Posts tagged traditions
Real or fake?

Hello lovelies!! Welcome back after what was a truly special Thanksgiving for us. How was yours? We hosted and ate and ate and ate. It was all good, all around.

We are in full steam ahead mode for Christmas decorating around these halls which basically means that there are bags, and boxes, and boxes of bags in every corner of the house. My hubs spent all afternoon on Sunday (where he found the energy, I will not know) getting the exterior decorating done and now it's up to me to lead the charge on interior design.


We have a tradition of building our artificial tree on Thanksgiving Eve, with my parents and aunt, and hanging our stars of gratitude first. It's now also become a tradition that I misplace the directions for said tree, and we have to guess what branches go at what height. Our artificial tree is nearly 20 years old, and my husband and I celebrated our first Christmas holiday as friends decorating it so the tree has layers of meaning and nostalgia to make up for the bare spots and weak limbs.

This year the kids wanted to see the ornaments so I gave them the job on Thanksgiving day to hang our special ornaments from vacations and performances past. I was surprised to see how attached each one is to certain favorites, and how many stories they know of objects older than them.

Last year we began a new tradition of cutting our own tree at a local nursery. This particular location is all about the experience of the event - with hot cocoa, sleigh rides, Mrs. Claus and Santa - and I eat it up.

I feel guilty cutting down a living, amazing tree, but I also know how much we'll love that tree for the next month or two. And just how much it will add to our holidays.

So on the day after Thanksgiving, with my parents and my aunt, children and husband, we trekked out to chop down our tree. We found the perfect-for-us Frasier Fir whom we proudly named Christofir. :)

He's yet to be dressed with loose tinsel and white lights, but his smell has filled our car and our home with the fresh scent of Christmas!

So what's your tradition: real or fake? Or a bit of both? I've seen some amazing ideas floating around Pinterest for trees made of tape or trees made of books. Are you creating your tree this year? 

xoxo, MJ

PS. Join me tomorrow for another great Fresh Holiday Tradition!!




























Fresh Holiday Traditions: December 1st Party

Happy Thanksgiving Eve! We don't use that term enough, do we? But tis true, turkey day is tomorrow, and I, for one, am running around trying to get suck up our dust bunnies and chop celery till the cows come home (sorry for today's late post!). In Northern Indiana today it looks like we're in the middle of a snowglobe, and we can't help but dream and think about the holidays ahead.


I have to spend two minutes giving a very warm and special thanks to the talents behind the Fresh Holiday Traditions series. We've been sharing some of our favorite ways to give thanks and live it up for Thanksgiving, and now our eyes turn toward Christmas! But right before they do, here's a fabulous list of Thanksgiving activities that you can do tonight with the kids or tomorrow with the extended fam:

Melissa of Lulu the Baker is sharing her December 1st Party tradition today. It's just adorable. And right up my alley. Imagine this: Christmas tunes, tree decorating, and gobbling gingerbread cookies. It's a tradition she's passed down from her mom to her children.
If you try any of our projects or traditions, post a picture of it twith the hashtag #freshholidaytraditions. We'd love to show it off!!
Our team here is welcoming one set of grandparents tonight and more come tomorrow. The turkey is in the fridge ready to be buttered up, and the house *almost* smells good now.
Off to finish up the final finishings. Wishing you a lovely Thanksgiving Eve! If you need a little break from all the togetherness tomorrow, check back in here for a special holiday message!
xoxo, MJ
The tradition of St. Nicholas

It's that time in our house. Do you follow the tradition of St. Nicholas? As it goes in our house, we put out our shoes on the evening of December 5 and await the goodies that St. Nicholas leaves for us when he visits. His treats are almost always Christmas books and some chocolate golden coins.

This photo is from last year's celebration, during which time our house was undergoing a bit of a renovation, hence the lovely floor covering. We let L put out two pairs of his tiny shoes since they are so small.

My oldest believes that St. Nick and Santa are one and the same so she always leaves out her list for St. Nicholas to get a head start.

Will you be leaving out your shoes tonight?


Making a New Tradition

Happy Monday, friends! Happy Advent, too. How was your weekend? We had a particularly nice one, if I do say so. Saturday was filled with giggles and grins as my daughters had play dates at our house. We made Fruit Loop candy canes and Christmas cutout cookies. Lots of fun and a bit tiring...I fell asleep on the couch a little after nine!

On Sunday we volunteered to be the family at Church that lights the Advent candle. This is a particularly precarious task at our parish since the Advent wreath is a large, suspended-from-the-vaulted-ceiling number. My husband was brave enough to light the purple candle way above our heads, and, despite my quivering arms, I held the bowl of incense high into the air. Apparently my three year old and five year old were behind me, trying to duck out of the way of the wafts of incense smoke.

Right after Church, we grabbed some peanut butter and jellies and hit the open road to explore the countryside of Indiana. What were we in search of you might ask? Our very first real one of these:

Well, I guess I should be more accurate to say that it's our second. On our first married Christmas, in our real Pars Caeli home, my husband and I bought a real tree (in the root ball). We then planted it in our backyard... and it's now nearly 15 feet tall.

Our family has already "built" and decorated our artificial tree, one that we've had for over 15 years now, but this year, I felt like I wanted to try something new. I'm not a strict environmentalist, but I've always felt strange about having a live tree cut down for my celebrations...

But there's something about this year, with the blessings and the challenges we've experienced, that made me want to go on an adventure just for the memories.

We drove a little over an hour, with Christmas CDs playing loudly through the minivan, to a Christmasfest. It was a complete winter wonderland (minus the snow since it was a balmly 60 degrees) complete with Santa, Mrs. Claus, and hot cocoa all around. After deciding on a Frasier Fir, we loaded into the tractor-pulled trolley, selected a saw, and found the perfect evergreen for us.

In full ceremony, each member of the family took part in the sawing process, as the rich, deep aroma of pine filled the air. She's a beautiful tree, and we've named her Cheryl... because we name everything.

She's sitting pretty in front of our living room window awaiting strands of white lights and colorful baubles.

It was such a great trek, and we have a lovely new memory to add to the holiday feel.

Best of all, my husband and I have a new spot to snuggle and smell the beauty of the season as we recount Christmases past and dream of the goodness to come.

Are you starting any new traditions this year?



Make It Monday: Treasured menus

Happy Monday, friends! How was the weekend? I hope the time change was easy on you. I was so delighted when my children woke me up at 6:45 on Sunday (I was prepared for a 5 am wake-up call).

I've got Thanksgiving on my mind. You? I'm just beginning the process of menu planning and decor prep. Since we moved into real life Pars Caeli (our home), we've been the hosts for Thanksgiving, inviting my in-laws and my parents as well as my grandma-in-law and my aunt on rotating years. My hubs handles the big bird, and I tackle the everything-else on the menu.

Do you save old menus? I'm kind of a fanatic about it for big family meals. I have our Thanksgiving and Easter menus and shopping lists from the last 10 years all tucked in a binder together. We have old favorites we repeat (that harvest stuffing is a must), and I try to rotate in some new, even trendy, treats every year. Many of these lists are on calendar planner pages or used envelopes, a few on lined paper or legal pads. Every year around this time I read through them and remember the tastes and delights of our years together.

We have a fun Thanksgiving tradition for all of our guests that I'll be sharing with you next Monday! Today, here is the special family recipe for an amazing stuffing that you'll enjoy for days and days after the turkey and family have left. It's adapted from a 10-year old recipe that Parade magazine published. My husband, mom, and I have made this together almost every Thanksgiving Eve, and the laughter and tears (from the onions) make the stuffing ever more savory.

Harvest Stuffing (that's a little piece of Heaven)

You'll need these to stuff a 15-18 lb turkey:

  • 2 T of vegetable oil
  • 4 C each chopped red onions and celery
  • 2 T minced garlic
  • 2 T dried thyme
  • 2 T dried sage
  • 2 Granny Smith apples, diced
  • 1.5 C each dried cranberries and dried apricots
  • 2 C chicken broth
  • 12 C cubed (1 in) bread, toasted

Heat your oil in a large pan, stir in the onions, celery, garlic, thyme, and sage. Cook over medium-low heat for 15 minutes. Add the bread and fruits. Toss well. Drizzle the broth over the mixture to moisten and season with salt and peppers. Be sure it's cool before stuffing it in the turkey!

So simple and tasty!

What's your Thanksgiving favorite?


Happy Kiddos: Sharing some magic

Blogging has allowed me to connect with many creative, talented, and fun people from around the globe. I love looking at my Google analytics to see what parts of the globe light up from lovely readers (hello friends in Ireland!). One bright spot for me from New Zealand has been the inspiration of A Happy Adventure, the amazing brainchild of Hana. She knows how to make the world a magical place for her little ones, and I love seeing all that she has to offer (that I can grab and use, use, use for my kiddos). Check out her Little World posts and be prepared to get your family passports ready for adventure.

Hana invited me share some of our family traditions and celebrations as part of her Magical Days series.

  1. Jump, hop, skip, and leap on over with me to hear why I'm a huge advocate of large sinks.
  2. Find out what happens to our Christmas tree after the holidays.
  3. Check out my favorite books to read with my kiddos.
  4. And don't miss what I recommend for more joy in life (even more than a good night's sleep)...

Thank you, Hana, for welcoming me so warmly to your adorable and educational site!!