Sunday, December 15, 2013

Snowflake Soiree

Lucy's dance school hosts an informal recital every December at the end of the Fall/Winter semester. It's held onstage at a local theater, but there's no fancy costumes or all-out stage make up. It was held yesterday afternoon and, like last year, Lucy's class gave a ridiculously cute performance. They may not have  known all (any) of the steps, but they looked so happy to be there, faces full of smiles. Even the girl who kept yawning.

Check it out:

Not to get all braggy or anything (said to denote that bragging will now follow), but I'm just blown away by what a performer Lucy is. She clearly had no idea what she was doing. She absolutely did not know the steps of the dance. Yet she stood there, smiling and serene and graceful, completely capturing the mood of the song and the ability to look good doing absolutely nothing. Between that and her flair for dramatics (every stubbed toe is a cause for transfemoral amputation), I think we may have a born actress on our hands.

Some stills from before and after her performance:

Backstage beforehand

The rest of our weekend was filled with tantrums (from both kids) and lots and lots of cookie baking. I think I went through 12 sticks of butter. I'm waiting for a few gifts to arrive at our house so I can package up a couple of boxes to mail out to family members, and I have a few more gifts to wrap and put under out tree. But I think I'm done actually BUYING gifts, as of today. That, my friends, is a nice feeling. Bring it, Christmas.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Fall and Photos

Remember when I used to post here? That was nice. Gah, I hate that I haven't made time for this. I need to be posting here, need to be putting images and snapshots of our life here. It's so stupid - I don't even know why I feel like I'm too busy to do this lately. There's something about the kids being a little older, having a little more homework, going to bed a little later... I don't know, it all just seems insurmountable to add in extra stuff lately. Working out, blogging - they've both gone completely by the wayside, sacrificed to the comfort of the couch and the TV remote and a glass of wine. My Hulu account thanks me for being so up to date on my queue, but my waistline and digital memories do not.
Also, remember when it was fall? That was nice, too:
That's a Finn hidden under the leaves there.

He kills me with how cute he is.


Then it was Thanksgiving. I set a pretty table, and my mom and dad joined us:

This little one woke up at five am Thanksgiving morning, throwing up. She rallied by late afternoon, and joined us at the dinner table (where she ate nothing, with style, and in pajamas)

I even made fresh rosemary napkin rings. I channeled my inner Pinterest goddess.

He drank soda out of a grown up glass and thought he was in heaven.

The next day we busted out our Christmas decorations to get a move on a holiday that was less than 4 weeks away:

And I tried my hand at some shaped Bokeh  photography this week (see how the lights in the background are star shaped?):

Even attempted some Christmas card photos (out-takes below):

I'm still working on this whole bokeh technique (you should have seen me trying to fashion a makeshift lens cover out of black construction paper that was 3 years old and seriously faded - it took a really, really long time), but I've at least had some beginner success (here is one of the many tutorials you can find online). Then I broke my 50 mm/1.8f lens in a tripod accident (OK, I was a numbskull and let go of the camera when only 2 of the 3 tripod legs were at the same length) and was really upset with myself. Such a good lens! And a gift from my dad (it was an old Nikon lens of his that fit my camera). The glass/lens is completely cracked.  A bit too late to remedy this for Christmas, but rhis is definitely going on my next birthday/mother's day wish list.

That was Tuesday of this week, day 2 of our two days of snow days. Now it's Thursday evening.  M. is away on a quick work trip, and I am doing what I normally do when he's gone - staying up too late and gorging on TV shows he never wants to watch (3 more episodes of Scandal Season 1 are now in the bag). And while I'm not working out, at least I'm blogging. So that's something :-). And now, since it's practically midnight, and the small creatures of the family will be up in under 7 hours (not to mention the full work day I need to put in tomorrow), I'm going to bed. Goodnight!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Gift Ideas for the Panicky Shopper: 2013

Yes, this is a gift guide of sorts, for those that need a little more inspiration. I'm surfacing from the blogging dead to help out people who, like me, are starting to feel a little overwhelmed with the holiday shopping season. With only 19 shopping days left before Christmas, perhaps you, as I am, are struggling with rounding out your gift lists.

The suggestions below are all things you can buy, wrap, and give. I'm fully in support of handmade or labor intensive gifts like making candles, photo books, and mason jars of goodies, but let's be honest - that's all a lot of work that I don't have time to do. The two hours I have between kid bedtime and my bedtime every night is already taken up by internet surfing, wine drinking, and TV watching, and handmade gifts just doesn't make the list.

Disclaimer #1: This is not comprehensive, cutting edge, or even slightly organized. It's just a collection of things that I've seen during my holiday shopping ventures this year that caught MY eye, and maybe they'll catch yours, too.

Disclaimer #2: This is not a sponsored post, and I have no affiliation with any of the products or stores mentioned here.

You may find inspiration in past gift posts I've done, too, though I can't verify whether the items themselves are still available: Spotlight on Paper Source, Gift Ideas for Guys


I read somewhere that there is no "big new toy" this year, which means parents are reverting to the classics that have lasted generations. Probably a bunch of bunk, but I will say that I've seen a LOT of Barbies at Target lately, for what that's worth. In the same vein, another classic standby is good ol' LEGOs. It can be confusing figuring out which sets your little LEGO fanatic already has, what with the many, many ones there are to choose from (Star Wars, Harry Potter, LEGO City, Ninjago, LEGO Friends, just to name a few). Instead, how about a set of basic, classic LEGOs to foster a little creativity?:

LEGO Ultimate Building Set - 405 Pieces ($29.99 on Amazon)

You could pair it with a book for inspiration, like the LEGO Play Book or the LEGO Idea Book (each is $12.83 on Amazon right now).


A unique building set geared toward encouraging girls to love engineering is Goldie Blox, sets of books and accompanying construction sets that feature Goldie, a kid inventor. I've put in a request for this one for Lucy with the in-laws, I think it looks great!

Goldie Blox and the Spinning Machine ($29.99 on Amazon)

If you're buying for a child in elementary school, odds are they would love a Rainbow loom. And if they have one already, a bag of loom bands would make a great stocking stuffer.

Rainbow Loom ($17.59)

To keep those different colored little bands at their fingertips, consider getting them an organizer like this one:

Rainbow Loom Storage Case with adjustable compartments ($16.99)

Or a How-To book on some of the different designs, like The Loomatic's Interactive Guide to the Rainbow Loom ($18.99)

This year I found a lot of great inspiration from the Hearthsong website (sorry for some of the teeny photos, I had trouble pulling larger ones off the website):

The Woodland Fairy Houses are ridiculously adorable ($26.98 for a house and two fairies). The website claims these are for ages 3 and up, but I think 2 year olds would love this, too.

The On-the-Go Animals and Portable Home are similar to the fairy houses, and also ridiculously cute ($26.98)

The Super Finger Flashlights are a hit with any kid ($14.98 for a set of 8)

There are some great gifts for older kids, like a Unicycle ($89.98)

or a Dressmaking Workshop ($44.97)

Lucy has her eye on these wonderful-looking Monarch butterfly wings ($15.98 each)

Moving on from Hearthsong, here is a great Hair Chalk set ($22)that your dress-up afficionado will love (bonus, it can also be used for those random school "Crazy Hair" days)

Do your kids love rocks as much as mine? We have an army of them out on our stoop, since I won't let the kids bring them in the house. For fellow rock lovers, consider this Crystal Mining Kit (currently $9.80):

Take it a step further with this Model T Kit Rock Tumbler ($102.99) and turn those random rocks into treasures:

For the crafty child, this American Girl Crafts Bears Sew and Stuff kit ($12.16, ages 8 and up) looks great (there are owl and raccoon versions, too):

For the wee littles, consider this neat scooter that doubles as a ride-on toy until your little one is big enough to figure out how to scoot - perfect for kids as young as 12 months (don't forget a helmet, too!).

Micro Mini 3-in1 ($114)

Major electronic and gaming system items are some obvious choices for holiday gifts, and I'm in no position to recommend which ones are best. However, there are a few neat, small gadgets I want to list here that might make nice gifts for the tech-lover in your life.

The Holga iPhone Lens ($30 at Photojojo) attaches to iPhones and provides 9 different filters (including a macro lens) for those of us who find ourselves relying on our smart phones for most of the photos we take (guilty of this myself, lately!). Fits the iPhone 5/5S and 4/4S, but doesn't specifically state whether it will work for the 5C (frowny face for me!).

Une Bobine ($25 at Photojojo) is a unique phone charger that can also act as a tripod:

Firebox's Grippy Pad ($11.49) will magically keep your phone or iPad or whatever you want propped up on your dashboard (I want this!)

I am loving everything on the Fossil website. Why have I never shopped there before?

Everyone needs a pair of aviator sunglasses ($48).

This fox change purse ($48) is adorable, and feeds into my love of the "What does the Fox Say?" YouTube video sensation (don't judge).

A chic tortoise bangle ($68) would complement any outfit.

A wonderful scarf ($48) and hat ($38)

With matching color block tech gloves ($38) so you can use your smart phone to your heart's delight in the blustery winter air.

And let's not forget what Fossil is best known for - it's wonderful watches and wallets and bags. It was difficult to pick just one or two to post here, so I encourage you to go and browse - guaranteed that you will find something perfect for someone on your gift list. But here are a couple that caught my eye:

Decker Chronograph Stainless Rose Watch ($125)

Sidney small zip pouch ($75)

Moving beyond Fossil, I'm a firm believer in anything from Kate Spade, like this Opening Night Wrap Necklace (a splurge at $128)

Or the "As Good As Gold" Bangle Bracelet ($42, and comes in several other colors/finishes)

This Essie Nail Color 2013 Holiday Gift Set ($14.99) is currently unavailable online, but the colors are perfect, and you may have luck finding one at a Target near you.


Kick it old school style with these Tetris shaped fridge magnets ($5.99, unfortunately out of stock right now, but hopefully back soon; can also be found here and here for a little higher price)

The LL Bean Fleece Lined Flannel shirt ($59.99), with which we gifted most of the adult men we know last year, is still hands-down the best gift suggestion I have for the men in your life. It's awesome, trust me.

They even make a hoodie version now ($44.95), which might be great for your much-loved, too-cool-for-school teenage hooligan:

A FitBit would be a great gift for men or women - it's a pedometer and so much more (I have one and really like it!). I think men are more apt to go for the wrist-worn versions. Of the two available, I'd recommend the FitBit Force ($129.95) because you can view your stats on the wristband itself.

My dad is raving about the Automatic Smart Driving Assistant ($99.99), which has gotten great reviews. It plugs into your car and sends your smart phone information, like your gas mileage, what the malfunction code means when one pops up on your dash, and where you parked at the mall. I can't find an image file that I can pull down for this post, but it looks like a little gadget. Apple stores are apparently selling them, too.

The Drop and Catch Bottle Opener ($60, but the website is offering $10 off with the coupon code holiday right now) is a great idea

I've raved about the Thermos Stainless King Leak-Proof Travel Tumbler (currently on sale for $18.99) before - hands down the best travel coffee mug I've found. Get it - the coffee drinkers in your life need this.

To pamper your guy, try the Art of Shaving's 4 Elements of the Perfect Shave kit ($60 for the mid size version; they also have a smaller one for $25 and a full size version for $100 or so). You can buy it from many other sites, too, including Macy's, Sephora, and Amazon.

I generally don't like to recommend Anthropologie gifts, because I think their products are ridiculously overpriced. However, I've had my eye on their Poppy Ring Brownie Dish ($36) for over a year now, and the price is actually pretty good.

The Threshold Gold Cocktail Shaker ($14.99) is gorgeous and would be perfect paired with a nice bottle of liquor and/or matching tumblers (or was it stemless wine glasses?) that I can't find on the Target website, but did see in my local Target store.

Christmas with the Rat Pack ($7.00) would be a great addition to any host's music collection.

Alright, I'm stopping there, because I need to get back to my own shopping. Speaking of which, what are you buying? Any good ideas for me to use? I'll be getting some of the stuff on this list for my unsuspecting family and friends, but am on the look out for more. Share in the comments!