Saturday, December 29, 2012

December: A Visitor, A Tarantula, and A Whole Lot of Christmas

December has to be the busiest month of all time - as noted on my absence from the blogosphere. But it is good busy! Great, actually, because my schedule is suddenly cleared of things like appointments and meetings and filled with things like visits from people I love and plenty of Christmas traditions.

Here are a few things that I have been doing this December:

I had a visit from one of my best friends from college. (You’ll recognize her from my visit to Oklahoma in August and my Yellowstone trip in the summer of 2011). It was her very first time in Tennessee so I got to show her all around! We hit all of the Nashville sights.

 Downtown Nashville

 Nashville's Parthenon Replica

 The Grand Ole Opry

 The Life-Sized Nativity at Opryland

 Christmas Lights at Opryland Hotel

And I took her to see the town where I grew up. She and I are both wanting to see all 50 states, so I drove her across the border to KY so that she could mark off two states this trip. 

I had my Christmas party with my 8th grade girls from church. Let it be noted that this was not a tacky Christmas party, but the other leaders and I all showed up in something tacky. 

LOVE these two

Sweatshirts… and a furry apron that was stolen in a “Re-Gift” Dirty Santa game (We played Dirty Santa with a gift that you have in your house that you don’t want anymore. I got a snowman light-up cup. It's pretty awesome.)

Some of our 8th Grade Girls

And my sweet friend Sarah turned 26 just a few weeks before she is going to run 26 miles at the Disney marathon. More power to ya, girl.

Our work Christmas party had a Dirty Santa game too. Everyone’s goal was to “bring something to embarrass Emily” which is not too hard to do. So I couldn’t take something plain and boring. I racked my brain for something incredible to take… and ended up with the PERFECT Dirty Santa gift.

A real, live Pink-Toe tarantula.

Oh, yes. It was wonderful. It was the very first gift opened. For a moment the girl just stared at the container and said “What is this? Soup?”. Then she saw the label and said “Oh. Is this a joke? Am I supposed to think there is a tarantula in here?” Then she turned the container, spotted the tarantula, and had a minor freak out moment. Fortunately she didn’t drop the container! She just sort of flung it into her husband’s lap and let out a panicked squeal. So yes, others brought gifts that embarrassed me, but my gift TOTALLY trumped all of theirs. I was proud of myself for even purchasing it and carrying it to the party! The guy at the store made me prove to him that I could carry the plastic container before I could purchase it because he sensed my awkward nervousness about it. I daintily carried it to my car and then kept it in it's container in a box in my bathtub with the bathroom door shut. I was a bit paranoid!

The container wasn’t going to open easily. And I do realize that if it had somehow gotten out, yes, it could have climbed out of the bathtub, but I gave it as many obstacles as possible! By the end of my time with it I was pretty comfortable, but if that thing had gotten out in my car or my condo or my office or at the party… I would have freaked. The spider lived in our office for a few days before moving to its new home with a coworker.

Speaking of the work party, the majority of the people who attended the work party – including me - all picked up a stomach virus. No, it wasn’t food poisoning – definitely a virus. 

Ain’t nobody got time for that.

So I missed a couple of Christmas events, but at that point I didn’t care. I just wanted to lay in bed and be far, far away from any party food!

Family Christmas
I have been so blessed to have tons of quality time with my family over the break. We have done everything!

We visited lots of family friends.

We took a day trip to a cute little town called Glendale, KY to browse through the antique stores and eat at The Whistle Stop restaurant.

We played lots of Spades and Sequence and other card games.

Ally and I volunteered at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital’s holiday store for the parents of the sick children to pick out free holiday gifts for their kids.

The four of us went on a Christmas Eve lunch/comedy cruise on the General Jackson.

 The Steve Hall and Shotgun Red Show

 With Steve Hall - He was quite the interesting fellow!

We had Christmas brunch with my grandparents.

My favorite conversation with my grandmother went like this:
Grandma: My cousin just got a new cat. Yep... A Parmesan Cat.
Me: Wait… what???
Grandma: A Parmesan Cat.
Me: A Parmesan Cat? There’s no such thing!
Grandma: Oh wait, Parmesan is a cheese isn’t it. Siamese. It was a Siamese cat…

The two are easily confused I guess...?!?!

And then we had our family Christmas together!
We all got lots of great new things. 

 A Creeper with Casters - my favorite name of a gift!

 Ally with a piece of her favorite Larry Allen pottery

She was very excited about her therma rest for camping.

I was excited about my kitchen knives and embroidered Vera Bradley apron. We are very different sisters. :)

My weeknights in December, which are normally filled with more things like… blogging… were filled with cutting and trimming and snipping and pinning and sewing. That’s right. I made a frayed quilt! It was my fourth sewing project, and it was surprisingly a success. Now, it’s not perfect. By any means! The pieces are all different sizes and the seams aren’t straight and I thought that it was going to have to be tossed altogether, but the quilt and I both survived and it ended up just (imperfectly) perfect! I gave Ally (who didn't even realize that I actually knew how to sew) her quilt on Christmas morning. She was surprised... and loved it!

I’ll post more on the quilt another time... (1/5/2013 Update: View Fray Quilt Tips Here)

We saw the first snowflakes of the season! And we may or may not have put a winter coat on my mom’s dog. She was cold…

My other sister got snowed in, so she came into town a few days later for Christmas. Christmas with kids is so much fun!

Remote Control Mario

 Remote Control Excavator 
(Notice he happened to have an excavator on his shirt. He loves construction equipment!)

 I spent a lot of time playing with the remote control vehicles...

... And reading animal facts!

 My little guys got me an apron and drew a T-Rex on a dish towel for me!

I'm already excited for Christmas next year!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

One Man’s Pie Chest

I love remodeling furniture, so when I recently stumbled upon an unloved, but gorgeous pie chest at an estate sale, I was really excited to take it home, clean it up, and make it my own. 


This piece is from the late 1800s / early 1900s. The middle-aged man that I purchased it from mentioned that it had been passed down from his grandmother, but he wasn’t sure of the ownership prior to that. Back in the day, women would place their pies in a chest like this to let them cool.  It has narrow shelving – the perfect size for a pie plate. The open air front allows the pies to cool, while netting behind the woodwork prevents flies and other creatures from bothering the pies. The inside of the piece was painted bright blue for the same reason - because it is a common school of thought that blue paint repels insects (which is why a lot of porch ceilings are painted blue).



When I purchased the antique (for something like $50) a couple of pieces of the front woodworking were broken, the screen was torn, the paint was chipped, and it was just plain dirty! But I knew how beautiful it could be! Because one man’s pie chest is this woman’s treasure.
I took it home, cleaned off the layers of dust, primed the entire piece (it took several coats to cover that blue!), and ripped out the screen. I fixed the cracked woodworking by using dry wall putty to hold the pieces firmly together before repainting. I’m sure there’s a better way, but it’s what I had and it worked – you can’t even tell it was ever broken.
When it comes to projects like this, I am very fortunate to have a close friend whose hobby is painting. She can rattle off paint colors off the top of her head as if she were listing the names of her best friends. She’s that good. In fact, she’s the one who had me paint my guest room in Behr’s Dolphin Fin. So we went to Home Depot together and she set me up with the perfect yellow to compliment my Dolphin Fin – Martha Stewart’s Egg Yolk. I was worried it would be too bright, but once again she was right. I painted the outside of the piece in Egg Yolk and painted the inside in an ultra white paint.
I removed and spray painted the rusty hardware with Rustoleum’s Brushed Nickel for metals – one of my all time favorite DIY items. If I had it to do over again, I would have taken off the hinges, stripped them of their original paint, and spray painted them as well. Instead, I painted over the white with yellow and have had to do a couple of touch-ups due to the latex paint not adhering well to the metal. Live and learn.
Because the shelves are removable, I knew that I wanted to do something unique on the backing. I saw a tutorial on Pinterest for using wrapping paper and double sided tape as backing for book shelves. I was certain that it would be difficult. But surprisingly I found the perfect wrapping paper at the first place that I looked, cut both pieces of paper perfectly on my first try, and paper stuck very easily with the tape! It was super easy!
I used my photo coasters to hold the paper in place while I measured and cut.
Oh, and I didn’t replace the netting with anything. I like the look of the open piece. And I don’t have a fly problem. Nor do I bake pies.


And here is the finished product:

I have added my “new” piece to my guest room to use as a dresser / open storage piece for my guests and will probably add some picture frames and treasures along the way. I’m happy with the way the room has turned out with the addition of my Egg Yolk yellow accents!

The Guest Room
To see how this room has changed over time, view this post.
So much better and brighter now!
The best part of the guest room? Tonight one of my very best friends in the whole wide world is coming into town to stay in it!

Monday, December 3, 2012

My Christmas Wish

Emmy, what do you want for Christmas?
Toys and Big Bird.

What kind of toys?
Toys and Big Bird.

What will Santa be bringing you this year?
Toys and Big Bird.

What is on your Christmas list?
Toys and Big Bird.

I was two that Christmas and had never wanted anything as much as I wanted a Big Bird. My answer always stayed the same. “Toys and Big Bird.” I said it so often that our family and friends just kept asking me more and more often to see if my answer would ever change. It never did. I was unwaveringly certain of what I wished for that year. And under my tree that Christmas?

Toys and Big Bird, of course.

 Bottom Right: Toys and Big Bird

Still going strong... and going a little bit blind.

Unless you are a wishing for a trampoline, Santa never lets you down.

I have wished for many things over the years. And my favorite Christmases were the year of Big Bird, the year of the doll house, and the year of the basketball goal.

But the best Christmas present that I ever got was something that I never even knew that I wanted. I was in seventh grade and my Granny had just been diagnosed with cancer 4 months earlier. Because she lived next door, I was able to visit her every day while she was sick. Every single day. I never missed one. I always showed up with cookies in hand or a handmade card or most of the time just a big smile – because that is what she wanted the most. She would always pat my cheeks and tell me that she loved to see me smile. Long before I ever thought I could be beautiful, Granny would tell me so.

I recently found a school picture that I gave Granny in 96-97. On the back she had written "Beautiful".

Granny and I just before my first Christmas.

And that year for Christmas, her very last one, Granny had a special gift for me. She had wrapped up a little angel pin. The pin that the doctors gave her when she took her very last chemo treatment.

It was the first time that I wished for something bigger than a Christmas present. It was a Christmas present that made me wish for hope. It was a gift that changed my heart.

From that point on she always called me “Angel”. She would talk to me about how I was part of her heart. How I was her gift that made fighting a battle worthwhile. How I was her joy when she didn’t feel like smiling. How I was her delight and anticipation when the days felt long but she knew that I would soon be stopping by. So I kept showing up every day with a big smile and a lot of hope because that is what calmed her heart. And mine.

And just a few short months later when Granny moved from the arms of the people who loved her heart to the arms of the One who loves her soul, I wore my angel pin on my dress and prayed for a sign of hope. And that bright April morning, a day far too warm for any such thing, it began to snow. My restless heart settled as sweet snowflakes fell on my face while I cried her into a better place - her Home.

Oh, and over ten years later when we laid our Pa down beside his bride on Valentine’s Day, even though it was nowhere in the forecast, it began to snow again – another reminder of hope from above.

Christmas isn’t the same for me anymore. I have always been known for loving gifts, but gifts look a lot different to me now. For one thing, getting something like a vacuum cleaner makes me really happy. But now the presents don’t matter nearly as much as presence. As joy. As hope. As love. And now my wishes can't be wrapped and left waiting for me under a tree.

Now I wish for things like joy – for bright smiles and homes full of laughter.

It’s why things like my mom dropping an entire plate of cornbread on the floor is more memorable than the thousands of times that she made it perfectly.

Or why we laugh so hard that our eyes water when my sister wears my grandma’s wig. Again.

It’s why I send an ornament to my nephews every year after Thanksgiving. Because the anticipation of Christmas always brings a smile.

Or why I dance around singing Christmas carols at the top of my lungs – no matter how terrible I sound. And I blare my favorite Christmas song on my way to work every morning – Unspeakable Joy – and my coworkers always ask why I am in such an exceptionally good mood lately.

Or why, when it comes time to give, we all give big. We buy toys for children that we will never meet, and donate food to families we may never know, and say prayers for everyone who may be alone.

I wish for memories – to be shared and to be made.

It’s why I like putting up the family Christmas tree – because digging out the Christmas decorations, sorting the branches, and untangling the lights is half of the fun.

And why I take my time hanging all of my ornaments on my side of the tree – because each one has a story and was, at one time, a favorite.

 My 1/3 of the family tree.

And why I adore when my sister comes to my condo to help me decorate my own place.

Because putting up a tree while using only one arm would have been quite difficult. 

And why I love holiday crafts that will tell stories for years to come.

They say things like: “I made this one night with my mom.” Or “This hung in my first home.” Or “This was the first Christmas decoration that I ever owned.”

And why I mix in a little bit of “old” with the new – because it reminds me of Christmases in Granny and Pa’s den – passing out brown paper sacks full of fruit and nuts while laughing at Pa for sneaking into his presents out of turn.

The star from Granny and Pa’s tree.

The star actually hung from the wall behind the Christmas tree. I never did ask why...

I'm on the bottom right in the reindeer handprint shirt (that I wish I still owned).

I wish for time. Something so valuable that we don’t just give it, we spend it. Because today is the oldest that I have ever been and the youngest that I will ever be again. This time and this place and this moment. It is my treasure.

Its why having surgery on my arm isn’t quite so bad when it means more dinners around the table, more visits from friends, and more phone calls from people who are a part of my heart.

 A Sleep CD and Dream Catcher from a sweet friend

Get Well Soon balloons just to make me smile. They did.

And it's why I look forward to every time that I meet with my 8th grade girls at church.

It’s why I say “Yes.” more than “No.” and ignore a To-Do list to hang out with friends and stay up late to talk on the phone to friends far away.

It’s why I make sure that everyone that I love knows just how much they mean to me. And why when something is on my heart – a compliment, a memory, a “You mean the world to me” - I share it. Because I wish for time, but I will never know how much of it we have.

And I wish for Jesus, Himself.

For the world to see and love Him this Christmas season.

I wish for Him to be welcomed in our world.

And, as always, I wish for the thrill of hope that makes the weary world rejoice.