Christmas Eve Traditions

In honor of “Journal Your Christmas” I thought I’d share a little bit about our Christmas Eve traditions.

Our special tradition on Christmas Eve is that we give each family member two gifts.  One is a brand new set of winter pajamas.  This is a ritual that I brought over from my childhood.   Growing up, it was always such a thrill to get new pajamas to replace the tattered or outgrown ones from the year before.  That way we’d be extra warm and cozy on what seemed to be the longest night of the year.

Kevin in Pajamas

Do you remember lying in bed trying to fall asleep so morning would come more quickly?  Or listening to every little noise wondering what was going on below the Christmas tree?  Our bedrooms were upstairs and the Christmas tree and presents were always in the living room, which was directly at the bottom of the stairs to the right.  I don’t remember ever trying to peek and see what was happening, but I do remember lying awake listening and letting my imagination run wild.  There were a couple of times that I had to go downstairs to our only bathroom after bedtime and my parents stood in the doorway to the living room or closed the door to the room, blocking any glimpse that I might be tempted to steal.  It’s all o.k. though, because the suspense of waiting is half the fun of the big day!

The other new tradition that Terry and I started was to give each child an ornament to open on Christmas Eve.  These days you can find creative ornaments of every shape, size and theme.  So each year we try to find an ornament that commemorates an event, hobby or theme particular to the year and the person.  When Kevin played soccer he got a soccer ball ornament.  When Amy was singing a lot we bought musical notes.  Amy also went through a ballerina phase and Kevin plays guitar so each of those are reflected in their ornaments.  We also started giving our son-in-law, Andrew ornaments.  Sometimes it’s easy when they have a life changing event or a big trip, but as they get older it’s not always so easy so we’ll have to see what happens now that they have homes of their own and their Christmas trees are getting quite full.

These are some of Kevin’s collection of ornaments.  Click to enlarge and see the detail. Aren’t they fun?

Christmas Ornaments

We don’t really have food or activity traditions on Christmas Eve.  The food is probably due to the fact that growing up we didn’t really have any special meals that night and as our kids were growing up there was never anything that everyone asked for over and over.  Is that a reflection on my cooking or the fact that the rest of the family likes variety just like I do.

Sometimes I wish we had established more traditions over the years when our kids were growing up.  Do you think  the holiday would be more meaningful to them if we had or is it good the way it was?  Hmmm, I wonder…

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A Few Fun Writing Prompts from Mim

I discovered a new blog today.  Mim at R.S.V.P. passed along these prompts from one of her favorite bloggers and I thought it might be fun to do my own version.   Give it a try.  The words in bold are the prompts – just finish the sentences.

Outside my window the sky is dark, the air is damp and cold.  It’s been raining off and on since last night.  It’s winter in Phoenix.

I am thinking about the last few Christmas gifts that still need to be bought.  Surprisingly, I still haven’t bought a gift for the one person that I usually shop for first.  Wish me luck in finding a perfectly lovely treasure.

I am thankful for the rich full life that I have; a loving God, big family, amazing friends, wonderful job, cozy home.

I am wearing blue jeans with a pale blue blouse and my new black holiday cardigan.  The front is covered with snowflakes made of iridescent beads and sequins.  I’m loving the fact that it only cost me $1 at Goodwill even though it was brand new with the tags still on it .  On top of that I got two compliments on it from total strangers at the grocery store earlier.  I’m feeling very Christmasy!

I am remembering my dear friend Karen who passed away just weeks ago, and her precious husband and three teenagers.  Christmas will be difficult for them this year.

I am going to wrap up our last few Christmas gifts so I can deliver them on Christmas Eve.

I’m currently readingEvery Day with Rachael Ray” magazine.  Picking up tips for the holidays.  Can’t wait for some time to start reading my new book “Writing Life Stories“.  Hopefully it will help with my blog and other personal writing.

I’m hoping that the next week off work is filled with some fun projects and special gatherings, but also enough time to relax and enjoy the holidays.

On my mind…sad that our Hann Christmas gathering will be very small this year.  The logistics of getting people together in one place has been a nightmare this holiday season.

Noticing that there seem to be less houses decorated with Christmas lights this year.  Is that a sign of the slow economy or do you think folks are being eco-friendly and trying to save energy?

In the kitchen I wish I had more time to cook.  I enjoy it when I have the time, but when I don’t I like finding great food at my favorite shops, restaurants and bakeries.

Around the house are the sights, sounds and scents of Christmas.  Amy Grant is singing Tennessee Christmas on the stereo, tiny white Christmas lights are twinkling inside and out, and the magical glow of cinnamon candles are flickering in the corner.  The nativity is displayed proudly on the windowsill with the holy family, shepherds and wise men awaiting the arrival of the baby Jesus.

One of my favorite things in life is spending time with our kids and watching them laugh and play together.

From my photo archive:  Our kids – Kevin, Amy and her husband Andrew at The Stand in Encino, CA just a couple of weeks ago.

JYC – Snow! – Day 2

This year I’m participating once again in the “Journal Your Christmas” project for 2010 at www.shimelle.com.   I signed up for it last year and the cool thing about it is once you pay for the class, then you can participate for free every year afterward.

This is a class geared toward those who enjoy scrap booking, journaling and/or blogging.  “Shimelle” provides inspirational ideas for each day of the month and you may choose how you want to express yourself with the idea.  As you can see, since it’s December 2nd and this is my first post, I’m not firm about having to do the posts every day because I know how busy the month is.  My goal is to do more of these posts than last year and  I only did one or two in 2009, so the bar is pretty low.

The prompt for today was about taking pictures of the snow and since I live in Phoenix, Arizona and we may only get a light dusting of snow every decade or so, that’s not exactly possible right now.  What I will do is share a picture that I took in January when my husband and I traveled about 2 hours north to Flagstaff after a big snowstorm.  It was just gorgeous!

Thick Snow on a wooden fence

I am familiar with snow.  You see, I lived in Ohio for my first 16 years and I really love the glittery crystals.  It brings back so many memories of winters growing up.  I never had to drive in it so I’ve got a somewhat romantic view of snow.  Some of my most fond memories are…

  • Waking up on Christmas morning to a snow-covered world.  It was somehow more magical when it happened overnight at Christmas.
  • Learning about snow at school and going out to collect snowflakes with the class so we could look at them under a microscope.  Did you know that every snowflake really is different?  They are amazing works of art.
  • Waking up on a school day to lots of snow and listening to the radio to find out if the schools were going to be closed for the day.
  • When we learned that we had the day off it wasn’t long before we were out playing in it.  Building forts, making snowmen, snow angels, igloos and so much more.
  • Substituting socks for the lost mittens that should have been on our hands…sometimes adding a plastic bag over the sock to try to keep our hands dry.
  • Coming back into the house cold to the bone, stripping off all our clothes and switching them out for dry and warm ones.
  • Standing by the heater vent trying to warm up my cold red hands and feet.
  • Sitting inside the house enjoying the quiet of a snowy day.  It’s like having an extra layer of insulation all around the world.  Everything is just quieter somehow.
  • Walking down to the neighborhood outdoor ice rink where we’d skate all day.
  • Sledding on “Cardboard Hill” a few blocks from home.
  • Walking way out onto a frozen Lake Erie.

Oh how I wish I had pictures of some of those early escapades!  I really do love all the various seasons of the year and I appreciate them so much more now that I live in an area that has very little change.

How do you feel about snow?  Do you love it, hate it, or have never experienced it?

7 Ideas for Reusable Chalkboard Anything Tags

I’ve been working on this project for a few weeks, just due to time constraints, but I’m very excited to share it with you.  A few months ago I saw a post about using chalkboard paint to reuse some rectangular cardboard tags (sorry I don’t have the link) but it got my mind working.

I started thinking about the holiday season and just how much paper we go through and throw away when it comes to wrapping paper, ribbon and gift tags.  Then I thought about creating a re-usable gift tag and the ideas poured out from there.  As you’ll see below, the possibilities are endless. Let me know what other ways you would use these fun tags.

Step 1 – Find or purchase various sized tag or cardboard circles (or squares or whatever).  I bought all of mine at Michaels Arts and Crafts store.  The large ones were in the dollar bins.  They’re intended to be used as a 6 page mini book, but I just used each card separately.  The smaller ones were coasters in the clearance bin.  I think with the discount a set of 8 of them were just 26 cents or something crazy like that.  Buy a can of chalkboard paint, black or whatever color you choose.  Here they are ready to paint.

Step 2 – Gather other fun and creative supplies if you like.  Here are some of the items that I used.

Step 3 – Preferably outside or in a well ventilated room, lightly spray the tags with chalkboard paint.  Best to do two lighter coats to prevent drips.  Let this dry, and if you’d like, paint the other side.

Step 4 – After the paint has dried (at least 48 hours) the tags need to be prepped by rubbing the side of a piece of chalk all over each side.

Step 5 – Then erase the chalk.  This helps the paint to accept your writing better in the future.

Step 6 – If your shapes don’t have holes and you need them for your project, punch a hole in them.  I had to borrow a heavy duty hole punch to get through the thick cardboard on the coasters.  Fortunately the large circles already had holes in them.

Step 7 – Now comes the fun part!  Let’s see what we can do with these sexy little circles.  Here are a few ideas that I came up with…

Large Christmas gift tag

Large Snowflake Christmas gift tag

How Many Days till Christmas ?

Champagne or Wine Bottle Tag:

Birthday Gift Tags – As you can see this is very basic and very reusable.  I decorated the brown bag with chalk as well, but there’s so much more you can do for all kinds of gifts.

“What will you say” Garland – you can see the full version in my header at the top, but here’s a close up.

Anything Tag – I used this one to label our paper recycling basket, but of course it has a myriad of applications.

Update 1/1/2011: I found a couple of other party uses for these the other day too.  I used one to label my coffee urn so folks would know that it was decaf instead of regular coffee. I also hung the “recycle” one by our indoor recycle bin so people would know which bin was trash and which recycling. I love having them around to use wherever a label is needed.

I love the fact that the tags can be used over and over and over again. Let me know how this sparks your creativity.  I plan to use the rest of the small ones as gift tags this Christmas, unless I think of something else fun in the meantime.  Oh, we haven’t even begun to talk about Christmas ornaments or actual party coasters either!

This

week I’m linking to:


Our Semi-official Christmas Letter – 2009


Greetings to you, our dear friends and family!
If you have a few minutes, settle into your favorite chair and catch up on our latest news.
As always, God has been good and our year has been full!  Most of you know that we have been empty-nesters now for a few years.  The photo of the whole family was taken at Disneyland for our one weekend all together so far this year.  We’re excited that we’ll be together again for the weekend after Christmas.  Now let’s see what the family has been doing…
Kevin recently spent about 6 months in Afghanistan conducting some top secret missions with the Air Force.  He’s not allowed to tell us what he was doing for at least 50 years.  (Safe bet that we won’t even be around by then, right?)  He was honorably discharged from the Air Force in August and is now working for a strategy and technology consulting firm.   His job is located in Meridian, Mississippi, a somewhat smallish town a few hours from the gulf. Quite different from anywhere he’s lived before.  All we know is that he’s doing curriculum development and training for the military, relating to the equipment that he worked on in Afghanistan.  He’s been there since early October and is still getting acclimated to the job and the terrain.
Amy and her husband, Andrew are living back in Southern California, just a half hour or so from where they grew up (in Santa Clarita).  She was able to transfer with her job from a similar position in Scottsdale.  She’s an editor for press releases, so gets in on the breaking news before any of us hear it, but isn’t allowed to say anything.  She’s also pursuing her dream of being a wedding and portrait photographer and had the privilege of shooting a wedding in Italy, as well as several others this year.  Her hope is to eventually do photography full time, so if you know of anyone who’s looking, please pass her name along.  She’s willing to travel.  Visit www.TeeganPhotography.com to see her work.
Andrew has pretty much landed his dream job!  A few years ago he attended The Conservatory of Recording Arts and Sciences here in Arizona, and then was offered an internship at a recording studio in So Cal.  Since then he has moved to a new studio and has the privilege of working with and learning from a well-known mixing engineer.  He’s worked on albums by Green Day, Dave Matthews band, Hanna Montana and many others.  He also has a chance to do his own free-lance engineering work in his spare time.  He LOVES what he’s doing and is learning so much!

 

Terry is thankful to have survived a round of layoffs at American Funds and has been enjoying some special assignments in his job that keep him from getting bored.  He also loves the 10 minute commute!  During his free time he has been playing music a lot!  Just this month, in addition to the time he plays at church on Sundays, he played in a band for a Christmas concert for 2 nights, then with a different band at a CD release party at a coffeehouse the next weekend, and this weekend he played with a friend at the local Borders Bookstore.  He already has a few gigs scheduled in January as well. I’m so glad that he has the time and opportunities to express his gifts and talents in this way.  It’s what he loves to do more than most anything.
As for me, I’m working 4 days a week for Uhlmann Family Offices http://www.familyoffices.org/ .  I enjoy a lot of variety in my position.  Parts of my days are spent assisting the non-profit organizations that share office space with us.  I have the chance to do a little bit of everything…event coordination, basic graphic design, photography, help with mailings, blog posts, website updates, and even a bit of bookkeeping.   I really love my job and my schedule!  My Fridays are precious to me because I have a chance to spend time with my mom and take her shopping, to doctor appts, lunch, the movies or whatever we decide to do together.  My sisters come along sometimes as well.  It gives me the chance to make up for some of the time that we lived in So Cal.  I love having that extra day to get things done either with family, friends or at home.   Speaking of extra time, I now have the time and energy to pursue hobbies like photography, blogging, crafting and hopefully sewing soon (when I get my machine).
Terry and I also were blessed with some fun travel this year.  We went to Steamboat Springs, CO for a week in the summer.  Kevin and two of our dear friends were able to join us too.  We had gorgeous weather and spent a lot of time outdoors.  In September we spent a long weekend enjoying Antelope Canyon and the north rim of the Grand Canyon with a couple of other great friends. The next weekend we drove to L.A. to go to Disneyland with Amy, Andrew and Kevin.  We had a blast!
In early November we spent a week with Terry’s dad and wife, Ginny in North Carolina.  We were treated to some amazing Fall colors and other gorgeous scenery there.  It was wonderful to have the chance to spend some extended time with them.
So what’s on the horizon for 2010?  You’ll have to ask the kids about their plans, but I’m hoping to travel to Fort Myers, Florida with my mom and sisters in February.  At 86, my mom still loves to travel, as long as one of us comes along with her.  We’re looking forward to visiting her half sister, Alice there.
In May, Terry and I are hoping to travel to Bosnia with a few people from our church.  Open Door Fellowship has had ongoing relationships assisting several churches there since their war and unrest in the 90’s.  Terry and two other guys are planning to go and play music at several churches and coffeehouses.  The men who lead worship at these churches are often the pastors who end up doing everything on Sundays.  The guys will be able to give these pastors some rest from that portion of the morning and will give the congregation a treat by having some different music and musicians.  They’ll also play at local coffeehouses to begin to make connections between the churches and the community they serve.  I will be going along to help with whatever I can and document as much as possible with photos.  They haven’t had anyone go with them to Bosnia for the purpose of capturing the images of the people and places and I hope to be able to bring home visuals that will help them spread the word about the work they do there and the needs that are evident.  We will be raising money for the trip in the coming months, which will be a first for us.
We’d love to keep in touch thru-out the year and hear updates from you anytime. We’re all on Facebook  (except Terry), so look us up there.
We trust that you have a blessed new year, filled with the love of family and friends.  We look forward to hearing from you and seeing you in the coming year!
I’ll leave you with a photo that we took of the family just this week.  Amy made the beards and mustaches as stocking stuffers for all of us.  Fun stuff, huh?
Love from all,
Nancy (and Terry)

Christmas Crock Pot Ham


Of course, I have several events to post about, but no time at the present.  I thought I’d offer a quick suggestion for a great recipe if you’re making ham this year for your holiday celebrations.
I found this recipe last year and it was delicious and so easy!  I substituted orange juice for the ginger ale and added a few extra cloves and brown sugar for a larger ham, but otherwise stayed pretty much with the recipe.
The awesome thing is that you can do it in a crockpot and have it cooking while you’re at church or opening presents or busy with other things, then its’ ready when you are!  It has amazing flavor and doesn’t dry out!
Give it a try and let me know how you like it.
Citrus Crocked Ham Recipe (compliments of BetterRecipes.com)
Enjoy!

Journal Your Christmas 2009

Yes, it’s true!  I have signed up to participate in “Journal Your Christmas”.  It started on December 1st and goes thru early January.  I just signed up last night, and as you can see, I’m already behind.  But it’s all good!  See…the cool thing is that if you pay once, then you can participate every year until…forever.

So, here’s what I’m thinking…this year will be my preview and warm up year.  I’ll get all the materials and information and if I have time to post or scrap book, then I will.  If not, then I’ll just start digesting the resources and thinking about what I’ll do for next year.  Then I’ll have a whole year to prepare and ponder and get ready to do it for real.  And next year they’ll add even more cool stuff!

I just started downloading the materials and supplies and I’m very excited about how much is included so far!  She is very thorough in giving you all the tools you need to complete an awesome project.

Don’t worry, I’m sure I’ll post something about Christmas in the next month or so.  It just may not be every day.  But even if it’s not about Christmas, it will be interesting and insightful (at least I like to think so).  So please come back often or set yourself up as a follower on Google or add me to your RSS Feed so you can see my posts every time I add a new one.  That would be awesome!

See you soon!