Saturday, November 18, 2006


So. Alex and I made the decision to forego gifts to each other this Christmas (for which we had saved), in order to be able to actually decorate the house FOR Christmas, for Bella. It's something we've never really gotten serious about since we got married, because, for one thing, we almost always "did Christmas" at our mothers' homes, and frankly, they are REALLY good at it, both of them. And then Bella was born. Well, that first year...I'll just say it was a ROUGH year. She was born in October, we had a bunch of our own stuff going on, and we didn't even manage to get a tree up in our own house. In the following three years, we did decorate outside, with lights up and down the driveway and all over the house, and a giant star over the barn (cute, right?), and did put up a tree. On at least one of those Christmases, the tree was unadorned except for lights, and last year, we once again did not put one up at all, because of our impending move. But my mother's decorations and tree more than made up for our shortcomings:
Mom's House At Night

Dining Room


But. BUT--this year, darn it, our first Christmas in our first "grownup" house, with a daughter who is now FOUR years old and is darn well starting to build forever memories, we just can't get away with decorating like we did last year, including the single dominating piece of decor in our tiny kitchen/dining nook, the poodle stand-dryer:
I mean, even with the red roses and some greenery, it just didn't scream, "NOEL." Know what I mean? So now that we have room, blessed space, to actually LIVE and EAT and SLEEP and COOK and BATHE, all in different rooms, we are determined to do this up as right as we can.

So, back to the master-plan. That new Sony 10-mp digital camera we were buying for each other as our single shared gift? Buh-bye (but we will meet again, my love). This year, we're spending that camera money on a tree (two, actually, because we got a smaller one for the living room window), and the decorations with which to cover it, and if there's anything left, maybe some lights for outside and around. Our existing ornaments, as pitiful as most of them were, should be sufficient for the window-tree, but we had nothing, especially nothing that wouldn't clash horribly, color-wise, with our hearth-room, which is where the tree HAS TO BE, by Decree of Isabella, because that's where the fireplace is, and we don't want Santa getting lost or disoriented, you know.

My first minor nervous breakdown came when we bought the 7.5', pre-lit tree. It was just a LOT of money, to me. The second was tonight, when we spent slightly MORE than what the tree cost, on ornaments for the tree, specifically chosen, for the first time in my life, to compliment the room in which they'll be. But OH, they are beautiful. SO beautiful. Want a peek? Just a tease? They're unusual, but try to picture them in the proper setting: Our house, nestled in the trees, wildlife all around, in a cozy hearthroom full of deep, rich earthy tones and a crackling fireplace:I'm seriously hoping I can pull it off. That doesn't QUITE eat up our camera money, but it's darn close. I figure we can squeeze a tree-topper out of it, and a few yards of rich, honey/copper/cinnamon fabric of some kind in which to swathe the base of the tree, in lieu of a traditional skirt (we have a beautiful handmade tree skirt that was a gift from my grandmother that will go on the tree in the front room). It needs to be pretty, because there won't be as many gifts with which to cover it this year! Fortunately, we already have a nice Nativity set.

Yes, at our house, Christmas 2006 is going to be pretty much all about Bella. We're trying to keep the gift-related materialism to a minimum, and she's going to have to make some tough decisions about gifts, and which ones she REALLY wants, and we're trying to figure out the best way to involve her in some charitable giving, too. We're finally at the age where we realize that these things ARE "for the children," and that's the way we're approaching this year. We plan to purchase gifts for the children in the family (this is where having a smallish family comes in handy, because we're basically talking five kids), and for our own mothers and grandmother.

For the rest, we're scraping together what we would normally spend on Gifts You Don't Need from Stores You Don't Like Anyway, and sending it to the Arkansas-based Heifer Project. Heck, the way we figure, we're already at the point that even if we stop now, someone in South America's getting a water buffalo! So if you get a card from us explaining that you contributed to the self-sufficiency of some poor third-world family, and eventually their entire community, with a gift of llamas or geese or trees or even a water buffalo...well, just know that it means we think the world of you, and trust that you'd be totally behind us in this effort. Last year we split our giving between the Union Rescue Mission and Heifer Project, but I think this year, it's going to be Heifer all the way, because we have learned that they don't just help people in faraway places, but also perform their outreach within our own state and many others in the U.S. I'm proud to have even any small association with this amazing organization, and if you're looking for a cause, may I please encourage you to thoroughly check out Heifer Project. You're not just "giving a man a fish," or even stopping at "teaching him to fish," but through Heifer gifts, you're helping THAT man (or woman) to teach yet ANOTHER person to fish, and that "giving cycle" goes on and on and on, ever growing, ever helping. Again: Heifer Project.

And after that plea for altruism, is it wrong of me to admit that Alex and I are both pining for (but have resisted purchasing) a pair of these?Yeah. Couple of the big ones, which would be a RIDICULOUS $180-worth of crazy vine-woven reindeer. I mean, honestly. We won't do it. WE WON'T. But aren't they yummy? And perfectly matching my warm terra-cotta-ey hearthroom? le siiiiiiigh. But after seeing how much this store's Halloween stuff is marked down already, my plan is to lie in wait until about January 1st, and see if these babies are astonishingly less expensive at that time. Hey, that's the way my grandmother would play it, and that lady's NO FOOL.

But yes, Isabella, we WILL have a beautiful Christmas tree this year, and those sparkling snowflake decals you like so much all over the giant windows, and as many lights as we can afford festooning the outside of the house. I promise you won't have to visit your grandmothers' homes to see what real decorations look like this year. And no dog drier anywhere to be seen!


  1. That sounds wonderful! I can't wait to see all the Christmas photos!

  2. Oh honey, I wish I wish I wish more than ANYTHING that Bella and you could come on a trip to the most wonderful store in the world, the Christmas Tree Shop. It's a misnomer of sorts, because it's open all year with bargains you just DREAM of, but on Christmas, it's plain ridiculous. They DO NOT SHIP, so if you want something, you have to tell me what it is and we'll ship it to you, but look just LOOK at the prices. It almost makes me want to be unitarian for a month. We LOVE to go and check out what they have. They have this one tiny display of Hanukkah stuff that truely is horrendous, but they have CHEAP wrapping paper, and that alone is worth the ride. Might I just say that much of our home is decorated in Christmas Tree Shop junque. :-)

    Just check out the stuff. It's so FREAKING cheap you could do your whole house and compete head on with your mother for a hundred bucks!

    Oh, and they have like stuff for EVERY holiday so check the URL monthly.

    Love ya!

  3. I agree that dog dryers do not blend into decorations very well. After 2 years in my bigger house, I am so enjoying being able to put the dog grooming stuff in the garage and not in the kitchen where a table normally would go.

    I love to decorate for Christmas and will start as soon as I get home later this week. I try and buy one outside decoration a year and a couple more nice ornaments for my tree. I am slowly getting a nice collection. Although, this year I need to invest in a good tree:o)

    I will check back later to see the pics, they are not loading on my computer this morning.

  4. The pictures are beautiful. Can't believe that I remember your pictures from last Christmas :-)

    And the decorations look beautiful.

  5. I love the idea of the heifer project. Have contributed to similar projects in the past and I'm a huge fan of the Menonnite Mission projects in the third world, where artisans and their families are taught business practices to market their own art and handiwork. Have you ever heard of Ten Thousnad Villages stores?

    That said, my jaw drops at your mother's decorating. How can she be tasteful, appropriate, reverent and celebratory and do it all so perfectly. I'm in awe. I need girl lessons. I never got any. We do have some fantastic tree decorations, though, mostly made by our kids or given to us as gifts over the years. We have a few outdoor lights, some house decorations and always a magnificent live fir with our precious decorations. I have decided that I want a front door wreath this year, though I won't buy it unless we can finish our fall cleanup by Dec. 25th this year! :)

    Yeah yeah, I know. "Go post at your own blog, you loser," right?

  6. Oh, so you aren't decorating the Speedy Dryer this year? Can I borrow it?

    I have the best intentions of having the big tree up early this year with the downstairs decorated "lightly." Thanks to a 50% off sale at Hobby Lobby we have pretty shiny new ornaments.

    Closer to Christmas, I will have the 5th Annual unveiling of the "AB-FAB-GLAM PINK POODLE CHRISTMAS TREE."

  7. It must be catching. Bret and I have decided, for this our 6th Christmas together, to actually DECORATE and PUT UP A TREE. Possibly due to us living in an actuall our this year, as opposed to a cramped apartment.

    Did I mention that we're living on unemployment checks right now? Yeah, I thought it made sense, too.

  8. What the ...?

    That's SUPPOSED to say "actual house." Eep.

  9. I am completely OUT OF CONTROL at Christmas, and I think it's perfectly reasonable that you're pining away for those reindeer. I want them, toooo!!!! Course I can't afford $180 either, but I'm planning on winning the California Lotto on Wednesday, so I'll buy some for both of us! Hee!

  10. Okay, so I'm trying to win my husband over to the decorate the house for Christmas this year argument. He remains the skeptic. But seriously? The sad string of tiny indoor lights we hung outside last year? They're still up. And, in case you were wondering, tiny indoor lights left up all year long fade. So while they still work, only the red ones are still colored.


    My poor kids. They're going to grow up and be all, "Christmas? Oh, the holiday where we stand a naked tree in the front room and then finally haul it out sometime in March? Meh."

    You're an inspiration. Truly.

  11. Why not just do what Shirley Q Liquor recommends....Used cans of Budweiser on a string.

  12. Who would we get to drink the Budweiser in this teetotallin' household? I guess Diet Coke would work just as well.

  13. Use your imagination, Belinda. Pick them up from the side of the road. (smile)

    My poodle friend Jan gave me Shirley Q's Christmas album for a Christmas gift....which is where this wonderful idea came from.

    Seriously, I think it is wonderful that you are getting Bella involved in charity giving now. Ashley was about that age when we adopted a family thru our local Metropolitan InterFaith Association (MIFA) Angel Tree. It is a tradition our family has continued and expanded upon for 20 years now. (We now sponsor 3 families.)

    Christmas is about MUCH more than decorations.

  14. Our daughter Tory (4) helped pick out the Heifer Project animals we "gave" as gifts last year (along with homemade turtles...mmmm). And our congregation also has a giving tree each Christmas that helps 3 or so families, and she helped me shop for those items as well.

    We finally got a tree last year as well, after a mere 11 years of marriage. I don't think the tiny gold balls on the small Norfolk pine really counted.

  15. Ahhhh. I feel so much less "alone" now!

  16. I fall firmly in the "bah humbug" department of the Holiday Decoration Store we call our civilization, but can't agree more with your desire to give charitably.

    I'm at a point in my life where there's not much that I want, and that if I do want, I find myself restraintless and ultimately just buy it myself. So I just tell people to take a name off whatever Giving Tree they see fit and buy a gift for THAT person in lieu of buying one for me.

    Sure, it may sound selfless, but it also serves a dual purpose -- one which can ultimately be seen as a selfish one. See, in turn, I've also forgone buying gifts FOR my loved ones, buying them instead for MORE names off the Giving Tree, allowing me to take what has become an over-commericalized holiday and return it to the "magic in the eyes of a child" feeling it rightfully deserves to be. (At least the secular side anyway. As for the religious aspect, I'm pretty sure giving gifts to the less fortunate would be EXACTLY What Jesus Would Do.)

    There's only one child in my gift-giving circle, so he'll be getting a gift, but I'm also planning to take him with me to pick a name off the Giving Tree and to pick out the gift for that kid as one of his presents. Hopefully this will help foster charitable giving in him, as he himself very recently has been in a position to have recieved gifts via that very same tree.

    Last year I was able to make Christmas just a little more special for 10 different kids in a variety of bad situations, and I'm going to try darn hard to double that this year.

  17. You guys totally get it! You're making Bella's memories so magical.
    We're giving some toys to people we don't even know, but are the working poor & can't do much for their kid's Christmas. I also want to donate to Katrina victims, but need to find a reputable organization.
    You know what might be a good idea? Have your blogger friends send you an ornament for your tree. Something special that we find that speaks to us about you & your family. If you do that, would you PLEASE email me & let me know? I'd love to participate.
    (Hey, do they have any HOGS ornaments??)