Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

After driving and driving, J.P., Maggie, and I made it to my mom’s house in Minnesota on Sunday night. We were lucky that we didn’t really encounter bad weather. Well, unless you count the -30 degree windchill. Taking Maggie out to do her business every time we stopped wasn’t the most fun thing we’ve ever done.

You may notice that Maggie is missing her traditional red nose this year. After putting her through the trauma of the lights*, it just wasn’t fair to also make her bear the indignity of the red nose.

We hope you have the happiest of holidays, and that you’re able to spend some time relaxing and enjoying time with friends and family. Merry Christmas!

*No dogs were harmed in the making of this photograph. However, several pieces of Pupperoni did meet an untimely end.


Fourth Annual Blog Cookie Exchange

Two posts in a week? Yes, I’m working hard to get back on Santa’s Nice list. I hope it works! Welcome to the fourth annual blog cookie exchange party, sponsored by Ms. Susie Fairchild!

Vintagey stockings

Would you like a hot buttered rum? I haven’t actually tried these yet, but I think we may need a drink like this when we head to Minnesota this weekend. Yesterday’s high temperature there was 3 degrees. Recipe is courtesy of Emeril Lagasse, and all 19 reviewers gave it 5 stars. It must be good, right?!

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • Pinch ground cloves
  • Pinch salt
  • Bottle dark rum
  • Boiling water

Directions: In a bowl, cream together the butter, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and salt. Refrigerate until almost firm. Spoon about 2 tablespoons of the butter mixture into 12 small mugs. Pour about 3 ounces of rum into each mug (filling about halfway). Top with boiling water (to fill the remaining half), stir well, and serve immediately.

My family has no shortage of traditions. See those stockings up there at the top of the post? I think mine is celebrating its 40th year. My grandma made it, and of course she also made them for my sister and my three cousins. When J.P. and I got married eight years ago, my mom decided that he needed one too. His looks considerably newer than mine, in both fabric and style. And of course, we can’t leave Maggie out. Hers isn’t handmade (it came from Target), but shhhhh . . . don’t tell her!

Here’s what they look like for reals:

The stockings were hung . . .

And I know I’ve written about this tradition before, but I ran across some photos the other day and decided to include them here. When I was in high school, my mom’s side of the family did a “goofy gift” exchange every year. But this wasn’t just any gift exchange—we always had a rule. In 1989, the gift had to be made of wood and it had to cost $5 or less.

Being an avid clarinet player, I had plenty of old reeds lying around. I happened to draw my aunt’s name, and I made her a pair of earrings using the reeds, paper clips, and curly ribbon. She loved them!

Clarinet reed earrings

CB drew my cousin’s name. I think he must’ve been about 10 at the time. Somehow, she got the idea to make him a sign:

His gift from my sister

Moments before he opened it, he proved that it was the perfect gift:

Proving that he deserves the sign

Rather than help him up, we all grabbed our cameras and started snapping. He’s 29 now and has a kid of his own. Where does the time go?

The Folly
Susie asked about our favorite gift to give. Do you remember the show Surprise by Design? It was a reality show where friends/family members would get their loved one to leave the house for the day, and then the show would come in and re-do a room in the house. When the person came home—surprise! Everything was done. Well somehow, my mom and I got the idea to do that for Character Builder and her husband five years ago, and my step-dad began calling it The Folly.

We planned for a couple months, and Mom snuck (is that a word?) over there during the day to measure their basement family room and take photos. We chose paint colors and fabric, and managed to come up with some lamps and a storage cabinet for their movies/video games. Of course, I was living in Pennsylvania, and Mom and CB are in Minnesota. So almost everything was done long-distance. When I arrived in MN a few days before Christmas, we upholstered the cornice boards that my step-dad had made, and we made some Roman shades for the windows.

J.P. and I were staying at CB’s house for the holidays, and I told her that I was getting up early on the 26th to go shopping with a friend. She woke me before she left for work, and as soon as she was gone my BIL loaded the kids in the car to take them to my dad’s house for the day. My mom, step-dad, and aunt arrived, and we started painting. The six of us (including J.P. and BIL) worked like crazy all day long. CB picked up the kids on her way home from work, and was surprised to learn that their dad made them get up “in the sevens” (Alex couldn’t really tell time yet, but his clock radio showed that the hour was 7:00) that morning after she’d told them the night before that they could sleep in.

I think she may have smelled the paint when she walked in the house, but she and the kids were pretty surprised to find a completely new family room when they came downstairs. And you know, I think we probably enjoyed doing the project as much as they enjoyed using the room.

And then they sold the house and moved away. The end! (Well not right away, but they did.)

Gay Apparel
No flashy earrings or gaudy themed socks for me, I’m afraid. But I do have two new sweaters to wear next week! They’re both cashmere, and I got incredible deals on them. One is already waiting for me in Minnesota. If only we could arrive there as quickly as it did! We’re loading up the car on Saturday and heading out for a week with Maggie. Somehow, I don’t think we’ll be allowing much of this in the sub-freezing temperatures:


Merry Christmas!

Happy Easter!


Happy Easter! It’s 7:19 PM as I begin this post. Better late than never, right?

My day started at 5:00 AM, as J.P. and I had to sing and I had to play my clarinet at the 7:00 and 9:00 services.

He put the ham in the oven and set it to come on at 8:00. Thankfully it did, and it didn’t burn the house down (Hi Blurry! 😉 ). Our friends arrived around 1:00, and we ate. And ate. And ate. Everything was delicious. The glaze on the ham—brown mustard, brown sugar, bourbon, and crushed ginger snaps—was unbelievable. And also very, very sticky. We have the blackened pan to prove it. Note to self: next time, use a disposable pan. Update: Apparently, we’re slow learners around here. (Read the last few sentences.) I thought that sentence sounded familiar!

As we were finishing up dinner, our 8-year-old guest headed out into the yard to hide eggs for three-year-old M and almost-two year-old J. Then the rest of us went out, and the kiddos had a blast hunting for them.

Now I sit here with J.P., his mom, and Maggie snoozing all around me. I’ve nearly succumbed to The Nap several times myself. But right now I think I hear some leftover ham calling to me from the fridge. Because apparently I didn’t eat enough earlier.

Happy Easter everyone!

Happy Easter!

Merry Christmas!

When I wrote my Christmas post last year, I thought I was busy. Turns out, I didn’t know what busy was! The photography business is nutty this time of year with last-minute orders. And today I got calls from two different people who want to buy a total of four gift certificates for sessions in the new year! A good problem to have, to be sure.

Good thing we got our cards done early. Now if we could just get them addressed and in the mail, we’d totally be in business! In fact, that’s what I should be doing instead of writing this, so I’ll make this short and sweet.

Thanks for stopping by here all year, even when I haven’t been the most faithful blogger. J.P., Maggie, and I hope you and your family have a very merry Christmas, and a happy, healthy 2008!

Merry Christmas from the JoyPeaceWonder Dog!

***Let’s see those pet photos! If you posted one, leave a comment so we can all stop by your site and visit!***

Pass the cookies


Welcome to the third annual blog cookie exchange! Lovely Susie is the hostess with the mostess, and she does a fine job every year. Be sure to stop by her place to say hello.

Do you think they’ll let me stay at the party if I don’t have any cookies to exchange? Yesterday I baked a cake to take to a holiday party, and I thought it would be perfect for this event too. However . . . it didn’t exactly turn out as I’d planned. Even J.P. said it wasn’t one of my better efforts. So alas, I’m afraid I can’t offer you much to eat. But there’s plenty of eggnog in the fridge—please, help yourself!

You know how sometimes you have to invite people over in order to motivate yourself to clean the house? No? Maybe that’s just me. Now I know that the principle also applies for blog people. Until about 10:30 last night, we had absolutely no Christmas decorations up. And then I remembered you were coming by today, so decided I’d better get moving.

For the last few years, I’ve been asking my grandma about her Advent calendar. She made it herself from a pattern many years ago, and I remember it hanging in their house when I was a kid. She didn’t know what had happened to it, but she did manage to dig up the pattern and send it to me. I knew she must still have the calendar too because . . . well, you’ll see in the next part of the post. And I knew she’d give it to me if she could find it.

When we were in Minnesota for my grandpa’s funeral, my dad and his brother were cleaning out my grandparents’ house in preparation to put it on the market. We grandkids enjoyed going through some of their things, reminiscing about when we were young and they’d have all five of us stay overnight. And what do you suppose I found? It was in a box with other Christmas decorations, and the box was marked, “1991 – Didn’t use. Don’t bring down (from attic) again.” Yes! I was so excited!

Advent calendar

There’s an ornament for each day, plus a set of candles for each of the four Sundays in Advent. And there’s a big sequined star that goes on the top. I think it’s SO much better than the ones you can buy in the stores. But after hanging all the little ornaments on it tonight? I totally understand why it’s been up in the attic for 16 years. The pins she used are literally only about 1/2″ long, and it’s a HUGE pain to get them through all those layers of felt! Perhaps I’ll have to invest in some longer pins.

Remember that part above where I said I knew she’d still have the Advent calendar? Well, here’s how I knew . . .

Read the rest of this entry »

Christmas is coming, Christmas is coming!

Santa bum

I think I’m fried. I’ve been sitting here, staring at this screen and trying to figure out what to write for at least 20 minutes. And the sad thing is, I KNOW the main topic I want to write about. And it’s easy! It’s a simple invitation that I’d like to extend to you. I was hoping to be clever or maybe even a little witty because I know that’s what you’ve come to expect around here (ha!), but I just don’t think I have it in me tonight. So . . .

Read the rest of this entry »

From Thanksgiving to Christmas

Elf Yourself

It’s baaaack! The Office Max Elf Yourself site. Click the link to watch Maggie and Zelda dance.