Let’s Look: Wrapping Station

Today is the final “Let’s Look” for 2019 and once again I’m linking up with Erika and Shay. This month’s topic is all about our gift wrapping station. Kind of like the pantry post, this is something I never thought I’d blog about, but it actually was kind of fun to plan this post!

I keep all my wrapping supplies in one corner of a closet. It’s certainly nothing fancy, but it is very helpful to have everything corralled together.

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On the floor, you’ll see I keep all my wrapping paper in a storage bin that I bought a few years ago from Target. The handle makes it super easy to bring my paper out wherever I’m wrapping. I keep a variety of boxes in all different sizes from various purchases/packages so I have something to put gifts into.

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On the shelf, my old pink shower caddy from my college days gained new life as storage for all my little bits and bobs for wrapping – ribbons, washi tape, twine, tags, etc.

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I also keep a sturdy gift bag full of various colors of tissue paper. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever purchased tissue paper – this is all just paper I’ve received from my own gifts in the past! When I get a gift with tissue paper in it, I smooth it out, fold it up, and store it in a rough rainbow order. It makes it super easy to find the color I want and I feel good knowing the paper is getting reused instead of just tossed.

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I also have a TON of gift bags. Again, I don’t buy any gift bags. These are all bags I’ve received over the years that I’ve kept to use for gifts to others (as you can imagine, I have a lot of bags for weddings and baby showers!) I keep them stored roughly by size – larger bags get stored in one bag, smaller bags in another. I also keep my smallest gift boxes here, mostly because they fit perfectly in my storage box.

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I also keep extra shopping bags tucked on the side of the shelf – these are nice to have on hand to transport gifts to an event.

Whenever it’s time to wrap a gift, I just get out whatever supplies I need and bring it to my kitchen table. I do love using gift bags for easy gift-giving throughout the year, but there is something about Christmas that makes me want to wrap every gift. Yesterday I started wrapping some Christmas gifts and snapped a few quick pictures of what my work space looked like.

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I like making each gift a little bit special with tags, ribbons, or washi tape so I keep the caddy right next to me so I can grab whatever I need easily.20191210_142808.jpg20191210_14330620191210_144249

My little niece is super girly so so simple glittery washi tape is perfect for her. 😉

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When I’m done, it’s easy to just tuck my supplies back in the closet until next time!

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Now I just need to figure out where to store these wrapped gifts until Christmas! Usually I keep them under the tree, but since I have a very curious toddler who would tear open these gifts in 4.5 seconds, I need to find another place! 😉

Santa Train!

I love Christmas and doing Christmas-y things, but I never want us to get so busy we don’t really enjoy the season. I’ve been very intentional about just picking a few things to do as a family in this season so we can truly enjoy without being overwhelmed.

LJ is completely obsessed with trains right now (in case you couldn’t tell based on his Halloween costume and birthday party theme). When I discovered that a local railroad historical society puts on a train ride with Santa, I knew this was definitely something Christmas-y that had to be on our to-do list! My parents wanted to come too, so we all got tickets and went this past Saturday.

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I had no idea what to expect with this ride, but it actually was perfect for small children. There were two caboose cars and one engine and it just went out the track and back. We boarded a caboose (ours was 60 years old and the other caboose was 100 years old!) and it was all decorated for Christmas. Santa was in ours to start with, and he passed out candy canes and let kids sit on his lap and take pictures. The train stopped halfway through and then Santa left to go visit the other caboose. The ride was supposed to be 10 minutes out and 10 minutes back, but it was a little shorter than that, which was fine by me since it was pretty chilly.

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Vi seemed to enjoy Santa . . .

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but LJ was very unimpressed ha!

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LJ may not have been impressed by Santa, but he was ALL about the train ride! He was absolutely fascinated with looking out the window to see passing landscape or looking at how the cars were connected and how they moved during the ride.

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My dad is a history buff and he and LJ were like two little peas in a pod geeking out over the train.

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After the train ride, we went inside their warehouse, where they store their engines and had set up a mini Christmas village. There were lights strung up, a few little booths, a little food truck where you could purchase snacks and hot cocoa, and of course, trains. It was a cute little set up! You could go inside their biggest engine, which LJ loooooooooooved. The lighting wasn’t great, so my photos are low-quality, but getting to pretend to drive the engine was a highlight for LJ for sure!

We stayed about an hour in total and then loaded up the car to go get some lunch. Leaving was pretty tough, as we had a strong-willed toddler who was not ready to say bye bye to the trains. Haha! Safe to say it was a huge hit and is definitely something I can see us doing as a little family tradition each Christmas. I’m so glad my parents were able to join the fun too!

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Do you have fun Christmas traditions you do with your family/children? I’d love to hear what you enjoy doing each year!

Simplified Holiday Decorating

This year, I am really trying to keep the holidays simple. And one of the biggest ways I’m doing this is by simplifying my holiday decorating.

I’ve accumulated many decorations over the years, and I usually have something Christmas-y on every surface. This year, I scaled way back for a couple reasons. We just moved into our new house in May, and we are slowly slowly making it our own. This means we don’t have a ton of furniture and I don’t have many shelves or surfaces to decorate, particularly that are out of my toddler’s reach (he can pull candle lights off the windowsills and end tables are definitely out!) Plus, the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas feels really short this year and we have our hands full with a toddler and newborn so we wanted to just spend a few hours decorating and then call it good.

I didn’t want to clutter up the space I do have, so instead of getting everything out, I chose a few of my favorite decorations to use and kept the rest in storage. I actually love that now there are just a few areas where Christmas decor is concentrated throughout the main areas! Today I thought I’d just give you a little peek into our home.

This kitchen counter feels so festive and makes me happy every time I walk by!

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I love seeing this sweet little nativity scene in the playroom and LJ loves to play with it. It’s a great way to start introducing him to the story of Jesus’ birth.

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We don’t have a fireplace, but our staircase is a focal point in our entry and living room, so this doubled as a place to hang garland AND all our stockings. Even Scout and Macie get one. 🙂

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I wasn’t sure how it was going to go to put up a Christmas tree with LJ, but honestly, after the first day, he’s mostly left it alone. He likes to look at the ornaments but he’s only pulled one off the tree. I have shatterproof ornaments I got several years ago at Target (mine aren’t sold anymore but these are somewhat similar and I actually like their look even better!) for the low branches and we also put the sturdiest ornaments at the bottom. So far, it’s worked well and we’ve had no broken ones!

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Outside, Justin hung one row of icicle lights on our porch, I hung a wreath and set up two little trees (my one Black Friday splurge!) on either side of the door. We also have smaller touches throughout the first floor like a festive runner on our table, a few festive pillows on the couch, some holiday towels in the kitchen and half bath, as well as a few candles. We didn’t put any decorations in the basement or any of the upstairs rooms. It’s not much (or at least, not nearly as much as it usually is), but it feels like the perfect amount this year!

My favorite part of Christmas decorations? The way it makes our house feel SO cozy at night.

Did you go all out for decorating or scale back this year?

November 2019 Book Reviews

Another month – another book review! (Side note: how is it already December!? Where was the year gone?)

You may remember that last month I declared I wanted to try jumping in to reading a book without reading the book jacket, and that’s just what I did this month. I really enjoyed all three books I read, and I do think some of that had to do with the “surprise” factor of not exactly knowing what I was about to read about. I think I’m going to keep this up!

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The Conscious Closet by Elizabeth L. Cline

The Conscious Closet: The Revolutionary Guide to Looking Good While Doing Good by [Cline, Elizabeth L.]

“The fashion industry creates more carbon dioxide annually than all international flights and maritime shipping combined”. (p. 117-118) This book was full of information regarding the way fashion impacts our world. It was fascinating to me to read about where our clothing comes from, how it’s made, what it’s made of, and how all our decisions regarding clothing has lasting impacts. Some of it was downright shocking – did you know up to 2,168 gallons of water is used to grow the cotton to make a single t-shirt? What I love about this book is that the author isn’t trying to stop us from buying clothing or make us feel guilty for loving trendy clothes. She herself loves clothing and enjoys having a variety of clothes in her closet. But she is incredibly persuasive about being more conscious in our fashion choices. She gives great examples of ways to extend the life of clothes through resale, renting, shopping secondhand (this can extend the live of a garment by an average of 2.2 years!) or if you want to buy new, things to look for on the label or in the company you’re supporting. She also gives tips on how to make the clothing you do have last longer. It was super informative but digestible and not boring. I’d recommend it if you’re interested in making even the smallest of changes towards a more sustainable, conscious closet.

One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus

My sister read this young adult novel and kept telling me that I would love it so I checked it out and it did not disappoint! This novel follows four of high school students and their perspectives and experiences after all ending up in detention together one day.  I feel like a lot of books lately have had a “warm up” period where I have to read 50 or so pages before I get hooked but with this novel, I was hooked right away and couldn’t put it down. The characters are interesting, the plot is intriguing, and the pace is just right. I found myself quickly becoming heavily invested in the mystery surrounding what really happened in that detention and it honestly kept me guessing until the end. I loved it and highly recommend checking it out even if you’re well beyond your ‘young adult’ years! (If you’re a parent of a teen, I would warn that there is some language use that you might not want a young teen to read).

The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes

This book was – WOW! You all know my love of historical fiction, particularly when it comes to events and people I hadn’t previously known about. I had never heard of the Pack Horse Library Project in 1930s Kentucky and was absolutely fascinated by this take on it. It gave me the same vibes as Where the Crawdads Sing but I enjoyed the story so much more. I loved the strong female lead characters, each with different but complementary personalities. I felt like I knew them all and enjoyed seeing their individual growth throughout the story. There were also a couple very endearing supportive male characters – I got so invested in the mini storylines and relationships.  I thought it was spellbinding and I couldn’t put it down! My only complaints are it got a little long in places (I did skim read a bit when the story started to stall at one point) and there was one character storyline I wasn’t quite satisfied with how it wrapped up, as it seemed too abrupt. Overall I loved this book and would highly recommend it!

I’m so excited for December reading – something about reading by a Christmas tree, snuggling under a blanket, is just the coziest thing ever!

Low Power Mode

Happy Thanksgiving!

I’ve mentioned before my great love for the “Happier” podcast, and one of the tips they once gave as a way to live a happier and healthier life was to try going into “low power mode” for a period of time. With a smartphone, “low power mode” means that your phone is still on but conserving battery life, resulting in only the basic functions being used.

I love the parallel that this can have to life. For me, low power mode doesn’t mean I need to totally unplug and go off the grid, but it does mean a reduced connectivity and a focused intent on being present with those I’m with.

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My life these days: a whole lot of cuteness, a little bit hot mess haha!

The holiday season is the perfect time to consider going into low power mode. It is so easy to fill up this season with a ton of commitments and busyness, but that makes it all the more rewarding when you’re intentional with your time and actually let yourself enjoy the season!

I’m not going to lie, I have been feeling pretty overwhelmed by the mental workload I’ve got lately. We are in our fifth week of the basement renovation and I’ve had to make a lot of decisions, both big and small, with this project (how does anyone build a house from scratch?! So many decisions!!) Over the past few weeks I’ve also had to keep up with pediatrician appointments, LJ’s birthday party, holiday commitments, etc. and all the regular things that keep our life running smoothly like grocery shopping, laundry, and feeding all our dogs and humans. It can take a toll! So I’ve decided to use the Thanksgiving holiday as a time to simplify things and enter “low power mode.”

A few ways I’m going into low power mode this holiday season:

I signed off Facebook. I’ve come to realize that while I do enjoy Instagram and draw both inspiration and encouragement from it, Facebook is not something I enjoy anymore. It’s become kind of a time waster and never leaves me feeling filled up after mindlessly scrolling. In an effort to be more intentional with my time this holiday season, I’m taking a step back from Facebook and will be signed off for the rest of 2019 (and maybe beyond . . . we’ll see). Honestly, I have no desire to totally go off the grid and eliminate all forms of social media, but I am feeling the need to reduce its overall presence in my life right now and this already feels like a great step in that direction!

I choose our BEST yes. Lysa Terkhurst wrote a book called “The Best Yes” and it has shaped how I address all the potential commitments that come our way, especially during the holidays. Our little family thrives on routines right now. Both kids are sleeping through the night and I want to keep it that way! This means avoiding commitments that interfere with naptime or bedtime. In some ways, this simplifies things because it is an easy “no” if something is happening at say, noon, because LJ goes down for a nap around 12:30-1. If there is something we really want to do and it messes up our routine for one day, we can say yes! One day doesn’t mess us up, but many days will. Since we’re careful with what we say yes to, it doesn’t throw us off too much when we say yes to that one great thing.

I find ways to simplify my commitments. I’m a natural perfectionist, so letting go of the desire to do everything above and beyond is a hard thing to do but I’ve made great strides over the years! Now I think: how can I do this as simply as possible while still doing it well? Perfect example: a friend of mine recently had a medical procedure and our friend group organized a meal train for her family. I signed up for a meal last night. It’s the week of Thanksgiving, my house is in a weird explosion of unpacked-but-not-set-up Christmas decor, we need to pack for our travels this weekend, I’ve been running around picking out things that I needed to make a decision on this week for our renovation like paint and door handles. Rather than add the task of cooking a homemade meal, I relied on tried-and-true items I know are delicious from the grocery store. I put together pulled pork, slider rolls, pre-made potatoes, frozen veggies in a steamable bag, and store bought cookies. And my friend was thrilled! She had a yummy meal she didn’t have to cook or shop for and I was able to serve her in that way without adding a ton of undue stress on myself.

I hope you can find ways to enter low power mode this holiday season and enjoy this time of year. If you have any other ways to keep things running in low power mode, I’d love to hear them!

 

 

 

 

LJ’s Second Birthday

Well, it’s official: I have a two-year-old!

LJ’s actual birthday was Friday so we had a little mini celebration as a family. After Justin got off work, we went to Culver’s for a little family date. LJ received a few birthday cards in the mail from family so we let him open those one at a time throughout the dinner. (Sorry for the terrible photo quality! I was actually videoing him opening everything so these are just screen grabs from the videos).

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My grandparents always send some dimes for his piggy bank – so sweet!

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We also got a book for him so that he would have a little present to open during the birthday meal. He loves trains and lift-the-flap books so when I saw this during a friend’s recent book party, I knew it was the perfect choice.

After finishing our meals we each got an ice cream for dessert. LJ usually just shares his dessert with one of us so the fact that he got his own cup of ice cream with sprinkles was a big deal for him. He was so excited and definitely enjoyed it!

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Instead of a bunch of gifts, Justin and I decided to get one big gift that he would really love: a train table! We received a hand-me-down table from a friend and saved it until Saturday morning. Justin woke up early and got it all set up so it was ready to go when LJ woke up. He was SO excited to see it in his playroom and played with it all day!

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On Saturday after LJ’s nap, some of our family came over for his little party.  I stuck with the train theme and just grabbed a bunch of things around the house to decorate. I bought a “happy birthday” sign from the dollar spot at Target back when I was teaching and it gets brought out for every party. I re-used the train and conductor’s hat from LJ’s Halloween costume, grabbed some books and trains we already had, pulled out my white serving dishes and letterboard and voila!

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My friend Amber made some amazing train cookies and I bought a little 4 inch cake from a local grocery store to put candles in. We served super fancy cuisine – Papa John’s pizza, chips, and a veggie tray. LJ loved it! 🙂

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Now unfortunately, once the party actually started, I was so absorbed in it that I lost track of my phone and didn’t take pictures! Justin snapped a few, but overall, we were all just enjoying ourselves without phones.

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I did manage to get this one of my sister and Vi – how sweet!

Justin and I made the decision a few months ago to have a “no gifts” party for LJ. We did this last year and wanted to do it again this year. We agreed that not only is LJ still too little to really understand gifts are typically given on birthdays, but his birthday is super close to the holidays and he will be receiving a lot of things then. Also, we are minimal-ish people: we’re not trying to live with 5 things or be super controlling and never accept more items, but our home is a more pleasant place and our lives are more enjoyable when we’re not overrun with stuff so we’re intentional about what comes into our house.  Because we still wanted family to be involved and participate in his gift, I bought unpainted trains and asked our family members to decorate a car instead of giving a gift. Some did their own, some couples shared one. We painted trains during the party and those that couldn’t make the party had theirs made and sent to us ahead of time.

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This idea worked SO well and it was so fun to see the creativity (check out my brother-in-law’s “hippopotamoose-caboose” ha)! They were all so unique and reflected everyone’s personality. LJ loves them and it’s sweet to see him play with all of them.

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Happy birthday, my sweet LJ! It was such a joy to celebrate your life (and bribe you with one more cookie before bedtime when I realized I hadn’t gotten a picture with you – haha!)

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Two.

Tomorrow is a big day for our family. LJ is going to turn TWO.

I need a minute for that to sink in.

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How in the world do I have a two-year-old?? I know people say all the time how fast it all goes, but milestones like this make me pause and really understand just how true that is. The days can seem so long (especially these days with all these toddler emotions that are happening) but the years are so. very. short.

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If you’ve been following my blog for a while you know that our journey to parenthood wasn’t easy. Before LJ was born I had an ectopic pregnancy that ruptured and was emotionally and physically traumatic. LJ is the answer to so many prayers in so many ways. He is the joy after my deep sorrow, the laughter after my many tears. This little boy stole my heart two years ago and has held a firm grip on it ever since.

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If I could describe LJ in one word, it would be “motion.” This kid is always on the go! He loves running, spinning, playing, galloping, and recently started jumping. He loves anything with wheels (trains, trucks, tractors, you name it), finding planes in the sky, watching sports and trying to play them – his energy seems endless! Given the choice to stay indoors or go outside, he will always choose outside. Every now and then, there will be a rare moment where he just wants to cuddle with his mama and you better believe I soak those up! He’ll even sometimes hold my hand or put his arm around me and oh my word, my heart just melts.

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LJ is also incredibly observant. He’ll notice the smallest speck on the ground or the tiniest bug in a window. He notices whenever Vi is wearing a bow and insists on wearing one himself. He likes to search for the moon in the sky, he perks up at the sound of a train or a plane (he often picks up on it before we’ve even noticed the distant sound!) and he always alerts us to when his sister is crying.

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LJ likes to explore and show off his discoveries. He likes to color and is obsessed with stickers. He has been in speech therapy for a few months now and his language is developing and vocabulary is finally building beyond a few words. His little “hi!” is the absolute cutest music to my ears.

When I was pregnant with Vi, I worried how LJ would react to a sibling. I expected jealousy, tantrums, and maybe even some aggression. He has surprised both Justin and I by taking it all in stride. He is the most natural big brother, so caring and sweet! He loves to hold Vi, he talks to her and gives her kisses, and if anything, I have to tell him to be gentle with his love so he doesn’t smother her with it. 😉 He loves his little sister (and her pacifier too, but that’s a whole other story ha!)

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I could go on and on, but I’ll stop because otherwise I think I’ll make myself cry. Instead, I’m just going to take a little walk down memory lane and look back at the last two years with LJ.

LJ, there aren’t enough words to tell you how much I love you. Happy birthday my sweet boy. ❤