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!

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?

 

Winter Checklist Update #5

One of our favorite investments that we made when we bought our house in the suburbs was purchasing a family pass to Brookfield Zoo. We realized that if we went to the zoo for the Halloween activities, for the Christmas lights, and for the New Year’s Eve countdown, it just made financial sense to buy a pass. We don’t have to pay for parking and after just a few trips to the zoo during the year we’ve actually broken even on our investment. Plus, I like that we don’t have to make a whole day trip to the zoo if we don’t want to. There are many times during the summer when the girls and I might just pop over to the zoo for an hour or two and then head back home. If we don’t see everything, it’s ok. We can come back and check it out.

The New Year’s Eve countdown is great for kiddos. It’s at 8:00pm which is late enough for my girls to feel like they are actually staying up late. But when we get home, it’s not super late.

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It was really really really cold so we didn’t walk around and look at the lights too much but that was quite ok since we went to Holiday Magic earlier in the season. We were able to take a couple quick pictures before heading to the car….which we did very quickly because baby girl does NOT like being cold….she has inherited her mommy’s tolerance (or rather, intolerance) for cold…..

The list thus far:

Winter Checklist Update #4

Before we had children, we would drive down to spend Christmas Eve with my side of the family, then on Christmas Day we would get up and drive to spend Christmas night and then next day with Ryan’s side of the family. We knew that when we had children, that that tradition would need to change. Now, we travel to my side of the family the weekend before Christmas and we travel up to Wisconsin after Christmas.

So, we have now gone to Mimi and Pa’s house…..

And Granny and Pa’s house…..

Christmas Eve, we make cookies (or, this year, make a gingerbread house), go to Christmas Eve Mass, drive around and look at Christmas decorations, then come home. Christmas Day, we spend in our jammies, watch Christmas specials, and eat breakfast casserole. The girls have all day to play with toys and we can all relax. Our Christmas traveling allows us to see family for Christmas and also allows us to be home for Christmas.

The list thus far:

Winter Checklist Update #3

Traditionally, on past Christmas Eve’s, the girls and I have made cookies on Christmas Eve to leave out for Santa (and for us to eat since Santa doesn’t really need two dozen cookies). I usually just buy some cookie dough and we use the sprinkles that I already have on hand to decorate the cookies. This year, however, we changed it up a bit.

When I went to the Wilton Outlet Sale (seriously…check this sale out if you are able), I picked up a gingerbread house kit. I thought that this would be a fun project for the girls and I to conquer during our Christmas break. (The first time that I attempted a gingerbread house on my own, the walls were held up with cans of soup on the inside of the house……)

Was it the prettiest gingerbread house ever built? Um. Of course not. But, we had a lot of fun putting it together and adding our own touches (so many marshmallows!!!!). And, it was actually really easy to put together so a great project to do with kiddos.

It’s not our typical “making cookies” adventure. But, it was fun and then we got to eat it.

Bonus: the house stayed up until we tore it apart to eat it! That’s a victory right there. 🙂

The list thus far:

Winter Checklist – Update #2

We are a week away from Christmas! That’s a bit hard to believe. … I’m not sure where this month has gone. But, the countdown is definitely on. We have already accomplished a lot from our list…..which is good because 2017 is quickly coming to a close…..

So, now I give you ……. “A Very Busy Weekend”

Earlier this month, we knocked off two items from our list in one weekend: Renegade Craft Fair and Holiday Magic at Brookfield Zoo. We had a great weekend, of course. The problem was the weather….. The weather was amazing! Sunny! Not cold at all! So that means that everyone was out and about trying to enjoy the weather.

We made some fun purchases at the Craft Fair. (Always nice to shop small businesses for the holidays.) I can’t show our purchases right now because many of them are going to be unwrapped as gifts. 🙂

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This statue is outside of the building where the Craft Fair was held. The same weekend last year? That statue was covered in snow…..

Since the weekend was so beautiful, we also took the time (and literally a lot of time because it took an hour longer to get to the zoo than it should normally because of traffic) to go to Holiday Magic at Brookfield Zoo.

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This was also the night of the “Super Moon” which is definitely evident in this photo. That moon sure is super! Once we got to the zoo, it was great…..well….once we were parked and had finally entered the zoo entrance, it was great. The weather was fantastic! The zoo was really packed (which is just what happens when the weather is almost warm in December) but it was nice to go and not feel like we’re freezing our feet off.

The list thus far:

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?

Winter Checklist – Update #1

The last few weekends have been nonstop busy. I’m actually very glad that we have nothing scheduled for this weekend so that we can get some work done around the house, get some Christmas shopping done, and maybe….just maybe….get some sleep.

Two weekends ago, we spent a day downtown to go to the Walnut Room and Christkindlmarket. The weather was outstanding! Christkindlmarket was actually really really busy because the weather had been so mild.

The tree in the Walnut Room was really beautiful. I love the colors this year! And there are color coordinated animal statues all around the base of the tree.

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Check out that blue penguin! How cute is he?!?

Another favorite thing to do when dining at the Walnut Room? Checking out the windows and the decorations outside the store, too.

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I love that some things don’t change. I’ve admired these giant trumpets (are they trumpets?) every year. So fun!

And Christkindlmarket? Definitely one of my favorite places to just wander around and see what there is to see. So many booths. So many things to see, buy, eat.

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So far…….

 

Winter Checklist

It’s time for a new checklist. The winter checklist is full of winter-y but mostly Christmas-y things that we will hopefully be able to accomplish in the next coming weeks. Most of these things are ones that we have traditionally done each year. I hope that each of these things are things that our girls want to do for many more years to come.

Our list of winter must-dos:

When we do the summer checklist, we generally have about three months to get everything done and are able to do much of the list during the week since the girls and I are all home for the summer. For the winter checklist, however, we have to get it all done in just a few weekends (for the most part).

A couple of the to-do list items have already been accomplished. The Mag Mile Lights Festival was last weekend. It’s always one of our favorite events of the holiday season. It’s a great combination of two of our favorite things, Christmas and Disney.

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Mickey Mouse celebrating his birthday on the Mag Mile

We’ve also already accomplished taking a picture with Santa – a couple times already! At the tree lighting at Yorktown, the girls had a picture taken with Santa and Mrs. Claus. And then, once again, at a tree lighting – this time at the Shops at 900 North Michigan, the girls got to see Santa again and this time sit on his lap and let him know what their Christmas list consisted of.

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The tree at the Shops at 900 North Michigan is truly stunning!

So, all in all, I’m feeling pretty good about our list. Hopefully, there will be even more Christmas-y things that we are able to do, even if they aren’t on the initial list.

Our list thus far:

What are your Christmas must-dos?