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The Saturday after Thanksgiving is for decorating – it’s pretty much the kick-off to the Christmas season. With Christmas music setting the tone, the house is transformed from donning its metaphorical street clothing into its finest holiday dress. It’s something that Mike and I really look forward to (I’m not just lumping him into that statement, he is all about the Christmas decorating).

Two days before Luke was born, Mike and I decked the halls. While Mike put up the tree (which also entails covering it in as many lights as humanly possible), I went about decorating the living and dining rooms with nutcrackers, angels, stockings and other Christmasy do-dads. Later that evening (Mike was still working on the tree – 720 lights is a time commitment) my in-laws came over to keep us company. It was a festive evening of anticipation for both the upcoming season and Luke’s (at that point Hans’) big arrival. Little did we know, that would actually be less than 48 hours later.

From the moment that Luke came home, until yesterday afternoon, the Christmas tree was lit. Seriously, we never unplugged it. In addition to being the center of our Christmas decorations, the tree became a large night light while we were up with Luke in the dark and something to carry him over to, to look at and tell him about, during the day. Sometimes we’d set his bouncer next to the tree and he’d turn his head and just stare – at what probably looked to him like a bunch of blurry bright blobs.

For as long as I can remember, I always dreaded taking down the Christmas decorations (Mom, before you chime in, note that that sentence isn’t insinuating that I necessarily helped take down the Christmas decorations as a kid… merely that the fact that I didn’t look forward to when you did it). As an adult, I look even less forward to undecorating – since now not only is Christmas being packed up, but I have to be the one to do it (Mike helps).

When I woke up with Luke this morning around 6:30, it was a little strange not seeing the familiar multi-colored glow of the Christmas tree welcoming us into the living room. In its place, Mike had put a single night light. And yet, as the sun started to rise and the room came more into view it felt fresh, open and familiar. Almost like a visual to the end of an era (albeit a short era) – we used up the last of Luke’s newborn diapers last night, he’s out of his newborn clothing as well. Yesterday the holidays were officially over and today I have a 6 week old baby wearing size 1 diapers and his 3 month clothing and waking up from his nap as I type this… gotta go attend to Luke!


2012 Quite Possibly the Best Year Yet

I cannot believe that the holidays have come and gone and that 2012 left with them. In the inevitable nostalgia of a new year, I’m paying one last homage to one of the greatest years of my life thus far: 2012.

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We’re almost to our first wedding anniversary! A year ago yesterday it was in the upper 40s low 50s and Mike and I were attending a friend’s wedding. It was a beautifully sunny day that didn’t require a winter coat, I remember keeping my fingers crossed that we’d be graced with equally fantastic weather. Consequently, we had our only major snow storm the night before the wedding, bathing the landscape in a sea of winter white. It ended up being a blessing in disguise (despite the flight cancellations that had to be worked through and the horrific roads trying to get from our house to the rehearsal dinner) as our photos looked stunning with all of the snow. And even though the temperatures were in the low 30s, while everyone else insisted that it was cold, I was nice and warm in my massive wedding dress – at times, a little too warm! The best day of January though was January 22nd. You might be thinking wait, I thought you got married on the 21st… Yes, I did – however the 22nd was the best day because the wedding was over (I loved every minute of the wedding day, don’t get me wrong) and I could sit and visit with all of my family and friends who had come into town for the wedding. I had breakfast with all of the guests who stayed over at the hotel (Mike slept in and joined more around brunchtime) and then we went over to my parent’s house to celebrate my brother’s 17th birthday with our extended family. It was perfect.

FEBRUARY: We wasted no time going from wedding mode into full on house searching mode. By February we were actively house hunting (although we didn’t expect to find something as quick as we did – which left us in a nail biting standoff with our landlord when we did finally find a house a few weeks later). Mike had to work the Austin Mahone concert on Valentine’s Day and made sure to bring me red roses that Austin left in his dressing room (who says romance is dead). We still have the red vase that they came in displayed in our living room! I thought it made for a great Valentine’s Day flower story.

MARCH: I don’t remember much about March other than trying to play it cool while we waited to hear if the mortgage was officially approved or not.

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I feel like I spent most of April on the phone. Mike was working the run of  a show, so there were lots of phone calls between me and Mortgage Lady Pam, me and Mike, me and the lawyer’s office, me and Flooring Man Ben. After two months of the house-buying process, we finally closed on April 16th! By the next day we already had Ben in the house taking care of the wood floors, followed by Paintapalooza that weekend. We were all moved in and out of the rented house on Wilson by the end of the month. I had a brief moment of nostalgia when we left the keys at the Wilson house – but it was really brief, because we really had moved on to bigger and better things.

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In May I set out to create my vegetable garden and tame the existing gardens around the house. Although a few vegetables were actually sorta produced, the summer that followed was brutal and most of the garden wilted away. As for the several weekends that I spent trying to clean up the existing gardens, they were long and tedious and pretty much for naught since most of the weeds rapidly grew back and I never actually got to 75% of the garden space. But in May, I was full of hope and a strong resolve to beautify our yard.

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JUNE: By June I was ready to expand my company, Studio255, to the online marketplace Etsy. It was slow-going at first, I remember the first few dejected weeks of no sales.

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JULY/AUGUST: All that really sticks out about July and August was the unrelenting extreme heat. Mike and I consider ourselves fairly hearty individuals. Born and raised in the Chicagoland area, we can ride the temperature roller coaster weather with ease. Our initial plan upon moving into the house was only to turn the A/C on when the temps rose above the low 80s…well that turned out to be pretty much the whole summer. The awesome part of this hot summer was staying inside to watch the Olympics (I’m a huge Olympic nut). Since Mike and I don’t have live TV, I spent pretty much two solid weeks at my parent’s house, hanging out with my dad, watching the games. Mike popped over on occasion, though by week two his Olympic spirit was waining.

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Mike in the finishing stretch of the Tough Mudder, running through a muddy field of hay bales with live electrical wires hanging down. He assures me that this is fun….

During those months of extreme heat, Mike and some of his friends had been training for the Tough Mudder in September. Thankfully the weather wasn’t oppressive anymore, in fact, it was even a little chilly the day of the event. I tagged along on the trip (it was in Wisconsin) to take photos. Everyone had a great time and the team had a solid performance. Mike has since been making plans for his 2013 obstacle races – he’s hoping to include another one or two Tough Mudders and it sounds like he might be recruited to join some fellow theater folk in doing a Spartan Dash.

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The highlight hands down of October was our honeymoon to South Dakota. We cannot speak highly enough of that trip. It was an 8 day road trip that included about 25 miles of hiking, 2600+ miles of driving, visiting the Badlands, Custer State Park, Palisades State Park, Mount Rushmore, Crazyhorse, the Effigy Mounds and many local hole-in-the-wall restaurants along the way. We’re hoping to plan more road trips in our future in hopes of seeing more of the United States.

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I didn’t see Mike most of the month of November. He was brought on to the A1 spot for the musical Annie at the Paramount and put in long hours getting ready for that show. The production was fantastic – even the press agreed, rating it better than the production currently on Broadway (in NY I believe). I went to see opening night a few hours after returning home from a Thanksgiving-week trip to Florida with my sister for one of my best friend’s weddings. Tory and I had a blast celebrating at Disney and then getting to spend Thanksgiving with our extended family from Florida. I did miss Mike on Thanksgiving though, it was his one day off from tech rehearsals and it would have been nice to celebrate our first married Thanksgiving together.

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My ‘free time’ in pretty much all of November and December became about running to catch up with my exploding Etsy store. I knew there would be a little holiday bump, I wasn’t expecting (and was very pleasantly surprised with) the incredible amount of orders that came through (189 to be exact!). In addition to all of the sales, my Etsy also found its way onto some blogs, which drove even more traffic to my shop. After a brief reprieve in sales volume in the days surrounding Christmas, the shop is back to selling the same volume it had been during the holiday bump (I guess that doesn’t make it a bump anymore?). Thankfully, I’ve come up with new solutions to help keep the orders moving through my shop smoothly and with less headaches. The one downside to all of the Etsy work though was that I feel like I missed getting involved in Christmas. It didn’t help that I actually got sick a few days prior to Christmas – which ended up landing me at home in bed in a little number I like to call, Quarantined for Christmas. Thankfully, and inexplicably, Mike never caught either of my bugs (strep AND a viral post nasal drip). Mark that holiday number 3 of 2012 that we didn’t get to spend together (we did spend some time together Christmas day, but I definitely missed Christmas Eve) and then count New Years Eve as holiday number 4.

Looking ahead to 2013, I have a few thoughts (I’m not calling them resolutions):

I’ve been noticing that my weekends have become extensions of my work-week. They pretty much consist of long days in front of the computer freelancing (it’s the start of wedding season for vendors…). This means I really haven’t had time to do some of the things that I find important and enjoyable: correspondence, crafting, seeing people… so I’ve decided to [try] committing one weekend a month to only two hours of Etsy work and no wedding stationery work. Let’s see how long that lasts.

I really hope that Mike and I can celebrate more of the holidays together this year. I know he’ll be working on Valentine’s Day and we already have plans to celebrate our anniversary together (thankfully he has off work that evening so we can go out to dinner).

There are definitely some home-related projects that I’d like to find time to tackle. Year two of the yard, staining some furniture and organizing the basement to name a few things.

And lastly, I’d like to get myself back into regular blog writing – but I say that often, so we’ll see how that goes 😉

Thanks for reading in 2012 and hopefully I’ll have plenty of interesting stories to regale my readers with in 2013!

T-minus 7 Days

Yesterday, I happened to glance down at the Days til Christmas Countdown on my phone and saw the number 7. I did a double take, not believing my eyes, and then mentally did the math in my head.

This has to be the most behind I’ve ever been in Christmas preparations. Thankfully, with the holiday rush subsided on my Etsy (I cut off pre-holiday shipping on the 10th of December) I finally am regaining the headspace to get personal stuff done again.

Last night when I got home from work I decided that the non-bill mail pile had gotten too large and it was time to sift through it. What I found was about 3 months worth of magazines yet to be read. I adore magazines, and during the simpler times in my life I would lay in bed for hours on any given weekend morning reading them. Lately, between working and my love affair with my kindle, my magazines have gone unread. Before retiring to bed last night, I checked my calendar to confirm my lack of plans and decided that there will be several hours of me time this weekend, located in bed with reading materials of the paper persuasion.

The rest of the weekend will probably be spent braving the malls, shopping for the remaining folks on our Christmas list. Perhaps the overheated stores blaring Christmas music and filled with stressed shoppers will help me get into the holiday mindset spirit.

Christmas In the Dining Room

The dining room as got to be my favorite room in our house. Not only am I still head-over-heels for the color that we selected for the walls, but it’s the room where most of the entertaining that we do starts and it’s the room where Mike and I spend our entire Saturday mornings – which during the run of a show is the only time of the week where we have quality just the two of us time.

This past Saturday, we did most of our Christmas decorating. Some of our favorite decorations have found their holiday homes in the dining room:

The MangerThis is our olive wood Creche. This year it’s living on the dresser that we use to hold our table linens and Champagne flutes in the dining room.

I bought this Creche at a large museum’s annual garage sale – where gift shop items that are either defected or overstocked are sold at rock bottom prices. Point-in-case, I found this Creche – regularly priced $220 for $5.

There are three wise men that are not seen in this photo. That’s because Mike puts them further away from the manger until Christmas – and then they’re slowly allowed to advance closer to come visit the Baby Jesus. Speaking of the Baby Jesus, he’s also not in this photo. He won’t make his debut appearance until Christmas Eve. Each year we make sure to remind ourselves out loud where we’re stashing the baby until Christmas Eve lest we forget and end up losing him! This year he’s hanging out in a small crystal bowl that my Aunt gave us (note to self, if we forget where Baby Jesus has been stored – I can reference this blog entry).

Nut CrackerSpeaking of the wise men, here they are hanging out next to Mike’s Tin Man Nutcracker. While we were finding a home for him (also on the dresser in the dining room) Mike explained his significance.

When he was a kid, there were some Wizard of Oz holiday decorations at his house. Each of his siblings took ‘ownership’ of a character – his was the Tin Man. Several holidays later, when his sister moved out, his mom gave her all of the Wizard of Oz decorations, since they were technically hers. Mike was bummed because he’d always thought that the Tin Man was his.

To make it up to him, his mom bought Mike a new Tin Man Christmas decoration that he could take with him when he moved out of their house. Ergo, the Tin Man Nutcracker pictured here.

Reindeer CollectionWhen I was a young teenager of mall shopping age, I took a liking to shopping in the home stores. Two of my favorites were (and still are) Crate & Barrel and Pottery Barn. I loved walking through those stores when all of their holiday merchandise came onto display. My all-time favorite holiday line was Pottery Barn’s Reindeer line of dishes and serve-ware. I bought a set of 8 glass coasters from that holiday line sometime during my teenage years (currently part of our living room decorations).

Upon getting engaged, I started collecting the rest of that holiday line. For Christmas last year, my in-laws bought me the tiered cookie plates (as seen here) and the appetizer plates. When a PB gift card came our way from one of my best friends, Louis, we used it to purchase the Reindeer mugs.

Underneath the tiered plate is our new holiday table runner. Something I never thought that Mike and I would get into was table linens. Conversely, we’ve both been known to change up what’s on the dining room table based on the time of year – rarely is our table without linens on it. Since our current table is on the smaller side, we like to buy larger table cloths and fold them in half – so if we ever decide to upgrade our table, we won’t need to get rid of all of the table cloths and runners that we love.

I’m envisioning many warms mugs of hot chocolate being consumed while enjoying our festive dining room 🙂

Christmas is probably next week at this point

Earlier this week I realized that I needed all of my pre-Christmas Etsy orders to come in before December 10th in order to get them delivered before the holiday (for International orders I need them by December 1st!) At that point December 10th was a mere 13 days away. Then I looked at my gift-buying list and only saw a few people completed, and by a few, I mean one actually finished. After that I looked around at the semi-unpacked Christmas decorations filling the living room and the ready-to-be packed Fall & Thanksgiving decorations covering the dining room table. I felt so behind and December hadn’t even started yet. I know that I’m going to blink and it’s going to be Christmas week.

When did December go from being a long month filled with anticipation, to a month that feels akin to walking up the down side of an escalator? Saturday trips to the mall have been replaced with checking Amazon between design projects. Christmas crafts have become pins on my holiday Pinterest board – never really coming to fruition. The smell of holiday baking is coming from a candle rather than the oven. How do two busy adults who are always working, and only see each other twice a week, find the time to get into the Christmas spirit? Normally this would be where I launch into another paragraph describing how we plan to be festive. But I don’t have the answer to that right now – and may not have an answer for that at all this holiday season.

Halloween, Christmas’ next casualty

I took this photo on Monday, October 29th. And really, it was only a matter of time before Macy’s exterior decorations went up since their interiors were already ready for the holidays a few weeks prior. I understand that Halloween might not be the most exciting holiday for adults, especially those without kids who have left their years of donning questionable costumes and bar hopping behind them – but that’s no reason to completely blow off Halloween and Thanksgiving to promote Christmas in-store.

And it’s not just Macy’s. Most of the major home-stores have already brought out their holiday lines. Nothing gets me in the Halloween spirit like a dose of Christmas cheer. Don’t the retailers know that perhaps if they withheld the Christmas decorations from us until after Thanksgiving, and flooded us with Halloween and Thanksgiving decorations – telling us subtly that we had to have them, they might make even more money on us, as we’d be purchasing for three holidays instead of blowing off two holidays and still not shopping for Christmas until late November. On that note, who are these people who are shopping for Christmas decorations in October? Do they hate Thanksgiving and fun? There must be a sizable amount of them if it’s worth busting out the red and green while people are still in the mindset of orange and black.

The internet is a different story, it’s like a vast superstore where you can find anything at any time of year. That’s how I’m going to justify the release of my holiday card line on Etsy prior to Halloween 😉

If you enjoyed this yuletide rant, just wait for my thoughts and feelings on the extended hours of Black Friday…