Adventish: A Holiday Idea Box


Sometimes the holidays stress me out. Some years I don’t care about the mayhem and I pinterest my heart out coming up with fun activities and covering the house in glitter and ribbons and twinkle lights then other years I’m like, “What if we didn’t decorate for Christmas at all and we’ll just wait and see if Christmas happens anyway?”

I’m feeling somewhere in the middle this year but with Advent starting on Tuesday, the pressure is on to either get prepared or pretend we forgot Advent was a thing and see if the kids notice (they probably won’t, don’t worry). I have a beautiful advent calendar that my step mom made the kids a few years ago and I love putting it up but have a love / hate relationship with filling it. Coming up with 24 creative ways to say “Yay! Christmas!” can be exhausting or expensive or cavity filled.


This year I filled our advent calendar with those little stickers that come on the ends of the personalized name tags that charities send you around the holidays when looking for donations. You know, the guilt labels that you end up keeping whether you donate money or not because why would you throw perfectly good address labels away? And the stickers have been piling up for nine years now at least, so I had a pretty hefty collection of them.

I kind of wanted to an advent activity thing, too, and put in fun activities to do each day but that just stressed me out again because what if I don’t end up wanting to do that thing that day – or you know, life happens so I don’t want to put something particular on a certain day only to have that event canceled and the advent calendar turn into a liar because I forget to change it. I worry too much, it’s okay. Also I couldn’t come up with 24 activities. But I had ten activities that are totally repeatable and can mostly be done with minimum or no prep at all and that’s where this strange little idea of mine started.


To make the box: I grabbed an old tea tin that just ran out of tea that smells all amazing and cinnamony. Then I went to, my graphic making / photo editing website of choice, and created this cute graphic. I knew my tin was 3 inches by 4 1/2 inches on each side so I went with those dimensions after googling pixel to inch conversions again. DPI continues to confuse me and my graphic is actually like twice as big as necessary, but that’s okay – I threw it in a word document, scaled the image size and then copied and pasted until there were four of them on one page and printed. I cut the graphics and wrapped them around my tin with some scotch tape to hold it all in place. Do I really need to tell you guys how to tape a piece of paper on a tin box? Probably not. Sorry.


To fill the tin: I decorated some popsicle sticks that I’ve had lying around my office as long as I’ve been a mother. I bought a box with like 1,000 popsicle sticks in it a million moons ago and I think I will have this box until the day I die. I took those charity address label stickers and stuck them on the tops of the sticks to look decorative and wrote activity ideas on the side of the stick. So fancy. (Pro tip: I filled the tin with gift bag tissue paper first because ten tiny popsicle sticks don’t really fill the tin and they looked sad. The tissue made the sticks kinda stand up and look more impressive.)

Here are our activities:

  1. Watch a holiday movie.
  2. Read a book together.
  3. Dance party!
  4. Family Game Night.
  5. Make paper snowflakes.
  6. Drink hot cocoa.
  7. Sing Christmas Carols.
  8. Family Compliment Day – tell every person in your family something you love about them. Enjoy all the feel goods.
  9. Christmas Craft Time
  10. Have a joke telling contest!

Feel free to steal my idea. I know it’s kind of amazing. What activities would you put on your popsicle sticks?

So very thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving guys!


Apparently I’m thankful for blog link ups this year! I’m linking up with Mama Kat’s Writer’s Workshop by answering the following questions found on her So Very Thankful You Tube Tag. Wanna play along? Just answer the following questions:

1. Name a color you are thankful for.
I am thankful for the color blue for giving my children such gorgeous eyes.

More of a gray blue these days but still stunning
She makes puddles out of people.

2. Something your spouse does that you are thankful for. My husband is amazing guys! It would take me a lifetime to list all the things he does that make our lives better. I am supremely thankful for his overall handy nature – his intelligence and hard work keep our appliances running, our home in good condition, our bellies full and heck – it made the desk that my computer is sitting on as I type this!
3. Something your kids do that you are thankful for. I have terrific kids. They are sweet, clever, silly and keep me on my toes. I am thankful for a son who is always willing to help out around the house and is always, always kind – he has the biggest heart and it makes me really proud. I’m thankful for a daughter who defies all stereotypes but isn’t afraid to embrace them sometimes, too. She can rock her princess dresses but is happy to roll around in the dirt, play video games or have a Nerf fight.

My creeper and princess at Halloween this year

4. A food you are thankful for. Dessert, obviously.
5. What recent good news are you thankful for? It’s been a rough few weeks for news but I’m thankful for the people around me who focus on hope and love and compassion even when it would be easier to focus on fear. It’s easy to look at all the sad things in the news and lose yourself down the rabbit hole – I’m grateful for the people who don’t let themselves succumb to that.
6. Name a drink you are thankful for. Lactose free milk because it lets me live in denial and keeps my coffee habit running strong.
7. Name a restaurant you are thankful for. I’m thankful for Olive Garden because it’s the location where my husband proposed (and was often the surprise awesome meal that I’d get treated to as a starving college student). Also unlimited soup, salad and breadsticks. Nothing else really needs to be said.
8. Talk about an animal you are thankful for. I think I’m supposed to say my dog because it would be weird if I didn’t right? He’s okay.

Is that not the poutiest puppy face you’ve ever seen?

9. Name a beauty product you are thankful for. The detangler from Ulta Beauty pretty much changed my life. Brushing my daughter’s hair often feel like a hostage situation with negotiations and subterfuge, but the detangler cut out a LOT of the drama. I’ve tried similar “imitations” but this one seems to have some magical quality that made everything different.
10. Name a cleaning product you are thankful for. Laundry pods make laundry so simple that my six year old can do it. We’re working on getting the kids to help out more with chores and although BB does still admittedly need to be supervised with laundry chores, MM at 9 can handle laundry from beginning to end now – and laundry pods mean I’m really not too worried  about whether he is doing a good job or not.
11. What social media platform are you thankful for? Haters can hate on Facebook as much as they want and I hear you, but that silly little website has helped me forge relationships with distant relatives, maintain friendships despite major moves and life changes and tentatively tip toe into new friendship with school moms, etc. It’s earned my thanks ten times over.
12. Tell us why you are thankful for the last person who texted you. That would be my handsome husband who I talked a lot about in question 2. I’m also thankful for nine years of marriage making our relationship stronger than ever. We’ve been lucky to grow together over the years and though we obviously have our ups and downs like every couple, he’s still the person I cannot wait to talk to each day, my sounding board and confidante and the funniest person I know.

when we were babies

13. Name a candy you are thankful for. Reeses Peanut Butter Cups (or Reeses Pieces) because of the magic that can happen when peanut butter and chocolate get together.
14. Name an app on your phone that you are thankful for. The camera app on my phone is pretty amazing and because of it, I manage to get tons of snapshots of the kids without lugging a camera around with me. Admittedly, I should probably lug the camera around, too, a bit more often – but so many moments get saved thanks to the convenience of a phone with a built in camera. I’m also quite fond of being able to have essentially my entire music collection on my phone, a GPS, email, pedometer, receipt scanner and obviously Angry Birds.
15. What are you looking forward to that you are thankful for? I am looking forward to shopping with friends from my women’s group for our annual Adopt a Family event and I’m thankful that we’re able to help people in need each year. I think the holiday season feels even brighter when you are reaching out to others and helping where you can.

What are you thankful for?

Adventures in Baking: Why my pants are too tight.


Saturday was Dan’s birthday. He’s like an old man now and stuff. Or thirty. One of those. We celebrated by me trying not to drag him all over town running errands and by baking my first from scratch chocolate cake. Not one to mess around, I decided to make Valerie’s French Chocolate Cake that Smitten Kitchen blogged about a year and a half ago but I somehow never stopped dreaming about.

Guys, this cake is the stuff of dreams. Rich, chocolaty, moist, intense dreams like woah. Also her pictures are way better than mine, but in all fairness, I was using my cell phone in low lighting and my husband makes fun of me when I act like paparazzi over food stuffs. So.


Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and that means I’m baking my weight in desserts. Hopefully I don’t literally double my body weight but with cookies this good there are no promises.


I’m also making this apple pie and this peanut butter pie (except I’m just making the filling and calling it a dip) and these sweet potatoes. Where are my sweat pants again?


Don’t worry, my husband is roasting brussels sprouts. So that makes the whole meal healthy again, right?


Quick Lit: November 2015


I’m linking up with Anne @ Modern Mrs Darcy to share the books I’ve been reading recently. She calls the series Quick Lit and the idea is to share short reviews of recent books – nothing lengthy or book reporty, just a quick note on what you read and if you liked it.

I’ve finished four books since we last Quick Litted, which would sound more impressive if I had not finished the last two over the weekend. Or maybe that makes it more impressive? I’m not sure. Either way, here’s what I’ve been reading – and that pretty picture over there <—- is where I’ve been reading them. Because new nightstands warrant new pictures.

19398490All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

This book has been getting a lot of hype and just this once I feel like the hype is deserved. Very well written with beautiful details that rarely felt excessive. I enjoyed the rotating narrators and was quickly captivated by the story. It took me a long time to read but it was worth the time. For a huge book written about World War II with a lot of predictably sad scenes, this book was readable and interesting from beginning to end. It is mostly told from the point of view of two kids who are basically growing up over the span of World War II – a blind girl in France and an orphan in Germany who joins the Nazi youth unwittingly to avoid a life working in the mines. It’s very much a coming of age story in addition to being a really thorough look at what war looks like from every perspective, from beginning to end. LOVED

Nightmares! by Jason Segel

20172134I was really impressed with this story. Nightmares! is about a boy named Charlie who is still reeling from this death of his mother a few years ago. His dad remarried and he really doesn’t like his new step mom, but the real issue is that Charlie has been having horrible nightmares and he can’t sleep and it’s making him really moody and alienating him from his friends and family. He’s convinced his step mom is a witch (literally) and that his little brother is in danger. From here, the story takes on a fantasy element – he ends up going to the Nightmare World and has to save his friends and his whole town. I have to admit, I saw some plot points coming early on – but I think I am probably older than the intended audience. My nine year old LOVED the book and wants to read the second one. REALLY LIKED

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

6071573I liked this book but I’m not sure I can say I loved it. I thought it was an interesting story and well executed but it definitely borders on preachy and parable-esque, too much in some ways. But it’s a short read and I definitely got something out of it so I’m glad I read it. The Alchemit is “the magical story of Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy who yearns to travel in search of a worldly treasure as extravagant as any ever found. The story of the treasures Santiago finds along the way teaches us, as only a few stories can, about the essential wisdom of listening to our hearts, learning to read the omens strewn along life’s path, and, above all, following our dreams.” I think this book would be better suited for YA readers who maybe haven’t thought about some of this stuff before. LIKED

P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han

20698530I wasn’t sure if this book would hold up to the first but Han’s writing is addictive and this story might have been even better than the first. I am still not sure if I am Team Peter or not but I’m definitely Team Lara Jean and I loved the insight into the double standards between men and women and her thoughts on dating today versus dating back in the 1950’s and the cyber bullying plot line. I think this would be great food for thought for today’s teens. It definitely brought me back! Make sure you read To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before first – both books are perfection. LOVED

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

Right now I’m reading Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein, which my book club will be discussing in the beginning of December. It’s another World War II story but written as a YA novel and I can already tell the two books will be vastly different in tone. I’m listening along with an audible upgrade and I have a major girl crush on the narrator’s accent.

What are you reading?