Archive | December, 2012

practicing what I preach :: toy library

Old-time readers of my blog will know that I love the book Simplicity Parenting; I wrote a book review about it for the blog almost a year ago.  In one section of the book the author suggests starting a toy library.  Try putting out only a few toys at at time for your child to play with and then switching up the available toys every few weeks or so.

Well, I’ve been trying to incorporate this idea into my parenting for awhile now, and anyone will tell you that I’ve been less than faithful.  However, on Christmas Eve night, as I crawled around the floor on my hands and knees tidying up Lena’s toys (as I do every evening… and after every nap… and after we leave one room for another…), my husband shook his head and said, “What about that toy library, honey?”

I looked at the present Lena had just opened and the pile of presents to be opened tomorrow over the next several days and agreed with him.  I dumped out her toy basket and removed everything except a relatively new alphabet puzzle and the gift she had just opened.  Everything else went into her toy library bin.  Many of the smaller items had to be organized into Ziploc bags.

(Do you see that white garbage bag under all these toys?  That is full of infant toys, which I’ll be breaking out at the end of January for our new baby!  And so the toy multiplication continues….)

The blue bin went back up on her closet, to be taken down again in a couple weeks, when Christmas toys will be put away and old favorites will be pulled out again.

By the time I was finished (not even 15 minutes later), all that remained in her toy basket was the puzzle, a few balls, and her new baby doll and accessories.  Oh, and the box the baby came in, which I think makes a nice little cradle.  Simplicity parenting, right?!

Have you ever done something like this for your kids?  Or would you like to when you have some? :-)

6 :: in good reads, holidays, Lena, motherhood

Christmas morning!

Puuuuuullll off that wrapping paper!
Oh Christmas morning in Sicily, I hope you are the start of our family Christmas tradition!  It was a quiet, peaceful morning for the three of us as we opened a few gifts at a time (still haven’t opened all of them!) and ate a big Christmas breakfast together.  Although we kept our gift-giving very simple for each other, our family showered us with many thoughtful presents from afar, and their evident love for us made them seem not so far away.  While we loved our Christmas as a little family here in Sicily, we would have given it up in a heartbeat to share our Christmas morning with them!

Later that day we changed out of our pajamas for a Christmas party with friends at Emily and Patrick’s… and then of course as soon as we got home the pajamas went right back on and Elliott started a fire in the hearth.  We finished the evening with Skype chats with our family.  
One thing I couldn’t forget all day: last year my family was here for Christmas.  I tried to hold Christmas Past (which included my sister Julia) hand-in-hand with Christmas Present, carrying with me the blessings as well as the aches.  There is so much to be thankful for this year, truly, and even more to look forward to both in this coming year and into the future.
Did you come up with any new rituals or celebrations this year that you hope become traditions?  I’m not sure what I think of spreading out the gift opening over four days…!  Have you ever done that?
9 :: in family, holidays, home sweet home, husband, Lena

Christmas Eve brunch at our home

Buncha munchkins, aren’t they?!

We have a huge farmhouse table in our kitchen, a wonderful bonus that came with our house here in Sicily.  I love to fill it up with guests as often as seems feasible; the table is just so empty (and such a good collector of odds and ends!) when there are just three of us eating at it all the time. 

For Christmas Eve, we invited our dear friends the Arthurs and a family we don’t know as well to come over for brunch.  All of us contributed family traditions to the Christmas meal: Monte Cristo bake from Jaime, sausage and egg casserole from Becca, and these cinnamon rolls from me.  With fruit skewers, fresh bacon, juices, hot wassail, and big cups of coffee, we feasted! 

All the kids clearly loved being together from that first cup of juice to the last minute of The Muppet Christmas Carol (which they are waiting for in the photo above).  Meanwhile we adults spent hours around the table, nibbling on just one more delicious bite and exchanging life stories, travel wisdom, and how to acquire Polish pottery for the best price (Jaime and I are great lovers of this pottery!).

The truth is that if we were living back in the States, all of us would probably have spent Christmas Eve and/or Christmas Day at our parents’ homes.  This long and leisurely brunch make “home” seem not so far away, which I think is always true whenever you make someone your favorite dish, join hands with them in prayer, and linger long at their table.

Were you away from family this Christmas?  What did you do to make it memorable?  With one more Christmas ahead of us here in Sicily away from family, I’m eager to hear suggestions!

5 :: in eat this, friends, holidays, hospitality

our book tree + Christmas cheer!

our book tree! 

now with presents… all we need is Christmas morning

Merry Christmas, dear readers!  I’ve been wanting to share our holiday decor with you for awhile, but… well, until a few days ago we didn’t have a tree at all, so that would have been a bit of a bust.  The other afternoon, though, I had an extra hour and decided to surprise Elliott when he came home with another book tree.  We made our first one last year and loved it, as there is no better tree for budget-conscious nerds like us.  (It also completely eliminates the “are we fake tree people or real tree people??” debate.)  This year our tree is elevated out of the reach of little hands on my craft table, and it has made that dark corner of the living room come alive.

(By the way, I scored the cute vintage mitten wrapping paper and the retro stripe paper from IKEA earlier this week.  So pretty!)

And, of course, there are the other holiday decorations for our home, like garlands on the bannisters and bows on the door (although I loved our red ones last year even more than these glittery gold bows).  I also love displaying my grandmother’s gift to us: a tiny little tree from Switzerland with its precious wooden ornaments.

I will tell you that I had another tree first.  It was quite beautiful and creative, and I was pleased today when Martha Stewart’s Organizing Tip of the Day email had the same idea.  I took two medium-sized tree branches, spray-painted them gold, and put them in a glass vase.  I then carefully hung all our beautiful handmade ornaments (again, thank you, Grammie, for your gift of a handmade ornament every year of my life!) on the branches as well as two beautiful glass ball ornaments that Elliott and I had purchased soon after we got married.

Unfortunately it was a little top heavy, I guess.  It fell over.  The casualty?  One of those newlywed glass ornaments smashed into a million pieces!  I dismantled the tree and took the branches out to the trash heap.  Sorry, honey, I have a long way to go before I’m Martha!

9 :: in family, holidays, home sweet home

IKEA thru Instagram

Around here it seems like people make their IKEA shopping lists over the course of a month or two before braving the store to stock up. My friend Becca and I were in that boat, needing storage bins, holiday wrapping paper, potted ivy plants, plastic kids’ dishes, etc.  Earlier this week we joined forces and took off for the endless, winding halls of IKEA, kids in tow.

You know you love IKEA when your kids start playing with amazing toys 
as soon as they walk through the door.

On the right: Lucas prepares a meal for Lena as she patiently waits.
(Of course in reality this scene lasted for about 0.4 seconds, or however long it takes my phone to snap a picture.)

Ah, the toy section, where both parents and kids can spend ever so long.

The ice cream machine in the cafeteria is a huge highlight of the trip.
Anticipation… and joy!
(And the perfect t-shirt.)
Beautiful Christmas decorations, IKEA.  You win.
There’s a happy face!  
(I actually don’t think she’s ever had her own ice cone before… and she would not share with her mama.)
And there’s a tired one.  
Time to roll out.

N.B. My husband thought I should inform you that this is not a sponsored post by IKEA or Instagram.

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7 :: in friends, Instagram, Lena, life lately

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