how handmade makes the best holiday

handmade xmas

Oh December. You are happening so fast.

Yet, the final sewing classes have occurred, holiday markets are complete and the last handmade gifts and custom orders are done and done.  Our family has been really busy but we are starting to feel the great slowing-down as the long stretch of winter break approaches.

When I was growing up, life was never really stable enough for family traditions to form and stick from one year to the next so I am fierce about making sure we have our own.  There is no Martha Stewart-style perfection about it. Not a lick.  These are our traditions and our family magic, nobody else’s.  I treasure all of it, so much.  Despite the stresses and the hurrying about, December in our house is everything I wanted it to be and more than I imagined.  Making it handmade is a huge part of the traditions we are building.   Such as our stockings and the peace banner (it says ‘joy’ on the other side) up above.   I made those a few years back and it’s nice to see them this time of year.  In a few days, after the kids go to sleep, my husband and I will open some wine and turn on our favorite Dry the River and make mince pies until the wee hours of the night.  The boys are in love with our advent calendar. There is just so much heart in hand-cooked and handmade.

advent calendar

advent activities

The advent calendar is hung up on two dowel rods that are taped together.  It makes the middle of the advent droop and sit unevenly.  Nobody cares.  Each little mitten holds an easy activity….simple stuff like ‘hug a friend’ or ‘sing a Christmas song to your grandparents’.  Nothing that creates a massive hassle for our day or a stressful time-crunch for me. Easy stuff that is somehow really exciting for C & J to accomplish every day.  Today we played in the snow.  This weekend we will head into NYC to see Rockefeller Center and grab a cupcake at Magnolia Bakery…the advent will tell us to do it but we would have done it anyway, we do it every year.  The boys think it’s pure magic and wake up dying to find out what is in the day’s mitten.

boys in snow

Under our Christmas tree is a tree skirt sewn by my grandmother.  After my grandparents stopped farming and gave up cold, bitter Minnesota mornings on the farm for a cozy home in a small town they started quilting together. My grandmother sewing and my grandfather helping to stretch out and tie the quilts.  The fact that they are both gone now makes this tree skirt priceless.  It’s as close as I get to their hands.

grandmas tree skirtDangling on our tree is the ornament my Aunt handmade for me when I was born.  I never get to see her, she lives far away, so it’s great to catch glances of this ornament all month long and share stories about her with C & J.

cindy's ornamentSame thing with this ornament from my mother.   She painted it for me from when I was little from some kind of kit.  My mother was a talented artist who had to give it up to raise me and my siblings but she managed to carry her artistic sense with her into everything she did.  Only now in her retirement is she finding little ways to explore getting back into making art herself.   It takes so much courage to do jump back into something like that.

kit house

I love how December ushers all of these stories into my home and I’m watching my boys and wondering what memories they are making and how those will turn into their stories.  I’m late in saying this because you are also crazy busy but welcome December…it’s nice to have you here.

8 Comments on how handmade makes the best holiday

  1. kristin
    December 19, 2013 at 12:20 pm (4 years ago)

    I love this post. Merry Christmas! 😀

    • Melissa Q.
      December 19, 2013 at 4:25 pm (4 years ago)

      Same to you, Kristin! Hope you get up and off your feet a bit!

  2. Barbara J
    December 19, 2013 at 2:54 pm (4 years ago)

    I recognize that wooden ornament that your mom painted. It’s from a set of ornaments that I purchased in the mid 70s when I was first married and had little money to spend on decorating a tree. If I’m not mistaken, it was from the Lillian Vernon catalog. I use them each year even still!

    • Melissa Q.
      December 19, 2013 at 4:27 pm (4 years ago)

      So cool! Other people have recognized them, too. That must be why! Good old Lillian Vernon!

  3. Kristen Powell
    December 20, 2013 at 8:34 am (4 years ago)

    love your peace banner!!!

    • Melissa Q.
      December 21, 2013 at 7:37 pm (4 years ago)

      Thank you! It’s right up your alley, you banner fiend!

  4. Pat
    December 20, 2013 at 11:12 pm (4 years ago)

    Ah Lillian Vernon. That must be why I never painted that ornament. I bought it at a garage sale and used it on our tree every year after until it made its way to your house. I can just imagine how in you mind as a child you must have thought I painted it. Stories are funny. I read the blog and got to that ornament and thought “oh no! I didn’t paint that! but I did make those weird baked dough ornaments that got moldy one year in the basement storage. I bet you remember them and your little baby Jesus that you made. I love your blog, and love love love seeing your Christmas traditions since I can’t be with you. hugs and kisses to all. MOM

    • Melissa Q.
      December 21, 2013 at 7:38 pm (4 years ago)

      Wait. What?! You never painted those ornaments!? Mom!! That is too funny! See…I just think you are amazing and painted all the things.


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