Winter Style: New Year's Eve Outfit

Does anyone actually go to New Year's Eve parties?

I've honestly never been invited to a New Year's Eve party, not even before I had kids with a bedtime before midnight.  What does one wear to a New Year's Eve party?

Well, this is what I'd wear.

(Some affiliate links below.)

We are actually thinking about having a New Year's gathering, we'll call it, this year.  I really want to have a game night, and isn't New Year's Eve a good excuse?  Especially with young kids, because we could do it early in the evening, have New-Year's-Eve type foods, and quit in time to get the kids in bed - and no one will think we're lame, because they will be leaving to put their kids in bed too.  See how that works?

And here I am, writing this ahead of time to schedule for the day before New Year's Eve, and I don't know if we're really going to get our act together enough to get some people over here! I should get going on it.

Earrings: ?? Probably Charlotte Russe, probably 7 years ago?  When I like an article of clothing or accessory, it stays with me.
Shirt: Forever21, bought when I was pregnant one of those times, because this is long and stretchy and can be bunched up to fit around a belly.
Sparkly Sweater: Forever21, and I had no idea how cute it would be when I ordered it a few years ago.  It's a winter holiday staple, whether we are talking Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Year's.  It's never leaving my closet.
Leather-paneled leggings: Target, a couple years ago.
Socks: Target
Boots: JustFab

Do you do anything special for New Year's Eve?

Why I Didn't Love Rogue One

(Warning: There are Rogue One spoilers below!  Read at your own risk.  Also this is me at the theater last night.)

Before I start into my opinions about the new Star Wars spin-off, Rogue One, you should know that Star Wars pretty much runs in my blood.  My dad saw the movies as a young teen and when my siblings and I reached an appropriate age, we all gathered around the TV, and a new family tradition was born.  We watched those movies countless times growing up, and I will always remember going to see Episode One when it came out in the theaters.  We watched the movie as a family, went to Taco Bell and discussed it endlessly, then drove straight back to the theater and watched it again.  There are many Star Wars enthusiasts, and dare I say even experts, in my family.  They may not all share my opinions, but this is what I thought of the latest installment.

First, when I say I didn't "love" it, I don't mean I hated it either.  I thought the plot was really well done, and I loved all the references that tied into Episode Four (the Star Wars movie that comes right after Rogue One).  I thought the connection between Jyn and her father was well-formed and added a sweetness to that part of the story.  The ending was bittersweet, as was fitting since we knew from Episode Four that “many fighters died to bring us this information”.

There were a few small irritants in this film, such as the lack of backstories and making the Force too “religious”, but there were a couple things that bothered me more, and I think are a reflection of some of the ways our culture is changing, so I want to talk about those here.

The first point may seem petty, but I think it’s worth discussion - and that was the flatness of the characters in this movie.  Do you remember the variety of personalities in the original Star Wars trilogy?  We had Princess Leia, with all her spunk and conviction.  We had Han, with his arrogance and recklessness and lovably absurd connection to his ship.  We had Luke, the whiney farmer turned introspective brooder turned indispensable Jedi.  What tied it all together, what made these movies classics, was the color of their personalities, the sense of history, the development of relationships.  It was their tenacity in the fight, their grit, the conviction that the Empire was evil and must be stopped, but it wasn’t only that - their personalities were what made it fun, their flaws were what made us laugh, and you got the feeling that they couldn’t have finally defeated the Empire without being exactly who they were, flaws and all.

I didn’t get that in Rogue One. I was disappointed that many chances to give the characters more depth were not taken.  Not only did we get too much Luke Skywalker brooding and not enough Hans Solo reckless and arrogant determination, but the characters in this movie didn’t even really seem to know why they were fighting (except for a brief speech from Jyn on the need to fight against an Empire “this evil”, a mark in her favor).  The scene that was most frustrating to me was the monologue from Cassion that was supposed to be inspiring as he pulled all his buddies back into the fight, but the whole speech was really rather depressing.  

“We’ve all done terrible things in the name of the rebellion - without the rebellion all those terrible things will be in vain.”  

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that the whole speech goes against the reason why my family got hooked on Star Wars in the first place.  I’ll tell you why I have loved Star Wars so long - and it’s because Star Wars has always been about good versus evil, and there was no confusion between the two.

In the original trilogy (Episodes 4-6) we have the classic fight between good and evil.  It was the dark side and the light side, tyranny and freedom.  In that world, you either gave in to the draw of power at the expense of the innocent, or you fought against those who would oppress others for their own gain, or you were one of the countless rabble of spineless bystanders.  It made you want to choose what was good, and never give in and let evil win.

In the second trilogy (Episodes 1-3) we see how good intentions aren’t enough by themselves, how you need a strong grounding in what is right and wrong to avoid being seduced by the desire for power.  How a hunger for control can twist easily to justify terrible evil, and how governments can slide so easily into tyranny when too much power is willingly put into one man’s hands.

In Rogue One, we have an evil Empire willing to destroy planets to reach it’s ends, and we have a well-established rebellion…who apparently has no idea what they are fighting for, except to make past “atrocities” worth it.  And I’m sorry, but that just doesn’t cut it.  I don’t want to see a movie of people who are just fighting to justify past misdeeds.  

I resent the attempt to muddy up the side we all want to root for.  I resent the attempt to give Star Wars shades of grey.  I resent the attempt in our culture to remove heroes and cut them down to size.  They do it with historical figures all the time, and now apparently we can’t even have fictional characters that are good and right and true, and know why they are fighting.  I resent the segments of our culture that say there are no more heroes.  Because I don’t buy that.  I think there are still heroes who take risks because they believe in what is right - and they don’t have to be perfect but they should know what they are fighting for and believe in it’s goodness.  I think there are heroes hiding down in many, waiting to come out when they find something good that is worth fighting for. 

I want to see a movie where the good guys know that there is right and wrong, good and evil, and they fight to defeat that evil and preserve all that is good in the world.  They fight precisely because they recognize that good and evil exist.  That is what Star Wars has always been about to me, and it resonated so much because I think it touched down on that truth in the human heart.

In Rogue One some of the main “heroes” are muddied up and cut down to size, and die simply to undo their own or other’s mistakes or to assuage their own consciences.  Some may say that is more true to real life, but the reason I watch movies like Star Wars is for moral clarity, not moral ambiguity.  It was not inspiring, it was disappointing.

Will Rogue One ruin Star Wars for me?  No, because it’s only a Star Wars story, a side plot.  I can dismiss or overlook the parts I don’t like.  Should you still go see it?  Yes, because there were a lot of tie-ins and themes that were worth the time.  But will it be a Star Wars favorite for me?  No, because it missed the boat on portraying why I love Star Wars in the first place.  I just hope Episode Eight doesn’t continue down this same path, because in a culture where morals are muddied, Star Wars has stood out for making good and evil crystal clear.

P.S. I reserve the right to change my mind, but this is my initial reaction.  What did you think of the movie?

My Thoughts On Another Children's Bible

(Some affiliate links below.)

You know I love my children's Bibles, and I definitely have my favorites, but I am always looking for more good ones - so I was excited to check out Bedtime Read And Rhyme Bible Stories!

The illustrations in this book are adorable, and I love how every story is told in a rhyme.  I used to love rhymes as a kid, and I can still recite a few Bible rhymes I learned in Kindergarten.  I love the idea of teach kids Bible stories in rhymes, and this book is full of rhymes that will help kids remember Bible stories.

I did not read every line of this book, but I went through a good portion of the poems, and there was one thing I wasn't as thrilled with.  I feel like children's Bibles tend to be too surface-level, and avoid talking about the hard parts of the Bible, like sin and the fact that not every person will be saved.  This Bible seemed to fall into that.  The rhyme about the Fall seemed pretty concerned with reassuring kids that everything would be okay because Jesus would save us from sin later, but it almost blamed Adam and Eve's sin on the Serpent instead of them.  As far as our sin, the sin of people reading this Story Bible, it really wasn't addressed at all in a personal way.  Throughout the rest of the book sin is talked about in a passing way, not as a big problem that separates us from God.  

A couple rhymes mentioned believing in Jesus, but it was presented more in the vein of "Jesus saved you, and we just want to tell you that", instead of acknowledging that we are sinners, and we must put our faith in Jesus and ask Him to forgive our sins.  Not every person who lives will do that.  It may be hard to explain that to a child, but I think it's important for them to know that everyone isn't just saved by default, and this book almost implied that by omitting the jailer's question of "What must I do to be saved?"  At some point that question must be asked and fully answered in order for anyone to come to a knowledge of Jesus that will save them.

Thankfully parents are able to fill in these gaps for their children (if they fully understand the Gospel themselves), so I am not totally discounting this Bible, but I have to admit it was a bit disappointing.  I think it's an excellent book for helping kids remember Bible stories, and there is value in that.  I probably will read my favorite poems from this book to my kids.  However, my primary concern is less about helping them remember Bible stories (they will remember them by the time their childhood is over because they will have heard them so many times) - I'm more concerned with making sure they understand the truth.  I think this book falls short in helping children understand the Gospel, which is the most important thing to me, personally.  There are other books that are better jumping off points for parents to explain the Gospel to their kids (this one is a favorite of mine).

Note: I received a copy of this book for free from Tommy Nelson in exchange for a review.  This is my honest opinion.

It's The Day After The Day After Christmas

Which also means that it's my sweet girl's and husband's birthday!  If you are new around here, you might not have read Gwen's birth story, but trust me, go read it.  It's a good one.  

I am having a hard time believing that she is four years old, and I'm not sure why.  It just struck me this morning that she is four years old.  At age three it seems like there is still a bit of baby left in them, but she is solidly in the "big" little girl stage now, and I'm rather sad.  Of course, my sadness may also have something to do with the fact that a recent crop of pregnancy announcements are making me sentimental since I'll probably never have another pregnancy announcement, and I get nostalgic around the New Year, and I am on a sugar low from all those Christmas cookies.

Let's Talk About Christmas

That's a nice segue, so let's talk about Christmas!  Last week I spent three solid days baking.  In years past, Derek and I used to throw away so many Christmas goodies that had gone stale, so for a while I was limiting our Christmas treats.  But this year I went a little crazy again because I have four kids who are able to eat the extra cookies now!  We are still living off cookies and cheeseballs, and probably will be all week.  I may just eat a ginger cookie (my favorite) for breakfast.

We had a lovely three-day Christmas - my side of the family on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day we officially stayed home and had our own family Christmas, and then the day after (yesterday) we saw Derek's side of the family.  It was a beautiful celebration, and I have a bunch of cute pictures, but unfortunately you won't get to see them today because it'll probably take me all afternoon to sort and edit them, and I don't want to get out of my Tuesday old-fashioned blogging habit.  For now, here's a picture of me from baking last week that I shot by propping my camera up on a bunch of books.

What Did We Get?

I'm glad you asked!  I record this here for posterity's sake, and so I don't buy the same things two years down the road because I forgot what I already got the kids.  Feel free to comment and tell me what you got for Christmas too!

This was a fun year to shop for the kids because they actually had opinions about what they wanted, and I was confident they would like their presents.  We gave them three presents each, and then a couple family gifts of games and books.  

Wyatt is five years old, and he got a talking Percy (from Thomas The Train), a Paw Patrol scooter (it was just plain black, but I put Paw Patrol stickers on it - it was a big hit), and a remote control truck.  He wanted the huge (expensive) one, but I just got him the largest remote control vehicle I could without breaking the budget!

Gwen is (now) four years old, and she got a Melissa And Doug magnetic doll set, a Disney princess mini guitar, and a new baby doll with a doll cradle.  Gwen proceeded to tuck her new baby doll in the cradle with a bottle, and rock the doll while serenading her with "Jingle Bells" on her guitar.

Clyde is two years old, and he got a talking Percy (same as Wyatt - they both love trains), a wooden train track set (Percy will go on it), and a large remote control Thomas.  Do you notice a theme here? When I asked Clyde what he wanted all he said was "trains!".

Clarice is one year old, and she got wooden magnetic blocks, a wooden Melissa And Doug key/lock house with wooden doll figures, and a Baby Stella.  Apparently Baby Stella is a big thing right now?  All I know is that I had to get a Baby Stella for her because she saw it in the store and grinned at it from the cart, and when I handed it to her she kissed it's face.  Her reaction on Christmas morning was the same!  

Me - Derek got me a bunch of good stuff!  I got four Yankee candles!  I'm a little picky about my candles, and I like Yankee because they really fill up the room with scent.  I got "Sparkling Snow" "Crackling Winter", "Happy Tonight", and "Beach Walk", and they should last me the rest of the winter into spring. I also got a hand-lettering book, an artist pen and brush pen with India ink (to practice lettering), and a book of Emily Dickinson poems, because I told Derek I wanted to read more poetry.  Watch out now, I'll soon be firing lines of poetry at you all I'm sure!

I got Derek Starbucks white chocolate syrup so he can make his own white mochas at work, a Technic race cart lego set (those things are complicated!), gel boxing gloves for when he works out, and the game of Risk.  We ended up playing Risk the rest of Christmas Day, and I have yet to win a game when we are playing for world domination.  Give me some time though.  I've decided I should stop focusing on conquering Asia because it's a lost cause, and I'm feeling really good about the next round hopefully tonight (though I should probably let him win on his birthday, huh?).

Back To The Birthdays

Last night we got home late and I dug into the birthday decorations.  Gwen wanted a Minnie Mouse birthday party, and it's really important to me to make sure to individually recognize Gwen and Derek's birthday since it's so close to Christmas.  Christmas-time birthdays are easy to forget, and I made a vow never to wrap birthday presents in Christmas paper (we got Gwen dress-up clothes in a lovely shoe-and-purse birthday paper), and to always decorate and have a cake. 

Derek and I stayed up late decorating for Gwen, but he was a bit bummed that everything was pink and purple, so I snuck downstairs and decorated the bathroom door with streamers and balloons and birthday notes so he would see them before he went off to work.  Perhaps an odd place to decorate, but I was going for the surprise factor.

So if you need me today, I'll be sorting toys and putting away Christmas presents, baking a cake, and trying to lug Derek's ginormous present out of the shed by myself.  I don't think he's reading this today, so I'll tell you what it is.  DEREK, STOP READING NOW!
I got him a basketball hoop!  It is massive and heavy, and we probably won't be able to set it up until spring, but I am confident he will be fully surprised!

Old-School Blogger Shout-Out

If you don't know what I mean by "old school bloggers", check out my posts from the last couple weeks (here and here), in which I bemoan the loss of old-fashioned blogging and resolve to get back to it, and attempt to encourage others who are doing the same.

First, Emily from Live A Charmed Life!  Emily has been so consistent at maintaining the relationship side of blogging by sharing about her sweet family on her blog and also caring about other people's doings as well.  She's a long-time blog friend of mine!

Second, Brittney from With Eager Hands!  Brittney is also a long-time blog friend who is getting back into old-fashioned blogging with me, and you have to read about the stars on her ceiling (it's making me kind of jealous actually)!

Go visit their blogs and say hello!  These girls are getting the shout-out this week because I know they are the kind of bloggers that will comment back, and as I said last week, I think that is a big part of what we are all missing.  

Feliz Navidad (is it too late to say that?) until next week, at which point I will regale you with all my New Year's thoughts and opinions (I am pretty opinionated about the holiday).

(Our Christmas outfit photo from this year. I really actually love snow. People like to complain about it, but how can anyone deny how pretty it is?)

What I'm Drinking: Junior Mint hot chocolate, which my sister got us for Christmas.  Junior Mint hot chocolate!  Is it just me, or does that sound fantastic?

Here's My Christmas Card To You!

I love sending and receiving Christmas cards.  It's one of my favorite parts of the Christmas season! Almost every time I pick up the mail I have a card waiting for me from a sweet friend, and it just completely brightens my day! The Christmas card mail basically makes my whole year.  (Though I have to say, it's been a slower card year than some.  I have a good collection, but not the same as last year.)

If I could, I would send every one of my blog friends a Christmas card.  I so appreciate all of you who have stuck around during the ups and downs of blogging, and I love having this space to connect with you!  I'm blessed to know so many of you, and even if you have read and never commented, I feel like we are friends in a way.

So consider this my Christmas card to you! I wish I could send you all a physical card, but this will have to do.  This is the card we sent out this year (when we ran out I just sent a regular card with a picture in it - I never seem to order enough cards).  I used a couple of pictures from Clarice's one year old photo shoot (I promise I'll share the whole session soon!).  

Merry Christmas, friends!  
May you have a wonderful weekend celebrating the birth of our Savior, Jesus!  
And may your weekend be filled with lots of pie too.

How We Do Advent

Advent season is almost over, but I really wanted to do a little spotlight on our Advent Calendar this year.  I've had a few friends ask me this year what we do for Advent as a family.

The year we had Wyatt, Derek's brother, Jeff, and his wife, Rae, sent us this Advent calendar!  My sister-in-law is a master potter who is so talented, and she made the jars - and Derek's brother fashioned this cool rotating display for them.

We have one pot for each day of the month up to Christmas.  Every year before December 1st, Jeff and Rae send us a box filled with goodies to put in the calendar!  It's their Christmas gift to the kids each year, and it makes it so easy for Derek and I to do Advent, because we don't even have to think about putting everything together.

Each jar contains a paper with a verse on it and a chocolate for each of the kids.  I usually let the kids eat their chocolates while we read the verse and then talk about it (or sometimes we'll work on memorizing the verses, now that the kids are getting older).  And then some of the days also have an extra surprise in the jar.  

This year so far the kids have been surprised with coins for their piggy bank, a charitable gift in their names (which is great for talking about giving at Christmas time), and if it's a present day they will get a little card with a present number on it.  In the box of stuff, Jeff and Rae send numbered presents for each kid, usually four or five of them!  The kids get so excited about doing Advent each night, and when it's a present night everyone cheers!

(The kids got these jammies as one of their presents this year, and they were so excited!  I let them wear them exactly one night before I stashed them away for Christmas Eve.  You know, so we have fresh, clean jammies for Christmas morning? I didn't buy Christmas jammies this year, and my kids seem to ruin new pajamas after two nights, so I'm saving them.)

I love our Advent calendar, and I am so grateful to Jeff and Rae for putting it together for us every year.  It's a great way to focus on Jesus's birth and have some Christmas fun each night with the kids, and I honestly don't think I would be organized enough to do this every year without their help!

What do you all do for Advent, as a family?

On Life (And A Little More On Old School Blogging)

It's Tuesday, and as promised I'm back to some good old-fashioned blogging today!  I have to tell you, I have been itching to sit down and write this post all week.  It was so refreshing last Tuesday to write something and publish it without making a fuss.  I thought of so much that I wanted to say, both about the old days of blogging and life in general, so I'm warning you now, this is going to be a long one.  I've included convenient section titles, so you may read whatever sections are of interest to you (you are welcome).

Christmas Baking And How The Good Stuff Sticks

Yesterday we finally did some Christmas baking.  I couldn't believe it took us this long to get around to it, because I planned my Christmas season out way ahead of time so I would have very little on my to-do list in December - and still, I barely find time to bake with the kids.  Why is it that no matter how hard I try, December is still nuts?  I am glad that I had most of my Christmas prep done, because it would be panic time right about now if I didn't.

Our Christmas baking was supposed to happen last Thursday, but I woke up and within about a half hour I figured out it was not going to be a wise day to try to bake.  Things went awry right from the beginning, and I shudder to think of the disaster our baking attempt would have been, so I left the sugar cookie mix in the package.  I did think we could handle chocolate-covered pretzels, so we did that instead.  I may have caught Clyde licking chocolate off his pretzel-dipping spoon.  The pretzels are staying within the family now.

You know the funny thing is, last Thursday I was itching to sit down and type out all the ways Thursday was not ideal, because admit it, it's fun to read about disastrous days (when it's someone else's day).  And it really was one thing on top of another that day (it was a good call to stick with pretzels).  But now that I am sitting down on Tuesday to give you the play-by-play, I can't remember all the little things that went wrong.

What I remember is calling Derek at about five o'clock, crossing my fingers that he would say he was almost home.  I remember having a tiff with him on the phone because he was going to be later than I wanted, and then hanging up because I heard Wyatt howling down the hall with his fingers stuck in a slammed door.  He cried for ten minutes as I gently washed the bloody skin flap with water and put a bandaid on it, and he finally stopped when I squeezed the injured digits in my palm and started an episode of The Lion Guard, all four kids gathered around me as we watched the termites take over the pridelands (don't worry, the Lion Guard got the pridelands back).

Then Derek walked in the door, and he gave me that look, and I gave him that look, and I walked over to him to give him an "I'm sorry" hug, and I buried my face in his shoulder.  His coat was warm, and he had that smell, that good husband smell, like home (if you are married I imagine you know what I'm talking about).  And the day just didn't seem so bad anymore.

I called making dinner a lost cause for the day and ordered Chinese food, and we sat on the couch with our Kung Pao chicken after tucking the kids in bed and watched the season finale of Survivor.  And now when I think about Thursday, I really can't remember all the things that went wrong anymore.  Sometimes the daily frustrations seem like such a big deal, but really it's the good stuff that sticks.

Wood Floors Are Not Invincible.

I take it back, I do remember one thing that went wrong on Thursday.

As part of our house renovation this year, we put (vinyl) wood floors upstairs - Aquaguard (which means water resistant) and scratch resistant.  These floors are durable.  This was also a good decision if we are to judge by the amount of crumbs that end up end under the table after each meal, because all of that used to end up in our carpet!  When I think about how seldom I used to vacuum, I'm a little grossed out.  Now when I see the crumbs I can only tolerate them for precisely 10.2 minutes before I have to sweep them up, which you would think would be a bad thing, but it's not.  It's quick and easy to sweep, and then I feel at peace and confident in the cleanliness of everything.  I don't have OCD tendencies at all.

So here I am, patting myself on the back for the last six months for the fact that I no longer have to deal with nail polish and grease stains on my carpet because I was shrewd enough to upgrade to wood floors...and then Clarice, our little firecracker, sufficiently burst my bubble by drawing on the floor.  With a permanent marker, and I am still scratching my head about where she even got it.  I guess our wood floors aren't as invincible as I thought they were.

(Thankfully my handy dandy Norwex cleaning paste got it right up, so all is well.)

(She also was not wearing this dress when the aforementioned Sharpie incident occurred. I just took this picture when I was taking our family Christmas pictures the other day, and I thought it was pretty.  And now you get a sneak peek of our Christmas attire.)

Some Thoughts On What Really Happened To Old-Fashioned Blogging.

I've been putting a lot of thought into this old-fashioned blogging thing since my post last week, trying to decide how to move this forward.  I don't feel like I ever went into full-blown impersonal blogging on here (at least I hope you all didn't feel that way), but my blog has been in a weird in-between place for the past three (?) years. The more I think about it, the more I'm grateful that you all have stuck with me for so long.

For a quick blogging history review, the year it all started to blow up was 2013.  The blogosphere was flooded with fresh new bloggers, and the focus became marketing your blog, pushing it on social media, networking for blog business purposes, and gaining sponsors (sidebar ads or paid posts).  For me personally, it started to get hard in 2014.  I just had Clyde, and I struggled to balance life with three kids.  Reading blogs was the first thing to go, and the more I think about it, the more I think that's what led to the downfall of old-fashioned blogging, at least for me.

I think many in my little circle of the old-school blogosphere had the second or third kid around that time, and we all maybe handled the balancing of life and babies and the metamorphosis of blogging in different ways.  Some kept on faithfully, some slowed down in blogging or shifted focus, and some quit all together.  For me, when I stopped investing my time in reading and commenting on other blogs, it became easier to quit putting myself out there on my own blog.

Which leads me in a roundabout way to my point, which is that the thing that made blogging go 'round in the old days was the fact that if you were a blogger, you read blogs.  You read, and you commented (remember all the commenting joy before blogland got so self-centered?).  And when someone commented on your blog, you reciprocated not just by replying to their comment via email, but by going and reading something on their blog and commenting.  There was something so unspoken and natural about all this.  If you wanted people to read your blog (or keep reading your blog), you read theirs.  Nothing written, either in the posts or comments, had to be particularly important, it was just all a part of getting to know each other and sharing our lives and having a conversation.  It was outward-focused, and generous, and beautiful in the simplicity of it.

The secret is, there are still corners of the blogosphere out there like this.  I know because I spent all my breakfast reading time on blog surfing last week, and I think I found them.  And some of them never left (check my comments from last week's post).  If it's anything like the blogging community of old, they will still welcome us with open arms if we go in not focused on what we can get from it, but what we can give.

Bottom line: I think if we want to bring old-fashioned blogging back, we're going to have to be generous, and do unto others as we would have them do unto us (yes, the Bible applies even to blogging).  So I'd encourage you (as I'm encouraging myself) - if someone comments on your blog, dig back and remember the good old blogging etiquette.  Don't just reply on your own blog, but go visit on their blog and comment on something they wrote.  I think that's the first step in this little old school revival, as well as the first step in making friends, to make conversation.  That's what we are all missing most I think, is the friendships.

Well, sheesh, that was a longer point than I intended.

An Old School Blogger Shoutout.

To wrap this up, how about a little shoutout?  We've all kind of lost touch with each other, haven't we?  I thought about a linkup for those of us who want to find this community again, but there is something so market-y about linkups (especially in this day) that it rubs me wrong.  Linkups are also easy to hijack, and I don't want to lose focus here.  Instead, I'm going to point you to two old-school bloggers each week along with these stream of consciousness posts (because yes, I will be back at it again next Tuesday), and I'd encourage you to go visit their blogs and comment!  Comment below each week if you are also interested in a shoutout, and I'll make it around to everyone eventually.

Old School Blogger 1: First, Natalie from She Builds Her Home!  For those of you who aren't aware, Natalie's first blog was Extraordinary Love.  Remember The Blessing Box?  Now that was a good linkup.  Natalie wrote an old school post last week after I wrote about it here, so I wanted to give her the first slot!

Old School Blogger 2: Next, Laurie from From The Koala Tree (which is just a cute blog name, right?), who also gets the first slot because she also wrote about old school blogging last week after my post!  See, we are not alone!  Laurie is a friend of one of my blog friends from the old days, and she also helps to run Airmail Christmas (it's too late to sign up this year, but bookmark it for next year.)

I wanted to share these two ladies first, because remember how we used to all link to each other like that? Someone would read something that resonated with them, and if it resonated enough they'd write their own thoughts about it on their blog and link back to the original post.  I don't know about you, but when someone linked back to me like that, it made my day, and these ladies revived that feeling for me last week.  I wanted to return the favor (generosity, remember?).

See you all back here (and maybe on your blog too if you want to join in) next Tuesday!  Next week may be short though.  It is the Tuesday after Christmas, after all.

What I'm Drinking: Nutcracker Sweet from Celestial Seasonings, which is THE tea of the Christmas season to me.  I like it best with a Hershey bar.  When I was a kid I used to retire to my room each night with my Nutcracker Sweet tea and my Hershey bar, and stay up way too late in the glow of my Christmas lights reading The Lord Of The Rings.

Winter Style: Cookie Exchange Outfit

Who has some Christmas events coming up in the next week?  Oddly, this year it seems everyone in my sphere tried to do all their gatherings at the beginning of December, expecting the middle of the month to be busy, which is actually leaving me pretty free for the next week and a half.  Which is perfect because I have a bunch of baking to do!  That is probably what I am doing as you read this, baking with the kids.  Trying to get ahead you know.

I'm calling this a cookie exchange outfit, because it's casual and it looks Santa-esque. Have I mentioned how much I love layering this time of year? The furry vests are just so fun, and especially around Christmas (but I wear them all winter too).

(Some affiliate links below.)

Once again, I like this outfit because it's Christmas-y without being too obvious.  Though I have no problem being obvious either.  See my Christmas shirt here.

Headband: Charming Charlie
Shirt: Target, a couple years ago.
Pants: JustFab - their jeans seem to fit me more consistently than any other store or site! I got sucked into their VIP club a couple years ago because of an amazing boot deal, and have yet cancel it.  They do have the best after-Christmas clothes deals and pre-summer shoe deals I've found.
Boots: Justfab

Any cookie exchanges (or other Christmas fun) this week?

The Upstairs Christmas Decor

I've been itching to share the rest of our Christmas decorations for the year 2016, mainly because this was an overhaul year!

I've had the same Christmas decorations since the first year we got married (back in the good ole blogging days, I'd do a post every year showing you the same decorations), but this year I decided to get some new festive decor.  I got a lot of new furniture and decorations this year to go with our house renovation, wanting to finally get this place fully decorated and settle in - and some of those decorations would just clash with my old Christmas stuff.

You might have seen our new kitchen table on Instagram (follow my account for family stuff here), and if you did you might remember that the chairs are aqua.  And I love them, so much.  And our kitchen curtains are yellow stripes.  I wasn't sure how I'd like red sparkles with aqua and yellow, and I didn't want to hide my kitchen chairs and curtains every year in order to decorate for Christmas.  So we got some new stuff and put the red decorations downstairs.

For upstairs I was going for a colorful feel, minus the we have various shades of blue, green, white, brown, and gold!  I like how it turned out - it feel Christmasy but our touches of Christmas still kind of go with our regular color scheme.

I have the lights on white for these pictures, but we splurged and got new LED lights for the trees this year - and they can change to any color we want!  I'm surprised to find my favorite is actually the multi-color.  I thought I was a white-light person, but the colors on this string are really nice and the kids like them best too.

This year when we dug our decorations out of the shed, we also found that a mouse had nested in our tree!  Gross!  So we had to purchase a new tree.  It was an expensive Christmas decoration year.

You might also remember our Advent calendar, personally crafted by Derek's brother and his wife!  I love it so much.  It used to be wood, but this year I decided to paint it white because I had this vision of how white would go with our other decorations and set off the jars.  I love the way it turned out.  I'm going to share more about our Advent next week.

This year I kept seeing these adorable garlands - they are twine, with little furry white snowballs spaced along them.  I love the way they look, but we already way overshot our Christmas budget this year with the tree problems, so I just made my own version.  All it cost me was $3 for the yarn!  I made big white pom-poms and tied them along some twine I already had.  This yarn pom pom tutorial shows you the basic method, but I used my whole hand instead of a fork.  Maybe someday I'll get the furry garland, but this one has the same feel and was way less expensive!

The dining room is my winter wonderland themed area.  When I uttered the words "winter wonderland", Derek nixed it and wouldn't let me do it all over the house, but this is my little wonderland corner.  I got the trees and deer from Hobby Lobby, the marquee star from Target last year, and the crochet centerpiece was a wedding present from a sweet lady at the church where I grew up.

My favorite part is that I finally got a manger scene!  We never had one before this year, and when I saw one I liked at Hobby Lobby I had to snag it.  There is something about this one that I really like, and I'm glad to have the true reason we celebrate front and center this year.

Have you done a Christmas decor post this year?  Comment below because I want to check it out!

P.S. THANK YOU to all who commented on my old-fashioned blogging post!  I am so excited to know there are so many of you still out there who like that kind of blogging, and I have to tell you, I'm already excited about pounding out something random this next Tuesday.  It's been a while since I looked forward to writing a post like that - it's freeing to plan something that is NOT pinnable!  So I hope you won't think I'm going back on what I said by including the pins below.  I'll still just include pins when something happens to be pinnable, but I'm going to not let my whole focus be Pinterest either, as it too often is for bloggers these days.  Because sheesh, social media seems to be a necessary tool that also has a way of sucking the fun out of blogging.  Do you know what I mean?

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