Monday, December 31, 2018

a look back on 2018

A new house, a two-year-old, and a trip to Hawaii were our big highlights of the year! Take a look back on our favorite moments from 2018.

Top Row (left to right): Our brand new house; a weekend getaway to the Big Apple; welcoming our nephew Archer to the family; and celebrating an unforgettable St. Patrick's Day

Middle Row: Celebrating Dad's retirement; finishing my first (and probably last) marathon; celebrating Mae's 2nd birthday; and celebrating Kevin and Kelsey's graduations

Bottom Row: Our once-in-a-lifetime family trip to Hawaii; spending some quality time with GranE and Batman at the beach; wearing our silly Moana-themed Halloween costumes; and making magical Christmas memories!

We just got back home today after 10 days of travel! We spent the last 5 days visiting Dan's family, and we are very glad to be back home after a stressful, rainy drive. We had a great time with GranE, Batman, Tim, David, and Colleen! We arrived Thursday afternoon and spent the evening opening Christmas gifts and enjoying a delicious dinner. Mae was very excited about her new books and her easel! She spent the rest of the visit creating masterpieces on the chalkboard. She also had to try on her new Batman shirt right away.

On Friday, GranE and Batman hosted a big party for the aunts, uncles, and cousins. Mae was sooo excited for the party and greeted everyone with a hug and a "Hello!! Merry Christmas!!" She also announced that she was going to do a "Nutcracker ballet show" for everyone. Dan commented that we probably have lots of unfortunate children's theater shows in our future. At least she had an audience of Hallmark snowmen for a while.

On Saturday, we went to the home of our former trivia buddies Kierston and Alan (and their two kids) for a pizza lunch. They moved away back in 2016 and it was so fun to see how their kids have grown and how they've settled into their new home! In the evening, we left Mae with GranE and Batman and went out for dinner and drinks with Tim, David, and Colleen. It was a fun evening!

Mae has been a little skittish (ok, terrified) around dogs recently, so we were interested to see how she would act around Pepper. While she still prone to tears when startled by Pepper's howls, she did warm up to her throughout the trip!

Sunday was our last full day before traveling, so we went to the zoo. We spent a long time watching the penguins, and of course had to see the giraffes (GranE's favorite) and the bird house (my favorite). Mae was absolutely fearless climbing at the playground and even went down the super tall slide by herself.

Thanks for a great trip to end the year, GranE, Batman, Tim, David, and Colleen!!

Friday, December 28, 2018

knit christmas stockings

When Mae was born, I decided to make new stockings for the three of us. I adapted a pattern from Ravelry to give extra room for presents, ordered my yarn, and designed the colorwork patterns for each one. I didn’t finish the stockings in time for Christmas, but I had them all knit and blocked by January 2017. We used them for Christmas last year, but I hadn’t added hanging loops to put them up on the mantle, and without linings they stretched into ridiculous lumpy blobs when filled with gifts. I was determined to have the linings and loops done for Christmas this year!

Just a week before our Christmas travels, I finally finished the stockings. For the linings, I traced around each stocking onto cream-colored fabric. Then I cut out the lining, stitched around, and serged the edges. I folded down the top twice and stitched it in place along with the hanging loop. Then I hand-sewed the lining to the inside of the stocking.

Finally, two years after I started them, I was able to hang up my stockings! (And they weren’t too lumpy on Christmas morning.)

Knitting project details on my Ravelry page.

holly jolly christmas

Merry Christmas!

I took this photo of Mae, Ollie, and Archie when we visited over Thanksgiving. It was a whole-family effort to get a Christmas photo of the three grandkids. I took 200(!!) photos, resulting in a handful where all 3 kids were looking... and zero photos where all 3 kids were smiling.

We are mid-way through our Christmas traveling extravaganza. We drove to my parents' house on Friday the 21st with Mae and Charlie wedged into the back seat between all the suitcases and presents. We unloaded all our stuff and settled in for a few days of playing, baking, and gift wrapping/unwrapping. On Saturday morning we all went to see a Christmas train display at the museum.

Over the next few days, Kelsey and I churned out dozens of Pinterest-worthy Christmas cookies. We kicked off the baking with some Great British Bake Off-inspired checkerboard cookies, but we added a twist by flavoring the white squares with peanut butter instead of just vanilla. They were well-received at the party Laura hosted for my high school friends on Saturday evening. We also made some chocolate-dipped gingersnaps, chocolate peppermint bark cookies, and our traditional sugar cookie cutouts, which we decorated with mini M&Ms to look like strands of Christmas lights.

On Sunday evening, we went to Yuletide while the little ones stayed home with a babysitter. We had a fun dinner and evening out!

Christmas eve, we had a family dinner with the massive ham Christopher gets from work. In the evening, we went to mass, watched Christmas specials, set out cookies for Santa and carrots for the reindeer, and read "'Twas the Night Before Christmas." As I was tucking Mae in to bed, I realized my huge parenting mistake in hyping Christmas: Mae thought Santa was going to be there to get her out of bed in the morning. I never thought to say, "Santa comes, brings presents, AND then he leaves." She was very disappointed when I explained that he has a lot of other kids to visit on Christmas Eve, and it was just going to be me there in the morning. This probably wouldn't be as big of a deal for kids who are afraid of Santa, but Mae LOVES Santa. Oops!

(We still had a great Christmas morning with only a few tears when we stopped opening gifts to eat some breakfast... I consider that a win for an emotional toddler's Christmas.)

(Don’t worry, these gifts aren’t all for Mae! All 11 of us have presents in this pile.) Mae got a tricycle and helmet from Santa, along with a sled and a few other goodies. She also got lots of fun toys from Grandma and Grandpa including a marble track and a high chair for her doll. Christmas night we went to Aunt Ruthann's house for dinner. It was chaotic but fun with 10 little kids all full of cookies and Christmas excitement!

On the 26th, we packed up the car again (minus Charlie, who is extending his vacation at Mom & Dad's house until we get back home) and drove half way to visit Dan's family. I booked a night at an inexpensive Holiday Inn in the middle of Pennsylvania with my only requirement that it have a swimming pool. We were pleasantly surprised to find the hotel looked like a classy alpine ski lodge all decked out for Christmas, and realized we were only a few miles away from a big ski resort! We had a fun night of swimming before finishing our drive in the morning.

I'll have more pictures from the second half of our trip soon! (Also, a big thank you to Colleen who took our family pictures while visiting for Thanksgiving this year!)

Sunday, December 23, 2018

chicago traditions

For Kelsey’s first year living in Chicago, Mom and I were determined to keep the girls’ weekend tradition alive! Since it was just the three of us, we stayed with Kelsey in her apartment. Sleeping on the couch and air mattress brought back lots of nostalgic memories from our first holiday visit back in 2009 staying in Courtney’s apartment!

Mom and I drove in Friday afternoon and met up with Kelsey at her place. We took the bus (Mae would be so jealous) to the Christkindlmarket in the evening. We stuffed ourselves with potato pancakes, pretzel, wiener schnitzel, and crepes while browsing through the booths selling decorations and gifts.

We started Saturday with a leisurely morning and then began our shopping extravaganza at the huge Macy’s store on State Street. During our lunch at the Walnut Room we chatted with a very glittery fairy princess who works a day job as a very non-glittery financial advisor. We spent a bit of time in Macy’s before heading north along Michigan Avenue to hit up some different stores.

We ate dinner at Grand Lux, which was a welcome bit of rest after a lot of walking. While enjoying our beignets for dessert, we realized that our day consisted of about 50% eating and 50% shopping. I think that might be the recipe for a perfect girls’ day!

Sunday morning, we went to church and brunch before driving home. We had such a fun weekend, and I can’t wait to do it again!

Saturday, December 1, 2018

turkey day

Sometimes this blog feels like a bit of a Catch-22... When we are really busy, I have more to share, but less time to blog it!

We've been busy bees, preparing the house to celebrate Thanksgiving and then hosting! It was our year to spend the holiday with Dan's side of the family, but we wanted to avoid the long car trip with a toddler and we wanted to show off our recent house projects.

I took the whole week off work, so Mae and I could spend some quality time with Grandma and Grandpa early in the week. We packed lots of fun into a 2-day visit with a trip to the Children's Museum and a cousin play date with Ollie and Archie. We drove back home Tuesday afternoon and had a jam-packed Wednesday with Mae's 2.5 year checkup (lookin' healthy) and lots of meal prep for Turkey Day.

All our guests (GranE, Batman, Colleen, Tim, and David) arrived Wednesday evening just as I was finishing up in the kitchen. Thursday morning, Colleen and I went out for a short run (my first one in a lonnng time), and came back in time to watch the parade on TV. Mae had fun snuggling up with GranE and Batman to watch all the floats, balloons, and performances!

Dinner turned out great, and the only bad part was that I ate so much that I didn't sleep well on Thursday night. Small price to pay for a delicious meal. Of course I let everyone get a big mouthful of food before announcing that I was taking a photo. I wanted to document all my hard work, both on the cooking and also on the new paint color of our dining room (more on that later). I also love an excuse to get out the china and crystal!

Friday we relaxed at home, and then we went to the zoo on Saturday. Thanks to the family for braving the long drive and for helping us make holiday memories in our new home!