If at First You Can’t Succeed, Throw Some Lights Around

Today is not going according to plan. In almost every meeting I’ve been to today, someone has been reprimanded for something. That usually doesn’t happen. Or, I’ve had to deliver bad news to someone, a thing I don’t enjoy at all.

My pretty corner with a very nice pinecone and pearl tree from Chelle’s.

To top all that off, I can’t get my email application to go online and get email on my laptop. I can see it on my phone, but that doesn’t let me click on Zoom links to get to meetings. I managed to get my work email via web browser, so at least I can respond that way. I will just have to do the same for my personal email, I guess. I have enough on my mind without systems going awry. Whine!

I do have a wreath and some other stuff you can see from outside my office. Next week the window glass will go in!

So, once I finally got out of meetings (some of which had been triple booked, because I’m not important enough to stop someone from booking at a time when I’m clearly busy), I gave myself permission to do something else. Meghan had brought me some Christmas lights that she wasn’t going to put up at her house this year, so I started slapping them all over the Pope Residence.

Because we aren’t spending much this year, most of our decorations are from last year. The gold tree looks good on the upstairs landing!

Since we’re closed, no one is going to see them, anyway, so once again I am decorating to cheer me up, or in this case, to take my mind off things.

Last year’s tree gets one more shot at cheering up the neighbors.

I put lights up that only a mother could love, they’re so uncoordinated, in my office window. I then draped some lights in the reception room, on the mantel, where we’d already put up the somewhat nice decorations. They don’t look horrible.

Well, we tried.

There were some red lights, so I put them on the credenza thing.

The red light district. I could have hidden that extension cord a bit better.

I put some on the hallway counter.

Making coffee and microwaving is much more festive now.

And the rest of them, I put on the stairs in a most random fashion. I figure they’ll look cheerful at night, at least. I couldn’t put any outside, since I couldn’t find an outlet anywhere. Darn.

Random lights

I did make my office a little more tasteful, with my newest Trail of Painted Ponies horse on the mantel and some other reasonable things. But, at least I got myself out of my rut and into a more cheerful space.

It looks fine.

Then it was back to thinking about work priorities! I wish I didn’t have a headache!

The weird cats are into the holiday act, too. If I’d been smart, I’d have gotten more of those tall silver things I have in Austin to put in the pots.

A 2020 Kind of Christmas Hope

Enjoying a raspberry Coke on the deck.

I’m tired. I’d hit all my exercise goals by 3 pm, so you know I’ve been physically active. It’s all good, though. Some of that time I even spent walking with my son. Finally. We got to walk and chat outside. It takes a lot of coordination to get to see each other, but it’s just so nice to hear stories of his work, his friends, and normal stuff like that. It was a pretty day, too. Cloudless!

I spent much of today outside, which was much better than the hours I spent yesterday in a chilly drizzle. My decoration and home improvements have been quite 2020. Allow me to explain.

Yesterday

I worked so hard that I bruised my hands, but I got stuff done I’d been putting off, boring things like changing the air conditioning filter that’s practically inaccessible in the attic, and replacing all the burned out porch light bulbs.

Oops

Unfortunately, the teeny nut that holds one fixture together fell out of my hand and landed somewhere under the deck. Anita and I searched for it, but no luck. I tried many things to save it, but failed big time. Duct tape only lasted a few minutes.

Ahh

Finally, today it occurred to me I had wire. It worked and hardly shows. 2020 ingenuity!

The main project I worked on yesterday was outdoor lights. Our next-door neighbor, Ruth, gave us 3 boxes of icicle lights. We had another one just like it, hanging around in the Big Box of Lights. So, I set about lining a long stretch of our deck with them. I used pushpins to hold them up (one way I got bruised). I finally finished, in a dripping rain, only to realize I’d put the female end on the far side, rather than close to the extension cord. Face palm. After going inside and sulking, I figured out a way to rearrange the cords to make them plug in. A 2020 Holiday Miracle.

You can sort of see the lights. This is right after I got them working.

I also set up some lights in a different spot from usual, down by the basement, where people driving by could see them. I don’t know why I hadn’t thought of that before. It was a start on a winter wonderland to match my indoor stuff.

Little sparkly trees outside the door to Anita’s den.

I managed to get up lights around the front door, with Anita’s help, and think it looks cheerful.

Not perfect, but okay. And the fact that I changed the bulbs in that porch light is a mini miracle. It was not easy.

Today

At some point, I had to drag myself inside and warm up. This morning, I was back at it, driven to use every single light we have. I’m not sure why I felt so strongly about it, but I think there were two reasons. One, it cheers me up to decorate. I’m not as good, nor do I have as many nice things as a lot of people who decorate do, but I have fun and it looks like “me” when it’s over with.

Cheesy, but cheery.

The other thing is I know how I get cheered up when I see cheerful lights on houses, and I just want to give back. No one’s going to be able to enjoy our inside lights but me and Anita, so I’m sharing 2020 Christmas Hope with others by my decorations.

I did NOT get a dumpster fire ornament. Proud of myself.

The first thing I did was complete the winter wonderland. I added our snowflake lights that we’ve had a few years down at ground level. I hope they look pretty. And then I also brought down our sleigh with a tree in it, which usually sits on the deck. I had no way to light it, thanks to my icicle-light-stringing faux pas, so it didn’t hurt to give it a new spot.

Here’s how it looks in the daytime.

I put some decorations on the rocking chair area on the porch, so it didn’t look neglected, and put some stuff in my sad Texas mountain laurel at the entrance to the deck, too.

Then I went into some kind of overdrive. Honestly, I had decided to tone down my lighting this year, you know, because it’s a somber time.

Looks so exciting.

But nope, I kept thinking of Anita walking Pickle, making her tea, or whatever. She needs cheer, as hard as she works every day. So every light that was left got strung in a tree branch.

From the other direction.

It’s not a thing of true beauty, but no matter what window you look out, you’ll see lights this year. Woo!

Obviously I need another extension cord. Back deck.

Plus, it’s a family tradition to just sorta throw lights on trees and call it done. Declan remembered us doing it at our Braesgate house for many years. Back then we used brooms to get higher in the trees. No professional light-stringing service for us! And it showed. But, it was cheerful.

Yes! You can see them from the road!

What’s left now is decorating our villa-sized tree. It may be the tree’s last year, since it no longer will sit up straight in its pot. Anita tied it up with string, and at least from the front it looks all right. From the side, though, it’s a 2020 Christmas tree.

It’s just leaning a LITTLE.

I feel better having done this. And a neighbor texted that it looks good. My 2020 Christmas is just fine.

They look good from inside, too.

Do whatever works for YOU to get through the season. I will support you! Now this is a real Blogmas post!

Ready for a disco party for me, Anita, and Pickle!

More Yoj and Christmas Decoration Confusion

Yes, I have now broken down and begun turning my Austin house into a winter wonderland, even after saying how much I loved the autumn décor. It got cold. That did the trick. Thus, I’ve been wandering into all our secret storage areas and getting out items. And thanks to those crazy people at JoAnn Fabric and Crafts, with their 80% off (with coupon) sale and curbside delivery, I got more.

I didn’t have to buy anything to create my thematic table setting. I just combined stuff I had around. I don’t have silver candles, so the pop of red is on purpose, yeah.

But, there’s another Yule mystery going on! It all has to do with our YOJ sign. I shared the story of it back in 2018, but I bet you weren’t reading the blog in 2018. In brief, I bought this light-up sign that said “JOY” at Target back when we lived at the tiny casita house in north Austin, when Anita first moved here. I proudly set it up in my bedroom window, which was the only window in the house visible from the street. I went outside to view it in its glory, only to realize that I’d set it up backwards, and the sign said “YOJ” (with the J backwards).

Back in the glory days when YOJ lit up.

This struck Anita and me as totally hilarious. It really felt just right to us, with our contrarian bent and strong dislike of the commercialization of the season. So, we left it that way. A few neighbors pointed it out and enjoyed the story. So, we’ve put up YOJ ever since.

Here’s how I improved the mantel. Garland and little pine-cone picks really make it look like a frosty forest, to me, at least.

The sign fell in the garage and lost a light, so now it doesn’t shine with, um, joy anymore. But it lives in our current living room year around, along with our tree for all seasons, etc. We had a second YOJ in 2008, but I don’t recall it returning last year (which was not our best year for decorating).

Where did this go? I’m confused!

This year, though, we spotted some stocking holders in a catalog, so Anita got them. Now we have matching signs in our living room windows, which makes up for the other one, which is probably hiding in the garage, where we haven’t looked yet.

Joy to our windows!

Sadly, we can’t light them up, because they don’t go on and off automatically, and we will not be climbing up there every evening to turn them on to save batteries. Maybe the last week I’m in Austin before Christmas, we’ll light them up.

One of my Christmas cactuses is doing its best to provide decorations, as well!

I’m not sure if the neighbors can see the signs in our windows, but I like the idea of bringing in some joy to our lives so much that I got a couple of smaller signs to go in the windows. They also look like they are knitted, which endears them to me more.

Here’s where the second YOJ is. The decorations around my ancient gingerbread house light up at night.

As you look around my decorations, you will see a lot of large, white branches with bells and snowflakes. I thought they were much smaller, and was going to put them on the mantel. Instead, even the sad cactus that got messed up last year looks happy again, thanks to those branches. And the little palm tree. Whatever, I made it all cheery and like a woodland snow scene around the house.

Now, that’s a happy cactus.

We will drag out the Christmas tree from the garage tomorrow, I guess. I hate to admit it, but that cheers me up. As for the ranch, we’ll see if I can come up with anything dog-proof. Maybe we will get a new branch or something. And I can look forward to doing something in my office next week! There, I have a reason to live!

Semi-happy palm tree, with weird broom I made.

Just kidding. What are YOU doing to keep your spirits up? Suggestions are welcome!

Controversy? I Prefer Autumn Decorations in Autumn

Let’s talk about something less serious for once. To start of, I’m happy to say that the meal Anita and I created for ourselves yesterday was quite nice. I made a very moist and yummy turkey and am looking forward to a sandwich for lunch. I spent many hours turning the carcass into broth that will make a fine soup tomorrow, too. And we sat around being thankful we weren’t sick or endangering anyone else. Wow, such smugness. Moving right along.

Anita prepares to dig in. We brought out all the Fiesta ware, for festiveness.

Main Topic

Right now I’m going to declare that I am not one of those people with a compulsion to slap up my Christmas decorations the second they go for sale in the stores, nor mid-November, nor US Thanksgiving, and sometimes, not even in early December. Shocking!

I do allow some silvery items to accent the fall stuff. Who says you can’t mix and match seasons?

How can I be so un-traditional? First, for many families in the not-so-distant past, trees didn’t go up until December 24 and they went down at some other holiday in January, which I’m too lazy to look up (readers have helpfully pointed out it’s Epiphany, which is on January 6). So, this whole frenzy to decorate and keep the décor up for a few months is not a hallowed tradition; it’s a marketing thing. Granted, lights and shiny things are cheerful, and we could all use some cheer right now, so if it makes you happy, decorate away.

The fall and winter stuff are very happy together, so I say.

Second, and this is my big reason, so I have a legitimate excuse, I’m not someone who celebrates the religious Christmas holiday, given that I’m on a more Buddhist/tree-hugging path and growing fonder of some of the more “Christ-like” groups of Christians these days. So, I’ll decorate for winter solstice, for which there is no frenzy.

We secular people who like all traditions do sometimes end up with confusing items.

And another thing (like this matters one bit, right, but it’s fun!), I like to enjoy the autumn decorations while it’s still autumn, I think our tree is really pretty, and all we had to do is remove the overtly Halloween/Samhain decorations to create a lovely ambiance here at the Bobcat Lair (the poor ranch missed my decorative touch this year, which probably didn’t bother Lee one bit).

The seasonal tree in its fall incarnation.

Here in Texas, it just doesn’t feel all that wintry, so I don’t feel awful about enjoying the leaves, acorns and such.

On the Other Hand

I do have some winter decorations out all year round. I happen to love my green glass trees and peace plates from the late, lamented Pier One (the online version is NOT the same). And there are a few wintry bird items I can’t bear to put away.

I think peace, birds, and trees are appropriate all year.

And then there are all my glass pumpkins and acorns that never go away. Pumpkins are attractive year round, so I am not hiding them. I guess I just focus on the things for each time of the year, dragging flowery things to the foreground in the spring, etc.

These move around some, but they are always here. Sigh, no more pumpkins from Pier One.

Where Do You Put It All?

Something I ponder about the people with all the decorations, like complete re-decorating of many rooms for the Christmas period, is where do they put it all when it’s not Christmas? If you have separate linens, towels, pillows, rugs, and assorted décor items, where do they go? I know my friend Maggie has an entire garage for that stuff. At the ranch I happen to have a holiday closet, since we added SO MANY closets when we built the house that there’s space. And dear Aunt Margie in North Carolina had a “present room” in her house; now she had some decorations!

Not everyone has the space for winter, spring, summer, and fall niches in their living room. Also, aren’t these pretty?

But, these are all people who are, shall we say, privileged. The examples I gave have or had big ole houses with only two occupants. There was space to put all this excess stuff. I feel rather wasteful for having duplicates of my dishes and other items that I can drag out every year. Or maybe I’m just grumpy.

This winter bird is too lovely to hide for most of the year.

This year, with all the struggle going on, I’m going to tone things down. It just doesn’t feel right to wallow in excess right now. That’s just me, a person who doesn’t celebrate Christmas. I do like shiny things, and don’t hold it against any family that wants to decorate every surface of their home, inside and out, it just doesn’t feel right for ME.

Granted, as gloomy as this weekend is looking to be, some cheerful lights might be useful.

One Final Gripe

Plus, I really don’t like those inflatable decorations. They seem to spend most of their time as sad, deflates, non-festive lumps. Again, that’s just me. Feel free to convince me otherwise in the comments!

These things just don’t do anything for me. I must be too old. Image from @ginarossi via Twenty20.

Sure, There’s Fun in There, Somewhere

The last few days have not been in the realm of “fun” for me, for the most part. Just because I CAN do things doesn’t mean they aren’t stressful and tiring. I knew I had to change my team and work in a different way than before, so I did, but between actually doing it, needing support, and spending a LOT of time supporting confused people, by the time last night rolled around I was pooped.

The back pond is full again. And the grass is greener already. Photo by Lee Bruns.

When I got home, I was not up for wading through mud to feed the horses, and besides, I knew they had food and water, due to all the rain (the grass IMMEDIATELY grew). I did check on the very wet chickens and their very wet food (I can’t open one of their feeders, so, it was all in a very wet bowl). As I was checking on the new chickens, Patty ran into the pullet area and wouldn’t come back out. She went right over to poor Henley (who still doesn’t look great, but she’s eating and drinking). I tried as long as I could do remove her, but failed.

I am NOT leaving.

I crawled into bed and had ice cream for dinner. Self care! That was fun.

Today, it’s been raining all day again. The weather around here is just plain weird. But, it’s not hot. And the chimney leaked a lot less than yesterday. See, how great is that?

After surviving (set the bar low, Lee said) the three days of planning meetings with hundreds of people on Zoom, I was happy to find a box on the porch. It contained my new autumn wreath. It’s not too fancy, but will look good on my office door. I wanted to wait until after Labor Day, but I needed some fun, darn it! That will get me through another couple of months, anyway.

Velvet Pumpkins!

My boss said to take the afternoon off, because we’ve earned it, but of course I’ve had to deal with an ornery aging computer genius, and my team all want me to to one on ones and teach them complicated document formatting techniques. I wonder if I can do that while completely empty of mental strength?

I AM taking tomorrow off. Maybe it won’t rain and I can make it up to Apache and Fiona!

Let’s Pretend It’s Autumn!

Sure, it was 102 again today. But today was the day Anita and I rewarded ourselves for all the garage cleaning and wine room construction. Yes, we went to Pier 1 to check out the fall decor.

Wait!

I forgot to share last week that Anita got a special accent for the wine room, a beautiful Tiffany-style lamp she found on Overstock.com. She also got a few wine books. Fancy.

Back to Seasonal stuff

Isn’t this post riveting so far? I’m pretty dulle when not ranting.

Anyway, we knew we wanted to get a couple more of the glass pumpkins Pier 1 does every year. Other than that Anita had her eye on an acorn made out of leaves, and I wanted a calm autumn wreath.

This one will join others in the wall shelving.
Continue reading “Let’s Pretend It’s Autumn!”

Yoj to the World!

Anita and I have a quirky tradition that I guess constitutes a family holiday joke. My family is full of them, which explains the abundance of “Christmas owls” in the house that stem from a childhood experiece my brother and I had.

We are the Griswold family of our neighborhood. There are many lights and blinking things.

Anyway, our tradition in Anita’s and my household is to have a sign that says “Yoj” instead of “Joy.” You see, I had a sign with big red letters and lights that spelled out “Joy” at my office, back when I was big into office decorating. When we moved to the new “open office” minimalist desk spaces, there was no place for it to hang, so I took it home.

I spent at least 20 minutes looking for this dang picture.
Continue reading “Yoj to the World!”