Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Top Ten Moments of 2014

I cannot believe that today is the last day of 2014! How did this happen?

Even though the end of the year has taken me by total surprise, it's been a really great year. And, unlike 2013, I think that I actually did blog about all of the top ten moments!

My favorite moments of 2014, in no particular, but mostly chronological, order...

Playing Amahl's Mother in Amahl and the Night Visitors  I didn't do a lot of performing this year, but I was tided over by beginning my year doing Amahl. Amahl is one of my favorite operas, and it has always been a dream of mine to someday play Amahl's mother. The Maestro conducted in the pit, and we had a lovely experience working together, even though maybe our children were a little neglected for a few months.

Amahl on stage web

Ten glorious days in NYC with The Maestro  In June, we celebrated 15 years of marriage and celebrated by taking a trip to the Big Apple sans children for ten whole days! After a hard spring semester, it was a welcomed getaway and we had a fantastic time together doing EVERYTHING. Museums, musicals, opera, symphony, book signings, shops, and lots of food. I want to do this again as soon as humanly possible.

NYC Selfie Metropolitan Museum of Art

Sophia's Baptism My youngest child turned 8 in July and was baptized in August. Such a wonderful moment in her life, and as her mother, in mine too.

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Camping with my family. Such a lovely time to just be with each other and nature and not worry about the rest of life! And when you camp along Lake Superior, it's particularly beautiful. Just look at that sunset!

IMG_9009 Superior Sunset Sophia Porkies web

My surprise 40th birthday party I honestly thought I was going to a birthday party for my friend! I brought her a present and everything. And I was completely shocked when everyone was staring at me and then the party was suddenly for me. What? I have the best friends ever.

Mackinac Island As if a big party wasn't enough, The Maestro arranged for my BFFs to kidnap me and take me down to Mackinac about a month after my surprise party--just before school started for the kids. We had so much fun together, and I think it was a needed getaway for all of us!

IMG_9099 Mackinac Island web

Back-to-School Feast 2014 This is one of my favorite traditions every year. I love the way our traditions hold us together and give us an identity as a family. I can't believe that I have a child that is in high school. But then again, I also can't believe that I am not 28 anymore, either.

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Indian Summer We tried to go to the beach whenever possible this summer, but it wasn't a really great summer for beaching it. Our interminable winter seemed to extend right into summer and it was pretty cold. But we were granted an absolutely gorgeous Indian Summer at the end of September and it is one of my favorite memories of the year. We went to the beach and picnicked with good friends, soaked up the beauty, and enjoyed the most spectacular Superior sunset of the year.

McLain Sunset 9_27_14 web

Halloween with the Grammar Avengers  I love it I get it together enough to do themed costumes. And we had so much fun with our theme this year! Literally.

Spending time in Utah with my parents and brothers It took a lot of faith and persistence to get myself there, but I made it! And I had a wonderful time with my siblings and parents. It is so rare that we are ever all together since we live in four different states (and I'm usually the one missing because I live at the end of the world), that when we are together it is memorable. I'm sure the staff at Brio in City Creek absolutely hated the loud family they served that one night. Sorry about that.


2014 was awesome! Here's to an even better 2015.

Happy New Year!!!

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Monday, December 29, 2014

The Ten Most Popular Posts in 2014

2014 marked a huge turning point for my blog. I almost got rid of it in 2013, but I felt drawn to doing more with it instead. I really felt it was what I was supposed to do for some reason. So, I did. The growth that it has seen this past year has not only surprised me, but it has allowed me to quit one of the jobs I was working, and it continues to grow.

I'm thankful for readers who come back and read more, even though I'm not always sure why! I thought it would be fun to highlight the ten most popular posts from 2014 as a way to say good-bye to this year and look forward to even more blogging fun in 2015. Even though I'm always a little worried that one day I will actually run out of ideas, they still seem to be coming...

So without further ado, here are my top ten posts written in 2014:

10. When Life Gets Overwhelming. I wrote this post when I was feeling REALLY overwhelmed because I had more on my plate than normal. My husband gave me some really great advice. I still struggle with these things, but I feel that this year I've finally made progress on them. Most notably, being merciful with myself.

9. Four Fantasy Series Tween Girls Will Love. My girls love reading, and fantasy is their favorite genre. These are some of their favorite series. I'll have to update this one sometime soon, because they've had nearly a year to find new series!

8. My Summer 2014 Reading List. Yep! Another book list post. I love to read, and apparently you all do, too. The good news is that I read the majority of the list. The better news is that I enjoyed it immensely!

7. How to Save Money by Shopping from Your Own Closet. This was a fun post that I did with my teenage daughter's help. We had fun putting together the outfits she found on Pinterest--all with things out of her own closet. It's the best way to shop!

6. Five Things I Wish I Brought Camping. I think it's a little funny that this is one of the more popular posts I wrote this year, because it was mostly tongue-in-cheek. We had gone on an impromptu camping trip and we forgot a lot of things. It isn't really intended to be some sort of definitive list, but it is a cautionary tale.

5. 12 Easy Chapter Book Series for Early Readers. Another book list, great for young readers. These books are all quite beloved in our house, and though Sophia has passed them up now, she still reads several of them over and over again.

4. Which Planner is Right For You? I love me a gorgeous paper planner. So, I wrote a post about a bunch of the planners I've used in the last several years. They all have their pros and cons, but I do know what my favorite is.

3. A Place for Everything: 31 Days to Less Clutter and More Peace. In October, I took on an insane challenge that involved both decluttering my house and writing about it every single day. I'm happy that it is the #3 most popular post, because it nearly killed me! Some of the most read parts of the series (which are in the top ten in their own right, but I'm lumping them together here) are: Declutter Your Mind, Practical Organization, Decluttering Toys, and Stop Saving Magazines.

2. Is Your Room Mommy Clean? This is a post I threw up without much thought and I've been surprised at the response. My Sophia's room is nearly always a disaster, and I was at the end of my rope. I made a (not very cute) printable list to help her, and it worked! I shared the (not very cute) printable in the post, and I have been astounded that 20,000 of you have downloaded the (not very cute) printable. I hope it helped you as well as it helped me.

1. How to Keep Your House Clean When You Don't Have Time to Clean. This post has been read over 200,000 times--which I can barely wrap my brain around. I don't purport to be perfect at the whole keeping my house clean when I don't have time, but I definitely don't have time, and these things help me a lot. Which is good, because I'm staring down the post Christmas disaster right now, and I actually DO have time to clean, so I'm hoping to get it done really well. Starting today.

Thanks again for being such great readers! I'm looking forward to a wonderful 2015.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Christmas Comes But Once a Year

And it is truly the most magical day of the year, too.

It's not because of our Christmas PJs (though they do make us very happy--especially Sophia!).

IMG_7330 Christmas Eve Jammies web

It's not because of the gifts Santa leaves (though they are always just what we wanted--a new BYU sweatshirt for Bria, a FIFA 15 video game for Chloe, and a Lizzie Hearts doll for Sophia).

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It's not because of the anticipation of heading down the stairs to finally see what Santa brought on Christmas morning (though it is definitely REALLY exciting!).

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And it's not even because of all the awesome presents under the tree (this year there were books and violin/piano music and BYU clothing mostly--and most of it wasn't from The Maestro and me because we're going on a tropical vacation for Christmas!).

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It's not all the Christmas goodies (though Puccini certainly enjoyed eating what Santa left behind...).

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It wasn't spending a lovely Christmas dinner with good friends (we hosted this year, and thanks to Chloe, this is the only photo I have--it's the kids' table--too busy!)
IMG_7339 Christmas Day dinner web

No, it's magical because we love each other a little more, we appreciate each other a little more, we're a little more generous with each other, and because we are celebrating the birth of our Savior. Remembering Him makes us all a little more joyous than usual.

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(This last photo was one of my favorite Christmas morning moments. Chloe had been waiting for months to gift her extensive Littlest Pet Shop collection to her little sister. She's grown out of them, and Sophia loves them still. So when Sophia opened the note that said what she was getting for Christmas from Chloe she attacked her with a bear hug.)

I think this photo of me and a gift from my brother applies, no?

IMG_7334 Christmas Day

I'm sure thankful for all of the free gifts I've been given this Christmas season.

I hope you had a Merry Christmas and I wish you a very happy New Year this week, too!

Happy Sunday!

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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Christmas Home Tour: Dining Room

A few days I showed you my decorated living room. Today, I will show you my dining room, which is more decked out than I anticipated! In other words, lots of photos.

When we first moved into this house, the dining room was covered with icky, peeling, beige wallpaper. I took it all down, only to find cracked plaster underneath. So, I did a texturizing and faux painting technique and have really loved how it turned out. I did keep the wood paneling, simply because I did not have the resources to get rid of it, but perhaps someday soon I will.

Without further ado, here is what Christmas time looks like in the Overstuffed dining room!

When you walk into the room from the living room, this is your first view. I took this photo after dark, because that's when I love my home the best. Even though photographically, it isn't as great.

I had a different (better) table runner on the table until the other day when Sophia and her friend spilled hot chocolate all over it. It is not yet out of the laundry. This one will just have to do for now.

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To the left of the table is the hutch. I decked it out with boughs of holly, some peppermint striped candles, and this fun Christmas tree shaped candle holder. Instead of candles, I used glass Christmas balls on it.

IMG_0719 Christmas 14 web

I didn't do much with the inside of the hutch. I really do need to arrange it better anyway. But I did put my Precious Moments nativity set inside. The Maestro started buying me pieces of it when we were very first married. I would get a piece of the nativity each Christmas for about the first five years of our marriage. My personal style and taste has evolved much since then, but I still love this nativity set because so much sentimentality is attached to it.

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Balsam Hill

They are truly cute.

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Next to the hutch is the doorway to the kitchen, and next to the doorway is a tallboy where I keep linens and other various items.

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I designed the printable specifically to match those Christmas trees. If you are interested in printing one for yourself, you may do it here: Six Christmas Printables Based on Beloved Christmas Hymns.

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Directly across from the table is the sideboard. I keep our fruit basket on it, but also decorate it up for the fall and winter holidays.

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I filled an oversized Mason jar with gold ornaments and some lighted branches. I love how they run on a timer and come on just at dusk and stay on for about four hours. Otherwise, I'd have to either have them be on all the time or dump out the jar twice every day to turn it on and off.

I like how the berry wreath looks on my wrought iron decoration so much that I may just decide to keep it up all year long!

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I love the NOEL blocks, purchased on an after Christmas clearance last year. They go well with my Christmas photo frame, which holds one of my favorite Christmas pictures ever taken of the girls. (It was our first Christmas in this house, you can read the original post and see a larger photo here: Christmas 2009).

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To the right of the sideboard is a radiator. I have put my Willow Tree nativity set there, along with some greenery.

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To the right of the radiator is a window, and next to the window, I put another Christmas tree. I had had some other ideas for decorating it, but never got around to it, so this is how it has remained all month. Maybe next year.

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Now we've made a full circle of the room. To the right of the tree is the archway we entered from. I love to tape all of the Christmas cards I receive on that archway. We haven't received a ton yet this year (I'm hoping it's just because everyone is as behind as I am this year--mine only went out a couple days ago!).

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And, lest you think that my home is always looking perfectly clean at Christmas time, I'll zoom out a bit and show you the truth.

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Yes, you can see the festive mistletoe and the Christmas cards, and I even cleaned off the table so I could take these photos. Look closely, though, and you'll see the piles of laundry I still have not folded in the living room while The Maestro works on getting the last bits of work done for the semester.

And because I know I won't get to them later, here are a couple bonus photos of some of my favorite Christmas decor. Both our in the living room, but I didn't include them last time.

This is on the piano. I just love the feather Christmas tree, and I enjoy how it looks on the candlestick.

IMG_0708 Christmas 14 web

And here is our electronics charging station--this is where we have always put the main Christmas tree until this year, but nobody wanted to give up the convenience of charging up devices there! So we moved the tree by the fireplace (which I have loved), and kept this here.

IMG_0702 Christmas 14 web

I made the red wreath last Christmas when the Anthropologie inspired pom-pom wreaths were all the rage. Most of them were white (I made a white one, too. Look closely at the photo of my laundry on the floor and you'll find it), but I made a red one as well. I made all the pom-poms by hand while traveling in the car to the orthodontist (don't worry! The Maestro was driving) and then glued them onto a wreath form. Love how they turned out.

That chalkboard has been there all year. I have put various quotes on it, meant to remind me of my word of the year for 2014. This quote, of course, is no different. My word is peace.

I hope all of you have a wonderfully merry and peaceful Christmas this year!

Merry Christmas!

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