I have a love/hate relationship with Christmas cards. Don’t get me wrong–I LOVE getting them. Our fridge is currently covered with adorable pictures of our friends’ kids (and/or dogs) that have come pouring in the past few weeks. It’s the sending that I hate. Or, rather, it's a) the fact that I don’t ever quite get around to sending cards and b) the accompanying guilt that I hate. Every year, I buy a box of cards that sit, untouched, during the hubbub of the holidays. By the time January rolls around (and I finally have the time to sit down and write them) I realize that it’s a bit tacky to send cards that say “Merry Christmas” a month late. So I pack them up with the decorations, vowing to get an early start the next year.

I think Julia Child had the right idea–facing timing issues as well, she started sending out her holiday cards in February. She and her husband would take a take a funny picture (like, say, in a bubble bath), add a heart or two to make it into a Valentine, and send it out to all their friends and family. I love Julia–bold, unconventional, and always up for a laugh.

I, however, held on to the idea–once again–of sending out Christmas cards in December this year. I mean, if my friends with kids can actually make it happen, what excuse could I possibly have?! So I bought another box of cards and started planning our picture. I had this whole Christmas-y vision of Brandon and I, smiling and sitting beside a beautiful tree, with our two calm, purring cats. (HA!) There were just a few tiny problems with my vision. One, we needed someone to come over and take the picture (the least of our problems). Two, we weren’t entirely sure the cats would sit still long enough to have their picture taken. (Historically, the answer has been no.) And three, up until last Saturday, we didn’t have a tree.

We had decided not to get one this year–partially because Brandon has been so sick, and partially because we’re heading out of town and weren’t sure hauling a seven-foot-tall, 60-pound tree down the block and up five flights of stairs would be worth the effort. (Not to mention our fear of the cats climbing the tree and systematically knocking off every single ornament and chewing through the light chords...)

In the end, Brandon completely surprised me. While I was out at brunch with friends last Saturday, he went out and bought a beautiful little tree, carried it home, and strung it with lights. He knew how much a tree meant to me (even though I had very practically stated the reasons we didn't need one this year) and decided to make it happen. When I walked in and saw the tree all lit up, with Christmas music playing, it was one of the most special moments of my life. That one act, for me, symbolized so much that Christmas stands for. I do, indeed, have an amazing husband! And to add to the Christmas miracle: other than some serious sniffing, the cats have largely left the tree alone.

We finally took the picture last night. It was spontaneous–our friend Jess was over for dinner so we roped her into being the photographer. Of course, cats being cats, they wanted no part of being still–they squirmed, they scratched, they jumped, and finally ran away. Which is why most of the pictures feature Brandon and I–alternately laughing and grimacing–and two blurs of fur. But in the end, the pictures are so us. They’re not perfect, they at least made us laugh, and they’ll probably not go out in the mail until January. But they show what’s most important to us: family, friends, unexpected gifts, laughter, and spontaneity. (And cats!)

May this holiday season be a time of peace, joy, and hope for you and your family. I hope, like me, you'll get to spend lots of time in the kitchen–cooking and baking and talking and laughing–and even more time sitting around the table enjoying great food and conversation with the people you love the most. I hope you'll have time to enjoy the simple pleasures (sitting by the fire, drinking good hot chocolate, maybe singing a Christmas carol or two) and not stress out about all the things that ultimately don't matter. And I hope that if you're celebrating Christmas, you'll have time to reflect on that little baby, born in a humble manger thousands of years ago, that continues to change hearts and lives today.

Merry Christmas!!!