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.

20191207_101144-1

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.

20191207_094925

Vi seemed to enjoy Santa . . .

20191207_100016

but LJ was very unimpressed ha!

20191207_094938

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.

20191207_09581920191207_095029

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

20191207_10050820191207_100243

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!

20191207_101218-1

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!

20191205_08052620191205_080548

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.

20191205_091556

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. 🙂

20191205_090141

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!

20191205_091354

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?

#19for2019 and Christmas Re-Cap

Hi friends! Happy New Year!

I always love the fresh-start feel that a new year brings but I’m not usually one for resolutions. However, you know I love the Happier podcast, and one thing they have been talking about lately is a “19 for 2019” list. It’s like a combination resolutions list + to-do list and I enjoyed hearing about their “18 for 2018” lists last year so when they started talking about 2019 lists, I decided to write one as well. Today I thought I’d share my list and also give a quick re-cap of our Christmas travels since I’ve been unplugged from the blog through the holidays.

My 19 for 2019

1- Rough start, but this one is personal and I’m keeping it to myself. If there comes a point where I feel I want to share about it in this space, I will, but today is not that day. Next!

2- Plan an adults-only trip for Justin and I (We may not be able to actually take the trip in 2019 but I want to start planning and budgeting for it now!)

3- Update instagram account and create Chatbook for LJ

4- Select pictures for family photo albums (I want to do one for each year of marriage. We’ve been married 5 1/2 years so this is a big project!)

5- Plan out family photo albums (Such a big project I had to break it up into two items!)

6- Create a master list of my top book recommendations (I get asked for recommendations so often and I want to have a go-to list to easily share)

7- Replace our ugly brown recliner (Justin bought it used for $20 in college. It has lived a good life and it’s time to move on. 😉 )

8- Write and track our monthly spending budget

9- Send birthday cards

10- Find a local tailor

11- Find a reliable, nearby babysitter (we have some already but weeknights are always tricky to find someone)

12- Have house siding washed

13- Find comfortable black heels

14 – Plan our will with an estate lawyer

15- Invest in buying plastic alternatives (stainless steel straws, etc)

16- Set up accounts for LJ’s future

17- Have budget meeting with Justin for each paycheck (roughly 2x/month)

18- When buying clothing or shoes, look for fair trade, ethically made options

19- Learn more about finances (401K, 403B, investments, etc.) through books or podcasts

We’ll see how this goes. Some items are quick, one-time items that I just need to schedule time for. Others are ongoing or very time-consuming. I’m going to take it one step at a time and just try my best!

As for the recent holidays, we spent about 10 days away from home. It was a lot of travel but it was so great to spend so much quality time with our loved ones.

Christmas

Chicago

We left after lunch on the 21st for Chicago for Christmas with my mom’s side of the family. My uncle lives in Chicago and while his apartment didn’t have room for everyone, we were able to rent out the entire Lang House B&B nearby and stay together as a family. The B&B was absolutely gorgeous and we all enjoyed our stay there!

Friday evening most of the family (minus Justin and my dad, who stayed back at the B&B with LJ) went downtown to see “A Christmas Carol” at the Goodman Theatre. The play was amazing – the actors were all super talented and the set and special effects were incredible. We all enjoyed it!

Saturday was spent exploring Michigan Avenue in the morning and early afternoon. We did a little shopping and just enjoyed walking around in the festive atmosphere. Justin, LJ, and I ended up heading to Christkindl Market with my two sisters and my sister’s fiance and while it was extremely crowded, we did feel like the Christmas spirit was going strong! It was fun to walk through the tents and see unique ornaments and other decorations.

We all headed back to the B&B in the early afternoon to relax and rest up for a big night ahead. LJ found the L ride home especially relaxing 😉

Chicago17.jpg

Saturday night was one we had all been looking forward to for a long time: a 1920’s murder mystery! Months ago, my uncle purchased the scenario and assigned us parts. He put in a lot of effort to give everyone a part that worked with their real-life personality and all the details he put in place were just perfect! We all worked hard to get costumes in place and learn about our character. We had a catered meal, only to later discover that while the meal was catered, all the “servers” were actually friends of my uncle who were characters in the scenario as well. Justin actually was the one who was murdered, but he got to come back in Act II as the detective investigating the mystery. It was SUCH fun evening! Everyone got super in to their characters and we had all an awesome time.

It was a great weekend with extended family!

Ohio/Virginia

Sunday morning we packed up after breakfast and headed to Ohio for an evening Christmas celebration with my parents and siblings. Then we headed out early on Christmas Eve for a week in Virginia with Justin’s family.

Because of Justin’s work schedule, he hasn’t been able to travel to Virginia to see his family since last Christmas. It was SO wonderful to get to spend some good quality time there with his family. Our six-year-old nephew especially was excited for uncle Justin to come around and play with him and it was sweet to see their special bond strengthen. And don’t even get me started on the sweetness of seeing LJ with his cousins! I didn’t take many pictures during this trip but our four-year-old and ten-month-old nieces each had some especially precious moments with him that I managed to capture on camera. Oh my heart.

We were able to squeeze in a few short visits with some friends in the area but for the most part we focused on spending time with family and were so thankful to not only have Christmas Day together but also be able to get together other days for meals or just to hang out. It was a great holiday!

We got back home on Sunday night and spent Monday as a family of three (five including our dogs!) together at home. We got LJ one small present and the dogs each had treats in their stockings, but other than that, we kept it super low-key and just enjoyed a cozy day at home with each other. It was the perfect way to cap off a great holiday season.

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday as well! Cheers to 2019!

A “Grand” Christmas Vacation

Hello 2014!

I have been on Christmas break for the past two weeks and it has been WONDERFUL! At first, I set out with the intention to blog at least once or twice, but once our travels started I got way too involved with our family and friend time and decided to unplug entirely. It was so nice to just soak up every minute with loved ones!

Step one of our break was to go visit my family in Ohio. Since they live about 7 hours away from us, I don’t get to see them often. This was the first time I had been home in six months! It was SO nice to be back for a few days.

When we were home, Macie was introduced to my sister’s cat, Simba. After a rather timid greeting, they both got along well for the time we were home. I was very impressed!

simplifythechaos.com simplifythechaos.comChristmas morning, Justin and I woke up SUPER early . . . to go to the airport. Not exactly your typical Christmas but we were excited nonetheless! And at least it was a white Christmas!

simplifythechaos.comWe flew out to Phoenix, AZ for my college roommate’s wedding. The wedding wasn’t until Saturday, but we wanted to go out early to get the chance to explore the area. From the airport, we got a rental car and drove up to Flagstaff. By the time we had arrived, it was dark; however, we were able to drive around and see some beautiful Christmas lights!

simplifythechaos.com simplifythechaos.comWe also hit up a Sonic because it was literally the only thing open. Justin had never been to one before (!!!) so he was excited. How’s that for our first married Christmas together?

simplifythechaos.comThe next morning we woke up super early and headed out to the Grand Canyon. I really wanted to catch the sunrise! It was SO worth the loss of sleep!

simplifythechaos.com simplifythechaos.com simplifythechaos.comSTUNNING! Pictures simply do not do it justice.

We traveled back to Flagstaff for lunch and hit up a place called NiMarco’s Pizza. It was recommended to us from a friend who has lived in Flagstaff and it did not disappoint! Definitely a must try if you are in Flagstaff!

simplifythechaos.comI wish we would have had more time to explore Flagstaff but we needed to head back into Phoenix for the bachelor/bachelorette party so we got on the road after lunch. The drive was so scenic — I loved every minute!

simplifythechaos.comAfter a super fun lingerie party for the bride-to-be, we headed out into Phoenix for a joint bachelor & bachelorette party. We hopped around to a few different bars and restaurants before ending up at a place called The Duce. Honestly, I had some reservations when we walked up to what seemed like a huge warehouse but inside it was like no place I’ve ever seen before! A combination bar/karaoke lounge, it has ping pong, hula hoops, a clothing store, milkshake/sweet shoppe stand, and tons of other random and fun things to do. It was absolutely amazing! We loved it.

simplifythechaos.com simplifythechaos.com

After my friend Kelsey and I rounded out the night with a crowd-pleasing rendition of “It’s Gonna be Me” by N’Sync (crowd-pleasing in that they liked the song choice…not necessarily our singing!) we called it a night. So fun!

Justin and I were able to do a lot of sightseeing and some hiking in the days before the wedding. Our favorite was a morning hike that overlooked all of the Phoenix area. It was breathtaking!

simplifythechaos.com simplifythechaos.comThe wedding took place at a winery about an hour outside of Phoenix. It was such a beautiful setting and the weather was perfect!

It was so good to see all of my best friends from college and celebrate my friend’s wedding! Justin and I both agreed we have to come back to Phoenix sometime. We loved everything about it and had such a great time there!

simplifythechaos.comAfter a super-early flight back, my family picked us up at the airport on Sunday for a quick lunch and reunion with Macie (she was VERY excited to see us!)

simplifythechaos.comAfter lunch, we hit the road to Virginia to celebrate Christmas with Justin’s family.We had a great time visiting with them! I especially loved playing with our little nephew, who absolutely loved playing with my phone and taking pictures of himself.

simplifythechaos.com simplifythechaos.com

Overall, Christmas was a HUGE success and we loved every minute! Now it’s back to work and starting out a new year!

Happy 2014! May your year be blessed!

***

Today’s outfit was almost entirely composed of Christmas presents. What a fun way to start the new year!

01-02 Outfit

Sweater: Old Navy

Blouse: New York & Company

Pants: New York & Company

Pumps: Maurices

Bib Necklace: Forever 21

Christmas Cookie Extravaganza!

Hello hello!

Feels like I haven’t posted in forever! We have had some mean winter weather the last two days (translation: NO SCHOOL!) so I have been taking it easy at home. No outfits to post since I just stayed inside in comfy sweats all day Monday and Tuesday and I decided to postpone blogging so I could be productive around the house and enjoy extra time with my little family. Macie and I spent hours running errands together on Monday and we even had a nice long puppy play date with my friend Lindsay’s dogs. It was so fun and we were both tuckered out afterwards!

As fun as it was to have a long weekend, I’m ready to get back into the swing of things at school now, especially since being at home all day meant I was in constant close proximity to . . . CHRISTMAS COOKIES! On Saturday my friend Tristan hosted a cookie decorating party for a bunch of our friends. She baked dozens of cut-out sugar cookies and had each of us bring icing, sprinkles, etc. to decorate them with. It was so much fun but now I have TONS of cookies sitting on my counter!

My finished products!

You may be wondering about the strange-looking one on the left. Tristan created a cookie-decorating competition for the Christmas trees. We all got one tree-shaped cookie and had to decorate it according to a theme. The theme she and her husband chose was “travel.”

At first we all thought it was a difficult theme, but people got SO creative! Here were some of the final results:

We had everything from maps to tropical islands to train cars to snow skiing angels to locations afar such as Africa and Paris. I was so impressed with everyone’s ideas! Even Tristan and her hubby couldn’t pick a winner! They had to choose two.

Justin and I kept our cookies separate, but without knowing it we had similar ideas.

We both did “methods of travel” and chose similar things! Justin drew a plane flying through the sky and I did a rocket ship blasting off. I used a green peel-apart Twizzler for my outline.

Neither of our trees won but we had such a great time decorating with our friends!

It was a great way to get into the Christmas spirit and have a fun Saturday with some awesome people.

Now just a few days left in this short school week! Whoo hoo! Gotta love this time of year!

***

Two days off in sweat pants was nice, but I was itching to wear my new Target corduroy pants! So warm and comfy — perfect for layering in this winter weather! As always, details for specific pieces can be found on my “wear” page.

12-11 Outfit

Cardigan: Target

Cami: Old Navy

Corduroy Skinny Pants: Target

Boots: Maurices

Necklace: Ten Thousand Villages (LOVE this organization!)

Simple, Inexpensive Christmas Decorations

Christmas is in full swing at my house! Whoo hoo!

Today I want to share two simple Christmas decorating ideas. Both are so easy and take no more than 10 minutes each. And both are for common areas in your house — kitchen and bathroom! (Although you could really put them anywhere.)

I shared in an earlier post about my Halloween decoration using candy corn, candles, mason jars, and ribbons. To change this to a Christmas decoration, I dumped out the candy corn and took off the ribbon. I kept the cream candles inside the mason jars since they all had plenty of life left in them. I took some of my $2 garland (thrift store!!) and wrapped it around the jars.

20131127_142702I wanted to add cranberries (real or fake) but I ended up buying a couple bags of Cherry Sours at Kroger. They were $1 a bag — way cheaper option and they are super similar in appearance!

I dumped a handful of sours in each jar and made sure they all looked equal. I also added two pine cones for extra festivity.

20131201_185401While I was pleased with the way it looked on my bathroom counter, something still felt missing. I also didn’t like that there was an outlet right behind the jars. I got out my little chalkboard from another fall decoration and searched Pinterest until I found a cute, simple chalkboard saying that inspired me.20131201_192046Ta-Da! Quick and easy but oh so festive. Just the way I like it!

The other decoration was a simple kitchen centerpiece. I have a store-bought, large centerpiece for holiday gatherings, but I wanted a simpler one for everyday use. I got our trifle bowl out and emptied another bag of Cherry Sours into it. I put another cream candle in the middle and surrounded it with pine cones.  The candle looked a bit too short for this, so I decided to heighten it. Rather than buy a new candle, I set three wine corks on end in the center of the bowl.

20131201_190225

This gave the candle a lot more height and I didn’t have to spend money on a new, taller candle! The pine cones and sours hid the wine corks well. I set the candle on top, set the whole bowl on top of a simple green placemat and voila!

20131201_190210

A very simple and festive centerpiece! I like that it is small so it doesn’t take up a lot of space on my table. Success!

I love that both of these took less than 10 minutes and it was super inexpensive since I had most of the items already.

Happy Hump Day! One day closer to Christmas! 🙂

***

I was in such a Christmas-y mood that I chose a holiday-inspired outfit for school today.

Cardigan: Express

Button-Down: Express

Pin-striped pants: Express

Pumps: Maurices

Necklace: Maurices

Teacher Tuesday: Desk Decorating!

Teacher Tuesday is here once more!

My enthusiasm for Christmas has officially trickled over into my workplace. Today we had a two-hour delay, and since it’s the last day before Thanksgiving break,  I decided to use the extra time to decorate my desk!

Come winter, I look forward to snow days a lot so I decided to incorporate that into my decor. I took snowman wrapping paper (which I got on clearance in an after-Christmas sale last year!), taped one edge to the corner of my desk, and unrolled the paper as I walked around the desk. Once 3/4 of the sides were covered, I cut the paper and taped the edge to the desk.  SUPER easy. The wrapping paper was the same height as my desk so I didn’t even have to cut it for height! I only used four small pieces of tape, so when Christmas is over, I’ll un-tape it and roll it back up to use again.

For the sign, I cut out some pennants using light blue construction paper, glued on some die-cut letters and snowflakes, and taped the pennants to the wrapping paper. Simple!

11-26 Desk Decorating

I took some red and gold ribbon and taped it around my whiteboard, drew a quick “Countdown to Christmas” sign, and added a sleigh, Christmas tree, and stocking around my desk area for extra festivity. Again, all those items came from after-Christmas sales 🙂

Now when we come back from break, I’ll be ready to go! I just LOVE the holiday season!

***

Today’s Outfit:

20131126_084817

Jacket: Maurices

Black cami: Express

Skinny jeans: Mossimo @ Target

Boots: Forever 21

Necklace & Earrings: Lia Sophia