Tag Archive | holiday

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.

 

 

Guess What?

I love my blog enough to pay $13 whole dollars for an upgraded membership.  I realized some of the reasons I was not blogging was because I was nearly out of space and pictures really do make the story.  So, after the 3million and third targeted add with discounts and ‘last chance’ notes from WordPress I did it.  I have no idea what all will change but I have more space and that is what I was looking for.

What about the daily post?  Well, that didn’t work out this year.  I’m as disappointed as you are (btw I’m assuming nobody was all that disappointed).  When last we talked I was suffering from a truly annoying mouth issue that actually persisted for a full 7 days and now I have the creepy crud of congestion.  These are not conditions conducive to happy chatting online.  Beyond those minor annoiances, the week was really great and super full.

Thanksgiving felt like the end of a marathon.  One that started so long ago when we first decided to put the house on the market and then escalated when we were prepping, then selling and building then moving and homeless, then traveling, then moving in and figuring out where things go and a truly giant list of things to do.  No sooner were we in the house the kids were to school and the election tasks started, Halloween, and a rather full social calendar of weekend events culminating last week with the first big house party and 8 out of town guests and then Thanksgiving with more guests.  No wonder I feel tired and out of planning energy!  Sunday I sat there and realized that I have nothing major on the immediate horizon.

Does that mean I am doing nothing?  No way, just nothing like building a house or moving.  I have a vague hope that I’ll be catching up on the active to-do list to the point where I can get back to a normal week that includes meal planning and working out and generally not just chasing the ball down hill constantly.

So how was your thanksgiving?

here are some pictures because I have space now

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family game time!

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possibly not the best group pic ever but oh so true to life.  ps we are missing one child completely somehow

 

Hello November!

Blog every day in November is going to be extra challenging this year since I’ve fallen down to once a week recently…  I occasionally reflect on the fashion of webpages/blog/online journals that have come and gone and feel like they are maybe coming back again.  Oh well, I’ll keep doing what I’m doing here in my corner.

Today you join me on the day I celebrate the lives of the people who have left this earthly coil.  A little All Saints day, a little Dia de Muerta, a little bit all my own.  The point is to remember the people and teach our kids about those they never met or those that died when they were young.  Sure, as a memory comes up in the year I share it with the kids but this is the day we make it a point to go through the book.

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Speaking of the book.  I was worried I would not find it in time…  Last week was the push to get the book shelving up and over the past few days, I worked on clearing all the ‘house stuff’ boxes that were hanging out in the room.  Today I went and got the top 5 boxes in the ‘book’ pile in the garage and it is luck or fate but the 3rd box opened had my album for today.  I added my grandmother, the first addition in years, and now I’m thinking about what to get to celebrate her.

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I usually try and bring in a special food for the person to share with the kids.  My Grandmother though was on a perpetual diet most of my life with her, with a memorable highlight of a liquid shake diet that looked (and smelled) like chocolate cement.  She uniquely liked to eat maza bread but I know that isn’t exactly something she enjoyed for the taste, and, isn’t really available in our area.  When I lived with her in Malta she cooked a bunch of things that blur together in my memory except for when they were super spicy.  My grandmother was absolutely not a baker (to me at least)…  When I give it real thought most of what I remember is that she enjoyed what was put in front of her and my grandfather making her toast and tea so to honor them both I think that toast and tea might be what we do today.

I’m excited about the challenge this month, good timing since it will be a crazy and fun month to document.  The election next Tuesday, a giant group of house guests coming mid-month and our first official party at the house.  Most of my family will visit for Thanksgiving so it will be plenty of running around, family events, and getting the house ready.

 

My Easter Weekend of Transformation

This year Easter is early, and, right in the last 3 miles of the marathon of getting this house ready.  The goal is Wednesday.  Truly the goal is Tuesday night so Wednesday all I need to do is a tidy after they depart for school and then hold my breath until it is sold.

I’m sure you all have experienced the chaos that is the third quarter of a project, everything is torn up and you have been working and working and still, it looks 10x worse than when you started?  That was our Friday and Saturday.  Sunday, we started to actually pull it back together and our house is getting truly ‘done’.

Friends convinced me I did not need to change every doorknob, at least not yet…

I convinced Lars we HAD to either repaint the master or color match it so I could touch up three spots that look like the size of Africa to me but in reality are the comparative size of Fiji.  He dutifully went to home depot 2x to get paint and now I’m painting my house with a tiny paintbrush.  The Lars list is very long, he has done so much I just don’t put it all here.  There was a time on Friday that I couldn’t help thinking how well we actually work together on big stressful projects as our storage trip was suddenly our mini date.

We finally finished the painting in the 2 rooms we were repainting and then I facetimed with my family while scrubbing the trim and floors to get all the tiny paint spots clean.  Good thing Magic Erasers were on sale last week, I’ve disintegrated 4 already between walls and floors.

 

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this end done, nobody go over there.

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not the right chairs, that chest will move back so side table position soon, and, the picture needs to get new art and hung up.

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kid desk still has tools but hey, they are at least in one spot.

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my real computer was put away to eliminate ‘clutter’

 

In the breaks between cleaning, we did a little thing called Easter.  It was very mellow for us this year and I’m pretty glad it actually fell on April Fools.  In the end I handled lack of traditional baskets (in storage) with 3 decorative boxes and then I hid them in the closet and made them a giant basket of socks.  Zoe was first up and exploring and found the fake basket and remarked: “at least there is some candy” and then the clever girl found a bag of trash.  The living room was early on the hit list so it is pretty clean and decluttered overall and I forgot to dispose of the evidence of basket treats and Zoe found it.  Don’t worry, she still believes, maybe even more now because she considered it a mix of a trick and a clue that there were REAL easter baskets somewhere.  I’m pretty proud of the way this shook out and I got to hear the sounds of joy when they found them.

This year, due to snow, we hid eggs in the house.  Growing up we nearly always had indoor egg hunts but this is the first year weather was bad so it was a new twist for our kids.  I think we had about 150 eggs and 3 kids so for a solid 20min they were searching.  Easy ones were passed 100 times, hard ones found instantly, in the end, we might be short 2 real eggs but I bet I’ll find them since my plan is to super clean.  I did find 4 missed plastic eggs that afternoon cleaning the bookshelf, they were pretty well hidden.

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Easter food focused on just the 5 of us.  We had a breakfast guest who also witnessed the egg hunt and then helped with the house and then went home again.  Pancakes for breakfast, Lox and bagels for lunch, and Rack of Lamb with homemade french fries and asparagus for dinner.  Niamh made a pie, two actually, but that is another story.  I’m just glad she is interested in cooking.

Some things I planned did happen, others didn’t, but I think the weekend went pretty well.  The kids entertained themselves mostly and helped a bit.  They are old enough to all shower solo and understand that “mommy is a bit stressed right now”.   By the end I felt like I had spent hours at the gym when all I did was move furniture, scrub floors/walls/trim, wash windows and pick up and move a million little things to either the trash, its home, or a box for storage.

Today the plan is to stop doing new projects and continue pulling it all together again.  We have a contractor coming to power wash and do a few minor outside things.  I have a meeting on the new house to pick plumbing.  Lars is back to work and the kids are back to school.  I feel bad about not doing my normal holiday reach out to friends but I’m sure everyone will understand.  By next week I’ll be in maintenance mode only and while that won’t be nothing it sure won’t be the job it is to get to the ‘show ready’ we nearly are.

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.

 

Christmas is coming!

Every year I’ve tried to do a little something handmade for Christmas.  The kids have caught the bug and love to make things for people.  Sometimes the results are questionable … but I’ve found that I can really impact the quality of the product by providing good materials.  In fact, if you just give them good supplies and no guidance you sometimes get some really creative things.

The theory is – if they can string pasta on yarn, they can string pretty beads on a nice chord.  Understandably this is a choking hazard for little little kids but if you can trust them to not eat the goods, you can give them good things to work with.

I started with Oriental Trading Company online looking for some cool bits and pieces for them to create into gifts for teachers and friends.  Oriental Trading is my go-to, not just because they sponsored this post but because the prices are fantastic for the quality AND it isn’t the ‘same old stuff’ you find in the craft area of WalMart or Joanns.  By virtue of being online, they can have a million things for Christmas or charms for any hobby where a store has to limit what is on the shelves.  Niamh actually helped some this year and selected a cute bunch of snowflake charms, a winter mix of charms, and a solid style bracelet.  I supplemented with a specialized ‘teacher pack’ and per Zoe request something ‘with a dog and best friend’.

It all arrived and the kids could not contain themselves.  I had to hold them back from instant creation because we were about to eat Thanksgiving dinner and that is NOT the time to bust out the beads.  When things mellowed out the got to the organizing side of things, sorting out all the different things into our ‘upcycled’ craft organizer – egg crates.

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The rest I left up to them.  Niamh went classic with an arrangement of charms on a bracelet, she even made a custom on for her snow hating teacher.

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Fiona went a totally different way and used almost all large beads and then put the whole thing on a necklace and it looks pretty cool like a big pendant.

Niamh actually did way more on the bracelet, adding spacer beads etc but just in case her teacher is reading I’ll keep some details a surprise for Christmas!

I love that they feel confident that people will love what they create, I love helping build that confidence by giving them the tools to actually make quality things.  And by ‘make’ I mean like how I ‘make’ a cake from a nice packaged box and some eggs and water – There is no way I can make as good from scratch in as little time with as consistent results.