Christmas 'round here...

Even though we knew our baby girl #2 would be born shortly after the New Year, I was determined to celebrate Christmas as usual this year.  In fact, I think my preggo nesting instincts caused me to go into Christmas decorating hyperdrive.  It involves 300 yards of yarn and temporary carpal tunnel.  You'll see.

My hubby was gracious enough to get us a brand new faux Christmas tree so we could finally say goodbye to the $20 Walmart special (handed down from his sister) that we used for the first 8 1/2 years of our marriage.  And of course, in true Christine style, I just couldn't wait for him to help me set it up and decided to assemble a 7.5ft pre-lit Christmas tree on my own while he was at work one day.  Let's just say I almost put myself into early labor getting that sucker out of the box.  But it was so worth it!

This Christmas season was full of craftiness...

Luci Belle got her own tabletop tree in her playroom decorated with the cinnamon dough ornaments we made last year (that still smell amazing and are strong and intact).  Then, we added a little wool baby Jesus that I loved so much I wanted to carry it in my pocket - is that weird?  I created the baby Jesus by using a pipecleaner for the head and body form and then needle felting around it with colored wool from Michael's.  The manger is a small wooden container that held a slice of pie from our local pie shop that I let Luci Belle paint, and we added a bed of raffia.

For my birthday, my sister-in-law Trish made me this sweet chalkboard.  It worked out perfectly as a Christmas countdown calendar...

One of my favorite ways to decorate at Christmas is using the cards we receive from friends all over the country.  I wish I was good about sending out Christmas cards, but I sure love receiving them!  I just run a piece of ribbon down the length of the entire doorway (nailed at the top and hanging loosely) and then use big, pearlescent paper clips to attach the cards to the ribbon.  When it's time to take down the decorations, I remove all the cards, punch holes in the sides and make them into a little booklet bound with ribbon or yarn to look back upon.

The chalkboard in the dining room got a special quote this year...which I actually came across in my Bible Study Fellowship lesson on the book of Matthew a few months ago.  I didn't know the words "Be of good cheer" actually came from the mouth of Jesus, but now I do.  And they were my mantra over Christmastime.

I also took on another big sewing project, which for some reason I tend to do at Christmas.  Last year, it was new stockings for each of us, and this year I made a coordinating tree skirt using this tutorial. For the word "JOY," I used leftover flannel fabric from the stockings and printed out the letters really large using Microsoft Word.  I cut them out of paper and traced them onto the fabric and cut them out, then hand-stitched them onto the tree skirt using embroidery thread.  LOVE how it turned out!  Beats the old chenille blanket I was previously wrapping around the base of the tree each year...

And then, I was introduced to finger-knitting.  And subsequently became totally obsessed.  Thanks to my blog/Instagram friend, Kimberly, who posted a picture of a Christmas tree garland she finger-knitted, I thought, YES!  That's the perfect garland for my new tree!  I had an almost-full skein of cream colored yarn on hand, so I pulled up this tutorial and within about 5 minutes, I was finger-knitting.  It was so much easier than knitting with needles.  I finger-knitted for about an hour straight sitting in a chair in the living room while Luci Belle played at my feet.  The trouble is, I knitted the entire skein of yarn and it only fit about 1/4 of the way around the tree.

It's actually scary how giddy I became at the fact that I was going to have to go back to the craft store to get not one - but two! - more skeins of yarn to finger-knit. 

The following evening, I completed the other two garlands (300 yards total - that's 3 football fields, people) while watching Call The Midwife.  Gonna admit I started developing carpal tunnel halfway through garland number three, but I pushed through. 

And they looked so beautiful around the tree.  I loved the mix of earthy materials like wool and paper with the shiny, sparkly ornaments.

The final bit of craftiness is accredited to my husband, who actually made me an origami butterfly and put it in my stocking.  Why?  Because he's awesome.

It was filled with coziness...

This sight...the epitome of peace. Simply being in the living room with the light of the Christmas tree is my favorite.

"Fireplace For Your Home" on Netflix made our living room even warmer in the absence of a real working fireplace.  If you have Netflix on your TV (or laptop), you can play it just like you would a movie.  It's a yule log with Christmas music playing the background, and it even crackles.  Ahhhh.

And, of course, because we are the Baileys, there was a lot of cooking...

We decided on all Italian food this Christmas, second best to being with my Italian family in New Jersey.  So for the first time, I made my cousin Paula's TiramisuIt was wonderfully therapeutic to assemble...just a few simple ingredients but you have to set aside the time to do it slowly and methodically.  Also, please don't fall for any tiramisu recipe that uses brandy or rum. In my humble opinion, the only liquor to use in tiramisu is genuine Sambuca Romana.

I think this tiramisu might be one of the most beautiful desserts I've seen.  It looks like a giant sunflower.

After this, the tiramisu was covered and put in the fridge for two days so it could set and get all nice and happy, as Emeril would say.

And for Christmas dinner, thanks to Jimmy's Italian Market here in Dallas, we were able to make all of my favorite Italian-American comfort foods.  They even had braciola, a thinly sliced beef that you stuff with parsley, breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese, and garlic, roll and tie with twine, and cook in a big pot of sauce until tender. 

My little Italian-Korean was eager to help with the sauce...

This bowl of slow-cooked meat was always on my aunt's table for holidays - tender meatballs, Italian sausage, and braciola slathered in homemade tomato sauce.

Here's the full spread without a vegetable in sight!  Ha!  But rest assured we had a big, lightly-dressed crunchy green salad at the table to offset the carb and meat overload.

We had about a vat of baked ziti left over, even after 12 people ate as much as they could!  But that's okay, because the only thing better than baked ziti is baked ziti, day 2, 3, 4...

When it was finally dessert time, the tiramisu did not disappoint.  Mercy.

~ ~ ~

But the best part of this Christmas?  I never thought I'd say this, but it's that we all got sick.  A few weeks before Christmas, Luci Belle got her first ear infection with a high fever and ended up having to take antibiotics for the first time in her life.  Three days after finishing the antibiotics, she somehow came down with another fever, terrible cough, and a rash that we think was Roseola.  Then, Steven and I developed major sinus and allergy problems along with the rest of Dallas and we all just needed a lot of rest, slowness, and more rest.  Steven didn't work much, and we all stayed inside and played puzzles and games and watched movies together over the entire break.  Although we all didn't feel our best, I realized that this time was special because it's the last time it'll be just the three of us.  Maybe God knew we needed that - and if we hadn't been sick, we would have filled our lives with more and more busyness instead of each other.

Now, Christmas is over, and the next time we reassemble our Christmas tree, we'll have a 4-year-old and an almost 1-year-old scooting around the living room.  Life is full and imperfect and peaceful and crazy, and I try to keep taking it one day at a time, capturing the beauty as much as I can.

37 weeks