Thursday, December 29, 2011

2011: Our Family’s Year in Review

This is the second or third year I’ve done this; and honestly it’s for my own memory’s sake and not for any other reason.  I don’t pretend that it’s interesting!  lol But 2011 was a crazy year for us (hello, new house and adoption process beginning!) so I want to document it here in one post. 


{January and February and beginning of March}

Had some crushing losses on houses – a total of 3 in this time that we walked through, fell in love with, signed paperwork for, and then “lost.”  Super discouraging time but kept pressing on and looking at houses!


{late March}

Found out we were getting a house!! (Praise God!)  We got the call when we were out at the movie theater seeing The Adjustment Bureau so that movie will always hold an oddly special place in my heart.  Totally started bawling from happiness when we got the call. 



Armed with the knowledge that we were finally getting a house, we went our very first adoption informational meeting, led by Connecticut Child and Family Services.  We heard all about the options open to us and got a good overview of our choices. 



I traveled to Cedarville with my parents to see my sweet sissy-poo graduate from college. 

Closed on our house on Monday, May 16th (9 months and 1 day from when we moved in with my parents…YES I was counting).  Took a week to paint, start a wall demo, and move in; slept in our house the first time the following Sunday night. 

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We also had our first house visitors that month!  Josh and Lindsay and Jake (our BFFs) came to visit us over Memorial Day weekend.  Jake finally got to see the beach, which is good because the poor kid had only been saying “beach” since February…lol!

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{I love these two sweet boys!}


{June and July}

During these months we explored several different avenues for adoption (five in all).  We continually got doors closed.  It was an extremely frustrating time but we continued to keep pursing our options.

I was also asked to the maid of honor in the wedding of one of my oldest and dearest high school friends!  She was in my wedding and I am thrilled to be in hers.  She’s getting married next June.

On July 8th our sweet boy turned TWO!  Since we still felt freshly-moved-in, we decided to have a very simple family dinner with just my parents, my grandparents, my brother and his girlfriend (now fiancĂ©!) and my sister.  Chris’s parents watched Luke eat his cake via Skype.  I cooked an Italian-themed dinner.  It was sweet and simple.



We celebrated our FIVE year wedding anniversary!  We had big plans to go to Boston, but for a variety of reasons, we chose not to go.  It is still on the list for the future!  We went to Cheesecake Factory instead – one of our favorites, plus we ate there on our honeymoon the night before we flew to Mexico, so it always reminds us of that happy time. :)

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I also became an independent representative for Wildtree!  I sell 100%natural food products via home parties.  It’s a super fun source of outside income from me…and I get to talk about one of my favorite subjects….healthy eating. ;)

August also ended up being the month that we lost power for five and a half days due to Hurricane Irene…..*shudder*.  I hope we don’t have to go through that again anytime soon!



On the 4th, my sister got married!  I was the maid of honor, Luke was the ring bearer, and Chris and I sang/played at the ceremony.  It was SO much fun – I wish we could do it all again….except not…you know what I mean! 

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On the 17th, Chris turned 28 and my brother got engaged to a wonderful girl.  We celebrated with an engagement dinner that night. 

We also made our way to Cedarville for our 5-year reunion, which stretched into the first weekend of….



Being at Cedarville with friends was a BLAST.  It was super hard to be away from Luke that long, but all-in-all, I don’t regret it.  We got to spend a few days with some of our most favorite people on the planet. I’m already looking forward to the 10-year!  :)

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Also this month, we had our very first home adoption meeting with our social worker!  I realize that I haven’t actually shared this here yet, but we officially started on the path to foster-adoption through the state of Connecticut!  Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaay!  We are currently in the thick of the paperwork/parenting classes aspect of adoption, and hope to be “ready” for a child (on paper) by the spring. 

We hosted Chris’s parents for the weekend.  It was fun to show them our house and the area.  Luke absolutely loved having some one-on-one time with his grandparents!

I started teaching piano lessons again.  So thankful for the chance to keep using my music teacher skills and to make some extra money for our family.



We hosted Thanksgiving at our house – first time ever!  We kept it low-key with just my parents, my grandparents, my brother, and Chris and Luke and I.  My sister and her husband weren’t able to make it up from Tennessee. :( 

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Besides missing my sister and her husband, it was a blast!  I cooked my very first turkey and nobody keeled over from food poisoning.  I was TIRED at the end of the day, though!



I turned 27 on the 7th.  Chris ended up with my birthday off so that was a wonderful surprise.  And something I will now expect from here on out. haha

This was the very first Christmas (we’ve been married for a total of six Christmases now) that we were able to celebrate on our own.  All the other years we had been staying with my parents over the Christmas holiday, so our Christmas morning had been with them.  It was such a gift to be able to have Christmas, just the three of us.  We got up, took our time, and had a quiet, peaceful morning before heading out to my parents’ house.  I loved every minute of it. :)

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{Christmas Eve at my aunt and uncle’s house}

Looking forward to spending New Year’s with some very special friends!

Well, that wraps it up for our family recap!  Thanks so much for following along – see you NEXT YEAR! Ha. Ha. HA. ;)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Super Quick and Easy Ornament Garland

I promised a tutorial for my ornament garlands that I showed you in my Christmas tour – and I didn’t want to disappoint my millions of fans.

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Just take a deep breath, because the materials needed might take your breath away. 

Are you ready for this?  You’ll need:




and {breathe!}

duck tape

Don’t you just love projects that only need three materials?!

  {By the way, is it duct tape or duck tape?  I think it’s duck.  Right? Kinda like anyways.  Are you supposed to write anyways or anyway? Anyone know these important adult things that I apparently didn’t get the memo on?}


Anyway(s?), thanks to my lovely sister for showing me this inspiration picture, which she originally found on Pinterest. 

                           Source: via Jessica - thisblessedlife on Pinterest



I have been wanting to make an ornament wreath for years but I’ve read that they’re complicated and then I saw this ornament garland and I got so excited to make it.  And then I read the tutorial and saw all the different sized ornaments I was going to have to buy for it, and I got a little disappointed.  Until I decided that I was going to just wing it and go ahead with what I had. 

Because I don’t know about you guys, but when I get ready to start something – be it a recipe or a craft – I realllllllly hate having to stop.  I usually just try to figure out a way to make it work. 

Let’s just say that “She was a patient woman” will definitely NOT be inscribed on my tombstone someday. 

So basically all I did was grab ornaments that I got from Target on clearance for less than a dollar two years ago for the red and silver one:

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And grab some champagne ornaments I got at the Dollar Tree two years ago for the one on my entryway/dresser/hutch thing:

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I also grabbed some spare ribbon from my stash (I always save ribbon; you never know when you can use it!) and seriously just slid the ornaments down the ribbon. 

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That is it. 

I didn’t worry about different sizes or different colors or anything like that, although I did try to alternate colors and/or patterns (the champagne ones are both matte and sparkly).

Then secure it with duck/duct tape to your desired surface and voila.

Don’t you just love an easy project???!!! Finally, right?

Quick, easy, simple, frugal, pretty, shiny ornament garland.  I love it when those words come together in a sentence. 


My one tip is to use ribbon that’s on the thicker side (like in my picture above).  Because if you go with thin ribbon, it may or may not be able to withstand the weight and it may or may not crash down at 3 in the morning and you may or may or lie in bed with a heart panting fast because you are sure someone broke into the house by throwing a rock in the window and you are waiting to see if they are going to try to crawl in before you wake your husband up frantically.   Until you realize it was all your fault and now you’re mad because you’re awake at 3 am and you know there are broken ornaments all over your carpet that will need to be cleaned up in the morning.

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So please, trust me on this and go with the thick ribbon. :)

Have fun!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

My Favorite Things Party {2011}

I have to preface by saying that it’s a little ironic for me to join this party each year, since the majority of the things in my house were purchased at Goodwill or because I had a coupon.  :)

But I’m joining again because…..well, I can’t help myself.  It’s so much fun!

Here’s a list of the top 10 things I’m loving in 2011:


{1}  Lindt Dark Chocolate: A Touch of Sea Salt

You know a list is gonna be good when it starts out with chocolate, right?! You saw me talk about this in my Fridge & Freezer Vlog – seriously, SO good.  Mmmmmmmmm.  Good stocking stuffer for basically any woman in your life.  Or man.  I’m not going to judge.  lol


{2}  Old Navy V-Neck Cardigan {in Navy and Red}

I bought two of these earlier this year, and I love them.  They are 100% cotton and the perfect length.  They are on clearance right now for $15.  That’s a great price for a sweater that is classic enough to wear for years. 


{3}  Point of Grace:  A Christmas Story

A Christmas Story

It seriously doesn’t feel like Christmas to me until I pop this cd into the player (am I the only person on the planet who doesn’t have an ipod dock?  Yes?  Okay, just checking…) This cd got me through all my years of college finals.  It’s gorgeous.

79 reviews on Amazon and a 5-star rating.  You know you want to buy it…..


{4}  Kirkland’s Golden Rosette Mirror

I know I posted about this already, but I am crazy about my birthday-present-mirror from Kirkland’s.  It’s a little bit darker in real life than it shows online, but definitely still gorgeous.  It’s temporarily out of stock but I’m sure they’ll be bringing it back soon!  I knew I wanted a big mirror for my birthday, and at $49.99 on sale, this was way, way more affordable than a lot of the other ones I saw online. 


{5}  The Help

I saw this last week on my birthday and it was really, really, really good.  Like, really good.  I want to watch it again!  I was totally mesmerized by Southern life in the 60’s.  So, so so good.  Did I say that already? lol Now I totally need to read the book!


{6}  Anthro Farmer’s Egg Crate

{Here’s an example of how Sherry from Young House Love uses hers.}

A few months ago, I saw a blogger use this to organize her earrings on her dresser.  Brilliant!  I may or may not have a sweet sister who may or may not work at Anthro and who may or may not have purchased this for me for Christmas this year… {Hooray!}


{7}  Rimmel Lasting Finish Pro Nail Polish in “Burgundy Flirt”

Rimmel Lasting Finish Pro Nail Lacquer, Burgundy Flirt 390

No, it’s not a “trendy” nail polish brand, but I absolutely love this Rimmel polish for the winter months.  It’s dark without being creepy and red without being too holiday-ish.  You can get it at basically any drug store or Target, and besides the color itself, I LOVE the fact that the brush is flat.  Genius!


{8}  Target Cable-Knit Stockings

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I already showed them in my Christmas Home Tour yesterday, but I wanted to share them again here: I love my Target stockings!  They are $13 each, which adds up when you’re buying multiples, but I realized after shopping for a few weeks online that it’s really a fabulous price.   


{9} “Ribba” picture ledge from Ikea


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I am totally in love with these picture ledges I purchased a few months ago at Ikea.  They were $15 a piece and I am so, so happy I bought them!  They screw right into the wall and they have a little lip on the edge (as you can see), which is great for leaning frames or other objects.  If you go to the store to buy them, look in the picture and frames department (not in the shelving area).  


{10}  Taking Care of the “Me” in “Mommy by Lisa Welchel

Taking Care of the Me in Mommy: Becoming a Better Mom: Spirit, Body & Soul

A friend recently gave me this book after she was finished with it.  I am about 75% done with it and honestly have to say that it’s well worth the read.  Lisa is full of practical, real-life ideas of how to multi-task throughout your day so you can be more organized and disciplined – and thus have more time for taking care of the things that nurture your soul and spirit.  I highly recommend it!


Head over to Melissa’s fabulous blog, 320 Sycamore, to see who else is joining in the fun.  Have a fabulous weekend, everyone!


P.S. My little sister is a brand-new blogger and she’s joining this party for the first time!  It would make my day if you’d stop by and visit her!  She has a great list. ;)


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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Christmas Tour of Homes 2011

I love that I just got to type those words into my title!

It’s here – it’s finally here! 

Those of you who have been reading for a while know that we didn’t get to celebrate Christmas in our own house last year.  We had sold our house in PA, moved to CT, and were living with my parents for an undetermined time (9 months and one day, but who was counting?) until finally, finally, God brought us to our house that we live in now. 

So I didn’t get a chance to decorate for Christmas last year.  I clicked through the 2010 Tour of Homes and tried not to cry and just prayed SO hard that God would give us a house soon.

Well, here I am!  A testament to God’s faithfulness, that’s for sure. 

Let’s get started!


First of all, welcome to our house!  If you were here in real life, you’d probably hear the “Tender Tennessee Christmas” station playing on Pandora when you walked in.  it’s a great mix of old-school songs and newer ones.  I really, really like it –you should try it out! 

{By the way, you should be able to click on any picture to enlarge it.}

So, let’s start with our living room.  We don’t have an entry way (just a coat closet!), so this dresser/hutch is the first thing you see when you walk in the front door. 

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I made a SUPER easy ornament garland (I promise I will post a tutorial some time!) and then set my Willow Tree nativity on it so it’s the first thing you see when we walk in.  You can see how I made the burlap trees here. 

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Moving on to the hallway, I just topped Chris’s grandma’s antique mirror with 4 sparkly berry sprigs I got this year from Michael’s. 

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In the bathroom, I printed out this free page from Jones Design Company and popped it in an Ikea frame.  I put extra ornaments and sprigs from the tree into a yard sale jar. 

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Oh, and keeping our feet warm is this super fun mat from Target ($2.50 this year). 

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In our dining room, I just took branches from the lower part of our tree and added more berry sprigs and two giant ornaments that I found at Goodwill last year.  I made another ornament garland (what can I say, they’re addicting!).  Can you spot our little elf? ;)

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In the frame is our Christmas card from 2007. christmas and backsplash 009


On top of the kitchen island, I took ornaments I got 90% off last year at Target (loooove the bright colors) and put them in a Goodwill cylinder. 

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The candle and plate on my oven are both from Goodwill!

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I took a piece of super-ugly “art” from Goodwill and rolled it with chalkboard paint this summer to make a moveable chalkboard. 

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I’ve started putting up Christmas cards on my new corkboard from Home Goods (which I am totally in love with, by the way).  I would love it if I ran out of space by Christmas! ;)

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I looooove this pillow I got at Goodwill a few years ago (and it’s sitting on my Pier One via Goodwill chair!)  Yeah, are you sensing a theme in my house?!  Mama loves her a good thrift store.  lol

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Here is my sweet baby boy sitting with it TWO years ago!!


This photo is a little dark because it’s right in front of the window, but here’s a little wintery vignette I put together, all from stuff I already had around the house – and most of it I’ve had for years! 

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On top of this bookcase I just took red tree garland (clearance from CVS years ago) and put it around a white candle.  The red and blue kid frames are from Goodwill and I’ll let Luke keep them in his room in another year or two. 

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This picture was our Christmas card from 2009.  I’m still totally in love with it.  Pretty sure no matter how hard I try I won’t be able to top it, ever. :)

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Love my little polar bear in front of his very first tree! :)

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Since this is the first Christmas EVER that we’ve spent Christmas morning together as our own little family, I finally bought Christmas stockings! I found these at Target this year for $13. I love that they’re traditional and cozy-looking. And they’re lined on the inside, so there’s no worry about tearing a hole in them with gifts.

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And no, the fact that there’s four stockings does NOT indicate any kind of announcement from me! :) I just bought four on the faith that God will grace us with another baby at some point in the future. I am literally aching for another baby and and praying so hard that by next Christmas we will have another little one in our home. (We are in the process (!) of adopting from the state foster care system – yes, I know a post on that is loooong overdue!)

Oh and the stockings aren’t hung yet because I have a two-year-old boy.  Enough said. :)


Last but not least, here’s our tree!  Growing up, we always got our tree from the same farm (a old family friend), and this year we got ours from there as well.  A lot of my inspiration this year for decorating came from those 90% off ornaments I mentioned before!  I love the lime green and sparkly red look.  I added more of those Target ornaments to our tree, as well as our other sentimental ones that make an appearance each year. 

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I got the ribbon 50% off from Michael’s and used this video tutorial to make the bow. It reminds me of Dorothy’s slippers every time I look at it. :)

I’ve been buying Luke a Hallmark ornament each year.  In 2009 I bought him the jungle one (which was perfect because his room was jungle-themed).  Last year I got him one of those miniature pull toys. 

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This year he got Curious George, but he accidentally broke it and I haven’t had a chance to super-glue it yet.  Life with a toddler! :)

I love having a little bell on the top of my tree, in honor of It’s a Wonderful Life, of course. :)

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My favorite ornaments, hands down, are these two of our sweet boy.  These pictures were taken in December of 2008 and they will always be so special to me.  Being newly pregnant at Christmas made Mary’s story so much more real to me than it ever had been before. 

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Well, that’s our house, everyone!  I hope you enjoyed the tour! 


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Ridiculously excited to be Linking to:  

The Nester’s Christmas Tour of Homes 2011

Kelly’s Show Us Your Life Christmas Homes Tour 2011