Goodbye, Christmas

It’s true. Christmas has finally left our house. (Well, mostly. The outside lights are still up – although not on – I’ll get those down when the weather cooperates a little more.)

It’s a lot of work to put the Christmas decorations up and it’s a lot of work to put them away, too. I find that it works best if I keep a system going each year.

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The first thing that I do? Take down all non-tree decorations. Mostly, that means that the fireplace mantel goes back to normal. But, we do have some Christmas decorations throughout the house that also get boxed up with the mantel.

Everything gets dusted before it gets packed up, the mantel is dusted and the rest-of-the-year decor goes back up (after it gets dusted, too.)

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(Time to pick up some flowers for those vases.)

Next up – time to take down the tree.

We do the girls’ ornaments first.  Their storage box also has a small tree that we set up in their room and a Melissa & Doug nativity that we set up by the tree.  The girls have many ornaments that have boxes (I keep most of the boxes) so the first job is to take out all of the boxes so that we can see what we need to find.

We start taking down the ornaments and match them up to boxes (if there are boxes).

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After the girls’ storage is down, it’s time for my ornaments and Ryan’s. I will admit, we have a lot of ornaments and if we lived in a larger house, I would probably have three trees. So, this does take some time.

Luckily, I had some help taking everything down and organizing it.

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Just like with the girls’ ornaments, we have to match up some to the box that they belong in. (I have one large storage container just filled with boxed ornaments.)

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Once the ornaments are all put away, then the lights come down. This tree was a pre-lit tree and, as you can see in the picture below, there are very few lights on the tree that still work. I add everything else.

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After the tree is down, it’s time to do a sweep and vacuum the living room. It’s always sad to put Christmas away, but it’s also nice to have some more space back in the living room.

Until next year!

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Christmas Traditions

Part of having a family is making our own Christmas traditions. Some things have remained the same since Lily was a baby. We visit one side of the family the weekend before Christmas. We visit a second side of the family the weekend after Christmas. But, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are just for us.

On Christmas Eve, we snack and snack throughout the day. We watch movies in our jammies. We take a break to make a gingerbread house. (Or this year….a gingerbread volcano.)

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Then, Christmas Eve Mass and driving around to see Christmas lights (this was the Christmas Eve tradition when I was little.)

One of our favorite places to see lights is by walking through Lilacia Park. We’ve actually never gone to this part any other day except for Christmas Eve.

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Then, Christmas Day, we wake up, open presents and hang out all day. Recently, Christmas Day has become our big “special dinner” that Ryan plans and puts together.

Our traditions have changed some throughout the years but the main purpose has remained the same: to build low-stress memories with our girls.

What are your Christmas traditions?

 

Holiday Bucket List

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

It’s that time of year once again when I put up with the weather because the holidays are just so much fun!

There are many activities that we do every year around this time of year. (It’s a little crazy to think that it’s holiday time once again!) As with our fall bucket list, there are some things on the list that we’ve already done – or will be doing very very soon. So check out the list! There might be some things that you can do along with us!

Some of our favorites:

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Illuminate 900  – This one we actually did Thursday night. We rarely ever go to the 900 North Michigan Avenue shops, mostly because we just never shop that far on Michigan. But, this is a great way to kick off holiday celebrations. It’s free! But, you can add a donation to Make-a-Wish. This year, I got the free wristbands for the girls and I paid for an upgrade wristband for myself. Cookie decorating. Christmas decorations. Music. Dancing. Santa. Yes, it’s a school night, but it’s a lot of fun.

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Mag Mile Lights Festival – This one we will be doing today! This is definitely one of my favorite Christmas activities. Christmas lights. Shopping. Santa. And Disney! When I worked on Michigan Avenue, this was a stressful day to be at work. But, now, I love it! lol

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Holiday Magic –  One of our favorite Brookfield Zoo activities is seeing the decorations and lights throughout the zoo. The lights are beautiful and there are special holiday activities throughout the zoo.

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Look at Christmas decorations – We pretty much do this one all season long. I love wandering through downtown Chicago and looking at decorations, store windows, Christmas trees. There is just so much to see! Plus, after attending Mass on Christmas Eve, we drive around our town and look at decorations. This is a tradition that began when I was a kid and now my own girls look forward to going for a drive after Mass to see the lights.

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Go to Christkindlmarket – Each year, we’ve gone to the downtown Chicago location. This year, my goal is to check out the Naperville location and maybe even hit up the Milwaukee location!

Visit with Santa – Well, we’ve sort of done this. We’ve seen Santa a couple times now but haven’t had the “sit down and tell me what you want for Christmas” conversation with him yet. We did, however, write down lists and mail them off so I think that we have this task completed.

Drink egg nog – Oh, how I love egg nog. And I love to drink egg nog out of my Santa mug or one of my many holiday glasses. This will be happening. Probably several times.

Sit by the fireplace – One of my favorite things in our house is the fireplace. We weren’t able to use it during our first winter in the house because the chimney needed to have some, um, safety problems fixed first. Now, however, it’s fixed, works well, and is just so nice to sit near.

Now, I want to know….what’s on your list of must-do holiday activities?

 

Keeping the Magic Magical

Our last couple weeks have been non-stop go go go. This weekend, we actually don’t have anywhere that we need to be. Sure, we need to get some Christmas shopping done. And, yes, we’ll probably make at least one trip to Target. But, we don’t have set times for anything.

It’s quite pleasant to think about.

Sometimes, with all of the running around, and must-dos, and places to go, and food to cook, and all of that….it’s easy to forget the more simple joys of the holidays. One of my favorites? Reading some of our favorite Christmas books!

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The girls love reading about the Grinch year round. The Night Before Christmas is always a good idea. And, my personal favorite, The Polar Express. I still get a bit emotional when he says that eventually all of this friends stopped being able to hear the bell…..NOT FOR ME! I STILL HEAR IT!……

When I was growing up, my mom would read The Polar Express every Christmas Eve. Now, she reads it to her grandkids when we go down for family Christmas #1. (The movie weirded me out – anyone else weirded out by it?)

So, this weekend, although we do have things that we need to get done…..I am going to strive to remember to take it easy (or easy-ish), and enjoy just being together by the Christmas tree. Because that’s when some of the most special moments can happen – when we stop and take a breather and just let the magic of the holidays happen.

What are your favorite simple joys of the holidays?

Christmas Tree…Oh Christmas Tree

This Christmas, I have really loved our tree. Really, I really loved all of our Christmas decorations. We added more lights to the exterior of the house and are already planning on adding more next year. The Christmas tree looked pretty good all season (although I’ve lost more strings of lights…..thankfully day-after-Christmas-shopping brought some good deals on more lights).

In addition to the tree, there are some traditions that I will always cherish. Our “cookies for Santa” plate. My Santas on the fireplace mantle. And, of course, egg nog in a Santa mug.

Merry Christmas! And may you “Keep Christmas with you, all through the year.”

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Oh Christmas Cat, Oh Christmas Cat

This year, since baby girl is still in the “grab everything and throw it on the floor or put it in my mouth” stage, we blocked off the Christmas tree with the ottoman. The downside of that has been that Buddy has had an entire Christmas season without being able to easily sit under her (or rather, everyone’s) tree. She was very happy, then, on Christmas morning. The ottoman was moved out of the way to make way for the presents. Once the presents were opened and out of the way, Buddy was able to reclaim her favorite spot for the holidays.

Most of the year, Buddy is a tree cat. She loves to be perched up on a table or chair or lap. She rarely sits on the floor (unless it’s summer and there is a flip-flop to sleep on). However, during the holiday season, she quickly becomes a floor cat. I can’t really blame her, though. Who wouldn’t love to spend the day sitting underneath a Christmas tree?

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IMG_6964We took the tree down last weekend so Buddy has been busy trying to find a new spot. Right now? Her spot is on my leg…..