Sunday, January 4, 2015

Filled Up Fall Fresh New Year

BEWARE! A bit of marathon writing happening here.

There's something about January 1st that makes things seem fresh, new and possible.  The overwhelming past few months make that concept all the more lightening for me.

There's something about the last three months of a calendar year that seems just too full!

In the US, I feel like we all live in a blur which begins with September's annual back to school time and ends with New Year's Day.  There's so much good stuff in between that you can hardly take it all in.  I say specifically in the US because once the summer vacation ends and the schools open again for a new fall year, we jump from one holiday occasion to the next hardly able to breathe in between.  At least that's how it is for me.  In this post you will find my own personal take on the busyness of the end of the year season - the things I like and the things I don't - the opinions are only my own and I don't hope to make others feel bad if they like things about the season that I don't.  Everyone should celebrate as it best fits him or her.

Once our family vacation to the beach ended in August, it was time to take my kids to college and then the busy craziness began (wait - what? am empty nest is busy and crazy?)

I love the fall season, the fall weather, the anticipation of winter and snow.  It's one of my favorite times of the year.  I love the fall colors and the new views out the windows as the leaves thin from the trees and fall to the ground painting my yard in an abundance of colors.


I love the cooling temperatures and the lowering of the humidity.  I love how quickly the clothes dry on the line.  I don't love how short the days get, but after a while I get used to it and give in to more time inside.  I love it when I can wrap myself up in hand made blankets, planning and making and getting a head-start on gift giving.  But it all goes just too fast for me.  There are too many good things all trying to race their way into a few months at the end of each year.

This year, the fall seemed even shorter.  Since hubby and I found ourselves in an empty nest this fall for the first time in our lives, we took a vacation sans kids in September. We went to San Francisco and the north western coast of California.  I've got tons of lovely photos I haven't even had a chance to peruse and I really want to make a photo album of this vacation time.

Fort Bragg, CA

Chinatown, San Francisco

Cable Car Museum, San Francisco

Giant Sequoias, Avenue of the Giants, CA

Super steep street in the city - view from the front of our hotel
Coming home from California at the beginning of October, we found the neighborhood already totally decked out in Halloween decor.  It's a big thing in the US to decorate the outside of one's house for the entire month of October in anticipation of Halloween and trick-or-treaters.

Here are some extreme cases

Add to that, I got invited to two Halloween parties so costumes were in order for hubby and me.

Bank Robbers for Halloween this year!
I made a cute little Halloween crochet bunting for one of the party hosts since her birthday is also in October and she's one of my in-home crochet students -  That was a fun to do.

Check my Halloween Pinterest board for the sugar skull pattern.   The ghosts came from Simply Crochet mag.
On Halloween night, we put our movable fire pit in the front yard, and sat outside enjoying a few beers whilst handing out candy and chatting with neighboring families.  We also decided to dress up in Harry Potter costumes (ones we already had from dressing up to help at my nephew's 8th Harry Potter theme party).  I'm surprised at how many of the younger kids identified that we were costumed as Prof. Trelawney and Mad Eye Moody.  It seems like some of the younger kids aren't as familiar with the JK Rowling stories as the kids were back in the 90s.

As soon as Halloween is over, its a rush to get the Halloween decor down and deck the house out in fall themed trimmings to prepare for Thanksgiving.

I waited til Halloween day to shop for a pumpkin - the only one left was yellow and I couldn't have loved it more!

These ghosts made from thrifted sheets with sharpie faces have been in my Halloween decor since my kids were little

Likewise, the egg carton spiders were made by my kids when they were in elementary school.
Thanksgiving is a big travel holiday for families and stems around a traditional meal.  Typically, that meal includes a turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, etc etc depending on the variances one's family is accustomed to.  In our family it's a bit different and it also includes TWO Thanksgiving meals, one with my side of the family and one with my hubby's.  We hosted my husband's family at our house - 19 in all - a big, big crowd!  But, we don't have a typical Thanksgiving meal, we have a big Italian meal.  That's his family's tradition.  We used to make homemade raviolis together early in the day and them eat them later, but some years that's just too much work.  This year, I made 5 lasagnas instead of the raviolis (1 vegan, 2 regular, 1 zuchini and 1 zuchini with spinach) and a BIG pot of tomato sauce.

If you are in need for an awesome vegan lasagna, I have a great recipe in my pinterst board: Food Etc
I also made bread and a big harvest salad.  It's a long and busy day.  The preparation for it all seems to take a lot more time than the celebration itself but it was a good day for all.

We had three tables, in two separate rooms to fit everyone.  I kept the table scapes very simple.  We had to use plastic utensils as I didn't even have enough forks to serve the whole crowd.

The very next day we headed down to my sister's house (1.5hr drive) and had a second family Thanksgiving with my side of the family down there.  Although our 2nd meal involves much more of the traditional Thanksgiving fare, we don't have turkey.  This 2nd Thanksgiving is totally a vegan meal.  Instead of the turkey, my brother-in-law made individual pot pies, I made mushroom gravy and the rest of the meal is pretty standard but just avoids dairy, eggs and meat - and of course, is all organic.  People wonder what we eat at a vegan Thanksgiving but honestly, the table is so full I often don't get to sample some things because my plate is too crammed with goodness.

Heading home from Thanksgiving #2, I felt a cold coming on and I dreaded the idea of losing any days being sick.  I rarely get sick and I don't like to give myself too much down time but I did give myself a full day of bed and TV to recuperate.

The day after Thanksgiving is BLACK FRIDAY - I mean the US goes nuts on this day with shopping and stockpiling and buying - I do not participate.  Some stores open on Thanksgiving Day at 6pm - it's crazy.  Online sales continue thru the week with Cyber Monday etc. etc... It's a tradition I simply don't care for and it encompasses all the things I don't like about the Christmas holiday.  From Thanksgiving on, the newspapers are filled with advert offerings from stores and the TV advertisements are enough to make you nuts.  Its usually the time that I sit down to review the gifts I plan to make and see how many I can tick off my list as complete and assure that I have the supplies to make the things not yet finished.  I like to sit affront the TV at the end of the night stitching away in front of sappy Hallmark Christmas movies which I find humorously entertaining if overwhelmingly sugary sweet - somewhere between nice and nauseating.

And of course, in the US, the day after Thanksgiving is ALSO the time when all the fall decor is removed and the inside and outside of ones house are decked out for Christmas.  And in the US people go seriously berserk with the outdoor decorating and not just with lights - there are giant blow up Santas and reindeer riding motorcycles and snoopy on top of gingerbread houses.  I call them Blow Up Shits - I can't stand them!  The hum of electricity blowing them up every night and then they sit in a crinkled pile on people's lawns during the day.  Some peoples yards are so filled with lights and statues that they triple or quadruple their electric bill during the month of December.  Again, overdoing the outside lighting is not something I like about Christmas season in the US!  When we finally got our tree up this year just over a week before Christmas, my son came in late one night and knocked on the bedroom door asking if we had intended to leave the Christmas tree lying down on the couch in the living room - UM NO!!!!  Nothing broke when it fell but what a doozy it was to upright and reset a huge 7foot tree that already had all it's lights and ornaments.

This year there were only  a few weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas so every caroling party, holiday bunco, Christmas Open House, etc all had to take place in a few short weeks.  It's all crammed up with hardly a chance to breathe - it does little to make me feel calm.  I am not a religious person but rather a spiritual one but I was really glad I didn't also have to add churchy things into the holiday mix.  I prefer simplicity and calm at the holidays. I prefer home made instead of store bought I prefer celebrating the season and noting the outdoor changes and enjoying the weather, etc... to hustling and bustling through the stores with the loud Chrismtas music blaring through the speakers.  I find Christmas preparations exhausting and I do what I can in my own life to minimalize the craziness yet enjoy the things I like.  Someone did a holiday posts about Samhain and Winter Solstace, the pagan celebrations of seasonal change.  I was both surprised by how many of the non religious traditions cross paths with religious ones.  It was interesting to note some of the age old customs and how they have evolved into our current traditions.

All in all - the three big events of Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas that occur at the end of October, November and December seem a raging blur of activity and decorating and rushing and planning and cooking and buying etc etc etc... I wish I could stretch it all out for 6 months, not 3.  I wish I could spend the time enjoying the posting of my holiday cards instead of speedily sticking stamps on the outsides of  envelopes and slowing down many other details.

I miss doing a lot of holiday baking.  So much of the family who visits at Christmas is vegan, I don't really bake much which I miss.

It probably didn't help that during this busy three months we also re-did a bedroom, experienced two, yes TWO pipe explosion floods in our basement laundry room, dealt with two leaking toilets, hundreds of dollars of plumber visits, installed a clothes dryer for the first time in more than 6 years and more.

Tho I've always had a washer, I've not had a dryer.  I have really mixed emotions about owning it - but it was rather handy for washing masses of sheets and blankets and table covers after the family had gone, those big things were always a challenge to hang inside the house.  And the very expensive new plumbing is just to the left of the washing machine, first a faucet valve and then another valve (that now doesn't exist) a few inches from the faucet both exploded - about 3 weeks apart from one another and flooded our laundry room TWICE! One time it was so bad, insurance had to be called.
I finished several jobs for clients in my photo organizing businesss, taught two weekly crochet classes and hosted 15 students for a Kronum tournment.  Kronum is a sport that 3 of my 4 kids have been playing since 2011.  Kronum could fill a whole blog post on its own!

I'm tired just remembering it all...

For those of you who wondered what happened to my posting between July and January, you will now understand that many other things simply took over and my blog sat quiet while life flew by.


Christina said...

Phew, this sounds all so exhausting! It was a lot quieter in my parts of the world. We don't celebrate Thanksgiving and Halloween is not quite so big either. I am all with you with the excessive Christmas decorations, can't stand it. I have a few baubles on my apple tree outside and a Christmas tree inside. Enjoy the slower pace the new year brings (before it all starts again...). x

Amy at love made my home said...

Well I am totally worn out reading this, no wonder you didn't blog lately, you must have been exhausted. It was great to catch up on all that you have been doing though and to see so many lovely makes and things. I am glad that you enjoyed your trip to SF, it is one of my favourite cities, actually probably my favourite city although I have other more favourite non city places too! I love being in SF as it feels like such a small place that you can get around and do lots can't you. Anyway, great to catch up and I hope that the new year isn't quite so hectic for you! xx

Holly Louise said...

use the next 6 months to research vegan baking! My sister-in-law is vegan, gluten-free, soy-free and the Christmas cookies my mother-in-law made were fantastic! You wouldn't even know "things" were all comes down to the right gluten-free flour, tried and true recipes and then amazing awesome power of chia seeds and coconut oil! Happy New Year!

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