Stocking Stuffers

Shopping for stocking-stuffers might be the most fun I have all year. Ever since I became a real-live grown up, I sort of stopped caring about having a Christmas List. I’m fortunate enough that if I want something, I may have to save for a bit, but I can buy it for myself. And we all know about my decluttering binges, so mostly, I’m not looking to amass more crap. None of us are.

But shopping for stockings is my favorite, because you can find the quirkiest, funniest stuff. Bonus points if it’s useful to the recipient as well. Almost everything here (click on the pictures to see where it’s all from) is geared towards toddlers and men because that’s whose stockings I’m always looking to fill. But if you’ve got ideas for stocking-stuffers for others, leave them in the comments, because I’d love to hear!

Color-changing spoons ($6.95)

Kid Made Modern Confetti Crayons ($12.80)

Stop Talking Cards ($9.95)

Personalized ornaments (this one is $11.95)

Glow in the dark stars ($5.50)

Snowman Mini Spatulas, Set of 2

Snowman mini-spatulas ($9.95 for two)

Superfight game ($29.99)

Fish toothbrush holders ($6.50 for a set of 2)

Braided phone charger ($19.95)

Fisher-Price Little People DC Super Friends Exclusive Figure

Little People super friends ($17.99)

Peppermint Crunch Junior Mints ($2.95) because no stocking is complete without candy. I got these in my own stocking this year, and they did not disappoint.

Gifts for Toddlers

This glorious gift-giving idea comes straight from the same place as all my best ideas, and that place, of course, is the internet. What I love about this approach is that using it year after year creates a holiday tradition. And it sets the stage for reasonable expectations on Christmas morning. The kids are getting some gifts. They will be for fun, and will not just be new socks. But we’re not going crazy here, people.

Something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read.*

Oh my gracious, it’s brilliant. Four gifts, each with a distinct purpose. Here’s what I’ve bought Gooplet in each of these categories, click on the pictures to take you to the sources.**

Something he wants:

Chip and Joanna with the Wooden Toy Tool Bench

As soon as I saw this in the Hearth and Hand lookbook, I knew it was going to be mine. I bought it the day it came out. Now to figure out how to assemble it.

Something he needs:

When your pajamas are your costumes, it's a double smart win for everybody. Imagination costumes at Hanna Andersson.

Gooplet never has enough pajamas. The cheap ones seem to stretch out too much after just a couple of wears. These are my all time faves. That blue on blue stripe action is as good as it gets.

Something to wear:

Image result for castaway corduroys holly

You know how much I love ThredUp, so when I saw some corduroys from Castaway for $12, it was a done deal. (They’re usually $75! For toddler pants!) He’ll wear these to church on Christmas Eve.

Something to read:

I don’t know what he’s getting in this category yet. That’s a whole other tradition for a whole other blog post. Check back soon.

*I have seen this idea in a gazillion places, and can’t remember if it was Design Mom or Tsh, who alerted me first.

**But also, sorry if this breaks the rules, but we are totally doing stockings as well because they are the most fun part of Christmas morning. If you’re lucky, I’ll pull off a gift guide before it’s too late for Amazon to ship you anything.

A Rule for Making Plans

Dear readers, let’s talk about our calendars today, shall we? Be they digital, paper and pencil, or simply a jumble of dates and times rolling around in your head, I’ve got calendars, and more specifically, the filling of them, on the brain.

Creatives Calendar, Calligraphy (Sunday Start)

(The new Lindsay Letters calendars are beautiful.)

In listening to many-a-conversation between Tsh and Erin Loechner, I keep hearing Erin talk about making plans at the last minute. It’s a rule she has when it comes to filling up her calendar. Because she’s got two little people underfoot almost all the time, and a travel schedule that makes she and her husband passing ships at times, she doesn’t commit to much far in advance.

Instead, when it strikes her fancy, she or her friends will send a text along the lines of: pizza at our house tonight. Bring a salad?

And if the friend(s) can join, then they have plans. And if not, next time, then.

I’ve been mulling this one over. At first I thought, nice for them, not for me. But over the last couple of weeks, we’ve had a couple of get-togethers that have come together at the last minute and been wonderful. And a couple of in-advance dates on the calendar that haven’t worked out because you can plan and plan and plan, and then you can have a toddler who has other ideas.

So I might hang on to this one, dear readers. I might need to cling even tighter as Christmas draws near.

Let’s Talk Leftovers [classic tater tot hotdish]

The alternate title for this post could be, “Eat Your Hearts Out, Duggars!” Because they make this tater tot casserole, and it’s Internet famous, and I tried it and thought it was gross.

But ever since then, it’s stayed in the back of my head that the idea of tater tot casserole is far from wrong. I found this one over the summer and promptly made it a billion times in a row for any event for which I was required to bring food. It’s darn good, and easily adapted to fit whatever is in your refrigerator, as long as you have enough eggs.

But that’s decidedly a breakfast casserole, and my vision of a hearty, dinnertime tater tot casserole, just wouldn’t go away.

ugggggh, the picture I want to use isn’t loading, and I really want to get this recipe up today, so …. insert mental picture here!

So when Molly Yeh posted her classic tater tot hotdish, I knew the time was ripe for a second try. That it’s called a hot dish and is not made with cream of anything soup meant that my hopes were high, and boy was I thrilled with the results. If you aren’t a native midwesterner, you may not know that tater tot casserole is basically a pot pie filling with tater tots on top.

Her recipe calls for ground beef, but I kept thinking how great this would be with leftover turkey. You could so easily swap in mushrooms, bell peppers, or any of those half-used-up bags of frozen veggies that seem to multiply in the freezer (that can’t just be me, can it?).  Try it for me, dear readers, and let me know how it is!

Thanksgiving, 2017: The Plan

Normally, you all get a free preview of my meal plan on Tuesdays, but Thanksgiving has us all kinds of out of order, and with a few days ahead of us to start prepping, I’m sharing this year’s plan today, in hopes it may give you inspiration if you need it.

Spoiler alert: Dear guests who are also readers – don’t keep reading if you want to be surprised, but also, we’re mostly having what we always have. (These photos are from Thanksgiving, 2015)

andre, the turkey.

Turkey

Mashed potatoes

Green bean casserole (made two days before, cooked while the turkey is resting)

Stuffing (made the day before, cooked while the turkey is resting)

Sweet potatoes (made two days before, cooked while the turkey is resting)

Brussels sprouts from my sister-in-law (usually roasted with pancetta, and whoops, now I’m drooling)

Cranberry sauce (made whenever my husband wants)

Biscuits (made in the morning and warmed up before dinner)

apple pie.

Apple pie (gifted by a friend)

Pumpkin pie (sold by a neighbor who is a far superior baker)

And this pecan praline sauce because I’m not making the usual bourbon pecan tart (made a day or two before)

And ice cream, because, duh

And orange cookies, because I can’t not bake anything. Hopefully they’ll be amazing, and you’ll see them before too much longer. (made the day before)

full plate.

The rest of the week, if you’re interested:

Sunday – Sausage and tomato risotto, which is a forever favorite.

Monday – hot dogs and tater tots, and some sort of veggie. Yep. That’s it.

Tuesday – A veggie and chicken stir-fry (love this teriyaki sauce the most) if I’m home early, and leftovers if I’m not.

Wednesday – whatever we didn’t do on Tuesday

Thursday – LOL, see above

Friday – PIE and only pie.

Saturday – Oh gracious, I don’t know yet.

Favorite Things

But can you read that title as Oprah, please?

“It’s time for Favorite Thiiiiiiiiiiiiiings.”

You know, deep and sing-song-y?

Dear readers, Oprah has truly out-Oprah-ed herself this year, by gifting us with these promotional photos. She is just the ultimate best; shining so much light into an increasingly dark world.

Here’s what I’m loving from this year’s list.

(These are not affiliate links because I am not that fancy.)

My Audio Pet Mini Bluetooth Animal Wireless Speaker with TRUE WIRELESS STEREO TECHNOLOGY – Pair with another TWS Pet for Powerful Rich Room-filling Sound – (OWLcapella Brown)

Just ordered a little bluetooth speaker for the main floor of our house. We reconfigured our life a little bit, and lost the one we had there. I was agonizing about what to get in its place – a nice speaker felt too expensive, I still don’t understand why anyone needs an Alexa for anything except playing music, and then this little dude popped up for $30, coming with a whole bunch of 5-star reviews. Done and done. He arrives in two days (God bless Amazon Prime), and I can’t wait to listen to Disney Pandora with him. I think this is the first time in my long, storied history with Oprah’s Favorite Things that I’ve ever seen something and bought it right away.

I have a very different relationship with Sundays now that I’m not working full time. Simply put, I love them. Hands-down my favorite day of the week. They are slow, they start with a fancy breakfast (read: pancakes or French toast) and church, they are mostly for family, until dinner, when we welcome friends, and share a meal. Dream. Day. Oprah knows Sundays are for saving your best stuff, too, and she put together this book with some insights from her Super Soul Sunday guests.

Love me a mom shoe, and if these are good enough for O, they are surely good enough for me. Vionic Slip-On Shoes look perfect for wearing with jeans. The hardest decision on days I wear real clothes (don’t judge my activewear habit) is almost always what shoe to wear. What’s stylish is rarely comfortable for someone popping up and down off the floor all day, and what’s comfortable are Nike sneakers, which don’t go with the whole, look, I got dressed in real clothes thing.

Holiday Card Round Up

November 1 does not mean it’s time to start celebrating Christmas.

Persian Green (Square) - Paperless Post:

But. (I’m sorry.)

Favorites - Paperless Post:

There are a couple things that I do early in November to help make Christmas a little easier, and one is order Christmas cards as soon as possible*.

Perfect Package - Red - Paperless Post

This is the time of year when lots of sales are running, which I’m sure helps alleviate last minute stress for stationery companies.  My problem this year is I have this adorable child, whose photo must grace our card, and this opens up a pretty much infinite number of possibilities.

Persian Green (Square) - Paperless Post:

So I decided I’m getting a card from Paperless Post.  I have used Minted, Rifle Paper, Pinhole Press, and Paperless Post over the years, and there is not one company I prefer over another.  I choose my cards based solely on design.  But I knew that if I didn’t narrow down to just one website, I’d be lost in a sea of great cards, and 85 tabs open on my computer, until I found the right one.  Which I would then second guess after clicking order.  You do what you gotta do.

Heart Be Light (Photo) - Paperless Post

Besides nothing beats the crisp, white and gold box from Paperless Post.  When it arrives, my heart does this warm, fuzzy, jumpy thing, I get so excited to open it.

Lights Twisted on Dasher's Paw - Paperless Post:
(I really want this photo to be black and white)

So all my favorites are from their site, but you can find great cards just about anywhere.

Birch Monarch (Multi-Photo) - Blue - Paperless Post:

*This is also the time to order those Peanuts stamps you had to run to 5 post offices to find last year, just saying.

(Making Spirits Bright//The Year in Review//Red Bow//2016 in Review//Let Your Heart Be Light//Christmas Lights//Warmest Wishes)

The Point of it All/How to Celebrate Everything [half birthday cake]

I am six months into life with The Gooplet, and I often tell people that I feel as though I have maybe, finally, possibly stopped treading water.  I say maybe, finally, possibly, because I’m so hesitant to commit to saying the words out loud, lest everything we worked so hard the past half a year to establish be swiftly taken from us in one blow.  Because babies.

But I think, maybe, finally, possibly, we have a semblance of normal.

I was big on half birthdays in elementary school, as I imagine almost anyone with a summer birthday would be.  I lived in the golden age of elementary school, when you could still bring in cupcakes on your birthday, which meant that those of us who celebrated in June, July, or August got to spice up those boring winter months by adding our half birthdays to the slate of students celebrating the real day  January 26 was my (half) moment to be the center of attention.  And oh man, am I ever into being the center of attention.

Fast forward thirty-odd years, and here I am with a little person celebrating his very first half birthday.  There must be cake!  Half a cake, to be exact.  We’ve done this before.  We’ll do this every year!  I made the cake on his birthday, but I wasn’t paying full attention, and it didn’t turn out.  Like, sunk completely, didn’t turn out.  What would Mary Berry say?

There must be some piece of me that knew not all was lost, because I hung onto the cake, and lived life for three more days, when Jenny Rosenstrach’s latest cookbook arrived on my doorstep.  Jenny speaks my love language.  It’s family dinner.  She writes about people and food and the serious connection between the two in ways that get at the deep, mushiest parts of my soul.  That’s not an exaggeration.  Ina is aspirational,  Jenny is inspirational.  And her newest book tells us to celebrate everything.  Because babies crave routines.  Families crave rituals.  And the best ones are the ones that happen around the table.

So about a week after Gooplet’s half birthday, we celebrated his half birthday anyway.

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With the ugliest, and most disastrous half-cake ever.  But we started something.  And I hope it continues for years and years and years to come.

Thanks, Jenny.

Happy Mother’s Day

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there, and a special shout out to those in the newborn trenches with me. I recently let AGOMYR in on the little secret that motherhood is not for the faint of heart.  So with that, dear readers, and mothers, here is some inspiration:


Design Mom just posted the most beautiful letter from her mother, and this stood out to me. And by stood out to me, I, of course, mean made my weep ugly, hormonal tears:

I believe, when the day comes and you are forced to lead a simpler life, that you will be pleased that you spent so much time with your children when you had the chance…..I couldn’t have smiled in their faces enough. Touched them. Sat too close. Rubbed backs enough. Listened to and admired the (music) practicing.


Elise posted a great pep talk on Instagram that I made sure to hang on to:

This is just a season.

I was recently looking for an old blog post and I came upon the ones from right before Paul got home from his first deployment. I was SHOCKED to remember that he was gone for nearly 7 months.

seven months?!? what? I remember it was tough but not THAT tough.

in late January of that deployment year, I went to a yoga class and the teacher came around and massaged our shoulders towards the end. I remember tearing up a bit – it was the first time I had been touched by another person in about a month.

I am currently doing the opposite and living in a season of overwhelming touch. often I’ll be nursing Piper while Ellerie climbs on top of me. the extreme physical-ness of early motherhood can be draining and exhausting.

but like that deployment, this is just a season. it feels long and hard but it will pass.

years, disguised as moments, from now I’ll look back and say, “I thought that was tough?”

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And then, of course, there are Amy Poehler’s words (from Yes, Please) that strike me even harder over the head now that I’m a mom.  It’s so hard not to compare your baby to everyone else’s.  Or your mom skills, for that matter, But that’s a slippery slope, and it’s not worth it at all.  Instead, you simply repeat:

“Good for her! Not for me. That is the motto women should constantly repeat over and over again.”

*photos from our newborn session with Claire Harvey.  She’s amazing.

On Gals

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I talked to three people between the ages of 20-35 about their Valentine’s Day plans, and though their relationship statuses were many and varied, they all had one thing in common.  They had nothing at all planned for Valentine’s Day, and each had plans for Galentine’s Day.*  This was my first year celebrating; the idea came from Kim, who had been rewatching Parks and Rec during our unofficial winter break snowcation.  Kim.  Great move.

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We had brunch in Annapolis, sang along to every song that came on the restaurant’s soundtrack (I almost asked if it was a Spotify playlist I could start listening to), and laughed so loud that it made people stare. Also, there were hash browns and chocolate chip pancakes.

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This can’t just be a once a year thing.

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*It should be noted, I also got this awesome card in the mail from a long time bestie, K.Reza.