Christmas at the ‘Zoo

Mid-October, Chris suggested we put up our exterior Christmas lights on Halloween weekend. After recovering from a serious laughing fit, I countered with Veteran’s Day, as autumn is my favorite season, even if Christmas is my favorite holiday. Glittering icicles take away from the pumpkins, and I like to let the pumpkins have their moment.

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We finally put up exterior lights on the weekend after Thanksgiving.

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Thanks to our tiny driveway and three cars, you can’t see all the lights. And the blinding orb? A snowflake. It shows up better in real life. #notaphotographer

This year, #flooring marathon2015 meant we barely got the main living areas floored in time for the holidays, so there was a bit of a delay on the decorating. But the good news is that the main areas have real floors again, and we love them!

We did manage to put up a few Christmas decorations inside before the start of December, and I even swapped out the scrapbook pages in the white frames for Christmasy ones for less than a dollar. I had a hard time choosing between all the different possibilities, so right now the wall is host to “Rustic Christmas” but will soon be switching to “Sparkly Christmas” for fun. IMG_5473You can also see this picture features a Homer bucket housing the Internet goodies (we threw the router, AirPort, and all the cords in a Homer bucket to keep them safe from the construction), laundry being folded (hey, that’s impressive, right?), and a mirror we used to see the back of the TV for hooking up electronics. Keeping it real, peeps.

I finally put up our main Christmas tree after the first full weekend in December. As you can see, we are still touching up paint and working on the mantel. #stockingsmaynotbehungbythechimneywithcarethisyear BUT LOOK AT THOSE FLOORS. AND THE TREE!

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I use both white and colored lights on the same tree.  Why? Because I can. When Chris and I got married and it came time to put lights on our first big Christmas tree together, there was cause for pause: Chris’s family always used colored lights on their tree, and my family always had one tree with white lights and another with colored lights…but Chris and I only had ONE tree. What to do!? Inspiration struck, and I decided to put both white AND colored lights on the same tree but on separate circuits plugged into our multiplug.  That way, if we are feeling like a White Christmas, we can have only white lights. If we want only colored lights, we can have that as an another option, too. But we agree that both is best. More light is always the answer.

I realize the delay in decorating for Christmas is seen as a blogger crime against humanity. This is ridiculous, folks, given how many bloggers have expressed frustration and anxiety over trying to decorate early in time to be featured here and there. I understand that for most of those who fall in this category, blogging is a source of income, but seriously, people. In the interests of trying to attract and retain the attention of more popular bloggers, corporate sponsors, and followers, bloggers are sacrificing the joys of the season on the altars of commercialism, consumerism, and materialism. Jesus was apparently just fine with a stable. Why aren’t we?

Don’t get me wrong, I love decorating for Christmas, and I normally have my Christmas decorations up by Thanksgiving so we can enjoy them for longer. Because I have a pre-Christmas December birthday (and probably because I’m a girl), I have received a lot of birthday and Christmas presents that happened to be Christmas decorations. I can count on one hand the times I have purchased ornaments for myself. I love them all, and every year when I unbox them, it is like saying hello to old friends and family. I also inherited a lot of Christmas decorations from my parents who don’t decorate as much anymore, probably because they don’t have me at home to do it anymore. #childlabor #momwasallergictothetrees #dadclimbedontheroofthough #ilovedit

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This tree gets most of the soft ornaments because its top wobbles a bit, and the cats can reach it from the table, meaning a disaster is likely to happen.  The larger tree shown above gets soft ornaments around its base only.

Each item brings to mind the person who gave it to me–from the ornament my first babysitter gave me to the festive present lights from one of my college roommates. When I set up my Fontanini nativity scene, I remember my mother’s sister who started my collection before she suffered a heart attack and died a few years ago. This year, when I placed my Byer’s Choice carolers on the bookcase in our new library/music nook, I thought of a dear family friend whose caroler collection was the inspiration for mine; she passed a few months ago after a long battle with cancer and lingering complications. As I open each item and recall the giver, I say a prayer for those who are still living. For those who have passed, I pray for those they have left behind. IMG_5509

For the past two years, my mom has given me beachy ornaments, now that we live at the beach, so I had just enough ornaments for a small sea-themed tree. I used a tree that was rescued from my grandparents’ attic after my grandfather passed away this summer. It was in sad shape, but I think it turned out okay. It didn’t have a functional base, and since I’m too cheap/lazy to buy floral foam, I just stuck it in an old decorative urn from Pier 1, weighted down with river rocks. I don’t exactly recommend this, as Hermes has pulled it over a couple of times. #lifewithcats This tree has all the shatterproof ornaments on it, thankfully. I hope to add a starfish at the top before Christmas.

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If you are wondering about the ombre effect with the darker indigo lights at the base and the bright turquoise at the top, you can thank Target circa 12 years ago. I bought a set of blue Christmas lights from the Target Christmas clearance section, and the tint wasn’t uniform. I’ve always loved the anomaly, and they’re still going strong. #happyaccidents #pleasemakethemonpurpose

Now back to my concern about Christmas and the need to DECORATE WITH ALL THE THINGS. I love to decorate for Christmas because I cherish the people and memories associated with those decorations–not because my house needs to look just-so for the right people. For me, each decoration is a reminder of love.

IMG_5512My concern is that we are so busy preparing for Christmas that we miss Christmas by forgetting to be still. At the very time we celebrate Emmanuel, God with us, we forget to be with God. We have become Martha, busily cleaning and crafting and decorating and baking and shopping and gift-wrapping, instead of being Mary–just sitting and listening to what God has to say to us. Or perhaps, because of the way ‘professional’ blogging works, it appears to all the world that the best bloggers can be both Martha and Mary, rendering numerous readers (and other bloggers, even!) feeling hopelessly inadequate at both. At a time we should be demonstrating authentic love for others, we hand them unnecessary heartaches wrapped in a perfect bow instead.  Not cool. Let’s get out of the kitchen/craftroom, off the internet, and into the Word as we celebrate the time when the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.

Off my soapbox, now. I promise. And because every good post has cat pictures:

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At least I know they like our trees…and they know how to be still, at least for a little while! 🙂

 

 

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Musical Furniture: The Game We Love to Play

It’s a running joke in my family that one of our unofficial side businesses is furniture moving.  That’s because we do it ALL. THE. TIME. We like to play furniture shuffle within our homes on a regular basis, always searching for a better arrangement that maximizes space, storage, etc. It’s part of our exercise plan. Kidding. Sort of.

Of course, the game is made more difficult by, you guessed it, musical furniture. I rarely see design bloggers working around grand pianos in small or modestly sized homes, so I thought I’d tackle this topic for our home and blog.

Musical instruments have particular needs. Climate control is important, so avoiding placement near sources of heat, cold, and moisture is vital. Dreams of baby grands gleaming in Victorian window bays shattered. Tragic, I know.  

When placing a grand piano near a wall (avoid those exterior ones, remember!), you’ll also want to allow enough room to open and raise the lid and to access all parts of it for cleaning and polishing, which typically means a minimum allowance of 12 inches away from the wall. Positioning the piano so that the long side runs parallel to the wall is more aesthetically and acoustically pleasing.

People with larger homes, multiple living rooms, and/or extra bedrooms/bonus rooms have it easy. Not so with the ‘Zoo. We have a three bedroom home with only one (not-so) great room, and we need every bedroom we have as a bedroom. No dedicated home office. No home gym. No music room. No home theater room. No basement. No bonus room. No playroom. No library. Just one modest living room with a little nook off to the side.When we bought the ‘Zoo, we were delighted that the living room had that extra nook so that my 5’ baby grand piano would only encroach upon the main walkway by a foot or so. Unfortunately, when the lid is not raised but flipped back, Chris frequently runs into its sharp corner. Sacrifices must be made right? Kidding. Definitely not for the best.

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To prevent further stabbings, we tried a number of different furniture arrangements in the living room over the past year or so, but nothing really felt like THE ONE. Consequently, during #flooringmarathon2015 I played around with furniture arrangements for when we could move everything from our personal “Room of Requirement” into the rest of the house. Here’s the rub:

  1. The piano has to stay in the main interior space and not in direct light or near a heat source. It cannot stay in its present position due to stabbings, nor can it be rotated in this spot without causing increased stabbings. If you are thinking that we could simply raise the lid and solve this stabbing problem, let me add that we have all tile floors and vaulted ceilings…and I’m fairly certain the neighbors can hear me playing/singing with the lid shut. I trained as a vocal performance major before shifting into education, and I’m fairly certain that my neighbors don’t dig opera…or anything remotely classical.
  2. The computer desk must be in the main interior space and receive some natural light but not suffer glare. I won’t go into detail, but suffice it to say that I don’t like working in bedrooms where relaxation is supposed to happen. Especially if said bedrooms get hot in the afternoon. 
  3. The black bookcase, like the piano, is visually and spatially dominant. It looks best when positioned against the long, tall walls of our home.  Who are we kidding? These are the only walls where it fits!IMG_4428
  4. Obviously, we need to have the sofa and love seat be in the living room if we want company. And we do. But our sofa is 92″ long.
  5. Also the TV. There is only one wall in the true living room area on which the TV fits and only one functional cable jack (not on that same wall, though, because that would make TOO MUCH SENSE). This area of the house is inaccessible for rewiring without tearing down the ceiling because there is no attic above it, so the TV cannot relocate to more spacious walls.  Awesome, right? I KNOW.IMG_4589
  6. The dining area is too small for the sitting area, and the dining set doesn’t fit in the current music nook.IMG_4375-1
  7. The thermostat also happens to be on one of the only tall long walls and could be blocked by the black bookcase, depending on its placement.
  8. No TV in the bedroom. I’m a firm believer that TV in the bedroom = less, well, ya know. Sleeping. Plus, our TV (an older model flat screen) emits some serious warmth, making our bedroom way too hot. And watching TV from the bed encourages bad back problems. Definitely don’t want more of those.
  9. I need room for exercising in front of the TV. Gyms = germs . I also am firmly opposed to exercise equipment in the bedroom or main living spaces. Call me a design snob, but it is what it is: Gym furniture is hideous. This doesn’t bother some people, and that’s to their advantage.  It kills me. Now, if someone could make a home gym disappear into an attractive armoire, then I’d be all for it. Hmmm…MY IDEA. INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY RIGHTS CLAIMED.
  10. Last of all, we must be able to walk from area to area without gut stabbings. We are anti-stabbing in this family, as all families should be.
  11. We celebrate Christmas and inherited an artificial tree with a large diameter that also gets to be squeezed into our bursting-at-the-seams living room. Christmas doesn’t get sacrificed around here, so I always include a Christmas tree in my furniture arrangements, knowing that the arrangement will be more spacious without it the rest of the year but will have sufficient space for it during the Christmas season.

If this sounds like a cross between an LSAT question and a design dilemma, you’re right.

After much deliberation, we developed a new arrangement, and the piano moved. I decided to throw caution to the winds and take a leaf out of the luxury home design book by sliding the piano into the center of our open living room area, directly in the main thoroughfare of the house.

Crazy? Yep. Tight? Definitely. BUT…

  1.  The TV, flanked by bookcases, stays where it fits (and functions) best in the living room, and the bookcases (will) hide the tangle of cords currently housed in a Homer bucket.IMG_5468 Yep, we painted the walls again. This color is for keeps.  Note the FLOORS!
  2. I prefer floating sofas, but the piano will be floating instead. Sacrifices. At least the long, plain back of the sofa won’t be visible anymore. Plus, the cats like the back of the sofa for afternoon siestas, and I’m sure they’ll like the window seat effect.
  3. The desk receives some natural light but not too much, and is located where I can cook dinner on the stove and check email simultaneously. Stay tuned for more on this in a future post.
  4. The black bookcase leaves the dining room (score), but the dining table stays, which is ideal for grabbing seconds or dessert from the adjacent kitchen (double score). Keeping it real, people.IMG_3897
  5. The piano has enough ‘walkaround’ space to avoid stabbings and is now a featured furniture piece in our home, yet it feels more tucked away than it did before somehow.
  6. Best of all, the new arrangement creates room for a new “library nook,” complete with our black behemoth bookcase and a cozy chair with optional ottoman.  The piano bench can even be used for seating! Eventually, we may add our old coffee table for puzzles, games, etc., but right now, we are enjoying the openness.  We’ve always wanted a dedicated library, and this might be the best we can do for a long time. #bibliophiles

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And now, because it has taken us so long to accomplish #flooringmarathon2015 that the holiday season is upon us, I give you the Christmasy version of the new music/library nook so you can actually see the piano in its new location:

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