Posted in Holidays, Not Just a Mom

Not Just a Mom: Special Holiday Traditions

Hello and Happy Monday! How was your weekend? Compared to last weekend, we had a relatively low-key couple of days. The kids had a cross country meet on Saturday, but Sunday I pretty much stayed in my pajamas all day. Travis was kind enough to pick up our grocery order while I did things around the house…including purging the kids’ closets! We only do this a couple times a year, but I dread it so much! I’m glad to have that checked off my list.

We are counting down this five day week and ready for a couple weeks off! Breaks is right around the corner.

Today, I’m linking up with Lauren (and others!) for their Not Just a Mom series.

This month’s topic is Special Holiday Traditions.

I grew up with some holiday traditions like seeing the Plaza lights in KC, ice skating at Crown Center, picking out an ornament at Hallmark, baking cookies, seeing Christmas lights, and more!

So, needless to say, I have now made quite a few traditions for my kids to celebrate the holiday.

Here are some of our family traditions:

Santa:

We take the kids to see Santa every year. When they were little, we didn’t take them. Once they were two to five years old or so, they’d see Santa at my school Christmas party or Trav’s work party.

Then, in 2016, we started getting a real tree, and see the perfect Santa while doing so. Our club also hosts a Cookies with Santa party, so we attend that most years. Lastly, one of our friends has hosted a Santa at her house every other year, so the kids have had plenty of opportunities to share with Santa what they hope to receive for Christmas.

2020 Santa Visit:

Santa visits through the years…

Elf on the Shelf:

Our elf, Red, has visited us since 2012. I’m not sure how many more years he will visit, but he’s always fun to have around.

Bake Cookies:

We always receive lots of cookies from my mom. When those are gone, we bake some cookies to get use through the second half of December ๐Ÿ˜‰

This year, my mom visited, and had quite the crew to help with our traditional family cookies.

Cooking baking through the years…

I will say my kids are at a great age (and have been for a couple years) where they are big help in the baking process.

Southern Lights:

I grew up going to the Plaza lights as well as driving through park lights, so Travis and I have continued that tradition through the years. Even when we were dating, we drove through lights in KC or Columbia. Once I moved to Kentucky, we started going through the Southern Lights at the Kentucky Horse Park.

We’ve realized through the years to go on a Monday or Tuesday night early in the season when it’s less crowded. Also, they have indoor activities, but my kids still have no clue about the inside activities. haha

Angel Tree:

We always choose a family from the Angel Tree to buy gifts for in early December. This used to be something I would just do, but the past few years, I’ve found it to be important to take the kids along with us to choose the gifts. I feel like my kids are pretty aware of others’ needs, but having them participate in the act of buying for those in need is something that I obviously hope they remember all year long and not just around the holidays.

PJs and Gifts:

I always give the kids Christmas pajamas as one of their birthday gifts in November. When they kids were probably three, we started taking them to pick out a gift for each other. I remember when they were little, we’d barely make it to the car before they’d tell each other what they picked out. haha

We usually let them open it on Christmas Eve before going to bed. It’s always fun to see what they pick out for each other. They know each other pretty well. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Gingerbread House:

One of our traditions has been decorating gingerbread houses. Some years, the elf brings one and other years I will get one for them to decorate. The elf usually hot glues the house together for them to find in the morning and then we’ll decorate it in the evening.

The past couple years, they’ve each had a house to decorate, and it’s a fun activity…as long as the house doesn’t collapse!

Decorating through the years…

The kids decorated their houses on Saturday night. Again, it’s fun to be a part of that process, but it’s nice they are old enough to decorate on their own. Unfortunately, Hayden’s house imploded and then one of the walls fell on the floor and broke. So, he just decorated the roof while eating bites of gingerbread as Hadley finished up her house.

Hayden ended up decorating the gingerbread man and tree that came with one of the kids.

When I took the pic of Hayden’s roof, he made this face (bottom right) to demonstrate how he felt about the house collapsing!

For once, we couldn’t blame Homer for the destruction, but he sure was tempted by the icing and the treats!

So those are some of our special holiday traditions. While the holidays are such a hectic time, I’m glad we have these traditions, so that we can spend time together as a family even during the busyness of the season.

What are some of your favorite holiday traditions??

2021 link up:

I’m excited to join the Not Just a Mom link up starting in January 2021! I joked with the ladies that I felt like I was invited to the cool kids’ table at lunch! haha. I’ve very excited to join this link up. If you are a blogger, make sure you join us on the second Monday of the month too!

Here are the 2021 topics:

That’s a wrap on our special holiday traditions! I know this holiday season looks different for everyone, and while, at times, that makes be feel anxious and even sometimes sad, I’m trying to focus on the things I can control like some of these traditions. Christmas cookies help ease the anxiety as well!

I hope you had a great weekend! Don’t forget to check out the other ladies’ posts!

Thanks so much for reading,

Posted in Friday Favorites, Holidays, Home Decor

Friday Favorites: Holiday Home Tour

Hey, hey! We made it to Friday. We’ve had a pretty good week around here, and we are counting down the days until Winter Break! It’s right around the corner, so we’ll just keep chugging right along until break arrives.

Of course, I’m linking up with Andrea and Erika for this week’s Friday Favorites post.

One of my favorite things to do for the holidays is decorate. Even before my blog, I would always take photos of where I put decorations to make the process as easy as possible. The weekend after Thanksgiving is when I do most of my decorating, and it’s typically a one (wo)man job…until I can’t carry something or need Travis to hang the garland. ๐Ÿ˜‰

I saw this meme recently, and, of course, it fits today’s blog topic.

While 90% of my decorations have been used through the years, I do move things around and often can’t help myself from buying a new item or two along the way. #michaelsiswhereitsat

Here’s a little tour around our home:

Kitchen:

My kitchen buffet stayed pretty much the same, but I added fresh garland to the top for about a week.

I figured it wouldn’t last long with Homer. He did pull it down a couple of times, but thankfully, he didn’t destroy it.

I love the Christmas dishes that I display this time of the year.

In the cabinet near the buffet, I added in some trees I’ve collected over the years and a cinnamon scented candle. I actually made the burlap trees a few years ago.

Our fire place and mantle remain the same, but I did buy new garland. What I’ve had for the past few years is extra bulky, and I just wanted a more seamless look. Hadley pointed out that the red and the green of the garland match our stockings perfectly. My previous garland was pre-lit, but I had to add lights to this new garland.

I used some extra greenery on our table centerpiece.

I definitely do the love traditional red and green Christmas decor.

This view is definitely a favorite.

One of my friends painted this pallet a few years ago, and it’s one of my favorite holiday pieces.

Office Area:

In the first few years in this house, we never really knew where to put the tree. Once we made this space the office rather than the dining room, the tree fit perfectly in here. I like that you can see the glow of the tree lights from the kitchen and the living room as well as from the street when the shutters are open.

I always put out the picture of the kids under the tree for their first Christmas. They were a month old (and a few days) old on Christmas 2009.

Front Hall:

I kept the front hall the same as years past with the light up tree, Christmas card holder, snowman tea light, and Merry and Bright sign.

I love Bath and Body Works and always have a few candles to burn like the peppermint one on this entry table.

Living Room:

The tall Santa was a Home Goods find a few years ago. I kept it simple on the coffee table with the flocked tree and candle. The light up present provides the perfect glow in the morning and night. I added a lantern and Merry Christmas canvas to my regular decor on my antique chest.

I always keep my cream pillows out and add seasonal pillows for fall and Christmas.

Outside:

This is the first year we’ve put garland out front. I’ve mentioned previously that I was on the hunt for some artificial garland, but never really found any I liked. Then, I saw the real garland at Trader Joe’s and thought I’d give it a try. Travis was kind enough to hang it for me. Now, I have no clue how long it will last, but after a week, it still is looking good. I’ve sprayed it with water a few times. I have no clue if that’s what I’m supposed to do, but that’s what I’ve been doing!

I’ve had the lanterns and poinsettias for years. My cute stocking door hanger was painted by a local Lexington small business. It’s perfectly festive and, again, I love the traditional red and green.

The Rudolph pillow covers are from Etsy, and I’ve had them for years. The trees in the planters light up, and the Merry Christmas garden flag is the final touch outside.

When the garland on the kitchen buffet was starting to look tired, I sprayed it with water and then put little pieces of it in the outside planters.

Sun room:

I’ve shared this room already as it was the first room I decorated for the season. Until this past spring (#thanksquarantine), we didn’t really use the sun room that often. This year, I thought I’d go ahead and decorate it since we are out here so much now. The pillow covers are new (from Amazon) and the basket wreath is a new find from TJ Maxx this year. We’ve had the tree for years as it’s the one we used for a few years before starting to get a real tree for the living room/office area.

I added a few little trees to the tray that’s always on this table, and I burn the Bath and Body Works Winter scented candle when hanging out in the sun room.

A few other faves:

Dinners this week:

It’s no secret that I use Shay’s cookbooks (especially Simmers) quite frequently for meal ideas. Well, last week, she posted about 24 Crazy Easy December Dinners, and I used it as my guide for meals this week. This week, we’ve eaten: Chicken Tortilla Soup, Beefy Mushroom Pasta, Cheesy Ranch Tacos, and King Ranch Joes. (I don’t think KRJ were listed in that post, but here’s the recipe.) This one post was a life saver for me. We eat the soup and KRJs pretty often, but the pasta and tacos were new recipes for me to make. We all loved them.

The Outsiders

A neighbor had a few books in her garage to give away. One of the books I brought home was The Outsiders which piqued Hayden’s interest. He started reading it Monday night at bedtime and then was telling me all about it Tuesday evening. I stopped him, mid-summary, because I was shocked he’d already read the entire book. Hadley then said that he was reading some during the day while listening to his teacher on Zoom. Anyway, he loved the book so much. With his summary of the stabbing and teenagers smoking and drinking, I was reminded why this is a classic middle school book! haha

He deemed this the second best book he’s ever read. Hatchet was recommended by my mom and still his fave.

I hope he always loves reading as much as he does now.

Then, Wednesday night, he begged us to watch the movie. Travis and I watched it with him. He really liked it, but said the book was better. A friend of mine shared a @historic_imagery post with me on Instagram. I never knew that Francis Ford Coppola hadn’t planned on making the movie but then did so after receiving a letter from a librarian as well as over 100 of her seventh and eighth graders in Fresno, CA. They also share that fact in the credits of the movie.

Southern Lights:

Our Southern Lights Horse Park tradition continued this week. We drove through the park on Tuesday night, and loved seeing the upgraded and updated displays. They had the usual displays, but had also added other lights and features. Also, Santa was sitting outside the North Pole waving at the cars. Usually, Santa is inside the pavilion.

Classic Kentucky lights with the horses, Wildcat basketball player, and Keeneland.

Winter Drive-Thru:

The kids’ school had a Winter Drive Thru this week where they handed out fun packs and free books (as well as supplies for the beginning of second semester).

There was a line around the school, and it was so wonderful to see the teachers outside, waving, and so excited to see their students. Teachers and staff were dressed as Elsa, Rudolph, elves, and Santa! To see the hustle and bustle at school as well as the staff and teachers literally brought tears to my eyes. I hope my kids are able to go back to school sooner rather than later.

Books, games and hot chocolate!

Trader Joeโ€™s Snack Mix

Itโ€™s the time of the year for Trader Joeโ€™s to have my favorite snack mix. I found out the hard way a couple years ago when I was looking for it in January that itโ€™s seasonal.

Some people are hoarding toilet paper again, and I left TJ with six cans of this mix! Delish!

Favorite Mom Meme:

Y’all, I feel this deeply.

Bonus Fave: Flashback Friday

Facebook memories from 2017 provided this gem. I love this picture from Trav’s work holiday party. It didn’t really dawn on me until seeing this that we are missing out on some fun during this season. There’s always the work party, a neighborhood party as well as a party with some of our friends. Hopefully, those traditions will be back in 2021. Sometimes I do miss the normal chaos that the holidays bring.

And for fun….here’s a 1980’s flashback for you…it’s a classic!

Weekly Recap:

Here are my posts for this week! We sure have been busy!

Make sure to check out the other ladies’ posts, and I hope everyone has a great weekend!

Posted in Holidays

Elf on the Shelf: Part 1

Well, the spirit of Christmas continues in our house through the magic of Red. I’ve mentioned before that Red doesn’t arrive until December 1st, at the earliest!

He did make his arrival right on time, so today I’m sharing a bit of what he’s been up to.

The morning of December 1st, the kids found him in the kitchen with his book, and he initiated the countdown to Christmas on our family calendar.

The second morning, Red brought the kids their Christmas wish lists in order to report back to Santa at the North Pole. These lists have room for what the kids want, need, wear, and read. Red went ahead and filled out a “need” for each of them: deodorant for one and toothpaste for the other. The kids then proceeded to debate who Red thought “needed” each item. ๐Ÿ˜†

Other mornings, we found Red in the tree with a Santa balloon and then hanging out on one of our decorative trees with a golf ball ornament for Hayden, and a ballerina ornament for Hadley.

Red must love chips and salsa. He even brought red and green holiday chips.

After we all worked so hard baking over the weekend, Red helped himself to a few of our cookies.

Red must have known the kids ran for Pod President, and wanted to join in on the fun.

Of course, Red has been practicing social distancing since the beginning of time! Here, he reminded the kids to keep their distance…especially in 2020.

On Wednesday morning, we found Red in our cabinet all wrapped up in twinkle lights.

Then, this morning, he brought the kids a Would You Rather book (Christmas edition!) because he must know they love to ask each other (and their friends!) those questions. #fifthgradehumor ๐Ÿ˜‚

While Red’s visits don’t provide all the oohs and aahhs and innocence of when the kids were little, we still laugh at his antics and appreciate the few gifts he leaves along the way.

#tistheseasonforred He’s pretty funny and generous if I do say so myself! ๐Ÿ˜‰

I hope you are having a great week, and see you back here tomorrow for Friday Favorites.

Posted in Holidays, Let's look

Letโ€™s Look: Holiday Cards

It’s Let’s Look Wednesday! This is a fun link up with Shay and Erika where you get a little peek at a certain topic.

In 2020, we’ve looked at:

  • January: your bedside table
  • February: your winter wardrobe
  • March: what’s inside your purse
  • April: Easter at your house
  • May: your weekend
  • June: what’s in your carry on bag
  • July: your summer wardrobe
  • August: your desk
  • September: your school pics
  • October: how you pumpkin
  • November: your holiday menu

Fun fact: My January Let’s Look post was (I think) my top viewed post of the year. Almost 700 people apparently wanted to check out my bedside table! ๐Ÿ˜€

This month’s topic is Let’s Look: holiday cards.

Well, my holiday cards haven’t arrived just yet, so I thought I’d share our holiday cards through the years.

Travis and I had some form of Christmas card off and on before we had kids, but once the kids were born, I did a better job of taking and saving photos, cards, and other momentos.

Here’s a little trip down memory lane…

2009:

The kids were barely a month old by the time Christmas rolled around in 2009. So, we combined a Christmas card with their birth announcement. I still have this Christmas storage box, and it sits under the tree each year until I start putting wrapped presents under the tree.

2010:

Well, here are the kids are in 2010, and they barely fit in the Christmas storage box anymore!

They also refused to sit still for the Christmas card photo! I literally remember sweating as I would get one situated, back away to take the photo, and then the other would move! ๐Ÿ˜…

I couldn’t find the card, but I know we used those pics!

2011:

In 2011, I put them in a laundry basket to sit still for the photo! ๐Ÿ˜‚

Hadley’s signature move at that age was giving all the hugs…in a very “you have no choice but to hug me” way!

We included our dogs, Shiloh and Scout, in the card that year!

2012:

My brother got married in the fall of 2012 which provided the perfect opportunity for some memorable photos. Again, Shiloh and Scout made the cut again to be included on the card and the kids continued to make use of the Christmas storages boxes.

2013:

The card for 2013 was definitely a Pinterest idea, and it wasn’t a fail. I love this pic of Hayden and Hadley. So little and cozy in their jammies.

2014:

Again, for some reason, I can’t find our 2014 Christmas card, but my brother used his fancy camera to take these photos. This was our first Christmas in our current house.

I still have these individual photos framed, and they are in our gallery wall in our kitchen.

So sweet.

2015:

For the 2015 Christmas card, my brother took these photos as well. I remember it was pretty mild weather around Thanksgiving time, so I asked him to take a few photos of the kids.

They turned out so precious…

and the back of the card shows Hadley’s personality perfectly! ๐Ÿ˜‚

2016:

This is another favorite card of mine that we shared with family and friends. You can’t tell from the photo, but Hayden was playing football with friends a few minutes before picture time and ended up with a busted lip! Of course he did! I made sure when I took the photo not to zoom in!

2017:

My brother helped me by taking these photos as well. Man oh man, I remember the kids acting ridiculous while he took some of these photos….especially Hayden. I had to be thankful for whatever good ones he got!

2018:

For fall break 2018, we went to South Carolina. One night before dinner, I told the kids I wanted to take their pictures by the water at sunset. Well, I ended up asking someone to take our family photo, and I couldn’t believe how great it was.

Once December rolled around, I was so happy to have a perfect family photo from one of our favorite places.

And, again, Hayden fell victim to Hadley’s silly and sassy personality…Hadley throwing up the peace sign behind him, and he had no clue.

2019:

The kids didn’t fight me on wearing nice clothes for the 2019 photo if we could bring Homer along for the photo. Well, this time, Homer stole the show! We got a great pic with him and the kids.

Even with Homer, this was one of our easiest photo sessions to date. I snapped a few photos with my phone, and that was all we needed.

2020:

As I previously mentioned, my 2020 cards haven’t arrived yet. I took a few photos of the kids the Friday after Thanksgiving…

…and Homer was invited back again for the photo sesh.

The Henry Clay Estate provided for the perfect place (with perfect weather that day) to take a few pics of the kids for this year’s card.

I can’t get over how big they are getting!

Until this post, I hadn’t realized how many times I’d asked my brother to take the kids’ photos. I should really get him a gift card or something!

Ironically, Trav’s brother is a professional sports photographer, but I don’t want to bug him like I bug my brother!

It’s that time of the year when the “picture perfect” cards start to roll in. Of course, I try to find the most perfect picture too, but I like to include an outtake or two on the back!

Behind every โ€œperfectโ€ photo, thereโ€™s usually a stressed out mom handing out bribes for the photo ๐Ÿ˜‚ Iโ€™m forever trying to keep it real around here!

When my 2020 cards arrive, I will definitely share those closer to Christmas. I really do love giving and receiving cards. I’d say with all that’s gone on in 2020, I will appreciate receiving those cards more than in previous years. I hope sending Christmas cards is a tradition that never fades.

Don’t forget to check out the other ladies’ posts as well!

Thanks so much for reading.

Posted in Holidays, Traditions, Weekend Top 5

Weekend Top 5

Hello and happy Monday! Tuesday! I took yesterday off from blogging because I was swamped from our action packed weekend! So, I’m recapping that for you today…just on on Tuesday rather than a Monday!

Here’s our Weekend Top 5:

1.

Hadley requested Chick-fil-A for lunch on Friday (what’s new?!), so I picked up a peppermint milkshake for myself! (Also, I’m late to the party using the Chick-fil-A app–I’ve been using it now for a couple months, and it’s life changing. Even better is usually Hadley rides along with me to pick up our order and runs inside to get it!)

2.

Cookies, cookies and more cookies.

My mom came to visit, and we baked lots of Christmas cookies over the weekend. Hadley helped her bake gingerbread cookies on Friday. On Saturday, most of us helped make Spritz cookies and Pfeffernuse. Then, Hayden helped her make more gingerbread men because he missed out on that fun on Friday. Saturday night, Hadley helped GG make fudge, and then on Sunday, Hadley (and others) helped dip the Lebkuchen in the icing.

Ta da!!! the finished Pfeffernuse…

Pfeffernuse, Spritz, and Lebkuchen cookies. Often times, GG bakes ahead of time or when we are in KC for Thanksgiving and sends us home with the goodies. Some years she mails the the cookies to us. This was the first year we all baked together (or took turns baking because…too many cooks in the kitchen…) ๐Ÿ˜‚

A few weeks ago, I ordered cookies to decorate from a local small business baker/decorator (One Smart Cookie). The kids decorated those on Sunday after dinner, and those cookies were our dessert.

We always save a decorated cookie + a few of the family cookies for Santa. I just put them in a baggie and freeze them until Christmas Eve.

3.

I always put a few front porch decorations out, and Travis always puts the lights out on the porch and/or bushes. This year, I wanted to add garland to the porch. I couldn’t really find any I liked until…I made a stop at Trader Joe’s for a few goodies and saw their beautiful (and inexpensive!) garland.

I bought two swags of it…and Travis worked his magic in hanging it! I love it so much.

This may be what I do every year since I only need it a few weeks, it’s inexpensive, looks beautiful, and we won’t have to store it.

4.

Well, it happened! I know I mentioned last week that our favorite Santa spot wasn’t hosting Santa. This year, our club organized a drive thru Santa visit, so we decided to go for it. I’m assuming this will be our last year to visit Santa, so I wanted to take advantage of this offer. We waited in the car line and pulled right up when it was our turn. The kids got to chat with him outside for a few minutes, we hopped back in the car, and headed home.

It was a really sweet experience even if we didn’t get to enjoy all the usual festivities that the club typically offers.

Chatting with Santa, hand “Santa”-tizer, and waiting for their turn to see Santa while wearing their masks.

5.

Holiday lights! We usually drive by these festive lights at some point in December, and we decided to go ahead and swing by while we were out after visiting Santa. We ooh and ahh at them every year!

Bonus:


My mom brought Hayden the rest of her Harry Potter books. Hayden’s read the first few, and she gifted him the rest, so he can continue reading them through the years.

Shew! I told you we were busy! I was even able to wrap a few gifts while watching the Chiefs game on Sunday night! That made for a late bedtime, but it was worth it to cross one more thing off my list!

I hope you’ve had a great start to your week. See you back here tomorrow for Let’s Look.

Posted in Holidays, Traditions

Tis the Season!

Well, Thanksgiving was already a week ago, and we are in full Christmas spirit in my house. We’ve taken Christmas card photos, picked out our tree, decorated, welcomed our Elf back from the North Pole, and even had our first snowfall of the season!

Today, I’m sharing the details of our decking the halls and Christmas cheer so far this holiday season.

Starting with…this meme…

It cracks me up. I’m either watching a holiday baking show or Ozark. My tv watching goes from G to rated R real quick!

I mentioned in Monday’s post that we were pretty busy on the Friday after Thanksgiving. One of our errands was stopping by our favorite place to pick out the Christmas tree for our living room. The weather was perfect for wandering around to find just the right tree. Well, technically the kids each found a “perfect” tree, and had to rock, paper, scissors over which tree we’d bring home. Hadley won.

This is also the place we usually go to see Santa. Unfortunately, Covid is cramping Santa’s style this year! I know there are probably other options, but this Santa is our fave, and I guess for now, we’ll have to live with this very 2020 Santa experience. (or lack thereof)

Y,’all, this Santa really is the best!

A few Santa pics through the years…

Top: 2017; bottom left: 2016; bottom right: 2019

2020:

I’m assuming my kids won’t be “believers” for much longer, so I actually did tear up taking this pic. As the years pass by, I do miss the innocence of having little ones and seeing Christmas through their eyes. They are still excited for the holidays, but it’s just different than when they were little.

Travis strung the lights on the tree Friday night, so we could decorate on Saturday morning before everyone got busy.

I put any leftover ornaments not used on the living room tree on the artificial tree in the sun room. I think this is our fourth or fifth year getting a real tree for the living room. Last year was the first year we put our older artificial tree up in the sun room, and I’m glad we did that again this year.

We now have a total of five trees up in the house.

  • The kids each have a small tree in their rooms.
  • We have the artificial tree in the sun room.
  • The real tree is in the living room / office area.
  • and… I (Trav) moved my new pencil tree to our bedroom.

Then…we had to have a talk with Homer about behaving and not taking oraments off the tree.

“Who, me?”

He looks innocent, but last year he had a real knack for #Homering nostalgic ornaments and family heirlooms. ๐Ÿ˜‚

I was hoping we could trust him because for the month the skinny tree was in the sun room, he didn’t bother a single ornament. But…within an hour on Saturday, he’d already taken three ornaments off the living room tree. So, I moved most of the ornaments up higher (even though he can still probably reach some), and now our tree is decorated like it was in 2010-2012 or so when we had two toddlers!

On Friday, I also had the kids dress up, so I could take pics for our Christmas cards. I always think I will have my act together in the fall for family photos for our cards, but that never seems to happen.

The last time we had a fall family photo for our Christmas card was 2014…

This year, the kids were adamant we bring Homer again for the photo, so I decided to head back to where we had our 2014 family photos, the Henry Clay Estate. I knew we’d have space to walk around and would be able to keep our distance from people and enjoy the beautiful weather.

When I saw the bench, I knew I wanted to have the kids sit there again, but later noticed they put their hands in the same spots they did for the photo years ago.

This was a very how it started…

how it’s going…

moment! ๐Ÿ˜†

I will share our Christmas cards (and photos that made the cut) when they arrive. I always order from Shutterfly and take advantage of the Cyber Monday deal they always have.

And…to really keep the spirit alive, Red, our elf, arrived on Tuesday morning. My kids were panicking a bit because some of their friends’ elves arrived after Thanksgiving. I told mine that Red was probably still in quarantine before safely entering our home (just kidding!) Really, I reminded them at Red doesn’t show up until December first, at the earliest!

When we were talking about our elf’s return, Hadley did ask how long the elf will visit. I said, “Well, I guess as long as you believe.” She said, “Well, shouldn’t you always believe?” It was the sweetest and something I need to remember for the next 20+ days ๐Ÿ˜‰

Upon Red’s arrival, he brought the book that we’ve had since 2012. We know he’s our elf because he has the book and a few years ago, he glued a cotton ball to his hat, and the residue has been there every since. Also, last year Red was #Homered, and his torn hat and bandaged hand proves that the right elf came back to our house from the North Pole.

I know these holidays are going to be different (and I’m tired of saying that!), but I’m thankful some traditions remain: decorating, Christmas tree picking, fussing at my kids for pictures, and the return of Red are only the beginning.

I hope your December is off to a great start! See you back here tomorrow for a hodge podge of Friday Favorites.

Take care,

Posted in Holidays

Thanksgiving Recap

Hello and Happy Monday! How was your Thanksgiving? I love nothing more than a five day weekend! Five whole days off allows for rest, prep, celebrating, and decorating!

Now, here are the details of our Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving:

Tuesday:

The kids kicked off Thanksgiving a couple days early with a Friendsgiving lunch at their pod. They had Chick-Fil-a nuggets, fries, fruit and ginger ale. Great crew, beautiful tablescape, and so much for which to be thankful.

Wednesday:

On Wednesday, I didn’t even get out of my pajamas until I worked out before dinner. It was pretty dreary out, so I spent most of the day watching tv, reading my book, and then prepping for Thanksgiving.

I saw this graphic on Instagram, and Wednesday was food prep day! My 5w6 Enneagram number rings true with alone time and making my favorite dish(es).

Travis joked that he was concerned that neither myself nor my sister-in-law felt confident cooking the turkey. Thankfully, we had a friend who offered to fry our turkey for us. Travis usually get a turkey from work as a gift, but he continued to leave it at work, in the freezer, so this was my panicked attempt to get it thawed before drop off for frying.

Thankfully, a few hours in cold water in the cooler did the trick. No sure what my neighbors thought of me, but the turkey was ready for frying!

Travis asked who was making the stuffing, and didn’t like my answer of, “no one,” so I made my first ever stuffing. I followed the directions and added in sausage, and it turned out so good.

Hadley made the pumpkin pie. She did a great job following directions and mixing ingredients. I was in charge of taking it in and out of the oven, but otherwise, she can definitely take credit for this deliciousness!

Thanksgiving Day:

Thursday, was of course, Thanksgiving. We didn’t eat until late afternoon, so we spent most of the morning lounging around before I prepared my last Thanksgiving dish and then we headed to my brother’s house for dinner.

Me, as a mom this week:

I was able to watch most of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade while lounging in my pajamas and sipping my coffee which is always a fave. We were so excited to see the Rockettes at the end…but they didn’t do their famous kicks! Then, of course, Santa brought up the rear to end the parade.

Travis, his brother, and the kids had their own Turkey Trot running about three miles later in the morning.

Then, it was time to take the “I’m thankful for these two turkeys” pic ๐Ÿ˜‰

Family and cousin photos to send to family.

While ordering cups for the kids’ birthday party favors, I also ordered some Thanksgiving cups from (@cupsoncochran). The kids used the “this cup belongs to” while the adults enjoyed a cocktail in the “flocktails” cups. My brother made a delicious mixed drink of apple cider, pumpkin vodka, soda water and a cinnamon stick. I’m honestly not one for mixed drinks, but this one was so good!

My sister-in-law outdid herself with the tablescape. The dining room looked beautiful.

She ordered the template for the name card off Etsy, personalized it for each person, and had them printed at FedEx. Cookies from a local small business were a sweet finishing touch.

Making so many things ahead of time, really paid off. I baked most of the items at her house, and everything timed out nicely. We had too much food for eight people (four of which are kids), but my favorite thing about Thanksgiving is the leftovers.

Trav’s side of the family typically has ham and turkey where my side of the family sticks with turkey. On the years we go to Trav’s side, Hadley enjoys the ham. On the years we are at my family’s feast, she always asks where the ham is. ๐Ÿ˜‚I picked her up a small ham from Kroger and baked it before going to my brother’s house.

Also, she was concerned about who would make the gravy since it wasn’t on my list to make …because both my brother and I don’t like it. So, she made it! I bought the turkey gravy in a jar, and we doctored it up with chicken broth, butter, and bit of flour per the recommendation of a couple of friends. She was pleased with the gravy and the ham, and I continued on my quest for mom of the year. ๐Ÿ˜‚

so much delicious food!

After dinner, we enjoyed the pumpkin pie, and then Zoomed with some of my KC family. My dad’s side of the family typically plays a game or two after our Thanksgiving (and Christmas Eve) meal. While on Zoom, we even ended up playing Scattegories which was so fun.

While it wasn’t our typical Thanksgiving situation, I’d say we definitely made the most of it!

Friday, Saturday, Sunday:

Friday, we were sooo productive…probably more productive than my family cared to be, but we crossed quite a few things off our list. After I saw the upcoming (frigid!) forecast, we decided to take advantage of Black Friday sales and purchase new winter coats for the kids. Afterwards, I made a pit stop at Bath and Body Works for holiday candles and hand soaps before we headed to Target to shop for the Angel Tree. Light traffic and hardly any lines made for quick trips to these places.

We went home for lunch, and then the kids got dressed up and let me take their pic for our Christmas card. Then, we went and picked out our Christmas tree.

On Saturday, I decorated the house for the holidays, Hadley went to a friend’s house, and Hayden and Travis went golfing. Sunday, entailed the usual with getting groceries and prepping for the week…and watching the KC Chiefs play!

See what I mean? Five days off and I was able to relax, read, cook, decorate, and more!

I hope you had a great Thanksgiving as well. Have a good week!

Posted in Holidays, Kids

Party Time!

Today, I’m sharing the details of the kids’ birthday. Hard to believe it, but the are officially 11.

I’ve always been big on birthdays. I started traditions with them when they were young, and we always look forward to their big day. Last year, when they turned 10, I told them we’d probably start scaling back some of the festivities. For example, most years, we’d have a family party and a friend party. For a stretch of about five years, I always made their cakes. I bought them a birthday t-shirt each year, I always make the food for the party…and the list goes on and on.

Insert a pandemic, and well…all festivities look different now. We still made the most of the day, took advantage of a Friday birthday with beautiful weather, and hosted a few friends to play outside.

I still have zero chill when it comes to birthdays, and the zillion photos I take are my proof. ๐Ÿ˜‚

The night before their birthday, I get out my birthday tub with a few decorations. I put those out along with their presents.

Since they were little, I put streamers on doors, so I do that before I go to sleep. I always think I could do the decorating and extra touches in the morning, but with my luck, they’d wake up before I’d get everything set up how I like it.

I always make muffins for their birthday breakfast, and we take this time to open presents and sing happy birthday to each of them. Hayden first…and then Hadley. #birthorder

After breakfast, it was time for online school while I worked. For lunch, they requested Raising Canes. Then, I picked them up each a bundt cake to blow out rather than blow out their candles on the cookie cake.

In the past, I let them each pick out a cookie cake from Great American Cookie, but with less friends at the party and to simplify it a bit, I just chose one cake for them. We picked it up on Thursday and stopped by they party store as well for a few balloons.

Double the 11’s. Double the fun!

I think this is the fourth year I’ve ordered the yard signs. I used a new company this year because they had so many fun options. I think Lawn Letter Kreations did an amazing job! The signs fit their personalities perfectly! And, I felt it was money well spent since their friends got to see the yard too.

Hayden…

Hadley…

turn 11!

I made this birthday banner for their 3rd birthday party. I just keep it in the birthday tub and switch out the age each year. I wasn’t going to put it up, but decided to decorate the sun room a bit in case it was utilized during the party.

Outdoor decorations and food: banner, chalkboard, chips, Capri Sun, and party favors…and hand sanitizer. ๐Ÿ˜‰

I got these personalized cups from a local business (Cups on Cochran), filled them with candy, and added a hand sanitizer in the cup too!

The kids played for about an hour and a half, we picked up pizza for the kids and then had cookie cake.

We sang and they blew out their candles on their bundt cake. We actually sang to Hadley twice because she didn’t feel like the boys put in enough effort the first time! ๐Ÿ˜‚

Cookie cake tradition continues…

Then, they went back to playing!

With twins, boy/girl twins at that, it’s hard to find something they both want to do for a party, and keep the invite list under control…especially during Covid. The kids are blessed with great friends, and I’m glad it worked out for them to each invite a few to play; the weather couldn’t have been better…especially for November!

This little sign says it all…

11 years of being a mom. 11 years of watching them grow. 11 years of worry and love and all the emotions. What a blessing these 11 years have been.

Once everyone went home, Hayden hugged me and said, “Mom, this was the best birthday ever. You should sit down and have a glass of wine. You deserve it!” Ahh…that kid!

I guess a little outside backyard fun, friends, pizza, and some cake are all you really need. It was a great day. We made the most of this pandemic birthday.

As always, thanks so much for reading!

Posted in Friday Favorites, Holidays, Traditions

Friday Favorites: Thanksgiving

Hello and Happy Friday! We made it to the weekend. This week has definitely had its share of ups and downs, so needless to say, I’m ready for the weekend.

As always, I’m linking up with Andrea and Erika for this week’s Friday Favorites.

Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday. It also feels like the most overlooked holiday smooshed right in between Halloween and Christmas. Since Thanksgiving is right around the corner, I thought I’d share some of my favorite things about Thanksgiving from traditions, the food, and more!

My favorite things about Thanksgiving:

The Food:

Thanksgiving food is my favorite food of the entire year. I never really say no to carbs, but definitely not on Thanksgiving. Give me all of the mashed potatoes, rolls, macaroni and cheese and other carbs! I do love the turkey as well. A slice of pumpkin pie topped with a dollop of whipped cream is the perfect way to end the meal.

Fun fact: the only day of the year that I buy the school lunch is the Thursday before Thanksgiving. That’s when our district serves up their version of a Thanksgiving meal. I know the picture isn’t the best, but the food really is good!

The Leftovers, Y’all:

The leftovers are the best part of the meal! I always look forward to the Friday after Thanksgiving lunch when we reheat the turkey, the mashed potatoes, and anything else we have left to eat!

Also, did you see the soup recipe I shared in my Let’s Look post on Wednesday? It’s so good and a great way to use up your leftover turkey!

The Weather and FAll Colors:

The weather and the fall colors of the leaves always make the holiday even better! Whether we are in KC or KY, we tend to luck out with pretty mild weather.

Family:

Itโ€™s always great to see family around the holidays. It makes that time of the year even more special. Some years, we see my family in KC, and other years we see Trav’s family from various parts of Kentucky. This year, we probably won’t see family like we usually do, but hopefully we can get back on track with that tradition next year.

Thanksgiving through the years…
No stress of Gifts:

I’ve always loved Thanksgiving because of food, family, and….no gift giving! It’s nice just to show up, hang out, eat, and not feel overwhelmed with gift buying lists, wrapping, and hauling gifts from house to house (or state to state!)

The Parade:

I’ve always loved the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. I remember watching it as a kid, and I always turn it on for my kids now too. I’m not saying I always watched every second of it, but it’s just nice to even have it on in the background while hanging out or cooking.

The Lights:

The Plaza lights in KC are always a must when we visit. On Thanksgiving evening, there is always a ceremony, a countdown, and then the lights are lit! Whether it’s right after Thanksgiving or when we visit at Christmas, we try to see them as a family.

I remember as a kid going with my family to drive through that part of town and look at the lights…followed by a hamburger and shake at Winsteads (another KC fave!)

Giving Thanks:

Of course, I try to give thanks on other days besides Thanksgiving, but Thanksgiving does provide a time to pause, reflect, and give thanks for the blessings in my life.

One thing my school does is gratitude feathers. Students fill out the feathers for their teachers thanking them, and then they get put in teacher mailboxes for teachers to receive before Thanksgiving break. I never expect to receive a gratitude feather, but I always love when I do. The sweet messages keep me going during this time of the school year.

2019 gratitude feathers
Elementary Art:

Through the years, I’ve loved seeing what the kids bring home in their backpacks from school. Whether it’s a turkey or a cap with feathers, I always love talking with them about their masterpieces.

I’m sad that this year looks so different for Hayden and Hadley, and this is another example of “what would have been” if they were in school for a regular year. I doubt there will be any Thanksgiving artwork in middle school. #sadface

Bonus Fave: Flashback Friday: Turkey Day Edition

Here are some kid and family pics through the years. Thankfully, they don’t fight me much when when I ask them to dress up a bit to see family!

Weekly Recap:

Even with this year looking differently, I continue to be thankful for family, friends, and our health.

What blessings are you counting this year?

Thanks so much for reading, and don’t forget to check out the other ladies’ posts too!

Have a great weekend,

Posted in Holidays, Let's look

Letโ€™s Look

Today is Let’s Look!

This is a fun link up with Shay and Erika where we take a peek on an assigned topic for the month!

This year we’ve looked at:

  • January: your bedside table
  • February: your winter wardrobe
  • March: what’s inside your purse
  • April: Easter at your house
  • May: your weekend
  • June: what’s in your carry on bag
  • July: your summer wardrobe
  • August: your desk
  • September: your school pics
  • October: how you pumpkin

This month’s topic is holiday menu. Since it’s November, I’m thinking Shay and Erika meant Thanksgiving menu, so that’s my focus for today’s post.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It always has been. I’ve always loved watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade even as a kid. Also, there’s no stress of buying presents, and the Thanksgiving offers the best food you’ll eat all year!

I saw this graphic on Twitter recently, and thought it went perfectly with today’s topic. I’m from Missouri, and yes, I love all the carbs…including rolls. Kentucky’s most popular side is apparently broccoli casserole which would not be my vote for favorite side. #hardpassforme

We usually are in KC with family for Thanksgiving, and my cousin always out does herself with the table scape and decor.

And…there are always sweet little touches like these personalized chocolate turkeys.

Growing up, Thanksgiving was always spent with my dad’s side of the family. Even now, when I go home, we still celebrate with that side of the family.

One Thanksgiving my dad visited us here, and my sister-in-law and I made the turkey, mashed potatoes, etc. It was quite a successful Thanksgiving, but it confirmed what I already knew….hosting a holiday is hard work!

For a couple of Thanksgivings we’ve gone to Trav’s side of the family in Elizabethtown, and the food is great there too.

We are now kind of on an every other year rotation with staying home or going to KC. We’ll be home this year, and I’m not exactly sure what our plans will be.

Thanksgiving Menu:

No matter where we are celebrating, the menu seems to be mostly the same:

  • Turkey
  • Mashed potatoes and gravy
  • Green beans or green bean casserole
  • Hash brown casserole
  • Cornbread casserole
  • Stuffing
  • Mac and cheese
  • Sweet potato casserole
  • Rolls
  • Pumpkin pie + other pies for dessert

Turkey Soup:

For a tradition with my mom, we typically make a turkey soup with the recipe that I’ve had for years…. We got the recipe from my high school boy friend’s dad probably back in 1998(ish). ๐Ÿ˜…The relationship didn’t last but the soup tradition continues! ๐Ÿ˜‚

It’s one of the best ways to use the leftover turkey, and I’ve even made it with chicken at other points in the year.

Ingredients:
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup
  • 1 can cream of celery soup
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 can chicken broth
  • 4 cans water
  • 1/2 an onion, chopped
  • 1-2 c. shredded carrots
  • 2 c. uncooked rice + a little bit more
  • leftover shredded turkey
  • Creole spice (I usually have the Tony Chachere brand)
Instructions:
  • Saute the chopped onions in some oil.
  • Add in soups + cans of water and heat for a few minutes.
  • Add in the the turkey and shredded carrots. Stir to combine.
  • Pour in 2 cups of rice, and I add in a little bit more rice.
  • Top the ingredients with Creole spice plus a bit more. Stir.
  • Cook for 20-30 minutes.
  • Enjoy!

I make this soup every year whether I’m in KY or in KC. It’s definitely one of my favorite turkey day traditions.

Next month’s topic is Let’s Look at your Christmas cards!

I can’t believe that next month’s post will be the last Let’s Look for 2020!

As always, thanks so much for reading. I truly do appreciate it!

Don’t forget to check out the other ladies’ posts, and I will see you back here tomorrow for Friday Favorites.

Take care,