Monday, December 30, 2013

'Twas the Season of Jolliness (Excepting, of course, the gift that went belly-up.)

We enjoyed such a nice Christmas which began with the arrival of Grandma Lulu and 
Titi (auntie) Jessica! 
The fun began on Christmas Eve with a delightful performance (the culmination of a 2-day, intensive drama workshop for the monkeygirls) of, Julius the Baby of the World starring G, as "Lilly" and P, as none other than "Cousin Garland!" (We were all duly impressed.)
The evening continued when we headed over to our neighbors' house where we enjoyed carols, libations, food, and festivities. Not only was it lovely to be so close to home, it was especially nice to toast the holiday season with the friends and families we've come to know and who have been so warm and welcoming since our arrival to Charlotte earlier this year. The live music, visit from Santa, and the pitcher of Manhattans were a few highlights. 
Christmas morning began at 8am (!!! Right? I can't be sure, but I think they stayed away from those Manhattans the night before…) when the monkeygirls came charging into our room to wish us a "Merry Christmas" (and demand that we wake up Lulu and Titi for presents). 
Then the waiting game began while aunt Jessica shook off her cobwebs--I kid… (But seriously, let's work on shaving off a few minutes for next year.)
The wait was worth it! Both scored their #1 and #2 gifts from the lists this year. First choice for both: A Fish. Second choice for this one? Tangerine High Tops.
In addition to her #1 fish, this one was dying for a Walking Stick with a Strap. BINGO!
As always, we made it a point of staying in our jammies until "dinnertime." (Not including each of our individual fashion shows parading around the living room in any and all new articles of clothing we received.) 
Later in the afternoon, we were so happy to welcome this big guy and his family--including his grandma and grandpa for Christmas dinner. 
Before dinner, we sipped wine, St-Germain Cocktails, and Bloody Marys (Thanks, Jessica for the amazing mix!) and attempted to restrain ourselves to a nibble of the delectable appetizers that Erinn made. (You should know, I cannot be trusted anywhere near deviled eggs.)
I could not have pulled off The Meal (presented only 10 minutes after my "planned" time!) without the help of my adorable children--who set the table for 11, my talented husband who took on the Prime Rib beautifully, my sister-in-law--who put the salad together and made the green beans on the fly while I whizzed around the kitchen finishing corn casserole, mashed potatoes, and gravy. My mother-in-law asked in advance if she could prepare what turned out to be a highlight for me: roasted brussels sprouts with mushrooms and cream
(I honestly cannot believe that I failed to take any pictures of the food. It's so UNLIKE me.)
Thanks to our "family-guests," after dinner we were treated to homemade pumpkin (my favorite!) and mince pies (a delightful first for most of us), thumbprint cookies, and spiked coffee. 
Worth mentioning is the fact that I sported my second chalazion during this holiday season. 
Oh joy! {insert HEAVY sarcasm}
The first time "eye" (lol--haven't lost my punny sense of humor) enjoyed a chalazion (no link--I dare you to search it in google images) was in April just after moving here. At the time, I tried blaming it on the pollen. As it turns out, the problem is me and my thick oil glands in and around my eyes. (That, plus the fact that I'm really a pirate on the inside.) My friends and family had to endure my appearance (go ahead, google it--I'll wait…) but since then, I've had the procedure done to remove it (couldn't be more unpleasant) and only got to rock this badass patch for a few hours.
And guess what? That was not even the worst highlight of our holiday. 
Remember those #1 Santa requests? 
Yeah… fish. 
I'm sorry to report that P's fish, Peakok [sic] Jones (may she rest in peace), apparently contracted a fin bacteria on Santa's sleigh. 
 As you can see below from the sweet eulogy that G wrote for her, she only survived 2 days. (I hope Santa could hear P's sobbing all the way up there at the North Pole.) We had a little service for her in the backyard and buried her under the Hope Tree (the name our girls have given to the huge magnolia).
The horrible "Momma! I think there's something the matter with Peacock" episode ended on a happy note when G insisted on using some of her Christmas money to buy P a new fish. :) 
So far, Peaches is doing well.

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Monday, December 23, 2013

Fun With the Girls | Reindeer Cookies

I saw the sweetest idea on Pinterest and thought it would be really fun to execute with the girls--and it WAS. I would like to link back to the original person who came up with the idea--but all of the pins are a dead-end. Anyhoo… I cannot take credit for the idea of these cookies. ;)
The original cookies had brown M&M's for the eyes and red M&M's for the nose. We wanted to make a lot of the cookies to share with the staff at the girls' school and with our neighborhood friends--so I subbed chocolate chips for the eyes and found a bag of "Christmas" M&M's (just red and green) for the noses. I let the girls eat the green ones and they were quite pleased with that, as you can imagine.
The rest was easy enough: Nutter Butter cookies, small pretzels, and white cookie frosting.
By the way, this is the best frosting. I found it at both our grocery store and Michael's.
We packaged a few up in little white bags and attached some note cards with gold and white kitchen twine.
Super sweet. Super easy. Great craft for the kids. AND delicious too!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Not Exactly "Crafty" | Holiday Card Fun

We had a lot of fun with our holiday card this year and went a little "outside of the box." 
It all began like every other year: we hired a photographer and decided on a location for our family picture. Having just moved to a new house, we decided to have our pictures done in and around the yard. Our photographer took a TON of great shots (seriously worth every penny!) and here's the one we probably would have chosen if we hadn't gone a little crazy instead.
We were just wrapping up an hour long session, when coming across the backyard, our photographer noticed our semi-creepy, borderline-dangerous, exterior basement stairwell. 
"We should take a couple shots of you guys over there." 
[Me, looking confused.] 
She continued, "It can be your album cover if you ever decide to be a band." 
The monkeygirls in unison, "Awesome!"
The result? Awesome, indeed.
The girls didn't even plan or discuss that pose, they just marched down the steps and became fierce. 
Two weeks later, we received the disc with all our proofs and this was literally the second to the last shot of over 300. I called Greg over and he loved it immediately. Somewhere in my mind lurked the image of Vampire Weekend's Contra album.
I couldn't believe it when I found this card on Minted and wondered immediately if it would work with our stairwell picture.
It did! So we added the bit about "East Coast Tour" to help sell the idea of the band.
On the back we made a play with song titles, changing the names a little bit to have some fun and adding a sweet picture of the monkeygirls to demonstrate that we hadn't completely lost our minds.
Anyway, it was SUCH fun and we hope everyone enjoyed receiving it as much as we enjoyed creating it.

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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Getting Crafty | Holiday Wrapping + Gift Tags

:: Reindeer Birdies with Paper Scraps ::
I saw these sweet little tags on Pinterest a couple months ago and knew I wanted to make something similar. I love that they're little birdies sort of dressed up like reindeer! The originals were made from fabric scraps. Being the paper-person I am, I immediately went to my scrap box and recreated the idea using patterned paper. 

I made a couple templates of varying sizes to trace and affixed my "jelly bean" bodies to larger kraft and green card stock. Then traced the edges with a felt-tipped marker and added legs, beaks, eyes, and antlers. A hole punch and kitchen twine finished them off.

A couple little scraps called out to be regular reindeer. On these, I added brown-colored brad noses or eyes.

My little monkeygirls made some too! I LOVE their creations.

If you like the Birdie Reindeer tags better with fabric and don't want to make them yourself, this person is selling them on Etsy.

:: B&W Photo Tags ::
I saw the idea for photo tags on Pinterest too. I hadn't intended to use the idea this year for Christmas; however, I printed several sheets of 2.5" x 2.5" black and white photos for another project I'm working on and this first sheet came out too dark. I couldn't bear to throw them out--so I hung onto them and I'm so glad I did! 

:: Four Things ::
Something you NEED
Something you WANT
Something to READ
Something to WEAR
The idea for these gift tags is credited to the post How We do Christmas in our Family from Emily at Jones Design Company blog. The idea is for Greg and I to limit the number of gifts we give the monkeygirls (and one another) to a much more reasonable pile. 

(Emily offers free printables for gift tags and a Christmas List delegated by these four categories over on her blog. I created my own tags in the colors I wanted and you can print them HERE. They are designed to fit onto business card sheets--which I often use for gift tags--but plain paper or card stock will work just as well.)

The girls loved the idea of 4 specific kinds of gifts and we talked at length about having a "smaller" Christmas so we could adopt another family in our area to "give" Christmas to this year.  Honestly, the hardest part has been limiting MYSELF to purchasing just the four gifts. (See above? I snuck two items under that tag!) Like Emily, I should also admit that the kids will receive more than four gifts. Already, gifts from family scattered across the country are festively crowding up under the limbs of our tree.
For more wrapping inspiration, visit my Pinterest Board: GIVING.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Things I Love Thursday // 12.12.13

  • Opening cards from all over the country to see the faces of all the great peeps we know and love and miss… AND then finding a new spot in our new home to display them 
  • Finding just the right gifts and then wrapping them up 
  • The way the Christmas tree comes together with all the eclectic and priceless ornaments that we've collected from great friends and family over the years ~ Including ones made by my babies, my husband, and even my mother for her mother-in-law way back when… 
  • Advil ~ Because some mornings are a little rough around the edges
  • Choosing with my family to receive less this year so that we could adopt a family to sponsor for Christmas ~ A very special thank you to my great friend Staci and the Bills family for the fabulous idea! Shopping for the gifts and then delivering them with the girls this afternoon was such a gift to us. 
  • When the hubby and I get a chance to make an evening of dinner and Christmas shopping
  • Watching our "Son" in her first theater production, Fiddler on the Roof  
  • The Ugly Volvo's hysterical post: "A Ten-Month-Old's Letter to Santa"
  • Checking things off the Holiday Fun List ~ Gingerbread Village! 
  • Overhearing snippets of the telephone conversation P (almost 7) had with her friend from school this evening ~ She is so earnest and makes such a sweet effort at maturity--it's too precious and it's definitely going too quickly!
  • Our family tradition of finding a place of honor on the mantel for "Dirty Santa" ~ This is a small stuffed toy that Greg had from childhood. When sweet Geneva was about 3 she pulled the tissue off of this little Santa guy and asked with a skeptical look, "Whadda we do wif dis dirty Santa?" Ever since, he's worn the title with dignity and grace.  
  • Flannel sheets
  • To occasionally delight the monkeygirls by having "Elvis Peppermint Kate" (our Elf on the Shelf) get a little creative ~ Typically, Elvis moves from a stocking to the tree, to the mantel, to the bookshelf, to a light fixture, and back to a stocking… Sometimes though, he goes for a ride on a golden reindeer in a saddle he borrowed from one of the American Girls that live upstairs. 
Cheers to the Holiday Spirit!
May you find some quiet time to enjoy this magical season with the ones you love.

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