Christmas card projects jolly house

I cannot tell you how full my heart is right now.

It’s been a rough couple of weeks here with surgeries and long recovery times and let’s wait and see doctor’s appointments and I haven’t wanted to worry all of you because I know everyone else has so much going on in their own lives.

But I’ve been scared.

And nervous.

And trying to decorate for Christmas and drink hot chocolate and sing carols at the top of my lungs and act like everything is fine.  I’m good at that actually.  Acting like everything is fine.

But it wasn’t.

Until yesterday.  Until we went to the doctor’s expecting not-so-great-news-and-we’ll-have-to-wait-some-more news.

But instead?  It was the BEST OF THE BEST NEWS.  The kind of news that makes you want to celebrate and dance and laugh and guffaw out loud.

So in honor of today.

In honor of the news that we are officially on the road to an amazing recovery.

I’m sharing one of my favorite stories EVER.  I hope it makes you laugh as much reading it….

…as I laughed writing it. 🙂

Christmas card tags

It’s official….Christmas decorating has started here at Thistlewood Farm.

Yesterday we were talking about turkey and dressing and biscuits and mashed potatoes and green bean salad and macaroni how to decorate the table for Thanksgiving.

And today?  I’m looking at…..

…..37 boxes of Christmas decorations.

37 boxes?

How did they get there?

Christmas card recycling project

I can remember when all I had to decorate with was a box of shiny red ornaments and a little ribbon.

We were newly married and living in an old farmhouse that had seen better days.

All we had to our name was wedding china and a few pieces of furniture that our family had given us.

We were living on love without anything left over for Christmas decorations.

Christmas cards letter

So we went to a neighbor’s farm and cut down a tree.

It was kind of a Charlie Brown Christmas tree, there were big branches missing and it kind of leaned and looked like at any moment–without the slightest bit of provocation–it would topple over.

But I didn’t care.

I loved it.

It was my first Christmas tree and I cut ribbon bows and tucked pine cones in it and hung those shiny red ornaments on every branch.

Christmas card box

And then–for the finishing touch–the icing on my Charlie Brown tree, I baked dozens of gingerbread men.

They weren’t very fancy.  They looked more like ginger blobs then men, but I loved them anyway.  I decorated them with great gusto and Christmas cheer and got ready to decorate.

I hung them on the tree with ribbons.

I hung them in the windows and doors and from the back of chairs and cupboards.

I hung them here there and everywhere.

Until every inch of that old farmhouse was covered with grinning, bright-eyed, bow-tie wearing, gingerbread men.

Christmas cards letter banner

An entire farmhouse decorated for the holidays from almost nothing.

I was so proud.

So all about myself and my budget Christmas decorations.

Gingerbread men?  Who knew?

Christmas cards letter

A few hours later, my husband called me into the kitchen.

“Why did you make the gingerbread men with only one leg?” he asked in a puzzled voice.

We both turned to the smiling bedazzled gingerbread man hanging in the window.

I just shrugged.

It must have broken when I hung him up there,” I said with a smile.  “But at least he’s cute.”

We smiled at each other and our little one-legged gingerbread man in our little farmhouse festooned with homemade Christmas decorations.

Decorated with love.

Christmas card Joy box

I was so busy over the next week….wrapping and drinking hot chocolate and window shopping and watching “Prancer” on television….

….that I forgot all about the gingerbread man with the missing leg.


Until I saw another one on the tree…..

…..missing part of his head.

And another one….missing part of his arm.

And then…..I heard one as it dropped to the ground…..

….completely chewed to pieces.

Christmas card project tags


And jumped on a chair.

Wildly hopping around and hands waving and yelling for my husband to immediately get every gingerbread man out of our farmhouse….as far away as possible.

Because those half-eaten gingerbread men were no accident.

It seems we had plenty of friends.

Of the furry four-legged whiskered variety that were enjoying Christmas at the farmhouse, too.

Christmas Card

I don’t think I really ever recovered.

As a matter of fact….I’m sure.

Because when I unpacked those 37 boxes of Christmas decorations–full of ornaments and garland and trees and mistletoe–I double checked one more time, just to be sure…..

…..that there was not a gingerbread man in sight. 🙂

PS  If you unpack your boxes and find some cards from last year.

All these pictures are recycled projects I made from Christmas cards.

You can see the DIY’s here.

Want to know how to decorate your home for free?
Click here to get my FIVE BEST secrets.


    1. Image for Jae Jae

      Amen! What wonderful news! Our first tree was decorated with gingermen and candycanes and love......and we found missing parts, too. But it was our cat! He would climb in the tree, bat the gingermen around, and then eat various body parts off them! Much better than your nibblers!

  1. Image for ruby ruby

    so thankful for the cause of all that happy dancin' going on!! the power of faith and prayer is so miraculous. what a cute story! we had a similar incident when first married, back in the dinosaur days, ha! we had to tie a string around our tree and nail it to the wall for fear of falling, and it was popcorn garland. we were reading quietly one night before Christmas, when we heard the tiniest chomping. there he sat on a branch in the tree, chomping away at that garland, like an illustration in a children's book. if cell phones had only been invented then.....

  2. Image for Sue Sondker Sue Sondker

    So thankful for your child's recovery. I knew you were scared, so was I so many times. You and your family are so very loved by God and all of us! Happy Thanksgiving.

  3. Image for Meta Guin Meta Guin

    When our daughter was a senior in high school she decided we needed a real Christmas tree. She wanted to go to a Christmas tree farm with Daddy and cut one. They continued the tradition for 3 years. For the fourth year of this tradition they called the farm and were told they had not planned to sell but since they had come for several years they could come and cut. A few days after Christmas Carol calls me at my mom's house to tell me there are millions of tiny spiders all over the living room that had built webs from chandelier to curtain rod to furniture. I know how girls can exaggerate but I rushed home to find she was not exaggerating. The farm had not sprayed the trees that year. We laid the tree down on a sheet and took the whole thing outside. We vacuumed for hours and did retrieve the ornaments and lights the next day. That was our last real tree! PS I am still praying that the retina surgery was successful!

  4. Image for Kris Kris

    So will your daughter's vision fully return??? I can't help myself--I like details. I knew this had to be a time of high anxiety for you--how could it not be? Thanks for sharing your life with us, both the funny parts and the painful.

  5. Image for Terri Terri

    Yaaaaa.... Thank you Lord for alllll your many blessings!!!!! So happy for this great praise report !!!!! AND ... it goes without saying... ( but I'll say it anyway .. :) ) "Laughter doeth good.. like a medicine" !!!! As always... your post today has brightened up "My Day" !!!!

  6. Image for Lisa at celebrate creativity Lisa at celebrate creativity

    Hi Karianne, so glad to read that the news is all good on the surgery-recovery front. I wondered how your girls were doing but of course, I didn't want to pry. I'm looking forward to seeing your holiday decor. You always outdo yourself and it's always such beautiful inspiration. Take care and have a great weekend.

  7. Image for Becky Becky

    So glad to hear about your daughter's recovery. A true blessing. This is the cutest story, although I'm sure not so cute at the time. You are a wonderful story teller. Have a great day.

  8. Image for Ellen Ellen

    The road to recovery is often long and scary, but thank goodness yours has a happy ending! So very happy to hear this wonderful news. I'm sure that all of the prayers must have helped to bring a positive answer. The Christmas story is similar to one of mine about Gingerbread men and mice. These are the stories that families tell over and over. Thank-you for sharing this sweet story and the update too.

  9. Image for Nancy Nancy

    What a wonderful Christmas gift, good news from a doctor. God is so good! Your story reminds me of our first Christmas 52 years ago. As college student-newly weds we lived in a very tiny trailer. No money and no room for a tree. We got 2 free red candles for filling up our car with gas, 2 candleholders that belonged to my mom and snipped some holly off bushes on campus. That was our Christmas decorating. We still look at that picture every year and it reminds us how much God has blessed us through the years.

  10. Image for Nancy @ Slightly Coastal Nancy @ Slightly Coastal

    Praise God! So happy you having one more thing to add to your "thankful" list this week. I can't wait to get Christmas out this year. I just have to do a big birthday party this weekend and then I'm off to the races. N

  11. Image for Carol Weiler Carol Weiler

    Glad to hear you received good news. The not knowing is the hardest time! Like another of your readers we had popcorn garland on a tree at a house that had just been built. The popcorn was "falling " off the tree like snowflakes! Unfortunately we had to set traps in our tree. We still place an ornament on our tree every year in remembrance....a fake mouse in a trap.

  12. Image for Leslie Leslie

    So very thankful for good reports!! Celebrating and clinking my coffee cup to you!!! BUT! Oh, my goodness!! I would have freaked out sharing the gingerbread men to those occupants!! I'm not quite so "Cinderella-ish" as I thought!! Hahaha Happy Christmas cheer and Thanksgiving love, sweet friend!...

  13. Image for Yvonne Shafer Yvonne Shafer

    Good news, KariAnne! I have a similar story. One early-marriage year I decided to be Martha Stewart-like and made an elaborate gingerbread house. I read something about preserving the house for the next year so proceeded to follow directions and then put the house in a plastic bag and hung it from the highest rafter in our attic. Guess what we had the next year? Crumbs!!

  14. Image for Carol Neibling Carol Neibling

    What great news!! God does hear our prayers. I have many of those prayers. One more thing to make Thanksgiving special.

  15. Image for Mary Mary

    So glad to hear the girls are doing well! It's tough being a mom, but hard times really help us appreciate the good times :) Love your story!

  16. Image for Stephanie Ray Brown Stephanie Ray Brown

    Oh friend love gingerbread men and hate mice we are such soul sisters. You have been on my heart promise and now I know why. Almost privately emailed you as you were on my heart so much yesterday. Promise. Said and prayer and smiled.. Thinking it was because basketball season is here. ?❤️? Love you so much not for sure what's going on but know God put you on my heart so was already praying. ????

  17. Image for Daphne Daphne

    I am so glad that you got good news - God is so good!!! I know that all of you feel some relief, we all have so much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving Season. Blessing to the doctors that performed her surgery- God guided their hands. My family did not get great news this week but we are still hopeful and thankful for the months that we have been given with my mom. She has breast cancer that metastized to her lungs. She was given two months in February and has done so good but there is activity so she will have to try IV infusions of chemo and see if she can tolerate or if they work. She is 83 and been taking strong chemo by mouth. We know that God is with us and his will be done. Blessing to your family.

  18. Image for Cindy Brown Cindy Brown

    Karianne, Do not EVER hesitate to share worries as well as laughs. We are all in this together so give us an opportunity to lift you up! A funny Christmas story of my own---I was pregnant with my second child due the first of January so you can imagine how large I was. I wanted a real tree and purchased one from a lot sponsored by Boy Scouts. Everyday I watched as that tree dropped its needles and at the end of the week, only days before Christmas, it was truly a Charlie Brown tree. I was devastated and decided that I was going to return that Christmas tree. Nine months pregnant, I took the ornaments off and carried it to the car. By the time I got it to the car, not ONE needle remained. You can only imagine what the Boy Scouts' and their trooper leader's faces looked like when I (and my huge belly) arrived and in tears, took out that bare tree, demanding a new one! I don't think any of them dared to say no, I couldn't have a new tree! In Florida, it is hard to keep a fresh tree alive so long ago I went artificial but I still chuckle at my younger pregnant self! Have a wonderful, thankful, Thanksgiving, sweetie!

  19. Image for Cynthia Cynthia

    God is good! As hard as it is we must put our woories and anxieties on his alter . Being patient to endure our tribulations is a true test of faith. You are a good and faithful servant KariAnne! celebrate with God's enduring love. Iam soon happy for the family!

  20. Image for Rowena Philbeck Rowena Philbeck

    Karianne, So glad you had good news!! That is always such a relief and wonderful news. Love your Christmas story when you were first married. I remember those times as well. We didn't have much money at all and had some of my sister-in-laws old glass balls. We repainted them and added glitter and they were awesome. Such great times when things were more simple. Those are the best for sure. Thanks for sharing with us. Have a Wonderful Thanksgiving to you and your family!!

  21. Image for Teresa Gonzales Teresa Gonzales

    So thankful that the girls are doing good and you had such great news. Also laughed at the story- as I had a similar Christmas story only instead of mice it was ants! Have a truly thankful Thanksgiving!

  22. Image for Linda Andersen Linda Andersen

    Karianne, so very happy to hear about our little blonde twin!!!! we were all praying for her complete recovery. you all can now have a truly happy Thanksgiving! love, Linda

  23. Image for Marisa Franca @ All Our Way Marisa Franca @ All Our Way

    I am so happy for your great news! So much to be thankful for (I ended in a preposition :-( ) I certainly hope you asked your neighbor before you cut down his tree -- and your mouse story reminds me of our first married Christmas. We were living in Indiana and my folks were in Iowa. We were VERY poor - a little bit like you. Honey was working and going to school. That Christmas my gift to everyone was boxes of cookies. I baked and I baked. We had a back porch that was nice and cool so I stored the cookies in huge coffee cans. I took cookies to Iowa and when we got back all of the coffee can plastic lids and holes in them. You see, our rented house was across from a garbage dump -- and those holes weren't made by little mice - they were rats. I still get cold chills thinking about it. We are so very grateful for everything we have!!!! And above all we are grateful for our family's health. Sending big hugs.

  24. Image for Lori Lori

    So wonderful to hear everyone is on the mend and back to health! So much to be thankful for at this season! Love your story! LOL!! I remember 34 years ago making homemade decorations to put on the smallest of trees! I am glad we had no mice...what a shock when you finally realized how the decorations were disappearing! That would have me standing on a chair and screaming too! :)

  25. Image for Cecilia Cecilia

    Hurray, hurray, hurray! Best news ever! When you're scared, worried, and worn down, we will lift you up in prayer. So excited to hear all is better than better! Praise God! As for your gingerbread men story, it cracks me up. I'd been on that chair with you, let me just say. Actually gives the cat a reason to be in the tree (yeah, she thinks I put it up just for her, lol). Happiest of days! Hugs, Cecilia

  26. Image for Cindy Pierce Cindy Pierce

    Thank God for the good report to recovery! Love the gingerbread man sure I was laughing!! Have an amazing day!!

  27. Image for Janet Cole Janet Cole

    Oh, thank God! I was so worried about you all...believe me, been there. What a wonderful Thanksgiving it will be at your home! Love you with a thousand hearts

  28. Image for Susan Ronnfeldt Susan Ronnfeldt

    How wonderful! Good healthy recovery! Praise God! One's good health certainly puts things into perspective. Have a truly Blessed Holiday!

  29. Image for Michelle Michelle

    It's such a relief to know that you and your sweet family are getting to celebrate GOOD NEWS this Thanksgiving!! And I loved the gingerbread story. A farmhouse without a few mice is just not natural ;-) We had friends when I was growing up that lived in an old farmhouse. We never saw a mouse there but we were told they were around when we inquired about the cute little hand painted mouse houses randomly appearing on the tall baseboards. And when I used to mow the pastures on our own property years later, I'd get the heebie geebies watching the hundreds of mice jumping out of the way of the tractor. It still gives me the heebie geebies just to think about it!

  30. Image for Loretta Loretta

    I laughed out loud. At this very moment my dad and mother's old farm house is festooned with mice. I hope she reads this one and laughs out loud too. Glad about your good news.

  31. Image for Judi V Judi V

    So very happy for you and your sweet daughter! I've kept you and your family close in thought and prayer. Thank you for sharing the update. Happy Thanksgiving!

  32. Image for Loryl Loryl

    So glad to get a good report! Been praying for recovery for both your angelic daughters!! LOVE the story. Once again, I can't wait for your book to be published so all those great stories can be read by millions!!!! And don't we all have a mouse story, so relateable. Mine was we were living in an old farm house. House sitting actually for our family doctor and his wife as they vacationed in Mexico. I was eight months pregnant sitting in the kitchen with my feet up when I heard a loud SNAP behind me and a squeak, squeak! The trap between the fridge and cabinet had caught one. My husband came running from the back bedroom when he heard me scream. To this day he swears it's why our son was born only a few days later.

  33. Image for Kathy Kathy

    So much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving! I have nervously opened my Thistlewood Farms emails these past weeks expecting news of the health issues! So happy & Thankful to hear all is moving along in the right direction! The gingerbread men story is priceless! What a great memory! God is so good!

  34. Image for Diane @ An Extraordinary Day Diane @ An Extraordinary Day

    In our mid twenties we had a home built. A dream home that actually was one of Good Housekeeping's Merry Christmas houses... except mine didn't have all the fabulous furnishings and decorations that that one did. I too made gingerbread... people, sheep.... lots of sheep, and other cute creatures and hung them in my windows and on my tree too. It was such a good feeling. Fortunately, I didn't have any visitors helping themselves to midnight snacks. Oh my I shudder. However, that doesn't mean we never had a visitor. We discovered that there was a tiny whole where the sweep of the front door didn't come quite all the way to the end. It was a perfect spot for one of "your" friends to come visiting... especially since the kitchen was nearby as was the cat bowl filled with deliciousness. How did we make the discovery? One of those cats evidently was having a ball playing with that whiskered creature with the long tail and brought it upstairs... and played with it in my shoes under the dresser... and then brought it up on the bed for show and tell... in the middle of the night. Yikes!!!!!! I guess we all have funny stories. ;) Glad you can breathe, now!! Praise God for good news! {hugs}

  35. Image for Dianne Bell Dianne Bell

    KariAnne, so happy to hear that all will be well with your daughter. Blessings to you all! And prayers and blessings to Daphne after reading about her dear Mom. Loved your gingerbread men story. My goodness I would have been so Freaked out! Great and funny memory. Have a lovely Thanksgiving! ?????

  36. Image for Sue Sue

    Karianne,so thankful for a good report. Several years ago,we got a bright idea to go to grandpa's farm to cut our tree. After we ruined four pairs of shoes,we brought it home and decorated. Two days later,we heard a blood-curdling scream,and thought the house fell on someone. My daughter had encountered a mouse in the hall. It was hidden in the tight limbs of the tree. It was apprehended that night. Can't believe that mouse was hidden while we were putting light and ornaments inches away!! Then as the tree got drier,it dripped sap all over my hardwood floors. It's been artificial ever since. Boy, could that girl scream!q

  37. Image for Alice Hanson Alice Hanson

    KariAnne, I loved your wonderful story. Such wonderfully funny memories! So glad for the good news! Have the very best Thanksgiving ever!

  38. Image for PJ PJ

    Thank you for sharing your good news. As for your mice story, mice do seem to be a persistent part of life when you live in old farmhouses as we do.

  39. Image for Bonnie Bonnie

    So, so, so happy for you for the good news about the girls. I enjoyed your funny gingerbread man story. I know you will have a truly blessed Thanksgiving!!

  40. Image for Marilyn Marilyn

    Happy to hear everything is good. I have been thinking and praying your girls would be okay. Have a blessed Thanksgiving. Marilyn

  41. Image for Linda @ Itsy Bits And Pieces Linda @ Itsy Bits And Pieces

    So glad you got good news! I love this story! It reminds me of the live flocked tree we bought 40 years ago. We discovered it was full of ants on Christmas Eve and they were in all the wrapped presents. That was also the year my husband sliced his finger with a saw, trimming the trunk...and had to get stitches. Those kinds of years are very memorable aren't they?


    KariiAnne, how we thank God for answered prayers for your girls! Such great news! We will continue to keep you in our thoughts and prayers! Enjoy your week-end with your family! God Bless you all!

  43. Image for Kathleen Kathleen

    KariAnne ... This is indeed the most wonderful news to hear about your sweet baby girls! God is truly merciful and loving ~ good to us in so many ways. And I am so glad to hear that you got this positive report before the Holidays ~ they will be much happier with the relief you now feel! I'm wishing your entire family a wonderful Thanksgiving! The "Mice Eat Local Gingerbread Men" story is hilarious ~ I can just picture you (exactly as I do with ALL your cute tales) as you realized the full impact of the appeal of your ingenious & fragrant decorations to the area rodents! kj Love and warm hugs to our favorite short story writer ... just when WILL that book be published?!?

  44. Image for NormaJean NormaJean

    So excited to hear the good news! We have been praying for a miracle for Whitney and once again, God has delivered!

  45. Image for terry cross terry cross

    Praise the Lord and pass the stuffing sweetie!!! Oh there's nothing like the joy when you are handed a lovely parcel of happy news and all the fears dissolve into thin air!!! Hugs from Agatha & I (thankful prayers too)! I've had some exciting news about little Bonsai too, I'll email you but he's going to be on TV (well his book is!) next Friday with the famous (I think? lol) Kristen Levine on Daytime! Whoo Whoo! More answered prayers!

  46. Image for Cathie Von Holten Cathie Von Holten

    So HAPPY to hear that all is going well, and that healing is continuing. God is good! HAPPY Thanksgiving!

  47. Image for Rosalie McCreary Rosalie McCreary

    Hurray for modern medicine and healthy young teens! So happy for you and your daughter! Now you can relax and concentrate on the holidays with much joy and gratitude! Love your story! You sure have an affinity for bringing the outdoors into your home! Happy weekend KariAnne

  48. Image for Carrie Carrie

    Amen and Amen. And another AMEN. Now, as for gingerbread decorations~ I've been on the hunt to expand my collection! I did a completely purple tree back in the 90's; long before purple was 'cool' on a Christmas tree. I had to make all my own ornaments. Luckily, I was in a neck brace from a car accident, so I had plenty of time on my hands. But, that phase has long passed and now I am onto gingerbread men. AND, as cute as mice are,they need to reside somewhere other than my home!!! Love the card idea. I put all my cards away with my decorations. It's fun to look at them again and see how children have grown and changed in the year past!!! Love this idea!

  49. Image for Linda Linda

    Greatest news for thanksgiving-recovery has begun. Living in the country surrounded by fields , furry friends often found a way to get themselves inside. My cat, one particular year, kept meowing and jumping at the undecorated tree brought in from our shed. Finally, being annoying, I tried putting him outside. However he kept fighting to stay and kept jumping at the tree. Unbelievably at the top of the tree was a small black snake. So grateful the cat was more observant than us.

  50. Image for Sandi Magle Sandi Magle

    The JOY oozed between the lines of your post. Blessings and loved your story. Our first Christmas tree in an old Victorian with 15 foot ceilings was a huge tree in the front hall, completely covered in paper fans and Origami birds. We couldn't afford ornaments and I thought I would make them all from Christmas papers. It was very unique. Grins, Sandi

  51. Image for Elissa Murphy Elissa Murphy

    Great story. I was in a major car accident and have been recovering for 9 plus months. I called my daughter to see if she would help me put the Christmas tree away in January, if I found the energy to get it put up. That night I had a great idea The next morning I dug through my horde of "someday you'll be sorry if you throw this out". Within two hours, I had a three foot tall "Charlie Brown Tree." With only one ornament I should be able to put it away by myself at the end of the season. Today I painted Charlie Brown and Snoopy, complete with dog house, on foam board to complete the scene. Thank you for a good laugh, hopefully this Christmas is everything you wish for minus tiny, furry creatures.

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