Bottling Apple Wine

This year’s apple wine is already very, very good. We pushed it through a lot faster than we did last year, and it clearly benefitted: it’s light and clear, with wonderful fruit tones and a very smooth finish. We drank both this and some store-bought (albeit inexpensive) champagne for Christmas dinner. The apple wine won.

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Lace Knitting

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I couldn’t post about it before — because it was a gift for my lovely mother-in-law — but I was pretty darn proud of finishing this scarf. Despite not being a serious knitter, I of course wanted to try my hand at lace knitting. This scarf was the perfect opportunity to tackle a project that was sweet and lacy but wouldn’t take so long as to be overwhelming.

Christmas Morning

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Each year we fumble our way a little closer to having Christmas traditions.

“Why are the stockings down on the floor?” Nathan asked me this morning, as we ate our oatmeal.

“Good question!” I said. “Do you think they fell down?”

“Yeah!” said Ryan, but he didn’t look up from his oatmeal.

Nathan’s face began to acquire a certain anticipatory gleam, but I could tell he wasn’t yet certain about whatever idea was bouncing around his head. “Maybe they got really heavy,” he said, watching my reaction carefully.

“That’s an interesting idea,” I told him. “What could make them so heavy that they’d fall down?”

He wiggled around on his seat for another minute or so, and then ran to check. “There’s stuff in them!” he reported.

“Let me see!” Ryan joined him.

So we got through maybe a third of our oatmeal before the stockings took over, and it’s been all about eating chocolate and playing with their new flashlights ever since.

Good times.

Merry Christmas!

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This Year’s Tree

Last year I had moments where I swore that we’d never have a Christmas tree again.

After sober reflection, though, I decided that my expectations were simply off. We did get a tree, of course — how could I really resist? I was simply smarter about the decorations.

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Here’s my new theory: two strands of lights, a handful of non-breakable ornaments, and a box. The box is for ornaments that get taken off the tree and found at some random place in the house. Rather than trying to constantly put them back up, or get on the kids too hard to please not take them down, we just put them in the box. Slowly the ornament content of the tree will dwindle to its natural equilibrium.

That’s my theory, anyway. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by Nathan this year — he was very helpful with decorating the tree. And other than a few instances of running up and whacking the branches, he seems to understand that it’s really just a decoration, and not so much for playing with. Apparently five is old enough for this concept.

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Ryan… not so much. He did help with decorating, but he likes taking things off so much that I think his net contribution was negative. And he’s the main culprit who gets caught running through the house with a plastic icicle in his hand.

But overall the system is working — i.e., overall we’re all still enjoying the tree. Which is, of course, the point.

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Stuffed Animal Storage

I’m not really a decorator. Whatever genetics resulted in my grandmother’s house being so tastefully appointed passed me by. I remember talking to someone shortly after Nathan was born, who smiled when it came out that we hadn’t found out his gender ahead of time. She couldn’t have done that, she told us, because she needed to get the baby room ready, so she needed to know blue or pink, and she just couldn’t stand in-between colors like orange. Both Dave and I paused a moment too long before remembering to smile and nod. It simply never occurred to me to give up my sewing room to Nathan (at the time that would have been the only option). And if we had put him in a separate room, the decor would have been a mixture of Things We Found At Thrift Stores and Colors I Like. I like blue. I like green. I really like teal. You get the picture.

But ever since we got the boys’ bunk beds, I’ve had this urge to fix up their room a bit. Nothing fancy… really I just want to clean up a few ad hoc categories of stuff. For example, we got some sliding drawers that allowed us to put both boys’ clothes in the closet (Ryan’s had still been in our room). And we fixed up a special shelf for their trucks, a major toy category in the house. And I finally, finally got around to making a space for their stuffed animals.

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Yet another of those projects which I’d had stewing forever, this one really was quick and easy. Fabric in triangular pieces (doubled for strength), with grommets in the corners, and attached to the wall with hooks — and we had three quick, easy and cheap corner shelves.

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I won’t say that their room is now tastefully appointed, but it is getting closer. And there’s now a very clear and obvious meaning when I tell them to put all the stuffed animals away.

Gingerbread

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This year I decided to do gingerbread cookies with the kids. In all honesty, this was probably because of a recent visit to the Decorette Shop, where I paused in my totally legitimate chocolate-buying to browse through their sprinkles. They have lots and lots of really nifty little sprinkles. It was hard not to think of good uses for them.

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I envisioned this as a fun family pre-Christmas activity, and it was, in its way. I did the initial baking myself, because I know from experience that any cookie requiring rolling and cutting is one I’ll be happier doing myself. And Nathan was only enamored of the decorating until he’d eaten his fill; the concept of decorating cookies for the future, or just for fun, appeared to be foreign to him. Ryan stuck with it, apparently because he loved playing with the frosting. As for me, anything that involves frosting and sprinkles and making little disposable works of art is a good thing.

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Dave’s contribution was to use two of the little ginger-girls to put on a morality play for the kids. The one in the green dress kept pressuring her friend in the white dress to go into a cave, despite the rumors of a fearsome monster who lived there. Eventually White went along with her friend, and sure enough, as soon as they entered the cave a hideous monster leaned down and bit the head off Green. White ran off in terror and was comforted by a (slightly bewildered) Ryan, who told her that she could sleep next to him. Then Dave and the kids shared out the cookies.

I’m not sure what this taught our kids. Don’t go into caves with monsters? Don’t give into peer pressure? Don’t be as low on the food chain as a gingerbread cookie? Maybe all of those…