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Well hey there kids.  If you’re popping over from Jen’s place, welcome!  Welcome!  I’m honored to be taking part in the 3rd annual Holiday Homes Tour.  This might be a bit different.  You won’t see much of my actual decorating featured here.  But I hope you’ll enjoy this look into our home.

How’s your holiday going so far?  Yes, I just define everything from Thanksgiving through New Years as “holiday”.   Because really, if you’re not celebrating at that moment, you’re probably planning a celebration, prepping for an impending celebration, or cleaning up from a celebration.  So yeah.  How’s your holiday?

Oh please.  Let’s get real here people.  I’m just a fanatic for this time of year.  I love winter.  (Um, caveat – I love snow.  I do not love blistering cold, bone chilling wind, and no snow.  That is not winter.  It’s the arctic.)  I also love all the festivities.  Hey.  Any excuse to throw a party.  I love the twinkly lights.  The trip to get the trees.  I love trying new things, and I definitely love tradition.

I always remember Christmas being a big deal at our house.  We’re not of the particularly religious vein.  It was more the smells, the sounds, and the time spent with family and friends.  For a number of years I’d spend the night before Christmas Eve, along with one of my cousins, at my Grandma’s house helping her get ready for the big family Christmas on Christmas Eve.  Baking cookies, decorating her little tree, wrapping presents.  And Christmas morning?  Yeowza.  Let’s just say Santa was always VERY good to us.

Back to the here and now.  We’ve got two great rugrats ’round these parts (known as The Boy and The Girl.  Where’s my Pulitzer for creativity?).  I wanted to be able to pass on my joy of this season to them somehow.  They’re kids.  They’re easily excitable.  But I didn’t want it to be JUST about the ending – Santa and what fabulous gift he’d bring this year.

And so I decided to work with the idea of an advent calendar.  We had a felt advent calendar for the longest time.  A big blue wall hanging with little pockets and little felt pieces that went in each pocket.  We also had the usual store bought themed calendars with bits of chocolate for a few years.  And during high school and on into college, mom would wrap up 25 little gifts, toss them all in a gift bag.  Gum, jewelry, hand warmers (I went to school in da UP, eh), candy, bookmarks.  All sorts of goodies.  And can I tell you?  My mom is so awesome she even made advent bags for my roommates when I lived in the dorm.  And the first year I lived in a quad.  4 girls.  FOUR!  Yes, it’s an affliction that runs in the family apparently.

Any who.  Here comes the genius idea… Combine the treasured advent calendar with activities instead of goodies!  It wasn’t hard for me to come up with 25 daily “events” to celebrate.  Some of them are big.  Some small.  This will be our second year of the advent adventure and I’d sure love to share a bit of it with you.

The Boy opening the door for the day.  It’s amazing what motivation this is to get a four year old out of bed in the morning.  Sometimes a bit too early…

I’ve aimed for a wide mix of activities this year.  As the Boy grows, I want this to be partly personal favorite things about the season.  The Boy is a huge Polar Express fan.  He’s just a huge train fan in general.  And living in the Hills with the 1880 Train, it’s no surprise he loves Polar.

Hot cocoa after work and daycare?  Yes please!

Of course we have a picnic under the Christmas tree.  Doesn’t everyone?

I also want to teach them about the true spirit of the season.  Besides Toys for Tots, we’re also giving to the Food Bank, and cleaning out old toys to take to the Salvation Army.

Look at that cheesy grin.  So proud.

I also aim to knock off a few holiday tasks and get the kids involved.

Mmm!  Mint chocolate chip cookies ready to be baked!  The Boy picked out the chips – he’s a fan of all things mint right now.  We also made gifts for the Grandparents.  And sent homemade holiday cards to some of our favorite people (don’t worry – you’re getting the regular photo card too).

Big thanks to Grandma for spearheading the card making.  She’s well supplied for such things.

And of course, I want to pass on a few traditions from my childhood.

This will be tonight!  I can’t wait.  I know the house will smell wonderful with the bread baking.  And I want to see how the Boy feels about kneading the dough this year.  Bit too sticky for him last year.

I’m pretty sure this one is the Boys favorite.  He keeps asking if it’ll be today…this is the local version of Polar Express.  A ride on the 1800 Train, about a45 minute ride out of town to “The North Pole”.  Santa gets on the train and gives every kid a jingle bell and candy cane.  Everyone gets cookies and hot chocolate.  The joy and wonder on all those little faces is incredible.  We’re also lucky that our town is the home of the South Dakota Railroad Museum.  For Christmas they decorate with dozens of trees and the local hobby railroad club sets up hobby trains to run around the trees.  It’s a train addicted little boys dream come true.

So that’s a quick peek into our holiday season.  I hope you and yours are staying warm, sipping hot cocoa, and enjoying the wonderful company of friends and family.

 

(If you’re looking for more of my decorating, you can find last year’s post here.  It’s about the same.)

 

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Well, almost.  But we’ll get to that in a minute.

This may be the last of my crafty posts for awhile.  What?  Did I just hear a sigh of relief?  Humph.  (Oh, I have more crafts planned.  But it’s no fun to ruin the Christmas surprises.)  But it’s December! *falls over from the shock*  We’ve started our advent activities and I’ll probably blog on those more than anything.  Or at least that’s the plan…

You’re all familiar with the British Keep Calm and Carry On poster, right?  (Right-o.)  They’re all the rage this year.  Also the rage is altering the design for any rhyme or reason.  I first discovered an awesome version over at Craftily Ever After for Halloween.  I loved this one too. Unfortunately what with the Fall Festival and birthdays and anniversaries and Halloween I never got around to printing them out.

Luckily for me she created three Thanksgiving versions!  And thank you Michaels for frame sales!  I picked up 3 simple matted frames for less than $4 each.  Unfortunately…the frames were ugly.  But what the heck, that’s nothing a little spray paint can’t fix.

I used a metallic bronze spray paint courtesy of Menards.

I plan to update them for each season.  And if I can’t find a suitable free piece of printable art I want to hang, or if I only find 2, then I can easily pop in a favorite photo instead.  Or make something up myself.

See?  I already have Christmas in there!

The Keep Calm and Merry On down on the far right also comes from Craftily Ever After.  She made three for the season, but seeing as how we’re not the churchy types, nor do we carol often, I opted to find something different for the other two.  The Keep Calm and Jingle On I made based off one I saw on Etsy, but using the same colors as the Merry On.  The Christmas subway art I picked up off eighteen25.

Now I’m just going to need to keep coming up with ideas for each season.  Keep Calm and Hop on for Easter?  Keep Calm and Kiss On for Valentines?  Keep Calm and Rocket On for the 4th?  Heck maybe I’ll just have to use the original for awhile.  Do you have a good one for me?  Throw it out in the comments.  Maybe it’ll show up down the road.

You can also lay bets on how long before I get fed up with the back of the frames or break them.  They just have those ridiculous bendable pieces to keep the backs in.  I hate those!  But at $11 for 3 decent sized frames beggars can’t be choosers.  Besides.  That’s what they make duct tape for.

We’ve been working on a number of unfinished projects around the house.

(What’s that?  Put down the camera and hold the ladder?  Bah, you’ll be fine.)

When we were building the house we ran wires so we could install surround sound speakers in the living room as well as speakers in the dining room and on the porch.  But, um, we never put the speakers in…until last week.  When we ran the wires, we were at least smart enough to draw up a map noting where we put them.  And I was smart enough to put said map someplace I’d remember where it was after only a minimal amount of searching.  Josh installed the speakers in the dining room first.  On Monday night before Monday night football (you know, the dread Broncos vs Chargers game which shall not be spoken of again).  Those speakers went in easy-peasy.  Total install time was under 2 hours if I remember correctly.

Tuesday morning started bright and early with a bit of torture…I had 5 moles shaved off, Josh had 3.  Yeowza.  He’s got 2 more they want to take.  I…uh…I have 10 more.  *hangs head in shame*  On Tuesday they didn’t seem to be a big deal.  I think the numbing agent hadn’t really worn off.  A week later?  Good grief just heal already!  They’re so dang annoying!  And why do you react to the bandaids when you get this done?  We’ve tried different brands.  Still the same red welts.  I’ve worn bandaids for weeks and only ever had to worry about my skin shriveling up.  I’ve never reacted like this.  And of course one of mine is right in the crook of my elbow.  The other 3 are in my armpits.  You know, all places where the skin pulls and moves and is just generally ANNOYING. But anywho…

We took the day off, inflicted the torture, then ran some errands around Big Town.  Came home early and figured it’d be wise to pop in the last two speakers before the rugrats came home from daycare.  *cue ominous music*

Nothing is ever as easy as it should be, eh?  Josh cut the first hole in the living room ceiling, not quite where we had it marked on the map, but where we wanted it based on our furniture and such.  The wire should have still been easy reach.  *cue laugh track*  The above photo is Josh looking for the wire.  It was nowhere to be found.  Oh and there was a nice large piece of duct work about a foot from where we cut the hole.

So now what?  Because of the way the room is built, there’s no real way to run another wire.  Two walls are exterior (ie insulated) and the other contains the stairwells (yes the stairs going down are still unfinished, but the living room ceiling is blocked by a large header supporting the stairs to the second floor).  Oh heck.  Just cut out the other speaker hole and see what you find.

Luckily that hole contained the wire it was supposed to.  It also provided access to the wire we were looking for in the first hole.  Except, um, we’d wire tacked them to the studs.  Meaning no amount of yanking, pulling, or cursing resulted in a free, usable wire.  Instead Josh cut the wire and spliced a new speaker wire onto it.  Then of course he had to attach it to the end of a tape measure run through the 1/2 inch gap under that giant piece of duct work so he could retrieve it at the other end.

But finally…working speakers.  We aren’t even looking at the porch until this summer.

The other major project we’re working on is the lockers/shelving for the mudroom.  (But yeah, I’m unwilling to pay what PB wants for that get up, and I don’t want drawers on the bottom.)  So far the base has been built.  Oh, then Josh tore it apart and remade it.  Because I had planned for a 24″ deep base with 12″ lockers on top.  I figured that would be plenty of room to sit and put shoes on and stash stuff underneath as the kids grow.  It looked great on paper, but upon installation it proved a bit too close to the door for our comfort.  Hence the tearing apart, cutting everything down to 18″ and then rebuilding.  I’d say he’s stalling on building the rest because of that, but the truth is basketball started so there’s just not a lot of spare time right now.

And finally, this is not a project, but I’m happy to report Josh and the Boy have an exciting new toy.

Yes, it’s a robot vacuum cleaner.  It’s probably the gold standard of robot vacuums, if there is such a thing.  This is what my hubby wanted for his birthday and our anniversary.  So here it is.  The awesomeness comes in the fact that you can program it to run anytime of day, like, say, while we’re all gone.  The front edge is a bumper; when it hits a wall, couch, chair, cat, kid it turns and moves on in another direction.  I’m waiting for the cats to communicate their love for the new toy with some cat yak in our bed or something.  I’ll admit, I’m not 100% sold on the thing.  Partly due to the price tag.  But so far it seems to do a fairly good job picking up the various and sundry crumbs and hairs that collect on our wood floor.  The Christmas tree is going to be the hassle.  Somehow we’re going to have to block it off so it doesn’t suck up the tree skirt or otherwise tip over the tree.  But putting a bunch of boxes down in front of the tree or removing the tree skirt everyday does not sound like my ideal festive holiday season… stay tuned for the final verdict.

Oh, and the Boy has named our Roomba.  He’s officially “Chase Vacuum”.  Come on over, the boys would be glad to let you play with their new pet.