play time!

i love getting together with kim!

it’s always fun to get the kids together and visit with kim. this time around, she and the kids came out to our place. we were so excited to have them over. brady and brooklyn were so cute with ellie…they were loving the baby!

they were running behind, so i decided to dress up olive and snap some fun pics but while we were finishing up – they arrived! i knew i should have gotten ready before i took pics of olive. i kept thinking to myself, get dressed and freshen up before i started the whole pic thing with olive but instead i just went for it, thinking i had time to change. nope…in comes kim and the kids and there i was feeling sloppy. hahaha! c’est la vie!

the kids played, had fun, doted on ellie while kim and i caught up with life. they were having a blast and it was soooooo cute to watch brady and olive together. i was so surprised how receptive olive was to brady. the past few playdates, olive was overwhelmed by brady’s affection and energy. she didn’t know what to do with him, so she would just stare at him from afar. but this time around, she was super excited to see him! while i was dressing olive, i told her brady was here and she excitedly went out to say hi to him and they immediately started playing together. oh so sweet.

we then had lunch and served desserts. the kids had a blast eating their cookies and what not. i can’t tell you how cute it is to watch them! they were all being so darn adorable and sweet! after a few hours of playtime, it was time for them to go. we had such a great time together…kim and i are such mamas! we love spending time with our kids and we love spending time together with our kids! we do agree we need a night out with just us gals – wine and uninterrupted conversations!

i am sure the next time we get together, it will be with the kids but one day we will squeeze in that girl time, one day soon!

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[beautiful brooklyn]

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[the chaos surrounding ellie]

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[sisters…she loves her so]

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[they all wanted to entertain ellie]

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[beautiful ladies]

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[lunch time]

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[dessert time!]

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[studying her dessert]

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[hugs and kisses goodbye]

xoxo

nye

nye 2016

oh what a night!

it was a fun, fabulous, over indulgent evening indeed! we got all jazzed up and went out for the evening. we were excited for our reservations at maple and ash. kim and terry have eaten there before but we have not but heard such excellent reviews on this restaurant. we arrived there in no time. we valet’d the car and walked inside, it was so pretty! i loved the decor and the ambience of the restaurant already. we walked our way in, coat checked, and took the elevator up. once the doors opened, we were greeted with sooooo many balloons! how fun and festive! i loved the vibe it gave the space…it screamed new year’s eve!

we were seated and immediately, small bites and drinks arrived at our table before we could even pick our seats! that was amaze. mini martini’s and appetizers were already flowing. we mingled and connected with a few people who worked at the restaurant. kim and terry were already bff’s with with the maitre d’, mason. the sommelier, frankie, and the wine director, belinda.

the atmosphere was lively, the decor was fun, and the mood was just right. we were having a blast taking pics, being silly, and enjoying our night out. we had to get serious and order our food but we really couldn’t decide. after perusing the menu for a few minutes and everyone discussing what they wanted or might order, we all agreed that we were going in for the ‘i don’t give a f*ck’ on the menu. yup. we just didn’t care to choose what we wanted to eat, so we just let the chef do his thing and boy, it was AWEsome. the food didn’t stop coming to the table. there.was.so.much.food. it was ahhhhhhmazing. we ate and we ate and we ate. i couldn’t stop eating…it was all soooooo good.

one entree after another was being put on the table and it was all so very delicious. i had to try a bit of food off of every plate, everything was so savory and tasty i couldn’t resist! i was besides myself – my slim pants were slim no more with my bourgeoning waistline. then the dessert came…holy cow! a sundae bar! yum, yum, yum. are you freakin’ kidding me right now? it was sooooo fun to create your own sundae with all the fun accruements they offered. that was it. i was dunzo. roll me outta of the restaurant please.

the service was superb, the food was beyond decadent, and the atmosphere was killer. it was an awesome place to be for new year’s eve! we had such a fabulous time!

but wait! that’s not all! scroll down for more entertainment…

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[delicious apps at maple and ash]

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[sisters forever]

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[the doan family]

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[sorry pete, i didn’t realize your eyes were half closed until i posted this. you still look handsome!]

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[french 75]

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[so chic]

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[sea food platter]

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[delicious wedge salad]

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[sisters]

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[soooooooo much food]

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[cheers!]

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[sundae bar]

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[sundae toppings]

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[the crew]

our second part/y of the night was back at our place. we gathered together to ring in the new year with the kids but things went awry. my parents were spent from watching the kids and decided to go home, my sister kim didn’t feel so well and only stay for a bit before heading out with terry, reagan, and bennett. my dear, old friend bex, her husband james, and their two sweet girl ruby and wren stayed along with thuy and we all rang in the new year together!

it ended being an awesome night albeit the deficit of family. the sweetest part of the evening? watching the girls play together. they were sooooooo sweet and so darn cute!!! they made the night magical. they actually stayed up until midnight and we rang in the new year in style…pj’s, noise makers, and streamer poppers!

it was an amazing new year’s eve. i am so thankful for what 2016 gave us – ellie. it was an amazing year full of fabulous memories, olive gaining a sister, sweet moments with friends and family, life was super good. we are blessed.

i hope, want, wish for this year to be full of health, prosperity, and lots of kindness. i pray for my parent’s health, our family’s health, and my siblings health. i am curious on what wonderful moments await us and hope darkness passes us by. the new year is always exciting, refreshing, and exhilarating; and i hope that everyone has a happy, wonderful, captivating new year!!!

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[ready to ring in the sweet new year]

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[kid goodie bag]

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[b visiting from seattle]

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[new year’s eve trinkets]

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[cousins]

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[i loooooove the swan wrapping paper]

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[oh these sweet babes]

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[cheers!]

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[ringing in the new year!]

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[i will have my cake and eat it too]

xoxo

christmas day ’16

every year, it always works out perfect where christmas eve is spent at my parent’s house and christmas day is spent with hc’s side of the family.

we first head to missy’s house {hc’s sister} to exchange gifts with hc’s family. after that, we then go to aunt vicki’s house for christmas dinner. over there is mostly jane’s side of the family and i always love seeing jay and lori and the boys…i am closet to hc’s cousin’s wife. but of course i love visiting with everyone! it’s always nice to catch up and hear what everyone is up to and how life is treating them.

it was so nice because everyone wanted to hold ellie and she loves to be held! she is such a good baby, always so calm and sweet. kait was a huge fan {always has been since olive}! she’s so sweeeeeeet with olive and ellie. she’s so nice, kind, attentive, and playful! olive loves to hang out with her! it melts my heart to see how good she is with them and how they reciprocate the love. as a mama, you absolutely love your kids but it is sooooo heartwarming to see someone else enjoy them almost as much!

food was ready not too long after we arrived and {per holiday demand} i ate wayyyyyyy too much. the food was definitely a heart attack on the plate and when it’s that bad, it’s so darn good and you go in for seconds. eep!

we then exchanged gifts with aj and jake. lori got the girls some awesome gifts…olive was so happy to get mlp and shopkins! score! i was soooo happy to see how excited aj was to receive his bulls jersey! he was beyond ecstatic! he told me how much he wanted that for christmas and was a bit bummed to not have gotten it christmas morning…oh that meant so much to me to hear him say that! so darn sweet! jake loved his gifts too! overall, it was a successful gift giving season!

hc and i really, really enjoyed ourselves this year. i am not sure what elevated the experience this time around but we had a great time hanging out with everyone and the time just flew by! before we knew it, it was getting late and we had to go. we said our goodbyes and headed on home. it was a fabulous two days of celebrating and we were feeling very grateful and full of love. oh how i enjoy the holidays!

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[aunt wendy and ellie]

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[sisters]

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[family]

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[kait and ellie]

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[jennifer and her beautiful daughters]

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[hubby charming]

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[morgan and darci]

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[morgan and ellie]

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[presents!]

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[yay! presents]

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[brother and sister]

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[reindeer ears from aunt gloria]

xoxo

christmas eve

2016

every year, christmas eve is spent at my mom and dad’s house.

my sister kim cooks dinner, while we help, and all is merry and bright! my dad blasts the christmas music, the wine is freely flowing, yummy aromas fill the house, and there is much excitement and anticipation amongst the kids.

as we walked into my parent’s house, i heard my brother huy’s voice. i thought, ‘oh, he’s on face time already!’. we had received bad news earlier on in the week that huy and tashina weren’t going to make it out here for christmas. we were so sad! well, as we were taking off our shoes, huy comes running up the stairs!!! wtf! we couldn’t believe it! i was soooo surprised and happy! he made it into town! yaaaayyyyyyyyy! he was only going to be in chicago for less than 24 hours but we didn’t care! it was a total christmas gift to have him spend it with us, albeit the short time frame.

olive was not afraid, this time around, of uncle huy! all the other times he’s visited she has been utterly scared of him. almost terrified! she was so receptive and actually gave him hugs, kisses, and wanted to be near him. a complete 180 to her behavior from a few months ago! i was loving it…it made me so happy to see her loving huy.

well, we fried the turkey, we made all the delicious food, and after hours of waiting, we finally sat down to eat! yum.yum.yum. my dad said a blessing and we all dug into the delicious meal! it was sooooo good as always. after dinner, we did the usual of cleaning up before we opened presents. the kids always wait soooooo patiently for that.

at last, it was time! but not without a hundred photos first! hahaha! this christmas is the first christmas where olive was fully aware of what was going on. she knew she had presents and it was the most darling thing to watch. she was so excited, grateful, thankful, and oh so darn cute opening up each one of her gifts. her excitement and joy filled my heart with love! it was awesome to watch her light up from all the excitement and gifts. we are so blessed and thankful for all that we’re given!

after the tornado whirlwind of tearing apart gifts, everyone settled in and enjoyed their presents. dessert was served and relaxation began. we were spent…so exhausted from being sick and tired from all the sleep we weren’t getting. an hour after the craziness, i was ready to go.

we packed up our zillion things, said our merry christmases and thank you’s and went on our merry way. it was a fabulous christmas eve, especially with huy surprising us! we enjoyed our family, the food, the libations, and the absolute joy these kiddos exude. life is good, christmas time is great, and family is the best. it was a merry christmas indeed.

God bless us all.

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[uncle dan with miss ellie]

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[crazy cousins]

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[festive, cutest table decor]

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[uncle huy with baby ellie]

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[family pic…minus ellie]

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[i love how happy my dad looks]

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[dem cheeks]

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[mama and her daughters]

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[cutest cousins]

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[so festive]

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[christmas table centerpiece]

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[photo by huy doan]

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[they make each other smile]

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[photo by huy doan]

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[photo by huy doan]

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[love these two!]

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[photo by huy doan]

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[ellie in her fur stole]

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[photo by huy doan]

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[a rare moment for ellie…usually that’s olive. hahaha!]

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[ready to open christmas presents!]

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[tearing into her presents]

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[pretty much what ellie did all night…lay around]

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[i think this might be my favorite pic]

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[super auntie thuy and olive]

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[she had a B L A S T opening up her gifts]

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[photo by huy doan]

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[sweet baby ellie]

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[olive’s stash]

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[facetime with tashina]

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[thuy’s secret santa gift…macarons]

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[mmmmm macarons]

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[b loving his gifts!]

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[a very sweet moment between uncle dan and olive playing together]

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[photo by huy doan]

xoxo

my big birthday weekend

i was so excited for my birthday weekend!

hc had planned a fun agenda and i couldn’t wait to relax and celebrate. i still can’t believe i have hit the big 4-0. whaaaaaaaa? seriously, wtf? what happened? i still feel eternally 28 but those wrinkles and gray hairs are finally catching up with me. eek!!!!!

i really can’t tell you what i imagined what it would be like turning 40. i never really fretted about it or thought i would have a big hurrah for it. one, we ended up having a baby and two, i am one of those ‘moms’ that really loves to spend time with her family. don’t get me wrong…i love having date nights with hc and spending quality time with him but i have become a moooooooooommy. it doesn’t feel right when the kids are away, especially if we are out locally. i miss them dearly. now, give me a warm, tropical get away with hc…i can be convinced to leave the kids behind. hahaha!

anyhoo, we started out our morning quite chill – coffee, chaos, and cuddling. we packed everything but the kitchen sink to take downtown with us. oh my goodness. we seriously pack everything when we head out the door with the kids. first on our agenda was to meet the fam at macy’s on state for a fun holiday outing! we love looking at all the decor, hearing the christmas music, listening to the jingle of all the bells around us, and just enjoying the crazy chaos of the store. we met up on the 7th floor for lunch, bought toys, headed down to the walnut room to view the tree, and then we were off to the ornament area to pick out our ornaments of the season!

after spending a few hours at macy’s, we headed on over to block 37 to do some more shopping. after eating, shopping, a trip to starbucks, more eating and shopping, we finally retired to our hotel room. hc had booked a lovely room at the james hotel. it was so cute and cool! i loved the decor inside! our room was super cozy and i really enjoyed the warmth and friendliness of the staff.

as soon as we were inside, olive was out. she passed out in the car and actually stayed sleeping while i carried her into the hotel and up the elevator and into the room! olive slept, ellie laid around, and hc and i got ready for dinner! olive woke up a bit later and relaxed in front of the t.v. with ellie. it was too adorable to see them chillin’ together!

we got all jazzed up and went to david burke’s restaurant for dinner. it was sooooo awesome. we loved our server, we loved the food, and we loved how kind everyone was! everything was delicious and we had such a great time with my brother dan, who joined us for dinner. what made the night even prettier was that it had started snowing and it looked so serene and lovely.

after dinner, we retired to our hotel room. olive and ellie got cozy on the bed again and hc had ordered dessert and wine to be sent up for this birthday mama! it was a perfect end to a perfect day! i had such a wonderful time!

 the next morning, we headed to southport grocery for brunch! while we waited, we picked out gift baskets for our neighbors {something we do every year}. i love shopping there and gathering fun goodies for the christmas baskets. they have the most yummy, delectable treats to make any recipient happy! we enjoyed a fabulous brunch and spent the next hour shopping along the street. oh how i love chicago during the holidays.

it was a fabulous birthday weekend and i have to thank hc for conjuring up a fun filled agenda! i wouldn’t have celebrated it any other way. i was sooooooo happy to have my hubby and children by my side to bring in the big 4-0! as olive would say, “this is sooo ahhhhhmazing!”. i couldn’t agree more baby girl! cheers to a new decade!

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[crazy cousins]

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[loving her necklace]

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[macy’s on state]

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[chestnut room tree]

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[we put her down on the couch and her hair became electric!]

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[poor thing…i made her stand in front of every christmas tree. hahaha!]

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[i love christmastime]

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[she was like NO MORE PICTURES! eep]

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[so festive and fun]

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[so gangsta]

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[hotel living]

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[chillin’ and relaxin’ in our hotel room]

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[fancy kids meal]

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[back to the hotel room and ready for bed!]

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[dessert and wine delivered to the hotel room]

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[she was being so silly…she wanted me to take a picture of her with every.single.one. of her figurines]

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xoxo

merry christmas!

merry christmas to you and your family! may your day be filled with joy, laughter, love, yummy food, great spirits, and sweet hugs!

today we celebrate the birth of jesus christ and the love of God! we are so blessed to know how good and great God can be & we are very thankful to be touched by His grace.

glory to God in the highest! peace on earth and goodwill to men!

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xoxo

christmas popcorn

every year, i kind of do the same thing. maybe one day i will switch it up and make something different but as of now, making christmas popcorn for the neighbors is so fun and easy!!! i stress easy because this mama doesn’t have much time anymore, especially during the holidays!

this treat requires very simple ingredients: 2 microwavable popcorn packs, 2 bags of white chocolate, pretzels, m&m’s, and christmas sprinkles. i popped the popcorn and then melted the chocolate. my favorite way to melt chocolate morsels is to boil two inches of water in a pot, put a broiler on top and then another small pot in it to melt the chocolate. i melt small batches of chocolate to ensure it doesn’t coagulate or seize, plus i prefer to make small amounts of christmas popcorn to ensure each nook and cranny gets coated with yummy goodness!

i put out a large sheet of wax paper and spread the popcorn out, poured copious amounts of m&m’s, dumped a handful of the broken pretzels, and then drizzled the chocolate in a zig zag pattern across the mixture. after the chocolate, i then dumped a generous heaping of sprinkles all over the popcorn. it transforms into a yummy, sweet, decadent treat for the holidays! mmmmmmm

after the chocolate dries, i then packaged it into mason jars…wide mouth mason jars are best but i only had regular mouth jars on hand. i had pre-dressed them up in festive paper, ribbon, and string.

ta da! yummy, easy gifts for your awesome neighbors! {we are so lucky to be surrounded by awesome neighbors!} i love the holidays – ’tis the season of giving out sweet treats and fun gifts!

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[dressing up the jars]

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[the simple easy, unhealthy ingredients]

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[melting chocolate]

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[i would turn around and this candy thief would sneak m&m’s off the counter! i had a picture of her totally laughing, sneaking the candy but it was so blurry…wahhhhh]

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[before mixing]

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xoxo

a visit with santa

i was hoping this year’s visit with santa would be different than the years prior. hahaha! nope. olive was not buying it. the moment we arrived and she saw the big panda bear by the entrance, she started to whimper. gah! this babe is so afraid sometimes!

while we were waiting inside the room to enter into the adventure of santa, olive didn’t have a meltdown like she did last year…thank goodness! she still wasn’t comfortable but she was being cooperative and patient. another family finally joined us and we were on our way to see santa!

we first met up with panda and he told us we were going to go to the north pole to see santa! we then went to a game room and played a few rounds of a snowy, panda sledding adventures on an iPad. olive absolutely loved this part! after a few gaming sessions, we were ready to get on the sleigh and take a journey to the north pole! olive was sooooooo freaking scared! i had to hold her so she wouldn’t freak out. she whimpered through most of the show and cried a bit when it became too loud. oh girl. she cracks me up!

we were finally to the north pole and waiting inside a room before we saw santa. they had more interactive iPads where you dressed the panda in festive clothes and of course, olive was having a blast doing so. they then called our name and said it was time to see santa! oh boy…i was not sure how olive was going to react, but i was so ready to do this!

we walked into the room and olive started screaming! hahaha! they shut the door behind us and that really freaked her out. she felt trapped. she ran in circles screaming, trying to get away from santa. oh my goodness. well santa decided to stand behind the chair and let us sit down to snap a few photos. olive’s glum face is priceless. she kept cranking her head behind us to see if santa was still standing there. um, yes, he’s still there baby girl.

i am so shocked she was so against santa! i prepped her all day. we watched santa movies throughout the morning and i kept asking if she wanted to see santa to let him know what presents she wanted for christmas and she flat out told me no. ha! oh girl.

well, ellie did very well! we wanted photos with santa for her first christmas and they turned out so cute. no crying, no meltdown, but more so a blank stare. she’s so good with that though! she’s infamous for that blank stare…it’s very daddy like {she does look a lot like her dad!}. i love her little face and surprised expressions all the time!

that was it, our successful(?) santa trip this year! it’s always worth it and honestly, so much fun despite olive’s meltdowns. hey, tis the season to get cray cray! i can’t wait until next year and see how olive reacts!

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[sweet little ellie and dada]

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[olive was soooooooo scared of the panda, she was a bit upset with me that i made her ‘stand’ next to him. hahaha!]

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[panda letting us know we were going to the north pole to see santa!]

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[her face doesn’t really show it but she was sooooooo upset]

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[ellie did so well!]

xoxo

my birthday surprise!

oh my goodness. hc really outdid himself.

a few days before my birthday, we went to go see santa {more on that later!}. after our excursion, we decided to do some shopping…we needed little things like gloves for olive, a stocking for ellie, and we just wandered a bit because we could and wanted to. christmas music was playing and the center was filled with beautiful holiday decorations, so it made for a pretty night out with the family. after we hit a few stores, we decided to head to dinner.

as we were walking towards the restaurant, hc said, “let’s go this way.”, i argued with him saying that direction was a longer way and that we were going the shorter route. he kept pushing it and saying, “let’s go this way…just bear with me”. i was so confused but went with it. we stopped in front of the louis vuitton store and they were closed for a private party. i was still confused as the hostess waived us inside. as we were walking inside, hc turned to me and said, “surprise! this is your birthday present!!” whhaaaaaaaaaaa?! oh myyyyyyyy goodness! he told me i could pick out a purse!!! i was sooooooo shocked and excited! i couldn’t believe it!

they were serving champagne and hor d’oeuvres…yum, don’t mind if i do! olive saw that we were having drinks and wanted to have a drink too, so we broke out a juice box and cheer’d to a pretty awesome, sweet moment! we sat down and received the best one on one service and ordered a custom made purse! olive was such a pro! she was so sweet, helpful, and gave me the thumbs up on the colors i chose! it was a little too scary how comfortable she was sitting in their leather chair, at louis vuitton, sipping juice, and helping mom pick out a purse. hmmmmmm, like mother like daughter?

after we picked out my birthday present, we participated in their photo booth! that was so much fun!! oh, i was on cloud nine with this amazing birthday surprise! we said our goodbyes to all the sweet people in the store and headed on our way to dinner!

what an amazing night and surprise! i was so touched and feeling lucky that my hubby is such a sweet, thoughtful, loving guy. he always does so much for our family and always goes above and beyond to make me happy. thank you so much my love for being so awesome! i love you to infinity and beyond!

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[cheers! champagne and juice!]

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[sweet ellie was so darn patient]

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xoxo

diy advent calendar

i have always waited around for olive to reach an age where she understands certain things and rituals. i have always wanted to make an advent calendar for her but i wanted her to enjoy it and understand what it is about.

i loved advent calendars as a kid. it was a christmas favorite of mine. i always looked forward to the little surprises behind the doors and wondered what sweet treat lay hidden inside.

i decided that this was the year to make an advent calendar for little miss olive. i already had most of the supplies in my crafting closet but i needed a wreath stamp and let me tell you how hard it is to find a wreath stamp! well, at least a design i had in my mind and that was going to fit inside the muslin bags i already had. i searched and searched online, in craft stores, and tried different shops to see if they offered the right sized wreath and shape. all i wanted was a round shaped wreath that looked real, christmasy, and would fit inside the size of the bag. i.could.not.find.it. isn’t that crazy?! i found a stamp that i really liked but hesitated on the sizes because i wasn’t sure which one would fit and it’s so hard ordering online because i couldn’t visually gauge it!

so i gave up and decided to not waste any more of my time trying to buy a damn stamp! maybe next year i will embellish on the design but this year, it was going to be simple and plain with just numbers on the bag.

when i say this is easy and quick, it’s super easy and quick. i stamped each bag {24 was my magic number of bags}, trimmed the extra strings on it, and then strung it onto red and white twine. ta da!!!! simple, festive, advent bags to help your cutie countdown to christmas day!

i eventually decorated the twine with green garland to add an extra touch of holiday magic and filled each bag with candies, toys, and random goodies! let me tell you, olive looooooooves her advent calendar. it helps her learn her numbers but she absolutely loves opening up each bag every day and i find such joy in watching her do so! it’s so darn cute!!!! she’s so patient, doesn’t peek inside the bags and always waits for us to say it’s time to open up her advent bag!

we do this every day as a family after hc comes home from work. it was really important for us to do this together and revel in olive’s joy! plus, she’s sooooo sweet about it. she always says thank you and will come up to us and say, “i love it! i love my toy!”. oh my goodness…i love her so much!

well, that was my easy, simple, diy advent calendar for christmas! i am hoping to find a lovely wreath stamp or holly stamp by next year and make our cute little muslin bags more fun and festive for the season! yay!

via tandeminlove.com

[supplies: ink, stamps, bags, twine, and goodies to fill the bags with]

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[muslim bags stamped with numbers]

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[free hand stamping]

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[pj’s, coffee, and crafting…yesssssss]

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[i have boxes of stuff in my crafting area and found some fun things to fill her bags with!]

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[i asked her to stand next to her advent calendar and this sour look is what i got]

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[i asked her to look at the camera and she gave me the blank stare. oh olive! i decorated the twine with green garland later to make it more festive!]

xoxo