Tuesday, December 31, 2019

We'll Be Home for Christmas

We actually agreed to not get any Christmas decorations this year and wait until everything goes on sale at the end of the season...but we caved!  I mean, how can people who turn on Christmas music right after Thanksgiving resist the festive lights, evergreen garlands, wreaths hung on the front door, and colorful ornaments?  First, we were just going to decorate the top of the mantle, but then we saw the little Christmas trees who so badly needed a home, and then I forced Wes to get out his woodworking equipment to make wooden trees for our front yard, too.  He surprised me when I got home one day with Christmas lights strung around the brick pillar in front of our house, too.  We even participated in the Christmas Tree Lane lighting ceremony, like true locals.  Just kidding, the true locals hide at home and avoid the crowds!  Anyway, it was a super fun Christmas season, and I'm glad that we gave into the cheesy holiday spirit!  Altadena truly feels like home, now.

We kicked off the season with this snowy hike to Inspiration Point, which was about a 10-mile roundtrip hike from the Cobb Estate in Altadena, also known as the Echo Mountain trail.  We only drove for about five minutes from our house to the trailhead, and made it to this winter wonderland after a few hours of hiking uphill.  There isn't usually snow here, but the weather was extra crazy on Thanksgiving night, dusting the tops of the San Gabriel mountains white for several days!

As Christmas drew nearer, I was starting to feel left out of the holiday home cheer, so I told Wes that we should really just get a garland or something small.  We ended up spending an hour googling garlands and everything about them -- costs, lengths, batteries/plug in, styles, store availability.  I swear, our heads were going to explode.  First world problems, definitely.  Finally, we splurged on a full-priced one from Home Depot, which was probably the one that we would have grabbed in the first place anyway.  When we arrived at Home Depot, though, we got into trouble.  The fresh Christmas tree lot was right there, and we saw some little baby ones for $30.  Why not??  It even came with a tree stand!

We brought it home and proudly decked it out with all of our small collection of motley ornaments (all of which in a shoebox), but alas, it had to live in the sink on its first night in our house.  Knowing our luck, we grabbed one with a crack in its plastic stand.  So... after mopping up the water that ended up all over our floor around the tree, Wes drove back to Home Depot the next day and got a replacement tree stand.  Apparently, it wasn't the easiest thing to explain to the workers there, either!

Gotta love those food ornaments that we've collected over the years!  We had just enough for a little tree.  Next year, if we have a big tree, we'll need to get more fillers... for now, each of these ornaments were intentionally hand-selected by us, over many separate occasions.

A week later, I remember returning home after dark from working my side-job at the skilled nursing facility the Sunday after that fateful visit to Home Depot and walking into the house looking like this:


It was so cute!  Wes even added some lights to the outside of the house to surprise me, since he knew that I was in the mood for more holiday cheer.  We cranked the music box that he bought me during our trip to Hokkaido earlier this year, and when it played our wedding song, I felt all of the warmest, fuzziest, teariest feels.  I think this was the first time we listened to it in the new house.

And, he had another surprise for me in the garage.  Those Pinterest-inspired wooden trees that I screenshot and texted to him earlier... were standing there in front of me as the garage door unveiled them.  He's the best!

Even more impressive was the fact that he used only scrap wood that we had in the garage already and only had to buy a few extra pieces for the bases.  I love a resourceful and handy man!

It took me another week to get around to mixing green paint and painting them.  After I painted them, he coated each one in polyurethane weather seal and strung little twinkle lights around them.  Just like that, we had Christmas decorations in front of our house!

We also tried out a few wreaths on the front door.  I guess we have a pretty big front door - the one that we originally bought looked dinky on it.  Again, an extra trip was made back to Pier 1 Imports.  The end result was satisfying, though.  Nothing like a big, full wreath to welcome ourselves (since there will be no guests this year, haha).

After finishing the trees, we biked to Christmas Tree Lane to check out the annual tree lighting ceremony.  This long-time tradition is unique to Altadena, and even though we never lived too far from it, we never felt the urge to come.  Now that we are only biking distance away, actual residents of the city, and in town for the holidays, it made sense for us to be there.  Wes strung some battery-operated Christmas lights around the bike frames to make things extra festive.  The ceremony was family-friendly and sweet.  We didn't stay too long, but we felt positive vibes from the community while there, and we got to take these fairly new bikes out for a night-time spin!

That same morning, there was also a power outage on our block, which at first was frustrating because we couldn't open the fridge or the garage.  We ended up being forced out of the house for food and things to do, and it was nice to get out and support the neighborhood.  We went to Fox's, a cozy restaurant in Altadena that has been here for a very long time, and we grabbed coffee from Unincorporated Coffee Roasters, an independent coffeeshop that is fairly newer.  Wes has already been getting his beans there, but I rarely go, so I treated myself to a chai latte and Wes got his usual cold brew.  We also popped into the local hardware store and the Beautiful Altadena gift shop, where we found a present for Madison, our niece.

We cooked and baked on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.  Wes made crispy pork twice (once for my family and once for his), and I made Chinese almond cookies.  It was fun to stick around home and cook together, as it was raining outside on both days.

On Christmas morning, we took it slow and stayed in bed for a long time after we woke up.  It might be one of our only Christmas mornings like this, who knows.  Still in pajamas, I pulled up to the lonely, neglected keyboard and tinkered out a few Christmas tunes to the rain.  Hopefully I'll make more time to play music seriously now that things are settled in!

Our place really did feel settled that Christmas morning.  I remember crying on the couch a couple of days after our official move-in date, wishing that things could just be normal again.  Everything now had its place, our big projects were done, I had time for hobbies, my mind was calm.  We also just found out that we may have a Batchelder fireplace, which is a very historic and prized Pasadena/Altadena possession!  Who knew that there was a gem before our very eyes?  The yard was also much more low-maintenance now that it was winter, and we had already raked and swept up all of the leaves that had fallen before Thanksgiving.  I felt nothing but gratitude this morning, even though there were no presents or guests coming over.  Finally, five months in, everything felt right.  I bet this was the magic of Christmas, here to stay.

As Wes wrote in his Christmas card to me (came a day late, but is now one of my most valued possessions), this year was full of challenges and joy, but the underlying theme of 2019 turned out to be establishing roots.  I know for sure that many of last year's gifts were delivered when we weren't quite prepared to receive them, but they were still gifts in the end, timely in their own way.  We're ready to see what next year will bring.  And as for that full-sized faux Christmas tree we agreed to get for 2020, we just snagged a nice one at a deep discount!

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