couldn’t wait to share the memories and circumstances behind each gift. How I had wandered an open-air market in Florence before I found the sweater or how the clerk at the store I bought the tapes at had no teeth. All those memories I couldn’t wait to share.

Every year my favorite part was (is) the stockings. My Santa always does awesome stockings. Plus, at the stockings stage, there are still all the glorious gifts under the tree waiting to be discovered. I love the anticipation.

Have a wonderful holiday all. Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, this is a lovely time of the year to pause and appreciate who and what we have.

(Scarlet’s contribution to the blog post . She isn’t very good at this.

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Easiest Mantle Decoration Ever

I have nearly finished the holiday decorations and I’ve managed to slip them in between shenanigans with family so they haven’t been a big chore or task.

The family room is where we spend all our time so the fireplace mantle should look awesome but still be practical. For example, I’m not a big fan of big swags of greens because I get nervous about the dried greens hanging above the fire in the fireplace.

I made a run to Big Lots to see what I could pick up cheap. I’ve scored a lot of great holiday decorations there over the years. This year seemed a little lean but they had a lot of beautiful balls (pause to giggle like a 12-year-old boy) ornaments.

I grabbed a box of some that struck my fancy along with a simple beaded garland. I pinned the garland up and just hung the balls along it. The picture doesn’t do it justice (phones flatten and skew the perspective). It is quite sparkly (the ornaments have a lot of sparkly detail) and very warm in the soft light of the fireplace. I’m really pleased with this one and will probably make this an annual decorating tradition.

Holiday Decorating in Five Minutes

If you are like me, holiday decorating is kind of a burden because I just don’t have a lot of time to spend on it. I have about 3 hours after I get home from work before I need to wind down and get to bed. The weekends are packed full of activities and chores leading up to the holidays. I want to have a lovely home (because, you know, I live here) but sometimes it feels like a luxury to make a show home.

I realized there was no way I was going to get the house “done” following the standard decorating plan. I have house guests again this weekend and I want to play with them, not fuss around my furniture surfaces. So, this is my strategy for getting the house festive and still doing the million other things I need to do.

Divide and conquer. Also known as eating the elephant one bite at a time.

I mentally break my room into sections. The easiest thing to do is break it up into four corners and the center. If there is a funky nook, make that its own section. Then I make a general plan for what will work well in each section. This gives me an idea of what to pull out of the decorations box or pick up at the discount store.

Then I give each section five minutes. It doesn’t have to be only five minutes total, but I only spend five minutes on it at a time. You would be surprised how close you get it right in the first five minutes.

My dining room is small and only has a table and a sideboard so, therefore, it has three sections: the table, front window, and the sideboard.

I find a spot where I can work out of the boxes for a few days. A spot in the garage or guest room. You aren’t going to empty them all at once so they need a home in the meantime.

Then I prioritize the sections according to their prominence. This way, if I don’t get some sections done, it isn’t obvious. I started with my dining room because it is the first thing you see when you walk in the front door.

The table just has an inexpensive plaid runner (I think I got it at The Dollar Store). I have a large glass urn in the middle filled with red and gold ornaments. The urn is something I picked up at Marshall’s a long time ago. It is a really handy decorating element and I use it for most holidays. I’ve even just filled it with pretty balls of yarn and made that the centerpiece when I had some knitters over for a stitch and bitch.

The ornaments were picked up a few years ago from Big Lots. They are very inexpensive but they still look pretty piled up in the urn and scattered amongst the greens.

The light comes from two sparkly candle holders from Big Lots or Marshall’s a few years ago with battery-powered candles inside.

The greens are from my backyard. Some of the branches even have wee pinecones on them so they look adorable. I wouldn’t put fresh greens on a tablecloth or runner that is precious to you because there may be some sticky sap. I got some on my hands holding these greens but the plaid runner is very inexpensive and can be replaced as needed.

The sideboard holds just a few items that are more fun to see up close and more greens.

There still needs to be something vertically up the wall, but I’ll make that another five-minute project later.

For me, the best decorations bring color and sparkle into my home. We have less sunlight and less color outside so boosting it inside makes for a lovely environment.

As I found five minutes today, going into the kitchen for some water or a snack, I looked at a corner and did a little work on it. The table took only five minutes. That was an easy one. The sideboard took another five minutes during another trip so two big areas are decorated now.

Keeping this method up, I should actually have the house decorated by the end of the weekend. It’s much more feasible for me than a complete decorating session. Plus, I don’t get overwhelmed and I think I do a better job.

What is your time-saving tip for decorating for the holidays?

The Holiday Season is Passing Me By!

It seems like every blog I visit has gorgeous trees, wreathes, garlands, bows, etc. Apparently, blogland isn’t burdened with the same reality I face.

In the great tradition of a true procrastinator, instead of actually doing anything, I compiled a list of reasons I’m not decorated for the holidays:

The tumblefur in my house has become sentient. This means they hide when I get the vacuum out and taunt me when the vacuum is put away and I’m doing something else. This has turned into an epic battle and I’m losing.

Multiplying laundry. I’m pretty sure I don’t have this much stuff in the house to wash so I guess my neighbors are sneaking over in the dead of night and mixing their laundry in with mine. There is no way this is all mine. It never ends. Never. WHO IS WEARING ALL THESE CLOTHES AND USING ALL THESE TOWELS?

Frankie has contributed to the holidays by tearing a hole in his paw. All the way through. He did it the day before Thanksgiving so I got to kick off the holiday season $500 poorer. Huzzah! But the poor baby has been hurting and it has been wet and cold so every time he goes out I have to put a rubber bootie on his foot (made out of an IV bag) and put him on his leash so he won’t get over-excited and run around the yard. We gotta heal up the tear before he can run again. Not only is every potty break a production, but we’ve been to the vet every three days or so to get the wound checked and the foot re-bandaged.

Rest assured, he’s being spoiled as usual. Also, he gets his pain pills and antibiotics in a hotdog which he dearly loves. Pill time is a big event in this house ‘cos everyone gets a piece of hotdog. Maybe this was just Frankie being a good host to his doggie visitors?

It has been a week since Thanksgiving, WHEN WILL ALL THE DISHES BE DONE? I don’t understand how I can STILL being doing dishes from that weekend. It’s inconceivable. And it does mean what I think it means.

The guest room isn’t cleaning itself. This is really irritating. I had to strip the bed, wash the sheets and towels and now there it sits. Mocking me. Waiting for ME to put it all back together. Sheesh.

The day job. They still expect me to work. Don’t they know I need to be putting glitter on things, staging stuff, and blogging about it? Man. Unreasonable.

Oh, and you may have noticed a little thing in front of the keyboard. Yes, that is a wee knitting project. I’ve had some slightly frustrating review meetings and this keeps me cool, calm, and focused. This is the advantage of working from home occasionally. I can resort to slightly meditative exercises to get me through. It works. Trust me. This will be a simple dishcloth. It is comfort knitting. The mac and cheese of the yarn world.

I’m still moving things back into the house. This has been made all the more urgent by a cold snap that covers the car in frost and means it takes me 20 minutes to go anywhere in the morning. I’d really like to get the car back in the garage again. I don’t know why it has been so hard to find a home for things that were in here a few months ago. The games, for instance. I resorted to getting a new, little bookcase for them in the living room. I don’t think this is where they will reside in the end. I have a better idea that involves a lovely, big, double-tiered coffee table that I’ve yet to find. In the meantime, they are here in the newly dubbed, “game corner.”

I did pick up a few poinsettia for the holidays. This is a challenge because Scarlet Kitty likes to eat all plants and poinsettia are poisonous to animals. I have this great stand that allows me to put the pretty poinsettia out of her reach. You’d better revel in the plants though because they are the only sign the holidays are approaching this household.

Game of Sequence anyone? We can ignore all our other chores together.

Gifts We Can Actually Use

Watching the crazy Black Friday shenanigans confused me. I don’t understand being that invested in a thing. A toy. An item to dust. A few hours of entertainment is great, but I’m not willing to do things like fight, wait in line, or find a parking space, for them.

This made me think about what actually would be valuable to me. What would be worth fighting for? Here are my suggestions for holiday gifts this year.

Telekinesis – Some people probably have grand plans for this power but I’ve never been able to get past how lovely it would be to be able to hang the Christmas lights from a lawn chair or take the garbage out the morning of garbage day when you hear the truck and realize you forgot. And want to stay in bed.

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image courtesy of the WikiHow article, “How to Develop Telekinesis”

A Do-Over – I don’t care how it’s done. A quick ride in the TARDIS or a remote control, it would be really handy to be able to do a moment over again. Maybe next time I won’t ask a pot head to the school dance so he can’t stand me up, maybe next time I’ll buy the picture I suspect is a Picasso original sketch and that costs $35 (it was and it did), maybe next time I’ll save my Master’s thesis a skootch sooner on a disk so when the laptop dies right before I have to stand up and defend it, I can calmly go to work and print it out from there.

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A Bend-To-My-Will Spray – Sometimes I just deserve my way and convincing people is hard work. When this happens, sometimes I just want to speed things up a little. This should work over the phone too so when I have an idiot on the phone, I can simply spritz the phone and I win.

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image courtesy of, and amazing art available on, deviantart.com.

Adorable Woodland Creatures that Clean my House and Sew Clothes – Let’s face it, this is handy on so many levels, it doesn’t need a lot of explanation. The adorable woodland creatures are just more fun to watch than a maid or butler. It would also be nice to have someone take care of those things that have been lingering in the sewing basket for years a long time.

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These adorable woodland creatures can actually be yours if you follow the link. I may not be able to live without them.

That Time Necklace Thingy Hermoine Had in Harry Potter – So she could be in multiple classes at the same time. That would be really handy if I could go to work, then do over the day (or even a few hours) to get chores done, and then a few hours over again to run errands and make calls while businesses are open, etc. I wouldn’t want to go as far as cloning myself because I don’t like want to share my bed or the Diet Pepsi. But having time over to do everything I need to do would be really handy.

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image courtesy of thinkgeek.com

Bulls**t Detector – To protect delicate sensibilities, I didn’t write out the word. But you should understand, this is different from a lie detector. First of all, some people can be sort of telling the truth but still be full of it and they let you believe things when, actually, reality is going to be very different. For example, that project that someone made sound really fun can actually be fun, but your role in the project is going to totally suck. It would be nice to get a proper heads up when that train is heading your way.

All of these seem so much more helpful and more worthy of the effort other people are putting into getting Rachel Ray cookware. I’m not sure what aisle any of them are found in Walmart though.