Tag Archive | Christmas

Christmas review

This was the first Christmas in the new house

This was probably also the first Christmas that all the kids were into it.

Sure, they had moments, short tempers, fights over the dumbest things (so dumb I don’t have a funny example because my brain can’t even fathom how they managed to fight over it) however each said without fail that this was the best Christmas ever.

I missed being in NY, the kids missed their cousins and grandparents and quality time was spent on facetime.  On the other hand, I feel refreshed after 5 days of break instead of trying to fit everything in and burning sleep to do it.  Not that I’m napping the break away, it is just removing all responsibilities beyond feeding the kids is mentally nice.

There is also a new secret weapon to sanity; I can leave the kids home for an hour or two and it is OK.  Not just legally ok (and it is) like, actually ok – they don’t seem to kill each other while I’m gone and I’ve come home to happy kids doing their own thing or watching a show every time.  It is incredibly freeing to run to the grocery or hardware solo, or, with Lars and NO KIDS.  They BEG to stay home,  I didn’t know I had been torturing them so all these years but I did read a good article once about viewing shopping from a kid’s POV. Where you have no control or choice about where you are going, have to stick with someone else the whole time, can’t ask for anything, can’t even touch stuff that catches your eye.  The article said imagine doing that with an adult friend – you would never – since then I’ve been treating shopping more kindly and looking at things that they think are cool and treating their opinions as I would a friend and it does help, but hey, it isn’t as good as undiluted Minecraft/kindle/TV/game that spreads toys all over with no one to tell you to pause and come pick up your socks or load the dishwasher etc.  Anyway, sorry for that tangent, but it is relevant to my current good mood because I had the BEST Christmas eve and a really good Christmas day and day after even.

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sugar cookie production

‘New house’ is an excuse I’ve used long enough that I’m sick of it.  Yes, the house has eaten a ton of money and energy but when we made the decision to stay I also felt like I could reallocate some energy to getting back to normal and not so frantic.   We actually made 3 types of cookies and creme brulee for Christmas.  We used frosting and cookie cutters and we just stopped when they were ‘done’ even though that means there are 3 dozen unfrosted cookies in the freezer.  I wrapped a mountain of gifts, nearly all in fabric so the clean up was relatively easy and I didn’t feel like I was filling a landfill.  We threw out one single kitchen size trash bag and that was mostly packaging, not wrapping paper.  I’ve posted about it before but it really is so easy to pack soft things or oddly shaped things, it all fits in a bag and bags don’t rip on crazy open areas to ‘show off’ the toy.  They also make a very pretty collection if you make 6 or so a year, after 5 years you have a variety.

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easy wrapping!  You see here 2 sets of ear muffs, a hat, a LOL ‘pod’ and 3 odd shaped toys.  Tags are from previous years Christmas cards and I usually manage to keep them year to year.

We got teacher gifts and even neighbor gifts done. Having Christmas on a Tuesday actually made things easier because that last weekend saw lots of Christmas prep time.  For teachers, I broke the candy rule and made them all emergency sweet boxes.  I know all the teachers well this year and I’m pretty confident they all like candy.  If they don’t, still a useful bits box once they give away the 20 odd pieces in there.  Neighbor gifts were from Pinterest and I hit a great sale early in the season at Michaels where nice wrapping paper was only $1.50 a roll and a 3 pack of tape was $3 ish and then there was a coupon….  It didn’t get together until 2 days before Christmas but the point was that it was emergency last second wrapping supply.  I also sent each of them an invite to a new years day party so even if I don’t do it again, I had a good reason to this year.

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neighbor gifts

Christmas Eve we had no plans – being in a place you never usually are cuts down on traditional invitations – but we kept busy somehow.  I used my freedom to go pick up groceries using the pickup service and it was great to avoid that store on Christmas eve AND gave me time to pop into the thrift store.  I intended to go to buy butter knives for Lars who has taken up thrown weapons and saw a youtube about using butter knives and to keep his grubby hands of the silver I got him a dozen of his own.  While I was there (solo) I browsed the Christmas clearance and scored a house for my collection, a nutcracker for Zoe who is oddly into them and it was the best dollar I spent all year for her joy, and my best purchase was specialty Christmas dessert plates.  I have room to store them finally and I really love them and they were under .50 each.

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my new plates from ‘santa’ and Niamh’s cinnamon roll trees.

Santa was left a tray and kids practically put themselves to bed.  This being the first year in the house the furniture got re-arranged to suit gift opening and this room is more and more my favorite.  I wish the chair could stay full time but it is also needed in the living room.  The final crazy thing we did is total potty humor but that is still very funny over here.  The Tamtes all pooped mints for Christmas morning!  We put a handful of mints under each one and it was worth it because they noticed right away and are delighted by it.  I had intended to do it earlier in the season but this worked too.

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selection of baked goods and drinks by the tree.

Christmas Day started early (2am Fiona!) but they did let us go back to sleep until 7:30 and Niamh made cinnamon rolls and Fiona made coffee and Zoe made joyful noise and they actually spent their time organizing the gifts into people piles and that was helpful for opening, plus, it gave them time to wonder over the gifts and that is the best part sometimes.  We had nearly no lull because Vacation Mom came for brunch and then the rolling family calls and then we hosted dinner for a set of friends and we finished the night with a new game that was a bigger success then I had anticipated.

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loving her biggest gift, wearing the new hat and new shirt.  Zoe is the most expressive of the 3

Boxing day was totally lazy.  PJ’s worn well into the afternoon.  Kids cheerfully doing kits and playing with toys.  I sequestered myself in my room to finally get my closet organized.  It still had lots of boxes, lots…. I didn’t finish but I did get the shelving up I needed and I’m at 70%.  I’ll have a picture when I’m done but there is no before picture, however, you can just imagine a small room full of boxes and 30 graphic t-shirts hung up.  (ps. Lars didn’t notice there were boxes in the closet?!?).  Maybe unearthing so many of my things beget my good mood but I definitely have one.  I said goodbye to 2 bags for donations and 1 bag of garbage but I’m ok with letting it go.

Here we are today, on a bonus December day.  A day off that has no obligation to society, church, family, or even airlines.  Our plan is to go to the zoo but it is somewhat weather dependent.  Tomorrow or the next day we need to start pulling out of vacation and getting ready for our open house party on New Year’s day but that isn’t today.  I have house projects cooking too but none are quite done enough for pictures.

I hope your holiday week has been as good, good enough to outweigh the not so pretty times in the week.  Believe me, there have been lows in my week too but as always I am focusing on the positive here and it doing so it sets the positive points in my brain.  It is my worst fear that someone reads my blog and feels bad about themselves in comparison – I’m cherry picking – I could post a giant list of shortcomings, fears, messes, and disagreements but I don’t want to, and would that be interesting or helpful? In the interest of full disclosure and your feelings trust me they were/are there!

Can’t end with that, just not my style so;  Merry Christmas and enjoy the last few days of 2018.

 

 

Holiday Time

Am I ignoring Christmas with my title?  Nope, I just am referring to ALL the holidays that are in this season.  Some I celebrate, some I don’t, realistically there are SO MANY Christmas traditions that one could go crazy tieing them all in and that isn’t even touching other faiths.  The school does a good job filling in details about traditions in many faiths and cultures and it really does make we wish I could do them all.

I  love a cool tradition.  I wish I had a maid (don’t we all) not because I dislike cleaning but because I really really like doing crafty creative decorating things and too much time is sucked up with normal cleaning.  This makes me pick and choose what we are doing because life doesn’t slow down to accommodate, still have jujitsu and girl scouts and chorus and school board and PTO etc.

This year things are complicated a little (more) because new house means that none of our previous decorating go-to work.  First, everything we have from before looks laughably small because the scale of our rooms is totally different in this house.  Second, we have very few places to put things, for example, we don’t have a shelf in the living room yet much less a mantle to hang stockings with care.  I also had a minor panic attack when 9 more BOXES were imported into the house, but, I told myself they are simply Christmas stuff and I can’t hold my box angst against Christmas.

We are a tad behind on things but I think I’ve covered it well.  The kids wanted the Santa beard countdown and I finally got it done this Monday.  To cover the late start I put it in an envelope from the ‘north pole’ in our mailbox and had a note that the first beard must have gone to the old address…  They totally understood and happily went on to decorate the Santa and hat and we have been trimming the beard daily since.

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Very festive hat this year

Two things we actually are nailing this year is our annual Hannukah dinner, and, we added in Advent.  I had already decided to do advent and even had candles when my mom suggested that we do the candle lighting together via facetime.  Sometimes moms and daughters are just on the same page and for the past two Sundays, we have lit the candles ‘together’ 1400 miles apart.  For the last few years, we have invited our friend who celebrates Hannukah to come share it with us.  I actually told him the dates this year (it was early) and the day that worked best happened to be Sunday so he joined us in lighting the advent wreath.  Then we had a very nice dinner with friends and the deadline of this dinner party really helped move the Christmas decor along.  We actually trimmed the tree with them too, it was a classic evening.

One tradition that I’ve been semi-avoiding is the Elf on a Shelf but I ended up right in the soup of arranging Christmas creatures because I fell in love with the Swedish Tomte and made a set of 5 with the kids.  Well, one thing led to another and they have been found posed a time or two.  I wonder if there is an award for holiday tradition combining because I am totally winning this year.

Like most parents, this feels like an overwhelming time of year-  and for us, it comes at the end of an overwhelming year.  The decision to stay in MN for Christmas does simplify many things but it is still a hard choice.  I’m trying not to overcompensate because the point of not traveling was to lessen stress.  I feel super lucky that the kids have nothing crazy on their lists, except for the incredibly crazy things that they know are long shots so won’t be sad they won’t happen like iPads or Horses.  They are enjoying the traditions, the magic of tomte is infectious because every time I move they love it.  In looking at pictures to add to this post, even though my list is still long (like I’ve done next to no gift shopping) we have done some fun stuff;

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breakfast with santa 

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Importing the new decoration addition for a year, a toddler-sized bear.

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Great sale on paint projects mean we have 3 and they love them!

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Tree lighting in town, it was super cold but worth it.

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we searched out this cool light display last night.  Our new street actually does a great job, I love seeing lights on our dark dark days.

Not too bad and we have 2 weeks to go.  One last thing for those interested in the curtain campaign, I’m finally finished with bedrooms and started on downstairs.  I’m pretty proud of this one – since the picture I’ve added the sheers but I like how they look.

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I knew that I had to get it done pre tree or there was no hope this year.  I made it by 2 hours…

As I said, the list is forever long so I need to do both laundry folding and Christmas card assembly today so time to get off the computer.  I hope your holiday season is going well!

Gifts for cold and creative kids

Every year I make something for the kids (and sometimes more people) and this year I was inspired by the fact that they tie blankets onto and around themselves, with various levels of “success” to be part of their games.  I read ages ago that giving kids things that can be used in games rather then specific use objects is better for their imaginations.  I posted about this a few weeks ago when I had just finished #1 and said I was excited to see how they liked them.  I also got an email asking how they liked them so here is the answer 🙂

(If you don’t recall or don’t want to click over, they are capes made from blankets that have a hood and a built-in tie/scarf.  They also have pockets for either hands or stuff.)

I knew when I made 3 identical capes they would be used in very not identical ways and I was not wrong.  In the crush of Christmas they were overlooked a little, but, I was rewarded when we got home when Zoe and Fiona were using them in an elaborate game.

Zoe was a bird in the game and she was using the hand pockets to make wings and loved running around the house.

Fiona was a hunter and tied her hood tight and wrapped the scarf around her whole body to make it a coat and she was trying to hide her sword (bird catching sword) when I made them pose for the picture.

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Niamh actually started using hers instead of a jacket and has worn it out to walk the dog more than once.  She ties a bow in a third perfectly valid, and very sweet, way to wear the cloak.img_4837

We also live in a cold state and our house is pretty tight but there are still cold spots and a wearable warm thing is a good idea so I made myself one too.  I find myself wearing it in the evening for reading time to give extra snuggle time while also keeping my phone safe in the pocket as we transition into bedtime.  So many of my outfits lack pockets…

If anyone wants the how-to on this let me know.  I used $3 blankets and they took me under 20min to make.  I have never seen this particular pattern online but it also isn’t all that unique a design so I may have just missed it.

I have used up my computer time for now so I must get back to the list of things to do (that may or may not include reading the book I finally got to start….)

 

 

 

 

Dashing through the snow…

Today we GO!

(lets not talk about when we get there…)

I have spent the past few days chipping away at the pile of things that need to be done as well as getting in a few things that would be harder to do later.  My NOT procrastination totally paid off because Lars and I were in HomeDepot, the 6th shop for the day, on a fact-finding mission about suites of appliances and we happened to see a fridge-sized box with a price tag of $160.  I dismissed it, figuring it was some odd special thing or something that needed to be part of a larger, much more expensive, system.  The sales lady just mentioned to us “hey, you guys need a fridge?” and we are like “um… yes?”  Apparently, the warehouse missed this one and now it had to GO because they couldn’t inventory it anymore (or some such inventory reason) so we got a fridge originally priced $860 for $160.  We have been working with our tiny fridge in the garage for extra milk but this will be way better.  I see it as our reward for #1 checking out appliance prices for the house months in advance and #2 already have a clean car ready for travel that all we had to do was move car seats.  #3 I just happened to have organized my ‘car bin’ of useful things including tie-down straps AND put it back in the car that day so we were able to fit the fridge in, and, tie the back gate down since it was just a little longer than our cargo area.

Don’t you just love a deal?!?

At this point, I have lists about my lists but we are near the end of them all.  All trip stuff and clothing is assembled and job #1 today is to pack.  People talk about ‘packing’ like putting things into a bag is hard, that is the easy bit – finding all the things you want for 5 people and a dog is the hard part.  There is one load of laundry to do, final dishwasher load to run for today’s things.  I need to make up the guest room for the house sitter but since we have guests often that is an easy thing.  Books reserved at the library for pickup, food ready for prep for the trip.  Lots to do but I’m in the last bit and positioned well.  Thank you yesterday self for NOT falling into the new book you just downloaded and have waited for a year, You can read that tomorrow as a reward.

Teacher and friend gifts are ready for delivery, already delivered, or ready for when we get back.img_4884

 

I think I’ve completed all the things I NEED for Christmas and I packed supplies for cooking and final projects at my parents.  Driving may mean 2x travel time but it also means I can bring more ‘stuff’.  The kids are so used to a second Christmas when we return that they asked about it so we made the decision that all the things that the kids picked for each other and us can stay for mini Christmas.

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Kid wrapped gifts under the tree ready for mini Christmas!

I’m writing this at 7:30 in the morning and our go time is 3:30 so I have time to do what I need to do as well as go to my birthday massage appointment.  I’m getting in the spirit here, things are looking good.  This is the first year in YEARS my sisters will both be at my parents so I’m excited to see everyone. I hope to avoid the panic of leaving last minute and so far so good.  Time to get breakfast, school lunch, kids to school.  T-7h to takeoff.

 

Suddenly Christmas is in 2 weeks

How does this happen to me every year?  I feel like there is ages to go and then suddenly it is crunch time.

I got the Christmas cards created, printed, address updated and printed, stamps and all in the mail.  I must say that Avery templates have gotten really good.  I used them to make super cute return address labels and they printed out so much easier than using the mail merge.

We have completed our holiday craft item.  I’m experimenting with essential oil sprays and settled on 2 – one full of anti bug stuff to repel anything crawly, and, the other is just good smelling and with the high alcohol content it is really good at taking the smell out of non-washable things.  We did a very scientific test – we took Lars’s riding gloves that are full of years worth of hand sweat and sprayed one and not the other and then got everyone who came over to do a sniff test.  I think we actually did it because while the experimental glove never exactly got to smell ‘good’ it no longer smelled bad and the control was found every time.  More credit to Avery for their printable templates.  I buy the labels and go online and super easily create the perfect size graphics.  I got the kids to do the drawings and I uploaded and tweaked them to fit and I’m happy with the results.

I’m in the middle of the sewing project for the kids.  This year I’m inspired by the fact that they constantly steal all the living room blankets and find ways to tie them onto themselves as capes or dresses or disguises…  I decided to make each of them a cloak with a hood out of a blanket BUT they have built-in scarf/tie to make them easy to keep on AND little hand pockets on the edge that can either be for better wing shape, or, putting things into.  I wish I had a loner kid to test the design, I can’t wait to give it to them!

 

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modeled by Good Girl Puppy who is about the same size as Fiona’s head and torso.  Note the paw pocket on the right. 

 

Decorations are on the scant side this year.  We put a bunch of them into storage and I don’t know where they are.  The 2 boxes we kept out did have some of the most important ornaments and there is enough to look festive overall.  It did hower prompt a Dad-joke.

Lars – “look there is a bare spot”

Me – “where, I thought we found enough to look pretty good”

Lars – “right here” lol

Me – eye roll and laugh, I do love a good bad joke.

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I’m glad the major projects are winding down and the decorations are all up (rather than in totes around the house waiting) so the house can get back to a mostly clean status.  I was reluctant to put up the tree given the ornament situation and that we are always away for actual Christmas.  However, all three kids have remarked on how much they love it and how magical it is that I’m glad we did it.  One bonus to not having our decorations – we had to go get new lights and we finally found a solution to our White v Color lights situation.  Target had lights that are BOTH!  and also LED so I don’t feel bad leaving them on for maximum magical moments.  Even being woken up by a 2am nosebleed is more magical when gently lit by a Christmas tree.

 

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color

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white

 

This is my last full week in MN for the year – next week is my birthday and then we take off for the holiday to return sometime near newyears (not totally planned).  I hope to do the gift rationalization where I go investigate my hidden stashes and see what I need to finish up.  That is my plan for the rest of today before kid time, just wanted to hop online to see how the blog world is doing.

Dress for cheap = cheap

We have all seen the super inexpensive sites with cute dresses or coats for unbelievable prices.  You know there is a catch.  There is always a catch….

When I saw this one though I was hooked.  It was the A-line, it was the cool top, and the real reason I forked over the price of 3 coffees was the fabric.  I wanted it for Christmas and it has been ages since I got a dress for an occasion so I took the risk.

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Note!  I have done some research on this topic, I’m not the first person to take a risk and so I learned from others that the sizes are very very very different.  I zoomed in on the size chart and found myself ordering an XL as that best correlated to my 6-8 American size.

I also know that shipping is slow but since I was seeing this two weeks before Thanksgiving I crossed my fingers and hoped it would arrive before Christmas travel.

  • It arrived yesterday, about a month later but in plenty of time
  • Right out of the package it needed an iron but otherwise, construction was decent.  Finished seams and the zipper worked.
  • Fabric was as cute as I hoped, very pleased with the print.

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The real test was fit.  I tried it on and it was both too big and too small at the same time.

I absolutely had to do some tailoring on the sides so I didn’t even bother taking a picture of it on me before I took out 2 inches on each side because instead of the hourglass shape in the model picture, mine was more of a cylinder with a pleated skirt.  Trimming in the sides did  make it better, I solved the ‘too big’ issue in just a few seams.

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black lines are where I pulled it in.

So here you see it.  It isn’t ‘bad’ but it sure isn’t good.img_4744

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Do you see where my hands are? They are on my natural waist, about where the skirt should be…  it isn’t.  It is two inches or more off and it makes the proportions of the top look wrong to me (and to the other people who saw it on me).  It looks frumpy and even if I carved out another inch or so to make it actually tight I can’t fix the length of my top.

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The second odd situation is the bust area.  I like the way the structure looks (still needs an iron) but it too high for my chest.  Ironically if I pull it down to be in the right spot for my chest then the waist is closer to correct but it is impossible to actually make it stay like that.  Maybe the shoulders are wrong?  If I added length to the shoulder then the armhole would be so big you could see my entire bra.  The armhole is actually the only thing that is about perfect.

I think the only way to salvage is to chop the top off and have a cute skirt with adorable fabric.  This is a test shot with the top folded down.  While I’m at it, I might shorten it a touch to be knee length instead of tea length but I’ll see about that later.  Since I’m cutting and sewing already I’ll probably add pockets.

In the end, I’ll end up with a skirt I can probably wear more frequently than once a year for Christmas but I’ll also have put in the time to make it happen.  I do like that it already has a zipper, that is my least favorite part and if someone said that they would do the zipper on a skirt for me for the price of 3 coffees I would absolutely do that.

I think I learned my lesson on internet cheap dresses.  Unless I’m looking at it for the fabric, it is not worth the price regardless how low it is.