Archives For Christmas

Jack’s first Christmas was pretty dang awesome.

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Nick took the whole week off from work so we had lots of time to relax as a family, even with all the hustle and bustle. We even snuck in a date night–Jack stayed with Grandma and Grandpa for a few hours while we went to a friend’s wedding in New Orleans. We spent the next few days shuttling back and forth between my family and Nick’s. We’re very lucky that even though we met in Baton Rouge our folks live only about half an hour apart from one another in St. Tammany Parish.

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Puppy love. This happens at least once a day.

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We were so humbled by the generosity of our families. Jack got more gifts than we know what to do with. Seriously, see below. Those are just the toys and books–he also got lots of cute clothes and useful gear. We even had to leave a few toys at my mom’s because there just wasn’t any more room in the car. I picked out a few toys that I think he’ll be able to play with the easiest right now and put the rest away to bring out a few at a time over the next few months. Friends of mine with older kids emphasize that toy rotation is key to keeping your sanity (and your home from looking like Babies R Us).

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Jack wasn’t the only one who got some awesome stuff. Not pictured, because we were out of room in the car, is the new TV my parents got us for our front room. I’ve been really wanting to replace the big, heavy one that I worried might topple over on Jack someday, and since it is one of only two TVs that we actually use we’re excited to upgrade it. I also am now wearing my great-grandmother’s gold wedding band, a gift from my dad’s cousin Judy. I am really loving how understated and classic it is on my right hand.

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I am usually not huge on bling so it’s surprising that I received two jewelry gifts this year and love them both. Nick got me these diamond stud earrings. They were smaller than he’d expected when he ordered them and he was really worried I wouldn’t like them, but I actually think they’re perfect. I’ve been lamenting how hard it is to wear jewelry of any sort now that Jack’s so grabby and these are perfect to just leave in my ears day in and day out. Gotta love low-maintenance beauty.

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This is one of the most thoughtful gifts I’ve received in a long time. Nick’s mom noticed me admiring a vintage birdcage in this blog post back in November and remembered seeing a similar one at the thrift store where she volunteers, so she snagged it for me! As soon as we walked in their house on Christmas Day I made a beeline for it and said, “Oh, I love this! Did you get it for Christmas?” Then she said, “No, it’s for you!” I was so excited! It’s actually perfectly functional, with a working door and a tray that pulls out for cleaning, but I think I’ll forego getting a pet bird and just let it sit around looking pretty (and maybe getting filled with various seasonal whatnots). I’ve got the perfect spot for it in mind, but I need to move some things around first.

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I also got some stainless steel cookware from my PawPaw. Holla! Now we can stop being poisoned by the scratched up nonstick we’ve destroyed with our careless cooking habits. This stuff is supposed to be virtually indestructible–much better suited to our lifestyle!

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I got Nick this personalized keychain from Etsy. It says ” DAD EST 6.29.12.” He liked it.

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I also got him this shaving gift set, also from Etsy. He is famously hard to shop for and I’m pretty proud of how I did this year.

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We’re back home now and working little by little on cleaning up, getting things organized, and enjoying Nick’s last vacation day of the year. I’ve got a project for this weekend that I am soooo excited about. I can’t wait to hopefully post about it next week! I hope you all had a fantastic Christmas and that your weekend is just as wonderful!

Our card didn’t quite make it into the mail this year, but it did arrive in dozens of email inboxes this morning. Better late than never!

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I totally photoshopped in the cats (you may remember that getting a photo with all of us together was a bit of a challenge). I don’t actually own Photoshop, I just used the basic Windows editing software to layer in photos I took of each of them sitting in those exact spots on the sofa. I’m quite pleased with myself. I also took on the design of the card for the first time ever (as opposed to choosing a pre-designed template from Vistaprint or wherever), making this the first year that our card has been absolutely, positively, 100% free. Can’t beat that with a stick. Plus we’re saving the trees and all that by distributing it via the internet.

We’re spending some time with family this week, but I’ll be posting on Wednesday about my latest Craigslist acquisition–one of my best finds ever, if I do say so myself. I wish you all the very best of holidays. May your Christmas be merry and bright!

In stark contrast to last year’s week long extravaganza, I wrapped every single present in a few hours’ time yesterday (confession: there are still a few gifts that haven’t arrived yet. Eek!). Motherhood has increased my efficiency, methinks. I’ve been doing the brown paper thing for a few years now, but in the past have always mixed it up with white paper and lots of colorful ribbon or other embellishments. This year I just bought one truly giant roll of brown paper in the paint aisle at Home Depot for about $11 and a skein of natural cotton cord at Hobby Lobby for $5. Sure beats the nearly thirty bucks I used to spend on smaller rolls of kraft paper and fancy ribbon. And here’s a tip: hot glue is by far the easiest way of securing brown paper. It laughs in the face of tape.

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I did get my ribbon and other supplies out, just in case I needed them, but ended up sticking almost exclusively to paper and cord. Do you like how I’ve got my ribbon organized? They’re threaded onto skewers poked through the already existing holes of a plastic storage basket. In the larger woven basket I’ve got tissue paper and gift bags that I’ve saved throughout the year, and apparently a scrap of navy ribbon. Also pictured below is a box of merchandise tags from Office Depot that has seen me through several Christmases now, as well as some burlap for cushioning any delicate items.

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I got the idea this year to cut the strings off the merchandise tags and thread them directly onto the cotton cord. It’s a much simpler look.

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Here they are all wrapped up. I had one item that was not practical to wrap so I cut a long rectangle of fabric, folded it in half, sewed the sides together, and used that navy ribbon to tie it closed at the top. Bam, charming gift bag. It was so easy that I may sew a few more small ones for those last minute gifts that I’m still waiting to arrive.

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Notice how I’ve got some gifts stacked in a galvanized tub? I totally stole that idea from a Pottery Barn catalog. We open most of our presents at my parents’ house on Christmas morning and the rest are all scattered between my grandparents’ and Nick’s parents’ houses. To make things easy on myself when it comes time to unload the car I put all the presents that need to come into my mom’s in the tub. That way we can just grab it instead of standing at the back of the car sorting through which box goes where and trying to carry as many as possible in one trip. (I already had the tub and use it for gardening as a planter or water bucket for most of the year, but you can find them for cheap in the paint aisle)

Here’s something else I did this year that seemed to simplify things: I wrapped my gifts in batches. Before starting I wrote out all my gift tags, lined up my purchases, and placed the appropriate tag atop each one. Then I’d take one larger item and cut out the paper for it, use the scraps from that to cut paper for a few smaller gifts, and wrap them all at once. I think I was able to work faster this way than if I’d given my undivided attention to one present at a time from start to finish.

I am so glad to have all that wrapping knocked off my to-do list. Now the only thing I have left to finish is the dang Christmas cards. Everyone else’s cards keep arriving in the mail, taunting me, and I’ve gotten more than one inquiry from folks who apparently look forward to our cards every year (I think they enjoy seeing the pets forced to participate).

I’m not a very sentimental person. I don’t scrapbook or collect momentos. I’m a strong believer that memories are in your head, not embodied by material things. But I kept seeing all these pictures on the internet of cute little baby footprint Christmas crafts and started getting anxious about the fact that Jack’s hands and feet will never be this small again. I developed an overwhelming urge to document his tiny extremities, and decided that a tree ornament would be the least stressful way to do so. Just hang it on the tree every Christmas with no guilt about it hiding away unseen in a box the other eleven months of the year. So I picked up these oval wooden discs at Hobby Lobby for 67 cents apiece. I figured I’d make one for us, one for my parents, and one for Nick’s parents. I realized after I got home that maybe it would have been nice to make one for my grandma, too, but I couldn’t bring myself to go back into Hobby Lobby the week before Christmas (sorry Grandma).

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I started out by clamping all three to a chair on my front porch and using my teensiest tiniest drill bit to make a small hole. The wood was so thin and light that I really worried about splitting it. The scrap piece of fabric was to keep my nasty, rusty clamp from marring the wood. I marked the spot where I wanted to drill with a pencil.

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I went through the same hole with one slightly larger bit after another, gradually working my way up to a 1/8″ bit, at which point I decided that was probably just about right.

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Then I took them inside, gave them a gentle sanding, and got ready to paint.

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I gave each one a few coats front and back with some metallic gray acrylic paint I had on hand. I just smeared it on with my fingers because my kid is the world’s crappiest napper and it’s easier to wash my hands in a hurry than a paintbrush.

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When Jack woke up from his nap I changed him into a onesie that I didn’t mind ruining and plopped him down on a big piece of cardboard. I would have just stripped him down to a diaper but I’d rather mess up a onesie than one of our cloth diapers. We have disposables in the house and I suppose I could have used one of those but I seem to be saving them for some sort of dire emergency.

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I took a deep breath and painted Jack’s hand with green paint. Around this time I started wondering whether this was all a terrible idea. It just seems very counterintuitive to paint your baby.

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I somehow convinced him to open his hand and quickly pressed the painted wood against it, then repeated with the other two discs. They didn’t turn out as pretty as I’d hoped.

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Not to be deterred, I moved on to his foot. It was much, much easier to grab, paint, and press his foot than his hand.

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And the footprints we made on the backside of the discs turned out much nicer looking as a result.

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I decided to give the handprints another try. I wiped the green paint off as best I could, gave them a quick sanding, then went over it with some gray paint. See, good as new.

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Unfortunately, the results were only marginally improved. Turns out it’s just really difficult to get yoir baby to surrender control of his hands long enough to get nice looking handprints.

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It was around this time that I realized the paint I was using was definitely not non-toxic or no-VOC. Parenting fail! Into the bath he went, but not before he grabbed a big ‘ol handful of my hair with his paint-covered hand. That was his revenge for exposing him to toxins, I suppose.

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Once everything was nice and dry, I used a crochet hook to thread each disk onto some cotton cord.

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Then I just tied each one into a little knot, making a perfect loop for hanging.

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I hadn’t thought all the way to this step so I kind of impulsively just wrote his name and the year on each side in black sharpie using my nicest, neatest handwriting.

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Bam, ornament on the tree.

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Now I can be sure I won’t have any regrets about letting his little hands and feet grow to be monstrous without documenting how small they once were. Nick’s feet are giant and I feel sure Jack’s won’t be small for long. And maybe someday when my house is being overrun by giant smelly sneakers I can pull out this ornament and reminisce about a time when he didn’t even wear shoes.

I hope y’all aren’t too stressed out gearing up for Christmas! I am almost done with my shopping but haven’t wrapped a single gift. And the card…I don’t even want to talk about it.