Friday, December 30, 2011

Christmas Memories

Gauging by the flatline of inactivity on my blog and the fact that I have at least 348 emails from myself to myself containing blog material, I figured I better get a post in before the world collapses. Or something like that.
Anyway, as it happens every year, Christmas came and went far too quickly. Since I can remember, I've always been sad to see the last gift waiting to be opened because at that point, I know the day we've been preparing for for months is finally essentially coming to a close. (As it is right now, we're a one-shebang kind of Christmas family - we actually are still able to celebrate all together ON Christmas day.) But whether it be a sign of getting old or just flat out fatigue, this year really seemed to last a 'good long time.' I mean, with church and lunch and then gifts and eating again and so on, it was really quite a long-winded festive event. As we're cleaning up, we always comment about what a nice day we've had and how blessed we are, and this year, Michael kept saying, "any Christmas that lasts longer than a work day must be a good one." Indeed it was. We were given far more than we deserve, in more ways than one, and the day with family was an absolute blessing. Probably another possible sign of age, but I actually often find myself enjoying the quiet times of Christmas - my sentimental, nostalgic senses are on overload during the lull after dinner on Christmas Eve when we all just sit by the fire and enjoy each other's company; breakfast on Christmas morning when cinnamon rolls and ham biscuits taste their very best; and Christmas night, when all is well. It's so nice. I'm so fortunate to have and enjoy these times. Makes for good memories.

One thing I forgot to include in the post about our decorations is a new, very special decoration this year. We have several ornaments on our tree dedicated to our animals, but I wanted something that documented them specifically. Enter a kit that can be found at your local Walmart:

So, on Thanksgiving night, we followed the directions, mildly tortured the dogs, and created a lovely keepsake of our furbabies for 2011.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas Decorating

I have always loved to decorate. I used to get my own decorations and decorate my room when I was younger. Once, in elementary school, I talked my dad into getting me a live tree for our basement so I could decorate it, which he did. Happy as a clam, I decorated that tree with hand-made glitter and paint ornaments and paper chains that I made myself. I was so proud. In college, I would decorate my apartments from top to bottom (and would be SO annoyed if finals got in the way of my decorating plans.) Even when I was single, I still found the time and gusto to decorate. It was always something I looked forward to when Christmas rolled around. I really enjoyed it and was always pleased with the fruits of my labor, even if my roommates and my mom were ever the only ones to see all the hard work. After years of watching my mother, aunts, and cousins decorate every manageable surface for Christmas, often with multiple trees, I'm assuming I got that same gene which I have acted upon just about every year since. I think I burned myself out a few years ago when it took two - three full weeks to get everything done. I won't ever do that again. Maybe. But for whatever reason, this year I found it strangely difficult to decorate for Christmas. Not because I was sad or depressed or that I didn't have time or even that I didn't want to (quite the opposite in theory, thanks to Pinterest) but it just seemed to take every ounce of willpower to get the trees and boxes out of the attic. Possibly because part of me couldn't get over the whole "I'm going to do all of this work to look at it for a month and then spend a weekend cleaning and putting it away" issue. And then I got wracked by a migraine on the official decorating Saturday of the season (the Saturday after Thanksgiving), so maybe that had something to do with it. Or I could have just become a weekend slug, addicted to cheesy Christmas movies on Lifetime and the Hallmark channel. Whatever the case, it was a real feat to get the decorations out, so while they're not nearly what I had pictured in my mind (or found on Pinterest, for that matter) they'll do and I'm enjoying them all the same - I hope you do too!

A Simple Shoffner Christmas

The dining room - I think of it as an homage to the line "...We will bring Him silver and gold" from the song "Do You Hear What I Hear?"

Christmas china that we received as a wedding gift.

He posed himself.

Not satisfied with this, and yes, the garland is lighted. Is it plugged in? Nope.

My Nutcracker army of 41, a collection started 25 years ago.

The same army, now contained. You know, so they don't dance their way into Christmas havoc.

This is SO not what I pictured when I found my inspiration on Pinterest. I do love my stockings!

This year's addition to the collection.

And the tree. I love the lights reflecting in the window.

Abbie is absolutely convinced tree skirts are designed specifically for her nesting purposes.

Our sweet little tree in the master.

I wish I could say this was my grandmother's and it's very old and dainty, etc...but it's not. Pretty sure I got it at Kohl's a few years ago. But it matches our master decor, so it works.

So there you have it. In my mind, it was gorgeous. And trendy. And I had a tree in every room. It just didn't happen that way this year. But it will do. Jesus' birthday will still be just as special.

Christmas Tunes

I have a real affinity for music. Especially Christmas music, probably because of the nostalgia attached to it. But when Christmas music is bad, it's B-A-D. Some Christmas tunes I love to hate:

Last Christmas, by ANY artist. I swear I think we heard this at least 400 times during our one and only 3-hour visit to the mall this year. And each time I wanted to grab a clothing hanger and jam it into my jugular. (Hmmm, that's a little excessive, but you get the point.)

The Christmas Shoes. Okay, okay, it's a sweet story, I get it. But the song is horrible - the melody and arrangement is just absolutely hideous, not to mention the performance.

All I Want for Christmas is You, by Mariah Carey and Justin Beiber (I think.) This should be banned from airtime on the radio for the warbling that commences at the end of the song. Heinous.

Where Are You, Christmas? I'm probably going to take a lot of heat for this, because ultimately it's a pretty nice song, and I do like the premise for it. However, the year The Grinch remake was released, it was my first year as a married gal and my dad was very sick in intensive care. Christmas was not at all the same that year, and just like the good nostalgia linked to songs from the past, the difficulty of that Christmas is forever linked in my mind to that song because, (as songs tend to do), it would always find a way to work itself on to the radio every time I was in the car driving to see my dad. Sad.

Santa Claus is Coming To Town, by Bruce Springsteen. A lovely little children's Christmas tune is RUINED by this rock performer. This should be sung at elementary Christmas pageants, not on a stage with a rock band. What, is he crying at the end when he can't even complete a full line of the song as he becomes so breathless? I don't get it. Come on, Bruce - bad choice.

Happy Xmas (War is Over) I don't care who sings this song or the sentiment behind its writing - I detest it. First of all, was it too difficult to spell out the word Christmas? Secondly, while Christmas is a time for celebration, it's a celebration of the birth of Jesus, not celebrating the triumph of men in a bloodbath. Christmas is about Jesus, let's sings songs about that joy.

The River, by Joni Mitchell. OH MY. Talk about exalting the lonely, cold-hearted, unfortunate side of the holidays...this song takes the cake. Much like Dolly's "Hard Candy Christmas" (which I have been hating since I was exposed to it as a child), this song talks about running away from the holidays altogether and how the hollowness of people is amplified during such a joyful season. Yikes. This song should come with a warning: Do not listen to this song while driving as it could cause an unexplained urge to drive into oncoming traffic.

So while that's my list of putrid songs that claim to be for Christmas, I will err on the joyful side of things and celebrate some Christmas music I LOVE:

I will forever love all of Michael W. Smith's Christmas albums, but his It's a Wonderful Christmas is indeed WONDERFUL. I LOVE every last track on this album! Every song is performed by a 67-piece orchestra and each is absolutely heavenly. It reminds me of my days in choirs and orchestras.

Christmas would not be Christmas without the soundtrack from The Nutcracker. I am the idiot who drives around listening to instrumental music in my car and I don't care. You can't listen to this music and not be happy.

Speaking of the nostalgia I referred to earlier, Amy Grant's A Christmas Album will always bring fond childhood memories flooding back. Every time I hear "Tennessee Christmas" I'm immediately 8 years old again. The Statler Brothers and the Oak Ridge Boys Christmas albums do that to me too. You can't go wrong with these country classics.

And new favorites and memory-makers are being born as Josh Groban's album Noel has become a staple as will Michael Buble's Christmas. These crooners make me swoon.

The End

My incessant need for closure has led me to post a final farewell to this blog. Blogging was a whole new concept for me when I logged on l...