After Hours Excitement

I was up in the wee hours both Saturday and Sunday this past weekend.  Not because I was out partying and living it up.  Not by choice.  In fact, I’m almost certain I was in bed by 11 PM both evenings.  By choice.  I had been up earlier that preferred several times last week and was looking forward to some much needed restorative sleep.

About 3 AM on Saturday, I was in a deep sleep, dreaming of wonderful things.  Suddenly, I was accosted by a blaring alarm.  At first I thought it was the house alarm, but then remembered I hadn’t set that.  I then realized it was the smoke alarm about 10 feet from my head.  I was familiar with these things chirping if the battery was dying or sounding if I had burnt something in the kitchen, but never had one caused temporary deafness for no apparent reason. 

I tried the reset button and a new battery, but that only resulted in a few minutes of relief until I was again jarred out of my sleep and sure my heart rate would never return to normal.  Thankfully my parents were in town so I went to get my dad to see if he could get the alarm to stop.  I felt bad that I had to wake him up (somehow my parents had slept through the alarm blaring…) but he was able to take down the defective alarm so I could sleep in peace for the next few hours.

Last evening, I went to bed on the early side because I was tired from the previous night’s excitement.  Around 4 AM, I wake up to some sort of ruckus coming from the other room.  I turn on the lights and walk down the hall toward the noise.  It seems to be coming from the family room.  I come into the family room and find Miss Scarlett with her back to me in the far corner.  Upon closer inspection, I see that she has a mouse cornered, on his back, with his arms up in the air as if surrendering and pleading for his life.  No exaggeration. 

He tries to get away a few times and she smacks him back into the corner with her big, furry paws.  I moved to go get a box or some vehicle for escorting the mouse out of the house and must have distracted Scarlett in doing so.  Little mousy made a run for it.  Scarlett and mousy made dozens of laps around the coffee table until Scarlett was able to force him into another corner where I had several bags of fabric samples.  Trying to escape the furry beast, the mouse backed up the side of one of the bags and fell in.  Somehow Scarlett seemed to miss this development and proceeded to nearly hyperventilate as she furiously sniffed all of the other bags and the space between them.  Meanwhile, I crossed the handles of mousy’s bag so he couldn’t jump out as I took the bag downstairs and out to the porch.  I opened the bag and leaned it over.  Mousy scurried out into the darkness.  Back upstairs, Scarlett looked confused as to where the new toy had gone. 

After reenacting the last thirty minute’s sequence of events to each my mom and dad, my head hit the pillow pretty hard.  Scarlett slept off the excitement all day on the sofa. 

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Today, I bought some not so cheap restorative moisturizer that has extract of every plant known to man that will hopefully erase my newly acquired wrinkles, age spots and bags under my eyes.

Hopefully I will make it through the night undisturbed. 

Y’all hurry back,

Sugarlump

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The Cat That Cried Salmon

It was a gloomy day in middle Tennessee on Monday.   To perk up after my lunch meeting, I decided to make myself a coffee. I usually limit myself to coffee in the morning so this is a departure from my routine. As my coffee machine (the setting up of which I will detail in a future post) was warming up, Gus started having an absolute fit, meowing loudly and constantly, desperately trying to get my attention. At first I thought something was wrong, but both he and Scarlett didn’t seem to be in any life-threatening binds. I went to the fridge to grab the half-and-half for my coffee and Gus continued his tirade, putting his paws up on the freezer drawer and looking up at the half-eaten can of salmon on the top shelf. He had been fed that morning per usual so I couldn’t figure out what all the fuss what about. Then it dawned on me. The term “conditioned response” popped into my not yet caffeinated brain and I realized that Gus heard the coffee machine warming up, which usually signals that I am about to crack open a can of Fancy Feast for his breakfast. As I assume he doesn’t track time very well, it was morning for all he knew and he heard his cue to beg for food like he hadn’t been fed in weeks and his life was falling to pieces.

 

I shouldn’t have been surprised that he would pull such a stunt. This is how we started the day (after his first round of salmon):

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I heard him crying like he was stuck or hurt and looked around the corner only to see him antagonizing Scarlett.

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He meows pitifully to provoke her and then punches her in face. What a punk.

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Y’all come back,

Sugarlump

 

Knock Knock…

During the ice age we experienced recently, there was a woodpecker that kept trying to peck through the exterior wall of my office.  I don’t really blame him except for the fact that he made it very hard for me and Gus and Scarlett to concentrate.  Me on my work and Gus and Scarlett on their naps.

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Barney Fife and Andy Griffith had narrowed in on this situation, springing into action from their deep slumber on the sofa in a matter of seconds.

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Scarlett tried to stare a hole through the wall.  Gus got distracted by a woman walking her dog.

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Scarlett assumed the position as the suspect’s knocking intensified.

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Scarlett decided she needed a better angle.

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Although this looks like a tender moment, Gus was not pleased that Scarlett infringed on his personal space.

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Gus shared his feelings and Scarlett quickly made him regret it.

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“Are you calling me fat???!!”

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Tensions subsided as the two were quickly reminded of the task at hand.  Mr. Pecker had resumed his knocking.

All in a day’s work.

Y’all come back,

Sugarlump

Crafty Cousins

Christmas Eve night, the Dyer girls got crafty.  My cousin Kristen had bought a gingerbread house kit at Sam’s club for $5 on a whim and asked us if we’d like to entertain ourselves by putting it together.  Of course we did!

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We sat around Granny and Papa’s table and giggled and cut up like old times as we took a stab at confectionery construction.  We’ve had some good times and crazy conversations at that table.  One thing is for sure: what happens at Granny and Papa’s table stays at Granny and Papa’s table.

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Though we were certainly enjoying ourselves, we took our craft very seriously, too.  We worked hard to get the walls and roof pieces to stick together.  We even enlisted the pepper and jam containers sitting on the table to hold the pieces in place as they set.  We soon discovered that our “mortar” (icing) wasn’t exactly of the highest quality.  I had the bright idea to use marshmallow creme as a binding agent because, as I recalled, it sticks to EVERYTHING.  It wasn’t exactly easy to control, unfortunately, so one side of the house looked like it had insulation bursting out between the roof and the walls.  Rookie mistake.  We kept that side concealed from our photographer.

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The kit also came with fondant (or fon-DANT! if you’re my enthusiastic cousin Kristen) to make the doors and windows.

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It was looking a little rough there for a while, but with the addition of the windows, bushes, random peppermints adornments, layer upon layer of frosting that tasted like joint compound but didn’t act like it, and dusted flour (an improvised touch) it really came together.  You could barely tell it was homemade.  Ha.

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Papa did say it was the prettiest house he’d ever seen.   It was charming in a very haphazard, out of plumb kind of way.

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This is where the $5 cost came into play.

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Not 5 minutes after we completed the house, disaster struck and it toppled to its death on the way to the dining room table from the kitchen table.  No one was sadder than Granny.  She almost cried for us.  We took it pretty well.

For next year, we’ve vowed to make our own superglue-infused icing and construct the house out of graham crackers instead of gingerbread so the walls and roof aren’t so heavy.  Just wait for it.  It will be epic.  And we’ll have Papa write us a State Farm homeowners’ policy just in case.

Y’all come back,

Sugarlump

J’adore Holiday Decor

I was glad to have a house to decorate this year for Christmas.  The only thing is that I forgot how much work is involved.  Not that I’m complaining! There is nothing that warms my heart more than a house adorned with greenery, poinsettias, candles and shiny things.  Top it off with a Frasier Fir or Holiday Bayberry candle, and I might just explode with joy!

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I took advantage of having family in town the weekend after Thanksgiving to get the tree put up.  We selected a mighty fine-looking (and smelling) Frasier Fir.  Thank goodness my dear sister Eugene has herculean strength and could lift the tree to an upright position as my dad secured it in the stand.

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The tree had a beautiful shape with impressive uniformity…

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…except for this one little branch here in the back that stuck out like a tail.  It cracked me up so I left it there.  Who wants a tree without a little bit of character?  If I had it my way (and by my way, I mean if I won the lottery and could justify spending 4 figures on live greenery), I would have one of those miniature, spindly, misshapen Charlie Brown trees in every room because I think they are hysterical and precious. Fortunately for anyone who comes to my house, my holiday decor fund has a limit.

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AFTER my dad and I had strung the lights on the tree, I realized that my transition from the LED lights purchased last year for my tree that was half the size of this one to the new incandescent lights that I purchased this year to bridge the gap was not so smooth.

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See the annoying blur of the white LED lights against the soft, warm glow of the smaller incandescent lights? I could not stand the sight of it so yours truly went out the next day to get some more of the 200 light strands of acceptable Christmas tree lights.  When I got to Walgreens, where they were running a 2 for 1 special, I noticed that this location had 300 light strands for the same price as the 200 light strands.  So instead of buying 2 more 200 lights strands, I bought 2 300 light strands, thinking I could get away with adding just 1 300 light strand to my existing 200 and then keep the “free” 300 light strand for another purpose.  Perhaps for an unsuspecting shrub.

I got home and took the wretched LEDs off the top 2/3 of the tree and began stringing the regular, lovely, perfect, warm lights from the top.  All was going swimmingly until I reached the point where I needed to connect the 300 light strand to the 200 light strand.  I would like to tell you that these are the EXACT SAME LIGHTS FROM THE EXACT SAME MANUFACTURER.  I held up the 3 prong connector of the 300 light strand ready to plug it into the receptacle of the 200 light strand only to discover that the 200 light strand’s receptacle had only 2 holes.  JOY TO THE WORLD!

After contemplating poking my eyes out with the 3 prong connector so I couldn’t see the darn lights on the tree anyway, I collected myself and began taking the 200 light strand off the BOTTOM 1/3 of the tree so that I could make unexpected use of that additional “free” 300 light strand.  I was concerned that my math wouldn’t work out and the lights would be too dense at the bottom of the tree, but the result was passable for my OCD self.

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I was pleased with the end result, even though my camera doesn’t pick up the delicate glow of the lights very well in low-lighting.

As if that wasn’t enough light-enduced drama for one year, I decided to put electric candles in the windows.  All 44 of them.  I thought I might get crafty and use the battery operated LED lights (did I learn nothing from the tree episode?) to save (cause) myself some trouble.  I put one in the window and didn’t really like the looks of it.  It was too white and kind of dull.  To see if I was imagining this, I put a plug-in incandescent candle next to it in the window and went out in the yard to compare the two from a distance.  NO COMPARISON.  I really wanted to like the LEDs for their energy savings and convenience; however, there might as well have been no candle in the window if I had opted for this route.  It was pitiful, really, next to the arc of warm light radiating from the incandescent.  More work for me, but I knew it would be worth it.  4 hours, 2 trips to the hardware store, and 16 extension cords later, it was totally worth it.  I promise.  It’s really a crime that I couldn’t get a good picture of it for you.  I haven’t mastered night photography yet.  Or day photography.

After all of that electrical excitement, I moved on to a few more basic decorating assignments: the front hall, the front door, the porch, the mantle, and the kitchen island.

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The nice man at the farmers’ market gave us a good deal on this Frasier Fur wreath.  I found some of that wide, mesh-like ribbon at Hobby Lobby and finished it off with a big ol’ bow.

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I also stumbled upon some large faux wreaths at 50% off so I got 2 of those for the large windows on the porch.  They got bows, too.  Please disregard the expired mums that I had yet to remove as of the date this photo was taken.  Please do note the snow on the roof!  Too bad this wasn’t Christmas Day.

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My dad had to trim a low-hanging branch off the tree to fit it into the tree stand, so I used that to fill out the mantle.  My gold pears from Pier 1 a few years back gave the mantle a nice, rhythmic touch.  First, I prepped the mantle with some saran wrap to keep the sap from creating a hot mess on the woodwork.

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The final step was the stockings, which took a little bit of time and imagination.  You see, I had found the most perfect faux fur tree skirt and pair of stockings at Homegoods.  The only problem is that there are 4 people in my family, not 2.  I called all of the surrounding TJ Maxx/Homegoods locations and non of them had more of these treasures.  I had to get creative and settle on an eclectic look with the addition of another type of fur stocking and a fabulous sequined one, which I made my dad’s.  He was confused and probably a little disturbed by this.  It made me laugh.

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On the topic of confused and disturbed, for my holiday arrangements in the kitchen and foyer, I spray-painted some branches gold.  But not just any branches.  Branches that came from 12 foot tree limbs that fell during an intense wind storm we had here in Nashville on Halloween. I drug these branches out of the yard and into my garage.  I’m sure my neighbors thought I was crazy.  You’d be amazed by what a little metallic gold spray paint and a small hand saw can do.

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When it comes to holiday decorations, I think simple and natural is best…

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…until I have to take it all down.

Covered in pine needles,

Sugarlump

Thanksgiving Trials and Tribulations: The Table

So I decided to have Thanksgiving in the new house, but the funny thing is that I have absolutely no dining room furniture.  Not a stitch.

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I did have these pine cones adorning the mantle across the room.  I found them at a yard sale a few months back.  Too bad you can’t sit on or eat off of them.

With less than a week before Thanksgiving, I had to put on my thinking cap.

My solution was not unlike glamping.

Actually glamping might be more glamorous.

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Thank you to Costco and Ikea, I am the proud owner of a “dining set” for under $100.  Coincidentally, I am now equipped for tailgating.  I’m loving this versatile furniture.

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Because I planned to serve slightly more elegant food than hotdogs and chips, I figured I might want to dress (hide) the table.

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I found just the thing at Wal-mart: tone-on-tone ticking stripe fabric by the yard that I would transform into a tablecloth.  Minor detail: Did I mention that I don’t sew?

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Ta-da!  With some creative cutting and folding, I successfully hid the evidence that my table was anything but solid mahogany.

I advised my guests not to lean too hard on my “delicate” table and explained that I was going for a more eclectic look with my “retro” chairs.

A little metallic never hurt anyone, so I started the tabletop with gold chargers and an actual vintage piece, a candelabra that my grandmother had given my great Aunt Anna before she passed.  It was nice to have a reminder of her at the table.  She was a great cook and an elegant lady.  I think she would have been proud of my efforts.

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Glassware and plates instantly made the table look fuller and shinier.

The table was beginning to look legitimate.

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Then came some tinted glass bowls to add color and continue with the vintage theme.  My mom and I made a last minute dash to Pier 1 for some golden yellow cloth napkins.   I put together two low floral arrangements with my flowers from Costco.  I love a show-stopping floral centerpiece, but I actually wanted to be able to see the other people at the table so I divided and conquered. I also added some burlap ribbon to my fancy chairs to complete my unique look.

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I was pretty pleased with myself, especially since this set-up cost me less than the groceries for the meal.

Consider this my submission for the design on a dime challenge.

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This is my favorite angle.

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Eugene took this fab picture with her phone.  I think it’s worthy of Martha Stewart Living.

This certainly wasn’t a traditional Thanksgiving set-up, but we all got to sit together around the table and have a good laugh.  I’ll give thanks for that.

Stay tuned for the meal.  It was not without its challenges.

Y’all keep it classy,

Sugarlump

Gold Mine

I recently made a trip up to Boston to help my parents clean out closets and storage spaces that contain the relics of my childhood.  In an effort to purge the no longer needed, my parents nominated me to make the call on what was too precious and dear to part with and what needed to find a new home in a hurry.

The major area that needed addressing was my sister’s and my old playroom that had become a resting place for furniture no longer allowed in the main part of the house.

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Things only got worse before they got better.

But, boy, did they get good.

I found some real treasures among 3 carloads, 2 truckloads, and dozens of 55 gallon trash bags by the curb of rejected items.

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This here is one of the Hanson brothers, also known as my little sister Eugene.

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I found an entire box of cards that my sister’s classmates had made her when she had her tonsils removed in the first or second grade.  By the volume of cards and the concern in her classmates’ scribbles, you would have thought she was having high-risk, open-heart surgery.  She had many a reminder to eat popsicles, which had some very creative spellings.  My favorite though, was this card from a young man who I deduce was named Harrison.  He seemed to have some top secret information for Eugene on the inside of the card as she was to “plees opon alone.”

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I found my Chapel signs from my senior year of high school.  Man were those a trip.

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This is me in 8th grade with my kindergarten buddy.  I think she’s applying to colleges now.  I feel old.

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Hard to believe since it was just yesterday that I was sporting pig tails and cat appliques.

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Who remembers Lisa Frank?! I used to love to buy this stuff at the school store in elementary school!

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I was unsure about this creature that belonged to Eugene.  I sent her this picture to inquire about its nature.

Me: “What is this here creature?”

Eugene: “A horse in a kimono, naturally.”

Right.  He was for sure a keeper.

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Cards congratulating my parents on my birth.  I’m not sure if it was a common thing to say back then (let’s hope), but a lot of the cards said, “take good care of her,” as if my parents were questionable guardians.   This kind of made me laugh/worry.

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This is a realtor packet from 1992 when my parents sold their first home in Maryland, where Eugene and I were born.

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Apparently I took interest in homes and real estate at a young age as it appears I added my own notes to the list of house features.

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I had a lot to add.

And that was only day one.

Y’all be good,

Sugarlump

 

 

Here to Stay

Somehow, I have lived in Tennessee for a year.  How did that happen?

This past Saturday marked the anniversary of completely uncharacteristic move 1100 miles south.  In a way, it seems this year flew by, and yet living in Boston seems a long way back.  I didn’t know a soul when I moved here, but of course I received a warm welcome.  It is the south after all.

I’ve made many wonderful friends in the last 12 months.  I’ve gotten to see my grandparents and extended family more than ever.  I’ve discovered I like bluegrass.  I’ve put 17,000 miles on my car. I’ve experienced a tornado warning.  I’ve taken thousands of pictures of the sky.  I haven’t done yoga once.

Words like “you’re fine” and “y’all” have become fixtures in my vocabulary.  My style has become more eclectic and less preppy.   Though it would be a serious stretch to call me an extrovert, I’m more outgoing and chatty than I used to be.  I like to get out more.

I don’t have a TV in my room and I don’t miss it. I still haven’t bought bar stools so I don’t have a proper place to eat a meal.  I cook maybe once or twice a week.

I’ve decided I’m not over the city living as much as I thought. I’ve stopped drinking soda. I like dogs more than I used to.  I’ve been to the movie theater 3 times.  I’ve canned jam.

I’ve learned more about what’s important to me and what’s not.

It feels like home here.

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I think it’s time to take down this wreath.

Y’all come back,

Sugarlump

Tax Avoidance (Not Evasion)

It’s funny how, when faced with doing your taxes, vacuuming the sofa and ironing your socks become wildly appealing activities.  Suddenly, tackling that oil painting for my living room that I’ve been putting off since I moved in 11 months ago seems very urgent.  Brushing the cats’ teeth and cleaning out that “catch-all” basket of receipts, screw-drivers, lotion samples, paperclips and nail polish is just too hard to resist.

Doing my taxes really isn’t all that bad.  Because I own a business, I have an accountant who sends me a really nice tax organizer that makes the experience as painless and straight-forward as possible.  Every year, after I complete the document to return to her, I remark on how surprisingly simple it was.  And every year, I put off doing my taxes because something about it makes me want to do just about anything else.  I can’t explain it.

Today, instead of doing my taxes, I’ve done 4 loads of laundry and 1 load of dishes.  I’ve vacuumed, changed the sheets on my bed, rearranged the furniture and cleaned out the refrigerator.  Then I happened to find myself at Homegoods where I purchased 2 mirrors that were not the size I needed, but I had to have them.  Consequently, I have spent the last hour re-hanging everything on the walls in my apartment to accommodate said purchases.

At least I will have a fresh environment in which to do my taxes…whenever that may be.

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Off to French-braid Scarlett’s fur.  Doesn’t she look excited.

Y’all be responsible,

Sugarlump

Christmas Traditions

This year marked a big transition in tradition for the Dyer household.   Instead of having our family Christmas at my parents’ house as we have always done, I hosted here in my new hometown of Nashville.

In my one bedroom apartment.

I didn’t foresee an issue as I have a large sectional that can sleep two people so I knew all four of us would have a comfortable place to sleep.

What I didn’t foresee was the blanket shortage.  I wound up sleeping under my robe.

It’s ok though.  Santa still showed up and we had our family Christmas.

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I may need a bigger place if I plan on hosting regularly.

After our family Christmas on Christmas Eve morning with just me, Eugene and my mom and dad, we headed to Kentucky for Christmas on Christmas Day with the extended family.

Got that straight?

We always sleep at my dad’s parents’ house on Christmas Eve.  My aunt, uncle and cousins live just down the road so they do their family Christmas early in the morning and then head to my grandparents for the big family Christmas on Christmas Day.

Christmas morning, Granny made sausage gravy and biscuits.  Man that stuff is good.  I certainly couldn’t eat it every day but then again my great grandparents did and they lived into their 90’s so maybe there’s something to that.  I’ll have to ponder that at a later time when I’m feeling less full.

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Per tradition, we started with our stockings.  Among other lovely items, there was a Starbucks gift card, which it looks like I could have used that morning if the nearest Starbucks weren’t over 70 miles away.

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After the stockings, we moved into the living room and the youngins passed out the gifts.  Eugene found a tagless gift, which was cause for great concern.

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My mom and Aunt Vickie received some money in shot glasses from Santa (Papa).  I found this hilarious.  I’m glad Aunt Vickie thought so, too.

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Granny got her box of tide with a dollar bill from Papa.  He’s been doing this for decades and I’m still not really sure how it started.  Maybe someday I’ll get to the bottom of it.

After Christmas at my dad’s parents’ house, we headed down the road (literally) for Christmas with my mom’s parents.

I went straight for a bourbon ball….or two.   I have a wicked sweet tooth and there’s no telling when it will strike.

We settled into the living room and opened our gifts.  It wasn’t the same without my aunt, uncle and cousin on my mom’s side, but we were certainly thinking of them and wishing they could have been with us.

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After seeing the photo that my parents sent out unsupervised in the family Christmas card this year where I look possessed, Eugene and I insisted that we supply suitable photographs for next year’s card.  We had my dad take about 437 photos and this was one of the better ones.

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With cameras retired for the day, we ate the delicious Christmas dinner that Grandmother had prepared for us.

Then I had a few more bourbon balls and a piece of rum cake.

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We played a game of Scrabble, one of our favorites.  I wasn’t on top of my game.  There’s only so much you can do when dealt X, B, J, H, L, L, T.  That, and most of the blood in my body was likely trying to aid in the digestion of the forty pounds of food I had eaten in the past few hours instead of pumping through my brain for a stroke of vocabulary genius.

And then I might have had another bourbon ball.

And then some leftover dressing from Christmas Eve dinner back at Granny and Papa’s.

And a piece of the jam cake cousin Lauren and I made on Thanksgiving and let ripen for Christmas.  It was scrumptious.

I think I’ll be full until next year.

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These things are the devil.

Y’all be careful,

Sugarlump