I love, love, love snow, every single thing about it.  From the first promise, whispered in the autumn air to the way it gently sashays from the heavens to blanket the Earth.  Snow softens even the hardest of landscapes, brings a sense of comfort and renewal, and begs one’s inner child to come play.  And winter’s warmest hope must be Christmas, with its twinkling lights, balsam candles and candy cane cocoa, with carols and choirs, with giving and brightening the spirits of all those around.  ‘Tis the season indeed. 

But we should be honest, we are T-5 and the Christmas spirit we were once so filled of as children can be a bit difficult to don as we age.  No longer do we dash upstairs at 4pm, already clad in footed jammies to throw ourselves under covers, begging for an early bedtime in hopes of being roused by jingling sleigh bells and rustling overhead.  As adults, we’ve graduated in a way, from the surprise and mystery of the season, to becoming part of the reason it exists.  Our newfound responsibilities, while a gift, can also leave us feeling a bit of longing.

I have found the true spirit of Christmas in the most unlikely of locations and circumstances: in times of apparent loss.  My first most memorable Christmas as an adult was when I was deployed, and being shot at in their hopes of my being killed every day.  How odd, right?  I mean there I was with 3 bags of stuff to my name.  My most priceless being a pair of pink pajamas I wore only with a flak jacket and helmet and combat boots.  And yet, no mass ever rung so clear, no Christmas wishes ever rang so true, no place else has the whole of the priorities in my life been so very clear and un-chaotic.  Amidst the chaos was this calm…an eye of the storm if you will.  Lasting all but about 5 minutes probably in actuality, but it became quite clear to me how blessed I am, how much and what all I have to be grateful for, in a way that I never could imagine.  I thought I had perspective, I thought I was grateful, I thought this and I thought that, until It was all threatened.  Then I really saw.  And it was the same for me the first Christmas after loosing both my father and my mom-in-law.  There was another shift, another unveiling if you will.  It hasn’t been easy.  I miss them dearly every single day, and yet I feel more blessed and grateful every day for those days I did have them in my life.  It’s such a shame we learn so much after.

Each of us is faced with daily challenges.  Maybe you’re struggling parents, working several jobs to make ends meet.  Maybe you’re far away physically or emotionally from those you love.  Maybe you’re just tired from the stressors of your every day.  I know the holidays, in times like these, can be anything but uplifting, but I’d urge you to look around with renewed eyes.  Look at the children you’re struggling to feed and see the warmth in their eyes and feel the love in their small albeit extended arms.  Reach out to those in your heart and connect.  We have a great big world out there, with so very much to be grateful for.  Like me being grateful for you for just stopping by.  It may be small, but it’s sent with all the warmth I can muster.

INSPIRATION

Need a little more visual inspiration to get yourself all holly and jolly?  No worries, I’m a visual person, too.  Here are a few pictures over some past winters that inspire me.

DECORATING

I think a great way to start to get in the spirit is to change up your surroundings.  Even if you’re not one to go “all out”, taping the Christmas cards you get to a door in the shape of a tree and playing your kind of holiday music can do wonders!  Here’s some inspiration for ideas, and take some online house tours, or two, or three to get you in the spirit!

Like we chatted about with fall, a key with seasonal decorating is to add some interest and welcome to your front entryway.  Consider using a wreath or two, swags around your door, or even create vignettes with lanterns and planters and seasonal goods.  You can get the supplies you’d want or need anywhere at places like Hobby Lobby, Michael’s, Home Goods, etc.  When you’re there try not to be overwhelmed, just know your budget and select things you like.  Remember two things: (1) decorating doesn’t have to happen overnight.  Make small changes that you can build upon each year.  (2) You can adjust what you find to fit your needs so try and see past what they’ve arranged for you.  See a swag you like but it’s way too thin?  Buy two and weave them together.  Add some twinkling lights to that and for $10 you’ve got it made!!

Here’re some ideas I’ve used for an entry way:

Inside, much like outside, I like to combine different textures and materials, and I go to the same ones year after year: warm and fuzzy blankets, pinecones, no-break glass balls, candles, and red berries.  I use the same classic red, natural, gold and silver colors throughout the home, adjusting slightly to a more ice blue, red and silver theme in our bedroom.

Here’re some ideas I’ve used throughout our home or in the past:

GIVING

One of the most rewarding parts of the holidays can also be the most stress inducing.  I think it’s because we just care so much and we want to get the absolute best gifts for the people we love.  Here are some ideas for gifts for folks on your list: Femmes, Hommes, Kiddos, New Parents, Home/Hostess, Foodie, Gardener.

But please remember, often the best gifts are not the most expensive, but are the ones made with our love.  If you have time, try your hand at some of these: Spinach Basil Pesto, Arrabbiata Sauce, Christmas Bark, Peppermint Bark, Turtle Clusters, Peanut Butter Cups, Pizzelle, Soft Molasses Cookies, Linzer Cookies, Butterballs, White Chocolate Peppermint Wafers, Heidi Swanson’s Chocolate Puddle Cookies, Speckled Peanut Butter Kisses, Espresso Brownie Bites, Mint Mocha Brownie Bites.

Here’re a few pictures of each all finished, plated, and/or wrapped up to give away.  I hope some may peak your interest and inspire you.

What matters most about this season is that you celebrate it, in a way and manner that works for you and makes you happy.  May you and yours have a truly joyous and blessed holiday, and may your 2014 be filled with health, happiness, love, peace and presence.  From our home to yours, “may all your Christmases be bright”.