Saturday, December 29, 2012

DIY Holiday Snowy Palladian Windows for $5.00!

And ever since I was ten years old, the home from Holiday Inn was my dream house.  I always loved the windows and the front porch:

And the same windows and set design were apparent in White Christmas:   
And I also love the windows in the Christmas movies White Christmas and Holiday Inn.  So one night I drove up to my house and saw this:

It just hit me that this is SO plain and blah.  So I was thinking that I could probably create arched windows with poster board and white electrical tape and I did.  

These were my inspiration pics whilst trying to devise a pattern.  I used plain white poster board and cut out an arch and taped it to the top of each window.  Then I cut out a smaller arch and placed that with clear tape.  Then I simply used white electrical tape which I found at my local home improvement store for only $2.00 a roll.  It was so easy to work with!  

I miraculously found this window grid at at the Habitat ReStore in South Bend, Indiana and it fit the width of my window exactly.   So I used it as a pattern for the perfect arch.  I then placed the poster board in the windows first.  Then I went over the board with the electrical tape to further make the pattern.

I then cut out "snow" pieces and taped them in the corners for that old world Dickens Christmas feeling like this:

If I had more time, I would have added more "window panes" but I did achieve the look I was shooting for.  I am sure they would have looked more festive with more squares and snow.  They look adorable in either daytime or night time.  I have the look of expensive arched windows for about $5.00 total.  :-)

Sharing this post with Between Naps on the Porch at Metamorphosis Monday!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Lonely at Christmas? You're not alone...

Well, here we are, only a few hours away from the hustle and bustle that is December 24th & 25th.  Christmas Eve is my favorite day of the year - there is just a feeling in the air and in the heart that cannot be replicated by any other of the 364 days.  No matter what has happened in my life, that feeling has never left me.  On Christmas Eve, I love to go outside late at night and just stand in the snow (not this year) and look up at the stars and just "feel" Christmas.  Hear the "Christmas quiet".  There is such a beautiful air about the night, reflecting on the journey of Mary and the Christ child, that magic fills my heart.  I am probably writing this post more for myself than my readers but if it can allow one person  to feel better reading it, it will truly warm my heart with joy.

But Christmas has changed for me.  As a child, it was always our favorite time of the year.  Lights outside, multiple trees and garlands inside, holiday music always and signs of Christmas were just everywhere.  On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, we always hosted a house full of people and laughter and gifts galore.  Family, neighbors, friends, even the mailman would stop in for a hot cocoa.  It was something out of a Hallmark movie and it was truly magical.

I can recall putting on our holiday best and heading out as a family to celebrate Christmas Eve mass even when the wind chills were 20 below and the snow would crunch beneath my high heels.   Then we would watch It's A Wonderful Life and finish wrapping and cooking for Christmas Day.

But then life got in the way.  At 31, I was diagnosed with my first cancer and a few months later, my Dad died very suddenly at a New Year's party.  My parents were SO in love that when I lost my Dad,  my Mom's shining spirit was never as bright, now dimmed by grief and heartbreak.  Three years later, my older brother passed away and then the following week, my beautiful Mom was diagnosed with terminal breast cancer.   She lost her most courageous battle the following November close to Thanksgiving.  So my magical holiday world was forever changed as my parents' deaths now bookend the most wonderful time of the year.  Then one year later, I was diagnosed with advanced stage breast cancer.  And my last round of chemotherapy was the week before Christmas.  I remember, on Christmas Eve, sitting on the kitchen floor at my boyfriend's house, crying, bald and sick with mouth sores so awful the only thing I could stand to eat was frozen watermelon.  How quickly my wonderful life had changed.   But I stopped crying, and laid on the couch in a room a glow by the Christmas tree and hope was restored.  And now here, six Decembers later, I am here to write this post.  My miracle.

My crazy love life could be a Lifetime Movie so as of right now, I am not married (YET) and treatments for both breast and ovarian cancer has robbed me of my ability to have children or even adopt.  So here I am.  Just me.  Don't get me wrong, I have a lot of special people in my life whom I love very dearly along with two older sisters I cherish.  But Christmas is hard knowing I will never have my own children.  I always envisioned myself being THAT Mom - with five Pottery Barn  stockings hanging on the fireplace and making snowman pancakes on Christmas morning.

Alas, it isn't meant to be - it isn't in God's plan.  But it still makes me very, very sad.

But I LOVE Christmas.  It is not what is used to be and it never will be that way again but it still means SO much.  I get excited for Christmas on November 1st as I take down the Halloween decorations.  I love the lights, the music, the incessant Hallmark Christmas movies.  I love the sound of sleigh bells, Church bells and the smell of Christmas cookies.  I still cry when they play Silent Night at mass on Christmas Eve and I still smile when I put the ornaments on the tree - some of the same ones from when I was a child.  I still dance around the kitchen when Mariah Carey's carols come on the radio and I still make snow angels in the yard.  No matter how broken your heart may be, no matter if you have financial problems, family troubles, health challenges marital problems, unemployment or whatever, no matter what - you must always have hope, faith and trust.  And if your life is wonderful and you have no adversities, be thankful for God's gifts and the peace and love that graces your home.  For if we have learned nothing from this Christmas season, we should at least know that our lives can change in an instance through no fault of our own.  I pray for those parents who have lost their children this month.

My parents gave me the most wonderful gift when they taught me to enjoy the "wonder" that is not only Christmas but in life and love throughout the year.   To love and to be loved it the greatest gift.

My inner child really never goes away and it allows me to find the magic in every single day.  Be it a robin in my birdbath, the first tulips pushing through the snow in the Spring, finding the perfect paint color, or laughing so hard your stomach hurts.  It allows me to be silly and truly have fun everyday.  I still find myself envious of those homes full of people and family but I have learned that just because you are surrounded by people, doesn't mean you still can't be lonely.  Or if you are alone that you can't be happy.  I recall with such happiness the ghosts of Christmas past and am so grateful for the life gifts my parents gave me and to God for giving me my Mom and Dad.  I have learned that life doesn't have to be perfect to be wonderful and no matter how bad things get, we really do all have our own version of Clarence - AS 2 watching over all of us.  It just may be harder to believe this on our bad days.

But this year is especially hard with the 26 victims of the Sandy Hook school.  To see those shining faces and to know they will not be opening their gifts this year, or having another birthday or sleeping in their bed ever again - that is so difficult to bear.  All we can do it pray and cry and pray some more.

When my Dad died, we came home from the hospital and his gifts were still under the tree and his dirty socks were on his bedroom floor.  My Mom wrapped her rosary around those socks and she laid them on his pillow for a very long time.  Then she moved them to the headboard and then to the drawer in her nightstand.  Then one day she removed the rosary and threw the socks away.  Mourning comes in stages and whether it is under our own roof, in our own hearts or in a small town in Connecticut, Christmas doesn't make everything better.  But no matter how bad things get, we should rejoice in Jesus' birth, celebrate the joy and sing and dance to Christmas carols when home alone.  But the most important lesson for a joyous holiday season  -  always, always believe in Santa Claus!
So, if today isn't your best day, it really is ok.  Life has a way of working itself out.  Someone is usually there to lend a helping hand and love is never very far away.  I just have to learn to swallow my stubborn pride and ask for help or a hug sometimes.  If your relatives are borderline nuts, relish it - cherish it for that is what makes family so special.  Be the bigger person and hug someone in your family you don't like very much or wish a complete stranger Merry Christmas with a big smile.  What you receive in return may turn out to be your greatest gift this year.  
And if you still have a heavy heart, remember that Christmas is really just a day.  One day out of 365.  If you are sad and lonely, jump in the car and go look at Christmas lights and have a good cry.  Eat lots of junk food for the one day.  Or watch your favorite non-Christmas movie.  Or better yet - watch ELF and laugh til you cry or just go to bed.  Because when you wake up on December 26th, Christmas is but a memory.  And you have 364 days to make changes so next year is your best Christmas ever!  

 I wish the magic of a very Merry Christmas to all and to all a good life! 

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Holiday front porch 2012. Snowless :-(

December 15?  Wow - where did this season go?  And this year we even had that EXTRA week.  It just doesn't feel very Christmassy yet here in Chicago - we have NO SNOW!  Not a flake!  Everything is so much prettier with a fresh blanket of snow and the carols just sound a little bit merrier to me.

I have been waiting to take pictures of my front porch with snow but now that it is not even going to be an option before Christmas,  I finished today in the RAIN.  Seriously?

This is actually a gorgeous tartan shower curtain I found new in box at a thrift shop earlier this month.  It is coming in handy with all the rain it will have to endure.  If I am going to have a rainy Christmas, I may as well move to Florida!  I'm so dreaming of a WHITE Christmas!  :-)

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Decking them halls... a little bit late.

In case you haven't heard, the Fighting Irish of the University of Notre Dame are the #1 football team in the country and undefeated at 12-0.  VERY exciting - like pinch me I am dreaming Santa doesn't need to bring me any other present EVER exciting.  (Except a National Championship win on January 7th in Miami!)  However,  I must admit, all the excitement and ballyhoo has completely thrown a wrench into my Autumn festivities, holiday decorating and every day life.   I traveled for a week to Boston to see them play and spent many extra days above and beyond the normal time spent on football weekends in South Bend.   So I decided to post pictures of my best friend's "football house" which has become a second home to me.  At this point, it is the only place which is sporting any type of holiday splendour in my life at this point!

His house is a completely charming tudor built in 1920 with gorgeous molded plaster ceilings and wooden doors with crystal doorknobs.  It is across the street from campus and it is the most wonderfully inviting little house.  This year, we decided to decorate with simple greens and white lights - classically simple and elegant.  Plus with South Bend lake effect snowstorms, it is a lot less frustrating to fix repeatedly.  It is no fun to find your snowman three blocks away rolling around in the street.  :-(

I went into the alley and found overgrown evergreen trees hanging over the fence and "borrowed" a few sprigs.  The trees definitely needed a trim so it was a "win win" situation.  :-)

Isn't it funny how you forget about some of your Christmas decorations or they magically appear in the boxes and you don't even remember ever buying them?  Happens to me all the time.  I found a box of these three pathway mini-trees and decided to stick 'em into the window box.  Understated yet very quaint.  The little trees are SO adorable!

These cute little wreaths... WALMART!  Only $10 bucks!  Can you belive it?  They are so well made and add the perfect touch to the top of the house.  I also bought the red velvet ribbon there - a huge bolt for like $3 dollars.  Who says decorating has to break the bank?  So this is the first post since November 13th - I'm quite ashamed of myself.  And my first Christmas post!  Seriously?  But hopefully I am going to get some major decorating done in the next few days because it is better late then never when it comes to Christmas.  And how would Santa Claus ever find my house without my Griswold type lights?  :-)  Ok my friends, thanks for stopping by - I am off to decorate...