Design Mom Asks

December 8, 2011

One of my most favorite parts of blogging are the conversations that happen here; no matter the topics or time zones, there always seems to be a chat to join! While you may visit to read my words, I write to read yours. Which is why I’m hoping you’ll jump right in to my newest series called Design Mom Asks. To get the first exchange of ideas started, I asked a few lovelies to finish the following sentence: The holiday season officially — and happily! — begins for me as soon as…

And here are their stories.

Amy Turn Sharp of Little Alouette:
…I go downstairs and open the holiday boxes. Every year I quickly scribble a note to myself that starts out “Hey girl!” and then I just ask myself some questions about my year. What happened big? Did you stress out less? Are the children wiser? Were you kinder? Do you have more love?, etc. And every year I seem to forget about it until I open the box and gasp. I usually cry.

Christine Koh of Boston Mamas:
…three things happen! First, my daughter, Laurel, and I ramp up our baking into high gear, whether it’s holiday pies or special treats for visitors. I’d argue that this mile-high apple pie is good any time of the year.

I also make a giant batch of magic salt, as I do every holiday season. Packaged in pretty jars, the salt is perfect for little token gifts and makes everything taste better! Along the way I also discovered that salt in a tray makes for lots of sensory fun for little kids.

And breaking out the holiday décor of course really seals the deal. I’m especially partial to our little handmade items (like the paper garland at top).

I hope you – and all of the wonderful readers of Design Mom – have a spectacular holiday season!

Erin Loechner of Design for Mankind:
…my husband Ken and I settle in for a hot chocolate / Christmas movie night. We both work from home, so it’s all too easy to stay in and work from our office the majority of the year. It seems that Christmas is the only season that forces us to hibernate, relax and enjoy each other’s company. I look forward to our quiet movie nights all year long!

Melissa Meaders McArdle of Reverie Daydream:
…a candy cane is placed in my hand. Fond memories of my great-grandfather filling my glove-covered hands with peppermint sticks and the crisp, fresh flavor that danced on my tongue signals the start of Christmas. The simple red and white stripes are jolly indicators of festive moments to reign supreme all through December. This year, my heart skipped a beat when my little three-year old crumb squealed with glee, “CHRISTMAS!” at the sight of her first candy cane. And onward the tradition goes…

image via McArdle Images

Jules of Pancakes and French Fries:
…I unwrap my collection of glass Christmas tree ornaments. I started collecting glass ornaments when my husband and I became engaged thirteen years ago. Each year, I buy a glass ornament that best encapsulates the year coming to a close. Now that we have two boys, I also buy ornaments that reflect their recent interests or achievements. I don’t limit myself to style or color, which is why my tree has a glass shark (when he was three, Nico loved sea creatures), a golf ball and tee (my husband’s a fan), and Yoda. My only rule: no filler ornaments allowed, no matter how pretty! If I don’t find what I’m looking for, I let it go and trust the perfect ornament will pop up in the future. I’m still searching for ornaments that represent our sons’ first words (Mikey, flower; Nico, sock). They’re out there waiting for me. I just know it.

Our tree, when compared to most, can look a bit bare since we don’t use filler ornaments. It’s been fun to see the tree fill up year after year, and I can only imagine what it will look like ten years from now. The best result of my slow-and-steady tree trimming is that every year we get to reminisce as we decorate the tree. Each ornament is linked with a memory, and by the time we place the star on top, we’ve not only put up a tree…we’ve built a life.

I’m smiling, aren’t you? And I’m very much feeling the holiday spirit, thanks to these heart-warming traditions. Many thanks for sharing them with me, sweet ladies!

Now it’s your turn. Will you finish the sentence, please? The holiday season officially — and happily! — begins for me as soon as…

I can’t wait to hear your answers!

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{ 49 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Lori December 8, 2011 at 5:14 am

I unpack the Advent calendar that my boys and I made a few years ago. It has personalized fun things for us to do each day in December on it. Everything from crafts, to play acting, and even calling friends and family on their December birthdays to sing to them.


2 susan December 8, 2011 at 5:21 am

I am swooning over your blog. I just found it today via some clicks starting with the Soulemama blog. I can’t wait to explore it! I blog about raising 3 kids with Down syndrome. We have 6 kids too. The 3 oldest are now out on there own. A year in France would be devine. Thanks for all the inspiring posts………..!


3 r8chel December 8, 2011 at 5:32 am

The Christmas season kicks off for me on the first Sunday of Advent – the Sunday morning after Thanksgiving. After our Thanksgiving celebration, I make myself stay in Thanksgiving mode until Sunday morning, when we go to church (as we do every week) to begin celebrating Christ’s birth. After that, I feel free to decorate, listen to Christmas music, shop for gifts, and eat cookies!


4 Lori H December 8, 2011 at 5:58 am

When we purchase our Christmas tree the weekend after Thanksgiving weekend. Then all the Christmas decor comes out and the Christmas music is wafting around most of the day.


5 Kate December 8, 2011 at 5:58 am

It is a two party beginning for me. The first is when I can start putting up Christmas lights the day after Thanksgiving. Every year I try to cover the tree in front of our house and make it look awesome. Every year my fear of heights takes over and I end up stopping about a 1/3 of the way up the tree.

The second is on December 1st when I can finally watch Love Actually with my husband. I find that every year as my life changes and grow (marriage, parenthood) I find a new part of the movie to cry over. I suspect that in a few years I might just cry through the whole thing.


6 Meagan December 8, 2011 at 6:04 am

As soon as I realize I have less than a week to take care of everyone’s presents! ;-)


7 Gray December 8, 2011 at 6:16 am

begins for me as soon as…
My sister and her husband and 3 kids come over to my mom’s house. At that point, we will all be together and all the gifts are under the tree. We spent a few Christmases apart when she lived in California, and it just wasn’t the same. This year the decorations go onto the tree — we are waiting for them to decorate it so the kids can help. Also, we’ll bake cookies and make Christmas dinner together — my sister, my mom, and I — while the men folk watch the kiddos (she has 3 – 7, 4, and 10 mos and I have 1 – 4). I will start singing carols and my sister’s infinitely prettier soprano will join in, mom singing the alto to round us out. The only thing missing is my dad, but when we’re all here together, I feel like he’s here too.


8 Maria Ortiz-Cintron December 8, 2011 at 6:21 am

What a lovely new series! I love all of the comments. You know, every time I read comments from other bloggers, and readers alike, I’m always in awe of the mighty powers of the “army of women”. I constantly grow in admiration for us women, we’re so resourceful, so creative, so supportive and so detailed.We really are special creatures.. (lots of love to the guys out there as well, not excluding them here, just sending out lots of love and admiring vibes to my sister friends).. What about you Gabrielle? When does the holiday season officially and happily start for you?


9 Stephanie December 8, 2011 at 6:25 am

As soon as I bust out my Bing Crosby and Andrew Sisters Christmas CD’s!


10 Aliesha December 8, 2011 at 6:26 am

When we leave town to drive “home” on Thanksgiving morning. We hit the ground running that weekend and usually don’t stop to breathe until well after New Years. We usually hit 4 or 5 destinations between the two families that weekend plus friends, and both my brother’s and sister’s birthday usually falls somewhere over that weekend as well. We shop, go out with friends, open presents, eat too much day after day, stay up too late night after night…I always arrive back home exhausted but happy.

The following week/weekend is my birthday, so there is usually more celebration and cake to be had that week. I always get the Christmas stuff out that weekend or in the week to follow, and then the house officially feels festive. I usually do at least one more trip back home in the meantime for a girls-gift-exchange weekend with my old high school friends, and before you know it, between shopping, making cookies, wrapping presents, and working full time (and this year with an almost-one-year-old thrown in the mix), Christmas is here!

For us, the season officially ends after New Year’s, after my husband’s mother comes down to celebrate HER birthday on Dec 30th, after we take down the Christmas decorations. Last year we got everything down just in time to go to the hospital to deliver our daughter…so, this year, I think we’ll keep the celebrations rolling well through mid-January with 2 birthday parties for her (one for each side of our humongous families) as well as celebrating my niece’s birthday 4 days after my daughter’s. Whew. When I write it all down, it sounds more exhausting than it is! Well…maybe not…it really is exhausting! But so worth it to spend so much time with the people we love most.


11 Sara December 8, 2011 at 6:41 am

I think it really starts for me when I start playing Christmas music at the end of Thanksgiving weekend. Something about hearing all of my favorite holiday songs that I have collected over the years (Harry Connick, Jr. gets me going every time!) brings back memories and starts to get me into the Christmas spirit! And hey, how fun is music when you know almost all of the words and can sing along?? For some reason, I remember to play music more often and in different situations when it’s Christmas music. This year, I’ve realized how much more energized and happy I feel when I do remember, and thinking I need to carry over my music playing habits to the rest of the year. (Will have to make/find some new playlists!)

Music starts it off, but what really makes me KNOW it’s Christmas is getting the tree! We go cut our own, if possible, and I always collect the spare pine branches and bits that would get thrown away and put them literally everywhere in my house! Mixing the smell of fresh pine with my own decorations that I’ve collected over the years is like Christmas intoxication! I love it!!!


12 Cecilia Madden December 8, 2011 at 6:54 am

The season starts for me with music too. Growing up we always listened to Christmas songs in the morning as we got ready for school, and when I went away to college and didn’t have time to decorate or go shopping, the one thing I did remember to do to get into the Christmas spirit was play my christmas songs loud and early every morning.

Another big signifier for me is when the tree and nativity go up. My grandmother has the most beautiful nativity I’ve ever seen. I have a small one, but maybe it’s time for an upgrade.


13 Adventures In Babywearing December 8, 2011 at 6:59 am

Oh, these are fabulous! And I just have to say Amy & Christine are two of my very favorite people. Warms my heart!



14 Sue December 8, 2011 at 7:04 am

It begins for me when my daughter and my husband put together a little Norwegian scene, complete with ice rink and snow. My husband did it with his family when he was younger (apparently the 4 kids used to argue about who would put the little cabin together) and we’ve carried on the tradition. As soon as those little sleds and gnomes are displayed on my sideboard, the Christmas season officially begins. Now you’ve inspired me… off to write about it on my own blog!


15 Kara December 8, 2011 at 7:18 am

Just found your blog via Soule Mama and I’m so excited to read more! :)


16 Colleen December 8, 2011 at 7:29 am

unwrap my porcelaine angels from Germany. They were mighty expensive, but I knew they were for me. They circle a golden angel blowing a trumpet and the whole group sit on my buffet………. waiting and welcoming the season. The simplicity and elegance are what I enjoy most. I, too, smile, when I see them each morning.


17 Christa The BabbyMama December 8, 2011 at 7:39 am

The holiday season officially — and happily! — begins for me as soon as…

My daughter asks to decorate the tree. This year, that happened on the day after Thanksgiving, so I’m thinking of turning that into the traditional day for our family. Her asking got me into the Christmas spirit, which I didn’t think I’d feel much of this year :(


18 Melissa L. December 8, 2011 at 7:44 am

when I open up the cabinet that contains my grandma’s Christmas bells. The sound of those bells brings me back to Christmas morning at her home. She would always ring a bell to wake us and we were convinced that it was Santa’s sleigh bells.


19 Sophie December 8, 2011 at 7:44 am

The holiday season begins for me when I start planning my Thanksgiving menu! I love Thanksgiving and look forward to it almost as much as I do Christmas…I love cooking all the yummy food, inviting our friends over, and just generally enjoying a day together that is only about family and friends, no gifts involved.

Once Thanksgiving is over, I’m in full-on Christmas mode, though! I love Christmas crafting, and made my kids their own advent calendar this year which I really had fun with! Once we get the tree up and decorated, it really starts to get exciting:) All the other decorations go up (lights in the windows, stockings hung, bunting in the living room, etc) one by one and before I know it there’s Christmas cheer in every part of the house. I love it.


20 Leasa December 8, 2011 at 8:05 am

It starts for me the day after Thanksgiving when I go out and buy fresh wreaths and poinsettias to place throughout my house and to give to friends and coworkers. I don’t even have to break out one Christmas decoration and already my house and mood feels festive. Add some of my favorite Christmas music and I am in full Christmas mode!


21 heather at wordplayhouse® December 8, 2011 at 8:09 am

…our Christmas tree begins to thaw in our warm house and the branches begin to come down from their wrapped up position. We can see the majesty of our tree in it’s place in our home for the first time. Our children eagerly await—so eagerly—those branches to come down so they can begin hanging the ornaments on the tree. Ornaments from their father’s and my own childhoods. And then the reminiscent stories begin.


22 Corrie Anne December 8, 2011 at 8:12 am

…growing up it was always the day after Thanksgiving we would go to Uncle Tom’s tree farm (literally our uncle) and cut a Christmas tree. We’d decorate it and have egg nog.

…the past 3 years it would be when I would get on the plane to fly back to the USA

…this year, I’m a newlywed, we just moved to Denver, and I’m just not sure yet!! hopefully it will hit me SOON! :)


23 anne December 8, 2011 at 8:13 am

…the first time it is cold enough to make hot cocoa (which is usually late November or early December). Then I’ll have a cup with my family, and maybe some pfefferneuse (sp?) cookies, and it feels so cozy and cheerful that I’m ready for Christmas.

Reading these answers are making me feel the Christmas spirit!


24 Amy December 8, 2011 at 8:19 am

I unpack my collection of Department 56 North Pole Village. My mom bought me my first piece as a gift the first year after I got married. My hubby and I have added to our collection over the years and I now have over 40 buildings and at least as many figures that go with them. I set the village up on almost every flat surface in my home. I love the way the lights twinkle from all the tiny windows at night.


25 Jamie December 8, 2011 at 8:29 am

I plan the advent/countdown calendar each year. I have become obsessed with these over the past several years, researching and collecting both store bought and handmade varieties. Nothing beats sharing with my daughter the anticipation and fun that it creates every day for almost an entire month. Now we do them for other holidays too!


26 barchbo December 8, 2011 at 8:45 am

… it’s Thanksgiving Eve. That’s it! I’m ready! :)


27 Erin McDonald December 8, 2011 at 8:57 am

…the Christmas village gets set up. As soon as the tiny houses get lit up, I start dreaming about possibilities. It’s set up leads to lots of baking, decorating and present making in our house.


28 everton terrace December 8, 2011 at 9:11 am

when I begin to make my daughter’s advent scrolls. Each year I make tiny scrolls tied with red ribbon. Inside are inspirational quotes as she is a lover of words. This year I was struggling with finding some I thought might be new to her, at 25, she has read way more than me, so I printed photos of her from all throughout her life with a little caption like “she loves food” under her 4 year old self slurping spaghetti. Making these scrolls reminds me of our bond and keeps me feeling close to her even though she is far away at school.

Loved reading all the comments!


29 michelle a December 8, 2011 at 9:30 am

When the tree is up, all lit up and sparkling. I immediately feel like I’m 7 and want to crawl underneath it to look up at its lights.

Such a great question!


30 Cathy December 8, 2011 at 10:15 am

I kick off Christmas in my world the first time I hear Jose Feliciano sing, “Feliz Navidad”! That just makes me smile out loud and I sing along as loud as I can and if I dare….I dance a bit too ;-)


31 estelle December 8, 2011 at 10:37 am

These stories are lovely. I especially love my sweet Melissa’s story of receiving a simple candy cane and feeling the spirit of the holiday. The simple pleasures are always the best and often the most memorable.


32 CMN December 8, 2011 at 10:55 am

Hmmm…. so many little things, but truly, the holiday season officially starts for me when I get out the wrapping paper and begin planning holiday cards. Call me a freak, but I try to do those two things in early November. I’ve found that, for me, the holiday season is more peaceful if I try to do things in baby steps. A little bit at a time. No waiting until the last week to do ALL the wrapping and ALL the cards. Sure, there have been years when the Merry Christmas cards became Happy New Year cards (or even Happy Winter!), but starting the planning early? Always. And that’s when my holiday season officially begins — even if the Christmas decorations aren’t “allowed” to go up in our house until the Thanksgiving weekend.


33 bdaiss December 8, 2011 at 11:01 am

Oh I love the idea of writing a letter to yourself. What a wonderful treat. Must do this year.

The holiday season begins for us, typcially the day after Thanksgiving, when we head out into the Black Hills to cut our own Christmas trees. It’s always a fun adventure and a wonderful time spent with extended family. Guaranteed to put me in the holiday mood.


34 Ry Pepper December 8, 2011 at 12:10 pm

This is too easy. As soon as the city (NYC) lights up with holiday lights! It’s practically the reason I live here. There is nothing much more romantic or magical to me (aside from an Autumn walk in central park) than the holiday season in Manhattan. All the decorated windows (which I love to shoot), the extra lights, holiday music leaking on to the streets from all the stores, the smell of Christmas trees on just about every block and late night egg nogs in cozy bars.

‘Tis divine.


35 Tamsin December 8, 2011 at 12:35 pm

Christmas starts for me when we light the first advent candle. Wikipedia explains that tradition quite well here (, but it’s one that I grew up with in Norway, and have continued with my own family in the US.


36 Julie Martell December 8, 2011 at 12:37 pm

I unpack the Christmas stocking that my mother made for me the winter before she died. And, I hang it up along with the ones that I have since made for my husband and son.


37 Amy3 December 8, 2011 at 12:54 pm

When we put up the tree (usually early in December) and the advent calendar (ideally, November 30 so it’s ready, but often later than that). I love all the craziness that is Christmas!


38 Amy December 8, 2011 at 1:05 pm

The tree is trimmed, my husband and kids are happily snuggled in bed, and I sit quietly in a darkened house, looking at the lighted tree. We have ornaments from multiple generations, and I think about the past and our future, and promise myself to keep the Christmas season simple, beautiful and calm for my family.


39 Connie December 8, 2011 at 1:44 pm

I’m blessed to have a husband who loves Christmas the way I do, but we both feel quite strongly that not a scrap of Christmas is allowed out until Thanksgiving has had it’s say. But that next morning (or whenever we are back in town in our home if we spent Thanksgiving out of state), We’ll make a fancy breakfast and haul out the boxes of Christmas, and put on Over the Rhine’s “Snow Angels” album (They are my favorite musicians, and that particular album holds lots of memories for me personally), and begin to trim the house. And finally, listening to that music, trimming the house, sharing our memories of Christmases past together-it feels like Advent at last.


40 Maddy December 8, 2011 at 2:58 pm

Music starts it for me! This year I’m enjoying and


41 Ann December 8, 2011 at 3:23 pm

The holiday season officially starts for me the moment I realize I just MIGHT actually get it all done! Planning, cleaning, shopping, decorating, wrapping, sending, sending… Once that mountain turns into a foothill I turn on the Christmas music and start enjoying the process!

BTW, I am a “Design Mom” too, and you blog is one of my inspirations for starting my own, so THANKS!!!


42 Juli December 8, 2011 at 5:22 pm

as soon as I get in bed on Thanksgiving night. With Thanksgiving just over I immediately start thinking of when and where we will get our fresh tree the next morning and what theme we will go with this year. Yes, I go to bed that night feeling the fun spirit of Christmas.


43 Kristen E December 8, 2011 at 6:19 pm

…on Thanksgiving! As soon as Thanksgiving happens, it’s time to start making my cordial cherries (they need to sit for a month!) and planning all my other holiday candies. I only do candymaking at Christmastime, so it really makes the holiday season real to me! This year, I’m doing 2 varieties of cordial cherries (one boozy, one not), 4 truffle flavors (chai, lavender, raspberry, amaretto), some nutty caramels, and I’m going to try my hand at hard candy swirl mints. I’m so excited!


44 Kimberly December 9, 2011 at 5:46 am

Growing up, my family was slightly strange. My father, probably in an effort to delay hauling boxes of lights downstairs and watch the football game instead, once told me that the Christmas season didn’t start ’til after Pearl Harbor Day (Dec 7). My brother and I believed it until we got older, but he stuck to his guns. It’s become quite the joke. But I gotta tell you, I am 39 years old and I still don’t drag my boxes out until at least December 8. I don’t have children, so its not like I’m torturing them by waiting. I do “cheat” and start listening to music early, though. Yesterday, from 1000 miles away, he texted (!!) me to go ahead and start decorating!

The holiday season officially — and happily! — begins for me after the solemnity of the Pearl Harbor remembrance has passed.

This weekend I bake cookies!


45 Amanda December 10, 2011 at 7:12 am

I’m “allowed” to play Christmas music and wear my Christmas earrings. This year, my roommate let me after Remembrance Day!


46 Amy December 11, 2011 at 5:17 am

As soon as we get our Christmas tree! My brother died 5 years ago, and some of my most treasured memories with him are of choosing and cutting the perfect tree together. It carries his memory on when I continue doing this each year. This year, my two year old son participated in the tradition with my husband and me. It filled me with joy to see him running, weaving in and out of the trees, so excited to be there choosing the perfect tree.


47 Amy December 12, 2011 at 5:39 am

When I awake the day after Thanksgiving . . . that’s when Christmas music is ceremoniously ushered in, Christmas decorations are dusted off and brought inside, meals begin to be served on Christmas plates . . . and the season begins!

Thanks for this, by the way–what fun, to read the traditions of others!


48 Pamelotta December 12, 2011 at 7:07 am

When my husband plays “The Best Little Christmas Album of All Time” that he made about 10 years ago. He arranged all of our favorite Christmas songs onto one cd and when he pops that cd in the player, usually before the kids wake up, it’s officially the Christmas season in our house.


49 Patty February 4, 2012 at 2:15 pm

Ours ‘officially’ begins when I set up our ‘Hot Cocoa Tray’…I keep marshmallows, sugar lumps, mini candy canes, and homemade hot cocoa mix and Sugar Cookie Tea in mason jars, that I have decorated. I add the Santa mugs, festive napkins and small paper plates and place it in a corner of my kitchen with a miniature tree.


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