Monthly Archives: December 2012

No pressure! Yeah… right….

I’ve never known anyone who puts more pressure on herself than my sister. Catherine is a perfectionist – a trait she comes by honestly… she inherited it from our dad. So those of us who love her would never knowingly put additional pressure on her.

As you know, the Christmas party was a huge success. The 150+ guests were in awe of the magnitude of lights strung up the 40 foot palm trees, the full sized sleigh (that Catherine and my dad rebuilt from the ground up – built to perfection, of course) being pulled by the life-size wooden reindeer (complete with red nose aglow), the thousands of feet of perfectly adorned garland, the picture-perfect angelic dolls that brought the winter scenes to life… Some guests were speechless; some talked non-stop as they pointed out each and every Christmas tree (I think there were 43 trees throughout the house!), wreath, snow scene, and all the lighted centerpieces.

Obviously, people were impressed. Beyond impressed. As we all gave tours of the house, I began to notice that we all (my husband, Catherine’s husband, my mom, Catherine’s in-laws, and anyone else giving tours) were saying various iterations of the same thing…. “If you think this is awesome, just wait till you see what she does for Halloween!” And we all did this without recognizing the enormous pressure we were putting on her. Oops…

No pressure… no pressure at all.

So, while I feel terribly guilty about putting additional pressure on Catherine – even above and beyond the pressure she puts on herself, I can sleep well at night knowing one thing for certain… She will not only live up everyone’s expectations, she will exceed them. (is that more pressure???)

On an unrelated note, I’d like to wish Catherine and Rich a very happy anniversary! Twenty two years!! They are truly the best couple I know…. a fantastic example to everyone. Here’s to 22+ more years of love, laughter,  devotion, commitment, fun, and happiness. Cheers! 

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Smoke… good for Halloween; bad for Christmas

One of my very favorite scenes out of the hundreds of Halloween scenes Catherine has created is the graveyard. It’s surreal, subtle, and spectacular (a little over the top with the alliteration, I know…). Anyway, as you can see, the slightly askew headstones, the ghost-like angel hovering in the background, and the decayed bones strewn about all add to the allure of the gravesite scene.

Smoky Graveyard Halloween

Smoky Graveyard Halloween

But what really sets it apart from the others is the smoke (a.k.a fog). It’s eerie, elegant, and even enchanting (again with the alliteration…. can’t seem to help myself!). Without the smoke, it’s just another set of Halloween props clustered together; but the smoke brings it all to life – it hovers over freshly dug grave sites, curls its way around tree trunks and headstones, and meanders up in an attempt to engulf the angel-spirit who steadfastly guards the entire scene.

And then there’s the Christmas-party-near-disaster type of smoke. The Christmas party for my sister’s husband’s business was a huge success by most everyone’s standards. (Well, with the minor exception of the horrible caricature artist we hired… “What a great and creative idea!” we all thought when we discussed hiring someone to do sketches of all of our most important clients… Little did we know that anyone who could possibly make a living in that field was already booked! So we ended up with someone my sister’s landscaper found in a Walgreen’s parking lot! Let’s just say that her portraits were so bad that we’re still contemplating sending apology notes to the clients!).

Anyway, after a lovely evening with 150 of our closest friends, relatives, and clients… my sister’s husband, children, and the most wonderful in-laws she could ever hope for stayed around to close things up – take down the bar, close up the doors and windows, and, yes, put out the dozens of candles, tiki torches, space heaters, and fire pits. Everyone did a fabulous job. Only one candle was missed. It’s amazing what one candle can do, particularly when no one even knows it’s there.

The in-laws went home, the kids fast asleep, all the lights (and Catherine) out. And the single candle still burned, and burned…. and burned. It burned the table and centerpiece… Fire Table ChristmasAnd when it was done burning that, it fell over and burned an overstuffed, custom patio chair…Fire chair ChristmasNot a trace was left of the large, stuffed cushion where party-goers enjoyed their drinks a mere few hours before…. All gone. Gone up in smoke!

They are lucky, of course. The fire apparently burned itself out in the early morning hours, leaving nothing but ash, soot, and the lingering wisp and scent of char. The kids still fast asleep; Catherine and hubby still out like lights. It was a Christmas miracle, actually, that the whole house didn’t go up in flames.

So, while Christmas parties, Halloween decorations, and haunted houses are all fun, challenging, and exciting, it is also important to not lose focus of what matters most – the love, health, and safety of our loved ones… now and throughout the year.

Storage Wars…. Revenge of the Props

This is a true story. Warning…. Don’t try this at home!

The Halloween/Thanksgiving/Christmas trifecta is in full swing. Thanksgiving is a distant memory (with the corpse bed linens safely tucked away), the 150 guest Christmas party at my sister’s house is tonight (the house completely decorated – Halloween bed finials up on the tree, and all), and the crown jewel – Halloween 2013 – is a constant presence in my sister’s brain and household (evidenced by the mildly disturbing “manger scene” starring… you guessed it…. the Buddha/Nicholson/Churchill baby as the Baby Jesus! And, no, I’m not going to delve into why the whole scene makes me worry just a wee bit about Catherine. The picture speaks for itself; you make up your own mind… 🙂 )

Manger

Moving on… Over the years, throughout this whole Thanksgiving/Christmas/Halloween “house transformation” process, Catherine has been asked one question more than any other…. “Where in the world do you store all this stuff?” Quite honestly, I am always amazed that people can walk through the spectacularly decorated Christmastime house that showcases everything from cherubic-faced life sized dolls that are adorably clustered around, decorating a miniature tree…

Christmas kids by tree

to the delicately decorated wall niches and open shelving that glow with strategically placed soft lights, candles, Santa villages, and the thousands of feet of perfectly placed and adorned garland and ribbon…

and through the Thanksgiving house a few weeks ago, filled with glorious food, spectacular serving dishes, and autumn leaves strewn about…,

and most importantly, the Halloween house – which honestly can’t be described with words (although, I’m giving it my best effort over the next year) – full of larger than life sized witches, skeletons, animated props that Catherine made from the ground up, fog, blood, guts, “operating rooms,” swamps, and so much more…. and in the end, what she hears most of all is, “Where do you keep it all?” Not “how in the world do you create such beauty… warmth… or horrific gore?” Not “you’re the most talented person I’ve ever seen.” (well, she does hear that one pretty regularly). Not even, “This is the most amazing place I’ve seen!” Nope… the most often heard comment is about storage! Really?? Storage?

I suppose it is a legitimate question – in a utilitarian sort of way…  Now that I think about it, there’s a lot behind the actual answer. To start, here’s just a very small sampling of what I saw when I stopped by my sister’s house the day she pulled her back patio Christmas garland out of her attic.Christmas bagsYes, that’s just for the back patio! And, yes, they’re all individually labeled (the garland in this bag goes from column 12 through column 14; that bag goes from 9-11, etc. Yes, she’s THAT neurotic! And that’s just for Christmas!

She takes it to a completely different level for her precious Halloween treasures – How exactly does one store hundreds of masks, corpses, swamp creatures, pirate ships (yes, she actually built a 1/2 sized replica of a pirate ship last Halloween!), and skeletons (trust me… Catherine brings a whole new meaning to “having skeletons in the closet!”)…? Well, she buys storage lockers (empty ones). And fills them, and fills them. And fills them. And when one is full, she buys another. I honestly don’t know how many she actually has (and I’m fairly certain her husband probably doesn’t either!).

So you can just imagine when, while decorating for Thanksgiving this year, my mom made what sounded like a simple request, “Catherine, can you swing by storage and grab those decorative, orange fall leaves we used last year?” Simple enough…? Right? Well, let’s just say that the request didn’t go over very well. Catherine was exhausted, behind at work, and undoubtedly worried about even finding the right storage locker, let alone finding the pretty fall leaves within the abyss. A conflict between Catherine and my mom ensued. Feelings were hurt. Assumptions were made. They ate their lunch in silence.

I’m not sure if I’ve done an adequate job explaining that Catherine is the ultimate “people pleaser.” (Which is probably why she’s such an awesome sister – she does double duty people pleasing; so I only have to do half as much! It’s perfect for me! ). Anyway, you can see where this is going… Catherine went to storage to get the f-*!#ing orange fall leaves!

She found them. Relieved and even more exhausted, she made the ultimate mistake every people pleaser makes – she called my mom to ask if there was anything else she needed. Big mistake! Well, knowing it would be just the right final touch for the Thanksgiving decor, my mom asked if Catherine could locate the decorative pumpkin from a couple of year ago. (Keep in mind, this storage locker is 10x30x12 feet tall, and every square inch is packed!).

Catherine politely told my mom there was no way she could find that, and started walking out to leave, but as she slid the storage door closed, she happened to catch a glimpse of the requested orange pumpkin, buried behind the witches, mummies, even more skeletons, and way up on top of the sides of the pirate ship – 20 feet back and 12 feet high. And not a ladder in sight.

While most normal people would simply go home, never mention the glimpse of the pumpkin, and enjoy a nice glass of wine (or a good stiff margarita!), the people pleaser in Catherine won out. Determined to get the pumpkin my mom requested, she balanced on various skulls, headstones, cauldrons, witches brooms, and countless props that have struck fear in many a Halloween visitor over the years, climbed up the mass of Halloween props the entire 12 feet and stood on her tiptoes. But the damn pumpkin was an inch out of reach.

So she leaned and stretched for that final inch. Catastrophe! Everything collapsed. As she plummeted to the ground, she grabbed anything she could reach – skulls dripping with blood, warty witch faces, the dummy who was hanging from a noose in her “asylum” years ago. The loch ness monster from the swamp. 8 foot spiders and spiderwebs… every prop she had used over the last 6 years came crashing down on her. Taunting her. Haunting her. Catherine’s Halloween props got their revenge in the end…

She crawled out from underneath her props (certain she got a mild concussion), shoved them all back in the storage locker, and as she was cramming the final oversized monster back in, the pumpkin that started it all came rolling out to her feet. She picked it up, brushed it off, rolled the 12 foot locker door closed, and took it home to Mom with a smile of success on her face. The pumpkin looked great in her Thanksgiving house!

So, to all those people who ask, “where do you keep it all?” All I can say is, “you can’t even being to imagine…”  Catherine and her Halloween props – the ultimate in “storage wars!”

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