Memorable Moments - 2011

Friday, December 30, 2011
It's been a good year. A year of more ups than downs, which is always a good thing.

I always spend some time reflecting on the year at the end of it and recalling some of my favorite moments. It was a big year for Harper. It was definitely her year.

She turned 5 in February.

She graduated from preschool in June.

She was baptised in August.

She started kindergarten, and Emma started 4th grade in September.

I can't believe how Emma's is growing  up. I can't tell you where the time has gone.

Getting her braces on...


And vacations...always great memory makers.

So many good times. And so many more to come in 2012!


My Anthropologie Deals & Steals

Thursday, December 29, 2011
Anthropologie is having an amazing sale right now. 50% off all sale items!!! I went there late last week to buy gift cards for my nieces for Christmas. Although I tried hard not to do it, I somehow ended up in the sale section. I browsed. I saw a few tops that I liked but nothing that screamed "BUY ME!". But then, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted some jackets. I have a soft spot for jackets. Not big, heavy, winter coats. Lightweight jackets. Blazers, trenches...that sort of thing.

I bought this sweet thing for $20!! It was 50% off $39.95. It was originally $118. It went through one markdown to $69.95 and finally ended up at $39.95 + 50% off.

I tried this jacket on but wasn't totally sold. But for $10, why not?? It was originally $88. It went through one markdown to $49.95. Another to $29.95, and a final one to $19.95 + 50% off. Crazy, right?

I bought this dress for $5. It's very sheer and can probably never been worn on its own. But I thought it would make a great beach or pool coverup. It was originally $118. It was marked down to $29.95 and again to $9.95 + 50% off. Unbelievable.

Finally, I bought a few dip bowls for $1.25 each. Seriously. How could I not? I bought one in every color available and spent $6.25 for 5 bowls.

Don't you just love a great bargain...especially an Anthropologie bargain??

Have you scored any good pre- or post-holiday bargains?


Chillin' & A Holiday Playdate

Wednesday, December 28, 2011
After a busy few weeks leading up to Christmas, I decided not to plan any major activities or outings for this week. We have a few things scheduled, but for the most part, our days are free to relax.

Yesterday, we did have a play date with Harper's preschool friends. Since the kids started kindergarten, seeing each other has been tough. With sports' schedules, after-school activities, and busy weekends, it's been impossible for us to get together. The kids and the moms were accustomed to seeing each other 3 times per week. Now, we're lucky if we run into each other once a month.

Our friend Kim was kind enough to offer to be the host. She's got the perfect house for entertaining children; a large finished basement just begging for kids to take over. The kids treated us to the "Disneyland Cafe", a lunch show complete with costumes and food vendors. The girls dressed in costume and performed a dance while the boys walked around selling "food". It was hilarious. So entertaining. The kids should have charged admission for the show. It would've been worth a buck or two.

Emma was dressed up like a chicken at one point.

Harper was sick and stayed home with the Hubs. She was so upset to miss out on seeing her friends. She misses everyone so much.

After the play date, I came home and took a nap!!! I haven't napped in ages. It was the perfect day for a nap; gray and drizzly outside.

I woke and played Wii with the kids. I meant to play for 10 minutes. An hour later I was still sitting in front to the TV with the Wii remote in my hand!

That's my Wii Mii, second from the left. I won!

And my special surprise was that my girlfriend Shannon sent me a text asking me if I had ever seen Woody Allen's "Midnight in Paris". I said that I had not, and she generously offered to drop it off at my house. Yay! I'm going to watch it tonight. Can't wait. Have you seen it?

A Whirlwind (and Exhausting!) Weekend

Monday, December 26, 2011
It's been a crazy week. In fact, it's been a crazy month. I'm sure you'll agree. December is hectic. We try to jam our weekends with all sorts of fun holiday activities, and eventually all the activity catches up with us.

It eventually caught up with me last Thursday when I woke at 3:30 am with a fever of 102 degrees F. I promptly took some Advil and tried to fall back to sleep. When I woke at 6:30 to get the girls ready for school, I felt no better. I called my doctor's office and was able to get an appointment for later in the day.

By 2:30 I learned that I had bronchitis and an ear infection. I was put on an antibiotic and a narcotic cough suppressant and was told to take it easy. Yeah. Three days before Christmas. Like that was gonna happen.

I came home and slept for most of the remainder of the day. But the next day, I plugged away. I still had some shopping to finish and all of my wrapping to do.

By the afternoon of Christmas Eve, I had no choice but to kick it into high gear. We made it to 4 pm mass with plenty of time to snag a seat. I love Christmas Eve mass. It's short but meaningful with lots of pretty music. Then we headed to Bay Head to spend some time with the Hub's cousins.

We came home to find a big mess on the floor made by Jolly Holly, our elf. She wrapped a few gifts for the girls while we were out. They unwrapped the gifts, and we posed for our annual Christmas Eve pic.

Emma and I...

Harper mixed up some food for the reindeer; oatmeal and glitter.

The girls sprinkled it in the backyard in hopeful anticipation of Santa's arrival.

Evidence that Santa was here.

Opening some favorite gifts...

We finished off the day with dinner at our house with family. So much good food and good times. But I was exhausted by the end of the night. My niece spent the night, and she, the girls, and I had a sleepover and watched Frosty the Snowman. It was the perfect way to end the night and to end the wonderful weekend.


25 Days of Christmas: Day 22 ~ Cookie Exchanges

Thursday, December 22, 2011
The holidays are a busy time of year. With lots to do and very little time to do it, it's sometimes impossible to get everything done.

This year, I knew I'd have some difficulty accomplishing all the tasks that I usually achieve, especially baking. So, when I was invited to participate in a cookie exchange, I didn't think twice. I was in!

If you aren't familiar with the concept, a cookie exchange is a group of people getting together to exchange different types of cookies that each participant has baked. You bake one (or whatever number you agree upon) type of cookie, and you get dozen of cookies from the remaining participants.

I baked snickerdoodles, about 9 dozen. There were 7 participants in the exchange, which means I received at least 6 other varieties of cookies. One of our participants was overzealous and made several kinds. Score!

We started off with some wine, snacks and easy conversation. We then made our way to the cookie table to exchange and taste test.

I walked away with at least 8 dozen cookies. There's no way I would've been able to make that many different kinds on my own.

To add more fun to the exchange, each of us brought a $5 gift for a grab bag. Stealing was allowed! It was a good time.

Have you ever participated in a cookie exchange?

25 Days of Christmas: Day 21 ~ Classroom Holiday Parties

Wednesday, December 21, 2011
Do you remember the excitement you felt when you woke up and knew that you'd be celebrating a classroom holiday party that day? Ahhh, I remember it well. The joys of childhood...

Today, Harper celebrated Christmas with her classroom, and parents were invited to attend. It was a fun morning of crafts, songs, and fun, seasonal food.

The first craft was the cutest thing! It was a Santa Claus ornament created using clam shells. Clam shells are a dime a dozen here in Jersey. I thought it was such a fantastic idea.

The final product. Seriously cute, right?

The second craft was a personalized photo frame ornament. You've got to love these! She's surveying her work.

The finished product. Super cute!

The last craft was a Christmas Tree treat. Do you remember making these in kindergarten? They've been around for a while, but they are always a good time. Of course, the kids ate more supplies than the put on their trees, but that was to be expected.

It was time for some yummy treats. How adorable are these reindeer cupcakes?

I love partying with my kindergartner!

Did you attend any classroom parties this holiday season?

25 Days of Christmas: Day 20 ~ Snickerdoodles!!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011
Although delicious anytime of the year, Snickerdoodles are synonymous with Christmas. The scent of warm cinnamon filling your home screams "Christmas!!!" They are my all-time favorite. And I like mine crunchy!

It was only fitting, when I was invited to participate in a cookie exchange, that I volunteered to make snickerdoodles. I can't wait to share the tasty goodness with friends.

The cookie exchange will take place tomorrow night. So I waited until tonight to bake the cookies. No, I wasn't procrastinating. I wanted to have fresh cookies to swap tomorrow, silly! I made over 10 dozen cookies. It took me about 2 hours or so. Not bad at all. This recipe makes about 4-5 dozen cookies depending how big you roll the balls of dough.

You're dying for the recipe. Aren't you? My Christmas gift to they are. Get your aprons on!

SNICKERDOODLES (Yields 4 dozen cookies)

1/2 cup butter (one stick), softened
1/2 cup of shortening (Don't freak out! It makes a huge difference in the texture of this cookie).
1-1/2 cups of granulated sugar
2 eggs (preferably at room temperature)
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit (200 degrees Celsius)

2. Cream together the butter, shortening, 1-1/2 cups granulated sugar, eggs, and the vanilla extract.

3. Sift the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt. Add it  to the creamed mixture in 2 batches.

4. Mix the 2 tablespoons granulated sugar and the cinnamon. Roll balls of dough and toss in the cinnamon/sugar mixture until completely coated.

5. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets lined with parchment paper. I like to flatten the dough balls slightly once they are on the cookie sheet. I use the bottom of a measuring cup to do this.

6. Bake 8 to 10 minutes, or until set but not too hard. Remove immediately from baking sheets and allow to cool. Store in airtight container.

What's your favorite holiday cookie?   Join the discussion on Facebook!


Unexpected Gifts & A Long Distance Friendship

Monday, December 19, 2011
Today I arrived home after a meeting and running some errands to find a small, rectangular box at my doorstep. Nothing new, I thought. Probably something from a PR firm; a product to review. But upon closer examination of the box, I noticed that it was from a friend in California.

What could it be? I wasn't expecting anything from her.

I quickly opened it, overly excited about my unexpected gift. Here is what was in the box. {Swoon}
A set of mini Starbucks ornaments!!!! OMG! Can I tell you how excited I was???? First, it was a completely unexpected gift (loved that!). Secondly, I've been eyeing up these ornaments for weeks. Every single time I walk into a Starbucks, I pick them up and begin to drool. But I've always put them down...for some reason or another (now I know why!), I have always put them back.

Don't you just love when a friend totally gets you? That is true friendship.

The gift came from my girlfriend Marina. We've known each other since the mid-90's. I went to college with her husband. They were high school sweethearts. Anyway, they moved to California in 1999, and I was crushed. :(

We weren't sure when we'd get to see each other. Holidays? Maybe. Summers? Maybe. But then, as fate would have it, I was sent to southern California by the company for which I worked to do some consulting. After work, we'd go to dinner, shop at South Coast Plaza and Fashion Island. They would show me the sights. It was just like old times.

But the traveling eventually took its toll on me. Too much time on the road and not enough at home is bound to catch up with you sooner or later.

It's been years since we've seen each other, but we've remained close. With the advent of Facebook and Skype, we've made up for time that we haven't seen each other or time we haven't spent with one another. If we thought we had a ton in common 15 years ago, we now have a gazillion things in common. We are like mirror images living on opposite coasts. We often talk about how our lives would be if we lived in the same town.

We easily pick up where we've left off, and it's always been that way. True friends do that. However long the lull is, you remain great pals. Always. I have several friends who fall into this category, mostly my high school friends.

Distance will never come between true friends. Ever.

Do you have any long-lasting, long distance friendships?

25 Days of Christmas: Day 19 ~ Handmade Ornaments from the Kids

Seriously. Who can resist an ornament made by your child? Just the thought of those little hands and fingers gluing and creating is enough to melt my heart. And the effort that goes into it, and the pride that results from it? Forget about it. I turn to mush.

I look forward to receiving these ornaments every year. They aren't perfect, but that's what makes them perfect. Every single one of them is dear to me, and I'll never throw them away. But I have collected a few favorites over the years.

Any ornament with a picture ranks high on my list of favorites.

I love the ornaments with a scribbly little signature.

The following ornaments are all-time favorites because 1) I collect snowmen, and 2) I love anything with a seaside theme.
 Emma made the snowman in her last year of preschool. Isn't he the cutest?

Harper made the shell ornament last year in her final year of preschool. I love how it kind of looks like a face, but not really. It's so imperfectly perfect.

Do you have favorite, handmade ornaments given to you by your child(ren)?

25 Days of Christmas: Day 18 ~ Decorative Pillows

Sunday, December 18, 2011
What? You're not into decorating like a maniac? Well, you can still add a festive touch to your home without going overboard with lights, decorative nutcrackers, singing snowmen, and tchotchkes galore.

Strategically placing a few decorative pillows throughout your family and living rooms will create comfort and ambiance for the holiday season. These pillows are tasteful and whimsical. Scatter them on your furniture depending on your mood.

From Pier 1 Imports:

Add a touch of luxury with the Velvet Snowflake pillow $29.95

Reinforce your belief in the magic of Christmas with the Believe pillow $16.95
Add a burst of color with the Embroidered Reindeer pillow $29.95

Brighten any room with red with the Beaded Reindeer pillow $29.95
From Pottery Barn:

I love this Knitted Stocking pillow (but it's a bit expensive. Hoping it'll go on sale soon.) $49

The price is right for this Peace On Earth pillow $19

This Hanukkah Pillow displays a menorah beautifully $22.99

From Crate and Barrel:

Add both color and texture with the Merrie pillow $26.95

Since I'm a collector of snowmen, I had to add this one, the Snowman $32.95. Isn't he cute?

All photos courtesy of the respective brands.