Monday, December 25, 2017

Deep Thoughts: Christmas Memories Book

Early in our marriage my Mother in Law gave us a Christmas Memories Book. It was before I ever got into Scrapbooking but I had been keeping journals since my teenage years. Though I haven't kept it up every year it's been a treasure of things I would forget from all the years of the girls growing up.

The first entry pre-dates Samantha even joining our family! It records our visits to a tree farm on Whidbey Island with Steve's mom from when she lived in Oak Harbor and reading the entry brings it all back. The fire where you could drink cider, the pony dressed as a reindeer and Steve's Mom grumbling about the weather. 

The next year Samantha joined us at the tree farm as a newborn (at about a month old) and the grumbling from Grandma Thiele was at a max as to why we would drag a newborn around a windy tree farm! But traditions were kept and everyone lived thru it! And the whole thing was recorded in our book

In the year 2000 nothing was recorded, but our family photo and favorite card made it into the book. In our photo I think everyone was sick. Poor Kate had a rash, I think I was running a high temp and sweet baby Sam had just recovered. I think the only way Steve stayed well was working all the time! As I remember it, it was a tricky year. Too bad I didn't record it! 

2002 was a much better can tell by the smiles...and by Kate's thumbs up that we missed in editing! (and I'm glad we did!) According to the book my parents gifted us with a new dishwasher and tv so that would account for our smiles! Steve had nine days off of work and we had lots of time with extended family which made for a fun, chaotic Christmas. 

This is one of my favorite entries. Due to a pretty big snowstorm things got crazy trying to get to church so we decided to hold our own candlelight service. Kate made the handouts, and we had our service. It was sweet and heartfelt. And still remains one of my favorite Christmas memories. 

In 2014 we decided to highlight our sweet addition Boston on our Christmas card. A couple of christmas lights were broken in the making of the card before we decided on an easier option for the photo. We brought Boston home in January of the year and thought he was a perfect stand in for one of our favorite Christmas stories Olive The other Reindeer. 

This year the entry will talk about our grown daughter and her boyfriend being here for Christmas eve. That we went to Candlelight service as a family and it was as magic as ever. And that caroling with friends on Fairhaven green was a great lead-in to Christmas day. I wish you and yours a Merry Christmas and send you the peace and joy that this season can bring. 

Monday, December 18, 2017

On My Radar: Experiences as Gifts

Are you all finished with your Christmas shopping? Or are you looking for one last special gift that will make things feel just right this year? I have a couple of last minute thoughts for you that might do the trick. 

A couple of years ago when I realized just how old the girls were getting I realized it would make more sense to make their big gift one of an experience rather than a thing. And most of the time it was something we could do together! 

The first time we tried this was for Sam's birthday. We gifted her a trip on the zip-lines at Canopy Tours NW and of course we all went with her! It was amazing and would make an incredible Christmas gift. And right now they have a special where if you buy three gift certificates you get one free making it feel a bit more reasonable for a family! It was so much fun and truly an unforgettable experience. 

The great thing about this area is there is so much available to do outside. The Gato Verde is one way to explore our lovely waters, a gorgeous catamaran that you can book for a sunset cruise, overnight trips, or more. It's a relaxing beautiful way to experience the bay or further. 

If you prefer to explore under your own power you can go out with Moondance Sea Kayak Adventures. It feels like there is no end to the kind of trips you can take with them. You can take a day trip to explore the tide pools, to learn about seaweed foraging or a night trip to experience the bioluminescence (which we did and it was magic!). They offer short trips or overnight or multi-day trips which we may try when we feel strong enough! You truly experience the beauty of the area. 

If the weather is just not cooperating and you prefer to give a gift for inside there are options for that too. One that is especially perfect for the cold days ahead is a float at Still Life Massage and Float. A pod full of water at skin temperature and 1200 pounds of Epson salts feels incredible and leaves you feeling like a different person once you step out. There are two pods in rooms next to one another so Steve and I have done this like a date which was incredible! 

If you are looking to give someone the gift of ease, Salt+Pepper+Oil for fresh, ready to cook meals. What I love about them is that they are local, delicious and the owner is a great guy. And did I say local? That makes us feel even better when we order from them. 

Then there are memberships. We love The Pickford and find ourselves buying each other memberships for various reasons (Anniversaries, birthdays). It would be a perfect gift for a family as they have such an incredible mix of movies for all ages and tastes. 

We have also been considering buying a membership to The Whatcom Museum. Every time we visit we are incredibly impressed by the shows they bring in. When you become a member you are given admission to all the buildings which all have very different shows. I especially love the heritage shows where they bring out the classic photographs from their collections. And they other shows they bring in are amazing. 

Hopefully these gave you some ideas if they were needed! If not for Christmas, maybe for other occasions! Cheers! 

Monday, December 11, 2017

Deep Thoughts: Gifts, Expectations and Wish Lists

Ah, Christmas. Visions of sugarplums and trips to the mall? We have been having a lot of conversations at work around gifting and how everyone handles it. One thing comes up again and again is how to deal with expectations and also how to make gifting easy and fun! 

 One would like to think that their significant other would just "know" them and what they love. But there are times when it helps to have hints. Our daughter Sam came to the rescue one year after many years of Steve making the late dash to the mall and not really having any idea of what gifts to get for me or them.Thats when google came in handy! 

If you have a google account it's easy to make a sharable document in google drive. Sam prefers to use spreadsheets, while Kate goes with a document. You can provide links in either. This is my list here. This has made it easy for us to email the lists with all the family and make them accessible on phones. And setting them up on google drive with the link makes things even easier! It also makes sticking to a budget much more reasonable! 

Having the list which feels like a registry gives us so much freedom. We usually do a lot of online shopping, with as much shopping local as possible mixed in. With the list you know you won't disappoint yet there is still the surprise in what is picked out. Surprisingly anticipation is almost heightened and everyone seems excited for the big day! And of course you can always go off it! 

I think the reason this has become a saver for us is that while I enjoy gifting and love receiving gifts, for Steve it's not a big deal. So he is able to hit a home run while not being stressed out of his mind! And it leaves room for casual and fun shopping trips that are more of a date than a stressful run thru a mall. 

Do you think you would give something like this a try? Or do you have something that works well for your family that you could share? I love hearing how everyone manages to make the holidays their own! 

Monday, December 4, 2017

Set The Scene: Mixing up the Christmas Decor

Do you keep things traditional with your decorations every year? Or do you mix things up? Last year after we put the lights up on our tree we almost left it at that. This year we decided to do it. We placed a total of three ornaments on it and it feels perfect. 

This year we decided to keep it simple. We are after a feeling of peace. Of calm. We have a lot of things to focus on with Sam in her senior year looking at colleges and Kate living away from us. It feels like a time to mix things up and make them work for us. (kind of like we are with our other traditions!) 

Trust me there is still a party going on in our living room! Somehow there is neon and disco lights and vintage trees and houses and garland and glassy babies. But I hope somehow it works. And I love making things feel fresh by changing things up.I do know of some families where there would be some protest. Thankfully my family is used to me messing around with things so they are good with it. 

There is something comforting pulling the boxes and bringing out the decorations year after year.  I love the idea that the white church and some of the other small houses have been in my family since my Dad was small. And adding to the village has been so much fun for me over the years. 

There is also something to be said for letting things rest for a year. I have boxes of vintage ornamants that I have distilled down to whats in the lamp base for this year. Just some favorites. And it feels like what this Christmas needs. 

And that leaves room for some touches in the guest bedroom that is waiting in the hopes that Kate and her boyfriend Nick will be staying over Christmas Eve. And that is what these decorations are here for. To set the scene for the important things. Time with my friends and family. How about you? Do you mix it up? 

Monday, November 27, 2017

Deep Thoughts: Holiday Get Togethers

Can we be honest? Holiday get togethers can be problematic. Yes we've all seen the gorgeous photos on pinterest and instagram. We all try it ourselves. I remember the time I put out gorgeous place cards and they were completely disregarded. Yup. That would be my extended family. We have a vision in our heads and if we are honest things rarely go that way. 

There are ways to mitigate the things that may come up. We were having dinner at our oldest daughters place and with her being a new vegan and her boyfriend a vegetarian we decided to bring our own food just to take the pressure off. (Thank you Whole Foods for making things easy on us!)

And still there may have been pressure on Kate that I didn't know about. I can tend to be bossy and loud. And this is NIck's first holiday with us. I hope they had a good time. Her and Nick worked hard on the dishes and presentation. And you know, family is family. It comes with it's own issues and baggage. 

We talked a lot about this in the week leading up to Thanksgiving at work and everyone had their own worries about gatherings. Sadness about people that wouldn't be there, triggers that could come up. And we all realized that we all go thru the same things. 

The gorgeous settings are part of the stories. And so are the arguments, the dealing with hard to deal with relatives. So, we jokingly came up with a bingo game. We decided that whoever filled out the card with the most squares first of course won! 

And we had TWO bingo's! Not to reveal to much but one friend was called a communist and one had a dog attacked and may have been exposed to pink eye. There was more but you get the idea! I'll be giving out some small prizes on Monday just for fun. But hopefully the idea of bingo helped inject a bit of humor into the whole thing. Because really we are all in this together. 

So in that spirit and with the help of my friend Elizabeth we came up with a printable bingo card in case you would like to play along with your group of friends to make things feel a bit more light during your next gathering. Here it is! Bingo card

And hopefully your stories are on the fun side rather than upsetting. Care to share? And here is a link to some outrageous but I believe true stories from Buzzfeed that should make your family and mine look normal during the continuing holiday season! 

Monday, November 20, 2017

Set the Scene: Sam's Dance Party

This past Saturday we held an 18th birthday party for Sam. When the girls were young we decided that every other year they could have a big party and thankfully it worked out to have the parties on the big years...and this one feels really big. This feels like the last time we will be throwing a party for our youngest and we wanted to make it count. 

When we started talking about it we talked about her likes and one of them is 80's music and dancing. So we reached out to a DJ at her school, Marcus Poulos who has thrown some great dances of his own. Once we had him it was a matter of setting the scene. My friend and boss Elizabeth was kind enough to lend us the use of our workplace which helped immensely! 

Eighties music was the that lent itself to the minimum decor that we set up. My smart husband set up a backdrop for us made of astroturf on a frame with a gorgeous and fun sign that was custom made for the party! This became our photoshoot area with guest getting together with the birthday girl for fun photos! 

Once you walked thru a tinsel fringe curtain doorway you were in the dance area! Thankfully once Marcus set up his lights and we set up a couple of disco balls and lined the walls with foil fringe the stage seemed to be set. The enthusiasm of the group was enough to get the party started! 

We went streamlined on food and drink for the party. Sam is a lover of La Croix so we had a mix of them available along with water to keep our dancers hydrated. 

For food we decided to go for salty and sweet, starting with sweet! Sam isn't big on cake but can go for doughnuts. And since they are portable and easy thats what we went with. Of course with pink icing and sprinkles! 

Then at 10 we surprised our party goers a delivery of McDonalds french fries just to keep the party going! This was something we had heard of from another party and thought it was perfect for our party. Both the treats seemed to go over well with everyone taking part in the snacks. 

The conclusion? We loved throwing the party. Sam's friends are fun, inclusive and wonderful to be around! They were up for dancing and laughing and having a good time. It was cool to see that there were kids of all ages and from different high schools there. And the best part? That our daughter is part of this cool group. Though we were tired from the set up and tear down we were happy to do it. Her appreciation and enjoying the group made it all worth it! 

Monday, November 13, 2017

Deep Thoughts: Letting Go

Are you feeling the press of the upcoming holidays? We are too, though ours is feeling even more bittersweet with the season we are in with our youngest daughter. She is in the midst of applying for college and that means we are in on the ride. 

This is a journey that you might consider when you kids are young as you look into the future. And then when you get there there, no matter how much you prepare it still catches you off guard. The campus visits, the applications, the questions of where they may end up. 

When your kids are small this all feels so far away. I can't even describe how it feels to be in the middle of the process. I still picture this little monkey and now we are talking about moving her away! It makes me want to hold her tighter, but I know it's the thing to do to let her go! 

Kate has taken a different route and lives nearby with her boyfriend. I have been teasing her that we are going to drive them crazy hanging out with them! She has grown into an awesome adult that we love hanging out with. Smart, warm with the best sense of humor. 

So it's a ride we go on willingly...watching our kids grow up and leave. We know that they don't leave forever. It's just the end of another phase in our life with them. And it takes some mourning of the past. Of the part of our lives that is gone forever. But there is good stuff waiting for us on the other side. So, I give myself moments to be sad. Then we go on with the search for where our monkey will end up next year. And we wait to see what the future will bring! 

Monday, November 6, 2017

On My Radar: Surviving Flu Season

I thought I would celebrate Halloween by coming down with the flu! Apparently I needed a whole week of rest, because that's just what it took. And though the cough is still with me at least I'm back to the land of the living. Here are some survival tips! 

Drink a lot of fluids. I mean enough to drown you! I found myself craving cold pressed juices which my husband was nice enough to treat me with. They taste great and you know you are giving yourself a great dose of vitamin C! Whatever you feel a craving for I would advise you get. 

If I'm not drinking juice I'm nursing a hot cup of tea. We found some loose tea called Cold Remedy that tastes great and is supposed to help. And I'll try anything! And hot tea feels great on the throat. I pretty much have a cup with me at all times these days. 

And let's just call Netflix what it is...a lifesaver if you are stuck home resting. I found myself watching a bunch of documentaries, including one on Franca Sozzani. It's a great time for watching the shows no one else in the house is into. 

Another soothing item...soup. I found soup tastes great and makes you feel better. Of course chicken soup is magical. I made one called superfood chicken soup with ginger, turmeric and kale. Talk about getting all the good things in one bowl! 

Another important way to fight the flu? Find someone to snuggle with! Our dog was happy for the heat my elevated temperature provided! Let's just say it's like having a living hot water bottle. He helped make the enforced rest tolerable. 

The one thing I had to steer clear of was social media. It reminded me of all the things I was missing it out. I found if I just hung out in my quiet bubble of tea, soup and Netflix and just focus on resting the time goes faster. And that's the hardest part, giving yourself permission to rest and just get well! 

Monday, October 30, 2017

Deep Thoughts: Traditions

Today we finally made our long awaited trip to the pumpkin patch just in time for Halloween. We don't really even carve pumpkins anymore, but we love the trip to the patch to run around the fields, see all the photos happening, and of course bring home a trunk full of gourds and pumpkins.

We have been visiting Gordon Skagit Farms in Mt. Vernon for years now. This year it was just Steve, Samantha and I. But we found out that Kate and her boyfriend Nick had already made their pilgrimage there and have filled their shelves at home with cute little pumpkins and gourds. A tradition passed on. 

Do you adhere to traditions? Do you follow ones that your family did, or have you come up with your own? My own parents weren't huge on them. Sure, we carved pumpkins like everyone else, and trick or treated. But beyond that there wasn't a lot that we did every year. 

I have found that I love traditions, especially ones that our little family has made on it's own. It makes sense to us living in the area we do to make a trip to the fields and see the beauty of fall around us. It feels wonderful to go to the tree farm and cut down our own tree even if it's a small one, and knowing that after you haul it home theres a hot cocoa waiting. 

I find that this year things seem especially sweet with Samantha being in her Senior year and Kate having moved out. Traditions are either changing or are at an end. Will Steve and I make the trip to the pumpkin patch next year on our own? Or maybe with Kate and Nick. It makes my breath hitch to think about how much has changed! 

With all the preparations for college these traditions have given us some structure and nomalacy when things feel so different and new. Sam still picked out her weird gourds. We took lots of silly photos. We walked around the fields enjoying the photo shoots happening all around us of little ones with their families. We will still have pumpkins on the porch. 

And when they don't serve us anymore we'll make changes to our traditions, like we have with Thanksgiving. When we decided it was to be just our little family we took ourselves to yurts and had our Thanksgiving there. We bend tradition to serve us and make our lives richer. We may end up back at the yurts again this year. That may become our new tradition. 

How do you feel about doing things year after year? Do you find comfort in the familiar? Do you have anything you are especially excited about in the coming holiday season? Or any suggestions for us with regards to Thanksgiving? I'd love to hear your thoughts or any interesting traditions!