Thursday, December 26, 2013

Merry Christmas!

Hey everyone! Yesterday, of course, was Christmas, and Zoe and I both had a really great day! I would have posted yesterday, but present-opening took most of the morning, and the family walk we took through the snowy woods took most of the afternoon. When we got back, I wanted to help Mom cook dinner, and then we all wanted to watch a Christmas-y movie, so by the time I actually was starting to consider blogging, it was time for bed.

Zoe woke up first, as always, and shook me awake excitedly as soon as she had lowered herself from her top bunk. I groaned and swatted at her to get her to leave, but she wouldn't until I had climbed out of bed and assured her I was awake.
We tiptoed downstairs, rather groggily on my part, making sure not to wake up Mom and Dad. The agreement was that we could open our stockings before they were awake, but we had to wait until after breakfast to open the presents under the tree.

"Hooray!" I cried - softly, of course - as I saw that our previously empty stockings had taken on several interesting lumps overnight.

We sat down at the foot of the woodstove to open them. Zoe took her stocking by its tip and turned it upside down to shake out everything that was inside.

I took a more traditional approach, pulling the packages out of the top of the stocking one by one.

Zoe found a pair of black-and-white mittens, two candy canes, and a bead kit with some sports-themed beads inside her stocking. Sticking out of the top was a stuffed raccoon. I thought that Zoe should call her Rachel, but Zoe preferred the name Rascal.

The contents of my stocking were very similar - pink mittens, two candy canes, and a bead kit with dolphin beads. I had a stuffed purple teddy bear in mine, though, instead of a raccoon. I think I'll call her GrapeJuice.

After a breakfast of homemade Belgian waffles (with butter and maple syrup and chocolate chips and fresh fruit - yum!), Zoe and I went into the family room, plunked down in our beanbags, and got ready to open the presents underneath the tree.

The first ones we opened were the ones that we had made for each other. I had wrapped Zoe's present very carefully, with an elegant golden ribbon and green tissue paper. Zoe's gift to me was rather crumpled and quite sloppily wrapped, but that was just Zoe's way of doing things.

Upon unwrapping our gifts, we realized with a shock that we had both made each other the same thing - scarves! I had made a pink and dark blue and white fuzzy one for Zoe, but she had made me one from scratchy brown wool, that was full of holes and lumps and bulges and dropped stitches. Oh, well. It was the thought that counted.

The next package I found under the tree was addressed to both of us. Inside was an adorable stuffed polar bear! I think I might call him Lazlo.

Sitting on top of a wrapped shoebox to the right of the tree were two unwrapped objects from our grandmother, that I couldn't quite identify at first. They looked sort of like two very large gumball machine containers. Zoe picked up hers and held it in front of her face to get a better look at it.

"Is it a snowglobe?" she asked, puzzled, as she slid her finger into the hook at the top of the object and lifted the glass dome off of its base. Inside were two miniature pine trees on a bed of snow, with a light dusting of snow on their branches.

I picked up the globe addressed to me and slid off its dome too. Inside mine was a tiny cottage with snow on its roof, flanked by several miniature pine trees and with a silver patio leading up to its front door.

The next present under the tree was also addressed to both of us. It was rather squishy - clothes, maybe? - and wrapped in blue tissue paper.

From inside the wrappings, I pulled out a zip-up red hoodie with silver seams. Cute!

I picked up and unwrapped the shoebox that our snow globes had been sitting on. Inside was a pair of maroon flannel cowgirl boots! Maybe it was time for Charlotte Tate to assume another alter-ego: the fabulous and fearless cowgirl Jackie Eberhart, who roamed the Wild West with nothing more than her trusty shotgun and beloved Mustang, Penny. Zoe rolled her eyes when I suggested this. She still hated all my alter-egos, especially Alexandria Beauregard.

We each took one of the last two remaining packages addressed to both of us.

In Zoe's was a Map of the World jigsaw puzzle.

In mine was a big stack of books. The book on top was Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, one of my favorite Christmas stories of all time! I remember hating the story when I was little, because I was scared of the Abominable Snowman, but I've loved it ever since.

Underneath Rudolph was a second Christmas-y book: The Night Before Christmas! Our family's old copy is falling apart, so it will be nice for us to have a brand-new copy for next year.

And underneath that was the Peanuts holiday box set! Hooray! It came with A Charlie Brown Christmas, A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown, and A Charlie Brown Valentine

I pulled out A Charlie Brown Christmas, which was my favorite one of the four, and started to read it. I love it when Snoopy decorates his doghouse. He's such a silly dog! I love Ginger and Shiloh, but it would be pretty neat to have Snoopy as a pet.

There were now only a few more presents underneath the tree. I opened one of the boxes to find a warm red sweater and matching flowered skirt inside.

Zoe got a new winter outfit, complete with a new sweater, leggings, a purple knit headband, and soft purple flannel boots to match.

The puffy blue jacket she found in the next box she opened went with her new winter outfit. It looked plenty waterproof and plenty warm - just right for playing in the snow!

I couldn't quite figure out what my final gift was at first. The tank top and leggings and sandals were straightforward enough...

...but what was the long, colorful, knit object that came with them? A quilt or something?

As I stretched it out in my hands, I realized that it had sleeves. And a collar. And - holy guacamole, it was a sweater! I immediately declared it to be one of the prettiest things I had ever owned. The colors were so gorgeous, and the fabric was really soft.

Later, that evening, after our walk and dinner and the movie, Zoe and I retreated up to the living room again to sit around our tree. I turned off all the lights except for those on the tree, and we leaned into each other as we listened to the carols my mom was playing on the piano downstairs and thought about Christmas. We are both so lucky and so fortunate to be able to enjoy the luxury of getting gifts on Christmas morning, to have parents that love and care for us, and to have a sister to spend time with.

Do you celebrate Christmas? If you don't, do you celebrate a different holiday around this time, or none at all? If you do, what are your favorite Christmas traditions? How was your Christmas day? And what are you thankful for?

That's all for now! Thanks for reading!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Deck the Halls!

Hey everyone! Yesterday was our first day of winter break, and our family got to go to a nearby Christmas tree farm to cut down our tree. I was a little iffy about our choice at first, because the tree seemed a little lumpy and misshapen in spots, but once we had cut it down and brought it home, I realized it wasn't really such a bad little tree. Like Mom said, it had a lot of character. And like Linus said in A Charlie Brown Christmas, it just needed a little love.

We had to wait until this morning to put it up, though, because we got home late yesterday and Mom promised that we could put it up today. After putting down plastic sheets to protect the floor from falling needles, Dad brought it through the side door and settled it in its little tree stand in the living room. He and Mom cleaned up the needles while I brought in the box of ornaments to start decorating.

Zoe was sitting in one of our beanbag chairs, reading a Sports Illustrated magazine with the book she was supposed to be reading for homework lying on the floor with its spine open.

"C'mon Zoe!" I cried as I staggered in with the boxes of ornaments in my arms.

She looked up in surprise and hastily tried to shove the magazine under the beanbag, while picking up Sebastian the Striped Sea Bass with her other hand.

I set the heavy boxes down with a thump! next to the tree.

"What are you waiting for?" I cried. "Christmas! Ornaments! Decorating!"

"Hmm?" she asked as she looked up from the book on her lap, feigning surprise.

"Knock it off, Zoe, I know you haven't been reading that book this whole time."
"Oh yeah?" she challenged. "And how do you know that?"

"The book's upside-down," I said matter-of-factly, turning back to the pile of boxes. I heard her sigh and heave herself up from the beanbag chair, then come over to survey the tree.

"It's cute," she said simply. I nodded as I sat down with the box of lights.

"There's a hundred of them?" I asked incredulously as I pulled the bundle from the box. "My gosh, we're never going to be able to fit all of those on the tree."

"We'll just - coil them up at the bottom or something," was Zoe's solution. I shrugged. We'd figure out something.
I pulled yard after yard of the lights from the box and brought the whole bundle of them over to the tree.

We started winding the wires over the branches until they covered the whole tree.

The extra amount of lights actually worked out - the outlet was all the way around the corner, and we had just enough excess wire to reach it.

Zoe opened the shoebox full of the shiny, colorful baubles, while I claimed the box of fun ornaments.

In my box, there was a pair of cookies, a pair of popcorn boxes, two slices of cake with ice cream dollops on the top, two poptarts, a jingly pumpkin, and two strands of silver stars from last year. Some new additions included two slices of apple pie and two mini Christmas trees, as well as two hamburgers and two peapods that aren't in the picture because they didn't fit in this box.
I held up one of the slices of pie. That was one of my favorites.

I attached a hook, then made my way over to the tree, where I hung it over a sturdy branch.

After all the ornaments had been hung, I found the golden star in its special box and reached over to put on the very top of the tree.

But even though I stood on my tippy-toes, I was still just out of reach of the top! So I dragged the now-empty shoebox over to the base of the tree and stepped up on it.

With the extra height, I was just tall enough to place the star on the very top of the tree and twine its wires securely around the branch.

I stood back and Zoe plunked down in her beanbag to admire the now-almost-completed tree. It fairly sparkled in the lamplight.

"Almost completed?" Zoe groaned. "What's left?"
"Just one more thing," I said, as I disappeared around the corner. I heard her cry of protest as I turned out all the lights, but then a gasp as I plugged in the end of the huge light chain. I came back around the corner to see.

We stood back to admire our tree. I couldn't believe I'd ever had doubts about taking it home. It looked so pretty, all lit up like it was.

Zoe slid her arm around my shoulders in a rare display of sisterly affection.
"We make good tree," she said simply. I had to agree.

Only three more days until Christmas, and only two more doors to be opened on our advent calendar! I'm so excited! Mom has told us that we absolutely can't go into the furnace room off the basement, Zoe's forbidden me from looking in her dresser, and I've told everyone that they just can't look in the hallway closet. I like mysteries like these, don't you? Do you celebrate Christmas? If not, what do you celebrate? If you do, what sort of traditions do you have in your family?

That's all for now! Thanks for reading!