Thursday, December 29, 2011

For Aunt Laurie's Birthday

Aunt Laurie's birthday was this Monday, and while I was home a couple weeks ago, Mom and I decided to make a special birthday gift for her that Mom could include with the box of wrapped Christmas presents she was going to mail her the next morning. It began simply enough, with Mom showing me a pretty green gingham dishtowel she'd found for Aunt Laurie and saying, "I was thinking about decorating a little Christmas tree and putting it in the box for her. What do you think? This as a tree skirt? Or should I just wrap it by itself?" Mom should know better than to ask me such things: She and I ended going to bed sometime after midnight that night after spending about four hours constructing, instead, this miniature birthday party table, the gingham dishtowel now a tablecloth. :)
The table was a taco kit box from the cupboard. :) The cake began as a tiny container with cake/cookie sprinkles in it. I emptied it, flipped it over, painted it with acrylic paints until it looked frosted/decorated, and glued a few silk flowers onto the sides and a bit of a paper-doily-as-cake-plate underneath. A birthday candle from the cupboard was whittled down and poked via nail hole into the top. 
And of course, Aunt Laurie had to have a frog, so I made one out of a few tiny Styrofoam ball-type things from one of Mom's silk floral arrangements and painted it all up until it looked frog-like and glued it all into a mini gift-box with an even smaller "to/from" label attached. She had to have a frog? Yessssssss. :) When I was a kid, I told my mom that Aunt Laurie should collect something green since it's her favorite color, and I decided, much to elegant Civil War-era costume-making, Ann-Margret-adoring, lace-loving Aunt Laurie's dismay, that it should be frogs. Tradition must be upheld!
Her miniature card from me read "Hoppy birthday," of course, and Mom made a more traditional card for her older sister. A green button with cake sprinkles glued to the top became a plate of cookies or candies. The tiny gift packages began as corners of Jell-O boxes. We cut them into different sizes and wrapped them with scraps of different papers we had stashed away. Curling ribbon and more tiny silk flowers made perfect package decorations. The plastic lid of a perfume or hair spray bottle worked as a vase. :)
Paper napkins became smaller paper napkins, white plastic toothpicks were trimmed and glued beside them to suggest forks, and we cut the floral part of a shelf lining paper into circles as cake plates. I drew the balloons, "laminated" them with packaging tape, attached them to more toothpicks, and poked them into the top of one of the presents. We framed an already-right-size photo of Aunt Laurie with silk flowers. And hot-glued everything to everything until we could shake the entire table upside-down and nothing moved.
I only wish we could have seen Aunt Laurie's face when she unwrapped her "birthday party in a box." Now she has a little decoration she can bring out each year for her birthday, though. Since it is the day after Christmas, a hard time to travel, we never get to share it with her, but now we can, even more so than usual, celebrate together in spirit. :)  
Updated to add that Aunt Laurie has passed along this picture of her with her "birthday table."  
Sweet face!  It almost makes me feel bad for hiding the little frog in the gift box.  :)

Monday, December 26, 2011

♥ Our First Christmas Together ♥

This Christmas was one of my favorite ones ever:  After four and a half years as a couple, my first Christmas Eve and Christmas with Mike. 
Many hugs and kisses, our new apartment shining brighter than usual, Stuffed looking like a kitten under the 6' tree, 
phone calls to and from our parents, and cinnamon and ginger in the air. Emmet Otter's Jug Band Christmas and Love, Actually, the Festivus episode of "Seinfeld," A Christmas Story, Scrooged--and all the Christmas specials I watched (and am still watching) on YouTube and amazon after Mike goes to bed. Mike's Yankees stocking beside my pink gingham one, 
pink snowman sheets and matching pillowcases on our bed Christmas Eve. Cards strung along a ball-trim garland beside our tree. A surprise package mailed to a friend and a surprise package for us from Aunt Laurie. Watching The Bishop's Wife while painting salt dough ornaments. Mike and I wrapping gifts in separate rooms while sugar cookie dough chilled in the fridge. Christmas carols. A funny Christmas memory shared with my younger brother over email, and his reply: "Soooooo so funny you said that because I was just thinking this morning about [that]!" A wreath around the bathroom nightlight, a sprig of holly over our "Welcome!" cross stitch, and a candle in the bedroom window. "Phone calls from Santa" for my niece and nephew on Christmas Eve. 
I was tearing up over something Christmas afternoon, and Mike asked if I was wishing I was with my family. "No. It would be nice to be there, but I'm glad we're here. I'm just crying because I'm happy."
In the kitchen window:  Green gingham stockings my mom sewed for us last Christmas, a year before we would have this green gingham kitchen in our new home. :) She always looks for the vintage village houses for me at flea markets. The red heart is from my friend Madai. 
The little trees on the coffee table between our chairs were going to be our only Christmas trees this year, but I wanted us to have a big tree too and walked to the drugstore Christmas Eve morning to buy one.  I moved the heavy old coat rack that is usually in that corner, put the tree together, lit it, and decorated it while Mike slept, so he woke up to a colorful surprise in our front door corner Saturday morning. His addition of SpiderMan was the finishing touch. :)
We have yet to see any real snow this winter--just flurries a couple mornings--so I transformed our biggest window into a snow scene with paper snowflakes, pulled cotton, and white trees. 
It looks prettiest at night, and surprisingly, after an initial sniffing of it, Stuffed has left it alone. :)
Christmas Day's breakfast was a simple but pretty little feast of cinnamon rolls and an egg casserole, with the usual coffee and orange juice for Mike and iced tea for me. Aqua felt right this Christmas morning, and I had just enough aqua things to doll up our table for the meal. 
My younger brother gave me the lace snowflake tablecloth for Christmas last year. 
The aqua heart dish is a wedding present from my dear friend Vickie; Sunday it contained a love note for Mike. 
Mom found us the aqua knit-looking "Warm Wishes" mugs last year. 
(Ah! And you can also finally see how I've fixed up the little Hoosier cabinet-top I found on craigslist last fall. The base of the "new" hutch was the bottom-part of a bookshelf I took apart with a saw before we moved out of our old apartment in July, and the two pieces fit together just the way I'd envisioned. I keep all my baking supplies and spices in the top and pots and pans in the bottom. We will soon be adding our just-received-for-Christmas Trivial Pursuit, Pictionary, and "Seinfeld" Trivia games to our stack of games on the very top. It's not "done" yet, but I love this little corner of the apartment.) :)
Christmas night's meal was the traditional red and green, and after eating, we managed to watch a couple Christmas shows and read a little before fatigue caught up with us and we went to bed.
The more sleep-deprived of the two of us, I spent most of today napping in the bedroom and then falling asleep reading while Mike watched movies in the living room, but it was another relaxing night at home with him and Stuffed tonight. 'Back to work for Mike tomorrow, but I have a couple more days off, so we still have a lot more time together this week than we usually do. A sweet and happy first Christmas together.  

Friday, December 23, 2011

Val Home

"Val home" was written on my mom's calendar twice! in the past month, as I got to see family both for a belated Thanksgiving and an early Christmas, and now Mike and I will be spending our first Christmas--AND Christmas Eve AND day after Christmas!--together here in our cozy apartment. It is partly due to the nostalgic time of year and partly "just Val," but I have been near tears with gratitude and awareness of my blessings this past month with its happy chaos of family-visiting, package-mailing, card-writing, ornament-making, and gift-hiding. Have you heard Tom McRae's heartbreakingly lovely version of "Wonderful Christmastime"? "We're here tonight. And that's enough." I have had that and Wham's "Last Christmas", another favorite, on repeat-play this week. (And did you also catch my dear George Michael's statement to the press on the news today? He has just been released from the hospital following a month-long stay for pneumonia. He is another favorite of mine, the voice of an angel, so note that I have added "George Michael alive and home for Christmas" to my growing list of Things Big and Small Making Val Weepy This Week.) It is my first Christmas ever spent without my family, but I have learned that Christmas (and Thanksgiving) and home and loved ones are things you carry with you, work schedules and distance and time apart be damned.

Mike gets out of work in just a few minutes, so soon he will join me back in our cinnamon-scented nest where I am now mixing up another batch of salt dough to make more ornaments and finalizing my grocery list before I head over to the store. Tree-purchasing and tree-trimming tonight--this is the latest I have ever gotten a Christmas tree, but so be it, and we will just leave it up through January to make up for it--Chinese food-eating and ornament-painting later tonight, and the rest of the weekend will be spent baking, cooking, and celebrating. Christmas!And all this rare free time with my Mike!! Home! 'Much more to say and share, but in the meantime, I do hope you all enjoy peace and love these holidays, as well.

"Love is a force
more formidable
than any other.

It is invisible --
it cannot be seen or measured,

yet it is powerful enough
to transform you in a moment,

and offer you more joy
than any material possession could."

~ Barbara DeAngelis