Christmas 2017 // Kid Gifts

>> Tuesday, November 21, 2017

So, what are we getting the girls for Christmas? I actually have all my shopping done for them already. Say what?! You may know that I'm always a late shopper, and I wanted it off my plate early this year. Here is a list of the things they are actually getting or that we already own -- not just stuff I think would be cool and that I don't intend to buy.

// 1: Play Silks

I bought two of Sarah’s enchanted play silks -- one in rainbow and the other in blossom. I love how they could be used for anything from dress-up to fort-making. Open-ended play items are my favorite because they foster so much creativity . . . and they don’t require batteries!

I had alternatively considered buying the girls a set of these polyester play cloths. They’re a bit less expensive but have good reviews. In the end, I got roped in by the fun blend of colors.

// 2: Hanging Pod

As a joint gift from Santa, the girls are getting a hanging pod swing for the basement. I’ve seen these so many places, but I found one that is a cotton canvas on Amazon for just $23. It got good reviews and can hold up to 170 pounds, so anyone in the house can use it. We’re going to hang it in the basement from a beam.

// 3: Play Tent, etc.

As another joint gift, I purchased a new pop-up play tent in the shape of a castle. I like how it's sort of gender-neutral (a lot of them were pink and purple). It's 53' tall, so even Ada will be able to stand inside of it. The best part is that it folds away easily and can be toted around the house because it's so light.

Oh, and I got them this pack of felt crowns to share on their adventures.

// 4: Mermaid Sensory Board

As yet another joined gift, I bought a yard of sequin mermaid fabric and I'm going to make a large sensory board (by fixing it to either a large cork board we have or maybe using a frame) with it so the girls can draw and play. We saw this at a local children's museum, and I immediately thought it would be an awesome idea!

// 5: Plush Toys

Then Ada's getting a stuffed bear made with alpaca fur that we bought at a festival in my hometown.

Eloise is getting a stuffed llama because llamas are her favorite.

// 6: Girl Gifts To Each Other

The girls got each other gifts as well. Ada got Eloise a set of plush donuts (she has a thing with donuts) for the play kitchen. Eloise "got" Ada the game Pie Face. I'm thinking that one will be fun when the whole family is visiting at Christmas.

// 7: Name Puzzle

I got Eloise a personalized name puzzle for her birthday, but it didn’t arrive on time so I saved it for Christmas. I figure this is a nice, heirloom sort of gift. I also just love her name.

// 8: Art Stuff

I love the idea of giving things that the kids will really use, and they always need art supplies. For Eloise, I picked up some of these beeswax crayons. They’re rectangular, so perfect for little hands. I looked through a variety of brands and these seem to get good marks for quality and price.

I am also getting some watercoloring supplies for both girls. A nice big pad of paper and a huge set of colors.

// 9: Magnet Blocks

While we already own these, I highly recommend magnetic blocks of some kind. We’re a Magformers family. I love how they are perfect for big and little hands. We build things with them but also make pictures on the refrigerator. They may be the toy that’s most often picked out of everything in the box.

// 10: Dolls

I bought a cute cloth doll by HABA for Ada years ago . . . and I never gave it to her. I set it aside as a gift for a future child. So, Eloise is getting the doll this year along with a sleep outfit for her. Or him. The one we have is quite androgynous, which is actually kind of nice.

// 11: More Dolls

What’s Ada’s big gift? Well, it’s something I didn’t expect to buy -- but she really (REALLY) wanted it. So, it’ll end up being a joint gift from me and my grandparents (they always give us money). I tracked down one of those Luvabella dolls this summer. I didn’t pay the crazy prices they’re going for now. It’s got AI and crazy robotics stuff going on. Kind of creepy, but she’s obsessed.

This list is almost complete, but there are a couple other items I got second hand that I intend to write about in the next week or two. I have some stocking stuffers I’ll be sure to share in that post as well. I’ll also be back soon with some gift lists for the men and women in your lives. Stephen and I aren’t getting much this year. Our recent furnace repair took care of that for us.

But I hope to post a bit about our Thanksgiving menu tomorrow. Maybe? My kids have been sick. It’s no fun at all. I’ve mostly been focusing on my freelance work, so I do apologize for neglecting the blog.

Happy Tuesday -- I’m off to Ada’s first choir concert!

Note: These are linked to Amazon, so if you purchase through the link I get a (very) small kickback. 
Thanks for supporting the blog for all these years!


10-Year Rewind // Before the Blog

>> Tuesday, November 14, 2017

You know how everyone always asks what’s in your 5-year or 10-year plans? Do you ever know how to answer that question? I definitely felt like I was super goal-oriented and ambitious 10 years ago. I’d daydream about what direction my career would take, where my personal life would meander, and when kids might enter the equation. I thought it’d be fun instead of projecting what my next 10 years might look like . . . to take a step back and examine myself 10 years ago. When I was 24.

Stephen and I were married a couple months after I turned 24 (he was 23! We were BABIES!).

We lived together in a 2-bedroom apartment on the outskirts of Ithaca, NY, at the time. Scully (R.I.P.) lived with us, and I took a lot of photos of her back then. It was in this apartment that I really started cooking and baking up a storm. I started my first blog (Method) here, and I’m pretty sure this photo is from some pumpkin muffins I posted.

I used to love how the sunlight would stream into our kitchen from the sliding doors leading out to the tiny balcony. I think we MAY have been able to see a sliver of Cayuga lake from this spot. Oh, by this point, I had lived in a whopping 10 different houses/apartments in my life.

Scully had already lived in five, so that shows you exactly how much I had moved in the three years since college graduation (I adopted Scully a few weeks after graduating in 2005).

Stephen and I were big into running shorter distance races back then. I think we mostly did 10Ks, but we’d do long runs like up to 8 miles. Our apartment was in a hilly area with mostly country highways, so I didn’t like going much farther than that. It was a good area for biking, though, which is why you see those bikes on our balcony. We’d go for hours-long rides and look at the lake.

We especially liked trekking to a nearby park that had a lighthouse.

We also did a lot of kayaking. I don’t remember what it’s like to have so much free time!

So, when I was 24, I was working at a software company in the marketing department. I absolutely loved the people I worked with. In fact, I’m still very close friends with a few of them.

LOL. Sorry, guys. I love this photo.

Professionally, though, I was sort of a mess. I was in over my head trying to go from a communications person to a marketing manager. I had no idea what I was doing half the time. I was traveling often for work (which really stressed me out).

Here’s a photo from a campus visit where I helped film our products in action.

Anyway, it got to be too much. Around 10 years ago I did make the decision to leave that job and pursue a different path. I first left and started working as a professional writing tutor at a community college. I won’t go into my career progression (I covered it in a video, if you’re interested). But that was a big transition for me in 2007/8.

What else? I was getting really into photography. I bought my first DSLR and would take long walks just to find photo opportunities. I learned a lot through trial and error.

I was also in community orchestra.

We had moved to downtown Ithaca at some point during that year because we were unhappy in the country. But that ended up not working out either because Stephen was commuting to his first teaching job, and it was killer for him. So, one of the biggest changes that year was the big move from Ithaca about an hour away. It was still close, but we knew nobody, so intimidating and somewhat a mixed bag of emotions.

Also: Moving multiple times in a year SUCKS.

We bought our first house, so you can see that this meant I had moved from house/apartment 10 earlier to 11 and then 12. Phew. But it was cool to dig in and do some DIY home stuff.

Like ripping up #allthecarpet

Wow does style change. This was a mood board I had made for the living room plan at the new house.

Holy orange and blue!

I was super into mid-century style.

And this was our bedroom. I was so proud of it back then!

And then some short while after we moved in, we adopted Rivey.

And then at some point, I started working at the university library. This was my usual style there. I always wore scarves, too. For some reason, I have this photo titled “zero-dollar outfit” -- so I was into frugal fashion even 10 years ago!

I also started (never)homemaker around the same time in my small, carpeted kitchen. A few of you have been following me since then. Wow. Thank you. Can you believe this is 10 years ago?!?!?!

What a blast from the past. Thanks for reading if you got this far. I am hoping to put up my gift ideas for kids post soon!

What were you doing 10 years ago?


Winter Goals + Bucket List

>> Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Wow. After I’ve written up everything on my various lists -- it seems like a lot. But, at the same time, we have a lot of the cold weather season ahead of us. It’s easy to curl up under a blanket and just feel despair when it’s dark and dreary. My idea behind coming up with this list is to bring some life and light into the coming months. If we’re feeling stuck as a family, I hope to consult it for inspiration. And maybe it will help spark your own bucket list of sorts!

Here are some general winter activities we want to do:

  • (re-)Institute a Friday family movie night
  • Take a hike in the snow with or without snowshoes
  • Go ice skating
  • Go sledding
  • Decorate inside for the holidays
  • Decorate outdoors for the holidays
  • Go to brunch at the diner down the street
  • Teach Ada the “true” meaning of Christmas
  • Try no-screen time on Sundays
  • Teach Ada to make pancakes/waffles
  • Make colorful window stars 
  • Make s’mores in the fireplace
  • Make pizza in the fireplace
  • Have an outdoor bonfire in the snow
  • Make ice cream from freshly fallen snow
  • Set family goals for 2018
  • Go to a live hockey game downtown
  • Go to the sensory play space
  • Go to the children’s museum
  • Go to the science center
  • Go to the playground even if it’s cold
  • Have indoor fun/climbing/etc. at the mall in SYR
  • Go to open swim at the YMCA
  • Wear matching pajamas (because YES)
  • Look at the stars using Ada’s new telescope 
  • Build a fort
  • Have a sleepover
  • Go XC skiing in the park nearby
  • Mull cider and wine
  • Take the whole family to the movies
  • Brew a batch of beer with our friends
  • Enjoy a stay-cation
  • Go out to dinner as a family at a local restaurant
  • Hire a babysitter (for the first time) to go on a date!
  • Play in the snow
  • Take a day trip to visit friends we don’t see often enough
  • Take an overnight to visit family we don’t see often enough
  • Have a board game night
  • Learn 5 new recipes
  • Weed through stuff each week/get rid of 1 box/week
  • Write + illustrate a family Christmas book
  • Use the slow cooker once a week/teach Ada how to make chili
  • Bake sourdough bread + bagels
  • Visit the library more often as a family
  • Have a fondue party

And this year we want to actually use our advent calendar + fill it with activities -- one to do each day leading up to Christmas.

I’m thinking:

  • Visit Wellsboro for Dickens of a Christmas
  • Donate to the local food pantry
  • Craft DIY candles out of beeswax
  • Make a gingerbread farm (I saw one at Tractor Supply)
  • Visit Santa 
  • Go to the local museum for their huge tree + train display
  • Take creative holiday photos 
  • Buy toys for a family in need
  • Memorize a few carols 
  • Discover a new local holiday festival
  • Have a PJ day + Christmas movie marathon
  • Donate gently used toys and clothes
  • Decorate Ada’s doll house
  • Drink homemade hot cocoa with candy canes
  • Make a popcorn garland for the tree
  • Tour neighborhood Christmas lights
  • Shop local for gifts
  • Dry orange slices to hang on tree
  • Make gifts for teachers/aides/bus driver/etc.
  • Start a new tradition -- T.B.D.
  • Bake Christmas cookies all day
  • Make wrapping paper
  • Go to a live holiday concert or show
  • Write Christmas cards for family and friends
  • Make ornaments for the tree, like these beeswax ornaments

Personal bucket list/to-do list:

  • Knit hats for the girls
  • Knit a scarf for me
  • Read 3 books before the first day of spring
  • Have a special self-care hour every week/take a bath 
  • Take a cooking class
  • Take a yoga class
  • Start doing Barre3 again (at home)
  • Run a 5K
  • Run a 10K
  • Take Ada on a mommy + daughter date every other week
  • (FINALLY) make photo albums of the kids/family
  • Get a pedicure
  • Play holiday/folk tunes on my violin/piano
  • Speed-clean the house 3x/week for 1hr/session
  • Start a small get-together with girl friends (trivia night, coffee, etc.)
  • Visit my friend and her new baby (due in December)
  • Finish painting the living room, bedroom, and Eloise’s room
  • Tidy up garage to make a “mudroom” space for coats, hats, etc.
  • Organize the play room/basement to better suit our needs

I’ll be back soon with some holiday gift ideas for kids!

What’s on your winter bucket list this year?

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