Sunday, January 8, 2012

so christmas went like this

So, at first I was a bit worried that I was getting my Christmas photos up too late, but then I looked back and last year I didn't get my Christmas photos blogged until the 23rd of January! So it's all good. :)

Darren has told me many times that you have to sleep to form memories. This could possibly be the explanation for why I have such a bad long-term memory- I don't sleep a lot. Sometimes it's by choice, and sometimes not, but I rarely sleep more than 6-7 hours a night...sometimes a lot less. And this Christmas? I'm not sure I got even that much during a lot of the season! So my memories of it are a bit fuzzy in places, which is why I'm so glad I took lots of photos. :)

I'm one of those people who's usually finished shopping by the weekend after Thanksgiving and has everything wrapped, decorated, and ready to go by mid-December. This time around, though? I'm not sure what happened...I think it was a combination of physical therapy (having to drive to an extra 2-3 appointments per week sucked a lot of time out of my schedule) and a rather severe case of my usual winter blues, but it took me until December 20th...yes, the 20th...to really get my stride. That was also the weekend of my brother's birthday, which marked the start of what I would come to call "driving season." I spent so very much time in a car this Christmas, and much of it was unexpected!

I'll start my story on the 21st, the day after I'd just been up to see my family for J's birthday party...

When we arrived home from our trip to Lebanon, TN, I found a surprise box from Mom and Dad on the front porch containing these two cuties! I collect nutcrackers, and they found these guys at World Market and knew I would love them (and I do!!).

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I love that they're shorter than many of my other nutcracker dolls- I'd been wanting more of a variety in sizes, so these were perfect!

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The new guys arrived just in time to be put out with our other decorations that I'd slowly been adding to the living room, including our tiny nativity set.

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Here are the stockings, hung by the chimney with care. :) They're actually one of the first things I got out this year when I started decorating! I have many bins of Christmas items, but one in particular is labeled "Open First" and contains stockings, stocking holders, the nativity, the card holder, and many other must-haves for Christmas decorating. If I just get the contents of this box out, then about 75% of the decorating (besides the tree) is done.

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Our poor Lego Star Wars advent calendar...we still haven't opened all the windows. That's how crazy busy it was!

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I love getting Christmas cards. :)

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I managed to find some crafty time at the last minute to letterpress a few special cards to send out.

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And I also took a little more crafty time to make ornaments- the white clay snowflake one was made using these instructions on Pinefeather's blog, and the little tree in a snowglobe was inspired by this post on Craftberry Bush (I also included photos of some of the supplies I used).

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The last week before Christmas started smoothly- I felt like I was finally getting back into my holiday groove and was on track to get all my gift wrapping and last minute prep done early, but then on Tuesday we learned that Darren's grandfather had passed away and his funeral was going to be held on December 23rd in Knoxville- about 3 hours from our home. He'd been ill for some time so it wasn't unexpected, but it was still understandably difficult for the family.

We'd originally planned to drive up on the day of the funeral and stay only for the service, but then we learned that Darren's brothers and their families were all driving in from D.C. the day before, so at the last minute we changed plans and drove up that Thursday evening as soon as I got off work.

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We were there less than 24 hours before driving back home, and between driving from the condo where everyone stayed to the funeral home and then to the burial site, we probably spent another 2 hours in the car while there.

Christmas Eve morning was a flurry of activity. I was majorly stressing because even though I'd finally managed to get myself together during the early part of the week, the unexpected travel had totally thrown off the plans I'd made to have everything done before that day. Instead of spending a relaxing day having sushi out at lunch and maybe getting the chance to read a book or something, we spent nearly the entire day wrapping presents and cooking (I had two loaves of bread and a pecan pie to bake for various gatherings). We did make time to go out to lunch, but unexpectedly found that our favorite sushi place that we always go to on Christmas Eve was closed this year! So we went to Cracker Barrel instead.

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And somewhere in the middle of all that my Dad got in touch with me to tell me that one of my great uncles had passed away that morning. :( He'd also been sick for some time and it wasn't unexpected (he'd been under Hospice care for a while), but it's still something that's just never easy, especially at Christmas. At the time the funeral plans hadn't been set yet, but I would later learn that visitation was on the 26th and the funeral on the 27th.

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We finished wrapping and getting things ready just in time to leave for the Christmas Eve service at our church. Well, almost just in time- we were about five minutes late. :)

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After church we headed over to Darren's sister's house for their traditional Christmas Eve fondue. And here's how stressed I was...I forgot to take my camera!!! Yes, me! Thank goodness we only live about ten minutes away and were able to go and retrieve it after dinner and before we opened presents.

This is one of the few photos I have of Mike during the evening- he's hardly ever still enough to get a photo of!

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Darren's sister gave all the "college" students (Darren is working on his Master's degree in Biology) monkey Snuggies with their names embroidered on them. What Steph doesn't know is that he loves the thing! He's wrapped up in it more than once when we watch something from Hulu or Netflix. :)

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Darren grabbed the camera for a bit, so there's at least a few photos of me in this batch. Everyone gave me tons of awesome Star Wars stuff, including a bunch of things that Darren's sister found at the Williams Sonoma outlet. I was all, like, hold up, there's a Williams Sonoma outlet? Good thing it's nowhere close to me, or I'd have no money left. Ever.

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Darren and Elyse, the Snuggie twins. :)

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And Darren made a new friend. He hates cats. Can't you tell?

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After spending a few hours with Darren's family, we drove back home (again, just about 10 minutes this time, thank goodness!) and promptly fell asleep- we were pretty exhausted!

The next morning I woke up early and went straight to the living room. Not to make coffee, not to check the gifts, and not to sneak a peek in my stocking. No, I wanted to get up and make sure...get this...that the white balance on my camera was correct. Yes, I have become a dork about that lately. And the lighting in our living room is tough because some areas get more natural light and some get more artificial, so I have to balance between the two and do the best that I can.

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I did get a few shots of everything all set up on Christmas morning while fiddling with settings, though. :)

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We had to put all the presents on the table this year instead of under the tree since the new kitten was a little too interested in what was going on under that big green thing with all the lights. Let's just say I'm glad we found the mess before we put any packages under there! Hopefully he'll grow out of that next year.

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The stockings are full now!

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The arrival of the new nutcrackers from Mom and Dad prompted me to go ahead and get a few more of them out. One of my goals for next Christmas is to find a really good place to display them all instead of finding spaces for just a few each year.

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And I did place a few packages- just those for Darren and I- under the tree with my new tree skirt just so I could take a photo of them and make it look normal. Again, dorky like that.

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And then Darren got up and we proceeded to open stockings and gifts. Of course I got him his annual case of Bounty bars!

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Griffin was very interested in one of the glittered snowflakes we used as package toppers.

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Darren filled my stocking with all kinds of fun, unique chocolates from Fresh Market!

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This package is from a fun friend who lives all the way across the country. Check out the Darth Vader lollipop!!

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I went geeky with Darren's gifts this year- he got both an Aperture Laboratories (from Portal) coffee mug and shower curtain.

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In this photo I'm opening a gift containing RF locators for keys. With a remote. Seriously! I'm always putting my keys down somewhere and not remembering where later, so now all I have to do is press a button on the remote and they'll beep (loudly!) anywhere in the house. Of course, my first thought was what if I lose the remote, but it's been living in the basket with our projector and Blu-Ray remotes and hasn't gotten lost yet.

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And, of course, the Christmas cats. :)

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After we opened gifts we cooked breakfast- pancakes and bacon!

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And then it was time to gather up all the gifts and finish packing so we could go and spend a couple of days with my family.

At Mom and Dad's house we started off with Christmas dinner. The centerpieces that I made earlier in December finally had their chance to shine!

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Miss Sophie was hungry as soon as she arrived, so J and I quickly made a plate for her.

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I think that Christmas and Thanksgiving dinner plates are always pretty- so colorful!

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Darren made another new friend.

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And this photo of Sophie may look all sweet and everything, but really she was throwing those pom-poms on the floor and yelling "boom!" Darren may or may not have encouraged this behavior. :)

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Sophie and my Mom sewing.

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Christmas with this chickie was so different this year than it was last year. This time she was all into it, helping pass out gifts and really enjoying opening her own (as opposed to really enjoying chewing on the paper and boxes :) ).

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Here she's trying to pick up my "big gift" of the Silhouette Cameo. She made the funniest grunting noise when she tried to lift it! After I shot this photo I quickly ran over to help her out.

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I got Dad a set of nesting circle dies from Lifestyle Crafts. They inherited my old Big Kick and have been using it for some projects around the house, and this was one of the things they tried from my stash that they really liked.

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Beth and J gave Sophie a play kitchen for Christmas, so Darren and I got her lots of play food for it, including an adorable Melissa and Doug sushi set. Yes, they really do make wooden play sushi!

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Sophie also got her own "laptop" and "Blackberry."

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My brother and Darren picked up the gift wrapping rivalry again after a couple of years' hiatus. Darren's huge box was heavy and contained two smaller boxes.

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One was a stack of MCAT study books...

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...and the other? Was filled with rocks!! And also a printout of the keyboard dock for Darren's Asus Transformer Prime. It wasn't available for Christmas but was Darren's big gift, so he'll get it just as soon as it's available to ship. Side note- the Transformer Prime tablet itself (his birthday gift) finally arrived earlier this week, and he loves it!

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There were stockings involved in the gift opening, too (of course!), but I think that all of the photos of those are on Dad's camera since I was busy, you know, digging stuff out of my stocking at the time. :)

We finished opening gifts, and then quickly got ready for more company to come over. J helped Mom clip some threads off of a couple of sewn gifts that had just been completed. Darren and Mom helped provide plenty of light. :)

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This girl stuck with her Poppy for a lot of the night.

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My Aunt Tina, Uncle Mike, cousins Michelle and Jake, and my grandparents all came over shortly afterward for another round of gift opening.

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This shirt that J got is priceless- I can explain it to you, but I can't understand it for you.

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Dad got a cool coffee mug shaped like a Canon camera lens.

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My Aunt Linda and Uncle Mike also came by for a little bit, but unfortunately I didn't get any photos of them. Hopefully Dad did!

The next morning Beth, Mom, and I got up super early and headed out for what's become a fun day-after-Christmas tradition- shopping the after Christmas sales at Target!! I needed more ornaments like a hole in the head, but when I came across some absolute cuteness I couldn't help myself. What I did need were package toppers (I love adding little pretties and sparklies to wrapped gifts), and I found those in abundance!

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The felt heart and tree ornaments came 3 to a pack and were marked down to 50 cents each, and the glittered snowflakes were 4 for 50 cents- the perfect thing to add to gift wrapping! I'll use them paired up with my annual 50 yard roll-o-clearance ribbon from Sam's (I get one or two every year when they mark them down and try to add a different color each year) that I scored for $5 later that week.

Back at Mom and Dad's, we realized that in the hustle and bustle of all the other visitors coming over, Sophie never got to open her stocking! I'm not quite sure that she got the concept this year, but J helped her out.

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She was quite happy to try on her new mittens...

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...but apparently the hat was too much. :)

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Poppy got her smiling again quickly, though, by letting her play with his camera.

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And then we had a bit of a lazy afternoon- I played with the Cameo and everyone pronounced it amazing. Even the bits it leaves behind on the cutting mat are pretty!

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Shortly before 4 we all left for the funeral home for visitation (we weren't able to stay through for the funeral), and then Darren and I headed back to Huntsville and Beth, Jon, and Sophie left for their house, as well.

After all of that, the last couple of weeks have been amazingly quiet, though still a bit busy as I've been working hard to catch up on things. Also, I've decided that next year I'm starting everything early- the cards, the shopping, the wrapping- I would love to have it all done by December 1. We'll see if that happens, but I'm going to do my best to make it so! :)