11.26.2008

Reasons I Love the Holidays

*Here we are with Clifford on Thanksgiving Eve
In no particular order...

1. Egg Nog. Oh my goodness so incredibly bad for you but so so yummy. I can't drink a lot of it at once, unlike my husband who can chug a huge glass, but even just a little bit is so decadent. I also adore Egg Nog Lattes, or just replacing the milk in my coffee with a little nog.

2. Okay, I guess I could go on and on about food. I am one of the weirdos that actually really likes cranberry sauce, roasted vegetables, stuffing (or do you call it dressing if it hasn't been stuffed into anything - whatever, it's still stuffing to me), mashed potatoes, and leftover turkey sandwiches. (The perfect turkey sandwich, by the way, is made with wheat bread, lots of mayo, salt/pepper, and cold turkey. Keep it simple.) Oh, and the appetizers/snackes/noshes/whatever you want to call them: olives, cheese, dips, figs wrapped in proscuitto, celery sticks with chive cream cheese, nuts, good mustards... Wow I'm hungry, and I didn't even mention dessert!

3. Christmas carols. I listen to Christmas music from Thanksgiving to Christmas. Pretty exclusively. I love it. It's all the same old songs, but I love it anyway. I'll have to remember to create a list of some of my favorites for you.

4. Fireplaces and candles. The holiday season is all about being cozy. Warming yourself in front of a fire after playing outside in the snow. We just got a fireplace this year, and I'm so excited to light her up!

5. Snowmen, sledding, and snow angels. This doesn't really have anything to do with the holidays, of course. Some of these are just reasons to love Winter, but these are especially fun things to do when you have groups of people together. We have the perfect sledding hill nearby, and my family went last year and had a blast. (Well, I think K broke his butt, but the rest of us had fun.)

6. Christmas movies. I'll write another post with a list of my favorites. I watch them all every year, and they never get old to me.

7. Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. I miss going in person. We had Thanksgiving in NYC for several years when my sister was living there, and I still believe it's the best place on earth to spend that holiday. We liked going to see the balloons the night before - they have them all blown up and tied down to the street. On the day, the parade is just background noise, but it's still fun to make fun of soap opera actors, bad lip-synching, and the new balloons.

8. Cutting down the tree. We've had a few mishaps over the years (we paid $70(!) for a tree a couple years ago, because we didn't ask how much they were before we went cutting; and we drove an hour away last year to get to a farm, not knowing about the one two miles away), but I still love cutting down the tree ourselves.




9. Decorating the tree. The lights are annoying, but once that's done, I love unwrapping each ornament and thinking about the story behind each one. The first gift I received from my husband, one from our trip to Peter Island, one from our first trip to Vermont, one that I made when I was 7 that still makes my sisters laugh (every. single. time.)...

10. The Holiday Pops. It's become an annual tradition for us to attend an evening with the Boston Pops. For now, it's still just me and K, although I'm looking forward to the boy becoming old enough to appreciate it, too.

11. Family. It's sad how often I hear people complaining about spending time with their family for the holidays. I am so incredibly lucky that I don't have any of the drama that some people seem to have. My family, including my in-laws, is low-maintenance. Nobody complains about sleeping on an aerobed in the office, everybody contributes something to the meals, people in general keep things picked up, and we all have fun together. We watch movies, play games, eat and drink a lot, and enjoy our time together. This is really what the holidays mean to me: quality time with people I love.

Did you notice that gifts didn't make the list? Well, I'll admit that I do enjoy the gift exchange. I like making my list, shopping for other people, and wrapping presents in pretty paper. I enjoy the surprise of Christmas morning. I've never let this aspect of the holidays stress me out, and we've always kept our lists relatively small and manageable.

That said, the gifts are never what I remember about the season. I remember the year my husband and sister accidentally cooked the turkey upside-down, the year of the soupy pumpkin pie, the time my sisters and I spent Thanksgiving together in NYC, my dad's Charlie Brown Christmas trees, four people sharing one blanket on the couch watching movies, the "relaxi-taxi", my sister-in-law's winning entry: chocolate-cranberry torte, visits with friends we don't see during the year. I remember the food, the lights, the music, and the food. (Wait - Did I already say food?)

*This is what our coffee table looks like during the holidays.

11.21.2008

Thanksgiving

*I have a lot to be thankful for!


We're headed to North Carolina for next week. I'm not really looking forward to the plane trip, but I'm desperately anticipating the time off. It will be nice family time. I hope you all remember to think about all the things you're grateful for this year. These are hard times for a lot of people, which makes me even more thankful for everything I have.

I've scheduled a couple posts for later next week, and I'll be back in December.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Amy Macdonald - This is the Life

This song came on the radio the other day, and it stuck with me all day. In a good way.
via last.fm

11.20.2008

I Love The Smiths

*Image from here. Found via Design is Mine.

How great are these cards? Of course, I would never get them, because I was the one who loved The Smiths back in the day. Still do, actually, but now their music just transports me back to high school. Ah, the memories.

11.19.2008

Kitchen Inspiration


When we first started talking about our dream kitchen, I was envisioning natural wood cabinets, because I somehow thought it would feel cozier. K has insisted on white from the beginning, and I now agree. White kitchens are simple, bright, and clean. This one is going in the inspiration folder.

Drums, Sleep, and a Good Book


This week's Three Beautiful Things:

1. My boys sat on the kitchen floor and serenaded me with some drum music while I prepared dinner. More proof that toys are unnecessary.
2. I woke up yesterday morning after a full eight hours sleep.
3. I'm currently reading A Thousand Splendid Suns, by the author of The Kite Runner. It's tragic in so many ways, but it's so intriguing, and I'm hooked.


11.18.2008

Chocolate Pudding Pie

*Image from Williams-Sonoma
Are you starting to make holiday menus like I am? I love finding new recipes to try each year. My sister asked me for this recipe, so I thought I'd share it here as well. I've mentioned our family "holiday bake-off" - this Chocolate Pudding Pie was the winner a couple years ago. It's simple, tasty, and there were no leftovers!

Photo of the Day

My mom just sent me this one, and it made me smile, so I thought I'd share. Like my son, I really loved books when I was little. This is me and my little sister. Don't you just love the pigtails and 70s style? My wardrobe was full of wonderful browns and oranges.

Looking on the Bright Side

Today's sunset is at 4:21. And the days are still getting shorter! Sigh. I must acknowledge that this is one of the hardest things about living in Boston, and yet I've discovered that my skills at finding the positives are getting stronger.

A couple weeks ago, the little boy wanted to play outside after getting home. It was 4:45, and although not quite dark, the sun had set and the darkness was on its way. We stayed outside for a bit, and as we were walking towards the house, he pointed out the moon. He is completely enamored with the moon and loves when he can see it. Then he said, "Oooh, look! A star!" Now, he's seen the moon many times before, particularly because the moon is often out during the day. But I realized that he hadn't seen a real star in the sky before. In the summer, he was usually in bed, or at least the bath, by the time the sun went down. It's possible he could've seen one last winter, but he certainly couldn't vocalize it at that point. So we sat outside a few more minutes to look at the sky, and I realized there are many worse things than a little early moonlight.

11.17.2008

10 of My Favorite Words

1. Giggle - I like words that sound like what they are.
2. Serendipity - Cute, fun to say, and a lovely meaning.
3. Balderdash - I never actually use this word, but perhaps I should start. Poppycock would fall into the same category.
4. Lovely - I think 'L' is my favorite letter. I also like "littler" even though I know it's not a word. It's just more fun to say than smaller.
5. Spunk - K is up there with L in terms of great letters. Words ending in K are spunky and fun to say. (Note: the F word most definitely falls into this category. A fantastic word that would be on this list if I wasn't trying to stay positive.)
6. Fabulous - Way more fun than wonderful or fantastic.
7. Toot - I like "oo" words. Moon is another great one. But toot is more fun.
8. Feisty - I feel naughty when I use this word.
9. Cinnamon - Pleasing to the mouth and to the senses.
10. Hoptcopter - This is "helicopter" for all of you out there that don't speak "2-year-old". I adore this word. Oooh, and I adore the word adore.

What are your favorites?

11.15.2008

Saturday Mornings

*Sometimes he won't let me read to him - he wants to "read" himself!


*He turned this little step-stool into "his chair"
Saturday mornings are wonderful. Almost as good as Friday nights, in terms of having the view of the weekend in front of you. We recently started a routine of going to the library on Saturday mornings. We have a tiny little local branch right down the block from our house, and we usually have the place to ourselves. The little boy loves going there - he adores books, and he has fun discovering new ones, and they also have a little corner with a few toys. He has a grand time while I relax in a window seat, reading a few magazines. I love these simple and easy moments, don't you?

11.14.2008

Happy Thursday!


Kevin came home last night with this beautiful bunch of flowers. Just because. Because he knew I wasn't feeling well, and because he loves me. I don't know about you, but getting flowers on a random Thursday is so much better than getting something on a holiday when you expect it.

Thanks for the flowers, Sweetie!

11.13.2008

Water for Elephants

If you're looking for a book to add to your reading list, please add this one: Water for Elephants

If you just read a short summary of the plot, you might be turned away. The thought of a plot revolving around a circus doesn't really appeal to me either. But it's not about the circus. It's about the characters, and the circus is just an interesting backdrop. Actually, some of the animals are pretty interesting characters themselves. There is adventure, drama, and of course love.

Anyway, I really enjoyed this book. If you haven't already read it, add it to your list or buy it for a friend.

11.11.2008

Superhero Birthday Party

*Images from Ambrosia Girl
I love this birthday party! Great colors, gender-neutral theme, the capes will no doubt get used for a long time... Perfect! I love it.

Now, one day I'll have to break it to my little boy - he doesn't have a mom that will do stuff like this. Actually, I think he'll figure it out on his own. I'll bake him a cake and invite some friends over, but I'm simply not the crafty type. Then again, who knows? Let's check back in a couple years and see how we're doing. I thought I'd bookmark this one in the blog just in case I get ambitious. Aren't the capes adorable?

Stocking Stuffers

*Images from sites referenced below



I've pointed out before that stockings are my favorite part of Christmas morning. Does your family stuff their stockings? My husband's family doesn't do stockings, and friends have told me they just get candy. I feel so lucky that this has been a part of my family's traditions.

Stockings don't have to be elaborate and if you try to do too many "real" gifts, you can go overboard very easily. Ours usually have a balance one or two small but "real" presents, silly things (yo-yos, rubik's cube...), practical things (nail polish, fun socks...), of course some candy, and a tangerine at the bottom. We have so much fun being creative and coming up with things for our stockings, and after all the presents under the tree have been opened, we all exclaim: "But wait! We still have stockings!" It's the greatest.

Okay, enough ranting. On to the ideas. Here are a few things I've stumbled across lately that I think would make good stocking stuffers, and I thought I'd include a general list as well. If you haven't done stockings before, perhaps it's a good time to start!

Aluminum Water Bottle - perfect for your gym-loving sister, perhaps
Pop Color Catchall - this is perhaps a little more expensive than what I like to spend for a stocking stuffer, but they sure are cute!
Utopia Patterned Postcards - notecards are a great stocking stuffer, and I love these new postcards from How About Orange!
Puzzlemaster - I got these Puzzlemaster cards for my mom's stocking last year, and they were a huge hit! If you have a puzzle-lover in your family, these are great.
Slinky, Wooly Willy, Rubik's Cube, Yo-Yo..... - Restoration Hardware is a fun place for stocking stuffers, although you could go overboard a bit too easily here. It's a good place to get ideas, though.

Other ideas:
- Donation to their favorite cause. (I had 20 trees planted in my sister's name last year, and put the certificate in her stocking. I think it was her favorite gift!)
- Fun socks, such as these
- Favorite candies, of course
- Manicure needs - nail polish, file, etc.
- Bubble bath, yummy soaps, facial wash or lotion...
- Lip gloss (this is my favorite)

- I love this round-up of gifts under $5 - they would all look great in a stocking

For the little kiddies:
- Stickers
- Play-doh
- Mini-slinky
- Crayons
- Toy cars

See how much fun this is?!? I know I could go on and on....I already have, so I'll stop now. I hope you've found something in this post that's inspired you to start filling those stockings!

11.10.2008

Five Senses Weekend

See
- A bright moon in the sky, surrounded by fluffy pink clouds as the sun set behind them
- The little boy jumping around his day care classroom with a little girl - they were singing at the top of their lungs and seemed so happy not to have anything to do except jump.

Hear
- A friend told me they're already playing Christmas music on a couple radio stations, so I checked them out. I love Christmas music, but it just seemed wrong. I'll start on Thanksgiving day, but not a moment before.
- The little boy loves singing. He reminded me of one of my favorites - "I'm bringing home my baby bumblebee, won't my mommy be so proud of me?...." Do you remember that one? I love the way Aaron sings it - with such loud happy enthusiasm.

Touch
- I got a pedicure on Saturday - another one to check off the list! - and I received a wonderful calf massage. Ahhhhh...
- The little boy likes giving "big big hugs" lately - he grabs on tight and I love nothing more in this entire world

Smell
- Pumpkin pie baking in the oven. No idea why I happened to have a can of evaporated milk in my cabinet, but there it was, just calling to me to make a pie. It also happens to be my husband's favorite.

Taste
- A hot cup of mint tea with honey, which helped soothe my sore throat
- Mint chocolate chip ice cream

11.07.2008

Travis

Travis has a new album out. I haven't decided if I like it enough to buy it just yet, but seeing it reminded me to pull out their old album, which I like very much.

11.06.2008

Mini-Diaries

*Image from the mini mart

Oh, I just love these! I've never been able to keep a real diary, and I think this blog has turned into a journal of sorts, but I just love these mini-diaries! They contain printed pages where you can capture what you're loving on a particular day. Sort of like my five senses posts.

Apparently they are almost sold out - if you know someone who would love this, too, go snatch one up - what a great gift!

*Image from marta writes

Simplifying the Holidays

*Stockings are always my favorite part!



It seems that many people are trying to determine ways to simplify the holidays this year. My family tries to do this every year, and admittedly, our success fluctuates. Sometimes it's just too easy to get wrapped up in buying things, and you don't realize until it's too late that you've gone overboard. In general, though, I think we do pretty well. Particularly in these economic times, I thought I'd share some strategies for simplifying the holidays.

One of the things we've done in my family is to limit the gift exchange to just stockings. Stockings are always the most fun anyway, in my opinion, and great things come in small packages. You have to use your creativity here, and smaller does not always mean less expensive, but it's a fun way to focus your shopping energy. And I'm sure you'll still have a few gifts from grandparents and others to throw under the tree. (If you have kids, maybe Santa fills the stocking and Mom/Dad get one gift for under the tree, or vice versa.)

In my husband's family, we choose names. I love this, because it means I have only one person to buy for, and you can really spend time on them. It makes budgeting a lot easier, and it can be more fun to buy a larger gift for one person than trying to find smaller gifts for everyone.

Stephmodo recently posted about this same topic, and I adore one of the ideas she shared: a Craig's List Christmas. It means everybody will give/receive something they find on Craig's List. My sister would love this idea! As Stephanie pointed out, "It's a great way to recycle, to be able to offer someone else a little cash in exchange for an item, and to keep the gift-giving budget at a very reasonable level." Particularly if you live in a bigger city, this would be a fun approach.

Now all these ideas are focused on simplifying the gift exchange part of the holidays. I know others get stressed out this time of year due to entertaining and sending cards and hosting dinner and sharing their home with guests. I don't have any silver bullets for these items, except to say - only go to the parties you really want to, don't throw a party if it will stress you out, delegate when hosting the big event, and prepare ahead for out-of-towners. Focus on the beauty and happiness in the season. Make a list of all the reasons you love this time of year and focus only on those things. Hm. Perhaps there are some ideas there. I feel a future post coming soon...

11.05.2008

Voting, Birthday Parties, and a Cactus

This Week's Three Beautiful Things:

1. I love the feeling of pride I get when I vote. I felt especially good this year, because I paid a lot of attention, did my research, and I felt confident going into the voting booth that I was making the right decisions.

2. We went to a friend's daughter's 2nd birthday party over the weekend. Tons of toddlers running around, laughing, singing, playing....It was a beautiful and happy sight.

3. My so-called "Christmas cactus" is blooming. I inherited this plant from my sister a couple years ago, and it thrives here for some reason. It blooms in November and again later in the winter, somehow recognizing the times of year when we need a little color.

Barefoot Books

I recently came across Barefoot Books and thought I'd share. If you have a little kid on your holiday list, and you're looking for ideas, I'm always a huge proponent of getting books. Every kid I know has way too many toys, but I don't think you can ever have too many books. It can be hard, though, to sift through them all to find the ones the kids will love, and you don't always want to stick with the usual favorites for fear of duplication. Barefoot Books has a large number of gorgeous and original books for kids of all ages. Here are a few selections for you to peruse...

Listen, Listen has beautiful illustrations and just the right amount of text on each page to keep a toddler interested.


I love this one - Zig Zag Zebra - containing fun art projects for your preschoolers.

There's even a decent Spanish selection. (I am going to have a trilingual nephew pretty soon!) Here are a couple: Juan y los frijoles mágicos (Jack and the Beanstalk) or Cerdota grandota (How big is a pig?)


For older kids, there are lots of books that celebrate and teach about other cultures. Here's one about Peru called "Up and Down the Andes".

*Images from Barefoot Books

11.04.2008

Gifts for Second Babies?

I am entering a phase where I have several friends who have just had or are pregnant with their second babies. I'm trying to figure out what to get them as a gift. Some of the suggestions that have been given to me include:
- Gift certificate to diapers.com
- If the baby is a different gender, or born in different season....clothes
- Food/gift basket, such as those from Zingermans
- Personalized items, such as a hooded towel or blanket

If you have more than one child, what did you appreciate receiving for your second? If you've given gifts, what do you like giving?

11.03.2008

I Love Me List

Melissa at Operation Nice gave us an assignment to make a Love List containing all the things we love about ourselves. So here goes...

I love that I can sing. Family campfires, singing with the radio, or actually performing - it's all great and I love that I can do it. I love that I can get up in front of a group of people and present something. I'm not usually nervous either, as long as I know what I'm talking about. I love my middle name - Eliza. I used to hate it when I was little, and I have no idea why. It's so pretty. I love that I tan easily. I still wear lots of sunscreen, and I'm pretty pale year-round now that I live in New England, but when I do venture out into the sun, I end up with some nice color. I love that I am very focused on keeping in touch with my friends and family - I can always do better, but I think I'm a pretty good friend and sister and daughter. I also love that I'm a good mom. There was a time when I couldn't imagine having kids, and now I can't imagine not being a mom. It is all coming so naturally to me. I love my body - it's not perfect, but it's perfectly me. I can (and do!) eat ice cream every day, and I'm still pretty petite. And I'm strong enough to carry my son, my laptop case, two lunch bags, a nap sack, and my purse - all while locking the front door!

I'm sure I could come up with more if I spent more time on this, but I think it has served its purpose. I am now happier than ever to be me!

What are the things you love about being you?

List Update


How am I doing on my list, you ask? Well, let's see...

1. Take more bubble baths
2. Go apple picking
3. Create photo book in time to give it to my husband for Christmas (Update: I started it.)
4. Visit Barcelona to meet my new nephew (Update: Have my tickets! Going in February!)
5. Write letters to 3 friends (Christmas cards don't count!)
6. Sign up for a yoga class
7. Take a picture of all 3 of us for our holiday cards (They're not fantastic, though - I may have to try again)
8. Organize our office desk at home
9. Get dressed up and go to the Holiday Pops with K (Update: Bought the tickets!)
10. Get rid of my wedding dress (if no takers on Craig's List, then donate) (Update: My SIL keeps trying to talk me out of this, so I've hesitated, but it's still in the plans.)
11. Take the little boy to the library
12. Bake a yummy gift for the neighbors for the holidays
13. Make time to see old friends while home for Thanksgiving
14. Spiffy up my desk at the office - new family photos, new calendar, clean out files, etc.
15. Watch Fantasia again
16. Learn how to play a few new songs on the guitar
17. Do some lessons in my Spanish instruction book - work towards doing one per week
18. See a movie in the theater, complete with popcorn and raisinets
19. Use my still-unused spa gift card and get a pedicure
20. Host a brunch for some friends and little ones
21. Eat dinner at Blue Ginger, or maybe No. 9 Park if I'm really good
22. Go sledding with my boys
23. Bake a pie from scratch
24. Surprise my husband with homemade chocolate pudding
25. Organize my CDs
26. Get my hair colored at the salon
27. Organize drawers in the little boy's room
28. Tickle the boy and giggle every day* (This one's so easy!)
29. Organize my recipe binder (Whew, that one felt good!)
30. Pick out window treatments for our new downstairs windows
31. Clean out nightstand drawers
32. Go to a museum
33. Do some sit-ups and push-ups and stretching while watching TV (But I was sore the next day, so obviously I need to keep it up!)
34. Carve a jack-o-lantern out of one of our home-grown pumpkins - let the little boy make a huge mess with the insides (He didn't really make a mess, but it was fun nonetheless.)
I've made some progress, but we have a ways to go. My deadline is March 26th!
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