Sunday, November 27, 2011

First week of Advent!

First off, check out this adorable nativity set I picked up for Fidget and Rosebud!  Daria got them the three wise men expansion pack to go with it.  But no shepherds...what up Playmobile?  I would have totally bought this for my kids when they were younger. Heck, maybe I'll still get them one anyway...and I'll probably play with it all through Advent...

Advent is here!  It is nothing short of miraculous that I was actually READY for it this year!  I really don't know how it happened.  But while the world has exploded with red and green and garish cartoon characters dressed as Santa Claus and suggestions for toys we must give our children if we want them to love us, it has been lovely to spend a day in preparation so we can sit back and be still and contemplate and feel PEACE, you know, that elusive thing everyone else talks about but no one ever really experiences.

TV Cabinet: Before

I took the opportunity in my Advent preparations yesterday to spruce up the living room again.  It wasn't all that bad as we had whipped it into shape for Thanksgiving, but some things had gotten over-looked (i.e. DUSTING) and as the Autumn decorations had to be removed to make way for Advent, some areas needed a little re-purposing.
TV Cabinet: After (almost)
There are a few bare spots where I've left room for a few Christmas decorations that will rise from the depths of the basement in about three weeks.  But don't you think some bareness is fitting during Advent?

Dresser: Before

The Viking's heirloom dresser.  He helped his dad refinish it one summer when he was a boy.  It stood in his family's country house for years after.  Last Autumn, it was decided that the house would be sold and The Viking was asked if he wanted it.

Dresser: After
 It's been a welcome addition to the living room both aesthetically and practically (tons of storage space in those drawers)!  Doesn't it look a lot nicer without the eye drops and Legos?

Piano: Before
 The piano looked nearly naked after I'd removed all of the Autumn paraphernalia.  But don't worry, I took good care of that!

Piano: After
My in-laws gave us this nativity set during the early years of our marriage.  When we were living in much smaller spaces it was a challenge finding a place large enough to display it, but I've always loved it so!  It's absolutely beautiful.  I really should have taken a closer photo of it...

A rare 5-candle holder (with crosses!) bought on clearance at Michael's and a pine cone garland I'd forgotten I had

And, finally, the Advent candles.  I have never been able to find a wreath so I had to make do with what I could find.  But one of the things I find so comforting about Advent is that our imperfections and mistakes are precisely the things that Christ came to save us from.  I don't get bent out of shape if my displays or a bit off or unsophisticated.  It's a reminder that I am incapable of saving myself, that I need someone divine to make me perfect!

Now.  What you see here are two different ways to keep your tapers from tipping over.  In the plastic bag are small plastic rings you can put in the ends of the tapers before you jam them into their holders.  I bought them at Bed, Bath and Beyond.  On the right is an idea I got from Auntie Leila: bits of paper toweling.  I bought those at the grocery store.  I consulted my household firefighter and he said the paper towels are actually a safer choice because, in the unlikely event that one of the candles should burn low enough for its stabilizer to catch fire, the paper towel would burn out too quickly to be much of a problem whereas the plastic would melt and be messy and toxic and quite possibly burn long enough to ignite something else.  Thanks for nothing, Bed, Bath and Beyond!

You may have noticed that the candle holder I'm using holds votives, yet I'm using tapers?  This is where the imperfections come in.  I could NOT find pink votives that weren't rose scented anywhere!  And purple votives of any kind were nonexistent.  Daria and I literally spent an entire afternoon and evening trolling every shopping establishment that might carry candles looking for those appropriate for Advent!  We finally found the right colors at the Amish market (which I find curiously amusing) but they only had tapers.  So tapers it was!

I am certain that someone, somewhere makes nifty little candle holders that somehow convert to hold both tapers and votives, but I haven't seen them yet.  So, for the meantime, I bought five glass taper holders and set them underneath the metal holder.  Not perfect, but it certainly will do.

A length of berry vine (also on sale at Michael's) wound around the thing helps to camouflage the weirdness.  I am ALL about camouflaging weirdness, my friends.  Besides, I find real life greens and vines incredibly hard to work with.  I guess I'm just not that kind of girl.

The whole thing goes on my vintage Coca-Cola tray that usually hangs on the dining room wall because it's the perfect size!  And without a tray underneath the mess, there's no way I would be able to move the candles with any ease when necessary.  Also, the forgotten but remembered pine cone garland adds another touch of nature and adds further concealment.

Ta-Da!  Other preparations included printing up some Advent prayers and the (Latin) words to O Come O Come, Emmanuel.  I would like to also start having the family place straws for baby Jesus' bed for each good deed done, but have not yet found the straws.  All in good time, all in good time...

It's Advent!  A most blessed one to all!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Giving Thanks

So, how was your Thanksgiving, American readers?  Do I even HAVE any non-American readers?  I doubt it, but we must cover our bottoms, mustn't we?

After roughly six years of hosting Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners at our house, The Viking and I have gotten the feast down to a near science.  Things went very smoothly and we actually sat down to eat within 15 minutes of our guests' arrival.

Once again, most of these photos are rather grainy or otherwise inferior.  We've discovered that the camera on my phone, while excellent at taking outdoor shots, is rather temperamental in indoor or nighttime situations. So, for what it's worth, here's what we got:

How many grown-ups does it take to make gravy thicken?  Apparently, two; with lots of flour and patience.  The dang stuff just wouldn't cooperate!

Waiting patiently.  Dang gravy.

There's Redheaded Snippet, Mom (mine), Dad (also mine), EGOD* (Dad's) and Calvin.  The Viking and I were praying over the gravy and Daria was snapping shots.  Dharma and Lobelia, my two married sisters, spend Thanksgiving with their in-laws every other year.  This was their year.  When they're not here there are considerably fewer of us and it's easier, but it's not nearly as much fun.

*I feel compelled to explain, on the rare occasion that I mention her, that EGOD stands for Evil Grandmother Of Doom.

We're going to tell future generations that this was when Mom had finally had enough with EGOD, grabbed two bottles and threatened to break them over her head.  I don't think anyone would fault her for it.  I know, that's a TERRIBLE thing to say about an elder and my father's mother and especially on Thanksgiving but YOU JUST DON'T KNOW.  And, of course, the bottle-breaking story is completely untrue.  Mom was just trying in earnest to explain what kind of drink was in each bottle.  EGOD is in her 90's and does not understand things from just one explanation.  The good news is that she is now so forgetful that she has forgotten that she hates all the people she hates.  I am so not kidding.

Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, Brussels sprouts, ginger carrot souffle, homemade cranberry sauce and crescent rolls, oh my!  And *groan*!

You will notice that the vast majority of these shots are of Redheaded Snippet.  This is simply because she is the most willing model and rather a stage monkey.  I think you'll see what I mean...

Calvin was beside himself all day from the smells luring him into the kitchen.  We kept having to shoo him away, poor thing.  I guess Thanksgiving is a torturous day for a perpetually hungry boy.

 I was desperately trying to figure out the best setting for photos around the dinner table and Redheaded Snippet was happy to oblige as a test model.  This girl has been in love with the camera since she could walk!

I really don't know.

I know this is horribly blurry, but I just love that I caught her in a belly laugh.

I don't know who thought it would be wise to seat Daria and Redheaded Snippet next to each other, because this is the kind of thing that always ensues when that happens.  I think I was trying to get a shot of Snippet and Mom when Daria just reached out and touched someone.

Before we knew it, it was time to roll ourselves away from the table and take inventory for leftovers.  Turkey: good, sweet potatoes: good, cranberry sauce and souffle: fair, stuffing and potatoes: CRITICAL!  Brussels sprouts: obliterated (but only about four of us even cared about that--I think Daria and the kids conspired to throw the rest out the back door when no one was looking).

They must have put extra tryptophan in our turkey this year because every one of us was having trouble forming complete sentences and keeping our eyes open after dinner.  We more or less sat around looking at each other.  Not our usual scintillating post-feast behavior.

If you look carefully at the left side of this photo, you can see two members of our party who I'm pretty sure had actually fallen asleep.  Later on, The Viking moved over there and fell asleep with Nutmeg at his feet and we couldn't tell which one of them was snoring!  Also, I find the presence of the exercise bike to be quite ironic...

Redheaded Snippet and Daria apparently did not have enough time sitting next to each other at dinner and had to be close to one another afterwards, too.

They played with this scarf FOREVER.  I'm only posting a few of the photos of them with it.

I'm not complaining, though.  I love that my daughter and sister are so close.  They're almost more like sisters. Which makes sense when you consider that I was 11 when Daria was born and she was then 11 when Redheaded Snippet was born.

Once we had sufficiently recovered, it was time for PIE!  Obviously, we had already tucked in by the time I took these shots.  Usually I remember photos after the food is gone so this is progress for me!  I made the pecan on the left (The Viking's favorite) and Daria made the pumpkin pie on the right, her FIRST PIE EVER (Dharma and Lobelia, I am not even kidding; although I made the crust)!

Mom made the annual compulsory pudding pies.  As in, don't show up if you're not bringing pudding pies.  Someone (okay, me) got really tired after dinner and didn't put the layer of whipped cream on top like she said she would so the oh-so-attractive plastic wrap had to stay on them so a skin wouldn't form.  Ew.  But YUM!  And I DID manage to whip up some cream to dollop on top so I redeemed myself a leetle.

After pie, Calvin was allowed (I think by his father for I knew nothing of it) to have ice cream.  Here he is in his happy place: ice cream bowl on lap with feet up on coffee table on couch in front of tv.

The perfect way to end Thanksgiving: flopped over on the love seat in a food coma in front of the fire!

And it wouldn't be Thanksgiving without some form of turkey leftovers on Friday night.  Redheaded Snippet and I totally Amelia Bedelia'ed a turkey pot pie for dinner tonight.

Yum yummy.  I think I actually like it better than they way it was served last night (I'm not a huge fan of turkey--I know, it's unAmerican)!

In other news, I spent most of The Day After in my pajamas either trying to figure out Pinterest (I am such an idiot) or taking a nap!  I took what was probably the best nap in the history of naps (except for those I used to take while leaning on The Viking in the lounge of my dorm--the only place we could have gentlemen callers--when we were in college).  Redheaded Snippet went crazy shopping with Mom during the wee hours of the morning but I was having none of that!  I did some shopping on Amazon instead, HAHAHA SUCKAS!  And, of course, I let myself listen to Christmas music for the first time.  Hello, Bing Crosby!

Anyway, I am really looking forward to the nice, long, uneventful weekend stretching ahead of me.  No field hockey, no feasts to plan, no cleaning to do (for a few days, anyway), no alarms to set.  Just rest and relaxation!  And then Advent begins on Sunday!  I am really excited about that!

So, all in all, it was a very nice Holiday.  I can't believe it's over.  And now we look ahead...


Monday, November 21, 2011

Right Now

Two years ago, I took and posted this photo:

That's Redheaded Snippet as a freshman, sitting on the bench during the Tournament of Champions final, watching her teammates win the championship; the highest title a high school field hockey team can win in the state of New Jersey. I entitled it, "Biding her time," because, though she was proud and privileged just to be on the state team as a freshman, she was aching for the chance to be out there on the field playing in such a game for such a title.

Today, she got that chance.

After winning their 13th straight state title in their group last Sunday, today Redheaded Snippet's team won the big one, the top tournament in NJ!

They played beautifully, dominating the game to win 5-2.

Whereas two years ago she sat on the bench and last year she played only ten minutes of the final game, today she was a starter.  And scored one of the goals.

She ends this season as one of the top scorers in the state with 31 goals.

For the first time in about 5 years, the team ended their season undefeated.  Which means they get rings!  Oh boy are we excited about that!

And to top it all off, they also end the season ranked #1 in the nation.  That's right, there isn't a girls' high school field hockey team in all the land that's better than these girls.

Each year the team chooses a slogan.  This year's was, "Right Now," a reminder that any triumphs achieved or losses suffered by any other team during any other season in any other year belong to that team, that season, that year.  The pressure to measure up to this program's standard is intense.  Redheaded Snippet, along with each of the other girls on the team, has cherished dreams of rising to that standard.  And today, she got to help set it.  The time has come.  Right now.

Congratulations to my Redheaded Snippet!  I'm so proud of you!  What a season!

(But, boy, am I glad it's over! ;-))

Friday, November 18, 2011

Housekeeping and Housekeeping

We interrupt this week's pre-Thanksgiving labours to take care of some bloggy housekeeping.  I am having some issues with comments and things.  It seems that people are suddenly having to register as "Anonymous" in order to comment.  WHAT IS UP WITH THAT?  It's annoying and must stop.

Trouble is, I don't know how to stop it.  So I fear it will take several hours, nay, DAYS, for me to figure it out.  I would also like to be able to change the commenting format a bit so that I can comment in direct reply to other comments without having to leave an entirely new one, does that make sense?

So, if anyone can clue me in to how these things are best facilitated, I would very grateful.  And for the rest of you, I ask for your patience as I sort these things out.  You know, with all of the real-life housekeeping that I am forcing the kids have to do, I won't have as much time to waste on devote to the blog.

Stay tuned!  And in the meantime, have a HAPPY THANKSGIVING!