Thursday, December 29, 2016

Burnout

Christmas brunch, my table setting
All in all, it was a wonderful Christmas.  How was yours? I made a big Christmas Eve dinner and then a huge Christmas Day brunch.  I feel like I have cleaned my kitchen top to bottom like 57 times literally and I literally found a plate in the coat closet yesterday.  For the first time I can actually say I am burned out.  The chaos the week my grandpa died followed by the chaos of squeezing the clients I had to cancel into the week before Christmas on top of planning another big Christmas event was too much for my stop and smell the roses Taurian nature.  I feel a bit like the season whirled around me and I missed a lot of it.  You’ll have that.  The truth is that what I realized is how otherwise privileged I am that usually I get to arrange my time exactly as I wish to fully enjoy the season.  No luxury is greater than time.  So, okay, with extenuating circumstances, difficult passive aggressive jackasshole opioid addicted mother fucker extended family members, and a shitload of freezing rain, it was not the savored, stop and take stock season for me.  I think it was a lot more like a normal person’s Christmas.  Normal people are frenzied—some by their choosing, but mostly out of their hands.  I hate to rush and I hate to be busy and I had to do a lot of both. 

My aunt, right, is a huge Carolina Panthers fan.  My sister wanted to do an Italian American restaurant theme. A nod to the Florentine where we used to have Christmas Eve dinner.  When we set the theme, we didn't know the Florentine would be on everyone's mind as it turned out they would close their doors after 71 years on December 23.  We wanted to incorporate the Panthers somehow but obviously the two don't really go together.  So I had the idea to get a cutout of him serving antipasto.  My sister loves a theme party.  I go for subtle references to a theme and my sister likes to hit you over the head with it.  I relinquished quite a bit of the decor to her 

I love luminaries on Christmas Eve.  

My sister set the tables.  She hates the traditional Christmas program, so last year in an effort to get her on board I offered her some creative control.  She lives for kitsch.  So now she runs wild with a theme for Christmas.  I do love her Dolce and Gabbana skirt though.  I got her that necklace when we were in high school.  There was a vintage store called Captain Betty's and Betty was, for lack of a better term, a salty old bitch.  She hated my sister but loved me so I did all my sister's vintage shopping.   Betty would literally tell girls they were too fat to wear vintage clothes! We hated to patronize her but she had such good stuff... I did the tree and was going for a very vintage vibe.

I love these ladderback chairs.  I stole them from my mom and have been meaning to change the cushions for like ten years.  She got them when she used to work at Sears! She always says they were a turning point for her because it was the first time she bought something with the vision of a family. 

The first moment I had to stop and really enjoy my Christmas tree was Christmas morning. It wasn't finished until the 21st.  Who's that across the table?

"Barbie, sit up, I want a picture of you and the tree".  Such a compliant model.  For all the crazy shit this year, this was my favorite tree of all time.  the amount of light doesn't really translate to photograph but there are 25 or 26 strands of lights, all colored bulbs in small, medium, and large.  It kind of has a gravitational pull.  

But now I can slooooooow down.  I think all creative people worry about their well running dry because sometimes it feels like it has.  The good news is that creativity is a completely renewable resource when given a little time and room to regenerate.  I go through this cycle all the time and I’m sure you do, too.  When I’m burned out, the things that help me most are reading, learning something new, seeing something new, being outside, and of course an obscene amount of pasta and wine. 


What helps you when you’re burned or burnt (?) out? 
Best wishes for a happy New Year! 

88 comments:

  1. Hi Stephen,

    You survived! I'm glad to read it, even if you are burned out! Your Christmas looks fabulous! The decorations are unsurpassed. I love your sister's Dolce and Gabbana skirt! Even though your sister wrenched some creative control from you, well that is a gift to you both (that she could do it and that you ceded it to her). The luminaries remind me of Ellie –– last year I was busy making ice lanterns to line the driveway and Ellie wrote to say she loved the lanterns and luminaries. It would have worked well for my lanterns except for the fact that by Christmas my lanterns were deep under the snow of a blizzard. I didn't put up an inside tree this year (due to allergies) but made do with outside trees.

    One of the best things this year was a wonderful Christmas potluck at the church. I think the thing that really brought joy were the surprises.
    Coming home after Christmas lunch, I found my lovely young gardener lady had left containers of homemade soup on my doorstep. Another friend gave gave me my favourite soup from the farmers' market (I had bought it the week before but somehow got home without it and I happened to mention it to the friend who went out and bought it for me as my Christmas gift). So it was a souper Christmas!

    I loved the snow we had right before Christmas and better yet the coldsnap snapped and it was decent outside. I noticed that my deer fence netting had been broken at the bottom and thought the tracks might be a bobcat's so it was with great surprise and luck that a couple of hours later I saw him climb up a spruce tree and I managed to get a photo. I now know why the elephant-like thump on the roof is not caused by elephants but by a bobcat hunting at night. The squirrels love going across the roof and now I know what the bump in the night is... So that was my Christmas and Boxing Day... When burned out, I turn to pasta, too! Chocolate seems to give energy, too.

    Happy New Year! Your blog is enjoyed by so many of us and we thank you for the joy you give us.

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    1. Thank you so much!! Your Christmas and its surprises sound just wonderful and really speak to the meaning of the season.
      I can't even tell you the anguish I've felt at the hands of ice lanterns! I have wanted to make them since I saw them in Martha's Kmart Christmas book in like 1997. And yet our Decembers have never ever cooperated! I made like 15 once and they all melted overnight on the 23rd! Ugh!

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  2. LOVE the tree...your sister's ensemble....and that tablecloth!❤ JaneCarol

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    1. Thank you so much! I can't believe I didn't include that my mom made the tablecloth! I will add that in!

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    3. Well, I knew the tablecloth was your Mom's work because I have followed you for quite awhile now and being a seamstress myself I appreciate her skill. So happy to be chatting with you, I think you are The Cat's Meow!! ❤️JaneCarol

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  3. I am also completely burned out. And I'm sick but usually these things go together, and quite predictably I woke up on boxing day sick with a chest cold. Now I have a fever so my plans for NYE aren't looking good and I'm so sad because we're invited to a wedding.
    Christmas Eve did me in, we were at a party the night before, got to bed late and then my husband had a stomach bug in the night. The OCD Germaphobe in me comes out strong when there's been a flu in the house so I spent the 24th cleaning the entire house top to bottom before hosting a Chrismukkah party for 12. Not a large group but it was friends as well as family which is more work I find, also I was in the kitchen producing 800 latkes an hour. Christmas morning was really nice with our rascal kids but I felt really depleted and I knew I was in trouble.
    Pasta and wine sound like a good idea to cure burn-out, I agree with carbs 100%. Also reading and watching movies and long walks with dogs.
    I love your sister's skirt so much anyone with eyes can see she has great style! I hope you feel better soon xx

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    1. Thank you so much! So you know what's so funny is this morning I was just so damn pissy and annoyed and honestly couldn't believe my awful attitude. Then at work toward the end of my day I realized I was getting sick! So I at least feel a little better that I have physical reason to be so so over it. I hope everyone gets feeling better there! What a feat the latkes are! Such a lovely thing to do! And ambitious. I can't imagine you can make those too far ahead!

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    2. Rest up and get well SAJ! So true the latkes have to be produced and eaten immediately or they lose their deliciousness. It's a huge production involving vats of olive oil but now that I have my La Cornue range with hood I cannot complain at all, it's the perfect machine to turn out the latkes, I had 3 cast iron Staub pots going with the oil and latkes, hood on full blast. It's loud but added to the chaotic excitement. xx

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  4. ooh, your tree is gorgeous.. WHY have I never thought to but different size bulb strings of lights on the tree??... Brilliant!

    When I'm burned out I look for a new creative endeavor. The cottage furniture hunt is keeping me busy now that Christmas is done for the year. Since I'm on a budget, I'm thrifting. Ain't easy when you really want -new-. Even if it's new old.

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    1. Thank you thank you! Add it to your calendar for next year wen you put your tree up! I'm sure the furniture hunt is soooo fun. Wish I could help!

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  5. PS - your sister is beautiful, love her outfit, the skirt and baubles divine! As for the salty old bitch, the always love the boys and hate the girls, why ever is that??...

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    1. Because we are bitchy, pissy creatures (and it does not get better with age), and boys just let that stuff go. I think it is because they have to tolerate us, so there has to be a balance. I read when burned out if the weather is bad, otherwise, I get out in my yard and work there. Right now, I am so sick of washing dishes (no, my dishwasher is still not fixed) that I could pitch all of them out and use paper plates. Granted, that will happen when I start using paper napkins, so there is that. Your tree is beautiful! I am in love with my tree, but yours comes in a close second to it. Are you planning to do anything special for NYE? Hopefully, it will include lots of rest and relaxation. I swear, we should all be given vacations for just getting through the holidays.

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    2. Haha no I think it's just a chemistry thing! We're always bound to be so much harder on our own sex than the opposite!

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    3. Lori! You poor thing! How are you coping without the dishwasher?! No keep the china!! I'm just having a small dinner on NYE and planning to keep it very low key. I really need to avoid the temptation to make a New Year's Day brunch too but I probably will. Why am I like this?!!! I have always found men to be much, much pissier and bitchier than women.

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  6. I LOVE your tree. The different sizes of lights make it magical too. I am still celebrating and just came back from a 2 hour luncheon with a friend. Went to Restaurant L and it was a wonderful treat. I tend to try to pace myself and if I head towards burn out I put the brakes on. I do not know how you do dinner and brunch the next day. Wow that would fry me. Just try to take some time for you and it is ok to say no if at all possible to even invitations. Said no to one for tomorrow. Thanks again for posting. Love your blog!

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    1. Thank you so much! So glad to hear you are still in the celebratory mood. Oh if there is one special skill I've acquired it's saying no to invitations!

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  7. Stephen I also survived just! Friend and family came and went, oh how nice it was when they went. Although I worked all through the holidays and will do so over the New Year, it was nice to catch my breath after I scrubbed the house clean again. My therapy- scrubbing and gardening. Here in hot and steamy Australia, I get to do a lot of that and of course swimming in the pool each day. Come for a swim. Cheers Suzana

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    1. Thank you! I only like to swim in the ocean but I love to hydrate with a g&t by the pool. Yes it al feels much more approachable when the house is clean, doesn't it? I worked up until the 23rd and was fit to be tied! I remember you saying you even worked on Christmas Eve. You have my respect for pulling it off!

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  8. BEST QUOTE EVER...."okay, with extenuating circumstances, difficult passive aggressive jackasshole opioid addicted mother fucker extended family members, and a shitload of freezing rain, it was not the savored, stop and take stock season for me." Stephen, you are a true poet!!! And, yet, you have the most gorgeous tree I've ever seen!!! I have to know if you actually hang ornaments on ribbon to give that icicle look? At first I thought it was some well placed extra long icicles from my growing up days, but then it looked like ornaments were hanging from them. Also, love the fact that you have not given in to the all white mini-lights on the tree....we also have the larger colored lights with white minis mixed in. I love the old fashion colored lights on the tree. You deserve a burn out....be good to yourself! If you are looking for a good book read, The Snow Child....it is wonderful!!!!

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    1. Thank you so much! Haha yeah there's one that is really pissing me off! Luckily I probably don't need to see him again. Yes, it is ribbon tied to ornaments. I love trees with tinsel but for fucks sake I need electroshock therapy when I'm done because I am crying in the fetal position from stress. So now I tie silver or metallic ribbon to ornaments so I get that glittery verticality. There is one in this picture that isn't straight and it's driving me insane!

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  9. The tree, her skirt, the place settings (green and red glasses!), Barbie, the football player with the antipasto - perfect! I'm glad you got photos. I'm in limbo which won't go away until January 2. Too early for post-holiday depression, too late for do-overs. Lots of TV. Next year, I will be more gracious. I promise. Next year.

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    1. Thank you! Meeeeee too! This is my least favorite week of the year! It just feels sluggish and stupid! Christmas is just like gardening, there's alllllllllways next year!

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  10. There is nothing I luff more than a tree with gravitational pull and a child that responds well to photo commands!

    Am v tired and sad about the holidays rolling to an end.

    What with your grandfather, mine, GM, Carrie and Debbie all dying I'm in a bit of a spin....

    Thank god for your regular posts- we all live for them xxx

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    1. Thank you FF!! I know I need to go to Noosa and lounge on the beach and then ghe Barossa Valley and lounge on the wine. I need to tell Heidi I got a Barossa wine the other day and loved it.

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    2. Did you really????? Which one? I can't believe you managed to find one in Ohio, but hope it was a Shiraz (their specialty in that particular region).
      I think you would 1000% love Noosa. xx

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    3. Yes! It was just called "Barossa Valley Estate". That might just be what they distribute it under in America. It was a cab! I'll look for a Shiraz.

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  11. Absolutely lovely table setting - that tablecloth is divine! And of course, Barbie deserves honorable mention looking adorable and ready to be served dinner. :) And speaking of Barbie - that is exactly what I thought of when I first saw your sister in her beautiful and very retro-looking skirt. Barbie in the 50's! Love it!
    When I experience burn-out, I enjoy long scented baths with a glass of wine and candlelight followed by a warm and cozy robe and quite possibly a nap. Naps are such a luxury! I also love sitting by the fire and watching the chickens peck around our yard. They're just so cute and I find it relaxing. Also, having a pedicure and absolutely taking a few days not talking to people and avoiding all social outings do it for me. Quiet, reflective time alone (except for my dogs) and spending time in the barn schmoozing with my horses is all the therapy I need. Hope you get a chance to lay low and relax SA. Happiest of new years to you!

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    1. Thank you so much! I wish I were a good bath taker. I get kind of bored and then worry I'll drown with the wine so I'm kind of hesitant! Happy New Year! Dogs are always, always the best antidote to bullshit! And horses I'm sure!

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  12. Your tree is FABULOUS! Love the red and green glasses. And you are so right, there is no greater luxury than time.
    wishing you a joyous 2017 with the luxury of time to spare!

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    1. Thank you so much! I'm carving out all sorts of time right now! Haha easy to do when work is dead! I have one more week of rush and then it drops off.

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  13. the last time I got totally burnt out... I retired.
    and I've never been happier!
    you're right. time is worth money in the bank to me.
    I cannot believe you relinquished tables to your sister... very gallant of you!
    the whole holiday is perfection with Barbie sitting up in front of that fabulous tree. LOLOL.

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    1. Thank you! I've been ready to retire since before I started working! That's why I have such an easy job! Haha luckily my kind of work is so fun that it is usually hard to have a bad day. It was so hard for me to watch her set them! But I kept my mouth shut. Interesting to see how someone else interprets your space though.

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  14. I am sorry to hear that you are burnt out...
    you are most likely grieving the loss of your grand father.

    My prescription for you is a total "stay at home day"...do not get dressed, wear pj's and your robe, have a leisurely morning and make a pot of tea or coffee...then turn on the TV and watch one or two of your favourite movies. Do not do ANYTHING at all productive...resist the urge, no matter how strong, this is a day to just be quiet and calm...
    nap if you can and eat whatever you want (no calorie counting) go to bed early and get a good nights sleep. If you don't feel refreshed the next day REPEAT!

    Your sister's skirt is fabulous, she has a great style and I adore that tree!

    Thank you for your blog Stephen, you voice is one in a million.
    XO

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    1. Thank you so much! That is a great idea because I really just need a strong break from it all. But it's so hard because when I sit I look around and see all the things to do and then think I'd feel better if...and then I end up alphabetizing spices and books. But I'm totally off tomorrow so I am going to try!

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  15. I swear on my childrens' lives that is the most beautiful Christmas tree I've ever seen. I hope you don't mind if I try recreating it next year. I can't really speak about our tree this year. A true disaster. Normally impossible, I know, if one is paying attention but trust me - awful. Sorry you're burned out...have a rest if possible before the weekend! Xx

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    1. Thank you! Haha I'm sure it wasn't that bad! Yes, by all means use it! I will do a post early next holiday season on my specifics on trees.
      I meant to do it this year. My biggest thing is always buy a tree that is one foot too big and trim it in! I hate a too small tree!

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  16. Kudos to your sister for the table setting....your entire family has great taste. Of course you deserve all kinds of credit for the tree and fabulous meals. Reading post burnout is good. I think I am ready to become a minimalist. Don't rush into the new year....take it easy.

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    1. Thank you! Oh that would be so hard for you with all of your art! What would you do with it? Or keep the art and ditch the other stuff? I try to audit myself and get rid of things along the way. It's so hard and feels awful to me but I'm glad when it's done. I think people lie when they say it gives them a rush and makes them feel good!

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  17. Stephen Andrew, your tree is absolutely gorgeous. You are such an artist. I never got ornaments on the tree this year, just lights and then was not home to enjoy them.
    Brother in the hospital Tuesday to Christmas Eve (2 hours away) but was able to stay at daughter's apartment close by. He spent 3 days in withdrawal from alcohol?, pain killers?, pessimism? And didn't remember the hours I spent wiping tears, straightening IV lines, singing, pulling up blankets as he thrashed around as the poison(s) left his system.
    It saddens me that there are so many references made to surviving Christmas. I wonder if Marie Kondo can write a book for those of us who overdo holidays...Carol

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    1. Oh Carol! I am so sorry to hear that. I hope he has recovered enough to be out of the woods with this crisis. Of course the hardest part is what's next. What a good sister you are. I have been the idiot brother many times and I do promise there is hope for us. I never had that problem but shit was rough! May I suggest if things have calmed down enough that you can be home an afternoon that you put your favorite ornaments on and watch a movie or listen to some Christmas music and enjoy it a bit! It's kind of a lipstick on a pig situation but oh well :)

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  18. Family members plural? Oh my, I feel for you. I only had one junkie in the family and that was too much to handle.

    Gorgeous tree. I did a mix of large and small bulbs one year and it overloaded my old house electrical system, causing melted wires.

    My cure for burnout? Brain candy of some sort - Netflix binge watching, trashy reads and the like.

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    1. Luckily just one and he is on the periphery. he hates me and hates dogs so yes he is worthless to the world.
      Thank you so much! Love your cure. What should I watch? I finished the Crown and I want it to keep going forever.

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    2. Here is my rambling list and some are on Amazon - Sherlock (watched this out of boredom and loved it), Brain Dead (ridicioulsy stupid and funny, pokes fun at conservatives) Alpha House (another mocking of Conservstives) Peaky Blinders (dark but addictive) Bored to Death

      I'll report back as I remember more

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    3. I agree about The Crown. Addictive. Also, solidified my opinion about the whole monarchy/power/ruling thing. What a waste of otherwise good souls for the sake of control. Ah well, supposedly we (America) learned a thing or two when we arrived here, even though it appears, horrifyingly, that there are those who are pushing to have that again, without a care for the commoners. God Save the-er-God Save Us All! Sorry for the rant. Since I, too, wanted more, we are lucky that shows like this appear to be the 'it' thing on Netflix. I started watching Medici: Masters of Florence. 15th century, and just before the Renaissance, I am loving how it is showing the appreciation for art and its influence. I also watched "Chance" with Hugh Laurie, one season, thriller-type show (on Hulu). Loved it also. Oh, almost forgot, did you watch "Reign" on The CW? OMG, and it's about Catherine de Medici, Mary Queen of Scotts, Henry II, Nostradamus, what a cast. I especially loved seeing Megan Follows again. You'll get to see tons of episodes and the last season begins in February. So get those pj's on and stir some marshmallow into your hot cocoa and enjoy. xo ;) ~Nicole in CA

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  19. I root the panthers, 2016 was NOT their year

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  20. Ah well, your Christmas sounds like how 2016 has been for many of us....something that happened, with aspects we'd rather forget. Sometimes that's the Christmas hand we're dealt, and I'm sure you handled it with a winning combination of style, grace and snark! I hope so, anyway. Also hope you get some time to regroup and get your peace back. It's a shame when a holiday steals that, but we've all had years that went that way. Have some wine and begin looking forward to next year, when things will be completely different!

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    1. Thank you! Certainly with snark :) yes I reminded myself early this morning with one of my favorite and completely devastating Christmas movies, the Family Stone. It always sort of sets me straight on what it is to be an ass over the holidays and why not to be! I came down with some horrible cold so no wine as I don't want a stuffier nose but maybe a very citrusy g&t. Worried I might get malaria in my weakened state!

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    2. And...yes, the perennial lie we all tell ourselves: next year I'll have my shit together!

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  21. I hope that your nose is less stuffy and that you can get a long stretch of sleep. When I'm burned out, I usually have a physical manifestation of it, so I withdraw from the world outside my home, take to my bed, sleep until I can sleep no more, then read something transporting. Happy New Year, dear Stephen!

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    1. Thank you so much! I slept like 19 hours yesterday! I'm much better today. I think you're right, the staying up too late and waking up too early caught up with me!

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  22. OK, even if you think you were off your game, everything looked absolutely perfect. I love it all, from your sister's skirt to the tree, to Barbie posing like the princess she is, and your absolutely stunning table setting. You should feel proud at the amount of A1 entertaining you've done over the past month with all the emotional stresses you've been under. I'm sure your family, opiates aside, all appreciate your efforts to produce such beautiful family events for them all.
    I hope you get out of your blah funk. But it is understandable. I've felt absolutely exhausted post Christmas, but then, we have our Summer holidays now, so it's a kind of end of year exhaustion, coupled with Christmas madness exhaustion. I have been enjoying the quiet days post Christmas, eating cherries (which they grow in the Adelaide hills, and are in season at the moment), and ham and reading and sleeping.
    I meant to reply to you, but I'd LOVE you to do a post on the glass - I did not know that Ohio was a centre for glass production. So interesting... I did manage to find some green glasses for my table, which worked perfectly with the silver and green table setting I did. They were from Villeroy and Boch, and the blue ones I have for my blue setting were from them as well (many years ago), so I should've tried them first. I'm still thinking about pink ones though per your suggestion... I put a picture up on Insta before everyone arrived - there was olive branches I clipped from my trees scattered amongst the silver baubles, which looked great and were free! I didn't need any gift cards to bribe myself out of any difficult neighbourhood theft situations, so that was good :) ... xx

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    1. Thank you so so much, Heidi! Jealous of the cherries being in season! I will try and get organized and researched enough to post about Ohio's relationship with glass making. Your Christmas table sounds so beautiful and I'm glad you found the glasses! Haha a bit of floral theft is fun!

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  23. Is it awful that I kind of longed to be so busy that I could be burned out? But I think you get it. Let this year with my head in my own personal (non Champagne) bubble soon be over...

    But I had a really lovely Christmas. Something good and positive, much needed.
    Sending much Love to you...
    Feel better...
    And I don't think that you have to worry about the malaria too much. ;)
    xoxo
    h

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    1. I totally understand what you mean! I'm so glad you had such a nice Christmas! I'm *probably* safe from malaria but the only way to be sure is to keep downing the quinine!

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  24. Well everything looks amazing and I love your sister's skirt. You are a very good brother bc I am unsure if my brother would have done the same for me! But post Xmas really is the time to recharge and rebalance. I am absolutely over it now. I had a huge barney with the hubs bc I got stuck with the wife of his child hood friend who is an absolute maniac ( and I know a lot of maniacs ) but I was just in no mood to play hostess to a barely civically conditioned sociopath. He did check on me during the evening but because I was being a or trying to be a good host and soiree companion he didn't know I was suffering and I had exhausted all my patience out on them that when they left I went mental at him. So yes I am now officially burnt out. I can no longer make small conversation until 2017. My family also managed to have an argument over Skype. We are all made up now though. I am now off to watch a Swedish murder mystery - not a who dun nit but a why dun nit genre called Modus. Nothing like watching something so bleak to cheer oneself up eh? hehe. And I eat to recharge but that is year round. I was also planning a trip but now am doubting Jerusalem but as my friends say - it is never a good time to go there. Wishing you a happy new year to you, Barbie, and your family and friends. Thank you for all the cheer you have brought during the year too SAJ!

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    1. Thank you! Oh how terrible to have to entertain the psychopath. Is this an annual visit or rare occurrence? Some of the holiday visitors really really drain the energy of their hosts. I have this one who insists I tell her every detail of how I make something only so she can balk at how much the equipment must cost or how much time it must take-time that, of course, she doesn't have because she's so busy with her made up bull shit career. So now I just say "I don't remember!!!" And dart away.
      So funny about the Skype argument! What prompted that??

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    2. What prompts any family squabble - years of mounting unspoken unresolved resentment that ignites bc they see a Xmas ornament in the background while styling they don't like and it segued into something else completely with "conciliatory" sentences that tend to begin with 'but you always''. Happy 2017 and hope you do YouTube channel. I can see you having a channel. Seriously think about it

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  25. I'm so glad that I'm not the only one who feels this way. I'll write a big family post one of these days. Thick with dysfunction are we! I take time off when the well is dry. Dogs, Pinterest and alcohol seem to be cure-alls. And the ocean, if I can get to it. I wish you a very happy new year. xo

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    1. Thank you so much! Agree with dogs and the drink...Pinterest usually just makes me pissier than I already am! So many senselessly written recipes! Happy New Year!

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  26. I thought I was the only person who alphabetizes her spices! Your beautiful tree makes me think that I may put one up next year. For years I had huge gorgeous fresh cut cedars from the country. Each year, finding the tree, cutting it down, hauling it to the house in a doublewide pickup, getting the tree in its stand and installing a treetop revolving Santa with his reindeer (bought for my children when they were little) almost precipitated a divorce. I gave up the big tree when we moved back to town and settled for a really tacky sparkly lime green tinsel sort of table top tree. The last two years I just tucked fresh holly, cedar, and rosemary behind mirrors and pictures...so much less stress! And for the record, I finally realized I put up a tree only for me...my men didn't give a hoot. Peace and blessings for 2017! By the way, I think I have already talked myself out of putting up a tree next year!

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    1. Haha! Well I always say that the fuss of a real tree is only worth it if you love it. I love it but even I kind of dread it. Getting all the lights strung in is such annoying work. Especially when you lean a little toward the obsessive compulsive side of life. My tree takes about 20 hours I'd say. Although this is my first year having it in a corner in a while and that makes it so much easier than when it's viewed 360! Happy New Year!

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  27. Well so much for my pacing myself through the holidays. Just came back from a luncheon and I think I am getting a cold. Had a flu shot so it hopefully will not become more than a cold. So I am laying low now. Happy New Year SAJ!!!!!

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    1. Oh no! Yeah mine came on very, very quickly! Hope you're feeling better! The good thing about being sick on New Year's is that it gets you out of the awful NYE parties. Happy New Year!

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  28. Well you have proven that one cannot have too many Christmas lights on the tree! So pretty. And I think you've captured the essence of the holiday that we love - inner glow, from the tree to the tablescape to the lanterns. I used to use those large bulbs, carried over from childhood, but haven't on the fake tree (can you imagine?). Their color and glow are unsurpassed. I'm especially fond of outside lit trees under mounds of snow; it's so improbable and magical to me. I felt burnt putting away yet one more thing as I cleared away stuff before company arrived on Christmas Eve. That just about put me over the edge. (tip: Use an empty suitcase for piles of magazines. You're welcome!) I made a prime rib that turned out to be the best one I've ever tasted (beginner's luck?). It wasn't all bloody rare like every restaurant seems to serve it, and luckily I had a crowd that preferred pink center and more cooked ends. Every taste was covered. I found myself saying, next year I'll get it together sooner. Maybe it's a metaphor for my life. ;) I may just use your lantern idea for my patio décor next year. It was neglected ('just one more thing') for sake of time. My panacea is often a hot bubble bath and time for reflection. Pasta and chocolate, too, and in 2017 I'd like to refrain from 'eating my feelings.' We'll see how that goes. Still, a privilege indeed to indulge all these wild ideas we have for creating these festivities with loved ones. We are blessed. I love how you help your sister dress. Her skirt is gorgeous (and good for you for being on the good side of the gate/shopkeeper, though Tim Gunn might have an opinion about her ways). Coincidentally (again!) my stylist in NH bought bras for his sister. It seems he was better at picking out the ones she needed to wear. And she was/is grateful for it. :) Happy New Year! ~Nicole in CA

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    1. Thank you! Tell me about the prime rib! What'd you do? Haha I don't really help her dress anymore, only occasionally! I didn't see the skirt before she showed up on Christmas Eve wearing it! Loved it so much! You're totally right about family. Half of them :) It was just too much for me this year with so many gatherings squeezed so closely together! Happy New Year!!

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  29. Well done, all looked beautiful. Especially your mother's table cloth, love that story and am trying to work out which child to sell so I can have one made. It's the pleats. Too beautiful. Go recharge those batteries. For me, living in a hot climate, the ocean will 'fill me up'. And if it is really dire, the ocean at dawn when the hush suddenly gives way to that 'roar' when the sun comes up and it feels like the air has rushed in. Yup. Wish I was there right now. Hope 2017 is better than 2016, but thank you for sharing your honesty and humour with the wider world regardless of whether the sun is shining. Oh that is too serious! Better to stick with 'Your mother's table cloth rocks and I'm totally stealing that idea and if you are cross about that well you'll just have to come to Australia and steal it back'. Good luck getting out of the country before you have completed about 500 haircuts for your Australian fans though. Happy New Year!

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    1. Thank you so much! I'm jealous of your proximity to the ocean! I am excited to get to the beach soon. I absolutely love that moment of daybreak too. I love how the birds start talking a few minutes before. Happy New Year to you! And to whichever child isn't sold :)

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  30. I sort of followed this recipe. http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/emeril-lagasse/standing-rib-roast-recipe.html Fortunately, the bottom strip was already trimmed (I hadn't planned on doing it myself, though I can see now how it makes it easier to carve when the bone is not attached to the bottom of the roast.) I did not tie it with string, just put the strip on top of the herb/garlic/s&p. Cooking at high temp in the beginning helps with a great crust and sealing in the juices. I let it go a little longer than the 130 that most recipes say to remove from oven. It was closer to 140. I like Emeril's easy approach, just let it sit for at least 5 minutes. No waiting another hour! It was fine, juicy, hot and tasty. I read so many recipes about how to cook it, even asked the butcher who lauded the salt method, covering the whole thing in kosher salt. I bought the box of salt but decided I didn't want to bother with that mess (and was worried about not getting that crust). I'm so glad I took the easier way (alas, another metaphor for life). ;) I made equally easy sides, Smashed Potatoes, http://damndelicious.net/2014/02/14/garlic-smashed-potatoes/ that I still make, party of one, after Christmas to have with leftover prime rib, so easy. Finally, while the roast roasted, I sauteed sliced onions and then mushrooms (cut into chunks), placing them in a large cookie sheet. During the minutes that the roast rested and then while I sliced it, I put the sheet in the oven to get hot again before serving. I think this was my easiest dinner ever! I highly recommend it. :)

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    1. Thanks! Yes I always find with meat the more simple prep the better.

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  31. Hi Stephen,

    check out Yolanda's instagram from yesterday and click on hashtag ellieo'd. You'll see the photo of A Very Chic Christmas and click on that and read all the lovely Christmas tributes to Ellie. Thought it might make you forget all the burn-out and family bad stuff! (I can just hear some of Ellie's forthright comments about certain guests). How lovely and heartwarming to see so many of Ellie's "virtual" friends remembering her! I don't know if it was Gracie who posted it! A truly happy new year to you!

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    1. or more simply, just go @ellieod. and click on the Christmas photo

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    2. Love it. Have been thinking so much of E. need her opinion on something so badly!

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  32. SAJ as fast as my cold came on, it disappeared . We recently spent nine days in the Caribbean and the weather there was fabulous compared to Ohio in my humble opinion. I need some sun . Happy New Year.

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    1. Happy New Year! Congratulations on the vacation, in assuming this was to celebrate your retirement! So exciting!

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    2. Sort of wish I was still in the sunshine with 82 degree weather. It was great weather.

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  33. omg omg omg so much here. i HATE being rushed and busy. nothing in this world makes me crazier. YOUR SIS. omg, i adore her and her skirt. the whole photograph is stunning stephen. and before i even read the caption i knew those chairs were from sears bc i owned them too! it was our first "real" home with a dining room and i bought the table and chairs. it fit beautifully in that house. i eventually painted them black and then over the last move here gave them away. i'm sooooo glad all the hectic rushing at work and home is over for now. i feel such a sense of peace right now. love you stephen andrew jones and wish you a beautiful and elegant new year. xoxo

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    1. Thank you so much! How funny that you had them too! They are classic! They're not in my everyday rotation but when I have big things they are a lifesaver. I use them most for the holidays so am tempted to upholster the seat cushion in Stewart plaid but worried I'd hate that in the summer. Maybe if I could find a substantial blue and white stripe...
      I'm glad for the break too. It was way too much this year and I got so so sick!

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  34. Stephen Andrew- I had to step back and take inventory before I responded. The Christmas holiday sped by like an Amtrak train and I was not always aboard. Once again, my condolences on the loss of your grandfather who sounded like a wonderful human being. To have it occur at this time year makes it all the more poignant.

    I burnt out just before Christmas eve. This is the year that all the K. family returned, and I wanted it to be a magical Christmas. Originally, I had planned on cutting down. But as it turned out, it was the most over-the-top Christmas I have ever had. By Dec.22, I was tired and over-shopped. To make matters worse, I had an upper respiratory virus that I had to live with. Everyone was arriving between Dec. 23rd and Christmas day, and I felt awful. But there was no time to be sick. On the 23rd, I was picking up the finishing touches at the grocery store. On the way home, I decided to take an hour and stop for a manicure. My divine husband of 45 years dropped me off at the salon and insisted that I call for a ride when done. I can't tell you how much I enjoyed that hour of luxury. When I was done, I stepped outside to call, but the weather was positively gorgeous and I decided to walk home. That is what I did to restore equilibrium.

    BTW, Stephen, your tree is the most gorgeous I have ever seen. My tree experiment in teal and lime green was met with disdain by my grandson. "Booooring." And youngest son declared it a Macy's tree. You know what? I don't care. It was the first year I tried something non-traditional. Next year I will add to it and have decided that more snowflakes are needed. In fact, it needs to be DRIPPING in snowflakes. Macy's be damned. Happy New Year, Stephen. May 2017 be happy, healthy and peaceful.

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    1. Thank you so much!! Oh how funny about your grandson and the tree! Kids expect things to always stat the same at grandma's! Good for you on doing what you wanted. If you're the one doing the work, you set the course! I'm sure it looked fab. What color snowflakes are you looking for? I always go sift for 85%off scraps at this giant warehouse sale so I'll keep my eyes out for masses of snowflakes. So sorry you were sick leading up to Christmas! That's awful! Even though it's so hectic having the big over the top Christmas really is fun! Now you can enjoy the lull...and maybe another manicure! Happy New Year!

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    2. The snowflakes are white with a sparkly coating (they leave sparkles all over the place. I love it!)I got them at Target last year in different sizes. If you find any sparkly ones in white, clear or silver, I would be thrilled. Thanks!

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  35. Steven, what a beautiful family you have! The table setting is so lovely! I hosted both Thanksgiving and Christmas this year in my home, which I absolutely enjoyed, and yet I'm done with preparing big dinners for awhile. Not that I can complaint of burnout, since mine were smaller gatherings of people. With fewer dinner guests, there is less clean up, so not as labor intensive of what you went through.

    Happy 2017,
    Debbie

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    1. Thank you so much! It's labor intensive no matter how many! Hope your holiday dinners were fab! Happy new year!

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  36. What a fabulous setting and I love your sister's outfit! The tree looked magical and I wish you a very Happy New Year!

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  37. pssssst: I hope you are well rested now and ready to blog kick some 2017 ass. I find your writing helps to fill the hole in my heart left by Ellie, my imaginary friend. So get to it ! p.s. Your Christmas tree and table were "amazeballs". Happiest of New Years from a new fan !

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  38. That Tree... Enchanting! What helps me when I'm Burnt Out... Retail Therapy and some Me Time when I can plan an escape. I left my Corporate Lives to take early retirement and become a full time Caregiver of my disabled DH, The Man... and two of our many Grandchildren, these two having Special Needs and which I have had since birth and Adopted, now aged 16 and 11. So they like to tell folks that now Gramma is their Mom and their Mom is their Sister and their Uncle is their Brother... but that Grandpa hadda still be Grandpa coz of the brain injury... etcetera... it all sounds so twisted when they regale the story like that! *LOL* So yeah, Caregiver Burnout is always looming just on the Horizon almost any day around Villa Boheme' aka: The Asylum. The description of your extended Family makes me Smile since we're not your Typical Ozzie and Harriet Fam either... more like Morticia and Gomez... and Captain Betty was hilarious! I've known a few Betty's we've patronized too in order to get to the Good Stuff... Dawn... The Bohemian

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