I’ve complained before that I have problems with Christmas. In fact, I get downright grumpy about the people who advertise in October and decorate in November for a holiday at the end of December. It’s easy to blame the commercialism that abounds or the fact that I don’t have any kids to help me celebrate this particular holiday. But I’ve finally figured out what is really underneath all my grumpiness: the creeping darkness.

My favorite holiday decorations have always been the lights: colored lights on the Christmas tree, lit candles on the table, neighborhoods that glow at night with the strings of lights that drip from the houses. Even an early Christmas gift, sent by an understanding friend who is trying to help me get excited about the holiday, is about making some light.

The anglaspel lighting my way...

The gift of light.

This year, we’ve had more gray days than usual here in Colorado and I’m noticing just how badly I’m affected by the lack of sun. On sunny days, I have energy and feel relatively normal. Cloudy days leave me exhausted and cranky and it’s hard to tie my own shoes let alone tackle my usual chores. I have friends who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), so I am talking to them to find out how they get through this dark time of year without hibernating.

The good news is that the winter solstice is here. This weekend, we switch from days getting shorter to nights getting shorter. The sun begins her slow return. It will be a while before things warm up, but the sunset will get a little later every day, and I for one will be glad for the change.

In honor of the winter solstice and of Friday, here are the Beatles celebrating sunshine with Here Comes The Sun:

Do you have problems with Christmas or winter? Is darkness a problem for you? Tell me all about it!

I keep seeing fun handmade decorations on the web, and wanted to share them with you.

Over on Missy’s Crafty Mess you can see daily posts of great handmade ornaments from simple to complex. I’ve enjoyed getting a personal look at someone else’s ornament collection.

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Another beautiful bauble, which reminded me of my own beaded ornament, is this lovely piece made from a kit by Spellbound Beads. You can see the original here.

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The same blog also had these great beaded stars:

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And for those looking for a fun decoration to crochet, Matt has the instructions for this colorful wreath on his site.

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Seen any cool handmade decorations online this December? Feel free to share!

There are plenty of movies to watch that are all about Christmas, and much as I love great classics like It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) and A Christmas Carol (1951), my favorite Christmas movie — Mixed Nuts (1994) — is rather off-beat. So maybe it’s not surprising that at this time of year I often think of the movies that aren’t about the holidays, but merely include them. They use Christmas to enhance the story. Instead of putting Christmas on a pedestal, they weave it in as part of everyday life.

Here are five of my favorite movies that are not about Christmas but still have a touch of Christmas spirit:

Serendipity

Serendipity (2001): In this love story, Christmas is a catalyst. While shopping for presents, Jonathan (John Cusack) and Sara (Kate Beckinsale) meet and fight over the last pair of black gloves in the store. Jonathan is attracted to Sara, but she believes in fate and signs, and they are both already dating other people. After spending a few bewitching hours together, Jonathan agrees to Sara’s plan: to let the universe bring them together if that is their destiny. Years later, both are engaged to others but still dreaming about that magical meeting and they each start a quest to find out if maybe they didn’t pass up the perfect partner. The movie ends at Christmas time as well, back in the same store, at the same counter, to wrap up this charming film.

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Little Women (1994): The story of the March family, based on the Louisa May Alcott book, looks at life in New England after the Civil War. Jo (Winona Ryder) is a passionate, imaginative girl in a world that still holds women back. With her mother’s support, she takes the road less traveled, determined to become something more than “just a wife”. Of course, her heart disrupts her plans. Opening with a Christmas where the poverty-striken Marchs long for the old days, the movie also includes a joy-filled home-coming on Christmas Day.

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While You Were Sleeping (1995): This romantic comedy starts shortly before Christmas and ends just after New Year’s Day, so holiday celebrations are central to this movie without taking over the story. Lucy (Sandra Bullock) is a lonely subway worker, only fantasizing about the handsome stranger (Peter Gallagher) who comes to her booth until one Christmas day when he gets mugged and she saves his life. At the hospital, she meets his family who believe she is his fiance SYMBOL. Since he’s in a coma and she can’t bring herself to tell them the truth, Lucy enjoys the love and companionship of a family for the first time in ages. Then Jack (Bill Pullman) comes along, and Lucy finds herself falling for Jack when she is expected to marry his brother. The warmth and humor of family Christmas comes through when Lucy joins the Callaghans to celebrate the holiday.

Dan Ackroys and Eddie Murphy in Trading Places

Dan Ackroys and Eddie Murphy in Trading Places

Trading Places (1983): Dan Ackroyd and Eddie Murphy are wonderful in this comedy about a financial tycoon and a street hustler who wind up in one another’s shoes. The unwitting victims of a bet between two heartless millionaires, Louis Winthorpe (Ackroyd) and Billy Ray Valentine (Murphy) struggle to survive in an unfamiliar world until they realize what is going on and turn the tables on the men toying with them. Director John Landis uses the holiday season to help underscore his visual commentary on economic differences in Philadelphia in the opening sequence. An office Christmas party and a slob Santa play prominent roles, and Jamie Lee Curtis decorates a Christmas tree.

Judy Garland and Tom Drake in Meet Me In St. Louis

Judy Garland and Tom Drake in Meet Me In St. Louis

Meet Me in St. Louis (1944): A nostalgic musical about the World’s Fair of 1904, this film includes both Halloween and Christmas as it follows the Smith family through a full year of life in St. Louis. Teen-aged Esther (Judy Garland) is desperate to fall in love and sets her sight on the boy who has just moved in next door. Esther is both sweet and silly as she tries to attract John’s (Tom Drake) attention but just when things are finally going her way, Esther’s father tells the family they are moving to New York. A Christmas ball is the climax of the movie and Garland sings the most poignant version of “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” that I have ever heard.

Do you have a favorite movie that includes Christmas without being about Christmas? Please tell me if I’ve missed any!

I’ve finally done the construction work on the bag I’m making using the Napramach Bag pattern from Folk Bags: 30 Knitting Patterns & Tales From Around the World by Vicki Square. It still needs a lining, but since it’s not part of the official pattern, I’m declaring it done!

My version of the Napramach Bag. Done!

My version of the Napramach Bag. Done!

Using my handspun yarn for this project really helped give this ethnic pattern a handmade look. Since I underestimated how much yarn it would take, I had to spin some more before I could finish. Because I am still a beginner, the extra yarn I spun was only sort of like the yarn I was using, but it was close enough to do the job.

My lumpy handspun yarn made for lumpy knitting. But I like it!

My lumpy handspun yarn made for lumpy knitting. But I like it!

Making the tassels for this was more enjoyable than I expected, and knitting the strap was fun because it went so fast. To my way of thinking, the whole project was a great success.

The tassles proved to be fun and easy add-ons.

The tassels proved to be fun and easy add-ons.

Now all I have to do is get a lining in it so I can store my hand spindles in it!

In case you missed it, I first posted about this bag here and I included an update here.

When I was a kid, we used to buy kits to make beaded ornaments. The balls were styrofoam wrapped with silky thread. Then pins with beads were stuck in them in a pattern to make a glitzy ornament for the tree. I adored those old ornaments and when I see them today, I still love them, even though they’ve lost some of the pins and the silky threads are shaggy from years of handling.

In my efforts to find ways to celebrate the holidays that don’t have to do with food, I made an ornament dripping with beads in honor of those decorations I remember from my childhood. I started with a pattern, but my ball was a different size. Also, I was just using a bunch of beads I had bought at random for this project, so they probably weren’t the right size either. The result was that as the net grew around the ball, the sections got uneven. I had to abandon the instructions and improvise. The end results are a little wonky, but I think that’s what I like about this ornament the best. It’s just like the ones we made as kids, imperfect and obviously handmade.

My homemade ornament, in honor of those we made as kids.

My homemade ornament, in honor of those we made as kids.

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The metal heart was part of a pair of earrings I bought at a thrift store.

The metal heart was part of a pair of earrings I bought at a thrift store.

Do you have a favorite handmade ornament from your childhood? Do you make something like them today?

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