The Magic of Santa

I was raised in a Christmas house. Both of my parents love Christmas. My mom shows this by over-giving. She has a hard time drawing a line. If you ask for it, you seem to get it! (Sometimes even things you say please don't get manage to show up under the tree, like a guitar.) My dad loves Christmas music and lights. I remember him telling me stories about studying by Christmas light in college. He sets up a beautiful Christmas village every year. The point is, between the two of them, my brother and I were raised in a house where Christmas begins the day after Thanksgiving and lasts until New Year's Eve. And not believing in Santa was never an option.

A is 4 (4 1/2 technically) and this Christmas was the best we have had yet. It had nothing to do with the presents, though they were fantastic. It had nothing to do with our lights, which looked pretty good. It had nothing to do with the inside decorations, also nice. The reason this Christmas was so amazing, a word often overused, is because of the joy and pure belief that A has.

The belief of a child. The belief that one man can travel the globe gladly giving presents and asking nothing in return is amazing. (There is that word again...) But really, think about it. We ask our children to believe this. We work to make sure their belief is fostered and supported. I think it is one of the best gifts we can give our children, this belief.

Santa is magic. Santa is hope. Santa is kind. It is not about presents. It is about the joy and amazement. The cookies are gone! The milk too! It is about the belief in something a little special, a little magic, a little too good to be true. In a world where we ask (and often force) our kids to grow old before their time, they need Santa. They need the chance to be kids. To believe.

And as a parent, I need that too. Yes, she is 4. But soon she will be 14, then 24, and so on....

But for now, she is 4. And I know the magic of Santa is real. I can see it in my daughter's face.

DIY Christmas Garland for the Mantle

A few weeks ago my mom and I went to Hobby Lobby. We were looking at the Christmas decor and oohing and awing over the giant beautiful garlands. These were not rinky dink garlands, these were massive, 6 foot long, covered in decorations, and 200 dollars. Um. Excuse me? $200!!!!! Even with a half off special, there was no way I was going to be able to get one. I told Mom, I could probably make one, but who has the time?

Well, thanks to a surprise ice storm granting me a day off I did.

Materials Needed:

  • Lighted garland (I recommend a battery operated one and will explain why)
  • Hot glue gun
  • Glue sticks
  • Decorative balls
  • Additional decorative accents (I used butterflies, pine cones, and snowflakes)
  • A large clear work area (I recommend the floor!)
Our tree has been silver, gold, bronze, and white for the past 5 years. What can I say....However, this year and last I started moving away from butterflies and towards deer. I also purchased two sets of larger white snowflakes in place of the previous years' smaller gold and silver ones. So, with the accumulation of snowflakes, glitter balls, and deer I found that I had snowflakes and glitter balls to spare, plus all the butterflies left over. I also already had a 6 foot lighted garland. In the past I put it up on my mantle as is, but I found myself with the perfect opportunity to try and jazz it up. I also already had red and green smaller balls on hand (sadly my beautiful hurricanes that held them last year did not survive 2013). So really all I bought for this was one more set of a lighter gold/silver mix and the pine cones. Total cost--$10 thanks to re-purposing things I already had. I'm not a math teacher, but I do understand the huge savings in the situation!!

So now, on to the process.

  • Step 1: lay out the garland.
    • You will probably need to fluff and rearrange the branches of your garland, especially if you do buy a cheaper one, speaking from personal experience.
  • Step 2: lay out the materials.

    • I essentially did a test run where I placed everything before committing to glue.
    • The butterflies all had clips, so I started by spacing them out then I sorted all the balls I had to make sure I didn't end up with all the greens in one section.
  • Step 3: once you are happy with your layout, start gluing. 
    • I started at the end and worked section by section. 
    • I glued the pine cone for that section first, then worked from butterfly to butterfly. Once I had all the glitter balls in place I added a snowflake.
    • I adjusted and made small changes, but I can say for certain that laying everything out first helped!
  • Step 4: Place on your mantle and enjoy!
This was honestly one of the easier DIY projects I have done. It is time consuming, but the process itself is quite simple. The only issue I have is with the cord. The garland is basically the same length as my mantle, so the cord just sort of hangs there. I really wish I had bought a new battery operated garland, as this would solve the issue. However, I am working on a solution!


Just a few pics. No tutorials right now. My fabulous photog friend, CCie, asked me to make a Christmas banner for her upcoming mini-sessions. So I went to my go to for all things crafty, Pinterest. I found several links to various Etsy stores, and obviously those look much more professional than mine, but I think all said they turned out pretty cute! I actually have enough material left over to make two more banners.

Advice For A Younger Me

Dear M,

I am going to cut right to the chase. I am you in the future. Follow this list and things will be okay. (Not perfect, but good.)

1. Do not cut your hair. Don't cut it in junior high when all your friends do and don't cut it again in high school and don't cut it after you have your daughter. Just say no to big hair cuts!

2. Skip the "RevoStyler".

I can not believe we thought this would really work....Just trust me on this. It is going to get caught in your hair and hurt. A lot. Hold out for two more years then look for true straightening irons.

3. Wear your retainers. Don't leave them on any cafeteria trays!!

4. Don't worry about not playing a sport (I think we both know how that will turn out.)

5. Maybe take a few more classes your Senior year of high school. One more year of Science won't kill you.

6. When you get to college (stick with UNT) DO NOT change your major. News flash, you end up as an English teacher so you might as well get out of there in four years rather than six. (You do not want to be an art historian, so stick to English.)

7. After you get married, live in a cheap apartment for the first three years.

8. Now if you have followed the given advice of #7, this one will be easy. SAVE YOUR MONEY!

9. Be yourself. You will have a group of amazing friends and they love you in spite of your quirks.

10. Wash your makeup off every night. Please.

DIY Burlap Halloween Wreath

Well hello. It has been a while...So to make-up for my lack of posts I am back today with a tutorial!

Needed Materials:
Wood letters--I purchased my BOO letters at Hobby Lobby
Black and orange acrylic paint--I used Anita's purchased from Hobby Lobby
Roll of burlap ribbon--Another Hobby Lobby purchase, I used a printed burlap ribbon from the seasonal section. Mine says spooky with wispy trees, but this pumpkin print is cute too.
Tubular pipe insulation--Purchased at Lowe's for under $1.50. MUCH cheaper than a Styrofoam form.
At least two types of fabric--I had orange left over from my classroom makeover and black and white striped left over from who knows what.
Corsage pins--Purchased at Hobby Lobby
Hot glue and hot glue gun--Any craft supply store
Mod Podge--Any craft supply store
Glitter--Any craft supply store
Duct tape--Everywhere!

Step 1:
Decide how large you would like you wreath to be. I bought one piece of pipe insulation from Lowe's then cut it down to a smaller size. I used orange duct tape to tape the ends together.
Ignore the snowman blanket.
Step 2: Wrap the wreath in the burlap. The size I made mine required one full roll of the burlap ribbon I purchased. I had a second roll, but did not need it at all. I rolled mine at an angle and used corsage pins along the way to keep it tight.

Step 3: Create your rolled rosettes. This is the tutorial I used when I first learned to make the rolled flowers. 

Step 4: Paint and glitter your letters. (I ended up painting over the orange of the last O.)
Step 5: Attach the letters to the wreath using hot glue. Attach the rosettes to the wreath using the corsage pins.

Step 6: Hang your new festive wreath on your door! (But use a better looking command hook than me.)
*The down side to using the pipe insulation is that it will sag due to the weight of the letters. I think with a better hook/support system the circle shape can be restored!

Unreached Goals

What do you do when you fail? Cry? Laugh? Give up? Some combination of all three?

For me, yes, yes, yes, and yes. At the end of May I was weighing in at my lowest weight in over 6 years, probably closer to 7. I was within sight of my ultimate end goal, to be anywhere in the 130's. I mean it was still a long distance view, but I could see it! Then summer vacation came along. When I started back to work I was a good ten pounds heavier than when I left. Today I found myself closer to 15 pounds away from that May number. I weighed mid day, so the "real" number is probably 12 up, but either way, I have been in the midst of a crying/laughing/giving up fit.

I do not want to wake up and find myself so far from my goal that I can no longer imagine achieving it, and frankly, these 12 pounds are pushing me there. I can no longer see the end goal, the 130's are now twice as far away as they were in May. Four months.

A lot of people find it hard to believe that someone would/could gain 12 pounds over a summer, but I am living proof it can happen. Part of the problem is how I lost the weight in the first place, resorting to not eating during the day, stress, and occasional work outs to get me to where I was. I know this only worked because I had so much weight to lose, and once I got closer to my goal (16 pounds from the 130's) the less that method worked. I tried to get serious in July, working out five days a week, but then I had a business trip, then Disney, then back to work. I am so full of excuses, it is no wonder I've gained weight!

The biggest issues have been how I feel, how I look, and how my clothes are fitting. (Hint, they aren't.) I went through a huge closet clean-out once I hit a ten, purging my closet of the 18's, 16's, and 14's. I kept two pair of size 12 safety pants, and I have found myself reaching for them. This is not what I wanted.

I wanted to be packing up my 10's and reaching for 8's, or at the very least buying more of the same. And look, I know all about vanity sizing and that the number shouldn't matter; honestly the number in the waistband has less of an impact than the fact that I have a whole wardrobe of cute clothes that now look crappy because they do not fit correctly. 

So here I go again, take 1200 (or something). I do not really know what to do. Honestly. Do I go back to no food during the day? Do I try mini meals, or diet meals, or shake replacements? How do I live a normal life, lose weight, and still have time for my family? Oh and work, and cleaning, and all the other junk that comes with being responsible for others? I'm asking because the only answers I have are not answers I want to hear. But, maybe they are the ones I need. I don't know.

The saddest part is, I feel like these are the only type of posts I have any voice on anymore. I also feel like I've written this exact post so many times that it is becoming my defining trait, I will forever be the girl trying (and failing) to lose weight. That is not who I want to be.

Disney Recap: Day 4

Day 4:

The beautiful ceiling.
Snowfall! Matches the pattern from the movie exactly.

Day 4 was fantastic! This was our first full day at the big cheese, the one you think of when you think Disney, the Magic Kingdom. We were there that morning for "rope drop", which meant we were able to be in the 2nd group of the day for Enchanted Tales with Belle. J had already grabbed us a set of fast passes for Peter Pan's Flight, so the timing was perfect. A got picked to be Maurice in the show, which is what Enchanted Tales with Belle is. Rather than a traditional meet and great, you help Belle reenact the night she and the Beast fell in love. After Belle we rode Peter Pan and It's a Small World. We managed to ride the Little Mermaid, Dumbo, Peter Pan (again), Winnie the Pooh, and It's a Small World (again) before our 11:30 Be Our Guest lunch reservation. Thank to my obsessive planning (everyone who laughed at me), I found out about a way to get a "fast-pass" for BOG lunch, which at the moment is generally a 1-2 hour wait. For food. Thanks to this loophole, we were able to bypass the incredibly long line of people waiting in the sun and go right up to the castle. Be Our Guest, for those not into Disney World, is a pretty much exact replica of the Beast's castle from Beauty and the Beast. As a person who came into cultural awareness during the Disney Renaissance (the late 80's to late 90's when they were making smash movies like The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin) this restaurant is right in my wheelhouse. I've seen Beauty and the Beast more than 100 times, and Belle and Ariel are my two favorite princesses (though Rapunzel and Merida are pretty great). So the idea of eating in the Beast's castle was something I could not miss. The food was fine, good even, but let's be real. It was so not about the food. I was in the castle. We ate in the main dining room, which is modeled after the ballroom where Belle and the Beast dance. The ceiling much work. We received a table next to the window, which meant we were treated to beautiful snowfall during our meal. I will go back there, if only to eat in one of the other rooms, the West Wing or the Rose room.

After lunch, we got in line (a wonderfully air conditioned tent) to meet Daisy and Minnie Mouse. Then we headed back to the hotel for our afternoon break. After a nap and a change of clothes, we headed back. We ate a lighter dinner, as we had a special treat planned for later. After dinner we rode Pirates,meandered around a bit, then made our way over towards the castle. We had a dessert party to attend!

I will admit, the dessert party was fun, but it is not something we are likely to do again. It was pricey, but the food was yummy, and the view was fantastic! Basically, you are in a covered terrace area with 150 other guests, with an all you can eat dessert buffet, with a lovely view of Cinderella's castle. This means you have a prime spot to watch the nightly fireworks. They pipe the music in as well.

This was a very long day! I promise I will get days 5 and 6 up soon.

Disney Recap: Days 2 and 3--AKA I Suck at Blogging

Dude. Ball dropped. So let me apologize first and get it out of the way. I meant to recap our trip on a day-by-day basis. I was going to do one or two a week. We've been home a month, and I have written one!

Moving on....

Day 2 of our trip was amazing. We went to Epcot.

We loved Akershus! The food was delicious. We will absolutely be returning to Akershus for lunch if (when) we return to Disney. The princesses were lovely, A even got to lead the princess parade with Snow White. My sandwich and soup were delicious, and I liked the cold buffet items too. I think this might have been my favorite meal of the entire trip.

We rode Soarin' twice, A just squeaked by the 40 inch mark! She loved it, so as soon as we found out she was tall enough, we grabbed fast passes then got in line. This ensured we were able to ride twice. Soarin' is one of those rides that the line grows to hours throughout the day. We rode one, then went an rode Nemo, did Turtle Talk with Crush, and explored the aquarium. Then it was time to cash in our fast pass. Roda Soarin' again.

After lunch and a few rides, we went back to the hotel to rest and change clothes. We came back in the afternoon and explored the countries at Epcot. I had dinner in Morocco, J had fish and chips from England. We are while we watched the firework show over the lake. It was a fantastic day.

Day 3: Animal Kingdom

We went to Animal Kingdom on day 3. This was my least favorite park of the three that we visited. A wasn't tall enough for most of the rides, and the things that she was tall enough for were spaced out all over the park. We did get in and go straight to the safari ride. Because we went early, the animals were out. We saw cheetahs, lions, elephants, rhinos, giraffes, and a host of other animals. After the safari we rode the water ride (with out ponchos on!). We did a little shopping, had lunch (it was very yummy), and then watched The Lion King musical show. The show was exceptional. I wish we could have seen the Nemo show too, but it was already 2 by this time. We went back to the hotel, slept, swam, and changed, then headed to Downtown Disney for the evening. Downtown Disney was cool, but it was so crowded, we could hardly enjoy the stores. I would love to come back in the middle of February when the park attendance is 1/3 of what it is in the summer. We still managed to do some shopping though!