full of heart

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I drove by Lake of the Isles this morning, and as the sun rose over the ice-capped water, snow sparkled in the trees and the clouds glowed a soft pink.  My heart felt so full.  Not only because of the scenery, of course, but the beauty of the landscape seemed to echo my feelings. Rain comforts the sorrowful and soft pink sunrises inspire the grateful.

Our wonderful holiday was filled with family and friends and love and cookies and snow.  The blessings of the season were more than I could have hoped or asked for, and I returned home feeling overwhelmed with gratitude and appreciation.  I worked with my thesaurus to find a single word to describe ‘fullness of heart’ or ‘a heart full to bursting’ but my efforts were futile.

I wanted to share a bit of our holiday with you.  Or, more honestly, I suppose I want to record it here for memories sake.  You don’t mind, do you?

Christmas Eve we took a family sleigh ride through the woods.  The trip was as poetic as the thought, and the 5 degree weather ensured we were bundled and sipping cocoa for warmth.ImageImageImageImage
We went to a candlelight church service after the sleigh ride, and, despite the adventures of the day, managed a game of Ticket to Ride before bed.  In the morning, we exchanged gifts and watched how happy people get when you surprise them with something more perfect than they asked for.  They say Christmas isn’t about the gifts, and that’s true, but I’m always touched by the generosity and thought that goes into even the most simple presents.
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Can you tell I’m excited about the sewing machine? I’ve always wanted to make my own pillowcases, dresses, quilts, napkins, and, well, you name it, but I’ve never had the necessary appliance — well, guess what I’ll be doing in 2014? I’m already signed up lessons! If you have any favorite patterns, send them my way 🙂

The gift last in this post but first in my heart is a trip to Jamaica.  Before I went into surgery, Jon told me that we would plan a sunny getaway as soon as I came home.  That night, hopped up on meds and bundled in his arms, we watched TravelChannel videos and decided to spend a week in Jamaica.

To make the excitement last a little longer, we decided to book our hotel on Christmas night.  So, as promised, we spent Christmas night reading reviews and planning the details of our Jamaica vacation.  Our hotel is now booked and I’m so very excited about the getaway in just 3 weeks.

I’m forever grateful that Jon suggested the vacation when he did- the thought made me smile, and it gave me something to look forward to during a very scary time.  What a loving heart that man has.

Oh, and you might remember that today is his birthday? I’m hopping offline now, and heading for the kitchen to whip up his favorite cakes and cookies and candies. He opted to work today, but we’ll have quite the celebration when he comes home at 5 o’clock.

Me and my full heart are signing off.  Have a lovely day ❤

ho ho ho

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Feeding four grown men three times daily keeps me whisking, swirling, and mixing around the kitchen like a sister of Rachel Ray.  Since the men in question are burly sweethearts from the North Woods, they spent the day chopping wood and building sheds, and they return home with the appetite of Paul Bunyon himself.

My mother-in-law, Jane, has been feeding the men for over 30 years, and so I offer to take over whenever we visit.  Let her spend the day hiking, reading, painting, and enjoying the day far far from the kitchen (for once).

My commitment to feeding the men had me up before the sun to prepare the coffee and the daily menu.  Cinnabons, chocolate-chip banana-bread cookies and muffins were on the table before 8am.  Now, finally, I can sit down to reflect on our Christmas vacation.  Mind if I share some highlights?
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Quite the carb fest, right?  Even so, delicious and absolutely necessary when you keep busy from morning to night.  Yesterday we had a lazy morning play Yahtzee in our pajamas.  Jon had never played before, but he secured a massive win with *2* Yahtzees in the first round:
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My brother-in-law Ryan is a true woodsmen.  The man can chop a tree and turn the wood into just-about-anything-your-heart-desires.  You need a mailbox? Bam. An arch for your wedding? He’s got that (he built ours).  He’s worked with wood since he was a boy, and when I learned of his craft, I suggested he open an Etsy shop.  I’m working on an official website and bio for him, so I spent the afternoon playing interview in his shed:ImageImageImage
Jon planned to spend the afternoon shoveling snow off the roof of the house, shed, and boat dock, but I convinced him to break and just play in the snow.  What’s a wife for, after all?  Gotta convince the guys to have some fun.
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Can you believe Christmas is tomorrow? I wish it was next week and we could prolong all the excitement and cookies just a bit longer.  What about you? Are you ready for Christmas?

spirits are light

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The only problem was that the day wasn’t long enough.  How often do we hop into bed wishing that we had a few more hours to enjoy the day?  Jon and I arrived at the cabin late Saturday night, and we spent Sunday enjoying family, friends, and holiday festivities.  What more could we ask for?

A highlight of the day was learning that I had my very own Christmas stalking hanging above the fireplace.  This is my second Christmas with Jon’s family, but the *1st* time I had a matching stalking — his mom sewed it up to match the stalkings she made her children 20 years ago.
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My mother-in-law, Jane, planned a rah rah rah project to spread Christmas cheer to the neighbors.  The plan was simple but capable of spreading lots of joy:  festive ornaments would be placed in the surrounding woods to bring a bit of happiness to passerby.  What do you think? Gorgeous, right?
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Then we finished decorating our own tree:
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Jon and I got competitive with battleship:
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Lucky me, I got an early Christmas present:ImageImage
The day came to an end with one of my favorite things: Christmas baking! Good news everyone (selfish news), this time I was baking baking just  for my family (as opposed to the other two times I baked cookies for strangers and friends).  Finally, at long last, I can dig into the sweet treats filling the kitchen:
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Also, I received a free sample from Ginger Mail.  I love illustration, calligraphy, and design, so the surprise package absolutely made my day:
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Alright, time to rejoin the cabin festivities – sledding in the morning, board games in the afternoon, and movies tonight.  I think we might have a sleigh-ride scheduled for the morning?  Anyway, with all the warmth and cuddles and snowfall and presents, I’m betting that today will be another day that I’m left wishing would go on and on and on 🙂

the chaos of stars

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Lucky for me, my husband doesn’t read this blog.  That means I can say anything I want about him.  You won’t tell, right?  Okay, good, because I’m too excited to keep this a surprise.

For better or worse, Jon’s birthday is December 26.  Year after year we spend December 25 eating cookies, opening gifts, sledding, playing with the dogs, and running around in the snow.  The morning after, for Jon’s big day, we sleepily sing happy birthday and try our best to eat cake (except we’re usually too filled with cookies to do much damage).

My sweet husband is as humble and kind as they come, and he never complains that everyone is gone for his birthday (friends fly home), that he only gets half the gifts (not from me, of course), or that everyone (including him) is too tired to celebrate.
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I started Christmas shopping for my favorite man well before Christmas, and I made sure to get him a variety of practical (work-related) and fun (baseball-related) gifts.  When it came time to wrap, everything got tied up with a red, green or white ribbon.  And then, of course, I panicked — what would I do for his birthday?

Well, well, well.  You see that collage up top?  I made it with an app on my phone, and it got me thinking it might be fun to put photos on canvas for the apartment.  A few minutes later I started playing with a video app and thought it would be neat to make Jon a film.  And then, voilà!  – I decided to make a collage combining out favorite memories and inside jokes.
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Jon is turning 29, so I printed my 29 favorite photos of us, wrote sweet notes on the back, and then pasted the images onto a canvas.  So you’re wondering how he knows what I wrote, right?  Don’t worry- that’s where the video comes in.  Before I pasted everything, I made a video explaining why the pictures were important to me and what was written on the back of them.

What do you think?  Will he like it?
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merry & bright

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What did the doctor give Santa when he broke his leg falling down the chimney?  You guessed it – a candy cane! Bah, a good joke, right? Or absolutely terrible? You be the judge.

You’re probably wondering why that joke ever entered my head.  I mean, what was this girl thinking about all day?  Truth be told? How to best decorate a bus stop with candy canes.

Cane after cane went up in the little bus stop, and soon enough I’m wondering why they are called candy canes in the first place.  At the same time, I’m fielding calls from doctors & nurses about tests results and upcoming appointments. Candy cane experiment meets girl in recovery and poof! – A Christmas joke is made.

Minneapolis temperatures have been hovering around 0 the past few days, and so I wanted to give holiday treats to people that could use a little cheer amidst the cold.  Waiting for your ride with a candy cane is better than waiting for your ride without one, right?  Hopefully the rah rah rah experiment worked to make a couple people smile:ImageImageImageImage
Bus stop decorated, I spent the rest of the day decorating the apartment and getting ready for Christmas (the countdown is officially 1 week). The stalkings went up, the decorations came out, and Kinzie got a new scarf.  I know, I know, a scarf for my dog? I just couldn’t resist.
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Also, how cute is this DIY? Not my own, but just might get some wood while we’re at the cabin and make something incredibly similar. Should be simple, right?
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Are you ready for Christmas?

a very merry scrooge

The Deadweight Loss of Christmas chronicles the poor economic choices inspired by holiday giving.  The economists behind the article suggest that most givers ‘use their best guess’ to shop for friends and family, and about approximately 10 percent of these purchases end up being a “deadweight loss” – a result of the recipients not actually wanting the presents they receive.

In my book, these economists are akin to Mr. Scrooge himself for not considering the thoughtfulness that goes into each of the gifts.  What’s wrong with the recipient not truly loving the gift, as long as they understand the sentiment behind the purchase?  If my sister buys me a book I already have, I’m happy that she thought of me – not upset that I’ve already read it.  Hopefully I can return the book and get something that I haven’t read the next day.

This is a pretty long setup for the real topic I wanted to bring up today:  Christmas Lists.  Growing up, my family always took a ‘thoughtful’ approach to gifts and spent a lot of time making, crafting, and, well, guessing what everyone in the family wanted.  Jon’s family, however, makes the economists smile by embracing the all-important Christmas Wish List.  A few days after Thanksgiving we all exchange a list of our Christmas dreams, and, well, they usually come true under the tree on December 25.  Convenient, right?

What do you think – should we exchange gifts based on intuition and thoughtfulness, or should we rely upon carefully crafted list of our wants?

the giving equation

The big white man makes a list and checks it twice.  Wise, right?  That list prevents him from walking around the mall, sipping an Orange Julius, and pondering which kids to buy gifts for.  Mr. Claus has a system, and he knows to secure a gift for Max and Anna but not Lily.  Luckily, children the world over send their Christmas wishes to the North Pole, and so he also knows exactly what to get: a bike for Max, a doll for Anna, and coal for Lily. Simple.

The week before Thanksgiving might seem a little extreme to begin Christmas shopping, but I’m fully committed to ‘the giving equation’ that determines just how early you should begin shopping.  Factors the equation considers:
1.) How many people you’re shopping for (family and close friends, of course – but what about the office? the neighbors?)
2.) How much time goes into each gift (do you already know what they want or do you have to figure it out? are you making this gift or purchasing?)
3.) Aversion to long lines and elevated shipping costs (strong aversion to both means you should begin a few days earlier than most)
4.) How long will it take to wrap your newly purchased gifts? (unless you’re planning to stick all items in a garbage bag, you’re probably going to need a day or so here).

My mother-in-law shares all my same interests (yes yes, my husband fulfilled that old-cliche) and so shopping for her is always my most simple Christmas task.  This year, Uncommon Goods let me pick her gift from their holiday collection, and I couldn’t be more excited.  Check out the goods:
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A grow your own apple tree kit and a poetry word scramble? Perfect, right?  If perfect is too strong an adjective for you, at least grant me thoughtful and original.

Up next is the larger challenge of shopping for my husband.  Does every girl struggle in this category?  We have opposite interests, so I can’t exactly imagine what I would want, and so I usually nudge him for hints and then hit up the ‘christmas-gifts-for-men’ on shopping sites.  Uncommon Goods has some pretty promising gadgets to make him smile.  Y’all know Jon pretty well by now: which gifts do you think I should get?

An equation clock:
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A portable ping pong set:
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Home plate door mat:
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Or maybe a whiskey stone gift set?  How cool would that be?  My main man is about to get pretty lucky, huh? And what about the gifts at the top of this post? I’m planning to model all my wrapping after the gorgeous designs by NINE+SIXTEEN.  Check out her blog for some more holiday inspiration 🙂

urban tree house

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What would you do with 100 million dollars?  I overheard a couple discussing how they would pay bills, buy a house and maybe take a vacation.  Boring, right?  I mean, 100 million dollars?  You could surely come up with a few things more fun than paying your bills.

I would build a tree house in the middle of downtown that reaches higher than any of the skyscrapers.  A pool-slide would wind from my sky-high bedroom down into the lazy river surrounding my tree house.  The lazy river would wind through the city and connect with my favorite brunch spot.

Getting the picture?  I could wake up Sunday morning, jump on the slide, and then lazy down the stream to brunch.  Perhaps sip a mimosa while I float back home.

I was eavesdropping on the 100 million dollar couple while shopping for a get-well card.  Per usual, I got distracted by nicknacks and found myself wanting colorful pinwheels, florescent paints, and other items of questionable importance (but guaranteed fun).  The worst deterrent, however, was all the Christmas decor — It’s not even Halloween, and here I am looking at holiday cards, stocking stuffers, and make-your-own-ornaments.  I was like a kid in candy land: defenseless.

Luckily, I specialize in making things I want for a fraction of the retail cost, and so I took my favorite find of the day, a Christmas calendar, and made it with wooden blocks, spray paint, and stickers.

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If you want to make your own dice, you will need to use the following numbering system:

Die #1: 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
Die #2: 0, 1, 2, 6, 7, 8

Now, tell me, what would *you* do with a 100 million dollars?

12 days of christmas giving

so! to make this holiday extra special, i decided to try out a little thing called “12 days of christmas loving.”  the idea is that jon gets 12 gifts for christmas, but in a patterned way: on december 12th (the first day) he gets 1 gift, on december 13th (the second day) he gets 2 gifts, and so forth, until the final and twelfth day, december 25th, when he gets 12 gifts.  how fun does this sound?

i also made my sweetheart commit to building a gingerbread house:

a winter photo shoot:

And a couple other things that I consider my favorite holiday activities:

 

  • Ice skating
  • Chop a Christmas tree
  • Sledding
  • Dog sledding
  • Cross country skiing
  • Snow mobilig
  • Ice fishing
  • Snow shoeing
  • Build a snowman
  • Go mistletoe picking
  • Make ornament from tree trunk
  • Build a snow fort
  • Winter picnic with little candles
  • Zoo lights
  • Day after thanksgiving shopping
  • Write Christmas cards
  • Adopt a family

Needless to say, we’ve been busy…

Happy holidays!!

ho^3

The holidays are here, and i don’t think it’s possible to be much more excited than me and Jon.  To imagine the excited, think Clark Griswold (Christmas Vacation) running amok with Buddy the Elf (Elf).   Sounds like a little too much excitement? Possibly, but we’re serious about celebrations and presents, and the whole thing ends up being a whole lot of fun.  I made Jon a “honey-do” list for all the holiday season, and he laughed when he started making a timeline for how we would fit it all in: ice skating, tree chopping, sledding, dog-sledding, cross country skiing, snow-mobile riding, ice-fishing, snow-shoeing, building a gingerbread house, adopting a family, making homemade ornaments, building a snowman, mistletoe-picking, and building a snowman.  We got started on the list this weekend, and I got some pretty festive pictures out of the trip: