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Raisins and countertops

Hi, friends.

I write those two words with almost the same level of trepidation that I would if I were texting a friend whose birthday I’d missed (something I did last week, actually). Everything is such a blur at the moment. But I still feel like I “should” be blogging…should be updating and encouraging and sharing with you.

In the past, I don’t think I couldhave gone a week without blogging without a significant level of guilt because I’m a dutiful sort, and I feel “bad” if I don’t do what I say I will…even if no one else is requiring it of me.

HOWEVER, I know that you all are busy too–that you understand that some seasons in life are more hectic than others and that you would agree with me when I say that my priorities are better now than in the past when I might have forgone something more important than blogging just for the sake of fulfilling some sort of misplaced duty.

Even so, I miss you guys. I miss writing. And I’m sorry that I’m not doing a better job of balancing all of the things at the moment.

To make up for and distract from my shortcomings, I am posting pictures of Mr. Theodorbs himself in the midst of the Great Raisin Heist of 2017 (aka: what you have to resort to to get a snack around here when Mama is distracted by cleaning/organizing/rearranging all the things that seemed perfectly fine to you to begin with).

raisincollage

This little boy is like no other of my children so far (true of each, but, in some ways, especially true of him). He is mischievous and happiest when either a toy sword or stick is clutched in one plump fist (or both). He is noticeably athletic–leaping, throwing, catching, and running with a coordination that belies his mere 27 months. He’s reached almost every milestone earlier than any of the others. He is SO cheesy and hammy. Definitely the most theatrical of a bunch of rather UNshy and drama-prone children. He still has his sweet, soft, lisping voice–except when he’s hurt/scared/just plain mad as a hornet…in which case he uses the exact same level of volume and ear-scratching rasp to express all of his woes (makes it a wee bit difficult to discern between “bleeding to death” and “he looked at me wrong”).

And, even though he has his “days,” more often than not, he is a welcome source of smiles and chubby-armed hugs in the midst of the crazy that is trying to get a house ready to sell, finish building the other one, homeschool (including attending our homeshool co-op), teach fitness classes, and put something decent on the table for dinner most nights. Oh yeah. And feed a newborn every 2-3 hours.

Speaking of the new house, the loose plan is to shoot for moving in in about 3 months. That is, if this house sells quickly (only the Lord knows). If it takes a while to sell, we’ll just keep plugging away at the new one. Regardless of when we sell this one (unless it’s a year from now), we’ll be moving into an unfinished house because, even with all of the incredible progress Shaun has made, there’s still a lot left to do.

But we have lined up some tradesmen to finally start doing some of the work (he’ll still be working every chance he gets…just in different areas of the house)–especially key as he’s about to start a round of work trips that will significantly decrease his ability to get things done out there.

The plan–Lord willing–once we get our current house on the market (hopefully this week) is to spend as many evenings as possible at the new house as a family–cleaning, caulking, puttying, sanding, and doing anything else that might lessen the load and expense for any workers that come out.

To that end, I really need to figure out some travel-friendly meals to plan ahead for those nights. We have a small fridge there, and Shaun will hook up a stove for us to use, but it won’t be anything like a fully stocked kitchen, and most nights, we’ll be stopping at the new house to work on our way home from my teaching at the gym. So! Any brilliant ideas you have for easy, portable, reheatable, nutritious meals would be greatly appreciated.

In other news, we’re seriously considering going with quartz on the countertops after all. The manufacturer we were planning to use to fabricate our laminate countertops is no longer available, and let’s just say the samples I’ve seen of the laminate edge I want from local guys have left something to be desired.

We’re still not set, but we’re leaning toward Torquay by Cambria, which comes in jumbo slabs, which we’ll need for the length of the island. Even so, we’ll have to shorten the island by a little over a foot, since the longest option is about 132″.

torquay

 

That’s it above, and the color is a pretty white with gray/tan veining that more or less mimics the look of marble.

We’ve gotten three quotes (well 2 wholes and 1 partial) so far. The first was eye-bugging, the second reasonable, and the third hopefully a bit of a steal (we’re waiting on them to come back with what they will charge for the quartz itself; but their install price per sq. foot is almost half of their competitors).

Aaaaand there you go: an update of sorts for the goings-on in these parts.

The good news is that I’ll have to take pictures of our entire house for when we list it, which means you’ll get a more detailed HOUSE TOUR than any I’ve yet shared in–oh–the last six years.

Which means you’ll finally get to take a gander at our master bathroom–something I just know you’ve been hankering to see. Ahem.

Anyhoo. Get excited. If we’re all lucky, I miiiiiight post a room or two sometime later this week.

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Mama Life Hacks {#11}: Grape Juice + Activated Charcoal to Combat Stomach Bugs

A friend texted me a thank you the other day for posting this blog (which is several years old by this point) and observed that, if life ever gets too busy to post, I should just repost this one, since it was such a lifesaver and as many people as possible should see it (having been the recipient of this life-changing tip from several readers, I know how grateful I was too). 

The stomach bug has ravaging the entire East Texas area, and–while my children have emerged largely unscathed (so far) (the twins + Theo are the only ones who’ve had a short-lived bout with it after a stint in the Chick-fil-a play area #ofcourse)–you better believe that my pantry is stocked with both of these items at all times (and that they were a large part of the reason our only stomach bug this season passed so quickly). 

So! Here you go. A repost of what is currently my most popular blog post according to my analytics page (must not just be East Texas getting hit). 

If the title of this post doesn’t just steal every little bit of thunder I might have been able to conjure up for it, I don’t know what does. grape juice Still, I feel like a little more explanation is needed, so here goes:

About a year and 1/2 ago, Shaun was doing one of his marathon rounds of work trips that seem to come in waves during the spring and then again right around Christmas (when, unfortunately, everyone suddenly gets frantic to spend the rest of their budgets by the year’s end).

I had 5 kids, including 20-month-old twins, and I was pregnant with Theo. First trimester pregnant to be exact, so I was feeling suuuuuuper peppy and swell, as you can imagine.As you can also imagine, I was suuuuuuper thrilled when, pretty much the second that Shaun left for his first work trip, we came down with a stomach bug. Yup. Angels were singing and everything.

Before 24 hours had passed, every single one of my children was lying on the floor with a bowl by their sides. We couldn’t leave the house due to unpredictable puking patterns (is there any other kind?), and my feelings of thrilled-ness were just increasing by the moment. (Although, I was oh-so-grateful not to be sick myself). grape juice1 Which is when my kind, wonderful, awesome readers came to my rescue. I posted some sort of pitiful picture of us all, and several fellow mamas told me to get my hot *germ-covered) little hands on some 100% grape juice and a bottle of activated charcoal capsules ASAP.

I did a bunch of internet research and discovered that grape juice is, indeed, widely lauded as a preventative for stomach bugs. Something about the particular acid it carries is effective in combating stomach bug bacteria. (AKA the stuff that must, assuredly, coat every surface of the 7th level of Hades).

The most important thing to remember, though, is that it’s a preventative measure, not a cure. In other words, once you’re already puking, the only thing grape juice will produce is purple puke. And who needs that?

So! The next time the first victim succumbs to the stomach flu in your house, buy 100% (important not to get the “cocktail” or the “lite” or the “combined with other juices” version…you want the straight stuff) grape juice and get your kids to guzzling. If they’re anything like mine, they’ll be so excited to be given pure, undiluted juice on demand that they won’t ask why you’re suddenly so keen on their gulping it by the glassful. grape juice2 (Of course, the second Nola saw Evy being my model, she insisted: “Mama, I want my picker too!” And of COURSE, she was wearing nothing but undies, so I told her to go put something decent on if she wanted her moment in the spotlight…and this is what she came downstairs wearing. Eh. Could be worse)

The other little miracle that I mentioned is a bit of a harder sell for kids. Activated charcoal comes in little capsules that can be found at most drugstores (I found mine at Drug Emporium…is that a chain? I don’t know, but it sounds kind of shady, now that I think about it), and it basically works as an absorbent agent to soak up the bad bacteria in your gut.

I know that’s a super untechnical description of its properties, but even though I did my due diligence, it’s been a year and 1/2, and I don’t remember all the particulars. I do know that it’s safe, even for small kids, if administered correctly (be sure to do your research on amounts for small children and how often you should take it). And IT WORKS. And! It works once you’re already upchucking too. It helps to lessen the symptoms and shorten the sickness time.

Disclaimer: I think it goes without saying that I am NOT a doctor, nor do I claim to be. Before you ingest anything to help with sickness, you should make sure that you’ve done your own research and consulted your own doctor if you have any questions or are unsure about dosages/usages. grape juice4 Okay, so going back to that time I mentioned when we got sick. Well, Shaun had to travel again a couple of weeks later, and you know what? We got sick AGAIN. What?? So wrong. But this time, I was stocked up on grape juice and activated charcoal capsules, and I got everybody drinking their anti-voms cocktails as fast as you could yell, “BOWL!”

And you know what? That time, only Della (our first to fall) got sick. GLORY! To mix up this lovely, magical concoction, you simply twist the capsules of activated charcoal open, and stir in one full capsule (for older children and adults; I use fractions of capsules for younger). You can do this multiple times a day (up to a point…again…RESEARCH!).

It doesn’t have a taste, and the grape juice completely masks the inky black color, but it does have a bit of a gritty texture that you’ll feel on your teeth afterwards, so I suggest downing it as fast as you can go. You can even make it a game with your kids to see who can finish first! And then everybody can snicker at each other’s black mustaches.

I’ve used this trick every time we’ve had even a whiff of the stomach crud for the past 18 months (my kids don’t get sick often, but considering our frequent trips to the gym daycare, the sickness does tend to rear its ugly head 2-3 times a year), including this past weekend (you might recall that I mentioned that we stayed home from church due to sickness), and it has made such a difference–so much so that rarely do more than one or two of us get the nastiness and then only for 12 hours or less.

So, there you go! One of my BEST Mama Life Hacks for you. I’d happily give credit where it’s due, but honestly, it was multiple mamas who shared this little nugget o’ pure gold, so my heartfelt thanks goes out to all of you.

Tell me: did you already know about the grape juice trick? What about activated charcoal? Any “fun” vom stories to tell? We had a nice little incident in Subway when Della hadn’t puked for 48 hours, and I thought we were in the clear that involved an unfortunate amount of puke on the floor right near the drink dispenser + a total lack of readily available wipes on my part (#momfail), and the stingiest stack of napkins ever from the young male Subway employee who had clearly never cleaned up toddler vomit . (Oddly enough, we no longer frequent this Subway).

Any great #mamalifehacks to share? Leave them in the comments, or hashtag them on social media, and who knows? I might just feature YOU! (And then, your life would be made. I just know it).

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A Month of Honor

I know this is what every mother of a newborn says every.single.time, but–well–I’m willing to be a cliche just for the chance to exclaim how ridiculous it that my seventh kid is already a month old.

Over a month, actually, because, despite my best intentions to get this blog posted last week on Thursday, when he officially completed his one month tenure on planet earth…it didn’t happen. And, yes, I know that I say that a lot. Ce la super-busy, constantly-distracted, nursing-daze vie. (And good for you if you actually deciphered that last sentence).

Honor is just the sweetest thing, y’all. I know I said the same thing about Theo on his one month “birthday” (and I would have said the same thing about the twins too if I hadn’t been too sick battling mastitis and shingles to blog when they were a month old. Yuck). And it was just as true. But in a different way. Theo is a ham. He dances. He squeals. He even does a dramatic, Hamlet-esque stagger/chest-clutch/collapse move when his brothers pretend stab him while playing swords. It’s one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen a 2-year-old do…especially since no one taught him to do it. But most of all, Theo SMILES. Almost all the time. A big, gap-toothed, cheesy grin that you can’t help but return. He’s been like that since birth, practically.

month1

See? Solemn as a tomb. Clearly.

Honor is different, though. Equally winsome. But, whereas Theo is the constant life of the party, Honor is thoughtful and serious.

month3

Apparently, he was digging the retro vibe at The Grove–a local restaurant with the COOLEST decor. 

 

He started smiling on Valentine’s Day (little love-bug that he is), but he literally has to work up to it. He gets bright-eyed and happy-looking. Then he wriggles his whole body, as if the smile is buried deep in his toes and needs to travel all the way up to his lips. And then, finally, after he’s cocked his head this way and that a few times, a crooked half smile emerges from a big open mouth. Once he gets going, though, it’s one smile after the other for a little while.

Shaun’s the best at extracting these hard-won smiles, followed closely by Ezra and Simon. Honor’s most content to be held by me (although, he’s a chill baby who will happily go to most anybody), but I rarely have/take the time to sit and coo at him like Shaun does (that implied that my husband has lots of free time…he doesn’t, but when he’s holding Honor, he is usually devoting his entire attention to him. I can be guilty of hauling him around with me like a sack of potatoes on one arm while I get lunch or pull laundry out of the dryer with the other).

month2

Oh, Daddy. You’re so funny. 

To say that we’re all completely smitten with Honor is probably completely unnecessary but no less true. It’s not unusual to hear an exchange that goes something like: “Mama, can I hold Honor?” And then immediately: “And me next?” Followed by: “And then me?” And: “And then ME!” And finally: “Oh man! I wanted to hold him. Now, I’ll have to wait forever!”

month

Surrounded by his fan club. 

Everybody pitches in, but the older boys, especially, are sources of genuine and constant help. They hold him while I eat. They change his diapers. They fetch clothes and dress him. They load him in his car seat and carry him to the van. If they could feed him, they would do that too.

And almost none of this is because I ask them to (although, when I do ask for help, they are very quick to respond). They just adore their baby brother and are eager to be included or in charge of anything that involves Honor. They were the same way with Theo (less so with their sisters since they were so much younger when they were born), and they still are, but there’s just nothing like a brand new little human to get everybody’s attention.

I say this, yes, to brag on my sweet sons but also to encourage you mamas of little-bitties (only) out there that this day is coming if you keep plugging at training those soft little hearts. And it is a good day, indeed.

I know not everybody is into the newborn stage, but I love it. Much more so now than in the past (that’s my mama experience talking; I know now how fleeting it is). I think I would happily have a newborn in the house at all times if I could. There’s just not much better than holding a bundle of yummy-smelling squish for cheering you up or calming you down.

month4

Hey, girl. Thanks for getting down on my level. How about you change my diaper while you’re here?

I love the grunts and the squinty faces they make when they stretch. And don’t even get me started on baby yawns. Even their snores are cute, for crying out loud.

Of course, I know that it helps (immensely) that I have healthy, easy-going babies who sleep well (Honor’s still holding steady at 6 hours a stretch at night, but I’m hoping he will bump that up soon). And I certainly don’t take that for granted. But babies are just cool, so that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

Thank you, Lord, for Honor. We sure are tickled he’s here!

P.S. After looking at the pic of above of all 7 and then at Theo’s one-month pics compared to Honor’s, I’m starting to believe that, maybe, our kids look a bit alike. #yathink

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Strolling with Evenflo

Even though I have 7 kids, I’ve never owned a new stroller. Several new car seats, yes. But no new strollers. Which is fine. Because the secondhand versions I’ve owned have fulfilled their purposes well enough. But I’ve never loved a stroller system. Until now.

Meet the Evenflo Pivot Travel System.

stroller1

{Disregard Della’s squint o’ death; she didn’t mind the fact that I sent them out in the cold to walk their baby brother around the block for me…JK! They dressed themselves in various and sundries–pretty sure Theo has socks on his hands rather than mittens–and headed out to brave the big, bad 45 degree chill without any prompting from me}

AKA: my new BFF.

It’s different from anything I’ve ever owned before in a myriad of ways but probably the most significant is that the stroller base is just that: a base. Which allows you to pop in either the car seat…

stroller8

{Clearly the postpartum hair loss has not kicked in yet. Hello, lion’s mane}

…or the stroller bed.

stroller

The bed can be laid flat (ideal for infants) or tilted upward for optimal viewing, especially once baby gets older (it has straps to keep him snug and safe). It also has a handy cold-weather cover, which we have happily utilized on chilly mornings.

stroller4

I love having the option to carry only the lightweight base and simply snapping in the car seat (the option I utilize the most). Most of my strollers have been unwieldy and heavy (especially the twins’ double stroller, which is a total beast), so I am loving how easy it is the toss the stroller base in the back of the van and then transfer the car seat right into it.

Speaking of the car seat, it’s my favorite!

car seat

{Can you spot my cute photographer?}

In fact, the very day it came in the mail, Honor ended up napping in it multiple times throughout the day because it’s so well-cushioned and plush that he went right to sleep every time we laid him in it. Even though he’s a big baby for his age, he still needed an insert in our last car seat to keep his head from lolling side-to-side. The Evenflo Pivot car seat has sufficient padding to keep his little noggin in place, though, so I don’t have keep up with an insert (major bonus in my book).

Also, while our last car seat was awkward to carry in the crook of your arm and hard to release from the base, the Evenflo Pivot car seat has a wide, smooth arced handle (Shaun’s first comment was how good it felt to carry), which is easy to slip onto my arm and doesn’t bite into my skin. AND! The best part? It comes out of the base without any complicated lifting/wiggling/coaxing (can’t tell you how many times I’ve accidentally woken a sleeping babe wrestling with our last model).

It also includes an anti-rebound bar built into the seat base, which limits the rebound impact in a frontal car crash and keeps my baby safer.

The stroller, itself, is the easiest to maneuver that I’ve ever used. I can steer it, no problem, with one hand, which is kind of a big deal, since that’s usually how many hands I have available (because there’s always somebody else that needs me to wipe a nose or hand out sippy cups with my other one).

stroller5

{Pretty much everybody–from Ezra down to the twins–can navigate this stroller because it glides so easily}

Another plus? There’s a generous amount of space between the basket on the bottom and anything that might block it on top. It’s an easy-to-overlook perk until you find yourself trying to deposit or retrieve a bag or snacks from underneath a stroller only to have them snag hopelessly, requiring a full-stop (and an inevitable pile-up of small bodies behind you) and rummage situation.

When Evenflo (nice post sponsor!) contacted me and offered me an option of stroller systems, I took my time reading reviews and ultimately decided on the Pivot system, since I love to walk the trails near our gym with friends and wanted something that maneuvers easily and handles well on rough terrain.

I am happy to report that it does both.

Honestly, I couldn’t be more pleased with this travel system. It does what a stroller system should do–make my life easier. And while “hard is not the same thing as bad” may be my motto, I see no point in making things needlessly complicated.

stroller7

{Honor stayed snug and happy in his car seat, even though it was time for him to eat}

The Evenflo Pivot Travel System simplifies traveling with a baby, and I am a big fan of that and it.

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{Also a big fan of the car seat canopy with a peephole that my sis-in-law, Hannah, made for me}

Although Evenflo was kind enough to provide me with product, all gushing is entirely my own. 

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What a Big Honor

Just thought I’d pop in and let you guys know that #babynumber7 finally (FINALLY!) made his big (somewhat literally) arrival this morning at 2:25.

honor3

His name is Honor Daniel, and he measured in at 9 lbs. 1 oz. (one ounce smaller than Simon) and 22″ long.

So…big boy! Although, I feel like the above pic makes him look considerably heftier than he is.

Honor

{Or not; he looks like a giant here too}

honor1

{Nothing more attractive than a daddy loving on his baby}

So far, he’s a super-chill sweetheart, except for when you put him down. Ha! But even then, he just kind of bleats like a cute little sheep, so, of course, we pick him right back up again.

honor2

Sorry for the blurry pic. It’s hard to get in there for a decent shot with all of those little sister/cousin hands petting him.

I’ll share a detailed birth story when I’ve had more sleep, but I just wanted to thank all of you again for praying for me. His labor was hard, and I felt every one of those prayers as God was faithful to pull me through with each contraction.

And now…to sleep! (Maybe; feel free to pray for that too)

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I Like Wall Flowers

First up, I can’t miss the chance to wish #theodorbs a very happy second birthday today!

theodorbs

I should just write a blog all about what a joy it is to be his mama, but it would no doubt be an extremely sappy one, especially with my pregnant, hormonal self in charge of the keyboard.

Suffice it to say that Theo is a delightful kid. Not all of the time, of course. Hints of the “terrific 2′s,” as Shaun called them the other night, are definitely starting to surface. But, as a rule, it would be hard to imagine a happier, more infectiously sunny kid. Aaaaand it doesn’t hurt that he’s still a wee bit Mama-obsessed, so I get all the best snuggles (I’m sure that will change almost instantaneously once #babynumber7 shows up).

ANYhoo, as much as I could just ramble on and on about his sweet, soft voice, the way he says, “Thank ‘ummmm,” and just how precious it is when he giggles into the palms of his hands, I’ll cut myself short and move on to, certainly not a worthier topic, but a less sentimental one.

And that would be: wallpaper.

I’ve loved wallpaper since before we built our first DIY house. But I’m actually pretty glad that Shaun talked me out of most of the options I was considering when we were first building because I don’t really think I knew who I was design-wise. (Definitely had to learn the hard way that I didn’t want most rooms in the downstairs to be a different color after I repainted, um, well, most of the rooms in the downstairs).

In fact, the only real wallpaper (that Winnie the Pooh border in Ezra’s nursery circa 2006 does not count) that I’ve ever hung is the Amy Butler wallpaper in the twins’ (now Theo’s…no I never did change anything; and no, he’s never seemed to mind) nursery.

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{Old wallpaper…meet the new girls in town}

I still love it more than 4 1/2 years later–an indication to me that I should now be allowed to use wallpaper in the new house, since I apparently know what I like (in this arena, anyway) and haven’t changed my mind about it 40 times.

Which! Is why I’ve been snapping up wallpaper deals anytime I run across them. The stuff is expensive, yo. But I’m happy to say that I have yet to pay more than $55 for a roll (that covers 70ish/sq. feet, so we’re talking $0.71/sq. foot). And most of the time, I’ve paid much less (like that time I scored the Petal Pusher wallpaper for $20!).

Strangely, most of my best scores have been from Anthropologie, which, while a prohibitively expensive place to shop 90% of the time, is a great source for hard-to-get stuff on clearance.

So, far, I’ve gotten:

1. Oh Joy! Petal Pusher wallpaper in gold for $20.wallpaper

I plan to use it behind the vanity in the girls’ shared bathroom.

2. The same design in black for $35 (also from Anthro on major clearance; it and the gold above are still available elsewhere for $140/roll).

wallpaper1

I’ll be putting that one behind the vanity in the main downstairs bath with moody teal cabinetry and brass accents.

3. This Peonies design (also from Anthro on sale for about $44…still available elsewhere for $198!!)

wallpaper2It’ll go behind the vanity (sensing a theme?) of the downstairs guest half-bath.

4. This Acorus design from wallpaperdirect.com for $55 a roll. (Currently on sale for $41…grrr).

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It will go on one wall of the master closet and is SO much prettier in person. My sister-in-law saw it and said, “Well, if that just doesn’t scream Abbie!” with a big smile on her face. Ha! She knows me well.

And last but not least…

5. This Papillon wallpaper in teal from wallpaperdirect.com for $20/roll.

wallpaper4

This one was a really fun score because I’d been wanting to wallpaper one wall of the girls’ play room, but it’s vaulted, which means a lot of space to cover, which means lots of moolah. I’d pretty much given up that “dream,” until I stumbled upon this gorgeous butterfly wallpaper in ivory and teal for only $20/roll. That means that I can do the entire wall for less than $100!

And with that, you’re all updated on my wallpaper escapades for the moment, but I have one more I’m working on that you may just have to wait until I get it up on the walls for the big reveal. I know. Try to contain your excitement.

So, what do y’all think about wallpaper? I know a lot of people think it’s way too big of a commitment, and I get that. But I find myself willing/excited even to take the plunge on this one. Probably mostly because each one of these choices represents one accent wall in a room, instead of a huge, 4 wall kind of deal.

Any cheap/stylish wallpaper resources I’m missing? Happy to hear as always.

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39 Week Pregnancy Check-In {Baby #7}

Hi there, guys!

I hope your Christmas was lovely and relaxing and rejuvenating. Mine was…mostly. But I must admit that, by the end of the actual day, I was pretty ready for it all to be over. The kids were hyper. I was ultra-tired. And everything just felt really loud and overwhelming (you know you’re worn out when the thought of getting off the couch to wipe your 4-year-old’s bottom is “overwhelming.” Amen?). Thankfully, the day AFTER Christmas was magic. Slow morning. Calm kids. Yummy leftovers. A nap!!! And then Shaun cooked steaks for dinner (he might or might not have started a grease fire on his first go-round, but the end result was delicious, and the house only smells marginally of flambeed butter after we aired it out for an hour or two).

I may do a more formal Christmas recap if I feel extra chatty this week, but for now, I thought I’d do a quick pregnancy check-in, since 1) I’ve done a HORRIBLE job of keeping up with these this pregnancy (I think my last “official” one was at 30 weeks) and 2) this pregnancy is almost done (I hope), and it’s kind of now or never.

And in the same classic “nobody actually asked me these, but I’ll answer them anyway” format that I’ve always used, here we gooooooo…

39 weeks

Hello there, #babynumber7. You have a whole lot of excited peeps just waiting to meet you!

How are you feeling?

Tired. Big. Achy. Tired.

Ha! Isn’t that how every 39-week-pregnant woman feels? But seriously, other than the normal creaks and twinges, I feel fine. Probably a liiiiiittle too normal for my liking, since it seems unlikely that this little guy is going to emerge any time soon. But then, we already knew that.

I’ve had a few more “real” contractions that will hiccup along for a half hour or so, but nothing to signify any real shift from my state of “ridiculously pregnant” to “ridiculously pregnant-with-impending-labor.”

I still don’t feel antsy, though. So, that’s good. I guess. We’ll see.

Still exercising?

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#pregnantgymselfie at aaaaaalmost 39 weeks? Check!

Yes, although there are definitely days that I think: “THAT’S IT! I’m getting subs for the rest of this pregnancy. That was PAINFUL.” But then, I feel fine, and it seems silly to get a sub when I’m clearly perfectly capable of teaching, and it gives me a chance to get some exercise and get out of the house. So, I go teach. And it’s “great” (at least as great as it’s going to be). It’s kind of confusing. I’m definitely taking it one week at a time.

I did quit teaching Grit at about 35 weeks, and that was a pretty big relief. High intensity ANYTHING (I mean, I still teach BODYCOMBAT, which is a mixed martial arts class that many would consider high intensity, but it’s still not the same) was starting to feel pretty rough on my ligaments, joints, and abs, so I pulled the plug on that around Thanksgiving.

Anything new to report?

The baby’s definitely head down, and he’s started doing this grrrrriiiinding thing against any bone he can connect with. It’s real fun. It basically feels like the end stages of labor but without any contractions or actual progress. Like I said. Fun.

Also, my legs/feet have been swelling like mad over the weekend–probably more than they ever have–but I think that was mostly due to too much hustling and not enough sleep (I might or might not have stayed up til the wee hours finishing sewing some aprons for the girls on Christmas Eve, which is when they really ballooned). Now that I’ve had a chance to rest with my feet up for a day or two and have been taking my magnesium supplements more regularly, the puffiness is still there, but under control.

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Anything you’re still hoping to get done before he comes?

Eh, I have some organization projects I wouldn’t mind banging out, and I could stand to thoroughly clean my room. But! I figure, even if my midwife has to deliver a baby in a less-than-pristine bedroom, if he surprised me by coming tonight, I wouldn’t complain.

I do have a fun girls’ dinner to go to tonight, courtesy of some sweet friends–hence my “fancy” outfit for these photos (I was giving it a trial try-on to make sure that everything fit and allowed for a) sitting comfort and b) proper food consumption and figured I’d have Simon snap a pic, since I don’t wear much other than p.j.s and workout clothes these days ;) ).

I was definitely hoping that he’d hold off for Christmas, and now that he has, Theo’s birthday + a Christmas get-together for my side of the family (both on Friday) are the only “momentous” events to complete before my schedule is pretty much clear.

Are you still eating healthy, nutritionally balanced meals that help support both yours and your baby’s growth and well-being?

Ha! I think we ALL know nobody asked this. But Y’ALL! I have eaten SO bad for the last week. I’m not an over-eater in general and especially not now when I fill up suuuuper fast. But chocolate has been my very close companion of late, and if it’s sounds good, I eat at least a little bit of it. I just can’t seem to make myself care anymore. Which…when I think about this baby’s potentially not coming for another 3 weeks, it’s a bit of a scary prospect since a) I’d rather not deliver an 11 pound baby naturally (or otherwise), and b) gaining 10 pounds of baby weight in the home stretch would just be silly. Get a grip, girl!

Any clue about this baby’s personality?

Other than wiggly, I don’t know for sure. But I guess I would also say “reactive.” I don’t *think* I’ve ever had another baby in utero that responded so definitively to any kind of external stimuli. If I sit a certain way, and he doesn’t like it, he lets me know! (See above about “grinding”). If the midwife puts the heart rate monitor on my stomach, his heartbeat changes instantly. If I move, he moves. Not gonna lie. I’m a little worried that he’s going to be a restless sleeper, but I am definitely hoping/praying/trusting the Lord for the best.

All around, even though pregnancy is not my favorite, and this one, in particular, has had more pain and irritations than most of my others, I’m super thankful that the Lord has allowed me to carry another healthy baby to full term with zero complications and–honestly–no real reason for complaints. He is so good!

To say that I’m excited to meet this little dude would pretty much be the world’s biggest understatement at the moment. To say that I don’t want to do labor at all would be a bit of an understatement as well. And, yes, I realize those two are at odds with each other.

Ce la pregnant vie. 

What about y’all? Pregnant homies? Non-pregnant ones? How was Christmas?

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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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My Best New House Scores

Just like the last time we built, Shaun’s and my roles are pretty clearly split between a) designer (me), and b) builder (him). Well, I should clarify that he plays a HUGE role in the designing of the actual house, since we design our own blueprints from scratch, but when it comes to finishes, lights, flooring, etc., it’s mostly me. He actually has a great design eye, and I definitely consult his opinion on most decisions, but he also gives me mostly free rein because he knows that I’ll a) research the tar out of every decision and b) find the absolute best deal available. It’s like a treasure hunt for me, and, while it can get tedious, the satisfaction I get from knowing that I made a decision that we’ll all enjoy (hopefully) and saved our family oodles of money is pretty rewarding.

9 years ago, before Pinterest and the true rise of the online response to the DIY movement, almost all of my research and deal-finding involved a whole lot of hoofing it–to Lowe’s, Bruce’s Bargain Barn (yes, an actual place…basically a glorified junkyard full of home improvement store cast-offs at usually great prices), Hobby Lobby, Home Depot, and the like. I found some ah-mazing deals (like the time we bought out the entire end-of-year clearance aisle at Lowe’s–$7,000 worth of merchandise–for $500, then turned around and sold a few of the items we scored to recoup our money, thus giving us free: lighting, flooring, tile, and more). But it was a lot of hours of hauling two little boys from place to place and doing fun things like schlepping carpet home in the back of my dad’s lurching pick-up truck in torrential rain.

This time, although I’ve done my fair share of store visiting, the vast majority of purchases have been online. And, while I never pay very much for anything–in store or on the internet–a couple of deals have been too killer not to share.

So, I mentioned briefly here that we did eventually make it to Charleston, SC, after our initial attempt was foiled by the hurricane, but I never did blog about it. I meant to. I edited the pictures and everything. But it just didn’t happen (let me know if you’d still like me to or if that ship has sailed).

It’s worth mentioning, though, that I scored this first find while in Charleston, and it made the trip that much sweeter.

1. I’ve loved this Oh Joy Petal Pushers wallpaper in gold for forever, but I’ve never been willing to pay $148 for one roll of wallpaper. Imagine my delight, then, when I stumbled upon one–and only one–roll of it in the clearance section at Anthropologie in Charleston. Even with an extra 40% off promotion, it was going to cost $60, so imagine my even greater delight when I got it to the checkout, and it rang up for…$20 {!!!} I refrained from squealing in the cashier’s face…but only just.

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I think my face says it all.

So, what am I going to do with it? Glad you asked. The plan is to put it behind the vanity wall in the girls’ bathroom, which is peerrrrrfect because I’m shooting for a girly, flowery but still sophisticated vibe in there. Plus! I was waffling back and forth on splurging on a pretty floral tile in that space, since it’s a small amount of square footage, and this little roll of golden goodness totally closed that book for me…and saved me a fair bit of moolah.

2. I’ve also always loved the look of “x-stools” (my name for them). But, at an average of $200 a pop, I’ve never even considered them seriously. Until I stumbled upon this Tally Ottoman in Wayfair’s clearance section (online).

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Cost? $40. (They still have some in stock for $60ish, which is also a good deal). I bought two for the end of the guest bed–the perfect solution, since there won’t be a footboard, and I wanted somewhere for my guests to be able to sling their jackets or sit to put on shoes.

3. I love these long-armed sconces, but they can be surprisingly pricey. Even the meh-reviewed ones from random Chinese stores on Amazon are at least $60.

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It goes without saying, then, that I was pretty thrilled when I scored 3 of the ones above for $24 each–in the online clearance section of All Modern’s website (which is a sister company to Wayfair and Joss and Main and carries many of the same items). They were originally $120! I plan to Rub ‘n Buff them with brass and use them over the kitchen sink, but if that doesn’t work out (the arms might be too long), I have several other places I can use them throughout the house.

4. I stalked these Rowan bar stools from Grandin Road for months, y’all. They were originally $200 but had been marked down to $80 each. Which is already a great price for a sturdy, large, all wood bar stool. But! Each stool came with a $20 shipping surcharge, bumping the price up to $100 per, and we needed several. I just couldn’t quite bring myself to pull that trigger. At least not until Grandin Road (which is also where I bought the lights over my kitchen island) ran a Free Shipping + 25% off special around Black Friday, which waived the surcharge and dropped the price to $60 each SHIPPED (no tax).

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I absolutely love these stools. They are even prettier in person, which we know because we unpacked one to test it out in our current kitchen. They are wide and stable and great for kids (with the high backs and the NON-swiveling aspect…I will never buy another swiveling stool). Sadly, they sold out before I could share them with you, but I managed to snag as many as I needed before they did (or maybe I bought the last ones they had…who knows?), so I was a pretty happy camper.

5. This sink was another one that I had my eye on for a while. It had high reviews for design/appearance but mixed reviews for durability (it tended to chip), so I was a little hesitant. But I wanted it for a laundry room sink (so no pans clunking around in there), and the price–which fluctuates between just under to just over $100–couldn’t be beaten for a white sink with this look, quality, and size (it’s 33″ wide). I finally pulled the trigger, praying that mine would show up without any flaws, and it did! And it’s beautiful!

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My mom was there when it arrived, and she couldn’t believe it wasn’t a $200-$300 sink at least.

6. I included this Anthro rug when I did my master bathroom mock-up a few months back…

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…but I never intended to actually buy it, since it was pretty ridiculously priced. But then, it went on sale with an extra 40% off. And I decided to go for it. It still wasn’t cheap, but I had been finding so many good deals that I decided that I would splurge on this one thing. But you know what? It sold out AS I was checking out. At first, I was bummed. But then, I did a little research and found this beauty from RugsUSA.

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It’s different, obviously, but it has the same vibe, and costs–get this–1/5 of of the price of the other rug. In fact, I scored ALL off the rugs below from RugsUSA on their Black Friday sale and knocked out pretty much all of our remaining rug needs (we’re not doing any carpet) in the new house for LESS than I would have paid for that one Anthro rug!!! Note to self: splurging is almost never worth it.

P.S. While this rug is still a reasonable price, I paid literally half of what they’re currently asking for the 4X6, so I really did score a pretty amazing deal.

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(You can just see the floral one I bought peeking through on the top right there. It’s much prettier in person; and you can see a baby bump peeking in at the bottom of the frame. Not sure it’s any prettier in person, but I’m excited to meet the tiny human that’s causing it).

7. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention another “on the ground” purchase that pretty much made my Tuesday last week.

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I spotted this 11 and A HALF foot solid wood church pew on a Facebook swap n’ shop and couldn’t believe it hadn’t been snagged already. Because? It was only $100!!! That’s a whole lot of pretty wood for 100 greenbacks. So, I woke Shaun up, told him the happy news, and he basically looked at me like this.bench1

Notice that his expression did not change AFTER we (and by we, I mean he) rearranged all of the seats in the van, and then we loaded all of the kids up and drove 20 minutes in the rain to haul it home.

No, but seriously, he thought it was a pretty cool score too (I think), and, being the stellar husband he is, humored his crazy, pregnant wife with grace and patience.

So, what am I going to do with a giant church pew? Well, optimistically, it will be a bench for a dining room table that Shaun builds, but if that doesn’t work out, I’ll definitely find a place for it on our front porch.

Aaaaand…there you have it! 7 of my giddiest deal-scoring moments during this house-building process.

Just in case you’re looking for tips on how to do the same, I think I’ve probably already spilled all of the beans, but:

1) Check local Facebook swap ‘n shops regularly. Way better than Craigslist (or actually leaving your house to go garage-saling) and rife with amazing deals.

2) Shop the online sales weekends. Black Friday was definitely a good one, but most of the stores I mentioned run very similar sales during most other “holiday” weekends.

3) I didn’t mention any specific deals from Overstock.com, but I’ve bought all of our faucets + a lot of our lighting there because–once you start ordering from them, they regularly send you percentage off coupons (at once point, I got a 20% off coupon, which applied to my entire order, so that was pretty sweet). PLUS! If you sign up for Club O Gold ($19.95/year), they give you 5% back (which you can then use on a future purchase). If you’re a casual buyer, it might not be worth it, but if you’re making multiple purchases for a house build or renovation, then the 5% back adds up very quickly…especially considering that their prices on the faucets I bought (brand: Kingston Brass) were almost always the cheapest on the internet (not true of all of their items, but definitely true in this case).

4) Type the word “clearance” into Wayfair or All Modern’s search bar to get a list of awesome (and not-so-awesome) deals. There’s quite a bit of junk, but I’ve scored fans, lighting, and home decor for pennies on the dollar because, when the deals are good, they’re really good!

Or! If you’re looking at a specific item, be sure to check for the small print below the main description that says something like, “Buy clearance items from: $_______.” That link will take you to cheaper versions of the exact same item. It SAYS that they are returned/open box items, but all of mine have been shipped to me undamaged in the original packaging.

If you’re interested in $10 off your order to any of these stores, you can send me your email address (blogabbie{at}gmail{dot}com) and I’ll send you a share code (I get $10 too), but, really, I just wanted to share this find because it’s been a surprisingly helpful one to me and one that I had no clue about before I started all of this research.

So, what about you guys? Any bargains you’ve scored lately that you’d like to brag about? Any brilliant, money-saving tips you have for me? I’d love to hear both!
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The Ultimate Amazon Gift Guide {Christmas 2016}: Under $100

Alrighty, guys!

I’m back for my last installment of this year’s Amazon gift guide. This time, I’ve rounded up a group of items that–hopefully–will at least jog your thoughts for those bigger gifts that you still have to buy. Some are practical. Some are pretty. Some are both.

So, here we go!

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1.

I can’t think of a better gift that you could give anyone than God’s Word. And a great option for long drives or listening at night before bed or…really any other time you can listen but can’t read…is this set of audio cds. I realize that technology has advanced far beyond the common cd, and yet, I still find it most convenient to have a hard copy I can pop into a player (especially in the car). This would be a great gift for someone “old school” like me.

2.

Along the same lines, I mentioned that we were doing the “something you wear/read/want/need” for our kids again this year, and, for the boys, who have oooooodles of hard copy books to read, I’ve opted for audiobooks that we can listen to on our daily trek to and from the gym in the car. We already have the stellar BBC version of entire Chronicles of Narnia series, but I’m really tempted to get this one too, since it’s done slightly differently (the “narrator” is taken out and put down as the actual thoughts of the characters–a liberty which the reviews say actually works well) and includes a different voice for each character (the BBC version is read by one person per book).

I haven’t pulled the trigger on Narnia yet, but I did get this audiobook on Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and I’m considering these Father Gilbert Mysteries (although, the fact that the reviews–which are excellent!–warn that some of the material is too serious for younger listeners has me thinking I should wait).

This is another one of those where, if wholesome audiobooks intrigue you but you don’t love the sound of any of these, all you have to do is scroll to the bottom of the listings, and they have several more suggestions by the same company (all are produced by Focus on the Family Radio Theatre. All are supposed to be superbly done).

3.

I haven’t included hardly any gifts for men on these lists, but this leather + canvas backpack, which holds a 15″ laptop, would make a great guy gift. Or girl gift. I’d certainly carry it too!

4.

I love essential oils! I’m not really that “oily,” as they say–meaning that I don’t consistently start my day by rubbing specific blends on my body–but I am a believer in their medicinal qualities. I have been known to oil myself or my kids up for everything from colds to rashes to fevers and more. Sadly, my diffuser broke months ago, and I didn’t replace it until recently, but this option is considerably more stylish than the one that I found and would make a great gift for an oil-lover in your life.

5.

I just bought one of these Instax Mini 8 cameras as a gift for the whole family. Not only do I think my kids will have an absolute blast taking pictures of–well, let’s be honest–walls and empty toilet paper rolls, but I have a VERY practical/self-serving use in mind. It’s probably 89% of the reason I bought it. We sponsor several children through various organizations, and I DREAD writing them letters for one simple reason: printing pictures. The letter-writing part is easy! But having to go to a store and print pictures gives me mild hives (yes, I know it’s ridiculous, but it’s also true). And yet, I know that they love receiving those pictures, so I’m over-the-moon excited about the prospect of instantmini snaps we can include in our sponsor letters! Woot!

6.

One thing I hope to do in the new house is have a rolling garment rack in the master closet on which I can set out clothes for the week. I’m hoping it will help me get dressed in “real” clothes every day and utilize my entire wardrobe (or, at least, highlight the items that never get worn, so I can weed them out). We’ll probably make our own DIY pipe version, but if you or someone you know is on the hunt for something similar that’s cute and reasonably priced, then this one should definitely be in the running. It comes in bronze (shown; the other options are cheaper), black, and white.

7.

If you’ve got a lover of nostalgia in your life, I can’t think of a much cuter gift than these Crosley record players. They come in a variety of punchy colors and have generally good reviews (although, they’re not known for amazing speaker quality).

8.

I love these cable knit poufs. I’ve been on the hunt for one for the nursery in the new house for a while, and I think this one just may be what I choose. It comes in TONS of color options, has good reviews (for the most part), and is the best price I’ve found outside of a major sale (Prime shipping too!).

9.

Another fun home trend is these sheepskin rugs. I already got one for the nursery, but it would also work great as a thrown across a chair or in any small space that needs a bit of cozy texture.

10.

Have a basic sewer in your life? I can personally attest to the fact that this is a great, lightweight, cute (!) starter machine. It has fabulous reviews and is really reasonably priced for all of the features that you get. I got the same machine for about $40 less for Della on a Black Friday sale, but it was also refurbished (haven’t had any issues). So far, we’ve only experimented with the most basic of functions, but it’s a great little machine!

11.

I know, I know. A toothbrush? Really, Abbie? But seriously. I got one of these as a gift for Shaun a couple of Christmasses ago, and he LOVES it!

12.

If you read my review of our Amazon Echo, then you already know that I’m a fan. And that hasn’t changed. We use our “Alexa” on a daily basis for entertainment (mostly music + a few games), education, and practical things (like shopping lists, setting timers, and ordering cat food and toothpaste from Amazon). Well, the Echo Dot lets you do all of those same things…but at a much lower price point. As far as I understand, the main difference is in the speaker quality (the full-sized Alexa’s speaker is rather impressive). If that doesn’t bother you, then this miniature version would make a great gift for the multi-tasking techie in your life (or even, as I noted in the review, the non-techie–AKA: me).

And…we’re done!

Hopefully, all three of these guides (or, again, any of the ones in the past, which still have plenty of options that are still available) have been helpful for you. We’ll be back to our regular, non gift-guide program next week, but–in the meantime–happy shopping!

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