It's a pretty safe bet you won't see any of my do-it-yourself projects gracing the pages of national magazines targeting women looking to beautify their homes and gardens.
In fact, as I write this, it occurs to me that my editor was perhaps being ironic when she approached me with the idea for writing this particular column. Or, perhaps, she wanted to offer readers a little comic relief in case they too can relate to things not turning out like the picture. Ever.
One of my time-honored traditions this time of year is flipping through those aforementioned magazines and admiring gorgeous Christmas decorations — thoughtful touches like wreaths hung in 17 windows with candy-cane striped ribbons, or a charming old-fashioned sleigh propped against the wall below a pair of leather ice skates, or a homemade advent calendar that looks as if it could have been purchased at Pottery Barn.
I covet this kind of craftiness. I want ours to be the family in coordinating flannel pajamas and matching mugs of nog.
Instead, we're the dairy-free, flannel-free version, drinking our cocoa out of chipped cups collected from Dairy Queen back in my childhood.
As lovely as those fancy foyers and mesmerizing mantels strike me, something seems missing. Like, say, children.
Mine, I am certain, would want to take that sleigh for a ride — down the stairs. And I can only hazard a guess as to how long the other decorations would look so perfect with my eager little elves running about.
Yes, yes, I do let them run in the house because. Boys Oregon winter = some indoor roughhousing. It just does.
I reckon that's true for girls, too, but I can only speak to my experience. And that can come to include use of cushions as mini-trampolines.
But back to decking the halls:
I delight in the little details, I really do.
At the time of this writing, before Thanksgiving, I already had red and green bulbs on my outside lamps. "She's really on top of it," one might think. Except that those are from last year. So, for the last eleven months it lent a brothel-esque feel. Which I suppose is it's own kind of festive.
I am in awe of decadently decorated trees with coordinating ornaments. I simply adore the look of themed trees.
For the last seven years, we've rocked with the "we have small children" theme. With the bottom third not decorated at all, lest little hands take advantage, I'd say we've pretty much nailed it.
I'd be happy to send you a glossy photograph of that awesomeness if you like, as it doesn't appear to be making the rounds in popular magazines.
Something else I'm surprised hasn't taken off is my do-it-yourself draft dodger, the kind that stops chilly drafts from sneaking under the door.
After seeing a slew of darling ones online, I wanted to craft one of my own. And I was able to whip up a version of my own without a second thought. Really.
As I stepped over a pile of laundry between the kitchen and "laundry room" — really more of an outdoorish closet, truth be told — I noticed how well the mound of clothes kept the cold air out. Suddenly, I had a draft dodger using nothing more than materials immediately at hand.
Then I invited friends over for some warm food on the darkest night of the year. And I think the inspiration I had for this one makes me a contender for the Pinterest fails hall of fame.
As is usually the case, the original picture inspiring my solstice candle display was lovely. I crafted my own version, using lentils to hold up the candles.
I don't recall an actual fire in the picture. Nor do I remember a warning that a glass jar holding flammable legumes would get hot enough to set them ablaze.
In retrospect, maybe that went without saying. In conclusion, don’t try this at home.
For next year's trick, I should see what I can burn with an iron.
Flames and failures aside, the point is that I rolled out the welcome mat, however crumbled, for friends to gather. And we celebrated something that matters more than what is, or isn't, on the mantel: our ability to bring light where there is darkness.
This year, I'm trying to remember that making merry is a verb. However that looks at your house, I'm wishing you joyful moments this season, and always.
Since she's not busy ironing napkins — or anything else, for that matter — Nathalie Hardy has more time to write in the margins of motherhood. Something else will have to give, as she'll be marketing her new book, "Raising the Hardy Boys: They said there would be bon-bons." Members of her family are supportive, provided dinner is still served. After all, they didn't specify by whom. Feel free to drop by, preferably with food. To contact her, visit www.nathaliesnotes.com or find her on Facebook at Nathalie’s Notes.
You guys! That is the cover of my book. For. Real!!!*
It’s funny to think that while I’ve been working toward this since I was a little kid, it seems like it’s happened so fast.
After all, it was just last month (yes, last month!) I met with my publishers at Ridenbaugh Press after exchanging emails throughout the year.
We ended the meeting with a conversation about deadlines because that’s how you get things done, right? Or is that just us reporter types?
It came up casually: “Can you get it done in time for Christmas?”
I was thinking: Uh, as in THIS Christmas? ‘Cuz that’s, like, in ten minutes. Not without pushing everything else aside. So, no, I probably can not. But like I was going to say “nah.” I’ve only been waiting for working toward that YES for my entire writing life, which many of you know started when I figured out which way to hold a pencil.
So … I said:
And then I did it.
Merry Christmas to me!
I say that because despite best efforts it looks like it’ll be literally the day before Christmas that these arrive from the printer so … Happy New Year? (That is also around the time my Christmas cards will be mailed out, fyi).
One of the best gifts ever is the support you guys have already shown for this project, and for me – my eternal gratitude is yours. You know this, right?
p.s. As soon as the link to buy a copy is ready, I’ll post that information. For now, if you have a store or an idea to help me spread the word, I’d love to hear it because I am in the process of becoming a marketing wizard. I’ve already learned so many things NOT to do – like forget to post on my blog that this is happening!
*Y’all know I feel about excessive use of exclamation points but this situation seemed to call for an exception. Thanks for understanding.
Coming soon on Nathalie’s Notes: (My) Cover Story | What just happened | Blurb is a verb
For someone with this tagline: "Keeping it real since before it was a thing" I sure was tempted to glam up reality for this promo video. I think there's plenty to be said for putting your best foot forward. There's also something to being authentic though. And this ... is that. (But I might chicken out and not use it). Just bringing you along for the journey. You're welcome?
This could just as easily be called, “The boy who didn’t swallow a screw.” It all goes toward describing a particular Sunday five years ago that we still talk about to this day.
In fact, it’s a story about how new holiday traditions are unexpectedly forged in families, sometimes through adversity. As a result, we now have a tradition of getting our Christmas tree as early in the season as possible, lest we get “screwed” out of the opportunity.
Let me preface this by making sure you know I was nine months pregnant at the time. And I wasn’t cute, basketball pregnant. No, I was waddling around using a geriatric grabber tool to pick up my toddler’s toys off the floor.
The day started normally enough.
As with all stories you don’t know will be important someday, you forget the ordinary details because you don’t think they’ll matter much. But I do recall we were a bit bleary-eyed, having lost sleep to a windy night that kept banging something into the side of the house.
My husband, Matt, and I were looking forward to taking little Sam, 2 at the time, out to cut a tree. The plan was to spend the afternoon decorating it.
In the meantime, I asked Matt to do something with a table that had been blocking the hallway for weeks. He said it needed some new screws, and Sam wanted to help.
As Matt ran downstairs for something, I heard a strange coughing and choking sound coming from upstairs.
Matt got there first, with me trailing. We found Sam was holding a screw in one hand and looking suspicious.
Me to Sam: “Did you put a screw in your mouth?”
Me: “Did you swallow the screw?”
Me: “Did you swallow a fork?”
Me to Matt: “This is not a credible witness.”
But Sam was holding his throat and looking pale, so I called the doctor. As I waited for a return call, I realized he was no longer our doctor, as Matt’s company had changed to Kaiser, and even though I was pregnant, I’d yet to line up a Kaiser replacement.
Yes, during my pregnancy. Is that even allowed?
I didn’t mention this change as I talked to the on-call doc, though.
She said it was unlikely he swallowed it in such a short amount of time with such a small amount of fussing. But she said sharp, spirally wood screws can be dangerous, so suggested we head to the ER for an X-ray, just in case.
I was pretty sure this was just a peace-of-mind exercise. That being the case, I packed our sweaters and camera in the car before we pulled out, thinking we could stop by the tree farm on the way home.
Matt, meanwhile, was intent on locating a metal detector so we could conduct a do-it-yourself scan. That involved a series of phone calls, including one to our local police department, and a visit to his beloved Bi-Mart.
Matt returned from Bi-Mart with a stud finder, but no metal detector. I couldn’t help but wonder if that was tantamount to me stopping by the scrapbook store on the way to the ER to pick up some materials we could use to document the event.
Because of the aforementioned Kaiser business, we had to drive clear to Clackamas.
Unfortunately, time was passing, and it became obvious the granola bar, fruit leather and pair of mandarin oranges reposing in the diaper bag weren’t going to pass for lunch for one, much less three. So we made a quick stop at Safeway as well.
We finally made it to the hospital, where Sam was awesome, despite being scolded by one pediatric-phobic nurse for being “too wiggly.” Even Sam’s stuffed giraffe wore a little paper towel “shield” on the X-ray table.
Many, many hours later we learned that no screw had been ingested. We were finally free to return to our home turf — that is, we would have been, if we hadn’t run out of gas.
Luckily, we were within walking distance of our house by then. So I waddled on home in the freezing cold.
With all the time we saved not cutting and decorating a tree, Matt was able to move the table I mentioned.
We planned to get one the following weekend, but other problems arose. I’d have to look at pictures to see if we actually ever got one that year; I’m not sure.
As a result of this fiasco, we no longer “plan” to get a Christmas tree at the Hardy house. Our tradition goes like this:
I start talking about how I want to make sure we get the tree right after Thanksgiving. At some point thereafter Matt takes the boys out for breakfast and they “surprise me” by bringing home a tree.
The three of them tromping through the house, dragging a fir tree across the floor, is my favorite moment. It kicks off this festive time of year, celebrating childhood traditions and creating new ones to, um, cherish.
Since she’s not busy ironing napkins — or anything else, for that matter — Nathalie Hardy has more time to write in the margins of motherhood. Something else will have to give, as she’ll be marketing her new book, “Raising the Hardy Boys: They said there would be bon-bons.” Members of her family are supportive, provided dinner is still served. After all, they didn’t specify by whom. Feel free to drop by, preferably with food. To contact her, visit www.nathaliesnotes.com.
P.S. Did you catch that in my new tagline – I did it! As I type this my first book, Raising the Hardy Boys, is being printed. So. Much. Yay!