Tag Archives: holidays

Christmas 2018

This holiday season was extra special. We made so many memories and had new experiences, started new traditions and enjoyed time as a family.

Alex’s family flew out from Illinois to join us for Christmas at Suncadia Resort in the heart of the Cascade Mountains. We rented a beautiful house tucked into the snow-covered evergreens and made ourselves right at home for the week of Christmas.

Our days were spent cross country skiing, ice skating, playing with two-two-year old boys, eating, singing “The Wheels on the Bus,” making snowballs,moderating sharing of the toy guitars, downhill skiing and catching up. We were able to cross country ski out the back door of the house and that was so gratifying for me – there were a couple days where I strapped a kid to my back or hooked myself up to the ski trailer and just took off for the forest.

We also celebrated the second birthday of our nephew, Nico, on Christmas Eve. Alina put together an adorable “Wheels on the Bus” themed party for him. Both Ben and Nico love buses and the song “Wheels on the Bus” and it was perfect for a two-year old.

Hannah enjoyed cuddle time with her extended family, too, and Nico showed quite an interest in her. He is super sweet! Hannah also got plenty of floor time to practice sitting up – her newest skill she’s working on.

We’re already looking ahead to the holiday season of 2019 where we can spend it out at The Lodge and begin even more new traditions with our family. It’s so magical to be in the snow and the mountains during the holidays. Happy New Year!

Tis the Season!

We’ve been busy decking our halls, waiting patiently for Santa and decorating cookies and gingerbread houses galore. The Christmas season is SO much fun with a two year old who is just now at the age where he can truly grasp the concept and all of the activities that come along with.

The holiday season started with a really nice Thanksgiving. We wanted to have a very low-key Turkey Day, given we have a lot on our plate in December. At the last minute we ended up inviting some friends to enjoy our feast with us which ended up making the day all that more special.

Ben helped me decorate the tree and the house. He had his own ideas of how we should hang ornaments {not on the tree, that’s how!}. I ended up having a pile of ornaments to mend later on because they got dropped by an eager toddler. Oops!

Ben was so into decorating and loved seeing the transformation of the tree once it was lit. It is so endearing to watch the Christmas spirit and the magic of the season come alive through a young child’s eyes.

We turned Ben on to a few holiday movies {Elf and Polar Express} one dreary weekend. He loved sitting and watching a movie.

I hung up our advent calendar again this year and did a better job of planning our daily advent activities. Last year I didn’t keep track of planning or prep work that needed to go into a certain day’s activity, so when we pulled out the card I was unprepared. Thankfully this year I put a bit more thought and took good notes so I could keep up.

I think next year Ben will be more into it, though. There have been a few days where he just hasn’t remembered to get the activity out and then I remember when it’s too late. A few of our activities this year include: decorating gingerbread houses, writing a letter to Santa {there’s an adorable little mailbox in our neighborhood for mailing the letters!}, having eggnog as a special treat and going to play in the snow.

For the first time in a few years we’re adopting some families for Christmas. I intentionally requested young children and one of the families has two little boys that we asked Ben to help pick out toys for. I don’t think he quite got the concept {maybe I’m underestimating him} but he sure had fun picking out toys for them. I love the warm-fuzzy feeling of doing good in our community and spreading joy to others.

{I underestimated the amount of time it would take to wrap Christmas gifts for the children of three families.}

One of my holiday traditions is baking a boatload of cookies. I had a special helper in the kitchen this year. Ben was a stellar supervisor in the dough making process and he had a blast decorating the cookies a few days later. He had very strong preferences for sprinkle colors and then didn’t want to eat his creation!

Last weekend we also decorated our first gingerbread house together. Ben got to sample a lotttt of candy.

A major highlight for me from the holiday season thus far was our visit to Enchant, a holiday light festival down at Safeco Field, our baseball stadium. The whole field was turned into a Christmas light maze and ice skating rink. I had a blast!

The lights were magical and really unbelievable. I felt like I was ice skating along a river – it was a sweet, short little loop. The best part, though, was taking Ben ice skating for the first time. I grew up on a pond in Minnesota and have such fond memories of learning to skate as a very, very young child.

Alex just found out that there’s a skating rink about 5 minutes away from our mountain house. I hope we become regulars there – I’d love for our kids to grow up with that exposure, just like I had. Before this happens, though, I’m going to need to conjure up some new ice skates! My cousin’s hand-me-downs from age 12 took their last spin on the ice last weekend.

We have loads more to look forward to this holiday season. Our mountains just had a massive snowstorm and we’re considering going out to play in the powder one of these days. I can hardly wait to get Ben skiing this winter, and we’re counting down the days until Alex’s family arrives for Christmas.

 

Holiday Baking!

I consider myself to be more a chef than a baker at any point during the year. Recipes are not really my friend and I don’t normally have the patience for baking. The exception is during the holidays! I’m known to bake anywhere from 10-20 dozen cookies during the holiday season and this year is no different. I lost track where I’m at right now, but I think somewhere around 15 dozen.

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We’ve delivered cookies to our neighbors, enjoyed some treats to ourselves and shared them with friends from work and at our holiday party. Now all that’s left is baking at least one more batch of something to share with family for Christmas and then bring some to the NICU and Antepartum {where I stayed during the end of my pregnancy} on Christmas Eve, a tradition we started last year.

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Ben and Edina had fun decorating delicious sugar cookies last week. Thanks for the pictures, Edina!

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I tweaked the sugar cookie recipe that I had used in the past and turned it into my own recipe this year and combined that with a different frosting recipe. Two thumbs up!

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Additionally, we made linzer cookies, peanut butter blossoms, and new this year, Irish shortbread toffee bars. Normally I make peppermint bark but I got such a great deal on buying it from Williams Sonoma that I saved myself a little time and purchased it. It’s really hard to pick a favorite, and not to toot my own horn but they’re all really, really good this year.

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Ben has become quite the helper in the kitchen and loves to watch me cook or bake. We’ve got a step stool that is perfect for him to pull up to the counter and lend a hand once in a while. He gets so excited to be included!

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Fourth Annual Holiday Party

Hosting our holiday party has become quite a fun tradition we look forward to every year. We’ve learned a lot over the last few years and definitely had it dialed in this year. We tried a few new foods and continued our same laid-back approach to the soiree and it was wonderful.

{not our best family photo, but the best of the bunch!}

{not our best family photo, but the best of the bunch!}

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{this year's spread included: a beautiful and bountiful cheese board; crudite platter; chicken skewers; caramelized onion, mushroom and gruyere puffs; brie and apple puffs; Christmas pinwheels;  dips from our local Greek restaurant, paired with their pita; and a big plate of cookies.}

{This year’s spread included: a beautiful and bountiful cheese board; crudite platter; chicken skewers; caramelized onion, mushroom and gruyere puffs; brie and apple puffs; Christmas pinwheels; dips from our local Greek restaurant, paired with their pita; and a big plate of cookies.}

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{Having fun with the "portrait" mode on our new phone!}

{Having fun with the “portrait” mode on our new phone!}

{The chef!}

{The chef!}

{This year's signature drink was Bee Keeper Punch.}

{This year’s signature drink was Bee Keeper Punch.}

{Plenty of bubbly and sparkling rose to go around.}

{Plenty of bubbly and sparkling rose to go around.}

{The Millers arrived a little early to help taste-test :) }

{The Millers arrived a little early to help taste-test 🙂 }

I had so much fun looking back on the last three parties – my oh my how life has changed. We have a really great time putting together these parties and are so grateful to have so many friends in Seattle to enjoy the holidays with.

Third annual party

Second annual party

First annual party

Early December

This holiday season is shaping up to be quite a memorable one! Ben is at such a fun age to where he’s starting to understand so much that I think he’ll really get into things this year. We have a lot of holiday and seasonal activities planned – I can hardly wait to experience this holiday season with our family.

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Earlier this fall I bought a beautiful advent calendar. I received it in the mail and was floored at how gigantic it is. The advent calendars I grew up with were the cardboard kind where you open the window each day of advent and that was that. This new calendar had pockets for every day. I was completely thrown off by how to use this calendar and ended up deciding to fill each pocket with a holiday/seasonal activity for that day.

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It’s kind of nice because it forced me to sit down with my calendar and idea list and plot what I wanted to do when and really plan out the month of December. I came up with some really fun ideas and realized that there’s a lot we wanted to do and not that much time so it also brought me back to reality.

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One of our first advent activities was cutting down our Christmas tree, followed by decorating it the next day. We went to Trinity Tree Farm in Issaquah to cut down our tree this year. Last year we purchased a pre-cut tree from them. Last year’s tree was the most beautiful tree either one of us had ever had and this year’s blows last year’s out of the water. Our tree this year is stunning!

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We picked a very typical Pacific Northwest day to go get our tree. It was POURING. Thankfully we all had our rain boots and positive attitudes. Ben loved jumping in the puddles – right now he’s obsessed with water in all forms and couldn’t get over the act of puddle jumping.

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Alex was a true family hero when he tackled the acts of cutting down the tree and tying the tree on the car himself. It was a multi-person job managing Ben and it required both Edina and me to corral him and keep him from diving into a puddle headfirst. I saw photos of a friend of mine who has three kids under 5 and she and her husband brought their kids and their dog to cut down the tree {mind you, they didn’t also have an extra set of hands there like we did!} and they seemed to have managed just fine. I have no idea how.

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Decorating the Christmas tree was adorable. Ben really seemed to get the concept. While he didn’t really successfully hang any ornaments, he placed them on branches or he pointed out where he thought a good place for a pretty ornament would be. His favorite part, though, was climbing the step stool and being a little entertainer.

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I feel like we’re in pretty good shape for the holidays at this point. There’s a lot we need to do to prepare for the rest of the season and it is all so much fun!! This is by far our favorite time of year. We get so much joy in entertaining and spending time with family and friends, especially during the magical holiday season.

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Ali’s Favorite Things 2017

Per the request of one of my friends, I put together an “Ali’s Favorite Things” list. I knew I had done this before but I didn’t realize it was three years ago already. It’s funny looking back on that list because every single one of those items I mentioned would be on my list today still. Definitely check out my original list – some goodies on there, for sure!

Big & Small Set of Kitchen Tongs

Silly, I know, but I absolutely love having a little pair of tongs around. We have four {or is it five?} pairs of tongs in our “gadgets” drawer and there are more days than I expected that all of the tongs are in the dishwasher. I guess you can never have too many tongs!

 

Fancy Measuring Cups & Spoons

Who doesn’t love a set of fancy measuring cups and spoons?

 

100 Days of Real Food: Fast and Fabulous

An update to my 2014 list – Lisa’s new cookbook focuses on weeknight meals. I have made so, so, so many of these recipes and they have become staples in my repertoire. Some favorites: chicken chili, veggie and bean burritos, snack bars and so many lunch ideas!

Speaking of food – here are a few of my favorite meals to make these days:

Killers of the Flower Moon

Ok, so, I really haven’t read nearly as many books this calendar year as I had hoped, but even if I had read a book a day, Killers of the Flower Moon would still be at the top of my list. This book is about the murders of the Osage Indians back in the 1920s and is so fascinating, disturbing and unbelievable.

 

Glassybabies

Glassybaby votive holders have become rather special in our home. We live just four blocks from the Glassybaby glass blowing studio and these little votives are a fixture in our neighborhood and now our home. They’re a signature Seattle item – most Seattleites have a vast collection. They are so beautiful, all hand made right here in Madrona and every Glassybaby supports a different cause.

 

Faux Sheepskin Throw

Pottery Barn does not disappoint with this super cozy throw. I got it as a throw but it ended up becoming a layer in our bedding because I love snuggling up with it. Our cat doesn’t seem to mind this either! 😉

 

Zella Keep It Cool Crop Leggings

Apparently these are everyone else’s favorite leggings too because they’re sold out at Nordstrom right now! These are my most favorite leggings I have ever had. Keep checking back!

 

Athleta Beyond Soft Pranayama Wrap

This is one of the coziest little sweater/wraps I’ve ever had. I love wrapping myself up in it in the morning or the evenings and being all cozy. It’s great to pair with leggings to go to the gym/studio or wear around the house or with your favorite athleisure combo out and about.

 

Lalicious Sugar Scrub

I use this incredible scrub on my feet every other day in the shower and it’s divine. I love the smell {brown sugar vanilla is my favorite}, the way it feels and the texture. Plus, it makes my feet so soft!

 

CND Vinylux Nail Polish

Vinylux nail polish has been my go-to for several years now. You have to get the top coat, too. I can get 7-10 days from a manicure with this nail polish and I’ve gotten as many as 7 days doing my own nails.

 

Arbonne Calm Daily Moisturizer

I tried to veer from this and only ended up disappointed. This moisturizer feels so light and calming on my sensitive skin. It’s really nice stuff!

Ben’s First Christmas

As they always seem to, the holidays kind of snuck up on me this year. I knew in the back of my mind they were approaching and I’d think about and plan something every now and then but every time I thought about the holidays I would realize they were still so far away… until they weren’t! In any case, we wanted to make Ben’s first Christmas special for all of us.

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Our holiday season kicked off with the two holiday parties we had – one we attended and one we hosted. We baked a few batches of Christmas cookies – our nanny was super helpful and baked several dozen. Somewhere along the line we nearly ran out of Christmas cookies, though, so I ended up whipping up a double batch of gingersnaps to take to the NICU and antepartum units at the hospital where Ben was born.

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Speaking of babies being born – one of the best Christmas gifts we received was the birth of our nephew Nico! Baby Nico was born on Christmas Eve in Chicago. We are SO excited for proud parents Alina and Alberto and can’t wait to meet their sweet boy. It’s going to be so much fun that Nico and Ben are less than 7 months apart!

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We celebrated Christmas Eve by going up to the mountains for the afternoon. Ben had never played in the snow before so we stuffed him into his snowsuit and laid him down in a heap of snow. He wiggled around and basically made a snow angel and inadvertently sprayed himself in the face with snow! He wasn’t too keen on that, but I think he liked being up in the mountains.

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It was a beautiful day up there – we were at Alpental, a ski resort, and the evergreens were covered in light, fluffy, powdery snow. It was spectacular and a perfect backdrop for our first time bringing Ben to the mountains in the winter.

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True to tradition, that evening we read “The Night Before Christmas” to Ben before tucking him in for his long winter’s nap. Once Ben was asleep for the night Alex and I made fondue and popped a nice bottle of Spanish wine for dinner.

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{this is actually the Polar Express, but I thought it was a cute moment}

I was a little slow in finishing up wrapping gifts so we huddled downstairs in and finished up my Santa tasks and got everything ready for Christmas morning.

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Santa brought us the amazing gift of sleep for Christmas this year! Ben almost slept through the night, but slept in the morning until 7 a.m.!!! It was so nice to sleep in and not be awaken multiple times throughout the night. We all woke up in a great mood ready to celebrate Christmas.

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Christmas morning was lovely. We were together as a little family. I made an almond pastry, called a Swedish Kringler, that my aunt Sarah has made for many years on Christmas. I had never made it before but it is divine!

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We had lots of gifts to open. It was so sweet to see all of the people who thought of Ben. We had gifts come as far away as Spain {Our friends Elizabeth and Lois were back in town from Spain for the holiday and stopped by for a visit on Friday. It was SO nice to see them.}!

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The bulk of the day was spent hanging out on the floor in the living room in front of the fire playing with Ben and his new toys. Ben is developing so fast – it’s something new every day at this point. He was really starting to master sitting up on his own. He can sit up unsupported but not for terribly long and he still crashes over quite a bit but there was a major improvement on Christmas day.

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We also enjoyed Skyping/FaceTiming with our families. It was so fun to “meet” baby Nico via Skype – these video calling features make living far away so much easier. While we would have loved to have seen our families in person on Christmas, we are so glad that we were home in Seattle for the holidays.

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Our first Christmas with Ben was wonderful. We will really treasure the family time we had together and the memories we made.

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Merry Christmas!

We’d like to take a moment to wish all of our friends and family a very merry Christmas! Since there is no snow in Seattle we headed east to the mountains on Christmas Eve to give Ben his first introduction to snow. On Christmas day we plan on having a relaxing day by the fire at our house. Our fingers are crossed that Santa will visit us tonight, but either way we’ll have some tasty Christmas pastries in the morning and sit around spending time together. We’re hoping to connect with our families on FaceTime or Skype, as well.

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Merry Christmas from our family to yours!

Third Annual Holiday Party

Our third annual holiday party is another one for the books! We are so, so glad we decided to carry out the tradition of hosting a holiday party. For a while we were on the fence – life is a lot more complicated these days with worrying about nap times and feeding schedules of an energetic, squirmy 6-month old. Ultimately, we decided to pick a really easy menu and go from there.

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As it turned out, this holiday party was both of our favorite yet! There was absolutely no stress going into it – we had the experience of two big parties before and sort of had things dialed in for the most part. Not only did that make it easier now that we’ve got Ben, but it made it more enjoyable and allowed for an event where we felt we could actually spend time with our guests and not worry about anything else.

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This year we had right around 30 friends {including 2 family members!} over for the evening. I’d say a solid 2/3 of the crew has kids now and we opted to make this an adults-only affair. We got a lot of really positive feedback from both the parents and the non-parents that they appreciated it was a kid-free evening. Ben was home but we had our nanny downstairs watching him. As it turned out, he slept through the whole dang thing!

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Our food and drink spread was pretty similar to previous years with a few minor tweaks. I really enjoy cooking and putting together food to entertain with. I didn’t really stretch my creativity this year, which was probably a good thing! Some tried and true staples were as far as I went.

Ben’s nanny was a huge help – she baked cookies last week during his nap time! I enjoy baking Christmas cookies but always over-do it, so this year she saved me from that {and may have overdone it herself!}. I managed to still bake gingersnaps, peppermint bark and sugar cookies, while she made the most amazing lintzer cookies {omg you have to make them!}, lemon bars and a lemon polenta cake. She is a far better baker than I am!

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In addition, I hired a babysitter for the day before the party so I could take the day to get everything organized and prepped. As it turns out, that was a very wise move! The day of the party I put Ben in the baby carrier and had him hang out with me while I got some stuff done. I explained what I was doing and shared with him our holiday party tradition. Alex and I hope to continue this party for many years!

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One of my favorite parts about our holiday party tradition is bringing our many groups of friends together. Alex and I feel so fortunate to have so many friends in Seattle and we’ve really made this city our home, in part because of the friendships we have here. I was having such a good time on Saturday night that I forgot to take any photos during the party! Oops! I guess there’s always next year…