Friday, November 20, 2015

Advent Calendar

Growing up, Michael's mom always made a paper advent calendar - it was very simple, each day had a Hershey's Kiss on it and he and his sister got to eat one piece of candy each day leading up to Christmas. They always enjoyed it, so we started the tradition with Sophia and Carter, but I decided to change it up a little. Each day they get to eat a Hershey's Kiss, but when they pull the candy off of the calendar it reveals the day's activity.

Some days they get to open a present (ornament, Christmas book, puzzle), but most days involve doing something as a family. Our local movie theater is showing old Christmas movies, so we will go see a few of those, and then we will also go to a Christmas play. This year we will be making Christmas Story Bracelets, and we will do a Christmas Light Scavenger Hunt (so fun!). We believe that it's important to teach Sophia and Carter that Christmas is about giving, not receiving, so two of the days are dedicated to doing good unto others - they will each select an angel from the Angel Tree to shop for, and they will bring a goodie bag to a neighbor for the Feast of Saint Nicholas.

I have attached the calendar here if you would like to use it with your family. If you do, please comment below if you come up with any different ideas! I'm always looking for ways to change it up!


Thursday, November 19, 2015

Holiday Decor Haul

This will be our first Christmas in our new house and I am so excited to decorate! I haven't purchased any new decorations in a few years, so I am doing a little updating this year.

A few years ago a blogger I follow posted a picture of her tree and it had Peace, Faith, and Love paper garland from Pottery Barn. By the time I got online to order them they were sold out, so I have been searching for something similar ever since. I was so excited when I opened my PB catalog last month and saw this garland! I'll post a picture when we put our tree up (I may have started listening to Christmas music on November 1, but the tree won't go up until after Thanksgiving).

Glitter Script Paper Garland

I have always been a sucker for things with my name/monogram/initial (probably because growing up Heidi was never on anything!), so I was super excited when I discovered that Ballard Designs has alphabet wreaths! I actually considered ordering the letters to spell out "JOY" or "NOEL," but I think the initial is more unique. It's not prelit, so I'm debating about whether or not to add lights to it before hanging it.

Spruce Alphabet Wreath

I found a Luke 2:11 sign on Pinterest a few years ago, but they are incredibly popular and I was never able to order one from her Etsy shop (AmandaGdesigns) before they sold out. I thought that they were sold out again (I couldn't find one when I went directly to her shop site), but when I searched "Luke 2:11" on Etsy one somehow appeared! It's in transit right now - I can't wait for it to arrive!

Luke 2:11

I also picked up a few cute things at the Hallmark Holiday Open House. I received a really cute snowman cookie jar, ornament, pot holder, and recipe cards just for showing up!

 I also received a light up wooden JOY sign for spending over a certain amount. I love snowmen, so I of course had to buy three cards to get a deal (half price!) on this year's animated version.

Time for Cookies

Every year buy some new ornaments for Sophia and Carter to open up as a part of their advent calendar of activities (more on that in another post). Here are the ornaments I picked up this year:

Gingerbread House Personalized Ornament

God's Love

Fancy Nancy Merry Fancy Christmas

Disney's The Sorcerer's Apprentice Mickey Mouse

Right now we only have one tree, but I'm thinking this year I may add a second tree for Sophia and Carter's ornaments. We'll see.

I'll share pictures after Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 16, 2015

Europe Trip

Michael was promoted to partner this year, and because of that we had the opportunity to travel to Amsterdam for the Global New Partners Conference. This would be my first trip to Europe, and Michael's first trip where he wasn't working the entire time, so we decided to spend three days in London, three days in Amsterdam, and three days in Paris.

We started our trip in London. We knew that there was a lot we wanted to see in a short amount of time, so we purchased a three day London Pass, which also includes a hop-on, hop-off bus tour. With the pass, we were able to visit Westminster Abbey, Kensington Palace, the Tower Bridge, and the Tower of London. We also visited Buckingham Palace, though it's closed to tours, and took a turn on the London Eye at night. We got fast track tickets for the eye and were able to bypass the lines and get on right away, a little more expensive but definitely worth it to not have to wait in line.

Big Ben
Westminster Abbey

Kensington Palace Gates

Buckingham Palace

Tower Bridge
One of our days in London was spent at Whitehart Lane for the Tottenham-Liverpool match. Michael is a big Spurs fan, so it was great to be able to attend a match in person. The game ended in a draw, but the atmosphere was amazing!

Go Spurs!
The food in London was great! The first day we stopped at a pub for a snack and had fish & chips and a pork pie. That night we met my aunt and uncle, who happened to be in town, for dinner at Novikov, an Italian restaurant. The next day we had afternoon tea at Perken Reveller after spending the morning touring Kensington Palace, the Tower Bridge, and the Tower of London. That night we ate at Devonshire Arms. Michael had bangers & mash and I had a chicken pie with mashed potatoes and vegetables on the side. So good! The last night we were there we went shopping at Piccadilly Circus and had dinner at the Leicester Arms. We ordered fish & chips and a steak & ale pie - again, so good!

We went from London to Amsterdam. One thing I now know to check on when traveling is when the city hosts it's marathon! We met our driver at the airport and what should have been a 20 minute ride to the hotel turned into a three hour tour! Our driver didn't realize why the roads were closed at first, so he kept trying to go around the closures, which took us further and further from the hotel. We finally realized the reason for the road closures and decided to have the driver let us out about two blocks from the hotel. Unfortunately, at this point the half marathon had just started, so we ended up waiting about 30 minutes on the side of the street for a break in the runners that was large enough for us to run across with luggage! Unfortunately we ended up missing our scheduled tour, so we unloaded our luggage and walked to a restaurant called Volt for lunch. I had an open faced hummus and beet sandwich and we split some french fries and mayo. 

Amsterdam Marathon
That night we went to a welcome reception at the Het Scheepvaart Museum. That was the first time I tried Stroopwafels, waffle cookies with caramel in the middle - heavenly! 

The next day we had meetings in the morning, and that afternoon we split into teams of about ten people and went on a scavenger hunt through the city. After two hours of walking all over the city, we boarded a canal boat and continued our scavenger hunt by boat. In the US we would have had to sign waivers, been given life jackets, and had a driver...not in Amsterdam. We hopped in the boat, were given a five minute tutorial on how to pilot the boat, and set off on our own. Luckily we made it back to the hotel safely, and that night we went to the gala at Concert Gebouw. 

Scavenger Hunt on the Canal
The next day I had the opportunity to travel to Purmerend, which is a city about 20 minutes north of Amsterdam, and visit a library with the KFFL. We listened to an author perform children's songs from throughout the world in Dutch and then broke off into groups to work with children who were attending the event. I played book dominoes with the kids - they loved it! I felt bad for the person that had to reshelve all of the books, but the kids had fun and that was why we were there. 

That night we had dinner at Stork. After dinner we made our way to a bar, and ended up getting back to the room at around 2 am, which didn't bode well for a 5 am wake up to go to the airport to catch our flight to Paris. 

We arrived in Paris mid-morning and took a cab to our hotel. We spent the next two and a half days walking the city, and also took advantage of the hop-on, hop-off bus tour both days and one night to see the city lit up. Paris was definitely my favorite. Everything there is beautiful! Because there was so much to see we didn't tour many places, but we did visit Notre Dame, the Pantheon, the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, and Luxembourg Gardens. The concierge at the hotel recommended we not visit the Louvre on this trip, which I had read in several different articles prior to arriving - there is too much to see, and when you don't have days to spend in the museum it's not worth it. Again, I'd definitely recommend the bus tour as a way to see most of the city in a short amount of time. Paris is the most beautiful city - my heart hurts over what happened there this past week. 

Bus Tour

Eiffel Tower
Arc de Triomphe

Notre Dame
Arc de Triomphe at night.

Here is a video I took of the Eiffel Tower light show on our night bus tour.

There were so many places that I would love to have visited that we missed on this trip. Just another reason to go back!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Fall Fashion Haul

I'm sorry I've been MIA for the past few months. I'd love to say I was doing something incredibly exciting, but I wasn't (though I did actually go to London, Amsterdam, and Paris in mid-October, so I guess that's pretty exciting - I'll do a post on the trip later this week!). I've just been in a funk lately. I haven't been motivated in the slightest to work out, and I haven't been eating all that well, so I've just been living in my comfy jeans, t-shirts, and tennis shoes - to be fair, they are pretty cute shoes, but still, I wasn't feeling very me. I'm hoping to start cooking and eating healthier foods soon (because the holidays are the PERFECT time for that, right? ;), and start working out again. 
Nike Flyknit (similar to mine)

We are getting our family picture taken on Saturday, so I was in search of a pretty blouse. I haven't had much luck with Banana Republic lately, but yesterday I found not only a blouse, but some cute/fun tops for the fall/winter.

Ruffle-Front Blouse (mine is cocoon)

Stripe "Le Tee" Shirt (mine is cocoon)

"All Dressed Up" Graphic Tee

Lace-Hem Linen Henley (mine is, you guessed it, cocoon)

"Fancy" Baseball Tee
Heritage Linen Cargo-Pocket Shirt (mine is Tiger's Eye Green)
Ruffle-Trim Sweatshirt

Pieced Jacquard Fit-and-Flare Skirt (mine is the pink multi/black)

I also ordered some perfume during the Sephora VIB Rouge sale. Both perfumes smell great on their own, but I love mixing the two for just the right mix of feminine and masculine scents. I am planning on wrapping it up and putting it under the tree - I'm so thoughtful starting Michael's Christmas shopping for him. ;)

Elizabeth and James Nirvana White

Elizabeth and James Nirvana Black

Talk to you all soon!