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Monday, December 26, 2011

2011 Christmas Celebrations

Our Christmas Celebrations are always jam packed with activities, family and food!  This year was no different.

Christmas Eve Afternoon
We spent the afternoon at my grandparent's for lunch and games.  Grammy has the most beautiful china and always gets to set a lovely table.  She also researches great games, puzzles, and trivia for us to play to bring back great childhood memories, learn more about the history of Christmas or just have fun. She served her famous Swedish Meatballs that take forever to cook and she hates them for months after serving them but they always are a huge hit with everyone!

Grammy's beautifully set table

Christmas Eve Night
We spent the evening after church at my parent's house.  We enjoyed playing BuzzWord and snacking on a wonderful Bass spread of Christmas jello, clam dip, chips and dip, cheese and crackers.  After the game we opened our yearly Christmas Pajamas and Ornaments.

Jeanine's famous Christmas Jello

Christmas Day
The morning each family spent at their individual homes unwrapping presents.  The afternoon and evening were spent at my house for games and dinner.

Every Christmas Dinner I like to try a different recipe but always with lamb.  This year was Herb Crusted Rack of Lamb with a Cabernet sauce served with Roasted Carrots, Mushrooms and Brussel Sprouts and Mashed Potatoes.  My sister and I artistically plated each serving and provided extras family style for people to have seconds.  After two years of rack of lamb its been decided we will try a different cut of lamb next year to spend less time getting to the meat ;)  I still think two chops look the best and so elegant on a plate.

Table set for Christmas Dinner

For our wedding we received a large trifle bowl as a present but it cracked in shipment. I returned it and decided to get 12 individual trifle bowls from Pier 1 instead.  I love them for entertaining.  I wanted to make a family favorite, Raspberry Trifle, but my husband doesn't like fruit deserts. He wanted chocolate.  So I ended up making half Raspberry and half Chocolate.  Not only do the deserts look delicious, they are much easier to make then they look and with Sugar Free or Fat Free options can be a nice lighter desert.

Raspberry Trifle and alternative Chocolate Trifle

The best part of hosting a party is seeing all the empty plates and licked clean bowls of desert.  We all enjoyed a round of Disney Apples to Apples, a Christmas present opened that morning, while moaning at how wonderful the meal and the entire day was.

Clean bowls and fun games!

2011 Christmas Ornaments

Another tradition our family celebrates each Christmas Eve is opening our grandmother, Baba's, yearly ornaments.  Each year she spends most of the holiday shopping seasons hunting for the perfect ornament to portray a special moment of the year or special significance.

This year's biggest hit was the Hallmark 2011 Peanuts Wireless musical boxes.  They each have 2 songs that play and can link together wirelessly to compliment each other's songs.  Check out the video to see how neat they are.

Baba confessed she held off wrapping them till the morning of Christmas eve because she was having too much fun playing with them herself!  The family liked the 3 she gave to us (1 for my dad, 1 for my sister, and 1 for her boyfriend) but they might never be all in the same place again so Baba is going out after Christmas to buy sets for each household.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas Eve Pajamas

One of our biggest holiday traditions was started by my mother, Jeanine, in 1982.  She made me my first Christmas Eve pajamas for my first Christmas.  Since then she's been making the family PJs every Christmas. 

At our family gathering Christmas Eve we open our Christmas PJs. We always know we'll get them but we never know what kind of flannel fabric mom picked out for all of us 4 kids and my dad.  Usually she tries to choose holiday themed fabric, like snowflakes, or something of interest to us, like trains, butterflies, or camouflage. Children and adults get flannel PJ pants with matching shirts while babies get footed PJs.

As our family grew up, kids moved out, went to college, got married. and started their own families.  In 2008, we were lucky enough to all be home for the holidays and took this Christmas Eve family portrait in our pajamas.  This year mom started to add more PJs to her annual to-do list.  This year she has made 10 for her husband, 4 children, 3 in-laws, and 2 grandchildren.

In 2009, I realized we all got Christmas Eve pajamas except my mother.  She had worked so hard all those years making our pajamas but she never made one for herself.  That didn't feel right to me so I started making her Christmas Eve pajamas.  She preferred an old Simplicity nightgown pattern over the PJ pants (you can see the style in the family portrait).  The first year I made her 2 Christmas themed nightgowns to make up for so many Christmas Eves that she went without.  I spent a few hours this morning making her 2011 nightgown. My favorite part is embellishing it with lace, ruffles, ribbon and rick-rack.  She doesn't usually go beyond the average for herself so I really like making her something super pretty for her Christmas Eve pajamas.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Christmas Present Wrapping

The Christmas season doesn't officially start for us until my little sister and I have our traditional Starbucks and Gift Wrap Wonderland adventure. Every year we visit Metro Point in South Coast Plaza, grab a coffee or cider and walk around Container Store picking out wrapping paper. 

I decorate all generic gifts, that would go under our tree, with more classical paper accented with red, green and gold.  I love Container Store's crinkled gold paper ribbon, it adds so much elegance to packages.  I also use craft accent tags in Victorian designs.

Other gifts we wrap in person-specific paper. My little sister always gets to pick out her own, usually something pink and glittery.  Then there is fun paper for my 5 nephews.  This year I was super lucky to find the perfect Christmas Train wrapping paper for my Foamer dad at Container Store.

Cut items from expensive paper and
use to decorate other packages.

Use tulle, available in wedding craft aisle, as ribbon.
Tie a bow, then cut the loops and tails to make a snow ball.
Cut items from paper and attach to marking tag to make matching tags.

It might be surprising but Ikea is another great place for wrapping paper.  I get their red and brown paper -- almost 9 yards for just $1!  The paper is really good for combo presents to complement the more expensive paper.  Also, the brown paper is perfect for making your own sewing patterns.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Seasonal Decorating: Christmas!

Christmas is my favorite holiday!  I love the warm fuzzy feeling you get when its cold out, you're all bundled up, holding hands with your loved ones while you hunt for the perfect Christmas tree. Decorating the house as we grew up was so much fun; turning the house into a winter wonderland!

While this is the last post of our Seasonal Decorating blog series, the decorations were actually the first I made to celebrate our Christmas two months after I got married.  I fell in love with Debbie Mum's 2010 Ornament fabric and used it as the basis for all our Christmas items.

As you've seen in our other Seasonal Decorations Love always plays a big role, so it had to be a big part of Christmas time too! Santa Claus has never been a big part of my family Christmas so choosing the Peace, Love, Joy theme was perfect for us.  For Peace I used a dove icon, for Love a heart, and for Joy a star.

Mantle decorated with fabric trees, candles and hanging stockings.

One of three handmade ornaments, the peace dove.

Christmas pillowcases with Peace, Love and Joy and Ornament fabric.

Our Love jars, pine cones, and cream and gold candles.