Merry Christmas! Come on in...

Okay... so I'm a bit late.  But I have a very good reason.... I was finishing designing my Christmas cards.  Which will most likely be mailed out to y'all from either Kentucky or North Carolina... or some random town in between here and there!  I'll be addressing from the road this year, so I'm warning you now to overlook my sloppy handwriting.  Although, you probably won't even notice the handwriting because of the sweeties all over the card itself.  :)  Guess who. Anyhow.  WELCOME to the Florida portion of the Christmas Tour of Homes 2008.  I'm happy to be participating this year!  I must tell you the truth though, I haven't taken as much time this year to decorate as I usually do, because this portrait season kept me SUPER BUSY.  (THANK YOU, my Sweet Clients.  I love y'all, and believe me -- Parker loves you too, because you are indirectly putting a "Wii Box that you put Wiis in" under the Christmas tree for him this year.  LOL!)  So it's finally festive around here, and we're all lit up, so let's get started!

Aaaand before you make fun of that wimpy little artificial tree at my front door, I will have you know that said tree will forever be a part of my holiday decor.  Because when I was 20 years old, living 5 states away from home and B.R.O.K.E, I went and purchased that shabby little pre-decorated tree and it was the only decoration in my whopping 513 sq ft apartment.  Besides the dying dracaena plant and the secondhand couch.  ;)  Every year, when Chris hands it down to me from the attic, I smile and remember that pitiful Christmas when I only had $10 to my name, and I think about how blessed I am today with my amazing family, so many friends, a career that I truly love, all four of my grandparents and one great-grandmother living, my two healthy babies, etc.  I could go on forever!!  But the point is, I'm proud and oh-so-thankful when that tree comes out.  So.  The shabby tree stays. 

The first little tree (above left) is Chris's tree.  I made this for him several years ago, including all the things he likes best:  Redskins football, Cincinnati Reds baseball, Tar Heels basketball (blech!), billiards, bowling, cards, etc.  So it's become a tradition now: Parker and I choose a new surprise ornament for Daddy's tree every year.  I think next year we're going to need a bigger tree!!  

The shot above right (and below) is of Parker's little tree in his room.  I let him decorate it himself, however he wants, and it's filled with very special ornaments that are going to get broken that are very meaningful to him me.  I adore this sweet tree.  And P loves having such a big nightlight in his room at Christmastime.  :)

I just noticed that all the Sesame Street characters seem to be mooning us.  That silly Parker.  Not a one is facing out!  LOL!

Oh, and for more of Parker's antics...  remember this from last year??  Stinker.All stages of his four little years here on this Earth so far, including the many phases boys go through:  Sesame Street (this phase was way too long for my taste and tolerance, I might add), trains (which was way too short for the amount of money I spent on Thomas and Friends), Charlie Brown (a constant favorite!), all kinds of cars and fire trucks, and the Florida Gators.  (Since he was actually born here in Florida, he insists that he is an "Alligator Fan".  Chomp.)  Even Darth Vader is represented on this tree in all his Christmas cheer.  ;)And yeah, I know, you've probably already seen these shots of our main tree (MY TREE, the one that has to be "pretty"), but I like it... so you're going to see it again!  :D

I'm in love with mercury glass this year!  Love it.Our New and Unmatching stocking this year.  Poor Lila.  I had to make it especially girly for her, it was the least I could do.  :)  The rest of our stockings are cream wool, with jingle bells and our names embroidered on them.  Maybe next year we'll be a matching set again!

Oh!  And I have to tell you about my new stocking holders.....They're handbag hooks, similar to these!!!  If you're local, you can pick them up at Kookie Krums in Dunedin.  Their true intent is to hold your purse from the tabletop when you go to a restaurant, so that you don't have to plop your handbag down on the dirty restaurant floor.  (Great idea?  I think so!  They're really pretty, too!)  But that ingenious Janet had stockings hung from her coffee/cookie bar this way, and so four of these little hooks found their way to my um, bookshelf-cum-mantle-for-the-season.  :)  (Hey, it's Florida!  It's been in the 70s most of this past week.  Who needs a fireplace?!)  

Anyhow, we had those big, tall, clunky metal stocking holders before, and I was absolutely petrified that eventually, they would not be able to bear the weight of the stockings' contents, and tumble down onto the kids' heads.  I don't even want to think about it!  Well, no more worrying.  PROBLEM SOLVED.  If these little trinkets can hold a heavy purse, they can surely hold what Santa can stuff into my kids' stockings!Can you just see the Visions of Sugarplums dancing over his little sleepy head?  :)  Oh, I turn into mush looking at my sleeping babies.....  especially when they're wearing Monster Jammies.Okay... that's it for now, but I'll be back tomorrow with more photos and more hall-decking!  Hope you enjoyed your tour!

And..... last but not least, make sure you take some refreshments on your way out the door!

PUMPKIN BREAD WITH CHOCOLATE CHIPS (courtesy of my awesome friend Stephanie - xoxo)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray two loaf pans (I use the glass variety) with nonstick cooking spray.

3 cups granulated sugar

1 cup vegetable oil

4 eggs

1 15 oz can of pumpkin

2 tsp baking soda

4 tsp pumpkin pie spice

3-1/2 cups self-rising flour

2/3 cup water

1/2 cup pecans, walnuts, whatever you prefer

1/2 cup (um, I usually double this!!) chocolate chips

Mix sugar, oil, eggs, and pumpkin.  Mix baking soda, pumpkin pie spice, and flour in a separate bowl, then gradually stir the dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture.  Add water, then stir in nuts and chips.  Pour into prepared pans.  Bake at 350 for one hour.  Yields 2 loaves.  

***Chef's Note:  Every time I make this, someone asks me for the recipe.  The bread is not dense like traditional pumpkin bread... rather it's the consistency of banana nut bread!  It's extremely moist.  (And oh-so-delicious for breakfast with a cup of coffee or a glass of cold milk!!)  And it's always GONE.  FAST!  Ya might wanna double this whole recipe just in case.  Hey just think of it this way to reduce your guilt: it's a serving of vegetables!  Hee hee.

ENJOY!  And thanks for stopping by to see me!  This was fun.  And you're welcome anytime.  :)