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Keeping Christmas Magical {Decorating}

by | Dec 2, 2011 | Christmas, Christmas Decorating, Decorating Inspiration, Jack, my house, My Life

Keeping Christmas Magical {Decorating}

I spent a delightful few hours decorating for Christmas this week. Even though we have not brought out a single box of decor and have no Christmas tree yet (ha, did I say I was hosting a Christmas open house for you all?), it was still fun to get started with what I have.

Maybe even more fun because I didn’t have to rummage through boxes! At least not yet, until we get our tree this weekend when my kids are all here to help!

Keeping Christmas Magical {Decorating}

I love to able to decorate using what I already have and especially love decorating with things that feel festive but are not typical Christmas decorations. This year, though, in addition to a strand of fresh garland from Costco, I did get a new set of little holiday plates (from World Market) and some polka dot napkins to add to my Christmas table. As you know, most of my dishes are white but I love having a few little holiday dishes and festive napkins to mix in. I’ll take more pictures of the table later when I’m all done. Plus, I’ll have to get pics of my mantel! I think it turned out pretty cute for just using what I had again this year!

Keeping Christmas Magical {Decorating}

Here is Jack. Looking all innocent right before “the garland incident.”

What is really making decorating memorable so far this year is my boys. My son and his big fluffy dog Jack. Jack, our 35 pound 6 month old Goldendoodle puppy, has never experienced Christmas before and he was ENTHRALLED by the good smelling fresh garland I put on the stairs.

Keeping Christmas Magical {Decorating}

He was so excited over the garland he was being rather funny (OK, and slightly frustrating, I won’t lie). He kept sneaking around the other side of the railing while I was working on the garland. Then he would start untying the string with his teeth so the garland would fall down and then he would chomp on it like it was a tasty green salad. Of course, I would run around to the other side of the railing to stop him from eating it. Ha ha. Funny game.

Keeping Christmas Magical {Decorating}Here he is, non-nonchalantly looking around to see if the coast was clear
before he chomped the garland, grabbed the starfish and made a run for it.

Then just to be extra annoying he’d grab the little starfish I was putting up and run like crazy to get away from me while I chased him to pry the starfish out of his mouth.

He loves games like that. I do not.

Jack needs to star in his own movie, that dog is always up to something. I cannot even tell you how much mischief he gets into. We do our best to entertain him, I promise. We are with him 24/7. He is not neglected. He has toys. He has bones. He gets played with. He is just one of those very curious busy playful puppies. Kind of like some kids. If I had more time, I’d just do a blog about Jack. It would be much more entertaining than my usual posts, I’m sure.

Keeping Christmas Magical {Decorating}

Caught in the kitchen with the starfish.

But aside from prying starfish out of Jack’s mouth, my favorite part of the afternoon was when my son got home from school. I wish I had my video camera handy to capture it, his face lit up when he walked in the front door and saw the garland on the stairs (yes, I put it back up after the little fiasco with Jack) and he saw the mantel all decorated, the dining room table was all festive … he was SO happy!

He started listing off all of our Christmas traditions he loves and asking where we would put the tree this year. He remembered that last year I decided to not get a big tree and he wasn’t happy about it. He wanted to go back to the tree farm where we got the tree the year before. He remembered every detail of that Christmas tree cutting experience. Oh my heart!

My son’s happiness over the few things I already decorated just reminded me how much our family traditions and holiday decor actually MEANS to my kids. Being that my son is our youngest, and there is quite a few years between him and his siblings, it is easy for me to forget the “magic” of the holidays. Even though I LOVE Christmas!!

When times are tough, like a few years back when we moved at Christmas after a year of unemployment, or the last few years for us being really strapped for time and money and under extra stress, it is easy for us adults to let go of a little bit of that sparkle around the holidays. And sometimes I just let myself get lazy and simplify TOO much, thinking it is the right thing to do because I want to be more intentional, but then I leave out things that really do mean a lot to my kids. I need to remember to see Christmas through their eyes.

Keeping Christmas Magical {Decorating}

Of course, Christmas is not all about the decorations and we need to teach our kids what really matters. We don’t want to lose the real meaning in a sea of Christmas boxes. And of course we need to be intentional about how we spend our time, let go of our guilt to be super moms, and simplify as much as we need to,  but it is also important to remember traditions this time of year and not let go of too many of them. My girls are always reminding me to keep up traditions for their brother! I love that they watch out for him like that.

Even (especially!) when time is short, money is tight or spirits are down, it is important that we hang tight to a few special traditions and make them memorable. We may not always be able to provide the big tree or the matching Christmas jammies for all the kids, and that is OK! But when we can keep some simple traditions alive, it is a good thing for us and our kids.

Yes, decorating and traditions might require a little more effort than we feel like putting out, or we might have to find a tad bit more energy to set up the little Christmas villages if the kids love them, but that extra non-monetary effort just might boost your own spirits more than you expect!

Just seeing my son’s excitement (ok, and Jack’s exuberance) over Christmas this year reminded me of what it felt like to be a child (or a puppy). Christmas is a magical time for them! And they are young for so few years, childhood is over in the twinkle of an eye.


I’m making this year count, for sure.

How is your decorating coming along? Here was my first step in holiday decorating! I hope you are having as much fun as I am :-) …


  1. Lynn from For Love or Funny

    I loved this; it’s so true. I am reminded of how special Xmas is when I see the sparkle in my kids’ eyes when the decorations bedeck the house!

  2. janet

    Love this post! Also have a young daughter and two older sons and have to remember all the little things that make Christmas special in her eyes. LOVE your plates and polka dot napkins!

    Happy December!

  3. Katie

    Love the stories about Jack! Though he may be annoying at times, it makes for funny memories. We need more laughter in life.

  4. Michelle Starling

    Great post, Melissa. I love Christmas but this year I’ve had a hard time getting into the spirit. It’s been a long year that flew by way too fast. I know that is a contradicting statement but that’s how it feels. But the other day, I wrapped a few gifts and my kids were so excited. Even my 19 year old plundered through them to see if her name was on any of them. I love the fact that they all still crawl under ther tree to count their gifts and try to guess what it is. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Holly S.

    Love your perspective as always!

  6. Donna

    Looks like your pup Jack is as much help as my 5 cats…want to trade?…I love your decor…simple and sweet…

    Merry Christmas!

    • Melissa

      Ha, 5 cats? It might be a fair trade … hmmmm….

  7. Linda

    SO True…nd what a perfect reminder. Love the starfish story!

  8. kelly in georgia

    You are sooooo right! The children do appreciate/expect traditions for their Christmas. It IS part of the magic of the season. Amazing how many traditions we build in just a few short years.
    Love your World Market plates! Looked at buying them myself, but ending up finding some neat old ones from Williams Sonoma on ebay (score!) The polka dots look precious too.
    Here is an idea for you….your tales of Jack would make a great children’s book….just another seed to plant in your already overloaded brain!

    • Melissa

      Good idea on the book!! My son would think that was great too!

  9. Jessica

    I love Jack! My puppy Kona could not resist the temptation of delicious garland either – I ended up having to hang it high!

  10. Heather

    Your table looks great. But it’s your insight that is more wonderful. Christmas IS about the wonder in the children’s eyes, the time spent together as a family and remembering the real reason for the season.
    And yes, I’m having fun preparing my house for the holidays – although none of the decorating is done because I’m in the middle of painting my living room. Of course. In December. Sound familiar?

    • Melissa

      Ha, have fun with the painting. Of course, I have no idea what that must feel like. {shifty eyes}

  11. Stacey

    Jack is the cutest…how could he be a bit frustrating? :)

    Love the table setting and the candy canes in the Mason Jar is genius. So simple – I can do it!

    I also added starfish this year to my decor – so far just to the tree. I love the way they look next to the greenery and since we live 45 min from the beach – it is perfect for us!

    Lovely inspiring post as always friend!

    • Melissa

      Sounds lovely, Stacey! That is why I love starfish at Christmas too, perfect little stars with the greenery!

  12. Comeca

    I love the polka dots!

  13. Sharon

    Jack is wonderful! Truly a puppy at heart with wonderful stories to boot. Are you sure you’re not neglecting him? LOL!!!!

    We haven’t done anything for Christmas this year. Between my husbands work hours, being low on money, and the warm temperatures here in the northeast I am just not feeling it. However, as you say, the kids really do need tradition. Both girls keep asking when we will decorate. It’s looking like tomorrow or Sunday. Have a good Friday, Melissa!

    • Melissa

      :-) You too Sharon!!

  14. Vee

    Perhaps it’s something about the name “Jack.” There’s another pup…a beagle…also named Jack wreaking havoc at my grands’ house right now. Poor daughter-in-law is having such troubles keeping her Christmas village intact.

    Love the garland on the stairs. Imay have to return for the garland I passed by yesterday for my outside stairs. I’m having trouble finding the LED candles. Other than that, things are going swimmingly.

    I think you’re really onto something important with your son and family. Perhaps a family discussion about the things that make Christmas feel like Christmas for each one. Last year, my mother and I had a discussion about Christmas and she was very specific about the things she wanted to see. I’m sure that each one of us has those special things. Now, I have asked my hubby and he just gives me a “what are you talking about?” look. =)

    Have great fun selecting the tree this weekend!

    • Melissa

      That is a great idea, Vee! I like that you talked to your mom about it too. Traditions are important no matter what our age!!

  15. jeanne

    I am having a blast looking for ways to use what we already have to decorate for Christmas.

  16. Traci


  17. Diane

    Whew… I’m amazed at the emotion that swept over me as I read your post today. Not having the blessing of children and living so far now from friends and family and not being able to afford to entertain this year…I haven’t done much expect put up the outdoor decorations and candles and garland in a few windows inside. My heart just hasn’t been in it. I have always enjoyed decorating and the true joy of Christmas. I guess I am allowing my circumstances to steal my joy. Thank you for the push.
    P.S. LOVE the red and white and polka dots!!! And Jack too!!!
    P.P.S. I really do have lots of good things going on…and lots to be thankful for!

    • Melissa

      Diana, {HUGS}. It is so hard to be away from family and being short on funds too…I hope you’ll find a few special ways to keep the sparkle in your eyes this year. You deserve it, sweet lady!

  18. Angela

    I started out this year with the tradition stuff because my kids really remember all the things that I do every year. This is the first year that they are telling me all the things they are looking forward to. They are so excited about those things and it is fun to see their eyes twinkle ;)

    I love your dishes! I also have white dishes with some green accent dishes. Those would work perfect for me, but we have no close world market in my new location…

    I have taken your lead and moved things I already have around and made them work into my decorations because my house is larger than the last one. My husband thinks I bought a bunch of new decorations. Of course he also thinks I am buying a bunch of new stuff :)

  19. teresa

    Oh so tender sweet- hold that memory close. It’s so wonderful to have little believers in the house.
    Children help remind us what is good is life- I thought all my little believers were grown….but my 21 year old had about the same reaction when I finally put out some Christmas things at the cottage.. =)

    You touched my heart today….

    • Melissa

      so true, no matter what our kids’ age, their eyes still seem to light up with the decor, don’t they?

  20. Melissa Penner

    Jack is adorable! I love the magic of Christmas to a child because the decor doesn’t have to be hip, or new or anything – just special because it is different from everyday! I think simple white lights added to just about anything make the season dazzling. I love it! Thank you for sharing!

    OH – and as a single mama to three little ones, I’m trying HARD to get over the fact that they touch and rearrange everything I put up! They must be worse than dear Jack.

  21. Sue Richardson

    I have no idea what this post was about – I was too busy being smitten with Jack. You really need to make time to do a blog about him or at least once a week keep including him. I simply adore this dog and he makes me smile no matter how my day is going! The starfish picture….so funny! We have a golden and she is 4 and has outgrown these antics. So we relive her puppyhood vicariously through Jack! merry Christmas!

    • Melissa

      :-) Glad he is bringing some joy! I have received quite a few emails and comments telling me the same thing so he’ll keep appearing here, to keep us smiling!!

  22. kathysue

    I am a big kid when it comes to this time of year and I totally get caught up in the sparkle, the smells and the lights.I am so glad you wrote this post, because I think you are absolutely right! I think when we lose that magic we lose a big part of our life, Life is exciting and wonderful and this time of year is a wonderful time to celebrate all the wonderful gifts that God has given us!! Merry Christmas♥

    • Melissa

      Amen Kathysue!!

  23. Maureen

    Your decorating so far looks great! Can’t wait to see the finished product. I am finishing up some painting in my living room and then hoping to get started this weekend on all the decorating. :)

  24. Mindy

    The dog antics are hilarious.

    I’m definitely a go all out Christmas decorator, and my son loves to come in the door from kindergarten and see what new things have been put out as well. The kids make it so fun.

    I just saw those plates and napkins on their website and was completely drooling over them!!! Love, love, love.

  25. peggy from pa

    That Jack is such a hoot! You sure gave me a chuckle. I can sympathize. We have a Jack Russell and she demands attention all the time. Love the pic of the dog with the starfish.!

  26. Patti H.

    I needed this reminder today. Thank you for the insightful post! Your house looks beautiful and Jack is a doll! Have fun doing your tree with Jack and the rest of your family!

  27. Rain

    Christmas 2010, we welcomed a beautiful baby girl to our family. There is something magical about a baby at Christmas.
    It simplified things for me. I did not get a chance to send Christmas cards, do as much baking as other years, or get gifts for all on my list.
    Things are going to be simple again for us this year, but for much different reasons.
    I was seeing this as a problem, but after reading your post and the comments (Diane’s “”letting your circumstances steal your joy”).
    I will draw from our traditions, and from within to ensure that both my children experience Christmas to the fullest.
    Thank you. I truly needed this this morning.

  28. Tammy Skipper (

    Jack reminds me of our Sadie (Yellow Lab) who does things like chew through plastic storage containers to get the last few brownies. Sigh. Main decorating is done but today I hope to finish the last few things and take the rest to our squadron or church as ‘extras’ for their decorating projects. I am blogging about #EnjoyingChristmas this month. You reminded me today that our pets can be part of that joy.

  29. Lorrie

    What a lovely post, Melissa. Even though our kids are grown and married, when they come home for Christmas they still want things the way they remember from the past. Creating memories is so important. I love your story of how your son’s eyes lit up when he walked in the door and saw the Christmas decorations. So often, we moms are the Keepers of Christmas.

  30. Tamara

    Amen and amen! When I saw my darling little grand daughter bouncing around like a rubber ball at a christmas fundraiser we had at the retail store. When Santa came in to visit with the children she was absolutely over the moon! Christmas is such a wonderful time to make beautiful memories with our loved ones. WELL worth that extra time, effort and energy :)

  31. Karen

    I love your table (what we can see of it, so far). Jack is so adorable and while I can understand the frustration, he sure is entertaining.

    Have a festive weekend putting up the tree,

  32. Morgan

    We do need to remember to see Christmas through a child’s eyes! I love decorating for the holidays and since becoming a blogger, I’ve found so many sites (like yours!) that offer such great inspiration for decorating – things I might have never thought of otherwise. I just posted a few of my decoration pictures this past week on my blog. I know you have high traffic and comments to go through, but I’d love if you would take the time to follow back at I was previously Mommalicious, so trying to regain some of my following since changing the url! :) Happy Holidays! Oh, and I love your new plates, so cute and classy.

  33. Carmen

    THANK YOU for this post!!!!!! I am VERY strapped for cash this year. And it’s sucking the magic right out of Christmas for me. Even though I *know* it’s not about what I can buy. It just is fun to be able to spend the money when I want to. I just said to my kids the other night that we might have to wear our Christmas pjs from last year. They don’t care. That’s MY obsession I guess. haha! I need to keep Christmas magical for my kids! Thanks for the reminder! And I got a good giggle over your silly dog. He’s so cute!

  34. Dana at Cooking at Cafe D

    I’m not the only one who isn’t ready for an Open House?! i seems like everyone else is all set. Thanks for admitting to still being IN PROCESS!

    I out of a bunch of Winter/Woodland decorations and switched out the candle holders to something more festive. But, so far,it’s all stuff that’s Non-Christmas.

    This weekend we’ll pull the boxes out and see what we want to out out this year. We’re definitely going “less-is-more” so we’ll choose what has the most meaning – even if it doesn’t have the most “spectacle!”

  35. Just B

    Great post, Melissa! Your holiday tablescape is lovely. Sounds like you have your handsful with Jack, too funny. I can appreciate your sentiments about holiday decorating, too much vs too little. Our kids are grown ups with their own homes to decorate now, but they still look forward to coming “home” at Christmastime to some of what they knew when they were small. That keeps me motivated to not do too little, or take the easier way. Thanks for all your inspiration, your blog is a joy to visit. :)

  36. Laura

    Wonderful post! So true about children and the magic of the holidays. My 2-year-old son “helped” with my latest Christmas decor project by trying to eat the key limes! Take a look at my site for an easy How-To Colonial Christmas Wreath.

  37. Ashley

    Your holiday table looks great! And I agree…I was a little hesitant about taking the time to get all my holiday decor out…but once I did it has made me so happy! What we sometimes see as a hassle is really something we love sometimes. Great thoughts Melissa!

  38. Anita

    Oh gosh, that Jack has the cutest face. I have yet to get out the decorations. Need to get to it this weekend! I love the greens you used.

  39. Sarah

    Our daughters are 8 months and nearly 3 years old, so this is the first year that Beatrice (the elder) is conscious of Christmas and I am SO EXCITED to decorate for her. We’re going to get our tree next week and I will be making a raid on the new Natural History decorations, I think… :)

  40. Mrs Mac

    I’m a new follower of your blog. I love the inside of other people’s homes….. nosey I guess. Anyway, from the other side of the pond I want to say, re. your Christmas stuff – Your Christmas plates are “darling”!

  41. Robin

    Beautiful dishes. I have the same red goblets. Love them! Jack is adorable!!!

  42. beth

    Melissa – I love your eye for decorating but even more, your heart for your home. We are closing on a house next week and my hero husband has agreed to load the tree in the van so we can drive straight to the new house & set it up. It really should feel like home, even with boxes stacked about.

    Our labradoodle Mason is almost 2 and jet black, but shares the same spirit as your Jack, hence the bells around the lower branches of the tree to alert us of his adventures. Have a blessed Christmas season with your family & thanks for sharing your heart.

  43. judi

    The picture of Jack with the starfish in his mouth is priceless! Spent the day touring beautiful historic homes decorated for the holidays – beautiful inspiration. But nothing compared to your insights here. It think my kids don’t care – they are 17 and 19(that can’t be me surely??)- but then they’ll say something that begins with”Remember when…” and I know they do notice what I do (the good and the bad).
    BTW…got home from the tour to find my dear hubby painting my kitchen. He knew I wanted it done for Christmas. Yep, he’s a keeper. Can’t wait to see your open house! Thanks

  44. Susan

    Melissa – thank you so much for the inspiration to actually do something for Christmas this year – I was feeling like skipping the whole thing, until I read your post. You are absolutely right – it is important to keep the magic alive for our children!

    I love the pictures of Jack – he sounds like he’s as much of a handful as Indy, my german shepherd, is.

    Your table looks very inviting!

  45. Karen

    We were late in putting up our tree this year too, and so I promised the kids I would do it this weekend. A promise is a promise and even though it was 39 degrees C here, I dragged all the decor out and got to work. It took all weekend and I was so tired and hot and (a little grumpy when the lights got tangled) but at the end my daughter was so happy and my eighteen year old son said “thanks Mum for being a decorating kind of mum” it made my day, and reminded me why we do this. Your family sounds so happy too. God bless x

  46. susan

    hi Melissa! the kids and i did the tree together and i’m slowly adding as i have time. i think for us most importantly the advent wreath is out and we do our prayers and light the candles each night at dinner. i know it’s something the kids will always remember. have a wonderful week! susan

  47. {darlene}

    “I need to remember to see Christmas through their eyes.” Yes!!
    Melissa, you have inspired me SOOO much with this post. Thank you.

  48. Lisbeth LaBellarte

    Beautiful post! I am a bit late reading it but enjoyed it jsut the same. I ahve been looking for some of those gorgeous glass domes you can do so much with and I am coming up empty handed. Do you know where to find these?

    As always, love the Jack stories. Dogs are the ebst at making us laugh!

  49. Maria

    I love this post, Melissa! My husband and I were just married last month, so this is our first Christmas as newlyweds! We have been having a great time putting up our tree and decorating together. It truly is a magical time of year! :-)

  50. LoveFeast Table

    Great post and “perfect timing” reminder. It’s been a tough year financially and I found myself this weekend, pulling myself up by the boot straps, bringing out all the decorations, throwing on the Christmas music and yes, even making hot chocolate with homemade whip cream…to bring sparkle and joy to my kid’s eyes! Traditions are so important. It really is a gift we give our kids, whether they appreciate it now or not.
    Have a wonderful holiday friend!

  51. Mary Louise

    Thank you so much for sharing your heart. This season can be so overwhelming but your focus on what it means for others truly gets at why we nurturers love to do what we do.
    You’re blog inspires me!
    Mary Louise

  52. Jennie

    My dog ate all of our starfish ornaments last year. I was so mad, but they must still smell like an animal! Your dog and your house look beautiful – just discovered your blog, but looking forward to following it.

  53. Amy

    I have a strange love of beautiful dishes. Where did you get yours?

    • Melissa

      I got them from Cost Plus! They still have them! :-)

  54. Allison

    Just discovered your blog, love it. We also have a Goldendoodle, Lilly. She looks just like your Jack. Our first Christmas with her was crazy, she ate our real tree.

    Three years later and she is still as crazy as the first.

    Love the decorations!!

  55. Kayla

    I love your decorations and your dog is adorable.
    Happy Holidays!

  56. Linda

    Merry Greetings,

    I’m new here and really enjoyed it. “A blog about a dog” would be so funny! Jack is adorable. Lol

    Thanks for all your inspiration. I wish you and your family the brightest holiday ever!

    Wishing you a beautiful Christmas,

    Linda at Beautiful Ideas

  57. courtney

    We are finding that true as well — our four year old is loving our advent tradition as well as all the special decorations we are putting out. I just love how excited he is and actually remember that feeling growing up.

    As for Jack, he is so adorable. I would just let him run a muck since that face would get him out of trouble!

  58. Mimi

    What a cute doggie!

  59. Eliza

    Love your blog. I was looking for some ocean/sea/mermaid not girly pink decorations and came across a picture of the puppy and his prized starfish. I just had to find out the rest of the story. Darling!

  60. Toni

    Hi I just happened upon your site and I love it! May I inquire as to the kind of dog that cute Jack might be? He is adorable!! Toni

      • Dave Darval

        Is Jack a light shedder, Melissa? I’ve heard they are great alternatives to heavy-shedding Golden Retrievers.


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