Saturday, December 27, 2014

Hallelujah! Holy Shit!

I always feel a little down this week between Christmas and New Year's.  Looking at my trees leaves me rolling my eyes thinking about putting the ornaments away, I really want Hallmark to stop showing Christmas movies and resume The Golden Girls at midnight, and how can you not feel fat and hungover after all the festivities? Well--by moderation, I'm told. 
I don't do moderation.  Which is why I love Christmas so much.  Christmas was invented for people like me, Liberace, Faux Fuchsia, and Marie Antoinette. More, more, more. I am in my element at Christmas. It gives me joy seeing grocery carts full of poinsettias, wine, and heavy cream.  My tree has 20+ strands of (incandescent--a source of defiant pride) lights, 500+ ornaments, and was bought at 11 feet for a room with 10 foot ceilings. 
Like so many of us, Clark Griswold resonates deeply with me.  We all have Clarks in our families. He is spastic and enthusiastic in his delusional quest for A PERFECT CHRISTMAS.  He wants his family to come together and bask in the glow of a bygone time, fueled by eggnog and nostalgia. 
Last year, my mother and I pushed to reformat our Christmas celebration.  Our traditions were tired and applied to a family 20 years ago; a family we no longer remotely resemble.  Spearheaded by my grandmother's illness, we just knew a shakeup was in order.  My grandmother is still living, but essentially in a waking coma.  It is awful and, frankly, there is no silver lining to be found.  I used to wish for a miracle and that she would be healed overnight.  I now simply wish that she could be let go. To go on with business as usual at Christmas, missing the matriarch that binds us, hurt more than healed. 
My tree when I finally finished after 30 hours.  This was about 4:30AM. 

The truth is that the world does not stop because we are heartbroken.  Christmas will continue to roll around.  In my opinion, Christmas is a beautiful distraction from the sadness and loss we all face. Bittersweet, to be sure.  But when we laugh and share memories about the people we miss, I think a few little pieces of broken hearts can be mended. 
I suppose that is where the maniacal Clark Griswold neurosis thrives.  Clark will stop at nothing to enjoy Christmas with his family.  And damn it, they'll enjoy it with him.  They will put aside their differences, listen to some Christmas music, and merrily drink and eat.  Yes, I share Clark's hell or high water approach.  Sometimes a family just needs the iron fist of a Christmas-crazed nazi like Clark or me.  I have no doubt a fair amount of complaints are made about me on the way to the dinner.  It's natural and maybe even fair.  I run a Yuletide dictatorship and I don't accept requests.  You want ham instead of turkey? No.  You want to start an hour later? No.  You don't like Christmas music? You'll listen until you submit and sing along.  But once everyone arrives, my Christmas mix is blaring outside and in, the booze flows, there is so much food, and everyone starts enjoying themselves.  Horrible words are spoken, laws are broken, and cackling laughter echoes louder with each new round of drinks.  It's not for the faint of heart or the modest.  It is so much fun.    I feel so lucky that my family has this time.  We accept each other, share, teach the next generation how to chug a beer (you'll always lose with a plastic cup, according to my uncle), and remember why Christmas matters. 

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation is no doubt a comedy.  Except for the last moment. When Clark stands on his front steps and looks to the sky whispering "I did it." I always choke up.  I know that feeling.  And I'm happy to report that this year was no different.  I don't believe there is a perfect Christmas to be achieved, but this year was as close as ever.  It even works out that each family has a non-drinker to drive.  When everyone got home around 2:30, I got a wave of texts with reflections of a great Christmas Eve.  They can bitch about me on the way--but if they're beaming on the way home--I'll call it a success.

























































































































































































































I wanted the bar to look like a hedge. You're allowed to hate it.
My mom did.  I was thrilled with it.





































I admit--we use plastic cups.  

































































I made that cardinal fascinator for my sister a few years ago as a joke,
and my aunt has worn her Christmas bulb earrings for 20+ years




















The Walmart parking lot at 1:30 AM on 12-21.  Emergency supplemental
ornament run.  Always busy. 





















I hate this store.  But I needed green ornaments.
I was 300 short. 


























I hope you had a fabulously merry Christmas. 

83 comments:

  1. You are a a Darling. What a wonderful Christmas. I love it all. 300 green ornaments short....the hedge. Your puppy well ensconced in the set-up. Xxx
    Merry Christmas, Mr Andrew.

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    1. Thank you! Poor Barbie feels so neglected while I'm in my Christmas trance. She's used to having my undivided attention :)

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  2. This must be my very favorite post ever, Stephen! I think it's very you - so honest, funny, witty, warm, and beautiful all at the same time. I can't believe you covered the entire table with the evergreen - fantastic! But it'll even look better if you add some baby's breath to it lol. It's funny you and my Steve not only share exactly the same name but also the favorite Christmas movie. Thank you for sharing your Christmas story with us. Wishing you a happy happy New Year! xoxo

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    1. Thank you, Yuko! Oh you are so right about the baby's breath! The reason my mom didn't like it is because she felt it was kind of heavy and dark. Which I get. But baby's breath would really lighten it up. Can't imagine how much it would take though! I loved the photo of your Steve and the boys cutting down the tree! And luckily he remembered the saw! Happy New Year!

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    2. Oh trust me, there were times he forgot to bring his saw to a christmas tree hunt. That's my Steve, I'm telling you.

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  3. you are such a delight in this blog world. and i'm sure irl too and i wish we were neighbors. i adore your tree, sentiments and above all that table! it's genius. i can see where your postpartum depression would set in after all this intense work. love you stephen, meeting you (virtually) has been such a blessing. xoxo

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    1. Thank you so much! I wish we were neighbors, too. But it would wreak havoc on your determined and responsible lifestyle! Haha :) thank you so much for your lovely comment.

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  4. Merry Christmas Mr Jones!
    I have been waiting impatiently for your Christmas post and it did not disappoint. Excess decoration, family love and laughter, despotic behaviour and crazy late night shopping. You are a gift to the blogsphere.
    I love your bar hedge!
    Happy New Year to you and Barbie.

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    1. Thank you so much, Claire! I hope you have some of your Christmas festivities on your blog. I usually endup with one late night trip to Walmart per year at Christmas. I really do hate it. I hate the way it smells, the grimey, damaged linoleum, the damn fish next to the pharmacy. But all that goes out the window when you need more ornaments or lights in the middle of the night :)

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    2. Oops-I thought I remembered you having a blog!

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  5. Love this post & love your ruling Christmas with an iron fist. Thanks Den xxx

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    1. Thank you!! Haha the joke in my family is that I'm "Holiday Hitler". Happy New Year!

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  6. Oh. My. Goodness. I am in AWE of the sheer beauty of your bar and tree. In that order. Your Mom was wrong, it is stunning. Love the topiary hedge effect. Genius. Your bauble placement on the tree is perfection too.
    I love Christmas too. I hope I'm instilling that magic into my children, but nothings gets me more excited than decorating a tree, making Christmas cookies, the music, the family time in no particular order. I love a bit of tradition, but agree with you that you have to change it a bit to keep up with the times. Glad you had a wonderful Christmas, and am totally in synch with you about the post Christmas food ban. Too much eating!!

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    1. Thank you so much, Heidi! Haha my mom is a minimalist, so I think she just thought the bar was toooo much. She loved the bare bones metro cart in front of the tree :) it was funny because I knew she'd hate it. So when she saw it and smiled, I pressed her and she said "wellllll....it's..heavy...I might just like a white table". Haha. Thank you for noting my bauble placement. It drove me insane. I couldn't believe how long it took. It was the use of the mini ornaments on the outer branches. There are about 400 just of those! Happy New Year!

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  7. What a wonderful way to wake up this morning, I adore this post! Funny, poignant and so beautiful. Your tree is so so pretty and the hedge is fabulous! How did you attach the greens?I love how you embrace the holiday, lucky family you have!

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    1. Thank you so much, Cindy! I actually kept thinking about your lovely tree while I was decorating mine. I asked myself why I couldn't do a tasteful, ethereal tree like yours? I love how you decorated. Yet I always want to add more! Happy New Year! I always look forward to your posts

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    2. The evergreen cuttings are all wired together. So the table has a few holes in the base under the top. I'm not sure why they're there, but I was glad they were. There are six main wired support docks from which everything is wired. I started by making a garland just under the table top that ran parallel to the floor, and then everything is hung perpendicular to the floor after that. It took forever! But it was a fun, easy project. I watched all of s2 of House of Cards while I was doing it!

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  8. This may be my favorite post of yours ever! Funny and so wise. And my vote is FOR the hedge, I think it's very fitting for mid-winter. I completely understand your wanting to make Christmas as perfect as possible, too. I think we
    are all guilty of that a little (can you be "guilty" of a GOOD thing?). But you get a little closer to perfection than most! I also completely understand the need to create new traditions as the old ones become obsolete, and I hope they bring some happiness and comfort; I will bet your grandmother would approve, too, as long as she knew it made you all happy and joyful, even in her absence.

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    1. Thank you! Haha I think that is the genius of that movie. It has universal appeal. At least in the US. I've found the key, at least for my holiday enjoyment, is to pursue perfection but not expect it. I used to get upset when I would fall short. I'm able to keep moving and still enjoy the holiday even when I don't get to EVERYTHING I planned. I could work 24 hours a day for two weeks and probably still not do it all. But it's worth trying!

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  9. I LOVE your bar table! You can come style (and cater, for that matter) a party at my house any day. What a wonderful celebration you created.

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    1. Thank you so much! I would love to visit you! Haha I've only spent a few hours in the OC and saw very little. Would love to have a local's tour.

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  10. OMG I totally LOVE this post!
    It makes me feel rather giddy reading about your dedication to ornamentation and I positively adore that hedge bar...having a MIL who has Alzheimer's I understand a wee bit of how you might feel...with your granny. Xmas does bring on intense emotions and the Christmases past bubble up...with you at the helm steering your family festivities you have forged new memories and made them all the more joyous.
    Sending you a big hug from here in the bungalow where we are undressing our Charlie Brown tree....sadly, another seasonal event is over.

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    1. Thank you! Haha I'm sure you wod agree with me that a family NEEDS a boss. Families run as democracies don't seem to get much done. I didn't know that your MIL was afflicted by Alzheimer's. Neurological conditions like Alzheimer's and LBD are so tragic. I hope your MIL is able to still find some joy in the world. My great grandmother had Alzheimer's and luckily never lost her ability to laugh and feel happy. She had bad days and acted out with some, but was always able to laugh. In fact, on her last birthday we actually wrapped up a sex toy and gave it to her! She had the raunchiest sense of humor that never left her. She loved it and laughed uproariously the rest of the night whenever she saw it. If one must have a last Christmas, that was the way to do it. I just wish there was something I could do that would bring some happiness to my grandma. So unfair.
      You're ahead of me on taking down your tree. Ugggh it's so sad tearing it all apart! But it's nice to have it all cleaned up :)

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    2. I meant Christmas. Her last birthday, also in December, has a funny story all its own!

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  11. Your description is so Stephen Andrew. You are such a pro. Happy New Year!

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  12. Happy Christmas Darling. I'm writing this from our resort and wearing a glittery caftan. I tried to find you on Facebook but no dice.

    Meawhile thanks for the shout out! I luffed this post and the sentiments in it and like Janet I wish we were neighbours and like Heidi (my real life friend) I love the table with all the greenery.

    I cannot believe Walmart is open all night! We don't have any here in Oz but I saw a doco once about their staff and it was dire.

    Love your work, That tree is 11/10, give my regards to Barbie xxxxx

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    1. Omg I want to wear a glittery caftan at a resort. I quit fb in 2012. I have a problem, especially in real life--but it spills over into social media--with keeping my mouth shut and I was often fighting the temptation to sound off on anything and everything. I knew I had to quit when I was about to spout off a nasty little reply to one of my CLIENTS! So for the good of the order, I quit to avoid the frustration. I've been so happy with that decision.
      Walmart is an interesting dichotomy of the best and worst of America. It's a brilliant example of glittering capitalism but it's also an evil, ugly monstrosity that chokes out everyone around it over time.

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  13. Oh.my.gosh so lovely and funny. Your tree!

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    1. Thank you so much! Hope you had a Merry Christmas!

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  14. Oh my God, my God, my God! I just found your blog today and I've read one posting and I'm hooked. When you said you are short 300 green Christmas balls, I knew we would be friends. I initially came to your blog to thank you for defending my honor over there on The Gardener's Cottage. My daughter read your comment and said, "look mommy, one person likes you at least." So thank you for your kindness and thank you for your blog. Going to go read all of your previous post. Happy happy holidays. XOXO Ellie www.havesomedecorum.blogspot.com

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    1. Oh my god! I feel like the Queen has just stopped by! Thank you so much. But you don't want to read the rest of it. Haha unless you really like dog pictures! I have my dog trained to model and work poses when I take her picture because she knows she'll get a treat. So most of the photos are of her! Happy New Year to you! I hope you're finding some way around hubby's family to enjoy the Alps :) maybe next year I should escort you. I speak French and make fabulous turkey.

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  15. This must be one of the funniest blogs I have ever red, sorry for bad spelling but have tears in my eyes :-)
    //Eva

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    1. Haha thank you so much! I'm always glad to know that other people get my humor!

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  16. I just found your blog via Ellie's blog, and I love it :) Your Christmas tree is simply spectacular and the hedge bar is brilliant. Wishing you all the best in 2015.
    Bonnie

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    1. Thank you so much! I'm so sad Christmas is over. I'm not ready to put my resolutions into action :) how great is Ellie's blog? She inspires me so much. Happy New Year!

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  17. Love this post, and I loved your comment about needing 300 more green ornaments!! I can relate to having to change Christmas due to family changing. It can really help to find new ways to bring the family together and to celebrate what we still have.

    And I loved your hedge - kept seeing it with pink bows over it (fuchsia, obviously :) ), or lots of small lights twinkling...

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    1. Thanks!! Yeah I thought ably about if I wanted to add some ornament to the hedge or not. Actually you can see in the first photo of the table that I have 5 lamps under it. I thought it would look really pretty to have it backlit. I hated it! It looked like a hunting blind.

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  18. Christmas NEEDS to evolve. We all change with time, and Christmas should change right along with us.

    Merry Christmas, and the happiest, best to you (and Barbie) in the new year!

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    1. Thanks so much, Connie! Wishing you the same! Your ability to embrace change always impresses me!

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  19. Ok, I love the hedge bar, and your tree, and the sentiment of this lovely post!!! Wishing you much love, health, happiness, and prosperity in the New Year!!!

    xo Kat

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    1. Thank you so much! You are missing from my blog roll and I just realized it! Ugh that damn thing got all messed up. Glad to hear from you! I know 2014 was a great year for you, and I hope 2015 is just as wonderful!

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  20. Righty, I'm inviting myself to yours next year, but beside the stunning tree and hedge bar, this was the most touching Christmas post I've read and yes I can get you tartan trews - google 'regimental trews' Anytime!

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    1. ta dah!
      http://www.scottishregimentalstore.co.uk/military-tartan-trews-3559-p.asp

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    2. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU. I'm so glad I don't know the euro conversion rate and can feign ignorance as I add one in every pattern to my shopping cart.

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  21. Fabulous post and that tree, hedge bar, and Barbie are getting my Christmas 2014 Best in Show!

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    1. Thank you! It's especially exciting for my sweet mixed breed to claim best in show! Happy New Year!

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  22. Hello and Happy New Year! What does it say about me, that I read your title and immediately added, "Where's the Tylenol" in Chevy Chase's voice? I can quote entire scenes from the movie, and make a point of watching it AND the director's cut every year. It's a classic and remains one of my favorite all-time movies!

    That said and done, it's nice to see you blogging again, even if you've threatened to be sporadic about it! I love your new blog tag-line - a man after my own heart LOL! It's perfect!

    It looks like you had a wonderful Christmas. It's always so much work, but dammit, I think you've got it figured out! You will enjoy yourselves OR ELSE!

    (You also made me think of Marney and her famous Thanksgiving dinner instruction letter. It makes me howl every time I read it, and I also (sadly) identify with Marney's...principles LOL.)

    I love your tree and your "green" bar. Everything looks fabulissimo! It's nice to get together and reflect on the year, and remember the good times (and the sad), come hell or high water. Kudos to you for changing with the times and keeping up traditions, old and new.

    Here's to a new year full of health and happiness and all things beautiful. Keep up the great work!

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    1. Omg how did I never see the Marney letter? That is so funny. That really does sound like me. Although I never let people bring anything. But you should see the texts I send when I have someone get me things from the grocery. It is embarrassing, but as we all know we cannot trust our friends and families to have any common sense in grocery stores. My poor father is the worst. Once I sent him for red bell peppers and he got me red peppercorns and was like "these were so hard to find!" So then I had to pretend I needed red pepper corns for something.
      I watch it every year too. Either on the 23rd (modern times) or on the 24th. I like to watch it when my Christmas anticipation is at its peak. I love in the bonus feature how Beverly D'Angelo (grew up here in Columbus) talks about her hair in every scene. I am obsessed with her hair in that movie. Such perfect hair.
      So sad Christmas is over. Taking down my colossal tree tomorrow. :( none of the fanfare of putting it up.

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  23. Why can't you live closer? I so want to hang out with you, boo!! Love your spirit and decorations. That hedge bar is utterly divine!!!! Happy 2015, Stephen. Stay fabulous~

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    1. Thank you so much, Loi! The fact that you love my hedge bar means it must have been good! Haha considering it's so far outside of minimal :) no worries, I am happy to travel to Maine! With Barbie, the sous vides, and the Le Creusets in tow! Happy New Year. Hope you took some photos of Christmas at your house!

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  24. LOL ... 300 ornaments short! Your tree (and of course that labor of love buffet) really was fabulous. Do you have everything put away now? I love that feeling even more than the feeling when all the decorations are finished and shiny and new. Funny how it gets old so quickly.

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    1. Oh yeah I call it Christmas carnage because I mercilessly tear it down and get it out of sight as soon as possible. I feel like I start hating it all about 3PM on Christmas Day!

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  25. Also if you and Loi start hanging out together, I'm totally crashing that party.

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  26. Seriously, I can't believe that it took me this long to actually click on your profile and go, "Oh LOOK he has a blog"! *sigh* Well, you got me now. And kiddo, we need to talk. I lived on a farm between Gahanna and New Albany for years while growing up. The house was haunted. And so was I! hehehe
    Time to go watch the rally in Paris, More soon,
    Heather from Lost in Arles xoxo

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    1. Oh that is so crazy! When was the last time you were in the New Albany area?! It's out of control now. I'm sure you know the Georgian hamlet that Les Wexner has turned it into. It's gotten a little too big now, the regulations have been loosened quite a bit and lots of apartment buildings have gone up. So it's not quite as idyllic and Stepfordy as it was in the early 2000s. Unbelievable how it changed from open farm land to $2M houses on 1/2 acre lots!

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    2. I haven't been back to Ohio in...eeee...20 years or more! But I had heard that was his plan. My Dad worked for "Mr. Wexner" at the Limited, a stint at Lane Bryant and then was a VP at Abercrombie & Fitch before they made the change over.

      Oh how I loved that house. It was on 10 acres with a huuuuge post and beam barn (we had a few Arabian horses as my Mom showed) and the house was an older barn that had been reconverted (and ps. it was most certainly haunted). There were not one but two creeks running through the land. So lovely. Who knows what it looks like now! Or if they razed it to make a McMansion. Entirely possible. The address is 3736 Kitzmiller Road.

      We had heard about the plans to make it an upscale "community" but what you are telling me is beyond imagination!!! Truly. The mind reels...

      Bisous
      Heather
      PS. Is Rigsby's still there? I know that the Kahiki is gone...how is that possible?!?

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    3. We just moved to the area last year and looked at houses in New Albany. Way to Stepfordy for us!

      Stephen Andrew, you have a salon here? I need a new 'do!! I desperately need your help! How can I find out where you are?

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    4. PS. I love the hedge table and your tree - so beautiful!!

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    5. Ack!! Way too Stepfordy!

      Proofread, proofread, proofread.

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  27. Stephen, I think you may be my brother from another mother. No, for real. I actually commandeer ALL the holidays in our family so obviously the menus too. This Christmas I wasn't feeling turkey or ham so instead I injected a pork tenderloin with apple cider and roasted it. If people didn't like the idea of pork tenderloin on Christmas than too bad. I am the boss of Christmas dinner. I also had to make a frantic run through Homegoods at 7am on Christmas Eve morning looking for the perfect table covering and had a near meltdown over the place cards I was trying to bring to fruition.
    Oh, how I understand you. And your hedge table? Amazing. I might stick that idea in my back pocket. ;)

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    1. Oh place cards! The bane of my existence. Do you know how many cute place card ideas I have tried to execute that end up ugly or falling ow with leaf debris stains on the table cloth?! Ugh!

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  28. Just enjoying the laugh. Wonderful writing! I call myself the "Military Momma" because, yes, every family needs a boss!

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    1. Thank you! Haha I like military momma! Much nicer than my nickname of "holiday hurler"! You are so right. Families without a boss are absolutely rudderless and spend so much time fighting. When everyone is a little scared, they are on better behavior!

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  29. HOW ON EARTH did YOU make that hedge table?I ADORE IT!!!!!!!What is wrong with MOTHER"S........I need to go back and take another LOOK!I had no idea WALMART is open at 1:30AM!!!!!!!YOUR TREE i.e. BEYOND FABULOUS!BRAVO!

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    1. Thank you! Haha I don't know if all walmarts are open 24 hours. There's only one other I've been to in South Carolina, and I believe they close at 10 or 11.
      The hedge bar is basically a folding table with evergreens wired all over it. It's a very easy and enjoyable project, it just takes a long time. So there were 5 or 6 main spots where things were anchored. Then I made a thick garland and fixed cuttings to that. Essentially it's a big tablecloth as it hangs. Most of the cuttings came from my Christmas tree and the cutting bin at Home Depot! Erin, the author of 'The Impatient Gardener' blog shared this idea and it's brilliant. You raid the big crate of evergreen cuttings from other customer's trees! The HD employees seemed to be happy to give them to me. Though I did buy a little something each time I went to collect...didn't want to abuse their graciousness! You should make one of roses! Wouldn't that be gorgeous? Rose leaves and lemon leaves with blooms tucked in?!

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    2. OH BOY!YOU have my imagination taking FLIGHT...............!!!!!

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  30. SO,you bought another tree and cut it up bit by bit?!!!

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  31. And I thought I was the only one who was sick of the Christmas movies on Hallmark and wanted "Golden Girls" back. I love Golden Girls but will not watch any with Stanley. I don't like Stan.

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    1. Haha I have to admit that I love Stan! I'm sooo happy it's on again!

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  32. Stephen, thank you so much for your kind words on my blog. And I have to tell you, I would love to spend Christmas at your house. :-)

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    1. You are welcome any time! You would love our Christmas because it goes late and I know you're a night owl! I have trouble staying awake to enjoy the whole party.
      So sorry about Pudding. It's so hard to lose them. Hope you are starting to feel some relief.

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  33. I may just have to steal your idea for the hedge bar. I think it would look amazing with Christmas lights.
    My Christmas was somewhat similar to yours. My 93 year old mother was with us in body; but bedridden and very tired and weak. We all knew this was our last Christmas with her. She passed away peacefully January 4th.
    Next Christmas, I'm going to be a Clark, and make sure our family traditions don't fall by the wayside.

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    1. Oh by all means, make a hedge bar! If I go down as the man who popularized the hedge bar, I would be so thrilled. Very sorry about the loss of your mother. I think your plan to establish authority next year is wise because it can be so difficult to keep the gears turning after a loss in the family.

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  34. Nice post, things explained in details. Thank You.

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  35. Another fan (Aussie) of your hedge table! You're a natural...so funny!

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  36. It was very useful for me. Keep sharing such ideas in the future as well. This was actually what I was looking for, and I am glad to came here! Thanks for sharing the such information with us.

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  37. Nice post, things explained in details. Thank You.

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  38. very informative post for me as I am always looking for new content that can help me and my knowledge grow better.

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