Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Christmas Decorations 2014

This year was a pretty exciting year to decorate. It was our first Christmas in our new house! I'm not a huge fan of knick-knacky decorations, but pre-lit garland and decorated trees are my jam. And you'll see them both in excess. Some more sneak peaks around the new house too if you are into that.

First up: the tree in my home office.  It's gold, it's rocking some lime and purple and iridescent white balls, and some purple snowflakes. I love looking past my monitors to see this guy all lit up sitting on top of our craigslist poker table find.






This white guy - you might recognize him from the dining room of our apartment, but this year he is hanging out in the Nursery.  Complete with emerald green and royal blue balls blue snowflakes, and some rustic little critters from Grandma.





I'm a little partial to our fake green tree in the family room.  We always had an assortment of traditional Scandinavian ornaments on our tree growing up but this guy is all Norway, all the way. Straw ornaments, Norwegian flags, and our Julenissen. We've even got our Fair Isle ornaments that we picked up in Oslo last year (November 2013).







There is more garland in this room - surrounding this huge window as well as our sliding glass doors to the back patio.  But I'll show you around the family room a little more in another post.

And of course, our REAL TREE in the living room.  In case you were wondering, no I did not realize that the top of this tree was seemingly chopped off when we picked it out, nor did I realize that it would look so short and stout in this room. And no, we don't own a star to make it look taller (it's called an illusion, Michael). But next year folks, next year! I will have a properly fitting tree for this room. Until then, I think this guy turned out just fine.  We've got the majority of our sentimental ornaments on this tree and I used gold and aqua to tie into some of the other furniture in the room. And yes. Lots and lots of pre-lit garland.





Can we talk about how ginormous those stockings are? They are beautiful (from Pottery Barn Kids), but I did not realize they would be this big. In a few years someone is going to expect to get these filled with toys, and Mama is not happy about this. He is going to have to settle for half (nay, two thirds!) of it to be stuffed with tissue paper. We will make up some story so he believes that is how it all works, I'm sure.


And some of our special ornaments from our trips  and significant happenings over the years are on our "real tree". This has become my favorite way to memorialize these vacations (and when I can't find actual ornaments, key chains become great ornaments and people are none the wiser except when you blab about on a public blog). In no particular order:

Read about it here.
My Tri-Kayla 30th Birthday/Cinqo De Kayla/Kentucky Derby Weekend in 2012
Our wedding.
I recently posted about our Honeymoon to South Africa here.
We went to a falconry on our second mini-honeymoon in Manchester VT
Duh.







Florida in 2010 
Vegas in 2013

Forgive me for indulging in listing out where our ornaments are all from - some day (probably too soon) I won't be able to remember what year we did what so it's nice to have it all in one spot.

Technically, I put up pre-lit garland on our front porch, however, there are no outlets outside so we've never been able to turn it on. After a few futile attempts to get electricity outside we have decided to wait to add an outlet when we redo the siding this coming spring. We are already tinkering with ideas for decorating outside the house next year, and let's just say Tom has already mentioned using his raspberry pi to match up lights and music. And you thought four Christmas trees was excessive.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Mistle Toes Ornaments {Dare to DIY 2014 - Give Homemade }

Last weekend we kinda killed it with festive activities.  I found a shopping center that has all of my favorite big box stores to shop at and we knocked out all gifts on our winter wishes list from NewYorkCares.org.  We got a tree from Home Depot where we were recognized by workers (I guess we've been there a few times lately). And I finished decorating the house inside and out. If felt good to get so many tasks done since I had several days of commuting into Manhattan for meetings for work this week, and we are having a few friends over this weekend for a little holiday dinner.  And through it all, I even found time to make some handmade gifts for the grandparents. Spoiler Alert Grandmas: stop reading if you want to be surprised on Christmas morning!

I recall a few years ago a friend telling me one of the best things about having kids was that you had automatic gifts for the grandparents at every holiday - just give them something baby related and they will be happy.  So here ya go Grandmas, they aren't perfect, but they are made with baby love!



For this project you will need:


Ornaments (I found these flat-ish plastic ones at Michaels for $2.99 each)
Craft Paint (I did a little research on this - some sites said acrylic on skin isn't great in general, but tempura or washable paint would flake off of the ornament.  I did a little skin test on myself and had wet paper towels ready to clean him up within seconds of putting the paint on him. The sites that said acrylic wasn't a great idea were mostly talking about face painting where the paint would stay on for hours so I felt ok with it since it was literally on his skin for less than a minute. Do your own research to determine what you feel comfortable with. If you have tempura paint, maybe a sealant spray on top would help with flaking)
Flat Paintbrush
Paint Pens 
Wet paper towels or washcloths
Sleeping Baby
If a sleeping baby is not available, Extra Patience and Quick Hands




What was good about the acrylic paint on the plastic ornament is that it was forgiving for a few seconds.  I got two ornaments done before he woke up and then it was a little bit trickier to get a good smudge on the last ornaments so I was able to wipe the paint off and try again.  Working quickly is key here on many levels.  My kids does not like to get "got" so holding his foot was a challenge, even for a few seconds. 

I threw in some crinkle paper since the ornaments were see through, and if I get around to it, I might even tie a bow to the tops of these.  The possibilities are endless.

"Mistle Toes" was an easy play on words and great given his age and size of foot - but I'm really looking forward to making these cute finger snowmen in a few years when he is a bit bigger, which is the project that was my original inspiration and got the ol' gears turning.

I'm linking up on Maybe Matilda today!  Go check out the fun!


So what was the over/under for me coming back and joining in a second linky party?? Will I make it to the final party??? Don't fall off the edge of your seats, people.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Christmas Tree Napkins {or Dare to DIY 2014 - Entertain! Edition)

I've followed the Dare to DIY link parties for a few years. Last year I actually pulled myself away from the toilet (morning sickness lasts all day for some) long enough to make these painted cork placemats.  It was fun.

So I told myself last year I would join in at least two of the link parties this year.  Baby steps people, blogging on a regular basis is not my thing.  And when you are staring at primered walls, that you told yourself you would get painted by Thanksgiving, and there is an adorable 4 month old that is figuring out how to bring his tiny thumbs to his mouth, it's kinda hard to justify to yourself to sit and get crafty.  But I saw this video on FB and was reminded of how much I actually enjoyed the task of folding cloth napkins. I was a waitress at two different family owned resorts growing up, and I actually loved the task of folding napkins for dinner. I still find myself refolding cloth napkins when I'm at restaurants if their fold job isn't up to my standards. #formerwaitressproblems



So I thought, oh I'll go find some vintage tablecloths and make my own festive napkins for some dinner parties we are hosting in the coming weeks. Then I remembered I have no idea where to get vintage anything in my new town.  Seriously, WHERE ARE THE FLEA MARKETS AROUND HERE???  I found one antique shop that takes itself waaay too seriously with the pricing.  Someone, someone, tell me where I can find cheap used junk to make glorious again in central New Jersey please.

So then I thought, ok, I'll skip this link party. And then I thought, NO KAYLA JUST FOLD YOUR WHITE NAPKINS.  True, I didn't lug out the paint, the orbital sander, or the sewing machine for this project. I didn't even lug out the iron, and really, I should have at least done that.  But whatever. I still like them.

Feast for your eyes, people:



Can I make a table look sexy or what?



Blogger confession: I bought washi tape for the first time. I used it to make little place tag flags attached to little ornaments from the dollar store. Little woodland critters sent down by my mother and Boom. Tablescape is done, ya'll.



I'm still searching for that perfect vintage holiday tablecloth and napkin set.  But for now I still dig this burgandy/gold/aqua number.  It really pulls in the gold and aqua from around the room. The room that I'm not ready to show you until it's a little more "done". You know, like more than just primered (it's a real word, trust).  But I did put up some pre-lit garland!


I'll only gush about that chandelier for a minute - but it's literally the first thing we bought after we bought the  house. It is hands down my favorite piece we added. Tom knew a lighting guy and we got it for a steal which was the only way we were actually going to get that thing into our house. I'll give you a real breakdown of the dining room/living room/kitchen soon enough (translation: before the end of 2015).


Kitchen teaser. Yup, that's an antique rug from ebay in my kitchen. I'm so en trend. And that is my Stokke Steps high chair.  Hands down, best money we spent on a single baby item (even though its really like 4 items).  I love that thing and so does the little one.

And here's that napkin folding video. Looks like there a couple versions on youtube, but this is the one that gave me the idea in the first place:



And if you are here from Decor and the Dog - welcome!  If not, check out the other party animals here to see what everyone came up with! Will I meet my personal goal and come back for a second link party in the next two weeks? ONLY TIME WILL TELL.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Two Years {And South Africa}

Have you ever heard the quote from Anne of Green Gables, "I'm so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers." ?  I love that quote because like most people who choose to live in the northeast, Fall is my favorite time of year. (I know, I'm really original like that).



We celebrated our two year wedding anniversary last week with some gorgeous flowers, a box of chocolates, and a night on the couch not doing any housework.  We finally cracked that bottle of champagne we were given at our wedding that we were supposed to drink last year but I was in that whole two-week-period-of-the-month-where-I-didn't-know-if-I-was-pregnant-or-not-yet (I was not). It might not sound super romantic, but it was exactly what we needed this year.

I thought it would be appropriate to finally show you some pictures from our Honeymoon two years ago. We took an amazing trip to South Africa - spending 4 nights in Cape Town visiting the surrounding areas and then 4 nights in Kruger National Park at a private resort going on safari rides every day at dawn and dusk.  It was an amazing trip and one I always said I would love to make again (maybe when this whole ebola thing dies down?)

I'll let the pictures do the talking, but feel free to ask me any questions in the comments!



















So a big part of this trip was the work that went into planning it.  Obviously traveling to an unfamiliar country brings its own risks (and rewards!!) so we decided to go through a travel company.  We actually did our own research and mapped out the trip we wanted and priced it out to book it all ourselves and then took it to a travel company that was willing to take on the trip as we planned it (versus one of their canned tours) and actually handle the bookings for us.  It wasn't any more expensive to go through the travel company, AND it gave me piece of mind that if a car wasn't at the hotel to pick us up to bring us to our next destination, we had a main contact we could call that would help us with any issues.  It just felt a little more secure (read: SAFE) and less of a headache than to have all of the contact numbers for all of the places we were staying and all of the inter-country car services we needed.  

So here is my super secret tip for exotic travel:  Plan the trip you want (as opposed to a canned tour that might not have everything you want to do in it), and reach out to a reputable tour company that will take on the bookings for you, and will make sure all of your connecting travel plans are safe and punctual.

Also now that we live in New Jersey, and yellow cabs aren't just waiting outside our stoop to bring us to the airport, we need to rethink how we get to and from the airport when we take trips (even domestic flights).  And, when we go on vacation, why not make a little money while we are at it? This is where RelayRides comes in. (My super-but-shouldn't-be-a-secret tip for domestic travel.) It's a peer-to-peer car rental service, which is a great way to either save a little money when you are in another city, and/or make a little money on your car that would otherwise be sitting in your driveway at home/long term parking at the airport while you are away.  People have been doing it with their homes for years now - so it only makes sense we start doing it with our cars as well.  They even have a new initiative to help newlyweds travel well with airport rentals while on their honeymoons - they are in tons of cities and growing! Of course RelayRides also works great if you just need a truck for a day to get some yard work done, or a mini-van to cart a bunch of kids around for a day at the museum.

Ahh, now I want to plan our next trip abroad...