Lessons from Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving and Native American Heritage Day

There is something about raising children that broadens and sharpens my focus on celebration and tradition. It may be their exuberance. It may be their curiosity. Whatever it is, I can safely say my understanding and appreciation of Thanksgiving has grown.

For most of my life, I carried with me the shards of a public school educational approach to Thanksgiving. In grade school, there were Pilgrims and Indians and the feast they shared following a rough year. College squashed any reverence for the ideas associated with those pilgrims. But as my children have moved through the early elementary school grades, to explain the meaning of the day  I have both learned more about the story and why it really is a history worth celebrating.

I observe on Google Calendar “Native American Heritage Day” on the day following Thanksgiving. Last year, I believe the day following Thanksgiving was marked by Google as “Black Friday.” Times change. With November standing as Native American Heritage Month, it is a valuable time to consider what we really know about that Thanksgiving feast, three hundred and ninety-nine years ago.

Photo by Meritt Thomas on Unsplash

The Story of Thanksgiving

The pilgrims were religious refugees and adventurers, seeking a new life where they could practice their faith apart from government intervention or restriction. The journey was perilous. I learned this from “This Is America Charlie Brown” an excellent educational resource. It is amazing to learn what they suffered, even from so simple a telling, and how all the children survived, even as many adults died before building and living in a new American settlement.

It was through the intervention of Squanto, who spoke English, that the pilgrims were able to successfully grow the crops whose yield would warrant the celebration of that first Thanksgiving. Cordial relations for one generation made it possible.

Those relationships deteriorated, but a generation is not a significant length of time. Relationships are made first between individuals. That they were not maintained does not deny the goodness of the original relationship between these parties. That a child grows up and divorces does not negate the good of the seemingly happy marriage in which that child was raised.

Beyond Charlie Brown, at home we read about Squanto. We read books about the pilgrims. We read books about the Mayflower. We discuss parts of the world that right now experience religious persecution.

I created coloring pages to illustrate these points: the story of Thanksgiving, the tradition of eating and pardoning Turkey, the Jewish roots of a festival to give thanks.

Photo by Cayla1 on Unsplash

What difference does it make now?

By these practices, history becomes more than just a vague memory of puffy figurines for the 1980s dining table. We connect to our heritage. We connect to the heritages that heritage draws from to begin with. More than sentiment, we can learn something from this holiday that we need very badly today.

  • Help one another.
  • Reach out to those in need, even when they are very different, even if you might have a good reason to hold no trust based on previous encounters with others like them.
  • Know that sharing a meal is a human tradition, going beyond Hallmark and Betty Crocker and mass-market commercialism. There is a reason we break bead together.
  • Some hard things are worth the effort to do them. There was something worth fighting for, and not with violence, not with complaining, but by finding a way to make it possible.

The pilgrims traveled with hope. Others traveled with greed. Others traveled intent in acquiring whatever they could, whatever the cost. But this group, this set of real people who actually lived, were in need, strangers helped them, and they survived.

We need this example and these lessons. Even the imperfect are capable of virtue. Even the imperfect can be set before us as examples of a life well-lived.

So whether you are following Public Health orders to the letter of the law, whether your Thanksgiving meal will be take-out through the Hughson Community Thanksgiving Dinner, or whether you are going all out with a traditional menu at home, let it be deep and broad in its meaning, and let it take these lessons to heart.

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Layers of Thanks

From the superficial to the depth, there are more layers of thanks than meet the eye.

Acknowledgement

I teach my children to say, “thank you.” The understanding is, you give me something, I respond in thanks. At its most basic level, we express our thanks acknowledging the words or actions of another individual on our behalf.

“Thank you,” I say.

“You’re welcome,” he responds. And we move on.

Appreciation

The next level moves deeper into the heart. The aid or compliment was not an extra, unnecessary action, but fulfilled a need. I wanted pictures hung because I stare at the walls while resting during pregnancy, and he hung them, even though he hates to hang pictures. This expression goes beyond the basic manners we teach our three-year-old. My words not only acknowledge that you acted in some way to help, assist, or raise me up, but I appreciate the gift or sacrifice on your part to do it. It takes time to think about what it cost you to deepen my gratitude.

Exchange

When I am no longer incapacitated by physical limitations or the overwhelming stuff of life, I can venture into the third level of thanks: exchange. I acknowledge; I appreciate; and, now, your action inspires action in me, to do likewise for others, as they did to me.

As parents register their kids this season or sign up as volunteers for Hughson Youth Baseball/Softball, we see the same. Baseball and other sports added something of value to their childhood. They want to pay it forward. It is this exchange, this realization of the good given selflessly and then acting on the movement of the heart to give in return that keeps small towns small and rich.

Awe

There is yet a deeper level, one in which the understanding begins to dawn upon reflection. This person did something for me, and I can never repay him. His gift was not merely a word, a small deed, but a series of actions, spread out across time, of patient words, of no words when words would not help, of generosity without thanks. Over time, it grows into a gift of self defying the imagination in our cynical grown-up-ness. It is the realization of what parents endure for their child, of what spouses of many years grow into, of what lifelong friends bring to the table.

You gave of yourself. All I can do is stand in awe. I can acknowledge, I can appreciate, I can attempt to exchange, but no effort seems to match what you have done for me.

So, in silence I receive.

These are the moments that bring tears to the eyes. When I was a teenager, outraged with the world, my mother trimmed my nails: a simple gesture of care. It was all she could do at the moment, shedding light on the whole reality that she would give her life for me if only I would let her.

We never reach this level without sacrifice, without letting a part of our will die for the good the other.

Person holding umbrella for a child with storm clouds in the background to illustrate the role of relationship in gratitude.
Photo by J W on Unsplash

This level of thanks, awe, comes only in relationship.

A relationship established, worked on, suffered through, endured, and improved to allow it to grow into something beyond what we could ever imagine: more grandchildren than we can keep track of, a 50th wedding anniversary, friendship in which one travels across the country to dress my kids for bed while I grieve.

We may feel we live our whole life hidden. But as we learned from the Frank Capra film, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” no man is a failure who has friends. Let’s find a way to give thanks this November, on all levels.

Want to experience these levels on the community level?

Join the Hughson Ministerial Association on November 21 for the 3rd Annual “Hughson Says Thanks” event at 6 pm at Hughson High School in which representatives from local partner agencies will come together for this now annual event that is held to recognize those that make Hughson a great place to live. A short program will be provided with refreshments to follow. For more information, contact 209.883.4476 or 209.883.0469.

The Making of Traditions

A throwback a couple weeks ago to Thanksgiving but still fit the current season.

Previously Published in the Hughson Chronicle_Denair Dispatch.

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All afternoon we newlyweds danced around singing, “the bird, bird, bird, the bird is the word.” When the time came, in a 5×8 foot kitchen we carved our first turkey. There was no room to serve the food, so we washed pots and pans trying to create space for the meal. By the time we and our guests, our family-less friends in the DC area, sat down to eat, the food was cold. No one acted disappointed. We were glad to be together.

As a child, Thanksgiving boasted of a turkey and a ham, and before pumpkin spice was the ubiquitous sign of fall in Northern California, my mother was already cranking out pumpkin pie, pumpkin cheesecake and pumpkin bars in mass quantities for our Thanksgiving celebration. Friday morning was spent lounging with coupons spread all over the table as the men planned their game of which hot item to go after. Only two of them cared, but everyone was in it to win.

I should have known how different Thanksgiving would look for me as a married woman when I spent Thanksgiving night counting the minutes between abdominal pains, and by 4 a.m. knew I would not be shopping that Friday. Instead, my son would be born.

There are traditions as a child I recall sprinkled throughout my youth. In late childhood and adolescence, I began to see those traditions fade into the background. I ached to hold onto them and argued that, “it must continue!” I thought we were giving up on something to let them loose.

Now that I am older, I have the broader perspective that gives the thirty-something-year-old the advantage over the fourteen-year-old. Traditions must change and adapt if they are to continue. Rare, and priceless, is the family, who can hold spaghetti night every Sunday for decades, and continue even after the matriarch has passed. As one generation goes to rest and another emerges, traditions must exhibit flexibility to accommodate the newest and most demanding members of the family.

Due to an increasing number of those little members, and a decreasing desire to uproot them to visit relatives who have no need for childproofing, we began to celebrate Thanksgiving at home. It is my nature to invite everyone. It is my nature to roll up my sleeves and make the sacrifices we need in order to honor tradition. With a batch of little ones in the house, I had to say no to my nature.

We purchase a small turkey and keep the side dishes to the essentials. We move our television set to the living room and play “Miracle on 34th Street” so the kitchen will be a place of peace rather than an extension of the chaos a beautiful, busy, bunch of children produce. We eat and share the things we are grateful for from the last year. After dinner, we finish the movie and put the kids to bed.

On Friday morning, I remember the fun of riding around with my aunt and mother while we shopped all day in Redding and ate lunch at a Chinese restaurant.

With the ever-earlier release of ads and disappointing deals, my Black Friday focus shifted from commentary on commercialism and marketing to an unrivaled excitement over Small Business Saturday and Mod Shop, a handmade night market in Downtown Modesto. Whether I spend money or not, the experience of going through the crowds to see pieces of art and craft sold by their makers has become a tradition for me.

As a young family, we continue to develop our traditions. At the heart of a tradition is a belief in something timeless, allowing annual routines to take on meaning as simple as, “it’s what we always do.” Those traditions become road markers throughout the year, “I can’t believe it’s Thanksgiving already!” Their repetition facilitates children’s memory of what took place before they were much aware of the world outside their home, “we used to always play Mario Cart.”

Our practices, and therefore traditions, must be different because our needs are different. We will add or delete based on what we want to communicate about this holiday, gratitude or gluttony. In the midst of the occasional kitchen chaos or soupy cranberry sauce, do I communicate with my mood that this day is a blessing or a curse?

Tradition-making is a tall order. The good news is, like parenting and life itself, our success or failure does not come from one moment, but from a thousand moments woven together where even the “failures” contribute to the joy of the overall design. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Thanksgiving Feast

Thanksgiving was beautiful, filled with gratitude at being together and being at peace.

 

The Setting

After purchased cream-colored roses and orange gerbera daisies from Trader Joe’s, I decided on a cheerful fall theme for the table, adding red berries from the neighbor’s yard, pin branches and juniper for small table arrangements and one large arrangement on the buffet.

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The table is set with Currier and Ives dishes by Royal China, a set I love more and more with each passing year.

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Inspired by Pinterest I used cards with names written in calligraphy for guests to reflect on the things for which they are thankful. I tucked a sprig of olive branch with each card.

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We followed the same menu as last year, which I keep tucked away in a Thanksgiving binder to ease the planning process.

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The Menu

Roasted Turkey (We use an electric roaster which frees up the oven for other items)

Bourbon gravy

Traditional Cranberry Sauce (Made a day ahead)

Bacon Mashed Potatoes (Made the day before and reheated in the oven.

Green Bean Casserole with Crispy Fried Shallots

Sourdough and Sage Stuffing (Assembled the day before and baked the day of)

Pumpkin Pie (Libby’s pumpkin pie recipe)

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Festivities

The kids knew how to entertain themselves, despite the warm, California weather.

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We ladies wore our floral circle skirts for dinner.

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As dinner approached we played “Miracle on 34th Street” which begins on Thanksgiving Day.

It amazed me how perfectly the day went. Thanksgiving magic.

How to Cope by Using the Triangle

Previously published in the Hughson Chronicle-Denair Dispatch

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Looking back at Halloween and looking forward to adventures in holiday gatherings, I thought it worth the time to review those basic coping skills we can easily lose track of when things have either been too hard or too easy. When things are too hard, we get overwhelmed and forget how to pace our responses. When things are too easy, we are not challenged to cope consciously. Coping skills, like any skill, require practice and regular application to become the automatic responses we would like them to be.

In the absence of fancy graphics, if you will, on a piece of paper draw a triangle. At the top write, “cognitive.” At the left-hand point write “physical.” At the right-hand point, write “behavioral.” There are three key components to our emotions.

First, let us discuss the physical component. Negative emotions, such as anger or sadness, can be triggered by our bodies if we are hungry, thirsty, over-tired or if we experience particular hormone fluctuations. By negative, I do not mean the emotion itself is to be valued as good or bad, but rather, it does not feel good. If you find yourself wild with emotion, check in on your physical state to see if that may be affecting your stamina in the face of powerful emotions.

The cognitive component refers to our thoughts. Certain beliefs, whether true or false can frame a situation to look worse than it is or bring it from bad to worse. If someone has angered you and you take the time to review the many times this has happened before, how does it make you feel? Replaying old wounds is a thought habit that increases our anger and leads to resentment. Painting pictures that lock people into an expected pattern of behavior, “I should have known he’d act that way!” does the same. In our thoughts, we create a story narrative of what happened, though it often lacks the nuance of great literature. You may be the hero, the victim or the villain in your narrative.

The behavioral component refers to the things we do that increase the negativity of a situation. Body language may be our response to perceived threats (crossed arms, fighting position, resisting eye contact or excessive eye contact) but it creates a feedback loop in which the other person now perceives us as opposition. Passive aggressive responses and complaining do little to make us feel better. Combative “fightin’” words will also likely increase the heat of a situation.

Just as each of these components can add to the emotional response, we can intentionally use each component to decrease the stress on our system. Physically, taking time for some deep breathing and getting out of the physical presence of the person who grates on us can start the process of calming down. Going into a situation you know will be trying, like a marathon, make sure you properly rest, are hydrated and fed, carrying snacks on hand as needed.

Thinking about thoughts is called meta-cognition. Learning to meta-cognate, to think about what you are thinking, will help you be on the lookout for any irrational beliefs, create a more nuanced storyline and get a feel for the other person’s shoes. Sometimes we have to go deep to get there, but it is well worth the effort to understand why that relative always seems to push your buttons.

Behaviorally, we have choices to make. Choosing how we react and the words we use. When you are offended or angry, try keeping your hands at your sides, fists unclenched. For family or friends, attempt affection (hand on the shoulder or handshake). Sometimes we need to alter our behavior to accommodate others. Sometimes situations are unhealthy for us and we need to make the difficult choice to say no to allowing this person or situation in our lives.

With graphic in hand, in a hard spot, we can ask how each of these components is contributing to our negative reaction and how we can use them to reduce the overwhelming emotions we are experiencing.

Thanksgiving Dinner

We were so pleased with our Thanksgiving feast this year. Over time we’ve developed a few favorites and this year focused on ways to keep things simple. Beginning with the centerpiece:

IMG_8104Potted herbs, pumpkins, persimmons and pomegranates in a brass tray with four battery-operated pillar candles. The runner is a table cloth, too small for this table, purchased from TJ Maxx during the first fall of our marriage, 2009.

IMG_8106The brass tray is from my favorite local shop, Selective Antiques (formerly Selective Consignments).

IMG_8107The candles are from Costco and the herbs from Trader Joe’s.

And now…

the Menu

Cider-glazed Turkey with Herbed Butter

http://www.williams-sonoma.com/recipe/cider-brined-turkey.html

(although I’m not sure we actually followed this)

Bourbon gravy

http://www.realsimple.com/food-recipes/browse-all-recipes/bourbon-gravy

(now a Thanksgiving staple, labor intensive but it does clean the roasting pan!)

Traditional Cranberry Sauce

http://allrecipes.com/recipe/13459/cranberry-sauce-i/

(I only eat it once a year, so I like to stick with the simplicity of this recipe. Can you really go wrong with this many positive reviews? Made a day ahead).

Creamy Mashed Potatoes with Scallion-Chive Butter

http://www.realsimple.com/food-recipes/browse-all-recipes/creamy-mashed-potatoes-scallion-chive-butter

(make ahead and reheat – worked great!)

Trader Joe’s Cornbread Stuffing

(with celery and onions added, we stuffed the bird with this)

Pumpkin Pie

(Libby’s pumpkin pie recipe, although, when my mom makes it, everything turns out better than it is supposed to).

So family style or buffet…family style or buffet…or served…I can never decide. I love the beauty of the overflowing table in family style. Served seems so simple, but you have to get those plates out there. I have to make my own plus three. Buffet…well, it just lacks romance and adds dishes that you don’t even get to enjoy because they’re hiding in the kitchen.

This year, we blended. The turkey and mashed potatoes stayed in the kitchen and the cranberry sauce, gravy, stuffing and bread came to the table. The table dishes were all small bowls (and a beautiful antique wooden bread plate) so it didn’t overwhelm the table. The arrangement was perfect for us and felt very festive.

What are your favorite menu items for Thanksgiving Dinner?

Counting your blessings.

What am I thankful for?

I’m thankful for my place of work. That I can keep changing my the number of days I work; that my supervisor will do all she can to support me nursing my baby, that we can go around and with 60 people each say what we’re thankful for at our paid Thanksgiving luncheon.

I’m thankful for my children. For my littlest, who I did not think would be born because of the terror miscarriage, even though the pregnancy with her was, thankfully, perfect and without complication and that she was born so darn quickly, once everything got started.

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I’m thankful for my son, who is crazy and darling and getting more and more attached to me.

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I’m thankful for my eldest, who sings “Alright, okay, you win” and “we all live in a yellow suffering” (that would be “submarine”) and dances and speaks in full sentences.

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I’m thankful for my husband, who is everything to me, who makes life beautiful and fun. Who rescues me from my wild children, makes amazing lattes, cocktails and everything else, who is a genius musician, a successful teacher, a never-give-up, always strive to grow man of God.

I’m thankful for my parents, their support, their love, their pride in me. I’m thankful for their love of my children and their help so I can actually spend time with that husband of mine.

I’m thankful for my grandmother and that she has been able to know and love three of our children.

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I’m thankful for our home, our inexpensive rent to my parents who own the home, the stability it’s provided us, the perfect floor plan for a family with so many toddlers, and the wonderful neighbors we have.

I’m thankful for the town we live in, the potential to get involved, to be a in a place where people care about the community.

I’m thankful for the gifts God has given me, the talents, and the opportunity to use them.

I’m thankful I can think and read and learn. I’m thankful for books, for the internet, for the availability of information.

I’m thankful for Dr. John Buri and Dr. John Boyle who mentored me in college. I’m thankful for my experience at the Institute of the Psychological Science, which, as the cliché goes, made me who I am today.

I’m thankful for art, music, design, color.

I’m thankful for all things, grateful to God that we have them. He is the giver all things, my first love, my Creator, who set me on the path, protected me, sheltered me, brought me to my husband, and allowed me to see him not only for the man he was but for the man he would become. It is by the grace of God we are here; and I am so thankful for that.

The Un-Thanksgiving Menu

This year, as way to have an intimate family gathering, we decided to do an Un-Thanskgiving Menu on Wednesday evening, taking a twist on the traditionals. Thursday we would be spend with relatives. This could be our chance to be fancy, gourmet, and thankful, because, well, neither of our families seem comfortable going around and saying what they’re thankful for. In my family, it’s more about the food and small talk than anything else.

The Menu

Cranberry sauce

Mashed sweet potatoes

Rotisserie duck

Brandy Alexander Pie

The Result

Well, since it had been a busy day, I plopped down in a chair with baby on the ground and my laptop on my lap. Of course, my presence was keeping the baby happy, you know? I shouted a “do you need any help?” to my husband once and he said no. See how we shatter conventional stereotypes?

From the living room I asked if he bought cranberries. Nope, only the canned kind, thinking there would not be enough time to make cranberry sauce. He offered to doctor it up and my moody, hungry tiredness made some difficult conversation around that subject. He found cranberries in the freezer and went on to make the cranberry sauce.

Lesson 1: Discuss the grocery list.

After an hour, he said “the duck is finally thawed.”

Lesson 2: Don’t by frozen duck the evening you want to cook it.

After thirty minutes he went to the garage and said he was looking for the roaster. The dusk did not fit on the rotisserie. Then my eyes opened to what was happening in the kitchen.

Lesson 3: Work together for strange last minute menus. Check in to help assess the situations because four eyes, two heads, and four hands are all better than half that amount.

I remembered where the roaster was, so up the attic he went, and brought it down. I never said we had to continue, but in his deep desire to make this fancy meal for me who has a yen for fancy things, he would not give up.

The duck was in the roaster (roast duck sounds more like it, right?). I put the finished cranberry sauce in the fridge (we did have time after all). I forgot all about the “fancy” and setting the table. It was already 8pm at this time and we usually eat by 6pm. The man made his world-famous garlic bread. Delicious!

Lesson 4: Yum, appetizers!

He brought the bread over to me on the couch (I’m even worse now because the baby is asleep and I’m still not helping).

Lesson 5: Set the table ahead of time, this will help keep me alert to the active world.

Next course (each course consisted of whatever was cooked already): mashed sweet potatoes. Our reaction to the first bite: hmm… My husband’s second reaction: it kind of grows on you.

Lesson 6: Skin sweet potatoes before cooking/mashing when making mashed sweet potatoes

Lesson 7: Don’t use too much water in the mashing process.

Lesson 8: Don’t make mashed sweet potatoes.

We still had a while for the duck to finish. What course could we do next? Dessert, of course! We stole a gingerbread turkey cookie from the platter prepared for Thanksgiving day and dished ice cream on top. No needed lessons here, it was simply good. Now that I write this I realize we forgot the dessert we had planned on. That’s just fine. We’ll save it for Gaudete Sunday.

We ate the duck with the cranberry sauce. My husband did an amazing job with his first time making duck. The cranberry sauce was thick with great flavor. When I bit into a pine needle, though, it took away from the cranberry zest.

Lesson 8: Don’t cook with cranberries you froze after using them for a centerpiece.

Use Cranberries to Make Thanksgiving Table Candles

So we learned a lot! I’m not sure what happened to me and my alertness. Conscientiousness is usually my strength. It’s absence might be tied to sleep-deprivation. We had talk about working as a team (I should stand up and help; he should ask for help or at least say yes when I ask if he needs it).

Final menu in order of appearance

Garlic Bread

Mashed sweet potatoes

Gingerbread turkey cookie with vanilla ice cream

Cranberry Sauce

Roast duck

We may do it again next year, change the menu and try again.

Lesson 8: Be thankful to go with the flow. We invited friends over and I can’t imagine how it would have gone had they been able to come!

Mental prep for the seasons

About a week ago our 7-month old started waking every 45 minutes. This happened for two nights in a row. The second night we experience two some blessed hour-and-a-half stretches. Soon after her first tooth in the top row came through. It takes a while for me to catch back up on sleep, thus that lack of creative work and creative writing. But, so as not to neglect you, here is a look back on Thanksgiving and Christmas decorating. Naturally I have been reflecting on the past as I plan what we will do in this new home, this new year.

I love Thanksgiving. I love feasts and I love setting the table for those feasts. Last year we hosted Thanksgiving which was a decision good and bad. The good? Take a look…

DSCN3041I ordered a dark blue with gold-painted table runner from West Elm after seeing it featured in Real Simple reasonably priced (thus beginning my current love affair with West Elm; I’ve purchased one thing since).

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My wonderful husband spray painted pumpkins from our patch with gold, silver and bronze paint. I laid out dark blue damask stripe napkins and found some walnut branches from the clippings outside. For me that last step “made it.”

DSCN3043I used brown velvet ribbon to tie the silverware together, laid on top of the napkin and silver chargers. Half-yard pieces of fabric from Rainbow Fabrics (a local amazing store) grounded the centerpiece on the oval table. I used to love to do the formal settings with silverware all in its proper place, but with the advent of toddlers such a setting never makes it straight to dinner time.

DSCN3044The bad, or rather difficult from that Thanksgiving came with having two children under age three and being pregnant with the third, hosting not one, but two sides of the family, and having a generous family member bring a bird that was too big for the roaster. So not all things worked out. Both sides of the family are more casual than our little nucleus of a family, and did no revel in the use of china and real silver. Other than the table settings, I have more “difficult” memories than good. That’s life and learning. My secret to hosting parties now: don’t cook! It seems to go smoother that way (read: less stressful). I’m also not hosting Thanksgiving this year. Instead, in our little family we plan to have an un-Thanksgiving menu on Wednesday: rotisserie duck, mashed sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, and Brandy Alexander Pie. We’ll still be thankful, but with a new menu, the day before, and do the family thing on Thursday.

After Thanksgiving comes shopping (as you know from my previous post). I am Catholic. As a Catholic, the Christmas season follows Christmas with the 12 days of Christmas (Christmas day to Epiphany, celebrating when the Wise Men brought gifts to the Infant). Prior to Christmas is Advent, a time of preparation. So we prepare, but we don’t pretend it’s Christmas.

That’s all well and good, but I also grew up in the world and its difficult to hold off on certain decorating, certain music, certain food (read: candy, cookies) because it’s all so sentimental and wonderful. No snow here means the outside doesn’t get decorated into a winter wonderland, so its up to the interiors to fulfill the job.

The compromise: winter decorating.

In reality, I’m not sure where one ends and the other begins, and as I write this, I’m not sure it matters because my preferred decorations are rather neutral. Early in our marriage my husband stated he would like a blue and silver Christmas tree. I began the search. Along with an antique store angel, here is what it came to last year. We bought a $25 tree and placed it on a table with a kid-gate around it to protect the ornaments. Not sure how to solve this dilemma this year: new house, greater child mobility.

photo 2 More from last year. In my love of antiques, I added a silver Christmas tree on this side table with silver tapers.

photo 1I made wreaths for first time using Christmas tree clippings, juniper and olive branches. We (my husband) spray painted found pine cones and I made the creche the focus for the room.

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I like the effect of the bright red satin bow. This year I’ll make them again, only better because I know more, and without juniper because I hated working with it and we don’t live near a juniper tree anymore.

photo 5I did my best with that home to make an “entrance.” There were no wood doors, only sliding glass doors in this dogtrot style home. For the exterior, along with crazy-expensive-to-run Christmas lights (definitely investing LED this year), we put up a giant Charlie Brown Christmas tree. If you look carefully you can see the red ornament at the end. I suppose I did that two years ago because I recognize the tree in it from our “come-and-cut” adventure. Come and cut in the cold and rain with your infant bundled and moby-ed. I think we had more fun going to Tracy Trees the following year, run by a Christian family here in town.

IMG_3821So this year we’ll go to Tracy trees, I’ll make at least one wreath and possibly a holiday (holy day?) banner, like this, and some German glitter homes like these. I’d show you more but the children are hungry and I can’t reveal all my secrets, now can I? More to come.