Loving 2011: Day Eleven

I’m participating in Lori-Lyn’s Loving 2011, a personal retrospective of the year.

What Holiday Traditions Are You Creating This Year?

I *love* the holidays, and since we’re really not religious, it’s the traditions that make it magic in our family.  Here’s the low-down on the old traditions we love to look forward to and the sparkly NEW traditions we created this year!

The Classics: Movies, Food and Tree

Movies and Cartoons!  We are a media loving family, and we have SEVERAL movies that we try to watch each holiday season.

*Emmett Otter’s Jug Band Christmas – This was my grandfather’s favorite, so it’s kind of bittersweet for me now.  But I love watching it and singing along.

*March of the Wooden Soldiers  (1934)– The Laurel and Hardy version, people!  This one is soooo hilarious and campy and wonderful.  I’m fairly certain that my husband thinks my mother and I are insane about this, but trust me – you should watch it.

*Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol – Razzleberry Dressing.  That’s all I’m saying.

*Mickey’s Christmas Carol – my FAVORITE of all time.  It’s only a half hour, so really easy for kids to enjoy, too.  The best intro/outro music, so pretty!  It was on ABC Family once already this year, so check your listings.

*Holiday Inn – this is my husband’s addition to the mix.  While I’m not totally sold, it is pretty awesome because it has Bing Crosby singing White Christmas.

Food!  Also HUGE food fans around here.  There are always lots of snackies around during the holidays at our house.  Some of our favorites include classic Chex mix, Spritz cookies (shot out of the cookie gun!), spiced walnuts, and these crazily delicious enhanced oyster crackers that my grandmama makes (I think the ingredients are butter, oyster crackers and ranch dressing mix…OMG).

Then of course, there’s Christmas dinner, where we always have to have CRAPPLE (cran-apple cobbler-y type thing that is SO GOOD), my grandmama’s cornbread stuffing (she calls it dressing; potato, potahto), mashed potatoes, and then some kind of main course – this is the only thing that is variable.  And there’s usually a couple of pies, including Buttermilk pie (although ours uses lemon extract) and chocolate pie.  I can’t WAIT!

In the past my mom’s usually had a lot of these things made in advance.  This year, I asked her to hold off until we arrive to make the cookies – because I know a certain someone who would LOVE to play with the cookie gun!  And Silas and August would probably like it, too. 😉

Tree!  I *love* decorating a Christmas tree.  When I was growing up, my dad would do all the boring stuff, like the lights and the garland, and then skedaddled as my mom and I took over with our very loud sing-a-long to Very Dramatic Christmas Carols.  We fancied ourselves opera-like-divas while we unwrapped our ornaments from the tissue paper, with some cheerful ribbing thrown in (i.e., “Oooh, look which one I found!” sang in the nah-nah-nah-nah-naaah voice.)  I can’t wait to do it again this year with some little helpers.  And I really hope they sing along…LOUDLY.

The New: Downtown Seattle Holiday Extravaganza!

This was a new one this year, but I hope to continue it in years to come.  A good friend started doing this last year with her daughter, and she was kind enough to invite us and some other friends along this year. Note: We went on a Tuesday morning, and there was virtually no wait for anything.  I’m sure the weekends are a madhouse of misery.  My advice: take the morning off, make some memories.

We started by visiting the Nordstrom’s Santa, where some of us got very nice photos taken (seriously, if the kids ever want to get photos taken with Santa this is THE place to do it.  Very low-key, they keep the waiting people at bay so it’s not crazy-feeling, and the staff were SO nice).  And they give out candy canes!

Next, we headed off to the Sheraton for the Gingerbread Village! Here’s what they say about it: “Each year local architecture firms collaborate with the Sheraton Seattle culinary team to custom design, bake, and build awe-inspiring gingerbread displays.”  And they were AWESOME!  Definitely worth seeing.

Next up was the Fairmount Hotel, where we oohed and ahhed over all the Christmas trees in the lobby, grabbed a snack, and then headed up to the Teddy Bear Suite!  A whole suite that looks like Christmas just exploded all over it – in a totally awesome way.  Teddy Bears everywhere, a giant four-poster bed, holiday books to browse…it was wonderful, and the kids had a blast.

After grabbing some lunch, we headed off to the carousel, which was much-loved by all.

What traditions are you creating this year?

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Loving 2011: Day Nine

I’m participating in Lori-Lyn’s Loving 2011, a personal retrospective of the year.

What Inspired You This Year?

Oooh, so much inspired me this year!  Where to begin?!  Many things were inspiring to me, but  I’ll focus on two here:  one, a particular person who puts me in context.  And second, a general setting that allows me to expand my own boundaries.

Old Friend, Best Friend

My creative soul got a reboot from visiting my oldest BFF, Jaime Lee Currier, in Berkeley, CA.  Our lil’ family was blessed to stay with her and her awesome boyfriend, Eric, this summer after our Redwoods Tour Extravaganza.  Seeing Jaime is always like coming home in some way.  It’s so easy to remember who I was before becoming a wife, before becoming a mother when we are together.  Jaime is SO FULL of creative, YES! energy that it is totally impossible not to be infected and inspired by it.  We played music, we cooked food, we drank beer and we drank wine, we played with the kids, we talked and talked and watched The Muppet Movie…and it was all glorious.  It had been WAY too long, and I’m not going to let that happen again.  Jaime makes everything you want to do seem possible.  She is a life-long learner who loves books, just like me, and I feel like we are always feeding each the latest great thing we’ve learned about.  Jaime had recently gotten into herbalism, which reminded me that I used to be really into learning about herbs back in college.  Her passion rekindled my own, which is a huge reason why I took the plunge into a HerbMentor.com membership (which is awesome, as I’ve said before!).

Nature

I’m not sure about you, but for me going for walks with my kids is a VERY different experience than going for walks WITHOUT my kids.

With my kids I’m mostly concerned with everyone staying together, as I’ve got one super speedy 5 year old and one let’s-stop-and-look-at-every-rock toddler.  I’m constantly yelling for one to stop and prompting the other to, “Come on, let’s go get big brother!”  It doesn’t totally suck, but there’s not a lot of time left for reflection in all of this coordinating.

So when I get to get outside by myself (or with ONE kid strapped stationary in a stroller), it’s a very very differently awesome experience.   I got to have a few of these moments of total nature awe this year.  A few walks in a nearby park where the baby fell asleep in the stroller and I was able to sit on a bench, look out over the Puget Sound, and watch hummingbirds and western tanagers dart in and out of the Pacific Madrones.  Another handful of times I was able to take a peaceful beach walk along the Sound, enjoying the crisp salt breeze, all my fellow people along the path, and occasionally an enormous Great Blue Heron among the rocks.  Once I was able to go for a short hike totally alone through a nearby park where I went hunting for signs from Nature, messages in the red huckleberries, the falling giant yellow maple leaves, the babbling of the brook.

A thread of continuity flows through these outdoor, solitary experiences and the togetherness of being with Jaime: Expansiveness.  Hope.  Mindfulness.  Openness.  Aliveness.  A bubbling over of my soul, too much beauty to contain in my consciousness.

Life, overflowing.  This is inspiration.