Finished: Cinnamon Stick Ornaments

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I had the pleasure of creating these cinnamon stick ornaments over Thanksgiving weekend when my parents were visiting and my mom, my daughter, and I took over the dining room table for some crafting. This project resulted from a Pinterest fail (trying to make stars out of the sticks), but since I had bought two pounds of cinnamon sticks and a pound of star anise, I figured out another way to use them.

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I love how these simple ornaments turned out. I just cut out a rectangle of Christmas-themed craft paper, hot glued cinnamon sticks to make a border, and adorned the frame with some star anise and other decorative elements. I made the scroll from watercolor paper hand stamped with a seasonally appropriate message (“Joy” and “peace” are my favorite holiday sentiments by far!). Given that I am partial to a rustic theme at the holidays, these fit well into that motif.

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These inexpensive ornaments make great gifts for neighbors, friends, and family and would be the perfect craft activity for a gathering of likeminded crafty people. My parents and the kids constructed ships, rafts, and other fun items out of the cinnamon sticks while we made these, so there are endless possibilities with this natural and nice-smelling craft material!

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I even made a wreath to hang above the kitchen with them and a circle cut from cardboard. I’ve enjoyed looking at it all season long.

Happy holidays!

Mid-December

In looking back to last year’s December posts, I am remiss that I neglected to write more about our family’s happenings. So I don’t regret skimming over these details again, I am committing myself to blogging a few more times in 2014. (Even though I’d rather be baking cookies!)

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In one week since preschool closed its doors, we’ve been busy on the holiday circuit, attending some gatherings put on by friends, traveling to unique exhibits (like the Shrek display at a local mall), watching timeless productions (such as The Nutcracker), and filling time with everyday activities like swimming at the YMCA, walking outdoors, and playing at home. Later today, I’ll take the kids to a movie in the theater. It feels like a real rite of passage to incorporate a movie-going experience into our Christmas traditions. It’s certainly an exciting activity to fill a cold, almost-winter afternoon!

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The kids are crazy, of course! Carson is pretending to be Santa on a twice-daily basis, lining up small chairs and stools to make a sleigh and adorning a Santa hat while he delivers toys to deserving children. Nora has been crafting ornaments and coloring numerous Christmas-themed pictures. And we’ve been singing lots of carols and the Hanukkah songs the kids learned at school. This year I’ve even been keeping up with the Hanukkah candles, something that the kids are excited to light every night as we continue to wait for Santa’s arrival. It’s always an advantage to have this multi-faith lineage at this time of year–there are more things to do!

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With the joyous happenings swirling in our life right now, it took me a good week to finally sit down and apply my Christmas nails from Jamberry (I cannot believe that I am the type of person to have “Christmas nails,” but life is short and I am embracing this trend). I love this faux-sweater pattern. These cute nails are even helping me get through some last-minute freelance projects that presented themselves just a few days ago.

My brother and his wife arrive on Christmas Eve, and we are excited to celebrate this magical holiday with some of our favorite people. There will be lots of traditions to enjoy with them–special foods, Steve and my brother’s “Burt Reynolds Hanukkah” that involves watching many cheesy and horrible movies, viewings of favorite movies like White Christmas–and we plan to journey to Baltimore to enjoy the National Aquarium as well.

I hope you are also enjoying these days leading up to Christmas!

New House: Christmas Decorating 2014

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This year, I’ve focused much of my blog on decorating our new house. While I don’t consider myself to be a master decorator (and certainly not a very good photographer!), I would definitely state interior design as one of my major hobbies in 2014. And through my various projects, I feel like we’ve made a pretty cozy home in the last eight months.

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To conclude the year, I enjoyed figuring out where all of our holiday decorations would live. Steve and I decided to move at this time last year, so we’ve been looking forward to coming full circle with the moving process at this year’s festive season. We’ve been talking about where to place the tree for months and casing the aisles at stores for Christmas holiday decorating inspiration.

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We placed our tree next to the fireplace and by the stairs so we didn’t have to move any furniture in the room to accommodate this seasonal accessory. It’s wonderful to look at it while we’re enjoying a fire in the fireplace or catching a seasonal movie (Elf or Christmas Vacation, anyone?). It also cheers up our stone mantel, which I decorated with Christmas favorites from year’s past as well as a lighted berry garland. I just adore that wood Santa in the middle of the mantel, which was a wedding gift from a dear friend nearly nine years ago!

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Last year I fell in love with the rustic look and bought some new decorations, so I’ve added my somewhat new cable-knit reindeer and snowman above our TV along with a sleigh filled with fabric-covered styrofoam balls and my favorite silver owl.

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And to cheer up our living room near the large windows and piano (and utilize the many plant hooks that reside in our 1928 tudor!), we added some oversized ornaments, which I adore.

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We’ve made a very cozy holiday nest for our family and friends this holiday season. I look forward to entertaining and enjoying our home during this merry time.

I hope you’ve made your space festive and cozy to help minimize the dark and cold nights of December. If not, cuddling up to a favorite movie or book will surely help! Happy holidays! 

Keeping Them Busy

IMG_5668With the weather getting cold and Christmas still weeks away, Steve and I are planning to keep our kids busy until Old St. Nick comes down the chimney. We tried the Home Depot kid workshop last weekend, which I highly recommend for quality family time on a Saturday morning. We hammered, glued, and painted holiday yard decorations. Though I didn’t shellac them for outside, we are enjoying them by the tree, and they make excellent puppets.

Preschool lets out Friday for the rest of 2014, so I’ll be working through a “Christmas Camp” Google document to keep things moving along before December 25. Activities include The Nutcracker, carols, parties, visits to holiday exhibits, baking, crafts, and more. Send healthy and happy thoughts our way as we navigate this somewhat long holiday break!

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Finished: NYC Coasters

It seems rather long ago when I used this blog as a vehicle to document my craft projects. How life has changed since the arrival of Nora in 2010! However, I’ve done some successful crafting as of late, so I’ll go back to my roots and blog a bit about it. :)

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I created three sets of four coasters of New York City scenes for family and friends who have recently moved apartments in the city. I’d been wanting to try my hand at more sets of these since I made some for my mom a few years ago and this was the perfect opportunity.

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To make these I used basic tile purchased at Lowes, old postcards that I’ve had for ages that featured famous paintings of New York, Modge Podge, cork for backing the coasters, tacky glue, and polyurethane to seal the tops of the coasters for hot and cold beverages. (When I made some for my mom I didn’t realize the Modge Podge didn’t seal and was a little disappointed how mugs of hot coffee left rings on her set–though once dried they went away.)

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The process of making them took several days but not long on any given day. I cut the postcards to size (it was fun to make sets out of my random postcards!) one day and Modge Podged them. The next day I cut cork to fit underneath the coasters and glued it to the back of each tile. On the final day I coated the top of each coaster with polyurethane to seal it. I was a little annoyed that the poly left a shiny finish (I love the matte look), but overall I was pleased with the finished product.

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A perfect housewarming gift for my tight-for-space New York peeps!

The Revolving Door of Parenting

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I spent the morning pawing through the basement, gathering items to donate to my children’s preschool charity drive. The organization serves children in need in our area and is known to be excellent, so I couldn’t let the opportunity pass to donate through the school.

After filling up the entire trunk of my car and dropping off baby clothes, shoes, toys, gear, and books, I felt a great sense of accomplishment but also a tinge of sadness. How can it be that my children are beyond Mega Blocks, basic board books, and bottle supplies? Is it really true that Nora will celebrate her fifth Christmas this year? Have I really been a mom that long?! I realized my truly broken-in parent status when I read the car seat’s manufacturer sticker and saw that it expires this spring. I remember taking it out of the box like it was yesterday . . .

However, joys come with this bittersweet day. I have to remember how amazing this current phase of life is with my preschool-aged children (however trying these days are leading up to Christmas!). Though I am sure future years will be very vibrant, these days may be the best ones from the parenting perspective. In years two through five so much happens, and children express their love and devotion in such outward ways. I am so lucky to spend afternoons snuggling with my little ones, and they are never hesitant to say “I love you Mama”–even in public!

During the big clean out, I updated Carson’s bedroom library to include more Dr. Seuss, Berenstein Bears, and other favorite picture books. Nora’s shelf now contains a whole section of chapter books that I’m sure we’ll begin to read to her within the next year, and she’s really enjoying those in the “Ready to Read” level these days. We’re a far cry away from those mornings spent reading one-word-per-page board books next to the crib.

I guess this is just a common tale of the revolving door of parenting. When one phase passes, another enters, often seamlessly. You know that saying: long days, short years. It couldn’t be more true.

Feeling Festive

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I teased this weekend that we were planning to decorate our house for the holidays soon. Well, we’ve been decking our halls for the last few days, and I just love how cozy and warm our house feels! Now that we’re nearing the winter solstice, these dark days are getting to me. I absolutely need the lights, candles, and cheer that come with this festive time of year.IMG_5622_edited-1

Though it’s only December 3, we are well on our way to having quite a full and merry month, which I am happy to embrace. I recall some years recently when I had slipped into the darkness of the season, unable to enjoy the festivity around me while I barely kept my head above water. I am grateful to savor the season this year and am hopeful that you can feel the joy too.

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I’ll be filling my calendar with music performances, light displays, marathon baking sessions, church events, gatherings with friends and family, and quiet time by the tree as well. These are my favorite ways to feel the spirit of the season. I hope you can find what makes you happiest during this time to escape stress and anxiety; it often seems like there is an endless checklist dancing in my head! However, while I cede to moments of wigginess now and again, it helps to know what I truly enjoy at this time of year so I can avoid the things I despise (for example, shopping in stores on the weekends and looking through too many picture-perfect catalogs!).

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Let’s all take a deep breath and embrace what gives us joy during this last month of the year. We have to have faith that everything else will fall into place.

New House: Our Temporary Dining Room

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In preparation for hosting family at Thanksgiving, Steve and I invested in a few elements in the house to get the place ready for guests. In October we painted the attic, and in November we realized that we needed a better dining situation than our kitchen if we were to host my parents (or any guest for that matter!) for an extended stay.

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For the warmer months we utilize the large picnic table in our screened-in porch quite often, so we’ve never faced entertaining in the cold weather. Enter, the dining room!

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To date, our dining room has been our play room, housing toys and books and providing ample space for play. However, we converted it for its intended purpose for Thanksgiving week, which made it a great room for eating meals, hosting a casual Thanksgiving brunch, and crafting some holiday gifts. While it was awesome to have a real dining room for that week, I was delighted to get the play room back once company left–the kids need lots of space!

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To get the room ready to be a “real” dining room, I added new curtains from West Elm. While I was happy to sew more curtains, I found these mustard-yellow and gray ones on the trendy site and on sale to boot! I chose a yellow/gold for this room because I’ve steered toward rich jewel tones in our house’s first floor, and I have only had eyes for blues as of late. I needed something that blended with burgundy and indigo.

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We added our kitchen table (with a leaf) and a tablecloth to make this a full-fledged dining room. At some point we’ll invest in a dining set, but this temporary set up really did work well in the space. Now it’s ready for our Christmas visitors and other events to come in the colder months.

Ready, Set, Go!

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We’re now in the official Christmas holiday season so it’s time to execute! Steve got a jump start on our outdoor decorations this week by illuminating a Japanese maple smack dab in the front of our house. My dad snapped this great pic of our place after a light pre-Thanksgiving dusting. This weekend we’ll add a few more strands of lights as well as a small Santa. Christmas is a very challenging time to stay tasteful but be fun!

After a wonderful Thanksgiving spent with many of our extended family, we will begin to decorate the inside of our house soon. Then it’s time to wrap, bake, and create! And the best part of our holiday season is that we’ve bookended it with visits from our family out West, making sure we’ll have merriment throughout this jam-packed few months.

I’ll be back with some pics of our Christmas decorations soon–I’m looking forward to seeing how things come together in our new house. For now we’ll recover from a super-fun and busy week of hosting my parents. There’s never a dull moment during the holiday season!

A Good Life

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With Thanksgiving approaching, I’ve had lots of reasons to feel grateful lately. My parents are visiting, we will celebrate with lots of family and friends tomorrow, and I have the world’s best job as a mostly stay-at-home mom to two adorable children. Plus I have a super-cute husband who can get just about anything done!

This past weekend we traveled to New York City to see a family friend’s art exhibit in Brooklyn, tour the new apartments of my brothers-in-law, and visit with my college bestie and her boyfriend. Though it was a whirlwind day, the joy I felt made the trip totally worth it. Here I am with Emmy Jean in front of the art exhibit. So fun to be catching up with old friends and experiencing culture (I am not able to visit adult art exhibits much these days!).

Happy Thanksgiving to you all! Hope to get some more Christmas-themed posts up this December!