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Not Just A Tree

Is it tall enough?

Is it wide enough?

As for me, growing up, it was the tree that made the season feel so magical.

And picking that right tree took time.

This year we walked two blocks down the street to the corner Christmas tree stand.

Ah, that smell, the smell of freshly cut pine trees signifying the scent of the holiday season.

Our same Christmas tree guy was there.

We chatted with him about how his daughter was doing and his trek from Canada.

We searched through the 6 and 7 foot Fraser Firs.

Critiquing.

Analyzing.

Comparing.

Until we found it.

The one that, with a lot of work and a little magic would light our mornings and evenings for the next month.

Dean hoisted the 2 foot Fraser over his should and we headed home.

The tree, suited for a toddler.

Set up time was short.

No need for trimming or rearranging furniture.

Lights were strung in 60 seconds.

I remember, as a child, the mystery of that darkened room and the beauty of those twinkling lights.

Maddie looked on with wide eyes as the lights illuminated our first Charlie Brown tree.

This year we carefully picked just a handful of our plastic and wooden ornaments, sparing all glass – I’m sure a couple will hit the ground, be tossed across the room or sway with the tree.

The special memories relived through each ornament – my mother’s duck, Dean’s martini shaker, our trip to Rome bulb before Maddie was born, the Cape May boat of our first family trip of 3.

Then I came across “Baby’s First Christmas,” time sure is flying, faster than I had truly imagined.

Already so many precious memories in just a year and a half.

Wow.

Maddie hung a few ornaments.

Analyzing each branch where her tiny fingers were determined to place them.

This year spacing didn’t matter.

Several ornaments on a single branch were waved.

Not the same tree as in the past – small in stature, but big in meaning.

Family history lives and is growing on that tree.

Tonight I played with Maddie next to that tree.

Together.

With those ornaments.

The past, the present, all woven together with so much meaning, so much joy and so much love, on and next to that Christmas tree.

Thankful For Gifts In Disguise

Thanksgiving is approaching and I was thinking about all the things I’m grateful for.  Of course family, friends and health, but I was also thinking about all the little things that seem to be trying at times.  The things we should be grateful for, but are sometimes gifts in disguise.  Here are my top ten…

1. Be thankful for growing older. Not everyone gets this opportunity. Aging with health and grace is a rare and beautiful gift.

2. When your parents are pressing your buttons, be thankful you still have them around.  If they are no longer with you, take a moment to be thankful for the time you had with them.

3. If you have to wait in line at the supermarket for your Thanksgiving dinner, be thankful that you can afford what you would like to eat. We are all aware of the many people waiting in line to have a meal at the soup kitchen.

4. Be thankful for the ability to pay your bills, even if it means you have to give up some things you want.  Having basic needs met is a luxury for some.

5. If you have to get up before dawn for work, be thankful you get to see another sunrise and have a job to go to.  What if you slept everyday until noon and didn’t know when you would get your next paycheck?

6. When you’re stuck in traffic, be thankful you have a car to get where you need to go and money to buy gas.   Some are waiting in the freezing weather for the bus.  Well, unless you’re a New Yorker!

7. When your children are testing your patience, be thankful you have children to love and who love you back.   Some would love to have children, but are unable.

8. When your mate is acting grumpy or giving you a hard time, be thankful for having love in your life and someone to grow old with.  A life partner is someone that less than half the population has.  Your partner is a blessing that needs to be counted.

9. When you sit down with loved ones for Thanksgiving dinner, be thankful for everyone and everything that makes it possible.  Some have no one to share this holiday with.

10. We’re leaving for Wisconsin today to spend Thanksgiving with the in-laws.  I’m thankful that we are able to afford to travel, have family to visit and spend time with, and to have “special news” to share with loved ones!

Wishing you a wonderful and blessed Thanksgiving!  See you in a week!

What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving?  I would love to hear about it.

Thanksgiving Table Setting Ideas

With Thanksgiving just around the corner and families heading over, we are all thinking about how to decorate the main gathering area for the holiday…the table!  Are you wanting to make it look a little more festive than pizza night on the weekend with the kids?   I’m always looking for new ideas and here are some settings that really inspire me and are easy enough that you can use things already in your house, or backyard.

I always feel under pressure to set the table right, especially when there’s guests.  If you’re like me, and still a little confused where the soup spoon goes, then check out the place setting chart below!

Love the soft gold.  Pick a main color and go with it.  The elegant placemats can go with any holiday or special occasion. So simple and elegant.

Take out the special plates and use a pear as a decor or attach a name tag around it for fun.  Berries can be used in so many different ways.  Love how they are set along the table.  Easy, quick and very pretty.

 Creative way to use candles and highlights the reason for the dinner.

Oh I just love the fall colored roses on the table.  Most of us have white plates, white linens and white serving trays.  The roses add beauty, warmth and elegance.  Classy.  Love this!

Adding white pumpkins are a pretty centerpiece, since they have a clean fresh look.  And the berries in the candle bases and wrapped around the pumpkins dress up the table.

Grab some leaves from the yard, pine cones and simple fall colored flowers and use them like a table runner.

Mixing modern and traditional.  Love the pop of color and the subtle traditional table runner.

Why not bring the cabin to the city.  Using wood decor pieces (can find in a lot of home stores), fall leaves and white accessories.  Fresh, simple, classy.

And if you want to go all out – grab some sticks, put them in a vase with rice, tie string to a few pumpkins and start decorating!!  Fun and festive!

Need a refresher on how to arrange a proper place setting?  I know, I do!  And who knows it better than Emily Post!  Click here

How do you dress up your Thanksgiving table?  Would love to hear about it.

Honoring Veterans

Veterans Day was Sunday and many of us are taking today off in honor of veterans - those who have put their lives on the line for our country.  Most of us know a veteran, our father, brother, family member or friend, and we hear their stories and can’t possibly relate to what they have experienced for us.  Then there’s those who have lost their lives or have lost a loved one for OUR freedom and for OUR future.

How do we teach this to our children?  How do we help them understand the purpose of Veteran’s Day?  To them it’s a parade of soldiers and waving flags and BBQ’s with family.  How do we teach them that it is a day of Gratitude?  A day of honoring and saying thank you to those for putting their lives on the line for us.  There are stories that are told and pictures in albums, but what better way to help a children learn than by reading.

Here are a few of my favorite military children’s books, with short excerpts, to help young readers understand the purpose of Veteran’s Day.  Great classroom books and stories for home.  Click on the book if you’re interested in ordering.

Joe Biden’s wife, Jill, tells a story through a child’s eyes of what family life is like when a parent is at war across the world.

Written by the son of a career officer, this book explores the branches of the Armed Services and speaks from the heart about the honor, privileges and sacrifices of military families everywhere.  With an underlying message of courage and commitment that every child can relate to, the book will be especially meaningful to those whose parents, siblings or other relatives serving in the Armed Forces.

A letter from Dad, who is deployed in the Middle East, prompts the young narrator to muse on what his father is going through and how he represents a better breed of superhero.

Amanda understands her dad is making the world a better place, but it doesn’t make his deployment any easier.  As Amanda wishes for her dad to enjoy good meals, make new friends, and return safely, the little tree comes to life with yellow ribbons of hope.

Chris Demarest’s dynamic alphabet book honors the men and women who have served, are serving, or will serve in our armed forces — and will thoroughly engage young readers and adults.

We ordered Alpha Bravo Charlie and Maddie’s grandpa can’t wait to have her sit on his lap, read to her, and tell his stories of being in the Air Force during Vietnam, when we visit him in CA next month.

God Bless the Military for all they have done and continue to do! May we remember all those who fought in wars today and always, so that we may stay safe and be a country with freedom!

Do you have a family member who has served in the military or has been drafted?  How do you teach your children the importance of Veteran’s Day?  Would love to hear about it and hear your personal story.

Lending a “Sandy” Hand

Last weekend we sat in our apartment thinking about what family outing we should do.  We had power, nothing was ruined, and it was the weekend, right?  What new area could we check out?  Dean and I through some ideas out, and each time an idea was said, an empty feeling came over each of us.  How could we have a fun family day out with the aftermath staring right at us; the seemingly endless gas lines everywhere, trees ripped from the sidewalks, and the thought of so many without power, heat, diapers, all the necessities that Sandy spared our family.  How did we get so lucky?  What if we weren’t?  What if our area looked like Staten Island or the Rockaways?  There was only one thing to do, get out and help.  We had an SUV and a full tank of gas.  No better way to spend our Sunday than lending a thankful hand.

Waiting to get gas.  Maddie was sleeping in the back seat, so we had a good hour or so before she woke up and before a break down began.  I can handle an hour wait, but not an hour of toddler tantrums!

 Packing in the supplies from Assemblyman Mike Miller’s Sandy relief location.

Maddie helped in the back seat making sure everything passed the grab, push and squeeze test.

Headed to our drop-off location.  Wish I would have taken more photos.  Trees were blocking street, large trash binds sat in driveways filled to the top, boats and cars were in odd places, yet you could see neighbors and citizens banning and working together.  A warm feeling on a chilly day.

Howard Beach drop off location.  Cleaning supplies, clothes, linens, and food.  All was needed!

Headed home and the lines for gas were still lining the streets, including the gas can lines.  This lined wrapped far around the corner.  And it was getting colder..

One thing I’ve learned moving from CA to NY…New Yorkers are tough and can get through anything.  It was moving to see fellow neighbors, citizens, organizations and states banning together to lend a hand.

Tomorrow we vote!  Hopefully everyone can still find a way to cast their ballot!  I know who I’m voting for.  Do you??

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