Tis the Season Guest Post: “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…”

Today’s Tis the Season post comes from a special guest! Join me in welcoming Shannon from If You Captured Your Life in Snapshots, What Would it Look Like?.  She was kind enough to share her favorite holiday traditions.  I love her list and hope you do to!  Thank you so much, Shannon, for contributing!


 

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Christmas has always been my favorite time of the year. There’s just something so magical about the season that no matter what part of the world you live in, the goodwill is infectious.

From the moment you spot that first snowflake or that first piece of tinsel, you’re grinning like a kid on Christmas Day. The first Christmas carol in December has you humming under your breath all day and the moment Advent starts, you start begging your mom and favorite aunt to sneak you some sweets. Christmas cheer is all around and you can’t help but pass it on.

For me, the best part of Christmas has always been the traditions. There are those that have been observed in your family for generations (like Midnight Mass or making boxes of sweets to send to your neighbors), those that seem more habit than tradition (like not hanging your decorations until the last weekend of Advent) and then there are those that you decide to adopt for one Christmas.

No matter what traditions you decide to follow, each of those little traditions adds something to the festive magic of the season. Each tradition makes the season infinitely more special and unique to you.

Some of my favorite Christmas traditions are:

  1. Decorating my house on 23rd – That one day when everyone steps out of their bustling lives and gathers together to decide how the house should look
  2. Advent Calendar – This is one tradition my Mom drummed into me when I was younger. Our calendar didn’t just count down the days to Christmas but worked as a Good Deed checklist as well. We got to choose what image we wanted to draw for calendar – stockings, candles, holly etc. If you did a good deed for that day, you got to color that day’s image in. Two good deeds equaled two colors for that day and so on and so forth.
  3. Cuddling up in front of the TV to watch Home Alone 2 – This is one of my Dad’s favorite Christmas movies
  4. Taking a walk around the neighborhood to admire the decorations, the lights, the community cribs etc.
  5. Last minute shopping – Even though I finish my Christmas shopping months before, I love browsing through the shops for last minute small gifts. You never know what treasures you may spot through the bustle 🙂
  6. Getting ready for Midnight Mass – If you have any siblings, you’d probably understand the attraction. There’s something about the craziness of that moment when everyone’s scrambling to get presentable that endears itself to me. It’s a moment for excitement, for confusion, for gossip, for resolutions and for good cheer.
  7. Sleeping under the Christmas tree – This one needs no explanation. There’s nothing better than watching those vibrant hues dance above you as you slowly drift off, comfy cozy under a warm blanket.

What are some of you favorite Christmas traditions?


Tis the Season is an annual holiday-themed series on Keep Your Feet.  The goal is to bring the blogging community together to celebrate holiday memories and traditions.

Thoughts From a Cold Boulder

My coat wasn’t quite warm enough, but I hardly cared.  Perched on my rock, it was not the bite of the wind that took my breath, but the blue of the water stretching for miles before my feet.

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Panorama of my view from my iPhone.

Duluth, Minnesota is an old industrial town.  Perched on the Westernmost tip of Lake Superior, it’s an important harbor and port for ships bringing goods and services across the Great Lakes.  Before settling to soak in the view, I had the pleasure of watching one of the enormous freight ships slip into the harbor, skirting gracefully under the iconic lift bridge.  Strolling along the boardwalk, old manufacturing warehouses and mills (now hotels, shops, and restaurants) on one side and, on the other, the endless lake.  I’ve been coming to this city since I was a little girl.  The boardwalk, the worn brick buildings, the lake–they’re all part of me.

My nose was beginning to run, but I perched along the shore anyways.  In that moment, soaking in the beauty of the sunlight glistening on the waves, a deep peace settled over my spirit.

The past few weeks have been a torrent of upheaval–from persisting unhappiness to my job to arranging to leave the country in January to terrorist attacks and political strife.

It felt so good to get away, to sleep in a bed twice the size of my own, to eat pizza in front of a hotel TV as my brother gushed about Star Wars.  It felt good to look out my window and see city, not forest or fields.  It felt good o walk along the boardwalk, to sit on the rocks, to watch the ships come into harbor.

It blows me away how crazy this world is.  Things are always changing and I am no exception.  I don’t know what the adventures ahead have in store.  I don’t know how my experiences will shape me and who I will become.  This both terrifying and liberating.

I can’t help but think of the quote from which this blog is named:

“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” J.R.R. Tolkien

Moments like these ones, silently dwelling in the places that have known me for so long, give me the courage to take that leap.  The peace that dwells in my innermost being gives me the strength to see what’s out in the world and discover who I’m going to be next.

In My Happy Place (Writing 101, Day 6)

When it’s time to write, I like to be alone.  Crowded locations, even trendy coffee shops, are a definite no.  I used to bury myself in the basement of my university’s library.  Something about being surrounded by books helped me find my words.

These days, writing usually happens in my bedroom.  This summer, I got rid of the tiny desk that served me throughout childhood and upgraded to something I can actually USE.  I’m sitting here now, actually.  See the white chair in the photo below?  Picture me there, typing away on my laptop.

My bedroom is my happy place.  It’s the only place I can truly be alone.  I can hear noises from other parts of the house, but they can’t reach me here.  Not in my happy place.

I’m the type of person who likes to be cozy.  Part of this means lots of bookshelves, warm sweaters, and patterned socks.  Part of this also means surrounding myself with objects laden with memories.  Almost everything in the photo of my desk has meaning.  The bulletin board is covered with postcards, photos, and notes, each bearing its own story.  If you were here, I could tell you each one.  The wire hanging spelling my name was a gift from a co-worker during my camp counseling days.  Even the tiny objects bring back memories–rubber ducks given to me by a favorite roommate, a carved elephant a friend brought back from Africa, a plaque with a Bible verse given to me when I graduated high school.

When I’m cozy, I’m comfortable.  When I’m comfortable, words flow.

 This post is inspired by an assignment for the Blogging University class Writing 101: Finding Everyday Inspiration.

P.S. Part of today’s assignment included generating polls/contact forms to generate ideas for future posts.  I opted for the contact form.  If you have a topic or area you’d like to see me write about, you can find the new “Contact Me” page under my “About” heading.  Or you can email me at keepyourfeetblog@gmail.com.  OR you can do things the simple way and leave a comment.  Cheers!

A Great Day for a Parade

One of the greatest delights in small-town Minnesota are summer festivals.  Every town has one.  If you wanted, you could attend one every week of the summer.  These festivals often feature a special 5K race, a craft fair with all kinds of food stalls, and an evening parade.  Since I was in marching band back in high school, I played my flute in all the local parades.

This past weekend was Wannigan Days–a particularly special event, as it features not one town, but two!  Every year, St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin teams up with Taylors Falls, Minnesota.  The towns exist in different states, on opposite sides of the St. Croix River.  The multi-state participation, in addition to the gorgeous scenery, makes for a memorable time!

The thing about small town parades is that they’re SO small-town.  Elected royalty from all the local communities dress up, smile, and wave on their platformed floats.  Businesses and organizations make appearances, tossing frisbees into crowds and handing out magnets.  Political candidates smile and wave, slapping “VOTE FOR ME” stickers on audience members.  Marching bands play patriotic anthems that are slightly off-key.  The local football team blasts kids with super-soakers.  Finally, all the fire trucks from the surrounding towns steamroll by, signaling the conclusion of another year’s show.

My mother is a member of the Falls Chamber of Commerce, an organization that strives to unify the communities and promote local businesses.  Every year, they have a float in the Wannigan Days Parade.  This year, they were relatively short-staffed and I was enlisted to help.

The parade was relatively short–ten blocks down the main street of St. Croix Falls, cross the bridge over the river to get to Minnesota, and four blocks through Taylors Falls.

My job was simple: Throw candy.  One of the prominent chamber members bought $250 of treats, so I was free to lavish it on all the happy children in the crowd.  It was an easy task.  All I had to do was smile and toss handfulls of goodies to everyone under the age of fifteen. As I was going to sleep last night, all I could think about was how happy the kids were.  They line up along the curb with bags in their little hands, waiting.  Barely able to contain themselves, they bounce up and down.  Their little eyes absolutely glow.  Sometimes, I teased them.  “You want candy?” I asked.  “I don’t know if you’re excited enough!!”  Of course, this only made them squirm more.

Just imagining their faces makes me smile.

I remember being one of those kids.  When you’re little, you wait ALL SUMMER for parades.  When they finally come, you take your position on the edge of the street and are like, “THIS IS MY MOMENT!!!”  My brothers and I were ruthless.  We would dive-bomb and shove each other out of the way just for a little piece of candy.  When it was all over, we would spread our bounty on the carpet at home, count them up, and make trades to get rid of the varieties we didn’t like.

These events hold a special place in my heart and I loved every second of being part of them again.  As my old marching band teacher always said way back when: “It’s a great day for a parade!”

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Downtown Taylors Falls. Taken mid-parade.

Bachelorette Party Crashing

When you work at home for your parents and have little to no social life, you generally don’t wake up on a Saturday morning thinking, “Today, I’m going to crash a bachelorette party.”  But the crazy/wonderful thing about life is that anything can happen.

The morning began as most do: With the alarm going off and making a disgruntled noise that kind of sounds like a dying cow.  (“Mmmmmmmrrrrrrggggggghhhhhhh…”)  A cup of tea and bowl of cereal later, I was still groggy.  Despite this, I had places to go and people to see.

Actually, the only place I had to go was a wedding shower.  One of my from-the-cradle childhood friends is getting married at the end of the month and, because I didn’t get an invite to the ceremony and reception (they’re keeping things small), I wanted to make the shower.  I haven’t seen Steph in YEARS and knew my presence would mean a lot.

My mother (who invited herself along) and I arrived at the event fashionably late.  I found myself in a gorgeous house filled with older women I don’t know well and girls I grew up with.  In true post-grad fashion, everyone wanted to know what my future plans were.  (Which is awkward when I myself am still figuring out the answer.)  Still, it was good to see everyone.  There were several friends I haven’t seen in years, including my old babysitter who got married straight out of high school.  (Who had several stories to share about Child Amelia that were extremely entertaining.)

As the event wore on, though, I kept hearing little mentions of things going on after the shower was over.  “Did you bring something for Steph to wear?”, “When we’re at the restaurant…”, “I picked out something fun for us to do later…”  It was hard not to pick up on the comments, especially when they came from the girls my age.  At one point, my mom came up and whispered in my ear: “It looks like there’s stuff going on after the shower.  If you want to stay, I can pick you up later.”  Of course, at that point, I had no idea what the vague other plans were and didn’t know if I was invited.  To say all this made me uncomfortable would be a severe understatement.

I was ready to leave when one of my friends mentioned that, if I wanted to stay, she could drop me off on her way home.  Although I had hoped to spend a relaxing day reading, watching Game of Thrones, and getting ready for another week of blogging, I knew that this was my in and that I should take it.  So I said yes found myself unexpectedly attending my first-ever bachelorette party.

It was a fun afternoon, with all the quirky little bachelorette traditions.  We went to a local restaurant and Steph wore a cute dress with a Barbie pink “Bride to Be” sash, complete with a tiara and shawl.  Her sister-in-law had straws with big kissy lips and Batman themed edible necklaces.  We shared appetizers, entrée, and deserts while discussing future plans and pressing Steph about any pre-wedding jitters.

Next to the place we ate was a hotel and, after giving the lady at the counter $5, we had open access to their pool and spa area.  We milled about in the pool and hot-tub, splashing each other and playing variations of “Two Truths and a Lie”.  (A game I generally loathe, but have been forced into enough times to know how to grin and bear.)  We ended up being at the pool for the majority of the afternoon.  When I checked my phone to see if I had any “Where are you?” texts from my mother (there were none), I was shocked to see it was almost five o’clock.  The day had absolutely flown by.

It’s amazing what unexpected joys a day brings.  At the end of it, I’m exhausted from all the social interaction and small-talk (#introvert), but I’m so thankful for not only the chance to see old friends, but spend all day with them.  It was so fun to talk about all the childhood memories, sleepovers, church trips, and gush about our hopes for the future.  Most of all, it was an absolute pleasure to celebrate Steph share her excitement about taking on the adventures of marriage.

Who knows what kind of adventure I’ll land myself in next Saturday?

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Weekend Wrap-Up

It’s only when you work full-time that you realize how absolutely splendid weekends are.  Despite it being rainy most of the past couple days, I’ve had some special moments.  Pajamas till noon, long bike rides, time with family.  Here’s a big conglomeration of it all.

Part I

Yesterday, I opened my copy of Persuasion by Jane Austen to find a wonderful surprise.  I bought it months ago at a thrift store and within the pages was a stack of photos that I can only assume belong to the book’s previous owner.  Most of the photos are of a bunch of young kids hanging out in summer.  Printing notes on the back tell me that they are from 2008.  It’s really special, finding photos that meant something to someone.

Who are these kids?

Which one owned the book?

Where are they now?

Do they still remember the good times they had together?

It’s a special thing, getting a glimpse into someone else’s memories.

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On another note, I hope to be discussing Persuasion in a few weeks during my weekly On the Shelf post.  I’ve got something else planned for this week, but Austen is coming!

Part II

I donated to my first Kickstarter campaign!  I’ve been trying to get better at financial giving and, instead of supporting a charity or ministry, I put my money to support one of my favorite bands.  Jenny & Tyler are a folksy husband/wife duo who sing lots of love sings and have a passion for social justice.  I saw them live in concert in October and loved every minute of it.  You can check out their music on YouTube and, if you like what you hear, donate to their Kickstarter campaign!  They’ll be using the money to fund a couple new albums and a tour!

Part III

I’m hoping to paint these tonight!  If I don’t get to them, I’ll for-sure paint them sometime this week.  I’m REALLY excited to see how the mermaid turns out.

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(Sorry for the crappy photo quality… I had to use my computer’s camera ’cause uploading from my phone wasn’t working.)

Part IV

I made the poor decision to go into Goodwill and Half Price Books this afternoon, which means unnecessarily buying books I won’t get to reading for three years.  Still, I managed to snag an autographed copy of Sarah Dessen’s new book Saint Anything!!!  It’s been a LONG while since I’ve read any of Dessen’s work, but I was a big fan in high school.  This book was ridiculously overpriced, even for a discount store, but I can now display it next to my other autographed books.  (I’d like to note that this collection includes a first-edition, signed copy of The Fault in Our Stars.)

Part V

I got to see Pitch Perfect 2 on Friday.  It was pretty crude at points and didn’t have the most original plot, but I can’t remember the last time I laughed that hard.

That’s it for my wrap-up.  Did you do anything fun this weekend?

Hometown Hiking

Over the past week, I’ve rediscovered my outdoorsy self.  Growing up, my parents were always taking us on outdoor adventures.  Hiking, biking, fishing–you name it, we did it.  Summers weren’t complete without camping in the woods of Northern Minnesota and swimming in one of the 10,000+ lakes.

During the school year, I get so bogged down by academia that I forget how beautiful the world is.  I forget about fresh air, sunshine, and the smell of thawing earth as it awakens to Spring.

Filled with vigor from my ski-cation earlier this week, I decided yesterday to go hiking instead of lying around the house all afternoon.  It was a short three-mile loop, but oh, it was worth it.

You see, I live in one of the most beautiful places in the state (after the North Shore, of course).  Five minutes from the border with Wisconsin, the St. Croix River Valley is at my fingertips.

I parked in Taylors Falls, hiked to the top of the bluffs, back down along the cliff face, and back to town via a trail by the river.  Along the way, I stopped to soak in the sunshine and do some reading.

I long for a life of adventure.  I want to do things, meet people, and see the world.  Sometimes, though, it’s good to step back and remember that adventure can be a mere five minutes away.  All you have to do is stop and look for it.

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View of the St. Croix River from atop the bluffs.
The St. Croix River from the river trail.
The St. Croix River from the river trail.
Taking a break with Tennyson's Idyls of the King
Taking a break with Tennyson’s Idyls of the King

What adventures lie just beyond your doorstep?

 

 

 

Tis the Season Day 1: Ugly Ornaments

Every year, my family goes to one of the local Christmas tree farms and picks out a tree.  When I was little, in order to mark what ones we liked, my parents used my brothers and I as living markers.  We’d be told to stand by certain trees as they went off to look at more.

Since we are all in or beyond college, picking out the tree as a family no longer happens. But decorating said tree?  We go all out.

You see, we have this massive box of Christmas ornaments.  Most of them have been around as long as I have been alive.  (Or longer.)  Most of them are also hideous.  There’s some caroling rats with fez hats, large wooden fish, floppy quilted angels, weird crocheted candy canes, and even a sand dollar with a tree painted on it.

When we were little, Mom was crafty.  Wanting the tree to look elegant and socially presentable, she hid all the ugly ornaments, omitting them from the options.  Being small children, my brothers and I never noticed.  As time passed, though, Mom was unable to get her hands on the ornaments soon enough and they were discovered.  It wasn’t long before we began sneaking them onto the Christmas tree.  At first, it was only a few a year.  Their appearances grew more and more frequent as we aged. By high school, my brothers and I were in charge of decorating the tree by ourselves.  Without parental supervision, decorating became a game.  As we dragged the massive box of ornaments from the basement, we gave each other mischievous smiles.  How many ugly ornaments could we get away with this year? How much can we piss Mom off and still get presents?

Last night, my little brother and I played the yearly Ugly Ornaments game. We were home alone with No one to hold us back. We went covered every of that tree. It’s a monstrosity! Sam and I are so proud.

Later, when Mom walked into the house after work, she looks at us and goes, “How many ugly ornaments will I have to sneak off the tree this year?”

I smiled.  “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

~~~

What are your family traditions regarding decorating the tree?  Tell me about it in the comments!

Want to contribute to Tis the Season? Let me know!

Yule Ball!

Here at Morris, we are basically a bunch of nerds.  We appreciate all aspects of fan culture, so it is only natural that our winter formal is the Yule Ball.  It’s the biggest and best dance of the year.  Quiddich Club goes all out with programming and decorations.

This year was no exception.  More on that later.

Since it’s my final Yule Ball and I missed last year’s due to being in England, I wanted to make this dance one to remember.  So I threw on my $6 thrift shop dress, my friend Gabi did my hair and assisted with makeup and… voila!  I was ready for a long night of laugher, friends, and dancing.

(The funny thing is that no glasses and curly hair resulted in many people, including one of my roommates, not recognizing me!)

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Eden, Kassandra, Rosa, Gabi, and I

My expectations were high going into the dance and it did not disappoint!  In addition to the dance floor, we could get treats (popcorn balls and butterbeer), take a break in the Room of Requirement (decorated with chairs, mirrors, and pretty lights), get a picture with Nagini (one of the Biology club snakes), take a photo at the booth, or attend the Sorting Hat Ceremony.  The ceremony was a new addition this year.  We were ushered into the performance hall where the Hogwarts Great Hall High Table was recreated on stage.  Students were dressed up as various Hogwarts professors and they performed a skit, welcoming us to another year at school, giving speeches, quarreling, and the Sorting Hat did a rap.  Then, row by row, we were brought on stage to be sorted.  It was a bit of a joke.  Some people got real houses, but everyone else were placed in random categories based on their clothing.  I, for one, got sorted into Netflix.  (Although, in reality, I’ve been a proud Hufflepuff for years.)

My friend Paden (who trolled the dance by dressing as Gandalf) getting sorted
My friend Paden (who trolled the dance by dressing as Gandalf) getting sorted

The thing about dancing is that I am absolutely terrible at it.  The only dance I attended during high school was my senior prom and, even then, a guy I’ve known since kindergarten was so off-put by my terrible moves that, even though we hadn’t talked in years, came over and attempted to teach me how to do it properly.  (It didn’t stick).  Still, I faithfully attended dances in college and suffered through the large number of awkward feelings that came over me on the dance floor.  This year, though, was different.  Studying abroad and working at camp made me more confident in myself and less conscious of other people.  So I got out there on that dance floor and flailed about to my heart’s content.  I had an absolute blast.

At midnight, they did a drop of over 400 balloons.  This was one of my favorite moments of the dance.  My friends and I positioned ourselves directly below the net so they rained down upon us.  As we batted the balloons upward, swishing confetti away from our eyes, my friend Rosa laughed and laughed and laughed.  She reminded me of those videos you see on YouTube where puppies experience snow for the first time and they bound around in pure joy.

All in all, it was a fantastic final Yule Ball.  I loved every moment.