Christmas Extravaganza 2017

20171222_133400(0) our christmas

Merry Belated Christmas! The last four days have been jam packed with Christmas festivities around here. Lots of family time, tons of presents, much laughter, and the usual amount of meltdowns peppered in between every thing. We’ve been busy! It’s been great, but also a little bit exhausting. I love all of our yearly traditions, but I do wish we could spend more time at our own house with a little more down time. I guess that’s what the week after Christmas is for, though. Anyway! I’ll try to keep my explanations brief, but I wanted to share all my photos from all our Christmas celebrations.


On Friday after school we had our family Christmas! Like I said in my last post, I like doing ours early when we (usually) get the boys at their best. This year everyone was a little short-tempered (everyone being mostly Caden and I) and we had to take a few breaks in between gifts. But we made it through.

IMG_3893 minifig

IMG_3902 sunflower seeds

IMG_3917 annie opens

Annie was a little hesitant about opening her presents, but she sure wanted it once the paper was off!

IMG_3926 groot poster

Shepard got Greg a Groot poster. Fortunately, Greg decided to hang it in Shepard’s room and not our family room. πŸ™‚

IMG_3940 shepard ornament

The ornament Shepard made me at school. I love it!

IMG_3948 seed shirt

IMG_3953 annie lounging

During one of our breaks.

IMG_3956 annie chip face

I love Annie’s face in this picture! Give me some chips!

IMG_3991 raggedy ann

Greg made me a Lego brick head Raggedy Ann! This is my favorite present.


I laughed so hard when I opened it!

IMG_4002 necklace

Greg also managed to surprise me with this necklace I’ve been wanting. He usually has the very unfortunate luck of ordering me things that then arrive in the mailbox in their actual packaging. I’m pretty much never surprised.

IMG_4005 brick headz

Found this limited edition Brick Headz set at Target.

IMG_4017 sweatshirt

Now he can alternate sweatshirts. I don’t think he’s taken his gray sweatshirt off since October.

IMG_4019 bark box

I gave Annie a one month Bark Box, trying to see if the subscription would be worth it. The treats looked great, but the toys for the Christmas box were so ugly! And her “long lasting chew” lasted about thirty seconds.

After the present opening we just spent the night enjoying our gifts. I also got an Instant Pot, which I’m anxious to learn how to use. And a calendar, passenger seat protector for my car (for Annie), a couple of Willow Tree figurines from the boys, and a lot of coffee. In the evening we had our usual Friday night pizza.

20171223_092451 andrew birthday

On Saturday morning we went over to Greg’s parents’ to follow them to Oshkosh. We gave Andrew his belated birthday gifts first.

20171223_111643(0) pennys birthday cake

In Oshkosh, we attended Greg’s giant extended family party. I think there were about 50 people there this year. The grandchildren have been repopulating like crazy. 16 great-grandchildren in the last nine years. 15 of those, age 6 and younger! We also celebrated Grandma Penny’s 80th birthday with her favorite cake.

20171223_114308 shepard lego

The kids had a Secret Santa type exchange this year so they could take part in picking out gifts for one of their cousins. I know my kids really enjoyed picking individual gifts for their two matches. Shepard got this fun lego set from Natalie.

20171223_114515 caden art supply

And Caden got lots of fun art supplies from Reese. He was really excited!

20171223_123345 star wars socks

The highlight of the party is always the huge white elephant type gift exchange. This year’s theme was gifts that start with “S.” It’s definitely always a crap shoot on if you’re going to get something good or not. I personally think it’s a lot more fun when everyone actually brings something they think is a good gift. Some years that’s pretty rare. Greg was very happy with Star Wars lounge pants that he stole for the final time. I ended up with socks, skittles, a Santa hat, and silly putty. After the game Caden traded my socks for someone’s giant pack of spearmint gum.

20171223_131446 selfie

Hanging out after the gift exchange. When we got back to Beaver Dam, I went on home to take care of Annie and do some baking for Sunday.

IMG_4039 attempt family pic

Christmas Eve is always our really big day with present openings and meals with both families. It’s always fun to have so much excitement in one day, but this year I was kind of wishing we could have split it up somehow. I was SO tired by afternoon. It’d be nice to just give each family one full day with a little more relaxing and less rushing. But I’m not sure that’ll ever work with so many schedules to work around. At least every year it gets easier with the boys and them not needing to be on such a tight sleep schedule.

IMG_4044 brunch spread

We started with a big brunch at Noe’s.

IMG_4045 cinnamon braid

I need a better powdered sugar duster lol. It tasted okay. Most of the butter and cinnamon sugar leaked out overnight. It probably would have tasted better warm. I cooked it at home so it was cold by the time we ate.

IMG_4054 snowboard

Shepard was so excited about his snowboard! Even though the wind chill was like negative ten degrees, he spent at least an hour outside trying it out down the little hills in the yards. He’s pretty good at it! If there’s enough snow I’m going to take him to a real sledding hill later this week.

IMG_4057 hotel present

I could barely see Caden behind his present stack! This was a paper telling him they were going to WI Dells next month with Grandma and Grandpa.

IMG_4062 lego piece

Greg wrapped a single lego piece from a creation he made a few years ago for her and Melissa lost. She actually guessed what it was before she opened it, to everyone’s amazement.

IMG_4064 salad shooter

Salad Shooter. I use mine solely for cheese! But I think she’ll hopefully find some good uses for it!

IMG_4066 silhouette bracelet

My favorite gifts this year were silhouette bracelets of the boys (and Hudson for Brittany and my mom) from La Papier Studio.

IMG_4068 skyping

We had video chat present opening with Sarah, Alex, and his parents in New Jersey. We missed having them around this year, but I think it’s great they were able to at least spend it with his family.

I’m pretty sure our present opening took three hours! I got all kinds of awesome gifts! I got the final four chairs to match my work table I got last Christmas. That table has been like the greatest gift ever. I use it every single day for a million different purposes. But it’s amazing for sewing, which is its intended purpose. Anyway, I also got some new pots and pans, some awesome taco cookbooks, fun new makeup to try out, and lots of other fun things.

IMG_20171224_150822_815 sleepy hudson

In the early afternoon, I went back home with the car loaded with presents to get Annie for the second half of the day. Then I went back to pick everyone up and we headed to my parents’. Once again Hudson was sleeping when we got there! πŸ™ So I snuck in to peek on him. I used to HATE it when people did that with Caden because it was so impossible to get him to sleep in the first place. But I am now the annoying relative that does it too.

IMG_4071 wooden puzzles

These wooden puzzles were the first thing Caden opened in the morning and he worked on them all day.

IMG_4073 birthday wallet

We gave my dad his belated birthday present. A new wallet filled with gift cards to his favorite restaurants. It’s the first year I ever remember him not working on Christmas Eve! Because it was a Sunday and FedEx was closed…I think. We’re usually waiting for him to get home from work to get on with the present opening. This year it was Tyler who was working. But only till six, so it was fine.

IMG_20171224_152658_904 hudson selfie

Hudson woke up! Those eyes!!

20171224_153543 hudson coo

He loves his jumperoo!

20171224_153550 hudson giggle

20171224_154223 caden hudson

IMG_20171224_153745_036 annie hudson

20171224_163829 shrinky dinks

Working on some shrinky dinks.

IMG_20171224_155533_024 bw hudson

Tummy time! He’s so cute!

IMG_4092 reading time

IMG_4096 reading time

IMG_4100 reading time

IMG_4102 greg and hudson

IMG_4108 pizza braid

Time to bust out the snacks. My pizza braid tasted delicious!

20171224_181513 snacks galore

So many snacks! My mom has so many bowls!

IMG_4113 hudson bracelet

Once Tyler got home and settled we opened gifts! I made Brittany open her Hudson silhouette bracelet first.

IMG_4114 bracelet

And my mom had to open her three grandson bracelet at the same time. I really liked how they looked with three silhouettes. I’m kind of tempted to order one for myself with the boys and Annie as my third child. πŸ˜€

IMG_4125 annie at gate

Speaking of Annie…we had the room sort of gated off so Hudson could go on the floor safely. Annie had no problem jumping over the first gate. She’s much more agile than my mom’s dogs! After the taller board was up she just stood here looking sorrowful lol. I was literally close enough to keep my hand on her. But it wasn’t good enough. We opened it up after awhile and then she was content to go somewhere else and take a nap!

IMG_4127 third pack socks

My dad opening his third pair of socks in a row. That’s what he asked for!

IMG_4133 poor annie

Keeping Annie company.

IMG_4134 hudson's toys

Awesome mini versions of classic toys from Uncle Tyler.

IMG_4141 shepard street

My mom found this awesome sign at an antique store! On Timmy’s birthday we walked by Shepard St. in Milwaukee and Shepard thought it was so cool. Now he has his own sign!

IMG_4152 peanut butter sauce

Gigantic peanut butter sauce. I really want this for myself, but they only make the gigantic jars! I’m not ready to pull the plunge for myself, but I gifted it to him.

IMG_4157 octopus

We gave Hudson an octopus themed gift. This stuffed octopus is so cute, but way bigger than him!

IMG_20171224_202636_784 sleepy shepard

Shepard was getting so tired by the end of everything. He just kept laying on the floor about to fall asleep. Even though it was probably one of our earliest Christmas Eves, I was super tired too. And because it surprised us and snowed all day, we knew we still had to shovel when we got home, so we got out pretty quickly when gifts were over. It was lots of fun, though! I got many more great gifts. We’re pretty spoiled at Christmas!

IMG_20171224_211650_690 cookies

Caden was still awake when we got home. For what I think was the first time ever! So he arranged a tray of cookies and milk for Santa.

IMG_20171224_212956_278 cat pizza

While I was waiting for Caden to fall asleep and Greg was shoveling, I entertained myself by watching Jack sniff out his new cat pizza from Grandma. They’ve both been using the pizza as a bed today! So funny.

IMG_20171224_221649_658 santa came

Santa came! And then I could finally go to bed.

IMG_4164 christmas morning

Christmas morning! It was kind of an odd morning. Shepard said he was up at 4. Caden was up at 5:30. I went downstairs at 6. And the boys were much more interested in playing on their chromebooks than getting Greg up to open presents. I mean, they’ve already opened a million presents in the last few days. But it really bummed me out how little they seemed to care about the magic of Santa coming. It was kind of a rough morning for me. My kids are growing up. And maybe it’s a good thing they don’t care about presents that much? It’s just hard not to take it personally because that’s what I’m good at and that’s what I love doing.

IMG_4172 christmas tree

Once everyone was finally up we opened stockings.

20171225_083352 ring stack

In my stocking was a Lisa Leonard Passage ring that I’ve been coveting for years! I didn’t plan on wearing it with my wedding ring stack, but it’s the only finger it properly fits on. I think it looks pretty nice all together! Maybe a little bit over the top, but I still love them. Santa even surprised me with an unexpected bracelet and pair of earrings in my stocking!

IMG_4186 two switches

This was the biggest box, so Shepard was thinking there were not one, but TWO Nintendo Switches in it. Sorry, kid! He didn’t say anything about the lack of an air hockey table, so I don’t think he was overly disappointed.

IMG_4207 snes classic

No Nintendo Switch, but they did get an SNES Classic! That won as their favorite gift, of course. Pretty much haven’t played with anything else since opening it.

IMG_4212 annie

She seemed to enjoy her first Christmas with us! Maybe a little bit confused and probably a little sad that she hasn’t been to the dog park or on any long walks. But there’s been a lot of excitement to keep her entertained.

IMG_4235 giant nerf

Shepard LOVED this thing.

IMG_20171225_095350_873 happy jack

Jack was so happy after he played with his new toys! He hasn’t had any new toys since we got Annie and she ate them all. He’s always loved playing with toys, so I feel bad I haven’t gotten him new ones in nine months.

IMG_20171225_120830_604 stockings

Late morning we went back to Noe’s to open stockings and have lunch. Santa brings some stuffed stockings at their house!

20171225_142855 grandma stockings

And then we stopped at my parents’ again for more stockings and more food and more shrinky dink making. I think we can guess what Shepard wants for his birthday!

20171225_144233 sitting with dogs

Dogs galore.

IMG_20171225_102708_263 book stacks

Back at home I had to document all of our new books! I had a ton of books on Caden’s wish list and he received quite a few of them! Plus a bunch from us. He’s pretty hard to buy for. He doesn’t play with toys. He specifically told us he didn’t want any legos this year. And he never once said a single thing he did want. He reads whenever he’s not allowed to play games, so books it is! I’m really excited about my own stack of books! I’m going to be making so many tacos! πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

IMG_20171225_170800_260 reading in bed

I finished Christmas spending two hours in bed reading a great Christmas book with the cats snuggling around me and Annie on the floor next to me.

Overall, it was a great Christmas! Now onto the week of aftermath!! I spent the morning clearance shopping for my annual wrapping paper stock up. I had many great intentions of cleaning and organizing the rest of the day, but really didn’t do much of anything besides editing all these photos! Tomorrow will hopefully be more productive! I know the rest of break will just fly by and then the pressure to get back to workΒ  will start to overwhelm me. So I need to make this week count! And do a lot of resting in between.

I hope you had a fantastic Christmas weekend!

Saturday Reflections 12.23.2017


Christmas is here! I was really hoping this last week would be totally stress free and relaxing. But that’s fairly impossible the week before Christmas, right? I’d say I had about an equal mix of doing way too many things I didn’t really feel like doing but needed to be done and some well deserved hours of self care. Overall, a pretty good week!


On Sunday evening we went to see Santa at the Dodge County Airport. He came in very slowly on a little airplane. Caden was angry the first time he heard about it and angry about going because it HAD to be a fake Santa because Santa only comes in a sleigh with his reindeer. Shepard thought it was really awesome. Santa shook his hand when he walked through the building and he thought it was just the coolest thing that he touched Santa! The whole event was pretty packed, but everyone was in good spirits and it was a fun experience. We never take our kids to see Santa because they’ve always been terrified and I’m strongly against purposely scaring your kids for the sake of a picture. But I guess they’re old enough now that they’re only slightly apprehensive, and definitely not going to cry about it.


I’m pretty sure this is the last year that Caden will believe in Santa. Side note on that – if you tell your kids the truth about Santa, can you PLEASE tell them not to go to school and tell all their friends??? I was absolutely devastated when my friend repeated the whole conversation she had with her mom about Santa not being real when I was nine. I get that it’s something kids will probably talk about regardless, but I hate to have my own kids heartbroken in the same way. There’s definitely been plenty of seeds of doubts planted in Caden’s mind this year from his friends. Greg’s starting to be bothered about flat out lying to him, but I want him to believe in the magic for as long as possible. It’s just never the same once you know the truth.

Anyway! Caden asked Santa for his own Nintendo Switch. Shepard asked Santa for an air hockey table. They’ve both spent the entire week talking about how of course Santa is going to get those things for them because it’s the first time they ever asked him in person for something. So….Christmas morning might be a bit of a disappointment! πŸ™ At least Shepard has a birthday coming up and an air hockey table might be a possibility. A smallish one. Caden will just have to keep on dreaming!


Monday was supposed to be my big baking day, but I definitely didn’t get as much done as I wanted. By the time I take the boys to school, take Annie to the dog park, get all the pets situated with food and water, and finally eat my late breakfast, it’s like half the morning is gone. And this Monday I also had to get some groceries and prep some food for the crockpot. I was ready for a nap by midday. Annie enjoyed the candle fire in my place.


Tuesday was another crockpot meal. I should really try harder to do those more often. I hate giving up part of my morning on meal prep, but it certainly makes the afternoons so much easier!


By later Tuesday night I finally finished all my baking and made up boxes for the neighbors. The boys and I snuck around leaving boxes on everyone’s porches. I picked seven of my favorite tried and true cookie recipes and realize that all of those only made really small batches! Almost everything I made was just about gone after divvying up between neighbors!


I really don’t know what I did on Wednesday! I think I was scurrying around finishing up all the wrapping, working on laundry, running more errands. Shepard helped me make some Rudolph noses in the evening. I kept thinking I should do more baking, but it was pretty much the last thing in the world I felt like doing.


Thursday was FINALLY my day of rest! I planned to spend the entire day lounging on my futon with my book and candles and soft music playing. It was great, but I also had a really hard time relaxing enough to enjoy it. I’ve been so amped up for weeks trying to get so much done. It was hard to properly enjoy a day with permission to just BE.


I did enjoy the afternoon just staring at my pretty tree and gift piles! I really love our house, but especially this room, and particularly at Christmastime. It makes me so very happy. πŸ™‚


Thursday night I tried to get ahead of the game and work on a pizza braid that I’m bringing over to my parents’ for Christmas Eve. I love how it turned out! I wrapped it up and put it in the freezer to bake that night. Hopefully it survived!!


Friday was pajama day at school. Trying to get a nicely posed picture with these three together is nearly impossible! Annie does NOT like to cooperate for posed pictures!

I spent Friday morning fighting the crowds at Target because the boys realized they didn’t pick out gifts for each other or Greg. Poor planning on my part, I guess. They just HATE going to stores, so I thought we’d skip it this year. But I want to encourage them gifting to other people instead of just thinking about themselves, so they each sent me with a list of what they wanted to get. I tried my best to find what they wanted. Next year we’ll make it a higher priority.

Then I met my mom at the theater to see Pitch Perfect 3! I thought it was really good! Not like an incredible movie, but definitely entertaining and light and happy. Just what I needed. We had a delicious lunch at Monk’s and then I headed home.


Friday afternoon we had our family Christmas! We usually do it on the 23rd, but the last two years we’ve had big family parties that day so we moved it up a day. It’s kind of nice to have our family opening when the boys are still fresh and excited about everything. It gets a little overwhelming by the time Santa comes and they have their last gift opening. I’ll write more about this on a separate Christmas post in a few days. πŸ™‚


I was so happy to receive this letter from our mail carrier! It made me really glad I put out that box of treats every day. I’m glad she liked the chocolate covered peppermint topped candy cane Joe-Joe’s from Trader Joe’s! They were so good, which is why I gifted them to many people this year!


And today we had Greg’s huge family party in Oshkosh. I’m told there were 49 people there! Always a fun time, especially the big present exchange/war.


I came home after the party to check on Annie and do some final baking. I had to take pictures of everything I’m making ahead of time in case something disastrous happens by the time they’re baked and served! This is a cranberry, bacon, and brie wreath for tomorrow night.


And a cinnamon braid wreath for brunch tomorrow. I also made another batch of cookies. That’s enough baking for awhile!

That was my week! I won’t be writing a Sunday Intentions post this week. I don’t have any priorities other than to just enjoy whatever comes in the following days. We have Christmas with both our families tomorrow. Santa on Monday and maybe some extra family time. Greg is taking vacation on Tuesday and Wednesday. I’m hoping to get a lot of reading in and hopefully some writing. Finally! I’m so behind on all the posts. Of course there’s also all that end of the year stuff swirling around in my brain about what I want to do differently next year. Lots to think about, lots to write about. We’ll see how much I get to. πŸ™‚

Merry Christmas, everyone!!!

Saturday Reflections 12.09.2017

December is flying by! Christmas is only two weeks away! How is that possible?! I’m starting to feel the panic setting in. Mostly because I’m not getting the dolls made that I wanted to. I’m SO DISTRACTED. There are just so many things grabbing my attention. Though I finally finished shopping for everyone last night, so maybe with that off my mind I can find some focus for the upcoming week. I really strive to sit back and enjoy December and it hasn’t happened yet. But I’m getting there. Hopefully.


Anyway, I really tried to take each day this week one day at a time and solely focus on the one most important thing I needed to work on. Monday was a work day. I finished up three gift dolls, four dolls for the shop, and wrapped and shipped out a few gifts that needed to be mailed. I also had to wrap all the St. Nick gifts, which took way too long! Nothing terribly exciting, but it needed to be done!


Tuesday was errands, dentist, and party prep. I have two cavities, which the dentist took great joy in announcing while trying to shame me for not flossing enough. They didn’t have an appointment available until January to get them filled, so I’m not going to worry about it right now. They were so busy that day and wait times were ridiculous. I was not happy considering how many other things I needed to do afterward. Shopping for the party, dinner, and making these cookies. They’re my favorite. SO GOOD. I can only make them for other people because nobody in my family will eat things with nuts on them and Greg won’t eat anything with extra salt on it. He is MISSING OUT.


Wednesday was St. Nick’s Day! We were lucky that it happened to land on a late start day this year. Greg was hoping to open gifts with us before he left for work, but of course of all days, Shepard slept until 7:20! He’s usually up well before 6 (much to my annoyance!). The boys were all really excited about their gift piles. St. Nick brought everyone a book and a card game, as well as some mustards and sauces and jams and a variety of bath products. He brought me the bookΒ Dot Journaling and a blank journal. I’m hoping to give bullet journaling another shot in the new year. The boys opened Greg’s presents for him while they video chatted before school.


Annie got a stuffed Christmas tree. I couldn’t believe how we opened the french doors and she immediately ran over and grabbed her toy! Zero sniffing around or investigating, she just seemed to know it was there waiting for her. She pulverized the toy in less than five minutes.


Real smiles! Hooray!


I made our favorite croissant treats for breakfast. I just buy a box of croissants from Costco and then slice them all open, put a layer of chocolate chips and flaky sea salt inside, close them up, brush on maple syrup, top with coarse sugar, and bake at 350 for 5-10 minutes. It really makes a normal croissant taste a million times better.


After the boys went to school I spent the rest of the afternoon setting up for my FAVORITE THINGS PARTY. Also known as one of my favorite nights of the year! This is the third year I’ve hosted it and every year it gets bigger and more fun! The rules are pretty simple – bring three of your favorite things and at the party we each draw three names and have a big gift exchange. It’s so much fun to see what people bring. I also asked everyone to bring an appetizer or dessert or drink this year, so I wouldn’t have to provide that much food. I made the cookies and this cheese tray. I love making cheese trays!


Annie was ready for the party in her ugly Christmas sweater!



I didn’t get many people pictures, but I believe we had 16 people there this year. So much fun! So much delicious food too.


Annie was the life of the party and trying so hard to stay awake!

I kept meaning to put together some gift guides this fall because I LOVE looking at gift guides. But of course I ran out of time. So I’ll just give you a mini gift guide of what I gave for my favorite things this year. You’re technically supposed to just give one thing, but I always like to make it a little bundle because it looks more special, and if the recipient hates one of the things she might still like the accompanying item.

my favorite things

  1. Only Love TodayΒ by Rachel Macy Stafford
    I love this book so much! I’m not done with it yet, but it’s the one part of my morning routine that I never miss. The book is divided into seasons and each season has 1-2 page chapters/essays/devotionals. It has a Christian perspective, but it’s not technically a devotional with a scripture base. It’s just so many amazingly insightful glimpses of what you could be doing to make your life happier, more joyful, more filled with the things that actually matter. I love this book. Get it for yourself, a friend, basically anyone.
  2. Paper Mate Flair Felt Tip Pens
    I am obsessed with these pens! I use them to underline passages in the book, which is why I gave them with the book. Plus they look really good together with the similar colors! I also use them in my planner. Every week I pick out four colors and each color is meant for a different aspect of my life (commitments, to dos, blog posts, meal plans) in the planner. I’m a nerd.
  3. Tarte Quench Lip Rescue Lipstick – in Cherry
    My sister-in-law gifted me a huge lipstick sampler for my birthday, and this is the one that I absolutely fell in love with. I’m a bit of a lipstick junkie, but I’m really particular about what I like. It needs to feel nice on my lips and also been shiny and preferably sheer. This one fits all the requirements with the added benefit of tasting like peppermint. The Cherry color is my favorite. It looks really bright in the tube, but is much more subtle on the lips. I also love the Berry. I own Nude and Rose too and like them as well.
  4. Burt’s Bees Tinted Lip Balm – in Red Dahlia
    More like a chapstick than a lipstick, this one still provides a really sheer beautiful layer of color. My mom and I both fell in love with these this year and I think Red Dahlia is the favorite of both of ours. You don’t need to look in a mirror to put it on, so it’s a great addition to your purse anytime you want a tiny pop of color.
  5. Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint Organic Lip Balm
    Chapsticks are definitely my first love! I keep 2-3 varieties in no less than seven different locations around my house so I can always put some on. Dr. Bronner’s has been a new one I tried this year and really love.
  6. Merry & Bright Mugs
    I was so excited when the Heart & Home Collection was released at Target this fall. This mug was an instant favorite – and also nearly impossible to get. I tried to order one online at 5am the day they came out and they were sold out by the time I got to my cart. But persistence tends to pay off and from three separate orders I ended up with eight of them in my possession. I kept two, gave two for this party, and gave the other fourΒ as individual gifts. I love how cute and understated they are. They’re also small, which is something I prefer for my hot drinks of choice.
  7. Β Frozen Bean Latte Frappe Mixes
    As a new coffee drinker, I decided to pick these up at Walmart one day. They’re surprisingly really tasty! They have an option to make cold in a blender with ice for a frappuccino, or hot like a latte. I’ve only done the cold method, but it’s great!

Okay, back to my week! Thursday was a total recovery day. I was so tired from everything. I spent most of the day just mindlessly looking at things online. I also ran to my favorite gift store to check out their Christmas decorations. I put zero pressure on myself to actually get anything done. Probably not how I really should have spent the day, but I needed it.


Friday I was just all over the place. The deep seated need to FINISH Christmas shopping was pretty much prevailing over all other thoughts for the day. So I just pulled the trigger on a bunch of things I’ve been putting off. And other than a gift or two for one person who is causing me issue this year, I’m pretty much done!


Annie had a playdate in the afternoon with my friend Kristin’s dog Rosie. They’d never met before, and hit it off pretty well!


And the rest of the day was spent sewing. So many dolls left. Next Saturday is my hard deadline for finishing them. But I’d like to have them done on Wednesday. I’d really like to have them done on Tuesday! The sooner I get them done the sooner I can wrap presents, bake cookies, read books, write my backlog of blog posts, and just RELAX. But I need to get these done first.

Anyway, it’s time to get back to work! I have a few hours to sew this morning and then the boys are off on a sleepover and Greg and I are having a date day! We’re seeingΒ Ladybird and eating – somewhere. Not terribly festive, but it’s just so cold out!

Hope you had a great week!

A Very Merry Christmas


Christmas was pretty great this year! The boys are at about the best possible age to truly enjoy the holiday season. They both still fully believe in Santa and are super excited about everything. Between their enthusiasm and having our first Christmas at the new house, it really felt like a magical time of celebration.


On Christmas Eve morning we got ready as early as we could and headed over to Greg’s parents’ house for The Noe Christmas. We had a wonderful brunch and then gathered around for present opening.



Caden got a basketball hoop from Grandma and Grandpa. I think it’s something that the boys and all the neighborhood kids will get a lot of use out of for many, many years to come!


Shepard was really excited about his new telescope. He loves looking at the moon and stars and always has a great view out of his window at night.



I got a new table for my sewing room!!! This is what I was hoping for the most, so it’s super exciting my in-law’s bought it for me! It’s going to be my work table (I was currently using a plastic folding table), but also double as a nicer and bigger seating area for when we have company or just want to have a fancier meal. My sewing room is technically the dining room of the house, so it’s a good spot for an awesome table!





Obviously the best place to holster his crossbow!


Caden was really excited about the upcoming hotel stay at Great Wolf Lodge gifted by Grandma and Grandpa.


A heater so Greg can keep working in his basement “office/game room” during the winter. He actually got two of same heater, so everyone knows how cold we’ve been!


Neko played with his new toys for literally ten seconds and then passed out from exhaustion. Getting old is tough.





Lots of great gifts were had by all!


After we opened we enjoyed our new toys! There was a whole lot of techy/coding/programming talk going on between Greg, Andrew, and Caden.


A rousing game of Hungry Hungry Hippos.


Around 1:00 we headed over to my parents’ house to spend time with that half of the family. They were just getting lunch on the table when we walked in the door. And not even half an hour later my dad came home! He works for FedEx and we’re usually waiting late into the night for him to get home so we can open presents. It was shocking to have him there so early! Definitely a record. It was awesome we got to do everything so much earlier, though it threw off the timeline of events we were all thinking would happen that day!


Timmy and the boys went outside for awhile to run off some steam.



Juno loves eating sticks. She was pretty excited to find such a tasty red swirly stick in the snow! πŸ™‚


It wasn’t great sledding snow, but they made the most of it!


A little later in the afternoon we gathered for presents. Shepard was sneaky and saw that the present bags on these gifts didn’t go all the way to the floor!



Taking a quick break to make punch.


The boys played with these sleds at Fleet Farm for at least half an hour about a month ago. I was really hoping to get them to a real sledding hill this week, but it’s been so rainy and warm I’m afraid we won’t have any snow left!




The dogs were obviously so tired, but they couldn’t leave the action. They’re a lot like Shepard and need to be where the action is every second of the day!




Timmy got a little obsessed with beating a Rubik’s cube in under a minute this year. Everyone caught on and bought him related gifts!

As a side note, I realized Brittany didn’t show up in a single picture. πŸ™ She was there…on the couch between Timmy and I. Sorry, Brittany.


We got my dad a Costco membership because he’s always talking about all the Costco food his coworkers love. Hopefully he can make good use of it!


Again, many good gifts had by everyone! Caden got Pokemon Sun, which is what he wanted the most. He’s had games taken away for a couple of months now, so he was taking full advantage of getting them back on Christmas.



And that’s a wrap for Christmas Eve! We were back home with cookies set out and the boys in bed by 8:00. Earliest Christmas Eve ever!


Santa was able to come around 9:00 this year! And took a picture before anything was messed up. πŸ™‚


I’m a little obsessed with stockings. I took full advantage of the gigantic ones I ended up hanging this year. Despite their length, all the gifts still wouldn’t fit! I wish I had gotten a picture of the cookie plate before Santa ate it because Shepard made a reindeer out of carrots, for the reindeer. It was really cute how excited he was. Normally every year they fall asleep on the way home from Beaver Dam and I just set something out on my own.


Christmas morning! It was the first night in probably a month and a half that Shepard slept the entire night without coughing. Which was fairly amazing considering he coughed almost nonstop all night every night up until the night before. I kept waking up and worrying about him! Surprisingly, Shepard slept until 6:00 and Caden 6:20. We were expecting a much earlier wake up call!



Shepard was really excited about his new motorcycle bike!! It’s just a bike, fyi, but looks like a motorcycle. πŸ™‚


Caden doesn’t do jokes. Not so amused with “reindeer poop.”



We did stockings first and the guys each got three minifig bags. I was looking at the sheet of paper after Caden opened his and was really excited about the mom and baby set. So Shepard and I were THRILLED when he opened his and we got it!


CUTEST LEGO EVER. I’m totally stealing it because he’ll forget it even exists after a day or two.


Minifigs are awesome.


I got a Steiff collector’s edition teddy bear in my stocking! I saw this bear about a year ago and totally fell in love with him. I’m always on a treasure hunt at antique stores for vintage Steiff bears, but occasionally check out their website for new ones. When I realized this bear was already sold out, I couldn’t resist an ebay search. I think a collector’s bear might have to be a new Christmas tradition! I loooove teddy bears.


His official name is “Big Timmy” which I thought was pretty funny.


Whereas Shepard got a bike, Caden’s big Santa present was a huge nine person tent. Now that we have a yard to set it up in, I figured it was worth the investment. Greg hates camping, but I think the boys are old enough now I can probably handle taking them on my own a couple times over the summer. It will be fun! And we have room for other people to join us if they wish!






After presents, Shepard had to get his bike in action! The annoying thing is that the seat isn’t adjustable and he’s just a tiny bit too short for it. I think he’s starting to get the hang of it now, but he was having a tough time getting started on his own.


It was a weird, rainy Christmas morning.


After a couple hours of playing and relaxing at home we headed back to Noe’s for more family time. The boys love sitting on laps. I wonder when Caden will start feeling too old/big to do it anymore.


Melissa and Shepard building the giant Star Wars set she gave him.



I think this was the first year all ten of us were there for all three days of parties. The occasion needed a photo! Wish I had thought to bring my tripod!


Sadly we had to say goodbye as everyone got ready to go their separate ways last night and this morning. I’m not sure when we’ll all be in the same place again.


And finally, one last Christmas stop at my parents’ house. This is all the dog stuff my mom got! Plus three pairs of socks that didn’t make the picture.


Oscar graced us with his presence this day.


Caden spent all day playing Pokemon. I spent most of the day reading a book in the midst of everything, so I can’t really blame him.


My mom and I both loved brie, so we basically had this for dinner. It’s a caramelized onion baked brie with onion, cranberry, and pistachios. It was delish.


Shepard was too excited to sit still doing anything for more than a few minutes at a time. He loves being by people!



And that’s about it! I had one of the best Christmases ever. I hope you did too!

Our Family Christmas


We had our family Christmas tonight! We usually have it on the 23rd, so we can claim a little bit of nuclear family time before the 24th and 25th which are so packed with extended family. It’s nice to have a quieter celebration with just the four of us when the excitement is new and everyone is happy. We have a family party on the 23rd this year, though, so we had to push it back to the 22nd. It worked out well, though. Greg started his vacation today, so we spent the day together and had a nice lunch date. Then we picked the boys up from school and jumped right into present opening!





Shepard and his I have a cold and for whatever weird reason I have to always be sucking on my top lip mustache. He’s been wanting this lego set for a really long time.


For some reason I was actually in a store with just Shepard, so he picked out his gifts for Caden in person. He was so excited about this nerf gun.


They played with this the rest of the night, so it was a hit!


A couple of weeks ago I asked Shepard what kind of present he would get for me if he could. He said a really big shiny star for the tree. I guess he told Greg that idea and they got me one. It’s big! πŸ™‚





Greg said that on his own Caden came up with the idea of getting me a yoga mat for Christmas. He knew I already have one, but he wanted to get me one in my favorite color and he’ll take my old one and we can do yoga together. I better find some videos for us to start!



Shepard saw these pajamas in the Target catalog and REALLY wanted them. Despite the hilarious facial expressions in this picture, he was really excited about them, put them on immediately, wore them the rest of the night, plans on wearing them tomorrow for Pajama Day at school, and told me it was his favorite present of the night!


I found this cake pan at a vintage barn sale. I told him it was a decoration, so he took one of my pictures off the wall and hung it up…




Shepard’s gift for Daddy because they love building lego sets together so much.


Caden’s gift for Shepard. He picked this out on his own too. Said that the only reason Shepard watched one of the Star Wars movies was because he wanted to watch these walker things, so he knew he’d like the lego set.


Shepard also really wanted to get Caden Monopoly. A couple of months ago Caden mentioned wanting it out of the blue and when we were at Target Shepard remembered! I was pretty proud of their gift giving talents this year!


Caden was REALLY excited. Greg is a Monopoly hater, but according to all the amazon reviews, this version of Monopoly has a much shorter game play! We shall see.




Caden gave Greg a Stardew Valley map because they bond over video games.




This was the hilarious present of the night! It’s from one of my favorite podcasts. I read the first couple of pages and was laughing so hard. Can’t wait to read the rest! I also got some house things – a wall lamp to go by my computer, an LED lamp for my writing desk, sheer curtains for our bedroom, a new snow globe, and some candles.


I wanted to make our dinner tonight extra special, so we set up the table in my sewing room and tried to make it look fancy. I’m pretty terrible at cooking more than one dish at a time, so three at once was quite a feat for me! It’s not exactly a balanced meal, but it was good!




Overall, it was a really special night together! Now I’m even more excited to see what the next couple of days bring!

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Favorite Things Party


Last night I threw my annual Favorite Things Party. I started this last year and quickly decided it’s my favorite Christmas tradition that I do solely for myself and my friends. It’s a really unique way to get people together and have a gift exchange that’s a little more exciting than your typical white elephant ordeal. It’d be fun for any time of the year, but especially festive around Christmas!

I did some research on favorite things parties and everybody does it a little differently. A common theme is to have a set number of participants and then everybody picks one favorite thing and brings enough of it for each person at the party to take one home. I love that idea, but I imagine it could get really expensive really quick. So I altered the rules a bit and asked everybody to bring three of their favorite things. It could all be the same thing, though variety is sometimes a lot more fun. At the party everybody writes their name on three slips of paper and then we take turns going around the room and drawing names for each of our gifts. It’s exciting to see what everybody brought and always fun to get three presents back for yourself!



Last year I threw this party in the morning for my fellow stay at home moms. It was fun, but also a bit more chaotic with a bunch of little people running around. This year I wanted it to feel more special and celebratory, so I planned it at night and was able to invite some of my working friends as well.

My favorite party food these days is a well planned cheese board, so that was the focus of our “meal.” πŸ™‚


I also bought a package of fancy Italian meats from Costco. I realized I most definitely do not like fancy meat, so if anybody wants all the leftovers…


I also made a veggie pizza wreath.


And a cranberry salsa that was so easy and so delicious!


I wanted to keep all the party food relatively simple and stress free to make, so I bought some fancy chocolates, made my favorite cookies, and my new favorite salty caramel corn treat from my favorite cookbook of the year: The Cookies & Cups Cookbook.


I had a hot chocolate bar.


And wine! The pink moscato from Innocent Bystander is my all time favorite wine. (Seeing a theme, here? :))


The gift pile. A lot of people asked me if they should wrap their presents or not and I suggested not since you usually say what and why you brought each thing. But I guess everybody preferred to wrap anyway! πŸ™‚ We had a really nice selection this year, with 14 people at the party. Some items included books, coloring books, wine, blanket, coffee, socks, notebooks, pens, movies, mugs, lotions, and a wide variety of sweet treats.


Last year I knew exactly what I wanted to bring and this year I had a lot harder time narrowing it down. I wanted to give things that were truly my favorite, but would also make a nice gift for someone to take home. The book Bread & Wine is one of the best I’ve read this year. It was my first venture into the food memoir genre, which has quickly become of my favorite types of book to read. But it’s also about friendship, family, entertaining, faith, and simply finding joy in the people around you and the food that nourishes you. I adored this book.


The second gift I brought was a Turkish towel. I discovered the awesomeness of these towels this past spring. I found it to be the absolute perfect little blanket to toss in my purse for park outings, baseball games, and even the pool. They’re bigger than your average towel, but extremely lightweight and fold up SO tiny. I have two of them and I’ve used them many times for a variety of purposes.


I really struggled with my third gift. Most of my favorite things are more abstract or a bit too expensive for this kind of exchange. I really hesitated about giving a media item since everybody’s tastes are so different. But I loved this CD so much I had to do it. I’ve never even heard of JJ Heller before, but I randomly came across her new Christmas album on Spotify and I haven’t been able to stop listening to it since. It has all of my favorite Christmas songs on it, but they sound so fresh and unique. I totally love it.






Overall, I’d call the party a raging success! πŸ™‚ I can’t wait to do it again next year!

Preparing for Christmas


Happy December! I’ve been really busy this last week trying to get all the Christmas decorations set up and ready. It’s so much more fun this year playing around with bigger spaces and spreading everything out. The last few years I’ve barely even put any decorations out because there simply wasn’t any room. I love having a house! Here is our main Christmas tree fully loaded with most of our many, many ornaments. This nook of the house was finished last night after I sewed up a Christmas bunting I’ve been slowly working on for awhile. I love how it turned out!


Here’s the other half of the living room! I found that gold vintage metal tree at a holiday barn sale a couple of weeks ago. The stockings are a little bit oversized. πŸ™‚ Normally I hang them on the wall for decoration. I have smaller stockings we usually use, but they don’t have any loops on them. I might sew some on and switch them so we can see the candle fireplace a little better.


I was so excited to have a mantle where I could finally display my Nativity this year. My grandma painted a set of these for all the grandchildren when we were little and gave them to our parents to give to us when we got married. I love having this beautiful token to get out every year and remember her by. I also love seeing evidence of creativity and artistic talent in an older generation of my family.


As always, Twinkle the Elf showed up this morning. I almost hesitate to even post anything about him anymore because there are such elf haters out there! I don’t understand the passionate hatred so many people hold for Elf on the Shelf. I figure it’s a choice every family decides if they want to take part in or not and to each his own! We don’t use Twinkle as a threatening tool, telling the boys he’s always watching and reporting back to Santa. It’s just a really fun tradition that my kids absolutely love and look forward to every day before Christmas. I don’t see the harm in that!


Twinkle always brings powdered sugar donuts the first day he shows up. Shepard is guessing that it will take him four hours to eat his own donut because he has such a tiny mouth.


Of course today is the day Caden slept in. Shepard and I were waiting at least half an hour for him to wake up. Surprisingly he was quite patient about waiting for his donuts while he was musing over why Twinkle wears red, how often he goes back to the North Pole, how he can hold a paint brush to make toys, and why he doesn’t want to stay at our house all year.


I finally had to wake Caden up. He hasn’t been sleeping that well lately while fighting a bad cough. He’s on an antibiotic slowly getting better. It seems to be a really bad year for coughs all over the place.


They finally could open the Advent calendar! Shepard’s been yelling at me for days to fill it up with candy. When he realized last night that I finally did then he yelled at me because he wanted it early and I shouldn’t have put candy in it until today!


Back to decorations! My in-laws gave us another big, but skinny tree to put in our family room. I didn’t think I’d ever be one of those multi-tree households, but it’s kind of great! I love where our main tree is because I spend the most time in there. But it’s really fun having a tree in the room where we eat and play legos and watch tv too. So festive!


The Advent calendar Greg gave me our first married Christmas, the snow globe he gave me our first Christmas together, and a musical tree egg.


My Christmas Annie nook. One made by me, the rest by some other makers.


Christmas pillows. The patchwork one was my project for myself last year. I love patchwork things, but HATE making them. I’m the worst at lining things up!


My favorite giant Annie and new elf addition this year.


My favorite vintage decorations.


Small “tree” and delightful smelling cinnamon candles that don’t even need to be lit to blast scent in our bedroom.


Caden’s tree in his room. He went for the minimalist look.


And finally, Shepard’s tree. He claimed all the ornaments with snow on them or family pictures. He took great care in his ornament placements too and has a story to tell about why each one is where it is. Love that kid.

That’s about it! I’m so excited to truly enjoy all the festive rooms while we make new Christmas memories the first year at our house!


Christmas for our family always begins on the 23rd when we celebrate at home just the four of us. We’re WAY too busy on the 24th and 25th, so it’s nice to have a slower day to open and thoroughly enjoy all of our presents. This year I got up early (I get up early every day, always, no matter what – kind of annoying) and made brown butter donuts with chocolate frosting. They turned out pretty good!


After breakfast we opened presents and played with each one before moving on to the next. Caden opened this Lego set right away so they spent the next hour building it.


Greg gave me a craft saw so I can make more standing bears. πŸ™‚ He also gave me a Vintage Pearl necklace I’ve been wanting for a long time, a seat warmer for the van, and a salted caramel candle.


The boys gave Greg his favorite sunflower seeds. He’s been out for awhile, so he was pretty happy.


Shepard too!


The boys gave me a Whirley-Pop and a bunch of popcorn packets. We had popcorn for lunch. πŸ™‚


Popcorn! It was a really nice day just bonding and relaxing. Everyone was even getting along for most of the day. It was a good Christmas.


On Christmas Eve we start the day with the Noe’s. Here are all the Noe children.

Noe parents.

After a big breakfast, the boys started off the present opening. They both looked so handsome with their new space shirts over button shirts. πŸ™‚

Shepard got underwear! He keeps saying that when he’s three he’ll start potty training. I hope he realizes this is only seven or so weeks away!

We love hot sauce!

It was really hard to come up with sewn presents for the men in the family, so I finally settled on tote bags. Not sure if he’ll use it, but at least the fabric is pretty awesome!

Caden got a lot of map related gifts at all three Christmases. This book is extremely nice.

Greg got a tablet! He was pretty excited, though Caden immediately gravitated to him and wouldn’t stop bugging him to see it the rest of the day.

After playing some games, we headed over to my parent’s house for the Braatz family Christmas.

We had no idea when my dad was going to get home from delivering packages, so we tried to make the afternoon and evening last as long as possible by opening the occasional present that would occupy some time. I gave my mom and myself oysters with pearls inside of them. We were both really freaked out about opening up a live oyster.

Our pearls! So pretty.

This was definitely the Christmas of Legos! It’s kind of funny since Greg actually does all the building (which he LOVES), but the boys do enjoy playing with them.

Shepard loves all the little vehicles. He’s very good at sound effects. πŸ™‚

My pizza bread wreath. This stuff is SO good.

Finally all together, including my brother and sister-in-law via Skype. It was really nice they could be included, despite being in California, though also a little weird to have two people just sitting there staring at you from the computer for most of the evening! Anyway, it was a great Christmas eve. I love Christmas eve. πŸ™‚ Just lots of family time and gift giving. I’m always so excited to give my gifts!

Christmas morning and Santa has come! Despite going to bed three hours later than normal, the boys were still up at the same time. And they were CRANKY. There were a few dollar bills in their advent calendar which immediately sparked huge fights, tears, hitting, throwing things, etc. It was NOT a good start to Christmas day. Greg came out and told them they had to go back to bed, which really doesn’t happen with them. Instead we just sat around waiting for Greg to get up later. Which resulted in a very rushed and stressful morning opening Santa presents so we could get to Oshkosh in time for our other Christmas obligations. It was not very enjoyable. πŸ™

Santa’s gifts. When Shepard saw the presents he yelled, “Who give us all these presents??” And Caden’s reaction, “Why did Santa give us only like fifteen presents?” I wish there was a way to space their present openings out a little more so they don’t start having that attitude that they should be getting more, even though they’ve already gotten a hundred presents from other people!!

Caden was excited about his new bike, though it’s a little too big yet. He had to put his boots on to get the pedals to move.

Shepard got a lot of games this year. He loves his games!

I think Caden was most excited about this bubble bath! Maybe Santa should have given much more simple presents!

I didn’t take many more pictures, but after we were done with our Santa gifts we went to Greg’s grandma’s house for a short visit and then his aunt’s house for our annual big Christmas brunch. In the evening we went back to my parents’ for dinner and Caden was reunited with his globe that we forgot there the night before. He says this is his favorite present. He really loves maps.

Overall, it was a really nice Christmas! I love that the boys are getting older and enjoy everything a lot more. Caden at least is finally getting really into Santa, so I hope we have a good handful of years left before someone spoils it for him. Christmas is definitely a lot more fun with little kids around sharing their excitement over everything.

Merry Christmas!