Category Archives: Christmas

Christmas House Pics + Rambling

This year, I surprised myself by getting almost all of my Christmas decorations up before December 1. That has to be some kind of record for me. Not actually posting about it until the week of Christmas? Yeah, that’s more like it.

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For the past two years, I really feel like we’ve nailed this whole celebrating Christmas thing (in its most frivolous form, anyway). We’ve started early and taken our time, listening to oodles of carols, making cookies at least once a week, decorating gingerbread houses with friends, trolling the local neighborhoods for the best lights with hot chocolate in hand, even getting our craft on (still have a little PTSD after making 9 {!!!} handmade dolls last year).

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But this year has been a whirlwind. And I can’t even pinpoint why. Truly. I keep looking back over the last 3 weeks trying to locate the source of the time-warp it feels like we’ve all fallen into…without any success. We’ve done a lot of the things that I mentioned, but it still doesn’t feel like we should be anywhere close to Christmas day.

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Of course I know (and fully endorse) that Christmas has absolutely nothing to do with how much sugar you consume or how many times you watch It’s a Wonderful Life (we haven’t managed it yet this year). But I still love the slower pace the season seems to bring (especially considering that we don’t attend many parties or brave the shopping crowds practically ever; oh, how I love thee, Amazon Prime).

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And so, I find myself clinging to every last moment of this week, cherishing each moment of family togetherness (I’m currently sitting on the couch, weathering #babynumber7′s knees and elbows to the ribs as I watch Evy, Nola, and Theo wallow all over Shaun on the other couch and feeling very contented).

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I’m not even that desperate yet for this baby to come out.

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{Please tell me that you are shaking your head at the travesty that is my smudgy mirror. I snapped these shots with the last remnants of light on an already cloudy day and decided I didn’t have time to spare for cleaning it first; I would love to say it’s clean now, but…it’s not}

Which…is interesting because, two years ago, when I was pregnant with Theo, I had to force myself to strike a balance between enjoying the moment and wishing they would all just speed along a little more so I could meet my baby boy (and, let’s be real, not be pregnant anymore).

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Maybe it’s just that he was due two weeks earlier, and I was already “overdue” on December 20th (by two days), instead of “only” 38 weeks, but I just haven’t been as worried about when this little guy will show up.

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Partly, that’s due (hmmm…bad choice of words) to the fact that I’ve had considerably fewer Braxton Hicks “scares” this time around. If I remember correctly (no guarantees of that), I’d already had 3 rounds of, “Holy cow, this kid is coming. What the what??!” plus almost constant contracting that I just ignored as a general bad habit of my over-active (teasingly so) uterus by this point with Theo.

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This time, I’ve only had one incident of: “Um…what is going on?” at 36ish weeks, while Shaun and I were enjoying a fancy 7 course dinner we got to attend because Paint and Prose sponsored the paper goods for the event (that was fun and yummy). And I definitely wasn’t ready for him to make his entrance before the two-toned chocolate mousse came (not to mention more serious concerns about having a baby so early), so I was happy when that round of weird contractions quit after an hour and 1/2.

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ANYhoo, suffice it to say that, this time, I’ll be happy to enjoy Christmas day with a big ol’ belly to rest my plate of pie on. Once New Year’s rolls around, though…I bet you’ll hear me singing a different tune. Strangely, the chiller I feel about this kid coming in his own time, the more I almost *worry* that he’ll show up early and catch me unawares. Because my birth kit’s not ordered yet, and I have no clue where the bassinet is.

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Obviously, not THAT worried.

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{Kind of in love with my rosemary Christmas mini tree with sparkly lights + a pretty gold pot from ProFlowers; it makes the whole kitchen smell delicious}

In any case, regardless of when this little dude decides to make his entrance, I’m grateful for this last week of Advent to focus on the wonder of Christ’s birth, to read more books with the twins, to enjoy more snuggles with Theo (we have a joke that whoever gets the privilege of receiving a Theo snuggle–because he is just cuddliest little bundle of chubby, firm little toddler limbs and soft skin–is “winning”), and to finally get a craft or two made with the big kids.

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I think we may attempt snow globes as gifts for the cousins.

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{The stockings were hung from the stair rail with, um, thumb tacks; there’s a reason they don’t write Christmas poems about houses like ours}

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{See? The light was officially GONE!}

I’ll let you know how that goes. I expect there might be a glitter explosion and a hot glue burn or three, but at least we can say that we tried.

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{Nothing says Christmas like a giant cow skull festooned with fake poinsettias and ornaments}

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{A “toolbox” full of ornaments for the breakfast nook, and…done!}

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{Because I know you were just dying for a collage recap}

So, what about you guys? Anything you’re trying to squeeze in before Sunday? Did this month fly by for you too?

If I’m not back before Sunday, here’s wishing you a week full of peace, joy, and the love of Jesus, the Savior of the world!

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A Christmas House Tour

I’m chuckling to myself a bit as I type this, knowing full well that, 3 measly days before Christmas, y’all have way better things to do than check out pictures of my house all gussied up for the holidays. But you know what? Were it not for the motivation of doing this post, I probably wouldn’t have “finished” (such a slippery word when there are entire rooms which are a) untouched by Christmas decor and b) in need of some serious attention) decorating or cleaning or taking pictures to document it.

So, yeah. Thanks for the motivation. Even if you are thinking, “Yeah, yeah, Abbie. Get to the point. I have gifts to wrap!”

I think, if I’m remembering correctly, that you will be seeing some new angles of my house. Well, not new so much (maybe? can’t remember for sure) as rare since I usually only shoot one room at a time, and I usually stick to that room only so as to avoid including the chaos that is quite likely just outside the camera’s reach (think: baby eating lunch in a high chair, twins scattering toys about, half-opened drawers, a sink full of dishes, etc.).

The kids and I worked really hard to clean up the WHOLE downstairs minus our all-purpose catchall room (which we call the “dining room” but is really a glorified mudroom since it’s directly off the garage, and we never, ever eat in there), the bathroom, and the guest room where Nola was napping.

I issue all of these disclaimers because I know that, were I to see this much of the house of a woman with six kids looking this put together and clean, I would probably want to put my head through a wall, beat my chest, and cry out, “Woe is me! I am a hopeless basket case!”

Maybe that’s just me. But no. I know it’s not. Because you’ve told me it’s not.

So! Take courage, dear heart (I love Aslan). Not only is my house never ACTUALLY this clean (for more than 30 minutes at time), but as I was sweeping the kitchen one last time, I realized that if I didn’t start snapping pictures, I would lose my light, so I just swept the rest of the junk around the corner of the island out of sight and called it good until I finished shooting pics.

HA! And now you know the truth, and hopefully the truth will set you free from any twinges of unwarranted mama guilt or yucky comparison.

ON with the pictures!

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I really couldn’t bring myself to do anything too crazy with the Christmas decor (I never do), so I mostly put out a few doodads plus some pillows and called it good.

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As far as the above shot goes, the snowflake pillow is from Target (after Christmas last year on major sale), the joy sign is from Marshall’s (I painted the board and attached it to it), the greenery on the shelf is from Michael’s (and the heart shaped baskets are a several years old purchase from Marshall’s that will have to pried from my cold dead fingers one day), and the “Joyeux” and “Noel” pillows (see first pic) are really just pieces of burlap fabric that I hand-lettered with a Sharpie pen and then pinned on top of two other throw pillows (here’s hoping my kids stay away!).

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The glitter star garland is from Marshall’s this year, the burlap cone + Christmas tree are from the Target Dollar Spot, and the sparkly silver wreath is from Hancock Fabrics. The red wreath over the windows is actually a fall wreath on sale at Pier 1, and I added the sparkly ribbon (on clearance at Hancock Fabrics) and the Dollar Store white poinsettias to Christmas it up a bit. The word tree at the bottom of the shot is from Hancock Fabrics too (I love their Christmas decor…especially when it’s 70% off!).

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Here’s a better shot of the word tree. I get frustrated with the commercialization of Christmas and how generic the decor has become, so I love, love, love that each of the words on this little tree are so meaningful and full of truth.

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The “Joy” sign over there on the left on the wall is from Ross.

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Turning around to the other side of the room…

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I loved getting to use prints from Paint and Prose for the wall. I included our Joy to the World, The Lord is Come, Noel, and Give me Jesus prints to stick with a (mostly) black and white color scheme since there are already so many other pops of color in the room.

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The Christmas tree stocking holders on the little white shelf on the left are from Goodwill, and I painted the color-blocked tree art above the tv one afternoon when I should have been doing laundry.

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These adorable ornaments came from a chopped up tree limb and were hand-painted by my sweet friend, Jenny.

Traveling even further across the room, we have this little bench + toy bin nook.

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I scored that HUGE vintage globe at a roadside flea market and love the pop of whimsy it adds in that corner. Throw in a $3 “Joy” pillow from Target, and I was happy to leave well enough alone.

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This is one of those shots that you don’t normally get of my house (especially since I was standing outside our French doors on our patio when I took it. It’s also proof that I didn’t manage to sweep all of the crumbs off of the living room floor either.

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I made that duct tape flower “joy” wreath years ago–I think the first year I was blogging? And I pull it out every year and find some spot or another (usually the tree) for it. This year, it prettied up a Big Lots fake wreath, along with some more hand-painted ornaments from Jenny. I honestly can’t believe it’s hung (ha. ha) in there for so long. Duct tape. Who knew?

Continuing down the hallway into the entryway…

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All of you furniture purists will rejoice that I have not gotten around to painting my piano yet. It’s not because I’ve changed my mind, though. Just haven’t found the time.christmas29

These spray-painted branches are another Christmas staple that I’ve incorporated into my decor in some way, shape, or form every year for about 4 years now. I love the way the colors in the ornaments play off of my twin Kim Parker paintings (same painting twice; just hung in different directions).

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Oh, and since we’re getting dangerously close to the cluttered “catchall” room, let’s turn around and head back to the entrance, where this is first thing you would see as you walk in my door.

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More carry-overs from years gone by. I made the snowflake garland a few Christmases back, and the “Thrill of Hope” burlap is from last year.

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Heading back around the corner…

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This has nothing to do with Christmas, but can I just tell you how stoked I was to score this Chiang Mai Dragon pillow for a measly $20ish (can’t remember exactly) on a Facebook Swap ‘n Shop? Pillows just like this sell for a minimum of $50 on Ebay and Etsy!

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This is one of my favorite little shelves to style. I keep it on a pretty much constant rotation of my favorite Paint and Prose prints plus those pretty Puffin in Bloom books plus an Anthro plate. christmas21

Even the kitchen got a couple of festive touches.

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(The deer head pillow is from Altar’d State, and the wood star tree is from Marshall’s, as are the gold polka dot pillows, but they’re old).

Probably my favorite is this adorable apron that I bought at Marshall’s for my sister-in-law.

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Of course, now that I’ve seen how cute it is hanging in my kitchen, I don’t want to give it away. Hmm. Christmas greed. It’s a thing, y’all. Even though it shouldn’t be.

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I kind of love this happy, crazy corner in my kitchen. I didn’t style these shelves anymore than they already were or doing anything other than take Steve the Scale and nestle him in between the two best “entries” from a gingerbread house making night with friends. Oh! and I crafted that super-simple little “Christ is Born” garland from a set of note cards that just screamed Christmas to me.

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Continuing into the breakfast nook…

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I kept things super-simple in here with a red table runner (from Marshall’s) and a–uhhh, what would you call that thing?–full of ornaments.

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Throw in a little faux greenery + pine cones from Michael’s and some water glass stains (this table is hardly precious to us, can you tell?), and it was as festive as it was going to get!

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And again with the crazy unstyled shelves. As far as I’m concerned, if you have a profusion of pretty things, styling is kind of superfluous since floral china–for example–will look fetching no matter what!

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Aaaaand there you have it, folks!

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Waaaaaay too many pictures of a colorful, not terribly traditional, but still very “us” Christmas house tour.

P.S. In case you’re wondering, our tree is up in the “big room,” which is where we gather on Christmas morning since it gives us so much more room to move and play.

I’m signing off for the week, but I wish you the very merriest of Christmases.

May the truth of Jesus’ birth fill your hearts and minds with hope, peace, and joy this blessed season!

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A Painted Scale

I don’t do much with scales that weigh humans these days, having sworn off weighing myself (except for progress purposes if I do a cleanse or some other sort of challenge) a long time ago.

But scales of the cute kitchen variety? Total sucker for those guys.

Which is why I couldn’t leave well enough alone with this plain silver one we have.

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There’s honestly not a thing in the world wrong with him. But I have nothing else in my kitchen this particular shade of shiny silver chrome, so he kind of stuck out like a sore thumb, which resulted in his being exiled to the pantry.

But then! I got the brilliant (aka: super common and totally unoriginal) idea to paint Steve (the Scale; he needed a name).

And so I rummaged through my spray paint stash, found a shade I liked, and taped off Steve’s face (because nobody enjoys a blast of spray paint to the face…I hope).

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I would love to say that I just went to town on him and was done in about 15 minutes flat…which…is mostly true. But there was something janky about the that particular spray paint can’s nozzle, and I ended up with blue paint splattered everywhere. Still. No more than 25 minutes later, I had managed to coat my hands AND Steve in a respectable amount of somewhat evenly applied paint, and he was ready take his place center stage in the kitchen.

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Literally.

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Now, OBVIOUSLY, this is a staged picture. We use our kitchen island for everything from eating 3 meals a day (plus about 40 snacks–I’m looking at you, twins) to crafting to school and just about everything in between. A scale–even (especially?) one as newly cute as Steve–would never survive the daily carnage.

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But I have a great spot all picked out for him, assuming that he hasn’t gotten too impressed with himself from his brief sojourn as the carrier of the sparkly Christmas ornaments to be moved to a lowly shelf.

ANYhoo, I’m plenty happy with Steve’s transformation, but if I were going for the perfect kitchen scale, I would be all over these bad boys.

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1 / 2 / 3 / 4

Do you guys have a thing for scales too? Any links for me? Don’t tell Steve, but I’m kind of on the lookout for the perfect teal scale, but I haven’t had any luck yet.

P.S. Lord WILLING, I’ll have a mini Christmas house tour for you on Monday before signing off to slip into a shortbread cookie induced coma for about a week or so.

P.P.S. In case you’re dying to know, the wooden star tree + table runner are from Marshall’s, the greenery is from Michael’s, and the colorful ornaments were a melted crayon + glass ornament craft that the kids and I did.

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Mary, did you know?

I never wanted a Christmas baby. Mostly because I love birthdays and celebrating them, and I didn’t love the concept of one of my children’s birthdays being swallowed whole every year by the hustle and manic rush of our country’s most cherished, most overblown holiday.

And yet, here I find myself, 40 weeks pregnant, not-so-patiently awaiting the arrival of a baby boy, not unlike a certain Jewish girl 2,000 years ago. (Although, yes I realize that Jesus wasn’t actually born in December).

I’ve never given Mary too much thought. I mean, after all, she was just the vessel. Just the container for the miracle that was God incarnate. Nothing special, really.

The thing is, it’s easy to dismiss Mary as ordinary until you read the Magnificat. I mean, historians estimate that Mary was somewhere between thirteen and fifteen-years-old when she received the news of her impending pregnancy.

So that’s…young.

If an angel of the Lord had appeared to my 14-year-old self and proclaimed that I would be supernaturally impregnated with the Savior of the world, I’m pretty sure my reaction would have been as follows:

1) pass out

2) wake up, remember what the angel said, and burst into tears

3) curl up in the fetal position and suck my thumb

And yet, Mary, a simple, uneducated teenager had this to say (among other things):

“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for He has looked on the humble estate of his servant…he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.”

Not only is her eloquence surprising but her poise is just astounding.

Was she scared? I have no doubt. Worried? Um, yes. Aware of the repercussions of a virgin pregnancy that no one would believe? I’m sure.

And yet, she chose to praise.

Which is very different from the response I had yesterday as I was lettering the words, “A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices,” on a piece of burlap with a black Sharpie, feeling all of the weariness and none of the rejoicing.

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My body has been trying to go into labor for over a week now. At first, I was cautiously hopeful. After 5 babies, I am on a little too friendly of terms with my old friend, the Braxton Hicks contraction. But these were different. And if they could just establish a pattern and kick in, darn it, we could get this baby out.

9 days of (sometimes painful, always distracting) contractions later, and I’m no longer hopeful. In fact, I’m downright jaded. And annoyed. Maybe even a little persecuted feeling.

But as I was having yet another hormonal episode (right in the middle of touching up the word, “rejoice,” ironically enough), I thought about Mary.

Mary, who was forced to ride aback a bony donkey for days, hugely pregnant, with no hope of a bath or anything resembling a decent bed.

Mary, who, even when she did finally arrive at the closest thing to the prospect of a bath and a decent bed, was rejected out of hand with the terse declaration of, “No room.”

Mary, who suffered through contraction after contraction, crouched in the filthy hay, surrounded by lowing, braying, baaing creatures. No midwife. No dresser full of tiny, clean little clothes she didn’t have to sew herself. No freezer full of meals just waiting to be thawed in a magical contraption called a microwave.

Y’ALL.

My tailbone is getting sore just sitting here on my comfortable couch as I type this. If you asked me to get on a donkey, much less ride him for longer than 2 minutes, I might drop-kick you across the room.

Can you imagine her discomfort, her uncertainty, her worry that she might somehow manage to completely bungle this whole being-the-mother-of-God assignment? I can’t, and I’m feeling considerably more empathetic with her than I ever have before.

You know that song, Mary Did You Know? It posits all kinds of questions about whether Mary fully understood the impact that the tiny baby in her womb would have on the world. For eternity. I have to think that she didn’t. Couldn’t.

And yet, Mary did understand this: God is God. Period. And not only that. But he is Good. And that was enough for her.

May it also be enough for me (and you) this Christmas season.

Today, I am asking the Savior of the world to remind me, in “my humble estate,” to “magnify the Lord.”

Regardless of when these contractions finally decide to stop teasing and start torturing me to the point of delivery. Regardless of how much I don’t want to tackle another mound of dirty dishes. Regardless of how fed up I am with getting screamed at by teething toddlers.

Merry Christmas, friends. May a joy that has nothing to do with your circumstances and a peace that passes all understanding fill your hearts and minds this blessed season.

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The Ultimate Amazon Gift Guide for Women {$20-40}

Hey guys, and HAPPY FRIDAY! (Can you tell I have a date night lined up with my husband tonight?)

So…from what I’ve been able to see on Amazon, this year’s gift guides (see the first here and the second here) are really hitting the spot! You guys are getting lots of great deals without ever having to leave your house, which makes me really happy! It’s like we got to go shopping together, even though we’ll probably never meet. :)

I’m back today with our last (and priciest) gift guide today. But even with everything starting at $20, I still think there are some pretty fun/great scores here (and most are below $30) that would be worth a “splurge” if you know of someone would love them as much as I would!

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1.

I know that not everyone shares my love of color, but I think both of these floral quilted throw options are just gorgeous and amazing prices for the quality (based on the rave reviews) and style (which could easily be found at Anthropologie or another boutique-style store).

2.

I’m completely in love with this blue crate (there are other color options and sizes too). And for $25 (shipped free with Prime or a qualifying order of $35+), it’s about as good a price as you could expect for its size/style/good reviews.

If y’all are fans of Fixer Upper, and I know from this post I wrote about it that you ARE, then you know that Joanna Gaines would fill this crate with a fresh batch of brightly colored Crayons and use it as a multitasking table centerpiece.

I can see its being used as a caddy for craft supplies or silverware or baking/coffee supplies or…can you tell I like it?

3.

I’m a fan of carryall totes, especially in fun, bright prints that can wipe clean, and this Fossil option (there’s one other pattern if you don’t love this one) is a great price. I’m not a designer bag girl at all, but I do love the quality and style that you get from Fossil, which is one of the few brands that I consistently buy when I can find a great deal.

4.

I realize that buying shoes for someone else is a risky venture (so, maybe this is just for you…shhhhh…I won’t tell if you won’t).

But I’m including these because a) I have a very similar pair that I wear A TON and which always get compliments and b) because these have amazing reviews (over 600 of them!) for style and comfort and come in a vast array of colors. Plus, they’re a fraction of the price for the TOMS desert wedge booties that they’re mimicking (it depends on the size/color comb, but many are below $30), and most of the reviews said they couldn’t tell the difference.

I’m finding myself sorely tempted by the black linen with rattan wedges, but I’m exercising self-restraint (barely). :)

P.S. Don’t be scared off by the funky red ones in the pic or the price. That’s just the one that shows up by default. There are lots of more neutral options (or even an allover cheetah print if you want to go completely–ahem–wild).

5.

I confess that I stole this cookbook from Mandy’s list (be sure to check it out; she’s got great, affordable picks for the whole family). It’s been on my mind to buy for myself/others for forever, but I just haven’t gotten around to it yet.

The Forest Feast is universally hailed as absolutely gorgeous, not to mention super-simple to follow, with delicious recipes.

6.

If you know someone who loves ho-cho as much as I do, then this milk frother would be an ideal gift. And if you have a coffee-lover in your life (which, I realize, is most of the world, even though I’m a weirdo), well even better! (Since frothed milk is pretty much the thing that makes lattes everybody’s fave).

It has amazing reviews as a great bargain for how well it works (more expensive models run upwards of 3-4X its price).

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Speaking of coffee, this thermal mug would be a super-fun and practical gift for the caffeine addict on your list.

8.

I love PiP studio products. They’re bright, fun, cheery, beautiful, great quality. In a word: perfection. And, thanks to my super-sweet husband’s gifting me pieces of PiP china for special occasions over the past two years, I have a decent collection (you can see most of it in this post).

I can’t wait to have tea parties with my girls!

I don’t have this tiered cake plate, but it looks just as pretty as the rest of their offerings (and a smidge cheaper than usual) and would make a fabulous gift for a lover of beautiful serving-ware.

9.

If you love James Avery (or know someone who does) but don’t love the price points, then this sterling silver floral filigree option just might be the perfect ring for you/your loved one.

Great reviews!

10.

Likewise this sterling silver Jeremiah 29:11 ring, which would be a great unisex gift and gets good reviews as well!

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And while we’re on the subject of beautiful jewelry, check out this “I love you to the moon and back” sterling silver cuff bracelet.

Fabulous reviews and just so pretty and whimsical.

12.

Okay, I’m not gonna lie: the reviews on this cake plate are a bit mixed. It sounds like it’s not the highest quality (although no one disputes its beauty), but if you didn’t have a super heavy duty use for it, it might be worth the gamble. Because it is just cute as heck!

13.

This book caught my eye because–duh–it’s pretty! But it can serve also two purposes. It has great reviews as a coffee table book, but quite a few people said that they dismantled it and framed the art on their walls, and it turned out really great. So, if you know someone who loves pretty art, DIY projects, or both, then The Art of Instruction might just be the perfect gift!

14.

I have to admit that these headphones kind of make me giddy. They have great reviews for functionality, but they’re also just so stinkin’ fun! They kind of remind me of the technological equivalent of that PiP cake plate from above, and that’s definitely a good thing in my book.

15.

Here is the promised gold + acrylic stapler that would look so great stocked with the brightly colored staples from our under $10 list.

Because seriously, if you’ve got to have something as utilitarian as a stapler sitting out in plain sight, then it might as well be shiny, right?

16.

This is pretty pricey as journals go, but if you know someone who is a Kate Spade lover, then this Penny for Your Thoughts book with multiple colored ribbon markers is actually a lower price point than almost all other options I found.

………………………………………………

And that, my friends, concludes my Amazon Christmas round-up for 2014! Phew! That was A LOT.

I hope you guys find something for your favorite girls or maybe just have a good list for future birthdays or…whatever. I know I’ll be referring back to it when I have a special gift to give!

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The Ultimate Amazon Gift Guide for Women {$10-20}

Hey guys! I hope y’all found Monday’s installment of our Ultimate Amazon Gift Guide for Women helpful.

Just as an FYI, I ordered quite a few of the smallish items from that list either as gifts for this year or to squirrel away for the future, and many of them have already shipped (even when their estimated delivery dates were a ways off), so if you’re worried about Christmas arrival times, the odds are looking good for getting most things in if you order this week.

So, this morning, I’m back with our next installment of goodies, in a slightly higher price point, but all still totally affordable.

User note: if you click through an item that has multiple color options, and it wants you to “add the item to your cart,” go ahead and do that, and then click on the actual item link on the next page to be taken to all of the color options. You may not want that ACTUAL item in  your cart (and you may just want to browse), but it won’t let you see the rest until you add it. Don’t worry, though. You can take it right back out once you’ve had a chance to look.

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1.

Continuing with the owls-can-do-no-wrong theme that seems to be ruling the universe these days, I give you these adorable, retro-inspired S+P shakers. Perfect for the kitchen that needs a touch of whimsy. (Great reviews!)

Owl Salt and Pepper

2.

I’m a sucker for cute ceramic measuring spoons (my kids are equally fond of breaking them), and I love that these have bright pops of color without being ornate or overly themed. (Again with the good reviews).

3.

I don’t know if you’ve gotten the memo, but plaid is IN. I love this long shawl-style pashmina scarf for its muted colors and ultra-cozy size. (Good reviews).

4.

On Monday, I showed you a fun owl pillow, but if you’re up to your ears in all things owl, how about going for yet another trend that has been raging for quite some time? This deer head silhouette pillow cover would look fabulous by itself on a chair or mixed up with a bunch of other patterns.

5.

Another fun trend is the pom pom beanie. I’m honestly not sure I can pull this one off with my rather large head size + mop of thick hair, but I love the idea of the playful pom pom atop a thick knit cap. This one comes in quite the color selection, so if you don’t like the look of this one, be sure to click through to see the others.

6.

Confession: I first started compiling this list a good two weeks ago, and when I stumbled across this Champion hoodie, I managed to snag the pink in my size for–wait for it–$10 shipped!!!

It’s since jumped in price, but at $14.99 (+$2 shipping) for select sizes/colors (you’ll have to click on the different combos to see what price shows up for you), it’s still better than you’ll find at Target unless you score a major sale.

7.

Okay, so I kind of don’t even want to post this one because I want time to figure out a way to justify buying this pretty Fossil wallet (even though I don’t need it) or at least thinking of someone to buy it for…before it sells out.

I know that the link says that the price is $40 and shows a red option, but be sure to click all the way through the link and click on the gray colorway (my favorite option anyway), which is the only one under $20.

8.

I have no practical purpose for this backpack, since I would probably destroy it with my rough, stuff-and-grab ways (although, it has good reviews for both appearance and quality) in mere days. But it’s just SO stinkin’ cute! Also, it comes in several different color options (my fave is the teal…shocking, I know).

9.

I’m not gonna lie: I ordered these the second I saw them. Not only am I always needing an extra pair of scissors (it makes me so nervous when I can’t find my sharp ones because I find myself wondering exactly who is going to show up with a brand new haircut…or a big gash on their face) but–hello!–they’re gold!!! Oh, and they have great reviews for sharpness and functionality too, if you’re into your scissors actually being worth a flip at–you know–cutting and stuff like that.

10.

I have contemplated ordering these Puffin classics designed by Anna Bond–the super-talented lead artist behind Rifle Paper Co. (my fave company for all things paper)–since I first spotted them on Amazon for about 30% less than you can score them anywhere else.

I haven’t quite managed to justify the splurge since I already own versions of all three of the titles offered (this link only shows The Little Princess, but if you look below at the other “suggested titles,” you’ll see the other two), but just give me time. :)

11.

Again with the owls already! But, honestly, I think these are some of the cutest, funkiest, most authentically Anthroesque owl mugs I’ve stumbled upon. Totally rad gift for the on-trend, yet slightly off-beat, girl in your life.

12.

Another one of my favorite paper companies is Cavallini. They have the prettiest nature-themed calendars and such, and this bird journal is no exception.

13.

See? I told you I love Cavallini. These vintage-inspired mini-notebooks are practically too cute to write in. But they would be perfectly great for gifting, no?

14.

If you’ve got someone who loves to cook in style, then this laser-cut utensil holder would look awfully pretty corralling all of her cooking paraphernalia.

15.

This six pack of lip gloss has great reviews and lots of versatile colors–perfect for gifting as a pack to the lip gloss addict in your life or splitting up into stocking stuffers!

16.

Okay, I confess: I have three of these tin chalkboards (you can see one behind my sink in my kitchen redo and one in my recent living room post). And I LOVE them. I got mine on major sale from Urban Outfitters a while back, but this price is quite good too. They just add immediate depth and fun to any space and, with the scalloped edges, are a nice change of pace from your average chalkboard piece.

17.

I discovered something in all of this “research” I’ve been doing: mouse pads are EXPENSIVE! I wouldn’t have thought it considering that it’s basically a piece of foam, but I was lucky to find anything even remotely cute for less than $20. This one was one of the winners and is more reasonably priced (but there is a shipping fee, which bumps it up considerably).

18.

This is another fun statement necklace option. Just be sure you click through to see the aqua option, since the one showing in the link is more than $20.

19.

I wouldn’t normally pay $10+ for a single tea towel, but this one is pretty darn cute and would be worth the extra coin for a kitchen-girl who likes the vintage flour sack look. Again, very Anthroesque but with a lower price point.

20.

I love the simple style of this sterling silver initial ring. Plus, unlike many of the initial options I looked at, it has great reviews and lots of initial options still in stock.

21.

Get a load of this set of (really) well-reviewed Shany “professional” cosmetic brushes for less than $13. Pretty much too good not to include, no?

I’m not too skilled with brushes, but I’m tempted to order these and play around to see what I think.

22.

I was originally going to include these moc slippers with my $20+ gift guide, but they’ve since dropped in price, so here you go! Lots of color options!

23.

Oh, and last but not least, here’s a super-fun option for the girl who loves to bake cupcakes!

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So, there you go!

23 (such an awkward number) items under $20 sure to please at least ONE of the women in your life!

Happy Shopping!

Again with the disclaimer: each of these items contains an affiliate link, which means that if you buy them, I will receive a small percentage of the price, at no extra cost to you.

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The Ultimate Amazon Gift Guide for Women {Under $10}

So, if I were to tell you that Christmas is only 17 days away, would that panic you? Or do you have all of your Christmas, um, ducks (turkeys? hams?) in a row?

Well, just in case you still need some ideas for gifts, I’m back with some more great picks from Amazon. (Be sure to check out last year’s list too; most of the items are still available at the same or similar prices).

This year, I’ll do three separate posts at three different price points (under $10, $10-$20, and $20-$50)

I’m starting with the super-cheapies–many of which would make great stocking stuffers or even stand alone gifts for friends, coworkers, Great Aunt Alberta…you know, whoever.

Note: Each of these items includes an affiliate link, which means that if you purchase these items, I will receive a small percentage of the price at no extra cost to you. Win, win!

under 10

1.

I love the look of these lace-topped boot socks that come in 5 different neutral color options. There are only a couple of reviews, but they’re both positive and say that the socks came quickly (in the one week range).

2.

I actually ordered these fun statement earrings as an add-on to an order, and they came super-quickly and are very cute (and good-sized). The colors are quite bright (almost neon), but not so much so that they couldn’t add a nice pop of color to a subdued outfit.

3.

I also ordered this cute vintage bicycle necklace. It’s supposed to come in this week, so I can’t speak personally to the quality, but it does have a few reviews (all good) and is only $3.55 shipped.

4.

Another great stocking-stuffer option are these crocheted floral ear-warmers. No reviews, so I can’t speak to quality or how quickly they ship. But they come in 6 pretty colors with a cute button closure and cost $3.45 shipped!

5.

I love this funky owl pillow cover. It’s less than $5 shipped (!!!) and has a hidden internal zipper and great reviews.

Update: I just ordered one, and it says that estimated delivery time is the 1st of January, so order for yourself, but it doesn’t sound like a great option for gifts. :(

6.

If you’ve got a baker in your life, these melamine Cake Boss measuring cups are a great alternative to the plain Jane variety, are dishwasher safe (top rack), and won’t break the first time you use them. Great reviews!

7.

This set of 4 adorable pencil pouches (yup, you get all 4!) are only $3.42 shipped and have great reviews. Just beware that the estimated delivery time is 10-17 days.

8.

If you have any polish lovers in your life, this is an amazing deal on a trio of fun, holiday colors. China Glaze polishes usually retail for $8+ per bottle and are great quality (I have several), so I’d snatch one of these up in a heartbeat.

9.

If you or someone you love is into Burt’s Bees, this is a really good deal on their basic lip balm. (They usually retail for over $3 per tube).

10.

I ordered this statement necklace because of the good reviews (most noted that it looked more expensive than they expected) and because I don’t have any necklaces with black accents. But I haven’t gotten it yet (and am not sure when I will), so I can’t say what I’ll think for sure. The reviews are a bit mixed as far as delivery time (most said it came “quickly,” but didn’t qualify that with a specific time amount). But it might be worth a gamble for less than $5 shipped.

11.
I haven’t done it yet, but I’m tempted to order this jeweled headband just to see what it’s like in person. If you’ve ever priced out similar headbands (very Anthro-esque), then you probably know that they usually run a minimum of $12 (even at Ross or Marshall’s), so, even with no reviews, this one might be worth checking out, since the price-tag is only $5.34.

12.
This pretty turquoise Fiesta cup barely squeaks in under the $10 mark, but it’s quite large (18 oz.) and nice quality, so it should be a hit with any coffee/turquoise lovers. (There are lots of other colors available, but not all are under $10).

13.
There are quite a few (barely) under $10 funky print options for this lightweight infinity scarf, so be sure to scroll through the options to find the one that works best for the loved one you have in mind.

14.

This option is a bit on the random side, but it would pair quite nicely with a stapler I’ll show you in our $10-$20 price range later on this week and would make any office-supply lover totally geek out.

15.

My phone is a Samsung Galaxy, and I love it. But I am sad that this chic gold + white polka dot (well-reviewed) phone cover is only for iPhones.

16.

Another great pillow color option–especially for neutral-lovers–is this striped option.

17.

These vintage-inspired s+p shakers would add a nice touch of whimsy to a neutral kitchen.

18.

This leather + nylon stacked LOVE bracelet looks fun, and at only $1 shipped, is kind of hard to pass up.

(Note: for some reason, this image takes you to the right link but is not actually displaying a picture of the LOVE bracelet that I’m listing, so be sure to click through if you want to see the real deal)

19.
Another item to please the pretty office-supply lover in your life. This 3 pack of gold patterned washi tape would be so great for taping up your kids’ artwork, making packages look nice…taping notes written backwards onto your kids’ foreheads. Whatever.

20.

Love the soft, muted colors of this “Not all who wander are lost” sketchbook journal.

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And there you have it–20 fun, affordable options for practically every category of woman in your life!

Happy Shopping!

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It was a very merry Christmas, indeed

As I type this post, the melancholic strains of Charlie Brown’s “Christmas Time is Here” song are playing through my brain.

But, of course, Christmas time isn’t here. It’s gone, gone, gone. And part of me can hardly believe it. How in the world did the frenzy of preparations and flurry of torn wrapping paper come to such an abrupt end?

I’m pretty sure I feel this way every year, and maybe you do too, but this year, the outcry on social media seems especially bitter. HOW DARE THANKSGIVING COME ONLY THREE WEEKS BEFORE CHRISTMAS(actually, it was one day short of four weeks, folks). Boooooo!

Still, I feel like we managed to cram a whole lot of celebrating into a short amount of time, so I thought I’d share some moments from Christmas 2013 because it was a very good one.

For the last two years, we’ve had 5, count ‘em, FIVE Christmas celebrations: 1) Shaun’s extended family’s at his grandma’s 2) my family’s 3) our family’s (as in the seven of us) 4) his immediate family’s (as in his mom, dad, brothers, nieces, nephews) and 5) Mandy’s family’s (which we haven’t even done yet this year).

It’s awesome and super-festive and…exhausting. In a good way.

Rather than bombard you with pics from ALL of those things, thus making this the world’s longest post ever, I put together a collage of the fun on Christmas Eve at my mom’s and Christmas morning at our house.

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After assuring you that we wouldn’t be doing our special Christmas breakfast on Christmas day…we did. The twins slept in (a Christmas miracle!), and we dived into the stockings (bottom right), and then duginto the pigs in a blanket and chocolate milk (I love the picture, 3 from the bottom right, of Della waiting in expectation as Daddy pours it).

If you’re feeling gypped for twin pics, I totally understand. Even though they are the only twins we have or are likely ever to have, they still get photographed about like every other 4th and 5th child do. Which is to say not much. And now that they’re pretty mobile, getting pics of them together that don’t involve messy high chairs is a wee bit difficult.

Except, of course, when Daddy’s holding them.

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Your heart probably didn’t just about explode like mine did when you saw that since you’re not their mama, but you have to admit they look pretty sweet, right?

Want to see something that’s (technically) just as sweet and whole lot funnier?outhouse gingerbread-001

This is what happens when you let adults make “gingerbread houses.” They make (leaning) doghouses complete with marshmallow Fidos (mine) and outhouses, complete with a marshmallow snowman making yellow snow as he runs for the toilet (Shaun’s). You better believe my kids thought this was just about the best thing ever (“He’s going tee tee in the snow,” giggle, snicker, snort).

We started off the Christmas break with a school party (complete with a photo-bombing Nola).

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And then my children spent the entire weekend falling victim one after the other to a stomach bug (somehow, miraculously, neither Shaun nor I got it), which resulted in my laundry room looking like this:

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And since the kids were all sick, we made sure to take a trashcan with us (no, I’m not kidding) when we looked at Christmas lights.

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We also made snowflakes out of coffee filters…

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…played lots of games…

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(This is a Jinga-like game called Suspend, and we luuuuurve it).

…and even accomplished amazing feats of strength (apparently, Ezra’s bike was faulty, and it took two grown men straining with all their might plus a third to get the front wheel on).

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I made personalized Christmas stockings for us on Christmas Eve, despite the fact that I had about 7,564 other things I should have been doing.

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And we all got spoiled rotten with lots of fun gifts. I’m pretty much in love with these flower measuring cups from my Amazon gift guide (good thing the hubs reads my blog, huh?).

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We ended the week by doing church at home. We watched a Christmas Eve broadcast and were reminded, three days after the official day, of the reason we celebrate Christmas in the first place, which is Jesus birth. It was fun to listen as the kids sang along to Angels We Have Heard on High and Silent Night.  And it was comforting to be reminded that Jesus is the light that John speaks of when he says, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

And it never will.

How was your Christmas? As you might be able to tell, ours was awesome, but we’re already setting goals to make this next Christmas our least stressed one yet. I’ll let you know how that goes. ;)

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I Made My Kids’ Rooms Merry!

I’m not the greatest seasonal or holiday decorator. I have good intentions, but diaper changing and dinner prep tends to take precedence over pillow fluffing. Which is why I’ve been planning to add a little Christmas cheer to my kids room since—oh—December 1st or so but just got around to finally doing it…

yesterday.

I know. Sad.

But still. It happened, and my kids were happy about, and I even took some pictures to show you!

Let’s start with Della’s room, shall we?

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Looking at this picture, it occurs to me that almost every single Christmas element here came from Target.

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The adorable polka dot reindeer pillow is from the Target Dollar Spot (it was $3).

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And the gold tinsel tree ($3) and “Let It Snow” sign ($1) were from there as well, as were the ornaments (although the turquoise bead garland was 50% off at Hobby Lobby).

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And the silver chipboard letters are also Target.

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I used them to spell out “Christmas” by hot gluing them to some twine and then strung them on a fun metallic bin I scored at Marshall’s to corral Della’s dolls and stuffed animals.

Which brings us to the boys’ room.

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It’s pretty Target-heavy on the decorations as well but slightly more varied.

The Christ is Born banner was a quick project involving a sharpie and some leftover scrapbook paper circles from the twins’ party.

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The snowflake banner is from Target ($1). I made the glitter tree art last year, and the little cardboard Christmas trees are from Goodwill.

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The trees are from Target, the same as Della’s, except dark green. The “Be Merry” sign was from Target too ($1).

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I spray painted the base of the trees with chalkboard paint and wrote the boys’ names with a red chalk marker.

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The only other thing I did was to decorate the little reading nook (aka: the place where they like to pile their dirty clothes when I’m not looking) with another Target pillow:

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…and Morris the Advent Moose.

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(Morris could use a few passes with the lint roller; I’ll get right on that).

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I also took some of the coffee filter snowflakes we made one morning (thanks to inspiration from Jones Design Company) and taped them to their wall.

And that, my friends, is how I added a little Christmas cheer to my kids’ room (I figured that if I added Christmas cheer to the twins’ room, they would eat it, so we passed this year).

Do you decorate your kids’ rooms? This is the first year I’ve done anything even this official, but I think we’ll have lots of fun with it in the future. I plan to keep my eyes peeled for some mini-trees (that aren’t quite as mini as the ones I got at Target) at Goodwill so we can actually put lights on them next year.

Anybody headed out for last second shopping? I have to teach a class this morning, and, I’m not going to lie, I do have just a tiny thing or two to grab before I feel completely done. Procrastinators UNITE!

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Christmas at The Mission Inn

Shaun has been taking work trips to Riverside, California for several years. Several of them have happened during Christmastime, and it was probably a full two years ago when he first told me that, if it could possibly happen, he hoped I would be able to spend a weekend with him in Riverside around Christmas because the decorations were amazing, and the atmosphere was particularly festive. It sounded great to me, but I doubted the logistics of it would ever work out.

Plus, I’d already had the privilege of staying at the Mission Inn, Riverside’s stunning, sprawling, historical hotel. I wasn’t counting on a repeat.

Oh, me of little faith.

Thanks to yet another Christmastime work trip and my incredibly sweet family who kept all five of our kids for 5 days, it did work out! And it lived up to every bit of hype that my (not terribly  prone to hype-building) husband built up.

I pretty busy gawking and eating and acting schmoopy with my husband, but I did manage to snap a some shots of the Mission Inn’s brand of Christmas magic to show you.

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As you enter the hotel, you’re greeted by giant toy soldiers.

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But before you ever get that far…

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…you’ve got to make it past the giant nutcrackers that flank the grand entry archway, whose every inch is blanketed with twinkle lights.

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Here’s the view from the other direction.

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I don’t think I managed to really capture just how all-encompassing the Christmas decorations at the Mission Inn are, but I sure tried.

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Every last millimeter of the inn’s grounds, walls, ceilings, and greenery is slathered in Christmas cheer—fantastical lights displays, wreaths, sparkly ribbon, multiple Christmas trees, and Christmas-related figures.

There are even mildly creepy looking angels with comb-overs.

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Everything is very traditional and old-fashioned, but that’s part of the charm. It simply wouldn’t do for such an old institution rich in history to be decked out in trendiness like chevron print and polka dots.

It’s hard to tell exactly how ginormous the main Christmas tree is from this picture, but suffice it to say that I took it from the 3rd floor, and the base of it is nowhere in sight. It’s big.

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By far, my favorite view in the entire hotel is the vista the one you see as you exit the 4th floor elevator and step out onto the walkway (so convenient that our room has been on the 4th floor both times we’ve stayed there).

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It boggles my mind to think how long it must take to put lights in every single one of those bushes.

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But when an excess of 450,000 people comes to visit you, its worth it to be over-the-top, I suppose.

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That pic gives you just a tiny taste of the crush of people that turn out at night to fill the courtyard outside the inn, which is full of performers and vendors selling everything from doughnuts freshly fried before your eyes to bags of sugared, cinnamon pecans to “the best hot chocolate in the world” (As someone who has made a similar claim, you know I had to try it, and while I might not go so far as to declare it the best in the WORLD…it was mighty tasty).

The views from the street at night are just as spectacular as those inside the hotel.

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Especially when gaudy, lighted horse-drawn Cinderella carriages wheel by.

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This place is so obsessed with Christmas decorations that even their parking lot is bedecked with a Christmas train.

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And their pool is surrounded by all kinds of opportunities to get electrocuted.

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Of course, all the Christmas lights in the world can’t produce the warm, fuzzy feeling I get from hanging out with this guy (Half of you just said, “Aaaaaaw.” Half of you just threw up in your mouths a little bit).              IMG_9267

But that doesn’t mean that I don’t heartily recommend a trip to the Mission Inn—anytime, but ESPECIALLY at Christmas. It’s aaaaaaahmaaaaazing.

Have you ever been the Mission Inn? I posted a lot of “behind-the-scene” pics on Instagram during our trip, and I was surprised by the number of folks who had been or were actually from Riverside.

Any other magical, must-visit Christmas locations to report? I’ve never been to Disney during Christmas, but I’m guessing it’s pretty fun.

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