Monday, December 28, 2009

The loot.

My boy was sure happy that Santa brought him his "books-that-have-games-and-books-that-have-words" (Leapfrog Tag Reading System) and his "glower" (Crayola Glow Dome), but wouldn't you know, his favorite item out of everything was in his stocking, a $2 item "Santa" picked up at Michael's. I could have gotten by with just $2 this year, and I think that kid would've been just as thrilled. I bought this liquid/glitter filled baton (in boy colors, of course, of blue and orange) that was an immediate hit. My husband looked at me like, I can't believe you bought our boy a baton, but I just came back with a stare of I-can't-help-it-that-this-Santa-is-so-brilliant-and-knew-it-would-not-be-used-as-a-baton-but-instead-as-a-weapon/scepter/walkingstick/etc. Oh, the things that make our kids the happiest. And sure enough, after it was all said and done, my boy was back to playing with his favorite old wooden blocks most of the day.

Christmas for me is much more about giving and receiving. I love love love to give gifts, but I would be just as happy with no gifts for myself. My husband and I don't give gifts to each other at Christmas, which I really actually love since we never really need anything, and, of course, it saves money as well, but I always receive a few gifts from my mom and my family, and a few of them this year I just had to share. Some highlights of what I got for Christmas:

Oh yes, I totally asked for this one, the first time I've ever requested an "as seen on TV" item! But folks, I love it already!

I was at a cooking class a month or two ago, and our hostess had one and raved about it. Since all of my potholders are kind of sad-looking, and none of them cover my whole hand, I was sold on the idea. Our oven is a convection oven and a bit smaller inside than most standard ovens, and I am always a hair's breadth away from burning the backside of my hands when I am putting some of our larger pans in the oven. My particular Ove Glove doesn't have the silicone grips like in the video though. My mom got it at Walgreen's, much to my husband's delight. He is somewhat of a Walgreen's connoisseur, of which we tease him to no end. I'm thinking I might have to ask for a second one for my birthday, since then I would be able to safely load the turkey in the oven next year with no problems at all. Ha!

I promise not all of my gifts were kitchen-themed, but my mom also gave me this beauty. She was going to wrap it up for Christmas, but I ended up deciding to make a pie to take to our family lunch, so she gave it to me two days early so I could use it. I only have a glass Pyrex pie dish, but I had been wanting a deep dish pie dish with fluted edges (just 'cause they're pretty). She bought me this one, and I love it:

The dish is beautiful in person -- turquoise and brown pottery. It's handmade in Washington, and it is lead-free, dishwasher, oven, and microwave-safe. I love the fact that it was made in the good ol' U.S.A. And on the bottom is etched a recipe for "Apple Crunch Pie", an easy and delicious recipe that I went ahead and used, and the pie ended up being a big hit -- no leftovers.

This next gift from my brother and sister-in-law (who am I kidding, props go completely out to my sister-in-law for this one since I know my bro didn't do the shopping) is also going to get lots of use in the kitchen...

an adorable apron from my favorite designer lady, the uber-talented Anna Maria Horner. Believe it or not, this Anthropologie-lovin' gal only owns half-aprons, so this full apron is going to get a lot of use, especially now that I've honed my domestic goddess skills and cook a lot more often than I used to.

And I plan on ordering this with my Christmas cash:

This lens has a lower aperture than either of my other two lenses, and it's the only affordable one out there for me to try, as the lower the aperture number goes, the pricier the lens. I'm hoping for some awesome pictures with blurrier backgrounds.

A few of my favorite things I gave as gifts were Etsy purchases.

For my sister-in-law, I purchased this:

-- a "Keep Calm and Carry On" necklace from Etsy seller Storytales. Do you know the background story to this famous poster? Pretty cool. And just as appropriate for a mom of three boys under the age of five as it was for a country trying to motivate their citizens during a time of war, don't you agree?

I also purchased two of these, one for my boy and one for a nephew:

-- "I Spy" bags from Etsy seller Giggle Junction. (Check out the astronaut one they have for sale right now -- super cute.)

They are flannel bags, 7"x7", filled with plastic pellets and 20 miniature objects hidden inside. Children can use their hands to shift around the pellets to reveal the hidden objects in the plastic window. There is a laminated card attached with a picture of all the hidden objects. I figure this will also be a handy quiet toy to have when the boy is sitting through the church services with us. Plus, it just earned me some bonus points with my sister-in-law since I bought a quiet toy and not a loud electronic battery-sucking one for her kid.

I was inspired by many of my favorite blogs and all of the bloggers who took the "handmade pledge" this Christmas. I may never be able to fully take a handmade holidays pledge myself (that would require lots of thinking ahead and way less procrastination on my part), especially since I have a feeling that as my boy grows older, his "wish list" might not include much that I could make, but I am going to try to buy more and more from independent artists and less from the big box stores and plastics from China. This is a start, anyways.

So that's it, the "loot" at our house. And this year, just like every other Christmas and birthday, I loaded up every gift the boy got and put him in front of it for a picture, what we always refer to as the "loot picture". My parents did this for us every year, and it has been fun to look back through the pictures of my childhood and remember some of the favorite gifts we received throughout the years. Hopefully my boy will appreciate this as well someday.

I hope your Christmas was filled with fun gifts, too, but mostly the kind of gifts that matter -- like the gift of Jesus, the gift of time with family and friends, and the gift of time off!


Every Christmas, my family goes to the movies. And no "blizzard" was going to stop us this year either!

This year's movie choice was one we could all see, four-year-old included --
Disney's "The Princess and the Frog".

I was a bit skeptical going into it because, in my opinion, Disney lost some of it's magic after the era of "The Little Mermaid", "Beauty and the Beast", "Aladdin", and "Lion King". After those movies, the quality seemed to be lacking, and the most recent animated films didn't seem any more impressive than the cartoons you could catch on a typical Saturday morning. Thank goodness I didn't let that keep me from going to see this little gem. It was one of my favorites that I've seen in a long time! Beautiful colors and scenery (New Orleans and the swamps), fantastic jazz music, and great lessons to be learned. My boy had no problem watching a "princess" movie, and we all were laughing out loud throughout. Don't miss this one!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

More decor galore...

...sorry. Just can't help rhyming, especially after just reading "The Cat in the Hat" with my boy.

Here's a peek into my little guy's room. He was very proud of the tree we set up next to his bed, and I really did let him put most of the ornaments on it himself. Most of the ornaments are passed down from my childhood, and we are slowly adding one or two a year to his collection. This year I actually added a glass ornament (brave, I know!) that I found and just could not pass up -- a Peter Pan ornament complete with pirate ship, Cap'n Hook, Peter Pan, and crocodile. I did hang it securely up at the very top, and so far, so good.

Do you spot the train whizzing by up on the shelf? (The picture's kind of dark, so you might have to click on it and make it bigger to see the train.) My husband finally wired it all up properly this week, and the buildings now light up as well. The train speeds by at three different speeds, all around the ceiling, across a little bridge, through one end of the bed and out the other end through the bookcase, around and around and around. It also sounds a very realistic whistle, has a headlight on the front, and even blows tiny puffs of real smoke! Talk about living vicariously through our child -- I would have gone crazy if I had such a cool setup in my room when I was growing up.

And just to prove that you can still buy things for a dime or two...

all year long I collected Christmas books from the thrift store. Most were between 10 cents and $2, and by December, I had about twenty or so collected for us to read, usually one or two a night, all kept in that red wooden bin you can see underneath his tree. Some of the books were practically brand new. In fact, the new hardback copy of "The Polar Express" with the untorn and wrinkle-free book jacket intact still had the Borders sticker on the back reading $18.95. That baby set me back a whopping $1.50. But one of the favorites ended up being a big paperback book that cost me either one dime or two (I can't remember) -- an unused paperback copy of "The Night Before Christmas" complete with two sheets of stickers that had to be placed in just the right spot throughout the book to complete the pictures. My boy was so proud of himself when he got all of those stickers in their rightful spots, and we were able to read through the story together.

...and still to come, The Christmas Story post! And yes, to all those wondering, we did receive a white Christmas -- beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. Sleet came first (this is Oklahoma, after all), and then about 5 or 6" of the white stuff. It's been called the Blizzard of 2009, but my husband and I can't help but chuckle every time we hear it called that. We did live in Minnesota, and our little "blizzard" would be a typical winter day up there!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

There is no other reason that we celebrate this blessed day than the birth of the One who came to save us. I pray that you know the love of our Heavenly Father and have a relationship with His Only Son, Jesus Christ. The merriest of Christmases to you and yours from my family.

"Welcome to Our World" -- Chris Rice

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Decorations Galore!

Since it's Christmas Eve and I am not-so-patiently-waiting on the white stuff we've been promised, I thought I'd do a little series of posts about some of the Christmas decorations up around our house. This year is a bit sparse in comparison to years past, mainly due to two small felines I know, but I have some favorite little collections anyway that I thought I would share. (Click on any of the pictures to see them in much bigger detail.)

First, the glittery goodness I've started collecting!

Mine are not the expensive glitter houses, but instead cute ones I've picked up here and there at bargain basement prices (which is even better, right?!). A few of them are from Marshalls and are actually "Country Living" brand (which is funny since that is my favorite magazine). The larger church is from a store in Arizona -- we were there for Christmas a few years ago, and on a random shopping excursion, I picked it up for something crazy like $8 or $9, so I carted it home on the plane with me. The elf and one of the Santas are from a vintage holiday store our city used to have, and the boy and the snowman are a new addition this year from my mom. The styrofoam cup angel is new this year courtesy of my boy and his preschool.

This year I only purchased one new house, but it is the cutest thing. Here is the front:

But check out the surprise in the back -- it looks like a little dollhouse!

I also have two handcarved wooden Santa figures from Russia from years back that I love. I absolutely adore the kind eyes on the bigger Santa, but the colors and details on both figures are exquisite.

Not only is the front of the larger Santa beautiful, but check out the back!

And finally, another purchase from this week that I could not leave at the store. For $10, I picked this beauty up. It's metal and heavily glittered on both sides.

Stay tuned for a few more fun decorating posts including my boy's room (all gussied up as well) and the infamous "Christmas Story" craziness that is my living room. Oh, I am a fanatic about that movie and you'll soon see what I mean...

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas-ing it up!

We've been Christmas-ing it up 'round these parts.

Watched "Holiday Inn". Oh, how I would love to be Linda Mason, my favorite little character...

Slept in this morning - 'til 10am! I haven't done that in FOREVER! And bonus: the boy slept in that long as well!

Made marshmallows, batch after batch after batch. (And I'm sure we'll be making a few more batches before the year is over.) Speaking of, you MUST go over to my buddy Courtney's and read her harrowing tale of marshmallow-making. Hilarious. Seriously.

Rode the Christmas Train. It's refreshing to know there are still places in the world that have the right focus for Christmastime.

Watching "Home Alone" tonight, then "Four Christmases" after the boy goes to bed.

And a little bit of sewing has been going on as well!

I whipped up two sets of pajamas for my boy. Every year I try and find him new Christmas pajamas to wear on Christmas Eve, but this year is a little bit harder as he is now between departments -- no longer the adorable toddler department, barely the bigger boys' department, which definitely doesn't have the cuteness factor going on. Everything in there seems to be skateboard or skull-themed, and I'm not ready for all of that quite yet. So I bought flannel uber-cheap at Joann's one day, and finally got around to sewing up two sets yesterday and today. I'm not an apparel sewer, so I was a bit nervous and bought a pattern, but I had no reason to be nervous. Two pieces, that's it. Easy peasy! I even went above and beyond, thankyouverymuch, and finished off all of the seams with a zigzag stitch (since I don't have a serger), and reinforced most seams, and added a ribbon "tag" at the back of both pairs of pants so my little guy would know which side was the front. Go, Mama!

Now that I know how easy they are to whip up (pajama pants, that is), my family might be sporting matchy-matchy goodness every Christmas Eve (starting next year, that is). For the tops I just bought el cheapo t-shirts from the boys' department at Wal-Mart and appliqued on some scraps of leftover fabric. The t-shirts are unbelievably soft for $3.50 each. Can't beat that with a stick.

Here's hoping they don't shrink so bad in the wash, since I didn't preshrink my flannel before I started. This pair will be the Christmas Eve pair for tomorrow night:

And then I made a second pair just for fun. The whale/polar bear print reminded me of some old school Banana Republic t-shirts my brother rocked back in the day...

I figure when they start to look like highwaters on him, I can just cut them off and make them into shorts to make them wear longer.

And now we are just waiting and wishing and hoping for a White Christmas. In Oklahoma, this is considered to be very much a RARITY, but we just might get our wish. So far, the predictions are for 4-9" tomorrow afternoon and evening, which would turn our little corner of the world into a perfect winter wonderland just in time for the big day. Wish us luck!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

'Tis the season to be jolly.

I'm still here.

Sorry, you just can't get rid of me that easily.

But things are a little busy right now, what, with the holidays and all, and I find myself knee-deep in piano playing, marshmallow making, kitty wrangling (out of the Christmas tree), present shopping, party attending, and the general mayhem that seems to surround me wherever I go.

I promise I shall return with a glorious post sometime soon.

Until then, enjoy this picture of Sir Harry, quite pleased with himself and the progress he has made on our poor Christmas tree. As I type this, the entire top of the tree now leans decidedly to the right, another row or two of the lights decided the go out, and more than one ornament is now missing. It's gonna be Charlie Brown-worthy pretty soon, folks.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

A little advice.

Take it from me.

Don't let your four-year-old watch TV channels with commercials. Stick with Nick, Jr. (formerly known as "Noggin") or PBS. Skip Nickelodeon, the Disney Channel, any of the major networks, etc.

Trust me.

I cannot complain. I have one of the most easygoing kids on the planet. Even when it comes to Christmas. There wasn't really any toy that was on his wish list for Christmas, but since he is getting very interested in reading and writing, I realized a toy that would be perfect for him and planted a few little ideas into his head. Sure enough, it worked, and when I would ask him what he was going to ask Santa for for Christmas, he repeated almost verbatim what I had told him about -- "a book that has games, Mama!".


Because I had already bought this little lovely for a bargain-basement price, wheelin' and dealin' with my coupon skills. Got it half-off the sale price actually, and got several books to go with it also at bargain-basement prices with more coupons. (I paid less than half for all of the items, AND had it all done BEFORE Thanksgiving even! Go me!)

And then one of us screwed up and let him watch a movie we DVR-ed off the TV, something off the Disney Channel that HAD COMMERCIALS.


And thus his love affair with the Crayola Glow Dome was born.

Which he threw in there yesterday when I took him to see the big fat man in the flesh. "Santa, I want a glower" was his exact phrasing.

To quote my own boy, "Wat you say????!!!!", my overconfident-because-this-Santa-already-had-Christmas-in-the-bag-so-to-speak self was thinking. In fact, I was so happy that I wouldn't have to be one of those parents -- you know the ones having to fight over this year's most popular toy like a dumb Zhu-Zhu Pet or something. (Although I am sending out a big high five to my cousin right now, since I know she was one of those poor parents bidding on eBay for the dumb hamster toy.)

Well, no sweat, I thought. The coveted Glow Dome is on sale at Target this week, so I'll just run by there and pick one up. I did my research and checked online to see if it was even available, and according to the website, three stores were supposed to have it in stock.

Fast-forward to this morning, almost two and a half hours after starting out, several phone calls to every store in the city (and not just Target), I finally located one at a Michael's store. There were actually two left when I got there, so I snatched them up (the second will be perfect for a cousin his same age).

And no, they were not near as cheap as from Target.

And yes, I am a bit cranky after the whole experience.

And no, the boy will not be watching any TV channels with commercials between now and December 25th.

Don't let this happen to you, kids. Don't let this happen to you.