Wednesday, December 31, 2014

the 2014 analysis

2014 is finally drawing to a close. It was the best of years, it was, just the best of years. That's all. There was probably bad stuff in the pre-August 5 days, but I don't even remember. It was the very best year ever.

I've done a variety of lame year-end reviews over the last few years.. For 2013 and 2012 I skipped the depressing annual life-review survey/questionnaire of 2011 , 2010, and 2009 and moved towards just analyzing my blog instead. Navel gazing? Probably yes. Interesting to me? Definitely yes. Interesting to anyone else? You decide. Feel free to skip out if numbers and percentages aren't your thing. But if you're a big nerd like me (slash just plain nosey...also like me), read on!

All data is obtained from Google Analytics, a.k.a. my best frenemy.

Also, if you have an excellent memory (OR you are totally obsessed with me and reread my archives on a daily basis...extremely likely...), you may think that some of my explanations here sound familiar. That's because I just copy-pasted some of my explanations from last year. It's not plagiarism if it's something YOU wrote, right? Right. And I explained it so nicely last time...I could I possibly improve on that? I shouldn't even try.

Between January 1, 2014 and December 30, 2014 (at 2:20 p.m.), this blog had...
-174,500 visits (a 100.2% increase from 2013!)
-282,349 pageviews (a 113.46% increase from 2013!)
-an average visit duration of 1 minute and 30 seconds (that's a tragic decrease of about 24 seconds from last year...I'm going to have to start packing more cute pictures towards the bottom to entice you to stick around longer!)
-1,087 visits that lasted for more than 30 minutes-- these visitors get the 'quality time' award. (And don't worry, those of you fretting that you might be skewing the very important numbers here because you sometimes just leave the window open with my blog pulled up...Google is smart and it only counts your time for as long as you're 'actively engaged' with the page- clicking stuff, won't count your time if you leave the computer on my page for 2 hours while you take a nap!)

In terms of "Referrals"-- sites that send traffic my way...
(I'm not including feed readers- BlogLovin, Feedly, etc.- this year, though the various readers together combine to make up the vast majority of my 'referrals.' But they're boring, so we'll skip them.)
*I'm including the number of visits and number of 'new visits' because that's really interesting to me. 'New visits' means it's the first time Google has recorded that person (IP address, really) ever coming here. If you return again, even via the same referring site, your visit gets recorded, but you're not a 'new visitor' anymore.

#1- Meet the Joiners: 6,751 visits; 6.4% new visits 

#2- Two Hearts and One Dream: 5,277 visits; 11.96% new visits
#3- Genuine Greavu: 4,879 visits; 9.26% new visits 
#4- Kelly's Korner; 4,745 visits; 23.12% new visits (As far as I remember, I only participated in one of her 'show us your life' link-ups this year (the Christmas decor one a few weeks ago), so most of this traffic is repeat visitors from past link-ups.)
#5- Ummmm...myself: 4,119 visits; .53% new visits (Gonna be honest, don't understand this one...not sure how my own blog counts as a referral? Anyone know?)

(We'll do a bonus #6 since #5 was stupid...)
#6- Stories of a Stay at Home Mom: 2,124 visits; 18.46% new visits

-In all, there are 409 'referring sites.' That seems like a lot, but it's a little misleading because of the way Analytics breaks down the sites now. For instance, if the referring website was being viewed as a .ca or .uk (as opposed to .com), it counts it separately. So (for example) it has my referrals from Aubrey's blog, which I and most (all?) Americans view as www.aubreyandnick.blogspot.COM (except we wouldn't capitalize the COM, but it's there for emphasis), broken down into like 10 different things. There are thousands of referrals from the address I just wrote, but then a couple hundred more from www.aubreyandnick.blogspot.CA (I guess those are Canadian referrals), more from www.aubreyandnick.blogspot.AE (no clue), more from www.aubreyandnick.blogspot.DE (no idea)...and more and more and more. You get the idea. Even though Aubrey only has one blog and REALLY all of my referrals are all coming from that one place, it's broken down into at least 10 different sub-referrals and I'd have to pick through and add them all up to find out how many people Aubrey REALLY sent my way. Make sense? It's dumb. And this is for EVERY referring webpage, not just Aubrey's! So...that's why I know there aren't really 409 DIFFERENT referring sites. End of rant.

18,643 people found their way here by Googling something. 22.68% of those were first time visits.

Unfortunately for us all, all of the top 50 search terms are really boring and predictable (like "something beautiful blog" or "erika matt something beautiful" or "something beautiful infertility"). And I don't feel like digging around to find the really funny ones that are buried somewhere on page 41. Womp.

My 10 most popular posts/pages, by number of pageviews:
-Homepage (171,451)

-Redemption (2,458)
-Chosen, Again (1,665)
-A Christmas Grammar Intervention (1,540)
-About Me (1,502)
-Christmas Tour 2014 (1,440)
-Weekend Distractions (1,416)
-Infertility & Adoption (1,315)
-Babies Don't Keep (1,255)
-Baby Updates. I'm Out of Creative Titles, Sorry. (1,218)

My personal favorite posts of 2014 (in no particular order):

-The Logistics of Caring (it's not that I love what I wrote so much, it's that YOUR SUGGESTIONS ALL CHANGED MY LIFE and helped me to be a much better human being and friend- I reread that comment section frequently!!)
-Ask the Gym Fashion Expert! (also, it's the comment section that kills me. HILARIOUS.)
-Beauty Will Rise
-Babies Don't Keep

Favorite picture of 2014:

from Babies Don't Keep

It's not that I look great or Millie looks particularly cute- it's just that it's the picture that reminds me of how incredibly happy and grateful I felt in 2014. This is the me I always wanted to be.

Not shockingly, 2014 will go down in the books as my favorite year ever. I feel like I say that plenty enough, which is why I didn't think a 'life recap' end-of-the-year post was really necessary...but in case it wasn't 110% abundantly clear...

2014: The Year We Became a Family of Three

Best. Year. Ever.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

hi and bye, christmas!

Millie's first Christmas(es) have come and gone...a lot more quickly than I would have liked, to be honest! And then some more days came and went and now it's practically next Christmas, so I guess I'll get around to blogging about it. Maybe.

We spent Christmas (and the surrounding days) with my family in Augusta. It was relaxing and fun and exactly the break I needed from regular life. We got to spend time with both of Millie's cousins (on that side) and all of my siblings and it was truly just perfect. There were presents and FOOD and naps and church and FOOD and friends and my dear mother even introduced us to a little something called Fireball Whisky and...yeah. My mom. Bless her. (Not gonna lie though, it was good.)

Lucky for you, I didn't get that many pictures. But we did get a few sad attempts at family pictures on Christmas morning.

Millie didn't really understand Christmas this year-- the true meaning or ANY meaning, ha. She wasn't even overly impressed with playing with wrapping paper or boxes. But it was still awesome times infinity having her there.

Carley agrees- Millie is the best! And the most kissable!
I got matching PJ pants for the ladies since (one more time!) being twinsies is the best way to show you love someone. We all have twinsie pants, so we all love each other!

My SIL Emily, my mom, me, my sister Sarah
 You may notice that my sister cut bangs so that she could look even more like me. And it's not just a coincidence that hers look like mine. For one thing, she's the one that cuts my she knows exactly how to make bangs like mine. And then she confessed that when she was trying to figure out something new to do with her hair, she just pulled up one of my pictures from Facebook and copied my bangs exactly. Her philosophy was that if that style of bangs looked good on me, they'd look good on her. And I agree! But what's funny is that when I walked in my parents' house for the first time on Christmas eve and she was sitting across the room, I had the WEIRDEST first (tiny, fleeting, ridiculous) thought/out-of-body-experience- I was like but I'm over here! How am I sitting over there, too?? OH IT'S SARAH, DUH. It was weird, like she stole my identity or something. 

Also, we were both wearing black and white striped shirts at the time and BOTH of our husbands (on separate occasions) confused us and went for the wrong sister/wife (SISTER WIVES!!! YESSSS!!!).

Anyway, sorry. I'm done talking about how awesome it is that my sister wants to be THE MOST TWINSIE EVER WITH ME.

Now I'll talk about how we are equally weird and decided that the best thing to do (besides being twins, obvs) was to take a big ol' family bubble bath with the babies on Christmas night. 

Now I'm going to do my part to keep us looking twinny and make my teeth blindingly white like hers...
Please check out that look Laney is giving Millie.'ve got some bubbles on you, cuz.

Our post-Christmas days were spent hanging out, watching as much of the Harry Potter marathon on ABC Family as possible, going on lots of walks, and eating. Sadly, we didn't bust out the Fireball Whisky again...much to my mom's dismay, I'm sure.

Mommy can't be bothered to put a bib on her little slobber monster!
 Millie did bust out her unicorn shirt, though, because she is fabulous like that.

I guess her mom is boring or something?

On Saturday Matt and I ran out to a few stores and found ourselves overcome with hunger. We decided to stop and try a Turkish restaurant we've never been to before. You could opt to sit at a regular table or A TINY TABLE CLOSE TO THE FLOOR WHERE YOU SIT ON CUSHIONS!!!!!!!!!!!! Guess which one I picked.

Ding ding ding, tiny floor table! I mean...why sit in a normal chair when you can lounge? Exactly. The food was awesome, but mainly I got to sit on the floor and it was spectacular. There were also travel brochures for Turkey and now I have a serious burning desire to plan a trip to Turkey. It seems like all you do is lounge around in hot springs and eat yummy food at tiny basically, see ya there next summer. Has anyone actually visited Turkey before? Is it as fabulous as I'm imagining? Do you think Millie would like it? Keep in mind how much she loves baths...I feel like six hours a day of hot springs would be right up her alley.

On Sunday we returned back to Athens and real life. We met some of my favorite people on earth (friends from high school) for dinner in a nearby town and Millie proceeded to have her first night of LOSING HER MIND NONSTOP AND CAUSING A HUGE SCENE FOR HOURS ON END. It was special. I'm blaming constipation, the weird lighting in the restaurant, and probably the time change (from November, remember?), too. Maybe it's catching up with her finally? Anyway, luckily these were the kind of friends who don't judge or desert you when your child acts insane, so I'm thankful for the chance to spend time with them. ALSO, and extremely importantly, Matt and I listened to about 6 episodes of Serial during our drives this weekend. It is amaaaaazing and if you haven't heard of it or started listening...DO IT. 

Monday was back to work. I eased the pain by being lumberjack twins with Millie.

What's that they say about the family that lumberjacks together...oh, okay, nothing. Well, maybe that family also gets to have fires together. And Millie would approve of that because homegirl is all about some fire. Candles, fireplaces, bonfires...we have a true flame aficionado on our hands. (True story: she even put up with TUMMY TIME, a.k.a. the devil's game, this weekend because my mom put her in front of the fireplace to do it. Fire overcomes tummy time hatred- truly, this is powerful stuff.) 

We celebrated Christmas with Matt's family on Monday evening and were showered with even more awesome gifts and food and Ulta gift cards (or maybe that was just me...). They say babies develop and change fast and it must be true- between Christmas day and Monday (what, four days?), Millie became fascinated with the bows on presents! So...yay! She was pretty happy to sit there playing with the ribbon and bows, so that was fun to watch.

Our first Christmas as a family of three was absolutely perfect. It's funny how times and days like these- the ones I've been imagining and anticipating for so many years- can feel simultaneously magical and completely ordinary. And I like that. Most of the time, things just feel right. Normal. Like I'm living the life I'm meant to be living- it's not terribly special or unique or glamorous, it isn't all sparkly and picture-perfect- but it's just truly, deeply satisfying. All aspects of it- from helping my baby open gifts as we sit by a blazing fire on Christmas, to the hour I spent pacing the sidewalk in front of a restaurant where I was supposed to be hanging out with the friends I haven't seen in years- all of it is in some way so incredibly's just weird. And great. And now I'm going to stop rambling. Have a great almost-last-day-of-the-year!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

a really big girl and some musing on life

Whoa. It's Christmas Eve. How'd that happen? Also, how'd I make it to Wednesday without blogging? I'm falling apart here, obviously.

On Monday Camilla had her "four month" checkup. The quotation marks are necessary because she is closer to five months than four, but whatev. The big (haha) question of the day was HOW MUCH DOES SHE WEIGH, EXACTLY? Because she looks healthy, if you know what I mean. Not malnourished. Probably going to survive a famine longer than anyone else.

I was worried she was going to be completely off the percentile charts and that I was going to get a lecture about childhood obesity or something. But my worries were in vain- she's still on the chart, hallelujah!! She's a healthy 16 pounds, 14.5 oz...merely the 95th percentile! But put another way- she has DOUBLED (and then some) her birth weight! That's pretty impressive. No wonder my back hurts all the time. She is 25.25 inches long (75th %ile) and her head has grown almost 2 inches since her two month checkup, which explains why none of her hats fit anymore. Also, she has that big smart brain to accommodate. Overall, her appointment went well and she was declared healthy and beautiful. She had to get some shots, though, which wasn't really her favorite. I took the whole day off work so that I could be there to take care of her post-shots if she wasn't feeling so hot. 

Really, she just wanted to sleep.

After that, she wanted to moan pitifully for awhile and then sleep some more.

 And then after that, she decided that all she could manage was to be held and cuddle and nap on her mommy for the rest of the day. It was a real burden, but I managed to step up and help her out...while watching Gilmore Girls and listening to the cold rain outside.

It really wasn't the worst thing ever. To put it mildly.

I got basically nothing accomplished on Monday, but I got to cuddle with my snuggly baby for hours on end, so it was the best day ever. 

Yesterday I went back to work for our final day before Christmas. There were treats and gift exchanges and the day went pretty quickly. Over at my in-laws' house, Millie took napping to a whole 'nother level. To put it in perspective, I normally like her to get between 3.5-4 hours of sleep (total, divided over however many naps) during the day (before I get her at 5:15). That seems to lead to her being the happiest baby possible during both the day and the evening. Lots of days it doesn't happen and she just gets 2.5 hours or so. She can survive on that. Rarely she'll sleep 4.5 hours or so. Yesterday she slept SIX HOURS AND FORTY-FIVE MINUTES during the day. Homegirl was WIPED OUT. And she still took another nap before bedtime!! It was like having a really huge newborn.

Today we're packing up to head to my parents' house for Christmas. Matt still has to work today, so the girls are doing all the work.

I contribute by being really adorable and distracting!
I have no idea whether Millie is going to be Super Sleepy Baby today or back to her normal self, so obviously I'm getting a jump start on productivity by wasting away her first nap blogging and drinking coffee in my PJs. (And also washing diapers...that counts towards productivity, right?) I'm sure the car will just pack itself...

I may not be the most productive person in the world right now, but I feel pretty confident I'm the happiest. We haven't even finished our Christmas shopping yet (judge away, people who finished yours in July!!) and probably won't. IOUs for Christmas? I'll text you a picture of Millie? Whatever, can't bring myself to get too worked up over it...I All I want to do is cuddle and play with my sweet girl, the greatest gift I could ever even imagine. 

The funny thing is...I've been thinking about this for the last few's like, now that Millie is here and I'm a mom, I feel like I can finally breathe again. I can stop worrying about what the future might bring- I can THINK about the future, period. For so many years it was this bleak, scary, unknowable thing and I couldn't dare to hope or dream or even think because I just didn't know what was going to happen and who I was going to be: a mother? Childfree and happy? Childfree and bitter? And now it's like I'm free to hope again. The chains are gone and I am a mother and now I can figure out what else and who else I want to be, too. My heart can grow and all of the sudden I have these random ideas and thoughts and desires that keep bubbling out and smacking Matt in the head- we should do this!!! Hey, what about that? For five years I could only think about ONE THING, and now I can think about EVERYTHING. It's crazy how awesome it feels. (This probably makes no sense to most people, but maybe other people parenting after infertility can relate. If this all sounds like crazed rambling, just blame it on the abundance of sugar-filled holiday treats and overcaffeination.)

I hope you have a very happy Christmas, and know that my thoughts and prayers are always with my sisters still waiting for miracles. My heart aches with yours. I will never, ever forget what that feels like...I will never cease to be thankful for the abundant gifts I've received. 

Friday, December 19, 2014

christmas card roundup

You pretty much saw my Christmas card (proudly displayed on my own piano!) during my house tour last week, but I figured I better share it "officially" for good measure. We used Costco for our cards (we also used them for our birth announcements) and they did a great job. Actually, they messed up the order the first time (gave us the correct number of envelopes but shorted us a set of 25 cards...), but as soon as I let them know, they re-sent the entire (correct) (and ENTIRE, sooo...we had WAY more cards than we needed) order immediately. So...high five for prompt problem-solving, Costco!

Wow. The mustard yellow throw pillow I chose to set the card on to photograph it REALLY does a lot for it, right? That nice glow? Special. 

Anyway. I love the card and especially love that Costco prints your return address on the envelopes for you, saving my poor hand a lot of writing (or stamping, actually).

Back in 2011 I would update my "Christmas card stats" at the bottom of (some of) my December posts. I had fun keeping tabs (and now it's fun to compare this year's cards), so I figured I'd assess the cards we've received so far this year.

The door looks a lot happier than last week! Also, does it drive you crazy that I just stick the cards up there all willy-nilly and not in lines or rows? I like it, but I feel like it would cause some folks to lose sleep at night. All the uptight people. ;) But trying to put them in lines/rows would drive ME crazy because I want to put them up as they arrive...and how could I know how many I'll ultimately receive to accurately judge how to space them? How to account for horizontal/vertical orientations? See, that would be worse. WILLY-NILLY IT IS.

So far we have a total of 22 cards.

Number of Non-Photo Cards: 4
Number of Photo Cards: 18

Of the 18 photo cards...
Number of collage cards: 10 (So this is apparently a big thing now! I swear in previous years collage cards were NOT this prevalent! All you indecisive people...)
Number of cards from blog friends (that I would not/did not know outside of blogging): 10 (Matt really loves opening cards from strangers and seeing them displayed all the time!)
Number of cards with pets: 2 (Poor pets.)
Number of cards from people named Amanda: 4 (this is Matt's favorite joke- every time a new card comes: IS IT FROM AMANDA?!??!!)
Number of cards from Georgia: 6
Card hailing from furthest away: Northglenn, Colorado (1,447 miles). I am actually shocked- I had already written down Ontario, Canada...but then consulted Google Maps and discovered that Ontario is actually CLOSER than Northglenn by about 500 miles! Who knew? I need to go to work, so that's all the fascinating statistics I have time for. If you're bored, feel free to assess your own cards! Fun for all (nerds)!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014


I have a pretty intense case of writer's block this week, it seems. But I'm about due for a fresh episode of currently, time like the present! (I just looked back and my last 'currently' post was while I was on maternity leave. Waaaahhhhh look at tiny baby Millie!!!)

For the record, it is 9:00 p.m. on a Wednesday night... the washer going through a spin cycle. It's diaper washing night, so it's a sound I get to hear a lot. I've been pleasantly surprised with how manageable cloth diapering has been, though, since returning to work. I had worried that it might become overwhelming or hard to keep up with, but luckily that hasn't been the case at all! Yay for saving those dolla billz, yo.

Eating...nothing, but I'll probably hit the fridge for some leftover birthday cake any minute now. Matt got me a Spanish lemon cake from my favorite bakery...and it's a cake suited for about 20 folks...and there's just two of us, do the math. (Sorry, thighs!!)

Drinking...water. ALWAYS WATER. I'm about to complete my 18th consecutive day of drinking a gallon a day and I'm finally getting used to it. And I haven't seen any miraculous changes in my body whatsoever, so...I'm really not sure what the point is, besides doing it to say I can do it. I'll keep up with it for the rest of the month (because that's what I said I was gonna do, dangit), but after that I may scale back to a more natural amount. I think I could easily do 96 oz a day. I drink four 32oz bottles per day to get to the gallon...the first three are pretty easy. And then it's 10:23 p.m. and I'm staring down half a bottle and chugging it so that I can just freaking go to bed. 

Wearing...sweats and an old sweatshirt. Not matching, though. And lipstick! I just got some new lipsticks (or..."lip lustre creme," as the case may be) tonight for my birthday, so I needed to try them out.

Feeling...happy. We've started going on walks in the evenings after dinner (gotta get my steps in to appease the Fitbit, ya know...) and it makes me so happy. It's freezing cold (well, by my pansy Georgia standards) and dark, but we bundle up and make a family event out of it. Millie loves cuddling in the Ergo and looking at the lights, while Lola just loses her mind every time we spring her out of jail the house, so it's really fun for all.

Post-walk photo shoot tonight...can you spy a baby?

There she is!!

Weather...cold and windy. 41 degrees (but feels like 35, according to the Weather Channel!) and 82%, how is that even possible? But it's been really great weather this does get cold in the mornings and evenings, but gets up into the low 60s during the day...and I really can't complain. reread the Harry Potter books. Working my way through the movies now has me wanting to go back and read from the beginning...slowly, this time. Last time I just rushed through, so anxious to get to the end and see what happened. Now I can really absorb. I've been debating whether to ask for the paperbacks or Kindle editions of all of the books for Christmas...I'm leaning towards Kindle, just because it would be so much easier to have them with me all the time to capitalize on using down time for reading? But Kindle books are so unshareable...wah.

Needing...ummm...someone to clean my floors? Someone that isn't me, I should add. I've never been very good at mopping with any sort of regularity...and normally I'm happy to just live in my filth, but it just occurred to me that Millie will probably start crawling at some point, and suddenly I'm disgusted at the thought of her on my (swept and vacuumed, but not exactly mopped) floors. But I really don't have time for mopping. Or a strong enough back. Or the desire. So I think I'm going to outsource it when I write the 2015 budget. That's the dream, anyway.

Thinking...about when I'm ever going to do my Christmas shopping. I'm WAY slack on that this year. Other than a few random things I ordered from Etsy shops and, well, no. That's it. I haven't so much as stepped into Target or the mall. I've gone to a few shops downtown on my lunch break. I have no idea what I'm even getting like half the people I need to buy for. Waaaaah. I just wanna cuddle my baby, I don't want to spend my free time shopppppinnnnnggggg!!!! 

Enjoying...everything about life right now. I can't remember a period of life where I was ever so blissfully happy for so long. I know that hard times will come again, but I'm completely happy to just soak in this joy while it's here. Last night I walked through the house and saw my sweet dog resting on the couch by the Christmas tree (against the rules, but whatever) and heard Matt and Millie laughing and playing in the bathtub, and I just couldn't even deal with it. My heart is so full.

Monday, December 15, 2014

birthday weekend shenanigans

I had a fabulous birthday weekend!! It was definitely the best birthday ever, thanks in no small part to a cute baby, a handsome husband, and my awesome parents!

My lame immune system tried to bring me down on my big day with a surprise staph infection in my knee. I think my body is trying hard to conspire against me on birthdays; last year I herniated a disc in my back a few days before my birthday...and now this?? Luckily I caught it early and snagged a doctor's appointment right in the nick of time so that I could get started on antibiotics. I really did not want a repeat of 2011's needle-in-the-face-MRSA episode. And I don't suggest clicking that link and reading my gory (but picture-less; I'm not THAT nasty) tale if you are feeling weak in the stomach. You've been warned.

Anyway. I wasn't about to let this little (large) bump in the road (knee) ruin my day...actually, getting to start some antibiotics that must be taken every six hours with food is actually kind of a BONUS on a birthday weekend! A requirement to eat every six hours (mostly not coinciding with meals)? Don't mind if I do! Matt and my parents were more than happy to help me find delicious ways to meet that requirement.

The weather was incredible this weekend, so I'd like to thank Georgia for really doing me a solid there. Your generosity has been noted and appreciated. Having a December birthday means I don't generally expect to spend a lot of time outside on my day, but this year I was more than happy to welcome a change! We spent most of Saturday taking nice walks/'hikes' (slow hikes, 32-year-old-broken-knee permitting) at a variety of pretty Athens parks.

Millie seemed to enjoy getting to spend the day outside...and Parents of the Year seemed to once again forget that babies can get sunburned even when it's not hot outside. Oops. Her cheeks are just extra rosy now...

We spent some time checking out the State Botanical Gardens, which is where Matt and I got married. We walked over to the Day Chapel to show Millie where all the magic happened. There was another wedding taking place, so we couldn't get close, but I'm pretty sure she was really impressed.

This is my impressed face.
 We finished off Saturday night with a visit to our town's Christmas festival and (another) walk downtown to see the lights. Part of the reason I was so gung-ho about walking all day was that I got a Fitbit* for my birthday (woooooo!!!!!) and I was extremely concerned that it would immediately reveal how slothful I've I tried hard to get a lot of steps in. And it worked! Now I have to figure out how to do the same thing on the days I'm stuck in my office for 8 hours...and the weather isn't fabulous...

Anyway, after one last walk, we settled in for a junk food dinner and a Christmas movie on Netflix. My parents like their movies, I think that if marrying TV channels was possible, my dad would probably marry the Hallmark Channel. And probably take on Lifetime as a sister-wife. So it was really lucky that Netflix has a ton of ABC Family original Christmas movies right now, ha.

The weather was perfect again on Sunday, so after my parents headed back home, we set out for another walk. We just started putting Millie forward-facing in the K'tan. I think she likes it...although I can't know for sure, cause I can't really see her. But Matt says she seems happy.

I definitely still prefer wearing her inward-facing in the Ergo, but it's nice to have another option, I suppose. It doubles as entertainment for us, though, because she looks like a giant floating head.

Emphasis on giant. I'm fairly certain her face is bigger than mine. THOSE CHEEKS.

The only way to see her face was if I flipped around the camera on the phone. Drooling and looking slightly concerned? That's about normal, so we'll say she was happy.

We also added two very special ornaments to the tree on Saturday!

The wooden ornament is something I ordered from a wooden toy Etsy shop called Little Sapling Toys. I love it!! I also ordered another little toy from them that Millie will be getting for Christmas. I can't say what it is because what if she reads my blog?? (She's super smart, duh.) (And has refined taste in reading.) The 'adoption is a miracle' ornament is a gift from Melissa! I cried when I saw it. It has Camilla's name in the heart on the left and 2014 in the heart on the right. I just love each new addition to our tree that reminds me of our great joy.

It was the perfect birthday weekend. I wish it could have lasted about twenty times longer, but is Monday again. And nearly Christmas! Which probably means it's about time to start my shopping...yikes. Ummm...what do you buy for men in their 60s who don't need anything? I pretty much just want to choose some random hobby or interest to inflict on them so that I'll have a permanent source of gift ideas for the next decade...would that be wrong? Ha. Happy Monday!

*Amazon affiliate link

Friday, December 12, 2014

christmas tour 2014

I feel like there's no better way to celebrate my birthday than by showing off my truly underwhelming Christmas decorations. (That birthday thing was subtle, right? Ha.) (Also, not remotely true. I can think of a million better the top of my head: at a resort in the Caribbean, receiving a pet manatee, cuddling with my baby, and/or an all-expenses-paid shopping spree at Ulta.) (At least one of my dreams will come true today...)

Right, so, back to the topic at hand. Christmas decorations!! I always look forward to having the house decorated for Christmas, and this year was no exception. Now that we have Millie, everything is a first...and even though she's only four months old and probably couldn't care less about home decor (except for maybe the tree lights), it still felt a million times more special and exciting and magical decorating with her here. And when I think back to how hard the Christmas season was last year, how putting up our decorations made me, the joy and happiness of this year is even better. 

A lot of my decor stays pretty consistent from year to do my complaints, ha. Like there is STILL NO GOOD PLACE FOR A CHRISTMAS TREE. Every year. Every year. Every year I swear that if and when we ever buy another house, "good Christmas tree spot" is going to be at the TOP of the priority list. Don't nobody care if there are enough bedrooms for everyone or whether there are active termite colonies...I need a decent place for my tree!!! 

But let's start with something I do like: the mantel!! 

 I've already blabbed at length about our three stockings, so I won't repeat myself except to say ohmygoshwehaveTHREESTOCKINGS!!!!! The whole mantel area ended up looking a lot different this year than last year- a little simpler, I guess. Oh, also there are three stockings (plus Lola's). Vast improvement. I saw the idea for making blank canvases into 'presents' on Pinterest; it was the easiest three-second craft ever! I think they look fun. And although I loved having the big balls hanging last year, I really like having them up on the mantel and down in a basket- they are just so festive! Also, they are big balls...and the jokes never get old. 

To the right of the mantel area is a little chest that holds random junk important things.

It makes a perfect spot to put the nativity set. This year we have this little felt Jesse Tree thing that we make and add an ornament to each night. There's a little guide and we read the Bible story that accompanies the ornament, then we help Millie velcro the ornament to the tree. It's fun and I'm sure she's really getting a lot out of it. :) And it gives Matt and me a great opportunity to work on our gluing and coloring skills, so really, everybody wins.

My nativity used to belong to my grandparents. My Nana bought it on a trip to Israel and I am so thankful to have received it. The angel ornament was hand-crafted by yours truly in 1990. I gave it to Nana as a gift and she always kept it with the nativity- so now I do, too! Gotta remember my DIY roots, ya know...

So, back to the tree that has no good home and is impossible to photograph. Part of the 'impossible to photograph' problem is the placement of the tree (couches/walls/pianos impede being able to get a full-length shot), part of it is because despite the existence of probably 28903 tutorials on How to Set Your Camera to Get the Perfect Christmas Tree Picture...I just can't be bothered to actually read any of them, so my pictures all come out looking like crap. The lights are either washed out and invisible, or everything is too dark, or...whatever. Just know that the tree looks way more awesome in person. Even though it's in a bad spot.

We've been using beads on the tree since 2006, but on an 80% off, post-Christmas whim last year, I bought a couple strands of giaaaaant gold tinsel.

I regret nothing.

That tinsel was SO much easier to put up than a million strands of itty bitty beads- it seriously took about 2 seconds. And it's so festive and gaudy and delightful!! I only wish I'd bought about two more strands- I had to stretch things a little thin to make it get to the bottom. I'll be on the lookout for a couple more strands after Christmas ends this year! And now our gold tinsel totally contrasts with our silver sparkly star, but mixing your metals is a thing now, right? So we're good.

I love this ornament that my friend Catherine made last year- it's our house!

A lovely reminder of my brief fling with wood burning.

I didn't do much with the piano this year. I'm too lazy to un-decorate all the normal stuff, so I just added a few touches and called it a day (season?).

My beloved book trees...a few of them bit the dust in their storage containers over the last year, but this guy survived another year.

Totally normal to display your own Christmas card, right? Right.

 I have yet to find a satisfactory way to display my cards. I feel like I try something different every year and so far, nothing's been perfect. I'm really phoning it in this year- taping them up on the door. Wow. Special. And the tape will probably pull the paint off the doors when I take the cards down, so that will be a fun problem to tackle in January! Also, I took this picture last weekend, when we'd only received cards from the earliest birds. There are more now...taped up with equal precision and care, obviously.

My Christmas tree craft from a few years ago is on a bookshelf...I think they're so cute, plus they remind me of the 11,000 hours it took me to sew them. I'm such a gifted seamstress...

My decorating skillz didn't spill over to the rest of the house much this year. Normally I'll do a little something in the bedroom, kitchen, and bathrooms, but this year...naaaah. I found some older than dirt tinsel and draped it around Millie's changing table area and that's about it. Maybe when she's older we'll put a little tree in there or something, but for now...I mean, I feel like I just finished decorating her nursery for regular life about two seconds ago. It's cute enough. It needs no more sparkle or glitz to make it through the month. Ha.

Wanna know how old that tinsel is? Okay then. My roommate and I bought it to decorate our FRESHMAN DORM ROOM. Yeah. In 2001. This trusty tinsel has stood the test of time!

Oh! There is one more thing! My favorite picture frame door art came back to the front door for season 3!

I made a tutorial for this, too!
That's pretty much it for Christmas 2014. Nothing too spectacular, but enough sparkle and shininess to make the house feel festive and fun! I'm trying to enjoy the decorations a little extra this year- next year we'll have a one-year-old, and I hear they're notorious for destroying everything, so we'll probably have to do an amended version of decorating. But that's okay. I'll take sweet Millie over red and green whatever anytime.

Have a wonderful weekend! If you're extra bored, feel free to check out my Christmas decor tours from 2013, 2012, 2011, and 2010. (Actually, I just looked at 2010 and it was pretty awful. I can pretty much guarantee you're not bored enough to want to see that, unless you want to see a progression in my Mantel Decorating Skills...because they REALLY sucked back then!!)