Holidays // don't know where to start

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

So much to report that I've been putting it off, and don't really know where to start, so I'll just START.

First: today, New Year's Eve, marks 9 years since the mister and I had our first date. New Year's Eve for a first date? I know, I know. Being generally dorky and not much into wild NYE partying (still true), it turned out to be the perfect first date (obviously, since this thing has worked out for us pretty well so far, heehee).

We went to eat pizza, then went to play Super Mario Bros. version 1 at his townhouse (our future home of 4 years). Maybe one day I'll chronicle out our "love story" as bloggers do, but until then, here's a gem of a photo for ya:

That there was probably our 2nd or 3rd time hanging out, when we beat the game with Luigi, and we took a picture because we figured ole Luigi hadn't gotten to beat the game nearly as many times as brother Mario. Kids, we were! I was on Christmas break of my junior year of college, and Jonathan was 2 years out of school working at a big-boy job with benefits (and a fancy TV, as you can see!).

So yeah! Rounding the corner of a decade since our first date, and I love it. It's sort of crazy to me now, approaching 30, that my entire adult life has been wrapped up with this man, but oh he is wonderful. I love him.

And yes, Christmas! It was magical.

I was able to take several days off from work and be home pretty much 5-6 days leading up to the big day, so that was super fun since Jonathan was off too, and the girls' school was closed. I love spending my days with those three when given the chance!

I did 90% of my shopping online this year, and most of it on Cyber Monday, so I wasn't panicky about gifts really at all. Santa brought Juliette this cute dollhouse (which...thankfully, I got a way better deal on it than I'm seeing anywhere right now), and Molly this ball popper and a Pinhole Press Mini Book of Names and Faces, which I'm sort of obsessed with.

After playing with Santa gifts for a minute and opening our stockings, we headed over to my parents' house for the day! It was such a cozy, relaxed day. Loved every minute.

Sweet little Jane love...

(I tried taking a pic of us three gals before getting in the car to go to Grammy's, and this is what happened. Molly's face is so funny to me.)

Before the big day, we had fun times of note as well. Every year on Christmas Eve, we host a brunch at our house for whatever family happens to be in town. This is a tradition I started back in the townhouse days. I think this is our 5th year doing it (took a year off when Jules got sick). I never blog about it because I'm usually out of gas afterward and then it's Christmas and then blah blah Christmas is over so it seems passe, but I'm going to go ahead and write about it or it'll never be documented. The menu stays the same pretty much every year, and it consists of this:

1. PW Cinnamon Rolls
2. This breakfast casserole with sun-dried tomatoes (it's SO GOOD)
3. A simple sausage/egg breakfast casserole
4. Some sort of fruit bread (usually raspberry/almond from Joy the Baker, thanks Mandi! One of my faves)
5. Fruit, coffee, tea, etc.

This year, my brother made a wonderful vegetarian breakfast casserole, along with some ridiculous maple bacon, and my mom brought her yummy potato casserole. Delish, all of it!

We are so blessed that our parents live in the same town (and we each have a sibling living here too!), so when this concept came about, it was in search of a way to have them all at the same place at least once during the holidays. We just love having them all in our home this time every year!

At the brunch, my nephew from Jonathan's side, and my niece (my sister's baby) got to hang out. They are not quite 5 weeks apart! Look at these little darlings, Jonah and Jane, with their pretty mommies!

A new tradition (if you can call it that) that we started this year was stringing up the Christmas cards we received on our big picture window in the dining room. I have loved looking at all of these beautiful photos every day!

That sweet grin! gah.

It was bittersweet packing up all the Christmas gear this year, not knowing for sure where we will be spending Christmas 2014. But, it's a year we've looked to for a long time now, and I can't believe it's finally here. We will be ready for wherever the Lord wants to take us!

My feet and I are ready to take on anything!

(I can quit talking about these now and just enjoy toasty toes! Thank you, Santa!)

2013 Christmas Card

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

From our home to yours...

Merry merry Christmas! Christ is born!

We are immeasurably blessed.

Thanks to the very talented Laura Stephens for help with the card, and Stephen Jerkins for the photo.

Cookie Exchange 2013

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Although you wouldn't know it from this blog, we have really been enjoying the Christmas season around our house.

One of my favorite annual holiday traditions is the cookie exchange that we do with my Sunday school class/Bunko group. This was my 8th year! Sheesh, that makes me feel old.

This year, I decided to try my hand at another peppermint cookie. Way back in the dark ages of 2009 (ha), I made a peppermint palmier for the exchange; this year, I was going to try for more of a peppermint sugar cookie. I love peppermint things, but cookies can be hard to do in such a flavor. (Btw, how funny are 4-year-old posts?)

Using one of the all-time best cookie recipes as a base, my mother-in-law's wonderful thumbprint recipe, I started there and ended up with this:

I have to say, this is all I have ever hoped for in a peppermint cookie. (Not all I have ever hoped for in my fingernails in that photo, though, eeesh.)

I made sure to keep vanilla extract, as well as peppermint, in both the cookie and the frosting, to sort of balance out the minty flavor that can sometimes be overwhelming.

Packaging I kept simple this year. I saw these bags in Michaels and grabbed em...already had these labels at home, and found the graphic on Hannah's recommendation.

I just slipped the folded recipes in the bottom of the bags, and stapled the tops. Ribbon would've been nice obviously , but didn't want to take the time this year...

My friend Anna texted me at 11 PM the night before the exchange, "please tell me i'm not the only crazy one up baking." I texted her back this photo:

Why are they always late nights? No matter how much prep you do (I had my dough made, rolled out, and frozen two nights ahead)... I digress.

These puppies tied for best overall, but I lost in the re-vote. If you're looking for a delicious cookie to make for Christmas, try 'em out!

Peppermint Thumbprints

1 cup butter, room temp
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 cups flour
2 egg yolks
1 tsp peppermint extract
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Combine ingredients. Roll into balls and bake at 350 degrees for 5 minutes. Remove, press a thumbprint into each cookie, and bake for another 8-10 minutes. Cool on a wire rack and fill with peppermint buttercream, and top with peppermint crumbs.

Peppermint Buttercream Frosting

1/2 stick butter, room temp
2-ish cups powdered sugar
1/2 tsp peppermint extract
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
2T or more crushed soft peppermint candies (in food processor)

Combine ingredients and adjust milk/sugar to reach desired consistency. Add crushed peppermint candies until it reaches desired pinkness (or taste).

As a bonus for you:

Christmas jammies!

Santa dresses!

 (Molly with a missing shoe, electric socket in the background...real life)

Hope you are enjoying the season, and doing whatever you can to make it simpler. I need to practice what I preach.

p.s. December 17, a date I will always remember. Thankful for our healthy Jules.

(sad, only 3 posts to commemorate)
cookie exchange 2012
cookie exchange 2010
cookie exchange 2009

Some Great Pants

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

I randomly mentioned on another post having some Target pants to talk about, and never did, but seeing as I've bought them in multiple colors (and sizes, actually), I figured these deserved a post all on their own.

I can't describe accurately in the written word. They're awesome. They're skinny enough to wear with booties or tall boots, whatever your preference. They're work appropriate. They're not jeans. They're warm-ish. Come in multiple colors. Inexpensive. And (I think), they're pretty flattering? We're still rocking a postpartum situation over here, so I can't really tell, but I think they are? Come to think of it, they're definitely flattering on my friend(s) who have also bought them, so the answer is yes, they're flattering. Check them out! I found a herringbone pair at my Target this week! Cuuuute.

p.s. why isn't Target's website better? It's so surprising.

We Went to Florida - And There Was (Almost) an Ice Storm at Home

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Last week, my darling husband and I had a 48-hour trip planned to Florida, just the two of us, for one of Jonathan's interviews. Hilariously, as the trip approached, so did warnings about Icemageddon 2013. Nevertheless, we left our children in the very capable hands of their grandparents, and skipped town Wednesday, laughing in the rear view mirror at the weather forecast (not really...we wanted our babies to be safe and warm, obviously).

Somehow (!?!?!), I contracted a terrible ear infection (children unscathed, I mean really--gah, that was so painful) the night before the flight, so I was rushing around to the doctor before we left, getting a few shots, nose sprays, and medicines to make the air travel more bearable. Lemme just say, if you have an ear infection... don't fly if you can help it. Oh my goodness. There were a few dicey minutes there, but I emerged from the flight with both eardrums intact.

Our wonderful direct flight deposited us safely Hello lush Tampa airport! So nice to see you!

We headed straight from the airport to the hotel via our mid-sized rental car (a process which took an astoundingly short 20 minutes, wtg Tampa airport), and arrived in time to prepare for dinner.

Lovely downtown St. Petersburg (which is beautiful and so walkable!).

Breakfast at the hotel the first morning, all by my lonesome. What a treat.

St Pete Beach, all decorated for Christmas: 

This jewelry store in downtown St. Petersburg has been around since 1904! I thought the building's architecture was interesting.

From St. Petersburg, we moved on to a night in Clearwater Beach, for the little "vacation" portion of our whirlwind trip. To say it was lovely is an understatement. Evidence here:

Throughout our whole trip, a midst the 83-degree-and-sunny weather, we just kept giggling to each other at all the Christmas decorations. They felt so out of place at the summery beach, but they were charming nonetheless. We loved our grouper sandwiches at Frenchy's in Clearwater Beach. I just love painted Christmas window scenes.

View from our room the morning of the impending ice storm. 28 degrees at our house when I took this. It really felt like a joke.

Rain, sleet, and 20 degrees greeted us in Memphis upon our return - the contrast could not have been more stark. But nothing could rival the sweetness of seeing our babies' faces light up when we were reunited!

I liked you, Tampa Bay!

Reminder: 2014 One Page Calendar

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

I posted this puppy wayyy back in August (since I was strangely on-the-ball this year)... but I thought since it's now late November, and the new year is coming for us, I'd remind you guys that you can find the handy one-page 2014 calendar for download here in color, and here in black and white (if you so desire).

A visual.

Happy Thanksgiving, friends! May your holiday be full of rest and some fun in the kitchen!

Jane, and JT (and other miscellany)

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Sometimes when I want to do something "justice" in blog post form, I procrastinate doing it because a) it's my nature and b) requires real mental energy. So here goes. (Lots of photos ahead!)

My darling niece, Jane Frances, was born November 9. My sister has been a total champ through her entire pregnancy, and handled her labor & delivery the exact same way, with her usual grace and easy composure (though her labor & delivery really seemed to be a dream!).

Look at this beautiful love...

I cannot fully express how excited I am for these little stair-step girl cousins! I pray for my girls and all of the cousins they're blessed to have (6 total now!) that they will have lifelong friendships.

All of the "Guinn girls"....

Meeting Uncle Jonny...

And this! I put this on instagram, but I have really dreamed of this moment since Martha told me that Frances was potentially Jane's middle name (they waited until after she was born to tell us).

Here's Molly Frances, Martha Frances, and Jane Frances in one photo, sweetly honoring our Granny. I miss her so much!

Look at sweet Jane wrapped in her "Granny blanket."

Between Jane, my month-old precious nephew Jonah, and the brand-new baby next door, we are surrounded by new life! It has been so fun and incredible.

In other news, one of my best friends Mandi and I enjoyed seeing Justin Timberlake in Memphis this week (his hometown, represent!). Actually, I think "enjoyed" is sort of a lame word to describe how much fun it was. Oh man.

The Mayor declared it "JT Day" in Memphis, and boy did we show him the love.

(Playing "Until the End of Time")
He knows how to put on a show, that's for sure. I wish I could go again (and again). The choreography, lights, everything..."top shelf" as they say. And, for crying out loud, he put on a Grizzlies hat for the encore. I love that.

In other news, my brother is here visiting baby Jane, and we enjoyed taking a trip to the zoo with him. This is typical Juliette right now...
on the move!

A Blur! (Maybe that should be her "superhero" name?)

And this baby? My lands. Look at that face.

Life is good.

Juliette at 2 years, three months

Thursday, November 14, 2013

We need to quit being surprised by this one. She's funny. And chatty.

(with her bff Elliot)

Her newest thing is going to "da football game." Daddy and I took her to a Memphis Tigers game about a month ago, and she looooved it. As we were leaving, she was saying, "Daddy, I wanna go back in da football game" over and over. Has not stopped talking about it since. Daddy and Papa took her to another one this past Saturday, and oh my goodness, life is made. This morning, she gave me another full recap of their time at da football game: "I saw da fireworks, and the bubbles, and the band with the trumpets, and the tiger and everyone was there. I wanna go to another football game." 

She still loves to sing. It is one of my favorite things she does. I think she is pretty good. I have noticed that whenever she asks me to sing a song I don't recognize the name of, I'll ask, "how does it go?" and she says without blinking, "in da moufth." Touche, my dear. Touche.

Another new fave is pulling Molly in the wagon. Be still my heart.

Potty training is going pretty well. She has been waking up in the early morning hours asking to go, so that is a good sign I think. She's really trying to stay dry. 

She has been doing a great job being gentler with Molly over the past week or two. When we aren't looking, Jonathan and I have both noticed her being extra sweet to Molly, or reading to her, or bringing her toys. Watching the two of them together ... it just doesn't get any better than that. 

She also started dance class last week and that has been a big hit (for all of us... I mean, the outfit alone!). 

Is it weird to say your 2-year-old reminds you of Jo March already?

Molly Frances // 8 months old

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

One of these days I will kick myself in gear for months 4-7, but I'm just gonna go ahead and throw this one out there anyway.

Molly is 8 months old!

What an absolute joy. She has the easiest nature. I always say she is just happy to be there, and it's really true. Any smiles or attention she gets are always welcome, as she is very engaging with everybody. She is getting pretty busy in her play endeavors, and is very good at playing by herself. She loves playing near her big sissy, and especially with sister's toys (namely, anything to do with the play kitchen).

Big strides between months 7-8: first teeth came out, the bottom two simultaneously! Not without some heartache though (and Tylenol). Other developmental milestones she just knocked out this month: non-commando-crawling, pulling up, and even cruising while pulled up! She is also really into clapping. Break my heart, why don't ya.

Molly wears 6-12 month clothing, size 3 diaper (about to be size 4), and still nurses/gets 8 oz bottles 4x/day (depending on if it's a workday or not). She also made strides in the eating solids dept. this definitely eating dinner every day, and started eating at school too. She likes the organic puree pouches so that has been nice. I lightly puree the food we eat if I actually cook something for dinner and she has been pretty non-picky once she got over the mechanical hump of actually being able to eat.

Sleeping: definitely sleeps all night, between 11-12 hours/night. YES. Naps at school are atrocious. Too curious about what's going on. But on the weekends, she'll nap between 45 min-hour in the mornings and 2 hours in the afternoon.

We are all smitten over this little one! Love watching her grow.

Halloween Ain't for Sissies

Friday, November 01, 2013

My parenting career has been a relatively short one thus far, but I more or less mantra'd the title of this post yesterday morning during a particularly marathon of school drop-offs (akin to this one).

Molly is almost 8 months old and thus carrying her in the infant seat has become no easy task. Add in steady rain (just short of "downpour" status), a little wind, a wily 2-year-old, two Halloween costumes, a tupperware container of cookies for the Halloween party, and a backpack with bottles in it (oh yes, that definitely spilled during the hubbub of transit), and you've got a crazy ten minutes of life.

Juliette: "Imma ride under the umbrella, Mommy!"
me: "Not enough hands today, baby!"

Meanwhile...just look at this turtle. I love her.

Hooray for the costume hand-me-down! We were both so excited to see this one again! Anything cuter than this?  ----->

And my here's my shark:

Re: the shark costume, we had to do a little cajoling when it first came in the mail (via ebay). When we first pulled it out, she said, "Daddy, I don't like that. Put it back in the box."

Eventually (this is probably awful to admit but we're not above bribing at times), Jonathan said, "I will give you two M&Ms if you put this on." She immediately countered with, "How 'bout three."

By the time trunk-or-treat rolled around this past Sunday night, she was all warmed up to the shark, and yesterday, for the school party had totally embraced it. Last night, she didn't want to take it off, and asked me this morning if she could put it back on. (It's now nice and covered with candy drool, mainly from her beloved "lollipops," which probably need to disappear now.)

Here's a pretty awful/awfully blurry family shot from the "parade" yesterday at the girls' school. but it seems that when it comes to family shots, it's a take-what-you-get sort of situation?

In other parenting-toddlers news (if you're interested), this blog post on tantrums (and subsequently this post) have been sorta rocking my world. Juliette really hasn't been a tantrum-thrower until the past several months and I've sort of been clueless on how to handle it. These posts are full of practical, godly advice and have totally resonated with me in an extremely helpful. The not-letting-them-collapse-on-the-floor thing has been huge. If you are in the dealing-with-tantrums season of life, may I encourage you to give these a read!

Here's a little nugget for you (source): When your child erupts into a tantrum, God has given you a BIG moment where you can teach your child to listen to you, to trust your instructions over his/her feelings, and to have self-control in the midst of disappointment, frustration, rage, or uncertainty. This is an investment in your child's future-- you are teaching him/her to be emotionally stable and not fly off the handle into rages or controlling emotions because of life's disappointments. You are training him/her how to respond to challenges and difficulties.

See? Gold.

Whew, I digress. Ha! It was a great Halloween! Can't believe it's November! My niece will be here so SOON! Can't wait.

Halloween 2012

Two in Diapers, and Pumpkins

Monday, October 28, 2013

So, I don't mind.

Listen here: when I was pregnant with Molly, and Juliette was very apparently still a baby, people in public (and some friends/acquaintances) would cluck to themselves and say, "Hmm, two in diapers...that'll be fun."

And I would counter with something along the lines of (but probably a little less smart-alecky), "What sounds fun about potty-training and having a newborn?"

Now that we've hit the iceberg of training with Jules, I just keep thinking, "man, diapers are so easy!" This is obviously short-term thinking, but is it terrible to say I'm glad she's been in diapers until now, with Molly being generally a little easier to care for too?

We had a great weekend full of trunk or treat at church, a fall festival attendance, a Halloween "spooky" concert, and even a fire in the fireplace. Here's documentation of some of that, though I'm going to withhold photos of their costumes until after Halloween night (it seems only right).

(Thanks to the venerable J. Grant Burke for these awesome pumpkin photos.)

As I said on instagram, I love how Molly is bracing herself in this one (a learned survival skill, at this point):

This almost perfectly captures my wild girl...
 And my darling little Molly Wolly...

I saw someone (male) say on facebook that pumpkins and babies are like "mommy crack." Over the past few weeks, my social media feeds have definitely reflected this. And here I am, contributing to it.

On an unrelated note, we took our bi-weekly trip to Costco (when our biweekly grocery budget renews), and I wanna shout out to those double carts. SO FUN! Juliette holding the cheese, of course.

Crazy about these cuties.

Notes: Molly's headband is from my fave new-to-me headband shop, bloomies handmade. And their little peplum jackets are from baby Gap (Molly's here but Jules' isn't on the website anymore). So cute. Oh! And I am crazy over my Robeez mocs find on Amazon for Molly. They're even lined with fleece!
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