A gesture of thanks to our delivery people this holiday season

‘Tis the season for Christmas songs on the radio, the scent of balsam, and, just about every day, packages on the front porch.

Between Amazon Prime, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and two little girls, Christmas shopping has been online about 90% of the time this year. And while it makes life a lot easier around here for us, it means we are keeping our mail carrier and local UPS/FedEx delivery people very busy.

For the past several years, we’ve left homemade baked goods in the mailbox for our mail carrier as a Christmas gift, due to rules about giving cash gifts. And we’ve given cash tips to the team that helps clean our house and also our garbage collectors. But this year, I wanted to do something for the men and women who make the trek up our walkway with packages big and small in the days leading up to Christmas.

Last year, I read an article online about families leaving snacks outside for their delivery people as a gesture of thanks for their hard work during the holidays. I thought it was a great idea, and with so many packages expected at our house in the coming weeks, it seemed like a great year to try it.

Today I ran up to Gordon Food Service and picked up a large box of individual bags of chips, as well as a package of peanuts in their own packets. I also grabbed some LaCroix, and a package of small bottled waters.

I printed out a sign and arranged everything in a large metal drink bucket. Sadly I missed the delivery person who brought us some packages today, but I hope the snacks are taken and enjoyed in the next couple weeks.

At this time of year, I’m especially thankful for all of the people who help make the things we buy online magically appear on our doorstep.

Now, it’s time to get wrapping!


Loving: Michigan Barn Wood & Salvage

A couple of weeks ago, the girls and I met up with my friend Stephanie and her two girls for some fun in Mason, Michigan. Stephanie had some fun local spots up her sleeve: an early lunch at the adorable Depot Diner, and exploring Michigan Barn Wood & Salvage around the corner.

When we first walked into Michigan Barn Wood & Salvage, I fell in love! The store was already in full Christmas mode, with so many beautiful signs, decorations, and ornaments made out of reclaimed wood and metal. I’ve been trying to keep myself from getting too excited about Christmas, at least until we could get through Thanksgiving. But at the store, I couldn’t resist a “Ho Ho Ho” sign made out of wood and old license plates.

I also found some great gifts, which I’m not at liberty to write about until after Christmas, but I will say they have a ton of unique things that any Spartan or Wolverine would love!

I never knew this place existed, but it has made all of my vintage-loving dreams come true. It’s definitely worth a visit when you’re in the area.

Today, we spent the afternoon getting out a lot of our Christmas decorations at the house. I’ve been collecting Santa Claus figures the last couple of years from Target. They’re typically $10, but I’ve been able to scoop up a couple the day after Christmas at 50% off. Now that I have a little collection going, I thought it would be fun to line them up on our mantle.

I’m so happy with how our new “Ho Ho Ho” sign works with the Santas and our family’s stockings:

Now the question is, will I be able to resist another visit to Michigan Barn Wood & Salvage before the holiday? I’m thinking not. So I’ll see you there. I’ll be the one searching for this JOY sign:

Photo by Michigan Barn Wood & Salvage



DIY: Costume jewelry home decor

It’s been a few months since I made my friend Jen’s brooch bouquet for her wedding, and there are many things I loved about the project. There was the fun of figuring out how to make it all happen, finding and collecting the materials, and most importantly, creating a special item inspired by her personality and style.

I had a really good time hunting for jewelry at consignment stores, thrift stores, and even in my own stash. The phrase “the thrill of the hunt” truly applies to the process.

Recently, my friend Mary posted a photo of a framed Christmas tree made out of costume jewelry, and a light bulb went off. Here was another way to repurpose baubles to create something new and beautiful! I could make things for myself, but with Christmas around the corner, I could also make some really fun presents.

In the last couple of days, I’ve made trips to Hobby Lobby for supplies and Kellie’s Consignments for jeweled treasures.

In order to figure out the best way to make these, I did some Googling and found a great blog post from Retro Revival. She makes it incredibly simple!

I will plan on sharing more photos next month, because right now I am hoping and planning to give some of the creations as gifts.

For now, here is a wreath design I made for my friend Linda:

When we were celebrating our friend Erin’s birthday Monday night, I shared photos of a tree I was working on with my friends, and Linda fell for this bow brooch. She asked if I could create a wreath design that wasn’t too Christmasy, so that she could have it in her home year-round, with a distressed white frame.

This wreath was created with pins (some new, some vintage) and earrings. I’ve actually found that old clip-ons and stud earrings are my favorite things to work with for this type of project. The backs can be broken off easily, you get a pair of them to work with, and they’re often much less expensive than a jeweled pin. Many of the earrings I bought at Kellie’s Consignments were $3 and $4, but then marked down 60-80%.

I hope this inspires my fellow crafty friends and family to make some fun creations this holiday season or any time of year.

Happy Holi-DIYs!



Tips and tricks from an anxious event-goer

I have easily been to hundreds of concerts, musicals, and plays in my lifetime. Going to concerts in particular is one of my all-time favorite things to do, and it’s something that I’ve been lucky to enjoy with my husband, family, and friends over the years.

Yet anyone who has gone to a concert or other performance event with me knows that I am a person who gets anxiety about the whole process. Where will we park? How early should we get there? Where are our seats in proximity to the nearest bathroom and exit? Will we get stuck in the parking lot for hours? And on and on it goes.

I’d love to think of myself as a spontaneous person, but in many ways I am a planner. I want to be in control of my fate as much as possible, and because I’ve thought about the ins and outs of every angle, I’d like to think I’m an appropriate person to lead the way in a situation.

I remember looking back on family trips to Disney World and realizing that I would plot out which park we’d go to on which day, and explain the virtues of those plans to my parents. It was about having things go my way, but for the benefit of all, not just myself.

Zack knows this about me. For my Christmas present two years ago, he planned a weekend trip for us to visit Boston, a place that had been on our bucket list. He arranged the flight, hotel, care for Stella, and even told my work about it. But because he knows how much I love to plan, he didn’t make any reservations at restaurants or buy tickets to anything. He did however get a great list of recommendations from my cousin Eileen, who had lived in Boston for a while. It was the perfect present! I spent much of our car ride to my parents’ house on Christmas Day looking at Yelp reviews and making reservations on Open Table.

My friends have come to learn this about me as well. My friend Julia and I share a mutual bathroom anxiety at concerts. In our minds nothing could be worse at a concert than missing a favorite song while running to the bathroom or not enjoying the show because all we can think about is having to go to the bathroom. I love going to shows with her because we share these feelings. Even just looking at someone returning to their seats double-fisting huge beers gives me anxiety for them. How do people do it? I swear off beverages for concerts. It’s all too much. Don’t even get me started on going to movies either, for the same reasons.

Last summer I went to a concert with my friend Ellen for the first time at Meadow Brook, which is notorious for amping up my concert anxiety with its strange pavilion setup and crowded parking in its big grass lot. Because we would have a long drive back to the Lansing area after the show, I asked her if she’d be okay with us walking up from our seats to the lawn area to get a head start during the last song. She obliged, and we got out of there with ease.

Which leads me to what I’d like to call my tips and tricks of an anxious event-goer. Yes, I know I’m a little nuts. But this isn’t my first rodeo.

  • Try to buy tickets that are on an aisle. When Zack and I were MSU football season ticket holders, one of the things we didn’t like was getting stuck in our row at the end of a game. Win or lose, we’d be ready to get out of there, but we were always at the mercy of the glacial pace of the people to our left and right. And when you sit in the middle of a row, you always feel bad (or at least I do) when you have to get up to grab food or use the bathroom (there’s that bathroom anxiety again). Our best decision was switching our seat location to an aisle. I do this at the movies as much as possible, too. Even though there is the constant traffic coming in and out of the row, it’s still worth it for the freedom to get up and out as we please. If I ever have the opportunity to choose tickets on a seating map for a concert or performance, I always like to pick the aisle, even if it means being further back. Same for airplanes. For me, the aisle is life.
  • Check out the set list before the show. This might be considered sacrilege for those who want a spoiler-free experience, but just like the boy scouts I like to be prepared. Part of why I love looking at the set list is seeing which songs I should brush up on from the artist, especially if he or she is touring for a new album. If the set list is fairly consistent across a few shows, I can see when the encore is happening and what the last song might be. This gives me my exit cue. I can usually stay for the first part of the song and then start to make my way up the stairs from my seat. Even that little head start makes all of the difference, and I’ve never felt like I’ve missed something. My other trick is to talk to an usher or server at the venue to ask when the artists are expected on stage. This especially helps with opening acts that I may or may not want to miss, and gives me a good sense of when to be in my seat. Checking out the set list and knowing the start times are also a good opportunity to scope out potential bathroom breaks. Like I said already, I’m a nut about this stuff.
  • Try to park in a way that allows a swift exit if possible. In many ways, I’d rather have to walk farther to the venue from my parking spot if it means getting out of there faster. For events at the Palace of Auburn Hills (RIP), I would park as close to the back as possible because there was a direct exit onto I-75. If you parked too close to the venue, there would be cones blocking the way, forcing you to go with the rest of the traffic out a different exit as people spilled outside. Ultimately, walking an extra couple minutes saves a lot of time. After many shows at the Wharton Center, I discovered a parking hack that I use every time to great success. When you park at the Wharton Center, go to the very top of the structure. On the northwest corner, there is a spiral ramp that takes you directly down to the exit, without the need to wind down each level of the structure with the rest of the cars. If you don’t mind taking the stairs up to the top, you can save so much time parking at the top and using that little spiral ramp. You’re welcome!

I am very self-aware when it comes to how much I think and over think about this kind of stuff. There are times when I’m at a show and instead of being fully immersed, I’m already thinking about my exit strategy. On Marc Maron’s recent Netflix special, he talked about going to a concert with a friend and focusing on the parking challenges more than anything else. This spoke to me on such a deep level! I enjoy concerts and plays with my entire soul, but the logistics always creep into my mind.

Thankfully I have a very understanding husband and friends who go along with my crazy escape strategies and often say they appreciate that little victory of sailing out of a show with nary a brake light.

Now, the question is, does this make you want to go to a show with me, or have I scared you away for good?

Ooh La La Land: A review of ‘An American in Paris’

Before our daughter Margot was born on New Year’s Day, we snuck in one last movie at the theater: “La La Land.” So it seems only fitting that the first Broadway Series show at the Wharton Center I have had the opportunity to see this year was “An American in Paris,” which opened Tuesday evening and continues through Sunday, November 19.

Continue reading “Ooh La La Land: A review of ‘An American in Paris’”

Take my money, Target: Cat & Jack’s unicorn coat

Unicorns are having a moment. It seems that they are everywhere, and I am loving it.

Which is why I went absolutely bonkers when I saw a mom in a mommy Facebook group post a photo of her daughter’s new unicorn winter coat from Cat & Jack at Target. Immediately I checked online to see if I could still procure this mystical unicorn coat for Stella. Magically, the coat was available online and in the store in her size, not to mention on sale for $25.

Stella and I ran out to Target yesterday and scooped up the last 5T they had (sorry Okemos and surrounding area mamas). She is so proud of her coat that I don’t have to ask her twice to put it on OR wear the hood up, which is a battle I’m happy to say I’ve now won thanks to this glorious, teal garment.

This gal is crazy for color, and I’m here for it.


Three reasons why Lansing’s Brunch with Santa rocks

For the last several years, one of my favorite traditions to kick off the holiday season is Downtown Lansing’s Silver Bells in the City. And last year, for the first time, we enjoyed the annual Breakfast with Santa event at Troppo.

Stella was three years old, and the opportunity to start a special holiday tradition with her when she’d “get it” was one we didn’t want to pass up. Also with Margot’s due date just days after Christmas, it felt as though our entire Christmas holiday was going to be up in the air. We didn’t want to commit to anything, not knowing when little Margot might show up. Turns out, she waited until New Year’s Day. What a gal!

I was very excited to see that despite some changes to Troppo, the event will continue on during Silver Bells weekend this year, November 18-19.

I have our family all signed up for Brunch with Santa, and here are three reasons why I think it rocks.

  1. You get a quality photo with Santa Claus (and Mrs. Claus!) with no rush, no mall crowds, and no crazy-expensive prints. For Stella’s first couple visits to see Santa Claus, we went to Meridian Mall. That Santa Claus was awesome, but to purchase the photos was very expensive. Who needs a dozen wallet-size photos of your kid with Santa? Instead at the Brunch with Santa at Troppo, I was able to take photos with my own camera. There was also a photographer who shot a photo that we could purchase and receive digitally. The cost was minimal in comparison to mall prices, and I was glad we bought it. It turned out much better than my photos did. I also loved getting our photo with Santa knocked out in November so that I could order Christmas cards and not worry about expediting the printing and shipping.
  2. Crafting stations and activities like cookie decorating are included. When you’re done eating your pancake breakfast (which, by the way, is served very promptly. Awesome when all your kid wants to do it see Santa), you can head upstairs to a large room filled with holiday crafts. We spent a good 30 minutes making fun etching and painting crafts, and also decorated sugar cookies. This area is great to help break up the wait for Santa and also extend the fun.
  3. It’s a special way to celebrate the beginning of the holidays with your children right in downtown Lansing. Admittedly, we haven’t taken Stella to the Silver Bells in the City parade yet. Often it’s either very cold, very crowded, or both. And for the last many years, we’ve gone out to dinner with Zack’s cousin Brian and his partner Rion in downtown Lansing during the Silver Bells festivities. I hope to bring our girls to the parade in a few years, but I love that we can enjoy the spirit of the weekend together as a family without fighting crowds, traffic, cold, and bedtimes. Along with a photo with Santa and Mrs. Claus, a daytime visit downtown means getting some great photos of the state Christmas tree outside the Capitol building. If the parade isn’t your thing, Brunch with Santa is an excellent way to get little kids excited about the holidays… as if they needed the help!

Reservations are strongly encouraged and time slots usually sell out, so it’s good to book ahead of time. This year they have an online system, which is much easier than calling the restaurant during business hours. It helps make selecting a time and paying a snap.

Click here to make reservations. Maybe we’ll see you there!


In mommyhood, the only constant is change

A couple of weeks ago, I was wondering to myself, when did Stella grow up? At almost five years old, it feels that the changes in her are always happening, yet subtle. That’s why I was so amazed by how grown up she seemed in her school photos. It all just snuck up on me.

But when it comes to the little one, these changes keep smacking me in the face each and every day. There’s nothing subtle about Margot.

The time between seven and eight months old brought a lot of major milestones, such as sitting up on her own, saying Mama and Dada, and clapping her hands.

Margot turned 10 months old on November 1st, and for the last week it feels like her development has hit another gear. First, the little gal starting pulling herself up onto her knees in her crib and at the edge of the couch. Then in the last day, she has pulled herself up to standing in her play yard and her crib.

SLOW DOWN, girlfriend! In the last few weeks, crawling finally clicked for her. It never occurred to me that standing and (eek) cruising could be so close behind. Was it like this with Stella? I honestly can’t remember.

Also this past Saturday, Margot finally started to cut her first tooth. It always feels like the appearance of those first few teeth starts the transition from baby to soon-to-be toddler. Pretty soon, she won’t have that cute gummy smile anymore.

This past week has me amazed at how much can change in such a short amount of time. It’s a lesson I learned when Stella was little, but clearly forgot as she got older.

Each month of their first year was an opportunity to pause, reflect on the previous weeks, and make note of all of the changes. But I’ll admit that I’m not always very good as recording these things. The last few months in Margot’s baby book haven’t been filled in, and eventually I’ll refer to her monthly photos on my Instagram to fill in the blanks.

Life’s moving crazy fast lately. I can’t believe I was already thinking of invitations for Margot’s first birthday. Sometimes I try to imagine what she’ll be like when she turns one. Will (more) teeth finally come in? Will she be walking? What new words will she know?

But really, I need to slow down my brain and take it all one day at a time. She’s growing up fast enough as it is.



Yep, I’m obsessed with The Container Store’s wrapping paper

When I moved to Chicago for grad school almost 10 years ago (woof… where did that decade go?), one of the favorite places my mom and I liked to go when she drove in to visit me was The Container Store. It seems quaint, considering there are two locations in the Metro Detroit area now, but at the time it was always an exciting adventure.

The best discovery we made during a pre-holiday visit to The Container Store was their Gift Wrap Wonderland. That place carries the most beautiful array of Christmas wrapping paper and coordinating accessories I have ever seen. I love that they range from very minimalist to vintage to whimsical to elegant and everything in-between.

Somehow in the last few years, it has finally clicked with me that buying quality paper makes wrapping presents easier and more enjoyable. And buying coordinating paper creates the opportunity to mix and match the paper for presents without them looking like a mixed bag of gift wrap scraps. I have learned from my mom how much presentation of presents makes all the difference. Her gifts are like pieces of art.

Even though I could probably make the trip to visit one of the Michigan locations, I decided to take a look at their wrapping paper online this weekend and I. Am. In. Love. I ended up placing an order for several rolls of Christmas wrapping paper, as well as some rolls that can be used for birthday gifts.

I couldn’t resist the gorgeous green and white Boxwood gift wrap or the whimsical Wild Holiday Animals gift wrap pictured above. I also found the beautiful Green Marrakesh paper that could be used for Christmas gifts or any other occasion.

And this might be my favorite non-Christmas find of the day: DONUT PAPER.

So if you’re ever looking for wrapping paper that takes it up several notches and makes gift giving even more fun, get thee to The Container Store. Or stay on your couch on a gloomy day like I did and go wild on their website!



Two-ingredient pancakes to make anyone smile

At 10 months old, Margot is well into eating solids, and it’s safe to say she is such a happy eater. Despite not having any teeth yet, she has been enjoying bites of table food as well as her purees for the last several months.

When Stella was first getting into solid foods, I discovered a recipe for quick and easy pancakes in a mommy Facebook group. The best part about them is that they only require two ingredients: banana and eggs. They were a great option for introducing eggs (gotta get that protein in) with the sweetness of the banana, and strangely enough, they basically look and taste like regular pancakes! I also loved having an option for using up an overripe banana that didn’t involve banana bread.

I continued to make them for Stella even as she got older as a healthier and easier alternative to regular pancakes. But now her diet mostly consists of peanut butter sandwiches, applesauce, yogurt, cheese sticks, and bananas, so our little miss picky hasn’t wanted to have anything to do with the pancakes in the last year.

This week I decided to make them for Margot, and it looks like our family is 2 for 2 when it comes to the two-ingredient pancakes!

Continue reading “Two-ingredient pancakes to make anyone smile”