Festive Festivities

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The final week of 2016. Wow, what a year! It’s been a packed one, full of highs and lows and those in-between days.

Our house has been bopping this holiday season, hosting many family and friends for festivities and overnight stays. We’ve celebrated Christmas and Hanukkah and are reveling in winter break from school (which seems like a holiday in itself!). Earlier this week, we scored last-minute tickets to Disney on Ice, which felt like a great cap for the kids to a very fun and festive season.

I am happily brainstorming more exciting times in 2017. Now that we’re three years into our house and just one and a half years away from having the kids in full-time free school (yay!), I am starting to want more of our money to go to fun (rather than home repairs and tuition). Trips, tickets, amusements, you name it. I am challenging myself to come up with plenty of fun and not-too-outrageous plans for the year ahead!

Happy new year (almost)!

The Year in Crafting

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Honestly, 2016 wasn’t my best year for crafting. Or for reading. Or for blogging. Or for other leisure pursuits. *Sigh.* I did have a gangbuster year with my freelance business, so I’ll put that feather in my cap as I close out this year. If life was perfect, I would have worked a bit less and relaxed a bit more. I am aiming for this in 2017!

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I did have an epic craft storm for a few months this fall, which resulted in making several felt ornaments aligned with the “Twelve Days of Christmas.” I stuck with numbers one and two this year, stitching several pears, partridges, and turtle doves from August through November. Part of me would love to bust out the super-cute French Hen for my tree before Christmas decorating passes for another year. We shall see!

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These ornaments are from beautiful patterns designed by Larissa Holland. I am just a little bit obsessed with her aesthetic!

Last Preschool Christmas

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Yesterday marked Carson’s holiday performance at preschool and the start of his winter break. Nora, being the elementary-school big shot that she now is, will not be done until the afternoon of the 23rd. Things are getting real when it comes to this school calendar.

Carson loved performing his special songs for the audience, including “Keep Christmas With You” and “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas.” We had a singalong of Hanukkah and Christmas songs as well. It’s the last time we’ll be at this preschool performance (kindergarten for C beckons next year!), so the usual sentimental tears I shed at this annual event were even greater in number. Watching those moms of young children wrestle their brood made me even more watery-eyed! Life is evolving for me these days…

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A true miracle came when Carson met Santa Claus. My fearful-of-dressed-up-characters offspring have avoided meeting Santa to date this holiday season, but Carson was pretty willing to sit on the big man’s lap after the performance. What does he want this year, you ask? A lot!

I hope you are having a great December. I just wrapped a big project and have one more to go until the jolly fellow arrives Christmas Eve! I am ready to see the kids tear into their presents!

My Christmas Wish List: 1985

Dear Santa,

Can I please have a Day and Night Barbie for Christmas? I would also like her office/bedroom set! I promise I have been a good girl this year!

Love,

Natalie

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P.S. My baby brother would really appreciate this Garfield.

Postscript: Received and loved that Barbie. Totally loved it. Maybe even had two! Still trying to live up to Barbie’s societal expectations, but no hard feelings. 🙂

Thanks Please Touch Museum in Philadelphia for collecting and displaying these vintage toys. Brings back many fond memories.

Holiday Highlights

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I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season with family and friends. I feel like the last few weeks have been nonstop, with visits to and from family, activities to keep multiple generations happy, and constant meal preparation. The remainder of our week will be a little more normal (my parents just left today [sniff, sniff]), but I am not sure I am ready to clear out the Christmas decorations or stop eating holiday treats quite yet.

I’ve had a great stretch of being unplugged, which coincided with my parents’ visit. I continue to be flush with freelance work (yay!), but I was able to step away from the screen for a few days to refresh. How nice it was! I am slowly getting back into work mode as the week progresses and deadlines loom.

Our holiday was full of excitement. The freakishly warm weather took away a little of my spirit at Christmas, but it was fun nonetheless. We actually grilled our Christmas dinner to avoid having the oven on for hours! I didn’t think we’d ever get a 70-degree-plus day on Christmas in Philly. However, the kids’ excitement did not wane, and they adored their many gifts and all of our family gatherings.

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I am thrilled with how much we’ve been able to do in 2015, and the holiday season has been no different. With each year, the kids get more excited to travel and embark on adventures. Our trip to New York City included an elevator ride to the top of the Empire State Building. Another outing took us to Longwood Gardens, and we enjoyed the holiday happenings with Nora walking most of the way.IMG_8222

We’re beginning to plan travel and hatch other ideas for 2016. I am excited to have a clean calendar in January and  hope to hunker down with some cold weather in the coming weeks to recharge for exciting months ahead. Before we get to 2016 though, my hubby and I are marking our TEN year anniversary. How time goes by …

 

 

A Very Star Wars Christmas

Like many of you, our family is Star Wars-crazy right now. It’s pretty hard to escape the franchise this year, with Disney’s marketing efforts going above and beyond. It seems that all everyday items have Star Wars branding and that nearly every toy store or toy section is bursting with light sabers, action figures, and more.

Of course, with a captive 3-year-old-boy in the house, we’re all in on this Star Wars stuff. Imaginext Millennium Falcon? Check. Darth Vader Mr. Potato Head? Check. Light sabers from Santa (for both kids)? Check. Nora’s purchased a Darth Vader mask for Carson, and my brother and sister-in-law even got in on the action, shipping an adorable stuffed Yoda for Christmas morning. Star Wars is a family affair!

I can take comfort in the fact that Star Wars is a universally loved and timeless franchise, so this stuff should remain of interest for years to come. And Carson hasn’t yet seen the movies beyond A New Hope, which got him a little too wound up and jumpy this summer. We’ll hold off on more viewing parties in the foreseeable future, but the Lego Star Wars options are pretty amazing substitutes right now. Plus, he has no trouble playing with the Storm Trooper and Darth Vader action figures he got earlier this year. He’s got a lively imagination.

In other Christmas gifting news:

Carson asked Santa for the Paw Patrol hub — a truck that can hold three characters and that comes with Ryder. He’d seen it at other kids’ houses, and his mind was blown by it. Having a few years of children’s gift-giving under our belts, Steve and I knew we needed to get this as soon as he was committed, and we used our Amazon credit card points to snag it in early November along with a few of the pups. Well, thank goodness we did! This toy and the pups are crazy expensive and hard to get on Amazon now! The supply and demand of Christmas toys is really an amazing thing to watch.

Gifting for a 5-year-old is pretty fun. Nora’s still a year shy of kindergarten, but she’s interested in so many things. In her haul? A pop-up atlas, a new coat, road tape and road signs, and Michelle Obama paperdolls. She’ll love all of these. And because Steve and I can’t help ourselves, we did splurge on a few Barbies and some doll outfits. She doesn’t love toys, but I can’t help but think she will play with them in different stages of her life.

Christmas came early for me this year. I upgraded my computer on Black Friday and now am enjoying an iMac with a nice large screen. Of course, it’s for my freelance work, but I am happy to know I’ll begin 2016 with good ergonomics! And maybe it will save my eyes for another few years. Adult Christmas presents are a little more practical and expensive, wouldn’t you say?

Finished: Christmas Napkins

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I’ve been a crafter for my entire life. In my adult years, I’ve enjoyed making handmade items around the holidays. However, in an effort to avoid half-finished projects in December, I always make it my goal to finish any crafting by Thanksgiving. That way I can turn my attention to all of the other holiday merry-making as we lead up to Santa’s arrival.

This year I want to have a beautifully set table for Christmas meals. I just bought a few items to serve as the table’s centerpiece, and I’ll use these newly made napkins for each table setting. Generally I am a low-fuss entertainer, but there’s something special about having a beautiful home around Christmas. Plus, I have piles of Christmas fabric sitting in my attic waiting for me to do something with them.

These were easy to put together. I got in my head that each napkin should have perfectly mitered corners but quickly gave up on that after taking a step back and asking myself who would notice. With just a few creases to iron and a little straight sewing, these came together in no time.

I am enlisting the kids to make some napkin rings to adorn these cute vintage-inspired Santa napkins. This is the same fabric on Carson’s Christmas stocking, and I am glad to feature it elsewhere in our decor because I adore the print.

 

Savoring the Season

I admit, I’ll be sad to put the Christmas tree away tomorrow. This season of merriment has been one of the best in my adult life, likely because it’s been filled with family, fun activities, and delicious food. In that same vein, I’ll have trouble saying good-bye to 2014. We had a great year, complete with a move, a family wedding (just got to see the amazing pictures!), and countless adorable kid memories. Many of our friendships with longtime connections and new neighbors flourished, and we got more involved with our local community. I also had great luck in getting my freelance editing business going, and I hope to continue to build my network and grow my income in 2015.

Nevertheless, tomorrow I’ll enjoy the final day of the year celebrating my nine-year wedding anniversary and packing away the Christmas machine. (Though I think I’ll keep a winter mantel for a few more weeks.) I always enter January with reticence, aware of the month’s bleakness. I am hopeful that my husband’s odd work schedule, big football games, and Downton Abbey will be enough to keep January interesting and bopping along with minimal winter blues. Though I have no control over the weather . . .

Before 2014 comes to a close, here are some highlights of this year’s holiday season:

IMG_5590Meeting Santa more times than we could count on our hand. We saw Santa on a firetruck, on a motorcycle, at light shows, at the mall, at preschool, and even at the Philadelphia Flyers family day. The kids enjoyed their Santa encounters, though Nora was curious about why Santa’s outfits kept changing (she’s always quick to notice the different boots). I’m certain next year I’ll have to explain that Santa has many impersonators who help him out during the high-demand season!

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Spending Christmas with my brother and his wife. We enjoyed a five-day visit from my brother and his wife, who arrived Christmas Eve. They were fresh horses for my kids who have been subject to their parents’ holiday fatigue and were wonderful to chat with throughout the at-home days of Christmas. We loved seeing my parents at Thanksgiving as well as Steve’s more local family throughout the season. As I age, these family gatherings mean the most to me at the holidays.

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Enjoying the neighborhood lights. In our new neighborhood, everyone loves to decorate their homes for the holidays (Halloween too!). Here’s a favorite just a few blocks away. We added a few minutes onto many car trips to view the local lights, including ranking our favorite “blowups.”

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Cooking holiday standards as well as new additions. I’d never made this veggie pot pie before, but it was an excellent contribution to Christmas dinner. I can count on Moosewood to deliver a good recipe! I also made our traditional peanut soup and mushroom brioches for Christmas Eve. Steve cooked a ham for Christmas dinner as well.

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Watching the kids open their presents. While I would love to not be materialistic, I love giving presents at the holidays, and seeing my kids open their presents gave me such joy on Christmas morning. My two littles made out between Christmas and Hanukkah this year. Favorite gifts included this blow-up dinosaur, Imaginext figurines, art supplies, Pinkalicious games and books, and new bean bag chairs. I am fully aware that the requests for phones, headphones, and gift cards are only ten years away, so I really love these toy-filled Christmases.

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Decorating for the holidays. I had so much fun with my pounds of cinnamon and star anise this year, and I even made a Christmas centerpiece for the table with these spices. I know I posted frequently about decorating the house, but it gave me such delight to turn my tudor into a cozy and sparkly space for Christmas.

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I could go on, of course, but I’ll edit myself and leave you here. Until 2015, my devoted readers!

Finished: Felt Bird Ornaments

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I am truly thrilled to be closing out 2014 posting about crafts I completed this year. When I began writing here in 2008, my life was much different, and I had so much more time to create things. Though I would never want to go back to that childless, craft-centric life (I LOVE these kiddos!), I am a little jealous of my crafting production at that time. Especially my ability to make so many gifts for the holidays.

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For Christmas this year, I was determined to contribute one handmade ornament to each family household on my gift list (those of whom have Christmas trees!). I showcased my cinnamon ornaments a week ago, and here is my other 2014 production: the Snow Bird ornament by Larissa Holland (I love her blog, MmmCrafts). I created five of these and kept one for my own tree (the purple one, of course!).

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These little birdies sure take a lot of time, but their folk chicness is right up my alley. I used high-quality felt for these avian decorations, which I purchased from Etsy here. Each bird’s construction took about an hour, not including glue-drying time. I worked on them in October, giving myself plenty of time to finish a flock before the gift-giving season. I have learned as a crafter (one with little kids!) that if the project hasn’t been finished by Thanksgiving, it’s better to move on and gift it another time. I hate crafting with pressure. It’s the worst!

I would highly recommend making these as gifts for friends and loved ones. I hope those who received mine enjoy hanging them on their Christmas trees for years to come.

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!