Wednesday, December 30, 2015

10 Resolutions for 2016

I don't know about you, but I LOVE setting New Year's Resolutions every year. I like starting the year off with a set of goals I hope to follow for the year. Do they last all year long? Never. But just the process of writing them down and trying to remember to adhere to them help me keep them up for longer than I would have had I not taken the time to think about them.

So without further ado, here are my resolutions for 2016!

Read 20 minutes every day. In 2015, my Goodreads reading goal was 36 books for the year. I ended up reading 52! I'm hoping to take it to 55 books this year. I'm an avid reader so it shouldn't be too tough.

Join a gym. After these babies are born (and I'm given clearance to start exercising), I plan to join a local gym. I love taking classes like Zumba and spin classes, and my local gym offers a bunch of group fitness classes. Time to get my sweat on!

Run 5 races. Before I got pregnant, I had just gotten into a groove with running. It's a dream of mine, really, to be able to say "I'm a runner" and I'd love to eventually run 10k's, 1/2 marathons, and full marathons. I've only done 5k's so far, and I hope to be able to run at least 5 of them this year.

Drink 6 cups of water everyday. I fail on drinking water big time. I'd much rather have a big glass of juice or soda. I want to try and give up soda completely, but don't want to set myself up for failure. I love it too much. So I'll just settle on drinking 6 cups of water each day. If I can do that, I'm off to a good start.

Get the basement organized. I started cleaning up parts of the basement, but it's really in need of a thorough cleaning/organization session. We just have way too much stuff down there. I'd like to reduce the amount of stuff in the basement by half.

Save money for our next trips (cruise in 2106 and Disney World in 2017). I love traveling more than anything in the world. I know that it's only going to get more expensive and a lot more difficult to travel with twins, so I need to be more diligent about saving money from each paycheck.

Cook one new recipe every week. I already started picking out some new recipes I want to try in the new year, and I figure Sundays would be a great day to try them out. I'm used to being on the go all the time, but I want to start taking it easy on Sundays and spending more time at home. I'll have more time to clean up the house and cook some yummy new grub.

Take a little time each week for personal growth. This one is going to be so hard for me, but I need to take a little bit of time, even if it's just an hour a week, for just me. I could get my nails done, read up on a subject I enjoy, or take a class. I'm looking forward to this one.

Eat 2-3 servings of fruits/vegetables every day. I am the worst at eating fresh fruits and veggies. Doctors recommend high serving amounts every day, but just starting off with two or three would be good for me,

Take better photos. I always bring out my big camera, but hardly ever take any pictures on it. All pictures I use are usually taken on my cell phone. I need to put my phone down and pick up my nice camera from time to time.

I hope to provide an update once a month, so the first one should come at the end of January. Wish me luck!
Monday, December 28, 2015

Weekly Recap #4

This week was definitely spent on Christmas prep! I was so glad that I planned ahead and purchased everything I needed prior to this week, so I basically got to chill at home at the beginning of the week. Cookies were made on Tuesday and Wednesday, while appetizers and a few side dishes were made on Thursday. It was a crazy couple of days, but we made it through.

Christmas was amazing. Spent with people I love the most in the world. Christmas morning is just my immediate family, then my siblings and other in-laws come by for Christmas dinner. Perfection.

Santa arrived!

He is SO into Spongebob right now.

All the kiddos at my house on Christmas.
My husband got me the Garmin Vivoactive Smart Watch - which is exactly what I wanted. Obviously, I can't do much with it now, but I plan to get back on track with my health and fitness once these babies arrive. This watch is going to get a ton of use. It's great!

I spent the rest of the weekend with a little bit of stomach pain, so I rested and didn't leave the house at all. It was just what I needed. I'm thinking that the remainder of my time until the twins get here will be spent this way.

On to goal setting! These were my goals from last week.
  • Goal #1: Eliminate soda for 1 more week. Negative on this one this week. I'll admit that I only cheated on Christmas Day with the holiday punch that I made (with ginger ale), and a few cups of Coke. I couldn't help myself!
  • Goal #2: Take items for donation to Goodwill. We took 3 contractor's bags and 2 large trash bags full of stuff to Goodwill! Lots more to come in the coming weeks, I hope!
  • Goal #3: Spend 30 minutes organizing the basement. Nope. I really wanted to get started on this, but with the stomach pains I was experiencing, it was best to just rest this week.
  • Goal #4: Wash baby bouncers and swings. Got it all done. Just waitin' on the babies now.
  • Goal #5: Have a Very Merry Christmas!  Of course we did - and I hope you did too!
Three out of five isn't too bad, right? These are the goals I hope to tackle this week.

Goal #1: Eliminate soda for 1 week. Back to square one. Let's see if I can make it through this week with no soda.

Goal #2: Purchase gifts. My nephew's birthday party is this weekend, as well as "Christmas" with my dad's family. I need gifts for BOTH occasions. Why oh why didn't I purchase these gifts earlier?!?!

Goal #3: Spend 30 minutes organizing the basement. I hope to try and start this project this week. It's long overdue! I started doing this a couple of weeks ago and made a lot of progress, then just stopped going down there. I'm sure I could get a lot more done in 30 minutes.

Goal #4: Purchase and install blackout blinds for the twins. I've been meaning to get these for awhile because they really helped my son stay asleep when he was a baby. I'm mad at myself that I waited this long to do it.

Goal #5: Spend NYE with my family in our jammies...and stay awake till midnight! I'm hoping to last all the way to 12:00am without sleeping. This one will be tough!

Have a great New Year!
Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Five Things I Believe

Christmas Day is in a couple of days, and my mom recently told me that some schools in New York were banning the image of Santa Claus because they deemed Santa a "religious figure". Um..say what? Santa Claus a religious figure? I don't know about that. Nowhere in the bible is a jolly man with a red suit mentioned...or maybe I just missed that part. The conversation got me thinking about my own belief system, because there are things that I firmly believe that others do not. Does that mean we can't be friends? I hope not. But it does mean that I operate my own brain, and don't necessarily hop on the bandwagon just because it's now universally, or legally, accepted.

Believe - to have confidence in the truth, the existence, or the reliability of something, although without absolute proof that one is right in doing so.

So here goes, 5 things that I believe:

1. Jesus is the reason for the season. I believe that Jesus Christ dies on the cross for my sins, and that he rose again on the third day. I don't need to see pictures, or other artifacts as "proof", it's just something I believe. He is the reason my family is celebrating Christmas on Friday.

2. Life really is what you make it. Maintaining a positive attitude will add years to your life, and greatly reduce your stress levels. I try to remain calm in any situation and look for the good, or the silver lining, in any difficult time. It doesn't always work (hey, I'm human and am entitled to a meltdown or two), but I find that I am generally happier when I make the conscious effort to be happy. It's very easy to get angry, so I just focus on the positive.

3. Traveling is good for the soul (and the best form of education). If I could travel year-round, I really believe that I would. Visiting new places and cities is my favorite thing in the world to do. It really doesn't matter to me how far I go, but visiting somewhere I've never been is definitely my happy place. And all the better if my family's with me.

4. People will forget what you said, but they'll never forget how you made them feel. I know this from experience. So many of my family members and friends think that I'm this tough girl with a no-nonsense exterior, but only few know how truly sensitive I am. It sucks, but I do remember how people have made me feel when they took a jab at me. I try to think about what I'm going to say before I say it, to prevent other people from feeling bad.

5. There is a "RIGHT" way to do things, and a "WRONG" way to do them. This one is totally subjective, of course, but I experience serious anxiety when someone is doing something differently than the way I would have done it. I know it sounds weird, but once I formulate a plan of action in my head, to me that's the way it has to be done. A point of contention in my marriage, for sure, but it's something that I don't think I can change at this point. Believe me, I've tried.

Have a Very Merry Christmas with your families, all!

Monday, December 21, 2015

Weekly Recap #3

This was another pretty busy week for me. (Aren't they all pretty much busy, though?!?!) For one thing, I sent out my Christmas cards this week - finally! Isn't my boy a cutie? He looks a little misplaced in a tank top and shorts with Santa. The picture was taken on our Labor Day weekend trip in Pigeon Forge, TN.

On Tuesday, my book club friends...well, that sounds cheap. They are definitely more than book club friends, they are simply, friends. We had our annual "fancy" year-end book club dinner at a restaurant. This year we went to Francesca's Campagna in West Dundee, and for a Tuesday night, this place was PACKED! We closed the place down, though, and were the very last table to leave. Typical.

My kids got their first Christmas gifts delivered in the mail from my Aunt & Uncle. They were both excited to get to open something before Christmas. My son got some cool new BOOKS! (We absolutely love books in this house.)

On Friday I had my last specialist appointment (for high risk pregnancy), and another NST. Both appointments went GREAT! I learned that my babies are getting huge! Baby girl is almost 6 pounds, and baby boy is 5.5 just 33 weeks! These are going to be some massive twins!

Saturday was another fun day. There was a kids' Christmas party hosted by one of the twin clubs I'm a member of. We did crafts, had a nice lunch, and got a visit from Santa! Brayden loved it! I had to buy him a gift so I bought the Eye Found It Journey Through Time Edition game (since he has the Disney Edition and plays it often), and he was so excited. He said, "I forgot to put this on my list but I really wanted it! How did Santa know?!?!" That Santa is super-intuitive, isn't he? Lol. Here are the kids posing with Santa.

Then, later that day I accompanied my husband to see the new Star Wars movie. Full disclosure: I have never watched any Star Wars anything prior to that day. I'm just really not into that stuff. My husband, on the other hand, is a huge fan and I would've felt really bad if he went to the movies by himself to watch it. So, I saw it with him...and it wasn't completely horrible. I got through the whole movie and it was pretty good.

Sunday was pretty low-key. I got the remainder of my grocery shopping done. My fridge is full but it's going to be so hard to tell the kids they can't eat any of it because it's mostly ingredients we need for Christmas dinner! I also got a much-needed mani/pedi with one of my very good friends, Kristin! It was a really good week.

On to goal setting! These were my goals from last week.
  • Goal #1: Eliminate soda for 1 week. This week I really did it. Not one drop of soda. Woo hoo!
  • Goal #2: Pack hospital bag. For the most part, YES! The only things I'm missing are the things I use everyday and can't pack up anyway.
  • Goal #3: Finalize Christmas menu. Done! As a bonus, I even purchased all the ingredients this week.
  • Goal #4: Purchase items needed for twin club kids Christmas party. Yep. I had to buy a gift for my son that costs less then $15 (the Eye Found It game), plus bring along a garden salad to share. Done - and the party was really fun!
  • Goal #5: Make it into the office 1 day this week. I made it in on Wednesday for a meeting - yay! There were a few gifts waiting for me at my desk so I'm really glad I went. :)
Pretty good, huh? These are the goals I hope to tackle this week.

Goal #1: Eliminate soda for 1 more week. Can I do it two weeks in a row - with this being Christmas week? I'm making a raspberry punch with ginger ale so I don't know about that, but we'll see!

Goal #2: Take items for donation to Goodwill. I'm trying to clear out some stuff in my house and I have a ton of things already in bags that need to be donated - including sheets and blankets.

Goal #3: Spend 30 minutes organizing the basement. I started doing this a couple of weeks ago and made a lot of progress, then just stopped going down there. I'm sure I could get a lot more done in 30 minutes.

Goal #4: Wash baby bouncers and swings. One of the final prep items for before these babies arrive. I have swings, bouncers, and bassinets but they are either Brayden's old ones, or hand me downs. I just have to wash the material and we'll be good.

Goal #5: Have a Very Merry Christmas! This one should be a piece of cake!

Have a great week!
Thursday, December 17, 2015

Don't Look at Me

Entering these last few weeks of pregnancy, it's getting harder and harder for me to get around. My husband always says, "You're pregnant, not handicapped.", but the problem with that is, I certainly feel handicapped most of the time. I am so uncomfortable most of the time, and my body does not respond to my mental commands as it should.

Remember that phrase: "I've fallen and I can't get up!"? Well, that's how I feel if ever I need to get close to the floor to pick something up, or wipe something off the floor. My mind is telling my body to GET UP!, but my body looks like I'm playing a game of Twister as I slowly contort and writhe around, just trying to get my footing.

The worst thing about all this is the way people look and stare as I'm walking around the store, or picking up my son from preschool.

All I have to say to you gawkers is, look:

I realize that I'm breathing heavy.

I realize that I'm waddling.

I realize that I'm walking very slow.

I realize that I'm probably in your way.

I get it, you wish I would just move out of the way. And believe me, I wish I could quickly do that too. Problem is, I can't.

If I move faster, I can't breathe.

If I move faster, I'll get sharp pains in my lower abdomen.

If I move faster, I'm afraid I'll trip and fall, causing catastrophic consequences.

This will be my last pregnancy. As uncomfortable as I am, I wish it wouldn't be ending so soon. In a way, I wish I could be uncomfortable for a little while longer. This is it for me.

So as you see me pass you by, please withhold the snickering, the whispers, and the looks of pity. Please, stop looking at me like that. It is, after all, my last time. It'll be over before you, or I, know it.
Monday, December 14, 2015

Weekly Recap #2

This week was not as busy as last week, but I found myself trying to get more things done for the twins' arrival. I finished up my Christmas shopping and stopped at Babies R Us and Buy Buy Baby to pick up some much-needed items off my registry. I'm getting closer to being ready for them to make their grand entrance!

I had to miss a holiday party on Thursday because I was stuck late at work. Bummer. I was pretty tired though, and probably wouldn't have been as much fun. So, instead of attending a party, I wrapped Christmas presents late into the night. This was all in a days work.

I had a doctor's appointment on Friday for a NST - non-stress test - and it totally stressed me out! It took 3 nurses and more than 15 minutes to find the heartbeat of one of the babies. I was freaking out!

See - I gave you a belly shot after all!
When they finally found the heartbeat, I had to hold the device in place for more than 20 minutes. So frustrating. So while the test might not have caused any stress to the babies, I can't say the same for me. After that whole ordeal, I treated myself to a solo Thai lunch. Mmm...beef pad woon sen from Mai Thai Cafe in Wheaton. The best!

On Saturday, my husband and I attended a Managing Multiples class at the hospital where we will deliver the twins. It was a really long class, but we both learned a few things - like delayed cord clamping, expectations of delivering multiples, and even some new nutritional goals. I still can't believe that the day they arrive will be here soon. I am really going to miss being pregnant (which is something I never thought I'd say), but knowing this is the last time puts me into a sad emotional state.

On Sunday my husband was busy with car stuff, so my mom and I took Brayden to a LEGO Train Show exhibit in Wheaton. I had never been to Cantigny Park, and I just wished the day wasn't so rainy because the grounds were beautiful. The exhibit was SO CROWDED, but it was cool to see some of the built figures. Don't know that I would return to this next year though because I'm not really crazy about the crazy was only $5 to get in though so I can't complain too much.

After that it was a stop at my son's favorite place to eat...Portillo's! He would eat here every day if he could.

We were supposed to attend another holiday event on Sunday night, Winter Wonderland at Porter's Pub in Elgin, but we were having so much fun at home playing video games (plus it was raining) that we just made it a pizza night. It was so nice for all of us to chill at home. It was a great weekend!

These were my goals from last week.
  • Goal #1: Wrap at least 7 Christmas presents. I knocked this one out of the park! I'm almost done wrapping the gifts I already purchased. Now if I could just finish shopping...
  • Goal #2: Start reading Book Club book. I finally finished the other book I was reading and read Winter Stroll by Elin Hilderbrand in TWO DAYS. Book club is on Tuesday! Can't wait.
  • Goal #3: Attend Multiples class at hospital where the twins will be born. Super-informative, but also super-long (5-hour) class. CHECK!
  • Goal #4: Eliminate soda for 1 week. Almost! I realized Monday night that I had Coke with my dinner. DOH! Then my husband and I went to dinner on Saturday night and I ordered a Coke. Total FAIL! I made it the rest of the week, so only having soda for 2 days isn't bad. I can totally do better though!
  • Goal #5: Make a Christmas list. Done and Done! Making that list helped me realize what was missing and I promptly went out to purchase them. I only have a handful of things left to buy. YESSSSSS!
Pretty good, huh? These are the goals I hope to tackle this week.

Goal #1: Eliminate soda for 1 week. Since I flaked out the very first day last week, I hope to make it all 7 days without a drop of soda.

Goal #2: Pack hospital bag. I'm headed into my 33rd week of pregnancy with twins so I need to be prepared. Twins are known for being very early so the sooner I knock off this task, the better!

Goal #3: Finalize Christmas menu. I always host Christmas and I tend to leave the menu prep till the last minute. If I can get it done this week I'll be a little ahead of the game.

Goal #4: Purchase items needed for twin club kids Christmas party. The party is Saturday and I'm supposed to bring a salad and dressing, plus a $15 gift for my kid from "Santa". Should be a fun party.

Goal #5: Make it into the office 1 day this week. This might be my last time in the office until after the twins are born. Yikes! It's getting real now.

Check back next week to see how I fared with this week's goals (and if I drank any soda!), and see what we did throughout the week. It's almost Christmas!!!
Wednesday, December 9, 2015

The Spirit of Giving

'Tis the season for GIVING!

Christmas is such a wonderful holiday. Aside from celebrating Jesus' birth and spending time with family, one of my favorite things to do at Christmas is watch my friends and loved ones open their gifts. I spend so much time trying to find the perfect present for someone, and it is so gratifying to see them open something that was chosen specifically for them.

Kids are super-fun to watch too. They love everything they get! Hardly ever a complaint.

I try my best to give the perfect gift, but a few years ago I failed miserably. Failed and I knew it. Why? Because my sister told me so, that's why.

Here's the scenario.

Back in 2009 or 2010 (in the heart of the most recent recession), many of my family members, including myself, were under some level of financial strain. We collectively decided to make that Christmas a "light" holiday and not spend more than $15 on one person. Tough to do, but doable. Everyone was on the same page knowing that each gift was purchased on a tight budget. No one thought they'd be getting diamond earrings or anything.

Now normally, even if you royally screw up a gift, the recipient is gracious and thanks you anyway, right? Well,not when you're giving a gift to my sister.

I was buying a few things on the LTD Commodities website (and if you've ever visited the site, you know the items can be priced pretty cheaply). I ended up finding these glass beaded necklaces to give my sisters and purchased one for each of them.

I wish I could find an exact picture of the necklace, but this one will have to do. The one I purchased was very similar to this one, except I think the pendant had a flower on it.

I was filled with nervous anticipation watching her open the box. I fully expected to hear a "Oh, thank you!", or at least a "that's nice". What I got instead was a "Er...what is this?"

Admittedly, I was crushed. I think I even almost cried. I felt so bad that she didn't like the gift. Could she have been more gracious about it? Sure. But in the end the outcome was the same. She just didn't like the gift. It was, by far, the worst gift I had ever given.

With Christmas coming up in about two weeks, I am reminded of this crappy gift, and vow to do my best to prevent a repeat of that year. I still look forward to purchasing gifts for my loved ones, and now pay even closer attention to things I think they will like or will use. And I will stay away from glass beaded necklaces!
Monday, December 7, 2015

Weekly Recap #1

Thought I'd start a weekly recap post, sharing what we did during the week, plus adding a couple of goals to complete throughout the coming week. It will be a way for me to try and keep organized, as well as offer more insight into my day-to-day life. I believe that goals are extremely important and my daughter recently introduced me to SMART goals - goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely (it pays to have a high school junior in the family sometimes). I hope to post timely goals - ones that should be completed that week, and not something like lose 50 pounds. Although, let's be honest, when these babies arrive, I'm definitely going to have that as a long-term goal.

As for what we did last week, the weekdays were pretty boring as I'm still trying to get over a nasty cold. There were 3 or 4-day stretches where I didn't leave the house at all! I also missed my company holiday party on Thursday which I was really bummed about. It was held at one of my favorite restaurants downtown, and I knew I was missing a lively soiree. 

The weekend, though, got pretty busy. Friday night I took my mom and my son to the Dickens in Dundee event and tree lighting ceremony. There were live window displays that were pretty cool.

We also had to stop at Van's Frozen Custard for my son's favorite, vanilla custard with sprinkles! My mom and I had root beer floats that were really good too.

We even stopped by a nearby house to view their holiday lights presentation. I've heard about this house for awhile, but had never stopped by. I'm so glad we did today. I love homes that set their displays to music!

On Saturday I attended the annual ornament exchange that I've been going to for about 4 years now. Kim, my friend Stephanie's sister, hosts the party every year and it just keeps getting bigger and better. I don't know how she does it year after year, but everyone always has a great time, and she spoils us with little gifts too. It's one event that I always look forward to. Here's Steph, me and Kim.

This year her theme was Wine Bar and she totally nailed it!

I was thinking about the party back in September when I was in Tennessee and purchased the ornament I brought to the party in Pigeon Forge! A gorgeous pink Nutcracker ornament.

I ended up getting the BEST ornament, in my opinion, of course. A lighted mason jar! Very country...very me. I love it.

My husband and I even went out to Tavern in the Hills in St. Charles for a late dinner. I love their beef stroganoff! I've been here 3 times in the last month just for this dish.

Sunday was another busy day! We started the day at church, then my husband and I took Brayden to a Cookies with Santa event that was hosted by a twin club I'm a member of. This time Brayden was prepared and started telling Santa all the things he wanted that were solar system or star-related. When Santa asked Brayden if he knew the North Star, Brayden looked at him funny and said, "You mean Polaris???". It was hysterical. Needless to say, both Santa and Mrs. Claus were impressed!

Then finally, Sunday night I attended a Favorite Things party that was lots of fun. Everyone brought 5 of their one favorite thing that cost less than $5, Everyone got to pick 5 names from a bowl and got to leave with 5 little gifts. It was such a great idea! Lots of people attended too.

Phew - that was a busy weekend! Things should start slowing down for me soon, so you likely won't see another ridiculously long weekend post. {Hopefully!}

Here are my goals to tackle in the next week.

Goal #1: Wrap at least 7 Christmas presents. I need to get started on wrapping Christmas gifts while I still have a sliver of energy!

Goal #2: Start reading Book Club book. We're reading Winter Stroll by Elin Hilderbrand. We read Winter Street by the same author last December and loved the book. Book club is on the 15th so I need to get a move on!

Goal #3: Attend Multiples class at hospital where the twins will be born. It's a 5-hour class so neither my husband nor I are thrilled to go, but we'll get a tour of the hospital and we've never delivered there before.

Goal #4: Eliminate soda for 1 week. I figured at least one of my goals should be health/fitness related so we'll start with soda. I completely gave up all caffeine (soda and coffee) for the first 6-7 months of pregnancy. When I finally allowed myself to have some, it was all over. I overdid it for sure. Need to cut back again.

Goal #5: Make a Christmas list. I mostly purchased gifts for my immediate family, but I know I'm still missing gifts for a lot of extended family members. If I don't have a list, someone might get forgotten. I would feel awful if I left anyone out.

Check back next week to see how I fared with this week's goals, and see what we did throughout the week. I promise it won't be as long as this week's!
Thursday, December 3, 2015

O Christmas Tree

I love putting up the Christmas tree every year. This year was definitely a challenge, as our pre-lit lights literally went out on the tree. Do you know how hard it is to take off those strands of lights??? I love our tree so much and I didn't want to toss the tree, just because most of the lights stopped working - which is exactly what my husband wanted to do. He warned me that it was a tedious job, but of course I didn't listen. Our tree has 2 parts - the large base, and the small top. Just to get the light strands taken off the teeny tiny top piece took me an hour and 20 minutes! I'll tackle the bottom half next year, but the bottom line is - we kept the tree!

This year's tree - still looking for a good topper.

My ex-mother-in-law always put up a gorgeous tree. Every year had a different color scheme and she would spend lots of time and money buying new ornaments, bows, and ribbons. Was her tree beautiful? Absolutely. It looked like something out of a magazine. But there was one thing that her tree definitely wasn't, and that is: personal. My family's tree probably won't ever be listed in any magazine, but my tree is full of memories, not just ornaments.

I took some photos of my favorite ornaments and thought I'd share them with you. I'm trying to get used to my digital camera again, so please excuse the super unprofessional look. My husband is always on me about having such an expensive camera that I never want to touch, so I'm planning on re-familiarizing myself with this bad boy in 2016.

The Book Tree

I got this ornament at an ornament exchange party that I attend every year. At this particular party, I had the good fortune of having the very last number for our elephant exchange. That meant that I had to open the last box and I had the unique opportunity of being the last person that could trade in my box for another one that was already opened. I had my pick of them all! And you should know that all guests at this party take their ornament purchasing skills very seriously. The minimum value is $10.00, so you can imagine there are some really nice ornaments to pick from. I opted to stick with my box and ended getting the one I would have wanted most anyway. I'm an avid reader (I surpassed my Goodreads goal for the year back in September) and received an Christmas tree made out of the pages of a book. LOVE this ornament!

The Glass Tree

I love to travel. I would go just about anywhere - especially if I've never been there before. My "thing" is to purchase an ornament from each city I visit so that I have a memento of my travels that I get to revisit every year on my tree. This particular tree came from my trip over Labor Day weekend to Pigeon Forge, TN. There's a hotel there, The Inn at Christmas Place, with a GIANT Christmas shop associated with it. I purchased a lot of ornaments there (including my pick for this year's ornament exchange), but this one is by far my favorite. It's a gorgeous blown glass ornament that my sister also wanted to buy. But, of course, this just so happened to be the last one they had. Luckily she conceded and let me have it. Small victories.

The Glass Heart

I have had this ornament since 1998. Originally, it came in a set of 12 from LTD Commodities, but this is the only one I have left. It means so much to me because it's one I purchased the very first time I was pregnant, a time before I was a mom. In fact, I purchased this ornament the first year after I moved out of my parent's home. My first foray into adulthood. Not many ornaments last for so many years - we all know that the other 11 in this set didn't - but I would be absolutely crushed if something happened to this one.

Baby's First Ornaments

What tree would be complete without baby's first Christmas ornaments? These ornaments are from 1999 and 2010. I'm just realizing that they are both bear ornaments. That was totally unintentional. Funny though. Next year I'll be adding TWO more baby's firsts to the tree. Maybe I'll look for two more bear ornaments. Ha!

My First Ornament

This ornament is, by far, the oldest ornament on my tree. This golden beauty has been around since 1977! I am the only one of my four siblings that has their own personalized ornament, and I can't believe my mom still had it! I reclaimed it a few years ago and it's new home has been on my tree. I just hope my daughter carries the tradition on and hosts it on her own tree one day!

Do you have a favorite ornament story? Is your tree filled with personal mementos too? I'm sure I'm not alone in this eclectic decor.
Tuesday, December 1, 2015

December Love

The first of December seemed like a great day to start a brand new blog. I've been wanting to start anew for awhile now. In fact, my last blog post from my first blog was written over three months ago. I wish I knew exactly what happened, but I think my disinterest stems from feeling like I "had" to write another post. I have spent quite a bit of money over the years on my original blog with hosting fees, blog design fees, and general blog maintenance so I had to monetize it as best I could. After awhile, I found that more and more of "me" was taken out of my blog, and I was just writing one sponsored post after another. Now I'm not knocking sponsored content by any means, but I do feel like I started saying yes far too often, and my "personal blog" started to become less and less about my life and my family.

Last Year's Christmas Tree - 2014

So that brings me to today, December 1st, 2015. It's not exactly a new year, but it's the start of a new month...and the funnest month of the year, in my opinion. There's so much to love about December - from the holiday gatherings, to the festive lights and decorations seen throughout the neighborhood, to holiday shopping and cocktail parties. It is absolutely a magical time. I honestly get so bummed mid-January when the streets go dark again when everyone puts their holiday lights away. Winter in the Chicago area can be downright gloomy and depressing, and the absence of holiday lights kind of kicks that off for me.

One of my favorite things to do in the weeks leading up to Christmas is driving around, trying to find the grand holiday light displays. We haven't been out yet this year since I've been sick since Thanksgiving - and being pregnant on top of that hasn't helped. Hopefully we can see a few new ones this year though. Here are some pics of displays we saw last year. So beautiful.

Naper Lights at Naper Settlement in Naperville, IL

Mooseheart Holiday Lights in Aurora, IL

Gorgeous Home in Geneva, IL

Illuninations at the Morton Arboretum in Lisle, IL

Holiday Lights in Rosemont, IL

Zoo Lights at Brookfield Zoo

The video is from the Larsen Light Show in Elburn, IL from last year. This enormous single-family home puts on the best display in the area, and probably in Illinois - hands down!

I don't know how much I'll be able to get out - having twins in about a month and a half hinders movement a bit - but I will try to see a couple of new displays. Stay tuned - I'm sure I'll post them here.

I hope you'll stick with me on this new blog journey. While I can't promise that I'll never monetize (a blog has to evolve at some point, after all), but I do promise that I will bring you a more authentic me and share with you all the craziness that is sure to ensue next month.