A Select Few

Fiona's first Easter egg hunt.

“Did you dye eggs with Fiona?” I was asked today. My heart lurched.

We’re approaching Fiona’s second Easter, and I’m once again facing the question of what traditions to partake in. I love traditions. Really love them. So it’s hard for me to step back and acknowledge that I can’t do everything with Fiona.

But I can’t. I’m a working mom. I commute for over 2 hours every day. I just can’t do it all. I need to be okay with that.

“No,” I replied hesitantly. Was I letting my daughter down by not giving her this special activity? “I have limited time. I had to choose what to do.” Read more

{Memories} a series

{Memories} a series

I have been thinking lately that I want to record some of the wonderful memories and traditions of my childhood. I have, at times, written out various important mementos of my childhood, but they are scattered and often inaccessible.

I want to record them for my own sake. For my siblings, my nieces and nephews, my own “someday” children. I want the loveliness preserved and also revisited. I would love to be able to read my memories to my children even as we create our own.

So in this {Memories} series, I’d like to just remember. Remember those beautiful things. And, honestly, they may not mean much to others, but I will write them for myself — because I feel drawn to.

The things I will record are those things that have been woven into the fabric of who I am. And, I hope, will show my children someday where they come from. It is memory, but it is also identity. And I believe it is worth recording.

Read my {Memories}

Gingerbread houses, take 4

Gingerbread houses, take 4

This is the fourth year Husband and I have made a gingerbread house together (you can see the previous three houses here), and each year we try to have a few friends join us in the endeavor.

I can sum it up best the way our friends said it last night as they were gathering their things to leave: “Well, it’s been…tedious.”

Yep, gingerbread houses are definitely tedious. But they’re also festive and fun (and they provide a pretty good marriage exercise for couples!). I love that when we married two years ago, we decided that as we learned to mesh the traditions we both cherished from childhood, we would also start a few of our own. That’s how gingerbread houses came into the picture, even if they are tedious =).

Making gingerbread houses with friends

Our gingerbread house tradition.

Gingerbread front yard.

Working on gingerbread house details.

Friends joining our tradition.

Detailing the roof.

Letting the house dry and set.

Our lovely little mountain tradition

Our lovely little mountain tradition

Yesterday we celebrated one of my favorite holiday traditions–getting our Christmas tree.

But our tradition is no ordinary trip to the local Home Depot. No, we cut our own tree.

Of course, we live in Virginia Beach, where there aren’t any Christmas tree farms…so, we drove four hours out to the Blue Ridge mountains in western Virginia to hunt down a cut-your-own tree farm. And find one we did =).

Have I ever mentioned my long time dream of someday owning a Christmas tree farm?

Searching for the perfect tree

Ginger looking for a Christmas tree

Pine needles

It took a while to find the perfect tree to grace our home for the next month, but we were successful. (I did learn that it’s slightly difficult to be the dog-wrangler, tree-sawing-helper and photographer all at once–talk about being pulled in different directions!)

Our Christmas tree!

Measuring our tree

Preparing to cut our Christmas tree

Cutting down our Christmas tree

Heading home with our tree!

After our tree we happened across an antique store and happened to mosey our way in and happened to find just the right item to go alongside our Christmas tree (I’ll share soon, I promise!). And then we hit an adorable German restaurant called Edelweiss, and had a yummy meal while listening to live accordion music and sitting next to a warm, wood burning stove (never mind that it was in the 60s outside!). And before long we were heading on home, another four hour drive =).

To top it off, Ginger was a great little traveler–something we doubted she would ever be when as a puppy she would get sick just looking at the car.

I’ve talked a lot here about establishing tradition as newlyweds and how important that is. Now celebrating our third Christmas as a married couple, I’m delighted to feel more at home with our new life and new traditions than ever before. It takes some time to develop just what your life will look like together, and it will continue to take time. But things are coalescing beautifully, and we are finding our own, unique rhythm.



Fourth of July is my second favorite holiday of the entire year (behind Christmas, of course, I am a little Christmas crazy after all).

I guess it’s kind of a strange holiday to call your favorite–most people like Thanksgiving, or Memorial Day or even Valentine’s Day, Easter, or Halloween. Not me. Fourth of July is where it’s at!


I think there are a few reasons for my undying love of the Fourth. The fact that my birthday conveniently falls on the fifth is probably not the least of them. And, of course, the Fourth usually brings a good dose of family time, and you know I love my family. It’s usually sunny and bright (and hot) and the best day of the year to spend outside, searching for four-leaf clovers in the backyard, catching butterflies, or jumping through the sprinkler. It’s even a good excuse for bringing out the slip-n-slide (or at least it was when I was a kid).

And then there are the fireworks. Oh, the fireworks. Really, I can’t begin to express how much I love those magical, wonderful sparkles in the sky.

My memories of the Fourth are a dazzling array of vivid pictures best summed up in a single word–magical. They are memories of picnics and sparklers and brothers and just plain wonderment.

Fourth of July as a child.
Fourth of July picnic when I was a child.

Of course, over time things change. A few years back I began taking my nieces to the fireworks. I loved sharing the awe and inspiration with them, even if they were small enough to be afraid of the noise–I just covered their ears with my hands and held them close in my lap.

Holding my niece.

Now that I’m in Virginia, Husband and I joined his family (or maybe they joined us?) at a local park for fireworks. We brought chairs and picnic blankets and spread out on the grass. Husband fell asleep as we listened to a live band play patriotic music before the big show.

You see, magical isn’t something you have to grow out of. It’s just something that evolves with you.

This year we’re going again, for the sights, sounds, and smells of summer. We’re going to drink in the being part of summer and let go of the doing part. We’re going to spread out a blanket and lay on our backs and just enjoy the moment.

And it’s going to be magical.


Creating traditions

Creating traditions

This year Husband and I are celebrating our second Christmas together. Right now, life is full of flux. We ebb and flow, we try to keep up, we try to slow down. Husband has had four different jobs since we married just over a year ago and I have gone from part-time work/full-time student to full-time work/part-time student. We have moved, added a puppy to our home, and so much more.

That said, Christmas is hardly “established” in our little family. And I am determined not to force us into establishing all of our Christmas traditions all at once just because of my inexplicable fervor for holiday traditions.

When we were dating, we made a gingerbread house together. We did so again last year, on the day we brought our puppy home (hence the name “Ginger”), and we made another one this year. It’s a lovely tradition–fun and not too difficult, great to do with other couples or families or whatever.

Our first 3 gingerbread houses

Last year we traveled all the way to the mountains to cut down a real Christmas tree (we went to the Blue Ridge mountains about 3.5 hours away from our coastal city), and we did it again this year. The smell of fresh pine in the house is divine!

Cutting down our first Christmas tree

We have gone to visit “the lights” every year. When we were dating it was the lights on the boardwalk at the beach. Every year they do a big lights display and close the boardwalk in the evenings so cars can drive down it. Last year we went to Norfolk Botanical Gardens where we were delightfully impressed by the array of lights as we drove through the park. We’re planning to go again this year, hopefully with Husband’s brother and Husband’s brother’s fiancee. Someday we’ll get up to Busch Gardens for their Christmas celebration, we’ve heard it’s truly inspired. It also costs about $25 a person and we are, after all, poor newlyweds.

Giving chickies from World VisionAnd we gave each other (sort of) a chick for Christmas. It’s a great way to give without adding clutter and unnecessary consumerism to your life. Instead of stuff, you can give a gift that can truly change a life, and help children escape the cycle of poverty and hunger. Learn more at World Vision.

This year we’re adding baking gingerbread men to our list. Husband loves gingerbread men decorated with Royal icing, and I have never made them (although I bake an array of other Christmas cookies), so I agreed to make them if he helps =). We’re going to work on them this weekend…

And I asked Husband to make crepes on Christmas Eve (he hasn’t made them since we were dating, and I do love crepes).

Our HO scale trainWe have also brought over a few traditions from our childhoods, and modified them to fit us. I LOVE having grapefruit on Christmas morning, so Husband preps one for me =). And last year we started having fondue for Christmas dinner; my family used to have it on Christmas eve. We attend the Christmas eve service at church. We visited a few train stores this year and bought a little building; my family used to spend an entire day building new model pieces for our train set (and we received a train and track from my parents as a Christmas gift last year which Ginger somehow feels the need to attack).

Now that we have these traditions established and a few modified, I’m looking for additional unique ideas that will work for our crazy, delightful little life.

We’ve talked about celebrating the 12 days of Christmas (like they do in parts of Europe), but I haven’t been able to find a lot out about those traditions, it seems they are as varied as the groups of people who celebrate Christmas.

Last year, we received several ornaments as gifts (apparently it’s popular to give “First Christmas” ornaments to newlyweds). If we don’t receive one this year, we might have to go in search of one. Having at least one ornament from every year can be fun. I have them from my entire childhood.

We’re working toward decorating our tree together. Last year Husband was so busy with work that I did the decorating alone. But this year we managed to do it together by working on it in stages: putting up the tree one night, hanging lights another night, adding ornaments on a third night, etc. Maybe someday we’ll be able to do it all at once!

Maybe we’ll get to take Ginger on a special walk Christmas day…last year it snowed Christmas evening and we were able to take a walk on the beach in the snow! Unfortunately, white Christmases here are rare.

And who knows what other lovely traditions will join our repertoire over the next few years? I’m looking forward to every minute of it…

Puppy in the snow

“Home” for Thanksgiving

“Home” for Thanksgiving

I remember so fondly the moment I arrived in Montana for college, it was a whole new world, and a wonderful adventure awaited me there–I was sure of it!

At the age of 18, I was on my own, and I was 41 hours from home.

Montana was the right choice for me, the best place for college. Sometime I’ll have to tell you more about it. For now, suffice to say that it was a dream come true and I now have “Live in Montana” checked off my bucket list.

That year was the first time I spent Thanksgiving away from my family. Before long, my best friends and I had established our own little Thanksgiving traditions and the day was a greatly anticipated one. After undergrad, I was only home for the holiday once before heading off to graduate school.

My first “married” Thanksgiving was spent at my mother-in-law’s house. It was a whole new experience for me–somewhat unlike my own family Thanksgivings, and wholly unlike the holidays my roommates and I created for ourselves in Montana. But I loved the chance to peek into Husband’s world and see things the way he sees them.

This year will be the opposite, circumstances are taking us to my family for Thanksgiving this year and Husband will have the chance to take a look into my family’s traditions. Of course, my family has changed a lot in the last few years, what with the addition of six children and another on the way.

I am excited to be visiting my family–we’re all going to be there, something that doesn’t happen very often. But at the same time, Virginia has become my home and I will miss home.

Is it terrible to admit that I am glad we will be staying here for Christmas?

So often people ask where we’re going for the holidays. When have the holidays become such a popular time to travel? The holidays I remember were spent at home, with family, all hunkered down together enjoying the warmth of a happy house and ignoring the often cold and snowy outdoors.

As much as I am excited about heading to Ohio tomorrow, I want to have those homey kinds of holidays in my life. It’s not that I don’t want to see extended family, but there is something special, something magical, about home, especially at the holidays.

So here’s to finding the right balance this year–traveling for Thanksgiving and staying home for Christmas!

My holiday mantra

I firmly believe that the holiday season should be enjoyable. So although its still a bit early, I’m mapping out all of the wonderful things we want to do, trying to fit each and every one into the schedule so nothing falls through the cracks.

But every year I really want to make this season less about “doing” and more about “being,” and more often than not, I lose that somewhere along the way.

This year, I once again dedicate this season to joy and contentment. And to keep myself on track, I am adopting a very special Bible verse:

“But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” Luke 2:19

This will be my mantra this season.

In light of it, I have decided that amid my packed schedule, I need to make room for pondering.

Let me explain, when I was in Haiti last spring, my trip leaders explained that there might be some slow times during our stay. Sure, we were planning to see and do a lot, but they had purposefully left a significant amount of flex time in the plan. Why? Well, because things happen on trips like that. Things that are unexplainable and things you cannot plan for, but things that will touch your heart.

They were right. Things did happen. Not every time we left ourselves open for it, but far more than could have been possible had we packed out our week there.

So this holiday season, I want to make room for “things” to happen. I want to make room for pondering, for slowing, for treasuring. I want to make room for God. That’s what it’s all about anyway, isn’t it?

To do this, I am going to need a plan. It is such a non-concrete goal that this concrete-sequential girl needs some tangible ways to get myself there.

The first one is reading Little Women.

Little Women is one of my most favorite stories in the whole world. And since it begins and ends in the holidays, I always think of it as a holiday story.

And let me tell you, I know this story inside out. I’ve even read Little Men, and my 1914 edition of Good Wives (which my parents brought me from Europe), and other Alcott books like A Quiet Little Woman and The Inheritance. So you can imagine the shock I felt when I realized just a few weeks ago that I had never actually read Little Women.


So my first path to slowing this season, my first step to pondering, is to read Little Women.

And I mean really read–all out hot tea (or cocoa), warm blanket, papasan, and Christmas music playing softly in the background.

Making memories of fall

I think what I like most about fall are the traditions that go along with it. Fall is a beautiful time of year–time to slow down, enjoy the season, and spend time with family.

I went pumpkin picking with Husband on a crisp, beautiful Sunday afternoon. I got to wear a jacket, gloves and a scarf, which made me happy. And we brought hot apple cider, which made Husband happy.

We visited a pumpkin patch right around the corner from our house and we actually picked our own pumpkins right off the vine. Sure, the pumpkins were a little muddy, and kind of flat on one side, but we got to weed through the loopy vines and find little (and big) orange treasures.

I liked that we were having an experience, a better experience than going to the local grocery store or Walmart for pumpkins shipped in from other places. I also liked that we were supporting a small farm venture in our neighborhood. In fact, the ladies behind the counter actually knew the family that had built the house we rent (circa 1949).

Husband and I laughed and had fun, snapped pictures and sipped cider, and altogether thoroughly enjoyed making a memory. Even better, we are starting traditions in our marriage that will last for many years to come.

Soon, we’ll carve our pumpkins, drink more cider, and make homemade donuts…