Time for the tinsel

Christmas tree

Is there anything lovelier than a home at Christmas?

I love this time of year because, you know, our home has insta-style. And that style is holiday. Decorating is still a somewhat daunting task for me, so our house has many bare walls — but when you truss them up with sparkly garland, evergreens and jolly Santa figurines, you’ve really got something goin’ on.

And oh, it’s going.

I’ll be honest: Christmastime is still a little bittersweet for me. Despite the fact that I am happily married and expecting, part of me longs to be back with my mom, dad and sister doing all our old-timey holiday traditions. Last year? Kind of sad. Not because I wasn’t thrilled to be spending it with Spencer in our own place, our first married Christmas, but because . . . well, because it was different.

Different can be hard.

This December, I’m determined to be perky! and excited! and not stressed!, which has meant getting organized earlier (I have spreadsheets!) and starting to wrap gifts before it becomes an intimidating task that results in lots of gift bags and frustration. Fun fact? I actually love wrapping presents with all the bells and whistles, but I tend to wait too long to complete the task. I don’t want to be freaking out on Christmas Eve, you know?

Not. Doing. It.

You know how, when you’re a kid, the holidays are a theatrical production put on by Santa, elves and your parents — an event in which you’re simply expected to delight in the fruits of others’ labor and absolutely nothing is expected of you?

Adulthood is . . . not like that.

At nearly 30, I should have accepted that responsibility was coming down the pipeline. Speaking of which, I think hosting our first Thanksgiving was a resounding success. Did I panic a little at the thought of arriving at our house for the annual feast? Sure. Yes. Absolutely. But I had tons of help, Spence made the turkey and ham, my mother-in-law was an excellent help in the kitchen — and ultimately, our family chipped in big time . . . just as they always do. It was a grand time.

But now it’s the holidays and Christmas is shaking its sparkly stick at me, demanding attention. The pressure to contribute to the family holiday, come up with amazing gift ideas and somehow manage to spend time with everyone in a meaningful way is . . . difficult. I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know, friends; this is something we all coordinate, something we must all work out for ourselves.

And I’m getting there.

Our calendar is brimming with fun, festive events in the next three weeks (!!) — and even though I have plenty of shopping and scheming left to complete by December 25, I know that’s not what Christmas is really about.

It’s laughs and meals with family.
Crunchy sugar cookies.
“Charlie Brown” and hearing the angels sing.
Cinnamon rolls in pajamas.
Fat stacks of colorful cards in the mailbox.

And so much more. So, so much more.

As this is our last holiday without a little one, too, I’m determined to make it a happy and memorable one for our family of two. More than anything? I just want to adorn it all with sparkly tinsel, sip hot chocolate and watch cheesy Hallmark movies. You know the ones.

And I’m going to get there.

Extra cinnamon rolls may be necessary . . . but I’ve made my peace with it.

A sticky, delicious, gooey peace.


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Crafting new Thanksgiving magic

Plate

After signing a 30-year mortgage and getting hitched, preparing to host our first Thanksgiving dinner marks my transition into adulthood.

Since I was a kid, my grandparents have welcomed us for turkey, green bean casserole and Gram’s homemade pies. I’m very fortunate to have grown up close to both sides of my family, but my grandma and grandpa live a whole 15 minutes away. Even now — after I’ve moved twice.

Thanksgiving meant getting up early with my sister to watch the Macy’s parade from New York City, the pair of us eating Eggo waffles as we waited for the day’s festivities to begin. In later years, Kate and I began addressing our Christmas cards that day — a new tradition — and pouring over the flyers for Black Friday sales.

Things have changed, of course. For one, I usually have to work on Black Friday . . . though no longer as a cashier, thankfully. (Although I kind of miss those crazy, frantic sales days at Michael’s and Borders. It was the Super Bowl of retail, you know? Everyone banding together, ordering Chinese, wearing elf hats, working until the wee hours. I really did love the bookstore.)


Casseroles


And now we’re married. Grown-ups. Katie is at her place; I’m at mine. Last holiday season, Spence and I were very new newlyweds — and I was stricken with this panic that we should be starting traditions as a couple, trying to parse together what we should be doing on Thanksgiving morning. Which ended up being eating cinnamon rolls and watching the parade together, which . . . still good.

Now that we have a year of matrimony under our belts and I’m staring down the dark side of age 30, we’re beginning to cobble together our own traditions. When we settled on the house in May, I was already envisioning the holidays at our new place. The fireplace! The bannisters! The entryway! In my mind, everything was already covered in greenery and twinkling lights.

In fact, one of the earliest conversations I had with my mom — as we stood in the cold, dark house in the spring — was where we’d put the Christmas tree.

(And yes, I totally knew. In the corner by the fireplace, for sure.)


Thanksgiving cupcake


Now that Thanksgiving is a little over a week away, Spence and I have been busy getting the guest room ready for his parents’ arrival and plotting the extensive menu for our family dinner. As the guest list has expanded, I offered to take over hosting responsibilities from my grandparents this year. Gram has prepared our family feast for decades . . . and I thought maybe she’d like a break.

And here we are.

I’m feeling sort of sentimental about the whole thing. Thanksgiving, to me, is still buried somewhere under those sales flyers at my parents’ house — mixed heartily in with memories of Kate and me on the couch with stacks of cards, shouting when Santa appeared at the close of the parade. Standing over the stove with Mom as she made her mashed potatoes. Later, arguing with Dad over the wishbone.

It’s arriving at my grandparents’ home only to be hit with a burst of heat, Gram bustling in the kitchen as we all arrive in coats with covered dishes. Invariably someone will begin to sweat, prompting Grandpa to crack a door. “I’ve had the oven on all day!” Gram would say, pulling out casseroles and giving us our first glimpse of the much-anticipated turkey.

In time, someone would take over carving duties. My cousin, sister and I would steal olives and cream cheese-stuffed celery stalks from the dining room table. We’d all begin fussing with serving utensils, bread baskets, folding trays. And everything would appear in my grandparents’ dining room — magic.


Pickles and olives


Thinking that I am now partially responsible for said magic is . . . a little overwhelming. I want it to be awesome. I’m still processing the fact that: a) we own a house in which to even hold such an event; and b) I’m an adult who is also responsible for cooking. Until a few years ago, my contributions to Thanksgiving were . . . to show up with a smile? (I know. Terrible.)

And now we’re talking about roasting a turkey?

I mean, I’m being a little dramatic. Nothing unusual. It’s not like I am personally responsible for feeding a dozen people this memorable meal: everyone is bringing delectable dishes and desserts, and my mother-in-law — a talented cook herself — will be on hand to help before everyone arrives. Spence is also excellent in the kitchen and will be handling the turkey and ham, so I know we’ll be fine.

I’m just feeling a little nostalgic, I guess. About tradition.


Turkey


But new ones can be formed, I know. Changed, altered, added to, sprinkled with a layer of glistening fake snow. In the end, it’s really just about being with loved ones, isn’t it? Having everyone together, preferably without the aid of smartphones and FaceTime.

And the green bean casserole, of course.

Gotta have the green bean casserole.


Egg-citing traditions

Dying eggs


A friend and I were reminiscing about dying Easter eggs yesterday.

“Remember the vinegar?” he asked. “That terrible smell?”

“And you’d drop the little colored pellets in,” I added, “and watch the colors burst to life!”

(Yes, I totally say things like “burst to life” in real life. It’s . . . I guess my thing.)

One of the things I miss most about having little ones around is doing all the fun kid stuff you enjoy around holidays — like, you know, hiding Easter eggs. Since the next kiddos in our immediate group will probably be mine (eek), I’m left as the only 27-year-old who still likes fresh Crayons, playing Uno and writing on eggs with waxed crayons . . . then dipping them in pink. To see the secret message, you know?


Initials egg


Though I don’t think my sister and I will have time to dye eggs this year, we did have fun with it last spring — and man, things have gone high-tech since I was a kid! The inexpensive pellet-and-vinegar kits are still around, yes, but there are just so many . . . options. Like the one we wound up with: a melted-wax marbling set that created some pretty cool combinations, if I may say so.


Eggs

Colored eggs


I still appreciate the simple things . . .

. . . and may it always be so.

Happy Easter!