Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Thankful Thursday #232

I'm joining Rebecca Jo of Knit by God's Hand in her weekly feature, Thankful Thursday.  Click on the picture above to read her post and see who's linking up this week.

What am I thankful for this week?

Friends...they may be spread far and wide and some I've never met in person but the camaraderie I have with my fellow Christmas-lovers on the Magical Holiday Home Forums, my friends from California, Saipan, Florida, Illinois, Virginia and Rhode Island, my international friends from England, the Canary Islands, Canada, and Australia (all who are, thank goodness, on Facebook now), my co-workers, and my MilSpouse friends keeps me motivated, encouraged, and sane!  They are a phone call or a text or a FaceTime call away and even with my crazy busy schedule right now, I know that they are my support network.  Living this life with Vic halfway around the world is a challenge but I can do this with the help of my friends.

Vic and Sophia...we may be in three different places but with the wonders of today's technology, we can be connected instantly.  I am looking forward to the time when we will all be under the same roof for the holidays and what a celebration that will be.

Spectra...this little pooch brought so much joy into Sophia's life after she lost MudLynn and she continues to be such a character.  Who rescued who?

My job...I am so thankful that one of my former co-workers reached out to me with a job offer when she heard I was heading back to Washington.  I love my work and my co-workers.  What I do is not demanding but it is needed and makes the jobs of many others run smoothly.  I love being the behind-the-scenes fixer, it's my strength.

Washington, the Evergreen State...I am so happy to be back here.  The weather is glorious - grey, cloudy, cool days (lol, not everyone's idea of glorious) - real tea-drinking weather Mum would say.  We have had some warm days lately but not excessively so.  After reading posts from friends who have been living through the heatwave that has swept the Midwest and the East Coast, I am also thankful for air conditioning and a programmable thermostat so that the house is cool when I come home!

Christmas in July 2019 - Day Thirty-One

And that's a wrap!  Another Christmas in July is in the books.  What fun we have had.  I may not have watched as many Christmas movies as I had planned, or read a Christmas book, or tried any new crafts or recipes, but the camaraderie over on the Magical Holiday Home forums has been amazing!  I love my MHH sisters!  We have talked about just about everything to do with Christmas decor, baking, celebrations, traditions, favorites, and learned a whole lot about hygge.  It's been wonderful.

I have a couple of Christmas in July treasures to share with you.  The first is my annual Christmas in July card from my BFF Jodie.  She knows how much I love Christmas in July and always helps me commemorate it in my scrapbook album with her beautiful cards.  This year's is just adorable.

I love the candy canes tilted into a heart on the gingerbread house!

My second treasure is a group of treasures from the Magical Holiday Home Christmas in July 2019 Ornament Swap.  This is my third year to participate and I'm building up quite a collection.  The one requirement of the swap is that you make the ornaments yourself - this year there were six participants so we each got five ornaments plus the bonus snowman for participating.

Clockwise from left to right:  Miss JoDee's Bringing Home the Tree red truck (what you can't see is that the trunk of the tree is a piece of cinnamon stick so it smells divine), Michelle's 'Tis the Season hoop with beautifully embroidered roses, the snowman head gift for participating, GrammaDeb's beautifully crochet-covered round ball, Lana's Santa square, and Mrs. Soup's Jingle Trio
Thank you, Lana, for organizing another great swap!

I forgot to take a photo before I sent mine out but I made the Scandinavian Stars that I learned to make with my Sisterchicks at our reunion in Minnesota in 2017. 

Here's one I made in Minnesota, my swap stars were in Christmas colors.  You can find the directions here.

I hope you had some Christmas in July fun.  Shout out to my fellow bloggers who shared some fun Christmas posts this month:

What makes me happy (25 days of favorite ornaments!)

Christmas is only 148 days away!

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Christmas in July 2019 - Day Thirty

Here we are, almost to the end of this year's Christmas in July!  Where did the month go?  Today's topic is Memories of Christmases Past, A Walk Down Memory Lane.

When my fellow Christmas-loving pal, Miss JoDee (not to be confused with my BFF Jodie) and I put our heads together to come up with the themes for this year, we decided on four weekly main topics with sub-topics each day.  That left the last four days of the month - July 28, 29, 30, and 31.  I came up with completely random ideas which you have been reading here - ABCs, favorite ornament, and memories of Christmases Past and the final post, the wrap-up.

I came up with today's topic based on what will be in my 2018 December Daily album (it's still a work in progress).  Ali Edwards, the memory-keeping guru, suggests that you start your album with the reason why, goals, or intentions for the month of December and the holiday season.  I decided that, since this wasn't going to be a traditional family Christmas by any means (read on, you'll see what I mean), my album would be a memory album of the last 25 Christmases.  2018 was Sophia's 25th Christmas so it seemed like it was meant to be.

My reason why goes like this:
Ali Edwards' welcome message really resonated with me - "my wish for you this season is that you may be open to the smallest moments of joy and that you are able to use this project as a way to create joy within your own life." 
This is a Christmas like no other - Sophia, Vic and I are in three different locations.  We will not be together until December 23.  I have almost no Christmas decorations due to the move to a temporary apartment and the lack of space in the car in which we brought the necessary household goods.  Vic and Sophia are not available for us to have enjoy all of our usual holiday craft fairs, movies, concerts, and other special events.  The budget is tight due to the move and our upcoming plans to buy a house.  It is a holiday season in which I need to find another avenue to experience the magic.  Welcome to 25 years of Christmas memories.
I won't list all of the 25 years of memories here because I hope to share my completed album, in photos or in a video if I can master that skill, once it's done.  Here are just a few of the photos that will feature in the album.

1994 - Sophia's first Christmas - this family photo was taken in October when Vic was home on leave - he spent Christmas at his new duty station in Florida while Sophia and I were still in Saipan.  She's so cute but my hairstyle makes me look matronly and Vic's wearing his ribbons the wrong way around (got to give him a break, he'd only been in the Navy for three months!) - things like this make us chuckle 25 years later.
Although Sophia went through a brief phase when she wanted nothing to do with the portrait studio, she came around and we loved going to J C Penney for Christmas photos - this is 1998, our last Christmas in Florida.
2003 was a very tough Christmas - we lost Mum in July and when we brought the decorations into the small apartment we had rented in Virginia Beach, it was just more than I could handle - everything brought up a memory of Mum.  Things were very subdued that year. 
In 2008 we were living in Rhode Island and flew to Oregon to spend Christmas with my sister and her family and with Dad who had moved in with them earlier that year.  Here we are on the annual Target shopping trip.  The whole holiday was wonderful; we trekked into the wilderness like the Griswold Family for a tree, ate lots of yummy food, played games, had a slideshow with old family photos, the boys knocked over the decorated tree and survived, and it was wonderful to be together as a family.  It ended up being Dad's last Christmas as he died in February 2009.  
Christmas 2013 was our second Christmas of our second time in Virginia - Sophia graduated from high school in June, moved to Oregon to go to college and then decided she didn't want to be so far away so she came back, and then Vic got word that we would be going to Washington next so she enrolled in the local community college and looked ahead to colleges in Washington.  Cute photo of the two of them, was photo-bombing a term back in 2013?
And that brings us to 2018 - Christmas in Sophia's apartment in Washington.  We lost MudLynn in the summer but Spectra had come along to join the family.  We packed a lot of fun into the few days that we had together before Sophia went back to her studies, I went back to work, and Vic flew back to Virginia.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Christmas in July 2019 - Day Twenty-Nine

You'd think that with over 800 ornaments (I know, crazy isn't it, and every one of them on an Excel spreadsheet!) it would be tough to come up with a Favorite Ornament for today's topic.  It was actually very easy, it's this one (sorry it's a bit blurry):

Our First Christmas Together 1992

It's a simple Hallmark ornament with a loose piece at the back for inserting a photo.  1992 was the start of our story, it was the year we met, and the year we got engaged.  This photo was taken on Vic's birthday - look how brown he is from working all day in the tropical sun!  Vic was an overseas contract worker from the Philippines who came to Saipan to work for the cable television company on a project to upgrade the system to fiber optics.  I was the Administrative Manager for the company so I told Sophia when she was little that Mommy and Daddy met at the office.  Vic told her he married his boss!  Anyway, this party that Vic roommates held for him was the first real time we were together as a couple and here we are now, having celebrated twenty-six years of marriage this year.  We've gone from Saipan to Florida to Illinios to Virginia to Rhode Island and back to Virginia and to Washington and back to Virginia again and now back to Washington again for me and on to Okinawa for Vic.  We hope to return to Saipan, would love to walk down memory lane.  One day perhaps.

Here's a closer view of the two of us, two crazy kids falling in love:

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Christmas in July 2019 - Day Twenty-Eight

The ABCs of Our Family Christmas

A - Advent - Mum used to buy Advent calendars for my sister Barbara and me, and then for Sophia, so now it's my job for make sure my nephews, Marc and Alex, have them every year as well.  Not really sure if my sis approves of the chocolate ones I buy!

B - Buffet - Christmas Eve Buffet that lasts for several days of snacking - Baked Ham with Pineapple, Caesar Salad, French Bread, Chilled Shrimp, Smoked Salmon, Pate, Cheese Board, Marinated Mushrooms, Green Olives - yummy!

C - Custard - for pouring over the Christmas Plum Pudding!

D - DVDs - we all get at least one so they come in very handy for Q - Quiet Time.

E - Eggnog - Love it or hate it?  Vic and I love it.

F - Fruitcake - Again, love it or hate it?  I've been buying the overpriced ones from a British Food Supplier online but this year (and I know I've said this for the last few years!), I'm going to try to make my own.  No fruitcake jokes, please!

G - Green - As in Mum's quote about my decorating, "Every flat surface is covered with something red or green!"

H - Ho Ho Ho - Our days of Sophia believing in Santa are over but we can still pretend, can't we?

I - Icicles - Love to see them hang from the eaves of houses.

J - Jesus - The reason for the season.

K - Kettlewell in the Yorkshire Dales, England - Site of our 2001 Family Christmas - the best Christmas ever!

L - Lazy - Christmas Day afternoons.

M - Memories - Of Christmases past, loved ones no longer with us, friends and family.

N - Naughty or Nice - Which list are you on?

O - Ornaments - At last count, 440 and every one is special (good grief, how many years ago was this list compiled?  Ornament count is, gulp, over 800 now).

P - Christmas Pudding - So delicious.

Q - Quiet Time - See L and D.

R - Reflection - I spend time every Christmas going through the previous year's cards - re-reading the family newsletters, fixing the pictures of the children in my mind so I can marvel at how much they have grown when this year's photo arrives.

S - Stockings - There's always a (chocolate) orange and nuts in the toe.

T - Traditions - So many, so precious.

U - Unwrapping - All at once or one at a time - what's it like at your house?

V - Visitors - We love to have a holiday Open House, usually one of the two weekends before Christmas.

W - Wreath - Our patriotic, Go Navy, wreath has adorned our front door in three different states now.

X - Xtra Special - Everything about Christmas.

Y - Yule Log - Every year, I wish we had a fireplace and this year, we have one!  It's a gas fireplace so I'll have to imagine that a yule log is in there.

Z - ZZZZs - What follows L, D and Q!

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Christmas in July 2019 - Day Twenty-Seven

I moved on to Family Favorites and Family Traditions over the last two days and completely skipped over the topic that should have come before them, What Freezes Well?  There's been a lot of discussion in our Christmas group about baking cookies and appetizers and prepping meals for those evenings when you're rushing out to a school or church or other function.  Pre-planning can take a lot of stress out of the holiday season and your freezer can be your best friend.

One of the best gifts we received each year we were in Rhode Island was a tin of cookies from Sophia's riding instructor.  She baked an incredible variety - at least ten different cookies - and they were delicious.  Her secret was to have several baking weekends and freeze the cookies.  Then when it was time to present the tins, she just had to defrost the cookies and make up the selections.

I don't freeze a lot of prepped meals during the holidays because I think some of the best meals you can freeze are casseroles and one pan dishes like lasagne, other pasta combinations, macaroni and cheese, and things like enchiladas and unfortunately, my family are not casserole-eaters.  Can you imagine?  I have to go to a potluck to get my casserole fix!  However, if I was going to prep and freeze meals, those would be exactly what I would be freezing since many can be cooked from frozen.

The other great freezer tip is to prep ingredients and place them in Ziploc bags and then tip them into your slow cooker.  I've never tried it but I have several friends who do a mass assembly and have a month's worth of meals ready to go.  Here's a couple of great sites if you're interested in doing that:

31 CrockPot Freezer Meals for Busy Weeknights

Taste of Home's 65 Slow Cooker Freezer Meals

Do you prep meals and freeze them so they are handy for those evenings when your schedule is a little hectic?

Friday, July 26, 2019

Christmas in July 2019 - Day Twenty-Six

Christmas Traditions today - do you have things you do year after year?

We always have the Barnes and Noble shopping trip on Christmas Eve.  We go out to breakfast and then head to Barnes and Noble.  We browse through the books and magazines and everyone has a gift card, usually $25 to spend.  We make our selections, pay for them, and then take the shopping bags home and put them under the tree.  No peeking until Christmas Day, usually in the afternoon when we are winding down and just feel like lounging on the couch with a good book or magazine.

A couple of my favorite British Christmas magazines

I start prepping the Christmas Eve buffet when we get home from Barnes and Noble.  The ham is readied for the oven, all of the side dishes are put on or in their serving dishes, covered with Saran Wrap, and popped into the fridge, ready for the table when we get home from the Christmas Eve service at church.  I pop the ham into the oven in time for it to be cooked right before we leave so I can turn the oven off and leave it in there to stay warm.

There's always a Christmas Eve box (it's a young adult version of the Christmas pajamas she always opened - one gift - on Christmas Eve).  It still has a pair of pajamas but it also has a movie, some hot cocoa, and other treats.  There will be something for Spectra in the box too.

Vic and I have Christmas pajamas to wear on Christmas morning - it's about the only time I can get him to wear something red!

On Christmas Day, our stockings always have an orange and some nuts in the toe.  The orange is usually the Terry's chocolate variety and one year, I found the most amazing chocolates at the Lindt store that were shaped like nuts, even the foil wrapping looked like the real thing.  I haven't been able to find them again.

Just as the Christmas Eve buffet features the same savory items each year, the sideboard groans with the British sweets - Christmas cake, Christmas pudding, a selection box or two, shortbread, Cadbury's chocolate biscuits, and any other festive treats that I've been able to find at our local British food store, our gourmet grocery store, or online.

Just typing this makes me long for Christmas - it's only five months from today!

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Christmas in July 2019 - Day Twenty-Five

Christmas in the Kitchen - Family Favorites.  For sweet things, Vic loves Date and Walnut Bread, at any time, any season.  Sophia loves Fudge, the kind made with marshmallow fluff, and I love fruitcake.

Top of the savory list is smoked salmon for Vic (we had a standard Sunday after church lunch at a local bagel place in Virginia and lox and cream cheese bagels were always our choice).  Sophia loves marinated mushrooms and just give me a jar of pimento-stuffed olives and I am happy.  I suppose that comes from a childhood memory of only ever having green olives at Christmas time.  They were a treat (a jar of olives and a can of Reddi-Whip-type squirt cream were the two things my sister and I really looked forward to each Christmas); I don't find them to be overly expensive but I suppose for a one-income family of four in the late 60s and 70s, they were a treat item.

We have lots of other favorites but these stand out to me as the ones that I will remember most.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Christmas in July 2019 - Day Twenty-Four

The days are flying by, just one week left.  Today's topic is baking tips - what have you discovered that is just too good not to be shared?

I read a great article this week about chilling your cookie dough - not the sugar cookie kind that you're going to roll that we normally think should be chilled - but regular to-be-scooped cookie dough like chocolate chip.  Chilling helps your cookies hold their shape when they go into the oven.  30 minutes is recommended but overnight is even better.  Do you chill your to-be-scooped cookie dough?

I've had this photo for ages and I just love the idea.  So many of us make rum balls, or truffles, or thumbprint cookies, or mini-muffins and isn't this is the cutest way to package them up for gift-giving?

Who knew as you toss the foil or waxed paper box in the recycling bin that you could cover it with wrap and make a very festive and unique gift box for your baked goods?  A-mazing!

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Christmas in July 2019 - Day Twenty-Three

Baking is our topic for today.  Cookies, cakes, breads, what do you bake for the holidays?  My go-tos are Pumpkin Bread (and I sometimes swirl some Nutella into it!) and Date and Walnut Bread.  I make them both in the mini loaf pans so that I can wrap the loaves in colored cellophane and give them as gifts.  They make a great thank you for coming to our holiday open house gift.

Here they are before they get their cellophane wrap

Both recipes are from the Betty Crocker's Christmas Cookbook that I've had for years - copyright is 1982!  I looked online to try to find links on the Betty Crocker site but no luck.  There are some that are similar but I'm not sure how the differences in the ingredient quantities might make the loaves turn out.  Would love to post them here but that's an infringement of that ol' 1982 copyright and I wouldn't want to upset Betty!

On a related note, Country Crock brings out a small tub of Honey Spread and one of Cinnamon Spread at the holidays which are the perfect accompaniment to these breads.

My other holiday standby is a rum cake.  I have a recipe from a Bacardi advertisement that I cut out of a magazine years ago but this year, Vic told me about a great honey rum that he tried in Spain.  It was from the Canary Islands and Total Wine for the win, I found a bottle for Father's Day.  With all the chaos that was June, we didn't open it so I'm saving it for when he comes home.

What do you bake for the holidays?

Monday, July 22, 2019

Christmas in July 2019 - Day Twenty-Two

Our Christmas Eve/Christmas Day menu has only been different a couple of times and we didn't like it so we're going back to the tried and true favorite - the Christmas Eve buffet that rolls over into Christmas Day.  I bake a ham in the afternoon, and turn off the oven so it keeps warm while we go to the Christmas Eve service.  During the day, we have prepped a variety of side dishes - smoked salmon, chilled shrimp, marinated mushrooms, a variety of pickles and olives, and a cheese board.  When we come home from church, all that needs to be done is slice the ham and crusty French bread and toss the Caesar salad.  The following day, we have lots of leftovers to snack on and I can whip up a fresh salad.  This is very similar to the menu we had when I was a child although it was potato salad instead of shrimp and salmon.  I tried making Mum's potato salad a few Christmas Eves but it just wasn't the same without Mum and Dad there so I stopped.  Maybe it's time to pick it up again.  The recipe isn't written down, I'll have to try to remember it.

The menus that haven't worked over the years - we tried a seafood casserole one year.  Meh, it was ok, but just not what we're used to and there were no leftovers!  Vic and I had fondue the last two years at the Melting Pot since Sophia wasn't with us.  That too was ok, but again, no leftovers and it's really something I would like the three of us to do as a special occasion dinner.

Do you have special menus for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day?

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Christmas in July 2019 - Day Twenty-One

Moving into Week Four - Christmas in the Kitchen.  Today and tomorrow our topic will be Christmas menus, split into two parts.  Today will be meals and menus through the month and tomorrow will be Christmas Eve/Christmas Day.  Do you prep food ahead of time so that there are freezer meals ready to go on those nights when you have school, church, work, neighborhood, or club events?  Are there special meals that you only eat during the holidays?

I love the idea of prepping food ahead of time and I might seriously consider that this year.  Vic will be home, Sophia will be here, and it would be nice to have everything all ready to pop into the oven rather than having to spend time in the kitchen.  Although when we moved into our new house, I made sure that the room flowing through to the kitchen (it's really like a great room set-up) was turned into the family room, with the dining room separate.  The previous owners had the dining room where we now have our family room and their family room was separate.  That way, if I am cooking in the kitchen, Vic and Sophia can be watching a movie, reading, or working on their laptops right where I can be part of their conversation.  It drove me nuts in Virginia to be in a separate room and disconnected from the family.

What's on your menu for the month of December?

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Christmas in July 2019 - Day Twenty

How's your Christmas in July going so far?  I've been busy putting up the daily topics on the Magical Holiday Home forums and adding my two cents.  I'm not as organized as I would have liked to have been so sometimes I'm a day late with my blog update and I haven't tried any new crafts or recipes.  Just no time and most of my craft supplies are still packed.  I have organized some of the Christmas things that I have unpacked and I made it to the Ornament Premiere.  I've been jotting down some ideas in my Christmas planner so that's a win.

The community over on the forums is wonderful and we have had some lovely chats on the daily topics.  I have never met any of the members but hope to one day!  We are spread out all over the USA as well as Canada and Australia.  That's the wonder of modern technology and social media, keeping us all connected around a common interest.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Christmas in July 2019 - Day Nineteen

Today's topic is book pages hygge style but as with sheet music, I think we've pretty much covered that.  I wanted to put something up today so I don't get here's my take on hygge.  After lengthy discussions with my fellow Christmas lovers, I think I can sum it up like this:  Many of us have had a lot of hygge in our holidays without having realized that there was a term for it.  Togetherness, cozy, comfort, atmosphere, presence, it's all there in our celebrations.

That's all for today.  I'm off to try to catch up on your posts, fellow bloggers, forgive me for the lack of visiting and commenting.  I figure I'll try to go back at least a week and then start from here being a more faithful follower.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Christmas in July 2019 - Day Eighteen

Not a lot I can add about sheet music along the hygge lines and it's been a very long day so I'm just going to link that post here and schedule this to go up on Thursday morning.  Nighty-night everyone!

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Christmas in July 2019 - Day Seventeen

Hygge gift-wrapping.  I think the best example of this would be something hand-stamped on brown paper.  Some families wrap their gifts in different paper for each family member so the hygge version would be to have a different stamp design or different ink color for each family member.

This photo comes from Girl Sips Wine's great tutorial.

This is an easy design for stamps made from potatoes - kids would get a kick out of that technique!

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Christmas in July 2019 - Day Sixteen

Hygge cards.  Makes me think of the lost art of letter writing, sending a heartfelt letter to someone to let them know how much they mean to you.  A handmade card with a note tucked inside would be a very special card.

My friend Jodie surprised me several years with a Christmas in July card.  She knows how much I love the month-long celebration and makes it extra special by sending me a card.

Christmas in July 2019 - Day Fifteen

Hygge Christmas Style as it applies to gifts - how do you add a sense of comfort, togetherness, and well-being to choosing or making and giving gifts?

One of the suggestions in my Christmas group is the Christmas Eve box or a box that can be given at any time during the holidays.  Cozy things like a blanket, wrap, pajamas, or socks, a candle or sachet, scented items for the bath, a new mug with coffee, tea, or cocoa, a holiday movie or book, and some chocolates.  Who wouldn't love a gift box like that?

Sophia with her Christmas 2015 Christmas Eve box - pajamas, a new Starbucks mug, cocoa K-cups, and a movie (San Andreas is not your average holiday title but I knew it was one she wanted)

Monday, July 15, 2019

Christmas in July 2019 - Day Fourteen

I can't believe that we are starting Week Three already!  This week's theme is Hygge Christmas Style.  Hygge (pronounced Hoo-ga) loosely translates as a sense of comfort, togetherness, and well-being.  We're going back to the categories from Week One and viewing them from a hygge perspective.

Decor - how can you have hygge decor?  I found this graphic when I was reading The Little Book of Hygge, Danish Secrets to Happy Living by Meik Wiking.  The Hygge Manifesto includes:
Everything listed here just speaks to me about the holidays that I remember from the past, recent celebrations, and how I would like our holidays to be in the future - family and friends, a warm fire, cozy socks and blankets, hot cocoa.  It is soothing, not hectic.  I know the holiday season can be busy but it's a fun busy when you're with the ones you love, making memories.

Sorry, I got off track there, we were supposed to be talking about decor.  Well, I think our decor is very hygge.  There are a lot of special homemade touches, things that were made with love that bring memories to mind of the person that made them, and they are made even more special because I know that the person who made them was thinking of me, and us, as they were crafting.  Knitted Santas, snowmen, stockings, tea cozies, special ornaments, greenery and ribbon formed into centerpieces.  I have a whole display every year of Sophia's preschool Christmas crafts and I imagine her little hands as they made them.  It makes me long for her to be little again even though I love every moment of her being a young adult.  Memories, how precious they are.

Before I get too teary-eyed, may I just wish you some hygge for the upcoming holiday season.

Christmas in July 2019 - Day Thirteen

Filling the Calendar - non-food version.  The possibilities are endless!  I could put a December calendar on the wall and fill every day with something festive.  When Sophia was younger, spots had to be reserved for school events like the Christmas party, choir concerts, the last day of school (don't forget the teacher gift), and the days when school was out so that we could have even more holiday fun.

Church activities were usually next - the Christmas concert and play, Christmas Eve service, children's church party and if we could find one, a living Nativity.

Then events in the community - holiday fairs (most of them are usually before Thanksgiving but you get the occasional one in December), light shows (commercial ones like the zoo or the botanical gardens and neighborhood light shows), special events at the mall (there was a holiday ice skating rink in Norfolk), and other special events.  We used to get the newspaper which had a center spread calendar with all the details but these days, it's Facebook events or word of mouth on your local area group.

Finally, quieter days at home but still as festive - cookie baking, holiday open house, movie nights, Advent celebrations, and if there are any days left, making our own fun with crafts or games or a puzzle.

Holiday fun with the gingerbread house

Busy, busy, busy December and I LOVE it!

Friday, July 12, 2019

Christmas in July 2019 - Day Twelve

The last two days of this week have the theme Filling the Calendar - Food and Non-food.  I can't honestly remember what our thinking was months ago when my fellow Christmas in July planner Jody and I talked back and forth over email about the month's themes. 

I suppose Filling the Calendar - the food version - can be all about special events.  Do you plan an Open House or a Cookie Exchange or some other event revolving around food?  I love to hold a Holiday Open House; it's an informal opportunity to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and visit when everywhere is decorated for the holidays.  I'd love for it to be an annual event although that's been a bit sporadic in recent years.

I have to vent a little here - I know, so un-holiday-like - but this particular scenario just bugs me no end.  I am not a fan of what I call Go Fund Me holiday entertaining.  The invitation reads something like, "Come to OUR house for OUR annual holiday open house/party/gathering/whatever...and bring a dish to share".  Really, an invitation to drop by and you're asking me to bring a dish?  I'm sorry, but when I hold a holiday party, there's no expectation for anyone to bring anything except themselves, and I definitely wouldn't issue an invitation with that request.  I can completely understand a gathering that's specifically geared to everyone bringing something - a family gathering where everyone contributes to the menu, a gift exchange potluck lunch, a ladies brunch for a group of close friends, or something like that but there's just something about inviting people to your home for your family's holiday event and asking them to bring something.  It just doesn't sit right with me.  Maybe I'm way off base, what are your thoughts?

What kind of special events do you plan at the holidays that revolve around food?

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Christmas in July 2019 - Day Eleven

Today's topic is alternative Advent celebrations/traditions.  The only one I can think of, and I'll be the first to admit I don't know anything about it, is the Jesse Tree. has an interesting feature on Jesse Trees so I'm going to point you in that direction so you get the full details.  If anyone has a Jesse Tree as part of their holiday celebration, I'd love to hear all about it in the comments.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Christmas in July 2019 - Day Ten

Advent calendars for adults - the non-food/drink variety.  Last year I bought a Yankee Candle Advent calendar.

It contained a festive votive holder and a variety of votives and tealights in holiday scents.  It was really lovely but I did find it hard to open the little windows and pop the votives and tealights out - they were really tightly packed into the inside plastic tray - my cuticles suffered quite badly from the experience!

I watch a lot of Vlogmas videos on You Tube and there are all kinds of beauty Advent calendars - they range from the relatively inexpensive to very pricey but if you like to try new beauty products or have an older teen who is getting into cosmetics and toiletries, it's a great gift.

Socks are another great one although most of the ones I saw were only 12-day varieties.  You could certainly make your own with 12 or 24 pairs of socks, especially if you collect the holiday ones throughout the year.