Tag Archives: Traditions

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: BFMA

The Christmas festivities are in full swing! This was a fun weekend of holiday events and special time with family and friends.


The beautiful sunrises continue in December, and this was the view from my desk Friday morning.

Well, this was the full view, pardon my weird pose.  I wish those buildings weren’t in the way.

I survived the day by the skin of my teeth, picked up dinner on my way home, and relaxed for the evening.

Saturday morning brought some cleaning and electrical work in the bathroom, followed by a fantastic hike with Gary and Scout.  After that we ran a couple of errands, picked up lunch, and I got ready for a trip down to St Peter for the Christmas in Christ Chapel concert.

This year’s theme was Life Abundant – A Celebration of Christmas during the 500th year of the Reformation.  I loved hearing the orchestra perform Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring and of course, Oh Come All Ye Faithful.  That just never gets old (I will probably listen to it on YouTube a dozen more times before Christmas).  It was as fabulous as ever and we enjoyed every minute!

This was a full moon weekend with clear skies and a decent temperature so naturally Kathy and I had to make plans.  We decided to meet at the secret entrance to LEPR and do a moonlight hike.  I ended up meeting at her house so I could change, and we got to the park at about 11:30.  The moon was so bright we didn’t even need our headlamps.

We joked that this was the best possible picture because we could look down without having multiple chins.  We wandered around for about an hour, drank some fancy hot chocolate (that may have been enhanced with Baileys) and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

Kathy and I are total moon geeks.  It started long before we met each other and is just one more thing that bonds us.  One of my favorite pre-Kathy memories is the night I put a mattress on our back deck and slept outside under the full moon with Amanda and Zach.  Kathy maintains a text group to which she sends BFMA (Big Full Moon Alert) messages because she tends to be out and about at the time the moon rises.  There have been many times the girls and I have jumped into the car barefoot and in our pajamas to see it!  We also get meteor shower notifications, and are on an actual call list for Northern Lights, should they ever show themselves in our neck of the woods.

As you can imagine, being out past 1:00 a.m. threw me off a little on Sunday, but I got in a Target run and a grocery run before lunch, then enjoyed a solid hour long nap in the afternoon.  I cooked the rice for wild rice soup (didn’t have all of the soup ingredients, again), prepped snacks for Gary and I for the week, did several loads of laundry, and updated my planner for the week.

It was a lovely weekend and now it’s back to the grind.  I hope this week is a little less stressful at work than last week.  I’m doing a mini Christmas house tour tomorrow on the blog, and preparing for the ornament exchange party and cookie baking this weekend.  I’m also looking forward to a haircut and color on Friday – long overdue!  Hope you have a great week!

Weekend Edition:

It has been a crazy week and weekend.  Megan is all moved in and we are enjoying our final few days with Amy here.  I will try to recap the past week without making this a novel.

I did my best making Megan’s favorite foods before she left, including our family favorite – cherry coffee cake.

On Tuesday, we took a drive down our road to check out the progress.  In addition to the new curbs and asphalt, we found this guy.

This was my view as I left for work Thursday morning.  I took it as a sign to take a deep breath and stay calm as I approached our big moving day on Friday.

Our journey to Iowa started out with a bang.  Literally.  Gary backed his loaded car right into the side of my car in the driveway.  All I can say is both Megan and I were thanking our lucky stars that we weren’t the one who did it.  Good thing we have connections.

We grabbed some breakfast…

…and hit some pretty dense fog just south of Burnsville.

Gary made really good time and we pulled in right at 10:00.  It’s crazy from the moment you park, so here is a collection of pictures of Megan’s dorm and roommate.  The building is full of character, but I didn’t really capture much of that.

We hauled everything in, set her up, ran to Chick Fil A for lunch, picked up a few things at Target, stopped into the student union to check on paperwork for her job, and tried to find the Human Resources office which was closing right as we walked in.  A woman stopped to help us and she turned out to be the head of campus security.  She is now my favorite person at the college.

We brought Megan back to her dorm and said our goodbye’s.  I wasn’t nearly as sad as I thought I would be.  I was more excited, like when I dropped Amanda off.  I’m sure it will hit me at some point, but right now, we are all stable 😉

We had just gotten on Interstate 35 when we were forced to exit because of a multi car accident.  There wasn’t a posted detour, and half of the cars were going each direction, so I followed my instinct and found a county road that took us a few miles north to where we could get back on the freeway.  We made good time coming home and pulled into the driveway right at 8:00 p.m.

We picked Scout up from the vet Saturday morning, I ran to get paint, and Gary and I spent most of the day painting the garage and side of the house.

Scout has to wear a cone so we are trying to keep him quiet.  Ha!

He can’t be off leash at all, so we are taking lots of walks.  Saturday night Amy and I met several of my friends to go watch the Perseid meteor shower.  This is an annual event where we drive out to some open land near Stillwater and throw some blankets on the ground and hope for the best.  This year it was fantastic!  We saw so many shooting stars, there were no bugs, and the moon rose big and orange.  I tried to capture it below.

I know, I’m expecting National Geographic to call me tomorrow to offer me a job.

Sunday was typical with grocery shopping, laundry, and food prep.  We have lots of goodies for the week!

So now I’m going to share the state of my home, just to keep things real.  Megan is gone, and Amy leaves Wednesday morning.  We have started painting the exterior of the house and updating the spa room and downstairs bedroom.  We are also planning updates to both girl’s bedrooms and their bathroom before we start demoing our bathroom.  This is how everything looks now.

Basement hall and bedroom…

… living room and family room…

… and Megan’s bedroom.  Just imagine Amy’s bedroom and the bathroom in a similar state.

Yikes!  So I don’t think we will be sitting around twiddling our thumbs.  Our plan is to work on the exterior painting on dry days, and start painting the new fitness room on wet days.  We will start cleaning out Amy’s room in the evenings after she leaves, then move on to Megan’s room.  Gary is also painting that dresser you see half taken apart in Megan’s room.  And I know, it’s an antique, but it’s one I purchased not one that was in the family so I’m taking a chance on it.

Megan is doing well, but seems tired.  It’s Rush Week so they are busy from early morning into the evening.  She has her top 5 or 6 sororities, and claims that if she isn’t offered an invitation to one of them, she will just skip it.  She and her roommate are getting along well, and she has made friends with two girls from California who are also in the Interior Design program and her Learning Community.

So now we start to figure out our new normal.  Hope you have a great week!

Weekend Edition: Ladies Weekend 2017

The hectic pace continues this week, but I have to get this post up before I forget everything we did!

We had another fabulous Ladies Weekend this year.  The destination was Taylors Falls/St Croix Falls, and the group consisted of Aunt Marion, Lynn, Barb, Mikkie, Missy, Amanda (for Friday evening), Amy and me.  Absent this year were, Nicole, Rachel, Patty, Annie, Chris, and Jaimee.

We met at the Holiday Inn Express in St Croix Falls, and then drove over to the Frost Top Drive-In in Taylors Falls for dinner.  It was a beautiful evening and we sat at a table in back overlooking the mini-golf course.  This has definitely been added to my summer to-do list.  But let me back up a minute to describe my evening prior to arriving at this little oasis.

I left work a little early because I hadn’t packed yet and we were planning to meet at 6:30.  I got home to discover that Gary was in the process of moving the washer and dryer from the basement to the garage.  He, Amy and Megan had managed to get the dryer out, but the washer was much heavier and needed an extra person.  He strapped it to the two-wheeler with bungee cords and away we went.  One terrifying step at a time.  There was dirt and cobwebs and water leaking out but the four of us managed to hoist it up those stairs without serious injury.  Note to self…make sure delivery is available before purchasing appliances.  After that I packed my bag and was ready to go but Amy wanted to share a new television series she has started watching.  We sat down and watched the trailer and a few key scenes, and then she and I headed out.  But first we had to stop in Lake Elmo for gas.  We were finally on the road and were only about 15 minutes late.  Fast forward to the lovely drive-in restaurant.

Mikkie and Missy joined us just as we got our food and we had a very nice picnic dinner of hamburgers, fries, onion rings, cheese curds, sweet potato fries, deep fried pickles, root beer, shakes and freezes.  Very yummy!

We needed to walk off some of that food so we drove over to look at the glacial potholes in the state park.  We took a quick walk under the bridge to look at the rapids and I played around with my slo-mo app.

We noticed a huge flock of birds circling above the hills.  Not sure what they were or what they were doing.

Then we walked around the potholes and down to the river.

Amanda headed back home and the rest of us went back to the hotel and called it a night.

The next morning dawned hot and windy.  Really hot and really windy.  Our first stop was the Luhrs/Bjornson Artworks.  I didn’t take any pictures, and they don’t have a website, but this is from an article published in the St Paul Pioneer Press in 2014:

Leif Bjornson and Meg Luhrs opened their art gallery Luhrs/Bjornson Artworks in an old granary their renovated in St. Croix Falls in the 1980s. Bjornson creates pottery while Luhrs paints.

It was such a great stop and we learned so much about the couple.  They were both in the shop and shared numerous stories about their work and the building.  We spent over an hour and I could have stayed several more.  I bought a small plate with an hydrangea-like pattern carved in the bottom.  You rub a raw clove of garlic over the sharp pattern to mince it and then pour oil over it for dipping bread.

Next up was the Chateau St Croix Winery and Vinyard.

We did a wine tasting accompanied by a cheese, meat and cracker plate.  They had several good wines and we all left with a bottle or two.  Then we hustled back through St Croix Falls and over to the Taylors Falls Scenic Boat Tours for our 1:00 boat ride.

Mikkie wasn’t sure she could do the boat ride because of ear issues, but she went for it and it wasn’t a problem for her at all.  We sat up top and enjoyed the beautiful scenery.  And the heat.  It was very, very hot.

More fun with the slo-mo app.

After the boat ride we split up again.  Amy and I went back home to get Gary for a couple of grad parties and the rest went back to the hotel to rest and cool down.  They later had dinner at the Dalles House supper club, and there were excellent reviews about the popovers, meals, and desserts.

We met back at the hotel around 7:30 or so, and hung out in our room visiting for a couple of hours.  Everyone headed back to their own room so Amy and I went down to the fitness room where she worked out for awhile, and then grabbed a bag of microwave popcorn and watched Say Yes To The Dress.  It was a long but very fun day!

We met for breakfast the next morning and saw that some heavy storms were rolling into the cities.  We packed up and headed out knowing we were going to drive right through them.  It was not a very fun time.

My biggest concern was the leading straight line winds, and they socked us good.  I finally had to pull over for a few minutes next to a stand of trees for a little protection.  We continued on for a few minutes and then joined a whole line of cars that were pulled over.  There was a tiny bit of hail at this point, but I needed to catch my breath so we waited a little bit until the group moved out together and then noticed the piles of hail on the side of the road.  I’m guessing that was why they were all pulled over and we had just missed it by those few minutes we had stopped earlier.  I’m calling it divine intervention.  The rest of the ride was uneventful.

The rest of the day was a bit of a blur.  Laundry was done in our brand new machines, we went grocery shopping and then prepped all of the fruit and veggies for snacks for the week.  We napped for about 90 minutes.  We gave Scout a bath, unpacked, and did other random Sunday stuff while it rained off and on.

This is always one of my favorite weekends of the year.  So much laughing and catching up and getting to know a little bit more about each other and our history.  I’m already looking forward to next year!  Except it’s my year to plan so the pressure is on.  I’m thinking I may just throw a dart to pick the location 😉

Favorite Christmas Movies and Music

Hallmark is really knocking it out of the park this year!  Two channels, close to 20 new movies, and more notable actors.  This is what we do at night now because if we sit still, Scout may sit still and even snooze for a bit.  We just don’t actually see an entire movie, so I guess these will all still be new for me next year too.

Besides the Hallmark fluff, my favorite holiday movies include White Christmas, Christmas Vacation, and the Holiday.  I saw Love Actually last year and need to see it again before I can declare it a favorite, but I really liked it.  And I have only seen Elf once too, so not a favorite yet, but I would like to see it again.

Maybe next year I can curl up with a calmer Scout (or Gary), a glass of wine, a fire, and put in some serious Christmas movie time.  There has been no wine this year (I just can’t relax long enough to enjoy a glass), and no fires yet (scheduling a chimney cleaning soon).

Here’s a link to some of my favorite holiday music.

And if you haven’t seen this yet, you really should.  It’s not a traditional Christmas song but it’s on their new Christmas album.  I really wish I would have seen them when they were in St. Paul last month.

And because I made such a big deal about it, here is the promotional video for Christmas in Christ Chapel.  You can’t hear the actual songs, but you get an idea of the theme.  I’m keeping my eye out for a replay of the live stream.  And yes, those are the candles from The First Nowell.

Please let me know if there are others I should add!

Merry Christmas!