{beach 2014 recap}

We recently got back from a week long vacation in Duck, North Carolina on the Outer Banks. I’ve been going to Duck every other year for a while now with my family. We were trying to remember when we first started going-sometime back in the early ’90s. Every time we go to Duck, we stay on the same street and usually have extended family members who stay in other houses right up the street from us. When we went in 2010, my mom’s family had four houses on the same street! How fun!

This year, my parents, my oldest brother and his wife and two children, my younger brother, and my youngest brother and his wife all shared a house with us.

Just a quick look back at Harper’s first time at the beach in 2012 and this summer. My how much she has changed! She likes the ocean a lot better this time, ha!
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And here is Will-he’s been three times, but this most recent trip was his favorite. He didn’t really remember much about the beach before this summer. Will beach collageWe stayed in a wonderful house this year-a three story house with six bedrooms, five bathrooms, a nice pool outside. Last time we went, we were in a four bedroom, two bathroom house, which was difficult with 13 people (including four kiddos).

Our house was quite kid-friendly as well. The top level, which included a big kitchen, open dining area, large living room and a bathroom, had a built in baby gate. The house also included two high chairs and a crib! We still took along our pack n play for Harper to use, as well as her booster seat since I didn’t know the house came with high chairs.

The bottom level of our house had two king size bedrooms with attached bathrooms. It also had a nice lounge area with a tv and mini kitchen.

We stayed on the second level, which included four bedrooms and two bathrooms. Will shared a room with his almost 6 year old cousin, O. Harper stayed in our room and actually did okay sleeping (she usually doesn’t sleep as well when she’s in the same room as us). Our bedroom had direct access to the deck and views of the ocean:)

Our week consisted of swimming in the ocean in the mornings, lunch and naps, then pool time in the afternoons. Lots of staying up late (for the kiddos) and tons of fun!

{Note-this post is full of pics!}

Will and Harper enjoying some pool time.
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Attempting to get a group picture of the cousins. Harper wasn’t very happy about it. We had a 2, 3, 4, and 5 year old at our beach house.
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Each morning we walked down to the beach. The only downfall to our house was its location. It was about a 10 minute (with kids) walk to the beach.
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Getting our chairs and tent set up.  See my brother in the background? They call me Mamarazzi? Well, I’m going to call him Paparazzi, ha!

IMG_6935Harper loved playing in the sand but wasn’t too thrilled about the waves. I took her in the ocean several times and she screamed and clung on to me when the waves came up.

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Eating snacks with Grammy. Boy, this girl loves to eat!
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Will loved the sand but also enjoyed getting in the water.
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He even went out on the boogie board and rode in some waves!
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More pool time. I’m glad I invested in these Speedo life jackets for both Harper and Will. Any time we were out at the pool they wore them. I also bought a reusable swimming diaper cover made by Speedo for Harper. It worked great, and I loved not having to deal with the disposable swimmy diapers.
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Hanging out in the beach tent. This was a great buy!
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More snacking by the pool. It might seem like all my kids do is eat, since most of these pictures show them with food! That’s when they are sitting still and when I can manage to get some pics, ha!
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One day we ate lunch outside after pool time.
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I bought some bubbles and other toys for the kids to play with at the beach.
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Getting her nails painted by Aunt M.
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Getting ready for pictures. We had my cousin take some pictures of all 13 of us on the beach.
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Walking down to the beach for pictures. IMG_7412

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In the town of Duck, there is a neat boardwalk that goes along the sound. We strolled on it several times.
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Eating meals together as a family. Each night, one of the siblings was in charge of dinner. For my night, I made honey chicken lime enchiladas (I made them at home and froze them, which made dinner so much easier) and guac and chips and salsa.
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Harper visiting with her Uncle E (my youngest brother). All of my brothers are great with Harper and Will:)
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Tired girl.
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While at the beach, we celebrated my nephew O’s upcoming 6th birthday. Since Will’s aunt and uncle from NC couldn’t come to Will’s birthday party back in May, we also had a mini birthday celebration for him as well. My sister-in-law also had goodies for the girls-stickers and mermaid tattoos, as well as some cool Kinder Surprise Eggs from her recent trip to Europe.
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Here’s a picture of Harper with her great grandmother. My grandparents (mom’s parents) stayed in a beach house right down the street from us (and yes, she’s sporting a mermaid tattoo on her arm!).
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The kiddos being creative with their play.
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My oldest brother created a huge sand pit one day at the beach. It was so big that from out in the ocean, you couldn’t see Harper (though it doesn’t take much since she’s so small, ha!).

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One day, Harper was so exhausted at the beach that she fell asleep in my arms.
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Looking for fish at the pier.
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Beautiful sunset.
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More eating in the tent.
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Playing in the sand.
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Walking down the street to the boardwalk.
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Arrgh matey! Harper wasn’t so sure about this pirate.
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Walking on the boardwalk.
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Sunset on our last evening at the beach.
IMG_8152Our 2014 beach trip was wonderful! Great fun with family, swimming in the ocean and the pool, walks in the evenings, beautiful sunsets, great weather, yummy food. I can’t wait until next time:)

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Strawberry Picking!

strawberry picking collageOn Saturday, we went to a local farm to pick strawberries.  This has become a family tradition and is on our summer bucket list.  I love to go back and look at pictures from previous years. We started strawberry picking in the spring of 2012 when Harper was just two months old. You can’t really see her since she’s being carried in the Ergo by my husband.  Last year, Harper was one and Will was three.  We initially went to a strawberry farm right up the road, but if you don’t get there by 7am and start picking, you won’t get any berries! There’s no way we were getting to the strawberry field that early, so we found another farm that’s about 30 minutes from our house where we started going last year.  I love that they have these fun red wagons to borrow as you walk to the strawberry patch, which is across the road and up the field from where you park.

This year, both kiddos were really into picking (and eating) strawberries! They had strawberry juice all over their faces! Will loved carrying the berry box and Harper had fun running up and down the patch:) We picked several pounds and enjoyed some yummy strawberry cider donuts.

Now that we have several pounds of strawberries, I’m off to find a new strawberry dessert recipe.  I’m thinking about making a strawberry pie…yum!

Harper’s Second Birthday Interview

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Sweet Miss Harper!

I came across a fun way to document your children each year: a birthday interview.  There are tons of templates on Pinterest for the birthday interview.  Some are geared more towards older children, but I found one that I could use with Harper (who just turned two) as well as with Will (who will be four on Thursday). Initially, I just planned on interviewing Will.  However, after interviewing him, I decided to see how Harper would do.  She was able to answer most of the questions! Here are her responses:

Nicknames: {she didn’t respond to this question but we call her Missy Moodle}

How old are you? two

What is your favorite color? purple {she absolutely LOVES this color!}

What is your favorite animal? I don’t know {her exact words!}

What is your favorite book? Goodnight, Gorilla {so true-we read this book every night!}

What is your favorite TV show? Barney {we don’t watch much TV at all; she watches a little at the babysitter, which is where she saw Barney.  Barney is banned in our house, ha!}

What is your favorite movie? I don’t know

What is your favorite song? Old McDonald, Farmer in the Dell {daddy sings these songs to her each night while brushing her teeth.  It’s a good distraction!}

What is your favorite food? yogurt {she happened to be eating yogurt when I asked her these questions…I’m pretty sure that influenced her answer! However, she really does like yogurt and eats it every day}

What is your favorite drink? water {true…she hates milk and we don’t give her juice}

What is your favorite breakfast food? cereal bar

What is your favorite snack? {no response}

What is your favorite outfit? {no response}

What is your favorite game? bakery {an iPad game}

What is your favorite toy? I don’t know

Who is your best friend? Ayda {a little girl from Harper’s musikgarten class}

What is your favorite thing to do? play dots, outside

What is your favorite thing to do outside? {no response}

What is your favorite holiday? Halloween, Christmas {she initially didn’t know what to say, so I gave her examples of holidays}

What do you like to take to bed with you at night? puppy {a stuffed puppy she recently picked out at Ikea…it’s almost as big as her!}

Where is your favorite place to go? Panera {mommy loves this response!}

Where do you want to go on vacation? go play

What do you want to be when you grow up? I don’t know

What did you do on your birthday? party

I thought she did a super job on these questions! I was going to wait until she turned three to ask her these questions but I’m glad I went ahead and asked her them. I plan on asking both kiddos specific questions every year on their birthday and document their responses. It will be fun to see how much they change over the years:)

Chocolate Festival Fun!

On Saturday, we headed to our hometown for their annual chocolate festival.  It’s held each April and this year marked our third time attending.  It’s a fun chocolate tasting extravaganza where the streets are blocked off and downtown stores and other local businesses offer a variety of chocolate tastings.  The chocolate tasting tickets are sold in advance, and my husband’s parents typically pick them up for us each year.

We headed downtown to the festival shortly after arriving in West Virginia.  Miss Harper enjoying the wonderful weather!

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Trekking up to an out-of-the-way restaurant that had a chocolate mousse cake with fresh whipped cream and raspberry coulis.  Along the way, we stopped by another restaurant and sampled their chocolate molten lava cake with creme fraiche.  Yum!

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Waiting for a bite of chocolate!

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Enjoying the chocolate mousse cake.

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Will kept insisting on having his own, ha! The festival had 35 different tasting locations with goodies such as chocolate brownie s’mores with salty caramel drizzle, chocolate chip cupcakes with a hot fudge center and chocolate ganache, and a handmade vanilla bean marshmallow s’more pop.  Yum!

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Trying to get a picture of me with the kiddos. It’s impossible to get them to look at the camera!

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A view from above the town.

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I think Will and Harper’s favorite part from the festival was playing with the puppies that were up for adoption.  I’m not a dog person at all, but they were pretty cute!

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After our chocolate overload, we headed to Mimi and Granddaddy’s house to have lunch.  Mimi hid a few Easter Eggs outside for the kiddos to find.  Will enjoyed running through the yard, finding eggs! We had to keep telling him to save some eggs for Harper!

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Finding eggs with Mimi!

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After visiting with Mimi and Grandaddy, we headed up the mountain (about a 30 minute drive) to my parents’ house to spend the night.  At Grammy and Grandaddy’s, the kiddos enjoyed playing outside, riding bikes, taking walks, eating popsicles, “driving” on the tractor, and building train tracks.

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My dad owns a nursery and sells Christmas trees.  Here’s Will “spraying” the new Christmas trees that Grandaddy recently planted.

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On Saturday evening, we helped Grammy make peanut butter and coconut chocolate covered eggs.  It’s a family tradition to make these eggs, and it was so fun to have Will and Harper help! It had been over ten years since I helped make them, too, so that was neat!

We had Grammy’s yummy waffles with blueberry syrup on Sunday morning and headed back home after lunch.  We had a great time visiting family! But as usual, we were ready to get back home!

Harper’s Second Birthday Party

We celebrated our sweet Harper’s second birthday party on Saturday! It was so much fun celebrating with our family and close friends! What a beautiful day as well-the temps were in the high 60s-so gorgeous!

I based Harper’s birthday theme loosely around mason jars and incorporated green, navy blue, and pink. I purchased this cute mason jar invite on Etsy to kick off the theme.  Sorry for the blacked out portions…when I started this blog and decided to use my kiddos’ middle names when referring to them, I never knew how difficult it would be and how careful I would need to be to make sure their first names or initials were not in any of the pictures I posted, ha!

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Our yearly family birthday pic! We started this when Will turned one-we make sure we snap a picture at each birthday party.

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The cupcake and ice cream spread! I decorated wooden spoons with washi tape and bought some cute flower cupcake toppers on Etsy.  For cake stands, I used several white ramekins and put colorful Fiestaware plates on top.  To save time, I always pre-scoop out the ice cream in individual candy cups and pop them back in the freezer. In this picture, the ice cream is in the white and blue chevron cups. It’s so easy for the guests to pick up a cupcake and a cup of ice cream.  Since I wanted to use my Lisa Leonard “Happy Birthday” topper, I made Miss Harper a mini cake.

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I created a display of Instagram prints that spanned from March 2013-March 2014 and organized them in chronological order with mini washi tape clothespins. In our dining room, I hung one of the displays and attached a few tissue paper tassels I made. Below the banner, our guests placed the gifts for Harper.

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Here’s the second Instagram display (this one was in the living room).

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On the buffet in the dining room, I spread out our mason jars with daisy lids.  I created the washi flags initially for guests to write their names on them but at the last minute, I decided it would be easier to stick a piece of washi tape on the cup where guests could more easily write their names.  Medium size cups for the adults and mini size mason jars for the kiddos. I’m loving the paper straws-so pretty! One downfall, however, is that they tend to get soggy.

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I used a mason jar decorated with washi tape to hold the wooden washi tape spoons and forks.

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Miss Harper snuggling with her Uncle E. We attempted to put her down for an early nap (her party was at 3), but our family started arriving around 1 and Harper was not about the miss the excitement! She’s playing peek-a-boo with me!

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Will playing hide-and-seek with Uncle E.  He loved it!

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Taking a little walk before the party started…it was so nice out, so we decided to visit Shadow and Isaac, our neighbor’s horse and donkey. Uncle E. and Aunt M. are the best! The kiddos love playing with them:)

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Snapping some pics before the party.

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Sibling love!

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Since both kiddos are young, their birthday parties are very casual and small.  We invited both of our parents, my brother and sister-in-law (who live in NC-we were so excited they drove up for the party!), Nana, Pops, Maw, Aunt Kathy (the kiddos’ extended “grandparents”-their babysitters), and our neighbor and her kiddos. Will and my mother-in-law helped Harper open up her gifts.  She had a blast, and so did Will! He wanted to open all of her gifts, ha!

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Modeling her new purse!

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Playing with her new tea set. Harper received so many nice gifts! An alphabet puzzle, two dresses, a summer outfit, several books, a tea set, purse, arts and craft supplies, and several other wonderful presents.

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Will sipping lemonade from a mason jar.

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We put the cake in front of Harper and tried to get her to  blow out the candle.  Instead, she wanted to put her finger in the flame.  Ouch!  I made an easy chocolate cake (family recipe) and some delicious whipped cream/cream cheese frosting. I watched this tutorial from Carolina Charm on how to frost a cupcake. Mine didn’t look as nice as hers, but they looked a lot better than in previous years!

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All of Harper’s babysitters:) She loves them so much!

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Enjoying cake and ice cream outside.
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Face-timing with Harper and Will’s cousins in Colorado. After the party was over, we had dinner for our immediate family. I made an easy chicken parmesan bake and my mom brought a yummy salad. My mother-in-law made a squash casserole and brought garlic knots. We enjoyed a great dinner and spent some time visiting later that evening.

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Sound asleep on Grammy-exhausted from the super fun day!
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We are so blessed to have amazing family and friends!  Harper had a wonderful 2nd birthday!

Birthday party sources:

Mason Jar Invitations from Cherry Berry Designs on Etsy

Mason Lemonade Jars, Daisy Cut Metal Lids, Blue Chevron Candy Cups, Plain Wooden Spoons, Green Paper Straws from Pink Lemonade Party on Etsy

Flower Cupcake Toppers from Scrappuchino on Etsy

Washi Tape from Silent Poetry Arts on Etsy

Harper’s Green Skirt from Laken and Lila on Etsy (I love her skirts and dresses! It’s been a tradition for Harper to wear a dress or skirt from Laken and Lila each year for her birthday).

Birthday Banner Cake Topper from Lisa Leonard Designs (we use this each year)

Pink paper straws, blue napkins, pink plates, birthday candle, and mason jars from Target

Instagram Prints from Printstagram

DIY Tissue Paper Tassels and Photo Display

DIY Washi Tape Spoons

DIY Washi Tape Flag Labels

DIY Washi Tape Clothespins

P.S. As you can see, I’m a little obsessed with Etsy and Target! Ha! They both have tons of great party supplies! Now it’s off to start working on Will’s 4th birthday party (Lego themed), which is coming up soon (at the end of April, yikes!)!

Our Fun Countdown to Christmas Recap!

As one of my Pinterest projects, I created some countdown to Christmas activities. My goal was to have a fun Christmas/winter activity each day from December 1 through Christmas. Below is a photographic recap of some of our activities.

Here are the activities written out for each day.

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I put the slips of paper in this bucket and my plan was to select a different activity each day. This didn’t always happen, ha!

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Cereal necklaces!

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Countdown chain I created. Will took off a chain each morning-it was the first thing he did when he came downstairs each morning.

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We had a blast at our community’s Christmas parade!

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Will insisted on making orange snowflakes!

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Daddy’s work Christmas party-playing Ring Around the Rosy with some kiddos.

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Making peanut butter pinecones for the birds!

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Christmas jammies!

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On the hunt for a Christmas tree.

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Decorating our tree.

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Donating toys to Salvation Army and another organization at our local toy store.

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Reading books with a winter/Christmas theme.

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Last year’s personalized ornaments for Will and Harper.

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Cookie dough in preparation for cookie day!

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Candy cane fruit!

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In our Christmas pajamas, driving around looking at Christmas lights.

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Christmas lights display at the park.

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Annual cookie day!

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Decorating sugar cookies.

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Visit with Santa.

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Making cinnamon applesauce ornaments.

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Crafting a gingerbread house.

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Making the Pioneer Woman’s delicious hot chocolate.

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While these activities were lots of fun, it was difficult to do one activity each day (especially on work nights). We did our best to complete the list but there were a few we didn’t get to. Next year, I plan on creating more of a winter bucket list where we can pick and choose different activities (and not be on such a time constraint of one activity a day). I also love the idea of reading a different Christmas book each night-maybe next year?!

Christmas Traditions

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Happy Friday! I’m linking up with Kelly to share some of our Christmas traditions. I love creating new traditions in our family (and continuing some from my childhood) and it’s even more fun with kiddos!

For the past several years (I’ve lost track but it was before Will was born, so over four years), we have participated in an annual cookie day at our neighbor’s mom’s house. Nana, our neighbor’s mom, is also our babysitter, and her husband, Pops, are like a third set of grandparents to our kiddos.

Anyway, each year, we head to Nana’s for a day of cookie baking and decorating. Nana begins baking by eight each morning and we usually don’t finish until after five. We make cookie dough and bake it there, but a lot of us make dough ahead of time. This year, I made three batches of a family recipe called Sandies, a shortbread chocolate chip cookie. I also made a triple batch of brown butter snickerdoodles, one of my favorite cookies! The brown butter gives the cookie such a unique taste. It’s much easier for me to make the dough ahead of time, especially since Will and Harper come with me.

Will loved decorating the cookies this year and was so excited that we had orange colored frosting, his favorite color!

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Here’s a small sampling of the cookies we made. A few years back, we kept track of how many cookies we baked…it was over 1,700!!

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When I was little, my parents took us out driving to look at Christmas lights. My husband and I have continued this tradition with Will and Harper. The other evening, I put Will and Harper in their Christmas pajamas and we drove to a local park, which has a fun display of lights each year. Miss H. fell asleep a few minutes into the drive but Will loved seeing all the cool light displays! One of my favorites was this hay bale teddy bear.

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For my son’s first Christmas, I bought a personalized ornament from Lisa Leonard Designs. I love her jewelry and decorations and decided to continue buying a special ornament every year for each kiddo. This is a new tradition for us since my husband and I didn’t have an ornament each year when we were young. Now Will has four ornaments (yikes, he’s getting so big!) and Harper has two. The gingerbread ornaments were last year’s selection.

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Since I grew up on a Christmas tree farm, it was a given that we headed outside to select a tree each year. My husband used to go to a tree farm as a kid but his parents eventually got an artificial tree. This is one of my favorite traditions! We go to a local farm that is owned by one of my former co-worker’s family.

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I buy Will and Harper Christmas jammies each year. Here they are sporting this year’s pajamas:) In order to get as much wear out of the pajamas as possible, they start wearing them right after Thanksgiving.

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In addition to our cookie day, we help my dad make sand tarts each year. Sand tarts are a family recipe-a thin sugar cookie that you brush with an egg wash and sprinkle with cinnamon/sugar or red and green sprinkles. For the past several years, Will has helped us decorate the cookies.

My husband and I were discussing our family holiday traditions the other evening. He grew up with the presents under the tree prior to Christmas. In my family, none of the gifts were under the tree until that morning. His stocking gifts were unwrapped; mine were always wrapped. It’s so fun to learn what types of traditions we had growing up and merge the two with our own family. What are some of your favorite traditions?