Monday, December 31, 2012

This Week's Menu

Being healthy is not a good weight.  It is not dieting after the holidays.  It is not living a Whole30, Paleo, or vegan lifestyle.  This is what I have to tell myself everday.  The Whole30 that I did this summer brought so much change in perspective to me.  I feel like it was my first break away from the bondage of food.  Then, I went off-then on again-then off for the holidays.  Woah.  While it helped me get healthier, it did not take me to the place I want.

The long-lasting change hasn't happened yet.  I still have food longings.  I still obsess.  I still crave.  I still feel the need to treat myself with food.  Therefore, I'm taking January to do Whole30.  Again.  My goals are to lose some more weight, learn how to cook differently (healthier),  feel better, and have some time to consider where I want to be with food.  I'm not sure what "a healthy relationship with food" looks like (and I really don't like that phrase).  However, I want to find out what it is.  I want to determine how I should be living for myself and for my family.  

I would love some company with this.  If you would like to join me, then please let me know.  If you want a change, jumping into this is a great tool.  (Sandy, I'm looking at you!)  Let's do this!

Here's our dinners this first week:

Lentil soup, fruit
Cobb Salad (no cheese)
Mulligatawny Reboot, rice on the side

Thursday, December 27, 2012

9 Years

Without the help of spanx or bridesmaids, I zipped myself into my wedding dress.  Nine years and two kids later, it's still the same: instant princess factor.  I felt like I had super powers.  I smiled the whole time.  I loved how it felt.

Today is our 9th anniversary.  Like every year, lingering Christmas celebrations take precedent, but that's ok by me.  I think we're going to celebrate in a few days with some climbing and a fun dinner.  One of these years, we will slip away for a little tropical getaway.  Today, we're just going to be a little more smiley, a little giddy, and a little bit more celebratory as we look at the clock and try to remember what we were doing this time, nine years ago.  

To John: I'm still amazed that we've evolved into the couple that we are today.  It's amazing to think about how much we have in common.  While I'm drawn to large masses of people and you enjoy good conversation with just a few people, one thing is true: we both value people and relationships.  L. Ryan was talking about her children who got married and said that one couple enjoys their marriage by being hospitable.  I thought this was good insight, then I thought that I think we're the same way.  When we go on our little date this weekend, we will talk about kids and us and having people over, because those are fun things for us.  

Some people have no clue how we got together and how we make it, but our close friends get it.  They know that we go together like puzzle pieces.  Happy Anniversary, John.  

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas Morning, 2012

We paused the play for a moment to grab a family picture.  Merry Christmas Morning!

Monday, December 24, 2012

On Christmas Eve, 2012

I'm a little sick right now.  There's no official diagnosis, but I think I have a sinus infection, whatever that means.  Because I hardly get sick, I'm the biggest wimp when it happens.  I try to act extra pitiful so everyone around me knows just how bad I feel.  In order to stay warm, I put the wool socks over the skinny jeans.  When I walked into the kitchen, John took one look at me and said, "oh wow.  You really are sick if you're tucking your jeans into your socks."    

I'm not cancel-Christmas or Christmas-in-my-bed sick, just a little sick.  Last night all my cousins came over and I was feeling a little crummy going into it, but as soon as they got here I was so happy and excited that I felt no pain.  That's called merriment.  I'm pretty sure that waking up tomorrow I'm going to be so excited about Christmas with the kids that I will feel no pain once again.  

Burl is so excited about "Christmas Day," but poor guy has no clue when it's coming.  I started telling him on Saturday the things that would happen each day leading up until tomorrow.  Between my confusing way of explaining things and his little toddler mind, I'm not sure he got it. I think he understands that tomorrow is Christmas Day.  Note to self: do advent calendar next year.  Then, there is Fern who really has no idea what's happening, but I have high hopes for her.  She loves pulling things out of bags, so I have a wicked stocking planned for her!  She follows Burl's lead pretty well, so there will be no stopping her when she sees all of her presents.

Right now, the meaning of Christmas is a little jumbled in their minds.  From where they stand, there are presents, a tree, people coming over constantly, trips to see lights, hype around Santa, and talk about Jesus' birthday (and a few questions about birthday cupcakes).  Another note to self: find good advent books.  We don't have our Jesus/Santa/Christmas story down, deciding who gets what credit and hype time.  Instead, we're letting a toddler's mind take the lead.  One thing is for sure: we are giving him presents.

I've been thinking about all the presents that we're giving our children.  Is it right or wrong?  If I start comparing us to others, then I can find some who are giving more than us and some who are not giving as much as we are.  Comparing never helps much.  So I thought and thought and thought about giving to my kids.  Here's the thing: this is probably the purest of all my giving.  Giving to children is purely giving.  With other gifts, I might get pride over finding the perfect gift or sadness over totally missing the mark or excitement that I know how to give a good gift (or not), but giving gifts to my kids is all about them.  I'm going to be excited to see them excited.  I'm giving because I want them to have it and I know they will be happy.

Tonight, after they go to bed, John and I will stay up late.  We're going to watch It's A Wonderful Life while filling their stockings and getting everything ready.  I'm thrilled!  Sick or not, Santa and Jesus, snow or fog, there is Christmas magic in the air, and it will make tomorrow wonderful.
To you and yours, Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Little Things Of A Good Day

"You know I don't like it when you say that," I said unkindly to John.  After coming home from work, John walked into the most tense part of our day.  Burl was crying and disobeying and I needed to talk to him, and Fern was crying for a reason that I didn't know.  John gently stepped into the situation and we tagged teamed our crying children until everything was fixed.  Right now, I can't even remember what the problems and solutions were.  After it was all said and done, John kindly offered comfort by saying, "I'm sorry you had a bad day."  I really don't like when he says that and I let him know.  My day wasn't bad at all.  In fact, it takes great tragedy for me to declare a day as bad.  My day was great.  Later, after we put the kids down, I asked John if we could talk.  I apologized, then attempted to explain why "bad day" or "stressed out" statements bother me so much.

Here's the thing: when things get tense with our kids, of course, we get tense.  It's totally normal.  However, to say that my day was bad is not seeing all the little moments that I've had spread out the entire day.  I might not have any grand moments or great stories to share from our day, but I have little things spread throughout the whole day that make it great.  

Recently, the kids are starting to be together more and it's wonderful.  They eat lunch at their little table, looking so big and little all wrapped into one.  They talk and laugh in the van while I drive.  They sit in little chairs and watch Curious George.  They crawl through the tunnel together.  They give toys to each other.  They play the same games together.  

Then, there is the simple stuff that they do on their own that fill my day constantly.  Fern: the way her bottom sways back and forth when she crawls really fast; the face she makes as she climbs up in Burl's chair, the way her room smells when I walk in and get her out of her crib; the fact that she closes her eyes when she nurses; the way she sits up straight in her high chair and holds on to the sides if she's being fed something extra yummy; they way she points to things she wants.  Burl: they way he says Ferny; the way he leans on the couch to watch TV; the way his cheeks hang off his face when he's concentrating; the questions that he asks and the thoughts that he shares; the way he decides what to wear each day based on what work he's going to do; the new things that he's constantly learning to do.

As I shared all this with John, he told me that he liked what I was saying and it made sense.  There are so many small things that happen minute-to-minute, day-to-day that I treasure.  Whether I'm disciplining or snuggling or simple observing my children, I would say that everyday is a good day.  Everyday is good.  To be here with them, watching them, training them, living with them, is so good.  

As we launch into several days of John being home with us, he said that he's looking forward to more of the little stuff that happens during the day.  I look forward to having him home too, so we can dish over the simple little things that parents treasure.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

O Christmas Card, O Christmas Card

If I've learned only one thing this go around, it's this: I love Christmas Card Season.  Receiving beautiful pictures from my friends is wonderful.  I display them with excitement as I string them across our dining room windows.  They are the first decoration that arrives, and they are the last to be taken down.  I wouldn't be surprised if they stay up until Valentine's Day.  To all my friends who send me one, thank you.  To my friends that don't, that's cool.  It's not everyone's cup of tea.

For me, making and sending cards is so my cup of tea.  I love finding cheap and creative ways to execute it, as well as writing a fun letter to accompany the picture.  To keep costs down, I usually print a plain picture and snazz them up a bit.  The first year, I tied them to card stock and last year I bundled them together.  

This year, I found a deal that was cheaper than printing pictures at Sam's.  {Card Store is where it's at, people.}  I printed a matte 5x7 picture on thick card stock and cut a fancy design.

That's right.  I cut them myself.  Something about touching each one, cutting them imperfectly, and sending them off make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.  The cutting was done anytime I was still.  With Burl, during nap time, watching Survivor, etc.  Some people knit...I snip.

This year, the letter was smaller and less funny.  I used to try to make our Christmas letter funny every year, but I just didn't have anything funny to write.  Instead, I just wrote a few thoughts that I had:  

Merry Christmas!

This year’s Christmas letter is completely empty of hilarity.  When it comes to laughing and shaking like a bowl full of jello, this package will come up empty.  I’m sorry.  Instead, you are each welcome to stop by our house, where laughter and craziness are fresh on tap and available daily.

Until we see you again, we hope that your Christmas season is amazing!  May it be full of fun and laughter; joy and jolly; special treats and good eats; fresh air and deep breaths; rowdiness and energy; quiet and calm; mountain top perspective and ocean deep relaxation; open window days and fireside nights.

Happy Holidays to you all and never forget: ‘Tis the season to be merry & bright.

Love, The Days

Here's wishing you a merry Christmas card season!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Christmas Weekend

We just had the most festive Christmas weekend in our history, commercially speaking.  All the things that we're told is Christmas (but really isn't) were jammed packed into this weekend.  Parties. Family. Outside. Decorations. Lights. Visit with Santa.  More Parties.  We were ignited and launched into blissfulness this weekend and we enjoyed ourselves in every cheerful way.

Party, race, Santa, lunch, downtown, shuttle bus, local pizza, Christmas lights, church, another party, the Hobbit (for John), Survivor finale (for me).  A few naps were thrown in there as well.  

Friday night we hosted our biggest party to date.  We've talked about throwing a Christmas party every year that we've been married.  It seemed too much on top of my annual cookie exchange, but that was cancelled this year.  I cancelled it specifically to throw a larger party.  It was a great decision!  I could do a whole post on that party, but I'm pretty sure that I'll remember that night for a long time.  The best way to describe it is festive fun.

Saturday morning we went to Chattanooga's Nature Center for my brothers' race.  It's a family race, and I'm not sure of the rules.  I usually don't go because it's too cold, but this year was bearable.  We had a great time, and I hope to make it a regular event.  The race is an out-and-back, so we only get to see them start and finish.  That way, we're kind of stuck for 30-ish minutes to play.  We played on the playground, explored two of their swampy tree houses, saw animals, and took some pictures.  

My mom was a great photographer for us, and I was able to get a sweet picture of her and her grand-babies.  The setting was amazing and we were all in great spirits, so the pictures naturally turned out well.  Good pictures are not just good because they're pretty, but I think they always serve as a good memory.  Taking pictures with babies always involves silliness and laughter.

Next stop was Santa.  I heard a rumor that there was a free Santa with free pictures at this little mall on the rebound.  It used to be way cool mall with a J. Crew outlet in it, then it died, now it has all these funky local stores that are scrumptious.  The whole place looks amazing.

The most amazing thing was the Santa experience.  I'm pretty skeptical when it comes to the jolly fellow and am not one of those picture-every-year with him.  BUT, Burl loves going to talk to him.  Since it was free, I decided to go and I'm so glad that I did.  It was gorgeous.  Very natural.  Very simple.  Very perfect.  The photographer and Santa were so kind.  I thanked both of them and Santa replied, "oh no, thank you!  This is such a treat for me."  I almost got teary.  Almost.  

After that, we lunched and the kids got naps.  I asked John if we could go back downtown for dinner.  We got pizza, rode the free downtown shuttle bus (fun stories there), and went to go see the decorated windows.  For the second time this year.  

The windows are fun and my kids LOVE them.  Burl talks about all the things he sees and Fern just jabbers and coo's.  She especially loved this doggy that moved.  She wouldn't leave that spot right in front of the dog.  Christmas through a child's eyes is so exciting.  Wonder and awe!!!

Sunday was fun.  The boys went to church and I stayed home with a snotty Fern.  I don't get a lot of one-on-one time with her, so when I do, I soak it up!  She is just the sweetest!

Later that day, we went to a family dinner party.  It was with our church.  Our church encourages us to connect by what area of town we live in, which I love.  Neighbors are friends and church peeps, which makes everything feel a little more cozy.  After the dinner, John went to see the Hobbit with my brothers while I stayed home and watched the Survivor finale and texted my cousin's wife about everything that was happening.  I'm slightly obsessed with that show.  Survivor isn't really Christmas, but it makes me excited, so it counts.

While some full weekends are draining, this one was not.  Some of the events were planned and some just evolved.  When the weekend flow takes over, it usually takes us to a fun place.  It quickly became an avalanche of Christmas activities, and I so enjoyed it.  We have another fun weekend coming up.  There are two parties planned, and I have a feeling that another visit with Santa and lights are brewing.  Tis the season to cherish and celebrate all the special times! 

Monday, December 17, 2012

Personalized Card

Words are fuel to my soul.  Spoken or written, I love thoughtful comments, insight, and conversation.  Over the years, John has learned this about me and done well at picking up hints that I need to be showered with words.  One of my favorite things he gives me at Christmas is a letter.  He spends the extra money and picks out a really beautiful card and fills it with a sweet Christmas letter.  

Oh, hey there, Christmas tree.  We see you and your sparkle. 

I've started to do the same.  Most of the time, the gifts are fun and nice, but the letter is where the good stuff is.  {Insert good, but not over-the-top analogy here.  Could I say dripping with honey, logs on the fire, wind beneath my wings? All those are pretty dramatic, but I'm falling short of a good image here.}  We save the letters, we reread them, we smile, I cry, and we fill so full when we get them.  The letters are so much more of a gift than the ones that we unwrap.

Last year, I had special ones printed.  This year I had two printed.  One of the cards is for Christmas and one is for our anniversary that is a few days later.  The quality is nice.  The price is amazing.  The shipping was free.  The delivery was quick {like ordered on Friday, received on Monday}.  Two thumbs up for Card Store

When giving gifts this year, think: would a card be best?  A thoughtful letter?  A personalized picture?  Isn't the answer always yes?  Maybe this is the year to start a new tradition!  I highly recommend a gift of this humble magnitude.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

This Week's Menu

Yo. yo. yo.  I'm feeling full of holiday cheer right now.  I'm coming off one of the funnest weekends that I've had at Christmas.  I can't wait to sit down and write a big long blog post about it!  Blogging definitely serves as a great tool to sit, record, remember, and enjoy. 

Until then, I'm going to do my Sunday thing.  Every Sunday I post my simple plan for what I'm going to make this week.  I don't remember why in the world I started this, but I know now that it's a big help.  I write my menu, buy the groceries, then forget what I'm making and where online I might have found that recipe.  So, I post here.  It might look grand or simple; silly or amazing; healthy or not-so-much.  Whatever you think it is, I'll let you be the judge.  In the meantime, we'll be eating this Monday through Thursday:

Bestest, easiest Cilantro Lime Tilapia Tacos
Best lasagna ever
Lentil soup
Northern beans and carrots over brown rice.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Gradual Christmas House

This year's decorating theme is called Gradual.  Things are looking more Christmas-y a little more everyday.  

While there is comfort in putting the same decorations in the same spots every year, that's just not how I operate.  I will not be found taking a entire day or week lugging down tub-after-tub setting things just right.  Things just have to happen when they can around here, and that means decorations as well.  Right before I sat down to the computer I decided that I couldn't smell Christmas enough, so I vased-up some rosemary clippings to get me in the jolly mood.  Awe, smells, they really get things going!

Now that I'm feeling Christmas, seeing Christmas, and smelling Christmas, I'm ready to do the rundown.  Here's how this year went.  

1. The tree & trimmings.  We switched to a real tree years ago and there's no looking back.  Thank you Lowe's for a great deal on a tree and all the free trimmings and tree stumps that my heart can handle.  

The tree was posted up in the living room and I got wild with the trimmings.  I made this monstrosity and Burl called it a tree.  As he says, it's the bigger vase ever.

Vases,  bundles, containers and anything else I can find got shoved full of Christmas sprigs and sprinkled around the house.

2. The lights. A day or two of looking bare, the tree gets a little depressing. I grabbed the bag of lights and lit the tree.

3. The day after the lights, I feel lonely without all the knickknacks, so I bring down two tubs.  

I look at all the little things and don't want most of them, so I pull out two mangers scenes, the plastic mistletoe, and the stocking hangers.  I only use a half of the ornaments because less is not more, less it less and less is best.  Try saying that a few times fast.  

4. I find some gift tags and get some gifts ready for giving.  Christmas cheer just got real and I'm loving it.  

5. I asked my neighbor for complete access to her magnolia tree and she enthusiastically told me, "help yourself to whatever you want.  By the way, you're looking super skinny!"  I grabbed my scissors and headed towards the tree and decided that she was and always will be my favorite neighbor.  I should hang out with her more often.

Magnolia leaves were added to arrangements and shoved in a bucket for a fun display.  

6. My favorite decoration comes in slowly...Christmas cards!  I love stringing them together in the front window.  I'll get giddy when I have to add another row.  Send them people, send them!

7. I want even more layers of Christmas, so I clip some rosemary.  I'm loving the smell, so I make a mental note to grab some more.  

While the stockings over the mantle and a few manger scenes are like the shotgun at the beginning of a race, I find my stride to Christmas by slowly adding layers.  Those layers usually come free and are usually my favorite.  

Whether all at once, gradually over time, or not at all, I hope Christmas cheer and merriment are growing in your lives.  Tis the season for all kinds of good things!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Best Christmas Tags Ever

It's a Christmas miracle!  

If you're my friend in person or have been a reader for a while, then you know that I am one girl with two brothers.  Neither have married {yet}, so there are no other girls in my family to dish over the cutesie little things that I love doing, especially when it comes to wrapping gifts.  Most of my brothers' wrapping is "close your eyes" as they pull out our gifts from a big shopping bag and hand the presents to us naked and raw.  Even though I love to wrap a gift and my mom's spiritual gift is flamboyant wrapping, our efforts go un-appreciated.  Until now.

Mom, are you sitting down for this?  I showed Joseph my gift tags, hoping that just maybe he might take interest.  He picked them up and looked at them and said, "those are cool."  Not only did he take half a second to glance at them, but he liked them too!  A Christmas miracle.  

It was a simple quiet statement that didn't have a lot of enthusiasm, but it spoke volumes.  I might have done it.  I found wrapping that my brothers will notice and like.  Appreciate and enjoy are too grand to expect.  If one of these gift tags make it to the dashboard of their car or becomes a bookmark, then I might pop the bubbly.  

Last night, I was armed with green tea and Parenthood on Netflix, so I started tagging all those presents.  Sometimes, I stay up past everyone's bedtime and enjoy the house {sort of} to myself. Night time is where I do my best work.  During this time of year, pair that nighttime high with Christmas cheer, and I'll get stuff done.  

Feeling excited now?  Want the coolest tags ever?  Want to impress the men in your life with your wrapping?  Go here for free vintage mountain tags.  I printed mine with my normal printer and cut them out with my own two hands.  Whether you're working late or early, hard or not at all, may you enjoy the process of gifting to others.