Remembering Christmases of Past

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Christmas season makes me reliably nostalgic and sad for the seasons gone by. I am homesick for one and my paternal grandparents whom I was very close to had birthdays around Christmas. They are no longer with us but I miss them still and I suspect always will.

Christmas in Estonia was always blisteringly cold and usually white. I can’t recall a single Christmas in that small northern country sandwiched between the Baltic Sea and Finland that wasn’t white. We would always eat the same holiday dinner: pork with crackling, roast potatoes, sauerkraut, blood sausages with lingonberry jam and pickled pumpkin. There were many that craved or crave something new and exiting such as duck for the holidays but I have cooked the same exact Christmas dinner my entire adult life which mirrors my childhood ones almost to a tee. There’s a certain comfort there, the delicious smell of it all cooking takes back to my childhood and makes me feel like it’s really really really Christmas. We’d spend the day cooking, then go to church, then go to the graveyard to light the candles. It wasn’t a sad moment, necessarily, but a solemn and sacred ones. And the graveyard looked beautiful all lit up in hundreds of candles. Hot sauna awaited and after that we all dressed up for dinner, followed by Santa’s visit and then dessert.

Yours truly in the middle with her tongue out. Have you seen a scarier Santa btw?

We would visit with friends and neighbors the day after and then drive 3 hours to my grandparents house for another feast. I loved seeing my three aunts and their families and getting a second round of gifts by the tree. We went outside to the see the fireworks in the snowy, white night and ran on the road, stopping to hug our family and off we went again under a big starry sky. It was amazing. And I am so terribly sad that my children won’t know it for all our relatives live in different states and countries from Florida to Australia. They rarely see family and I feel they really miss out on this wonderful unconditional love.

My grandfather holding me.

So I suppose that is why I always put so much effort into holidays, in my mind they give you permanence and structure to your years. I hold dear old traditions and try to initiate a few new ones. I guess I like to make memories: be it in a form of a gift or a compliment, dinner or a book. By making each occasion a little bit special, perhaps it will lift someone’s spirits or add a memory to cherished or comforted by at some point in our lives. I’ll miss my grandparents but I tie on my grandmother’s apron when making gingerbread cookies with my daughters or get some sugar out of a bowl that belonged to them, I feel them with me.

My paternal grandparents.

I hope you will have a wonderful Christmas. That you’ll feel loved and happy and have someone in your life to be grateful for and have enough magic in you to create a special memory for someone else. Merry Christmas!



Last minute chic gift ideas

Photo credit: Ryan Lavine

I can’t believe that Christmas Eve is here in one week! We usually have a big dinner that night of pork, sauerkraut, potatoes and blood sausage! I feel like I have become quite the connoisseur of those sausages as so many countries make a version, tracking down one that was most reminiscent of Estonian ones wasn’t easy but found a delightful Polish store that carries excellent ones. Have you gotten all your gifts ordered, shipped and wrapped? Work in progress over here, the poor guy at USPS is like As I said last year, these wont make it for Christmas. 🙁 In case you are missing a few gift ideas for yourself, check out these ideas!

I feel like you can’t go wrong with jewelry, these are beautiful but delicate enough for every day use.

Julie Vos - Medici Statement Earring, Pearl 1
Medici Statement Pearl Earrings $185

This book is on my wishlist for sure. Bunny Williams, socialite, interior designer and a woman who designed several gardens in the White House and those in Paris belonging to Givenchy. 

American interior designer, socialite and avid gardener who designer several gardens in the White House (incl the rose garden) and the ones belonging to French couturier Givenchy. $37.42
PJ LUXE Luxe Modal PJ Set
PJ Salvage Luxe Modal PJ set $102
Love these shoes, Ferragamo Peony Bow Pump Shoe on sale for $416. Pricey but such a classic, you’ll wear this forever. 

Lastly, has anyone used these tools? Glo Pro came out awhile ago but I feel like its everywhere now. Microneedling tool that pricks your skin a tiny bit s whatever lotions potions go on it afterwards, go much deeper and skin (because it was pricked) will regenerate itself. I feel like my skin is so dull these days, wanted to give it a try, reviews are great and Sephora has a whole set for sale. $199

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Off you go my elves and work your magic to bring holidays to everyone but don’t forget yourself! 



A guide to Christmas decorating

To say that I am really into Christmas decorating is a bit of an understatement. Here are my top tips.

Start with as perfect of a tree as you can. If it’s a fake one, invest in a good quality one and fluff, fluff, fluff. If you are getting a real tree, keep in mind that not all firs are equal. I love Balsam fir for their scent, noble fir is sturdy and frasier firs have better needle retention but that also depends on how the fresh the tree is.  

Decide on a theme. I used to just buy whatever looked cute and then bring it all out in December and basically cover the house with all things Christmasy. More is more is more. I was never really happy with the end result until I started coordinating the rooms and working around a theme. It needn’t be too elaborate, you could just pick color scheme: green and gold, classic red, pastels. Or you could pick an actual theme such as Country Christmas, Candyland or Woodland, etc. 

Classic red theme. Looking back, clearly needed more red poinsettias around the tree.

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Candyland theme: I made some of the bigger ornaments, candy underneath the tree are small beachballs from Walmart wrapped in a cellophane.
Adjacent breakfast room: candy wreath, red and white striped lollipop placemats from Pier1 and pink-red roses carry the theme over.

Make sure you have all you need handy. Here are some essential holiday decor accessories:

  1. 3M hooks every size and shape. These are easily removable without any damage to the walls and come super handy in hanging wreaths and other decor.
  2. Extension cords: different length, preferable white. Don’t forget outdoor extension cords. 
  3. Tree light extension cord: find it here for $7.99. This snakes up the tree in the middle, has 9 plugs in it making it much easier to plug in all lights. 

4. Timers, both indoor and outdoor ones.

5. Garland hooks and ties. I love these Haute Decor garland ties, they look realistic and are great for tightening branches, ornaments, lights. 

You can use twist ties in different colors or plastic bannister hooks. 

And then go forth and decorate. Some rooms may need nothing more that a candle or two and some live Christmas greenery in a vase or bowl of special ornaments. I have some from my grandparents and I bring those out every year in a crystal bowl. I remember seeing those on a tree when little and it makes me nostalgic for the Christmases gone by and sad that they are no longer with us. 

Here’s the order of decorating a tree:

  • lights
  • picks – picks are branches evergreens or sticks or holiday sprays. I like to add evergreen ones to the areas that look weak or out of proportion. 
  • ribbon – start from top. Its an inexpensive way to cover a lot of a tree and tie in the colors of your theme.
  • large ornaments go toward the center of the tree, try to place them in the natural holes and gaps.
  • then add the ornamental and more festive sprays and smaller ornaments

I step away and come back a bit later, the whole process takes me about a week if I am really organized. I’ll change my mind, move stuff around and make the inevitable emergency Michaels runs. Btw, all their holiday stock in 60% off so if you need anything, now is a good time to go!