Sunday, December 7, 2014

Merry Christmas 2014!

Christmas!  It's my favourite holiday.  And I am one of those Christmas decorators who likes to make sure that every room of the house has at least a touch of the holiday inside.  Every year, I try to do a little bit more, and this year I'm really happy with the decorations I accomplished.  Here are the decorations last year, and here are the ones from 2012.  I tweak a little bit every year and add to things too.

The outside front got an upgrade this year, with wreaths hanging from the windows.  Silly me just realized this year that I have the sort of windows in our house that make it quite easy to hang wreaths.  The only window in the front that is left un-wreathed is the bay window center, so that our tree can be featured there.  I'm extremely happy with how the front looks this year.  New door color!  New roof!  New decorations! 

This year, after trying and failing to get any spare greenery from Christmas trees twice at Home Depot, we hit paydirt the third time.  I loaded up the car and wound up with enough for the window boxes plus a little vignette at the back gate.

This year, we put our usual Christmas ornament wreath on the back door, but I added a garland of fresh greenery to the back deck.

The arbor gets a twist of garland and branches draped from the top.

One thing I noticed while contemplating my decorations this year was that for the last two or three years here at the house, I've done the exact same decorations on the hall table.  Like, exactly the same.  So this year I wanted to do something a little different.

Branches in vases replaced the asymmetrical display of my bust that normally sits on the table the rest of the year.  The deer-handled silver bowl I love so much is still front and center. 

You guys get a candid shot of the fireplace...I forgot to move Corvin's toy mouse collection from its usual spot at the base of the fireplace tools.  ;) 

Anyway, this year I'm really happy with the fireplace mantel display too.  Other than the fact that I broke my precious old-fashioned lettering "Merry Christmas" sign that normally sits up there.  (sad face)  Ah well.


The dining room!  We went a bit lighter on the snowflake flurry in here, since the princesses weren't completed last year.  Since I also got my much-desired new chandelier in here this year too, I was excited to drape a garland from its arms this year.  

 We tuck the table that's normally in the living room in the corner of the dining room at Christmas time.  This year, we have a new Niroot Puttapipat book to add to our collection, Jingle Bells.  Niroot's silhouette Christmas card from last year is framed behind it, along with my Iseult statue. 

There's still a definite snowflake theme in here! 

 The upstairs bedroom has gold filigree ornaments hanging from the branches at the windows.

 This year, I twined a garland at the base of the bed, and hung a mini-wreath with gold ribbon at the top wall.

In the Dreaming Room, the smiling bust that normally sits in the entry sits on my work desk with a holiday wreath on her head.  The Merry Christmas scenery globes I made last year sit to either side of her.

 Throughout the house on our crystal doorknobs I hung bells to ring out the season.

 Last year I decided to put my collection of glass bird clip ornaments on their own tree.  The tree was too small, however.  This year I took advantage of a sale at Balsam Hill to buy a pre-lit organic-looking tree with pinecones and berries.  I looooove how it looks!! 

Here are a couple of new ornaments from this year.

The raven might be my new favourite.

Another jingle bell on a doorknob.

The downstairs bathroom has a vintage embroidered tea towel I picked up this summer.

And an old embroidery and rocking chair music box.

The Noel ornament I always hang from my fairy's hand on the coffee table in the living room is now hung by a small wreath pin given to me by a friend, instead of a wire hook.  I love how that looks!

My usual arrangement of poinsettias, Christmas lights, and holly and ivy on the top of the bookshelf in the living room is made a trillion times better by the addition of my Wendy Froud troll girl.  

I love how the light shines through the hole in her holey stone in this picture.

And this year we got a new Christmas tree!  Ever since we've been together, we've used my parents' old Christmas tree, the same one I've used since I was 10 or so.  It was about time to get a new tree, and this year we traded in our 6' tree we put on boxes to make it taller for a 7 1/2' tree.  

We really have a Niroot Puttapipat Christmas.  In the living room, I display another gorgeous pop-up from his book, The Night Before Christmas, in front of the two original artworks we own by him.  

Here's another bonus shot of the mantel after dark, with the lights glowing.  

 And we have the lit garland on the stair rail, and our family Tomte sitting on the bannister. 

Last year's Christmas vignette in the kitchen came out again!  British Santa, and two jars with little holiday vignettes inside.  

Merry Christmas!!!!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Frosty Morning and Cookie Day 2014

The other day, I woke up to a lovely hoarfrost.  The world was covered in a thin layer of icy fuzz.

The frost just makes everything beautiful, even though it's perilous to the plants.  

I think my favorites in the yard were the blackberry canes. Covered in frost, all the shades of green and brown were so subtly lovely.  They looked like velvet millinery leaves for a vintage hat. 

Today was our annual cookie making day!  Three Grandma, Mom, and me...come together and make cookies.  Peanut butter and Hershey Kiss cookies, Russian Tea Cakes, and frosted sugar cookies.  

The first two types of cookies take about two hours or so to make.  The sugar cookies take the rest of the day.  But I love them!

My theme for the shapes this year had a bit of a theme....

At the end of the time, we asked my dad to take a picture of us.  First he took a selfie.  

Then he took what is, in my opinion, one of the best pictures I've seen of the three of us together.

It was a good day.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Uncle David

Three years ago today, on a crisp autumn day about a week before Halloween, I got a phone call I suspected would be coming, but did not want to hear.  My Uncle, David Alton Eno, had passed away.  

Not every family is lucky enough to have an Uncle David.  In fact, only one in every 691 babies in the world is born like him: he had Down Syndrome, and he was amazing. 

David was born during a time when mothers who gave birth to babies with Down Syndrome were encouraged to place their children in institutions.  The "burden" of raising such a child would be far too much for the mother to handle, they would say.  Not for Grandma.  She raised my father, my Uncle, and cared for a husband who was wheelchair bound.  I love looking at old pictures of him: laughing as he opens up a Christmas present, smiling ear to ear as he graduated high school, and standing with the rest of the family in their polyester bell bottoms and wing collar shirts.  

When I was growing up, my Grandma, Grandpa, and David lived in a cozy house that was only a five minute bike ride from ours.  I was over there many times, not just at holidays, but at least once every two weeks or so.  Speaking of holidays though, they were David's favorite.  If he had a vacation day he would happily exclaim "home tomorrow!"  (He worked through a local MRDD program)  He always knew whose birthday was coming up next and would announce it to everyone.


Traditions are very important to our family, and David was no exception.  On birthdays, he would put on his straw cowboy hat (seeing similar ones at thrift stores and yard sales still makes me lose composure for a moment) and hold the cake with its lit candles, walking into the room as we all sang Happy Birthday to the lucky celebrant.  At Christmas, he liked to play Santa, handing out the gifts one at a time to each person, although he usually needed some help to read the names on the wrapped packages.  He and my dad were true brothers, and would often start out the wrapping paper wars, throwing them across the room at each other.  After a while, David's shout of "mom!  He bothering me!!" would make us all chuckle.  Traditions.

Every Christmas season, Grandma would also ask David what he wanted for the holidays.  Since David was sometimes hard to understand when he spoke, he would draw her a picture to give to Santa.  Sometimes the picture on the paper would be as simple as an American flag t-shirt (the year was 9/11), and sometimes it was as elaborate as a new drum set.  Whatever was on that paper, Santa always delivered.  

David loved bowling, the classic TV show Batman, Wizard of Oz, and dancing.  Whenever he received a gift at Christmas that played music, he would immediately get a serious look of concentration on his face, clenching his small hands into tight fists, and start bobbing and rocking to the music.  Occasionally as we all laughed in good fun, he would grab my or my sisters' hands and we would get up to bob and sway with him, holding hands.  

I don't want you to think that my Uncle David was a saint.  He got angry every now and then like anyone would.   He was afraid of certain things like getting his hair cut, or walking up bleachers.  He was human.  But he added something to the lives of every single member of our family that was completely invaluable and entirely irreplaceable.  David was forever reminding everyone around him about how to embrace the moment, how to celebrate fully, and how to just be joyous. 

In his final years, David developed Alzheimer's, a not-uncommon problem among people with Down Syndrome who survive to late middle age.  He grew thinner, increasingly confused, and had physical complications also associated with the disease.  On the last occasion my husband and I got to see David (my husband, Tom, was lucky enough to know him before the disease had progressed, and knew what a remarkable human being he was), we had a hard time getting any sort of reaction from him as he laid in his bed.  Right before we left, we both gave him a massive hug, and Tom squeezed his hand and told him that Spider-man was better than Batman (a joke they had between them).  I saw David's face crinkle into a small grin, and he gripped Tom's hand tightly for a moment.

My favorite memory, and one I shared at his funeral, was when Grandma and David came up to cheer me on, along with mom, dad, and Tom, when I ran my first (and only!) 5k race.  When the race was over, and we all stood around my parents' van saying hellos and goodbyes, some peppy song came on the loudspeakers, and David grabbed both of my hands for a dance.


My dad had a camera to snap a few pictures of the event, and somehow the camera was set on video instead of photo.  The mistake was quickly corrected, but what remained was a five-second sliver of video, one I'll always cherish, of the last time I danced with David.

There will never be another David Alton Eno.  His passing has been the hardest in my blessed lifetime thus far.  I still lose my breath and have to stop to clear the tears from my eyes if I see a grown man with Down Syndrome unexpectedly in my daily life.  The pangs of missing his gentle presence are further between, but still definitely present as time goes on.  Three years and one month ago, my sister gave birth to a sweet, wonderful baby girl, born with Down Syndrome.  Since my sister and her family live many hours away, I haven't had the chance to see her or the rest of the family as often as I would like to.  But when I see her in person, and in photos, I am struck not only by how different she is from David, how much she is her own person, but every now and then in little things she does, little words, little gestures, I see him for a moment again, and I feel nothing but blessed.

To have known someone, and loved someone so very much, with Down Syndrome, is a very very special and unique thing.  But David was also so very much more than his condition...he was a singular force of life, and one that will never be forgotten.

I love you, Uncle David.  Thank you for dancing through my life.