Cleveland Christmas

January 10, 2013 – Cloudy & Gray, 27°, Sunrise 10:04 am, Sunset 4:11 pm, Total Snowfall 36.2″

I don’t know what it was about this year that made me more reflective and sentimental about holiday traditions and the past, but if felt like such a moment being captured. I’ve written about it before, but my family’s tradition has been Christmas in Cleveland. This year we were blessed to again gather with the whole clan (20 of us in total), and we all stayed at my grandparent’s house. Sleeping arrangements got more creative this time – but we all fit!

There was something about this year, being with M and J, in the house that I’ve known my entire life, that I wanted to etch into my memories. It was deja vu watching J run up and down the balcony, and having him peer down into the dining room the way we all used to do. I can only imagine what it was like for my parents and grandparents.

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The balcony

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Looking down into the dining room

M was only able to stay for one night, then had to fly home for work, but it meant the world to me that he came! That I now have memories of our little family celebrating in the house where I spent almost every Christmas growing up, is priceless. We did the family pictures, we sat with everyone at the big table, we ate brownies, we posed in front of grandfather clock, we opened gifts and we laughed! It filled my heart in a way I can’t explain.

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Family

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From our family to yours

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The Two Mamas have both been filling their days with holly and cheer back in the Midwest. We even crossed paths by one day in Ohio and got a chance to exchange hugs and watch the little ones be adorable together. Many more to share, from both Mamas I’m sure. For now, I think I speak for both of us when I say wishing all our followers, friends, and family a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Here’s to many more adventures in 2014!

Deck the Home

December 9, 2013 – Overcast, 31°, Sunrise 10:01 am, Sunset 3:43 pm, Total Snowfall 11.4″

It’s always exciting to pull out the Christmas boxes each year, unwrap the treasures and find just the right spot for each thing. Here is how our home is transforming for this wonderful season!

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Helping Papa string the lights

Found this tiny treasure when we got the tree home and up.

Found this tiny treasure when we got the tree home and up.

Our ornament collection is small, but growing. This year I had to be a bit more choosy as to which ones to hang (aka what could the tree support!). A few of my favorite, from top left-clockwise: From Shakertown KY, when my mom and I went for Christmas tea; my St. Lucia ornament from my time living with best friends and roommates in Chicago; a salmon from Alaska; and the ornament I bought for myself “Mom’s Favorite” – I also got my each of my brothers one, we know we’re all her favorites!

Ornaments

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All decorated!

The first time I lived in Alaska, I was in an apartment and didn’t have a computer or TV yet. One of the projects I kept myself busy with was making my own Christmas countdown calendar. I modeled it after my Gran’s calendar, which we loved each year when we went to visit. It was especially fun to make my own because I could personalize it. It has a moose for Alaska, a Hershey Kiss for Gran and Granddad’s, the record “Charge” for our Christmas morning tradition, Teddy from Gammy and Granddaddy’s, a buckeye, and many more. Now it’s fun to look at each day with J and choose what we’re going to hang!

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And finally, probably my most treasured Christmas decoration, my nativity scene. This is also tied to my childhood memories. Mom always let me set ours up at home, and both grandparents had beautiful sets at their houses. This particular set I bought when I was studying abroad and visiting Salzburg, Austria. The entire shop, Gertraud Lackner, was nativity sets and coo-coo clocks. I was drawn to this set because of the beautiful swooping lines and simplicity. I remember moving pieces back and forth, calculating what I could afford. The shop owner even brought me a calculator. I came home with the Holy family and two sheep. My husband then surprised me with the musician and the curly pine trees. He coordinated with my mom and visited the shop while he was studying abroad a year later! Finally, Gammy bought me the three kings to add to the collection. I love arranging it each year, and how baby Jesus can be cradled by Mary, or lay in the manger.

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IMG_4628Hope you have enjoyed our Holiday Home Tour! Merry Christmas!

Christmas Memories

I love Christmas time, as most people do. This year though, as we are decorating a new house and far from family, I have been reflecting on what it is that I love so much about Christmas. My memories are all tied to family. I was blessed to grow up with all four of my grandparents living in the same city. We never had to share Christmas, we always got to see everybody; we alternated who we stayed with each year, but we would always have Christmas dinner with both sides of the family. There was one year where my brother got the chicken pox, then passed it on to me, and we couldn’t go up to see everyone. I was so mad at him because I did not want to be home for Christmas, I wanted to be with our family.

Dinner at Gran and Granddad's - 2007

Dinner at Gran and Granddad’s – 2007

Some of my favorite memories: the always full bowl of M&Ms at Gammy and Grandaddy’s, putting up stockings – in age order – at Gran and Granddad’s, going downstairs to see Teddy and the tree at Gammy and Granddaddy’s, seeing how quietly we could sneak the lid off and on the glass jar with the Hershey Kisses at Gran and Granddad’s, Gammy offering Spumoni ice-cream and thinking it was so weird, getting measured to see how much we’d grown at Gran and Granddad’s, going to the Popcorn Shop or Fireside Books, dressed for Christmas dinner in matching family tartan, usually a good chance of snow and sledding, tennis, and on and on.

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The Popcorn Shop

We are blessed, and so excited, to be going home for Christmas this year! We love Alaska, and know this is where we’re suppose to be right now, but both M and I can’t wait to weave J into our memories of Christmases growing up. And the bonus is that J is gaining some understanding of the whole thing this year, so maybe some of his  first memories of Christmas will be full of family too.

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J’s first Christmas in family tartan. Many more to come!

It’s exciting to think about the memories and traditions that we will be able to bless J with. The things that he will carry through life, and look forward to each holiday season. As much as I would love to replicate my childhood Christmas each year, there is beauty in adding and expanding, and making memories of our own.

Merry Christmas!

Christmas Tree Hunting

November 29, 2013 – Sunny, 4°, Sunrise 9:42 am, Sunset 3:54 pm, Snowfall to date: 11.2″

I’ve been “flirting” with Christmas for quite a few weeks now (our early Thanksgiving and foot of snow have been nudging me along), but on Tuesday we embraced it wholeheartedly. We went Christmas tree hunting!

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Our little woodsman, ready to go!

When we lived in Oregon M talked about going into the woods and chopping down our own tree, but everywhere was a drive to get to, and with a 4 month old I was not that brave. The idea never really left us though. This year with a 2 year old, and some options closer to home, I felt a lot more brave. I got the paperwork and permits squared away, and on Tuesday we headed out on our quest.

ImageIt was a bit of an adventure finding the right spot. There were multiple locations that were acceptable for cutting trees, but locating said areas on the small map we printed off the computer turned out to be a bit of a challenge. Especially when not all the roads were labeled, and many not even plowed. After a couple of wrong turns though we found a spot; we must have looked rather odd, as we had a couple of people stop and ask if we were okay. It did feel strange to just hike from the road, straight into the woods with no real plan or trail. We had brought a sled to pull J (and the Christmas tree) in, but quickly realized that the Kelty was going to be the way to go. There was a lot of underbrush and the trees were quite close together. J was happy to be in the pack and loved ducking between, and knocking snow off, the trees with Papa!

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When we first got into the woods, we started laughing. All the trees looked so sad and skinny! More like A Charlie Brown Christmas than White Christmas. But as we walked further in, we started to see the potential. I had brought a tape measure with us, because years past had taught me that trees look smaller outdoors, and way bigger when you get them home! Most of the trees were 10-15 feet, and so we kept asking each other, “how does the top look to you?”.

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It was so fun to wander around and be out in the woods. It was in the 30s, snowing lightly and just a perfect day for a Christmas tree hunt. We actually debated not getting a tree, and coming back again because we were having so much fun. Knowing the way we work though (slowly), we would need time to decorate and enjoy, so we needed to get a tree that day! As is usually the case, the last tree we found turned out to be “our” tree.

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Our tree (on the right), in it’s natural habitat

M made quick work of cutting the tree down with the chainsaw, and J watched – totally enthralled. I’m very thankful for my strong hubby…he carried out our child, the tree and the chainsaw. I carried the extra boughs and held on to the dog’s leash.

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The tree is now home, up and we’re enjoying it’s natural beauty. Hopefully we’ll add the lights this weekend!

Thanksgiving Feast

November 20, 2013 – Sunny, 4°, Sunrise 9:20 am, Sunset 4:10 pm, Snowfall to date: 7.5″

When we moved back to Anchorage, one of the things we were most looking forward to was Thanksgiving. Being that Alaska is so far from everywhere most people make their holiday visits home over Christmas, rather than Thanksgiving. Still wanting to celebrate and have a house of full of fun and food makes Thanksgiving a perfect potluck occasion. M has to work on actual Thanksgiving day, as do most of our friends, so we picked a day that was open for everyone and invited them all over for a potluck Thanksgiving feast.

Using both leaves in the table to seat all 8 of us - love it!

Using both leaves in the table to seat all 8 of us – love it!

Taking a note from Austin Mama (who knows how to host a serious party!) we gave each guest a category of food to bring, but left the detail of the dish up to them. For example we had one guest bring “potatoes”, one guest bring  “vegetables”; this helped to ensure we didn’t end up with four sweet potato casseroles, but everyone still got to make something they were happy with.  And we ended up with a feast! M and I took care of the turkey, gravy, dressing and cranberry sauce (I used this Cooking Light recipe, and it was amazing! I doubled the brine to accommodate our 14 pound turkey).  We also had green bean casserole (homemade from scratch!), roasted potatoes, roasted zucchini, peas with prosciutto and honey whole-wheat rolls. For dessert we had two pumpkin pies, one apple pie, and one cranberry-pear pie, along with ice cream and homemade whip cream. One of our friends is a true wine connoisseur and he provided the wine for dinner. I believe it was four reds and four white, complete with the complementing stemware – amazing!

Turkey collage

Some of the sides and pies. We ate well!

Some of the wine, sides and pies. We ate well!

The table was beautiful, and just what we had been dreaming of!

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It was wonderful to visit, and laugh and just enjoy good friends. We had eight adults and three kiddos total. The kids were wonderful, running around playing, definitely adding a certain level of excitement to the evening. We got sparkling cider for them to enjoy, and in the fun of the night forgot to water it down when we served them…they were quite energetic for the next hour! Though all parents got to enjoy the entire meal, sitting at the table!

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After dinner we moved to the living room (with pie, of course) to play a few games. We call it Shenanigans, but I don’t think it has an official name. It’s like a mixture of Pictionary and Telephone, and most of us were in tears by the end of it! Finally at about 12:30 a.m. we wrapped things up (the kids had all been put to bed hours ago). It was a wonderful night!

Love this lil' turkey

Love this lil’ turkey

And now that we’ve had Thanksgiving, I can officially start listening to Christmas music 🙂