To say “I love Christmas!” is a huge understatement. I absolutely ADORE this season!

I love the fresh greenery everywhere, the simple beauty, the sparkly lights, the music that sets an atmosphere like none other can [especially Sarah McLochlan's album 'Wintersong'], the cookies & baking, the times spent with family [and this year, hoping for a northern snow!] and most of all ~ a whole month to celebrate the coming of Christ!

Here are a few of our Decemberings!

:: Operation Christmas Cards ::

This is just so fun. I love hand-lettering, and preserving an old-fashioned art form.

I love to give cards; I love to get cards! The mail this time of year is an excitement for not only me, but now my kids. I try to share at least some of the Christmas cards. :)

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This little guy followed me out to the mailbox.
The sunlight on his long blonde hair was a perfect melt-me-mommy-moment.

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:: Unusual Couples ::

It’s not every day you see a shepherd and Cinderella hitchin’ up.

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:: Gingerbread Houses ::

As I said when I posted a similar picture on Instagram:
“Excitement.com for the kids. Frustration.com for the mom! :)”

Lesson 101 when making gingerbread houses with little kids:
Let go of any and all expectations before beginning. :)

The picture was not decorated by a 4-year-old, and I’m pretty sure they had special decorating tips & supplies too. Also, in the picture there wasn’t an 18-month old candy thief who brought his sisters nearly to tears by his fistfuls of gumballs and other very small bits of candy that ended up over the entire floor.

But also not included in the picture were the giggles & squeals of two little girls who had the most fun ever, and who kept saying, “This is soooooo fun!!!!” So yes, it was worth it. :)

:: Gold Glitter Headbands ::

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I was so excited to add a bit of elastic to a pretty gold ribbon to make it a headband.
She, however, isn’t a headband fan. I’m still trying to convince her it looks lovely.

:: My Favorite December Outfit ::

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My sister gave me this adorable sweater for my birthday the end of November, and I love pairing it with red shoes for a festive look!

:: My Faire Lady Designs ::

Running a sale around Christmastime results in many orders. Thank you for your support of small, American-owned businesses!

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:: A Glitter-Crush ::

Not only do I have a gold-crush, it’s also a glitter-crush.

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This is a fun project I’ve been working on, and need to finish up. But I love it so much!

And, did you know you can make your very own glitter paper? Me neither.
Not until Mod Podge & Gold Glitter married on cardstock paper. ♥

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[Yes, my house looks like a glitter bomb detonated.]

Also, I’m very excited because next week there will be three little house tours here!
One will be mine, and the others, two of my sisters! We’ve all said we’ve done Christmas décor so simply this year, so it will not be a glamorous display but rather hopefully an inspiration and a toast to beautiful real life! So do check back.

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I’ve also been thinking about the sad part: there can also be some difficult things at such a beautiful time of year.

For some, it’s the Comparison Trap: I don’t have a house that looks anything like those big bloggers’ houses all decked out! I can’t make cookies like the people all over Pinterest! My kids are missing out – I’m not doing Advent calendars like everyone else! We don’t even have a Christmas tree! And so we set out to over-extend ourselves, not for the sake of our families or what would be best for us and them, but because we feel like we don’t measure up to what everyone else surely is doing.

For some, it’s the Busy Trap: the constant stream of events and parties and decorating and baking and it’s one thing after the other, and suddenly Christmas is over and we feel like we never even had a real Christmas! We missed not just Christmas Day, but… JESUS.

And there’s more, because everyone is different. But those two are the two biggest things I’ve realized for myself this year, and had to just step back and take inventory of my own heart.  Motives are tricky things, and I’ve had to do some confessing and repenting in my heart. I’m so grateful for a God of Grace ~ who deals so gently with me.

This month has been a time of great joy, so deep it feels like I can’t contain it. Kind of a bursting-inside feeling, that life is just SO precious, my family is SO dear.

And running on a parallel track, the realization of such brokenness and pain in the world; in MY world. It seems like Christmas intensifies both joy and pain.

Last week I was feeling so burdened by so many areas of brokenness – broken relationships, broken friendships, broken families, broken marriages – and some of those in my own life. I think everyone has their own battles they face, even if you don’t hear them speak of it.

And I was so struck by a fresh realization of why Christ came, and Christmas itself became all the more meaningful. Christ came not only to bring Joy to the World, although that is a huge part. But He also came for the brokenness in the world; He came for the sins I’ve done, and for the sins committed against me. He came so I don’t have to live in bondage to the brokenness. He came for redemption, for healing, for restoration. It’s freedom. And out of that comes joy. Not a pretending about our life, but a true joy that He is greater, even greater than the stories that our lives have written. And I am so, so grateful! What a precious Jesus!

Happy weekend, my friends!

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There are many people who know how to make their own wreath for the holidays, so if you are one of those, just skip this post. :)

For those that wish to know how, here’s a little tute.

Wreath-making is a bit sentimental for me. My dear Aunt Freida taught me when I was a young teenager, and I remember her going outside with me to gather greens in the bitter northern wind, our fingers numb with cold, and then going indoors and she showing me how to make her beautiful creations. She was known for them, along with many other things she loved to do.

She was a creative genius, my Aunt Freida. Her home was always so welcoming, so fresh and creative, and yet more of a whispering beauty than a shouting “look what I did.” She was gentle and lovely, and I know she makes Heaven a more beautiful place now, these 8 years. But when I make wreaths, I always think of her.

Because of her, I so love the fresh greenery, and the scent of pine as you walk by the real greenery. And this year is no exception; I love the real greens as much as ever!

This is how she taught me….

Christmas Wreath

One:

Gather your supplies:

  • Wreath form (available at craft stores)
  • floral wire
  • snippers (what do you call it?!)
  • winter greens
  • ribbon for accent, if desired
  • pinecones & ornaments, if desired

[If you live in the city and don't have access to fresh greens (like me), you do still have options! A kind friend from church cut two large paper bags of fir clippings for me, and then I went to several Christmas tree stands and asked for their "extra clippings." A lot of people must do this, because they knew exactly what I was asking for and gave them away free. I also purchased a 6 -foot garland of long-needle pine at $1 a foot.)

 

Two:

Secure the wire on the wreath form.

Just twist it around the form, and secure by winding the end around.
Do not cut the wire.

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Three:

Add a small bunch of greenery, and repeat.

You'll want the pieces to be no longer than 12 inches for a wreath that fits a door; and smaller if you are making very small wreaths.

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Hold it tight against the wreath form, and wind the wire around twice. Add the next bunch of greenery a few inches down from the first bunch, making sure to cover all stems well.

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[Again, do not cut the wire. It makes it so much easier if you simply keep winding the wire the whole way around the wreath, rather than cutting and securing each individual piece of wire.]

For this wreath, I used three kinds of greens: fir, pine, and what I call “Christmas tree pine” which is actually a Fraser fir. I love the textures of them put together, but you can use any kind of wintery green or boxwood - using only one kind, or mixing as many as you like.

I did a small bunch of Fraser Fir, long-needle pine, and fir (similar to Leland Cypress), in that order, and repeated until the wreath was completed.

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4.

Finishing up.

 

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When you near the end and cannot add another bunch without overlapping the very first bunch, tuck the stems underneath the first bunch, and secure tightly with wire. Now you may cut the wire, after making sure it’s secure. :)

Add any ornamentation using 10″ pieces of wire, or enjoy the beautiful natural greenery.

Hang using a wreath hanger, thin rope, jute, or many other choices.

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Enjoy!

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We started out on Thanksgiving afternoon, everyone arriving from various parts of the East Coast. Ben’s family only gets together once a year, so it’s a looked-forward to time.
Here are some pictures of the weekend together.

The Thanksgiving meal:
just because it’s at a camp doesn’t mean it can’t be pretty. :)

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 The Deep South: where sweet tea abounds. :)

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 Ben and I made this Festive Autumn Salad ~
I love the English cucumber serving as a bowl.

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Cute kids were in abundance. :)

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During the day, the weather was lovely for hiking and fisbee football.

In the evening and when it got chilly it was a bit challenging to keep the smaller grandkids occupied – without them roaring around. :) We  made play dough for all of the little ones and that was a great quiet diversion!

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My sister-in-law threw a surprise party for the November birthdays one night!

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And she made a Red Velvet Cheesecake that rivaled the Cheesecake Factory itself!
And, it was one of the prettiest cakes I’ve ever seen.

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We snapped a few family pictures before everyone headed out.

Ben’s mother and aunt.

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Ben’s dad and sister Beth.

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The grandkids…

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… with Grandpa and Grandma.

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The Five Lovely Sisters.

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The Four Brothers, and the Father.

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The Whole Family. :)

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And that concludes Thanksgiving, Twenty-Thirteen!

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It’s the Monday after Thanksgiving, and nearly all the United States citizens are posting Thanksgiving pictures and pictures of their Christmas trees
and talking about the Cyber Monday sales, and well,
here at the little ol’ cottage we’re just busy catching up on some sleep. :)

We had a special holiday weekend, hopefully with a few pictures to come, and enjoyed family time to the gills with my husband’s family and then with some cousins from my family stopping by!
It was lovely, and today we are just trying to recuperate from the good times. :)

So until I get the pictures edited from the weekend, here are a few of my latest crush
- the color GOLD.

If you know me, you know that I love little details.
I love to see God in the little things of life,
and celebrate His beauty and character in those things!

Here is just one more little thing that I’m learning to love. :)

I know, I know ~ until this fall I thought gold was such an ’80′s color.
And that it was OUT. Out with the big poofy hair and big puffed sleeves.
… Until this fall. And suddenly, I’m crushing.

Here are a few little ways that I’ve learned to love gold.
And perhaps, just perhaps, some of you will too. :)

… gold glitter belt.

It gives a fun little sparkle, just a touch of fun and a small pop of color.

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[buy it here]

… gold Christmas mug

with hot steaming coffee to anticipate the coming season!

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[gifted from a friend several years ago]

… gold painted pumpkins!

These have been greatly enjoyed,
but this week, they will be exchanged for Christmas things.

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… gold leaf place settings.

These spray-painted magnolia leaves would also be pretty at Christmas.
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… Gold paint.

As a DIY-er, paint is a general favorite around here. :)
One of these is a gold, and one is a glitter gold.
I used these for anything from leaves to pumpkins to…

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… gold shoes!

I bought neutral-colored flats at Goodwill, and painted them with one coat of gold, and then a top coat of glitter gold. I love how they turned out, and now wear them all. the. time!

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… phone covers.

This is my sister’s phone, and I just love her phone cover! I’ve been looking around and found a few similar here and here, but haven’t bought one yet. Very soon. :)

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… nail polish.

My other sister got me hooked on gold nail polish.
It’s surprisingly very neutral, but still just the right pop of pretty and sparkle.

gold nail polish

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… antique dishes & china.

These are so fun for special dinners and tea parties.

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… gold paint pens.

These are found at Walmart, Joann Fabrics, Michaels, or A.C. Moore in the craft department, and they are so pretty for a little packaging touch, for name tags, envelopes,
and just all kinds of creative things. :)

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biscotti gold writing

And, as a believer in Jesus Christ,
one day I will be walking on streets of gold with my Savior and other people I love!
How exciting and wonderful will that be?!

Happy Monday, you all!
What is YOUR seasonal crush? :)

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I found this quote today, and loved it!
Too often this time of year can be a busy flurry of decor & planning & food preparation,
which is all fine and good and even necessary;
but if not accompanied by a HEART that is grateful and at rest,
what true good is all that preparation?

 

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The truest Thanksgiving is not just those words we speak,
but the life we live.
And not just in November,
but the other 335 days of the year.

If there’s one character trait I want to be strong in my children,
I want it to be gratefulness.

I want them to live with an awareness of what God, and other people, have given them.
I do not want them to live with a sense of entitlement, that people owe them something,
but rather, a continual focus on the blessings, rather than the distresses, of life.

How much of this is a training process of parent to child,
and how much of it is a prayer from parent to God,
I’m not certain.
Because I’m in the training right with them!

But, with all my heart, I do want to live a life of gratitude.

 

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On Sunday I stayed home from church with the oldest (due to her tonsillectomy) and the youngest (due to a flu bug). Gone are the days when staying home is a relaxing experience! Two children [one permanently attached to my hip] made for a lot of together time for all of us, and not any quiet time for me. [i.e. Still learning flexibility: the key to Parenting 101!! :) ]

So we decided to throw a little thanksgiving party for the other two when they returned for lunch. We decorated the table, we cooked good food, and it was a great diversion had by all.

With big extended family activities on all holidays, we don’t normally have our own little holiday, so that’s kind of what we did here. A relaxed feel, & just being together was the desire, and it was accomplished.

We set the table in white, brown, & gold…

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We made name tags on gold leaves….

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We  used kraft paper [found in the packaging section at Walmart],
and copied last year’s Thanksgiving idea… but instead of individual placemats,
we made long runners that reached the whole lenth of the table,
and wrote, “I am thankful for…” at each place setting.

This would also be SO pretty in white or gold lettering.
I was sad I didn’t have that idea until it was all over. :)

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To make it kid-friendly, we put colored pencils in jelly jars, for a bit of fun at the table.

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We tried three slightly different centerpieces…

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An Italian meal was served instead of the traditional Thanksgiving turkey….

Grilled Caesar Salad…

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Ravioli with Grilled Chicken & Cream Sauce…

 

It was a fun little time, and two little girls particularly enjoyed it!
One poor little boy, however, particularly did not.
Lest the pictures look all glamorous & perfect,
here’s a little touch of reality. :)

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strong constraints of gratitude

If you are hosting or helping to host a Thanksgiving celebration,
THIS post by my friend Elizabeth Marie has excellent organization tips & ideas!
I call her my “hero mom.” :) xo Liz!

Happy Thanks-LIVING!

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