TeXmas

Texans know how to put the X in Christmas.

wreaths

With no snow on the ground, many homes compensate with extra sparkle and very big garden decorations.

godbless

I didn’t have my camera with me on our neighborhood Christmas light ride, but enjoyed the daytime look the next day.

penguins

Texas ‘snow’ looks like this.

TXSnow
Pickup trucks abound.

noelpickups

We savored cookies and sweets throughout the holiday week.

Plaetzchen
nibbles

Mom cooked a moveable feast which we packed in the trunk to dine at my brother’s home.

Trunkfeast

My brother took me on a Polar Express ride with the Palatine Historic Railroad.

polarexpress

We were served hot chocolate to the song of the soundtrack.

hotcocoa

Then we read along to the Polar Express book by Chris Van Allsburg and waved at Santa who awaited us at the North Pole.

north pole

Then he joined us aboard and gave each of us a bell.

santa

We can hear it ring, yay!

bell

It was a lovely train adventure that I hope to take again in daylight.

steamengine

My sister-in-law found glasses that create prismic shapes, and I had fun seeing deer (Rudolph) in headlights on the long ride home.

Rudolphglasses

Holidays with family are the best.

bridge

Christmas Holiday

Today the remaining pieces from the EXPO are coming back home, and then I am taking a holiday break.

Fireplace

While I will be tempted to write up blog posts for the remainder of the year, I am going to allow for time to reflect and not post anything until the new year.

Tree

This will help me close out the year business wise, spend time with family, and also catch up on some travel blog posts in progress that I am looking forward to sharing with you.

“Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice;
it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body,
and deprived of it we suffer a mental affliction as disfiguring as rickets.
The space and quiet that idleness provides is a necessary condition
for standing back from life and seeing it whole,
for making unexpected connections and
waiting for the wild summer lightning strikes of inspiration —
it is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done.”
~ Tim Kreider

My Etsy shop is closed for the holiday as well, to eliminate the pressure of not being able to ship right away while I am visiting family. So hold your gift cards til the new year. ;)

famangels

I wish you and yours a wonderful Christmas holiday, and a festive, cozy end of 2013.

manger

See you in 2014!

White Christmas

A solo Christmas can be a bit murky at times, ranking up there with Valentine’s Day as movie after movie re-enacts the notion that within a span of 24 hours families reunite, love shows up at the front door, and financial and health problems miraculously get resolved.

snowy lake

In real life, there was jarring news that showed World Peace doesn’t magically happen on Christmas Eve. It was a period of reflection and re-setting, and getting to the heart of Christmas.

I was cheered by this video that shows we don’t have to wait for grand Hollywood gestures to occur, but that split-second random acts of kindness can have a chain effect too, connecting us all.

The next morning I woke up to a White Christmas, which felt like another signal that it isn’t all so bad out there.

Christmas morning view

The blanket of snow was light enough to make travel possible, yet with enough coverage to create a crunch under one’s feet and be wrapped in the joy of a a storybook White Christmas.

snow berries

The snowflakes looked like they came from a theater set.

REAL snow flakes

I smiled as I listened to the laughter of children sledding and throwing snowballs. Parents cheered as a toddler’s first mini-snowman was built.

toddler's first snowman

The Peanuts gang popped in my head at the sight of this tree.

Charlie Brown tree

Plus another tiny snowman rivaling Pig-Pen.

Pig-Pen the snowman

The scent of fireplaces burning made me happy.

Fireplaces

Cultural integration, the true spirit of Christmas.

Culture meshing

Reflective took on a humorous meaning as I snapped photos of giant ornaments.

reflection

When I returned from my walk, my footprint heart was still intact.

not walking over love

It was an affirmation that my neighbors aren’t blind to love when it crosses their path, and these little blessings are what lift my heart and make me believe in the goodness of the world. Gotta keep on giving that love!

Radvent 2012 4: Decorate

Radvent 5 is about decorating, and for the first few days of December I wasn’t feeling it. I looked at all my clutter and knew that would have to be cleared before I could even attempt to get festive. But I did notice the cute little ‘table-top’ trees at Whole Foods, and after years of tree-lessness, I was feeling an inclination to buy one.

“Take care today.
Nobody has time to redecorate their whole house in December–
just be realistic, be gentle to yourself,
and be proud of what you’ve already done.”
~ Princess Lasertron

Usually I buy a wreath for the Christmas scent, but knowing I could carry a 3-foot tree up three storeys by myself changed the game. So when Princess Lasertron wrote about decorating one section of a room at a time, I decided to make a checklist of my entire home, and then space out in chunks which areas would be tackled over the next month.

Trying to take care of an entire home at once is just too much when you have other priorities. Yet having clutter in every area was making me restless too. So I went to Home Depot to price compare, and found a cute little tree there that was a perfect passenger in my car.

This gave me the incentive to clear my living room first. Everything that didn’t belong there got moved to its proper room, but I refrained from starting to straighten up in that other space. I literally dumped piles and went straight back to the living room, so that at least one area would be done by evening (Flylady has great tips on that, if you need them). After sweeping and dusting and organizing, I rewarded myself with getting the Holiday decorations out.

Like Princess Lasertron, my house got decorated over time, with IKEA furniture graduating to more solid, timeless pieces I saved up for. Now that my mattress has hit the 12-year mark the bedroom is on the list for a make-over, but since I want to invest in a higher-end mattress, the timing is to be determined.

“I choose the furniture and art I have in my house carefully
because I have limited space and limited money.
Building a space I love gradually is exciting
because each increment is such a simple pleasure in itself–
adding a new candle, painting a picture frame, rearranging a room.
If my space was perfect
there’d be nothing left to add, and that’s no fun.”
~ Princess Lasertron

Likewise, my Christmas decor grew over time, so imagine my surprise at the Willow Tree boxes being stowed away for a full year. I actually forgot that I have over the past few years collected the Nativity Scene by Susan Lordi after years of wishlisting it for Christmas. So it was a joy to unpack each box—just like Christmas!— and adorn my fireplace sill with the lovely scene.

The tree ornament box had been closed for years, since I only bought a wreath the past couple of years, and a rosemary tree on occasion. My large ornaments were too big for this little fir, but it was fun to go down memory lane with each whimsical wall-tree character. Here’s the Christmas tree I used to make when I rented.

It’s a different feeling to decorate a tree by yourself rather than with family, but since I am spending it solo this year after seeing my family several times in 2012, it felt right to make my home festive for the month, even if I stick only to the Living Room. Oh, and if you are also spending Christmas solo, I recommend watching Noel anytime other than December 24 and 25. It is a powerful movie, but I am glad I watched it well in advance of the actual holiday.

The rest of my home will get sorted out gradually over the coming weeks, possibly into the New Year, but I like this one room of respite and peace to relax in.

It is easy to stage things on Instagram, and I myself have photographed a room corner by corner, where piles of clutter just got moved out of the frame with each shutter click. I wish I could be more organized and have a model home, but that would mean weeding out a lot of stuff that is still dear to me, and I honestly think it might be too sterile for me.

Being surrounded by things inspires me. Each piece in my home holds meaning or a memory. While I agree with professional organizers that letting go of the thing doesn’t mean we lose the memory, there is something comforting about seeing a tangible piece of that memory.

Seen at PerficalSense Studio

Without household help, my home reflects my priorities, which have lately been outside the home or busy creating things. Since I hardly ever have company, I don’t feel bad if things haven’t been dusted for the past few weeks. Nothing smells and the garbage still gets taken out regularly. ;)

So go make yourself a happy corner, and don’t feel bad that the rest of the home is still a mess. There will always be time to clean, but saying yes to living is another matter.

There are some fabulous tips on Princess Lasertron’s blog about decorating when you get into that mindset. So pop on over to her link and see what you can take away from her words of wisdom. If you keep tabs I skipped over her Radvent 4 post. I may or may not come back to that later, so give her words on Sincerity a read as well.

“Some things we have are so beautiful
that we don’t even let ourselves enjoy them.
Let go of the fear that you will ruin something by using it.
Don’t deny yourself the pleasure!”
~ Princess Lasertron

Frohe Weihnachten!

Happy Holidays

 

shalom snowflakes holiday cards by Maike's Marvels

I wish you and yours a lovely year-end and safe travels to see your loved ones, whether around the block or a flight away.

Angel holiday cards by Maike's Marvels

Here are the cards (both mine and for clients) that are making their way to various post boxes around the world.

Gingerbread and Snowman cards by Maike's Marvels

May your last week of the year be filled with leisurely walks, warm hugs, conversations by the fireplace, joyful games, savory feasts and the gifts of gratitude and tranquility.

Evergreen Tree cards by Maike's Marvels

Radvent: (Holiday) Music

I’m sitting on a fear-busting Radvent entry but Princess Lasertron is nice enough to give me a cop-out with this Music post.

Music Radvent 17 by Princess Lasertron

Graphic re-blogged with permission from Princess Lasertron.

I actually just made a Christmas mix for my friend. It is so much quicker to do this in iTunes than it was when I grew up.

In 1984 I got my first recordable cassette tape player and my brother and I had a blast dubbing the radio and then making mixed tapes together. Before then we used his 2-way radio linked to a frequency on his transistor radio to tape our own radio shows (LOTS of squeaky feedback, it was fun!).

In 1990 we graduated to a full stereo system for Christmas. Now we could blend songs from tapes, records and CDs onto a tape. It took me days to pull playlists together and figure out the best order so the compilation would sound even. “Re-“collecting those compilations in CD/MP3 format is not as easy as it seems.

Currently my favorite Christmas songs are:

  1. Hibernation Day by Jars of Clay
  2. Baby It’s Cold Outside I have the version with Leon Redbone & Zooey Deschanel
  3. A Snowflake Fell (And It Felt Like a Kiss) by Glasvegas
  4. Christmas Of Love by Little Isidore & The Inquisitors
  5. Wonderful Christmastime by Paul McCartney
  6. All Is Well by Michael W. Smith and sung by by Nathan Wadley of The Boys Choir
  7. Ave Maria by Jewel
  8. I Throw My Toys Around by No Doubt for its subversiveness
  9. You Gotta Get Up (Christmas Song) by Rich Mullins
  10. Welcome Christmas by the Whos of Whoville

My favorite full holiday albums are:

  1. Christmas Songs by Jars of Clay
  2. Christmas by Michael W. Smith
  3. Joy: A Holiday Collection by Jewel
  4. A Midwinter Night’s Dream by Loreena McKennit
  5. Elf: Music From The Motion Picture by various artists

What is your favorite Christmas song? Do you have a song that sums up your year? I shared mine last week.

Radvent: a breather to get Started

Today I am planning on working with Princess Lasertron’s “how to get started” prompts to get my 2012 goals fleshed out. Identifying my mission to “begin to be the person you want to be today” is a daunting task, so these 6 tips will help me move it along.

Radvent Starting by Princess Lasertron

Image re-blogged with permission from Princess Lasertron 

For Radvent 5 on Drawing I’ll direct you to my drawing class experience. Art Journaling is something I am intrigued by but I haven’t delved into it yet. My journals are still full of words rather than pictures.

Since I’ll be mulling a bit today, here are a few pics of this year’s Christmas coziness at my home (I did start early on decorating!).

Maike's Marvels' holiday fire place

My Willow Tree Nativity Scene by Susan Lordi grew as a Christmas present over several years, and this season the Wise Men round it out. :)

Willow Tree nativity scene

My friend made the scribble heart which I embellished with fake rubies from mom’s Goose Fest Christmas table last year. The Texas Snowman (as I call him) came from a garage sale in Phoenix. The poinsettia runner is from a German Gift store in Old Town Spring (my sister-in-law purchased a similar one at the time), along with the cute little angel serving sweets. The blue angel comes from my aunt in Germany. Both were made “im Erzgebirge” famous for wood cuttings.

believe it scene

The Weihnachtspyramide came from Germany too via mom.

Weihnachtspyramide

You’ll remember the wire ball from my challenging project. I purchased the shimmery mosaic balls and the mirror mosaic tree on post-christmas sale from Target. The wooden reading angel was 75 percent off at Pier1 a few years back. Like the scribble heart, the angel moves around the house year-round.

wire ball by Maike's Marvels

The red paper star garland is from Ten Thousand Villages, I made the silver one from a beading kit a few years back (I can’t find that kit anymore), and my sister made the sequin ball in the middle for me.

garland by Maike's Marvels

The knitted santa has been in my family for years. I believe a babysitter (who taught me how to knit a pink doll’s sweater once) may have made it for us. It used to have ribbon at its feet to pin greeting cards on.

Knitted Santa

My tree is a small rosemary tree. I was going to decorate it with small snowflakes, but I don’t want the glitter to get into my food. :) I usually have a wreath for the pine-ey scent, but this year a candle will do.

I like how my advent  surroundings join memories of my whole life together. Santa represents my childhood in the Netherlands (near Alphen), the German decorations remind me of teenage-hood (near Wiesbaden), a snowman representing my time in the South (Houston and Phoenix), and new items from my new life and new friends in the Midwest. It keeps home with me even when I have celebrated on my own, and is a nice way to reflect on how far I’ve come since my early years (not just geographically, obviously). Hey, as I look at everything now it is even helping me identify ‘me’ in keeping with our Radvent challenge!

Holiday traditions are a good way to re-set for the coming year and get ready to implement those intentions Princess Lasertron encourages us to get started on today.

What is your favorite holiday and how do you celebrate its arrival?

Merry Christmas!

…or Solstice, or reflective year-end time…

I grew up celebrating Christmas as a cultural tradition. In Germany Weihnachten was less a religious event as it was a celebration of traditions, rituals, and the gathering of family (to me at least). I like the slowing down and cozying up as a family unit to light candles, rediscover familiar stories, and celebrate life. There is something soothing about the rituals of advent, baking, and having certain meals every year.

Listening to the carols (and singing along), picking out a wreath, seeing annual performances such as the Nutcracker or Christmas Carol all provide a sense of closure to the year. A lot has been accomplished, and we can rest for a bit.

This Christmas season is quite auspicious as Solstice coincided with a lunar eclipse. I wasn’t able to see the eclipse due to an overcast sky, but enjoyed this particular quote on its astrological interpretation: “step out of time. We are free of the past, and we can consciously create the future, for ourselves, for our communities, for the earth.”

So as you peruse the goodies under the tree and the feast on the table, remember that your gift for you is the PRESENT. The past is done, and the future can be created by you. We may not have full control over all our circumstances, but our approach to these circumstances and our attitude toward change can be powerful tools in crafting the new year you want.

May your stocking be filled to the brim with joy, peace and hopefulness.

fourth advent

I’ve lit the fourth Advent candle (our family tradition), and am reflecting on all the lasts I will have tomorrow. My last commute, last time in the office, the final goodbyes to colleagues. I’m pleased to report that the Flurries I created for my colleagues have been well-received.

It’s amazing how handwritten notes stand out these days in a business environment. I read a column by Ashton Kutcher in which he said something about letter-writing making one more vulnerable than a tweet or an e-mail or text message. I find the process of writing to one specific person on paper rather reflective and personal. While letters can be passed around, its distribution is more controlled than an e-mail forward or a shared Facebook status.

I look forward to more hand-writing between Christmas and New Year’s with the cards I’m preparing now. That’s the time where I review the past year, and share the highlights with my correspondence recipients. Who knows, I might share them on this blog as well.

It’s been a very lovely Advent for me, knowing I’ve already given myself the best Christmas present ever. I wish you a lovely Christmas week, with the effortless completion of any preparations for this holiday, and if you don’t celebrate it, just a restful time on these public holidays.

Safe travels if you’re visiting somewhere!