25 days of Christmas

So we’re a couple weeks into the holiday season and I’ve actually checked a lot of my 25 Days Before Christmas list.

So let’s recap:

Friday night I went to a cookie swap that one of my mama pals hosted – was lots o’ fun but not so fun driving to Severna Park in the crappy rain. I felt like I was 80 and could hardly see. Note to self: get new windshield wipers on the car before our next trip north.

We went to the Tree Lighting in Burlington after Thanksgiving – and saw the lights (Two birds. One stone.)

The whole night was awesome and added bonus – it snowed!

We decorated our tree – and I took adorable photos of Ethan in some cute Hanna Andersson PJ’s. He discovered the joy of wooden ornaments – his fascination in them is worse than the cats. They leave the tree alone. Homeboy is obsessed with fallen pine needles and any ornament within reach. Oh boy.

We got nice family pictures thanks to my lovely JLA pal Sarah Jane (she blogs over here!) – super shout out to her for being amazing. I know she’s still dabbling in photography but she’s got a knack for photos and beauty and has impeccable taste so I asked if she wouldn’t mind taking our pictures downtown. An exchange of wine for photos went down and the pictures turned out perfect.

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I also snagged Ethan’s first Holiday ornament – Adam and I both have ours (at least I think I have mine…) so now we have all three! Ethan’s is absolutely perfect and I love that I found it on Etsy – the homemade, wooden aspect is perfect for our tree!

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So far, it’s been a festive couple of weeks. We also took Ethan to see Santa at the Westfield (go early!); I had a crafty holiday date with Liz but more on that later since it’s a post for itself; my Mom’s group decided to go through the County to donate to a few needy families so I picked up a couple things to contribute – similar to Toys for Tots but much more localized; finally we bought the Elf on the Shelf but have yet to do anything with it. Please hold while I get my creative juices flowing. His name is Bernard in case you were wondering.

I should also note that it’s a record that my Christmas cards are ordered (waiting for them to come in so I can send them out before we leave) and 90% of my holiday shopping is donezo. This is a record.

What’s been your favorite part of the Holiday season so far?

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National Cookie Day

I saw on a blog that it was national cookie day. And while I was going to wait to post these until after my cookie swap Mom’s night out tonight, I changed my mind.

Correction. I’m 2 days late. Cookie day was December 4th. Super fail whale! Womp womp. Either way! Cookie ahoy! Every day should be cookie day!

If you’re nursing a sweet tooth today like the rest of us, then maybe give one of these recipes a try. In general, I have a pretty nasty sweet tooth so I try not to bake too much (or I risk gaining a gazillion pounds and EATING ALL OF THE COOKIES) but Christmas is a special time of year.

{Chocolate Chip Peppermint Pudding cookies}

I used the linked recipe, but went for chocolate chips versus chunks and used chocolate pudding because I couldn’t find devils food cake.  ZOMG. You guys, easiest cookies ever – so very, very good.

Looking for a cookie a little healthier? These are oatmeal chocolate chip lactation cookies that are super tasty.

These peanut butter blossom cookies are a tried and true classic. They sing holidays in my mouth and remind me of when my Nana used to spend December in a baking tizzy. They’re easy as pie and delicious as all get out.

Check out my sweet tooth board on Pinterest and see what other sweets I’m craving recently!

What’s your favorite cookie recipe? Do you cookie swap with your friends during the holidays? 

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25 Days of Christmas: Christmas Tree Lighting

We knocked off a few things of my 25 things of Christmas over the past week.

One of my favorite things during the holidays when I was growing up was going to see the lights on Church Street in Burlington – I was so excited to take Adam and Ethan this past Friday when they lit the Christmas tree and all 200,000 lights adorning the trees on Church Street.

To top off the specialness of the night – it was also snowing!

Ethan was all bundled up and was super cozy in the 20 degree weather we had. I had ordered a Bundle Me by JJ Cole for our stroller per the suggestion of  a few friends of mine. I didn’t see a snow suit as a particular necessity given our infrequent visits to the great white north, so the JJ Cole fits our needs perfectly! Also the toddler size (shown) is great to get use for a couple years (or however long he hangs out in the stroller).

Thankfully we got there right before it started and left right after it was done plus we popped into many stores just to stay warm (and obviously to do some Christmas shopping…duh.) It was still so fun though – to count down and see all the lights turn on – Church Street is a beautiful, twinkling wonderland all through December and I’m so glad I got to share the experience with hubs – and baby, even though baby doesn’t appreciate it this year.

I don’t care what anyone says – Christmas tree lightings aren’t the same if it’s not 20 degrees and snowing. Just sayin’.

Do you go to your town’s Christmas tree lighting? What are some of your favorite events in your town around the holidays?

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Giving Back

I could have gone out shopping with my sister last night. But decided not to. The principle of the matter. I used to work on Thanksgiving way back in the day and no matter what age you are, it still sucks. I am so against shopping on Thanksgiving for so many reasons.

I get the other side of the argument, but as I heard on the news which I think sums up why it’s not the best way to increase retail sales – my Christmas shopping list doesn’t grow just because stores are open up on Thanksgiving day. This doesn’t magically change how much money I’m going to spend over the next three weeks. Give people the day off, it’s one day, no one needs performance fleece or a flat screen television so bad they can’t wait another eight hours.

So while you’re out shopping for your loved ones, try to give back this holiday season.

I’ve been doing some form of community service since I was a young girl in the Girl Scouts, and later National Honor Society when I had the privilege of dropping off donated boxes filled with Thanksgiving dinner to half a dozen families in my hometown who otherwise wouldn’t have had a dinner. Talk about humbling.

Fast forward to now a days with  my work with the Junior League and as a coach for Girls on the Run.

I love giving back to my community – teaching young girls to be confident in themselves and how to always look for the best in people. I love being a part of the Junior League – an organization that has such a profound impact in our community – teaching women how to be self sufficient, and working with high school students form non-English speaking backgrounds and giving them fun opportunities they may not otherwise have.

This holiday season, give back.

Donate to a food pantry. It’s so easy – bring $15 to the grocery store and see what you can buy – that’s like skipping Starbucks for three days and you can pick up a few items (even healthy ones!) at your local trader joes to drop off.

Find a jacket drive. We recently held a coat drive at our recent Junior League GMM, one that goes to helping out a shelter provide for those who would otherwise be cold in the winter. Hubs and i hadn’t worn most of these jackets in a few years so it felt good to give something warm to someone needy while also freeing up space in our closets.

Donate to Toys for Tots. Toys for tots are everywhere around the holidays and it’s super easy to pick up an inexpensive gift for a kiddo that would otherwise not have anything. Or, find out what toys your local hospital’s children’s ward needs – I bought a lego set on sale for a Lego drive for the children at the pediatric cancer ward at Hopkins when I saw someone was collecting for them in our weekly league email blast.

Find a family. A lot of churches do angel trees where you can adopt a family and pick up gifts for them for the holidays. It’s an easy way to give back with lots of reward – especially when little kiddos are involved.

These are just a few ways – but there are so many ways. Make a meal for a local shelter. Donate blankets to the local NICU. Give money to your favorite local non-profit. There are so many ways – so many little things you can do that have such a big, big impact.

How do you give back to your local community around the holidays?  What organizations do you support?

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Thankful

This year I have so much to be thankful for, I couldn’t possibly list it all in one post.

First and foremost…

My little man. My light. My life. My everything. Ethan has been the biggest blessing to my life and I am so thankful that he is happy, healthy and thriving in so many ways. (don’t mind my coffee table – we’re in the process of baby proofing!)

Family. I am blessed beyond words to have a loving husband, and an adorable son. The fact that we are blessed such wonderful, loving and generous parents, siblings and extended family is just icing on the cake of everything we have to be thankful for.

I’m incredibly thankful for friends whom I couldn’t possibly list without leaving someone out. My health, where getting my level of fitness back to a decent level hasn’t been nearly as difficult as I thought.

Thankful for the wonderful mamas I’ve met over the past eight months who have been nothing but helpful and inspiring pals. For stroller strides and pure barre for keeping me moving. Thankful for Chesapeake Inspired and the Bay Weekly for giving me mediums to write. I’m so blessed to finally be paid to share words with the world.

Thankful we made it safe after two very long days of travel in some nasty weather to spend Ethan’s first Thanksgiving with my sister and mother.

Happy Thanksgiving freaders – enjoy the day with friends, family and plenty of food!

Tell me friends, what are you thankful for today (and every day really)?

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Twenty Five Days of Christmas Fun

So it’s Baby’s first Christmas so of course, despite the craziness, I had to make it the most memorable Christmas ever – not just for him but for Hubs and I – since we don’t get another “first Christmas with a baby.”

I saw something similar over on pinterest I believe (of course I did) so I was inspired (or should I say pin-spired) to create my own list.

25 days of Christmas

Here are my 25 things I want to do between now and Christmas….

1. Buy and decorate  a tree
2. Add lights to the balcony
3. Take a Christmas photo of Ethan in holiday pj’s (inspiration)
4. Get nice family pictures
5. Send Christmas cards
6. Take Ethan to national christmas tree
7. Go ice skating
8. Decorate our mantel for xmas
9. Buy new and/or matching pj’s for christmas
10. Attend a cookie swap (I’m actually going to two!)
11. Have a Christmas-y crafty date with Liz
12. Buy Ethan’s first ornament
13. Watch Love Actually
14. Watch A Very Charlie Brown Christmas
15. Take Ethan to visit Santa
16. See Church Street in Burlington lit up at night
17. Go to a Christmas tree lighting
18. See Lights on the Bay
19. Drink mulled wine
20. Go to an Ornament Swap
21. Donate to Toys for Tots
22. Make New Years Eve plans
23. Attend Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve
24. Buy an Elf on the Shelf (and take photos accordingly!)
25. Document all of the above for Ethan’s memory book!
What are some of your favorite holiday traditions? 
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First Halloween

I’m not a huge Halloween person. I once spent close to $50 on a costume in college with a couple of my girlfriends which was fun, but once I graduated and entered the “real world” (dun dun duunnn) something about the whole holiday seemed sophomoric to me. I had no desire to dress up, to spend money I didn’t necessarily have on costumes, getting wasted-face on a school night…Hubs and I have stayed in for many years, often enjoying wine and Charlie Brown’s Great Pumpkin.

halloween friends

{my girlfriends and I back in 2005…we were martinis. Proof that I have celebrated Halloween in the past}

But with little kids, it’s like a whole new world. It’s not a world full of scantily dressed nurses, bunnies suited for the Playboy Mansion, and devils or angels that would make even the most liberal priest blush. Instead it’s a world full of furry, plushy, plump, rolly polly animals, fairies, and other characters from the latest Disney movie.

I didn’t put a lot of effort into Ethan’s first Halloween. Though somehow we ended up with three costumes. Whoops?

Costume #1

Ethan was a fox the other night at the annual Fleet Feet Pumpkin Fun Run. I love the Fleet Feet fun runs so much, they’re always great to go out to and a fun way to fit in an easy 3 miles or so. And in case you were wondering, the fox says bah. (Ethan’s starting to babble with more sounds than just ooohhh. He can Bah, Buah and Buh now. It’s the cutest ever.)

The hoodie, which is really the only part of the costume, came from Target. He needed more hoodies since we have a thick winter jacket for him, and a couple of sweaters. But I wanted him to have a hoodie. It’s super cozy.

Costume #2

{onesie | hat}

Friday night at the Trick or Treating at the Towne Centre we tested out this costume that he wore to playgroup on Wednesday. It’s really just the hat but the whole outfit just got me. I loved it, and I love my little devil. Everyone’s been swooning over that hat too so clearly, despite my lack of Halloween-enthusiasm, I did something right. Right?

Costume #3
This morning for the Plum Moms Group Halloween parade Ethan sported his third costume. I picked up this onesie down in South Carolina at Children’s place – and thought it would be fun to wear during football games. We’re not suepr huge football fans but I thought this was super cute. And, originally before I realized Halloween was on a Thursday when hubs has class, we were going to dress up as Charlie Brown, Lucy and making Ethan the football. Come on, it would have been cute no?

{I wore this sweater today with black leggings – my costume was Foxy Mama}

{hat | similar onesie}

All told, we got our three costumes for about the same as one Pottery Barn kids costume (priced on sale mind you. I did not in fact spend $80 on these three costumes). Next year, I might actually look at the Wee-Sale. This year, I didn’t even think of it. I should have. Mama shopping fail.

Wishing all you freaders out there a safe and happy Halloween – we had a fantastic time at a Halloween party this evening with lots of friends that are much more mobile than Ethan is. He’ll get there though.

What was your baby for his/her first Halloween?

 

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Happy Fourth!

We’re in Connecticut today celebrating with family before hosting Ethan’s Baptism on Saturday. Posting’ll be light around these parts til Monday but for now, enjoy a few fabulous posts around the interwebs on how to celebrate the fourth with style while staying healthy.

Happy Independence Day!

annapolis independence day

Creative Ways to Add Health to Summer: The Perfect Summer Workout {via Healthy Living Blogs}

10 Healthy fourth of July Recipes {via Greatist}

Fourth of July Favorite Stuffed Burgers {via SparkPeople}

Summer Sun Protection & the Safest Sunscreens for Kids {via HelloBee}

9 Unconventional Summer Recipes {via SkinnyMom}

99 Ways to Make This Your Best Fourth of July Ever {via Lil Sugar}

Fireworks, Anchors & Fourth of July – Oh My! {Little Baby Garvin}

And I know there’s been a lot of chat about Google Reader dying (RIP) but feel free to follow my blog on Feedly or follow my blog with Bloglovin! I’m a big fan of Feedly personally – the iPhone app keeps me entertained during many a late night feeding, but either way! Make sure you’re following on your favorite reader!

 

 

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Top Mothers Day Gift Ideas

My first mother’s day is coming up. I’m not quite sure how I feel about that but I’m kind of excited. It kind of makes up for the fact that my birthday was just…lonely since Hubs was away (many thanks to Liz for the birthday lunch and to Sarah for the birthday dinner on Saturday night). But that was a month ago almost (a month ago exactly on Mother’s Day. 30th birthday part 2? I think yes.) so now here we are, and can we just reflect on the fact for a moment that I’m a mama now?! It still amazes me every day when I look at Ethan that I grew him. That little being who amazes me every day with his sleepy, gummy grins was inside of me less than two months ago and now he’s smiling!? Yowza, time flies.

Here’s my mini-gift guide. Gifts that I would like, or would give. Thoughtful, funny, and practical gifts for the active, sentimental and feminine mama in all of us.

mothers day gift ideas

{I Just Want to Pee Alone | Locket Necklace | Run: Swiftly T | JCrew necklace |Lilly Pulitzer Tote | Stella & Dot NecklacePhilosophy Mother’s Day Set | Mommies First Box (not pictured)}

Realistically though, I’ll be quite content to just spend the day with Adam and Ethan in Annapolis.

What’s on your mother’s day wish list?

**I should note that I had the JCrew necklace but lost it at my stay at the hospital when Ethan was born

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Recipe: Ham & Macaroni & Cheese

Last weekend, Adam and I “hosted” Easter dinner with my mom and sister. We cooked up a nice spiral ham, had some baked sweet potatoes, risotto, sautéed green beans & mushrooms and spinach salad.

So of course, we had plenty of left overs after the fact – I mean an 8lb ham for four people is MORE than enough.

So we had lots of ham. What to do with it. Well, we froze some. Adam used a bunch to make ham and eggs for breakfasts.

But Monday night, he had the brilliant idea of macaroni and cheese with ham. So, I found a recipe, and family and husband went to town since I’m still living my life in two-three hour feeding increments. Now granted, it’s not the MOST healthy of recipes, but if you’re ever wondering what to do with that left over ham? Here’s your answer.

Baked Macaroni and Cheese with Ham {via Moms Who Think}

Ingredients
1 pound cooked ham, cubed
¼ cup butter or margarine, divided
¼ cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups milk
¼ pound Velveeta Pasteurized Prepared Cheese , cut up
1 (8 ounce) package shredded cheddar cheese , divided
2 cups elbow macaroni, cooked, drained (we used shells)
2 Tablespoons seasoned dry bread crumbs

Directions

1. Melt 3 Tablespoons of the butter in large saucepan on low heat.
2. Blend in flour and salt; cook and stir 1 minute. Gradually add milk; cook, stirring constantly, until thickened.
3. Add prepared cheese product and 1½ cups of the shredded cheese; stir until melted.
4. Stir in macaroni. Add cooked cubed ham.
5. Pour into lightly greased 1½ quart casserole.
6. Melt remaining 1 Tablespoon butter; toss with bread crumbs.
7. Sprinkle casserole with remaining ½ cup cheese and bread crumb mixture.
8. Bake at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes or until thoroughly heated.

Enjoy!

We really enjoyed this dish and the leftovers after the fact. I usually don’t make mac & cheese with Velveeta since it’s more processed, it added to the cheesiness factor which I always enjoy in a mac & cheese dish. I would probably substitute the velveeta next time with maybe a gruyere cheese or a more interesting type of cheese – more of a four cheese mac & cheese blend. But overall, it was really tasty, and relatively easy which at this point in time is what we’re looking for.

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