How To Have a Classy Christmas

— 1 —

How was your Christmas?  Ours was just lovely.  My girls are now almost 5 and almost 2, and it is such a sweet age.  They get excited about the presents but aren’t greedy.  The first gifts they opened were Cinderella coloring books, and they sat reading them page by page before moving on to another gift.

IMG_5066 IMG_5161

And Girl 1 was so excited to see Baby Jesus in the manger scene here at home, and in the one at church.

— 2 —

I have a few tips on having a classy Christmas:

Send out Christmas cards emblazoned with the logo of your favorite retailer:


— 3 —

Cut down a tree with a skinny trunk, so you can use guy wire to hold it up.


— 4 —

Show your daughter the movie Cinderella, shortly before hanging up your favorite glass slipper tree ornament.

“I’ll make it fit!”


Leave other breakable ornaments in her reach.  A decapitated ballerina mouse is a nice touch.


— 5 —

Keep your decorations simple.

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— 6 —

Don’t worry about the rest of the house.


— 7 —


Come down with a cold.  Sit around the house sniffling for two days after Christmas, red-nosed and bedraggled, sharing germs with your visiting brother.


 Do not–under any circumstance–pick up any toys.

Stay classy y’all!

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!


What My Daughters Are Getting for Christmas

Gift Ideas For Little Girls

— 1 —

Almost a year ago, I wrote a post on what gifts we were giving Girl 1 for Christmas.  I had high hopes of setting a precedent of non-materialistic Christmases, with just a few simple gifts.

Fat. Chance.

Last year, at age three, Girl 1 didn’t really remember what to expect on Christmas.   She opened up a few presents in her stocking and was pretty psyched.  Then we got to my in-laws’ house for the traditional family gift-opening extravaganza.  Pat and each of his eight siblings (or as many are in town), plus spouses and children, plus his parents,  all take turns opening gifts while everyone else looks on and “oohs” and “aahs” appropriately.

Girl 1 quickly caught on.  And as for my plan to make each individual piece of the Melissa and Doug castle furniture count as an individual gift for her to unwrap . . .

yeah, that went over like a lead balloon.

Fortunately, it was the year that Grams Saved Christmas with The Slutty Fairy, and all was well in the end.

This year, ho boy.  I’m just trying not to go overboard.  That’s all.

And usually I’m not one of those super obnoxious organized people who get their Christmas shopping done early.  But for some reason, this year, spurred on by my soon-to-expire free Amazon prime trial membership.  I’ve bought all their presents already.

So here’s what’s worked or not worked for us in the past.

— 2 —

Washable markers really do wash off easily, so they’ve been okay.  But caps get left off and roll under bureaus and markers dry out, so I’m hoping we can switch to these:

Jumbo beeswax crayons

Supposedly not as breakable as Crayolas . . . ?  We’ll see.

Anyway, the princess coloring books are a solid 10.  We’ve gone through several similar ones.  This year both girls are getting Cinderella coloring books (Cinderella being one of the least offensive of the Disney princesses).

— 3 —

Melissa & Doug Deluxe Wooden Folding Princess Castle.  My friend Liz of Catholic Deals, pointed out a great deal on this castle (now expired, unfortunately).  I got it for about half of the regular price.

As expected, it wasn’t  huge hit when we gave this to Girl 1 for her fourth birthday (which was soon after Christmas).  However, she’s starting to grow into it.  She really got into imaginative play in the past few months, and Girl 2 always plays along with whatever Big Sis is doing.   So hopefully the girls will use this more and more, especially since we’re getting them . . .

— 4 —

Disney princess dolls!

Ack!  Disney princesses are distasteful to me on so many levels, but you know what?  This.

Also, I have fond memories of Cinderella and The Little Mermaid as a kid.   As far as I can tell they had no deleterious effects.

So anyway, Girl 1 got similar dolls some time last year, I forget the occasion, and they have been a huge hit with both her and Girl 2.  But several princesses have disappeared during trips to Walmart and whatnot, so it’s time to replenish the supply.

These, on the other hand:

Chopped liver.  Except the prince.  Girl 1 is still fuzzy on the details, but she’s realized it’s nice to have a prince around the castle.

— 5 —

On the subject of princesses (still), last August I happened to find Aurora and Belle dress-up dresses at a rummage sale.  For like a buck apiece.  I did not realize at the time what a great bargain this was.  Disney brand dress-up dresses are really pricey ordinarily and are often of shoddy quality.  Ours are now a little worse for the wear, but they’ve gotten a lot of wear.

Gymboree has a line of dress-up clothes, and I’m hopeful they are of better quality.  But, of course, they’re pricey.

So: Ebay.

I scored a Gymboree Cinderella dress on Ebay for about $16 total.  It’s not in perfect condition, but quite good enough.  Before too long, the girls probably will not be satisfied with pre-owned gifts (or maybe not, we’ll see), but for now I think she’ll be thrilled.

Also from Ebay, I got Girl 2 a princess costume from Old Navy, for cheap:

And an Angelina Ballerina stuffed animal (all to be washed in hot water before use):

She loves Angelina but new Angelina toys currently go for $30-$40.  Too much for a stuffed mouse.  And of course since I bought this, she’s moved on to Barney.  So should I get her a stuffed Barney dinosaur?  I don’t know.

— 6 —

Books!  Oh my goodness, I love buying the girls books.

This has been a huge hit recently:

Read Aloud Rhymes for the Very Young

I picked up a falling-apart copy from the library’s discard shelf, and both girls LOVE it.  The cover has fallen off and the pages are starting to fall out, so I ordered them a new copy.  And also this:

Forget Me Nots: Poems to Learn by Heart

And this (on Rosie’s advice):

And all of these:

Ella Ballerina by James Mayhew

Speaking of ordering books, don’t forget to click through an affiliate link when you order from Amazon!  I don’t have one, but most bloggers do and many charities as well.  Just go to the person’s website and click on any link there to Amazon.  You don’t have to buy the product they linked to for them to get the credit.  They get a percentage of anything you purchase on Amazon after clicking through from their site.  It doesn’t cost you any extra, but some deserving charity or person can earn 7% or so of your order.  So always click through!

— 7 —

Finally: pajamas.

For Easter, I got the girls matching princess pajamas similar to these:

Disney princess cotton pajama set

I got them for cheap at Walmart and the girls LOVE them.  The ones I bought are short-sleeved though, and wearing out.

Girl 2 is now wearing hand-me-down monkey-print footsie pajamas from Girl 1.  She really thinks she’s hot shiz in those jammies.  It’s something else.  And, thanks to a pointer from a loyal reader (Hi, Elizabeth!), I found footsie pajamas in Girl 1’s size:

Carter’s footsie pajamas in big kid sizes

I think she’s going to love them.  The girls love wearing matching clothes.  Come to think of it, they love wearing clothes that match with mine, too.

Anyone know where to get grown-up footsie jams?  😉

Happy weekend!

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary Clan Donaldson!

A Christmas Postpartum

Because “Christmas post-mortem” just doesn’t sound right . . . .

We had a holly jolly Christmas here.  It was a white Christmas, in fact, which was pretty spiffy.

Snowman courtesy of my brother John

Snowman courtesy of my brother John

The unfortunate thing about the snow was that it made the roads too slick for my in-laws to come over to our place for Christmas Eve dinner as planned.  So Pat, the girls, and I had a quiet dinner by ourselves.  We are still digging our way out of all the chili I made.

I went to bed too late Christmas Eve.  I didn’t have any presents left to wrap (miracle!).  I was just excited.  How wrong is that?? Then I got up at 6 with the baby.  Girl 1 and Pat didn’t wake up until 8:30. IMG_1022Once Girl 1 woke up she didn’t say anything about presents!  We even got to eat a little breakfast before she noticed gifts poking out of her stocking.  Then she opened her coloring book, markers, gloves, and a book from Mumsie and Papaw (my parents).  She was happy as a clam.  We went to 10:30 mass, which was actually less crowded than it usually is on Sunday, and the girls were good!

IMG_1028 (2)

Visiting Baby Jesus after mass

 After mass we went to Pat’s parents’ house for the annual family gift-opening ritual, which was tons of fun as always.  As I expected, the Melissa and Doug dolls I got for Girl 1 were as chopped liver to her.

What she did like was The Slutty Fairy (“TSF”) from Grams:

She came complete with matching fairy wings and skirt for Girl 1, which is what Grams bought it for.  Grams intended TSF to go directly to the trash can, but it was too late.  Love at first sight.  After opening TSF, Girl 1 couldn’t wait to leave, get home, and get changed.  She just couldn’t figure out why she didn’t get a bra top to go with the skirt and wings.

So here is what Girl 1 wore for the latter part of Christmas:

No bra top to be found, so skanky pink top (baby sister's size) had to suffice.

No bra top to be found, so skanky pink top (baby sister’s size) had to suffice.

We went home for Girl 2’s nap and then back to Pat’s parents’ for a delicious dinner prepared by Pat’s mom with no help from me.  (Thank you Mom!  I promise to make that Apple Betty soon.  🙂 My brother John joined us that afternoon and is staying with us through tonight.  It’s been great hanging out with him.  Some friends of ours and their two little kids joined us for Christmas dinner, too, which was also fun.  (And double thanks to my MIL for hosting not only us but my brother and our friends, too!)

My thoughts on my gift-giving attempts this year:

  • I love the idea of buying handmade items instead of mass-produced-in-China crap.  There’s always a tension, though, between buying something that’s cool and handcrafted and original vs. buying exactly what you know someone wants.
  • Fortunately, what I got my mom was both handcrafted and original and (I’m pretty sure), exactly what she wanted (but didn’t know she wanted until she got it):

Garden totem by Farley Pottery
Perfect for the woman in your life who decorates her garden with a dog skull and her window AC unit with a 4 ft Lady of Guadalupe statue

  • For everyone else I ordered gifts off Amazon or someplace similar.  I did no shopping in stores, other than a little bit at Walmart, where I go to grocery shop anyway.  I did not miss the crowds at the mall.
  •  I’d like to spend a little bit more time at our parish craft fair next year, but I’m not going to sweat it.  A gift someone doesn’t like or use is just junk, whether it’s handcrafted or made in China.
  • When I order from Amazon, I try to click through from my friend Liz’s blog, or a similar site, so that at least she or another small business person or work-at-home mom gets a percentage.
  • I’m nixing the Melissa & Doug princess castle as a 4th birthday gift for Girl 1.  I’l save it for when she’s older  She obviously isn’t into that kind of make-believe play yet.  She did like The Slutty Fairy doll, the Fancy Nancy doll Uncle John got her, and especially (of course!) the baby doll Uncle John got for Girl 2.  So maybe I’ll get her something along that line.

And since of course you all were wondering (and so I can at least pretend to belong on Grace’s link-up), here is what I wore to Christmas mass: IMG_1025So the photo is blurry and Pat has evil eyes in it and all anyone really wants to see are the kids but . . . dang, my hair looked good!  Velcro rollers.  Who knew?

She knew, apparently.                                                                                                    Photo from Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution

And here is a pic with better focus but in which my hair does not look quite as good nor my cheekbones as prominent:

No vanity here, folks!

No vanity here, folks!

The necklace is from Chewbeads, and I was really excited to get it from Pat on Christmas morning.  The necklace is sturdy and chewable so you can wear it even with a grabby baby.  It clashed horribly with my belt and actually it look like grey fake rocks, but it’s just nice to be able to wear a necklace again.  Also, they really do feel good to chew on.  I tried.

The girls wore the same dresses Pat put them in for a trial run back in early November. IMG_0477 Aaaaand that’s about all folks.  Enjoy your Christmas season!

Christmas Cheer

Merry Christmas!  I have waited so long to do this post, but life has gotten in the way.  Here are our Christmas decorations this year.  I highly recommend watching the photo montage (under 2 minutes!) to listen to Girl 1’s Christmas song improvisation.  But I’ll post the photos separately too.

Finally, here are some photos of Pat’s and my first Christmas tree together.  He got creative with our makeshift tree topper.

Pat used invisible tape.

Pat used invisible tape.


We lived on a steep hill that year.

"Invisible."  Yeah.

“Invisible.” Yeah.

I haven’t replaced it yet, probably because we enjoy reliving the memories so much.  Like so:

I’m joining Katie at NFP and Me for her Christmas decorations link up.  Thanks, Katie, for hosting!  And thanks for keeping your link up open until Christmas, for stragglers like me.  (And if you’re like me and thinking, “Who has the chutzbah to call her blog that?  Well, you’ll just have to check it out.)

Merry Christmas!  God bless us every one.

What I Wore Sunday: Santa Is Here!

This guy is all that Girl 1 knows of Santa:


He shows up in the yard across the street every year.  If you ask her anything about Santa, this is who she’s thinking of.

This is what I wore to mass today:


A warmer version of the outfit I posted about yesterday here.  I am continually amazed at the pictures of Mary at With My Sisters because she’s mentioned that her 4 year old takes all of them.  When I’ve asked Girl 1 (almost 4 years old) to take my picture in the past, the results have looked like this:

IMG_0554 IMG_0556

But today Girl 1 took this picture.  Not flattering but a vast improvement.

Girl 1 wore her “church coat” from Aunt Lizzie.


She was boycotting coats for a while  Fortunately, she’s wearing them again now that she’s figured out how to put coats on without her sleeves getting bunched up inside.  She got new church shoes.


Her old pair was a silver version of these:

Ultra cheapo from Walmart. They shed copious amounts of glitter on the pew every week at Mass.  I felt a little bad for anyone sitting there at a later mass.  But hey, everyone looks better with a little glitter on his derriere right?  Right?     (The new ones have sequins instead of glitter and are from the infinitely more upscale Target.  😉

By the way we got a new furnace on Thursday.


It started leaking oil yesterday.  Argh!  But the guy who installed it came right out and tightened the line.

Our house is toasty warm now.  We deliberated quite a bit over our options but decided to get another oil furnace.  At a later point we may add a heat pump and/or a wood stove to supplement the furnace and bring fuel costs down.  For now, we are just sooooo happy to have this behind us.

Happy Sunday everyone!  For more Sunday finery check out the other blogs linking up at Fine Linen and Purple.  Thanks Emily and Kendra for hosting!

7 Quick Takes: What My Daughter Is Getting for Christmas

Today I’m listing the gifts that Girl 1 is getting for Christmas this year.  (Shhh.  Don’t tell.)  I really want to keep Christmases simple (as discussed in the article I linked to yesterday).  Last year, when she was almost 3, she opened her first gift and didn’t understand that she had to stop playing with it to open her other gifts.  {Palm smack to forehead} I only got her what I thought were a few things, but we could have given her a lot less and she would have been just as happy.

This year, fortunately, she didn’t even remember getting presents until I reminded her.   All she remembered was getting some candy in her stocking!  She’s most excited about wearing her Christmas dress and looking for the blow-up yard decorations our neighbors put up.  I think she’ll remember the presents this time, though, so I know I’m setting a precedent.  If she gets a lot of presents it will be hard to reduce the number in future years.

Probably, Christmas morning we’ll give her her stocking with gifts #1, #2, and #3.  We will go to my in-laws’ later in the morning for a traditional gift-opening extravaganza, where my husband’s parents, 8 siblings, and their spouses, open their gifts from one another one at a time.  It takes hours and it’s a lot of fun.  We’ll give her the rest of her gifts then.

Girl 2 won’t notice and certainly won’t remember whether or not she gets gifts.  I am getting her a few little rattle-type baby toys that I think she’ll like.  Unlike Girl 1 at this stage, Girl 2 actually plays with toys!  But, she’s only 11 months so I’m not going to over-think it.

— 1 —

Washable markers, definitely the way to go.

— 2 —

Princess coloring book (generic: less cleavage than Disney).  I can’t find a picture of the one I’m getting her; the one pictured is similar.  I know she’ll like it because it’s exactly the same as the one she already has and colors in every day.  There is hardly any white space left.  I think she’ll enjoy a new one.

— 3 —

Candy canes!  And maybe another kind of candy.  I’m pretty sure this is what she’ll be most excited about.

— 4 —

 Gloves,  a 2-pack from Walmart, $0.97 (couldn’t find a picture).  I haven’t bothered putting gloves or mittens on her for at least a year.  Last time I put mittens on her she kept pulling them off.  But she’s been asking me for them lately so maybe now is the time. I’ll give her one pair and keep the second pair tucked away for when she inevitably loses one.

— 5 —

 Melissa and Doug Royal Family Wooden Doll Set.  I think we’ll wrap these up individually and let her open one at a time when it’s her turn in the family gift opening ritual.

What is it about Melissa and Doug toys that gets me every time??   I’m afraid this might not have been a great choice because, like the play kitchen, play food, and shopping cart I got her for past Christmases, these are for make-believe play, and she really doesn’t do that yet.   But maybe in the coming year she’ll grow into them.  At the very least, she loves princesses so she’ll like the princess doll.

— 6 —

Melissa & Doug  Princess Castle furniture.  Like the dolls, I probably will wrap these individually, or in groups of two or three pieces.

— 7 —

Melissa & Doug Deluxe Wooden Folding Princess Castle.  Actually we will give her this on her birthday, which is not long after Christmas.  Like the other make-believe toys, I’m afraid she won’t play with it much.  But hopefully, hopefully she’ll grow into it.

Thanks to my friend Liz of Catholic Deals, for pointing out a great deal on this castle (now expired, unfortunately).  I got it for about half of the regular price.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Simple Christmas

In the same vein as yesterday, I share with you a link to an article about keeping Christmas simple, from one of my favorite blogs.  She has the right attitude toward Jesse trees those things of which we do not speak.  Really thought-provoking.  And here’s an illustration of where I am in my Christmas preparations:

Substitute “blogged” for “took a shower.”


Simple Advent

I don’t have much time to write between now and Christmas because of, well, Christmas, plus some work responsibilities (bad timing, huh?).  But I do want to share this:



and this article by Simcha Fisher on keeping Advent simple.  She does mention Jesse trees those things of which we do not speak, but it’s still a good article.


What I Wore Sunday, Gaudete Edition

Happy Gaudete Sunday everyone!  It’s What I Wore Sunday time!

I just couldn’t resist.  I had to wear pink:


I love the colors in this jacket, which I found at a thrift store:


The cut is a little old lady-ish though.  Someday I’d like to have it altered to fit more like this:


Someday maybe.  Here are my boots:


More interestingly, check out what’s behind my boots: yes, our Christmas tree!  Finally!  We went and cut one down after Mass.  We haven’t decorated it yet; perhaps tonight after the girls are in bed.  I brought out a box of some Christmas decorations a few days ago.  I left the girls alone with the box for about 30 seconds.  Sure enough, when I came back, Girl 1 had dumped out a box of little ornaments all over the floor (not fragile ones, fortunately), and Girl 2 was gnawing on a Christmas light bulb.  Not making that mistake again.

Here are some pics of our expedition:

IMG_0813 IMG_0811

Pat and I were listening to a live stream of this presentation by Dr. Timothy O’Donnell, last night (recording should be available on the website later).  He mentioned that some people try to reduce Christ’s mission to a teaching one, leaving out the whole dying-for-our-sins part.  I was reminded of that during the Gospel today when John the Baptist says,

“He who has two coats, let him share with him who has none; and he who has food, let him do likewise.” Tax collectors also came to be baptized, and said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?”  And he said to them, “Collect no more than is appointed you.” Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Rob no one by violence or by false accusation, and be content with your wages.”  As the people were in expectation, and all men questioned in their hearts concerning John, whether perhaps he were the Christ, John answered them all, “I baptize you with water; but he who is mightier than I is coming, the thong of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.  His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor, and to gather the wheat into his granary, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” So, with many other exhortations, he preached good news to the people.

If all we needed was a teacher, John the Baptist would have sufficed.  But he didn’t.

Okay, that’s my profound theological insight for the day!  Enjoy your Sunday everyone!

For more Sunday finery, check out the link-up at Fine Linen and Purple.  Thanks as always to Kendra and Emily for hosting the fun!


Gift Ideas (7 Good and 7 Bad) for Little Girls

I’m linking up again at Conversion Diary for 7 Quick Takes Friday.  Thanks for hosting, Jen!

I’ve been thinking a lot about toys these days–toys my kids play with, toys I trip over, toys that get taken out in the morning and then don’t get touched all day until I put them away at night.  Also I’ve seen a lot of gift guides around the blogosphere (so why do we need another one?).  I dunno, anyway here is

A Gift Guide for Girls Ages 1-3

— 1 —

Don’t get this:

I thought all little girls play with toy kitchens, but mine don’t, at least not yet. This was the first of my many costly errors in Christmas shopping for Girl 1.

Instead get this:

Playhouse created by Saintly Husband from very large cardboard box

Playhouse created by Saintly Husband from very large cardboard box

Truth be told Girl 1 only played in the box-playhouse when I sat my pregnant butt on the cold hard floor inside it and played, “Knock, knock, who’s there, come in” over and over and over.  But if you could spend $120 on a large toy your child won’t amuse herself with, or $0 on a large toy your child won’t amuse herself with, which would you choose?

— 2 —

Don’t get this:

These velcro wooden fruits and veggies are soooo cool because they have a realistic crunchy sound and feel when you “slice” them.  At least that’s what all the adults in our family thought on Christmas when they passed them around for spontaneous play therapy sessions.  Girl 1?  Not so much.  Now the produce gets (1) sliced once and only once when other kids come over to play, (2) immediately dropped to the floor where (3) Girl 2 chews on them until I pick them up off the floor a month later.  Repeat steps 1 through 3.

Instead get:

Fruits and veggies apparently are no fun, but Girl 1 has no end of fun offering me these “doughnuts.”  And Girl 2 can chew on them, too.

— 3 —

Don’t get this:

This shopping cart was no end of fun for Girl 1 when we visited her little friends who had one.  It immediately became boring once she got one of her own.

Instead get:

I wouldn’t recommend paying the $50 that this dress is priced at, but the 50 cents that I paid at a rummage sale  for a similar dress-up dress was totally and completely worth it. In fact, even the $5 I paid for the coordinating tiara was worth it.  Girl 1 wears this get-up every single day, and entertains herself for long stretches of time singing and dancing to herself in front of a mirror.  Sweet.

— 4 —

Don’t get this:

Just don’t.

Instead get:

Classic.  Girl 1 keeps going back to these, and now Girl 2 enjoys whacking them together.  They are a pain to pick up but worth it.  I like this Walmart variety because they are bigger and easier for Girl 1 to stack than the smaller Fisher Price ones I remember.

— 5 —

Don’t get this:

This is a really horrible bunch of drivel pretending to be a book.

Instead get:

This is a pretend book that doesn’t really pretend to be a real book.  Plastic toys that light up and make annoying “music” are taboo in some circles, but this has been a favorite ever since Aunt Lizzie got this for Girl 1 almost three years ago.  Now Girl 2 loves it, and Girl 1 still plays with it sometimes.  Totally worth the annoyingness.

— 6 —

Don’t get this:

Finger-painting set

Ai yi yi.  Why would you want to do this to yourself?

Instead get:

Four words: one piece, no mess.

— 7 —

Don’t get this:

Obnoxiousness posturing as education.  Girl 1 was bored and didn’t watch the whole thing through.

Instead get:

One reviewer on Amazon said it all: “The acting is horrible and the songs will stay in your head forever [but]   if you ever had to entertain a toddler or preschooler all day every day you will love this video.”  True ‘dat.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!