Monthly Archives: December 2013

Farewell to 2013

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Farewell to 2013

2013 was a pretty monumental year for me. I gave birth to a happy, healthy and beautiful baby girl; I quit my job of over a decade and became a stay-at-home mom; I started my own business; I started my blog; I lost all my baby weight; I celebrated 7 years of marriage with The Hub; I celebrated a whole year of first holidays with the baby;   It’s crazy to think this year is already over. I can’t imagine what 2014 has in store for us but I know of a few things I have in store for it. Like…

Celebrating every moment with my little girl. She’ll only be little for so long. Now that she sees and understands so much more than she did as a newborn I am looking forward to venturing out and doing more fun things and having lots of quality family time.

Learning an instrument. Music has always been not just “a” but “the” big influence in my life. It’s no wonder my daughter is already dancing and singing all the time. I want her to have that connection and outlet with music too but on an even bigger level if that’s at all possible. I never played any instruments growing up so I hope that by learning now maybe it will inspire her to give it a try.

Investing more time in my craft and craft space. I have lots of ideas scrapbooked away for the gift shop for 2014. We’ve had to reorganize things in our house a few times now with the new baby moving around and getting into everything but now that it’s done I’m really getting excited to get my dedicated craft room set up so I can get to work. I can’t wait to dig in and get my hands dirty!

Becoming more familiar with the natural foods store and all it has to offer. It helps to know what natural remedies are available for things as they come up but also, even though my pregnancy was fantastic, it left me with some new things to work on aside from just stretch marks (like eczema). I reworked our menu to introduce as many super foods as possible, cut back on the no-no’s and boost our intake of fiber and key vitamins. In 2014 I want to make sure my family is eating well and feeling their very best.

Growing our own food. We attempted a garden last year but aside from getting it planted late we had a bit of a pest problem and didn’t get as great a turn out as we had been hoping. Now that we’ve tackled those obstacles though I am looking forward to a garden a’plenty in 2014.

Being more efficient. When I quit my job this year I set out to do all I could to save us money to make up for my lack of a paycheck. In 2014 I hope to do even better with our efficiency by reusing and repurposing things to cut back on waste and avoid extra spending, fixing things ourselves, and structuring meals to get more bang for our buck.

Creating “Our Places”. It’s important for us to create traditions that we can enjoy year after year with our daughter (and any kids we may have in the future). Trips to look forward to, events to plan on every year, etc. One place I have in mind is Holland, Michigan. Their annual Tulip Festival not only happens every year right around my birthday but our daughter’s nickname has been Tulip since before she was born. (And who knows, maybe when she’s older we can visit the motherland and take in The Keukenhof’s massive tulip festival).

Strengthening our faith & Finalizing our family mission statement. The mission statement was actually The Hub’s idea and it’s a pretty good one I think. I believe at the core of its success lies our faith – both in each other and in God. Not much brings you closer to God than having a baby. She is our joy but apparently also our salvation and cause to protect, value and cherish all that is good.   Of course there’s plenty more things I hope I can check off my list for 2014…like losing 20 more pounds, finishing my book, selling our house, buying a new home, etc. But 2013 proved that few things are far more important than faith & family – even with less money and personal time and wherever we are, if we are together, I know we’re home.

So here’s to the new year! I hope 2014 brings you joy and all you set out to accomplish yourself. Have a safe & happy New Year’s Eve everyone!

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Holiday Wind Down

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Holiday Wind Down

So after 9 Christmases this year (and our first with the baby) I am beat…and also seven pounds heavier than before all the holiday meals. What’s the return policy on that Christmas gift?

I spent a little while reorganizing, finding homes for the baby’s new stuff and getting everything put away. And it just figures that the next day, even with all these new goodies to play with, she goes straight for her bottle of baby lotion that she likes to pretend is a car.

She’s almost one now and every day she’s doing something new or better than before; Perfecting her new skills and learning her limits (and how far she can push them). We had a lesson yesterday on the word “no”. As a result she continued trying to do what I told her no too but just said “No, No, No!” while doing it…She also somehow learned the word “Brat” though I’m not entirely sure how. 😉

It’s crazy how fast a year goes by now. As a kid, time is endless. You have all of it in the world. Then something happens around the time you turn 25 when all of a sudden you’re 30 and every year you blink in January and it’s December. You bring home a baby from the hospital and suddenly she’s walking and talking (back) and about to turn ONE!

This year has been so amazing the only thing I could possibly wish for is that it didn’t go so fast. But,2014 is within sight and with it brings a whole new year full of new things. For me, it’s saying goodbye to Babyville and welcoming toddlerhood.

The end of the year also means that we now all turn our thoughts to the resolutions we will make (and with luck, some of us may actually keep). Losing weight, Making more money or perhaps making more time, Taking that trip, Saving, Cussing less, Praying more, Eating right, Exercising, Making new friends, Spending more time with old friends, Taking up a new hobby, Taking a risk…

They say if you pick just one resolution you’re more likely to keep it; though I disagree. For me I have been circling around a few. I am, after all, the list queen. And when it comes to New Year’s resolutions I’ve never been a fan of putting all your eggs in one basket. Besides, having more than one increases your odds of keeping at least one as far as I’m concerned.

Whatever it may be I’m sure you’ve got at least one thing in mind. One of mine I know for sure will be to lose these 7 new pounds Christmas gifted me with!

Duck & Dollar Bills Y’all

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I’m sure A&E hasn’t surprised anyone by their decision not to stop filming Duck Dynasty and to end the hiatus with Phil Robertson. The only thing I’m surprised by is their press release about why they are doing it. You’re not fooling anyone, we know you just don’t want to lose all the money that show makes you to another network. At the end of the day both A&E and The Robertsons are still quacking all the way to the bank.

So the moral of the story kiddos is twofold:

1) You can speak your mind but only if you’re saying what they want you to or making them enough money and;

2) Money is all it’s quacked up to be. Nothing else matters when enough of it is on the line.

So who's quacking now?

So who’s quacking now?

Christmases & Blessings A’Plenty

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This year is Adriana’s first Christmas and we have 9 Christmases altogether. Needless to say holidays are usually busy for us and involve lots of traveling around. We spent the first with my step-father in the Smoky Mountains where it was beautiful and more like spring than winter. We had our Christmas with the baby on Christmas Eve morning followed by my grandmother’s, The Hub’s grandmother, and step-father’s family and Christmas Day at his mother’s followed by her family, then his father’s and finally one with my mother.

It was 77 degrees in The Smokies while we were there and yet was still alive with Christmas

It was 77 degrees in The Smokies while we were there and yet was still alive with Christmas

I have to say, as cute as it has been so far watching our little girl open her first Christmas gifts ever, I realize more and more (and more especially now) that it’s all that you have that money just can’t buy that are the greatest gifts of all. Our budget was much tighter this year but, all things considered, we’ve ended up with so much more than ever before. God has blessed me with a beautiful, happy and healthy baby girl who radiates the purest joy. I have a husband who both challenges and supports me every day and who even when I want to scream at I love with the deepest part of my heart. I have a family that believes in me and encourages me in all things.  My home is modest but it’s more than I’ve ever had and is a product of our hard work and I know it will only get better from here. I am humble and appreciative and I have an unbreakable faith in a God who gives me reason to rejoice and be thankful every single day…yes, even when things don’t go as planned.

Even raining it was magical

Even raining it was magical

It’s hard to believe the new year will be here in a week. I both look forward to all the new firsts we get to experience and also wish time wasn’t seeming to move so fast. In a few short weeks my baby is going to be a year old!!

One final Christmas craft with the baby. It's hard to believe these little fingers are going to be a year old in just a few weeks!

One final Christmas craft with the baby. It’s hard to believe these little fingers are going to be a year old in just a few weeks!

But for the here and now it’s still 2013 and even more importantly than that, it’s Christmas. It’s the season of peace, love, and joy. Faith, hope and wonder. Giving and appreciating all that you have received. Sometimes your white Christmas ends up being an unexpected and even rainy spring break. Sometimes that silver lining is actually a golden shower. Sometimes the hardest challenges turn out to be the biggest blessings in disguise. And no matter how dark it is, there is always a bright side. This is what I’m reminded of during the holidays. I hope that you find that in your holiday season and I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and more blessings than you can count in the coming new year.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Merry Christmas everyone!

Countdown to Christmas – Last Minute & Backup Gift Ideas

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Countdown to Christmas – Last Minute & Backup Gift Ideas

It’s the final week! 7 more days until Christmas! One more week to get the rest of your shopping, wrapping, planning, preparing and traveling all done.

With all the excitement during the holiday rush it happens from time to time that you find yourself empty-handed for the giving but on the receiving end of an unexpected gifter. If you’re like me and have a long list of family and friends to buy for during the holidays, it’s bound to come up. Maybe the brother brings the girl he has been dating for a short while who you have only met a couple times; Maybe a distant cousin shows up for the family dinner; Or that crazy uncle of yours that no one knew was coming. Whatever the case may be, being prepared for the unexpected is the way to go. Now’s the time to stock up on some extras to keep you covered. And hey, even if you don’t forget anyone (good job!) there’s still plenty of reason to go ahead and buy that extra thingamajig for your “just in case” clause. The holidays are great times to score big deals on items you may need in the coming year. And unless all of your friends and family are leap year babies, everyone you know has a birthday coming up in the next twelve months. Why not save yourself some cash and get a jump on that shopping too?

So here’s my list of some thoughtful items that never lose style, can double as a quick gift in a pinch or be put up for a gift later and can fall under any price point or budget:

1) Wine. Folks, wine is the #1 item for a number of reasons: First, it never loses style; Second, it’s universal. It’s a great Christmas gift,  hostess gift, congratulatory gift, birthday gift, etc;  And Third, it’s unisex so you’re covered if you need a gift for a him or a her. Wine also will keep for as long as you need it to – the longer the better in fact. Hell, if you manage to keep it for long enough (which I realize doesn’t usually happen) it may become an even better gift than when you bought it. Just make sure you store it properly. When shopping wines without a particular person in mind, try to stick with the more familiar blends that are popular with most palettes (i.e., Pinot Grigio, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, or Chardonnay). Next, Avoid Labels. If you’re not sure who this gift is for then try to avoid labels that scream girly-girly-froo-froo or bachelor pad.

You can go simple with a bow tied around the bottleneck or a wine gift bag or box. When you’re making your Christmas rounds from parties to family gatherings wine is a great back up to keep in the car for any “just in case” moment.  And they don’t take up much space so you can pack a few if you need to.

2) Winter Accessories. This could be just about anything from ice scrapers to coats but to keep it simple and easy (and make sure you’re covered no matter who it ends up being for) I would stick with some of the ideal standards. A nice scarf can be a perfect gift for a guy or girl. Stick with a pattern and color that’s not too feminine or masculine. Plaids are ideal because they incorporate many colors and compliment a number of styles. A pageboy hat is another ideal item that is unisex. Solid colors like black, brown or grey go with just about anything and anyone’s wardrobe.  A thermos or coffee mug can also be a great gift idea to keep on hand. And if you want to add a nice personal touch you could make a jar of cocoa mix* to go along with it. (*See #4). A nice cozy throw blanket is also great for the season.

3) Sports Novelties. If you come from a sports family then it’s a pretty safe bet that something spotlighting your favorite team will go over just fine with whoever receives it. Think cups/mugs, keychains, bottle openers/bar sets, etc. that can be used by anyone and are practical just in case they’re not a mutual big fan of sports or your team so they can still get use out of it.

4) Homemade for the Holidays. Whether it’s homemade cocoa mix, dip mixes, soup mix, spiced nuts, an ornament, it screams creativity and also adds a caring touch to your gift. And mixes can go a long way so you can just as easily make five gifts as you can one. You can get a few inexpensive baskets from the dollar store and add a few things to make it a nice gift basket. Perhaps a bowl and spreader to go with the dip mix, an ornament or two, a coffee mug to go with the cocoa or bowls for the soup. Just a few items like this together can make a very nice gift with a beautiful presentation.

5) Gift Cards. I saved this one for last because I’m not particularly a fan. It’s not that it’s not a great idea. I mean, it’s unisex, and with Visa/American Express or Mastercard gift cards they can use it anywhere and not just at a particular store so you’re covered for anyone. My trouble with this is the dollar amount and lack of thought that it gives off. (Granted if you’re buying them as a back up for someone you may have forgotten then obviously you’re guilty of the lack of thought thing anyway). But, not being sure who it may be for may make it hard to decide what amount to buy. $10 may be too little and $50 may be too much. You could buy several but you don’t want to just give someone an unwrapped gift card straight from your wallet with no card or envelope or anything. Plus with most of them having an average activation fee of  $3.95 it doesn’t make much sense to be walking around with several of them in your wallet. If you do go this route just make sure they don’t expire in case you don’t end up needing to gift them right away. Most gift cards never expire but some lose their value little by little over time. Be sure to read the fine print on the back before you purchase them.

Want some other gift ideas for your last minute shopping? Try these for some of the special people in your life:

FOR HER: 

For the Bookworm or Foodie – Whether a classic and recently released on the big screen like “The Great Gatsby” or a brand spanking new cookbook like Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman’s “Year of Holidays” you can’t really go wrong with a good read.

For the Trendster – Beanie hats and fingerless gloves are also hot winter items for the younger ladies in your life.

A little Pampering – Regardless of what type of lady is on your list, there is at least one service she could really use right now from one of her local salons/spas. Whether it’s a mani/pedi, facial, massage or just a hair cut and color every woman enjoys and deserves a little bit of pampering.

The Drinker – Wine like a nice pink moscato or riesling are sweet and favorites of many women.

FOR HIM:

For the Comedian – Books may not be on every guy’s wish list but the new book “Ron Burgundy: Let Me Off At The Top! My Classy Life and Other Musings” is sure to be a hit with the movie and comedy lover in your life.

For the Outdoorsman – A fisherman can never have enough tackle; A hunter never enough camo; or for the general outdoorsmen a pair of binoculars or even a tree / bird guide for their nature walks can make a great gift.

For the Sports Fanatic – A sports fan loves anything with their favorite team on it from a tee shirt or hoodie to grilling sets, camping chair, towels, bar sets / glasses, etc.

The Drinker – Craft beer or a good bottle of ‘grandpa’s cough syrup’ never lose style.

Happy shopping!

Christmas Crafts & Controversy

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During a typical Tuesday at Oma’s the group was gathered and making small talk like we so often do when the conversation turned to the latest controversies about Christmas. In The Netherlands there has been some complaining over their old standing  tradition involving Sinterklaas (St. Nicholas) and his sidekick, Zwarte Piet. As is usually the case, people without all the details or knowledge of something get offended and cause enough of a ruckus over something that they ruin it for everyone. In The Netherlands this is their tradition. If you don’t like it then don’t participate or better yet, don’t live there. I hate that in this country we have let our traditions and customs be ruined by these same types of complainers so I hope that The Netherlands stands their ground and sticks with their tradition. History is history and that is what tradition is based on. I could see perhaps if they were using this character in some negative way but all they seem to be doing is following the tradition of the story. (Which, for those who are interested in knowing, is that Zwarte Piet was a Spanish Moorish servant until St. Nick bought his freedom and he has since gone along with St. Nick to help him on his Christmas rounds. Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet leave presents for the good boys and girls and the bad ones are taken back to Spain in a burlap sack or left  a “roe”, which is a bundle of twigs, or a lump of coal). Nothing about this story screams racism like many are implying. It’s simply history and in history, this is who these characters were and where they came from.

There was also some recent controversy here in the states when a Fox News anchor, Megyn Kelly announced that “Santa is just white”. And it wouldn’t be Christmas without adding to this the ongoing debate over the color of Jesus’ skin too. You just can’t make everyone happy. Any tradition you have seemingly sparks controversy. It’s silly that we are still so uptight about all this and trying to make things much bigger than they really are. You can’t even say “Merry Christmas” anymore without someone taking offense. Better just say “Happy Holidays” to avoid upsetting those who celebrate Hanukkah or Kwanzaa. It’s ridiculous and it’s sad to me. It seems this holiday is becoming nothing but a pissing match over skin color and which religion is “right”. What a shame.

For the record neither Santa nor Jesus are white. They’re Middle Eastern. Sinterklaas (aka St. Nicholas) was Turkish and Zwarte Piet was a spanish (Moorish) servant. And if you’re Christian and really want to get your panties in a bunch, you better take down your Christmas tree too because that part of Christmas all came from a Pagan tradition. The bottom line is that different places and times in history have giving us the many different Christmas traditions we know today so why not just worry about yourself and let others choose what they want to do for themselves?

As for me and my family I am from Dutch descent and I fully intend to share that with my daughter. That means as most Catholic and Europeans do, we will celebrate Sinterklaas (St. Nicholas) night with the traditional shoes on the porch and St. Nicholas who arrives on a great white horse and, of course, with his trusty sidekick Zwarte Piet. We will also celebrate with Santa Claus and his reindeer. And last but certainly not least we will celebrate God and the birth of Christ too. As my daughter gets older and is able to understand the history I will tell her more about how it all came to be. The beauty of it is that, just like we are a conglomeration of our combined and various heritages, so too are our family traditions and she can grow up experiencing and appreciating each of these traditions without feeling like she is committing some mortal sin by doing so.

This is our first Christmas with the baby and I’ve just been overwhelmed by all the things I want to make part of our tradition. I bought a beautifully illustrated version of “The Twelve Days of Christmas” and have been reading it to her every night since twelve days before Christmas Day. So when we’re done with that it’ll be perfect timing to read her “Twas the Night Before Christmas”.

We got an Elf on the Shelf…

Our elf, Maple Sugarmittens

Then there’s family pictures, Christmas cards, driving around to see all the Christmas lights, caroling, cookies and crafts. Oh of course there’s crafts!…

So far we’ve made a cookie platter:

I think the mistletoes on the plate may be more scrumptious than any cookies 🙂

And her first ornaments:

 

Her first ornament I handmade with some mod podge, her birth announcement, some pretty craft paper, embellishments, a wooden block and some satin ribbon

Her first ornament I handmade with some mod podge, her birth announcement, some pretty craft paper, embellishments, a wooden block and some satin ribbon

 

Another cute ornament idea - a pair of her first sneakers. Just make a ribbon bow through the back loops on the shoe and  Voila! Super easy and very cute

Another cute ornament idea – a pair of her first sneakers. Just make a ribbon bow through the back loops on the shoe and Voila! Super easy and very cute

With all these controversy going on it might be easy to lose sight of the real reason for the season…which is peace and joy and goodwill. So to all the Scrooges out there I beg of you, stop trying to ruin it. As with everything, you don’t have to participate in traditions you don’t believe in but for God’s sake don’t ruin it for the rest of us. I don’t celebrate Hanukkah or Kwanzaa but I sure hope those that do have a great one. My daughter’s future husband may for all I know so far be it from me to kvetch about how they celebrate. If that were to happen we’d just be adding Hanukkah to our tradition I guess. The point is folks that the spirit behind all of these beliefs is the same no matter what you believe in – it’s about being together. It’s about love. It’s about giving and celebrating and believing in something greater than ourselves. So this holiday season – whichever it is that you’re celebrating – I wish you and yours a happy one.

Happy Holidays everyone!

 

Thoughts on Flatulence

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I’ve decided that the frequent moments of dingbat dubbed “mommy brain” is due not just to the lack of sleep but also the excessive amounts of gaseous fumes inhaled by them. Flatulence. It’s inescapable. It seems everywhere I turn it’s either The Hub, one of the dogs, or the baby. That doesn’t even include all the bathroom breaks and shitty diapers. And no, I won’t even sit here and pretend I’m innocent in all this either. No one is. Besides, it’s a fact that women can’t NOT fart. If you spend all day trying not to you’ll just end up letting them go all night while you’re asleep and then hear about it later from the one you’re sleeping with (if they decide to tell you, that is). So you may as well just let them go when the urge hits and when you can conveniently blame them on the dog or baby like your husband does. One thing is for sure, whoever the culprit may be, all those fumes have got to have some type of impact on one’s ability to think clearly. I have no actual scientific evidence to back this up but I figure if WebMD can turn every symptom into a death sentence then I certainly a mother’s instinct is better than their formula.

True so far

True, so far! 😉 

Happy Friday y’all.  Have a great weekend!

Popstars, Principles & Probably a Million Other Possible Meanings

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Weirdly enough this came to me in a dream as a note I was trying to send to Katy Perry. It also involved John Mayer and snakes. Yeah. Dreams are weird. But the message isn’t.  So I guess just in case you’re reading this Miss Perry listen up:

 Don’t fall in love with the ideal of something so much that you forget to honor the principles of it.

Don't fall in love with the ideal of something so much that you forget to honor the principles of it. -Stephanie Rader, The Write Side of Life

Don’t fall in love with the ideal of something so much that you forget to honor the principles of it. -Stephanie Rader, The Write Side of Life

Madiba

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You could spend a year quoting some of the wisdom of Nelson Mandela and perhaps still not cover it all. So I’m not going to even attempt to find some new wise words to try to describe his life – Especially when so many of his own words speak a million times more profound than anything I could think of. No, instead I will simply say:

RIP to a man of great hope, faith, passion, and wisdom.

Wise words from a wise man

Wise words from a wise man

One of my favorites

One of my favorites

RIP Nelson Mandela

RIP Nelson Mandela