Holidays bring a new meaning to Manic Mondays – at least in my house! In the time leading up to Thanksgiving, I burnt a dinner that was in the oven (hello waste of a freezer meal), slammed my finger in the car door, and got into a little fender bender. With the holiday decorations coming out, the discussions about Santa, Elves and presents started to come from my 4-year-old. My husband and I have mixed up Santa and Elves stories left and right, and I am already feeling a bit overwhelmed!!!
We had a “date night” on Saturday night with some take out Chinese Food, and holiday drinks (get excited for those recipes to be posted!)…and hubby and I got on the same page about all things Christmas, because this year, we have an observant kid, and we don’t want to ruin any of the magic (and more importantly, Mrs. Claus’s sanity). We talked about which items from their wish list Santa should buy, what traditions from past years we wanted to continue, and we capped the night off with a discussion about our Christmas Card (does anyone else get stressed about this like I do!?). I am feeling a million times less stressed about everything, and just plain excited about sharing such a special time of the year with our kids. Ah, date nights are not like they used to be, but my husband still knows the way to my heart!!!
Apparently I am not the only one going a bit manic, as I received a question from an MMB reader, Deirdre, who asked the following…
”When wrapping gifts from Santa–does he use the same gift wrap for the entire family or different for each person, but all the same for each person? I know crazy but I’m so anal, type A. Just curious what others do. My almost 4 yr old watches closely! Is there anything else that I should be thinking of to make sure that he doesn’t catch on?”
For my family… we used special wrapping paper for each child, which they could find easily (my son was Cars, my daughter was Minnie Mouse), and I just wrote their name on the packaging. This year, I will do the same with the wrapping paper, but I am going to order the gift tags from More than a Cupcake, and will be asking for their name to be printed directly on them – I think my son may catch on to my handwriting.
My husband and I do not receive any “Santa Gifts” – we exchange with each other 2 nights before Christmas…we have a special meal, play holiday music, open gifts, and then watch the Classic – Christmas Vacation. We have been doing this for years, and continued it when we had children, so that we could take the time to enjoy the gifts that we selected for each other, but on Christmas, make it all about our munchkins, and getting to watch their faces light up! Santa will fill up Mommy and Daddy’s stockings though!
More importantly – do any MMB readers have any other ideas? Anything else we should be thinking about?!
Oh and here is a video that I HAD to share with you. This house is right nearby my house, and we get to drive by it every evening (well, maybe I go about 5 minutes out of my way, but it’s totally worth it)…anyone else feeling festive?! Oh and I KNOW that this video stinks – it is the first time I am trying to share one on here. I promise to improve on shaky hands and not having cars always drive by
We are not quite past Thanksgiving yet, but the commercials are out, the stores are decorated and we are starting to be reminded well that the holidays are quickly approaching. Holiday baking, decorating, gift buying – it is all coming! As we start planning holiday shopping, I feel compelled to share with you one of my experiences from last year. This is not an internet forward or something I overheard in the grocery store, but this holiday shopping scam happened directly to me…
The Sunday before Christmas last year, I had one last trip to the store to make to finish off ALL of my shopping. The list was long, but the chance to have everything done one week before Christmas was motivation enough for me. My then 8 month old daughter and I headed off to a big, well-known store. We went through the store and ticked off every item on my list, and came to the end of our shopping trip. We went to the register to check out, and picked up 8 gift cards. The total value of the gift cards was going to be around $500 in varying amounts both gift recipients and our local women’s shelter.
I was waiting for the cashier, and chattering away with my daughter, the people behind me in line…really anyone…because I had the overwhelming, I conquered the world feeling…I was done with Christmas shopping one week early (Yes, if I say it enough times, I will be motivated to do the same thing this year!!).
The cashier rang up my purchases, and informed me there was an issue with the gift cards, and asked me to grab some new ones. I handed them over and she gave me my total amount. Now…I am not sure if everyone does this, but I add up my purchases in stores as I go along. I am not always on my game, but by my estimation, the amount she was telling me was $200 over what my total should have been. Now, I totally looked the part of a harried, clueless mom. Yoga pants, oversized sweatshirt, and even though I was wearing a hat you could probably still see diaper cream in my hair left over from when I wrestled my daughter into a new diaper and outfit so we could leave the house with at least one of us looking presentable.
My brain went into analyze mode…I knew something wasn’t right, and asked to see the receipt. I immediately counted up all the gift cards, and saw 12 gift cards, instead of 8. I next asked for the gift cards and began matching the serial numbers on the gift cards to those on the receipt (hey, I did my share of time in retail, this was easy!). At this point, the cashier and the woman behind me in line (who originally was going ga-ga over my daughter) was telling me that she was sure things were fine, and a lot of people had to check out…which started the guy behind her saying stuff, and you know how that goes.
I stood my place in line, because I knew something was not right. A manager came over, and escorted me to the guest services counter with the cashier. On the way over, the cashier dropped 2 gift cards, which I picked up and presented to the manager. I was then questioned, because only 10 gift cards could be located…I offered for them to check my bags (which they did….and it was all clear, big surprise). After 10 minutes, I was given the correct cards, and told everything looked okay. I bluntly asked the manager if the cashier was stealing from me.
She had pocketed 4 of my gift cards, and tried to get me to pay for them twice. The store has video cameras on every cashier, so once we went over the whole story, (especially with the 2 gift cards she tried to drop), they were able to figure out what happened.
I felt so incredibly violated. She knew I was an easy target – Christmas hustle, being distracted by a little one, and buying a shopping cart full of items. She was stealing from me. The manager did not immediately believe me that something was wrong as well, and checked MY bags.
I asked the manager what would have happened if I did not realize this before I walked out of the store…I was told that they once it was figured out they would have opened up an investigation and reached out to any customer who was at the register who purchased a gift card through their credit card company. If it was cash, I would have been out of luck.
I was so angry when I imagined our niece, one of my kid’s teachers, or even worse, someone from the shelter, going to the store, getting excited to buy something, and then having a gift card which didn’t work. Then months later, I would have maybe been notified that something was wrong with the purchase.
I called the police and the store’s corporate headquarters. Pretty much, I was told that this can happen, and that was about it. I told the company that I would share this experience with everyone I possibly could so that it did not happen again. Last year, I emailed my friends after this incident happened to warn them…this year, since I have MMB, I want to get the word out to as many people as possible so you could hopefully avoid a similar situation. If you are buying gift cards, please avoid holiday shopping scams by doing the following:
1) Purchase your gift cards separately from the rest of your shopping order so you can easily keep track of the amount of money you are spending
2) Check the amount which is on each card on your receipt before leaving the store
3) Try to buy gift cards using credit cards wherever possible
4) If the store has a gift card reader, do an extra check before you leave the store. Once you walk out…the process becomes more of a nightmare!
I hope this helps make sure that no one else is affected by a holiday shopping scam like this and I hope that everyone has a magical holiday season (especially one where you can finish your holiday shopping early!!!).
Grateful and giving thanks has taken on a completely new meaning for me this year as we approach Thanksgiving, which is why I really wanted to share with you today’s Grateful Giveaway.
As many of my regular readers know, Hurricane Sandy wreaked a bit of havoc on my parent’s primary home located on the Jersey Shore, and many of their neighbor’s homes. Hearing pain, hurt, and uncertainty in my parent’s voices has been incredibly challenging.
The ocean water rushed through the first floor of their home, and reached water levels of at least 4 feet. They have had to throw out all the contents of the first floor of their home, and will have to do a tremendous amount of work to further demolish and sanitize the home before they can even think about rebuilding.
They have had 2 work and clean up days allowed so far at their home, and there is so much work ahead to rebuild and restore. So far, they have emptied out their possessions and cleaned as much of the mud and sand from the home that they can. The next steps will be ripping up the floors, cutting down the walls, and sanitizing the home to protect it from any mold issues. They were lucky because out of the 24 homes on the street, most likely only 10 will even have the possibility to rebuild, and they are one of them.
As I think about what we are grateful for, I have to say that the biggest thing which comes to my mind is friends. Personally, I have been overwhelmed by my own friends who have reached out to offer their time and resources to help my parents. My parents have been incredibly fortunate as well to have had similar offers, but there are two of their friends who have really stood out the most. One couple, Neil and Kathy, opened their home to them (they live about 15 minutes from my parents home, which allows them to go back and forth to their home more easily), they got them the tools they needed to do the initial work, they lent them a car (their own car was ruined in the storm) and the husband went to the home to help my father do the initial work of emptying the home. They have been the “rock” that my parents have needed, and they are so fortunate to have them so close to them.
Kathy has recently launched a jewelry line on Etsy called Bree Vintage Creations. There is very little that I can do to thank Neil and Kathy for all that they have done for my parents, but I would like to highlight Kathy’s new business and share some of the beauty that she hand-makes. Kathy create beautiful jewelry out of vintage stamps, antique book pages and antique gems or beads she has found at estate sales and thrift shops.
Today, we are having a giveaway for two of Kathy’s necklaces – we are giving away two because the hope is that you will enjoy one, and you will share the other with a treasured friend. Someone who is your rock.
No purchase necessary. Winner will receive the necklaces pictured above. Must be 18 years of age or older at time of entry. Entries are due 11:59pm EST on Sunday, November 25th. If you do not follow the rules of the contest, your entry will not be valid.
Only residents of the US are eligible to win. Odds of winning depends on the number of entries received.
Winners will be chosen by a random number generator through Rafflecopter. Winners will be notified by e-mail within 72 hours, if we do not receive a response, we will select another winner. This giveaway is sponsored by Mastering Mommy Brain and Bree Vintage Designs. Mastering Mommy Brain did not receive compensation for this giveaway.
I cannot believe that we are so close to Thanksgiving. With Sandy and the Snowstorm, I feel like the end of October and November flew by. I guess I should get in at least one Thanksgiving recipe though! I am excited to share my Winter Squash and Apple Soup Recipe, which is a great alternative to making a bunch of appetizers on Thanksgiving Day.
Two years ago, I hosted Thanksgiving. It is the only time I have hosted, and the circumstances were not the best. My mom had received news that her cancer spread and she was going to need more extensive surgery. We were supposed to travel to my in-laws that year, but instead, we decided to host and be with my parents. The decision came about 30 hours before dinner was supposed to be on the table. I am a planner, 30 hours notice? Panic attack!
I had visions of the great meals from my childhood – Huge turkey, 2 kinds of stuffing, homemade cranberry sauce, 3 kinds of potatoes (mashed, roasted, sweet potatoes), carrots, green been casserole, biscuits, a lasagna, apple pie, and a pumpkin pie (with homemade whipped cream of course). Oh and yes, I said lasagna? I have no idea why…but it was always on our thanksgiving table. In the planning of my meal, I replicated my moms menu, plus a couple other recipes I found in my last-minute searching. I went to the grocery store, came home, and realized I forgot about appetizers. AH! My husband made me look at all the food that I was going to make for 4 adults and one toddler, and I came to my senses that an appetizer was not needed. At 3 in the morning though, I woke up and knew he was wrong – we needed something to kick off the meal (did I mention I was pregnant at the time? Crazy Crazy!). I went down to the kitchen, saw what I had and my eyes fell on this guy (and his friend). The leftovers from my farm share.
I could do something with him, right?
And so transpired my recipe for….
Winter Squash and Apple Soup
3 small acorn/winter squashes
1/2 cup diced onion
1/2 cup diced carrots
2 cups of apple juice
2 chicken bouillon cubes
1 1/2 tsps lemon juice
1/8 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp pepper
1/2 cup skim milk
1. Cook the squash by cutting in half, and cooking in a 400 degree oven for about 1 hour. this will vary based on the size of your squash.
2. In a large saucepan, cook the onion and carrot in the apple juice and chicken bouillon cube for about 10 minutes or until tender. Stir in the lemon juice, ginger, and pepper.
3. Using either an immersion blender or a blender, mix together the hot liquid and the squash, (scooped out!). If you use a food processor, just be aware of the liquid levels!
4. Return the mixture to the saucepan. Add the skim milk, and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 5 minutes.
You can serve this in either a bowl, or the “shell” of the squash, with a dollop of sour cream on top.
To freeze: simply transfer the cooled soup to a freezer friendly container. To reheat, thaw and then heat in a saucepan.
Are you getting ready for the Holidays??? I just wrote up my list of people to buy for and am getting ready to make my way through and find goodies for all of my friends and family. I am not doing the Black Friday Shopping (especially not with companies that are opening on Thanksgiving – BLECH), and will be trying to support as many small businesses as possible this holiday season.
As I thought about some of my favorite companies and places I could not wait to buy from, I figured I should share my Holiday Gift Finds here as well. I have talked about some of these companies in the past, and some are pretty new, but these companies are small businesses, most are mom-owned companies, and they are companies that I have interacted with at least once (usually many more times!) in the past. They sell beautiful, unique products. They are my goto’s, and all on my product love-list, and I am sure that you will feel that way too. If there is a business that you know and love, that would make a great holiday gift, please feel free to list it in the comments below as well!
Now…one more item is not quite ready, but is a must for your holiday shopping list. I have written a children’s book, which will be ready for purchase in early December. I am super (duper) excited about this, and will share the details with you all very soon. Keep your eyes peeled on my website and FaceBook page for more information, including details on how to order!
While you are on the kikibOnan Etsy site, I highly recommend the reusable snack bags. This is a great packaging idea if you are giving a gift card gift. Why spend the money on a gift bag or wrapping paper? I use these bags for honestly, everything. Snacks, crayons, first aid items…addicted!
More than a Cupcake
Tina at More than a Cupcake came up with a great idea for DIY print at home Christmas Tags ($8). I LOVE this idea, because this is what I will be using for all the “Santa” gifts in our house. My super-observant son who was 3 last year said “mommy – you and santa have the same wrapping paper”, so I am totally on my game this year. By using these tags, there is no paper trail and no chance my son will see me reuse tags. There is also no chance I will run out, and have to run to the store on Christmas eve, because I can reprint at home – so darn easy!
My Sleeping Beauty
Eva creates personalized, unique gifts – such adorable items for any occasion, but my favorites are her Chrismas items! Eva is on Etsy and FaceBook, and is the creator of my son’s favorite holiday decoration, the Christmas Light Present Box ($22.00). She also made me the blog ornament above for me – such a great idea for someone who has their own business, blog, or a milestone.
AM Evangelista Jewelry
For anyone who has been on my site for a while, you know my obsession with Ann Marie’s Jewelry. This woman has major talent. I have already ordered several of her necklaces for my gifts this year. Her necklaces are beautiful, her turnaround is fast, and her packaging is perfect. I love the idea of her key chains for a smaller gift that you need to get as well. The necklaces vary in price based on the disk size, chain,and any add ons, so I recommend checking out the Etsy site to see what you like! She also has smaller items, such as this key chain ($18)
Chivas Goat Milk Soap and Skin Care
I have been in love with this mother/daughter owned company for years. Every year, Donna and Lauren’s Sweet Nothings goat milk facial cream ($24) and lavender Oatmeal soap ($9.00) is in my stocking. I bought several soaps for my kids teachers last year as well (they are always washing their hands, as you can imagine!), and the teacher said it was her absolute favorite gift. Love! You can find Chivas both at their website or on Facebook.
Another thing you know about me if you have been on this site is this mom loves her wineI first saw Word Couture a couple of years ago at a craft fair. I ordered one for all of my friends that year, and it has been a favorite engagement or “just because” gift ever since. Love their holiday “Ho Ho Ho” ($25) and their monogram wine bottle ($25). There are a ton more options for fantastic gift ideas on their website as well. .
(This is actually a Grandpa and Grandma owned business!)
I am starting to have panic attacks about the amount of plastic toys which will be entering my house come Christmas…plastic noisy toys are the ones that give me some major heart palpitations. My son has received an item from Grandpa’s Wooden Toys every year since he was born. He is a huge fan of the bi-plane ($18) . If your little girl is into the American Girl dolls, there is also a line of furniture, which is perfect for the dolls, but at a better price! Love their table and chair set ($55).
My little girl LOVES playing dress up (while running around holding a dinosaur and roaring, of course)…and tutus are her favorite. She puts on a tutu, and starts saying “Pretty Mommy, so pretty.” Maria’s Tutus, which can be found on FaceBook are simply precious, and really do make any girl feel like a little princess. The owner is incredibly creative, will make custom orders, and is just an awesome lady! This Christmas shabby chic tutu, which my little one will be sporting, is $18.
I adore pretty much every item that Neada carries at the Olivia Bloom. You can check out Olivia Bloom products both on her website and her FaceBook page (sales and promos are posted!). If you are shopping for a boy, there are cr-azy sales on her boy line as it is being discontinued. Definitely check it out – the style and quality is just awesome. I actually had tears when I read that the boy line was stopping because there is just NO where to buy stylish boy clothes. Ok…so first, buy the 3D boxing glove tee ($14), which is my son’s favorite, for any little boy on your shopping list. Then…check out the super cute Natasha Cat bag ($15.99). This will be under the tree for my little girl – animals and purses combined…I know it will make her day!
This page started showing up all over my news feed in FaceBook, and I was instantly drawn to the vibrant colors and fun products. Their website is filled with fabulous treasures and the FaceBook page announces new products, shares deals, and has some fantastic giveaways. I have never been a fancy phone case ($44) girl, but was totally won over by navy blue, chevron, and a monogram. Her site has tons of options to choose from as well, and would be a great gift! I also love the beach towels ($55) and love to give gifts that can be used in the summer…its almost like you relive Christmas when you pull it out a couple of months later!
I hope you like the list above, and that it helps give you a kick-start on your holiday shopping. Can’t wait to hear your feedback, and of course, your ideas as well!
Note to readers: kikibOnan, More than a Cupcake, My Sleeping Beauty, AM Evangelista, and the Richmond Thrifter are sponsors of Mastering Mommy Brain. Where I have purchased the items from any store, I am providing my most honest reviews of these products.
Copyright 2012 Mastering Mommy Brain. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. REPUBLICATION OR REDISTRIBUTION OF CONTENT, TEXT OR IMAGE, IN PART OR IN WHOLE IS STRICTLY PROHIBITED WITHOUT PRIOR WRITTEN CONSENT FROM THE AUTHOR.