Monday, December 24, 2012

Home for the Holidays

The first year we were married, Noah and I didn't have many ornaments for our tree, so I went out and bought a bunch of glass bulbs in red, ivory, and gold. We added some red and white lights, a gold ribbon, and called it a day. It was pretty, but it never felt very personal. I found myself missing the Christmas trees of my childhood. Our tree was always covered with an assortment of mismatched ornaments...the hand-painted toy soldiers that my grandma made from wooden clothespins, the clay nativity figures that my mom painted for their very first tree back when my parents were newlyweds, the felt storybook characters that Gramma made for me and my older siblings, and the huge assortment of handmade ornaments we all brought home from school each year. Even as kids, we loved unwrapping the ornaments because it felt like running into old friends. "Oh, I remember this one...!" Our tree was never the prettiest on the block, and I'm sure any design magazine of the day would have scoffed at the thought that we actually "decorated" for Christmas, but we loved our tree, and I remember many nights spent giggling and sleeping under the glow of its twinkly lights.

After Abe was born, my mom started sending me "my ornaments" as she'd find them while packing up or unpacking her tree decorations. We've also collected a bunch of Noah's old ornaments and some special ones for Abe. After adding those to all our handmade ornaments from the last couple years, our tree is finally starting to look like the trees I remember from my childhood...and once again, I am in love!

Since most of our ornaments are bought, made, or given to us one at a time, they each have a special story to tell. Like this guy... I bought a few of these unfinished wooden ornaments at Michael's when Noah and I first got married. I painted them with watered down acrylic paint (so the wood grain shows through), and sanded the edges with a nail file for a slightly rustic look. Obviously, I learned a lesson from my mom's clay ornaments which we all adored - wood is much less fragile!

My grandma made two sets of these Raggedy Ann & Andy ornaments for me and my twin sister when we were little. She used a kit from Bucilla, and also made my older brothers a whole set of Wizard of Oz characters and Goldilocks and the Three Bears. We all loved playing with them as kids!

I added a bit of "snow" to the cardboard igloo I made last year. Still think it needs more...and Abe thinks it needs something inside.

When we got married I started putting a family photo ornament on our tree each year. Last year I made a photo bulb; this year I just picked up a cute frame at Crate & Barrel and used a leftover shot from Abe's photo cube. The picture is from a visit to the arboretum last spring. I can't believe how small Abe looked back then! (The silhouette in the foreground is another ornament I made last year.)

This gorgeous bell was a gift from my sister that she bought for me back when she lived in Napa Valley. No idea who made it or where it came from, but I love it. Abe likes to call it a "jingle bell." I do let him ring it from time to time, but only under close supervision!

This is one of my favorites...from our first year as a family of three. The photo was taken by my friend, Liz Banfield, when Abe was about three weeks old.

Noah seems to get at least one Gopher-themed ornament every year. I suppose you can't be a Gopher fan without at least one football on your tree! 

If you follow me on Instagram you may have seen the little owl ornament I picked up at Crate & Barrel the other day. I have a thing for owls. Can't resist them... I think this guy was also from Crate & Barrel a year or two ago.

My little brother, Andrew, made me this painted sand dollar when he was about 6 years old. It's hung on every tree I've had ever since. (I made the sequin bulb last year. Honestly didn't expect the sequins to stick all year in storage!)

We picked up this one while on our honeymoon in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. I meant to pick up an ornament every time we went on vacation or somewhere new, but I've been severely lacking in that department. Where's New Orleans? Phoenix? North Carolina? Iowa? Heck, I didn't even pick up an ornament when my sister and I went to Paris!

So everybody has a "baby's first" ornament, right? Well, these guys are mine. Or well, one is mine and one belongs to my twin sister, but she's a nun now, so my mom sent them both to me. We have a number of other deer, moose, bears, squirrels, and other woodland creatures on our tree, so I guess it's ok that I'm obsessed with owls...

This ornament is from Noah's first Christmas. His grandma has given him one of these metal ornaments (engraved with his name and the date) every year since he was born. 

The bottom half of our tree is covered with soft and otherwise unbreakable ornaments (like the Eric Carle animals and felt monograms I made last year). All of the fragile and more precious ornaments get hung at the top, out of the reach of curious little hands. Surprisingly, our little guy is pretty good about leaving decorations on the tree...and presents underneath it! I don't buy wrapping paper very often, generally just use brown kraft paper and colorful ribbons. If I use any wrapping paper besides the brown kraft paper, I usually stick to a red, white, and green color palette. Makes it easier to pick out ribbon when I always know what kind paper I have waiting for me at home. Oh, and I stopped buying gift tags a few years ago. There are so many adorable designs online that are available as free downloads (find some of my favorites here), so I usually just pick a few and print them on cardstock or full-page mailing labels to stick on my packages. 

We brought out Abe's little nativity sets which he loves to play with. I have a nice ceramic set that my parents gave me one year for Christmas, but don't have a place to set it up this year!

I stuck Abe's Christmas books in a basket under the coffee table. They tend to travel to various parts of the house, but it's fun reading Christmas stories before bed by the light of the tree. 

We have some unfinished Christmas stockings that I made, but this year I hung up the adorable stockings that Noah's grandma made for each of us. She made the stockings for Abe and I after Abe was born, but Noah has had this one since he was a kid.

The one thing this house doesn't have that I really wanted is a fireplace. No fireplace means there's no mantel for hanging our stockings, so I had to get creative. This year I hung them from a long ribbon that I attached to the molding between the living room and dining room.

Abe likes looking at all the little pictures on his stocking. Apparently there is a tree, a box (actually a present, covered up by his arm in this shot), a camel (rocking horse), a cookie (gingerbread man), a train, an ark, and Santa Claus!

A friend of ours is building a console table for the big empty wall in our living room and that's where I plan to set up my trees in the future. For now though they're just hanging out on the dining room table with a bowl full of Christmas cards. And if you didn't notice, I tried to beautify our ugly chandelier with a few glass bulbs from Ikea that were too big for the tree. I don't think it helped much.

Abe wanted a tiny tree, so I tied together a few small branches we cut off the bottom of our tree and stuck them in a bucket on his play table. We decorated it with jingle bells, his shrink plastic and a few other tiny ornaments, and sparkly pom poms.

I barely have time to clean my kitchen, let alone decorate it, but I did manage to make a tissue paper poinsettia to stick in the window.

We actually had a lot of fun decorating with Abe this year! We went to the tree farm last Sunday, and when we got home, we brought the tree inside so the snow on the branches could melt before we started decorating it the next morning. Of course Abe wanted to decorate it as soon as we brought it inside! We gave him a handful of homemade ornaments that I had sitting on the table, and halfway through hanging his ornaments on the bottom branches, he declared "I need a Santa hat!" Luckily we had one in the basement, so I brought it up and our little elf got back to work. I love that he gets so excited about decorating the tree...and for a two-year-old, he did a very nice job!

And here it is a few days later all lit up. I'm not the biggest fan of LED lights, but my husband loves them so that's what we've got. At least he doesn't complain about my energy guzzling sparkle balls out front...

Don't forget to check out our holiday index for links to all of our Christmas DIYs!


  1. I don't know you personally but I love you. You remind me of one of my daughters. She has the same love of home and family as you do. Bless you dear sister.

  2. What a gorgeous tree - I LOVE the Igloo :D

    Our tree is getting much more personalised each year too. They look so much better when decorated with things that bring back lots of memories.

    We even have a 'taditional' carrot decoration passed down from my recently departed grandma! Special! ;p

    Merry christmas

  3. Your tree looks wonderful. Just as we got our tree up this year, I had the kids on the stairs ready to take them to bed, and our tree fell over, and almost all of my favorite ornaments broke. Next year, I'll start early, and craft some new ones. I still love your Hungry Caterpillar ones. I have to try to find some of that fabric- it's not in any of the stores around here.

    1. Oh no! What a bummer, but at least you and the kids will have fun making new ornaments. I found the Eric Carle fabric on Etsy so you should be able to get it in Canada too!

  4. I think your tree is beautiful! Our tree has a mixed assortment of ornaments too. I save the Christmas cards we get each year to make kid friendly ornaments the next year. Basically I cut the pretty picture out in various shapes, punch a hole at the top, and then run ribbon through.

    1. Great idea! I'll have to remember that for next year.

  5. You have a wonderful Christmas tree with so many great family memories!!
    Mary Alice

  6. Fun, family ornaments that have stories to tell are always the best ones! Thanks you for sharing your home with us.