Christmas is my favorite time of year and this season was just as exciting and colorful as I’d hoped.
During the long summer of 2021 while care taking for my elderly Mom who lives with us and has dementia, I worked on an original project; the idea for which came to me years ago. I had gathered wool felt and all summer designed 24 vintage-style stockings for an advent calendar. Over the long hot months, I hand-stitched each little stocking adding retro ephemera, beads, rickrack, glass glitter and other items from my collection and local thrift stores (try finding Christmas items in your craft store in June.) I frequent Deseret Industries, a chain of thrift stores owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. All the proceeds from sales and donations go to help those in need. And, like a good garage or estate sale, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. I did find some rusty jingle bells and fake snow at JoAnn and ribbon and rick rack at Hobby Lobby. For the holidays I entwined honeysuckle and pine garland and hung it at the entry of the dining room then clipped each stocking in place – photos below. The patterns will be available in my Christmas book and my Etsy shop next year.
We traditionally kick off the holidays by acquiring a fresh tree. Our intrepid explorers Tim and Hannah had purchased a permit from the Bureau of Land Management to harvest a tree on federal land. Newell had the idea that they could pick one up for us while they were in the mountains in Wyoming so we bought a permit – the idea was popular; Hannah’s Mom and aunt joined in. So off they went in the old ranch truck and soon delivered each a beautiful tree (not sure what type.)
After a few false starts of it trying to escape the tree stand, we got it stabilized and started decorating it. Instead of the rich scent of fresh evergreen, it had a strange odor – like a moose had used the area for a rest stop. My sister’s gift solved the dilemma – more about that later.
Our first Christmas event was the Living Nativity by the Bonneville Stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City Utah.
To share the Christmas Spirit, our church creates a beautiful live nativity; held in the glen where Tim and Hannah’s wedding reception was held last spring
St. Nicholas Eve
Our youngest son was born on St. Nicholas Eve, December 5th. The patron saint of children and sailors, St. Nick holds a special place in our hearts. Our tradition when Tim was growing up was to have special Santa’s supper on his birthday. Elf-sized burgers, Frosty’s fries, Reindeer food (corn) and a Rudolph milkshake were the fare. Now older, with more sophisticated taste, Tim opted for another menu. This was actually the dinner we served after his baptism at age 8 in the Newport Beach 1st Ward. His birthday fell on Sunday this year, so dining out was not an option we would choose. Instead we made family favorites Asian salad, won ton and tempura shrimp with teriyaki, orange and sweet and sour sauces. Tim doesn’t eat sugar except on 8 holidays a year. Hannah made him a chocolate mousse cheesecake without sugar that was a big hit. We added and a fruit and cheese platter and everything worked out beautifully! Because I had made banners and paper fans for their pre-wedding game night in the spring, I recycled the decor for the birthday and holiday season. We celebrate a lot of birthdays in December – granddaughter Ellyza, Tim, niece Allyssa, the prophet of the Restoration – Joseph Smith, The Lord Jesus Christ, myself , grandson Trevor, the late Granddaddy Roberts.
Vacation right before Christmas?
I had been requesting my husband take a week off who we could have a small vacation for months. The hospital he works for has been hit hard with Covid, like so many, so finally when they could spare him it was Dec 11-18. He wisely decided that we should take the opportunity to go to California to visit our 5 kids that live there and my best friend. The timing was a bit tricky but we scrambled to get all of our Christmas prep done before we departed.
Sometime last year when the economic reality of a recession, supply chain disruptions and shortages came true, I began to think about emergency preparedness. Not a new concept, I’ve been a proponent and have worked to be prepared but I got to thinking about my adult children and their families and wondered how they were doing. So this year we hit the preparedness aisle at Costco to buy buckets of freeze-dried emergency meals for each family plus a pair of Ove Gloves for cooking under various conditions. Not romantic at all and I hope not one of us ever has to open and use the food but sometimes practicality wins – even at Christmas. But Ove Gloves rule. The day following our first significant snowstorm in Utah we hit the salted road.
Emergency prep stuff is not much of a gift (at the time) for grandkiddos so in addition to this we got them games and regional treats from Utah that aren’t sold in California, and filled treat bags with some of our favorites and a little bit of cash; then we bundled everything up and drove all over California to see our California children and grandchildren, my sister, my BFF Mary aaaand my hometown and the beach, all of which I love dearly. We were going to spend an afternoon at the Getty Center in Los Angeles but someone forgot to print his Covid passport from the hospital he works at and doesn’t have access off-campus without a special code generator. So the Getty was out but a stop at Roger’s Gardens in Newport Beach took away the sting of aesthetic disappointment.
Saturday and Sunday in Fresno.
Our first day of the great adventure we left frosty Salt Lake City heading for Fresno, CA. 13 hours later we arrived at the welcoming home of our son Bill and his family. We have found the best time to catch Bill at home is on the weekend. We woke up Sunday in time to get to church where Bill delivered a beautiful message about Jesus Christ, his birth, grace, example and ultimate sacrifice to save all who would accept Him. Bill, an attorney, built a convincing case for the Atonement using logic, scripture references, evidence and his thoughtful and true love of the Savior. This Mom was so thrilled to see her son in action.
His son Will prepared a dinner of marinated and grilled chicken tacos, we visited and played games into the evening.
Monday in Los Gatos
On rainy roads, we made the trek to see Heather and her family in the mountain community of Los Gatos between Santa Cruz and San Jose. We arrived safely and were thrilled to see our 3 adorable grandchildren, their cheery home and a Christmas tree that looked almost exactly like ours. Funny story: her husband who was patrolling roads for his law enforcement work, saw a tree on the center divider. He pulled it off, dropped it at a side road and told his family they had a treasure hunt to find something for Christmas. They found it and took it home. Apparently theirs tried to escape the tree holder as well, but finally settled into its role. And it was so dang cute. We had 24 hours in the rain with our Los Gatos family. Ate out, did a little shopping – it was fun!
My best friend’s house is my second home. I hope she feels the same at mine – welcome, safe and loved. Mary always has room and time for us. She even came down with a cough that required her to take a day off from work and hit the main holiday scenes with me: Hobby Lobby, we took some her Christmas things from storage and decorated with them. She sadly lost a sister-in-law this past year and had a few of her belongings that she wanted to share with family and friends. I was given 3 apothecary jars, some red plates and yellow bowls that have come in so handy. They introduced us to a new card game – Five Crowns and we played our requisite Trek to Zion (I never win.) Like all of our visits, this ended to soon. But there was time to do a little sight-seeing; my parents’ first house in Carlsbad, the home we rented when Heather was born, my hometown beach.
San Diego here we come!
A trip to Dylan’s family is always a busy, fun time. With 3 little kiddos that love stories and games and coloring, there is always something charming going on. Knowing this, I found a Pretty, Pretty Princess game for 6 year-old granddaughter Ella. You would have thought we gifted her the treasures of King Tut. Cute little princess.
Back to Vista
My sister Melissa and family live in the perfect weather of Vista (actually ranked one of the world’s top weather locations.) Her family has had a tough year, her corporate Senior VP position was eliminated when a company bought hers, her husband has had a bout of ill health but her two teens are ok. We met their 2 house bunnies and learned that another company created a position for her and her husband just learned he was cancer-free. Thankfully. After a quick trip to Frazier farms for oranges (5 lbs for a dollar – beat that Utah.) a dragon fruit, some dates and other goodies we headed north.
As mentioned earlier, our excursion to the Getty was cancelled due to lack of Covid passport. Bummer, but Roger’s Gardens in Newport Beach filled the deep well of disappointment.
Through Los Angeles, my real hometown, I was born there while my Dad attended USC.
Up the road to Bakersfield where daughter Laurel had finished teaching high school history that day and hosted a 2 day family party. Her home looked like a layout from a Christmas catalog. Wow. Complete with cookie decorating and sprinkles. Lots of sprinkles. Lots of LOVE.
Is St. George on the way?
Yes, and that means a quick overnight stop to see sister Cindy, husband Dave and stepmom Linda. Cindy, in her first departure from a live Christmas tree, got a stunning white one to decorate with her signature red and white Christmas themed ornaments. She said if it was going to be a fake tree, why not make it obvious and do it right? Good point.
We share the same love of vintage styles and it was fun to see her old-style Rudolph dolls and other retro objects. She said she knew she was going to miss the fresh tree smell so she researched and found a pine-scented candle that was very close to the real thing. She bought us one too. None of us knew it would be the remedy for the too-natural scent eminating from our wild mountain tree!
She made us a yummy breakfast, we zoomed the church service and off we went to pick up Mom from her respite care center and head home – exactly 7 days before Christmas.
One project I hadn’t finished was the gifts for neighbors and friends. I repurposed a set of lanterns that were purchased for the wedding but not used; they became gifts for neighbors and friends for centerpieces or nightlights.
And then it was Christmas Eve. We have a traditional menu of appetizers and dinner that we like so well we rarely vary it. This year finding a beef roast was a little tricky (supply chain disruptions.) Preparing a dinner for 5, I didn’t need a huge roast; the choices were a small rump roast or a huge rib roast. I was concerned that the small (3 pound) lean roast would be tough but there was a recipe online that we tried and loved. Our Christmas Eve Menu:
Cooked shrimp in Homemade Chili Sauce (R) over cream cheese with crackers (We had Breton, poppyseed and water crackers but my favorite turned out to be big Wheat Thins by Nabisco.
Crudites with Hidden Valley Fiesta dip
A cheese and cracker platter with Stilton cheddar with apricot, assorted cheeses, crackers, pears and apples, dried fruit and nuts
Roast beef with sour cream and horseradish sauce
Au Gratin potatoes
Million Dollar Salad
Martinelli’s Bluch and apple cranberry sparkling ciders
Our dessert buffet included pecan sandies, M&M cookies, peanut butter cookies with Reese’s mini cups, mixed nut toffee, Peppermint truffle cocoa and Walker’s shortbread cookies, soft peppermint sticks served on a tiered Spode serving dish.
The table was set with a plaid tablecloth from Tim’s baptism, apothecary jars filled with fairy lights, sparkling faux snow and peppermint sticks, candy canes and sparkling snowflakes. Tall Mercury glass candle holders held red and white striped candles, smaller Mercury glass cups held votive candles, there were beaded snowflakes and glittered snowflakes sprinkled around.
The table was set with Spode Christmas tree china, Aunt Michalyn’s silverware, French linen napkins, beaded snowflake napkin rings, vintage Christmas candle glasses and Waechtersbach red salad plates. It was charming and cheerful and my husband didn’t have to deal with seasonal glitter.
Under the beautiful holiday lights from the garlands and Christmas tree, we read the story of the Nativity from Luke and Matthew in the Bible, sang our favorite carols and tried to recite A Visit From St. Nick from memory. We exchanged gifts with Grandma, Tim and Hannah and enjoyed seeing what Santa had left in his secret bag.
We had a wonderful Christmas season and today on Epiphany, January 6, I am beginning to consider starting to put it away. Maybe.