We met up with my very talented friend Celia, of It’s a Penguin Life this past weekend to have some photos snapped for our Christmas card. Every year we try to take one ourselves and it’s usually a disaster, so I can’t thank her enough for her awesome work. After an unexpected location change from Russo’s, the famous food market near us, we ended up at Gore Place in Waltham, MA. There was a Christmas tea going on that morning so we had to scramble to wrap up quickly, but I absolutely love how they turned out. Here are a few of our favorites from the day:
With each passing holiday season I’ve felt this increasing anxiety plant itself right in my chest and grow, untamed from about early November to just after Christmas. I know I put this pressure on myself to “do-do-do” throughout the holidays since they’re over too quickly and I want us to enjoy them to the fullest with everyone we love, but this year I had to just call it quits.
In a matter of 12-hours I managed to slice open both my thumbs, our oven stopped working just as I started massive food prep for our annual Christmas party, and I caught an awful stomach bug the morning of the party. (Exhaustion, nausea, dizziness..blegh. If I didn’t know I wasn’t pregnant I’d swear I was based on these symptoms!) After pushing myself all morning thinking I was just tired, I felt this sweeping wave of utter exhaustion wash over me and suddenly had this incredible urge to start weeping. (See what I mean about the pregnancy symptoms?) I mean, I couldn’t even wrap gifts because both thumbs were out of commission. Do you even realize how much you use just one thumb for?? Mind blown, I’m telling you.
Reluctantly, we re-scheduled our party and I crawled into bed, defeated. It was so disappointing to not see family and friends before the holiday, but it also forced me to slow down think about what really matters at the holidays so I can better prioritize for next year.
So far, here are a few ideas I’ve come up with:
1. Start decorating earlier
Last year, I made a note to myself in my planner to be all decorated for Christmas by December 1. Hah! — this didn’t even come close to happening. Thanksgiving fell very late this year and we went big with Halloween decor for once which really mucked things up. Next year we’ll go small there and start thinking Christmas decor closer to early November. I like to decorate over the course of a few weeks too, which isn’t something I’ll always be able to indulge in, so the sooner I start in late fall, the better.
2. Block the family stuff first
Since getting engaged we’ve pretty much stumbled through the delicate territory of family holidays. No matter how we split them, some of our family gets slighted and we’re exhausted logging miles back and forth on highways. It’s is a good problem to have and if it means less time enjoying our home together at the holidays, we’re lucky to be so blessed. I think if we can just nail down when all the family parties are early enough in the fall, it should cut down on any last-minute party-overlap and we can plan for shopping and baking without being up until 1 and 2 am getting it all done.
3. Call a cleaning lady
I feel like the turnover from Thanksgiving to Christmas happens so quickly that whether we host the former or not, our place is typically in shambles come December 1. Since I’m also an appallingly messy baker, this would be a nice “gift” for my poor husband — freshly made baked goods, a clean house, and a sane wife just in time for the start of the Christmas season.
So those are just a few of the ideas I’ve been brainstorming so far. Fingers crossed next year goes more smoothly with a little more forethought!
I love a simple, free projects. I have to be honest; this project was inspired largely by all the recycling we had piling up in the kitchen and the abundance of greens floating around from tree trimming and ONE bouquet of Christmassy flowers Brian bought for our December 4, engagement anniversary! (I make those suckers last.) I also have two annoyingly lid-less Camelbak water bottles floating around the kitchen waiting for me to Google whether you can buy just the lids. I’m too stubborn to throw them out until I know for sure!
Anyways, so I looked at the recycling, looked at the bottles, and looked at the greens and thought: ICE LANTERNS. Obviously. Because that is the first thing that springs to one’s mind, right? I thought they’d be perfect to welcome our Christmas party guests this weekend. Supplies were very basic. I didn’t snap any pics of the recyclables I used, but I’ll update with tomorrow’s batch of lanterns if you’re interested.
I recommend using a mixture of different textures and greens. These were a mix of clippings from our Christmas tree and some from that bouquet I mentioned. Make sure you incorporate bits of color too. I used some large berries (from the bouquet again!) as well as some smaller little bunches I gathered up off the ground after noticing them on a tree when we walked to downtown Kennebunkport from our hotel this weekend. Luckily I grabbed them right before all the snow.
A few tips if you want to try this yourself: While sourching your containers, picture a small votive or medium size pillar candle needing to fit inside. That’s how I selected my container “molds”. We only have one plastic pitcher but the size and depth is PERFECT if you have them. But I also had amazing luck with those coated plastic quart milk containers. The square shape gave a very modern, Crate-and-Barrel feel. I just sawed off the top 1/4 (just below where the milk cap is), gave it a good rinse, and then stuck my Camelbak bottle in. I used a giant sour cream container for a third one with a small Annie’s soup can in the middle, but didn’t have great results. I think I weighted the soup can down too much because the bottom broke away as I removed it. Whatever you do, DO NOT USE GLASS! Yikes.
Place the smaller inner container into the larger, use some rocks to keep it in place and fill JUST the outer container 1/2 way with water. I used a small bag of those river pebbles you can buy at Ikea for like 89 cents that I had laying around under the sink for my bamboo plants. The inner container should be floating a bit. You want a “bottom” to your lantern, remember. Then I just trimmed up the greens and stuffed them down the sides! I used the end of a long branch to move bits around and I focused the prettiest textures and colors toward the top, letting some poke above the water line. Don’t over-pack either. You want some candlelight to be able to shine through! Then I just stuck them outside, tucked into a snow back for 12 hours and that’s about it! I brought them onto the porch for a few hours, then gently loosed the outer container first, then the inner one. It’s a little warm out so they’re all chilling (hehe) in my freezer right now. (Brian will be so thrilled when he sees I’ve messed with his pride and joy. The man loves an organized freezer.) I’ll just pop a small battery-operated votive in it before guests start arriving and place them on our walkway.
Here we have the finished product: