Monday, December 28, 2015

Things I did right in 2015

Don't worry, I won't be following this up with a "Things I did wrong in 2015" post! Although that might be funny, and I can certainly think of more than enough examples. These are just the things that happened in 2015 that I'm the most proud of. [Apparently, correcting hanging prepositions isn't one of them.]

1) I HAD A BABY! It goes without saying [But I'm going to say it anyway!] that welcoming this little one to my family was a pretty significant highlight in 2015.

2) I was promoted at work! I've been at the same company for almost 7 years. [I'm a CPA.] This is my second promotion in that time and a bigger deal than the first one. It was delayed one year because of having Swede and starting to work remotely from Durango, so I am definitely ready and excited to take this next step!

3) I read 46 books. I think the Book of the Year award goes to Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, but I also liked: Attachments by Rainbow Rowell, At the Water's Edge by Sara Gruen, Belong to Me by Marisa de los Santos, and A Window Opens by Elisabeth Egan.

4) I finally [FINALLY!] succeeded in my New Years Resolution to make flossing my teeth an every day habit.

5) Another successful New Years Resolution is that I started going to church again regularly.

6) I wrote in my "One Line A Day" journal EVERY SINGLE DAY. One year done... Four to go! I think it will be really fun in years to come to see what I was doing on the same day in the past.

7) I started this blog! I've been reading blogs for years and have thought from time to time about starting my own, and I am so glad that I did. I only wish I had started it sooner. It has been really fun to connect with so many new people. I've really enjoyed chatting about my life these past few months with you all. Thank you for reading... I wouldn't be doing this without you!

Saturday, December 26, 2015

A Very Merry Christmas 2015

Hey Friends! Did you have a nice Christmas? We've had a lovely few days. Of course there have been the inevitable toddler meltdowns. And everything I do these days is through a haze of fatigue. But thankfully I'm still able to appreciate the special moments of our first Christmas as a family of four!

To start with... Snow! It was a very white Christmas. We put Swede to work shoveling the driveway.

Christmas Eve was also Abel's one month birthday! He has gotten so chubby! I love it. We moved to Size 1 diapers and 0-3 months clothes today. It was a little bittersweet to pack away the tiny newborn onesies for good. He is extremely cuddly and would be perfectly happy to sleep on my chest all day and night if possible. [With adequate snack breaks, of course!]

We had fondue for dinner on Christmas Eve! A new family tradition.

On Christmas Day we started with coffee and opening a few presents at home. Jonathan gave me a Garmin [Yay!] and I gave him a new sweater [in the photo below] and a coffee mug that Swede painted at a paint-your-own-pottery place. 

Then we headed to my parents' house for more presents, and breakfast, which to everyone's delight included my mom's delicious homemade cinnamon rolls.

After nap time [for everyone!] we headed to Jonathan's parents' house for MORE presents, and dinner. And hugs. 

Swede's favorite presents are the Green Toys Build-a-Bouquet Floral Arrangement Playset, and an enormous stuffed penguin.

Amazingly, my neglected Christmas cactus is blooming right on schedule!

It's hard to believe it's all over for another year! I hope you all had a wonderful holiday.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Five Favorites - Christmas Edition

Merry Christmas Eve Eve Eve Day! [Question: Do you call the whole day Christmas Eve? Or just the actual EVEning? I usually call the whole day Christmas Eve but something compelled me to add the "Day" to my greeting above.]

Here are some things I've been loving this holiday season.

1) While I admit I should probably reign in my cookie consumption, I have so enjoyed baking holiday cookies with Swede. This year we made: Frosted Sugar Cookies, Molasses Sugar Cookies, Date Pinwheels [a classic family recipe from my Great-Grandma], Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies, and The Browniest Cookies. I still have my heart set on making a batch of Linzer Cookies, then I'll call it good.

2) I have also enjoyed reading Christmas books with Swede! Our favorites are: Fa La La by Leslie Patricelli, The Story of Christmas by Thomas Nelson [<--This is a nice version of the traditional Bible story], Peppa's Christmas Wish, and the classic The Night Before Christmas. [<--It looks like the version in the photo below is out of print, which is too bad because that is THE quintessential edition in my opinion!]

3) What list of Christmas favorites would be complete without my favorite holiday movies?!? Tied for first place are Elf and The Family Stone, with honorable mentions going to: A Charlie Brown ChristmasThe Holiday, and White Christmas, although I have to admit I do fast-forward through some of the extended dance scenes in that last one.

4) I love love LOVE our Christmas cards this year! They are from Shutterfly.


5) This is the weather forecast for the rest of the week... Looks like we'll have a white Christmas!!! [BTW, I am loving these boots that I mentioned in my November Favorites more and more with every snowstorm!]

One last photo for the road... This is what Swede does when we tell her to close her eyes so the Christmas fairy can put candy in the Advent box. Do you think there's any peeking going on???

I hope you all have a lovely next couple of days with your families and friends!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Weekend [Dec 19-20, 2015]

I think I might put these "Weekend Recap" posts on hiatus until I'm back at work and have more traditional weekends, or at least until I start doing something more fun on the weekends! I feel like a broken record these days. Managing both kiddos is hard! And it's actually more difficult on the weekends because I spend more time taking care of both Swede & Abel by myself, versus weekdays when Swede spends time at preschool or with my mom. Jonathan helps on the weekends, of course, but someone also has to get errands and chores done.

Saturday morning was uneventful. I managed to do a couple loads of laundry in between feeding Abel and playing Legos with Swede, and to get everything folded and put away... Epic productivity! In the afternoon I went on my first solo outing with both kids. We went to to the library. No meltdowns by anyone... Major triumph!

This is the only photo I took all day... My daily sweet sleepy Abel snapshot.

On Sunday we had biscuits & gravy for breakfast, then Swede & I made The Browniest Cookies from Smitten Kitchen. [Take note, Chocoholics! These are the real deal.] Not exactly a healthy morning but delicious!

During Swede's nap I watched Downton Abbey. [And dealt with an unfortunate spit up episode, because I was too caught up in the show to burp Abel properly, but let's focus on the positive.] I binged through Seasons 1-3 last summer but was so upset by Matthew's death that I quit watching. Now I've recovered and am making quick work of Seasons 4-5. 

I finished the day with a quick visit to the Discovery Museum with my mom & the kids, then the usual dinner/bedtime chaos. 

I'm trying to think of ways to make the weekends go better... Possibly hiring someone to clean the house so that's one less thing to deal with. Any other ideas?

It's hard to believe it's Christmas week already! I hope that you're all having a lovely holiday season. 

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Five Favorites - Newborn Edition

I've decided to split my monthly favorites post for December into a Newborn edition and a Christmas edition <--Coming next week! Can you believe it's <10 days until Christmas?!

1) The Fisher-Price Deluxe Monkey Bouncer is an MVP for both Swede and Abel. It's so nice to have somewhere to put Abel while I'm taking a shower / making a sandwich / playing with Swede, etc. It has a light vibration you can turn on which I think is soothing, as well as a removable activity bar with toys/lights/music. We used this every day until Swede was probably six months old and it was the first thing I pulled from storage when we brought Abel home.

2) I'm a big fan of the idiot-proof Swaddleme blankets. I tried swaddling Swede with a regular blanket when she was born and could never get it tight and secure enough. The velcro closures on the Swaddleme blankets make it so easy and quick to get the babies bundled up for bedtime.

3) My favorite source for baby/kid clothing is Carters. The clothes are cute, durable, and affordable. I really like the multi-pack onesies and cozy fleece footed pajamas. I'm also really loving the two Zutano gowns in the photo above that we received as gifts for Abel. I think Zutano prints are absolutely the cutest! And the gowns make the many many diaper changes so much easier, especially in the middle of the night.

4) I love this Skip Hop Treetop Friends Nursery Blanket. I bought it when Swede was born and it looks like it's been discontinued, but hopefully there is a similar blanket in a different pattern, because it's perfect! Cute on one side. Soft on the other side. Just the right size to take along in the diaper bag.

5) The Baby K'Tan Baby Carrier is the only item on this list that we didn't have with Swede. I used an Ergo with Swede, and I'm sure I'll use it with Abel too, but it feels a little bulky to wear inside and the bottom band is too tight on my C-section incision. The Baby K'Tan is really easy to put on and low profile. Abel seems very cozy and snug inside and will happily sleep there whether I'm outside walking or just mooching around the house.

Obviously I have dozens more items that we need/use/love on a daily basis - We couldn't survive without the white noise machine! And I love the smell of Burt's Bees Baby Bee Shampoo and Lotion - But these are the standouts for this first month with Abel. You moms out there... What are some of your favorite baby-related products?

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Weekend [Dec 12-13, 2015]

Hey Friends, Did you have a nice weekend? We are trying to find a balance between keeping things low-key and avoiding cabin fever. Sometimes we are successful... Sometimes not.

We started the day on Saturday with pancakes. We are fans of the silver dollar style. Also - This Le Creuset Batter Bowl is one of my favorite kitchen items ever.

We had at the first decent snow of the winter on Saturday morning, so I bundled up Swede to explore the back yard.

After nap time we went to the Festival of Trees. See the tree in the background with the banana ornaments? When I asked Swede which tree was her favorite she said "Banana!"

Then we walked around downtown where I happened to see a paper crane with a line from one of my favorite poems written on it. Random.

Highlights on Sunday included: Donuts! Playtime with Swede. Reading/Snuggling with Abel during Swede's nap time. Watching a cheesy-in-the-best-possible-way Lifetime movie called 12 Dates of Christmas with my mom.

That's all! It is now officially past my bedtime. I've been putting Abel down at 8 pm and attempting to go to sleep myself as soon after that as possible. He's been up pretty consistently around 11 pm, 2 am, and 5 am. I'd love to get one longer stretch of sleep but it hasn't happened yet... If I could have any Christmas wish come true I think that would be it!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Coffee Date #1

Hey Friends! Let's have a coffee date!

If we were meeting up for coffee today, the first thing I'd say is that managing the newborn/toddler situation can be pretty tough. Some days are better than others. It probably depends on how tired I am that day. I would really love to sleep for more than 2 consecutive hours. There's been a definite increase in tantrums from Swede, which I've had trouble deciding how to handle.

On bad days [such as Tuesday] I feel like I'm unable to give enough attention to either child, let alone consider long-range issues such as developing/maintaining a routine [Abel] and working on our please-and-thank-you manners [Swede]. On good days [such as Wednesday, and, so far, today] I feel relaxed and calm, and I'm able to enjoy the specific blessings of each of my sweet babies.

On a lighter note, I sometimes email things to myself from my phone and somehow the name associated with my email address in my phone is "Holidays in the United States." WHAT? I have no idea how that happened.

Abel gained a whole pound in 10 days! From Day 4 to Day 14. So that's pretty great. It's weird to think that I am just now reaching his actual due date.

Currently I'm craving: A filet mignon and a glass of red wine. A hot yoga class. And this Slow Cooker Pulled Pork Gnocchi from Bev Cooks. <--I think it's happening this weekend.

I really love this set of Marin Winter Bird Mugs from Crate & Barrel. But don't we all have more mugs than we need? Maybe I'll get rid of all my old mugs. I'm sick of them anyway. [Except the one in the photo above, That's my favorite.]

What are your plans for Christmas Eve? Do you have any specific Christmas Eve traditions? Christmas Day is pretty well organized, but I'd like to come up with a new family tradition for Christmas Eve. Maybe the same special dinner every year, and a board game or movie.

That's about all my chit-chat for today!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Gift Guide 2015!

Hi Friends, Have you finished Christmas shopping? I've decided to jump on the Gift Guide bandwagon because I think they are so much fun. I know I'm a little late getting this one put together, but here are some of the ideas that I had for people on my list, in case you're still looking for something for someone on yours. [ALERT: Real Life Friends! Don't continue if you want your present to be a surprise!]

1) Chunky Fair Isle Sweater from Boden. I get Jonathan a nice sweater almost every Christmas because he is notoriously cheap when buying clothes (except for football/soccer jerseys). I'll admit this one is a little self-serving because I want him to have something nice to wear for family photos!

2) Land of Nod has a super-cute collection of You Name It Ornaments that are perfect for Baby's First Christmas.

3) Adult Coloring Books are the next big thing, Right?! I've been thinking about getting one for myself. It's supposed to be very soothing and meditative.

4)  Harry and David gift baskets. I know some people think gift baskets are impersonal, but I think they are really fun. I love getting to taste a bunch of delicious little snacks that I would never splurge on for myself.

5) An Old-Fashioned Christmas by Ellen Stimson. This collection of recipes and stories about Christmas in Vermont is on my wish list. It looks so warm and cozy, exactly the way you want Christmas to be.

6) I think this Paw Print Necklace is so cute for animal-lovers.

7) This festive Reusable Coffee Sleeve will spruce up your plain red Starbucks cup nicely! This Etsy shop has a bunch of cute coffee sleeves in all different fabrics.

8) For the hostess: Very Merry Tea Towels from Garnet Hill. I don't know about you, but cute dishtowels are something that it's nice to have but that I never buy for myself... Two key components for a lovely gift!

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Christmas Decorating Weekend

I feel like my days, since Abel was born, are comprised of two-hour blocks of time in between feeding him, in which I attempt to get as much done as possible!

This was the agenda on Saturday:

7-9 am: Breakfast / Shower / Get dressed (and get Swede dressed, which is more difficult).
9:30-11:30 am: Go to the library! Abel's first official outing other than the pediatrician.
12-2 pm: Lunch / Put Swede down for a nap / Fold laundry / Do some final online Christmas shopping.
2:30-4:30 pm: Put up the Christmas tree!
5-7 pm: Jonathan's parents bring Chinese food for dinner / Bedtime with Swede - Bath, PJs, Stories.
7:30-9:30: Take Gumball on a short walk to the mailbox / Get ready for bed / Read.

All my photos from the weekend are from decorating for Christmas on Saturday afternoon.  Prepare yourself for the holiday onslaught!

Swede really liked decorating the tree... For about 15 minutes.

Abel was less impressed.

Gumball was the only one who would pose for the camera.

I love our new stockings! From The Colorful Chicken on Etsy.

We've been doing M&Ms in the Advent calendar for Swede... Very fun!

Abel's first Christmas!

On Sunday, Swede & I did some more holiday baking with my mom... Molasses Sugar Cookies this time. I spent all of Swede's nap obsessing over which Christmas card to choose from Shutterfly and which photos to use. 

We didn't do anything after Swede's nap, which is retrospect was a mistake, but there aren't many options with a less-than-2-week-old baby and a still-recovering mom. It was a difficult afternoon for Swede, and consequently, for everyone else! The combination of waking up to early / being two years old / adjusting to the new baby / boredom from spending so much time at home lately... Is not ideal.

I'm about the finish up the day with some cookies and a Christmas movie... Elf, anyone???

Friday, December 4, 2015

This week in 8 photos

Happy Friday! It doesn't exactly feel like Friday because I'm on maternity leave now. This week has been all about adjusting to life with two kids. Sometimes it's been easier than I expected. And other times it's exactly as hectic and chaotic as I feared! Here are eight photos that capture the calmer moments. I never have the presence of mind [Or, let's face it, the desire] to capture the chaos for posterity.

1. Abel is ten days old today! He is such a sweet, sleepy, snuggly baby.

2.  Swede has been a really great big sister so far.  She likes to make sure Abel has a hat and blankie at all times.

3. On Wednesday we made Christmas cookies with my mom. Yummy! We used the Perfect Every Time Cut-Out Cookies recipe from Bake at 350. Swede had a pretty heavy hand with the sprinkles. 

4. Snugs with GB! I've been trying to take a nap every day. I think Abel is sleeping pretty well at night for a newborn, but I'm still up for 30-45 minutes every 2-3 hours.

5. I glanced over and this is how he was sleeping! Babies.

6. Playtime with Swede! My biggest challenge/worry so far is making sure the kids each get enough attention. Is Abel getting enough cuddles? Is Swede getting enough one-on-one playtime?

7.  Lunch. Every day. Ham and cheese sandwich with chipotle mayo and lettuce. Jalopeno Kettle chips.

8. I love the funny expressions that newborns make. He looks so befuddled.

Do you have anything fun planned for the weekend? We are decorating for Christmas!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Reading Roundup - November 2015

Hey Friends! I'm not sure how much reading I'm going to get done these next couple months! But here's a glimpse at the books I read last month.

1) Still Life by Louise Penny. 4/5 stars. This is the first installment in a mystery series set in Quebec starring a detective named Armande Gamache. I don't read that many mystery novels, but the ones I do like involve well-developed characters rather than being strictly procedural. Like Tana French's novels, the mystery here is a jumping-off point to explore human nature. The main character reminds me somewhat of Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot, the quintessential "gentleman detective."

2) The Precious One by Marisa de los Santos. 3.5/5 stars. I think binge-reading all four of Marisa de los Santos' book in one month wasn't the best idea . This book is not a sequel to Love Walked In and Belong to Me, but the characters felt very similar. We have the quirky thirty-something narrator trying to get her life organized, the super-smart and wise-beyond-their-years teenagers, the devastatingly handsome and wounded-but-willing-to-give-love-a-second-chance soul mate. This is my least favorite of the four books. Maybe just because it felt a little derivative, but there's also a creepy teacher-student plotline that I didn't enjoy.

3) Falling Together by Marisa de los Santos. 4/5 stars. I've recently become aware that my reading choices of late have been trending more and more towards what is apparently known as "educated chick lit." I've become increasingly hesitant to read anything too sad, too difficult. I've enjoyed my tour of Marisa de los Santos' work - I really do like her characters and writing style - But I think it's time to pick up something more serious, something that [gasp!] might not have a happy ending. This book is about three college friends who reunite after being estranged for six years and end up on a journey across the world. Thankfully, the characters are different enough from her previous books, which gives me hope for future books.

4) All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews. 3/5 stars. In response to the above, I plunged straight into a book that was described to me as "devastating." It is a meditation on life and death and grief and forgiveness. How do you love someone who wants to kill themselves? Amazingly, there is a thread of grim humor throughout this book... The absurdity of life even in the presence of death. It's well-written and heart-wrenching, but I didn't "connect" with this book, with the characters. I can't really figure out why not. Maybe the subject is just too far [and I say this with the utmost gratitude] from my own life experiences.

5) The Magician's Land by Lev Grossman. 4/5 stars. I read this book when it came out last year but happened to see it at the library and decided right then to re-read. It's the final novel in a trilogy about students at a college for magicians and their adventures in a Narnia-style fairyland. Throughout the first two novels, the main character is almost intolerably frustrating. I know several people who didn't like these books because of his flaws. But I can't resist the allure of the magical world hidden just beyond our perception. And thankfully, in this book, Quentin has [finally!] grown up. Definitely my favorite of the three books.

Swede's Book of the Month: Dream Animals by Emily Winfield Martin. This might be the most beautiful board book I've ever seen! The illustrations are so gorgeous and the rhyming story about the animal friends who take children on their dreamtime journeys is very sweet.

Did you read any good books this month? Do you ever re-read books? What is your favorite genre... Mystery? Sci-Fi? Fantasy? Educated Chick Lit?