Catholic Spirituality,  design + style,  Family Life,  feast days,  guest post

Old House, Young Family

Delighted to be featuring the beautiful and talented cheerleader of the internet today: Nell O’Leary, one of the heavy lifters behind the beautiful ministry Blessed is She and an attorney-turned-textile-crafter with 3 little people running around her big old hundred year old home. I dare you to look at the wood paneling in her Dining Room (I aspire to one day have rooms in my home which will be capitalized when spoken of) and not swoon.)

whole parenting family

Advent and Christmas living in my ancestral home means times of family memories. Many years ago when my husband and I bought my family’s home, I knew with great certitude that holidays would be especially evocative of my own childhood holidays: same cast of characters (plus a few new ones) and same set. Our home is 101 years this year and it jumps for joy when we bring that Christmas tree in the door on Gaudete Sunday because merriment is what a big old house like this was made for.

whole parenting family

In the Library, we set up the alabaster creche scene my parents bought when they first purchased the house back in the 70’s. My mom and her mother fell in love with it at the local Catholic goods store, and really made the reach to purchase them as they captured my mom’s heart! For almost 40 years, it has sat here on the wooden radiator cover. As you can see, baby Jesus gets ye-old-napkin treatment until Christmas Eve. Also, Joseph’s hand is removable. That means sometimes it gets perniciously removed by small children and hidden.


The stockings are hung by the chimney with care in hopes that the rail holding them doesn’t break.


In the Entrance Hall, we hang the mistletoe from my childhood along with red ribbons with the Christmas cards pinned on them, dropping down and waiting to be yanked by small hands.

whole parenting family
The Dining Room has a really understated character, quietly waiting for our big old Christmas feast! I try to serve a few meals in there during Advent to prepare ye the way of dining room manners. Also, singing O Come O Come Emmanuel with the lights off around a lit wreath in this room is pretty amazing for the kids.


This old beauty from my mom’s teaching years sits on a silver tray with a few pine cones from the papal gardens my mom snagged in the early 90’s. Don’t prosecute, please.


Best of all, the Music Room houses the tree. Each year as children, when my dad dragged the tree in the front door was a time of merriment, chaos, and fighting over who got to hang what. We all had our own boxes of ornaments and could hang them wherever we liked, but the candy canes and lights were a dueling matter. Our three little kiddos have been dying to decorate and really usher in this time of Advent in a more physical way with the tree. It seems to bring the reason for Christmas alive a little extra for them.


As my family all gathers around for the last bit of Advent (both out of town siblings come in town with families!) before Christmas, my hope is, that like when we were kids, we can feel that joy and anticipation of the Christ Child (not just the presents, okay, a little for the presents too), and know we are loved, unequivocally loved by God!


Nell is a recovering lawyer married to her law school love who blogs and sews to stay sane while at home with her three little kids.

advent series


  • Jeanette

    Beautiful family! Awesome fireplace, too! Loved all of the stockings. And it gave me an idea! Instead of having an individual stocking for each person in the home, I thought it might be a good idea to try something a little different that involved sharing the stockings. The idea just hit me, so it is not complete, but I thought: how about having 12 stockings for the 12 days of Christmas. It would be shared by everyone in the home, each of the 12 days, and could be filled with all sorts of interesting things. Like candy, of course, gotta have that for my husband. One day. Then maybe tickets to some kind of event that would be enjoyed by all, or alternatively, a little note in the stocking explaining the details of a special family outing for the day. Maybe one day love letters to each member of the family. Maybe one day a saint name (or holy card) to be drawn randomly from the stocking to be your personal intercessory saint for the year. Lots of possibilities how to fill those stockings with faith and joy and surprises to enable the family to have a focal point for those 12 days of Christmas, either making it a reflection of what you already have planned, or giving you an avenue for creating a new tradition for your celebration. Maybe designate a scripture verse each of the twelve days, and you can refer to the readings for the day to find something to keep in your heart for the day. You can read the verse before retrieving the content of the stocking. Well, I’m going to have to give this more thought. Thanks for the inspiration!

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