Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
1 Corinthians 3:17

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Our Christmas Home...And a Birthday Boy!!!

Today is our Caleb's sixteenth birthday!! It feels completely unreal. How is timing moving by so, so quickly??!!

Since I'm having such a hard time keeping up with posts, the shop, everyday life...everything in general, ha... I thought I'd share some photos of our home all decked out for Christmas. We moved into this house three years ago today- yes, on Caleb's birthday!- and while we've done lots, it still feels like there's so much to do. Including a mantel!!! Every time we get ready to make that happen, some life catastrophe happens and it gets pushed back. That's how it goes, I guess. But we are healthy and well, so no real complaints from me. :)

I'll share the family room first...


These were taken last Friday, when I was home ALONE. I dropped Levi off with my Mom so I could get some major sewing done. Yeah, right. I started to clean up a little, and one thing led to the next, and then the sun was shining for the first time in 800 years, so I pulled out my big girl camera to snap a few pics. #priorities

No themed tree for me, at least not while my kids are still living with us. It's a smattering of homemade and other special ornaments that I wouldn't dream of not putting up. Some years we put up our big artificial tree and I have more of a "theme" with that one, but this Mama ain't got no time for that right now. ha ha

I have two of these precious snowflakes from my Nana, who passed away twenty four years ago when I was living in Spain. Talk about time marching forward! Now I'm feeling very old. ;)


I'll have to update this shot because I moved all the stocking and the blue chair, but it represents our daily life pretty well. :)

And this turkey. Many a morning spent playing in here, and everything just seems magical by the tree's glow.

Occasionally I do sit down with a good book. Love this view too.

Onto the dining room...

I decided to start a new little tradition of making a big to do out of the first morning of December. Only it was the second morning because Jonah was working, and Caleb had plans. One thing I've learned after all these years: improvise. Our Dec 2nd special breakfast was great!

That little tree in the corner used to go in one of the boys' rooms when they were small, and Levi is a bit too small for it, so... it works nicely in here. He plays with it a ton, rearranging (and hiding or losing!!) ornaments on the daily.

He looks like such a big boy here!! And I didn't even notice that wrapper until now, ha ha ha!

Then we had our family birthday party for the two December babies. So fun!!


We had our annual gingerbread house making night, so these cute houses are now on display around the dining room. I got a huge kit, which was great, but there were SO many houses that I may have left a couple out back for squirrel food. They were completely gone within twelve hours!



Our back deck- the kitchen window overlooks this, so washing dishes has a pretty view at night. :)

Isabelle's pink tree. I've blogged about its significance several times, but just know, it's a very special tree.

Just a few holiday touches in our room...

Yesterday was a super long day for Caleb, between school projects and then driver's ed, so I surprised him with a few things from good ole McD's before his class started. He willingly posed with me, AND shot up to greet me and give me a big hug in front of everyone! Aww. Obviously NOT my best picture, but I'm sharing because that's how much I love him. We've got a big day planned, I'll try to blog about it before Isabelle's birthday on Saturday!! ;)

Joining in the fun here and here!  I just love seeing everyone's homes this time of year!

I post much more frequently on insta @bethanylivs_life so come find me and say hello!



Thursday, November 29, 2018

All Together Again for Thanksgiving!

When my boys were younger and off at camp during the summer, nights never felt quite right. Mamas just want all their babies in their own beds under the same roof at the end of the day. I wonder if this will ever change, because while I may be slightly used to the fact that our oldest no longer sleeps here at home, I certainly don't like it.

But he was home for Thanksgiving weekend and I couldn't have been happier about five whole days together!!!

It has been really hard lately keeping up with sewing and orders, in addition to life in general, but I wanted to have these days as a family without worrying about needing to finish a bunch of things. I worked hard to complete as many things as possible, and then I just worked on stuff here and there when nothing big was going on. #mombosslife I guess! I know there was some drama, because with seven people, how will there not be some drama? But truthfully, I can't even remember the details of any of it now. So my memory is basically just a highlight reel of the whole weekend. Hooray! :)

Caleb, where are you?? ha ha

We had our very own feast at home, and then headed to my parent's house for another meal. Whoa. We'd been hoping to host a family in need for dinner, but it didn't end up working out- someone at our church offered to prepare and serve all of the families who were scheduled to eat with host families, which was extremely generous and thoughtful, but it also kind of left everyone else out of the whole thing. I wanted my kids to be able to participate in something meaningful, too. 


This has been the dreariest fall on record here in NH. It's been awful. I was thrilled to see the sun, even if it only lasted for an hour. By the time the table was all set, the sun was gone. :(


My Mom and Levi- he kind of looks like he's giving her the stink eye, but he absolutely adores her, ha ha.

We had some other service ideas in mind for the weekend, too. We ended up donating sheet sets, blankets, and toiletries to our church for families who stayed right there on the premise for several days, gathered clothes to bring to our local crisis pregnancy center, and gave away lots to a friends of our family who will be now acting as guardians of their three young granddaughters- it's a sad situation, and I hope we can be a help and encouragement to them (they are my parent's age, can you even imagine the transitions taking place there??!!).

And here is what November has looked like so far:



Hopeful that the lighter sky meant sun was coming. Nope. It never even appeared, though this sky was so pretty.

Same here...



WHAT!!?? Blue sky!!??


Some sun!!! I remember that day, that moment, so clearly because dayyyyyysssss go by without even a hint of sunshine. It was cloudy and dark again with twenty minutes. Twenty minutes! I feel like I'm losing my mind. We need sun!!

On Saturday, my in-laws came over for dinner, but we'd already gone from fall to Christmas, and I've been slowly adding more things each day. We were so hoping to get to the tree farm since everyone was here, but Saturday didn't work, and Sunday was miserable and rainy...until about 4:30, when we headed out for our town's tree lighting party, but Ethan was already gone. :(

Thought I had a picture from Saturday night, but they must still be on my phone...

We had to get to the town square early for chorus, and Levi was feeling pretty good about everything. Fast forward fifteen minutes, and he wouldn't let either of us put him down!


For the record, that's my hat. That's supposed to look cute on me. Except it doesn't, and someone had been eyeing it all week and I finally let her take it, and of course it's the cutest thing ever on her. Also, why does she look fifteen here!?

Christmas carols! Santa arrive shortly after, in the firetruck with the sirens and horns blaring, which Levi was totally smitten with. He didn't care much about Santa at first, but then he warmed up and wanted to go say Hi. The line was massive, and I know he would chicken out when the time came, so we walked by him in the gazebo and waved from the outside. Win win. :)

There was hot cocoa and so many cookies! Just a really fun little event for families. I can't wait to get back and take some more pictures, it's so pretty!

I hope your Thanksgiving was full of family and love and gratitude!

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

5 Things to Do Now To Prepare for the Holiday Season

The older I get, the more I realize how quickly time flies. It's relentless. And I don't want to waste it. I shared most of these tips a few years ago, but I think they're worth repeating. You're welcome? No, I mean, you're welcome. :)

Here are some practical tips for getting in gear for the busiest time of the year, with less stress and lots more joy. I'll start with the simple, mindless tasks, ha ha, and move on from there. A little preparation really does go a long way, especially during the holidays.


1. Clean your candle holders, vases and other glass/ crystal
These items gather dust like the Boss, and just about every solid surface in our home displays two or three (or twelve) candles and other glass goodies during the holidays. To make them sparkle again, carefully place them on the top rack in the dishwasher and run them through a gentle cycle. Of course, make sure that they're dishwasher-friendly! Lots are! This is one of the easiest things to tackle ahead of time, and nothing twinkles quite like spot-free glass and crystal accessories. Plus, when you're elbow deep in tangled strings of lights and pine needles have found their way to every crevice, it feels so good to have this part already done.

This is also a great time to take inventory of candles, such as tea lights, tapers and pillars. Many are already on sale, and I've found that if I wait for those After-Holiday sales, it's pretty slim picking. Hot pink nativity candle, anyone? Yeah, me either.



2. Vacuum the corners of your ceilings and above door jambs
Not very glamorous, I know, but the holiday season gets so busy and hectic so quickly- no matter how hard I try to not let it!- and this is one thing I don't want to have to deal with during all that chaos. Dangling cobwebs were fine for Halloween. Not so much for Christmas.
Perfectly cleaned homes aren't necessary for friendly get-togethers and meals. We're human, and we have busy lives! Nobody should be judging you, but cobwebs are, well, gross. If you're a regular ceiling corner-vacuumer, then I suppose you've got this covered already.  But I'm not so much anymore, until the thought of some poor guest looking up to find Charlotte and her family perched on my ceiling gives me just enough incentive to do it.
And once that chore is complete, then I can go make a mess in the kitchen with this cutie!

3. Decide on your recipes now and purchase as many ingredients as possible ahead of time (and stick to that list!)
So many recipes for cookies, tarts & pies, rolls & bread, plus festive main course meals, so little time! Pinterest never fails to tempt me with about 1,2000 new treats to try by the time we sit down to Christmas dinner, but choose I must! I have found it best (and less stressful) to plan meals, parties, and even gifts around our favorite standbys, and limit the newbies. 
Of course I love to try new recipes, but I can't reinvent the cookie sheet every night! One or two new recipes throughout November and December is a good goal. Besides, in our family, Christmas just wouldn't be Christmas without our annual Chocolate Spiders or Chocolate-Dipped Mexican Wedding Cakes! 






4. Plant your Paperwhites & other indoor blooms
Okay, so technically these should have been planted last week to ensure blooms for Christmas, but I actually plant mine for New Year's, so phew! I'm safe. There are several varieties of plants and flowers on the shelves now- I swoon over Paperwhites so they're always my first choice- and most require at least 5-6 weeks to sprout and bloom. Plant them now, follow the directions given, and enjoy fresh, fragrant flowers throughout the season.

These Paperwhites are from WalMart and cost around $5. All in one kits like this are available at home improvement stores, some drug stores, and other discount stores.


 Cranberries make great holiday decorating accents!



5. Decide what's most important to you and your family, make your plans, and mark your calendars
A little chaos at Christmas time can be exciting and fun; too much, and your body, mind and spirit suffer. Nobody wants to feel overwhelmed and overextended during this most Joyous of Seasons!
Decembers are especially crazy for us because we have two birthdays (the 12th and 15th) thrown in there! Good intentions aren't going to make things go smoothly...we need a plan! And I'm not talking just about attending or hosting parties. We mark our calendars for our annual Family Cookie-Decorating Day, special shopping trips with each of our children, and fun outings like ice skating or skiing. There's time for spontaneous things, too, but without a basic plan, I feel frazzled and unproductive, and those things that we enjoy feel more like boxes to be checked rather than memories in the making.
 
Furthermore, I'm finding that I need to be super specific about the times I devote to sewing for my shop, Rose & Ruffle, during the holiday rush (thank you, by the way!!!) because I just won't stop until every last order is finished. That can mean I'm tempted to pass on something we might do as a family- which is a horrible feeling-, and that I never have enough time to make special things for Isabelle and the boys. Those things are integral to my daily joy, so I need a plan!








In our family, one of our most important and cherished tradition is the Prayer Basket. Each night during December we gather around the tree and take turns pulling out a name from the basket. Then we pray together for that person, family, school, or country, etc. Someone who didn't get to draw a name chooses a song to sing, and that's how we end our family time together, right before the youngest heads off to bed. I'll admit, over the years this has been much less of a nightly routine because of everyone's differing schedules now that they're older- and most of them go to bed later than I do!, but it's worth hanging onto, so we make an effort to practice this act whenever we can. It's my absolute most favorite thing to do each year. 


One thing I will add, something that I am still learning: make some time for yourself. It doesn't have to be costly or time-consuming or a big deal in any way, but we Moms are in charge of pretty much all the details of our family's activities, and that can take its toll. A little time away helps me recharge and reset.
 




Taking the time to plan and prepare ahead of time helps me enjoy this special time so much more. I hope it helps you, too!

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