Making the Most of It- Loralai’s First Christmas

Holidays in our household are always strange.  With JD’s schedule, there’s a high probability that he will be working or on a night shift schedule and sleeping most of the day.  This Christmas was no exception.  He’s on his night shift month and had Christmas Eve off, but had to work Christmas Day night (if that makes sense).

LEO Life = Making the Most of It

We didn’t have any family coming to visit us (unlike last year, when EVERYBODY came to stay with us over Christmas so we could have my baby shower, and we had 9 people packed into our tiny 3 bedroom house… talk about chaos) and JD’s family all went up north to celebrate with extended family.  We were all alone, basically, but honestly, after the year we’ve had with the new baby, seemingly continuous visitors and quite a few trips of our own, I was so, SO ready for a quiet holiday at home, just the 3 of us.

I woke up with L on Christmas Eve morning and decided to treat Christmas Eve like Christmas day, since it was the closest we were going to get.  I made chocolate chip waffles and bacon, and L and I sat down to breakfast together while JD snoozed away (I must say, it’s nice to have L as a little companion when JD is working or sleeping, especially on days like this).  I saved breakfast leftovers for JD’s belated breakfast, then got a jump start on the slow cooker pork tenderloin for dinner.  It was one of those rare, rare times that I felt really happy being in the kitchen cooking.  Maybe because it felt holiday-ish on a day that otherwise might have felt like a regular day?

Anyway, JD woke up mid-afternoon and we decided to open presents before dinner.  We knew we were going to open presents Christmas Eve because of JD’s schedule, and didn’t want to wait too late in the evening so that we could allow L time to play with all of her fun stuff.

She liked the wrapping, especially the bows.

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But needed a little help getting things open.

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We probably could have just skipped all the other gifts and given her this cardboard bear and she would have been a happy camper.

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But she got plenty of other things that were huge hits.

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We could tell she was on sensory overload from all the new stuff.

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She’s gonna be so bummed when we take down the tree.

IMG_1784So, after gifts, we had our family dinner, then caught the end of How The Grinch Stole Christmas before we put L to bed.  It was a great little family holiday, both relaxed and quiet.  And the thing is, I’m not mad that we had to celebrate Christmas the day before or not have a “real” Christmas morning or that I spent Christmas night watching White Christmas alone.  There is always time for celebrating family and togetherness, you just have to find it.  And in our family, we always, always find it.

My only regret?  Not thinking to get out our nice camera and checking the lighting before I just started haphazardly snapping pictures with my phone.

Oh well, you get the idea.

Happy first Christmas, Loralai!

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Thursday Tip- Mint Chocolate Cookie Recipe

A friend of mine introduced me to this cookie recipe back when we were in college.  It’s been a holiday favorite ever since.  Careful- they’re addicting!

INGREDIENTS

1/2 cup brown sugar
2 3/4 cup flour
2 tablespoons water
2 3/4 cup margarine
2 cups chocolate chips
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
2 eggs
2 boxes andes chocolate mints

 DIRECTIONS
In a large saucepan over low heat (or in microwave) cook margarine, sugar and water until margarine is melted.  Add chocolate chips and stir till completely melted.
Pour into large mixing bowl and let stand 10 minutes.  Then, at high speed on the mixer, beat in eggs one at a time.  Reduce to low speed and add dry ingredients beating until blended.  Chill dough at least 1 hour.
Preheat over to 350 degrees.  Line cookie sheet with foil (this is important), roll dough into balls (about 1 tsp in size).   Place 2 inches apart.  Bake 12-13 minutes- NO LONGER.  They will crisp as they cool.
Remove from oven and immediately place a mint on each cookie.  Swirl mint with spoon when slightly melted.
Makes 4-5 dozen cookies.
Jenny’s Shortcuts and Tips:  I don’t wait the 10 minutes or the full hour and the cookies still come out fine.  I do put the dough in the fridge for at least a little bit before I put it on the cookie sheets otherwise it’s super gooey and sticks to my fingers.  Definitely put the mints on as soon as you take the cookies out of the oven, otherwise they might not fully melt.  The cookies are best when they’re soft- I generally bake them for 10 minutes and check if they need to stay in there another minute or 2.  Have fun and enjoy! 🙂

Loralai Meets Santa

JD’s grandparents’ community hosts an annual breakfast with Santa.  Since it’s Loralai’s first Christmas, she joined us for food, songs, and, of course, to meet Santa.

She LOVED watching the kids sing along to Christmas carols.

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I wasn’t sure how meeting Santa would go.  She’s at an age where she’s starting to be aware of strangers, and sometimes she does get upset when someone she doesn’t know tries to talk to her or touch her.  Honestly, I was kind of expecting a small meltdown.

Our name was called and we took her up to Santa.  We put her on his lap, and I saw the hesitation on her face, but she looked back at him and smiled.  She seemed fascinated by his large, white beard.  She turned back to the camera, grinning.  Success!

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Merry Christmas, everyone!

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Thursday Tip- Unique Holiday Gifts From Etsy

So, there are 2 things you need to know about me

1: I LOVE shopping

2: I HATE holiday crowds

Dealing with Christmas crowds especially has always been a nightmare to me.  The last few years, I’ve relied heavily on online shopping at Amazon (free shipping, what what!) and Etsy.

Etsy, for those of you who’ve never shopped here (careful, it’s addictive) is an online store where people from all over the world can have their own “shops” to sell hand made or vintage items.  On Etsy, you can find totally unique, hand made, WELL made items and support small business owners, NOT big box stores.

In need of a little holiday inspiration?  Here are some of my favorite Etsy shops:

For friends with little ones, cute hats and headbands are always a hit.  This shop sells the most adorable hats and headbands.  Oh, and they even have an Ohio State one, which I recommend for everyone you know 😉

Want something a little more practical that they won’t grow out of in 2 seconds?  We got our friends’ son a step stool on his 2nd birthday.  I don’t mean to brag, but they still have it in their downstairs bathroom.  Oh, and we got it personalized with his name.  This shop sells super cute ones.

Would you rather buy the kids on your list a toy, or do you have an itty bitty one to shop for?  I  love, love, love the wooden toys, rattles, teethers, and games at this shop.  I bought L her very first rattle and teether at this shop, and they are 2 of her faves.

I could literally spend hours perusing Etsy’s array of jewelry shops.  I love shopping here for my mom, mother-in-law, and friends.  Love the simple, but personalized jewelry in this shop and this necklace would be really cute for a mom or grandma.

Men are always hard to shop for, but wouldn’t a wallet like this be fun?

Like vintage?  Etsy has that too!  Wouldn’t something like this make a fun, unique gift for a family member (or a wedding gift for a friend)!  (Full disclosure? This is actually my mom’s shop… this post is NOT intended to be a plug for her shop, I just truly love Etsy).

So those are a few of my faves, but I honestly haven’t even scratched the surface of what’s out there.  Personally, I’d much rather sit in the comfort of my own home with a warm cup of coffee and browse online for fun gifts than fight crowds of cranky people at the mall.  Happy shopping!