Meet My Herd

Each of the women in my family has a decorating theme at Christmas. For my sister it’s snowmen and for my mom it’s Santas. For me its reindeer, which is totally fitting for life in Alaska! But I don’t just welcome any ol’ reindeer into the herd. I have to feel a connection with them. And once they are in the herd they have to have a name. Let me introduce you to a few of my favorites.

HollyHolly has my shotgun rider during the Christmas season for several years now. Even when traffic is insane and I’ve had a bad day I’ve got a little bit of festive cheer looking back at me from the dash.

RudyWhile Holly keeps me festive inside my ride, Rudy is my Christmas spirit ambassador on the outside, high atop my antenna!

FinkFink is a fun little guy that my mom found for me. There is a button under his pedestal that when pushed makes him collapse over, but he pops right back to attention when it’s released! 

Fink2

Noel

Fancy swirls make Noel so pretty and feminine. But she’s tough too and can still pull a sleigh.

MaxMax is a hand me down addition to the bunch who I adore and welcome back each year.

MIloI locked eyes with Milo’s sweet face at a craft bazaar and never thought twice about bringing him home with me. I just love his little floppy ears, twig antlers and big goofy nose. I smile every time I see him. :)

MoeMoe’s knotty knees and gangly feet were just too sweet to pass by. I’m sure he was crafted just for me and I plan to keep him forever.

GusAlthough he can be a real couch potato but I still adore Gus’s casual laid back vibe.

RustyRusty was too big to make the journey from Virginia to Alaska when I first moved and I dearly missed him every Christmas. Luckily, he made the trek to our new home when we brought my ’55 up north.

WoodyMy favorite, Woody also had to be left behind in Virginia until our recent haul brought him to the last frontier, where I hope he will soon be joined by a Mrs. Woody and maybe even a little one or two!

FlintRedFlint and Red are two of the newest members of the herd, having just been found last year. They found a safe haven from the dogs on the mantel and I love how they look there.

SebastianElegant and poised, Sebastian whistled at my mom in the store so she knew he was a keeper. I’m not joking. He was the only one on the shelf but she wasn’t sure he would ‘speak to me’ as much as he did to her, so she put him back on the shelf and walked over to the next aisle to “think about it”. Then she heard someone whistle from the aisle she’d just been on. When she looked around the corner there was no one there, except Sebastian. She took that as fate and bought him for me.

Of course this isn’t everyone in the herd, that would just take too darn long – There are at least 10 who live on the tree alone! There are few newbies this year who are on interview. If they don’t fit well with the herd I’ll find them another home to be festive in next year. So now that you’ve heard about my wacky Christmas decorating, I want to hear what your traditional décor includes!

The Most Wonderful Time of Year?

Christmas is my favorite holiday and I always look forward to the fun traditions it brings. Unfortunately, the past week or so I feel like I’ve been hurtling through December, with an impending face plant into the brick wall of reality that Christmas is just ONE WEEK away. It’s been non-stop at work with 5 separate holiday parties to plan, I crafted for two holiday bazaar booths this month and of course this is the one of the busiest times of year to be a photographer! Even though I was moving at light speed and constantly crossing things off my to-do list, everywhere I looked I saw signs that I was failing:

  • That laundry basket of sheets on my counter which needs to be folded and stored in the vacuum seal bags I got for items on the top shelf of our master closet. FAIL.
  • The large box filled with smaller empty boxes left over from shipping Christmas presents out, still sitting next to the bar wall. FAIL
  • The dust bunnies that swirl in my wake as I hustled down the hallway to and from our bedroom. FAIL
  • The kitty litter I feel beneath my feet on the laundry room floor as I put on my boots each morning. FAIL
  • The pile of supplies sitting on counter for Christmas craft projects that will likely not happen before Christmas. FAIL
  • The box of holiday décor items by the front door that was left out to because I had grand plans to do some more decorating on the porch, but haven’t. FAIL
  • The photos I took for the blog that I haven’t had time to edit for posts. FAIL
  • The outfits for family pictures which I haven’t taken for our Christmas cards that also haven’t been designed yet. FAIL
  • The pile of ‘stuff’ to go through on the side table by my chair which has been there for over 6 months. FAIL
  • The set of classic Christmas movies I haven’t had time to watch yet this year even though it’s one of my favorite traditions. FAIL
  • The spare room full of stuff that is waiting for other projects to be done so they can be stored or displayed. FAIL
  • The coupon for the photo book I was supposed to order weeks ago for my grandmother’s Christmas present. FAIL
  • The funky looking stem of our Christmas tree that I had planned to hide with a tub or crate this year but didn’t. FAIL
  • The empty spots in our pantry because I haven’t gone grocery shopping. FAIL

The list goes on and on. Each item added another layer of guilt, coupled with a major lack of sleep, which made me feel overwhelmed and downright Grinchy. I was in need of some serious grace. That’s when God led me to this post and this post (two of my favorite blogs) to remind me we all have our flaws and self-criticisms, it’s part of being human. And then to reassure me that he made me strong and capable of handling any struggle he drew my attention to two presentations on Lifetime (The Red Tent and Women of the Bible) that highlight the important, yet often overlooked role women play in his plans.

It all gave me a revised perspective and made me notice the blessings I’d overlooked recently.

  • The hubs planned meals for the next week and went grocery shopping for all the ingredients.
  • Despite this being the first Christmas with us or ever for three of our fur children there has been no damage to our tree or ornaments.
  • Although there isn’t a ‘family’ picture for the Christmas card yet I was able to capture a great group shot of the dogs that I absolutely adore.
  • I found personal and thoughtful gifts for most on my list and all have been shipped in time to be opened on Christmas morning, plus I’ve come up with a plan to still get my grandmother her photo book in time.
  • We’ve accomplished a lot of projects around the house since we moved in this time last year and have plans to complete the next few soon.
  • The hubs recently got a job offer for a new position which comes with a substantial raise that will help us pay down our debts.
  • I received an exceptional compliment on my work ethic and success from the President of the company I work for, which was followed up with multiple comments in agreement from several senior managers.
  • And most importantly, we are all in good health and in need of no life basics.

It’s not a complete 180, but my mood has shifted. I’m taking time to enjoy a little bit of Christmas each day starting with watching A Charlie Brown Christmas last night surround by my fur babies as I sat in my chair by the fire. It was just another message from above. Watching Charlie Brown’s desire to celebrate the season with a heart of joy was like looking in the mirror and when Linus remind everyone what the real reason for the season was it drove the nail home. And I’m so glad it did.

Crafty Christmas Creations

clips

I began making ribbon characters a few years ago after finding tutorials on Pinterest for several holidays. My Christmas collection includes a Christmas tree, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Clarice (Rudolph’s girlfriend), a snowman, a snowlady and a penguin. I’ve also tested angel and Santa designs similar to the snowman and lady, but haven’t perfected them yet.

At first I just made them as hair clips for my nieces, but I soon realized that if I sent clips to the girls I’d have to send something equally cute for my nephews so they didn’t feel left out. The solution was simple – put the same characters on broach pins. Not only did the boys enjoy them, adults who wanted to show off their festive side in a professional way couldn’t get enough of them!

This year I started making them as ornaments as well, since not everyone wants to wear a hair clip or broach pin. They haven’t been as popular as the clips and pins, but it’s nice to offer the option since I let customers mix and match for a price break from $3 each to two for $5.

Want to order one for yourself or someone on your list? Check out my Etsy shop where they are listed!

Getting in Tune with the Holidays

December 1 marks the beginning of the Christmas season for me and there’s nothing that brings me into the holiday spirit quicker than Christmas music. That used to mean digging into my Christmas storage tubs for my holiday CDs, but thanks to the wonders of modern technology I now have a “Christmas” playlist in iTunes and all I have to do is click play wherever I am – my desktop computer at home, the iPod in the vehicle or the iHome at my office.

Like my other playlists, this one is pretty eclectic ranging from country to classic. Although the music included comes from multiple sources, two albums make up the majority of the list so I thought I’d share them with you. The first is “Heavenly Christmas” by Jackie Evancho. If you haven’t heard this gal’s AMAZING voice you’re missing out big time. Every time I hear her sing I get goose bumps. Literally. I’m so glad my mother-in-law was watching a special about her while I was visiting a few years ago because otherwise I probably still wouldn’t know about her amazing talent.

The other is LifeScapes Christmas Stress Relief, a 2-CD collection of 24 instrumental classic Christmas tunes. It’s the perfect background music when I’m working but still want a festive feel. I stumbled upon this album at Target several years ago while playing with the music sample kiosk.

I also have a few favorite singles on my list such including:

So now that you know what’s on my playlist, I want to hear what’s on yours! I’m always on the hunt for new favorites to add, so share your suggestions below.

Super Simple DIY Santa Ornaments

SantaOrn

These cute ornaments are another Pinterest success project. From the moment spotted the idea I knew it would be a great addition to my inventory at the upcoming holiday bazaars. The materials were simple – a red ball ornament, a soda can tab and black electrical tape. I had two of the three materials laying around and found an 8 pack of the red ornaments on sale at Michaels for around $5.

It took a little bit of finagling to get the tape to fit through the tab holes smoothly, but once I did a few it was pretty easy. I found it easiest to get the buckle/tab started with a bit of tape on either side and then pull the tape around the ornament, keeping it taunt so that it would go down flat. Once I made it around to the other side I just lined it up with the starter tape and cut it just past where they joined.

Priced at $5 each, they were definitely one of the most noticed pieces at my booth last weekend, but I only sold one. I still think that’s a fair price when you factor in my time and additional cost for the electrical tape, but I might reduce it to $4 each for my booth this weekend. If they don’t sell then they will end up on my own tree and two will go to my nephews who I give ornaments every year. It’s a tradition in my family for the kids to receive an ornament each year so they have a collection of their own when they move out one day. And Alaskan themed or hand-made ornaments are usually favorites! ;)

The Cutest Pumpkins EVER!

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Remember, last week when I said I had a little décor project to wrap up on the porch? Well, it’s finally done and I’m ready to share it with you! Wa-La! The cutest pumpkins EVER! At least to me anyway. :)

Painted

Besides being adorable, they were super easy to make. First, I spray painted some scrap pieces of 4×4 left over from our fence project. A couple coats of orange and they were looking like very square pumpkins. Now they just needed stems, so I went stick hunting in our woods, much to the dogs delight.

Sticks

I let my pile of sticks “dry out” on the porch for a few days, ok, weeks – which caused several of them to fall victim to puppy playtime. But I digress. Once I deemed them “dry” I chose a few with interesting texture and curves and marked off sections for the hubs to cut. Yes I could have done it myself, but have a bad history with sharp objects so he came to my rescue.

Stems

Once I had all my stems ready to go I tested them out on the different bases and decided the combinations I liked best. A little hot glue and presto, stems!

During

Cute as they were at this point I felt like they needed a little softening, so I dug out some orange raffia I found at a yard sale long, long ago and tied some around the base of each stem. BAM. Delightful, rustic, recycled wooden pumpkins! On. my. porch!

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They are the perfect finishing touch to my other fall decor on the front porch!  Apparently Mother Nature didn’t agree because she added some little touches as well… LOL.

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Lightbulb!!!!

Pot
Now that the weather has turned chilly I’m in the mood for crockpot cooking, but many of the recipes I find to try only require 6-8 hours  which is much less than we are away from the house thanks to daily commuting. I considered getting a new crockpot with a built in timer, but the one we have works great and we really like it. So I figured out a work around – a timer plug!  We have a couple of these for our holiday decorations so I dug one out and and tested it the last time we made something in the crockpot.
Plug
It took a few minutes to make sure I had everything set just right and I left for work afraid I’d come home to find it never clicked on, but it was a needless worry because it worked perfectly!  I felt pretty clever for figuring out a solution that would be beneficial all winter, but it wasn’t until I was telling a co-worker about it and she declared it genius that I realized just how smart it was.
Although her commute is significantly less than mine, she is away from home longer than the recipes she was using called for, so she would often request her husband run home during lunch to start the crockpot. Now she has a simple, no cost solution that won’t require coordinating a run home to start dinner mid-day. So I’m sharing the idea here in case it helps others as well.
As for what’s in that pot?  Our current favorite is a six ingredient turkey recipe that only requires five minutes of prep, just in time for Thanksgiving!
Even though I have a Pinterest board full of them, I’m still in the hunt for more crockpot recipes so if you have a favorite please share it below.