Posted in Blog

Friday Fav: Time with Family

Merry Christmas! I’m wishing you and yours a wonderful holiday season and peace for the new year.

My Friday Fav this week is certainly time with my family. They may be constantly underfoot these days and it may be difficult to find a moment of silence during daylight hours, but I love spending time with them all. I’m thankful we are together and healthy this holiday season. I’m grateful my husband and I have jobs, particularly ones that allow us to take time off during the holiday season.

We have been blessed beyond measure, and this year in particular I’m trying not to take that for granted.

So I will try to embrace the loud children bouncing off the walls at their excitement for Christmas. I will make the best of virtual get togethers with family instead of in-person gatherings. I will be grateful for my husband’s constant playing of YouTube videos and podcasts because that means he’s home and near me. I will read that one extra chapter of Harry Potter after the kids’ bedtime to get a few more minutes of cuddle time under the blankets with the boys.

On this Christmas day in particular, I’ll slow down. I’ll soak in the magic of the day and the good fortune that we get to spend it together.

Please hold your loved ones close and treasure their presence. That’s the greatest gift I’ll get this Christmas, and I know it.

Posted in Blog

Christmas Morning Supply List

Have you ever been with the family Christmas morning, gathered around the tree with coffee in hand and kids, shreds of wrapping paper, and toys underfoot when someone says something like, “I can’t get this box open!” or “It didn’t come with batteries.”

Yup, I’ve been there too.

Now, ahead of time, I gather of a basket of supplies that we’ll likely need and leave it by the Christmas tree. I even took it a step further and have the list of supplies auto-emailed to me every Dec 23rd so I don’t have to remember each year what to grab.

In case it’s helpful to others, here is that list:

  • Scissors to open boxes and to cut ribbon
  • Garbage bags to discard wrapping paper
  • Paper and pen to take notes for thank you cards
  • Black and silver Sharpies to label items (If the boys get the same item, they want them labeled immediately to avoid mix ups.)
  • Batteries of common sizes (e.g., AA, AAA, and C)
  • Screwdriver to open battery compartments
  • A camera with its battery charged
  • A quick grab set of food, like a mini box of cereal, for the kids

I know to many this is an insane amount of organization, and that’s fine. I like feeling prepared. If my planning can help someone else, all the better.

Happy holidays!

Photo by Evelin Horvath on Unsplash

Posted in Blog

Christmas Traditions

I always enjoy learning about others’ holiday traditions. You can hear in their voices the love and warmth they have for their friends and family. As they share Christmases that have past, you can see the nostalgia in their eyes. Sometimes even more interestingly, ask newlyweds how they will celebrate the holidays, and you’ll learn how at least two different families have blended their traditions and made their own.

Like many others, I’m lucky enough to remember amazing Christmases filled with good food, huge gatherings of extended family, trips to see Santa, and the joy of finding that gift I specifically asked for under the tree. The whole month of December seemed magical, and Christmas itself extended to last the entire winter break from school as we bopped around visiting family celebrating several rounds of Christmas.

Of course, this is through my rose-colored glasses. My mother was the one wrapping, cooking, and baking everything. When my dad’s parents came to visit us, my parents gave up their bedroom for them. My father was the one driving us, usually through snow, 12+ hours after Christmas to visit his in-laws while the dog was between my sister and I and throwing up every couple of hours. It was a whirlwind trip to visit family, trying to get a good amount of quality time with both sides of the family. I’m sure the whole Christmas experience was sometimes stressful for my folks but they never let on. They made it look easy and seamless.

Well, I can’t promise that my sons will see things as rosy as I remember, but I’m hopeful that we too are creating magic. The Christmas season for us starts with the Christmas Season Printable, my action plan full of traditions I don’t want to forget. We fill in these activities on the nights and weekends leading up to Christmas.

Once we get to Christmas Eve, we usually have family visiting. We go to mass then out to dinner at our favorite local Italian restaurant. There will be no in-person extended family visits this year. Additionally, it will be virtual mass and takeout food, but we can make that work.

Afterward, the kids unwrap one gift. It is always Christmas pajamas, the boys always forget that’s what they are getting, and they are always really excited to receive them. (I wonder how much more time I get of this experience!) We then set out milk and cookies for Santa and nine carrots for the reindeer. My husband then jingles a bell so the kids think Santa is on the way, and they rush off to bed.

My husband and I attempt to stay awake until the kids are asleep, and then we set up all of the gifts. No presents for the immediate family go under the tree until now. The cookies magically disappear and our in-house, furry “reindeer” enjoys the carrots. Santa tracks are made on the hearth from a pair of boots and soot from the fireplace. Stockings are stuffed and hung by the chimney with care. Simultaneously, as much prep as is possible is done to get ready for coffee and breakfast for the next morning.

Since we tend to have extended family with us for the holiday, we often set a time on when Christmas morning will begin. That gives people the option to set an alarm and get ready for the day first if they want. We try to pick a time that won’t keep the boys waiting forever but isn’t before the sun. I’m not sure if or how we’ll change this tradition for this funky 2020 year.

Our little ones are NOT allowed to come downstairs until the adults are ready for them. I always want video evidence of them seeing that Santa visited, and I’m sure the other adults want to see their reactions too. Once the adults are settled, the kids can come down. The boys tend to impatiently wait for us, wake each other up, and generally bounce off the walls. This is where having the set time for Christmas to start is really helpful because you can tell the kids only X more minutes.

After the kids react to Santa’s arrival, the boys always want to “be Santa” first and pass out a gift from under the tree to each person in attendance. This is the cutest part of the day, because of course the boys will pick out gifts they are giving others to pass out first. They can’t wait to see how you’ll react to what they made or bought for you. I love that they already enjoy the act of giving to others.

We then take turns opening our gifts. It’s more like everyone opens their one gift passed to them at the same time, but I always wait. I want to see how everyone else reacts. I may snap a few photos along the way as well.

After all of the gifts are opened under the tree, we break for a breakfast of cinnamon rolls and usually biscuits and gravy. Healthier choices will come Jan 1. We then return to open stocking stuffers from Santa that include things like a new toothbrush, toothpaste, chapstick, and a small toy of some kind. (I picked out card games this year.)

At this point, the boys are fully occupied for the rest of the day. My husband and I then cook a roast beef dinner around a formally set table while socializing with family. We dine together and often enjoy dessert with friends before the day is out.

It is a whirlwind of a day and the climax of a lot of planning and preparing, but I love it. I think about the traditions my husband brought to our family and those from mine and realize that our parents’ and grandparents’ live on in these small, repeated acts. And when my husband and I are older and grandparents ourselves, I hope to see some of these traditions live on through our sons’ families. It’s the closest I’ll get to eternal life, and I’ll take it.

Photo by Samuel Holt on Unsplash

Posted in Blog

Friday Fav: 3D Christmas Glasses

Our family loves to drive around the neighborhoods this time of year to look at Christmas lights. I feel like there are more decorations up this year than ever before! One thing we always make sure to bring with us when we’re out looking at lights are these cool 3D Christmas glasses my in-laws picked up for the boys a few years ago.

These glasses transform the look of Christmas lights into a variety of holiday shapes like Santa Clause, candy canes, snowmen, or reindeer (like the picture included in this post). Bob your head around, and you can see the shapes move!

Besides Amazon, I’ve seen classes like these at Walmart and Lowe’s. They are typically a couple of dollars for a pair. Although the frames are only made of paper, we’ve largely kept them in one piece for many years. I highly recommend trying them out, if you can find them.

Happy Friday!

Posted in Blog

Christmas Cookie Recipes

One tradition my family loves to partake in during the holidays is cookie baking. Who are we kidding though. I’m the baker, and my family taste tests. These cookies become desserts for the month and gifts for family and friends. Here are links to the recipes for the cookies I made this year.

Chewy Peanut Butter Cookies – These are a classic cookie and one of my husband’s favorites. They always make it into the yearly rotation.

Grinch Cookies – These cookies are delicious and extremely easy to make! I love their presentation too. I found the heart sprinkles at Walmart when I couldn’t spot them in my local grocery store.

Nestle’s Chocolate Chip Cookies – This is the standard issue recipe that’s one of my favorite cookies year round. I love them warm and right out of the oven, and I like them chilled right out of the refrigerator.

Oreo Truffles – These are a fan favorite, even if they aren’t technically still in cookie form. Over the years I’ve learned a few tricks for making these truffle candies. For instance, you can also add flavor the the Oreo filling by adding a teaspoon of vanilla or an extract like peppermint. Hershey’s chocolate bars melt best. I have a Little Dipper warmer that came with my crockpot that is PERFECT for melting the Hershey bars before dipping the Oreo filling. I end up making three batches of this deliciousness to share every year.

Whoville Cookies – These pinwheel sugar cookies remind me of reading Dr. Suess’s The Grinch with the kids. The red and green don’t have to be equally distributed or a perfect pinwheel. Actually, the more off they are the better!

Cream Cheese Butterflies – Butterflies aren’t Christmasy to me, but they are a Christmas cookie my husband grew up with and always loved. Here’s a close recipe to the one I use, though I substitute the lemon zest for orange zest and use a bit of red food coloring to make them pink.

Reindeer Bellybuttons – These are the easiest “cookies” to make that only require pretzels, Hershey’s kisses, and M&Ms. I usually grab a bag of kisses from Costco plus two bags of mini pretzels and a large bag of M&Ms from the grocery store. I have learned the hard way though that you need to read the pretzel bag closely. Don’t get the unsalted pretzels for this treat!! You need the salt to play against the sweetness of the chocolate.

Dipped Gingersnaps – Every year I have to add and try a new cookie, just to change it up a bit and see if I can find a new classic. This year I made the dipped gingersnaps. They are….okay. I think I would have liked them better if I used a different oil that the canola oil it calls for here. I’m also not personally a huge fan of white chocolate. They were worth a shot, but I won’t be making them again.

That’s it! Though that’s a lot! Eight different cookies was a commitment, but I spaced it out this year doing one cookie a day and then dedicating one weekend day to making the remaining.

Happy baking!

Posted in Blog

Christmas Season Traditions Printable

Now more than ever I’m clinging to the family traditions we can maintain to find comfort in the familiar and to remember fond family memories from years passed. I think this is in part due to the crazy 2020 year and just a natural feeling as you get older.

I remember the feelings of magic and warmth that can only come from family during the Christmas season. I recall visits with grandparents, trips to the Opryland Hotel to view their magnificent Christmas displays, road trips to visit extended family that made Christmas feel like it lasted a week, giving gifts to family, receiving that one gift you really wanted, good food, the works.

I want my kids to feel the same way about family and the holidays when they are my age, and I think that comes – in part – from traditions. And, since I’m a list maker, I have a printable to help me!

I like making lists of activities for us to do as a family each season, like I showed here with our Fall Bucket List Printable. I print them out to display on our family command center. I just add the printable to an 8.5×11″ frame with command strips on the back and stick it to the wall, easy peasy. Mr. 7 year old loves reading the list and adding checkmarks next to the activities we’ve completed already.

This weekend I printed off our list of Christmas season traditions, tweaked a bit to be COVID friendly. So although we won’t be seeing Santa in person this year, we can still write him a letter.

Alternatively, you can can the image below and print our list.

Our 2020 Christmas Season Traditions List

Have a wonderful holiday season!

Photo by Andy Holmes on Unsplash