Thursday, December 18, 2014

Hot Chocolate Bar

Today is Polar Express Day at school for these two cuties....
 
All cozied up in their jammies about to have pretty chillaxed day at school.  They've been listening to their Christmas playlist and switching back & forth between watching Home Alone &  Rudolph more times than I can count.  I feel like life has finally come full circle :)
 
Currently these are their Top 10 Christmas songs...in no particular order.  Bless.


As they were all cozied up in their jammies on the way to school this morning, they were singing at the top of their lungs (and you can bet I was belting out the tunes right along with them) and exclaiming their excitement for a morning full of movies, popcorn, and hot chocolate.  Oh, to be a kid again..sigh....

Speaking of hot chocolate, today's post is all about our little hot chocolate bar.  



I originally set up this little space for my sister-in-law's bridal shower, but we loved it so much we decided it should stay put during these next couple of winter months.  The boys absolutely LOVED that idea and ask for hot chocolate treats often.  I only oblige if I can indulge, too ;)

The Keurig is on display for hot water purposes.  We keep disposable traveling cups with lids in the bottom portion of the buffet as well as coffee mugs.  The top right drawer holds all of our coffee K cups and I have a little Christmas dish full of creamers set out next to the Keurig, too.  Coffee & hot chocolate = dreamy.

We have 4 jars full of different flavored hot chocolate...salted caramel, milk chocolate, peppermint, and hazelnut.  I found all of the hot chocolate mixes at Marshall's. The boys' favorite mix is the tried and true milk chocolate.  I'm a sucker for the salted caramel and the peppermint runs a close second.  Hazelnut is pretty darn good, too.  Heck...I like 'em all!!!  HA!

All of the jars were found at Wal Mart (about $4 per jar).  The vinyl chalkboard labels were also a fun Wal Mart find.  They came in a pack of 24 for about $3 and all I had to do was use a chalk marker to add the edging and label.  I found them hanging next to the large jars.  Score!


The red containers are full of toppings and fixin's.  Caramels, chocolate chips, crushed peppermint, and marshmallows.  I don't leave these out on the reg because I don't want them getting stale, sticky, and gross.  I keep them in baggies inside those drawers on the buffet and pull them out when we have company.  If it's just us and the boys, we pick straight from the bags. #lessmess  
I found the chalkboard labels on clothespins at Michaels...they came in a pack of 2 for $1.50.
The red containers were a fun find in the baking/holiday section at Michaels ($1 each) and the spoons are from Amazon (pack of 10 for $8.50)

I personally love adding caramel candy to my salted caramel hot chocolate and then topping it all off with the Reddi Whip I love so much.  When I reach for the peppermint hot chocolate, I toss in a few chocolate chips, a handful of marshmallows, a little crushed peppermint, and of course, my beloved Reddi Whip.  Don't forget the candy cane stirrer, too!  #straightupsinful



I also have a few little things set up in mason jars.  Candy cane stirrers, pirouettes, peppermint marshmallows, and straws.  I found those fun and festive Christmas straws at Michaels and no one ever uses them.  But they look cute, so they stay :)

As if you didn't know what this display was all about, I decided a little chalk art was necessary to tell you ;)  #captainobvious


When the adults come over to play, I make sure to set out a few mixers in case they want to partake in the hot chocolate, too.  Our favorite hot chocolate "spirits" are Rum Chata, Baileys, Peppermint Schnapps, & Butterscotch Schnapps.  You can find some rather delicious hot chocolate drink recipes HERE.

I fancied up the jars with some fun and festive ribbon (totally unnecessary and excessive...just the way I like it).  This has become the most visited little spot in the house.  We decided that we're going to do this every winter starting during the Christmas holidays.  Not only is it fun to look at, but it's functional, too :)  I'm sure I'm missing a few things I could've added to the mix, like butterscotch chips and gingerbread marshmallows, but we were running out of space :)  

This really is the most wonderful, fattening, indulgent time of the year :)

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

A Christmas Bridal Shower

{tap, tap, tap} Hello??  Is anybody there?? {tap, tap, tap}

We've had a bit of radio silence here on this little blog for the better part of the last few weeks.  All good reasons, I swear.  LIFE.  It gets in the way of other stuff.  I always let go of the blogs when life gets a little crazy and these last few weeks have been all that and then some.  

If I'm being totally honest, I love it when I look at my planner and see NOTHING planned. Truly.  I love spending time with my friends...I love having family functions to attend...I love helping out at the boys' schools....I love traveling to present...but I REALLY love those quiet nights at home doing absolutely NOTHING with the people I love most.  Can I get an amen?!

In the past 2 weeks, I've planned/prepped/hosted a bridal shower, chaperoned two field trips, traveled to Michigan and back to Houston, presented 8 sessions to some amazing educators, attending a late night dinner & earring exchange with my girlfriends, took the boys to a milk/cookies/pajama party with Santa, planned/prepped/hosted an Ugly Sweater Party for our friends, helped my old team decorate for our Christmas Around the World, and now...NOW...I'm finally home.  And ready to start Christmas shopping. #everythingissoldout #waitedtoolong #iloveamazon

I don't want to glorify the busyness.  I just tend to over commit too often.  Saying no is NOT my strong suit.  Putting that on the list of things to consider for New Years resolutions.  I had to invest in this book for our upcoming trip up north...I really need to learn how to say no so that I can save the "yes" for the big things God wants for me :)  But darnit...that's HARD!!!!!  



Moving right along...

A couple of weeks ago I hosted a shower for my soon-to-be sister-in-law...she's the one in the middle.  

A few family friends, my aunt, & my sister all helped with this little party.  Everyone was in charge of bringing their favorite dish(es) for our little soiree slated to start at noon on the first Saturday of the month.  I absolutely LOVE the group of hostesses that helped out.  These women are some of my mom's best friends and they are just that...the best!!!!  LOVE them!!!!  And they always go above and beyond with things like this. 



We had a great little turnout and the bride-to-be scored some amazing swag.  I'm SO happy for her & my brother!  I just love them to pieces!!!!  

My aunt brought these delicious bundtinis from Nothing Bundt Cakes.  I love serving these as opposed to the traditional bridal shower cake....easier to hold and they taste WAY better than anything I could even attempt to conjure up in the kitchen.  This was the only picture of the spread that I got :(  SAD...because the rest of the food was equally as delicious!!!



I also set up a hot chocolate bar.  I took away all the random Christmas decor on our buffet in the living room and set out several jars of different flavored cocoa mix, all the fixin's & toppings, stirrers, and the Keurig {for hot water}. It was a HIT!  

large jars - Wal Mart / red containers - Michaels {$1 each!!!!} / wooden serving spoons - Amazon

I decided to keep the hot chocolate bar up for the rest of the winter.  My boys are OBSESSED and it's seriously the perfect little indulgent treat.  I'll post more about the hot chocolate bar tomorrow!!

Instead of games, I decided little "stations" would be better.  I guess that's the teacher in me ;)  My house has a really open floor plan, so this worked out really well.  

In our little sitting room, I set up an ornament decorating station.   I wanted to do this not only to go along with the Christmas theme, but because the couple-to-be doesn't have a big collection of ornaments and I thought it would be so fun for them to decorate their tree with little bits of their friends and family before they have a collection that can replace it.  

chalkboard & ornaments - Michaels


It worked just perfect!  I set out plain, matte ornaments and gold/copper/silver metallic sharpies.  The guests could decorate the ornaments however they wanted and if they were stumped for ideas, I wrote down a few that might help get their creative juices flowing.  I wish I would've taken a picture of the finished products...they were adorable!!!

We also had a bible signing station.  I loved this idea when I first saw it.  I bought the couple a large print bible and then set out bible highlighters and pens. The guests were instructed to highlight their favorite verse about love/life/and/or marriage and then sign their name next to the verse.  I also had the iPad set up to Bible Gateway in case they needed help remembering where to find their favorite verses!

chalkboard - Michaels

Someone said this would be a great to use as a "traveling" bible...taking it to future showers...both wedding & baby :)  LOVED that idea!!!  

Stay tuned for more details about the hot chocolate bar tomorrow!!!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

STEWpendous!

Are there really only 21 more days left 'til Christmas?!  Yes, yes...I'm sure that's what I'm seeing on the calendar.  #timeflies

Thanksgiving flew by fast and furiously...as it always does...and I made sure to enjoy each and every calorie I consumed.  I haven't really stopped since then, either.  Still wearing my Thanksgiving pants, thankyouverymuch.  Thanksgiving is always one of my favorite days of the year because I get to spend lots of QT with the fam and the obligatory Thanksgiving picture always gets taken...

Why are my boys looking so big?!?!!  

My mom and I went Black Friday shopping the day after THanksgiving and we swear we won't return to the Galleria on that day in the future.  It was crazy.  Crazier than it's ever been in the past.  And while we were there, we were evacuated out of a back tunnel in the mall because there was a supposed shooting in the mall.  A SHOOTING IN THE MALL.  I've never been so scared in my life.  The store employees rushed us out of a back door and the look on people's faces were complete fright.  We ran through the tunnel trying to find a way out....it was like a funhouse maze...and when we finally reached the exit, we breathed a huge sigh of relief.  Scared is an understatement.  Thankfully, it wasn't a shooting at all.  A couple of punk kids thought fighting in the mall was a cool idea...one of them pushed the other into a glass marquee...the marquee fell and shattered and when it did, people scattered and some of them yelled "GUNSHOTS!!!!"  Way to incite a panic.  LAWD!!!!  That, by far, was the most eventful Black Friday to date.  #survivor  (please tell me you can read through the sarcasm in that hashtag ;)}


Now life is back to normal...sort of...until Christmas.  I leave for a conference in MI on Sunday and the week before a presentation is always full of craziness here at the house.  While I'm prepping, I completely forego all my domestic duties.  But I'm hosting a bridal shower on Saturday, so I've actually had to be on the ball with all that.  I tend to overcommit myself more than I should...I have this weird idea that I can do it all and ohmiword...turns out, I CAN'T :) 

 All that to be said, easy dinners are the name of the game this week and here's one that's perfect for a quick, weeknight meal.  Packed full of flavor and comfort, there's no reason not to try it out.  Especially this time of the year when everyone is short on time.  

CHICKEN AND SAUSAGE STEW

2 tsp. vegetable oil
1 C. chopped yellow onion
1 green bell pepper, chopped
3 stalks of celery, chopped
4 skinless chicken thighs, bone in
4 skinless chicken drumsticks, bone in
cajun seasoning, to taste {I used Tony Chachere's}
1 TBSP. all-purpose flour
2 C. water
2 links of sausage {smoked/turkey/andouille)
1 bay leaf
1/4 C. chopped scallion

First let's get started with the trinity.  This is my favorite veggie blend for sure.  I love the way it smells when it sautees.  SO good.  Add the oil to a large skillet then toss in the onion, bell pepper, and celery.  Sautee for about 5 minutes.


Now take the veggies and push them to the sides of the skillet and place the chicken and sausage in the center of those veggies.  It's like a duck, duck, goose mush pot of yumminess.

Season the chicken and veggies with a little bit of cajun seasoning. 


 THis is our favorite...

We pour this stuff on everything, I swear.  
Anyway, season to your liking.  Cajun seasoning can pack a little punch, so you may want to add sparingly until you have a chance to give it a taste test and figure out if you need more.  

Cook the chicken for about 3-5 minutes and then turn over and cook for about 3-5 minutes more.  You'll want to give it some time to brown on each side.  Then sprinkle the flour over the chicken & veggies like so...

Now add the water, bay leaf, and sausage.  Cover and let simmer for about 35-40 minutes.  

You'll be tempted to sneak a spoonful while it's simmering.  By ALL means, go for it.  When it's nice and cooked, remove the bay leaf and toss in the scallions.  We served ours over a bowl of rice and let me tell y'all...it was sensational!!!  I'm a big fan of any kind of chicken and rice combo, but the sausage and stew  texture amped it all up a few notches and this will now be one of my go-to meals.  


It was so easy to prep and cook.  And it was SO full of flavor!  This is my favorite kind of weeknight meal.  Full on flavor, short on prep time.  And for someone who has completely overcommitted herself this week {don't you hate it when people write in 3rd person?!?!?}, I couldn't have found this recipe at a more perfect time!  Seemed like I spent way more time in the kitchen than I did!!!  Those are the best kind of meals, for sure!  STEWpendous!!!!(See what I did there?!?!? ;)}

Friday, November 28, 2014

Christmas Gift Guide

A few weeks ago, I went with my mom, sister, and some of my mom's friends to the Nutcracker Market.  If you don't live in or around the Houston area, the Nutcracker Market is sponsored by the Houston Ballet and it's a HUGE shopping event.  It's probably my favorite thing to do all year.

Tons of vendors...lots of food {and drinks!}...and shopping galore.  I'd love to tell you that I got most of my Christmas shopping done while I was there, but alas, I did not.  I did, however, get a TON of great gift giving ideas!  And then that made me think I needed to collect even more great gift giving ideas because that's where I start riding the bus down struggle street.  I like lists.  I like to KNOW what people want.  I can tie that up in a pretty package with a big bright bow and be on my merry way.  But what about my friends/family who don't do lists?!  I need something for them, too!!

Today is Black Friday and my mom and I will be out and about today eating copious amounts of food and then burning off those calories with short spurts of shopping.  Our main goal today will be eating.  We don't go for the sales....although finding a few good deals is always a bonus...we go for the food...and each other's company, too of course!  The very first year we did this we definitely went for the sales.  And then we wanted to hurt all the shoppers.  Then we decided we'd just go for fun.  And that's exactly what it is for us....FUN.  And a yearly tradition I don't want to miss.  I love being with that woman!!!

In honor of one of the biggest shopping days of the year, I thought it would be fun to share a few gift ideas with you...just in case you ride the bus down struggle street, too :)


1.  Fujifilm Instax Mini 8 Instant Film Camera.  In the age of everything social media, this little alternative is a welcome break!  And it's pink!!! {but it does come in 5 different colors}
2.  Anthropologie Crowned Leaf Measuring Cups.  Because I'm a sucker for cute measuring cups.
3.  Clairsonic Mia 2 & Philosophy Purity face wash - I love my Mia.  A lot.  I have a lot of friends who love theirs, too.  I like using mine with the Purity face wash because it's so gentle and leaves my skin feeling so smooth, but that's all preference :)
4.  Tocca Florence Perfume - If you're looking for a new perfume, this one is IT.  Can't say enough good things about this fragrance.  FOR REAL.  {If this isn't your thing, I'd also suggest Marc Jacobs DOT, Kate Spade Live Colorfully, Tory Burch, & Banana Rebuplic Wildbloom Vert.
5. Aerie Blanket Scarf - I adore this scarf and if you act fast, you can grab it for $18 until December 1st (free shipping, too!)
6. Kendra Scott Ellie Stud Earrings - I'm pretty much a fan of all things KS and I own more of her jewelry than I'm proud to admit.  Okay.  Scratch that.  I'm totally proud to admit it :)  Somehow I don't have these yet, so they're on my list :)  There are several different colors, but this one is my favorite.
7. Flannel PJ set - I love a good flannel  PJ set.  These pictured are from JCrew & they're over $100.  I love J Crew, but I wouldn't pay that much for a pair of PJs.  If you're out shopping between now and gift giving time, you need to head to Marshall's or TJ Maxx.  The absolute CUTEST flannel and thermal pj sets...most under $40.  They are my most favorite!!!!  And cute, too!
8.  She Reads Truth Bible Studies - I can't say enough great things about this Bible study.  There are several on this site, but this is the one I started with.  A dear friend sent me a copy and I gifted it forward by sending 3 more copies to 3 of my dear friends.  It's such a sweet gift to give.
9.  Sigma Makeup Brushes - for the beauty enthusiast in your life, these brushes are AMAZING!!!!
10.  Statement Necklace - I can't even handle that this necklace is from WAL MART!!!!!  Wal Mart, people!!!  I own it and I love it!  And I get asked where it's from all.the.time!!!  For only $10, you can't go wrong!  
11.  Nixon Time Teller - My mom bought this watch for me last year and it's my most worn accesory.  I LOVE this watch!  It's so versatile and it looks good with almost everything.  I love pairing it with my Tory Burch studded wrap...it's just a great watch!



1.  Beard Pack - great product for the bearded boys in your life.
2. Craft Beer Club - it's the gift that keeps on giving!!!!
3. LL Bean Waffle Pajamas - now, I love the flannel jammies on Mr. Spouse, but these take the cake.  Truly.  These will be under the tree this year for sure.
4. It's Written In The Stars Handkercheif Set of 3  - love these hankies and they would make the perfect gift for dads, grandpas, uncles, husbands...hey, maybe even yourself?!
5. The Whiskey Wedge - We are big whiskey fans at our house.  My husband has really become a connosieur of sorts.  Not only is he enamored with the taste, but he's fascinated by it's origins, how it's distilled/brewed, etc.  He is going to LOVE this!!!  
6.  iGrill2 Bluetooth Grilling Thermometer - No more standing over the grill waiting for your steak to cook to the perfect temp.  There's an app for that ;)  This is too cool!!!
7.  Brushed Twill Shirt in Explorer Blue - I love shirts like this on men.  If this option is a little pricey...because it is...there are much more cost effective options at Gap, Old Navy, and American Eagle.
8.  Bottle Breacher - I saw these bottle openers on Shark Tank a few weeks ago and I immediately put these on the list for my brothers, dad, grandpa, brothers-in-law, and uncles.   These are the neatest bottle openers and I love that the inventor is a member of the military.  The story behind the product is inspiring and makes me love it all the more.

1.  Fujifilm Instax Share Smartphone Printer SP-1 - For all those pictures you swear you'll send off to print, but never do.  I think I want this on my list, too!
2.  Portable Car Vacuum - yes, please!!!  This is a must when carting around kids.  I'm tired of random cheerios and fruit snacks sticking to my rear when I sit in the backseat.
3.  UE BOOM Wireless Bluetooth Speaker - My husband got this as a gift last year and now we want everyone to have one.  This is the BEST speaker!!!!  For being such a little thing, it sure is LOUD.  It's compatible with the bluetooth on our iPhones and we can play it ANYWHERE.  I absolutely LOVE this thing!
4.  Swoozie's Wooden Cutting Board - I'm biased because the cutting board is all about my home state, but there are several different versions and different states offered on the website, so check 'em out!
5.  Stick-N-Find Bluetooth Location Finder - My husband and I are ALWAYS losing our keys...and pretty much everything else that's important.  I can think of about 5 different family members who would benefit from this product, too!
6. Photojojo Cell Phone lenses - for the selfie enthusiasts in your life.  The picture taking possibilities are endless ;) #duckfacesfordays
7.  Birchbox Subscription - these are available for both men and women.  Another gift that keeps on giving.  My friends who subscribe absolutely LOVE their Birchboxes!
8.  Carry-On Cocktail Kit - for your traveling friends and family, this gift is PERFECT!!!

This post would be 8 miles long if I included everything I wanted to, so I'm saving stocking stuffers, teacher gifts, and baby/kid/teen gifts for next week!!!   Hope you got some good ideas here today!  Happy shopping!!!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

It's Beginning To Look a Lot Like Christmas! (Christmas Decor - Day 3)

Welcome back to day 3 of Christmas Week!

Yesterday I shared some of my most favorite family Christmas traditions, but I forgot to mention one....

SHOPPING FOR ORNAMENTS

Every year before Thanksgiving, I take the boys to Hobby Lobby to sift through the vast assortment of ornaments before they're all picked over {Hobby Lobby for the win....it's just the easiest.  HUGE assortment and they're always half off...which really means that's probably the real price, but whatever.  It's easy!}  I let the boys choose 2-3 ornaments a piece.  They have no restrictions on what they can choose.  Basically, anything goes.  As gaudy and ridiculous as the ornament might be, everything is fair game.  I absolutely love to see what they choose because the ornaments tend to reflect their interests and things that are on their hearts at that particular moment in time.  I like to think I have frozen moments of time hanging on my tree.  One day those moments won't be on my tree anymore.  I'll give them to the boys when they get married and they can use them to decorate their own tree.  Their wives may hate me for it, but I think it's a pretty sweet and sentimental idea...and it sure will give them a head start on tree decor!

That to be said, today we're taking a tour of our Christmas decor and while we're on the subject of ornaments, let's start with my trees.  This year, we have 2 1/2 trees.  1 at the front of the house, 1 in the kitchen, and a tiny tree in the boys' room.

Here's the tree in the front room....
Stuffed with lots of "filler" and sentimental ornaments.  I'd love to have a "catalog perfect" tree with matching ornaments, but that's just not my life.  I love the random variety.  I love that each ornament has a little story to tell.  That's what I used to love most about my grandma's tree and the tree my mom put up every year.  I hope that's something my boys love about ours, too!

Here's the tree in our breakfast nook...

This one is a little more matchy-matchy.  I didn't intend for it to be that way, it just sorta happened.   I absolutely love this tree!  It's teeny and flocked and it reminds me of a tree my Grandma Gloria used to have in her house.  

Now let's head back into the front of the house.  This is the space you see when you walk in the front door...
I always struggle to decorate this space.  It's just a bunch of Christmas greenery, some chalk art, and a random assortment of apothecary jars filled with ornaments, pinecones, and tree beads.  
Chalkboard - Marshall's last year {I wrote the wording}
Apothecary jars - all from Marshall's, collected over the last 5ish years {give or take}
Baskets on the bottom shelf - Ross { within the last month}


On the opposite side of that couch table is our living room.  Is this what's referred to as a "great room" up north?!  I can never remember.  Anyway...moving right along...here's our fireplace and mantle this year...
I LOVE the way it turned out!!  Mostly because I'm in love with my print from Lindsay Letters :)  (I got the 32x36" just in case you're wondering!)
O, Holy Night Canvas - 32x36 - Lindsay Letters
Stockings - Hobby Lobby {last year}
White pitchers - part of my ever growing collection, from Marshall's/HomeGoods (I've been collecting these for about 2 years now!)
Artichoke finials - Ross {within the last week, always hit or miss!}

Here's a bigger view of that space.  I have bookcases flanking either side of the fireplace and they are the BANE of my exisitence!!!  Such a BEAST to decorate!  I decided to keep it really, REALLY simple this year.  


                                                      Here's the shelf to the left of the fireplace.  
                                        

All of my Santa figurines are Possible Dreams and they're gifts from my mother-in-law (it's a tradition!  We get them every year!!!}
My Willow Tree nativity set is also a gift from my mother-in-law.  It's my most favorite piece of Christmas decor.  They freak my husband out because they have no faces.  Bless him.
The two Christmas trees on either side of the nativity are from Hobby Lobby {$5 each!}
The Santa Claus sign is from Marshall's {last year} and so is the "Get Your Jingle On" sign {this year}

These are the top two shelves of the bookcases to the right of the fireplace.  The bottom two shelves are blocked by the TV {praise Jesus!! Less to worry about!}
My mother-in-law used to own the most darling little shop.  She's an AMAZING florist and she has a KILLER eye for decorating.  She had tons of the most amazing Christmas goodies a few years back and that's where I scored the trees, Santa bucket with berries, the two glittery fat Santas, and the funky old Santa to the left of the barnhouse on top. (Speaking of the barnhouse, I love that thing.  It was made with the wood from the barn my husband grew up with.  My in-laws recently had the barn torn down and rebuilt and they used some of the wood to make these little bird/barnhouses. LOVE.}
The "Have Yourself a Merry little Christmas" sign is from Hobby Lobby {this year} and the Santa next to it is from Marshall's {this year}.
The subway art from "Elf" is from Ross {this year} and the Santa to the left of that is from Marshall's {a few years back}.  


My brother just built me this AMAZING coffee table and it's the perfect space for my little tray filled with Christmas greens, pinecones, candles, and a random reindeer :)

The tray is from Ross {this year}.
I've had the candles and hurricanes since we got married 10 years ago and I have NO clue where I got the random reindeer.  He's like a little gnome.  He just follows us wherever we go.


Sitting right on the fireplace are a little collection of trees that were gifted to me by my mom...I think. 
We also have this ridiculously hilarious "Santa bust" that a friend of mine laughed and laughed about every time she saw it.  I think of her every time I look at it!  I've had him for at least 6 years and he was an after-Christmas find at Hobby Lobby.
The Santa wish list was a fun find at The Nutcracker Market this year and I got it from The Round Top Collection.  One of my FAVORITE booths there!!! 
My boys are OBSESSED with it and they're constantly wanting to draw pictures on it for Santa.  It might not be in the "cutest" condition, but it's pretty darn precious to me...their hearts are all over it!


On the wall opposite the built-in bookcases is this little gallery wall and buffet.  Pretty simple.  Nothing too exciting.

Again with the white pitchers.  I have so many in my collection that I wanted to use a few as part of my decor this year.  They're sitting on top of an old distressed shutter.  The red jingle bell garland-y stuff was also another fun find at the Nutcracker Market and that was from The Round Top Collection as well.  I had NO clue what I was going to do with it when I bought it, but it was only $5 so I knew I'd find somewhere to put it!  HA!!!  
The little Santas were from Marshall's {this year}.  Can you see a theme here?!?!


These bookcases are far from finished...and a little scary...and they're in the same room as the Christmas tree.  Another little space for all the Santas from my mother-in-law.  Now if I could just finish decorating, I'd be pumped.


I still haven't tackled the dining table...and I'm not 100% sure I know what I'm doing with it this year...but here's a little nook in the dining room.

I got those amazing little trees from Kirkland's in Indiana about 5-6 years ago.  
The "believe" sign was a fun little find at Marshall's {this year}.
The basket on the bottom shelf of the table is from Ross {within the last month} and it's holding a bunch of Christmas greenery.

This little set-up is right across from the table above.
The subway art is from Marshall's {this year} and that little Santa is my MOST favorite in my collection.  I'd also like to tell you that about 10 minutes after I snapped this picture, my boys were running through the house {after I told them 15 times to stop} and they knocked my favorite Santa off the table....and it broke :(  I might have overreacted.  About a Santa.  Not proud of my Mommy Dearest moment at all.  I yelled.  LOUDLY.  And the boys felt awful.  And then so did I.  Because really.  It's a Santa.  A MATERIAL THING.  I get it.  But gosh darnit...I told them about 15 times to stop running!!!  They know better!!!  A little E600 fixed that Santa right up and he's just as good as new.  And I'm pretty sure the boys will never run in the house again...until the next time anyway ;)

Now we're in the kitchen.  We just had the cabinets painted and I got rid of all my top-of-the-cabinet decor so this room is still a work in progress.  I haven't really decorated this space for Christmas other than my little coffee tray.

And really, I didn't even do this.  I came home from the grocery store one day to find it "styled".  Ha.  I did the chalk art and added the Santa {again, from Marshall's this year...I LOVE that place!}, but Mr. Spouse decided to add our ONLY two Christmas mugs to the mix to finish it all off.  I had a couple of my favorite mugs sitting there beforehand and he hid those from me.  He's a living Clark Griswold I tell ya.
The other little tray on the top right is sitting on a different counter.  That "Merry Christmas" sign {Marshall's, this year} is covering an outlet.  That Santa is from WAL MART!!!!!  Yes, WAL MART!  I got that about 8 years ago.  It was one of our first Christmas decorations as a married couple.  I wish they still carried stuff that cute!!!  The apothecary jar is filled with some kind of potpourri business I got from Illuminations when they were going out of business and that little tree is from Hobby Lobby {several years ago}.

Moving right through the kitchen and going back to the breakfast nook is this little random centerpiece in the middle of my tiny table.  SO simple.
I found that ball at Marshall's {shocker!} and filled it with pinecones and set it on top of some Christmas greenery.  The stand is a flea market find and it's sitting on top of a charger I recently found at Target.

To the right of that centerpiece is a wall and on that wall are these shelves {built by my husband}.  
I can't remember where I got those Merry Christmas bocks, but I've had them for YEARS!  The little finnials on either side of that are from Hobby Lobby and I've had them just as long.   That tall Santa on the far right on the top shelf was another find at WAL MART about 8 years ago.  Y'all...I LOVE that Santa.  Every year I pull him out I wish I would've been able to afford to have bought about 10 more at the time.  They had several different varieties.  I just LOVE him!!!  The Santa next to him was a Marshall's find a couple of years ago and the Santa next to the chalk art was from Hobby Lobby last year.


Here's the powder bath in our main hallway that runs between the front room and the living room.  

I love this little space.  It's seriously the tiniest powder bath you've ever seen, but there's something charming about it that I just love.  The shelves are from Target and we {by we I mean my husband} installed them a few months ago.  I drew the chalk art above the toilet and that little tin Santa in front of it is from Target {no lie, about 13 years ago...I remember because I spent one of my first teacher paychecks buying Christmas stuff the day after Christmas that year.  I was FREAKING out because I spent $45 and that was WAY more than what I had budgeted...but I did get what I thought was a lot that day and I still have most of it in random places around the house!}  The Merry Christmas sign on the top shelf is from Hobby Lobby {this year} and the Santa next to it is from my mother-in-law.  She knows how much I love adding to my Santa collection and this was a fun gift from her shop!   The tree on the bottom shelf was another purchase from my $45 spending spree at Target 13 years ago and that Santa next to it is from Hobby Lobby {this year}.  The swag above the mirror was also from Hobby Lobby and I scored that a few years ago during an after Christmas sale.  I really don't like spending full price on ANYTHING!!!!  


Now that I'm about to post, I'm realizing I didn't take a picture of the tree in the boys room.  Not a big deal.  It's not decorated at all.  In fact, it's not fully decorated until December 24th.  We add a new advent ornament to it every day starting on December 1st.  We use the Meaningful Christmas devotional and we LOVE it!!!!   This has been one of our favorite family traditions for the last 4 years!!!  A tree full of ornaments handmade by some of my most precious friends.  Nothing better!



Anyway, that concludes our tour :)  Ha.
I only decorate the main areas because our house has such an open floor plan...and in all honesty, I'm not about spending a fortune on decor for rooms no one will ever see.  I would LOVE to have a tree in my room, but dang...that seems like a lot of extra work.  And while I know the juice would be worth the squeeze, I sure would be cussing myself during the take-down process :)  That to be said, you can bet I'll be looking for a tree on sale after the holidays are over ;)  


I know my decor isn't "Pinterest pretty".  Sometimes I think it would be amazing to change it all up and switch to all things burlap and rustic, but that's not my life.  And that's not what my boys have grown to love.  And in all honesty, that's not what I love either?! {although I am SO drawn to it and I think it's BEYOND stunning!!!}   We love our simple Christmas decor.  I love everything about it.  It all means something to me.  I love all the bright colors.  I love the sentiment behind a lot of it.  And gosh darnit, I LOVE my growing Santa collection!!!  

In my very unprofessional, humble opinion, there's no right or wrong way to decorate for a holiday.  If you want to decorate at the beginning of November, DO IT {we did!!!!}.  It's not taking any skin off anyone else's back.  If you want to put up a tree in every room in your house {God bless you}, DO IT.  If you like decorating with non-traditional colors...or not decorating at all...DO IT..OR NOT.  WHATEVER!!!!!!

 Whatver brings you JOY, do it.  This truly is the most wonderful time of the year, no matter how you decorate or celebrate!!!  

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Christmas Traditions (Christmas Week, Day 2)

So glad you stopped by today!  Today is Day 2 of my premature Christmas week...


Today it's all about traditions.  Such a HUGE part of this holiday season!  We're a family rooted deep in tradition and I married a precious man whose family is the same.  I couldn't wait to start a family and make our very own traditions and I'm so excited to share those with you today!


RANDOM ACTS OF CHRISTMAS KINDNESS


My most favorite Christmas tradition is RACK'ing.
We're all about random acts of kindness all throughout the year, but there's just something about paying it forward during the holiday season that seems so magical.  It's what the season is truly all about...doing things that make others see how great our God truly is!  More than anything, I want my boys to know how important it is to GIVE. I don't want them growing up expecting to recieve.  I want them to know how amazing it feels to make someone else happy.  How fulfilling it is to help others in need.  We started this tradition about 3 years ago and it gets better and better every year.  My boys truly jump at the chance to "RACK".

You can read more about our RACK'ing HERE and HERE.


OPERATION SHOEBOX
In keeping with the spirit of giving, every year my boys go shoebox shopping, too.   I love that they get so excited about stuffing shoeboxes full of surprises for less fortunate kids.  They just wish they could be there when those kids open their boxes.


ADVENT CALENDARS
Anything in the form of candy is always a bonus for my boys and they LOVE their yearly advent calendars.  My sweet school nurse at my old school gifted these to the boys one year and we've continued the tradition ever since.  I used to LOVE these as a kid!!!!



A MEANINGFUL CHRISTMAS

Speaking of advent calendars, this Christmas devotional advent is such a special tradition.
If you don't already know about it, you should.  It's the perfect way to teach your kids about the true meaning of Christmas!  The boys have their own tree in their room and they love to add their advent ornaments to it every night after our devotional.  And I love that I have a box full of handmade ornaments from some of my sweetest friends :)


BLACK FRIDAY

Yes.  I consider this a tradition.  This is a tradition I only share with my mom though.  And really, we aren't the shoppers who wake up early to score good deals.  Black Friday, for us, is more of an excuse for us to get together and eat more than we should.  We justify those eating binges by walking off our calories through little shopping spurts.  If we find a good sale, that just sweetens the deal.  But we're really just in it to spend time together...and eat.  A lot.



NORTH POLE BREAKFAST


We started this little tradition about 4 years ago and my boys look forward to it every year.  This is their "official" start to the holiday season.  Our elf, Elfabet, brings the boys a delicious breakfast of hot chocolate with mounds of marshmallows, strawberry santa hats, and snow covered donuts.  He also brings the boys a few Christmas goodies too...Christmas jammies, a movie, a book, socks...and anything else he can find in the Target dollar spot ;)



SANTA LETTERS

The boys are finally at the age where they can write their own Santa letters, but in the past we've "written" them together and then mail them out.  When we lived in the Dallas area, there was the cutest little Santa mailbox where we took pictures with Santa.  Since we've been here, we've been dropping them off at Macy's :)



GRINCH DAY!!!

Grinch Day started when I was teaching 1st grade and I decided it would be fun to have a Grinch Day at home with my family, too.  We wear our Grinch tees {Wal Mart has a huge selection}, drink our Grinch Punch, snack on Grinch licked candy canes, and watch The Grinch Who Stole Christmas.  My Grant says he loves this movie because the Grinch's heart grows and that makes him "happy cry".  Bless.


HOLIDAY BAKING
This is definitely a family affair.  Okay, so I do most of it, but all 3 of my boys like to help with the baked goods this time of the year.  From cookies for Santa to edible goodies for our teachers at school, we love us some holiday baking.


CHRISTMAS CONESThis is definitely one of my boys' favorites.  Decorating their very own {edible} tree.  Green tinted icing, sprinkles, and M&M's...their favorite snack.  Daddy and I are just there to lick the icing off the spoons and clean up their messes ;)



UGLY SWEATER PARTY

This is definitely one of our most favorite "adults only" traditions.  We host an Ugly Sweater Party every year and every year our friends knock it out of the ballpark.  We provide all the food which means I'm usually up late the night before and in the kitchen the whole day of.  Thank goodness "ugly" is the name of the game!  We hang out...eat..drink...exchange white elephant gifts...and save a little room for reindeer games.  I love celebrating the holidays with our friends!

CHRISTMAS LIGHTS
Of course, the obligatory drive through the most decked out neighborhoods is always on our list of holiday fun.  We always stop for hot chocolate before we get started and then we turn the AC on full blast to get the full effect of what it means to be cold in December :)  It's hardly ever cold enough here to enjoy a piping hot cup of cocoa while looking at lights, so we make our own winter...and that lasts for about 2 minutes before I'm all, "it's SOOOOOOO cold!!!  Turn that thing off!!!!!"


PICTURES WITH SANTA
We've come a long way from their first "brother" picture with Santa to now.  Hahahahahaha.



MAKING REINDEER FOOD
No matter where we are on Christmas Eve, we like to whip up a batch of reindeer food {oatmeal and glitter} and spread it on the lawn so the reindeer can find their way to the house.  This is just fun...and really, REALLY messy.  Landon has already asked me when we can make a batch this year.


ONE GIFT CHRISTMAS EVE
On Christmas Eve, we all change into our jammies after service & we each open 1 gift.  Since Santa brings the boys all their gifts...and he doesn't bring any for mom & dad...we each open one from each other on Christmas Eve...and then play with it before it's time to go to bed.


SANTA'S MAGIC KEY

Before heading off to bed on Christmas Eve, we make sure to set out Santa's Magic Key.  We've always had a chimney, but we like to give Santa options.  After all, there's no telling how many cookies he's had before he gets to our place.  Shimmying down the chimney might not be a feasible option at that point :)


THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS
When we tuck the boys in on Christmas Eve, we read this version of the classic to them before saying goodnight.  The anticipation of Santa's arrival is palpable.  Reminds me SO much of my childhood!


HAPPY BIRTHDAY JESUS

Early on Christmas Eve, we all bake a birthday cake for Jesus.  I let the boys ice and decorate it and it always turns out, well, special.  The first thing we do on Christmas morning...BEFORE opening up gifts...is celebrate Jesus' birthday. 'Tis the reason for the season after all.  We sing happy birthday to Jesus and eat birthday cake for breakfast.  I absolutely adore this little tradition.

POSSIBLE DREAMS

This has become one of my most treasured Christmas traditions.  Every year Adam's mom buys all the wives a Possible Dreams Santa.  She really puts thought into each one and they all reflect something about our lives.  I've opened 9 of these and Adam had several before we got married.  We were really big into playing poker a few years back and she got us the neaest set with Santa, a reindeer, and an elf playing Hold 'Em.  Ha!  This was last year's Santa in honor of our spirited dog.  I absolutely LOVE that she continues the tradition year after year!


CARROLL FAMILY CHRISTMAS CAROLS

Spending Christmas in Indiana with all of my husband's family is always magical.  They have such amazing traditions.  One of my favorites is singing Christmas carols on Christmas Eve.  Everyone dresses up and we all sit around the living room at Aunt Cynthia's in our very own spot...it's the same spot every year.  Before anyone can open up gifts, we sing a few rounds of Christmas carols.  I just LOVE it!


CARROLL FAMILY DRINK

On Christmas Eve, the Carroll family drink is served.  This is the only time of the year we have it.  I don't really know what's in it...except the raw egg and bourbon...but I can tell you that it's amazing.  And I make sure my glass is always full :)


CHRISTMAS CRACKERS
When we spend Christmas in Indiana, Christmas Day is spent at Aunt Cynthia's.  We head back there for a breakfast of the most amazing cinnamon rolls, the fluffiest eggs, sausage, and FUN!  When breakfast is over, we all open our Christmas crackers.  I had never seen these before I married into the family 10 years ago and now I can't imagine a Christmas morning without them!!!


AIRPORT FUN

This is where you can usually find us either on Christmas Day or the day after, so I consider this a tradition.   And I'm not just saying this, but I don't mind it at all.  The most important thing about Christmas is the people who I spend it with...not WHERE I spend it.   We like carrying extra candy canes from our RACK'ing and handing them out at the airport....or treating people to coffee...and just spreading holiday cheer however we can.  As long as we're together...even if it's 30,000 feet in the air...I love being with my family.  We just feel blessed to have two families who love spending time with us as much as we love spending time with them!

As you can see, I love traditions :)  I'd love to hear yours, too!

I'll be back tomorrow with a little tour of our Christmas decor!