Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Family Picture

Just wanted to share this year's family picture. Well, not the one that will be on Christmas cards, I'm not revealing that one yet! But I'll post a few from that day. It was a crazy day, a bit stressful and pretty cold. However, the pictures are treasures. We've taken our own Christmas card picture the last three years, which is a mixed bag of less stress than a real photography session but maybe a little more stressfulin other ways! Okay, here are some pictures. No babies or puppies were injured during this process-unless you count the cold!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

New Traditions

I grew up in a home overflowing with Christmas cheer. My mom decorated with her favorite Santas, played Christmas music as soon as the days grew crisp-well, but not around my dad who wouldn't stand it that early! She dressed up a little on Christmas Day as she served traditional foods on her nice dishes.

Shane and I have carried on some of those traditions and of course have added our own. I'll share a couple of ours to encourage you to see how you add to yours, should you desire to enrich your holidays even more. Of course the bottom line is to savor the holidays, not to feel any pressure to add undo stress to your days.

We'll start with Thanksgiving. Shane and I would  love to host dinner but are still too young I suppose! Shane suggested that next year we plan a special breakfast with our girls before we set off to our parents homes. I hope we remember this next year!

For the last few years, we've had a Cousin's Christmas party. Most of us cousins have lived in the same town growing up so we have a lot of shared memories of our childhood. As adults, we don't spend enough time together, often only seeing each other at Easter and Christmas. Now we have a private party of our own in one of our homes. We focus on fellowship with good finger foods and an spirited ornament exchange game. It's a favorite evening of the season for all of us!

As far as gifts go, we give the girls three gifts each under the tree, just as Jesus was given three gifts. They also get stocking gifts. To keep the girls from shaking and trying to peek, each girl gets a new name for a few weeks. The trick is, they don't know who is who! This year under the tree there are gifts for Sugar Cookie, Pumpkin Pie, Peanut Brittle, Candy Cane, and Ginger Bread. On Christmas morning, each girl will find a slip of paper in her stocking telling her who she is. It's so much fun hearing the girls analyze for weeks about who is who-especially when I don't put much thought into the names-it's pretty random, actually!

Oh, and the girls do get a big gift, but not from Santa. We downplay Santa here, and the big gift is a Daddy Gift. Why does the man in red get all the credit?

Remember to slow down and enjoy your traditions-if they stress you out, consider tweaking them or even replacing them with simpler ones.

Just for fun, here's some pictures from last night's cousin's party (stolen from my sister in law's FB page!-thanks Mary!):

Jaika hamming it up with her BFF 2nd cousin Adri watching on!

Two sisters with their second cousin posing in front of the tree right where my cousins & I posed each year!

Miss Audrey in all her cuteness! 

Aunt Mary and Audrey

Jaika, being cute before she morphs back into the wild child!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

How to Shop at

So, I wrapped up a big chunk of my Christmas shopping yesterday morning before school. I love shopping online, so I'll share tips here so you can dig it, too!

  • Utilize Amazon's lists-for yourself, for wishlists, for Christmas ideas...since you can name them yourself and set them to private or public, they're ideal for any type of list you might need. I don't especially like the usability of them, but they server their purpose. (I don't like it that I made up a gift idea list for Christmas and had to go through 4 clicks to return back to the list after moving each item to my cart, but obviously, I got over it.)
  • Throughout the year, add ideas to your lists. I always think I'll remember the latest DS game or DVD the girls ask for, but by the time Christmas rolls around, they're gone. With my Amazon list, I don't have to remember!
  • When you have an idea of what you want, often Amazon will offer it or similar items from various vendors. If you use an outside vendor, shipping can really add up. I always search for items "fulfilled" by Amazon. 
  • To qualify for super saver shipping (free shipping) save up your purchases until you have $25 or more. It doesn't make sense to budget $15 a month on a new book, only to spend $7 shipping & handling when you could have had two new books for $25. 
  • You can buy used on Amazon, but these will be from outside vendors, so make sure your shipping costs don't eat up your sacrifice of buying used.
  • On the other hand, don't be afraid of buying used from Amazon. I've ordered several things used and from outside vendors and never had a problem.
  • Double and triple check the prices. Apparently Amazon doens't shell out much money for proofers. You can see identical items in different departments priced differently. I've also seen typos with items that should cost $29.99 listed as $929.99.
  • Go over your final order carefully. Yesterday there was an error somewhere that charged me $4 in shipping when it was listed as free (from an outside vendor-the only reason I went with them was because I saw "free shipping"). I didn't want to fight a $4 error after I'd already hit "submit order" but I would have reconsidered that purchase had I been more careful during the confirmation stage.
  • Read the comments previous purchasers leave. I think this is the most helpful thing about online shopping. In Wal-Mart you can touch it and feel it but can you know that most people who bought it before you returned it?
Regardless of how you obtain your treasures, enjoy the blessing of buying for others (or yourself!), especially during this season of giving!