Holiday Traditions

I’m all about creating holiday traditions or moments for your family. Ryan and I have over a dozen traditions, especially during the holiday season. I think it’s important to spend time with those you love and make memories together that will last a lifetime. I thought I would share our favorite traditions and activities with you all. Feel free to start one of these in your home!

For many years now, Ryan and I have enjoyed completing a Christmas activity during the twenty four days leading up to Christmas. I previously picked the activities, put them on small pieces of paper, and had Ryan draw an activity from a stocking every morning or evening. As our schedules have become more complicated, we now choose the activities together and schedule one for each day. Activities include enjoying hot cocoa together, seeing a holiday performance, opening a gift early, donating toys for children in need, and more. We even have a faux snowball fight in our living room! It’s a great way to celebrate the season and enjoy the holidays. (Side Note: We change up the activities every year.)

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Another favorite is riding the Polar Express. We like the experience in Bryson City, North Carolina. It’s also only a three and a half hour drive for us from Atlanta. There are a number of Polar Express themed train rides around the country. It really puts you in the spirit, and I look forward to it every year. Our experience includes meeting Santa, reading the book, taking a ride to the North Pole, and more.

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In recent years, we’ve embraced Elf on the Shelf. It’s not just for kids! Ryan and I alternate nights, leaving our elf somewhere for the other to find. I enjoy seeing how creative we get with this. Our elf, Pigpen, has hosted an ice-cream social, built Lego sets, sent postcards, ordered pizza, and more. In a couple of weeks, I will provide some ideas and suggestions for a fun Elf on the Shelf experience for the entire family.

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We recently retired an activity, because it got too challenging. It was a ton of fun when things didn’t cost as much as they do now. We would each buy between 12-24 gifts, valued at $1 each, to give to one other. We would exchange one of these gifts each day. Gifts would include hand sanitizer, candies, soda, etc. There aren’t too many things left that you can purchase for a dollar. We both struggled to not buy junk or repeated items last year, so we gave it up for 2017. It really was fun though. We could change it up to make it easier, but I think we have plenty to keep us busy.

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Not only do we really enjoy these activities and traditions, but it forces us to slow down and spend quality time together. My husband is my favorite person, and I look forward to all the fun we’ll have this year! There are so many ways to make memories, and I hope I’ve inspired you to try something new. Even one afternoon together baking cookies can become a cherished memory for years to come. Happy Holidays Everyone!!

Checking the List

Where did the year go? I realized last night that we only have six days left between now and Thanksgiving to complete our projects. November and December are always super busy for us. I don’t even try to complete projects in December anymore. That was a difficult lesson to learn. Ryan and I developed a plan last night for completing our projects and transforming our home for the holidays. The transformation begins on Halloween. It’s all about Christmas at our house! While I’m transforming our home for the holiday season, I’ve also got to complete a few more projects.

Before I mention what I hope to complete, I think it’s important to mention the progress we’ve made this year. I was really ambitious going into 2017, which was good from an accomplishment standpoint. I overworked us and spread us too thin though. Not so good. I am really proud of what we accomplished even though some of it isn’t 100% complete. If you live in a fixer upper, that’s just life.

  • Converted the garage into additional living space (that was a massive project)
  • Installed flooring downstairs
  • Widened our closet doors and installed a new organization system
  • Refreshed and reorganized our pantry
  • Moved the dining room light
  • Installed new window treatments
  • Installed shiplap in the downstairs hallway
  • Framed artwork
  • Bought furniture for the den and cat room
  • Installed organizational system in the downstairs closet
  • Installed trim downstairs
  • Tore down and rebuilt the front porch
  • Built a coffee table for the living room
  • Completed the dining room
  • Finished craft room trim

 

 

As I mentioned above, we have some tasks I’d like to complete before Thanksgiving.

  • Paint trim downstairs
  • Paint the front porch
  • Replace window trim in the guest room
  • Install new lights and fan in the master bedroom
  • Replace the old window in the cat room
  • Build the bar for Ryan’s den

There are some tasks that we didn’t get to this year that I will conquer next year along with other projects.

  • Install subway tile in the laundry room
  • Replace the back door
  • Install crown molding in the laundry room
  • Finish Ryan’s office

I think we did really well! Converting the garage was the largest project, and it took months to do. It was most certainly worth the time and money. Our home has come a long way since we purchased it, and I think we are getting closer to the finish line. In a few more years, the house might actually be done! I can’t even imagine.

Starting next week, I’ll have lots of Christmas related posts for you all. From our holiday transformation to family activities, we will cover it all. Stay tuned!

 

 

 

Travel: Prep & Packing

Ryan and I will be going on vacation this month, and we can’t wait to get away. We both are much happier when we take the time to totally disconnect from our usual life. In the spirit of vacation, I thought I’d share some travel tips.

We plan our vacation destinations years in advance, and we focus on the details of each about twelve months before we actually go. For example, we already know we are going to Hawaii in October of 2018. So we will start planning that trip in October or November of this year. We probably take planning to the next level, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Ryan and I actually create an excel spreadsheet for each trip. A spreadsheet typically includes: meals, activities, estimated costs, apparel, lodging, and transportation. By doing this, we maximize our time and avoid a debate about where to eat. I’ve included a spreadsheet from a few years back as an example.

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By creating this spreadsheet, we also have an idea of how much to save for the trip. Some of you may be thinking this is crazy, and I’ve heard it before. I promise you this makes a world of difference. We do allow for flexibility though, because one night we may not be in the mood for pizza. We can always change it, and we can access the spreadsheet anytime with our Dropbox app.

We both are now pretty OCD about packing as well. I used to bring way too much stuff, but I’ve learned that I don’t really need much depending on the destination. We typically each bring a backpack and one larger bag that we share. Here are ten tips I hope help you the next time you travel.

  1. Each person should have a backpack that includes their identification, boarding pass, Ziploc bag of liquids, forms of entertainment, phone, and at least one outfit. The outfit is a lifesaver if your luggage is lost or delayed. If you bring a purse, throw it in the backpack.
  2. Pack a collapsible bag for souvenirs. We have this one from Tommy Bahama, and it works perfectly. By thinking ahead, you save yourself a headache later. TB bag
  3. Roll your clothes instead of folding them. I won’t roll a bulky sweater or jacket.
  4. I started using packing cubes this year, and I swear by them. They come in a variety of colors and sizes. I use the smallest one for undergarments and tanks. I use the medium size for my shirts. Since I have a set of three, I use the larger size for bottoms and dresses. You can get these on Amazon or at Container Store. travel
  5. Bring an extra pair of socks and underwear.
  6. Pack a large Ziploc bag for swimsuits.
  7. Weigh your bag before you leave the house to ensure you won’t have a problem at the airport.
  8. Ladies, I recommend using a toiletry bag that hangs on a door. You can purchase one just about anywhere, but I have a Vera Bradley one that I’ve been using for years. I also keep mine stocked with the basics, which makes packing easier and faster.
  9. You can purchase travel size straighteners and curlers. I typically skip the blow dryer.
  10. Print out a checklist of some sort to make sure you haven’t forgotten anything, and we recommend packing a few days prior to leaving.

 

I typically start filling our bag with my packing cubes. I then add smaller items (heating tools, hats, etc.) along the sides or in-between so that I don’t waste space. I place anything bulky on the top of my cubes, and I finish it off with shoes. I put the shoes in with bottoms facing up, because I don’t want those germs on my stuff. Any other items will be packed in the compartments of our luggage, like the side and front pockets.

So that’s how we get ready for a trip. Do you have a packing tip of your own? Share it below. Check back next Monday, because I’ll be revealing another room. Happy travels!