Thursday, December 29, 2016

Christmas Recap

There really should be a 12-step program to help wean us off of Christmas. One minute, the lights are twinkling, carols are playing, cookies are flowing, and the next day: gone. It's too harsh a reality for me, as I was pretty much made to love this time of year. Think about it: for a month, we're supposed to shop and eat delicious food. Things are decorated in their sparkliest best, parties abound, and each day when the mail comes, my mailbox is filled with wonderful envelopes. It really is the most wonderful time of the year; at least, until January rolls in and puts a stop to it all. But for the next few days, it's still December, and I'm still celebrating.

We spent Christmas in Georgia at my parents' house, which is our usual tradition. This year, my mom decorated her exterior with a snowman theme, using vintage snow people that belonged to my grandfather and adorned the windows of his furniture store years ago.

It's a winter wonderland!

Mom painted and restored the snow people--they look good to be over 50, don't they?

A wreath accented with red ornaments dresses up the front door.
I love the giant snowflake hanging from the porch's light fixture, too.

And I can't look at this sled without thinking, "sleigh bells ring, are you listening?"

We made every effort to check off as many holiday activities as possible this year: my Spotify "Merry Making" playlist is over six hours long, so we had the music covered. Christmas Eve afternoon, we decided we needed some homemade eggnog to wash down our Christmas cookies, so we made a quick grocery store stop and then whipped up a batch.

My first glass (of several) of fresh eggnog.
Bonus points that we didn't cook the eggs and lived to tell about it.

Continuing with the food and drink theme, for Christmas Eve dinner we always do a huge appetizer spread: shrimp, a deli sandwich platter, dips and spreads, cakes, pies, punch--you  name it. We put on a Christmas movie (this year's choice was Home Alone) and eat to our heart's delight.

I'm still enjoying the leftovers.

After we are sufficiently stuffed, and our movie has come to an end, it's time to dole out the presents. We used to each choose just one gift to open Christmas Eve and save the rest of Christmas morning, but it never failed that every year, I inadvertently chose the very worst of all my gifts to open Christmas Eve. That led to choosing a second gift, and before we knew it, we decided to just open them all up and sleep late on Christmas Day without that nagging suspense waking anyone (read: me) up at the crack of dawn on a holiday.

Here's my present pile. As you can tell, I was very good this year. Wink.

Since I was already makeup-free and pajama clad, I did not take pictures while we opened gifts. This is also due in part to the fact that it would slow me down in ripping open my presents, and nothing gets between me and my loot.

New clothes are my love language. I also got some makeup and bath goodies, and you know you're getting old when you actually love getting socks for Christmas. 

Clint, my parents, and I weren't the only ones feeling the yuletide excitement. The dogs were pretty wound up as well.

Cotton turned 14 on Christmas Day. Messy hair, don't care.

Sam, my Mom's miniature poodle, played until he couldn't play any more.

With all the presents opened and ready to enjoy, we slept in Christmas morning and got dressed just in time for lunch. In case our hor d'oeuvres feast the night before had left us the least bit hungry, we sat down to a lunch with Honeybaked ham, roast beef and gravy, green bean casserole, pineapple casserole, corn souffle, brown rice casserole, and biscuits. We took turns trying coconut cake, cherry cheesecake, and red velvet cake for dessert--you know, since it was a holiday and all. And it was all prepared by the jolliest elf this side of the Mason Dixon line.

That's my mom, dressed for the occasion as always.

Once the collective food coma wore off, it was dusky dark and we ventured out to look at Christmas lights. We saw several really good displays this year, but this one wins our award for creativity--it's a mannequin dressed as Cousin Eddie from the movie Christmas Vacation.

Notice the hat, robe, and even the RV! 

Cousin Eddie and all the lights that came with him were a great way to put the joy in our Noel. Before we headed back to Charlotte on Monday, our tradition is always to have a late breakfast in our pajamas and spend the morning watching Holiday Inn. We had a quick lunch in downtown Toccoa and were back in North Carolina by the evening.

It may seem like Christmas is over, but I'm still holding on to the holidays. I have to put my decorations away a little at a time so it doesn't make me so sad, and we still have days worth of treats and snacks leftover to help prolong the celebration. I'm taking baby steps toward the New Year--I've made the switch to light eggnog, after all--but around here, we are still making our spirits bright for as long as we've got left. It's not over until the ball drops on New Year's Eve!

This kid's got the right idea.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Deck the Halls, Y'all

It's the most wonderful time of the year...well, for the most part. I love Christmas, but at some point every year I get the sincere feeling that it might not be mutual. I try, but Christmas puts up a fight. This season, the beautiful gold wrapping paper I was so excited to purchase sheds glitter like a hyped up kid at a rave. After just three gifts, I had glitter in my hair, eyes, and nose. My guest bedroom looks like Tinker Bell exploded, not to mention the charming quality the paper also has where it prohibits any type of tape from sticking for any prolonged period of time. Maybe Christmas is like an elementary school boy, picking on the ones it likes the best as a way to flirt. Whatever the cause, the holidays are upon us, so it's time to get the halls decked and our spirits bright, whatever it takes.

Our decorations are a bit more understated this year, since my ankle has kept me from climbing ladders or standing for too long, but we did as much as we could stand. I'll give you the holiday tour of the house that mayhem built, starting with the outside.

I really like this angle because you can't tell that the lights on the left side keep going out. Or that for the first few days, every time we turned the outside lights on, it tripped a breaker and we lost power inside the house. Oh, Christmas. You're such a prankster.

The mailbox is festive and ready to receive all those Christmas cards I enjoy so much!

We got the tree up without incident this year (a rare blessing, indeed), and since it's usually too hot in the South in December for a fire, I added fresh magnolia strung with lights inside my fireplace for a warm, cozy look. Then a cold front came in and it's 40 degrees outside. You got me again, Christmas. 

One of my favorite Christmas decorations is my Lenox holiday china. I literally count down the days every year until I can set my dining room table for the season. 

I really do wish every day could be like Christmas--all sparkly and shiny and gorgeous.

And then there are just a few little touches around my house that bring me cheer throughout the day.

This happy little display is snowman potpourri--see the top hat, corncob pipe, and red mitten? 

I know it's hard to believe, but sometimes I do get a tad cranky during the hustle and bustle this time of year. And this guy looking back at me from my kitchen reminds me to stop and just be jolly. By golly. (Sorry, couldn't resist).

This is a replica of Tillman Hall, the iconic clock tower building on my beloved Clemson campus. Naturally, I like to make a big deal each night out of turning on the lights in the windows at Tillman. 
It really is the little things.

We travel to Georgia to spend the holidays with my family, but our guest bedroom is still cozy and ready for guests, just in case.

We got this huge red glass bowl as a wedding gift, and it's so merry filled with ornaments on our dresser. You know if it glitters and shines, I'm powerless to resist.

At our back door, I filled my rain boots with a few sprigs of holly and added our "Let It Snow" wreath. I always want it to snow, until it actually does. Even then I like it for the first hour or so.

And this is probably the only antler head we will ever display, but I enjoy him so much
watching over us out on our deck. 'Tis the season, you know.

We have garland and lights and bows and all kind of happy, shiny things on our deck as well, but as of publishing time, a light bulb had gone out and we didn't have a replacement (just Christmas being coy again). I decided not to get my tinsel all in a tangle and to just skip posting pictures of that part of the decor. I'm sure you can picture it in your mind and it is just fabulous, right? Go with that. 

From my house to yours, we wish you a very Merry Christmas and all the wonders of the season. Eggnog to ornaments, gifts to gatherings, cookies to cards, it really is a special time of year. Enjoy every moment of it!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

On Our 15th Anniversary

Once upon a time, back in 1999, my mother reconnected with her college roommate. In their catching up, the two women quickly realized they had children who were almost the same age--a boy and a girl, and both happened to be single at the time. I'm sure you see where this story is headed: a blind date was arranged, Clint and I both begrudgingly went along for what we were each sure would be a trainwreck, and a year and half later we got engaged (on stage at a Willie Nelson concert, because Clint's heart wants what it wants, but I digress).

And now, we are celebrating our 15th wedding anniversary. We have managed not to kill, maim, or send the other person running for over a decade and a half now, an occasion that deserves to be celebrated.

We realize now that we were so young when we got married; we joke that we basically finished raising each other. A large part of the secret to staying married has been that my husband is just an incredibly good sport. This man has never flinched no matter what I've asked of him: he goes along with whatever "miracle" diet I'm raving about at the moment, dons a Halloween costume without a complaint, and generally rolls with the punches. He's patient and unflappable--both of which are requirements for life with yours truly.

Here's my better half, Halloween of 2009. For our couples costume, I went as a police officer and asked him to dress as a doughnut. Because a happy wife means a happy life, he obliged.

Since I've known him, Clint has been my confidante, chauffeur, handyman, co-conspirator, and generally number one fan. He recently added nurse to his resume when I broke my ankle, and even though his meals consist mainly of soup, cereal, or Hot Pockets, I'll add chef to the list as well. 

We've had some adventures over these years; some of them domestic and some of them far flung. From our honeymoon in Aruba to New York City, the Bahamas, Hilton Head to Hawaii, Cabo to Grand Cayman, seeing the sights and eating our way through Italy, or to Phoenix for a football championship game, we have definitely put in some mileage.

Here we are in Hawaii in 2005, with Don Ho. Clearly, Clint is a fan of "Tiny Bubbles."

Charlotte, 2008. A grainy, before-there-were-iPhones picture at a fundraiser with Ric Flair (who had gotten a black eye the night before in a domestic dispute). Woo!

Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, 2010. At a bar called the Giggling Marlin, you see who got the catch of the day!

St. Thomas, Virgin Islands 2014. I can never resist a gimmick, so it's a good thing I married someone who will go right along with it all, including the flaming volcano cocktail at a place called Duffy's Love Shack.

Thanksgiving in New York, 2014. In this family, we are always up for a photo op.

Venice, Italy 2015. I had anticipated this gondola ride for months. The day we were there, the winds were gale force and the rain poured down sideways. Half our group refused to go, but Clint, knowing how badly I wanted the experience, grabbed an umbrella and braved the churning canal with me without complaint.

Phoenix, Arizona 2016. When my beloved Clemson Tigers made it all the way to the National Championship, Clint (who went to Georgia Tech) cashed in every airline mile and hotel reward point he could find to make sure we were there.

Remember my saying how young we were when we got married? Sometimes 15 years ago seems like an eternity and sometimes it feels like it was just yesterday. Since we had a Christmas wedding, one of my favorite ways to look back over the years is through the ghosts photos of Christmases past.

2001: Our first Christmas as a married couple. Those baby faces!

2006: In our festive best at a Christmas party.

2011: All smiles with Cotton, our other constant companion.

2013: A Christmas anniversary celebration at the Homestead in Virginia.

Of course, in between all these Kodak moments, we've had plenty of other escapades as well. There was the time Clint bought a car without talking to me about it first (disaster), or the time I took a dreadful job and ran out the emergency exit after just five days (disaster relief), and there's always that one tense Saturday each fall when our alma maters play each other in football. We bought our first house and then, as most of you well know, tore it apart and renovated it this summer. Things haven't always been easy, but it's been made better knowing I have someone to share it all with--both the highs and lows. I guess what I'm trying to say is that, on the rainy gondola ride of life, it helps to have someone ride in the boat beside you. And laugh when the winds blow your umbrella inside out.

Happy 15th anniversary to my better half! I look forward to many more years of testing your patience and trying (usually in vain) to make you laugh. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Giving Thanks...and No Thanks

The turkey is thawing out for its big debut, the cans of cranberry sauce are getting scarce on store shelves, and we're ready to get stuffed. Get out your horn of plenty and shine up the silver: it's almost Thanksgiving!

Does your family go around the table and have each person tell one thing they are thankful for? My relatives aren't big on cliches, or emotional displays, or formality, so we focus solely on the eating, but I always pause at some point on Turkey Day to think of all the things I have for which to be grateful. There are the big, obvious things like health, friends, and family. And the trivial, but still significant things that are the tent poles of my life, like Diet Coke and extra hold hairspray.

This year, I have a few extra ideas of things I'm thankful for--and a few things I'd just as soon give no thanks at all.

A bounty of thanks and gratitude to the following gems:

Days of Our Lives. I'm thankful for my daily soap opera, not because it's well written, must-see television (it isn't). What makes me appreciate Days of Our Lives is that no matter what is going on in the rest of the world, it is always good not to be a resident of Salem. Having a bad day? Have you been brainwashed, kidnapped, baby switched, presumed dead, comatose, blackmailed, or possessed? I didn't think so. Like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of their unfortunate lives. Watch a few minutes and immediately feel better about your situation.

Knee Scooters. While I'm sad to report that my most awesome knee scooter was turned in last week, I'm grateful for the time we had together. Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened, or whatever it is they say. You cannot fully appreciate the gift of a knee scooter until you've spent a day or two on crutches, but believe me, that little 4-wheeled wonder was a gift. And I have the tire marks and scuffs on our baseboards to prove it. Thank you, knee scooter, for giving me a ride, getting me up and around, and letting me prop up on you while flatiron curling my hair. You were a godsend.

Dream Kardashian. I never thought I would give thanks for anything Kardashian, that much is a certainty. But after the election, when all of social media was flooded with crying, whining, and gnashing of liberal teeth, it seemed we were so divided we couldn't agree on anything. And then Rob Kardashian and Blac Chyna went ahead and named their baby Dream. Suddenly, we found common ground in agreeing that it was the worst baby name ever. We united against bad taste. I suppose if your child is going to be seated at the kiddie table at family functions with cousins named North and Saint, you want a name as absurd as possible. Mission accomplished.

The Whopperito. Per the Burger King website, "The WHOPPERRITO™ is made with savory flame-grilled 100% beef and seasoned with a special blend of spices to deliver the ultimate burger-burrito mashup. It’s stuffed with a creamy Queso, pickles, diced onions, juicy tomatoes, and crisp lettuce all wrapped in a warm flour tortilla." Did you throw up in your mouth yet, because I know I did. Please note that they list the name of this delicacy in all caps, which I assume means they want you to scream it rather than say it. Why on earth am I thankful for this monstrosity? The Whopperito gives me a sliver of hope, because no matter how much of a glutton I have been already this season--no matter what indulgences I've given in to, scarfed down, or binged upon, it all seems to pale in comparison to the "ultimate burger-burrito mashup." Just when I'm afraid I've eaten all the food, I can console myself: I haven't eaten THAT. And then I am thankful, indeed. 

And a kindly thanks, but no thanks is in order for a few other things,which I'm sure are well-meaning. You know what they say the road to hell is paved with, yes?

The Nest thermostat. Isn't technology supposed to make your life easier? Last year, we bought the Nest, a thermostat that is supposed to become intuitive to your temperature preferences and adjust accordingly (you can also manually program it, if you have the time, patience, and inclination...we here at Chez Stancil do not). I say "supposed" to, because it's like the Nest doesn't know us at all--either that, or it has just decided to be spiteful. I am forever too hot, too cold, and fiddling with that blasted thermostat. We have even added the Nest app to our phones, not so much for use when we are away, but to save us the approximately one thousand trips a day we make to the hallway to adjust our fancy thermostat. Thanks for overheated, undercooled, poorly climate-controlled nothing, Nest. 

Pepsi Cola. I know, this one is so predictable, but I'm just going to go ahead and beat this dead horse again. In my humble opinion, Pepsi is a vile beverage not fit for human consumption. Give me Coca Cola or leave me thirsty (I'm pretty sure that's exactly what Patrick Henry really said). Years ago, when we had first moved to Charlotte, this Georgia native proclaimed to an office full of coworkers that Pepsi was a Yankee drink. I was gently corrected with the fact that Pepsi is, in fact, a North Carolina company, much to my shock and chagrin. I can't believe the South produces something of this caliber. How could anyone with noncompromised taste buds possibly pretend to enjoy this concoction? I can't fathom. And so, for the zillionth time in my life, I must tell Pepsi: thanks, but definitely no thanks. 

It's the season of gratitude, so I won't dwell on dislikes, although I will add very solid no thank-yous to: all the self-proclaimed political pundits on social media these days (free opinions are worth their price), vegetables of any kind not ensconced in a casserole (it's officially the holidays, y'all--put anything steamed and healthy away until January), and my final and fiercest no thanks to grammatical errors on Christmas cards (help me help you help yourself here, so you don't wind up being the Smith's when you are, in reality, the Smiths). 

The best news of all is that Thanksgiving is here! Load your plate with dressing (not stuffing, clearly), go back for seconds and thirds but save room for dessert, and remember that everyone loves a hero who helps with the dishes. Count your blessings and enjoy!

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Tales from the Tailgate

After missing Clemson's homecoming because of my broken ankle, I was ready to get back to God's country for another football weekend--thankfully, accident free this time. I won't say it was without challenges, but we came, we saw, we limped around, and it was a good weekend for all.

You know you're setting off on an adventure when you strap your knee scooter to the back of the car and head off on your merry way:

We got to Clemson Friday afternoon around 5:00. Clearly, we needed to grab some ice because it was happy hour. Which has taken on a whole new meaning for me now.

On the rocks, indeed. After resting up a while, we grabbed some dinner at the local Mexican restaurant and then headed to the (very awesome) Clemson-themed Super Bi-Lo to pick up a few last minute tailgate supplies. Clint admits he was dreading how long it was going to take me to hobble around the store, and I wasn't exactly looking forward to putting more mileage on my ankle, when he spotted the motorized shopping carts. I'll confess that I've pretty much always wanted to take one for a spin, but being the consummate rule follower that I am, I never thought I would get the chance.

But there I was, cruising around Clemson on a wild Friday night (or, as my friend Nick and the caption winner of the week so aptly put it, "boot scootin'"). To answer your question, yes, it beeped when I backed up. I wanted to do a doughnut or two, but my sensible husband was afraid it might tip over and leave me with a broken arm as well, so we erred on the side of caution.

Saturday morning arrived and it was game day--and military appreciation day, at that. Clemson had asked fans to wear purple to show their support for the military, so of course we planned accordingly. What does one wear for a "purple out" when sporting a walking boot and coping with a broken ankle? A "Bad to the Bone" shirt, of course. (A lady passing by who turned out to be an orthopedic nurse was particularly a fan.)

Add a little alma mater bling to the ol' boot, and I was good to go.

The weather was sunny and gorgeous, and it was great to be out and about, spending time with friends in my most favorite of places.

What with my injury and all, I didn't bring quite as much to the tailgate spread as I typically do (more like crackers and cookie cake this time), so these girls were a Godsend showing up with a delicious buffet for us all. I get by with a little help from my friends, thank goodness.

Come game time, I knew there was no chance I could climb the stadium steps to our seats. Our group headed off to Death Valley, and Clint and I stayed behind to watch the big-screen set up at the tailgate next to us. That crowd was getting a little rowdier than we were up for (it sounded like a Jerry Springer episode over there), and we started pondering if it was possible to ride the scooter to the Esso Club to join the game day crowd there. While it's downhill going, it's uphill coming back, and the thought of it was a little daunting.

Luckily for me, one of the athletic department parking volunteers happened by on his golf cart and empathized. He told us that he wasn't supposed to cross the highway to take us to the Esso, but he had been through a knee replacement and knew what it was like, and would take us anyway. On the ride, this adorable man told me he is an 87-year old farmer, and that recovering from knee replacement surgery was "like a vacation." He explained that riding a "little old stationary bike to nowhere" was the easiest work he'd done in quite a while. I love the Clemson family.

We joined the enthusiastic crowd gathered around the televisions in the Esso parking lot and watched the Tigers roll over the Syracuse Orange 54-0. Like I mentioned, it was military appreciation day, which Clemson does like no other, so sadly we missed plenty of pomp and circumstance by not making in to the actual game. Here are a couple of pictures the University shared of the revelry:

Nothing gets the game started on the right note quite like your mascot parachuting into the stadium. 

Halftime featured a 21-gun salute to honor fallen soldiers. 

Meanwhile, we had plenty of company and quite a crowd watching along with us over at the Esso. Our tailgate squad left the game at halftime and came over to join us.

A couple of super extra strength ibuprofen and an ice pack aside, it was a great day. Mercifully, I was able to score yet another golf cart ride back to our car, and managed to get myself a hot shower before falling into bed around 9:30. It wasn't a typical game day, but it worked just fine.

Last, but not least, Clint snapped this photo of me on my motorized cart. He said I should caption it "riding off into the sunset," and so it seems like a fitting way to end this week's post. 

Happy trails to you...until we meet again....