Sunday, December 17, 2017

Encouragement For The Week

   

Let me not wrap, stack, box, bag, tie, tag, bundle, seal keep Christmas.
Christmas kept is liable to mold.
     Let me give Christmas away, unwrapped, by exuberant armfuls. 
Let me share, dance, live Christmas unpretentiously, merrily, responsibly with overflowing hands, tireless steps and sparkling eyes.

     Christmas given away will stay fresh—even until it comes again."

Friday, December 15, 2017

Some Teen Gift Ideas

Favorite Toys here.
Favorite Games here.
Book Gift Ideas here.


Ok, ready?  Boys and girls mixed in, junior high into college, here's a list of ideas from Abbey and some of her good friends. (I begged only a few suggestions out of my boys.)  Also at the bottom, is a cute post my daughter wrote when a few years ago with more ideas.

These are GREAT inexpensive headphones.


Nike socks-girls and boys wear them. I have bought so many pairs of these! Where do they all go?

Very popular right now, lots of different choices.


Makeup brushes. I am told they don't have to expensive to be quality.




Sanuk flip-flops.

Soft PJ's.  The Aerie brand is popular.

Crocodile clips.  Can be found at any drug store

Not Your Mother's Beach Spray and Dry Shampoo

These Lush bath bombs are a perfect gift and have a five star rating and are very popular.

Personalized Coffee Mug
This cute one is from Anthro for $8, but you can find these everywhere.

YogaAccessories (TM) 1/4'' Extra Thick High Density Yoga Mat (Phthalate Free) - Jasmine Green
Earth Therapeutics Aloe Socks, Pink

Electric Blanket-Abbey LOVES her electric blanket (and boy did it come in handy early this year when Janey and I had a terrible bout of pneumonia.)  I bought her one at Kohl's on sale.

Fuzzy Blankets
We have this one and this one-these are found everywhere, the softer the better.

IPhone Cases
My niece uses the Otter Box  Commuter Series and really likes it-they are affordable too.
Abbey uses a LifeProof (after having to replace the screen because of a breakage she decided it was in her best interest to spend a little more.


neff Men's Daily Pipe Glove, Cyan, Medium
neff gloves-boys or girls!

neff Men's Daily Beanie, Green, One Size
neff beanies-again, boys or girls, lots of cute colors.

Duffel bags-especially for college kids-Lands End has great ones, I love their sales, and you can get them monogrammed.

Quad copters. This is the brand we chose and you can read about this fun toy here.


Here is a list from a couple years ago, written by my daughter:
Shopping for teenagers is definitely harder than other ages (I would know, I am one) and one of the biggest problems is not knowing exactly what they want.  If you're stuck on this and need a few ideas, these are some of my favorite things that I have gotten, and some things I am asking for this year!

Headphones. Definitely a broad topic. My favorite are the brand Skullcandy .  Lots of styles, affordable, and great quality! Pink and purple are my go-to colors.

Something that I am in desperate need (okay, want, sorry Mom) of this year, this iPod adapter thingy for an older car like the one Isaac and I share.  Because radio music can get old too fast when they play the same songs over and over...

The Wet Brush Detangle Brush . Last time I went to the salon, the lady who trimmed my hair suggested this because my hair is so long and gets tangled so easy. It works wonders.

OPI and Essie nail polish. great quality and true to color. New favorite colors: Gargantuan Green Grape by OPI (minty green) and Mango Bango by Essie. You can find Essie at Target and OPI at salons and makeup stores like Sephora and Ulta.

Image result for mauve opi nail polish

A subscription to InStyle magazine.  Full of great ideas, new trends, fashion advice, cool pictures, and classy clothes!  Once I am finished reading a magazine, I look through it and cut out pictures that inspire me and my style and collage them onto my doors.

Every girl needs something Vera Bradley! Such cute patterns and very durable. I use my bag for everything, school, shopping, etc. (Sometimes I see these at TJ Maxx for a great price.)

Robin Hood Kate Wristlet
And when I don't feel the need to lug around my big purse, I love a wristlet. This one comes in tons of different patterns.

Also I put my cards in a pouch on the back of my phone.



One of my absolute favorite Christmas presents last year from my grandma was this Color Daze Blockbuster from Sephora.  (NOTE: This is crazy expensive now, this is a similar kit at a price close to what was paid for the above kit.)  For girls that love experimenting with makeup and trying new techniques, this set comes with it all: Mascara, blush, eyeliners, lip gloss, eyeshadow, luminizer, and brushes. It could also be a good starter kit.

A jewelry organizer is a must-have for a cluttery closet! This one hangs anywhere and is two-sided.

Hope this helps!

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Easy Holiday Recipes

Food, food, food-my life seems to revolve around it, it seems, especially at this time of year.  Here are some simple recipes that make my life easier this holiday season.

If I need to bring an appetizer to a party, my feta dip is super easy and I know it will be gone in seconds.  (It is my most viewed post, no kidding.)  No oven, no bowls, no mixer, no stove top.  Here is the easy step by step recipe.

If I need to bring a dessert, I know Kitty's Brownies will be a huge hit.  I am telling you, these things are divine-and it's just brownie mix and 3 candy bars.  They are ooey and gooey and chocolately and taste like you slaved over them for hours.

Caramel corn or shortbread cookies are usually my old standbys if I want to bake a gift.


These pretzels are fun to make with kids and make a great snack.  My blog friend Sarah made them with her kids and they turned out prettier than mine ever do.  You can check them out here.

My favorite cut out cookies are from an old-fashioned recipe my mom used every Christmas when we were kids.  The recipe uses granulated brown sugar-they are sweet, but not too sweet, look like gingerbread, but not too gingery.  My kids love them. Here is the recipe for Butterscotch Rolled Cookies.
103

I have talked about meal planning and how it really saves me time and money and my sanity also-more than ever this season.  Sometimes I just about hate doing it, but if I don't we will end up eating take out pizza every night.  Here is an example of my menu for the week-I just want to prove that it does NOT have to be fancy-I always think "meal planning" just sounds overwhelming. I use notebook paper and tape it up where I can see it every morning. Grilled cheese and soup one night-or pizza night on Saturday-no gourmet dinners or five course meals here.  (Lots of my recipes are here and I've been adding new ones every week.)

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Christmas Guidance for Moms

Christmas:

I know I have posted some of this before years ago in different essays but I wanted to set it out again. (I sometimes I just wish I could tell my younger self these things.)  

Christmas is what we decide it will be and that means there is a need to guard our hearts and homes a little-relatives, the media, the neighbors, friends, stores, your church, etc, will all come into play as an influence so it is right and good to set out in our heads what we want Christmas to look like for our family.

---If we want to keep it simple and religious, then deciding ahead of time how we will go about "guarding our hearts and homes" is a necessity.  What we allow into our home, is what will influence those little ones in our home-from the gabs of toy magazines, and commercials vs. the Advent calendar and Nativity.  We will be the thoughtful filter, the idea-shaper for how we want our Christmas season to look for our families.

---Start small, very very small.  We all know a one year old will play with the box.  (And I have had eight year olds have just as much fun with a box too?:)  The more gifts equals the more shopping and wrapping and planning and DOING (and the more stuff in your house to clutter it!).  And when children start remembering what last year was like there is a certain expectation (not ill-willed-we all have expectations) to look forward to.  Things get more costly, and life gets busier as one adds children to the family.

It is much easier just to start as you mean to go along. There are SO many great ideas of how to keep things simple and the expectations in check, and all of them are neat traditions like the three gifts to represent the gifts of the Magi, or something to read, wear and play with, etc.  I've learned most of these cute little tidbits of genius through friends, but wish I would have learned them 22 years ago when I first started out.

---Find a way to make it relatively peaceful and fun.  It SHOULD be fun!  As I added babies in with toddlers and older children, my idea of fun had to become very simple I learned, because chaos day after day is NOT fun and the daily needs of children and the household still existed and must be met first. That means weeding out what made things chaotic, and narrowing it to a few traditions that really counted. We don't have to bake and craft and go to parties every day, maybe just once the entire month. If there is anything that we all have to struggle with today, it's too many choices, and opportunities and then there is Pinterest.  

---And expectations!  It isn't a requirement to make gifts for the entire neighborhood, and teacher's gifts can be very very simple and then after all guess what?  I have the best news!  There is NO Christmas elf that will come and arrest us and throw us in jail if we don't do teacher gifts or neighbor gifts or postman gifts or Elf on the Shelf, or if we skip taking your kids to visit mall Santa, etc etc etc.  We won't go to Christmas jail (but a day in solitary confinement might sound ok on December 26th? Will they serve hot cocoa and let us bring a book?:)

So we must learn to let it go if we can't do it, or don't want to do it, or can't afford to do it, or just had a colicky baby (hello Andrew!) or are due on Christmas Eve with your fifth baby (hello Patrick!). 

All of this extra stuff, like most of life, has gone hog wild in the last decade to the point where it's all almost laughable.  Such high expectations, such busyness, it's no wonder we feel overwhelmed. It should not be one bit about stress, but about peace and that comes in simplicity and discretion and thoughtfulness.  That is where the Christmas magic is found in the first place.

And last, the most important thing:

One day a mother's Christmas will change. And it hurts our hearts I assure you. It will make us shed tears of reminiscence and nostalgia and sadness for what will never be again.  PLEASE, if you have little ones, just enjoy it.  Soak it all up.  Don't run yourself ragged and miss the "sparkly eyes" because you are too busy and tired.  Don't waste time striving for perfection or stressing about incidentals. If you have believers in your home, treasure it.  If you have shouts of joy on Christmas morning as a child unwraps a present that cost $7.99, revel in it. One day things will change-and not change for the terribly worse, but it will change.  Surprise and joy and wonder are at their height in the young childhood years and one day you will wish them desperately back if just for a moment. 

Set the path before you, walk slowly and carefully, and keep your head clear and focused and have a simple vision.  

Some past thoughts on Christmas here and here.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Our Favorite Christmas Books


Here's an updated list of our favorite, most-played with, delivered-to-your-doorstep, Mom-approved toys.

And here are our favorite games.
Here are some great teen gift ideas.


My favorite are the classic ones from my childhood, and the Nativity books with beautiful pictures.
I think the books we grow up with are so impressionable-they form the images in our mind of what Santa looks like, and Jesus in the manger, and elves, and the wise men.  Does it seem overly-thoughtful that I want to "choose" these images for my children?  I think it might, but I still choose carefully.
The Night Before Christmas -The one illustrated by Leaonard Weisgard on the right is my favorite.
Frosty the Snowman- I am working on getting my hands on the vintage Golden Book version of this story, but this one with vintagey-illustrations will do.



I have a Golden Book collection and a few more (like the Frosty one) on my wishlist.

My mom bought this years ago (she is the best book picker-outer) for my kids and they love this story.  Beautiful illustrated and just the right amount of words in this version of the classic fairy tale.


I love this book because it is tells the traditional story, with beautiful illustrations.  

Another beautifully illustrated book.  Mothers will love this book because Mary tells the story.

We love I Spy books.  They hurt my eyes but they are also so addicting.  Once I start a page I have to finish all the searching.

and Janey's favorite is the second Santa Mouse book:
Santa Mouse, Where Are You?

All of the great Little House snowy Christmas stories in one book, can't get any better than that!
I love this reminder of simpler times, with less "buying", more "creating", and better "giving".

I have always loved this story since I was a little girl. This is a beautifully illustrated book!


The story with all it's history in one book, appeals to older children and adults.  This really brings depth to the story and it all makes more sense with historical reference. 

(this copy with Barbara Cooney is out of print, but it can be bought used)
We borrowed this book from the library and I promptly bought it I loved it so much. Definitely a "girl book" with a doll, and an orphan girl and a family finally found.  I would have loved loved loved this book as a child. 

I can't get through this book without crying.  
It is my favorite Christmas book ever.  The illustrations are beautiful, and the story of a son giving the gift of service for his hard working father is even more beautiful.  

(Another one that must be bought used.)
I think we have every Gyo Fujikawa book because I am in love with her illustrations, especially her prolific babies.  This book is chock full of those babies.



I feel like I've read this book 1,000 times in the last 2 weeks. So cute, and a favorite around here and a great message of sharing to boot.