Friday, December 28, 2012

Most Popular Posts of 2012

I started this blog on New Year's Day, 2011. Then I proceeded to ignore it for nearly 18 months, but in the spring of 2012, I began to blog on a {semi} regular basis. Doing so has become one of the most satisfying and fulfilling aspects of my life. My only regret is that I didn't begin sooner.

I am so grateful to the people who visit me here, who leave kind comments, who have reached out to me and made real connections in a virtual world. 

Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for making 2012 such a great year.
In honor of its passing, I wanted to recap some of my most popular posts from the preceding months.
{note to self: get back to WIWW posting! They are consistently among my most popular posts and I've been slacking this past month. Oops!}

DIY Custom Canvas Word Art

What I Wore: September Days

What I Wore: The Cardigan Edition

Step Up the Cute: DIY Ikea Stool Makeover

Master Bedroom Reveal

It's fun to look at what we've been up to in 2012; the months slip by so quickly it's hard to keep track of everything. I hope you've enjoyed this little glimpse back~ now it's time to move forward and welcome 2013. 
Here's to a happy, healthy, and blessed New Year!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

On the First Day of Christmas

My true love gave to me...
A new camera!

Despite the fact that Chris and I had decided NOT to exchange gifts, I found a large box with my name on it under the tree.

In it was my very first big-girl-blogger DSLR camera. 

I have no idea how to work it, but I'm having a blast playing around. You can expect to see lots of my experimentation in the coming days.

I have some willing models, as you can see.

Aside from my photographic tomfoolery, we are enjoying the lazy days between Christmas and New Year's, when we celebrate Christmas again with my mom's family. We are watching lots of movies, reading lots of books, and eating lots of left-overs.
Hope your holidays are filled with peaceful moments and shining memories.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Holiday Cookie Salad

This sweet side-dish is known in our family simply as "Cookie Salad." The recipe was shared with me by my mother-in-law and it has become one of the staples of our family celebrations. Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter~ it's a perfect addition to any holiday meal.
Do not be fooled by its humbly short list of ingredients, for, once assembled, they combine to make the most sublime salad ever to grace your table. Children and adults alike will flock to you with requests for more. You will suddenly be their favorite auntie/cousin/sister-in-law/person, if only you give them more COOKIE SALAD! {said in the voice of Cookie Monster, natch.}
Here's what you'll need:
1 {15 oz.} can of mandarin oranges, drained
1 {8 oz.} tub of Cool Whip
1 package of instant vanilla pudding
1 package of fudge-stripe shortbread cookies, crushed
1 cup of buttermilk
In a large bowl, whisk the pudding mix and buttermilk together until well blended.

Dump in the can of drained oranges and gently stir together.

Fold in the Cool Whip, till you have a lovely, fluffy cloud of goodness.

Now comes the fun part: smashing the cookies.
Place the cookies in a gallon zip-lock bag and just squeeze, squish, or stomp away till they are all broken up. You want some big-ish chunks left.
Just before serving, stir in the cookies. If we are traveling, I will mix everything up, smash the cookies in their bag and bring that right along. Then I just stir it together at the last minute. The cookies get a little soft after a day or so, but the salad is still delicious. 

I promise, if you leave Santa a dish of Cookie Salad instead of a plate of cookies, he will be one jolly old elf!
I'm linking up here:
Savvy Southern Style
At the Picket Fence
My Romantic Home

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Five Facts About the Holidays

There are certain, inalienable truths related to the holiday season at my house.

#1 I will gain 5 {and by 5, I mean 10} pounds. There is no point in fighting it; it's gonna happen. I like to cook and I love to eat, so I might as well embrace the holiday-chub.

#2 Somebody in our family will be sick. It's guaranteed that at least one member of our family will come down with an inconvenient bout of the flu, just in time to force us to cancel plans. It's Caitlin's turn this year. Poor girl, she hates missing school, so she is extra miserable.

#3 On Christmas morning, we will have a junk-drawer full of batteries, of every size imaginable...
Except the one required by Hunter's new remote-control car or Caitlin's new camera.

#4 I will over-cook, over-decorate, over-shop, over-plan, over-clean, over-prepare, and generally freak out at least once. I will stay up late, and get up early trying to squeeze everything in. My stress level will go through the roof and I will swear never to over-do it again.

#5 Our already tight budget will be stretched to its limits trying to accommodate the afore-mentioned over-shopping. See item #4 related to my freak-outs.

Some of these things are beyond my control. Like the getting sick... those things just happen. 
{Okay, so the 5 pounds didn't "just happen" but let's just pretend it did.}

But most of them I can control; like the battery thing and finding great deals to help alleviate the squeeze on my wallet. The P&G eStore has some great bargains that can help in that department, so I plan on having a happier {read: less stressful!} holiday this year.

Here are some of the deals they are offering right now:

15% off on a first-time order from a new customer, using promo code: A9Z-MN5-KY3-ISA
Free Shipping on orders over $25
Free Samples with every order.
{Seriously, I should buy stock in Duracell. Between remotes, toys, and electronics, something always needs new batteries.}

{Extra stress means extra bags under my eyes, and generally looking extra-tired. I love a good moisturizer like this one.}

{I have a theory that if my hair and make-up look cute, then I won't notice all the extra "fluffiness" in other areas.}

Hope your holidays are merry and stress-free!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Joy Amidst the Tears

My youngest sister had a baby boy on Friday morning. Delivered via emergency C-section, he was nearly a month early. But he is healthy and my sister is doing fine.
Our family rejoiced in new life; so many others mourned a terrible loss.

I hesitated to even write about the tragic events that took place in Connecticut on Friday. What could I say that hasn't been said before? How could I express the pain and horror I felt watching that day's events unfold? 

My thoughts and prayers are with the families and with the community of Newtown.
Those words seem so trite in the face of a tragedy like this, but they are the simple truth. We are all trying to articulate our sympathy and solidarity. Whether it is through blog posts, Facebook messages, candlelight vigils, flowers, memorials, or any number of other ways, people across the country are reaching out to those affected to try and show the depth of our feeling. 
We are sending our deepest sympathies.

Amidst the endless news reports, I heard that some people were taking down their Christmas decorations as an expression of sympathy. I understand the sentiment, but it made me sad.
It would be so easy to give in to fear and despair, to feel hopeless in the face of such evil.
But in this dark time, we should embrace Christmas- a celebration of light, hope, and life- and all its beauty.

Melissa at 320 Sycamore shared this quote and I wanted to pass it on.
The words offer light during dark days.

God bless Newtown.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

DIY Silhouette Ornaments

I love silhouettes; they are classic, simple, and eye-catching. They add a graphic pop to a wall gallery, and they look perfect on a Christmas tree. I pinned this image a while back and knew I wanted to do something similar on my own tree this year.

Source: via Jessica on Pinterest

But I didn't want to spend a bunch of time cutting out profiles or a bunch of money on supplies.
 As with most of my ideas, I didn't do a whole lot of planning or leave myself very much time. I did manage to "MacGyver" up an easy solution, though.

I thought about taking pictures of my family and trying to edit them into a silhouette. There are lots of good tutorials out there if you want a more personalized ornament. But, as I said, my time and and ambition were running short. A quick google search provided me with some generic silhouettes. The Victorian ladies can be found here, and the rest are compliments of The Graphics Fairy.

First, I printed them out in the size I wanted on some pearlized card stock.
I trimmed them in various shapes using household items as templates. The reindeer happens to have the exact proportions of an iPhone. I also cut out a slightly bigger piece for backing in a contrasting color or pattern.

Now hold on, because this is where it gets complicated.
You affix the silhouette to the back. I know~ rocket science, right?
I used glue dots, but any old adhesive will do.

Check out my classy manicure. Glittery nail polish is my one weakness.
Finish up by punching a hole in the top and tying a loop with some twine or pretty ribbon.

I think I should invent a back-story for these people since they are on display in my living room. The lady in the middle? She's my great-great aunt Olga, who came over from Oslo. The curly-haired imp in the corner? He's my second cousin on my mother's side. The reindeer? 
Their Santa's. 

There you go, easy as 1~2~3 and you've got not only some easy silhouette ornaments, but an invented family tree to go along with them.
Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

O Tannenbaum!

This weekend, a winter storm ensured that central Minnesota will, in fact, enjoy a white Christmas. We are projected to get up to 15" of snow, followed by some bone-chilling temps. With lots of canceled activities and the kids happily playing outside,  I took full advantage of the peace and quiet to put the finishing touches on our tree. 

We usually put the tree in front of our big picture window, but decided to change things up a little this year. You can still see the tree from the street, but it no longer blocks the main heat vent for the living room... a rather important consideration given the afore-mentioned winter storm!

My tree looks a bit different each Christmas. I add things here and there or move things to the kids' tree downstairs. But every year when I finish decorating the tree, I think this is my favorite tree yet. This year really is my favorite, though!

My ornaments are a mix of vintage, homemade, and clearance finds. If you look closely at the ball ornaments above, you can see that one says "1986" and one says "1979" (the year I was born!). My grandmother used to buy me an ornament every year, but only those two have survived. The glittery birdhouses were an after-Christmas find at Target last year. I think they were 90% off, so I bought all they had left!

I still need to find a decent tree skirt. For now, I just draped a fuzzy throw around the base to hide the stand. The basket by the hearth is full of all our favorite Christmas books. We put most of them away for the rest of the year, so they are a fresh treat when the holidays roll around. 

Several months ago, I mentioned to my dad that I would like some old deer antlers for decorating. Once  exclusive to the realm of "up-north" style decorating {which happens to be extremely popular in this neck of the woods}, antlers have been cropping up everywhere lately. Have you noticed? Even Target had some cute ones, but I wasn't fast enough and missed out on them. Anyways, on Friday I got a big box in the mail from my dad and inside was a whole mess of gorgeous antlers. I was so surprised and excited! I quickly added some to the mantel and the tree. I love how they accent the Highland-glamour look I was going for. 

Samwise had to get in on the pictures too. He can't stand not being the center of attention!

I have a simple little tutorial for the silhouette ornaments that I will share later this week, so be on the lookout for that. For now, I'm off to enjoy Sunday dinner (balsamic glazed pork loin and parmesan risotto, followed by frozen peppermint cheesecake) and Christmas movies. I'm thinking Bing Crosby and White Christmas would be rather appropriate for today.
I'm linking up here:

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Christmas Vignettes and Taking it Slow

I have been rather slow in getting my Christmas decorations out this year. It's actually been kind of nice; instead of a mad rush to get it all done in a day, I've done a mantel here, a nativity there... no rush, no hurry.  Of course, the flip side is that I've had boxes laying around the living room for two weeks now! Here's a little peek at some of the little vignettes around our house.
I wanted to keep the buffet simple, since we use it not only for serving food during holiday parties, but as storage for all our homeschool supplies. We used to put our Christmas village here, but I didn't want to constantly be rattling and bumping the little figurines and trees. So the village moved downstairs and we actually like it better there.
I got this Willow Tree nativity set from my dad and stepmom over the course of several Christmases.
Every year, they would buy me another piece. I love it's simplicity.
By having its own special little table, the nativity becomes a focal point (as it should be) rather than getting lost in a larger vignette.

I've never shared pictures of our basement family room before, but you get a little peek for Christmas. 
As I mentioned, this is where our little village now lives. We bought everything at a neighbor's garage sale a few years ago and the kids love it so much. It is their favorite part of our decorations.

Another holiday favorite of my children is the "fireplace show" on Netflix. Hunter's favorite part: when the hand comes in and adds a log or stirs the fire. He is down there as I write this, cozied up in front of both our fires!

Right next to the fireplace is our "children's tree." The kids are totally responsible for decorating this one, right down to the leaning star on top! Notice that their tree is done, while mine is... not so much. This is the first year that they spaced out their ornaments, usually they would all be bunched up in the front middle area.  Hunter even built a Christmas train track around the base.

I am not the only one who has slowed down to enjoy the holidays. We are all enjoying lots of cuddling, and lazy reading in the winter sunshine.
What about you? Do you decorate all at once and get it done and over with, or do you drag it out over several days (or weeks)? 
Thanks for stopping by!
I'm linking up here: