The Last Sparkle of the Season

I have never been one to take my tree down right after Christmas. I have a pile of “reasons” for my procrastination that could rival the height of the gifts on Santa’s sleigh, but mostly it’s just that I love the sparkle.

I love winter. I like the cold and the snow and the chance to recharge from the wild summer months. I am, however, not a big fan of the dark. Right now we have just over 9 hours of daylight. The google search that told me that also told me that we only average about 4 hours of actual sun per day in January. I would scoff at that but I feel confident the sun has only been out for about 2 hours in the last week, so I’m believing the random internet sites today.

Stunning hoar frost is a happy perk of a foggy, sunless week!

We wake up in the dark, the kids go to bed in the dark and even when the sun shines, it barely has enough oompf to get over the horizon for many of these so called “daylight” hours.

My Christmas tree, on the other hand, is full of multicolored lights that shine from when I wake up to when I go to bed and I love it. But last weekend I looked at the train that runs circles around the tree and noticed it had been traveling so long that it drove itself from a winter wonderland to the green grass of spring.

It was time to take down the tree.

I had left it up for so much longer than was wise that any needles left on it showered to the ground when I touched it. There was no way there would be a single needle on it by the time I dragged it to a door. And those bare twigs looked like perfect kindling…

And so I got my pruning shears and trimmed my tree branches off into tiny pieces and stuffed them in my kindling pile.

Unwilling to get rid of the lights till the last moment, I just moved them in as I worked.

I sat back admiring my handy work, never feeling more like my father’s daughter than I did just then with my Christmas tree turned kindling, and decided to leave it up for just awhile longer.

Now I have a stick with a ball of lights globbed onto it lighting the room with its soft glow behind me, a cozy fire in front of me (dead Christmas trees really do make excellent kindling!) and I’m contentedly enjoying the last sparkle of the season from my rocking chair in between.

Help me out, what do you do to brighten up the house when the holiday lights come down?

Next Up – Letter Writing

I love this November tradition of blogging everyday and reading my fellow cheer peppers posts but now it’s time to turn my attention to our annual Christmas letter.

This year, so far, I’ve got an abundance of envelopes, a paltry amount of stamps and zero ideas for a letter.

But I’m a Cheer Pepper. I’ve blogged everyday for a month. I’ll come up with something!

I love getting Christmas letters in the mail. Are you a fellow letter writer?

All I Want For Christmas…

Is it too late?

Can I still ask Santa for something special?

All I want for Christmas is an oven mitt, or even a nice pot holder.

Picture the scene.

It’s late evening, the kids are packing their bags and getting ready for the last day of school before Christmas break. We have been blessed with an early Christmas miracle and they are all getting along. John is in the back of the house wrapping presents and I am in the kitchen baking cookies. Christmas carols are cheerfully playing, the tree is lit, the animals are peacefully snoozing on their respective couches. The timer beeps and I reach into the oven to remove another pan of cheerful looking holiday cookies for Jane’s birthday snack and then…

“@!%$*# CATS!!!”

Pans crash, cats scatter under my gaze of fury, dogs jump up, kids and John come running as a stream of language that probably landed me on the naughty list for good runs out of me as I cool my burned thumb under running water.

The problem you see is that the cats – specifically this cute monster –

… have eaten holes in the thumbs of all our oven mitts.

Holes that make it seem like you should still be able to use the oven mitt – but you shouldn’t, you really, really shouldn’t.

Unfortunately after I burned my thumb and our kids’ ears, I doubt Santa is going to deliver.

But I wonder… do you think he’d trade for a cat?

How To Eat a Prick-Headed Monkey

My brother Tyler is going to demonstrate how to properly eat a prick-headed monkey. But first a few prick-headed monkey facts.

-First off, nobody knows why they are called that. They are three cornered pies filled with currents and citron, there are absolutely no monkeys involved.

-Second, nobody in our family that isn’t a direct blood decedent of Gramps actually likes these. There are those that will eat them, but nobody else loves them.

-Third, those of us who love them really love them.

-Fourth, we only make them at Christmas time.

The first thing to do when eating a prick-headed moneky is to find other prick-headed monkey lovers to eat one with you. Three people is the optimal number though two works as well. This is important because the first key to proper prick-headed monkey consumption is to con someone else into cutting it. I divide and you decide has never been more important than in prick-headed monkey division. The pies are nominally triangular in shape and must always be divided into three pieces (I don’t know, it’s tradition, just go with it okay?).

In this instance my mom divided, now she’s pretty good at prick-headed monkey division ( This is a skill, you try dividing a lumpy triangle into three equal parts, it’s not as easy as it seems.) but there was still a large piece. Tyler and I thumb wrestled for it. My brother has thumbs like a gorilla- he won. You can see him here with his rightfully gained largest piece.

This is of course exactly why you want three people to eat it with. Tyler would have had no fun gloating over the largest piece without the other two of us there. This is also the time to take pictures to send to those family members who aren’t able to join in the feast so that you can hold it over their head that you are eating fresh out of the oven prick-headed monkeys and they are not.

Sorry Uncle Jim, we know you are recovering from heart surgery and that’s why you couldn’t be around but there is actually no one else in the world who would want to eat these so these pictures were for you. Notice how Tyler is gazing fondly at his biggest piece before he takes a bite.

In the following picture you can see how Tyler is clearly enjoying his own piece while at the same time mocking ours. Because dough balls.

If the person who made the prick-headed monkey did a good job the filling will be all the way to the corner. If not, the corner will be nothing but a dough ball. To finish off the proper way to consume a prick-headed monkey you must stay on alert for dough balls in the corners. Then, if you made them, you should deny their existence and attempt to prove that you had a current in the very furthest corner of your piece. If someone else made them however it’s best to claim that your corner was nothing but a dough ball and completely terrible.

Even with a dough ball there are those of us who know that prick-headed monkeys are never terrible and, like Tyler in the picture above, we are already plotting our next piece.

Holiday Lights

There’s so much to love about this time of year, the food, the gift giving, the decorations, the cookies, the parties, the vacation time, the holiday spirit…

But I think the thing I love the most is the lights. All the little, twinkling lights shining everywhere on these long dark nights, even inside.

Especially inside.

Because when you have a tree all lit up in the dark…Christmas Tree

… the rest of the house fades away and you can pretend the mess– What mess?

I don’t see a mess!

‘Tis the season of twinkle lights and dark corners, make the most of it!!!

Long ago I used to write posts with more than a hundred words. (I know!? Who knew?!) But I felt the same way about Christmas time. Here is a six year old post about ignoring The Rest of Life to enjoy the season.

Presentation Problems

holly apple

As a kid, when the Christmas letters and pictures of people I didn’t ever remember meeting would show up in the mail it was intriguing. They’d spark stories from my parents of things that had happened before we existed. A first fascinating glimpse as a child of “Oh!- My parents were people before they were parents?!?” Inevitably, the stories would contain information about how they last saw me when I was “…this big…”  that, as I got older, likely caused a bit of eye rolling, but I was hooked. I loved the Christmas cards.

As an adult I continued to love getting Christmas cards, letters and photos, but for a long time I never sent one. First, I thought I didn’t have anything to write about (that wasn’t true). Then, I thought that I didn’t know how to write one (but I do have this blog…).  And then, just a few years ago, out of excuses and worried that if I didn’t start sending out letters of my own I’d lose my own influx of pre-children memories, I wrote one.

It did not turn out like other peoples letters, but it was a lot of fun.

I’m still writing Christmas letters, and they still aren’t normal (the choose your own adventure one is still the favorite), and I still love sending them, and I still love receiving replies….



I have a presentation issue.holly apple

I get many cards and letters and they are all beautiful. Envelopes with lovely handwritten addresses, cute christmas return labels, christmas stamps and even an extra sticker on the back. I open them to find gorgeous cards, family photos and letters printed on festive holiday paper.

My cards are not like that.

I have terrible handwriting. Some say it would get better with practice, I would point them to my penmanship grades in school and disagree.  I have handwriting so bad it’s not uncommon for me to not be able to read my own lists. Of course, I can do better than my list jotting down skills. But it’s slow and hard and still, well, messy. I’m certain that any time I even think of  handwriting the hundred plus addresses on our Christmas cards my mailman gets the shivers. It’s not a good plan. So I have gone the technological route. An excel spread sheet. Mail merge. And just like that, with a few false starts, a ream of paper and a package of label sheets later, I’ve got my address labels.

Then comes one of my favorite parts, sticking them on the envelopes. A little Christmas music in the background and peel and stick, peel and stick. Mulling over friends’ and families’ names as they pass by, eating an occasionally cookie – and wondering why on earth I have no rhyme or reason to my spreadsheet addresses!

I have Mr John Smith’s and I have John Smiths.

I have John & Jane Smith and one John/Jane Smith/Doe.

Some long term boyfriends have made the cut while spouses have been left off completely.

And if you kept your maiden name – likely I’ve ignored that too.

I even have a few names forlornly floating in their label on their own, no address to be found.

But it’s funny, once those odd labels are stuck on and I move on to tracking down missing addresses, affixing return address labels and stamps, stuffing letters and adding a note here or there, how it no longer seems important.

I’m too caught up in the fun of sending out mail and details like that have never bothered me anyway. If you receive a letter from me perhaps it’ll be all typed up- like a business sent it.  Perhaps you’ve moved and you’ll get my attempt at legible handwriting. Perhaps your return address label will have a pheasant on it – or maybe a christmas tree. The stamp could have a snowman or a flag- it’s really hard to say. The letter printed on plain, white paper, will, no doubt, be folded crooked. I might have handwritten an extra note – maybe you’ll be able to read it… probably not. And I hope your name will be on it – but there is a good chance it isn’t.

holly apple

Yes, my christmas letters have a presentation problem, but I’m having too much fun to fix it!