December 16, 2011

It's beginning to look a lot like...

...Christmas! Are you ready? Here it is only 10 days until Christmas and while it's been a crazy few weeks, I am really looking forward to the holidays this year.

For the first time I've convinced my family to come to Nashville and now we don't have to travel to Las Vegas. It will be a lot less stressful, but on the other hand, I have LOTS to do getting ready for guests and hosting Christmas Eve and Christmas dinners at my house. I can't wait.

To begin with, I've decorated more than usual. It has been fun to pull out things that were my mom's that I've collected over the years but never really used. Like all the pretty goose themed decorations --she had a thing for geese at Christmas that began sometime in the 80s--and her homemade felt ornaments which must be over 40 years old now. I love those. They have a special place on my tree every year. If you knew my mom you know that nobody loved Christmas as much as she did.

And, something I learned from my mom, I've been really frugal too. She was really good at finding great deals and didn't let lack of money deter her enthusiasm. I also didn't want to go out and spend a lot of money on things I use only once a year. So I've been thrift shopping a lot for my holiday gear and to great success. I found garland with lights already attached to go around my front door and on my fireplace mantle (okay so one strand out of three didn't work, but I only paid $2.99 for each), and enough wreaths to hang on all three doors and windows on the front of the house. With the icicle lights too it looks like a little winter wonderland out there.

The inside is cozy and warm and very festive too. We did a little dining room overhaul recently and repainted the walls the same color grey as the front room after Daniel tore down the wall that separated them and trimmed the opening exactly like the rest of our 1930s trim. Now it's a nice, big open space to entertain in. I got a new dining room table with an extra leaf so I can seat 10-12 people now. Four new chairs and gold seat cushions to match the damask curtains I already had and it's like a whole new room! Now everything looks a bit more elegant but still very warm and I love it.

I picked up these odds and ends at the Goodwill and spent next to nothing on them. I love the little tree with lights and the nutcracker and the old-fashioned ornaments look great on my tree. And how about this festive Benetton Fair Isle sweater that which cost only $3?

June had such a good time helping me decorate the tree. She kept trying to put ornaments in the same spot and then changing her mind and taking them back off and saying "ooh, pretty." We kept my mom's tradition of eating cookies and drinking egg nog (June drank soy milk) and listening to Christmas music while we worked. I loved getting to share this with her for the first time.

She also understands a little bit about Christmas and we've been reading books about Santa and all the fun things like angels and reindeer and treats under the tree. She can say "candy cane" and "Santa", "snowman" and "lights" and she's working on the idea that everyone is coming here to spend the holiday with us. I'm not sure she quite gets that part yet but she will soon and it will be so much fun to have everyone here to shower her with love and attention. Her uncles and her 'Papa' are thrilled to see her and both brothers are staying in our little house which should be like a big old slumber party.

In the homemade gift department which is usually what I work on in the weeks leading up to Christmas I have come up short as all of my attention has been on decorating my house and planning the menus for Christmas. But I did pick up these little Italian treats called torrone to give to June's teachers and use as hostess gifts. And the cute owl is one of a few little ornaments I found to give to friends' babies.

I've made only one batch of cookies but plan on making at least three more next week. My brother Greg, fresh from living on a farm in Southwestern France for four months, gets here on Monday and he and I are going to make pat├ęs and a roast pork and I'll make my cioppino for Christmas Eve. We plan to do a traditional Italian staple --braciole simmered for a long time in tomato sauce and served with pasta for Christmas day. My aunt Bev will make her delicious bread pudding and she'll be really helpful as well. I'm so glad I will have company in the kitchen.

This weekend is shaping up to be fun and busy --two parties, a night out to listen to a friend's music on Sat., plus helping a friend cook for her holiday staff party and somehow doing some baking of my own. It's a lot of work but, like my mom, I really enjoy the holidays and all the build-up too. As I know was true for her, for me the cooking and preparing and decorating is just the warm-up for the real fun: spending time with family and gathering around the table over delicious food. Let the fun begin!