Category Archives: Merry & Bright

Oh Christmas Tree Trauma

Naoto and the tree part 1This was the scene on Sunday night when Naoto and I went to buy the tree. We decided to branch out (hehe) and try other tree variety this year. We’ve had a White Pine for the past two years (2012 and 2013) and this year I wanted to change things up with a Balsam Fir.

So, it was after 6:30 and dark, but we thought there was enough light in the parking lot to choose a tree. After checking out a few, we chose a lovely Balsam, had it wrapped up and drove it home (using our back-seat method as shown above.) We got it into our apartment and cut it open and…I noticed a patch of brown. Not like a tiny bit of brown needles that were falling off, but a chunk of brown needles that faded into green, like the tree had been damaged by the weather or something. I shrugged it off thinking we could put that part towards the window and no one would ever know. But then I noticed that brown spots were occurring all over the tree. The tree could only be described as mottled at that point.

Now, I am not a perfectionist when it comes to the holidays. We’ve had holey trees, crooked trees, dry trees…pretty much every year we buy an imperfectly lovely tree. But, brown? I couldn’t do it. So I said the words my poor husband was dreading, “We have to take it back.” We loaded the tree back into the car and drove back to Menards, which was closing in the next ten minutes.

We returned the tree, and in spite of the “tree guy” offering to open the lot back up and let us choose our replacement, we decided to wait until daylight to choose another one. (Even with the flashlight on my phone, it was hard to see the brown spots on the tree. We didn’t want to risk having to return another one.) new tree ready for trimmingI went back alone on Tuesday afternoon to choose another tree. Several of the Balsams we opened had the same brown damage as our first tree. So, I moved onto the Fraser Firs, which look similar to the Balsam but have a silvery tone to the underside of the needles. Between the tree guy, another customer and I, we found a good one…straight and tall with no noticeable browning. (It’s pictured on the trunk trimming table above.) tree in the car 2014 me and the tree 2014The tree guy–after much skepticism–loaded it into my backseat and I drove it home (after taking pictures in the parking lot!) naoto and the tree 2014The tree stayed in the backseat of the car in the garage until Naoto got home that night (after midnight!) I could have carried it up by myself, but I could never have put it in the tree stand alone, so I figured leaving it in the car was better for the tree as opposed to leaning it in our entryway all day. (Also there were a bunch of judgey ladies in the laundry room and I didn’t want to have to deal with explaining how I would of course come back down to sweep up my pine needles…sigh, the costs of living in a condo.) the tree 2014Here it is all watered and ready. lighted tree 2014I (unevenly) added lights last night and I’m hanging the ornaments today. And then, our apartment is officially ready for Christmas!

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Stuffing the Stockings

Our stockings, handmade felt, Mahar Dry GoodsWhen I was little, Santa put a clementine and a toothbrush in our stockings every Christmas. I know we got other things but the clementine and the toothbrush are the things I remember. Isn’t it weird that Santa probably stressed about getting me a few nice things for my stocking and all I remember now are the clementine and the toothbrush?

Now, Naoto and I fill each other’s stockings. As we shop, we just drop our items into the stockings with promises not to peek until Christmas morning. The stockings are the first things we open on Christmas, before unwrapping gifts.

I already have a few things in Naoto’s stocking (left side). He’s very hard to shop for since he never wants anything. (It’s a blessing and a curse!) I always try to think of a mix of fun and practical things, with a heavy emphasis on food.

For my stocking (right side), I usually ask for chapstick and other consumables. Some of my favorite stocking stuffers have included Luxardo cherries, rubber stamps and zines. This year I added a few new zines and a postcard set to my wish list.

As for Presley’s stocking (middle)…we usually get her a catnip toy. So far, she’s gotten two branches from Mew Cat Toys Etsy shop. And she has three Yeowww! catnip toys (the banana, the cigar and the dynamite) that we bought at a local shop, Scratch N Sniff. She really digs all of them. It’s hard to put her gift in early though, because she tends to help herself to it before Christmas.

What are your family’s stocking traditions? Any good ideas for Naoto’s stocking? I need all the help I can get!

P.S. Our stockings are from the now closed Mahar Drygoods. Presley’s is from a big box store.

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It’s 2014

2014 Toast Adami ProseccoHappy 2014!

Our New Years Eve was just about perfect–Karen, Naoto, me…Manhattans and steaks at Golden Steer, wine and sweets at home, and an Adami Prosecco toast at midnight…snow by Golden Steer

It snowed in Chicago, making for the perfect wintry backdrop to the festivities. In fact, it’s pretty much been snowing since New Year’s Eve, making for a quiet start to 2014. presley watches law & orderAll we did on January 1st was watch Law & Order…it’s kind of a tradition on New Year’s Day to get sucked into TV marathons and Law & Order is our favorite. I should be embarrassed to admit that I watched from 9AM (January 1) until 2AM (January 2), but I also hung up my new calendar and wrote out a few New Year cards, so we’ll call that a productive first day of 2014.

Today, I’m putting Christmas away and trying to get organized for real…a constant battle around here.

I hope your new year has been equally fantastic.

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New Year, New Calendars

Sakana Saijiki calendar, orange beautiful calendar, wild olive calendarThe new year is catching me completely off guard. Thankfully, I have a few calendars to keep me on track.

I bought the Sakana Saijiki fish calendar for Naoto. It is full of amazing illustrations of sea life and calligraphy that I cannot read. I’m excited to have a grid again. The calendars that I bought last year were all more decorative than functional. The fish calendar will hang in the kitchen, so it will be nice for Naoto to see what we have planned for the month.

The little “Things With Faces” calendar was a gift from Mollie. I’m looking forward to breaking out my colored pencils or watercolors and filling the pictures in each month.

And the Orange Beautiful calendar was a gift from Donovan. The colors and the fonts are perfect.

As far as a datebook for 2014…well, I’m still waiting. After a couple of months of waffling, I decided yesterday to go back to using Franklin Covey. Once my pages come in (MID-JANUARY!!) I will do a little post on my set-up.

Today I am cleaning house and stringing up a garland for our teeny New Year’s Eve party tonight. We are having dinner at Golden Steer and drinking cocktails at home and maybe making a few resolutions…

Happy New Year!

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Our 2013 Holiday Cards

Christmas cards 2013Our 2013 Christmas cards were sent, and hopefully they’ve arrived at their destinations near and far. As I mentioned in this post, I decided to stop putting all the pressure on myself to make our cards. Instead, I bought them. I picked up the Winter Greetings card a few years ago on clearance. I loved the little chubby bird! I purchased the Andy Warhol Christmas tree card this year at Paper Source. I loved its vintage look and tiny size. (I’m a sucker for tiny greeting cards.) And the vintage Season’s Greetings card was a gift from Jennie Hinchcliff who offered them up one day on Instagram. I could not resist those vintage beauties. Here’s a closer look at its charming church illustration and inside message:vintage christmas cardsincere christmas wishesIn case it’s unclear it says

To greet you sincerely at Christmas and to wish you Happiness in the New Year.

Sincere Christmas greetings? Absolutely. The card is gorgeously embossed–the church, the bells, the people and the tiny snow details are raised on the page. I had to save just one…the others went to lucky pen pals. holiday coaster paper sourceI ordered these holiday paper coasters from the Paper Source and added them with some of my cards. In a moment of bad planning, I realized that my Andy Warhol cards were too small to hold the coaster…oops. Naoto and I are using the leftovers for entertaining at home. They feel very festive, especially when cocktails are involved. christmas mailIn spite of having a table full of mail art stuff for the Christmas Card Writing Party, I didn’t go too crazy with mail art. I was having fun playing around with my handwriting and I just used some washi tape, rubber stamps and Stickles to add a tiny bit of pizzazz to the envelopes.

Holiday time is my favorite time of the year for checking my mailbox. People keep saying that no one writes Christmas cards anymore…I’m very lucky that many of my friends and family still value this tradition. A full mailbox is the best Christmas gift.

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Book Club Christmas Tea

book group Christmas teaLast Saturday, we had a Pleasant Home Book Club Christmas Tea at Peggy’s house. book group Christmas tea 2There were so many of us that we had to sit at two different and wonderfully decorated tables at Peggy’s.

christmas tea sandwichesWe enjoyed ham salad (made by me), egg salad, cucumber sandwiches, cherry almond scones, homemade ricotta, homemade lemon curd and homemade Meyer lemon curd (so delicious, I can’t even explain), Christmas cookies, champagne cocktails, tea…my tiny plate above was the first of many. Christmas Tea at Peggy's 3After we ate, we moved into the sitting room and talked about our book–The Cat by Colette. (By the way, The Cat deserves its own blog post sometime in January.)twilight at Peggy's houseIt happened to be the Winter Solstice, so we got to enjoy Peggy’s beautifully lit sitting room as the sun went down. It seriously is Christmas heaven over there…so many twinkle lights!

Thank you to Peggy for another wonderful Christmas time!

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A Fine Christmas Indeed…

2013 Christmas giftsIt feels like Christmas was weeks ago…

Naoto and I enjoyed our usual Christmas tradition of sleeping in, opening gifts, going to Mitsuwa and coming home for cocktails and Christmas dinner. The day felt long, in the best possible way. Naoto and SPAMNaoto had only practical (ahem…boring) things on his Christmas list, so I had to add in a little SPAM surprise. I think he liked it. (Also, I’m not sure why I picked an Instagram filter that made Naoto look like he hasn’t seen the sun in years…)

And, as always, Naoto chose the most perfect gifts for me (pictured at the top): Redemption High Rye, Burt’s Bees chapstick, a Vintage Email stamp from Wit & Whistle, a Kaweco Sport fountain pen and ink, a Paper Parcel Subscription from Saturday Morning Vintage and tickets to a Blackhawks game on January 5th!!

snow in the mitsuwa parking lotIt was a white Christmas…by the time we left Mitsuwa, it was snowing pretty hard. Thankfully the roads were clear (and empty!) for our drive home.

Christmas dinner tableChristmas dinner, tonkatsuIn the evening, I made Aviations and Old Fashioneds and set the table while Naoto cooked tonkatsu (recipe coming soon!) for dinner. Presley on the wine cabinet(During dinner, Presley lurked on the wine cabinet and watched us eat…not creepy at all, right?)evergreen candle from YearbookAfter dinner, Karen stopped over for a little visit…the perfect end to a relaxing Christmas.

(Presley sends her holiday wishes.) Presley and Naoto

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Merry Christmas!

christmas gifts under the tree

Happy Christmas! We hope your holidays are merry & bright!

Whimsical Christmas Pins

vintage christmas pinsI have a significant collection of vintage brooches. Most of them could be categorized as “granny chic”. (You might remember when Mary added to my collection when she sent some fabulous selections from her grandmother.) But when it comes to the holidays, I like to wear whimsical kid pins from my own childhood (and thrifted gifts from my mom!)

The snowflake on the left is vintage Avon from my childhood. (You can see a better picture here.) I actually have two of them because I misplaced mine and randomly came across one in a box of junk at a flea market. I was over the moon to find a replacement for fifty cents! Of course, a week or two later, I found mine. (Doesn’t it always work out that way?) I love the sparkle from the Aurora Borealis stones.

The other snowflake is an antique store find. (It’s unmarked, and I couldn’t find one online.)

The bear in the box is from my childhood. I kind of remember it being a gift…but memories are fuzzy from way back then. He can be found here.

My mom bought me the owl at a flea market last year. It was perfect timing, since owls felt very trendy last year. (I’m still wearing him this year.) He’s vintage Hallmark and can be found here.

I’ve had the snowman pin since first grade. In grade school we drew names and did a little gift exchange every Christmas. Kyle S had my name and gave me a tiny box. This pin was inside. I remember feeling very special and grown up because I got jewelry from a boy for Christmas. My family still teases me about my attachment to this pin. I didn’t wear it for years because the pin part broke off of it, but my handy-dad fixed it for me last year and it’s in the holiday pin rotation again. He can be found here.

The Santa is from my childhood, I think. He’s vintage Hallmark (from 1981, according to his back) and can be found here.

The fawn is another flea market find from my mom. I love this one because of the green pipe cleaner wreath around its neck. He’s vintage Hallmark and can be found here.

Sigh…vintage Hallmark and vintage Avon…two of my favorite things.

Would it be weird if I wore all of my Christmas pins once on Christmas Eve? I kind of want to do it…like my own version of the ugly Christmas sweater.


P.S. Another sentimental childhood Christmas pin can be found here.

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Oh Christmas Tree 2013

christmas tree 2013We got our Christmas tree the week after Thanksgiving. Naoto has been taking Thursdays off, so it was the perfect day to head over to Menards for our usual $15 tree special. We were going to splurge on a $25 fir. Their branches hold heavier ornaments better and we had a pine last year, so I thought it would be a nice change. But when the tree guy shook the firs, needles flew everywhere. When we shook this one, not a single needle fell. Decision made! Plus, there is just something so soft and fluffy about the longer needles of the white pine.

The tree guy at Menards was in good spirits and laughed at our “backseat method” of carrying the tree home. It felt like the tree stuck out a little further than normal this year…Menards tree guybackseat treetree in the elevatornaoto and the treeNaoto did all of the heavy lifting and I did all of the decorating, as usual. (He doesn’t mind it that way one bit…)Our Tree 2013After last year’s leaning tree debacle, I am happy to report that this tree is standing straight and tall. I lost my ornament hooks and had to improvise with a limited supply of bent paperclips, so fewer ornaments made it onto the tree this year. The ones that made it are the most special ones, so the tree is all right with me. And the sage green bedsheet/tree skirt is lame…you would think I would have a real tree skirt by now…but really, Presley attacks the tree skirt on a regular basis, so something not-so-precious is really the best decision. presley and the treePresley approves (and simultaneously tries to destroy).

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