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A Merry Little Christmas

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas by Sister Hazel on Grooveshark

Our tiny little holiday with just the two of us. In pictures….

*Please pardon my learning curve as I get acquainted with my brand new, very amazing, very much loved and adored, very own 50mm 1.4 lens!*

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…. so much light…..

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We sure missed our family and definitely had a few moments where we wished we were in Michigan with everyone else. But we had, without a doubt, a merry little Christmas.

A Christmas Decorating Extravaganza {Pt. 2}

Meet Willie.

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Our super awesome pine cone friend from Carlee over at Life Smith. Willie fit in right away on our tree. What is it about receiving an ornament that stirs up the most basic of Christmas cheer? It doesn’t matter how sparkly, how festive, how stupid or beautiful the ornament is. I mean, even Charlie Brown understood the importance of an ornament. One single red ball. Cheers everyone right up.

Something tells me this will be a holiday none of us forget. And with all of the love and happiness and cheer, there will be a heaviness and anger that trail with it through the rest of our years. I don’t have an answer for fixing that.

But take a look at the ornaments on your tree. Or on the tree at Starbucks or the gym. And let them help you smile. Simple, raw smiles. Nostalgic smiles and excited smiles and remember all of those simple gifts.

And decorate, people. Brighten this world with lights. Find smiles behind ornaments. Hug your friends and family with garlands and ribbons and strings of cranberries and popcorn and paper chains and just, well, hug them. Even that little tree, that little wooden one, all it needed was a child’s blanket and that bright red ball. And all was right in the world. Charlie Brown got it. Just decorate.

Simple Gifts by Yo-Yo Ma on Grooveshark

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… and bake for your work’s cookie swap. Just try not to eat them all in one night.

In case you didn’t see A Christmas Decorating Extravaganze {Pt 1}

In case you didn’t see the beginnings of our Christmas tree.

Happy Christmas week. 

A Christmas Decorating Extravaganza {Pt. 1}

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River by Joni Mitchell on Grooveshark

There were lots of tears last week. Fighting tears and happy tears and disappointed tears and confused tears and stressed tears. I don’t know what to do tears. Overworked tears. Anxious tears. Plain, sad tears. That was all before Friday. And Friday was a heavy day to be teachers. Even tougher to be a kindergarten teacher. So we weren’t quite sure when the tears would end, really.

It was a week of big kid problems. Of realities and truths greater than ourselves. Late, restless nights and mornings where the rooster seems to have forgotten to let you sleep. But these are the sort of things that get in the way of Christmas. They aren’t that special, you see.

It’s a good exercise in perspective. Through what frame are we looking at the world? At ourselves? At our problems and our fears? Maybe, this Christmas, we’ll step back and look at the holiday from the tiniest little viewpoint. Nothing big. No expectations. Just a tiny little house and a tiny little family celebrating the birth of a tiny little guy who did good things and taught real things like unconditional love and how to help. And I think our world could use a little bit more of that little kid’s message these days.

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(and so you know where to find the cookies when you stop by…..)

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Have you seen The 2012 Byland Family Christmas Spectacular yet? Well, now it has presents under the branches but, well, it’s still worth a peek. 

More still to come. Decorating lightens our hearts. Happy Christmas.

Where Are You, Christmas?

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My car alarm went off this morning. It wouldn’t stop ringing even when my husband went down to stop it. I’m not sure what triggered it, if anything, but it didn’t surprise me. In fact, that random alarm seemed like the only fitting way to begin closure to this wild week. Christmas spirit seems further away right now than perhaps ever before in our house. And despite a mid-week date to see Trans-Siberian Orchestra perform in D.C., things just don’t feel right around here lately.

We watched Jack Frost last night. I fell asleep with Misha about halfway through. Christmas movies aren’t keeping me up until the wee hours of the night like they used to. Maybe I need to bust out the big guns and tune into some It’s a Wonderful Life a bit earlier than usual. But that’s the thing, isn’t it? Christmas spirit evolves right along with the candles on your birthday cake. And as quick as the magic of your childhood disappears  the realities of December steamroll in. The holidays are fleeting. The local radio station plays the same 50 Christmas carols in a continuous loop. And the James Taylor CD was overplayed so much last year that it won’t even play anymore. Christmas lights die and it is rather difficult to find cheer when you are going light by light through strand after strand to find that one, single light that is causing all of the chaos.

So this is why we congregate in large numbers around the holidays. To find the Christmas spirit. If at least for a few hours, last Saturday we watched the Annapolis Parade of Lights from the Severn Sailing Club with some friends. Food, wine, Christmas lights, music, and the masses. We had one of those chilly-but-nothing-worth-complaining-about sort of nights where you are just fine outside for hours as long as you’ve bundled up.

So if you can’t find Christmas hidden somewhere else, well, I am sure you will find a twinkle of spirit in here.

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(I do not support this next boat…)

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I think I found Christmas…..

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A Holiday Gift Guide: For Me

Dear Santa……

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1. Merde il Pleut Umbrella~ Raindrops (if you have to ask what it means, then you shouldn’t be buying it) 2. Fair Isle Ski Sweater~ J. Crew (it will go great with all of my Minnies) 3. Original Packable Tour~ Hunter (it folds up to pack in your luggage!!! omg!!!!) 4. Canon EF 50mm f/1.4~ Amazon (um. there is a reason this is front and center on my wish list. please and thank you) 5. Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin~ Barnes & Noble (I’ve enjoyed The Happiness Project so much that I’m ready to delve into her other book) 6. Adopt a Three-Toed Sloth~ World Wildlife Fund (this little guy is only the beginning of my adoption kit…. & I’ll be sure to go visit my little sloth in Costa Rica asap like a good mom) 7. Les Petits Macarons: Colorful French Confections to Make at Home~ Anthropologie (if you really knew me, you’d know that I hate cupcakes and love myself some macarons!) 8. German Goggles~ Restoration Hardware (totally trying to channel the Red Baron here… I’m obsessed with these things)

In all seriousness, I’d love any of these gifts. Especially that baby sloth. Oh, and the lens. Thank you for indulging me in a day’s post of pure selfishness. Now, please, do tell, what should Santa bring you this year?

Christmastime in Annapolis {2}

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If there is one thing I can say about my hometown, it’s that Christmas looks good on Annapolis. Oh, she looks mighty fine on our streets and docks. So I last left you up at the top of Main Street, right? Quite a tease, really.

Here you have it. The rest of our chase-the-sunset-and-follow-the-storefront-decorators jaunt through town a few weekends ago. Best to be had with a piping mug of cocoa (extra marshmallows) and your favorite seasonal tune of choice cranked up to the loudest volume. 

From my home to yours, Happy Holidays!

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(Hehe. We are just getting started, my friends. We just had our Parade of Lights, where the boats circle around the harbor for two hours decked out in their Christmas decorations. You just wait. This is the stuff that Christmas spirit is made of….)

Did you miss Christmastime in Annapolis {1}?

The 2012 Byland Family Christmas Spectacular

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Three years ago we bought our first Christmas tree. It was our second Christmas in the house but we’d spent our first holiday mid-move in the depths of snow-mageddon. Buying a tree is sort of out of the question when you are knee deep in hardwood floor installations and furniture deliveries. So there we were. Buying our first tree.

At Lowes.

Please don’t judge me for owning a fake tree. Ahem. Artificial. It sounds better. Believe me, I’ve judged myself enough for an entire lifetime. But it’s better for the environment. And it came pre-lit. And it just paid for itself this third go-round. I mean, a decent 8 foot Fraser Fur isn’t exactly cheep. Plus, Misha has asthma and is highly allergic to pine. So a plastic Christmas will be had.

We love our giant mass of pre-lit plastic. When she’s set up and glowing in the corner of the living room, everything seems right with the world. Even if just for one month.

So here she is, three years old. There’s a chunk of branches that we hid in the back that just don’t seem to want to light up. And she’s sagging a bit unlike she’s ever done before. But she’s still our tree. And we love her so.

Ok, Alex. Time to get off your new iphone and decorate that tree! (It’s called Falldown, and it’s a silly little game where you let a metal ball drop down a wooden maze, and he’s obsessed).

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(ps not too shabby for amateur hour, manual mode, no flash, Christmas tree photography, huh? This girl’s starting to get the hang of it… s-t-a-r-t-i-n-g….)

It Happened… & We Survived

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Success. Great success.

We hosted Thanksgiving. And we survived.

Let’s go through the highlights on this Monday morning. Just because sometimes that is more fun.

* Having my sous chef (aka baby sister aka Sara) peel and slice practically everything and only cut her finger once.

* Nearly forgetting to make cranberry sauce, and then realizing that I was eyeballing ev-er-y-thing. I blame it on being sick.

*Oh yeah! Hosting my first Thanksgiving while getting over this flu/ cold/ sinus infection awfulness. So exciting!

* Forgetting the rosemary for the turkey and sticking it in his little butt.

* The green beans. The healthy green bean casserole recipe. Nixing the healthy green bean casserole recipe because it was way too complicated.

* Ice. Falling. All over the kitchen. No way to give those green beans an ice bath anyway.

* Alex’s contribution: Pigs in a Blanket.

* Turkey perfection & turkey carving perfection thanks to my dad.

* My brother’s legal apple cider moonshine concoction. Delish.

* Lions lost. Redskins won.

* My cousin’s cheese ball. Hand carved. Delish again.

* Leftovers…..

* Tryptophan comas.

I hope your Thanksgiving was just a fabulous as ours.

And now, for some pictures.

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So there was food…..

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& a large dose of Griffin’s….

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Pies, too….

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& then there was rest…..

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So let Christmastime commence, Charlie Brown.

To Be Thankful

Should be easy, huh? And while I can always come up with the standard list (family, friends, food, clothing), it’s tricky these days to focus your perspective in the right frame.

Today Alex finished a ton of rather monstrous house projects that had fallen into the “well, if nothing else, we’ll finish them before we put the house on the market again” category. It was stressful. Unlike my family, where we did everything from change our own oil at home to build rooms from scratch by ourselves, he’s learned pretty much everything on his own in the past three years we’ve owned our house. And he’s not a natural handyman. Oops. As in, he hates it.

So, in typical Tina fashion, I’m sick. Surprised? I’m not. Let me paint the picture here. Alex is cursing the homeowner gods over caulking and nailing into studs and everything in between, I’m trying to clean for tomorrow’s party and I just crash. I mean, I pass out. On the bed, thank goodness. But, there I am. And there he is.

It was a rough day.

And on the eve of Thanksgiving, all we could think about is how we don’t have enough time, we don’t have enough money, we don’t have the right jobs, we don’t have the right house to raise a family, we don’t have, we don’t have, we don’t have. What do we have? House projects and illness. Been there, done that?

On the other side of all of that bickering, all of those awful thoughts, all of those emotional comments, Misha and Baci curl up on the couch in the cup of my lap and rest their heads on one another. And for just a moment, we could think clearly.

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Here’s what I’ve got for you. To help you be thankful:

While there will always be someone smarter, prettier, richer, luckier than you….

at the same time….

there will always be someone worse off than you…..

So instead of a list, I’m just telling you this:

I’m thankful for my life. I’m thankful that the largest stresses in my life are over extremely lucky career choices & who we will celebrate the holidays with & which cities will be best for us to raise a family & the whens and hows of carrying my future babies & how to save for their college & whether to bake a pecan pie or a cherry cobbler for Thanksgiving. I am thankful for my little family.

From all of us to all of you, have a blessed Thanksgiving.

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Granny

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(Throwback, much? This is from 2007 at my uncle’s ordination anniversary party. It was the first summer Alex and I dated. And the summer I took him to Michigan to meet the family. We’re young, huh? And there’s Granny and Uncle Jack. Looking awesome, as usual.)

Thanksgiving reminds me of my Granny. She’s not with us anymore here on earth. But growing up we’d always cart ourselves the 2 hours south to Richmond, Virginia for one of the holidays (sometimes it wasn’t necessarily Thanksgiving; maybe it was Easter or Christmas). And she’d be there at the door to give us a huge hug. And feed us. And, oh, offer us a fresca.

Fresca reminds me of Granny, too. She loved her fresca. And her wine. I suppose maybe we just have a lot in common.

So back to Granny. She isn’t my real, real grandma. She’s my real, real grandma’s sister in law. Which makes her, like, my aunt of some sort. We don’t pay attention to those things in my family. I have aunts and uncles who are probably cousins half removed and taken back a 2nd or 3rd time. It’s all just silly. We’re family. And she’s my Granny.

This is why Thanksgiving reminds me of Granny: Granny loved to throw a party. Oh, boy did she love to entertain. And seeing as this is my first holiday entertaining myself, I’m trying to remember all that she did to make each and every holiday feel special. And here’s what my terribly faint memory can recall:

* Granny always had gifts for us. She loved to shop. Oh, yeah, that’s right… maybe we just have a lot in common. ;)

* Granny always had food for us to munch on before the big meal. Forget spoiling our appetites. Holidays are made for good company and gluttony.

* Granny made sure your glass was always full. For me, this was always fresca.

* Granny decorated every inch of the house. Well, that’s a bit of a stretch. But the woman could decorate with such class and beauty. I mean, look at this wreath:

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(sidenote #546 for this post: I’m the oldest sibling, I swear. That would be my baby brother and my baby sister. They are just… giants. Mmmmkay?

*A few hours after the big meal, Granny fed us AGAIN. Now, this one may be just my parents feeding us turkey sandwiches, but this is how I remember it.

And here is the biggest reason I remember Granny whenever Thanksgiving comes around:

Many years ago, when we visited for Thanksgiving, the turkey didn’t taste the same. It was maybe a tad bit dry and a tad bit salty. And I remember sitting at the kids table with my cousins (okay, so they are like, 2nd/3rd/removed… I don’t care they are my cousins) and we were all like, “Wow, Granny’s getting old.”

Being a kid is so strange. We have no concept of time. Or age. Or truth. The turkey was probably just fine. But, sure enough, Granny was getting old. We didn’t see her aging year after year when we visited. She was always just our gorgeous Granny. We didn’t notice her slowing down. It took a Thanksgiving dinner before we realized it for ourselves. 

So then we started having holiday dinners at the country club. And they were absolutely fabulous but never the same. Then, we got older and busier. We didn’t make it down as often. Then, sooner than we could see it coming, Granny wasn’t doing too well. Then, even sooner, Granny passed away.

This was a few years ago. Around Easter. I think it’s fitting, seeing as she brought the family back together again. And what did we do? Why, of course we had one big party. We ate and we drank and we did just what Granny would have wanted us to do.

So as we near Thanksgiving and the rush of holidays to follow, I think about Granny. We don’t make it down to Richmond much anymore. We sure mean to. We sure want to.

That’s my honest truth about family and the holidays. The whole “we sure mean to, we sure want to” bit. Gosh, it’s difficult to get together. But, nonetheless, in honor of Granny, I’ll be sure to have a case of fresca for the taking on Thursday afternoon. 

And, hopefully, the food will be even half as tasty as what her and Uncle Jack would prepare.

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