Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Sorry I was a bit MIA over the last few weeks- we went on a nice long vacation to visit family, and I just didn’t feel like burying myself in electronics and the internet.

Our vacation was lovely and filled with family and laughter. Ian loved seeing his aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents. He even got to see his great grandmother and some of his great aunts. It was so nice! Our car was definitely loaded down as we made our way back home- with gifts and items, as well as love and joy. I didn’t want to miss one minute of the vacation, so I took a little blog hiatus for a moment…but now I’m back!

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season and a very happy new year! I’m excited for 2015 and can’t wait for everything this year will have in store for us. And I wish many happy tidings on you and yours, as well!

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Christmas Lights

I love Christmas lights. They are just so beautiful, and they make the dark, dreary, cold nights just a bit more welcoming.

We started putting up our lights on November 30th- the Sunday after Thanksgiving.  We got back from visiting my sister and her kids on the 29th (see post), which meant we had Sunday to get the house prepped for Christmas decorations.  And, to top it off, the weather was lovely!  It was in the 50s, which is astounding. We knew we had to take advantage of that break from the cold.  So Jon climbed up on the roof and hung all the icicle lights.  By the time we finished on Sunday, the roofline was done- a MAJOR accomplishment!

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Over the next few days Jon tackled the small bushes in front of our house, and then we did our porch, our large bushes (for the record- I HATE NET LIGHTS), and our deer/spotlight.  Since we broke up the decorating over about a week, it wasn’t all that overwhelming and it was done before we even knew it!  And now the house is all lit up and just beautiful. 

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When did your lights go up?

Trans-Siberian Orchestra

Last week, Jon and I had the pleasure of going to see Trans-Siberian Orchestra in concert again this year!  We went last year and had such a good time that we knew we wanted to go again if they came back here again.

If you’ve never been to a Trans-Siberian Orchestra show, you really should go!  The music is fantastic and the performance is amazing.  And you can bet that at least a few of the musicians will run up and down the aisles at some point.  At our show, there was a separate stage at the back that raised and lowered- and the musicians mounted that stage and were raised into the air to perform.  It was definitely neat!

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Their Christmas shows are normally split into two parts.  The first part is a story based around one of their Christmas CDs. This year, it was “The Christmas Attic” (last year was “Lost Christmas Eve”).  They have a storyteller (who has an AMAZING, deep, booming voice, by the way) that narrates certain portions as lead-ins to the music that weaves the tale.  Each song played during this portion of the concert adds to the story and drives home the overarching theme of the performance.  This is about 1 – 1.5 hours long.

When the story ends, the lights come up, and the musicians come out on stage for introductions. They also do the typical thank yous to the audience, road crew, fans, etc. 

Then the lights dim again and the second part of the show starts. This is where they play all of their traditional favorite Christmas songs (if not already hit during the first part of the show) plus other songs off their non-Christmas albums.  This also lasts 1 – 1.5 hours.  

Throughout the entire show there is smoke and lasers and lights and video… it’s quite the sensory experience, and supremely enjoyable.  They also do a really good job of getting the audience to participate.  And just watching the way they bound across the stage leaves me in awe- no wonder they are all in such good shape!!  Jon and I also like trying to see how many bow strings the violinist has lost over the course of the night- inevitably, the bow is shredded and strings are flying all over as he goes to town on the violin!  It’s pretty amazing.

Have you ever seen TSO in concert at Christmas time?  What did you think?  What are other concerts/shows you try to see every year at this time?

Getting our Christmas Tree!

My husband and I have now celebrated 6 Christmases together as a married couple. Each year we have bought a live tree, carefully selected from the myriad of trees and options abundantly available each winter.  For the past four years we’ve bought our tree from a nice little nursery down the road from us.  No matter how many places we visit, we always came back to that one nursery because they always have the absolute BEST trees.  Nice shape, good price, fresh.  

This year, we decided to try something different.  We’d always thought it would fun to go to a Cut-Your-Own Christmas tree farm.  I did a half-hearted search a year or so ago online but didn’t really find anything.  Maybe I just didn’t know what I was looking for, or maybe I just was intimidated by the idea of going someplace new.  Regardless, we’ve never made it work.  This year, however, the Cincinnati Moms Blog published a list of Christmas events in the area… and included in the list was a section for Cut-Your-Own Christmas tree farms.  It was fate!  I scanned the list for a farm nearby, and one that was also open on Nov 22nd (since we were going out of town for Thanskgiving and wouldn’t be able to get our tree until Dec 6 if we waited- which doesn’t give much time to enjoy it before we head to visit family for Christmas!).  As luck would have it, there was one farm that would work, so we decided to check it out.  We reasoned that if it didn’t pan out or we couldn’t find a good tree, we could always default back to our favorite little nursery.

We pulled into the tree farm and were blown away by HOW MANY trees there were.  There were tons; the selection was pretty overwhelming.  It helped that they had the trees organized/grouped by variety so we were more easily able to focus our search, but it was still a lot to consider.  

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Ian loved running through the field and darting in and out of the trees.  Trying to keep track of him while also looking for the perfect tree was a bit challenging, but we made it work. 

We finally narrowed it down to 2 trees. 

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Tree #1

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Tree #2

We called Ian over and asked him to pick the one he liked better.  He looked at both trees and carefully considered his options before pointing to one and exclaiming “THIS ONE!” 

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Tree #2 for the win!

With Ian’s seal of approval, we flagged down an employee and got our tree claimed and cut.  The employee was a kid, maybe 11 or 12 years old (and that’s being generous), but he was friendly and chatty and had us cracking up on the inside.  He told us he was working here to save for college (admirable, but interesting!).  So I asked him how long he’d been doing this and he told us “my WHOLE life!” At which point I had to stiffle a grin and a chuckle.

After the tree was cut, we headed back down to the main house to pay for it and get Ian one of the free cookies.  It was about 50 degrees, so we decided to pass on the free hot chocolate, but it was a nice gesture!  The employees helped us load the tree onto the top of our Flex and tie it down, and then we were soon on our way.  We got home, unloaded the tree, and set it up in the stand.  We agreed to wait to decorate it until after Thanksgiving, but it was so nice to have the tree in the house and ready for us when we got back from visiting family in Delaware!

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Us with our tree!

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Tree decorated!

Do you get a real tree each year?  Or do you go artificial?  If you get a real tree, do you cut your own?

DIY: Ring Holder tutorial

Back in November/December, I was trolling pinterest (because I do that, you know), and stumbled across a pin of a ring holder made from a picture frame.  It was so clever and so cute- I knew I could reproduce it.  Armed with just a picture in my mind, I decided to collect some supplies and make two for Christmas presents. The gift recipients really loved them and some of my friends commented that they thought they were cute, so I thought I’d share them with you guys and also provide a bit of a tutorial 🙂

Here are the finished products- I think they turned out really cute.

Ring Holder #1- 2×2 square

Ring Holder #2- 2×3 rectangle

First, you need to get some small frames, no larger than wallet sized (2×3).  The square frame is a 2×2 (I loved the beading design of the frame), and the rectangle frameis a standard wallet frame (2×3).  I got my frames at Hobby Lobby because they have a HUGE selection, and they have good sales- but it doesn’t really matter where you get your frame.

Take the glass out of the frame- you don’t need it anymore.  Save it for a future project, or just toss it.

Next, you need scrapbook paper for the background. I had some scraps lying around that I knew I wanted to use, so this wasn’t an issue for me. Maybe you have some, too- you just need a square/rectangle/circle the size of your frame opening. If not, a quick trip to the scrapbook store (wait.. is there such a thing as a quick trip??) will do the trick.  I just used the frame backing to trace on my scrapbook paper, but you could also measure instead (I know… what is measuring???).

Paper cut to fit the frame

Once you have your paper cut out, you need some cardboard. I actually used an empty tissue box, but it probably would have been better to use something thicker. Then I wouldn’t have had to make so many layers.  Cut your cardboard to be the same size as your paper and glue them together.  I did the tissue box printed side in, so that if you turn over the paper, you just see brown cardboard.  If you are using a thin type of cardboard, you’ll probably have to do 6 or so layers.  The goal is to get the paper thick enough that when you put it in the frame, there is little to no “wiggle”- it doesn’t slide forward in the frame, or back.  You want a snug fit.

The snazzy cardboard I used

Now you need to punch a hole in your paper/cardboard so you can insert the hook.  Fortunately, my mom got me a cropadile tool many years ago, so I used that.  And it made this SO easy.  It’s basically a very sofisticated hole punch.  You’ll want to punch the hole near the top of your paper/cardboard so that there is maximum space for the ring to hang inside the frame.  You might want to assemble the frame first, and then mark a spot with a pencil before punching the hole.  That way you know you get it in the right spot.

This contraption is the cropaile

Finally, you need hooks. This was trickier. The picture I saw on pinterest had a needle stuck in the center and the ring(s) just rested on the needle. But I didn’t like that. It seemed too flimsy, too cheap. So I knew I wanted some type of pretty hook. This was a pain and a half! I went to Home Depot because they have all those bins of screws and nails and bolts… and they even have hooks. But all the hooks were ugly. Either plastic covered (tacky!) or just a simple, boring metal. The latter would have worked, but I knew I wanted something more decorative. I finally stumbled across an already assembled key hook plaque. It was just a slab of wood with five hooks in it. And the hooks were the perfect size, and just decorative enough to be what I wanted. So I bought it, figuring those hooks have to be removable somehow. If I hadn’t been so impatient to start making these, I probably would have tried a few other stores (Lowes, Ace, maybe even Michaels) to see what they had for hooks. But I didn’t want to drive around, and I do love these hooks.

Anyway- my hooks had a post the hooks screwed onto.  So I stuck the post through my newly created hole, added a metal washer to the front (to help eliminate any gap between the hook and paper), and then screwed the hook on.  Then I put the whole thing in the frame, put the frame backing on, and stood it up.  And viola!  You now have a very pretty ring holder.  Perfect for a dresser or the bathroom, or wherever!

The finished Ring Holder!

So, what do you think?  Pretty cool and not too difficult, right?  I’m sure you know someone in your life who could benefit from one of these.  So next time you are trying to figure out what to get for someone, why not attempt making one of these?  Or, if you’re not sure you have the craftiness inside you, leave me a comment, and I’ll make one for you. Happy crafting!