One Little Word 2017

Hello! Happy New Year!

Yes, we’re almost 3 weeks in. I’ve had a slow start to 2017. It’s been an interesting season. We had a nice, quiet Christmas and then a long winter break following. We had a good mix of lazy days in PJs until noon, working on little projects here and there, and taking a little trip to the coast for a couple of days.


But, I’ve been in a funk.

January used to do this to me every year. I’d go into what my friends called “the cave” where I just stayed home, hunkered down, and survived the season. I spent evening on the couch, watching You’ve Got Mail and Bridget Jones’s Diary, letting phone calls go to the machine (yes, that many years ago), and eating lots of chocolate.

But for the last several years, I’ve become a winter convert. I LOVE this season. I love clearing away the Christmas decorations and starting with a clean slate. I love reflecting on the past year and making plans for the new one. I even love the rain and fog and cold that sometimes come in January. I keep the twinkle lights up, I burn my candles, and I relish that magic starting-over feeling.


But, this year has felt a little less magical.

I can’t exactly put my finger on the cause – just a bunch of different things that have been bothering me. I haven’t been feeling so great, parenting is kicking my tail, and when I looked back at my plans for 2016, I felt like I had accomplished exactly zero of my goals. I began to lose hope about a lot of things.

Husband and I had been talking about our One Little Word for a few weeks. He decided in early December that REINVENT would be his. It sounded good – I could see a lot of ways that this would help me get some things back on track – but it just never settled well. I tried different synonymous words that might be a better fit – RECREATE, REMAKE, RECLAIM, REFORM, RECONSTRUCT, RECOVER.

Nope. Just not right.

I read an article about doing an Annual Review of your life (like you would for your job), noting things that went well the previous year and things that didn’t. The author suggested writing some questions – some What Ifs – to frame what you would like the new year to look like.

My questions looked a little like this:

-What if I set deliberate times to play with each child every day?

-What if I spent 5 minutes alone meditating every morning?

-What if I finally found a daily Bible study to do?

-What if I went back to Pilates?

-What if I tried to connect with everyone I sent a Christmas card to this year? Not just a “Happy Birthday” on Facebook, but if in some way, I really connected with them – a phone call, a letter, meeting for coffee, dinner – something more than just a Christmas card? (This idea came as I was addressing them back in December, and I just can’t shake it. I might fail miserably, but an interesting What If.)

-What if I connect the dots of my experiences and my interests to figure out what’s next in my life?

-What if Husband and I had a getaway every year? (Does NOT have to be big like London! Small and simple is good, too.)

And then my word was clear: CONNECT.

Connect with my children, with myself, with God, with my body, with my friends and family, and my husband. How much different would I feel at the end of the year if I did all of these things?

And then, as tends to happen, the word CONNECT started showing up: in this book that’s been on my nightstand for months that I just picked up, in this book that I read most mornings when I sip my coffee, in this study that arrived a few weeks earlier than expected and at EXACTLY the right time I needed it. And that word just keeps showing up – magazine articles, podcasts, songs on the radio.

And it turns out, the way for me to get out of my January funk was not to go into “the cave” alone but to CONNECT with other people. Just keeping this word in mind has encouraged me to say “Yes!” when I feel like saying “No.” And by doing so, little bits of light break through the darkness, and I regain hope.

So 2017? I’m ready now. Let’s do this.


Five Things

Twig Star Christmas Decor

Hello! Happy Friday! How’s your week been? The kids have had mild colds (lasting only a day), but it was enough to call in sick for a day each. It was a great time to slow down, rest, and just putter around at home. (And I’m not sure, but I think one of the kids exaggerated her cold just to stay in PJs all day.) The rest of the week has been full of projects, getting ready for Christmas, and planning BG’s birthday. It’s so hard to not get overwhelmed this time of year, but I’m really trying to take time, soak in the moments, and focus on the true meaning of the holiday.

However, last week, I found myself at Target almost every day, including two Targets in two other cities. On Friday, BG and I were in one of these other Targets because it was close to an antique shop I wanted to visit. While we wandered the aisles, we both noted the pretty displays this Target had in between some of the aisles. Reminding me of pretty department store displays, the vignettes made me remark, “Wow! This Target is prettier than our Target.”

Without skipping a beat, BG put her hand to her cheek and, out of the corner of her mouth, remarked, “You better not let the OTHER Target hear you say that!”

Here are a few things on my mind this week:


1.Winter Solstice Radio on Pandora. I enjoy Christmas music. Now, not before Thanksgiving, mind you, but once Friday rolls around, I’m in. Vince Guaraldi, Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, The Partridge Family, all of it. But sometimes it’s just too much. A few years ago, I found the Winter Solstice station on Pandora, and it is lovely. I play it in the morning while my coffee is brewing, when I light candles after dinner, when the kids are getting ready for bed. It’s a good mix of soft, instrumental versions of holiday classics as well as beautiful original pieces inspired by winter. It is a sane-maker in the midst of the crazy, and goes toward my winter-long goals of hygge.

2. This candle. We have two fireplaces, but we never use them. Instead, we light candles. This is my new favorite. While it’s nothing fancy (I got it on one of the 157 Target runs I’ve made recently), this scent feels like a cabin in the woods. I light it every morning and every night. More hygge.

3.Christmas Projects. I’m obsessed. I can’t stop. I made a list, and I’m going through it one by one. I’ve posted a couple on Instagram. Here are a few so far:

christmas tree galvanized tub

The galvanized bucket/tree trunk combination for our tree

burlap christmas card display

Burlap ribbon for holiday cards – such a simple thing that will keep our cards organized and pretty all season long.


twig star christmas decoration

Twig star – A huge branch on one of our pine trees broke last week. Husband and the kids sawed it up, and I snagged a few branches to create a star. I used zip ties to secure the ends, and then I used a natural yarn to cover the ties and to secure the cross points. Husband calls it our Blair Witch Christmas decor. I still like it anyway.

pom pom tree

Pompom decorations – Our mantel got a little updating with our JOY banner and some red pompoms on our little tree branch. BB and BG made most of them using these – a fun project for a rainy afternoon.


And the Advent calendar – Since I didn’t actually finish it until January, this is our first year using it. BG and BB alternate days for getting the ornaments and putting them on our advent tree. It’s a sweet part of our day. And can I just say what a huge relief it was to get out the ornaments and not think, “When are you going to finish this project, Nicole?!” DONE! Check. Next?

4. This was fascinating. It’s a 15+minute watch, but totally worth it.

5. This made me laugh. And this.

What are you up to this weekend? It’s Family Movie Night, and we’re trying to stick to Christmas movies for December. (Last week was Elf. Any other suggestions?) We’ve also got holiday cocktail party coming up, BG is singing at church, and we’re attending a Christmas musical. Hope your weekend is a good mix of celebrations and cozy moments. Thanks for reading!

Oh Christmas Tree!

“It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!”

I sing this in my head about 800 times each day. Sometimes, I mean it, and I’m rejoicing in the fun and excitement of the Christmas season.

But I also sing it in my head with a heavy side of sarcasm when the kids are arguing over who gets to hang which ornament on the tree or the woman in front of me at check out is angry with the cashier or when we’re running late for school because someone decided to reread ALL the Christmas books instead of brushing his teeth.

My Christmas tree project for this year is a combination of both, the rejoicing and the sarcasm. But mostly rejoicing.

Elf and Christmas Tree

Confession: We have a fake tree. I grew up with a fake tree, Husband grew up with a fake tree, it’s normal for us. Where we live, we are an anomaly. A favorite outing for most people this time of year is the trek to the local (or even not-so-local, in the mountains) tree farm to cut your own tree and bring it home. We did this for several years, but some Christmases we spend here at home and some we don’t, and it’s hard to buy a tree knowing that you won’t even be enjoying it on Christmas Day, and it will just be a pile of dead needles when you return from a cross-country flight, exhausted, with two exhausted children. So last year, we bit the bullet and bought a lovely pre-lit tree from Lowe’s. And we love it. (Especially the glow it gives while we watch Christmas movies snuggled up on the couch.)

But I had a plan for this year, a “VISION”. (Because, another confession: I had to wash our tree skirt multiple times last year because our kitty in her old age, mistook it for her litter box.) (Rest in peace, Molly.)

Playful Country Christmas Tree | Photographer Stacey Brandford | House & Home | #christmastree #redandgreen #holidaydecor:

I knew this would work. And then I just couldn’t get the idea out of my head. It’s so cute.

I measured our tree stand and searched online for a galvanized tub that would accommodate its diameter.

Wow! That’s almost as much as our tree cost.

So I did what I always do – I added it to my Thrift Wish-List.

In November, I still hadn’t found one, but then I looked out my back window to see an old galvanized tub the previous owners of our home had left behind. (The kids lovingly refer to it at the Black Widow Bucket – for good reason!) How had I missed that before?

galvanized tub

So I sprayed and cleaned until there was not a trace of dirt or scary living creatures left and brought it in the house to test.

The diameter was about 2 inches too small for the base. Bummer!

BUT! I had another plan.


I had seen this idea on Pinterest last year, too. I told Husband I just needed to find a chopped down tree trunk! How hard would that be?

Husband said, “How about all those cut pieces that are in that yard down the street?”

Me: “What are you talking about?”

Husband: “I bike by them every day on the way to work. Between here and the grocery store. You haven’t noticed them?”

Me: “No, I haven’t noticed them. Are you making this up? When did you see them?”

Husband: “This morning on the way to work.”

Me: “Wait, are you actually ENABLING me to tackle a new crazy idea?”

Husband: “Totally. You should do it.” (Sarcasm here.)

So I did! I drove until I saw the wood, stopped the car, unloaded the kids, and knocked on the door. The international student who answered the door was very kind. He said he didn’t know what the plan was for all the wood, but he would ask the owner and I could stop by the next day. Then he asked why I wanted it. I laughed and explained my crazy Christmas tree plan. He got a huge grin and said, “That is a great idea!” When I stopped by the next day, he said I was welcome to as much as I needed, and he wished me good luck on my project.

Completion of this project required buying a paddle bit for our drill and lots of time. Drilling out a 1.5 inch hole in a tree trunk is not an easy task. Husband and the kids took turns drilling and measuring (and recharging the drill battery) until the hole was 6 inches deep. It fit perfectly the first time! (Rejoicing here!)

fake christmas tree real wood base

We put the wood inside the tub and placed the tree inside the wood, and my “VISION” came to life!

christmas tree galvanized tub

The kids were thrilled because we could finally decorate the tree (it had been up and lit without ornaments for a week while I figured out the final plan). They went crazy putting up the ornaments (and arguing, see above).

Elvis christmas ornament

They were excited to see the Elvis ball return this year.

This lovely ornament was part of our tree every year growing up. And every year, my brothers and I would take turns hiding the Elvis ball because we were so embarrassed by it. My mom would say, “You won’t believe this, but I found the Elvis ball on the back of the tree at the very bottom. Do you know how it got there?” It would return to the front, but it only took a few hours for it to disappear again. Last year, as my mom was decorating her tree, she called to ask if there were any of her ornaments that I wanted. I, of course, said this one. She was shocked. “After all that time you spent hiding it?” Oh yes.

And, after receiving it in the mail, I, like any good sister, immediately posted a photo on Facebook, tagging my brothers to let them know it was mine. One said, “The only thing I wanted out of that house, and of course you get it.” Some things never change.

“It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!”

christmas tree galvanized tub