Yep, I asked for a shower cap for Christmas

When I was a kid, coming up with a Christmas list was the easiest and most fun thing to do in the world. This doll, that art set, the leather hat that Alisa Reyes wore in the original “All That” intro:

The fact that my mom found me a hat like this made it one of the best Christmases ever!

As an adult, a homeowner, and a mama, that has changed dramatically. Sometimes, stuff can become overwhelming.

A couple of years ago, Zack became big a fan of the KonMari Method and, just as Marie says, I was inspired to get organized without Zack even mentioning it to me. Even just yesterday I donated a huge bag of clothes and shoes and it felt incredible.

So when it came to giving my family Christmas gift ideas, I tried to err on the side of practicality. Things like new black TOMS to replace the ones I’ve worn into the ground, literally.

And, quite possibly one of the most random and practical gifts I’ve ever asked for, a shower cap. But not just any shower cap.

The SHHHOWERCAP.

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Santa: To wrap or not to wrap, that is the question

One of the magical things about Christmas is that while much of the holiday is steeped in traditions, there are so many different kinds of traditions. As annoying as most found that “Frozen’s Olaf Adventure” special before seeing “Coco,” I did appreciate how it showed that each family has their own special ways of celebrating Christmastime.

When my husband and I were dating, we did our best to celebrate Christmas together while also holding on to the ways that we celebrated Christmas with our own families. But when we got married, a lot of traditions had to combine or evolve. That changed even more after having kids.

Which brings me to the big guy. Kris Kringle. St. Nick. Santa Claus. The man.

When Stella was old enough to understand Santa Claus, Zack and I realized that Santa did things very differently in Farmington Hills and Holt. When Santa visited my house, his presents were left on the coffee table by the fireplace, our stockings filled with goodies sitting next to an empty plate of cookies. Santa didn’t wrap our presents. It made the moment we came downstairs so fun and surprising. Look! He brought me the doll I wanted from the Franklin Mint! (How sweet was that store??)

But when Santa visited Zack in Holt, the presents were wrapped — in a different paper, of course. They sell different kinds of paper in the North Pole. Santa also hid Zack’s stocking for him to find.

So what would he do for Stella? What would our family tradition be?

Ultimately, we agreed to tell Santa that he didn’t have to wrap the presents he brought to Okemos. Save Mrs. Claus and the elves the time. But Santa could absolutely hide Stella’s Christmas stocking somewhere in the house after eating some cookies.

I’ve seen so many posts in mommy Facebook groups asking this very question though: does Santa wrap his gifts or not?

And while I have my own sentimental and practical feelings on the matter for our family, the beautiful thing is that there isn’t one correct answer. Like most things, all that matters is what works for each family to make it the most magical time possible.

Merry Christmas Eve, all!

If you need me, I’ll be busy making Paper Source’s mermaid crafts

It’s safe to say that one of my favorite things to do with Stella is arts and crafts. As a person who went to summer arts camp through the Farmington Public Schools for six years and asked for crazy-big art sets for Christmas, I love seeing Stella hunker down with stacks of construction paper and washi tape to “make projects,” as she says.

So when my mom came up to visit us and brought some fun holiday crafts to work on with Stella, my eyes lit up at the sight of this fantastic Paper Source kit:

I mean come on, CHRISTMAS MERMAIDS. Together, my mom and Stella made some adorable creations that we put on our tree:

I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the Elmer’s glue this week and make more mermaids. The kit comes with various mermaid tails, hairstyles, and accessories that are a lot of fun to mix and match. The card stock is nice and thick, so with a bit of care, I think these sweet mermaids will last over the years. It was also fun to create some mermaid “ornaments” for friends this Christmas.

Upon writing this post, I discovered that Paper Source has all sorts of adorable DIY kits, from a succulent wreath kit to a pizza garland kit that I think my friend Ellen needs to have.

And while the Holiday Mermaids Kit is sold out online, there’s a non-seasonal Mermaid Craft Kit to fill your DIY mermaid-loving heart with glee.

Thank you to my mom and to Paper Source for the gift I didn’t know I wanted or needed: the gift of a Santa merman in a striped tank top.

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DIY: Yes way, crochet

I first learned how to crochet as a kid with help from one of our family’s babysitters, Vi. Vi taught me the basics of creating a chain and how to do a double crochet stitch, and even almost 20 years later, I have a deeply rooted muscle memory when it comes to crochet. It’s something I can stop doing for months at a time, and then pick right back up again.

The wintertime is my crochet time. It’s fun to cozy up to a crochet project on the couch when it’s snowy and cold outside, and of course now is the prime time for making Christmas gifts.

My skills haven’t ventured beyond things that are square or rectangular, so the things I’ve made over the years have been different varieties of scarves and blankets. In recent years, I’ve used tutorials online to learn how to connect the ends of a finished scarf to make it a cowl/infinity shape.

This year, I decided to watch some YouTube videos to see if I could learn some new stitches and techniques, and I discovered something. I’ve been crocheting incorrectly the whole time. My first row after the chain? Wrong. The reason why my edges look like little zigzags? I’m starting my first stitch in the wrong spot and ending the row too soon.

My whole crochet world was rocked by these discoveries. I blame my faulty memory and not sweet Vi. I’ve also realized I need to read the label on my yarn more carefully and use the suggested crochet hook size in order to make the project be at its best. For too long, I’ve disregarded this important component of crochet, picking yarns I like and using whatever crochet hook I can find at home.

The thing I love about YouTube and the internet in general is that you can really learn (or relearn) how to do just about anything. So in my venture to become a better crocheter (is that a word?), I searched for some easy-to-follow tutorials.

With the help of Melanie Ham, I not only learned about the half-double crochet stitch, but also how to crochet in the round to make an infinity scarf.

This very simple tutorial has helped me change up my scarf-making repertoire. I’ve still had some challenges, such as accidentally adding a twist to the infinity shape or crocheting an entire row all the way around before realizing I was doing it upside down (okay, I did that about three times and undoing all of that work wasn’t fun any of the times).

But, I’m getting the hang of it, and enjoying the meditative experience of crocheting in the round.

I imagine I could also do some ear warmer headbands with this technique, and those would undoubtedly go pretty quickly in comparison to a long infinity scarf style.

Next, I’m hoping to learn how to make hats, which I’ve never done before. And maybe some granny squares for a blanket after that.

Crochet is definitely that old friend I don’t get to see very often, but when I do, we pick up right where we left off. And I’m always learning something new about it.

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Themed Christmas trees for our daughters (and doggy)

In the past week, our family has decorated four Christmas trees: a larger tree filled with family ornaments; a mini tree with star ornaments; a mini tree with pearl ornaments; and a mini tree with fox ornaments.

The mini trees represent the little girls and pup in our family.

All of this started in 2009, the year Zack and I got married and shortly thereafter, adopted our goofy dog Zuzu. We went to Bronner’s in Frankenmuth and looked for an ornament to commemorate Zuzu’s first Christmas with us. They have a million ornaments, and plenty dedicated to specific dog breeds, but none of them looked like our goofy dog. Finally, we spotted a fox ornament that looked a lot like her.

We’ve been collecting fox ornaments ever since. Amazingly, there are a lot of them to be found out there. After a couple years, we had enough of them to place them on two small trees that flanked our fireplace. And after eight years,  the collection has grown to nearly 50 foxes.

Now, Zuzu has her own mini tree:

When we were expecting Stella in March 2013, my family threw us a baby shower that January. I had an idea that if the guests wanted, they could bring a star ornament in honor of her name to be used on her own Christmas tree.

We ended up with several beautiful star ornaments of all different types. And for the last several Christmases, we’ve decorated Stella’s star tree:

And finally, with our Margot due in late December of last year, we continued the tradition and asked for pearl ornaments in honor of her name to go on her very own Christmas tree. Pearl-themed ornaments proved to be a bit of a challenge compared to stars, but our family found a beautiful array of ornaments featuring pearls.

Even though Margot missed her own first Christmas by arriving on New Year’s Day, I still decorated the tree for her last year. We also had her stocking ready and a Baby’s First Christmas ornament in place, but instead of a baby photo inside, there’s a sonogram picture.

Now, Margot’s pearl tree is a part of our tradition:

Themed trees are so much fun, with their endless options and opportunities for creativity. I’d love to have a Michigan State-themed tree one day, but I think Zack might think five trees is a little nuts.

It brings me so much joy to decorate our Christmas trees each year. There’s often an ornament or two that I’ve forgotten about, and one glance brings a flood of memories about where and who they came from.

I’m looking forward to the girls being able to understand how special their trees and ornaments are, that they were loved by so many even before they were born.

Family, friends, and traditions. That’s what Christmas means to me my love.

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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!

 

Thankful for the art of the thank you note

It’s the day before my birthday, and already I’ve been lucky enough to enjoy some early birthday celebrations with friends and family. That means I’ve also been writing a lot of thank you notes lately.

Thank you notes are a form of correspondence that I hope continues on in some form or fashion, no matter what ends up happening to mail in the future.

Because mail is the BEST. Okay, fun mail is the best, junk mail is a pain and waste of paper, bills are a reminder of adulting, and Restoration Hardware catalogs are encyclopedias. But really, checking the mail is one of my most favorite daily rituals, which means Sundays and holidays are wah-wah for me in that department. Ever since I was little, I have loved running to the mailbox to see what’s inside.

In the same way giving presents has become even more fun than receiving presents as I’ve gotten older, I absolutely love sending mail. And while the art of letter writing has mostly gone by the wayside, there’s still something very special, and necessary, about the art of the thank you note.

Gratitude comes in many forms. While thank you notes can seem old-fashioned in a world where we can tag, tweet, and text, taking the extra step to write out a little note goes that extra mile.

My favorite stationery for thank you notes are the Green Inspired cards from Target, because of course. Their cards are whimsical and feel great, and I particularly love the corresponding envelopes.

Aren’t these pretty?! Why shouldn’t an envelope be as special as what’s inside?

Another thing that makes thank you notes even more special to me is a fun stamp. Even though it means braving the post office with at least one child in tow, I love picking out the decorative Forever stamps. These Disney Villains ones are my new favorites:

Someone else who also loves and appreciates the art of mail and cards is Jen, who created the fantastic amaze balls card seen at the top of this page. Her Etsy shop has a ton of hilarious and fun designs for cards. Jen gave me a set of her cards a few years ago, and I’m still holding onto some of them because I can’t bear to send them away yet.

I’m thankful that the art of the thank you note isn’t dead. I’m thankful for the things that make the art of thank you note writing fun.

And I’m so beyond thankful for the people on the receiving end of my thank you notes.

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etsy love: CreativeSpiritGlass

After a relatively quiet summer, wedding season has been on full blast this last month. Jen’s wedding was on August 5th, we had a family wedding the following weekend, and next weekend will be my college friend Sayee’s wedding in metro Detroit.

While I’m all about sticking to the registry when it comes to wedding and shower gifts, I’ve also enjoyed finding opportunities to give couples a timeless gift that will always remind them of their wedding day.

A favorite Etsy shop I’ve discovered is Anne Malone’s CreativeSpiritGlass. Anne is from Greenwich, Connecticut, and her shop is filled with beautiful stained glass art pieces, jewelry boxes, and sun catchers. Anne also creates custom-designed frames and keepsake boxes using invitations.

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