Well, I went back to work yesterday so I feel like the Christmas holiday is officially over and I’m ready to share some of our fun. I know it’s not over for my girls – they still get to take a fun trip to their grandparents’ house before they go back to school, but we have plenty of fun to share now.
We all enjoyed spreading out Christmas fun over 4 days, especially since it meant the girls got to open gifts every day without even begging me to open some of their presents from us.
First up, my parents arrived on Saturday, followed shortly by my brothers’ families and my brother- and sisters-in-law. It was a fun crowd. My parents surprised me by getting me an awesome new camera that I couldn’t be more excited about! They brought it in for us to open right away so that I could start charging the battery.
Jenny was very happy to get her Nook from Grandpa and Boo-boo! She told me she was going to ask for one for next Christmas because she really didn’t think she’d get one this year. Now she never has to stop reading.
On Sunday we exchanged gifts with Lee’s family while my family was off watching the Steelers game. We got two awesome photo albums full of old pictures from Charlotte – we both love that sort of thing so much, so it was perfect. And another perfect gift from Justin and Nicole!
We followed up that fun with a delicious dinner at the Japanese steakhouse, followed by Brinky’s birthday cake (finally).
He was really focused on eating that cake.
On Monday we said goodbye to my parents and Justin and Nicole as they headed out for their next holiday destinations. And we had a fun Google hangout with Lee’s brother Marcus and his wife Jodi Ann since they couldn’t be here. I made the girls wait to open their gifts from them while they were watching. It was a fun way to spend time together even though they weren’t physically here.
We enjoyed a delicious Christmas Eve meal including plenty of food for vegans and non-vegans and then broke out the one Christmas Eve gift I give – Christmas jammies!
Finally, Christmas day!
Once they came down, they went straight to work opening their Santa gifts and gifts from us, along with gifts from Uncle Mario and Aunt Nicole who were still here celebrating with us.
Jenny studied the gift certificate for books on her Nook that Santa brought her.
Jenny got dressed so she could wear her new boots. She’s still going strong with that vest my mom gave her that she loves. I tried to say that she may not want to wear it every day, but she disagreed.
We also squeezed in a couple more fun family movies like Step Up Revolution and Inception. Perfect for the holidays, right? We packed a lot of fun into four days.
I’m following up my Christmas roundup with this week’s Celebrity Roundup at It’s Blogworthy tomorrow! Don’t forget to check it out (I’ll probably remind you.)Read More
Only 11 days until Christmas (and 1 week until my baby’s 2nd birthday!)! Are you still searching for the perfect holiday card? Or other awesome photo gifts? Did you think it was too late to order and get them shipped in time? Guess what? It’s not! The awesome holiday cards at Minted can still be purchased and shipped with time to spare for mailing. I think Minted has some of the coolest card designs.
For a bright card featuring a perfect portrait:
I like cards that allow for multiple pictures so that I don’t have to get the one perfect picture – or so I can include a photo of each of my kids alone if I can’t get them to cooperate for a group shot (and you know I can’t):
And I also love cards that allow you to write a little something about what’s happening with your family this year or into the next without having to write a separate letter to include with the card, like this one:
If your order holiday cards from Minted by December 15, you get a free overnight upgrade so you would have your cards by December 19! Another incredibly cool timesaver? The Minted Address Assistant will print your recipients’ addresses on your cards – for FREE! How awesome is that?
Minted also has other photo gifts, like these personalized journals that I’m thinking about ordering:
And their photo gifts are buy two, get one free right now!
So what are you waiting for? Go find your best photos and head over to Minted to make those cards you haven’t gotten around to yet and order a couple last minute gifts!
Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Minted. All opinions are my own.Read More
Every year for the last several years I’ve taken my girls to a nearby small town Christmas parade. We love to look at the floats and watch for friends. And most of all my girls love to catch as much candy as they can cram into the bags they’ve been smart enough to bring since we realized it was like Halloween all over again the first year.
Here they were three years ago picking up candy in the street (at least it was wrapped, so it’s probably not gross).
And happy faces pre-parade two years ago (about a week before their brother was born, so I’m sure I was feeling great):
This year was a little different though. Because Jenny’s growing up. Reagan and her friend were as excited as ever about gathering as much candy as possible. Though she was a little bored while we were waiting for the parade to start.
Jenny also didn’t look excited, but she was! She just can’t stop reading until absolutely necessary. Also, those are my boots. She stole them.
What was different this year was that Jenny slipped her bag into her pocket and decided not to take any of the candy that was thrown because she thought the little kids should have it. If any landed right in front of her, she picked it up and handed it to the smaller kids who were having trouble gathering candy on their own. It was so sweet. And so grown up. She did slip a couple of her favorite kinds of candy into her pockets though. We’ll go back again next year of course. And maybe she’ll help Brinkley gather his own candy. He missed the parade this year because he was taking a nap.Read More
One of my favorite family Christmas traditions is related to ornaments. Each year since my husband was born, his mom gave him a new ornament (at least one – sometimes more!) for the Christmas tree. We’ve continued the tradition with our kids, so each year they each get a new ornament that we’ve selected based on their current interests or personalities. As we decorate the tree, we all have so much fun looking at each ornament and remembering its story. So today I’m sharing a few of my favorites.
These are (very clearly) not any of our purchased ornaments, but I also love the history of so many homemade ornaments on our tree. There’s Jenny holding an ornament she made in kindergarten, back when she was tiny. And Reagan popping out of an ornament she made last year – she’s not overly fond of it because she said she was having a sweaty day, but it’s still fun for us to look at. The ones on the right were made by Lee when he was a little kid. We have several of the kind on the bottom right that we kindly call “monster faces” because they’re all so pretty. Lee loves them. And they’re all so incredibly heavy, and half are broken. But we hang them every year.
Several of our pop culture interests are represented on the tree. Star Wars is featured heavily. That nice shiny and glittery Darth Vader is required to be the highest ornament placed on the tree every year. He broke one year when the cats knocked over the tree and had to be replaced because he’s essential to our tree. We have a few Lion King and other Disney ornaments that Lee’s mom gave me during our early years together before we were married when she added me to the ornament tradition. Angel and Spike from Buffy. Buffy’s somewhere too, but I couldn’t find her when I was taking pictures. Harry Potter is also quite popular on our tree.
On the left you can see a few more of our favorites, Boots from Dora given to Reagan when she was 2, a backwards Barbie given to one of the girls, Gandalf, and Kim Possible in the front. Poor Kimmy has had a rough ornament life. Her leg has broken off several times and its most recent repair with gorilla glue has left her looking a little deformed, or more like she has a cast on her leg that has shifted a bit to the right. Even though it’s blurry I loved this picture of Jenny laughing about it when she pulled her out of the box.
I’ve also been known to get a few personalized ornaments over the years! Lee and I don’t get new ornaments each year for ourselves, but the kids each get one, and I get a family one, often personalized. The one on the left was from last year, the first family ornament including Brinkley! The Little Princess Jenny was from her first or second Christmas – she wanted me to be sure to point that out because she thinks she’s way too old for that. I got the years each gymnast ornaments one of the years they were into gymnastics. And ballet shoes and tap shoes (in the background) during some of their dancing years. And lots of different family ornaments – I really like the one of us on the state of North Carolina.
These two are from our first Christmas tree the year we got married. We have a couple “first year together” ornaments from that year too (even though it wasn’t really our first year together). The Elf Nog on the left was a bottle of egg nog that said it could be turned into an ornament and we didn’t have a lot of ornaments at that time, so we thought it would be fun. And we’ve kept it. Reagan was looking at it this year and looked at the expiration date on the top and said “This expired December 24, 1999!” and then started to open the lid. Even though we’re 99.9% certain we cleaned that thing out before turning it into an ornament, we both yelled, “No, don’t do that!” because if it smells like anything in there, it’s not something good. The ornament on the right was from a set of 12 traditional glass ornaments Lee’s mom gave us that first married Christmas – we’re down to two. They’re a little too breakable.
These are this year’s ornament selections for the kids. I went with an animal theme this year. An owl for Reagan because she loves them. A pink flamingo for Jenny because she thinks they’re fun and often draws them, and a dog above the pink flamingo for Brinky because they’re still his favorite animal. I haven’t ordered our family ornament yet, so it will be added later, but I’m thinking about the one I mentioned in my etsy post last week.
Finally (at the end of what feels like one of my longest posts ever) our decorated tree – and Reagan:
If you survived the reading of this long post, tell me about your favorite Christmas tradition.
P.S. If you’re wondering, all the personalized ornaments shown above were purchased from Personal Creations, one of my favorites I forgot on my Big Giant List of Holiday Shopping Ideas, but they are on ebates with 8% cash back right now!
P.P.S. If you need some holiday cleaning help, don’t forget to enter my Stanley Steemer giveaway!
Have you ever seen one of those Stanley Steemer vans in your neighborhood and thought you’d like them to stop by your house for some steam cleaning? I have. And I recently had the opportunity to try out a Stanley Steemer service. I honestly was only aware they did steam cleaning of carpets, and we don’t have any carpets in our house. But when I did a bit of research on their website I learned that they offered several other services, including:
- Carpet Cleaning
- Tile and Grout Cleaning
- Furniture Cleaning
- Leather Cleaning
- Water Damage Restoration
- Air Duct Cleaning
- Hardwood Floor Services
While we don’t have any carpets, we do have two of these lovely couches (ignore the baby blur):
These couches are a few years old and have suffered from years of abuse by children and dogs. And honestly, they don’t smell that great! So I decided to take advantage of the upholstery cleaning service.
I loved the fact that I could set up my appointment and get a quote online! I like to take care of as much as possible online, in fact. I set up my appointment for Thanksgiving week with no problem. I received a confirmation call from Stanley Steemer a couple days before the appointment. And while I selected the window of time for the service, I was very pleased that the Stanley Steemer team arrived promptly at the beginning of the window. They came right in and quickly performed the service.
While I was pleased with the team that performed the work and the end result, I wasn’t prepared for two aspects of the service that I’d like to point out to anyone considering this or a similar service so you can prepare properly. One, it was very loud! I timed the service for when Brinkley would normally be asleep thinking that he would be out of the way, but it was so loud he couldn’t sleep through it. A better sleeping child may be able to though! Two, it took longer than I expected for the furniture to dry so we could use it again. The time quoted on the website is 1-6 hours of drying time, depending on the furniture. The team at my house told me it could take up to 8 hours, and it was definitely closer to that amount of time. The couches actually still felt a little damp the next morning. Next time I will probably plan it for a day none of the kids are around because it’s hard for them (and me) to not use the couches. But, as I said, I was pleased with the overall results. Some of the spots that have been on our couches for years came out with the steam cleaning!
It’s hard to get a great before and after image with the color and texture of our couches, but this is what they looked like right after the Stanley Steemer team left – with cushions propped up for easier drying.
Would you like an opportunity for the Stanley Steemer experts to help you prepare your home for holiday guests? Or to clean up after them?
- With more than 60 years as the dirt authority, Stanley Steemer cleaning experts are certified to remove more than 98 percent of dry soil from floors – a rate significantly higher than self-cleaning methods
- Not just for carpet cleaning, Stanley Steemer’s expertise extends to hardwood, tile, air ducts, water damage restoration, and more!
- Their water extraction process provides a deep-down clean, perfect for cleaning up after the holidays
To help you see through the dirt that lurks in your home and really make it merry and bright, the experts in the field from StanleySteemer offer these holiday tips for maintaining a cleaner, healthier home:
With the holidays come the house guests
Reduce the amount of dirt and mud that may get tracked into your home by using indoor and outdoor entrance mats.
Pickup in a flash
Why deny the inevitable? At some point this season you’ll deal with red wine, gravy, pine needles or candle wax drippings on the carpet. Remember to act quickly to clean up any spills or stains; consider keeping a professional spot remover handy at all time or use items commonly found around the home such as white vinegar and baking soda.
Dirt is the ultimate scrooge
Keep up with the high traffic areas in the home, especially during entertaining season, by vacuuming them two to three times a week and the rest of your carpets at least once a week.
For more information, be sure to visit Stanley Steemer:
- StanleySteemer.com – http://goo.gl/OqA3r
- Facebook – http://goo.gl/l1PVG
- Twitter – http://goo.gl/t3wUp
I am able to offer a chance for one reader to win a $100 gift certificate for the Stanley Steemer service of your choice! Enter using the Rafflecopter below.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Disclosure: I received a Stanley Steemer gift certificate, but all opinions are my own. The Stanley Steemer gift certificate, information, and two gift packs have been provided by Stanley Steemer.