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Still No Tree

It’s December 10th, and I cannot believe that I’m admitting that I still do not have my Christmas tree up yet.

I don’t have garland hung.

I don’t have the stockings hanging in front of the fireplace.

We’re still using non-themed dish towels, and my wreath is still hibernating beneath the bed.

I used to decorate my house the week of Thanksgiving.

Everything except for the tree used to be up by the time we enjoyed our big Thanksgiving meal.

Over the last two or three years, I’ve seen myself sliding.

My work responsibilities leave me exhausted.

With the kids growing older, there’s nobody around to help me take everything down and put stuff away after the holidays.

It’s depressing besides being a lot of work for one person.

Is this what happens when you get older?

Is this what happens when your career takes over your life?

Sometimes I can’t wait for retirement when I’ll have time to enjoy the things that seem to have disappeared from me of late.

Thankful for Nearly Grown Children

Having nearly grown children can be such a blessing…especially around the holidays.

I enlisted Chicky and Rooster’s help to prepare the house for company.  They did a great job cleaning…nothing too intense, mind you.  I am AuburnChick, and I just don’t do deep-cleaning.

Next, it was time for the decorating.

Rooster checked out mentally at this point.

Chicky, however, completely took over.  I’d gotten a hold of something that had made me sick, so I wasn’t much use.

She did a fine job, even getting the table set for me…

Notice that green tablecloth?  I got it at Bed Bath and Beyond.  I could not fathom the thought of a red plaid cloth.  The one from last year had stayed on my table the entire six months that I went through my teaching certification program.  I’ll probably never do red plaid again.  😀

Chicky decorated nearly every room in the house, adding her own flair…

Chicky was a huge help in preparing Thanksgiving dinner.  She put together the Strawberry Bottom Cheesecake Pie that I usually make for the holiday.  She also helped with getting things put on the table and then cleaned up afterward.

I know that as parents, we dread our young children growing up, but I can honestly say that there’s nothing quite like interacting with your grown children on an adult level.

I’m so thankful for every moment I have with them.  One day, they’ll be off on their own, making new memories with their own little families.  Until then, I’ll put them to work and appreciate every tidbit of conversation exchanged in the process.

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

Boy, have I enjoyed having Chicky home from college.  Before she came home, though, the Mr. and Rooster helped me decorate the house…

The next three pictures are close-ups of my Santas Around the World collection…

I made the next decoration…back in my cross stitching days…

My dad gave me the frog in the next picture.  It ribbits Christmas songs (and that’s Rooster’s baby picture next to it…wasn’t he a cute baby???)…

The kids painted the trees in the next picture…

And more decorations…

We acquired the elf at a Chinese gift exchange years ago. It was the best gift I've ever walked away with after participating in one of those games...

Even the kids’ bathroom got attention…

I wanted to make sure we got the tree put up before before Chicky went back to school, so that’s what I focused all of my energies on today.  Unlike last year, when Rooster and I threw the lights on the tree in a similar fashion to  how Jackson Pollock created many of his masterpieces, I actually took my time and meticulously wrapped each branch…

Then, it was time to add the ornaments!  I am always curious about other people’s ornaments.  I believe they reveal a lot about families.  For instance, when I was growing up, my mom insisted that our tree have red lights and almost all red ornaments.

It sounds weird, but it was actually pretty.

The thing is, though, that there were never any homemade ornaments…nothing new added each year.

It led to a somewhat detached feeling.

The AuburnChick tree is a lot different.  Many of the ornaments have been given to us, but we also have ornaments that the kids made…

One Christmas, when the kids were toddlers, we made our own dough, used cookie cutters to shape them, painted the, glazed them, and then wrapped them up as gifts.

We have purchased ornaments for the kids every year.  The ornaments usually reflect whatever is going on or whatever the kids happen to be interested in…

Chicky's first-ever ornament

Rooster played baseball for a few years

Of course, soccer has been a very big part of both of the kids’ lives…

Chicky, in typical girl fashion, went through an American Girl Doll phase…

Rooster has always loved football…

We have a smorgasborg of Auburn ornaments, one of which is below…

And a combination of other miscellaneous trinkets…

The next ornament is an mp3 player that really does play music…

Over the years, I have made quite a few ornaments…some from kits and others from odds and ends…

We even have an ornament that the Mr. made wayyyyy back when bell bottoms were in style…

My favorite ornament, however, is the next one.  I always put it in the front so that every time I look at the tree, I will remember what Christmas is REALLY about…the gift of God’s Son to deliver mankind from the punishment of their sins…

Here’s what the tree looks like all decorated…

I pray that as you see the pretty decorations and the bright lights, that you will remember what the season is all about.

God loved us so much that He gave us the most important gift we will ever be offered…His own Son.  It is hard to imagine that kind of love.

THIS is the magic of Christmas…not some bearded, red-suited old man.

National Wield a Screwdriver Day

Ok…so there’s no such thing as National Wield a Screwdriver Day.  I even checked Wikipedia.

But, in my humble opinion, there should be such a day.

So, in the spirit of leadership, I chose to celebrate it…

Today…

When I got down to business and strapped on my invisible carpenter’s belt.

Remember how I told you that the computer desk in my room was going to be leaving me?

Here it is, in all its glory…

I loved the simple, sleek design.

The Mr. and I went shopping and found the following desk at Office Depot…

We had already been to Target and Office Max…without success.

I was experiencing sticker shock.  I even complained about not being able to find anything for $50.

That’s why I was beside myself with happiness when we found the one above…for only $49.99.  It is on sale this week.

Yay!

Now, y’all might remember that I recently shared that my favorite class in elementary school was shop.  Plus, if you’ve been reading my blog for very long, you’ll also know that I really like to do the home repairs at Chez AuburnChick.

So, building the desk was right up my alley.

First, I got everything out of the box…


Next, I started putting in the hardware…

Insert Tim the Toolman’s “Arrrrugh…”

Building things is so much fun.  I really like watching the process of parts coming together to become a “thing…”

When I turned the desk upright, I noticed something…

Do you see it?  The bottom strip on the shelf on the right side…it is the unfinished edge.

Great.

I turned the desk upside down, fixed the piece, and then turned it upright again…

Oh good gravy, I thought!  Now, the piece was upside down!

I would have slapped myself on the forehead, but I remembered that I had a screwdriver in my hand.

Yeah.  I know.  I was a little surprised too.  I can’t believe I actually used my brain.

The third time was the charm…

I installed the last shelf and put the computer on the desk…

I am THRILLED with the desk.  It is even nicer than the one that was in the room before!!

Because I was in carpenter mode, I decided to go ahead and see what I could do about the window.  It had been begging for attention.

I drove to Walmart and bought an inexpensive set of blinds, a curtain, and a spring-action, no-tool-needed curtain rod.  You will see that picture in a minute.

What you won’t see in the picture of the window are the blinds I bought.

Why?

Because I could not figure out how to install them, despite using my go-to-expert…Google.  It turns out I don’t need them anyway and will return them tomorrow.

Next, I drove to Michael’s with my coupons in hand.

Oh my gosh, but did you know that every Friday, from now through August 24th, teachers can get 10% off of their entire orders, including sales items?

I did not have an ID badge from my school, so I could not take advantage of this deal, but I plan on approaching my principal and asking for something I can show the stores I shop at.  My school is so small that I don’t think it requires staff members to wear badges.

Regardless, I still shopped.

I found this small flower pot on clearance for $1.99 (marked down from $4.99)…

I also found this basket…again a clearance item…for $9.99 instead of the regular price of $19.99…

I could not use my coupons on the clearance items, but I did use them to purchase two packages of Expo markers, which I put inside the pot.

Although my original intent for my day had been to finish packing up the books in the hallway, I wound up putting the not-quite finishing touches on the room.

I hung my clock and another bulletin board.

And…

I placed the all-important name plate on my fancy-schmancy new desk.

I made a collage of the pictures of my room…

I still want to do stuff like put some sort of cloth over the file cabinets that are under the window, purchase “in/out” boxes for my desk, and get another other dry erase board hung.

But, I finally feel like the room is mine.

I think I am now ready to go in on Monday and start making hard-core lesson plans that I will present in my student-friendly room.

Which Color Should AuburnChick Paint Her Classroom?

Ok y’all.

I need your help.

Today, I found out that I am allowed to paint my new classroom.

Woo Hoo!!

I found a neat tool on the Sherwin-Williams website.

You can upload a photo of the space you want to paint, select the wall areas and colors for each, and then virtually paint those areas!  So, you can see what your room will look like!

Here’s what my room looks like right now (try to picture this without the other teacher’s stuff in it…she’s moving it out even as I type this)…

And here’s a different view…

I used the first picture as my template and selected three different colors to “dress up” the room…

Rhumba Orange

Lemon Twist

Lime Rickey

So, which one do you like the best?  Please take the poll and let me know!  I’m buying the paint this weekend and plan to paint mid-week!

Plain to Fancy

The mission:

Take one plain table…

and turn it into something fancy…

I cannot take full credit for the way the table turned out.  A dear friend, Ms. M, offered to help me.

She met me at my house this afternoon, toting the beautiful crystal glasses you can see in the picture above.

Ms. M has a flair for creativity.  She took a look at my yarn and dishcloths and turned them into a cute centerpiece.  The cloth on the left (picture below) is one she crocheted.

She was also kind enough to turn my napkins into leafy-looking arrangements.  They look great with the napkin rings I made.

I’ll post details about the rings tomorrow.

Did you happen to notice the green scarf that I’m using as a table runner?  It’s the Branching Out Scarf I made a year and a half ago.  You can check out my Ravelry project page for more information.

Now, I thought it would be fun to share photos of some of the other tables.  All I can say is WOW!  The church has some very imaginative ladies!

The next table has to be one of my favorites.  It’s a music theme.  I’m posting a picture of the entire table and then a close-up of the centerpiece.  Just lovely…

The next table was another of my favorites.  It’s dog-themed.  The photo after the next one is the centerpiece.

The next table was picnic-themed.  Notice the close-up of a familiar visitor?

The next table is beach-themed.  I love this table!  It’s perfect for my town, which is five miles from the ocean.  The table is clean and simple.  Ahhh…I can almost smell the saltwater and hear the sea gulls…

The next table is too funny…so typical for Florida, I think…especially south Florida, where I used to live…

One might mistake the flamingo for one of the snowbirds that frequent my state…heeheehee

That concludes your tour of the tables that were decorated when I left the tent at my church.  There were still quite a few tables that were bare.  I’m sure that by the time I arrive tomorrow, they too will be as lovely as the ones above.

How Did I Get Myself Into This?

Sometimes I could just kick myself.  I often allow myself to be talked into something and then start hyperventilating afterwards.

I’m sure you have NO idea what I’m talking about.  You’re probably MUCH smarter than me.

I had innocently shown up for Bible Study on Wednesday night…written notes in the margin of my text…actually prepared for a change.  The leader of the group sat down and began by telling us of a need in the church.

Always eager to help, we began to listen with rapt attention.

My church hosts an annual ladies’ retreat.  The ladies are treated to a luncheon during the weekend.  Women in the church decorate the tables where the ladies sit to eat.

Yeah, you’re probably beginning to see where I’m leading you, eh?

This year, the church is short 11 hostesses.  That’s 88 ladies who need to be prepared for, with each table hosting eight women.

My Bible Study leader finished explaining and turned her eyes toward me, who happened to be playing Teacher’s Pet by sitting beside her.

That will teach me!

I adamantly refused at first, and she questioned why.

I’ll try to explain.

I’m not exactly good at playing hostess.  I’ve had very little experience doing so.

I do not regularly invite adults to eat at my home.  I’m afraid that I’m a bit socially inept.

Ok.  Simply put…I’m shy.

And I lack confidence.

I am no Martha Stewart.

To be fair…I’m not required to cook for the women at my table.  Thank goodness.  I could just hear Chef Ramsey yelling obscenities at me.  Maybe he would hold back since it’s a church, but I’ll bet you anything that a few mild ones would escape from his mouth.

The tables only need to be decorated with place settings and other accents. Each hostess gets to select a theme of her choosing.

Now…something else I feel like I’ve done that set me up for this is that I’ve talked too much…about my knitting.

I know a few of you who read my blog.  You’re my IRL friends too.  You know that the above sentence is undeniably the truth.

If you spend an hour with me, you’ll quickly learn that I LOVE to knit.  I’ll show you whatever is in my knitting bag at the moment and even pull my feet out my shoes to show off the latest pair of socks I’ve just finished.

So, it was natural for Ms L, as I’ll call my leader, to say, “You could do a knitting table.”

Great.

Why did she have to pick something I like so much.

“No,” I insisted.  “I cannot do this.  I’m not creative.  Just because I can knit doesn’t mean I can put plates, napkins, and a centerpiece together in such a way that they won’t want to throw up.”

Reading a knitting pattern is easy compared to free handing.  I mean, I was taught to color in the lines and trace pictures, for heaven’s sake.

Ugh.

You know what I think it boils down to?  I’m afraid that my table won’t measure up to the other hostesses’ tables.  I do not want to embarrass myself.  Sometimes I think that I’m a teenager stuck in an adult body (although I was mistaken for a 12th grader yesterday…a story for another time).

As these thoughts ran through my mind, I think I heard the Holy Spirit speak to me.  The message I heard was that it’s not about me.  It’s about God and serving Him.  It’s about putting my worries in His more-than-capable hands.  It’s about letting go of my pride.  He will provide the ideas.  I just need to trust.

Another lesson in trust…only in a different area of my life.

So, just like the regular job that God has blessed me with, I’ll trust that He will send me a vision of what this table is to look like.

If you have any suggestions that do not require extra money, please let me know.

Here’s what I need:

A centerpiece…small enough for the ladies to see over so they can talk to one another.  I’m thinking about using my humongous knitting needles stuck into a basket with yarn (acrylic yarn cakes…not my good stuff, mind you…church is for sinners, and some thief might just walk off with my yarn…said in jest…sort-of).

I have to provide eight sets of dinner plates (can be china, everyday – mine is chipped, acrylic, or fine paper as they are only chargers), dessert plates, flatware, glasses and/or coffee cups, and napkins.

I also need salt and pepper shakers, a butter dish, sugar dish, and water and/or tea pitcher.

Oh yeah…the overall theme of the retreat is flip-flops.  I wonder if I can incorporate this into my knitting-themed table.

At the bottom of my “instruction sheet” is this verse:

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for me,…It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” — Colossians 3:23-24

Yeah…I think I’m supposed to do this table.  I’m just going to need some help from my heavenly Father and earthly friends.

Christmas Memory #17

I love Christmas decorations.  Always have.

When I was younger, my mom let my sister and me decorate our rooms. I had a canopy bed that was perfect for this.  The bars were perfect for hanging garland and balls from.   We painstakingly hung tinsel, one strand at a time, all the way around the canopy frame.  I loved laying in bed, looking up at all the silver.  But, the best part was getting in and out of bed, ducking under the tinsel each time.

I kept the tinsel neat too!  Talk about OCD, eh?  I couldn’t stand for the tinsel to be clumped together, so I straightened it up frequently.

Ever since my own children were young, I’ve allowed them to do the same…decorate their rooms and bathroom.  The kids have strings of lights around their rooms, and the bathroom boasts two strands of M&M lights.

No matter where you go in my house, your eyes can alight on visible reminders of this wonderful holiday.

The Decorating is Complete!

Soccer Chick and I attended church this morning.  One of the songs we sang was this:

The chorus moved me to tears today.  Well, okay…it always moves me to tears.  The thought that my King knows me, calls me by name and welcomes me with open arms…

How can you not be blown away by that kind of love?

After church, we went back home and buried Caddilac.  It was the third pet we’ve said goodbye to in a little less than a year.  In Mr. AuburnChick’s words, “I’m tired of burying pets.”

Me too!

Shortly after that, Soccer Chick and Mr. AuburnChick left for her soccer practice…held at a location two hours away.  Yeah, we’re nuts, but you do what you have to for your kids.  The team is getting ready for a tournament it will be playing in after Christmas, and Sundays are the only day the girls can practice together with high school season fully under way.

That left Rooster and me at home by ourselves.  He and I are such a pair!  He asked if we could set up my Christmas village.  It’s a lot of work, but I gave him the green light.  I don’t know what it is about my village, but he’s loved it ever since he was little.  As he’s grown older, I’ve allowed him to participate more actively in its setup.

Of course, being a teen, he quit halfway through, leaving me to finish.  Here are some pictures…

Christmas Valley Village

Christmas Valley Village

My in-laws gave me the starter box the second year that the Mr. and I were married.  Target originally sold the pieces, and each year I received gifts of more houses and accessories.  We used to buy them right before Christmas, when the store had marked them down.  Of course, Target quit selling the line a few years ago, leaving me with a train but no train station.  Enter in eBay!  I bought quite a few pieces a few years ago.  Mr. AuburnChick was not amused.  It has taken up my entire dining room table.

Here are close-ups of the pieces…

The Country

The "Country"

Residential Section is in the Back and Town is in the Front

Residential Section is in the Back and "Town" is in the Front

After setting up the village, I decided that it was time to finish putting ornaments on the tree.  Here’s a couple of pictures of the tree and village (I used the “Night Portrait” setting for the first picture):

So, the decorating is finished, and a home has been found for almost all of the “regular” house stuff that was displaced.

Let the holidays begin!

Decorating is Hard Work!

Yeah, I know…three posts in one day!  What can I say?  I’ve been working hard and needed a break.

This year I had planned to do my decorating in small phases so as to avoid being overwhelmed by the messiness of all of it.  I’m sure you can relate.

First of all you bring out the boxes from the closet.  Then, as you start pulling things out and deciding where to put them, you realize just how dusty your house it, so you have to pull out a rag and clean.  Then, you have to take the stuff that’s already around your house and move it somewhere else to make room for the decorations.

Meanwhile, you try to start putting other decorations around the house, but you get stuck because your “regular” house stuff that you just moved is in the precise spot you want to put the other decorations.  So you have to stop, put that stuff away, and then resume.

And the tree…

For the last four or five years, we have had a pre-lit Christmas tree.  The first year we had it was nice.  I hate stringing lights, so this saved a ton of time.  Plus, the new tree was taller and filled the space between the floor and ceiling (10 ft) better than the old tree.  However, all of the pre-strung lights made the tree HEAVY!  What a pain to put away!  We barely fit the box into the Christmas closet each year.  Last year, one of my closet doors broke, so I had to go to Home Depot to buy the parts to fix it.

A couple of years ago, I noticed that the top section of the tree was not lighting properly.  I painstakingly went through the lights trying to figure out which one was burned out.  I am the expert light-fixer, spending hours each year maintaining my sets.  But this one had me stumped.  I changed fuses and bulbs…to no avail.

Finally, this year I decided no more.  Mr. AuburnChick agreed.  We put the tree, in its box, beside the curb.  I hope someone will come along and claim it as their own.

I rummaged around in the attic and pulled down the 7-ft tree we’ve had since the second year of my marriage.  It’s small.  What a difference.  And the lights took forever to put on.  They don’t look great, but they’re on.  I have about half of the ornaments hung.  Soccer Chick invited Guy Friend over, and he helped.  Both of them got tired before the job was done.  So the boxes sit…waiting…

Thank goodness, though, for teenagers.  They have so much energy and creativity!  I let them have at it with the decorations.

Guy Friend and Soccer Chick decorated my fireplace.

I think the rest of the house is going to have to wait until tomorrow.  I’m tired.  Decorating is hard work!  Aubie and Pele agree.

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