Friday Faves edition 46

Friday Faves – Edition 46

 

Friday Faves.

It’s already Friday. I hope that if you celebrated Christmas that it was a lovely day. We went to a Candlelight Christmas Eve Service and had our traditional Christmas Eve feast. The amount of teens who stayed home to watch The Polar Express has steadily dwindled. Only one this year. We got to sleep in to a reasonable hour on Christmas morning. I must admit this is a nice aspect about your children growing in to teenagers.

My hubby and teens are still on vacation and want to be entertained spend quality family time together, so I’m popping in briefly to share some of my faves.

As promised in last week’s faves, the gift that I ordered for Miss Sunshine from Sephora.

Surratt Relevée Lash Curler.

Miss Sunshine just turned 14 in October. She seems to be following in her mother’s footsteps in that she is not yet interested in wearing a full face of makeup. Over the summer, she discovered curling her eyelashes and wearing mascara. She felt like the eyelash curler she was using didn’t quite fit the curve of her eye. I did a bit of homework and discovered the Surratt Relevée Lash Curler. It was recommended as fitting the most eye shapes. She tried it out Christmas morning and was very impressed with how it worked, even without mascara.

I’ve also read that curling your eyelashes is a quick and easy way to perk up your eyes if you look tired. I have not used an eyelash curler very often. In the past, my eyelashes had a tendency to touch my sunglasses with just mascara. I did try the curler, but Miss Sunshine said I wasn’t squeezing hard enough! I’ll probably try it again.

Have you ever used an eyelash curler? How do you get over the fear that you might pinch your eyelid or rip all of your lashes out?!

Aura Cacia Essential Oils.

I got a diffuser a few months ago. I only had one essential oil blend. The hubby surprised me with a collection of essential oils. The sweetest part is that he actually researched what the top ones to own were. He gifted me with peppermint, eucalyptus, lemon, frankincense, and lavender essential oils. I’ve been on Pinterest looking for different types of blends.

What is your favorite way to use essential oils? I’m thinking of making some rollerballs with essential oils in a carrier oil.

Sony FE 50 mm f/1.8

I’ve been talking about how I want a 50 mm prime lens with an f/1.8 aperture. Quite often called the nifty fifty, the lenses are often a staple in a photographer’s lens collection. I kept waffling on which brand I would use. The hubby got me the Sony lens for Christmas. I love that he researched it enough to know what the complaints against it were (a little slow and noisy when focusing), but thought that even if in the long run I decided on a different lens, this would help me know if I loved this type of prime lens.

He was so right! And I am so in love! The zoom lens that I purchased with my Sony Alpha 7 II only went to an f/3.5. The f/1.8 allows me to create the background blur that I had been seeking. I still have so much to learn about photography…mostly lighting and settings (of course those are major components to photography), but I’m having so much fun with this lens.

I love the bokeh of the Christmas lights in this shot of Maverick. I also took some shots of the family and may actually begin to enjoy portrait photography with this lens’s capabilities.

Nature and landscape photography.

Of course, my original love for photography was capturing the outdoors.

I had been getting frustrated by my lack of skills with my mirrorless DSLR and its learning curve. This lens made me excited about photography again.

I love the details that this lens captures. I plan and getting out into nature more and putting this lens to the test.


The song I chose this week is actually by a fellow blogger. Miriam over at Out an’ About has made a song in a collaboration that you can read about in her post here. It is an ode to Old Man Winter (a poem originally written by Deb from Once Upon A Hotflash.) As Miriam mentions, it can also reflect other relationships or inner turmoils.

Winter is just beginning to set in here. I have to remind myself not to go into full hibernation mode since that is not healthy for me.

Do you all have any big New Year’s Eve and Day plans?

If you saw my announcement of my January Challenge,  then you have a little idea of what my New Year’s Day will entail.

2017 was a year full of growth for me.

I’m looking forward to 2018.

I think it’s going to be an even bigger year of growth and stepping outside of comfort zones for me.

How are you envisioning 2018 for yourself?

I hope that you all have an amazing day and weekend and I’ll see you in the New Year.

 

Let your shine!

Amy

30 Days of...

30 Days Of… January Challenge

30 Days Of… January Challenge.

I hope that all of you are having a lovely holiday season. I didn’t think I’d be back with a post until Friday. Then I realized, not only are we rapidly approaching the end of the year…we are rapidly approaching the end of December and I haven’t announced the 30 day challenge that I will be undertaking for the month of January.

Many of you are familiar with the fact that I started doing a 30 day challenge each month that started this past September in honor of the milestone of turning 40. They say that it takes 21 days to create a habit. I figured by 30 days it should be pretty well solidified if it’s going to take.

Plastic Reduction.

Even though my September Challenge focused on plastic bag usage, I also made a conscientious effort to reduce plastic straw usage. I am still maintaining that effort and will be implementing more plastic waste reduction efforts as I move into the new year.

Meditation.

I have loved discovering meditation throughout my October Challenge. I have had days in December where I’ve missed meditation. The first time I missed my day of meditation, I woke up in the middle of the night, realized I had missed it, and was disappointed. At first I was hard on myself for missing, but then I realized that it isn’t a competition, it’s a growth process. I also learned that on the days when my family is home, it’s better for me to set aside some time in the morning.

New Recipes.

The November Challenge was the most challenging physically with trying to prepare a “new to me” recipe each day. It is not a “habit” that I continued, but it wasn’t really meant to be. I still hunt for new recipes, just not daily.

Gratitude.

While I will address the December Challenge once I have completed it, I will tell you that I have acknowledged the daily prompt in a concrete form each day so far.

Well, what about January?!

My 30 day challenge for January will be:

30 Days of being a vegetarian.

Radishes

Vegetarian Challenge.

When I started the 30 day challenges, I knew that this would be one of my challenges. I just didn’t know what month I would choose. Originally, I thought we’d be traveling over the new year and had planned it for February. My husband asked me to move the challenge to January because he is interested in participating in this challenge with me. As far as how this challenge will look for me… while I won’t be choosing meat, I also won’t be asking at restaurants if my food is cooked in an animal product. However, if I make my teens bacon and eggs, I won’t be cooking my eggs in the same pan as the bacon.

I don’t anticipate becoming a full-time vegetarian after the challenge. If the challenge agrees with my body, I could see it becoming an 80/20 lifestyle. Part of the journey of the November Challenge was to seek a new way of eating. I could be very happy living on bread and cheese (the staples of my husband’s vegetarian stint in college), but I’m not convinced that my body is a fan of those things either.

Bowl of Lemons

The background for this challenge choice.

Everybody has a different reason for some journeys that they begin. Mine is a journey of gut health. There are all types of articles out that state the importance of the gut microbiome.  While my body has served me well for 40 years, I want to be sure that I am serving it well. I have had problems with foods for years. I still have never learned all my triggers. I don’t do well with milk, but can tolerate many milk-based products. I can tell the difference between the stabbing pains caused by milk and the pains from other trigger foods. I can tell you that the pains under my ribs or radiating across my back after eating certain meals have lessened over the years. I will also share that I had some testing done for other reasons in my early 30’s which showed no damage to my intestines. I don’t think I’ve had specific testing for celiac disease, but there’s no indication that I have it. When I moved to Virginia, I had some bloodwork done due to some symptoms I was having. I did test positive for autoimmune antibodies, but negative to the specific autoimmune diseases that they then tested for.

My doctor thinks I probably have some level of IBS (which in my understanding basically means…we know you have issues, we just don’t know what causes them) and has recommended a low FODMAP diet. I haven’t committed to ruling those foods out yet, but I may as I work through this process of discovering what my body requires for its optimum health.

Heart disease also runs in my family and at a younger age than you’d expect.

It is important to me that I do whatever I can to take care of my health.

I am not a doctor and nothing I share should be interpreted as that. My personal belief is that your body may not require the exact nutrient intake that mine requires (and I’m still trying to figure out exactly what that means for my body) and diet is a highly personalized situation.

Pineapple Avocado Smoothie

I’m a little nervous about that many meals without meat. I’m also nervous about feeling awful in the beginning of the transition. My blogger friend, Dee, over at Life Honey recently went predominately vegan (I’m not prepared to give up eggs and cheese) and said she felt lousy for about 5 days.

If you have any tips on being a vegetarian, please, please, please, share them.

If you’ve decided to join in with me for the January Challenge, be sure to let me know.

I hope you all are having a beautiful day!

Look closely at present you are constructing: it should look like the future you are dreaming. -Alice Walker

Let your light shine!

Amy

 

 

 

Friday Faves – Edition 45

 

It’s Friday! The Friday before Christmas!

How did that happen?!

I can’t believe that in a little over a week we will enter 2018! Are you all ready?

I think that I have participated in the weekly photo challenge every week this year. This week asked us to share one of our favorite photos that we’ve taken this year. I usually participate on Wordless Wednesday. I didn’t want to share a photo that I’ve already shared on the blog without explanations as to why I chose it. I did, however, choose a photo that I had previously shared in Instagram.

Victoria Street in Edinburgh, Scotland.

If you’d like to see the full-size version, here’s Wednesday’s postVictoria Street is thought to be the inspiration for Diagon Alley in Harry Potter. I mentioned in the comments on Wednesday’s post that our reason for traveling this road was to visit the pink trimmed building. Everyone who heard that I was traveling to Edinburgh told me how much they loved it and that it would be a city they knew they would travel to again. My last interaction about my destination was with a newlywed couple. We were both on the flight from Roanoke to catch a connecting flight in Charlotte. The plane was late and they as well as I had tight connections and were worried about missing our next flight. Shared stressors are always conversation initiators, right?! They had been to Edinburgh and loved it and told me that I had to go to this place called Oink! The husband even had a picture of the street on his phone. I only knew that it was a street with colorful buildings and that it was in the pink building and they had the best pulled pork. The pig is displayed in the window and the sandwiches are served until the pork is gone for the day. It came so highly recommended that I had to visit. It’s a small place and was absolutely packed. We took our sandwiches and ducked into an alley (to get out of the rain) to eat them. I did think they were really good.

Favorite Photographs.

If I were basing favorite photos on the amount of views the post received, then my most popular post this year was Atop the World followed by Houseboats of Amsterdam.

If I were basing favorite photos on an exciting find, I’d probably share this photo:

Door of Bedlam Theatre Edinburgh Scotland

The door to the Bedlam Theatre in Edinburgh that I happened to stumble upon and was so excited to see something that said Bedlam. I shared this door along with the entire building in my Doors of Edinburgh post.

Favorites of 2017.

I have so many favorites because this was a big year for me.

I left the country for the first time. First flying to Amsterdam and then taking the train to Paris. I traveled there with my husband and three teens in April. Six weeks later, I traveled to Scotland with my mother and aunt. I have done some hiking around the Blue Ridge Mountains. I have traveled to Carolina Beach to spend some time beside the ocean.

I bought a new camera, a Sony Alpha 7 II, opting to go mirrorless to keep the weight down. I have been frustrated my photography skills and at the same time in admiration at how they’ve grown.

I have hit the milestone of turning 40.

I have found what works for my body in a way of learning to love exercise. I had already found yoga, but this year I also found pilates. It is teaching me to appreciate my body more and work at decreasing the negative body talks I sometimes give myself.

I have found meditation and it helps me find a place of balance.


The kids finished up school at the beginning of the week. This meant I really needed to have all of my errand running completed. I prefer to order as much stuff as possible since I’m not a fan of crowded stores. I needed to order something for Miss Sunshine from Sephora (shhh…I’ll tell you what it was after Christmas). I couldn’t really order something from Sephora and not get a gift for myself too.

My plan is to eventually rotate into greener beauty, but I’m not willing to throw out what I already own. I didn’t have an eye cream and decided to remedy that.

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Biossance Squalane Oil.

I had been reading wonderful things about Biossance Squalane + Peptide eye gel. The reviews I read were very positive as well. At the time of my purchase from Sephora (and they still have it as of my writing) there was a limited edition Biossance Squalane Superstars set that was the same price as the eye gel and included a full size eye gel. I didn’t really read much about the other two products prior to purchase.

When I opened it and saw the tiny bottle said Vitamin C ROSE oil. I thought “Oh no! I guess I’ll give that one away.” I can’t stand the smell of roses. They are beautiful to look at, but no thank you on the smell. I have a running joke with my husband about the ways that I must have died in a former life. One involves being hung (I can’t stand stuff pressing on my neck) and then buried alive (my claustrophobia involves not getting enough fresh air, not necessarily cramped spaces) with roses in the casket (I hate the smell of roses). If you think that sounds far-fetched, imagine my surprise when we toured Edinburgh, and I learned that exact thing (maybe minus the roses) happened to Maggie Dickson.

I opened the bottle and couldn’t smell anything so I thought I’d try it on. I could smell the rose as I rubbed the oil into my face and felt a little panicked. However, the smell dissipated rather quickly and I think I’ll be able to use it. I’ve only been using the Squalane + Peptide eye gel for about a week and so far have been pleased. I’m not sure if I see any noticeable differences yet, other than the fact that the winter weather isn’t killing my skin quite so much.

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Christmas Decorations.

I shared some of my favorite memorable ornaments that hang on our tree in Monday’s postI was super excited to find a few more decorations for around our house. We’ve been a little lean on the house decorations around the holidays because I wanted a certain type of decor. I’m a fan of bringing the outdoors in, so when we went to A.C. Moore to gather some paint for some projects Miss Sunshine has been working on, I was excited to find this garland of pine cones and twine balls.

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I also found this wreath and the sign. And at 70% off, it became something that was within a justifiable budget.

DIY.

I know some of you are looking at that and thinking…”I could do that”. And I bet you could. I envy your DIY skills, but they seem to have passed me by. I’m not giving up though. I’ve purchased some rope and a dowel to see if macrame will be my friend.

I’ll let you know how that goes.

If you DIY, what’s your favorite thing to create?

Music.

I have lots of songs that I love at this time of the year, but today I’m sharing the one that was my favorite as a child. I didn’t grow up in wealth and I realize a lot of people don’t. I also think that ideas of wealth are subjective. I don’t talk about it a lot because I worry that it could somehow be misconstrued as something negatively toward my parents. It was not. I had parents who thought I was amazing (and still do), who taught me a strong work ethic, who were always willing to help somebody out, and are amazing people.

One of the other reasons I rarely mention it is because people view things through different lenses based on their life experience.

I will never forget something said to me during an interview for a college scholarship. I was asked how it felt to not be able to go to do certain things that my peers could…like go to the movies. I was a senior in high school. I was 16. And I had no idea how to answer that question. It was probably one of the most uncomfortable questions that I had been asked at that point in my life. Did I not own designer clothes or not drive a brand new car? Yes. But, I did go to the movies. I had been working since I was 14. The cost of a movie (at the student discount) was less than 1 hour of wages. My only bills were my car insurance and keeping gas in my car. My car was 12 years old and the price I had paid for it (after saving for years and also slowly paying back my parents for the amount they had spent) was reflected by its age. I did not go without.

Never assume that just because somebody doesn’t have much, they don’t have enough or are unhappy.

That’s not to say I didn’t strive for more. I once held three jobs because I wanted “stuff”. I find myself in a different financial space than in my college years, but my past keeps me humble.

I always loved this song because the boy offered what he had to give. It didn’t seem like much to him, but it was from his heart. This time of year it’s easy to get caught up in gift-buying (I know that I’ve done plenty), but we should remember that the love behind it truly is the important part.

I’m not sure if I will be taking a complete blogging break over the holidays, but I will be much less visible.

If you are celebrating Christmas, I wish you a very merry one. If you don’t celebrate Christmas, I hope that you have a beautiful Monday. I wish all of you a wonderful and healthy New Year.

Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love. - Lao Tzu

Let your light shine!

Amy

 

 

 

 

George Square in Glasgow Scotland

George Square – Glasgow, Scotland

 

Glasgow, Scotland.

Even though I only spent two days in Glasgow, I fell in love with this city.

Its architecture, its friendly people, its history.

Ancestry.

The trip to Scotland with my aunt and mother was to trace some of our ancestral history. To be able to walk along some of the streets where our families feet may have trod. My maternal grandfather was a first generation American. He was born in Sydney Mines, Nova Scotia, Canada. His father was born in Scotland (various records say Bothwell, Holytown, and Plains) to parents that we knew had been married in Airdrie, North Lanarkshire, Scotland. I wrote about the day we spent in Airdrie in this post

Our time in Glasgow.

A little background on our trip to Glasgow, in case you are new to the blog. We flew into Edinburgh, spent a few days there and took the train over to Glasgow on a Friday. Our plan was to drop off our luggage and immediately catch the train to Airdrie because their  Discovery Room was only open Tuesday through Friday. We had purchased train tickets to get there while in Edinburgh. After a fiasco, in which we finally learned there was trouble on that line, we had to get our tickets refunded and plan Airdrie for another day. That meant more time to spend in Glasgow.

The People.

While we were standing in line for the refund, the gentleman behind us told us that we’d find the people of Glasgow to be very friendly. And, as he put it: “Sometimes we’re hard to understand. That’s because we talk fast since it rains so much and we don’t want to drown.” I knew then that we were in for a treat in this city.

The Pub.

That evening we asked at the hotel, the best place to have a drink. The recommendation for a fun, lively place was a pub called Camperdown Place, which I’m sad to say closed a few months after our visit. It was located on Queen Street and when we arrived, we decided to stroll around George Square.

George Square.

George Square is the civic square in Glasgow. It is named after King James III and was laid out in 1781.

Around the square are a collection of statues and monuments as well as historically important buildings.

Sir Walter Scott Monument.

While the Scott Monument in Edinburgh is quite famous and the largest monument to a writer in the world, the monument located in George Square was the first public monument built to honor Sir Walter Scott.

We visited the city of Glasgow at the beginning of June, less than two weeks after the attack in Manchester.

Remembering Manchester.

Hundreds had gathered in George Square to hold a vigil for those affected by the terror attack.

The remnants of their coming together in a moment of silence remained around the Sir Walter Scott Monument.

As I walked along the square, I came to the City Chambers.

The City Chambers.

Rising up over George Square are the City Chambers. The foundation stone for this building was laid in 1883.

The building was a designed by the Scottish architect, William Young and was completed in 1888.

Entrance to the City Chambers.

With an entrance this grand, I knew that I had to capture some photos for all the door lovers out there. If you are one of those door lovers, be sure to check out Norm’s blog where he hosts Thursday Doors.

Inaugurated in August 1888 by Queen Victoria, the first council meeting was held within the chambers in October of 1889.

Since 1996, it has functioned as the headquarters for the Glasgow City council.

The building is open Monday to Friday 8:30 am to 5 pm.

While timing did not permit it for me, there are tours available of the Glasgow City Chambers. They are offered twice daily at 10:30 am and 2:30 pm. Tickets are on a first come first served basis and can be picked up at the City Chambers reception desk 30 minutes prior to each tour.

Sunset at George Square.

I was lucky enough to be in George Square as the sun began to set. It highlighted the stone architecture rising into the sky.

You can notice the flag waving slightly in the breeze.

The next day would come the attack on London Bridge, after which the flags that I photographed would be at half-mast.

The Glasgow Cenotaph.

But on this day, I would stand and admire the beauty of the sunset in a city well over 3,000 miles from where I live.

I would look upon the cross gleaming on the Glasgow Cenotaph. Unveiled in 1924, it pays tribute to the fallen of the First World War.

According to the city council website, when the armistice was announced on November 11, 1918 “it was the greatest day of rejoicing Glasgow has ever known.” One-fifth of Glasgow’s population (over 200,000 men) were mobilized and 18,000 of those lost their lives. Another 34,500 were injured.

My great-grandfather, the one who was born in Scotland, would fight in that war. He would fight as a member of the Canadian Expeditionary Force and in 1916 was admitted to the No. 3 Canadian General Hospital (McGill) in Boulogne, France with a gunshot wound to his left thigh. After the war, he would return to Sydney Mines.  Then, in 1923, sponsored by his brother who was already living in the United States, he would move to Whittier, California with his wife and children.

Sometimes I ponder if hatred will ever end.

Especially during this time of year when we think about our families and friends. This season when we take moments to deliberately slow down the pace of life and spend time with those we love. During this moving toward the end of the year. This time for new beginnings and leaving the old, unwanted parts behind.

I hope that as you move forward in your days, you seek to spread kindness in a hurting world. I hope that your light shines so brightly it makes the darkness fade.

Let your light shine!

Amy

 

 

wpc: 2017 favorites

Roanoke Mountain Loop Trail

Roanoke Mountain Loop Trail

 

Roanoke Mountain.

Roanoke Mountain is located in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Roanoke, Virginia. It’s located 2 miles south of the Roanoke River and 1 mile east of the Blue Ridge Parkway. It is accessed along the Blue Ridge Parkway via a loop road.

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Roanoke Mountain Loop Road.

One of my favorite scenic drives in this region of the Blue Ridge Mountains is the Roanoke Mountain Loop Road.

Located at mile marker 120.4 along the Blue Ridge Parkway, this is a 4 mile detour that takes you to the summit of Roanoke Mountain.

If you’ve been following the blog for some time, then you’ve already seen the photos that I’ve shared in the past of sunsets and fall colors from the overlooks along this one-way road. If you’ve missed those, you can check them out in this post or this post, just to share a few of the many times I’ve posted photos from Roanoke Mountain.

Given the amount of times that I’ve been, there was still one piece I’d yet to see.

Roanoke Mountain Loop Trail.

The Roanoke Mountain Loop Trail is located in the uppermost parking before the Loop Road begins its descent.

The sign states that it’s a 10 minute walk to the summit. I suppose that I’ve never walked it because I’ve usually been there for sunset and didn’t want it to get dark while I walked an unfamiliar trail.

The trail is only .4 miles and begins on the upper side of the parking lot and exits on the lower side of the parking lot.

Stairs along the trail.

My favorite part of the trail was the stone stairway. Not only was it beautiful, but I could just imagine the hard work that went into the original creation of setting each stone.

Lichens.

The trees and rocks along the trail are covered in lichen. In this post, where I visited the Rocky Knob Picnic Trail (also located along the Blue Ridge Parkway), I shared that I had recently learned that lichen is a fungi and algae or cyanobacterium that are living in a symbiotic relationship. Fungi is incapable of photosynthesis and through this relationship are able to live in places where they wouldn’t be able.

According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, there are about 15,000 species of lichen.

I think they add so much character to a forest.

Mountain Views.

While I was hoping that there would be some type of spectacular view on the trail, this was the best view. I visited at the end of October and all of the leaves had not yet fallen. Perhaps farther along in the season would open up some sweeping vistas.

Unfortunately, the Roanoke Mountain Loop Road closes in the winter season. You can, and should, always check for road closures at the National Park Service website before planning your trip along the Blue Ridge Parkway.

If you have any doubt about the beauty to be found along this detour, I leave you with one of my Instagram sunsets taken from the top of Roanoke Mountain.

If you find yourself traveling along this section of the Blue Ridge Parkway, I highly recommend building in some extra time to take in the overlooks found along the Loop Road.

The clearest way into the universe is through a forest wilderness.- John Muir

Let your light shine!

Amy

 

 

 

wpc: ascend

Christmas Tree and Traditions

Christmas Trees and Traditions

Christmas Trees and Traditions.

I shared with you in this post that this was our first year traveling to a Christmas Tree Farm to choose our tree.

Our family tradition has always been to pick out a tree together as a family. Big Mr. heads off to college next year and the other two teens won’t be far behind. As the nest empties, some traditions may remain the same, but others will fall away, and during the process new traditions will be created.

I cherish these moments because I know they are finite and I can see the finish line on a horizon that is not too distant.

I shared that quite a few of the ornaments that we hang from our tree hold a special place in our memories and promised to share a few of the ornaments we hold dear. Last year I wrote about one our most special ornaments, the one placed first upon the tree.. the Christmas Nail. You can find that post here. I thought I’d share a few more precious ornaments.

And what better time to do that than the week before Christmas?

The Grinch.

The Grinch is one of my favorite characters. My first Christmas with the hubby, I found this stuffed Grinch at a Hallmark store. We didn’t have many ornaments and we definitely didn’t have a tree topper. I decided to remedy that by placing the Grinch beside the crown of the tree and wrapping his arm around. The following year, he would lose that place of honor when I found an angel to place on the top. However, he has always held a prominent spot on the tree.

In the beginning, his remaining on the tree instead of a shelf was so that babies and toddlers wouldn’t lick him or eat him or spit up on him. I treasured him and didn’t want him ruined. As time went on, that space on the tree just became his home and our tree wouldn’t be the same without him.

MOPS ornament.

MOPS stands for Mothers of Preschoolers. As a stay-at-home mom, this organization was a tremendous sanity saver.

That time in my life was my first journey into pressing outside of my comfort zones. The meetings followed the school year, September through May. I started attending when Big Mr was 2 and Mr D was 6 months. Miss Sunshine was born toward the end of 2003 and when that season of MOPS came to an end, I was asked to be on the steering committee.

To accept was well outside of my comfort zone, but I did. I worked in hospitality that year. We handled the organization of the buffet brunch. We kept fresh coffee flowing. When I accepted the position, I did not know the woman with whom I’d be sharing the job. We discovered that we lived on the same street. We became the best of friends and even took some family vacations together. We remain friends to this day.

She gave me that ornament to remember our time together in MOPS. I thought it was such a perfect theme for that year and still applies to my life today…”growing a life that matters”.

Photos with Santa.

Our tree wouldn’t be complete without our series of photos with Santa. I started with Big Mr.’s first Christmas in 2000 and we have them up until we moved away from Naples.

I chose to share this one from 2004 because this was the year Miss Sunshine didn’t like Santa. The boys never had an issue with him. In 2004, she’s almost 14 months old and she did not want to be near Santa in his chair. I am reminded of the one photo my mother has of me with Santa. I am close to Miss Sunshine’s age and am crying to get away from this scary person. Miss Sunshine wasn’t hysterical, just leery. It was his idea to sit on the floor since she didn’t mind being in the chair with her brothers. I thought that was awfully kind of him.

Countdown to Christmas.

This is our official “count off the days” ornament. I wish that it counted down, but his belt buckle twists from 1 to 25. We used to have a wall hanging that you changed the tabs each day, but one of the dogs ate it when she was a puppy. The kids used to take a turn each day being the person who got to twist to the new day. Another sign of time flying by is that Miss Sunshine solely has the job this year (and probably has for a few years).

1975 Bradford Novelty Ornament.

This is a plastic ornament with a plastic decal wrap around it. The other side has a boy and girl playing with toys. My grandmother used to have this ornament and I loved it. One day she gave it to me and it has been mine ever since. Truth be told, the other side was my favorite. However, when our Golden Retriever was a puppy, she took it off the tree to chew (2002 or 2003). I was devastated when I found it on the ground because I had owned it since I was a child. I was relieved to find that she hadn’t chewed the entire plastic wrap off, there are just a few gouges in it.

Now as I hang it on my tree, not only do I think of my grandmother who passed away in 2013, I also remember my first dog, Nikki, who we lost to cancer in 2015.

Painted Angel.

My tree wouldn’t be complete without the handmade ornaments created by my children. This painted and glitter-trimmed angel was a masterpiece created by Big Mr. when he was 4. There are decorations throughout the tree and about the house that have been created during all those early years.

Imagine peace…and love.

I don’t often add new ornaments to the tree. I made an exception our first Christmas living in Roanoke. We moved to Roanoke, Virginia in the summer of 2013. We closed on this house less than a week before Christmas. I’ve shared extensively that leaving my home state of Florida was very hard on me from a mental health standpoint.

That winter we spent a day in downtown Roanoke. While there, we visited the Taubman Museum of Art. I can still remember the first time I came to visit Roanoke. The hubby had already moved up here and started his job. I was coming up to hunt for a home. I drove past downtown and the architecture of this building had me like “woah, what is THAT place!”. But back to the winter of 2013. Yoko Ono’s “Imagine Peace” was on exhibit and that was one of the exhibits that I wanted to see. After walking around the galleries, we popped into the gift shop. This decoupaged ornament called my name. I almost talked myself out of it, thinking I didn’t need any new ornaments.

In the end, I’m happy that I added it to our collection. I would walk through a hard winter that year and slowly emerge. It is still a conscious effort each winter to stay in that space where I don’t find myself drowning. But love is a tremendous aid in keeping me there. Each day my husband opens the blinds. When the skies spend days in gray, he will text reminders that the sun is peeking out and I should let it shine upon my face.

I am better at seeking those things I need… sunshine, fresh air, tall trees, evergreens…

…but love reminds me in the moments when I forget.

Other Traditions.

We have a few other traditions around Christmas as well. On Christmas Eve, I prepare hors d’oeuvres as our meal. It started when the children were young as a way to fit in our Christmas Eve traditions and still get them to bed at an early hour. From there, they asked about it the next year and a tradition was born. We have a variety of cheese and meats and crackers. There is also fruit, meatballs, and cocktail sausages. When you’re little, eating with a toothpick is something new and exciting. It stuck.

We also go to a candlelight Christmas Eve service. I pick from the variety offered in town. We don’t have a church that we consider home, but there are a couple that we like.

The kids began the tradition of watching Polar Express. Pausing happens right before the “Hot Chocolate” scene so that hot chocolate can be made and had along with the movie (…there’s only one rule…never, ever let it cool).

In the past, they’ve also always opened one present on Christmas Eve, a tradition that stems from my childhood.

Some of our traditions were brought from our childhoods and some were ones created by the children. It’ll be interesting to see which they carry into the future.


 

How about you? Do you have any holidays that you celebrate during December? Do you have traditions, new or old, that surround your holiday?

 

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Let your light shine!

Amy