Tag Archives: Christmas

Christmas memories

I hope you had a lovely holiday season! We were lucky enough to spend this Christmas break making memories with both Joe’s family in Council Bluffs and my family outside Chicago. I love days when you can stay in your pajamas as late as you like. (Because sleeping in isn’t really an option these days, with a toddler who wakes up before dawn.)


Here are a few favorites from 2015: 

Seeing the stocking I finally sewed for Emmett hanging from the fireplace. I bought the Christmas fabric forever ago (October 2011?) at a shop in Dubuque but didn’t have my DIY act together together in time for his first Christmas. I pieced and quilted it over Thanksgiving with my mom, and used this free pattern and tutorial to base the shape.

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Cooking a Polish family favorite with my father-in-law. Joe’s family feasts typically feature golumpki, a dish of ground beef and pork and onions and rice rolled in a steamed cabbage leaf. This year, Joe’s mom had to work and Joe was hung over resting all morning, so it was up to me and Stevo to fire up the stove. I really enjoyed making these! I didn’t take photos because, well, my hands were covered in raw meat, but you can watch Martha Stewart make them with her mom in this video.

Playing  Suspend at both family parties. My niece Mia got Suspend for Christmas and brought it over in the morning. Such a fun multi-generational family game! You have to figure out how to hang and dangle the metal pieces without them falling. Kind of like Jenga.
Reading for pleasure. There are few things more relaxing for me than getting lost in a good book. I downloaded Station Eleven, my next book club book on the Kindle app this time, so I could read in the car during the nighttime drives. The interwoven story lines are gripping.
Handmaking gifts is always a favorite, although unfortunately I didn’t do very much this year. (I did sew new pillowcases for my mom using the APQ sewathon roll-up pattern.) Emmett got lucky in this department, though. My brother made him the IKEA-hack learning tower so he can be a kitchen helper. And my mom and aunt made a way-awesome “quiet book” together! I can appreciate the hours and hours they spent on it:

I have a few days off and a to-do list a mile long, so blogging is the perfect procrastination. I’m hoping to put down words about motherhood at 18 months, because everything feels different as we’ve hit new developmental milestones.


Filed under At home, Baby, Books, Cooking, Getting crafty

Toddler wish list

I’m looking forward to celebrating Christmas with a toddler. Emmett’s at this magical age where I’m pretty sure he’ll love the boxes and wrapping paper just as much as anything that comes in them.


Our holiday letter-writing tradition brings me such simple joy, and I want to try to keep the season sane as our family grows. We have adopted the four-present precedent some families set so I don’t go crazy getting Emmett All. The. Things.


  • Joe found a Strider bike on Craigslist and now that Emmett is finally walking, I’m imagining there will be some indoor shenanigans with it before the spring thaw.
  • Poor kid still gets his lunch packed in my old breastmilk coolers, so when I saw this Skip Hop cutie on clearance at Target I knew he’d love having a zoo lunchbox like his cool older cousins.
  • I have a soft spot for a boy in Sambas. My dad, brother and Joe all default to this classic shoe, and it will be special for Emmett to follow in their footsteps, especially since Emmett will never meet his papa.
  • Oliver Jeffers books are so sweet, and I’ve had my eye on This Moose Belongs to Me since before Emmett was born.

We’ll probably also do a few little stocking-sized trucks (the kid is obsessed) and get some special Christmas jammies to wear on the Boone Scenic Railroad Santa Express (which I hope isn’t sold out yet!)

Pretty unrelated, but did you all see the Pretzel Parker House Rolls recipe on Smitten Kitchen the other day? All I want for Christmas are those.

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Filed under Baby, What I'm into

Holiday office party decor

I know, I know, this post is about a month late, but I just had to share these signs before a whole calendar year goes by!

We hosted Joe’s co-workers for their holiday party this year, which was awesome because he works at “Cuisine at Home” magazine, so they’re a bunch of foodies who brought appetizers. All I really had to do was prepare the basics and clean the house. (Takes the stress out of having a bunch of chefs over!)

Anyhow, I’d stopped in to Foundry Coworking for a meeting and they had an awesome set of holiday party “caution” signs created by the one and only Saturday Manufacturing. Brian is so clever! All of their work makes me smile.

I got to take the set home with me (the agency had sent them out free as a holiday card package) and used them to decorate for our party:

We nearly had an open fire when Joe put his Tacos Jose* appetizer into the oven and then forgot about them. His boss smelled burning and saved the day!

Guest safety is a top priority, of course!

There were quite a few more, but I had to go on a grocery (right) run before I was able to snap photos of them all. This sign, which I put on the downstairs bathroom door, is probably my favorite:

I totally think these should get sold through FredFlare or Chronicle Books or something, don’t you? At the very least, these clever designs should illustrate a story with tips for hosting a holiday party article for a magazine, right?

My big tip: If everyone is bunching up in one area and you want to create more flow, move the drinks away from the food. Miss Manners will probably tell me this is a terrible faux pas, but we have a lovely den that gets zero traffic (there isn’t even a door!) during parties. That is, until I moved the booze into it. Then it becomes quite popular and people don’t just bunch up near our little galley kitchen.

Tacos Jose
(A fun little appetizer Joe adapted a few years ago and that has become a staple)

What you’ll need:
1 can black beans
Shredded cheese
Red pepper, diced
1 or 2 Roma tomatoes, diced
Salsa (chunky works better than runny)
Chili powder
Large flour tortillas

1. Grease or spray a cupcake tin with non-stick spray and preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Cut three tortillas into four pieces each. You should have 12 pie-shaped pieces.
3. Fold the tortillas into cups by doubling over one of the straight edges and place into cupcake tin.
4. Put a little bit of cheese into the bottom of each cup.
5. Put a small spoon full of beans into each cup.
6. Put a small spoon full of peppers and tomatoes into each cup.
7. Top ingredients in each cup with a bit of salsa and then a little more cheese on top.
8. Sprinkle a little chili powder on top of each cup.
9. Bake at 375 degrees until cheese in melted and edges of tortillas are browned.
10. Remove from oven and let cool for 5-10 minutes. As they cool they should firm up enough to pull them out of the tin without falling apart.

Ole! Enjoy!


Filed under At home

Handmade memories

This was the year of the creative Christmas — of making meaningful gifts and memories.

When I was little, I thought Elves lived in our snow village. 

Somehow, we were able to trek to Joe’s family’s near Omaha for a Christmas Eve feast (six different meats!) and by Christmas night, we were eating Beef Bourguignon (a blend of Ina Garten’s recipe and my grandma’s) and toasting with champagne at my mom’s dining room table outside of Chicago. A smooth drive was one plus side to missing out on a white Christmas.

For my mom, I crafted five ornaments that represented things we used to do together:

A paper globe-shaped ornament decorated with Girl Scout stickers, because my mom led Troop 784 from Daisy Scouts through my senior year of high school. (Tutorial here.)

A tiny table (clothespin legs and a paper jewelry box top draped with fabric) complete with a pie, like the ones we used to bake at the local heritage society.

A bicycle wheel made from an embroidery hoop, puff paint, floral wire and hot glue to stand for our rides. (We loved to go out on the MKT in Columbia when I was in college, and even did a ride on a rented tandem there.)

A tiny paper wreath made from an old New Yorker because I felt too bad cutting up an old book. I was hardcore about Battle of the Books when I was in grade school and junior high and my mom was our coach. It was kind of like a knowledge bowl for reading. We read 20 books for it a year, then one night would compete with other Catholic schools in the area. Champions!

A sweater that unfolded to represent the matching ones that we sometimes get around Christmas (I insist, mostly because my mom thinks it’s super dorky!), but also to symbolize the great example my mom set for me.

My mom and brother each made handmade gifts for me, too. Kev showed up my sewing machine skills by crafting me a manatee potholder set, and my mom gave me cards she’s had made using some of her nature photos.

The day after Christmas, we got together with my whole Kelley side of the family and all of the cousins received one of the most memorable gifts of all time: “The Night Before Christmas,” as narrated for us individually by my grandpa. We all dissolved into tears as we opened the books and heard his voice. Grandpa turns 90 this May and was quite pleased to present us with the keepsakes my mom helped him record. (You can get the recordable book through UNICEF.)

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December 27, 2011 · 5:44 pm

The stockings were hung by the chimney this week

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas — at least in this corner of the house!

Joe and I put up our tree over the weekend, lit a fire in the fireplace and are getting into the spirit of things. (Which, of course means Christmas records and hot chocolate.) My favorite thing has always been unwrapping all of our ornaments that have been collected over the years and laughing at how ugly the ones I crafted as a kid are, or telling stories behind ones we got on trips. There’s a bedraggled Big Bird that always goes on the lower branch of my mom’s tree, because as an infant I liked playing with the big yellow feather.

We started — OK, I’ll admit that this was more something I instigated — a tradition last year as a married family that we would sit down after the tree was decorated on (or around) St. Nicholas Day and write each other a letter about favorite memories from the past year and our hopes for the coming year. Then we put them in each others stocking and read them on Christmas, or whenever we open our gifts together. Last year was the first year, and we just wrote them out on notebook paper. This year, we stepped it up to computer paper. I’m going to be a dork and start a scrapbook of them, I think.

Hopefully the letters will become a record of our lives and feelings for each other through the years. I think it’s meaningful to take time to reflect on moments that have impacted us over the year and share our expectations and excitement for what’s ahead. Any new little families out there have freshly minted traditions?

I’m hoping to steal my nieces again this winter break for a few days. Last year, Mia braved her fears and frustration and went ice skating for the first time at the Brenton Skating Plaza! We also had Crab Rangoon Pizza at Fong’s, a pairing that I certainly wouldn’t mind making a tradition this year, too.


Filed under At home