Christmas is Here (revised)

The Chronicles of Cletus

I can keep a man for 19 years, but a pair of antlers for my car?

Folks, we’re talking three antlers in just as many days. I wish it were three pairs, though. Because then I wouldn’t be driving around town with just one antler jutting up proudly from the driver’s side window.

Of course, the alternative would be to drive around town with just a red nose on the front end of my giant gas-guzzling Chevy.  That alternative was, indeed, my reality from Saturday evening until Sunday afternoon when I waltzed into a local store and snagged up a new set.  You know, to replace the set that flew off somewhere in the middle of nowhere.  Actually, now that I think about it, I don’t have one red nose.  I have two!  One on the front and one in my trunk.  I thought about getting rid of it, but who are we kidding here? At this point, I should hold on to it; I’m sure I’ll be using it soon.

So, antler number 1 and 2.

I’ve had them since last Christmas in southern New Mexico.  I can only assume my Rudolph-Mobile was happy and content in the dry climes of the desert because they never came off.

Ahem.  Allow me to correct myself.

They have catapulted themselves into the car, smacking me in the head and leaving me feeling as if I just went into cardiac arrest whilst sitting in the drive thru of one fast food joint or another.  BUT, they never flew off the window, careened past the side of the vehicle and disappeared from sight.

I’d like to think this contributed to the fantastic display of stupidity I gifted my oldest and youngest with this past Saturday evening.  Our big old gas hog hurled down the road towards our destination, a Christmas party, when I found myself feeling overheated.  I’m sure I’m not the only one this happens to (I hope I’m not the only one).

On occasion, when it’s hot or I’m feeling flustered, excited- whatever; I manage to go from a pale white girl to a splotchy red mass of anxiety.  It’s there for the world to see.  Spreads from my neck up to my cheeks. It wouldn’t be so bad if it were my entire face- I’d just say I got a sunburn (what? It could happen). Maybe a tanning mishap. Something. Anything!  But no, I blotch.  I’ve had strangers ask me if I were suffering from some malady to which I always reply no while in my head thinking (well, yes ma’am I do. It’s called humility with a dose of neurosis.)

So there I was, on my way to a party heating up faster than an egg on a sidewalk in a heat wave and I can feel it.  The Dreaded Red creeping up my face.  What’s a girl to do?  Don a green cap and say I thought it was a costume party with a produce theme?  No, though that does have merit… Did I mention I was wearing a red sweater?

I decided to crack the window.  Surely that would help! After all, it was a balmy 15 degrees fahrenheit; give or take a few degrees.

And then it happened.

The window was cracked, and apparently my mind too.  The flush was slowly receding from my face when the thought entered my mind.  The antler.  Maybe I should remove it from the window.  And so I began to reach for it when it suddenly popped off and WHOOSH!

Well thanks a lot Mother Nature.  I could’ve handled it myself.

My oldest, in all of his 17 years of droll humor, looks at me from across the middle console and states succinctly, “Well, that wasn’t the best idea.”

No kidding, Sherlock.

Not wanting to roll up as Cletus the one antler reindeer, I hatch a brilliant plan.  As we continue to dash down the road in our sleigh of misfortune at 45 mph, I lay my plan out to my dubious teen and my very amused nine year old.  I’ll roll down his window and he can remove the lone antler. You know, so we don’t look stupid……

I’m sure you can guess what came next.  Pretty sure, like my son, you figured it out before it even happened.


What can a girl do but proceed to sing a hearty rendition of Grandma Got Ran Over By An Antler while driving her last mile in utter and abject humility tinged with a healthy dose of self-appreciation for the ridiculous.

Now, I’m sure you’re wondering where the third antler comes in.  And for all of our sakes I’ll keep this part short and sweet.


Driving home from the post office I noticed my radio wasn’t working at all.  No time display. Nothing.  It was working when I parked at the post office.  I thought to myself “I wonder if anything else is out.” And so without thinking?  I rolled down the passenger window.



Number of pedestrians or wildlife who might now have concussions from flying antlers- 3


Merry Christmas from the Mustard Seed and Cletus, the One Antlered Reindeer …for now.

All Is Merry And Bright

As a beginner photographer I can honestly say one of my biggest nemesis’ is lighting. They say practice makes perfect and I don’t mind practicing one bit.


Especially when each family has been crazy fun and super cute.

And this family was no exception.IMG_2135

To battle my nemesis, Bad Lighting, I showed up late morning when the sun shone bright through a magnificent wall of windows.

We started our Candid Christmas photo session with that quintessential tradition that’s been bringing families together for longer than I know.

The Christmas Tree

IMG_1378.jpegAnd what a gorgeous tree they had, indeed. Standing a glorious thirteen feet, she was a beauty to behold and the perfect backdrop for their family photoshoot.


Okay, and sometimes the perfect umbrella…you know, for that adorable baby!!!!


Obviously the bulk of our morning was spent pouring over family ornaments and finding space for them on the tree.

And posing for the camera of course.


Tree decorating, especially a thirteen foot behemoth, is no easy feat.  So we rested our feet and settled down to regroup with a storybook that’s close to this sweet family’s heart.


The tree and story were done but we weren’t.

IMG_1957 I had with me a bag of fun and oh the fun we had.


And Snowballs

And Candy.

Oh My!

The candy was camera shy, but the kids weren’t.IMG_2151 2


IMG_2169 2.jpeg

Thank you for sharing in this little photographic journey and may I wish you a very merry (and bright) Christmas.

Summer -1


How the Grinch Stole the Christmas Wreath


Twas the night before Thanksgiving,
when all through the house the kids were all sleeping because I wore them all out.
There was cleaning, and dusting, and scrubbing of pans.
We were sweeping and mopping and ….just kidding, who do you think I am?

They’re sleeping because it’s Thanksgiving week and we’re chill like that.  Movies have been on almost non-stop and the weather is finally starting to cool down.  Yes, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, at least by southern New Mexico standards.  Only one thing stands in our way.

Turkey Day.

I cheated this year and ordered a prepared holiday meal from my local grocery store.  I had a choice between a whole turkey or a turkey breast.  I chose the boob.   I’m not lazy.  I’m resourceful. Yeah.  That’s it.  I’m so resourceful I somehow made a really really cute wreath quite by accident and for  less than $10.

It all started when I came across this picture on my Facebook photo albums. I had made this wreath about 5 or so years ago and I can’t believe I hadn’t done it again.338036_10150404699373813_244230887_o

With this simple yarn wreath fresh in my mind, I found myself standing in the craft aisle of Walmart.  They had these green styrofoam rings for less than $4.  Right across the aisle was a nice selection of yarn.  Now, I had planned on reviving my white wreath, but my eyes landed on this gorgeous green.IMG_0946

Armed with my new wreath form and yarn, I headed home and quickly began to wrap it…just kidding it takes forever.  Especially when you have the attention span of a kitten on catnip.  I had plans to later go to Hobby Lobby and pick up a few embellishments to add to the wreath.  No particular plan.  I figured I’d know it when I see it.

Well I couldn’t get to the store when I wanted and I’m not known for my patience……

 I went online to Pinterest to idle away my time and stumbled upon this tutorial.  Well, there I was with almost a full skein of yarn and nothing to do.  After a quick scavenger hunt in the garage, I set about making a wrapping board like the one on the tutorial.



It took quite awhile to make these pom poms but considering the fact I’m not the craftiest person and I was new to the pom pom game, it’s no surprise.  So I pushed on, trying different methods until I ran out of yarn.


This one clowned around with the incomplete wreath while I made a trip for more yarn.

A happy accident occurred at the store.  I bought the wrong shade of green yarn, but I found a Santa hat and green paper plates…..


Printed out a coloring sheet of the Grinch, colored the eyes with a colored pencil, and then cut them out.  Ended up a perfect fit.  Used pencil and then a permanent marker to create the rest of the face.


Once I was finished assembling the wreath, I needed something to hang it.  A loop of left over yarn that I hot glued to the back of the hat got the job done.


He’s a mean one, Mr. Grinch and he’s hanging on my door.

Well,he will.  Just after Turkey Day.

Now, I could’ve went into more detail but to be honest, tutorials are just not my thing.  However, I stumbled across a whole slew of Grinch wreaths on Pinterest.  My ego took a hit- I wasn’t original, but hey it means you can find some helpful tips and ideas.   I plan on making a new one and perhaps using fluffier yarn.  Also, a friend suggested adding a red heart- I love that idea.  And I’ll do it, just as soon as I recover from stuffing my face full of pie.



The Ghost of Christmas Crafts Past

I can’t imagine a life not spent sharing God with others.  Especially children.  Bringing His word to where they are; making it relevant for them- there’s nothing better.  (Getting to eat sugar, dance, and play games with them is a huge perk too……). Throughout the year we create props and decorations to compliment and accentuate the various themes.  We just recently wrapped up a Finding Nemo theme (perhaps I’ll share that with you at a later date.) Just in time for the holidays.

We’re taking a break from decorations for this month- which gives us time to get ready for Christmas.  I stumbled upon a few pictures I had posted on Facebook about three years ago, while searching for Christmas pictures to use for my most recent post KISSing Christmas, and thought I’d share.

This faux fireplace was the result of three cups of coffee, boredom, and a $6 trip to Dollar Tree.

It all started with a left over project board and a lonely roll of brown shipping paper I had in my garage.  Throw in a piece of white chalk and a broken red crayon and boom, an idea is born.


The fireplace complete, I parked it in our front room to get a good look at it.  It was looking pretty good but was definitely missing something. A mantle.


The mantle is actually a couple of those white gift boxes for shirts that we had leftover from the year before. We cut them in half and after angling the side panels of the project board, arranged the boxes on top.  For a backdrop I used a roll of leftover wrapping paper, and added a few Dollar Tree wreaths I already owned.


A lovely couple from our church lent us the rocking chair and accent rug. I then turned to Dollar Tree for a few last minute garnishes. Those cost us about $6 plus tax.  And there you have it.  A faux fireplace perfect for photos.

For this year, I’m going to use this old throwback as inspiration for a newer, sturdier version.  It’ll cost me a tiny bit more, but not much.  I plan on budgeting $20.  Of course, I’ll post that one right around the beginning of December. Until then, think outside of the box, and always keep a broken red crayon on hand.

KISSing Christmas



I hear sleigh bells as I gaze upon page after glossy page of dreamy winter wonderlands framed by festive windows; the quintessential wreath hanging from a velvet red ribbon. I can smell the glazed ham and pumpkin pie as I click my way through the houseware sections online.  As I gaze upon the festive homes filled with merriment on my Pinterest boards, my heart cries yes as my wallet whimpers out a mournful no, please no, for the love of all things holy, no. 

My wallet is very articulate.

It’s no secret that November and December are a retailers dream.  From small independent mom and pop stores to the big box giants, everyone’s clamoring for a piece of that pie- and I’m not talking that sweet potato one in an adorable pie plate from Amazon.  And they’ll play dirty to come out on top. They are relentless in their pursuit.  They sell dreams of Christmas perfection.  They dazzle us with daydreams of gathering around a fire (below a perfectly decorated mantle), everyone in matching pajamas that cost more than my electric bill (family of six, remember?), eating sweet treats on plates shaped like gingerbread cookies.

They had my number and man did they call me. It was like I was on speed- dial.

Window displays of days gone by would lure me in, promising holiday perfection.   Seasonal music filled my ears as I happily shelled out dollars and coins.  I’d dance with the sugar plum fairies while pushing my cart full of Yuletide booty towards my car; humming along with the radio station as I unloaded my new purchases and began to decorate my home.

When the holiday high finally faded, I’d sit on my couch, surrounded by tinsel and scraps of wrapping paper and try to remember what happened.  And when I’d finally look up from my cup of cocoa and really look at our bank account, the merry music would be replaced by a musical score worthy of an Alfred Hitchcock movie.

And the worst part? My home wouldn’t have even gotten close to those decieving, perfect pictures of Merry Bliss. Not only would I feel stupid, but I’d also feel like a complete failure.   I’d realize I had been bamboozled.  Beguiled.  And completely missed out on the simple joy of just being.

It was a cycle.  A vicious cycle dressed up in an ugly sweater and a hideous pair of socks.  You know, the ones your grandmother got you every year.


This ugly sweater picture is brought to you by a lack of shame and my husband’s sewing skills.

Not anymore.

Each year we seem to be stepping back more and more from the hype of the holidays.  We don’t need the latest and greatest decorations to have an amazing Christmas.  We just need each other.

Yes, I still love to decorate for the holidays. I ooh and aah over the plethora of pretty things.  I love things. I’m not ashamed.  I am most definitely not a minimalist.  I like stuff.  If that makes me materialistic, then fine. I admit it. But as I mentioned in my previous post- I’m not rolling around in a pile of money. No dinero.  At least when it comes to buying things I don’t really need.  And no, I don’t need the stack of coffee cups that look like a snowman.  I just want them. So I’m a broke practical materialistic mama.

So, how do I stay true to myself, get that satisfaction of finding little treasures for my home, and decorating to my hearts content without ringing in the new year with buyers remorse?

I kiss Christmas.

Keep ISimple, Sweetheart. (No need for name calling.)

1. Start with what I have.  I lug it all into the house and take stock of everything.  Then I make a list.  Anything broken that needs replaced?  Anything missing?  Is there anything I truly need that I haven’t bought yet?

This year it’s: One more stocking because I lost one of them and a new tree skirt.  A few more ornaments. And that’s it.


2. Shop my house. Any non holiday items that I can use?

The answer is a huge resounding yes.

Glass bell jars.  White pitchers, platters, and bowls. Candle pedestals. Even tin cans that I cleaned out and use as vases from time to time.  Any and all of these look amazing with a bit of seasonal floral and branches, pine cones and even loose ornaments.


3. Focus on one room and let it just flow from there.

I no longer try to decorate my entire downstairs.  It’s impossible, and costly.  And I value my sanity.  So the bulk of our decorating goes on in whatever room holds our Christmas tree.  Our family room.  The bathroom, front room, dining room and kitchen will get little touches that tie them all to the main focal point- the family room.

4. Perspective and purpose. We take our sweet time and remind ourselves not to sweat the small stuff.  In the end, does it really matter? No. What matters is that we lived well and loved often. Besides, I’m pretty sure Jesus is still going to love me, even if my silverware is mismatched and I only own one tablecloth. I’m just saying. I mean, he is the King of Kings and he was born in a manger……


Christmas 2014

Until next time, comment below!  What’s your favorite Christmas song? When do you start decorating for Christmas? Any family traditions? I look forward to hearing from you!





A Child’s Christmas Comes Early


It’s been almost a week since we were stealing our children’s candy, gorging on chocolate, and watching Ghostbusters over and over and over again. The costumes are safely tucked away, our pumpkin luminaries are once more shoved into a box in our garage, and the only cobwebs hanging around are the real ones because my ceilings are really high in the front room, and I’m not that tall. (Don’t worry, I’ll get to them.) All of this can only mean one thing. October has gone, and November has stepped up.

Pumpkins, fall colors, garlands of pine cones, and apple cinnamon scents wafting from the wax warmer lanterns. Pictures of turkeys everywhere.  These are the things that used to take place of pride after the skeletons and ghosts were safely packed away. It’s what many have in their homes right now.

They don’t have an 11 year old named Grace Dulinsky.



From day one, her downy crown of brown hair and bright blue eyes earned her the nickname Mini-Me.   As she grew, her personality began to shine through, only driving home the fact that she is indeed a miniature version of me.  And so much more.

She’s a force to be reckoned with.

Not quite the middle child nor the baby of the family, she’s an introverted enigma wrapped in a fuzzy blanket of whimsy and fun.  Out of our four kids, she most definitely has inherited the Style Gene. Her ability to style isn’t limited to just her spot on fashion sense either.  She loves all things home decor.  Especially holidays.


We gave her the lead on halloween decorating this year, and I’ve decided not to stop there.  I’m passing the torch, so to speak. It’s been coming for a few years now.  It started small.  Letting them choose the decorations one year.  Allowing them to decorate the tree. I let go of trying to control it all.  Of trying to create the perfect holiday, only to end up an emotional wreck wrapped in tinsel.

An amazing thing happens when I step back.  Magical things.  They rise to the occasion.  They shine and their joy is infectious. And I stop controlling and start celebrating.



So, Christmas decorating has started, just barely a week after Halloween has ended.  Some will think we’re crazy.  I no longer care.

Life is precious, ladies and gentlemen, and I for one don’t want to waste a second of it.

My children will grow up and have their own homes and families. They won’t be begging me to help them go through the decorations. They won’t be here to snuggle by the fire and watch How The Grinch Stole Christmas.  One day, I’ll find myself with the perfect tree, arrayed in a color coordinated display of splendor.  I’ll miss the misshapen ornaments made out of salt dough, and the random stuffed animals shoved between the branches.  And I’ll miss the sweet, pure excitement that is a child’s Christmas. 

Christmas has come early to Casa Dulinsky, and I am embracing the chaos.  Even if I can’t see my desk.


Whether you choose to decorate early or closer to the season, or not at all, just remember- life is to be embraced, every single day.  The joy of Christmas, the miracle of our Savior’s birth, can be celebrated every day.  So spread the love, and share the cheer.  Christmas is near.

Happy Holidays my friends.  Let the gaiety begin!