Monday, December 30, 2013

Our Holiday

I hope you all had a joyous holiday surrounded by loved ones! 

We had a lovely one and have been enjoying the time together just the 5 of us, hence the lack of bloggyness on my behalf. 

We had 2 birthdays too! My husband on the 23rd and our oldest son turned 10 on Christmas Day! Our baby boy will be turning 1 in just over a week....and I'm so not ready. This year flew by faster than any other I can recall. 

As we approach New Years I am looking forward to more cuddling, hot tea, and watching more snowflakes fall. 

From our family to yours: A Very Happy New Years!!!!

And now stay tuned for a photo onslaught :)


I woke up today and everything looks as if it shrank overnight.  All of my plants, that were open and basking in the "warmth" of the past two days are now shriveled and shivering.  My sensitive plant does, indeed, shiver.  He also gets mad when I move him around, turns a few leaves yellow and drops them in defiance.  The entire plant crew is looking scared and reserved today and no doubt the drop in temperature from a "balmy" 40 degrees to a painfully oppressive 5 degrees (windchill -8!) is the culprit.

Kind of fitting though, all of the shrinking and retreating inward, less than two full days before the new year.  I plan to do the same.  It's been a really long time since I've attended any kind of New Year's Eve festivities and I'm ok with that.  I've had my share of the sparkles and noisemakers, the champagne and countdowns.  I've staged early countdowns for kids that shouldn't be up too late and I've let a few actually stay up until midnight.  

This year, I'm all about ease.  I have to work on New Year's Eve and busy days at work usually mean I have an evening of recharging on my couch ahead of me.  I have this crazy idea to set my intention for the coming year by where I choose to focus the evening before.  Of course I want fun and parties and loved ones and midnight kisses for the coming year but I also want peace and quiet.  I want to be warm and rested.  I want to snuggle my family and have down-time.  

I also want to be prepared.

So tomorrow night, with pen & paper in hand, I'm going to curl up in the corner of my couch.  Feet tucked under the cushion, wrapped up in the coziest blanket I can find, I'm going to ring in the new year and let the ideas flow into my ideas journal where they will patiently wait for their chances to shine in 2014.

and I'll probably fall asleep before midnight.  ;)

Saturday, December 21, 2013

St. Nicholas Day

Do you celebrate St. Nicholas Day? I never had even heard of it until last year when my children came home from school on December 6th upset because they were the only kids who didn't wake up to a shoe or stocking filled with treats from the saint. 

Apparently St. Nicks Day is much more popular here in Wisconsin than in my native New England. It makes sense, it's a German holiday and this is a predominantly German region. Interestingly, this is our first year doing a Waldorf inspired homeschool and St.Nicholas day is also celebrated amongst many Waldorf families.

This year I was not going to be without a plan on the eve of December 5th. 

St. Nicholas was a real person, who really helped other people. The day isn't about gobs of presents, rather a few treats and maybe a trinket. 

I found some sweet hollow chocolates from Germany for the older 2 boys, and since the baby can't have candy I made him a small set of clothespin dolls with knit hats and scarves. 

After stockings were opened, we had a nice discussion of things we could do to help others. We planned a meal for a family with a child in the hospital and the boys made a plan to shovel for our widowed neighbor. 3 snowstorms in and they have kept their commitment :)

I think St. Nicholas day is becoming one of my favorite traditions of the holiday season. 

How do you celebrate St. Nicks day? If you haven't before will you next season? 

This website has some excellent info, history, and ideas for celebrating!   

Happy Holidays!!!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

How's It Going?

Holiday preparations underway? Pretty busy? I hear ya. Yesterday I finished up Miss S and Miss G's Christmas presents (finally!) and I'm still working on a few more presents. Not to mention, the day after tomorrow we are having another feast - our annual Sweet Swap (Now with Bonus Potluck-Style Feast)! People bring enough of a homemade treat to share and at the end of the night everyone goes home with an array of sweets. You might have guessed we were having another feast if you've been following along at All Tomorrow's (Dinner) Parties!

In the last week we had Husband's graduation from university (that means a big party), kids' holiday and end of semester school events, holiday preparation, and we all had fun making and decorating cookies. If you haven't seen this, it's worth a look...we had a bunch of fun doing this to our cookies! So gorgeous and fun. Awesome Cookie Decorating Method from The Kitchn. Yes, it's as excellent as it looks.

We used my mom's simple icing recipe for the base and then colored icing for the embellishments.

Annaliese's Mom's Icing Recipe (Ready? It's Complicated)

1. Pour some powdered sugar in a bowl.
2. Add some drops of vanilla extract.
3. Add a little milk.
4. Mix until it's icing.
    4a. Too runny? Add a little more powdered sugar until it's right.
    4b. Too dry? Add a little more milk til it's right.
    4c. Too un-vanilla-y? Add a few more drops of vanilla.
5. Voila! Add food coloring, if you so choose.

I learned this recipe when I was, oh I don't know, three years old maybe. It's actually really good, and the factor of ease makes it quite delightful. I like the way it hardens on the cookie and everything looks smooth and beautiful.

The girls' main presents are a fox doll and a cat doll. They both have been asking for these for months and it's been difficult to keep it a surprise, but there's only less than a week to go now! Yay! Here are (Yet Unnamed) the Cat and Carrot the Fox, with masks, jackets, bows, and purses:

What do you think? Husband thinks the kids are going to flip out when they see them. I can't wait! ^_^

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Twas a week before Christmas and all through the house...


Every year I tell myself that I'm going to get all of my crafting done early and enjoy the week before Christmas with movies, zoo lights, Christkindlmarket but NO! NO! NO! Santabecky is busy again this year.

Tonight I'm forcing my darling boy to listen to Christmas music on pandora while I package up another set of candles for wholesale (anyone local to the west burbs o' Chicago, I'll tell ya where to find them).  Finishing up the last of the etsy orders, smiling all the way.  Every minute I spend preparing packages and wrapping up my creations is a moment of true joy for me, it really is.

when you run out of proper branded labels... improvise.

my favorite scent of all time
Only 4 more orders to go!  What are YOU working on right now?

Monday, December 16, 2013

Early Un-Resolutions

I'm terrible with New Year's Resolutions.  List-making, in general, is difficult for me and usually causes more anxiety than motivation.  This year I decided to do something a little different.

First off, I'm starting early; waaaaaay before winter solstice, even.
Second, I'm listing things I'm going to do MORE of, instead of ways I need to improve myself.  My usual lists include things about losing weight, cleaning the house, etc... how I'm not doing enough and insisting that MORE DISCIPLINE is the answer.  More discipline is never the answer for an indigo like me, that's for sure.

So here it is, my Un-Resolutions for December 2013-December 2014:

1.  I'm going to keep myself thoroughly hydrated and well-rested.  If something is off and I'm not feeling 100%, my first line of rebalancing is to drink water and take a nap!

2.  I'm going to keep my body energized and active, at least once a day.  Going for a walk, dancing in the kitchen, doing a cartwheel in the parking lot after work... whatever it takes.  This is the only body I get and if I can wake it up at least once a day, I think it will do wonders for my energy and mood.

3.  Keep a sabbath.  Doesn't matter which day, but at least one day a week is for family, for recharging and to ENJOY.  As it stands right now, I have one reason or another to be out the door by 745 EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. of the week.  My Sundays will free up in January so that's a major step in the right direction.

4.  My 20 minutes "in house".  I do so much better throughout the day if I've had 20 minutes to myself in the morning or 20 minutes to myself before bed the previous night.  Often I meditate, but I've noticed that since I'm out of practice, I'm only up to 11 minutes before I lose focus.  Something to work on in the months ahead, for sure.  I get my best creative ideas in the silence, too, so... win-win.

5.  Smile pretty!  I've noticed that in my attempts to cram every little task into my already draining schedule not only do I fail miserably at accomplishing even half of what needs to be done, but I also look pretty haggard doing it.  If I have to fall and make mistakes, I can at least look cute on the way down!  I'm not a huge makeup girl but I am DETERMINED to figure out the cat eye.  I'm aiming to be "selfie-ready" at least half the week, any week... and really, if we aren't selfie-ready, are we really ready at all?? ;)

6.  RENEGADE.  This is an actual goal goal that I'm slipping in at the end.  This holiday season, I've had a bigger demand for my handmade creations than I've ever seen and it has my inner artist beaming.  I did an art festival this past fall and I was totally bit by the craft fair bug.  I'd like to expand and do more of what I love, which is creating!  My ultimate goal is to be ready to vend at Renegade Craft Fair (which runs twice in Chicago in the fall and closer to Christmas).  It's a big goal to aim for but I feel that it will make me make a conscious effort to create and offer my goods both online and in local fairs throughout the year, and one major goal for the year is about all I am ready for.

Thinking about resolutions yet?  Ready to make un-resolutions with me?  Coincidentally, tomorrow's full moon is in Gemini which reminds us to revamp our "wish-lists" and focus on what we really want from the days ahead.

So, come on and Un-resolve with me in the comments below or if you blog about your own un-resolutions, list the link below so we can cheer you on!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Homemade Gifts - Do You Do Them?

Our family has decided to make the majority of the presents we give this year for the holidays. We would like to contribute to consumerism as little as possible and give people something special that we created ourselves. We're thinking of making baked goods, spice blends, and sewn items (to name a few). 

The spice blend idea is a pretty fun one that my culinary-genius Husband thought up. I got the recipes to share with you all! We used large jars to do the mixing, after which we will put in smaller jars for the presents. 

Herbs de Provence

2 parts dried savory
1 part dried basil
1 part dried oregano
1/2 part dried mint
1/2 part dried rosemary
1/2 part dried fennel
1/2 part salt
1 part dried lavender 

Put together and mix or shake!

Husband's (Not Exactly 5) 5 Spice Blend

7 or 8 anise pods
2 tsp dried fennel
1 tbsp Szechuan peppercorns
1 tbsp cloves
2 3" cinnamon sticks
1 tbsp ground allspice

Toast in pan over med-high heat until fragrant, then grind and add:

1/2 tbsp ground white pepper
1/2 tbsp Himalayan sea salt 

Check out this (hilarious + epic) slow-mo video of the toasting process, starring The Man Himself, my mister :

Are you making homemade gifts this year? I would love to hear your ideas, too! ^_^

Friday, December 6, 2013

Snow Day! - a pictorial essay

We had a winter storm, which I'm sure by northern standards was not that bad (so my husband says), but the upside of this is that the kids were out of school and Husband was out of work! Last night we played Settlers of Catan Seafarers and drank tea and hot chocolate while eating popcorn. Today we slept in and had a fun play day! 
Lulu Claus & the beginning of the ice + snow

The new hangout

Snow fun

The view from my workshop (ho ho ho)

Miss G made a huge heart that says "I LOVE MOM" <3

Our new Frosty Fern - it looks fake! So cool.

O Christmas Tree

I turned that into this!
We put up our tree and other decorations, too. Our house looks so bright and cheery! 

Also, I purchased this: Baby Deer Cookie Cutter and these: Pine Tree Cupcake Picks
I can't wait to use these for winter festivities! And how adorable would a woodland birthday party be in the future for one of the kids?! 

I hope everyone is staying warm!