Sunday, November 30, 2014

Thanksgiving Weekend

This weekend ranks right up there as one of my favorite weekends of the entire year. I love Thanksgiving Day, and I love starting to get ready for Christmas beginning on the day after Thanksgiving. It all just lifts my spirits--despite all the cold and the snow.

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We had two of our favorite families join us in our home for Thanksgiving this year. We had so much fun eating and playing games and just being together. When you can't be with extended family during the holidays, the next best thing is to have amazing friends to share with.

I was a complete delinquent at taking photos because I was too busy taking care of things and, you know, eating and enjoying myself! I did manage to grab a few of the tables before our guests arrived, though.

Here is the kids' table:

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Here is the adults' table (which included one teenage girl--Bria!):

IMG_0645 Thanksgiving 14 web

And here is the teenage boys' table (I had to get creative with 16 people in the house!):

IMG_0648 Thanksgiving 14 web

The Pilgrim Hat Place Cards I made turned out great and were a big hit:

IMG_0650 Thanksgiving 14 web

The Maestro did manage to catch a couple photos while we were eating. The kids really loved their hats, and tried to wear them during dinner:


And pretty much nobody but me was actually aware he was taking this photo, but I'm posting it because it is the only one!


On the Day after Thanksgiving I did NOT go Black Friday shopping. For the first time since forever--I think the last time I missed was when I was pregnant with Sophia and throwing up my guts, so getting up early for shopping was not appealing. This year, it wasn't appealing again for many reasons. Partly because too many stores were open on Thursday and I didn't want to go out during Thanksgiving. Partly because we are doing a big vacation this year instead of a lot of gifts. And partly because there are too many TVs and not enough of anything else offered.

Instead of shopping, I slept in! What a concept!

When I finally woke up, we ate leftovers and turned on the Christmas music so we could start the decorating.

We got all the trees up, but I'm still not quite finished with everything else.

The Maestro's job is to put the lights on:

IMG_0653 Christmas 14web

And the girls and I take over from there:


(If you want to read my tutorials for Christmas tree decorating, click here: How to Decorate Your Christmas Tree.)

I just love having my home be all festive and decked out for Christmas! I wish it could be this way all year long, but then it wouldn't be very special, so I appreciate the month of December greatly for bringing such a wonderful spirit into our lives.

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Happy Sunday! I hope that your Thanksgiving was beautiful and that the beginning of your Christmas season is amazing!

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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Easy Pilgrim Hat Place Cards for Thanksgiving

How to make cute pilgrim hat Thanksgiving place cards. They are very simple to make!

While I loved my Thanksgiving place cards from last year, we are having a lot more people over this year, so I wanted to do something different. I've seen a few different ideas floating around for Pilgrim hat place cards, and I really loved them, but most of them seemed way too involved, and would require me to actually go buy a bunch of things.

So, I thought about how I could make some cute Pilgrim hats without having to purchase a ton of supplies, and without spending a ton of money on any supplies I would need to buy.

And I came up with these. They're both easy and affordable--even if you don't have any of the supplies on hand, they still won't cost much at all.

Here's how I did it...


  • Small 3oz Dixie cups (you could easily use larger paper cups, it will just require more of the other supplies since the final product will obviously be bigger)
  • Black felt (I purchased about 8 of the 8x10 sheets for 23 cents each)
  • Narrow grosgrain ribbon (you could also use wide, especially if you're using larger cups)
  • Gold glitter glue
  • Glue gun/glue sticks
  • Small paperclips
  • Cardstock in two different colors
  • Paper punches (I used a 1 3/8" circle punch and a 1 1/2" scalloped circle punch)

First, cut a circle the size of the bottom of the Dixie cup. I used chalk to trace around the cup onto the felt and then cut it out with my fabric scissors. Then cut a strip that is the width of the cup, and then cut a larger circle for the brim of the hat.

Easy Pilgrim Hat Place Cards for Thanksgiving

Glue the smaller circle to the top of the hat. You do have to work a little quickly with the glue gun--if it cools down too much (and it does quickly), then it will not stick to the felt.

Easy Pilgrim Hat Place Cards for Thanksgiving

Then, glue the strip of felt around the paper cup. Do it gradually, a strip of glue at a time. Because of the shape of the cup, it will not go on perfectly, but you can pull the felt tight and get it to fit well. After making sixteen of these, I got to be pretty quick at getting it on looking nice.

Easy Pilgrim Hat Place Cards for Thanksgiving

My strips were always a bit too long, so I just trimmed it once I had it glued around nicely.

Next, glue the paperclip in (I didn't start out this way, so some of my pictures don't reflect that, but it is definitely easier to get it in before you do the brim).

I tried to leave an open spot at the top of the seam so I could stick the paperclip there.

Easy Pilgrim Hat Place Cards for Thanksgiving

The glue on the paperclip took care of gluing that part of the felt down.

Easy Pilgrim Hat Place Cards for Thanksgiving

Here is how NOT to glue on your paperclip. This was the first hat I made, and we'll just say that it won't be used on Thanksgiving. I messed up on more than just the paperclip. It is also a good example of how not to take a photo, so excuse the blurriness.

Definitely hide the paperclip under that felt!

Once your paperclip is in, put hot glue all around the lip of the paper cup and quickly stick it to the larger felt circle. I found I had to go really quickly on this step or the glue would be too dry.

Easy Pilgrim Hat Place Cards for Thanksgiving

Next, I put the ribbon around the hat. I only glued it in the back by the seam of the felt.

Easy Pilgrim Hat Place Cards for Thanksgiving

Put down one dot of glue, then stick the ribbon down. Wrap it around the hat, cut it to the proper size, then put another dot of glue down to secure it.

Finally, use the glitter glue to make a buckle. Just be careful not to smear it--it takes a while to dry!

Make cute pilgrim hats for Thanksgiving place cards. An easy Thanksgiving craft that the kids can help with, too.

I let the hats all dry overnight--that glitter glue dries at a glacial pace.

I worked on the actual name part of the place cards while they were drying. I just printed out the names on kraft paper at an inch long, then punched them out with my circle punch. I then glued them to the scalloped circle punches, punched out of orange cardstock.

Simple place cards for Thanksgiving using punches.

Once everything was dry, I (carefully) put the names into the paperclips. The one thing about making these out of paper cups is that they are a little flimsy. But they're also pretty hardy with the felt, and even if you do bend the paper cup, you can't tell at all.

Adorable felt Pilgrim Hat place cards for your Thanksgiving place settings.

Don't they look great on the table?

How to make adorable pilgrim hat Thanksgiving place cards that are both easy and affordable, and use things you most likely already have on hand.

I'm finally starting to get into the spirit of Thanksgiving! Tomorrow is a big prep day, and I'm looking forward to baking and setting the table and getting the house ready for Thursday.

How to make adorable pilgrim hat Thanksgiving place cards that are both easy and affordable, and use things you most likely already have on hand.

What are you doing to prepare for Thanksgiving?
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Sunday, November 23, 2014

Keeping it Together

It's been a week.

Mostly unremarkable, but I am going into hibernation mode. I do it every winter and the snows came fast and furious this year and I am already starting to fall apart.

Every morning when my alarm goes off at 5:45 am, I want to cry. Sometimes I actually do. Getting myself to work by 9:00 am is a feat of superhuman proportions. I have no desire to clean, to read, to blog, to sing.

Unfortunately, my desire to eat is stronger than ever.

Stupid hibernation!

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Today we took a nap on our king-sized bed. ALL FIVE OF OF US. Including the dog. ALL SIX OF US. We all want to hibernate!

I am looking forward to this week, though. It's Thanksgiving, and I only have to work a teeny-tiny bit tomorrow and then I have a lot of work to do to get ready for Thursday. And after that, it's Christmas decorating time! I can't be hibernating for that, my most favorite time of the year.

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On Saturday night, Chloe redeemed her 11-month-old Christmas coupon for a date with Mom & Dad. It ended up being a date with just Mom, but I took her to see Mockingjay, which she has been dying to see (she gobbled up those books in a couple days this summer, and then I let her see the first two movies on DVD).

One line from the book/movie really stuck with me this time.

"It takes ten times as long to put yourself together as it does to fall apart." (Finnick Odair)

Wow, right? Or maybe all of you are just better at this not falling apart thing than I am, so this quote isn't hitting you as hard as it hit me. I haven't stopped thinking about it since Saturday night.

I've spent a lot of time this past year trying to put myself back together after letting myself fall apart again and again. It's tough work, and it really does take ten times longer. This last couple days I've been really mulling it over in my head and trying harder to just keep it together instead of falling apart.

It means not crying when my alarm goes off. It means getting my butt out of bed, putting one foot in front of the other and pushing through, even when the snow and the cold are enough to send me into hibernation until May.

It also means stepping back a little from the less important (blog) and working hard to concentrate on the most important (family) while still doing the more important (going to work at 9 am).

And it means not freaking out when the Sunday photo falls apart before you get a really good shot. It's all part of life. And I just wasn't willing to take ten times as long to get them to sit back down and smile. Falling apart is okay sometimes.

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Someday I'll learn to strike a balance! For now, I'll remember that it just isn't worth it to let myself fall apart.

Happy Sunday!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Our Epic Vacation: Day 13

Long time readers are dropping dead right now. Yes, the last time I tried to finish up blogging about this dang vacation was in December of 2013. Maybe something about all the new snow makes me want to reminisce, or maybe I'm just tired of trying to come up with new content and this seems easier.

Either way, I'm actually writing a post about our Epic Vacation!! Day 13 marks the halfway point, so don't get too excited, because I'll probably be blogging about this vacation for 100 more years.

Skagway 3 Musketeers web
The Three Musketeers waiting to get off ship

So. Day 13 found us docking in Skagway early in the day. We ate breakfast and got off the ship with all the kids but the two little girls, Sophia and Estee.

I was fascinated by all the graffiti art that was on the cliff near the pier. So fascinated that I took way too many photos!

Skagway Graffiti 2 webSkagway Graffiti 4 webSkagway Graffiti web

I mean, check out that skull! So cool!

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Bria and her cousin Brayden walking off the dock, towards the railroad.

The first thing we saw as we moved off of the dock was the railroad, famous for its role in the Klondike gold rush.
Skagway Railway web

The kids had a great time climbing on the railroad cars and posing for photos.

Skagway Railway three musketeers web

The Three Musketeers, Chloe and her two cousins Tychon and Daxton. She and Tychon were born exactly a week apart, and Dax came 10 months later. They all adore each other.

Skagway Railway Chloe webSkagway Railway Bria White Pass webSkagway Railway Bria web

And I love this photo of Bria helping Chloe down. So sweet. They really do love each other.

Skagway Bria and Chloe webSkagway Railway 1 web

After we had our fun exploring the train, we headed to the Visitor's Center and learned all about the Klondike. Fascinating stuff, most of which I never really knew (or paid attention to) before. We also got the girls' National Park passports stamped at the Visitor's Center.

Then we went shopping in the cute little downtown.

There was a chocolate shop, of course. The Maestro and I spent some time in there buying bear paws and wolf paws and such.

Skagway Chocolate web

We found Sergeant Preston's Lodge, and all of the Preston boys posed in front of it.

Skagway Sgt Preston Lodge web

Don't ask me what my brother is doing in that photo. Unfortunately, it's the only photo I took of the Preston boys at Sgt. Preston's place. Rest assured that whatever it is he is doing is a VERY Preston thing to do.

I mean, the littlest Preston boys prove that with their fascination of the "butts" label on the garbage cans in downtown Skagway.

Skagway Butts web

I actually think that may be my favorite photo of the day. Possibly the whole vacation. I can't help it, I'm a Preston, too.

After we played around downtown, we got back on the ship. But first, a quick photo in the wind...

Skagway web
This is a decidedly unflattering photo of me. Oh well.
Skagway Marina webSkagway View web

I love this photo of us walking back to the ship. It gives you some idea of what it was like herding all the kids around Alaska!

Skagway Dock web

And you know, just one more of the awesome graffiti cliffs, too.

Skagway Graffiti 3 web

Once back on the ship, we headed to play trivia, which is The Maestro's and my favorite ship activity. The rest of the family enjoys it with us, too, and we have a lot of fun.

For dinner that night (and we were so terrible at taking photos onboard the ship), The Maestro and I ate at the Crown Grill, which is a paid ship restaurant. It was nice to sit together and watch all the glaciers pass by the window. Also, our waiter was Romanian, so that was cool for us.

After dinner we had an adult NIGHT OF FUN!

We played Pop Music Trivia, and my brother Dave had to show off his Greased Lightning skills in front of everyone. The Maestro has a video, but when he tried to send it to me, it was just the first frame, and I am too lazy to figure out the problem. So just imagine him pulling an awesome John Travolta move.

Rock and Pop Dave

After we won a bottle of wine in trivia, we learned country line dancing. (Bria and Brayden got to be with the adults that night.) Don't worry, we gave the wine to someone else.

Line Dancing on the cruise
L-R Mom, Dave, me, Bria, Brittany (my brother Nate's wife)

And then my brothers made me sign up for the Karaoke contest. I actually really stink at karaoke. Partly because I am an opera singer and they do not usually have opera arias available. But, I looked through the gigantic book and saw they had "Think of Me" from Phantom of the Opera. So I sang that.

I had no idea we were being judged and might go on to win the title of Karaoke Superstar of the Entire Ship.

EV Karaoke web

But, I did win that round. Along with a guy who gave an incredible performance of Billy Joel's "Piano Man." We were to report back a couple days later for the finals. I'm not going to tell you what'll just have to be in suspense until I actually get around to writing about it.

It could be a week. It could be a year.

After Karaoke we probably got our normal midnight ice cream and headed to bed.

***End of Day 13***