Holiday & Entertaining

Christmas Gifts & Other Good Stuff

Today we’re wrapping up our annual pair of “Christmas present” posts (the first was yesterday’s rundown on what we made Clara) with this summary of what else we unwrapped and how we spent the day, like this one and this one of yore. Think of it as our way of trying to cling to the holiday season for one more day while answering all of those “what did you get each other?” and “what else did Clara get?” questions. Meanwhile, in quick kitchen update news, we’re knee-deep into staining the lower cabinets, which means the room is a complete disaster, but it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas progress.

The doors/drawers/frames have been sanded, deglossed, stained, sanded, and stained again – so we’re just waiting for them to be dry enough to rehang. That should happen this weekend, which means we can share all the photos and details with you on Monday (in case you missed it, we revealed our painted upper cabinets a few days ago). But back to our tree on Christmas morning.

Clara was more excited this year than any other year before – even waking up about 10 minutes after going to bed the night before and declaring that it was the morning already. I was more excited too, because for the first time I could recreate a family tradition of mine growing up: sitting on the steps for a photo before sprinting down to rip through some wrapping paper. We can’t wait to accumulate years of pictures like these… especially since next year Clara won’t be sitting alone!

Clara was an unwrapping tornado. Many of the presents under the tree were sent from relatives (or were our gifts to others that we’d be delivering later in the day), but I was grateful that there were also a bunch of wrapped (not bagged) gifts for Clara so that we could witness her having those exciting moments where you get enough paper off to finally see what’s inside. Here she is actively shouting “oh wow, man!”

We won’t bore you with everything this little lady made off with, but there are some highlights – like these two Cinderella mouse ornaments from my parents, which were mine as a kid.

These were a surprise favorite (my mom worried she wouldn’t even notice them among all the other bigger and newer toys that shared the same package) but Clara was HUGE fan. She even gave them a giant hug before running right over to find the perfect spot for them on the tree.

The main gift from Santa (not to burst anyone’s bubble, but it was really from us) was the “ballerina princess doll” that Clara had been telling various Santas, relatives, and friends about all season. It’s a Gotz doll from Pottery Barn Kids and she spotted it weeks ago when we were in there picking something up for someone else. If you’d like a mental picture, her eyes locked and she saw hearts. Despite our original “she’ll probably forget all about it by the time Christmas rolls around” thoughts, she was still talking about it weeks later. So Santa delivered.

We decided it would be our one “splurge” gift for the year, and after a nice pre-Christmas sale and using an old Pottery Barn gift card, it ended up not being that bad. Honestly, even at full price it would’ve been worth it considering how much she loves this thing. “Melinda” even came to Burger’s annual check-up and to a neighborhood New Year’s party with us this week.

Some people have asked about our family’s take on the Santa tradition. Both Sherry and I both got some gifts from Santa and some from our parents or other relatives, so that’s what we do with Clara.  Since she specifically asked Santa for her the little ballerina – well, Ole St. Nick got the glory for that one. But otherwise we try to give credit where credit is due, like this one that came from Nonna…

…and stuck with the theme of ballerinas. It was like tutu heaven for Clara. She named her “Spaghetti Hair.”

She got other things like books, games, stickers, and clothes, and we gave her a stocking with some socks, PJs, and Pez – which, by some miracle, were all met with equal levels of excitement.

We also did the traditional “you get to open a few smaller gifts on Christmas Eve” thing, and miraculously got this shot with Sherry’s iPhone, which completely captures her joy. As some of you noticed in yesterday’s post, there was a two-pajama-rotation (Clara wanted to wear her Santa ones and her new reindeer ones, so she put these on in the late afternoon, and then changed into her reindeer ones right before bed so she could wake up on Christmas morning in them).

We didn’t get all of the gift-opening action on tape (or even capture it all on our cameras) but here’s a culled down version of the short video that we like to take each Christmas morning, which is mostly just Clara discovering her cubby shelf and hypothesizing about where Santa is at the moment. The bump-kiss is my favorite part.

And we can’t forget about Burger. He made his way out of bed about 5 hours earlier than usual, which earned him a few Christmas treats (literally) from us. He also scored a paw print “Feliz Navi-dog” ornament from my godmother Gerrie, who’s always great about remembering furry family members.

Sherry got me a fun soda-themed gift (she knows me well) complete with four unusual bottled sodas like chai cola, chocolate soda, and ginger cola.

Here’s my soda-tastic spread, which also included some themed candy as well (Bottlecaps are my favorite). I haven’t tried all of the sodas yet, but so far the best was the “Dog Drool” one, which was actually orange lemon flavored.

Sherry also got me this big pop-out reflector/screen that I had been eying to (hopefully) help boost my photography skills. I’ve seen how they come in handy to all of the pro photographers we’ve encountered in this job, and I finally figured it’d be worth having one around – you know, to help bounce/block/diffuse light. It collapses and has a few covers that zip on and off so I’m still getting the hang of it.

Since Sherry’s love for white ceramics is undying, I got her this set of porcelain ornaments from Crate & Barrel.

And since jewelry is a close second to her ceramic obsession, I plucked these two items from some strong hints that she dropped (Pinterest, and this gift round up). The arrow necklace is from Madewell and the love bracelet is from Anthropologie, which she liked because it reminded her of the “love” script on the cover of our book.

After all of our unwrapping was done on Christmas morning (and we downed some quick breakfast), we drove about 45 minutes west to meet up with the rest of my family at a nearby cabin we had rented for the night. You may have seen us Instagram a picture of it that afternoon.

We only stayed for about 24 hours, but it was awesome! We took a ton of pictures so we’re going to post a Cabin Crashing of it next week, but here’s a sneak preview.

I think we’re going to officially wrap-up the holiday season at our house this weekend – i.e. take down decorations and the tree. But we did snap a couple better-late-than-never seasonal pictures, since this will likely be the last time we can take a photo like this in front of the tree.

Kinda crazy to think that this was our last Christmas with just one little one (well, two including Burger – and about 30 if you count all of Sherry’s ceramic animals). What’s even crazier is that Clara stood still enough for this long of an exposure!

What did you guys wrap and unwrap this year? Do you do big gift exchanges with your other half, or just little fun things that you’ve been eying? Sherry and I like to keep it pretty low key, but we love hearing about giant surprises (were there any bows on any cars in any driveways?) and little thoughtful things alike.

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As a little Friday bonus, here are four fun projects, chats, or questions going on over on the Forums. We also announced this week’s giveaway winner, so you can click here (and scroll down to the Rafflecopter box) to see if it’s you.

by kschrav by TomRob
by Maria_OurLakeLife by afnhendrickx

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Merry Christmas (Card)!

Every year we like to drop in before everyone abandons their keyboards for Christmas (or have you already?) to share our Christmas card along with some gushy words of appreciation. So thar she blows:

We had a few other ideas planned for our card this year (Clara gift-wrapping Burger, Clara riding her bike with a tiny Christmas tree on the back as Burger ran next to her, etc) but a combination of book deadlines, hospital decorating, showhouse meetings, and bad weather tied us up. Thank goodness for this shot that we miraculously got on the day that we told Clara she was going to have a little brother (I’ve filed it under “Christmas miracles”).

And because we like an outtake or two, we’d be remiss not to pause to appreciate this one of Burger cowering in blurry fear while Clara manhandles Captain Barnacle.

Or this one full of Burger enthusiasm but zero discernible excitement from Clara.

We did get this one of Clara kissing her doll, but Burger is nowhere to be seen, and it’s a little reminiscent of mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

Oh how thankful we are for one good shot.

We also took this one in front of a Love sign that we thought could have worked for the card, but we were kind of far away, and you can hardly see Clara clutching Captain Barnacle (she never leaves home without him).

We got them printed from TinyPrints and used a coupon code that we found right on their site to save 20% and score free shipping. Addressing all those envelopes with only about a week to spare was a little nerve-wracking, but we got it done. And it was pretty exciting to reference a little one on the way, since we haven’t done that since our very first Christmas card, way back in 2009.

Speaking of past years, here’s a quick recap of all of our family cards dating back to that one. First we have last year’s card:

And here’s the one from 2011:

The one from 2010:

And our very first one from 2009:

Also in big arrivals news, we have a bunch of family members coming to town today, so we’re off to hopefully plow through a few more to-dos before they get here (you know, baking cookies, priming cabinets, the usual) but we wanted to be sure we shared our holiday card with you guys along with our warmest wishes to you and yours. We sincerely appreciate you for dropping in on us, and we hope you all have an awesome holiday season full of cookies, baby dolls, and whatever else brings you joy.

And although we figure many of you will be busy with miscellaneous chaos over the upcoming week between Christmas and New Year’s, we’ll still be dropping in occasionally, and we hope to have a big ol’ painted cabinet reveal in early 2014. You know, to kick the year off with a bang. Or should I say, with a brush?

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