The Final Inspection!

Yesterday happened to be Dave Jenkinson’s birthday (he is the main contractor on the house) so I ordered a cake from Concord Teacakes to celebrate. Right as we were cutting into the cake and all of the workmen were gathered in the kitchen, the inspector drove up the driveway to perform the final inspection and give us the occupancy permit so that we could actually stay in the house. It all passed, so last night was our first official night in the house!IMG_3273-2

We were able to get our Christmas tree up which seemed appropriate for our first night there.I feel like this house is a combination of all of our years as a family-we took a piece of each of the 12 houses we have lived in and enjoyed, and created this house. Christmas trees are the same-each ornament brings a memory-something one of the 5 kids was interested in,or a place that we visited,or a location where we have lived over the last 34 years. A true piece of your history as a family.

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Happy Holidays to all!

Moving Into Woodstone

We aren’t living in the house you-we still need the occupancy permit -but we are having a lot of fun getting all set up. So far all went smoothly due to the incredibly warm weather(in Massachusetts??!) and it is so nice to see our stuff again. Trying to get ready for Christmas all at the same time is proving interesting!

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Fifth Season- Final Downton..sigh…..

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Even though Downton Abbey’s fifth season got off to a shaky start, it ended up being so eventful that the estate’s fearless leader suffered a cardiac scare tonight from all of the activity. Among the year’s high and lowlights inside our favorite Yorkshire household: Mary got a haircut, a weirdly inconsequential fire ravaged Edith’s room, Isis died, a creepy art critic preyed upon Cora, the Dowager toyed with the idea of running off with a long-haired Russian refugee, Daisy quit the kitchen George Costanza-style only to revoke her notice, the Bates family was subjected to a tired retread of that whole falsely-accused-of-murder-and-sent-to-prison plot, Lord Grantham took in an orphan only to realize it was Edith’s illegitimate child, and Rose married a Jewish fellow. And during tonight’s two-hour season finale—which aired in the U.K. as the show’s Christmas special—the gang joined the Sinderbys at Hogwarts for grouse hunting before ringing in the holidays at home. (We are serious about Hogwarts—Downton filmed the Brancaster Castle exteriors at Alnwick Castle, which doubled as Hogwarts in the Harry Pottermovies.)

Let’s Review:

Carson Makes It Official by Proposing to Hughes (Believability: 3)

We are not monsters—we all want Carson and Hughes, longtime work husband and wife, to continue their march to full-on coupledom. They are far better suited for each other than any other couple in the house. But if we did not love these characters so much, and already have their housewarming gift ordered (a lovely calendar to remind Carson on a daily basis that it is no longer 1890), we might be dubious about Carson’s decision to commit to Hughes after her red-flag filled confession. In the course of a two-minute scene, Hughes reveals that she has possibly psychotic family members whom she will need to support financially for the rest of her life . . . and no money. And somehow, Carson is still like, “‘Das cool. Here are the keys to the house I bought in both our names.”

While Suze Orman may not approve, Carson goes ahead with his plans and proposes to Hughes on Christmas Eve while she awkwardly holds two drinks in her hand. The moment is perfect though—who would have thought that last season’s hand holding would lead to this?—and our hearts swell when Carson tells Hughes, “I am not marrying anyone else.”

Anna Is Thrown in Jail Because One Man Thinks He Saw Her Throw a Serial Rapist Into Traffic (Believability: 0)

We know this happened last episode but we still can’t wrap our minds around this plot twist, even though we’ve spent five seasons systematically lowering our expectations for Downton Abbey storytelling logic. We’ve been through this whole a-Bates-family-member-is-falsely-imprisoned-for-murder plot before and it doesn’t make much of a difference to us that Anna is now goingOrange Is the New Black instead of Bates this time around. (We will say that Anna’s miserable-in-prison expressions are not much different than her everyday expressions and Bates’s worried-about-Anna faces aren’t any less creepy than normal.)

Mary Still Has Not Realized That Marigold Is Edith’s Daughter (Believability: 3)

It seems insane to us that Mary has not noticed that Edith, her blood sister and chief antagonist, has birthed a daughter who is now living in their household. She certainly notices the bizarre fixation that Edith has with Marigold, is annoyed by it, and puts Edith down on the subject whenever she has the chance. Mary’s most immortal line about parenting arrives tonight, and chills us to our core: “Why don’t you just shut [the children] up in a box in the attic and let them out when they are 21?” For once, Edith sees a way in which Mary’s cruelty can be used in her favor: “[Mary] is completely uninterested in me which should keep [my secret] safe.”

Barrow Manages to Uncover Sinderby’s Darkest Secrets, and Lure Them to Hogwarts Within Some 72 Hours of Being There (Believability: 6)

Barrow only uses his vengeful skill set for good these days, not evil. And in tonight’s episode, we see Barrow take up Lady Mary’s invitation to bring down Sinderby’s butler, and then go one step farther, raiding Sinderby’s own closet for the perfect skeleton that could completely undo him—and manages to find it, or “him” specifically: the illegitimate son he sired with another woman. Barrow lures both to Hogwarts during a party, but Rose thwarts his plan and saves the unsavory Sinderby. Why exactly? I suppose to forge a good relationship with her father-in-law on the foundation of his extramarital sins. But we would have loved to see how the episode would have played out Sliding Doors-style had Sinderby’s illegitimate son been discovered.

Lord Grantham Knows Exactly What to Say to Edith in a Tender Moment (Believability: 2)

Who is this new and improved Lord Grantham, who not only detects emotional nuance but is able to appropriately reciprocate it? Last week, we watched as Lord Grantham surprised everyone by going out of his way to do something thoughtful for Mrs. Patmore. And now, when he decides to tell Edith he’s learned of her secret, he does so with sympathy and understanding. “I’m sure I need your forgiveness just as much as you need mine,” he tells Edith after she apologizes. The line is so Oprah-level spot-on, that we half expected Lord Grantham to suddenly rip his face off, Mission Impossible mask-style, revealing that Dr. Phil had been there underneath the whole time. It will be interesting to see how Mary reacts to the news that her sister is Marigold’s mother, and see whether this news will finally soften their relationship as cartoonish enemies.

Branson Says Goodbye to Downton (Believability: 4)

In what was surely the worst moment of the episode, Branson stares off in the children’s nursery and, when Edith asks why, he says because he “is taking pictures in his mind” so that he has memories of the home when he is in Boston. Later, he tops himself for stiff line readings when he tells Lord Grantham that he will not consider leaving Sybbie at Downton but adds this as some weird consolation: “I love the way you love her.” Farewell, Tom.

Lady Mary Essentially Informs a Stranger How Much He Has Unknowingly Inconvenienced Her Extended Family (Believability: 9)

Well what else should she do during the course of the episode? Break Anna out of prison? Mother her child? Forge a relationship with her last living sister? Ha! No, Mary played etiquette police on tonight’s episode, informing Henry Talbot (Matthew Goode) that he had rudely (if unknowingly) crashed their hunting party. Of course, Mary can segue any awkward introduction with a handsome man into a flirtation, and manages to do just that, showing us that she has better chemistry with him and his fancy car than she had with either Blake or Gillingham.

Spratt Challenges Denker to a Broth Off (Believability: 4)

May we never forget that this was actually a storyline in tonight’s Downton Abbey. Spratt nurtures his inner Barrow this episode, suggesting that Denka prove herself as a lady’s maid by making broth. Alas, the challenge only unites Denka and the Dowager and wastes valuable screen time that could have been spent on the surprisingly crafty Molesley.

The Dowager Sends Prince Kuragin Away with His Miserable Wife (Believability: 7)

“I will never again receive an immoral proposition from a man,” the Dowager tells Isobel after reuniting her suitor with his far flung wife. “Was I so wrong to savor it?” After getting a glimpse of the wholly unpleasant Princess Kuragin (who follows Larry Grey and Susan MacClare in this season’s procession of awful Downton guests), we understand why the prince was so eager to leave her. Later in the episode, the Dowager confides to Isobel that the princess once physically wrestled her out of running off with the prince. Asked if the Dowager’s husband realized, when she got home, that she had been ruffled up, the Dowager offers the best-timed retort of the evening: “Men notice nothing.”

Yes, the same man that dyed his hair shoe-polish black earlier this season finds a way to free Bates from his self-imposed Fugitive sentence. (Where were these two back when Bates was wrongly accused of murder the first time around?) While the rest of the house wrings their hands over the criminal drama-prone character—who foolishly confessed to a murder he did not commit to free Anna, and then ran away Dr. Richard Kimble-style—Molesley finds a photo of Bates and then recruits Baxter to travel to each and every pub in York until he finds a witness who can confirm Bates’s alibi. And it is a good thing too: I don’t know that any of us were as invested in this plot retread to purchase “Free Bates” T-shirts this time around. The episode ends with Bates sneaking into Downton Abbey on Christmas Eve and surprising Anna, which is nice for them. But of all the characters on the series, these two need a plot makeover most. Maybe next Christmas.

Julie Miller is a Hollywood writer for Vanity Fair‘s website.

Christmas Tree Napkin Fold

.This is really cute and very easy to do!

Bring some extra cheer to your holiday table by folding the napkins into Christmas trees.

www.instructables.com/id/Christmas-Tree-Napkin-Fold/

 

Christmas Memories and Collections

 

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Whatever it is that you collect and get out of storage from the attic or the basement every year is undoubtedly something that means a lot to you and to your family. It is such a great feeling to see my Santa collection every year-it is like seeing old friends again. Of course putting the ornaments on the tree every year is also such a highlight-remembering where each one came from and reliving the memories. Christmas is such a magical time-enjoy it!

PS  thanks to friends for many of the pictures!

Have Yourself A Messy Little Christmas!

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 This is from my nephew who has three children aged 12-8 years old. I just thought I should share it after yesterday’s blog about Christmas Creativity! It gave me a real chuckle:
“You should tour our house – the theme is “Childhood Christmas Mess.”  I particularly enjoy the way the rumpled clothes and towels on the floor make the shape of a Christmas tree.  The stairsare decorated with last week’s homework, a tie, and a shirt top. Down in the basement we have vestiges of last week’s movie night.  Perhaps I can pick up the left-over popcorn and make a nice string for the tree.The dishes in the sink remind me of the tinkling of Christmas bells as I scrub 3-day-old dinner off them and they clang together.Ahh, we could rival anyone’s house with a little imagination.”

Concord Museum’s Holiday House Tour

HolidayDoor21aWhat a fantastic event-despite the  heavy rains, the houses were absolutely spectacular-the bar has been raised again. Here are some of the things I thought were particularly creative(although obviously I loved everything in the tour!)

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These pictures(above) are taken at a house that was done by Hilary Bovey of Bovey Steers Design Group Copper Penny Flowers and Comina. Some great ideas-I especially loved the “package” made of little mums. I also noticed that a lot of the houses were decorating with  roping not on the rail but instead along the stairs-very nice effect!

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The second house I just loved was done by Kathy Morris and Margaret DeJesus of Morris Interiors of Concord. They spent hours making every single floral arrangement in the house, and created several vignettes that were just incredible. Most of all though, I absolutely loved their “cookbook tree”-so clever!

 

Rockefeller Center Tree 2013

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I took a quick trip to NYC last week and was able to go by Rockefeller Center and see this year’s tree. Here is the story for this year and some history:

The evergreen from Shelton,CT chosen for the 2013 Rockefeller Center Christmas tree will return to Fairfield County after the holidays to help give a family a place to live.

Tishman Speyer, the company that owns and operates Rockefeller Center, will mill lumber from the 76-foot-tall Norway spruce to be used by Habitat for Humanity of Coastal Fairfield County to help build exterior and interior walls for a home in Bridgeport,CT.

This is the seventh consecutive year that the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree will be donated to Habitat for Humanity.

Many Rockefeller trees have been given to Rockefeller Center by donors. The late David Murbach,Manager of the Gardens Division of Rockefeller Center, scouted in a helicopter for the desired tree in areas including Connecticut,Vermont, Ohio, upstate New York, New Jersey, and even Ottawa, Canada.The trees are now scouted by the Head Gardner at Rockefeller Center, Erik Pauzé. Once a suitable tree is located, a crane supports it while it is cut, and moves it to a custom telescoping trailer that can transport trees up to 125 feet tall, although the width of New York City streets passing through Rockefeller Center limits the height of the trees to 110 feet.

Once at the Rockefeller Center, the tree is supported by four guy-wires attached at its midpoint, and by a steel spike at its base. Scaffolding is put up around the tree to assist workers in putting up 30,000 lights attached to 5 miles of wiring.

The star that has topped the tree since 2004 is 9.5 feet  in diameter and weighs 550 pounds. This “Swarovski Star” was created by German artist Michael Hammers.

Although the official Christmas tree tradition at Rockefeller Center began in 1933 (the year the 30 Rockefeller Plaza opened), the unofficial tradition began during the Depression-era construction of Rockefeller Center, when workers decorated a smaller 20 feet (6.1 m) balsam fir tree with “strings of cranberries, garlands of paper, and even a few tin cans” on Christmas Eve(December 24, 1931).Some accounts have the tree decorated with the tin foil ends of blasting caps. There was no Rockefeller Center Christmas tree in 1932.

-excerpts from The Shelton Herald and Wikepedia