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Friday Favorites: The week of trivia questions and gifts

It was another four day week, this time for both Gary and I, so we will be enjoying a leisurely Friday morning.  Work is still crazy so these days off are a blessing!  I’m linking up with Andrea to share some favorites from the week.

A couple of people decided to organize a Secret Santa-type event at work this week.  Each person bought and wrapped a gift valued between $10 and $15 and brought it in on Monday.  Everyone picked a gift from the collection, and also received a stack of Trivial Pursuit cards.  Then we went around and tried to steal each other’s gifts by answering a trivia question.  The idea was great, but I was so busy that I barely did any stealing.  And my desk is off the beaten path so only a couple of people stole from me.  But it was still fun and I made a point to steal from new people I didn’t know very well.  Today is a catered lunch (which I am missing, boo!) and the opening of the gifts.  I will have to wait until Monday to see what I ended up with.  This is the gift I started with.

It was stolen and I was left with this one.

I then stole this one, which was really solid and heavy.

It was stolen from me for this little one.  I actually wish I had kept this one, but in the spirit of the game I had to let it go.

And my final steal was this.

I can’t wait to see what’s in there!

And in case you missed it in my Monday post, this is the gift I brought.  It was two white ice cream dishes, fudge sauce, caramel sauce, and a jar of candy sprinkles.  A bag attached to the bow had single malt scotch caramels, a piece of dark chocolate peppermint bark, and two Annie’s caramels.

My journaling pens were starting to fade, so I found this new set.

It’s the same brand, but with 12 colors instead of 10, and they came in this sweet box.

I love fresh new pens!

I spruced up my desk for winter.  I added some mini carnations and eucalyptus to my tree trimmings.

I swapped out the red ribbon for blue on some metal snowflakes, and picked up this felt ball garland at Patina last weekend.  I just had to print out and frame my favorite new photo of the kids!  It was pure luck that the garland also had a green that matched the mat on the frame.

It’s think it’s festive without being too Christmas-y.  I love making my desk more homey and less corporate.

I have been enjoying my Nespresso machine, and found one more reason to love it this week.  I had been using my glass measuring cup for brewing the espresso and lungo, but it was dirty one morning so I checked the cupboard and found my baby mug!  It works perfectly.

That cup has been sitting in various kitchen cupboards for years and now I finally have a use for it.  It makes me so happy!  (I also dumped the granola to use my glass jar to store the pods.)

I haven’t been wearing nail polish for several months because my nails were in such rough shape, but I found this color last weekend and decided to try it out.

It’s Essie’s Bare with Me, and I may have loved it more in the bottle than on my hands, but I’m going to give it a chance.  It’s a very subtle neutral with just enough pink and just enough beige-y tan.  It would probably look really great in a French manicure but I’m not that talented!

Both girls are home now, so we are enjoying some nice family time.  Tonight we gather with Ryan, Amanda, Hayden and the Fisher clan to celebrate Hayden’s birthday.  And that’s the only set plan we have for the whole weekend.  Napping is at the top of my to-do list!  I would also like to watch a couple of holiday movies, maybe White Christmas and The Holiday?  Hope you have a great weekend!

Workin’ It Wednesday: Keeping Sane During the Holidays

I’m linking up with Erica and Shay for another Workin’ It Wednesday.  This time we are talking about how to keep sane during the holidays.  I have to admit, this has been one of the most enjoyable, least stressful holiday seasons I have experienced in a long time.  I’m sure it’s a combination of less stress at work, no kids at home, and being further along in my 50’s and things just not bothering me as much.  And Amazon Prime.  So I’m going to list some things that help me and some things I wish I had known when I had a house full of young kids.

{ONE}  Put together a loose schedule.

Even if you don’t like calendars or planners, it’s really helpful to put together a loose schedule of your bigger events.  Note key dates – school/church programs, parties, etc. so that they don’t sneak up on you.  Also set some target dates for photos with Santa, sending cards, buying gifts, baking, whatever your traditions are (or new ones you want to add).  You will start to see where you have pockets of time and also notice especially busy days.  If possible, maybe you can schedule a day off (or even a couple of hours) to give you more time.  Not only does it break down all of the holiday activities into bite-sized pieces, it will also help you when you get to suggestion number four.  And it will let you know if you have too much on your plate!

{TWO}  Make sure that fabulous Facebook/Pinterest/Blogger idea really fits your family. 

There are so many people posting so many fun activities and traditions that it’s easy to get caught up in it all.  Especially when multiple people post the same thing.  EVERYBODY is doing Elf on a Shelf so I HAVE to do it too!  No, you don’t.  It’s fun to try new things, and find your family’s traditions, but you really only need a few.  So choose carefully based on your personal situation.  Let’s take holiday light tours, for example.  When my oldest kids were little, we loved to look at holiday lights.  But rather than set aside a specific day for an “annual tour of lights”, we made it an event every time we were in the car.  We all kept an eye out and then someone would randomly yell “lights on my side!” or “lights on your side!”.  I still do this with Gary!  Sometimes we would pull into a neighborhood that looked like it had lots of lights and just drive around.  There was no pressure, no scheduling, and no pizza or cocoa stops, but it was still a blast for us.  If your child gets car sick, an evening in the car looking at lights just isn’t going to work for you and THAT’S OK!!  Don’t pressure yourself into doing everything your friends are doing.  Pick things that will be happy memories for your family.

{THREE}  Adapt activities to your current phase of life.

When the girls were in hockey, that took up much of our evening and weekend time.  But they always did a Secret Santa and some sort of party as a team.  So those were the bulk of our holiday activities.  Look at what your commitments already are, and work with that.  Big holiday concert at school?  Then maybe make a special shopping trip for new outfits, gifts for the teachers, a fun mani-pedi date, or a pizza party with a few classmates or families before the concert (this may be when you want to take one of those vacation days).  If you’re going to be singing at this concert, no need to set up a separate caroling party or friend party.  Make this THE big event and fill in with a few smaller things.  And remember, it’s just a phase so stay flexible.

{FOUR}  Plan ahead for what you can let go.

Remember that loose schedule back in number 1?  Think carefully about all of the things you jotted down, and decide in advance which you would be willing to let go if time gets away from you and you just can’t do it all.  You may hit a stretch where nothing seems to be going right, and the kids are crabby, and in the heat of the moment you decide to skip the pictures with Santa.  Are you going to regret that later?  Probably.  Would you be ok with not sending cards this year, or waiting until after New Years?  Maybe.  If you know this, and your card deadline comes and you aren’t ready, let it go.  That way you aren’t adding that stress (we need to send cards! but first we need a picture! but first we need coordinated outfits!) on top of the rest of the activities you are trying to do.  I’m just using cards here as an example of course.  The point is, in the best case scenario you will do all of the things you planned.  Worst case, you will give up things that mean the least to you because you are making a decision outside of the heat of the moment.  This year, that thing for us was outdoor lights.  We try to get our lights up by mid-November while it’s still warm, but we really weren’t feeling it and were sick of outdoor projects, so we let it go.  I don’t really miss it and I’m sure we will put them up again next year.  I also decided what baking I was going to do, and scheduled one day.  What ever didn’t get done that day just wasn’t going to happen unless I found another day I felt like baking.  If that didn’t happen, no more baking.

{FIVE}  Take notes for next year.  Or pictures.

I’m old fashioned and still read paper magazines.  And I’m usually a month or two behind.  So in December and January I’m reading about all of the cool holiday activities that I have already missed.  So I tear out those pages and keep them in a binder to plan for next year.  Social media is much more real time, but you can still see things too late to get tickets or set aside the date.  Put this information in your phone or planner and then set a reminder to pull it out next September so you can plan ahead.  Same goes for decorating.  If you love something you set up this year, take a picture so that you can simply recreate it next year.  This is especially handy if you buy new things after Christmas.  Chances are, by the time the holidays roll around again you won’t remember what you bought or where you had planned to use it.

I love the holidays, but they can be are always stressful.  This year, I’m going to add one new thing to my planning.  I’m going to schedule a massage or pedicure for the first week of January.  It’s a little something to look forward to when the days start to get overwhelming.  I hope you are enjoying all of your holiday activities and aren’t too stressed out.  And if you aren’t joining the link up, please share some of your ideas in the comments!

Weekend Edition: The unexpected trip to St Cloud

Happy Monday!  (This is my new approach to the work week – kill it with optimism!)

This was the best kind of holiday-time weekend.  Relaxing with a fire and twinkle lights, baking, a fun party, and just enough relaxation time.

The weekend started at 11:30 on Friday, and in one of my happiest places.

A blissful two hours later I had a sassy new haircut.

My salon is right next to Kowalski’s (my favorite grocery store BTW), so I popped in for a few baking/appetizer ingredients.  I also found a hostess gift and some specialty candy for my boss.  And a treat for me!

Look at that adorable tiny Mt Dew.  It was only 7.5 ounces so I don’t think it even counted as a non-weekend soda!

And the rosettes were divine!  They had granulated sugar instead of powdered, but they were light and sweet and airy.  I may have eaten one or four before I even got home.

So it’s a good thing it was still early afternoon and light out so I could take Scout for a nice long walk around and in the preserve.

After our walk I plugged in all of the lights, lit a few candles, and started dinner.  While that was cooking I did the dishes and even had time for a little of this.

After dinner we did a little picking up, Gary worked in the bathroom, and then we snuggled in for a Hallmark movie.

I was up early Saturday morning so I quickly cleaned the bathroom and then plugged in the tree and sat in the early morning dark and caught up on my blogs with Pandora playing Christmas music in the background.  I love being up by myself in the quiet morning and watching the sun come up.

We bundled up and took Scout to LEPR for a 17 degree (air temp 4 degrees) hike.

He stayed toasty warm in his new jacket!

I finally had time to make wild rice soup while Gary and Craig worked on the bathroom.

I like to cook up a few extra pieces of bacon to season the pan (and munch on while I make the rest of the soup!).

I ate a bowl and then headed out to do a little Christmas shopping at one of my favorite stores.

I managed to get out of there with just two small things for myself and a few gifts.  When I got back home I had to quickly whip up an appetizer for the ornament party.  I made Mix and Match Mama’s Maple Pecan Sausage Bites.  I left out the pecans and they were very tasty.

We had a big group for the ornament party this year.  Lots of great food and fun!

Sunday was going to be my baking day, but I woke up at 6:00 to a text message from Megan asking me to come get her in St Cloud.  She had come home on Thursday with some friends and then got a ride up to SCSU to surprise Hunter for her birthday.  She had made arrangements with another friend for a ride back to our house on Sunday but that friend got sick.  So, I quickly made my first batch of cookies, and then hit the road at 9:15 to get her.

We were home by about 12:30 so I jumped back in with my next batch.

I cleaned up and was ready for a double batch of spritz.

I had a tough time with the first batch.  They kept burning and I was totally frustrated so I took a little break and then went back for another batch.  These turned out perfectly.

I cleaned up after THAT batch and we took a break to run and get some dinner.  Then it was back for one more batch of sugar cookies.

I used a new recipe from the Lindgren Ladies cookbook and they are amazing!  I just wasn’t up to rolling and cutting this year and with the interruption to my day, I was glad I had planned this easier recipe.

I mustered up the energy to wrap my Secret Santa gift for work, and then poured a glass of wine and poured myself into a chair for an hour of television.

I have another four day week this week, with some Secret Santa fun thrown in.  It’s not actually the traditional Secret Santa, it involves trivia and stealing!  I’ll fill you in once I figure it out.  Hope you are enjoying the holidays, and have a great week!

Friday Favorites:

This is another long-awaited Friday!  I don’t know if it’s the full moon, nearing the end of the year, or just bad luck but these past two weeks have been off the charts.  So many problems, urgent requests, and a general atmosphere of tension mixed with impatience has ratcheted up the stress level.

And I can barely even talk about my commutes.  A water main broke in Oakdale causing a ginormous sink hole in 494, so that’s been closed all week.  Alllllll those cars have been on the side streets, and on top of that, it snowed overnight Sunday.  And someone decided they didn’t need to throw down any chemicals so the roads were glare ice.  It took me two hours to get to work on Monday – it’s usually 25 minutes.  This was my view the entire time.

But today is a half day for me, and then 2 hours of pampering at the salon!  That is definitely going to be my number one favorite of the week, but here are a couple others.

{ONE}  I’m getting better with my Nespresso.

I have made lattes every morning this week, and I think I finally have the right proportions of coffee and milk.  I also bought hazelnut syrup and they have been delicious.

{TWO}  A new cup.

Because the lattes are small (about 8 ozs), I needed a smaller insulated cup.  I found this one at Target, with a built in cork coaster.  It keeps my coffee hot for about four hours.  And it’s pretty!

{THREE}  Sunshine on my desk.

Even though it’s been cold and snowy, I have had patches of sun on my desk off and on through out the day.  I love the sun on my back while I’m working.

{FOUR}  Fresh greenery.

I should have captioned that photo “A Few of My Favorite Things” 🙂  I clipped some of the left-over branches from our Christmas tree and put them in the vase on my desk.  They don’t smell, but they add some nice color.  I’m thinking of sticking a couple of white roses in there next week.

{FIVE} Holiday cookies.

The cafeteria is selling frosted cookies and I am ALL IN!  I love these little ginger bread men, they make the perfect afternoon treat.

I’m looking forward to some fun holiday events this weekend.  Hair cut and color this afternoon, Glaus Girls Ornament Exchange party Saturday night, and a day of cookie baking on Sunday.  Hope you have a great weekend too!

Show & Tell Tuesday: Christmas Decor

I have a confession.  I love blogger house tours.  I love to see how people decorate their homes, even though some are soooooo different from my personal taste.  I always get an idea or two that help me with my own decorating.  So, I’m linking up with Andrea for this Show and Tell Tuesday, which is all about Christmas decor.

I have to take a moment for another confession.  I have zero memories of my Christmas decor from year to year.  I can’t remember where I put things, which lights we put on the tree, whose stocking is whose (I had to write their names inside to keep them straight before we bought new ones with our names on them), or which cookies I baked.  Or if I baked at all.  I just don’t retain that kind of information.  So this little blog, and all of the pictures I take for it, has been a huge help for me!   I can look back and if there was something I really liked, I just recreate it.  But let’s get to this year because I think it’s my favorite in a long time.

I had a little helper with my photos (which were taken on multiple days, both during the day and at night).  Scout says “Welcome!”.

I fill my Red Wing crock with fresh greens from the yard every year.  I move it around to different places, but I think I like it best on the porch.  The reindeer feed sack is several years old.  Sometimes I fill it with greens but I thought I had enough going on this year without.  The lanterns and bells are from last year (the lanterns are from Amanda’s wedding and I enjoy changing out the filler for each season).  The red pail and tree are new this year from Ikea.

I kept the bookshelves minimal and really like that look.  I had hoped to have them painted by now, but no such luck.  Maybe by spring, haha!  It’s impossible to get a good picture of this wall because it is so dark in the living room.  I used a task light which helps a little, but also casts horrible shadows.  The bottom shelves are intentionally left empty to avoid tempting the dog.  I’m also noticing that I need to put the navy rug back because the shelves blend right into the floor.  Hopefully Scout will leave it alone now!

The piano always holds the angels because that just feels right.  This is the only thing I don’t love.  I added the tulle and beads, but it just isn’t what I want there.  I think I need a table runner instead, but most are wider than the top of the piano so that looks funny too.  The church, tiny angel and green tree were all made by Aunt Cile (the windows aren’t broken, they were just brighter).  The stars under the large angel and nativity are from one of my trips to Germany (are they doilies if they aren’t crocheted?).

For the living room seating area I swapped out the pillows and throw, and added the glass cube that I’ve had for years and happens to match perfectly.  A few ornaments in the vase balance out the table.

The family room is my favorite.  I kept the mantel, coffee table, and sofa table simple, and we used almost all of our ornaments on the tree.  The tree is a live eight and a half foot Fraser Fir, and the needles are so soft.  It hasn’t dropped one needle in the week we have had it.

Finally, the addition.  We don’t have much room in here so it’s reserved for Gary’s nativity, which I think looks perfect with the houseplant that was already there, and Aunt Cile’s ceramic tree.  I bought one new pillow this year (the plaid in the center), and the white knit pillows are from the living room couch.  I wish I could say that we have a special coating on our windows but unfortunately, they are that dirty.  It’s been wet and windy lately and I just didn’t have the energy to clean them.

I used to put a few things in the bathroom, but that bathroom is under construction right now.  I also used to hang a pre-lit garland on the banister, but it was in such bad shape we threw it away a couple of years ago.  I try to limit adding new things, and that would be a pretty big thing, so it remains bare.

Right now this is my favorite place to be in the evening, with a mug of cocoa or a glass of wine, watching Hallmark movies.

So that’s our home this year.  We decorate the weekend after Thanksgiving and put it all away the weekend after Christmas.  It may even be sooner this year since I have the week after Christmas off.  By that time the house is due for a thorough cleaning and I’m starting to get nervous about the tree catching on fire.

How about you?  Real tree or artificial?  How soon do you decorate and then take it all down?