Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Its the Most Wonderful Time of the Year...

Twas the night before Christmas (or our Christmas trip anyway...) and all through the house, I'm wrapping last minutes gifts, packing, trying to finish up some photo projects, cleaning, oh, and posting on my blog. It takes a lot of effort to get to this point, but at this time tomorrow I'll be laying down to sleep in my Nana's house, looking out the window at that beautiful pine tree decked with holiday lights and I'll know that its finally Christmas. There are so many things I love about Christmas...I wanted to share just a few my favorite things from the past few days.

Christmas cards! I have loved receiving so many cards this year from sweet friends and family. It is a tradition that I still keep myself. December is one of the few months of the year when I love to get the mail!

Snow... We had our first little snow in Knoxville this month! It didn't stick around for long, but it was just enough to make my kids giddy. I'm still holding out hope for snow in the mountains this week, but the forecast doesn't look good. Still, every year I pray and hope it snows for Christmas.

Making Christmas cookies! I have baked...

 ...and baked...

...and baked! Which reminds me of another things I really love. Christmas Parties! (One of the reasons I was baking...)

These are my girls from work. We had a great party here at my house. In case you're wondering where I'm at, I colored my hair. I thought I needed something with more of a winter feel.

Probably my favorite moment of December was just Sunday night...the night before Christmas at our house.

My babies slept...dreaming of Santa's sleigh...

While I got to play Santa. Setting everything out, filling stockings, tip-toeing quietly around the house...

Until everything is ready for our little Christmas morning...

It just doesn't get much better than messy Christmas morning hair, big smiles, and squeals of delight!

Merry Chirstmas to all, and to all...I have got to get to bed...so, goodnight.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Kayla and Neveah

What a gorgeous December day for a photo shoot! I have decided that I love taking pictures at every time of year! Kayla and Neveah were both gorgeous. Click here to see more of the family photos just in time for Christmas 2011.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Home for Christmas - Brown Paper Packages

One of my favorite Christmas preparations is wrapping presents! I put a lot of thought into what kind of paper I want to use, if I want a crafty look or something more elegant, what kind of embellishments I will add...etc. This year I decided to go with a crafty and fun look using brown paper, polka-dots, and something with green and red for a traditional feel.

I ordered paper ribbon (which I am loving) and adorable labels from a company called Paper Jacks which I found on Etsy...via Pinterest. The ribbon looks so impressive but is super easy to use! I combined it with yarn just because I like a lot of extras on my presents...you know...to make it harder to open. (This is what my family thinks...I just like them to look awesome!)

Whenever I wrap presents I gather all my supplies and turn on a good Christmas movie or Christmas music. Although I'm being productive, its a good excuse to watch a whole movie in the middle of the day! White Christmas is my personal favorite. I also love The Polar Express.

I love going through gifts and deciding what paper to use, what box will be perfect, and wrapping it up!

I always use a sharpie to mark a small spot on the bottom of my presents just in case I forget what is inside. I learned this the hard way one year when I mixed up some gifts. I don't put labels on every single one if a person is receiving multiple gifts...which happens a lot since I tend to wrap everything separately!

I love the way they look once they're all tucked neatly under the tree. So...enjoy the next several pictures of nothing but wrapped packages...tied up with string...these are a few of my favorite things...

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Home for Christmas - Crafty Centerpiece

I finally got to my Christmas centerpiece yesterday (better late than never!) As I mentioned in an earlier post, last year I had a beautiful bowl of ornaments and pine...however I spent time every day sweeping up glass from broken ornaments thanks to my two little ones who love to look and touch. This year I told myself that I needed to find something more kid friendly. This idea came from Pinterest and it is extremely simple. I started with styrofoam cones which I found at the Dollar Tree and Hobby Lobby (Dollar Tree only had one size.)  I also purchased yarn for $1 and a small package of buttons. The cranberries are from the picks that I use in my tree.  I also started with a helper, although, he lost interest after the first tree...

You will also need some small pins. To start your tree simply pin the yarn to the base of the tree. You will need to repeat this around the entire bottom row using about four pins.

Continue to wrap your yarn around the cone in tight rows. You won't need to pin the yarn again until you get to the very top.

This project was so easy and did not take a lot of time. Beware though, the styrofoam is messy! Once I wrapped the yarn around the entire tree, I began to decorate it. The berries I trimmed with scissors leaving just enough of a stem to stick right into the styrofoam tree, and the buttons I pinned on.  A small star would have made a cute topper, but I just used more berries. I made three trees in all and it probably only took about 30 minutes.

So there you have it! As promised, a very easy craft for Christmas that would look cute on a mantel, as a centerpiece, or just about anywhere. I had one extra cone so I may make a pink one for Savannah's room! Use your imagination with your decorations and yarn selection and you could come up with several unique looks.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Home for Christmas - Candy Cane Cupcakes

I wanted to share a simple cupcake recipe that is very festive and perfect for all of the holiday parties and dinners you'll be attending over the next couple of weeks. You'll have to excuse the not so great photos. When I made these a couple of weeks ago for a work event I was in a hurry and didn't get great shots. By the time I got to editing my photos the cupcakes were long gone so I couldn't re-take them.  At any rate, they did look pretty! Here are the ingredients you'll need:

For Cupcakes:
Candy Cane Hershey Kisses (Yum!)
One box chocolate cake mix and required ingredients
For Frosting:
1/3 cup butter
2 cups confectioners sugar
6 tablespoons baking cocoa
2 to 4 tablespoons milk
For Decor:
Small candy canes - crushed
Mini-chocolate chips (optional)

I love these kisses and of course you can only find them at this time of year. Make your cupcakes according to your cake mix and simply place one Hershey's Kiss in the center of each cupcake.

The flavor of the peppermint really bakes into the chocolate cupcake giving the whole treat a minty flavor! While your cupcakes bake (I baked mine according the the mix instructions) you can mix up all of your frosting ingredients. I always double the recipe to get plenty of frosting because I pipe mine on and make it fluffy. One batch would be sufficient to spread on with a spatula. When your cupcakes are baked, cooled, and frosted, top with crushed candy canes. I had some mini-chocolate chips so I used those as well. These cupcakes look cute and taste awesome. Happy Holiday treat-eating!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Home for Christmas - Fantasy of Trees

Christmas lights are magic... There is something about the way my house feels in December when its getting dark at dinnertime and the only lights on in the house are Christmas lights. I rarely turn any lamps on all month long! I'm so excited to share with you my Christmas trees and my mantel this year. For those of you expecting an elegantly decorated tree and ornate decorations, you may be disappointed. For me, Christmas is about being a kid or feeling like a kid again; it is remembering the feeling you had as you fell asleep on Christmas Eve listening for Santa's reindeer hooves on your rooftop. For that reason, my Christmas style is nostalgia.

This is also the reason that I love colored lights! I am one of the few people I know personally who still prefers them. My mom always used colored lights when I was growing up, as did my grandparents. Most of my mom's sisters still use colored lights as well. To me it just feels like Christmas. Don't get me wrong, I like the white ones too! I have more than one tree... Knoxville holds an event each year called "Fantasy of Trees" which showcases a bunch of Christmas trees of various sizes and styles....my house is staring to look like a small-scale fantasy of trees. 

This one is filled with ornaments dating back to my first Christmas and reminders of memories from each year. I also use cranberry picks to add to my tree and used them as a simple topper this year. 

I always place my tree in front of our window to the porch so that it can be seen from the outside. I love driving around at Christmas time and seeing people's trees lit up in their windows. To coordinate with my tree, I also use colored lights on my mantel. This year I used several items that I already had to create a new look for my mantel. 

Because I had my garland, the snowflakes and larger red ornaments, and the small tree, the only things i had to purchase were the small red ornaments, the sticks, and the berry filler for my mason jar. All three of these I found at the Dollar Store. I have several mason jars and used to twine to dress them up just a little. The big red snowflakes were a gift years ago and they are one of my favorite Christmas items. I usually hang them in my kitchen window but love them on my mantel! 

I am still working on my centerpiece for my kitchen table. Last year I had a bowl filled with beautiful ornaments, but because I have a mischievous little girl, I found myself cleaning up lots of broken ornaments. I decided to make something more kid friendly this year and hopefully I will actually get it done before Christmas. For now I simply have a bowl of green apple on a Christmas placemat - simple but festive.

My kids each have a small tree of their own in their bedrooms. Savannah's room is pink, pink, pink so her tree is naturally pink.

Landon's tree - which he decorated himself - is like my big tree. He insisted on a simple green tree with colored lights. Then he chose Tennessee ornaments for decor. He is so proud of it. I resisted the urge to make his ornaments more symmetrical for this picture. (Wonder where he gets his OCD tendencies...hmm...)

In my bedroom is my final tree. As most people do, Craig prefers white lights. For the first several years of our marriage I decorated our tree with white lights and beautiful and simple ornaments...when we had kids I cheered at a good reason to pull out my sentimental ornaments and colored lights, but I still decorate a simple tree with white lights in the spirit of compromise (and because I enjoy having a tree in every room!)

This tree was our first tree...it is a little bit of a Charlie Brown tree but I like it.  Since my bedroom is beach themed I use silver and blue ornaments and keep it really simple.  

I'm going to complete this post with my favorite tree... It is quite different from anything else that I have. Although is isn't really my "style" it is so special to me for those nostalgic reasons I mentioned before...

The reason that this little ceramic tree is my favorite is because it was given to my mom by my Great Aunt Susan who passed away several years ago. She was such a special lady. My mom always let me have this tree in my bedroom every year and long after all the other lights were turned out, it kept glowing. I spent many late nights in December staring at it, dreaming of the pine tree in my Nana's front yard that was sure to be decorated with big colored lights for Christmas and covered with snow - just like this one! So for me, when I put this tree out and turn it on...it's Christmas. 

(P.S. I'm linking up to Southern Hospitality's mantel decor party. Check it out here!)